I'm going to try to be more frequent with my updates. After this, I'll do an update for either The Light or Choking. Regardless of which one I end up updating, the next update will have to be To Burn Alive. I have some ideas for a Highschool DxD fanfic as well as a Re:Zero fic but the details are... iffy.

Disclaimer: I have a headache. I own the headache. I do not own Naruto.


Revelation

"Morino-san."

Ibiki could not claim he knew Noriko well— that would imply a sort of closeness between the two that did not exist— but with his expertise, it was not particularly difficult to figure her out.

So when he heard the notes of unease in her voice, he was not at all surprised when he looked up and she failed to meet his eyes. Still, he would not press for details; she always told him regardless.

"Report, Noriko." She straightened up noticeably, finally looking in his direction— though not quite at him.

"The prisoner is ready and willing to speak, Morino-san. However, they request your presence before they begin."

Ibiki blinked. He could certainly guess what the reason was but it always paid to be certain...

"Were you given a reason as to why?"

"The prisoner stated that they were uncertain if I had the necessary clearance for such information and that— of the entire division— they were only certain that you did." Noriko blinked before her gaze turned questioningly to Ibiki's own. "Though, I suppose I do have the necessary clearance, correct? You wouldn't have allowed me to handle this otherwise."

Ibiki simply nodded as he stood from his seat. Noriko did have the clearance but the kid must have been aware that the secret wasn't one that ought to be spread around.

Still, it gave him a bit of insight. If the kid was indeed a spy— though that was beginning to seem increasingly unlikely— then it was probable that she only had knowledge of the key figures rather than trying to find information on everybody with a bit of skill.

Ibiki had only just passed Noriko on his way out when another thought came to his head.

"And mind-walking? Was it necessary to threaten the prisoner with that?"

In his peripheral vision, he caught Noriko's flinch. With a raised eyebrow he turned to look at her. She shuffled awkwardly, avoiding his gaze once again.

"Mind-walking i-is... suboptimal." She spoke quietly before continuing in a tone that bordered on a whisper, "Yamanaka Inori is c-currently in the infirmary."

The words hung in the air between them.

"What the hell happened?"

Ibiki was not one for poetics but seeing Noriko shrink the way she did was comparable to a flower wilting under sweltering heat.

"I-I don't know, Morino-san."

He scoffed but did not press any further.

"Let's get moving then; we're about to find out."


Noriko had moved the prisoner to a standard interrogation room before she had reported to Ibiki and it saved the pair a bit of time.

Through the one-way mirror, he could also tell that Noriko had dressed the prisoner as well and had probably taken far more time than necessary putting the prisoner in the ill-fitting garb before reporting to him.

"You'll observe from here, Noriko." She spared him nothing but a nod as she prepared her notepad.

He stepped into the room, slamming the door heavily behind him. The prisoner's eyes shot to him and he caught a glimpse of irritation before the girl's shoulders relaxed, her eyes turning downwards once more.

Ibiki was made distinctly aware of how thin the kid was as he took his seat across the table. She was clothed in a shirt that obviously far too large for her as it hung off one shoulder, making it all too easy to see how bones seemed to protrude from her flesh.

Ibiki recalled that Inoichi had a daughter around this girl's age and was vaguely grateful that it had not been necessary to bring him in.

Ibiki leaned forward steepling his fingers together just below his nose.

"Start talking."

The girl looked up at him before slouching back in her chair.

Ibiki was not foolish enough to disregard the fact that the girl appeared so nonchalant even with her hands chained to the table between them but that was neither here nor there.

(He was not foolish enough to believe that nonchalance was entirely fake either.)

"Start me off with questions. I don't really know what you want me to say and I'm sure you have plenty more questions so..."

Ibiki snorted, leaning back in his own chair. He would get the answers either way.

"Fine. Why were you observing the academy classes the day you were brought in?"

The girl cleared her throat audibly. "I was trying to learn the Henge. My appearance isn't exactly conspicuous and I was trying to be incognito."

"And I take it you didn't learn it?"

She scoffed. "Got it in one."

Ibiki held back a sigh. If he did not know better, he would almost call this relaxing.

"Your goals. What are you hoping to achieve here?"

"Ah, well—" she yawned. "Well, I was hoping to join the academy and get myself on Naruto's Genin team. Can't be a team more fun than the jinchūriki's after all, right?"

Ibiki raised an eyebrow. "You know the boy's joined early; the chances you'll make it onto his team are slim-to-none."

