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Whatever is left of me...

konoha_fifth in narukorp

Paperwork done? CHECK! Peaceful afternoon? HAHA FAT CHANCE [Tsurude, Naruko, Sachiko]

At some point in his career, Tsurude hoped he would find a position that once again required no paperwork. All those years on the road and he never realized that one of the greatest aspects of it was complete and utter freedom from the dreadful monotony of bureaucracy. Still, it was a job and one that at least he could do reasonable well. And with time to spare, he realized somewhat happily. As he place the last paper on the carefully organized pile of reports, he breathed a sigh of relief. This day, at least, he might be able to go home and relax for twenty minutes or so... about the average time before the next crisis hit.

He stood up from his chair and stretched his arms over his head, lacing his hands behind his back. He gazed out of the window in the office and enjoyed the peaceful moment.

There came a knock at the door, rather polite sounding, but it wasn't long before the door was flung open and Naruko swept into the room. It it hadn't been for the hairstyle and preference in clothes, she would've looked like her mother.

"Tsurude ojii-chan~!" The illusion was dispelled as she threw herself at him for a hug, clinging to him and looking rather pleased with herself. "I missed you~!"

Sachiko was considerably calmer and more normal in her entrance. Hood down, jacket open, and hands in her pockets she slipped into the office and closed the door behind her. As a definite change to the last time she had been in this office, her posture was considerably more relaxed and her dark eyes were intent with purpose. But she hung back and only gave Tsurude a nod of salutation as she approached the desk and tactfully waited for the two blonds to have their reunion.

Tsurude was polite enough to return the nod Sachiko gave before turning his full attention on the bouncy blond that had latched on. With a smile that he hadn't had for month, Tsurude returned the hug and swung her around twice before depositing her back on the floor.

"Look at you!" he said happily, ruffling her hair. "You're taller, I think. Or stronger... or... " He tried not laugh but only managed to half swallow the snicker. "Sexier?" Poor Naruko. Tsurude did feel bad for her new 'training' but having dealt with it for years, Tsurude couldn't help but laugh when other people experience the whirlwind more commonly known as Jimaiya.

"Ugh, I don't want to talk about it." Naruko pulled a face. "Although if you really wanted to send me on those missions, I guess you could." She mumbled and scratched the back of her head. It wasn't something one volunteered to do really, but if it needed to get done, then it needed to get done.

"And I'm sorry about freaking out the other day, I was kinda mad about it. When she said training, I didn't think we'd spend the entire time doing stuff like that. At least the last couple times we actually trained with shinobi techniques, not more 'research' stuff." Her head fell back and she groaned. "It was awful. She kept quizzing me on the weirdest things. As if I'm going to be doing that sort of stuff when I could be prepping for my Jounin exams. I mean, really."

Tsurude nodded sympathetically. "It's fine, Naruko. I was her teammate for many years." Many, many, long years... He tried not to remember the teenage years mostly. There had been too many times where he'd have to 'discuss' with his wonderful teammate that no, he was not going to help her with her research. "All knowledge is useful, even if it doesn't seem like it right away," he settled on, while making a note to try to track down Jimaiya and 'discuss' things with her again.

He took a step back from Naruko and straightened his vest. "So, I take it this is not simply a social visit," he said finally, directing the question more at Sachiko then Naruko.

"You'll have to forgive me, Hokage-sama. I don't do social visits well. But," Sachiko continued, "we have some good news... and we have some not-so-good news. It's not yet bad news." Dark eyes flicked to her once-teammate, and she lifted an eyebrow at Naruko to ask, Do you want to start or should I? Sachiko would prefer Naruko since she was on better terms with Tsurude than Sachiko.

Naruko shrugged and lifted her hands. I dunno, how much do you want me to tell him?

Sachiko's eyebrow dropped and she gave Naruko a not-really-hard look. Everything. After all, if Sachiko was going to have to spill her guts on stuff she'd kept secret for the past five years (well, ten, if she counted the stuff about the mangekyou), Naruko could at least reciprocate.

Tsurude took a few more steps back and walked to his chair, dropping down into it. "Sometimes tells me I should have brought out drinks before we started speaking," he said, mostly to himself. "Well, contrary to popular belief, being Hokage does not make you psychic. So one of you is going to have to verbalize things in a way I can understand."

