The scent of ocean air and a decided lack of warmth was how Orochimaru awoke. She was thankful Tsunade had long since cracked a treatment for morning sickness or the briny smell of the air would have likely sent her running to the bathroom. She opened her eyes to confirm what she already knew, her husband was not in bed. Slipping on her sky blue yukata, Orochi stepped outside the beach front bungalow. A quick scan and her husband was located, taking residence in a hammock anchored between two palm trees.
She strided over, sand cool under her feet as it hadn't been exposed to the midday sun. Upon arrival she saw he was reading Jiraiya's first book and released a snort in disbelief. Naruto, not remotely offended, just chuckled and assured her it was better than she thought and revealed he'd read the book several times.
"Is this the plan, Naruto-kun? Reading by the beach like a couple of civilians?" She asked as she joined him in the roomy sling.
"That doesn't sound like the worst thing. Let's do that, just stay here and lounge on the beach."
"Is that what you want?" she asked earnestly as she stared into Naruto's eyes. He shook his head.
"Some part of me likes the idea of it but I think I'd be bored before long. Damn my adventuring spirit," he said in mock distress.
"Adventuring spirit, hmm? You know, when I misbehave because of my boredom no one says I have an adventuring spirit."
"Should have invested in a ninja publicist, dear."
"That was my mistake? You neurotypicals are good for something, I'm glad I keep so many around."
"But I'm special right?"
"Oh baby, you're my world," Orochi said but couldn't fight the eye roll as she said it. She was swiftly lifted out of the hammock, Naruto's speed taking her by surprise. She realized where he was headed and felt the need to warn her spouse of his mistake. "If you throw me into the sea I'm going to beat you up."
Naruto stopped and gazed into her eyes with uncharacteristic intensity, remaining silent for several seconds before asking, "You promise?" as he beamed.
"You have picked up one of Jiraiya's bad habits." She was shaking in his arms from him laughing so hard.
"No, I'm decidedly not into getting attacked by irate women. Besides, anata, I wasn't going to throw you into the water. I was going to ask if you felt up for a little tour, Naruto-style."
"And what does Naruto style involve?"
"A bird's eye view," he answered as they reached the edge of the shore. Naruto flared his chakra and a large clay hawk emerged from underneath the water.
"Did you really hide that there just for some big reveal?"
"Pretty fly, right?" He asked with a thousand watt smile.
"I respect the showmanship," Orochi said before kissing him on the cheek. "Sure, I'd like a tour."
"Awesome, 'ttebayo!" The two settled on the construct and took off. Waters parted in response to the takeoff speed of the artificial bird. It was not the array of colors in the early morning sky that stood out to Orochi, nor the sea life just peaking at the service of the water that captured her. It was the exhilaration, the sense of freedom that flying imparted. They weren't going very fast nor were they incredibly high up, not much above Manda's height. It was the feeling of untetheredness, of flouting the rules of gravity even more than ninja normally did. That she experienced it with her maelstrom made it all the more enjoyable and she wondered if learning Bakuton should be her next endeavor, after she mastered that pesky Rasengan.
"You two come down for breakfast," Shikaku said to his son. Shikamaru looked around sarcastically, pointing out that he was clearly alone. Shikaku crossed his arms at the challenge. In truth, no, he hadn't seen through Shikamaru's genjutsu, it was subtle and very well done. He hadn't needed to.
"The problem with sixteen year olds is they all assume they were the first sixteen year olds to ever exist so all their tricks are novel and unknown. Hate to break it to you, son, but you aren't. And even if you were, remember I'm the Jounin Commander for a reason, fuckhead. Now, come to breakfast so your mom doesn't throw a fit." Said commander closed the door and promptly snickers could be heard.
"You just got son'd, Shika."
"Hahaha, laugh it up, Trouble. As I recall, you were the one that suggested we come back here," Shikamaru said as he left his bed, headed toward his closet.
"Well, I didn't think you'd want to come back to my suite, the one I share with my brothers. Besides, hotel sex makes you feel like a whore."
"Excuse me?" Shikamaru asked in shock.
"Yea, like my on-call gigolo just waiting for his mistress to summon him. And it's fun at first but I worry about my respect for you."