The girl rolled her eyes. "I'd agree with you, except that it's pretty obvious that Hiruzen has a pretty big soft spot for the kid. Otherwise, I imagine he wouldn't have attended the academy at all and would instead be trained by a number of Jōnin in all manners of skills until he was a veritable maelstrom on the battlefield. No. I imagine that Hiruzen is the kind of person who'd intentionally hold Naruto back, saying 'we are no longer in a time of war' and 'he deserves the chance to be a child'. That way, Naruto could be on a team with his peers instead of made to be the 'paragon of shinobi' or some nonsense like that."

Ibiki was mildly shocked by the assumptions the girl had made. Moreso because Hokage-sama had used the point that they were no longer in a war at a council meeting regarding the future of the jinchūriki. This made for as good a transition as he'd get into more important matters.

"What do you know about Uzumaki Naruto?"

"Only the important stuff, right?" He heard the girl mutter before speaking up. "He's the jinchūriki of the Kyūbi no Yōko as well as Namikaze Minato's son."

Ibiki nodded. He had suspected that she knew about the boy's relation to the Yondaime and it was only reasonable that she knew the former if she was aware of the latter.

"And how did you come across this information?"

She seemed to contemplate for a period and Ibiki watched silently as her gaze traveled downwards, her expression morphing into a scowl. It lasted only a moment before she sighed and met his eyes again.

"I knew his parents. Minato only in passing a but I was— I suppose— close with Kushina when she was younger." The girl's lips parted in a grin. "That and I'm not an idiot."

Ibiki stared and could not exactly keep himself from asking his next question.

"How old are you?"

"No idea, next question, please," the girl replied in a saccharine tone.

He was ready to force the issue but that answer on its own was telling. While entirely possible that the girl had been lying about personally knowing the Yondaime and Uzumaki Kushina personally, the urgency at which she had brushed aside the question of her age pointed to the idea that she was, in fact, older than she appeared.

"And who exactly was Kushina?"

The girl rolled her eyes and gave him a look that implied she had thought far better of him.

He ignored it.

"Uzumaki Kushina was a girl that got really angry if you called her 'tomato-head' or something like that. She was also the former jinchūriki of the Kybi. The jinchūriki before her was—" She frowned. "—Wait, she was kept a secret right? Damn, you probably— fuck. Kushina was meant to be a secret too, huh? I forgot about that. No harm now, I guess. The first jinchūriki of the Kyūbi was the Shodaime Hokage's wife— Senju Mito, née Uzumaki. Not that she ever managed to actually control his chakra."

Ibiki blinked. Kushina was indeed meant to be a secret and the only reason he had access to the information was because of his position. He had speculated about Senju Mito but had eventually decided it was unimportant because she was long dead.

He could not quite hold back his sigh this time.

"And how have you come across this information?"

The girl's expression was suddenly and distinctly nervous before she cleared her throat, staring him in the eyes.

(He could hardly call the look she gave him determined; even more so when he could see the touch of boredom underneath it all.)

"A pleasure to meet you. I'm Kishimoto Junko— the Reibi no Yūrei."


Hiruzen read the transcript wearily, again and again, even as Morino Ibiki waited patiently on the other side of his desk. He dragged heavily from his pipe as he set down the transcript.

'The Reibi no Yūrei', he thought grimly.

"And you're certain of this, Ibiki?" While the silencing seals were up, they shouldn't have had a reason to fear speaking plainly, however with something of this magnitude they couldn't risk not being too careful.

"About as certain as I possibly could be, given the circumstances," Ibiki replied, easily sounding as tired as Hiruzen felt at the moment.

And that's certainly the crux of all of this. Any other transcript that needed to be brought to Hiruzen himself was thick as a book, Ibiki— or whichever other interrogator handled the matter— repeating questions over and over, searching for discrepancies and contradictions in the words of their prisoner. Even then, the observer would leave markers detailing the more salient points.

This was two sheets of paper, that held all the information of five minutes worth of interrogation, and Ibiki had handed it to him as if he'd been tasked to scale a cliff with naught but his index finger and thumb.

"Is there anything, in particular, I should be worried about?" Do we have to worry about the Kyūbi being released?

"No. It was made rather clear that our prisoner desired little, despite a few contradictory statements."

Hiruzen's eyes flickered over a particularly unnerving piece of the transcript, likely the exact statement Ibiki was referring to.

[00:03:47] KJ: "I am old. Older than the other nine Bijū, older than everything bar the world itself. Is it not natural I find myself drawn to the only things that come close to my age— drawn to the eldest of their ilk?" [KJ pauses. Their expression is irritated.] "I was once human, [refers to INT]. They, at least, are a constant in this world."

