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konoha_fifth in narukorp

Unexpected Reunions [Tsurude, Hiashiko, Hizashiko]

The Hokage had sent her a note saying that he'd like to meet with her during the week and that it would take a few hours. He hadn't indicated that there was any urgency to the request, and the note had lacked both the form and tone of a command. Nevertheless, Hiashiko thought it prudent to go to the Hokage Tower at the earliest opportunity afforded to her (and once a bit of schedule juggling had been done to her satisfaction).

She would not admit to being curious about the meeting request, even though it had been some time since he had last asked to meet with her. While Hiashiko and Tsurude were often in agreement about the village's best interests, they were often in disagreement about the methods needed to achieve those interests. Yuuhi's situation was just one of the latest manifestations. Hiashiko had not been pleased to learn the man had been reinstated to his former position--far from it. Sometimes, examples were needed, and the fact that the Hokage had retracted a highly public punishment for mission abandonment and endangering comrades was never going to sit well with her. Had she been consulted, she would have voiced her opinion in no uncertain terms. But she hadn't been consulted, and Hiashiko had to remind herself that she had no right to think she would be. She had only been serving in the Hokage's place when the treason occurred, and responsibility returned to the Hokage when he returned.

No matter how much she silently disagreed.

Hiashiko sent a Branch runner in the morning, carrying a letter to the Hokage letting him know the times during the week where she was free for more than two hours at a time. She didn't expect a prompt reply--Hokage or not, Tsurude's sleeping habits were infamous--so she was surprised to receive a response before noon. She was further surprised to see that he wanted to see her that very day.

And that was how Hiashiko found herself being escorted to the Hokage's office by an ANBU squad.



Notorious sleeping habits or not, Tsurude couldn't possibly be asleep today. He's specifically asked Kotetsu to make expresso for the whole day, and was currently too wired to even consider sleeping. Part of that was because of the encounter he was anticipating with Hiashiko, partially because of all the paperwork that needed to be caught up on, and mostly because he was still working off an hangover from the night before.

When Hiashiko was offered entrance to his office, he was, surprise of all surprises, actually bent over paperwork, furiously scribbling on the margins of some stupid legal documents that he was planning on stuffing down the throat of the first Council member that walked into his office. Preferably Dai. Stupid idiots trying to slip stupid legislation into stupid laws as if he wouldn't notice their stupid schemes -

The ANBU who held the door open for the Hyuuga head cleared her throat quietly. Tsurude blinked up from his paperwork, stared blankly for a half-second, then straightened and flash his guest a smile.

"Hiashiko-sama," he said warmly, far more so than he usually did. The expresso had him in a good mood. "Right on time, as always. Care to go for a walk?"



A walk?

Although she kept her expression neutral, Hiashiko was surprised at the question--and the way the question had been asked. Normally, her and Tsurude's relationship was characterized by extreme politeness and an avoidance of any familiarity. They respected one another, but they were not friendly. But the Hokage had actually greeted her warmly and smiled to her as well.

He wasn't drunk, though the possibility had flashed briefly across her mind. She had seen him inebriated once before, and it was something difficult to forget. "As you wish, Tsurude-sama." And besides, if he were drunk, he would not be so absorbed in paperwork. He would be trying to peer into the women's baths.



"Excellent." The blond stood with a swish of his robes, abandoning his paperwork where it lay even though he was still in the middle of a sentence (though not abandoning his coffee - that he drained before he stepped away from the desk), and stepped forward to join Hiashiko. "Shall we?"

His typical ANBU guard joined them as they made their way through the offices and back down stairs, padding along silent as cats. Outside it was still a nice, balmy day, one of the last few before fall would start setting in, as the leaves on the trees were slowly starting to display. The Hokage ambled along with the hands clasped behind his back, as if he didn't have a care in the world and didn't have any particular destination in mind. For a long time he said nothing, just wandering down the streets with the guard ranged around them at a discreet distance, Hiashiko at his side.

"So how have you been?" he asked after a time, polite small talk that did hold a note of curiosity. "Kids doing well? Hanabi hasn't blown anything up recently, has he?"