"You're the most troublesome woman on the planet and it isn't even close."
"There's no way I'm more troublesome than Orochimaru. You know, the wife of your teammate and best friend."
"Well, she's Naruto's to deal with," Shika observed.
"Oh, and I'm yours? To deal with no less?" She asked too sweetly. Shika knew the trap he'd sprung but experience taught him backing out or groveling only made it worse.
"Yes, to both," he said and got hit with a pillow. "Can you please get dressed?"
"Sure, let me borrow a shirt."
"No, because every time I let you borrow a shirt it just becomes a new shirt for Temari and I'm running out of shirts."
"Yes, and as your girlfriend that is my right so since we're dropping pretenses, gimme a shirt!" Shikamaru ran through numerous responses to the absurdity he'd just bore witness to but just threw her a black t-shirt instead of engaging. He'd have Naruto tag his clothes so he could just summon them back later.
"Oh, and Shika? Don't get any bright ideas about tagging your clothes just to take them back later." Shikamaru tsk'd at his plan being seen through.
"But they are my clothes."
"And I'm borrowing them."
"But you never give them back."
"And I won't for as long as I permit you access to my vagina. See how that works?"
"I don't see how, given what you just said, I'm the sex worker in our relationship."
"Watch it, Nara, I keep a fan on me."
"Where?" Shikamaru asked in genuine surprise. He'd been thorough last night.
"A girl must have her secrets," Temari said with a laugh as she finished dressing and exited the room, Shikamaru close behind. He really needed to know where that fan could be. The two arrived at the table, taking their seats, Temari greeting Shika's parents as they did. They welcomed her warmly but Yoshino slapped Shika in the back of the head, much to his dismay.
"Ow, why?" he asked.
"I thought you'd have learned to stop misusing your genjutsu skills after that last mishap," Yoshino stated.
"Mishap?" Temari asked as she put some scrambled eggs on her plate.
"It was nothing," Shikamaru reassured her. "And I didn't cast that genjutsu, couldn't if I wanted to. Why not slap Naruto in the back of the head when he gets back?"
"I would if he'd ever come over but either you don't invite him or he avoids us," Yoshino complained.
"Me, dear, he's avoiding me. But she does have a point, you can't just put people under illusions whenever you want."
"If you think I can cast a village-wide genjutsu then you have an incredibly erroneous read on my skill set."
"Wait, the entire village was under a genjutsu? What did you do, Shikamaru Nara?" Temari asked in confusion.
"Well, you want to tell her or should I?" Yoshino asked.
"What a drag. Officially, I didn't do anything. But let's say someone crossed one of my teammates but through a moronic chain of events was spared the beheading that would normally come with such behavior. Well, that person returned to the village right around the time said teammate received some life altering news. And given the exigencies of my teammate's nature, action was going to be taken. And it was. Allegedly. There's no proof so this is all hypothetical."
"Oh, tell her how Jiraiya-sama stormed onto our compound and how he brought a few dozen ANBU with him," Yoshino added and Temari looked shocked. "Not to mention, you were considering fighting them, like an idiot!"
Four people, covered head-to-toe in protective wear, work silently. The work wasn't hard but it was best completed quickly so as to not disturb the habitat. An occasional release of smoke aided in the task. It didn't take long to acquire the raw materials nor to extract what they are really after, they had become practiced hands by this point.
The three Aburame and the foul mouth Uzumaki don't remove their protective wear until they are clear from the Apiary. Shino had long toyed with housing a hive, having a teammate that could grow plant life regardless of the season was an incredible boon to the endeavor. The apiary hadn't grown so large that Shino could start producing honey for commercial uses, it was little more than a hobby but one he got to share with Tayuya.
It may have surprised many that she took to caring for the bees but Shino knew it was because they didn't know her, only seeing the vulgar way she expressed herself. Even ninja trained to see beyond the surface level often failed to do so, just like with his clan and his Jinchuuriki teammate. It was perplexing as Shino didn't understand how you turned off critical thinking skills. How could you be selectively ignorant? It was a maddening conundrum.
"The hive seemed agitated today, son. You should reassess your safeguards to make sure no threats can infiltrate," Shibi relayed. Shino nodded in affirmation. "And Tayuya?"