Okay, you asked for it. Naruko gave Sachiko one last look, then rolled her eyes and sighed. Scratching her head, she tried to gather her thoughts so that this whole mess didn't come out in an incomprehensible jumble. "Well, Sachiko and I had a talk, and we've smoothed things out finally, but we found out something else. You know my seal's getting weaker? I think that process is starting to speed up, but I'm not sure, but that's beside the point. Sachiko said there's another part of the Sharingan that can control the Kyuubi, and we wanted to let you know. Now that we've tracked down how Itae could shut off the Kyuubi chakra like she did when Leigh and I were coming home from Suna, we were trying to think of a way to prevent it, or at least find a way for me to build up resistance to it."

When she stopped, she tugged on her jacket and hoped Tsurude wasn't going to freak out.

Tsurude didn't, mainly because a few years of being Hokage had taught him how to handle his emotions... most of the time. And while his mind was racing, trying to run through a list of possible ways to prevent this from happening, he appeared calm as he spoke. "I see," he said evenly. "And you have thought of a way?"

"We think so," Sachiko replied. "You... know of how I mindwalked Naruko a year ago, because you know of the training I was doing with Kureno-san. I saw the Kyuubi inside of Naruko, just as I saw a representation of the seal binding it. I also... saw a memory of Naruko's. Experienced it, really. But I saw my sister also mindwalking Naruko, and I saw her pushing the Kyuubi's essence back behind the seal. It was how I got the idea to attempt the same. Lucky for everyone, it worked.

"What you don't know is..." And here she squared her shoulders, inhaling to steady herself. "What you don't know, and what I managed to keep from you and Ibiki during my interrogation after my attempted defection, was that a higher form of the Sharingan, called the mangekyou Sharingan, can in fact control the Kyuubi. This isn't something my sister told me. This is something I read for myself.

"I do not have this higher level." She would mention Kakami having it later. "I... failed to fulfill the... requirement, as it were. But the Kyuubi still responded to me when I pushed it back. I don't know how or why it worked, just that it did."

He was silent. There were... rumors. But it had been from a different era and Tsurude was too young to understand why his grandmother worried about the odd looking woman who wore a strange looking fan on the back of her shirt. Tsurude shifted his weight slightly, settling more into the chair. The discussion was not going in a direction he liked. Not only because he would have to inform Ibiki of a failed interrogation (that would not go over well) but because in his mind, there was that old sense of unease, one he hadn't felt since he had grown up.

"Requirement?" he asked.

Sachiko kept her eyes on his. "In order to obtain the mangekyou Sharingan, I was told I would have to kill my closest friend. That's what my sister did. That's what I didn't do."

Again, he didn't let more then a flicker of emotion cross his eyes and that was only when he glanced over at Naruko. If he had known... back then... he wouldn't have sent her after Sachiko. He took in a deep breath that tried not to sound too much like he was relieved. After all, he had sent Naruko on that mission to bring Sachiko back because he had honestly believed that she was not so far gone that there was no hope of saving her.

"I see," he replied. "So, as fulfilling the requirement is not something you chose to do, then where does that leave us?"

"Choose not to do, Hokage-sama," Sachiko corrected lightly. "But this leaves us with a chance to keep the Kyuubi muzzled by either repairing the seal or possibly strengthening it. Obviously I don't know what Yondaime-sama did in the first place, but: I can, potentially, get a good look at the seal and then describe to someone else how it looks so they might be able to do something. However, that entails mindwalking Naruko again. And I can't, sorry, won't do that again until I've more training. I've had one uncontrolled flashback to a copied memory that nearly killed me. I'm not about to have that happen again."

She clenched her fists inside her jacket but otherwise tried to keep as calm as possible. "I've been working with Sakurai as far as genjutsu goes. But so far, between the two of us we haven't found someone to help me with the mindwalking - the actual doing as well as dealing with the aftermath. I am respectfully requesting to recommence my tutelage beneath Yuuhi Kureno. He has experience in this, and would be the best to be able to help in this endeavor." Please, Tsurude-sama, she thought.

As Sachiko spoke, Naruko stayed quiet, alternately inspecting the ceiling or the floor. This was the tricky part, and she didn't want to make the situation anymore awkward than it had to be. This was where things were going to get really sticky, and if they weren't careful, Tsurude could quite possibly pitch them both out the door on their faces. So she stayed quiet and pretended she wasn't in the room.

He was silent for a long time, concentrating on the growing pain that had developed over his right eye. Yuuhi Kureno. Again, of course. Because it couldn't have been anyone else, anyone easy. It was far better to pick the one man who had been a thorn in his side since the fiasco and twist that a bit more. The seconds ticked by, the only sound the even tapping of the clock on the wall.

"Someone else," he finally said.

"Whom would you choose?" Sachiko inquired, careful to keep tone and body language respectful. "Not Kakami-sensei. To have her try, considering the drain her Sharingan has on her chakra, would be suicide. And with all due respect to Morino-san, Kureno-san is the better. Plus, he has worked with me before." Excluding the fact that Ibiki would be right pissed when she found out that Sachiko had managed to hide something from her.