While the weather was a pleasant change from the unrelenting heat of Konoha's summer, Hiashiko had not anticipated spending most of her day in it. She walked by the Hokage's side, silent, trying to guess their destination as they wove through the village streets.

They must be going somewhere, and wherever they were going must be important, because otherwise they could talk in his office while he did his paperwork, or they could have exchanged correspondence. There was no reason for them to be outside of his office unless the conversation they were going to have needed to be held elsewhere and in person. There were very few places within the village more secure than the Hokage Tower, and yet Tsurude had abandoned that and his work with ease.

Why?

She hadn't heard of anything as of late that would require this change of routine, nor did she believe he was trying to become familiar with her. "Both of my sons are doing well," she responded automatically. Tsurude rarely asked her about her family; she rarely had reason to speak of them to him. She volunteered no information on Nejiko because Nejiko wasn't her child, and Tsurude had been the one to release her niece from the hospital. As Nejiko needed to pass Tsurude's benchmarks before being reinstated to duty, he likely knew more about how she was faring than Hiashiko did.



"Good to hear," he replied, as easily as if she'd said something far more specific and less non-committal. "They're good kids, Hanabi's obsession with explosions aside. He did very well at the gala, I hear. You must be proud that he was so swift in action, even without the mission training Hinaji's gone through."

They passed a vender hawking his wares for drinks and snack food. Tsurude paused and turned to Hiashiko, changing the subject without waiting for a response. "Bubble tea sounds good. Want some? My treat."



She had been about to give a response--she was very pleased with Hanabi, and Hinaji's, performance at the gala debacle--when Tsurude suddenly changed the subject unexpectedly. He was offering to buy her bubble tea?

Maybe he was drunk and had simply become better at hiding it.

"No thank you, Hokage-sama." It took effort to keep her annoyance from flashing across her face. "I'm not fond of bubble tea." She was also not fond of feeling as if her time was being wasted.



Tsurude gave her a vaguely sad look - or maybe a pitying one - before turning to approach the vendor.

"Too bad," the words floated back over his shoulder, "you don't know what you're missing. How about some takoyaki? It's perfect on days like this, perfectly little pick me up when you've got a long day ahead of you."

And then he proceeded to order some ginger bubble tea and two orders of takoyaki without even waiting for a response.



Hiashiko didn't reply. Tsurude may have been both a drunkard and a gambler, but he was not a stupid man. He would not drag her through the streets of Konoha without purpose, nor did she think he would call her out for anything so unimportant as an informal chitchat about her children and street food.

He would not be above using this as a delaying tactic. But why would he delay her? What would he need to get her out of the compound for and then keep her out? Had something gone wrong with one of the clan? She would not have denied him or his guard entrance to the compound, no matter how much it would have galled for that to have passed by her unnoticed.

Usually it took longer for her to gain a headache from being in Tsurude's presence, but today he seemed to be trying to set a new record.



With almost childish glee Tsurude waited while the takoyaki was swiftly fried up, clutching his tea in both hands and watching the vendor at his work, not at all perturbed that Hiashiko was a looming, annoyed presence at his back. His ANBU ranged around him, masked faces somehow managing to look bored, as if this was something they did all the time. There was a very good possibility it was.

Once the takoyaki were served, piping hot in their little paper trays, he finally turned back, juggling two items with one hand and offering the third to Hiashiko. "Shall we go?"

She accepted in stony silence, and they moved along. If he was annoyed at her refusal to talk - or to eat the food he'd paid for her - he showed no signs of it, instead discussing Hanabi and Hinaji's actions during the gala, his approval in Suzumo as a personal mentor for Hanabi, the weather, all polite small talk (between sips of tea and bites of food) that didn't really require much conversation on Hiashiko's part. He didn't even seem particularly interested in if she responded or not, though he did listen attentively enough to the few things she did say.

Eventually they reached the door of a nondescript convenience shop. One of the ANBU bounded ahead to open the door, and Tsurude grandly gestured for Hiashiko to precede him. "After you."



Inwardly, Hiashiko fumed. It was better to stay silent, though she did respond to his less frivolous questions, than to risk giving in to the temptation to let the man know what she thought of his childish actions today. She didn't want to eat the takoyaki he had purchased, but since he'd given it to her in public, she couldn't just toss it in the next trash can she saw. So she hung onto it, letting it go lukewarm in its tray, waiting to "accidentally" leave it wherever their final destination happened to be. It was either that or chuck it at the back of his head.