"We're having a trivia night again, will you be joining Shino?"
"I don't know, will you fucking cheat again?" Tayuya asked. Shino could see the amusement on his father's face even if no one outside of the clan would ever be able to tell.
"Fine. I'll raid Stump's liquor cabinet."
"More sake from Mt. Myoboku would be nice," Eri said.
"I'll see, that shitty pervert Jiraiya likes to hoard it when no one's looking."
"Either way, we look forward to your presence. We will depart for now." Shino's parents head to their dwellings while Tayuya and he head back to the Uzumaki Manor.
"I'm going to figure out how he cheats."
"I believe, for my father, that is half the fun."
"Uh huh. And what's the other half?"
"The alcohol," Shino observed dryly.
"Yea, you Aburame can really put it away. You guys should let people know how fun you all are."
"Many avoid us for whatever reason, if they cannot bother then we see no reason to change that. It makes the special few we get close to all the more valuable." Tayuya rolled her eyes but Shino focused more on the small smile she wore.
"You on duty today?"
"No," Shino answered.
"You trying to fuck?"
"I am now."
"Cool," Tayuya said and then disappeared in a shunshin with Shino following behind.
Gaara's eyes danced across the page, the language flowery but easily grasped by the Kazekage. Iwa wanted a treaty with Konoha, and only Konoha. It was an agreement of mutual protection and an end to all hostilities between the two powers. It mentioned nothing of Suna and Gaara didn't have to think long about the potential consequences. Border skirmishes or a coincidental uptick in the number of missions that saw Iwa and Suna ninja standing in opposition. It would only take the wrong, or from Onoki's perspective, right incident to trigger a larger conflict.
If Onoki declared war on Suna, Konoha could side with Suna or with Iwa, who was also allied with Kumo. Whatever the just decision was, the smart decision would be to either sit it out or side with Iwa. It would make sense in the short term but would leave Konoha outnumbered when the other two villages turned on them.
Another alternative was for Gaara to put his people on high alert and watch as Iwa slowly chipped away at them, while the prolonged period of alertness burned out his ninja and left them in a vulnerable position. There were likely more options but not for one second did Gaara believe Onoki sincerely wanted peace.
Once finished, he put the treat request down and looked at Tsunade, "What will you do?"
"Exactly what Onoki wants. This was meant to either forestall a preemptive measure on our end or box us in while they readied themselves."
"But Onoki is too clever by half, that's his fatal flaw and I say we exploit it," Tsunade offered.
"How do you recommend we accomplish that?"
"Well, for one, I think it's time Konoha and Suna took their alliance to a new level. Maybe start conducting joint missions in Wind Country?" she asked with a sly grin.
"That sounds like a wonderful idea, Hokage-dono."
"Well, thank you, Kazekage-dono. Next, I suggest we add Kiri to our alliance."
Gaara contemplated the move. It would mean all five of Hidden Villages would be connected in some form or fashion. That could cool down tensions or push them over the edge entirely. He stared out of the window, the sunny skies of Konoha so different from those of Suna. He wondered what his father would do, what he hoped for in his quiet moments. He'd taken on Suna's harsh climate and made it his personality, believing strength came from it but there had to be more.
He hated Rasa, though his time ruling over the village helped him understand his father more he couldn't forgive the man for his choices. He could have done better. There were real constraints but nothing made the former Kazekage terrorize his own son. Suna was strong now but not because they improved battle effectiveness, not because they invented some new weapon but through cooperation. War was stagnating.
"I agree but it is risky. If Onoki and Darui are set on attacking us, this may only increase their resolve and plan accordingly.'
Tsunade nodded at the point, it was a risk but outside of calling Onoki's bluff they were short on options. The two were deliberate in crafting their proposals, hoping to entice Kiri. Once finished, Gaara departed as he'd be leaving for Suna before nightfall. Now, Tsunade needed the cooperation from the heads of the Uzumaki Clan. Some ingenuity with her and Jiraiya's summons and she was in contact with the newlyweds in short order, though she could hear the annoyance in Orochi's voice.
"One day, Tsunade. Not even a full day."