He put his hands together, trying not to grip them too quickly but failing to do so. "If that is the case, then tell me one thing and I will talk to Yuuhi." He clenched his teeth once before continuing. "Tell me what I should tell Kiba, Hoshino and Hinaji when they hear their sensei has been allowed to teach you."

Yeah, that was the sticky and tricky part. How to explain to the three most affected by Kureno's punishment (outside of Kureno himself) that he was allowed to teach Sachiko and not them. When they were his students and she being the one who had nearly gotten Kiba killed. It could at the very least destroy the friendship she was building with Kiba.

She glanced at the floor, then looked at Naruko for several moments. Then she looked away, lifting her hand to run her fingers through her short hair, and thought of the chakra-claws that Hanato had taught her. And she remembered how Kiba had cried, had said how no one was listening to her, and how she was so tired of trying. The life of a shinobi was never supposed to be easy, and more than a few people got the shit-end of the deal.

"Tell them the truth," Sachiko said quietly. "I'm not asking this for myself, Hokage-sama. I've accepted that under other circumstances, I won't be learning anything until another teacher is found. I'm asking for this for Naruko, because this curse seal on my neck is not too different from the demon inside her. I'm asking this for the village of Konoha, because we already know what happened the last time the Kyuubi rampaged. We know the seal is weakening. But we have a chance to do something about it before it becomes a problem. Naruko's doing a good job of keeping the Kyuubi contained, but I've seen how that control can slip." Seeing as I kind of egged her on... "So we need to start working on this, now, while there's still the time. Because I'll be damned if I'll let the village see her as a threat through no fault of her own, and kill her to save themselves."

Naruko blanched at the idea that the village would kill her, swallowing hard and trying to keep herself relaxed. If it came down to it, yes, she was expendable. It would be better to take her down than to risk the loss of the village. But still, the thought of her friends and teachers hunting her down was not a pleasant thought to stomach. It made her palms sweat and her stomach take a greasy roll, but she ignored it. She'd done a good job so far keeping the damn fox in check, and she was still a long, long way off from the seal breaking down completely. No problem. So she took a deep breath and let it out slowly, letting the tension go with it.

He watched Naruko and frowned. "You think I'd let them touch her?" he asked, directing the question at Naurko then Sachiko. But it was a rhetorical question, not one he expected an answer to because he had thought that it wasn't a question that anyone would ever have to ask. Not if it was Naruko who was the one in danger. He turned his attention back to Sachiko, coolness overtaking his features, a stone resolve settling into his eyes.

"Is it easy then for you?" he asked. "To use things like 'for the good of the village' to throw away three people's happiness?" He stared at her, replaying the last statement she had said and then finally looking away. "Of course not," he answered his own questions. "It's not something you want to do. Or have to do." He looked at the stack of papers on the desk. That's what Hokage's are for.

"Get out," he said finally. "Leave the mess you made behind and know in three days time you'll have your teacher and your comrades will not know it was your doing that did it. I'll write the directive myself."

Sachiko pressed her lips together, fire in her eyes as she struggled with the urge to reply to Tsurude's questions, rhetorical or not. She knew Tsurude wouldn't let them touch Naruko - but she also knew that the Hokage didn't live for the individual, they lived for the village, and that the welfare of the village had to come before any one person. No matter who that person was. She knew it wasn't for her wonderful performance that kept her from being executed before - it had to do with her blood, her DNA. And while Tsurude obviously cherished Naruko, if she did become a threat, his hands would be tied.

She also knew it wasn't easy. Not for her, and most definitely not for him. Kureno's punishment was fucking harsh; she knew that, and she understood why it had to be so harsh. Never had she doubted his justifications. She also knew that she was doing this more for Naruko herself than the village, but she couldn't do it alone. She needed Kureno's help. 'For the good of the village' was a flimsy secondary excuse at best, but it was also true. Every shinobi knew that was part and parcel of wearing the symbol of the Leaf. You surrendered your individuality for the common good of the people around you and for the country you served. Tsurude unfortunately wore the human face, and thus received the most flak for everything that happened within his command.

So as much as she wanted to answer, to explain, she kept her mouth shut. She was a shinobi. She followed orders, and her Hokage had just given her one. "Understood, Hokage-sama." She looked to her friend. "C'mon, Naruko."

Casting a backwards glance at Tsurude, Naruko's expression was unreadable before she nodded, and followed Sachiko out. Things were going to turn into a real mess soon, the best she could do is to hope that it would be worth it.