The man was obviously needling her, and it irritated Hiashiko to no end. She hadn't given him any reason to begin doing so--the last time they hard parted it had been on amicable terms, they hadn't even argued--but she wasn't going to sink to his level of childishness and do the same thing without reason. Though she briefly considered it when they arrived at what appeared to be a convenience shop. If he were stopping for more food...

Hiashiko nodded to Tsurude shortly and strode inside.



Inside the shop was nothing better than anyone might expect from a standard convenience shop, though there were a surprising number of people clad in ANBU black without their masks, or sporting the ANBU tattoo on their arms. Each nodded to the Hokage as he passed, the store clerk briefly apologizing to the customer he was ringing up to slip away and open a door in the back for them. Tsurude dumped his empty containers in a waste receptacle, clapped the man in a friendly manner on the shoulder, and passed into the backrooms, Hiashiko and his ANBU trailing behind.

The back was a narrow hallway with two doors obviously devoted to the clerks office and to a break room. The third door, at the very end of the hall, opened to a set of flight of stairs. A very long flight of stairs, with nothing but a bare, dangling light bulb far overhead.

The door at the bottom was reinforced and looked to have no place being so easily accessible from a convenience store. Tsurude pulled a set of keys from on his person and raised a brow at the takoyaki Hiashiko was still holding.

"You gonna eat that?" he asked as he unlocked the door.



Hiashiko had meant to throw it away upstairs, but someone had crossed between her and the trashcan before she could get rid of it, and in order to keep up with Tsurude, she had been forced to bypass the opportunity. "No, Hokage-sama." There still wasn't a place for her to get rid of it, and she wasn't about to give it back to Tsurude or one of the ANBU guards.

Why would Tsurude bring her to a place like this? The more she thought about it, the more two possibilities sprung to mind: either there was something important in this place, or Tsurude could not talk in his office. Of the two, Hiashiko preferred the first, as the second implied that there was something gravely wrong--perhaps even treasonous--in the Hokage Tower. But wild speculation would do her no good--had done no good--and she forced her mind to quiet.



"Well, then, hand it over. No use letting good food go to waste." He accepted the takoyaki from her as he ushered her and his ANBU through the door, and then swiftly locked it back up behind them.

The hallway they entered was cold, gray, sterile, and vaguely damp. And quiet - almost quiet enough to hear each other's breathing, if not their heartbeats. It was a stern environment, that didn't seem to approve of any company, not even the Hokage's.

One the door was locked and the keys tucked back away, Tsurude took the lead down the hallway, his steps now brisk and his manner matter-of-fact and business-like. "I apologize for the deception," he said as he navigated down through the hallways, occasionally marked by doors as reinforced as the once they'd just passed through. "I need you to do an identification for me, and it's a sensitive enough matter that I don't want you to be seen entering the ANBU headquarters, with or without me. I trust you'll keep this matter between us and ANBU until I give you leave to discuss it elsewhere."



An identification?

Hiashiko hated feeling out of control, hated knowing she was out of control and floundering. She had never been this deep inside ANBU headquarters, certainly not escorted by the Hokage and his personal guard. Tsurude's words made the annoyance she had been feeling turn too close to dread for her taste. "Of course, Hokage-sama."



His only response was a single, simple nod. And then silence for the rest of the trip.

Eventually they reached one of many, identical doors that lined the hallways, the group coming to a stop before it. "Wait out here for a moment, would you?" he asked Hiashiko, and placed his palm upon a metal plate. A gentle touch of chakra later, metal tumblers within the lock turned, and he slipped inside without allowing much of the inside to be visible to those without. And once the door was closed, the conversation inside was completely muted to any who might wish to listen in.

Lifting the paper plate of takoyaki in one hand, Tsurude adopted a vaguely woeful look as he addressed the inhabitant of the cell. "Sorry it's a bit luke-warm now. Bit of a trip between here and the vendor. I could get it reheated if you like."