"I know, I know but this is important. I need you to travel to Kiri, if we can establish an alliance with them it might make Onoki want to hold to his agreement."
"Then we should go to Iwa and kidnap his granddaughter or just kill the old fool. All of which could happen after our allotted time off," Orochi argued.
"Then you'd damn us to war."
"We are already damned to war, at least this way it is on our terms."
Tsunade could only sigh. Orochi wasn't wrong but the last of the Senju had to take the long view. Even if everyone assumed Onoki was lying, if she acted first then it would be a pretense for no village to ever believe Konoha truly wants peace. She'd cut off each future Hokage at the knees. It was a risk. The logic of the world stated she should simply ready her ninja and storm Iwa or Kumo. Konoha held the advantage, even without Suna's aid. But it would end the Will of Fire for generations and Konoha would be just another ninja village.
"I need you to do this for me, even if you don't agree."
"Fine but we will speak more about this upon my return," Orochi promised.
"I'm sure we will, now put Naruto on as he has a part in this he probably won't like."
"If it's about their swords, they can have them. All but the Kiba blades. I keep those."
That surprised Tsunade, a fact she didn't hide. "How'd you know, why are you ok with it and why keep the Kiba blades?"
"How'd I know? I'm smart." Tsunade and Jiraiya both rolled their eyes. "Why I don't care to give them up is simple, all those swords are gimmicky bullshit no real swordsman needs. They'll get a few promising ninja killed trying to master them. As for why I'm keeping the Kiba I have two reasons. First, because fuck Kaiga. Secondly, Kiri was involved in the sacking of Uzushio so this is reparations which is way less than I could demand and extract."
"That's fine. You two can leave early tomorrow." With nothing left to be said, Katsuyu dispelled in both locations. Tsunade resolved to do something special for the couple for ruining their honeymoon. Unbeknownst to Tsunade, her oldest friend had no intention of waiting to be made whole, planning to take matters into her own capable hands. Naruto sensed the mood had shifted even before she began to speak.
"Five days. That is what I was promised. Five days alone with you," she said, body rigid. Naruto approached her, taking her into his arms.
"I know, I'm disappointed too."
"Well, someone has to pay for this," Orochi said, her hands out of view, Naruto couldn't tell she'd been holding something since he approached her. Naruto couldn't respond before he felt the needle in his neck, the pen injector going into effect and everything going black.
Sometime later, Naruto awoke. He had no sense for how long he'd been out and everything still felt really fuzzy. Even with his impaired senses he knew a few things; he was naked, his wrists were bound and lastly, he was sporting a major hard o-
"Kukuku, it seems I timed that just right," Naruto heard. He tried to get up but the bindings on his wrists responded equally to any force he exerted. It was impressive seal work. Another revelation occurred when Orochi climbed on top of him, his body extremely sensitive to touch.
"What's all this about, Orochi-chan?" Naruto asked, her face just a breath from his.
"Oh, just a little something I'd created in case you'd been in need of convincing regarding the viability of our relationship."
"I've proven I don't."
"Ah, you have but my concoction has other uses," she stated. It was taking all the control she had not to simply indulge. Her maelstrom was under her complete control. She gently rubbed his whiskered cheeks as he leaned into her. "You may recall when you revealed your ability with the sub-elements I stated if you were older I'd have taken you right there until you begged for mercy twice."
"Then you may also remember you confidently stating you'd never begged for anything a day in your life. I seek to test your resolve."
"You're being very bad right now, Orochi-chan." Naruto was answered with a kiss, the sensation almost overwhelming and intoxicating. He writhed against his restraint but to no avail. He longed for further contact when Orochi broke away.
"Hmm, and I'm sure punishment is forthcoming so I might as well enjoy myself," she said with a predatory grin.
Kiri, as far as Orochi was concerned, was a hole. A dreary, unpleasant hole. Tsunade owed her big for this. If it were anyone else, she'd probably consider kidnapping their youngest relative and going to work in her lab. She wouldn't do it, of course. Her maelstrom might tolerate a lot but that would certainly cross a line. Still, she'd have to consider it because Kiri was that much of a hole.