Even without hearing the words himself, Hiruzen could feel the insouciance the prisoner had been directing at Ibiki at that moment. These were not the words that followed someone bearing sorrow on their shoulders; they were the words of a silver tongue excusing a decision that had been made in the heat of the moment and not truly caring whether they were believed because the decision had been made and there was nothing you could to do about it.

Still...

"I believe that I will have to visit this prisoner myself." He read over the last line of transcript once more before he stood, the silencing seals unraveling. He hardly needed to do so, but it never hurt to double-check.

He handed the transcript back to Ibiki and the two stepped out of the office.

[00:04:53] KJ: "As my first act of goodwill, I'll tell you this; [refers to Malice] is far more clever than you give him credit for. Had the village not been troubling him as it was, he'd have left. He knew exactly what [refers to Orenji] would do if he stayed and probably would've killed [refers to Kusari] before leaving. So I'm letting so you can be certain; [refers to Malice] was most definitely controlled [refers to Red Zone]. There."

[00:05:09] END INTERROGATION


Akio pushes Sakura on the swing and even though he couldn't see her face, he knew by the way she was silently observing the park that she was frowning.

"Sakura-chan," he doesn't whine because whining is what children do. "Why do you keep dragging me out here?"

He wants to stop pushing her so they can have a proper conversation but he knows that if he stops Sakura will focus her ire entirely on him, so he keeps pushing.

While Sakura is his adorable, little sister, Angry Sakura— while still little— is decidedly less adorable.

"I'm waiting for Aiyana-chan," she replied simply as if that answered his question.

He wanted to laugh because she was indeed calling Junko 'Aiyana-chan' but he wouldn't be able to see the adorable way Junko bared her teeth at him like a little kitten, seeing as she wasn't here. That, and he had no intention to anger Sakura further.

"Mmhmm, but why am I here?" He almost laughed again when she stiffened and knew that had she not been swinging, she would've turned and given him her nastiest glare.

"You probably scared her away, Onii-chan." He could hear the petulance in her voice despite the constant fluctuations of her tone and was certain more than ever that talking while she swung was fairly stupid. "I need you here so that you two can apologize to each other. You were really mean, the both of you."

He was about to respond that it had been a bit more than a month and if Aiyana-Junko did ever come back it probably wouldn't too soon— and that it had been the girl who was rude and not him— and then he was interrupted.

"Hazuki-chan!"

Junko's voice was loud enough to drown out the sound of children playing in the afternoon and Akio could see that the girl didn't care about the attention she'd drawn, her green locks fluttering as jogged over to him and his sister.

Sakura had practically leapt from her swing as Aiyana-Junko got closer and Akio was left to make sure the seat didn't nail him in the shins.

"Ai—Junko-chan! Where have you been?" Sakura wrapped her arms around the other girl who returned the gesture with just as much heart.

"Noriko-san said we were moving so I had to help her out, ya know?" Junko replied with a smile that bordered on smirking and was endlessly satisfied.

Sakura's eyes widened. "Is she the one who adopted you?"

Junko blinked, her expression suddenly looked extraordinarily tired. "Mmhmm."

Akio raised an eyebrow. Personally, he thought Junko always looked a bit under the weather— or at least she had the last and only time he'd seen her— she looked like she'd been on the wrong end of a particularly taxing fight.

Sakura must've picked up on it too— but interpreted it the entirely wrong way— because she leaned in and whispered, "Blink twice if you need help, Junko-chan."

Junko blinked and she gave them both a questioningly look before she suddenly came to a realization.

Then she laughed.

Well, no. To say she laughed would be downplaying it. The girl threw head back and practically howled and when she was done with that, she was clutching at her sides so desperately it looked like she may as well be dying. Not to mention all the attention she was drawing from parents and children alike.

"Junko-chan."

The trio looked up— Junko, disturbingly so, as if nothing had happened but the smile was still plastered on her face.

Akio met the eyes of a woman with a kind smile and his initial thought was that she was abnormally drab. Then he caught sight of her dark uniform and noticed that her smile was also quite artificial because that was Torture and Interrogation's uniform.

Junko clapped Sakura on the back before running off. "Bye-bye, Hazuki-chan!"

Akio felt a solemn weight settle in his stomach as he watched to the two leave.

"Drat."

Akio's eyes went to Sakura who was frowning into the distance.

"What is it?"

She looked up at him, pouting. "I didn't get the chance to make you two apologize."

He snorted.

Of course.


Malice, Kusari, Orenji, and Red Zone are obviously coded phrases. I imagine, for any shinobi, that they aren't particularly difficult to figure out if you already know that information. But yeah.

Also, this is probably my fastest update ever.

Also, I'm finally going to commission that cover art I talked about ages ago. It's happening. Maybe.