Comments

Hizashiko had been sitting on her futon (amazing, she knew) reading a new book Ibiki had so graciously allowed her to have. The woman had a feeling that the leader of T&I had read her private note, but she didn't care if it had gotten her something else to do. With the IVs still in her arm, she couldn't even try some of the stretches and katas that Takanobu had formally forbidden her to do.

White eyes flicked over the hokage, and she dipped her head politely, marking her page and closing the book. With some of her teeth finally fixed and cavities filled, solid food wasn't quite so painful anymore. And the takoyaki Tsurdue had promised did smell quite good.

"No, that's fine, Hokage-sama. Thank you." Hizashiko said, standing from her bed, IVs carefully moving with her.

[ooc:lemme know if this is all okay. if not, i'll edit~]
The sheepish look of woe slid away when she declared that lukewarm takoyaki was still edible, shifting to a smile. His eyes smiled, too, but at the same time they were measuring, taking in the look of her, the health in the way her body moved and the look around her eyes and face.

Tsurude had taken pains to be friendly with Hizashiko in the time she had been down here, taking his time with her to allow her to become comfortable with regular, normal human interaction, to build her trust back up. He could not say definitively if the woman actually liked him or not, but she had stopped hiding in the corner so frequently, submitted to his checkups more gracefully, and generally was beginning to lose the air of someone just this side of feral. She had even allowed him to do a full chakra inspection of her body not too long ago, which wiped away any of his last suspicions that she might not really be a Hyuuga and might not really have been a victim of fifteen years of torture. At that point, it was only a matter of getting her healthy enough to permit an introduction to her supposed sister, Hiashiko.

Because there was really no one else who could positively identify her. Nejiko had been too young when Hizashiko had 'died', and was already going through some very emotionally strenuous times of her own; he had no wish to add this to her load just yet. Anyone on the Hyuuga council was automatically out of the question due to the fact that he could not predict how they might react. That left Hiashiko, whom Tsurude did not like but did respect and could predict to be careful and thoughtful with any reactions she might take because of this circumstance.

He sighed internally when Hizashiko rolled the IV stand over with her, and saw that her bag was not completely emptied yet. Well, there was nothing left to do about that now.

"Here," he said, taking a chair and helping seat her in a gentlemanly manner, setting down the takoyaki with flair. "How about I take that IV out for now? We can have you resume that tomorrow. You're looking so much better now, I'll guess you won't need it at all soon."
Hizashiko's trust, and apparent like, extended to Tsurude and Tsurude only. Ibiki was believed, but not trusted; the Hyuuga was still bitter over betraying her sister. But despite her trust and like, she had reached the point where she believed that she was going to die in Konoha, without ever seeing daylight again. What else were they going to do with her, send her back? Let her live outside again? Unlikely. Why did they take care of her then? Because she had information and they wanted it, as they should.

The thought did not bother her too much, at this point. Fate had laid out her plans (even if Hizashiko had fought against them for so long) and she would get what she wanted. For now, the woman only wanted to focus on the lukewarm takoyaki in front of her.

Sitting down in the chair with his help, she politely thanked Tsurude and then obediently held out her arm to him, to have the IV removed. "I would appreciate it, it... gets caught on things." Evem if there was little TO catch it on. "And I would also not appreciate having it at all, since I am able to eat on my own now without trouble."
Tsurude had anticipated needing to remove the IV, and so had come prepared; from his pocket he removed a square of gauze and a roll of tape, and with sure movements removed the needle and taped the gauze over her much-abused inner arm. There. Much better. He certainly believed that she was able to stomach most anything she needed now, if in small enough quantities, so the drip probably was no longer necessary. He'd just start prescribing vitamin supplements to go with her dinner now. Possibly the chewable kind, since her teeth were all fixed up now. Always better than horse pills.

He let her eat in peace while he fiddled with the IV stand - turning off the drip, taking out the needle so no one would get accidentally (or deliberately) stabbed, coiling up the tubing and rolling everything back over into the far corner. And then he poked around the room in curiosity, primarily to read the back of the new book Hizashiko had been given. A romance novel? Goodness. He wondered if that had been specifically requested or if Ibiki was just being her usual sadistic self.