Speaking of her maelstrom, he wasn't exactly helping matters. They traveled via kamui and he instantly slipped into mission mode. That was fine, he wasn't humorless or anything and it was fun getting him to break and having to hastily recover his mask of professionalism. Though, it certainly wasn't as fun as what they had been doing last night. She knew she almost had him when he entered Sage Mode to get out of her restraints, overpowering them with ease. And true to his word, punishment had been forthcoming, which was fine as she'd been a bad girl.
Letting go of her digression, the problem started when their "escorts" arrived. Kiri ninja generally came in two varieties, blood thirsty or dead. She was fine with that. But the squad sent for them were twitchy and cowardly; also something she'd be fine with except they weren't afraid of her. It, initially, amused her and Naruto was unprepared for it but quickly came to see their jumpiness as a potential threat. Scared people that have had their flight and freeze responses drilled out of them will fight. Or lash out like cornered animals.
She reasoned having such people around her, even if she were perfectly fine to defend herself, triggered something in him. All sense of fun and ease were gone as he recognized multiple, potential, targets. Not threats, mind you. But receptacles for his violence should the need arise.
So, he was serious and silent which left her bored. Normally, she'd just say she was bored and they'd find something to do (usually sex or jutsu theory or sexy jutsu theory) but he was being a papa bear so her boredom was a lower concern at the moment. Which led her to the conclusion that Kiri was a hole. At least they were in the village proper now, and the scared contingent relaxed. It amused her to think they assumed they were safer because they were surrounded by more of their comrades.
They took the main path to the Mizukage Tower, Orochi felt they were being paraded about like a pair of exotic animals and given they seemed to catch the attention of every nearby ninja, she could be forgiven for believing such. Fortunately, they arrived at their final destination in short order and she stood in front of the Mizukage, who requested an additional chair after seeing the clearly pregnant Uzumaki matriarch, Naruto just standing beside her.
"Welcome to Kirigakure, Uzumaki-dono," Mei greeted. "And you too, Naruto-kun," her voice with a tinge of sultriness when addressing him, something that didn't go unnoticed by all present.
"Thank you for receiving us so warmly, Mizukage-sama," Naruto replied. Soon, he excused himself and waited outside the office for a little over an hour as the talks took place. When Orochi exited the office the two were escorted to a guest room and left alone. Naruto generated a privacy barrier just in case the room was bugged. The suite, decorated with colors reminiscent of Konoha's autumn leaves, was well adorned and comfortable. The two moved to the couch, orochi placing her head in Naruto's lap.
"How did the talks go?"
"Waste of time. We won't be reaching a deal."
"There is still some unrest here, a segment of people actually prefer the isolationist, bloody mist days. Enough where she can't treaty with us without jeopardizing her position."
"That is unfortunate. And nothing can be done?"
"Kukuku, if we could remove a trio of elders who are causing the most trouble and have the most political power then sure, she'd consider it. But it'd have to in no way appear to be an assassination."
Naruto squinted at that. "Ninja don't just die by accident, especially not three around the same time. Even if it were to happen no one would believe it. Why would she even request this?"
"To see how desperate Tsunade was to make a deal. By even briefly considering it I'd have broadcasted weakness. Outright refusal shows this is something Tsunade would like to happen but not necessary. And had I said yes, assuming it were possible, the Mizukage would have us compromised for the duration of her reign. Though, had she continued to flirt with your hers would be the shortest tenure of any Kage in history."
Naruto merely grunted, not exactly appreciating the Mizukage's actions. "Well, we can depart soon enough and have little to nothing to do with Mei Terumi."
"Kukuku, good. I find this village insipid. I've been bored since we arrived."
Naruto raised a single eyebrow as he looked down at his wife, "Really?"
"And what should we do about that? I don't want an international incident because you aren't properly stimulated."
"Hm…" Orochimaru hummed as she thought before reaching an idea. "The task the Mizukage wanted to assign us, could you do it and if so, how?"
Naruto chuckled at the question. "Yes, I could. The how, that's a little longer of an explanation."
"Lucky for you I'm not going anywhere."
"Ok, the short answer is genjutsu. There are some things we can assume about older ninja that have likely seen at least one shinobi world war and one civil war; they drink. The presence of alcohol can turn a simple argument into a brawl and uninhibited ninja fighting will lead to fatalities. The best way to keep it from looking like a job is by making it look like something no one would question."
"I follow but I assume there's more."
Naruto smiled as he answered, "Yep! So to backtrack a bit, I know I said genjutsu but that's for lack of a better term."
"What do you mean?" Orochi asked, obviously intrigued.
"I'm of the opinion, and Kurenai-sensei agrees with me, that genjutsu is an incomplete art. That the difficulty in wielding it with any proficiency has left the discipline undertheorized and therefore still in its adolescence as far as development. Just think about it, the Nara and the Yamanaka both utilize Yin release techniques and neither require the disruption of the chakra system nor the existence of a chakra system to work. So why is genjutsu, arguably the purest expression of Yin release stuck with such a limitation?"
Orochi was now sitting up, enthralled in the argument. It did make sense. There were Sharingan genjutsu that could bypass that necessity but they eluded her, for now, and while the Sharingan gave advantages over others it didn't mean the feats couldn't be replicated. "So, you've been trying to develop illusions that don't require disrupting the chakra system? That would make them more difficult to dispel."
"Yes, but not just illusions. I know we call them genjutsu but at their essence they are a manipulation of sensory organs and often for the sake of an emotional response; fear, distress, heartbreak. But what if you wanted the latter without requiring the former? You could make three drunks become agitated or aggressive without it seeming unnatural to any onlookers."
"And you can do that?"
"Not quite. While working on a technique that would make people turn on their comrades by mistaking them for enemies I did get better at triggering aggression. That I can do without the overarching illusion and the effect would be pretty weak-"
"But if they are already intoxicated they become more susceptible to the manipulation and since there would be no other signs of genjutsu no one would suspect outside interference." Orochi slid into Naruto's lap, straddling him with a smirk on her lips. "You know, Naruto-kun, I've been distracted by other projects but I'm starting to think my rival is getting too far ahead of me."
Naruto ran his hands up her thighs and let them rest at her waist. "You know, since we're married and having a kid and all, we don't have to be rivals. We could probably get just as much done as partners."
"Colleagues?" She whispered in his ear.
"Associates and the like," Naruto followed up.
"Kukuku, that's all well and good, Naruto-kun, but I see a flaw in your proposal."
"And what's that?" he asked.
"If we're always working together then, at best, I'd be seen as your equal and I don't play to tie." Orochi soon found herself on her back, Naruto over her looking down.
"I say this with all humility, Orochi-chan; being considered equal to me will soon be a pretty big deal."
"I do not disagree so just imagine the acclaim for when I make you admit I am superior."
Naruto smiled at her statement and kissed her in response. Orochi returned the gesture but soon broke apart as she sensed someone coming and was proven right by the knock at the door. Another team of shinobi had delivered the Mizukage's official response and were there to escort the couple out of the village.
Once they'd left the village, and seeing as they had some time to kill, Naruto suggested they go to Nami. They weren't that far and he did have a bridge named after him. He noted, internally, that Orochi got a little weird as she declined but all but demanded he visit the small nation. A quick flight later and Naruto had touchdown on the location of one of his more significant missions. The once impoverished village had seen a turn around, signs that trade had picked up and they'd managed to remain relatively secure.
Naruto was planning to head to a tavern or food stand when Kurama demanded he go to the nearest dock. It was strange but if Kurama wanted to see a sunset Naruto wasn't going to fight him on it. He shunshin'd to the location and began to walk to the edge but stopped in his tracks. He couldn't be sure of what he was seeing. Sure it was longer but no one had a shade… but why here? Out of anywhere? Did Orochi know?
Naruto shook off the string of questions and continued toward the edge of the dock. He silently sat next to the person who had already been sitting there. One look and he knew, one look was all he needed. The smile on his face was so wide it likely looked unnatural and if people mistook for an idiot he wouldn't fault them, nor would he care.
His companion, also wearing a smile, much smaller and with a hint of sadness. She briefly looked down and a curtain of midnight blue hair separated them but it ended as swiftly as it'd begun. Impressively, and against their pattern, she was the first to speak. "Naruto-kun," was all she said but the greeting contained multitudes.