By the time he wandered back over and seated himself in the second chair, Hizashiko had finished a good portion of the takoyaki. Tsurude leaned one elbow on the table, crossed his legs, and looked over at the Hyuuga seriously.

"Hizashiko," he said, looking her in the eye, "I want you to understand that I have kept you down here not as a prisoner, but to keep you away from prying eyes and ears. If you really are Hizashiko - which I hope you'll forgive me for needing proof - then your presence can cause all kinds of problems if I don't take care and reveal you carefully. If you'll allow me to, I'd like to take one of those steps towards letting you out once you're done eating."
Fingers absently rubbed over the gauze on her arm before dropping. Hizashiko was satisfied that it was taken care of- Tsurude, being a medic and a Sannin had proven that he knew what he was doing. And though his presence was in the back of her mind, she didn't even twist her body to keep him in her sight as she ate her takoyaki. It took a great amount of willpower to not just wolf the entire thing down then and there. If she had, chances are she would have thrown it back up again and that would have been a waste of good food.

When the Hokage started to poke around, only then did Hizashiko cast her eyes back to him, watching him move about and touch things. It made her shift a touch but it was for the best; for all she knew, he was looking for anything she could use to harm herself. A faintly amused smile twisted her lips as he picked up the book that Ibiki had given her and no, it had not been a request. Not quite the Hyuuga woman's taste, but a book was a book, especially when you were locked up day in and day out with nothing else to do.

It was only once Tsurude was seated that she noticed how he held himself and how seriously he met her gaze. The food was abandoned and her attention became riveted on the man in front of her, like a shinobi focusing on her superior. Her white eyes narrowed at how he said he was trying to keep her presence hidden to avoid problems. She had thought they were hiding her to avoid issues with Cloud mostly and only a few in village- but it made more sense that it was the village ones that were the primary concern. There was a faint nod to show she understood before he added in that he wanted to take a step towards identifying her.

".... what kind of steps?" Hizashiko asked warily, no longer very hungry. They had already done bloodwork, a chakra examination, dental and physical... what else did he want to do at this point?
"I would like someone to positively identify you as Hizashiko. Someone who knew you before you left the village, someone I could trust to be able to recognize you today." Tsurude tilted his head a little. "Specifically, I'm referring to your sister."
The fact that Tsurude was even entertaining the possibility that this was Hizashiko meant that he knew most, if not all, of the truth of that night. How long had he known? How long had the tests taken to run? This woman claiming to be Hizashiko could have been here for weeks, most likely had, if they had run the tests as thoroughly as ANBU's usual was rumored to be.

And though Hiashiko wanted nothing more than to ruthlessly crush the hope tying itself into knots at her breastbone, she could not deny that there was a chance--the most infinitesimal chance--that this really was her sister.

"Yes, Hokage-sama." She would be the only one that would know enough about the mundane details of Hizashiko's life to be able to weed out clever fakes. Hiashiko and her sister had both been intensely private people, and with their husbands both dead for years... "I would like to request for you not to interfere with my questioning." Her eyes never left the other woman's face.
There was a limit to how far he would allow Hiashiko to go, of course - his patient was still not in perfect health, and he was fully prepared to get between them should a fight of any kind erupt - but he did not have much intention to get more involved than that. He was here primarily to observe and decide for himself what their interactions meant; interference was secondary only if necessary.

So he simply grunted in response and agreement. As long as no one here was trying to kill anyone else, he'd be just fine.
Hizashiko's eyes narrowed at Hiashiko's request, and flicked over to Tsurude at his agreement. But she could feel her twin's gaze on her and she flicked her eyes back to Hiashiko, lips pressed into a thin line. Her own questioned simmered beneath the surface, though she knew she would never be able to ask them. What about her daughter, Hiashiko's children, what of Noburo, what had truly happened to him, hard they charged her yet, Hiashiko knew she was sorry for the betrayal, right?

White eyes didn't give her worried questions away. Hizashiko had always been trained not to let them.
It took a moment to gather her thoughts. Hiashiko would need to approach this from two angles--the first, that this was a fake, the second, that it was not.

If this woman was not her sister, how could she prove that? Information would be tricky. What could Cloud have been able to force Hizashiko to spill and then teach a duplicate? Anything important would likely be compromised, and they would have needed a lot of the mundane, to make a convincing fake.

If this woman was her sister, after fifteen years of captivity--had she condemned Hizashiko to that?--how much could Hiashiko rely on body language or speech patterns to make a positive identification?

And the seal.

The Hizashiko Hiashiko remembered would never have left her forehead bare, not if she had opportunity to cover the seal. The seal, dark against her skin, the one--

With fifteen years to study it, could Cloud have...?

"Tell me the circumstances of your marriage."
Questions, it seemed.

And she didn't miss how her sister's gaze lingered on her forehead, where her seal was bared. Hizashiko had been so busy focusing on other things, she had almost forgotten; Hiashiko's gaze brought the thought of it to the front of her mind. And the younger twin suddenly wanted to cover up that seal very much. It had been a long time since that had shame had colored her perception.

Questions, Hizashiko, focus on the questions.

"I was married to Noburo, of the Hyuuga," Hizashiko answered, lips pressed into a thin line. "It was an arranged marriage. It was arranged by the Clan Head, Hyuuga Hiashiko. You."
Hiashiko let a disgusted look flash across her face. "He committed mission suicide."
For a long moment, Hizashiko wasn't sure what to do. It was bad enough that he was dead, but mission suicide? For him to just throw his life away? No, it was impossible, that wasn't Noburo.

Her frown deepened, her voice accusing. "You're lying. Noburo would never have done such a thing, especially not with Nejiko at home."
"Your death broke him." Hiashiko watched the woman closely. "He became bitter, depressed, and increasingly reckless. He took the coward's way, an absolute disgrace."
"You're lying," Hizashiko said, much more in her tone now, irritation giving away to agitation. "He was no coward and he would never have acted reckless with Nejiko at home. He loved her too much to ever abandon her."

Her jaw worked, and the words came out before she could help them; that had always been her problem. "Stop speaking such slander about my husband."
It was a very familiar problem, one which Hiashiko herself indulged in on occasion. "Noburo may have loved Nejiko, but not nearly as much as he loved you," she responded. "His cowardice endangered the lives of his teammates and put his simple B-rank mission in jeopardy. He was a fool."
"Stop it," Hizashiko said, voice turning harsh, hands curling into fists. "He was not a coward nor was he a fool. You're lying! Stop saying those things!"

Noburo was the good one, the calm one. He held them together and held her up and he loved Nejiko, so much, she knew he did! He wouldn't abandon her, not like that, he couldn't. Hizashiko simply couldn't picture her husband, her proud, amazing husband as killing himself over her. He wouldn't.
Hiashiko's heart soared when the woman--Hizashiko--lunged at her. It could be, maybe, please-- She had been prepared to counter an attack, but Tsurude beat her to restrain the emaciated woman.

Hiashiko returned the dirty look to Tsurude. "It's an empty threat, Tsurude-sama. She has never injured me."
"Liar!"

It was a hoarse shout, the weak woman still straining against Tsurude's iron hold. Her own hands gripped his forearm, as if that could somehow remove it, but her eyes were focused on Hiashiko's face, with it's dirty look. She had been told enough, by the hokage no less, but this wasn't a lie that Hizashiko could let go.

"I took you to the ground that night!" she continued in that hoarse voice, the room still spinning madly. "I knocked you to the ground with one blow! You could barely breathe!"
No one else that had witnessed that night was still alive, and while none of this was definitive, it narrowed down the probability. Cloud would have needed to be phenomenal to be able to get this far.

Hiashiko stepped back, and the disdain and anger melted out of her voice and face. "I remember." She looked to the Hokage. "Tsurude-sama, I'm going to test her seal."
His look of disdain did not melt away - on the contrary, it only deepened. The Hyuuga were extremely secretive about the inner workings of their seal; no medic outside the clan truly understood how it worked, not even himself. To test the seal, to set it off and see what happened, would probably be the ultimate way to prove if Hizashiko was who she said she was... even with the years she had been imprisoned by Kumo, it would have been next to impossible to duplicate the seal without an autopsy.

But that did not mean he approved of it. Hizashiko was hardly in enough shape to be struggling against him and yelling at her sister; she might be healthier than she was, but she wasn't ready for any kind of excitement that got her heart-rate up. Using the seal against her would be badly damaging. She might end up right back where she was when she'd first been found at the Fire Temple.

And yet if she was, if the seal was true and she was proven to be Hizashiko, he could allow her into the general hospital for proper recuperation. And if the seal was not true... there would be no more need for him to waste his time on a fake, no matter what his medical principles might think.

Tsurude pursed his lips in a clear expression of dislike, but gave a curt nod all the same, not letting Hizashiko go. He could give her this much, at least.
Hizashiko knew, only after Hiashiko's disdain and anger melted away, that her sister had lead her pretty easy. It should have been shaming, but it really was a testament to how well the twins knew each other. And for now, she seemed to have pass all the tests her sister placed before her. The only test left, it seemed, was going to be the most painful of them yet.

Hizashiko's breathing seemed to hitch and then increase; she could feel her heart thumping in her chest. Willing walking into the curse seemed like absolute madness, even if her choice wasn't really a choice. The horrible pain it caused was excruciating; Hizashiko was wise enough to know that her body was far from ready to take this. When she had been at the peak of her strength amongst the Hyuuga, she had been one of the few that could take the pain and remain conscious.

... she didn't think that would happen this time.

Hands that formally had been pulling at Tsurude's arm now gripped it like a lifeline. Her own lips were pulled into a straight line and her face was undeniably pale. But this was the be all end all- the curse would activate and then they could see that she really was who she claimed to be. What would happen after that, Hizashiko didn't know, but at least they'd have their answer about who she was.

Taking a deep breath, and meeting Hiashiko's gaze, she nodded.
She could refuse to answer, but at this point, what did it matter? She would have other to face soon enough, and they would ask harder questions of her. And at least now, she could be honest, completely, fully.

"I was afraid to die that day," she told her Hokage. "I was afraid, but I had accepted it, because I knew that we could not survive plunging back into the war. I had let my fear overwhelm me and killed the woman that kidnapped my son instead of subduing her." On sleepless nights, Hiashiko often found herself replaying those terrifying moments and regretting them. She could have struck a non-lethal blow, but she had panicked seeing her unconscious son being hauled away.

"Hizashiko volunteered to take my place." Her chest felt tight, and she took a deep breath so she could continue speaking. "She struck me down so she could give me a chance to live, even though she had her own husband and child. I had . . . I wanted to give her what chance I could, in thanks. Time was short, and there was no time for me to consult--" Hiashiko shook her head, stopping herself before she could complete the lie. "I did not want them to say no."
Somehow a part of him was glad to see that somewhere under the twisted complexities of a Hyuuga, there was some sibling love within her. Tsurude could respect that, could even empathize with that. And in truth, even with as much as he disliked Hiashiko, he was not fond of the idea of some other Hyuuga leading the clan, as someone would have to with Hanabi not being old enough to take clan responsibilities himself. He would not be sad to see Hiashiko humbled; he would be sad to see the clan put under worse direction.

Tsurude looked away without responding, turning back to the patient he was cradling. He gathered her up in his arms as though she weighed little more than a feather, rising back to his feet so he could carry her out of her cell, up to a proper bed in the general hospital. There was no longer any need to keep her away from it.

"You are not one of my ninja," he said, after he opened the cell door, pausing to look back at her. "You're Main family, and so not under my jurisdiction; there's nothing I can do to help you. You're on your own."
Hiashiko wondered, for a moment, if she would prefer to be under his jurisdiction in this case, and then she tossed the thought aside. He may have shown Yuuhi mercy, but her actions were worse. And besides, she didn't think it right to escape just punishment.

"I understand, Hokage-sama," Hiashiko responded and bowed at the waist. "I thank you for the care you've given my sister."

Nejiko would need to be told, and shortly thereafter the Elders. But before that, she would need to--no, she yearned to--talk to her sister. So she followed Tsurude out of the room as he carried, for all intents and purposes, her back-from-the-dead sister.

Her power was likely about to explode in her face, but she would selfishly put it off, just long enough to speak, really speak, to Hizashiko.