I did not bother to put much effort into hiding my approach to Hiruzen's office the day of our next meeting; except to sneak up on a Hyugga on lookout duty he was too much of a juicy target.

"Pardon me, I have an appointment." I hissed lowly in his ear, making ANBU agent jump halfway across the compound into a perfect Jukken stance, a cry of alarm on his lips.

I ignored it, and strode up the front door of Hiruzen's home and daintily knocked on the door. I ignored the entire squad of ANBU Ninja that were materializing behind me and instead smoothed out the wrinkles in my purple kimono and briefly admired how the seamstress had managed to blind the color with the green accents and have the outfit not look garish. It took far longer than was polite to leave a guest on your doorstep before, finally, a reedy old woman answered the door.

"Yes?" The woman asked, looking at me with a complete lack of care.

"I have a meeting with Sarutobi-Sensei." I said, inclining my head to the woman. I recognized her. A ninjutsu specialist that lost her left foot late into the First Great Shinobi War. As a child, I had seen her do things with Ninjutsu that Orochimaru tried to replicate to the day of the botched possession technique. A legend that's greatest feat was being the head maid to the Hokage for fifty years.

I had previously been certain that she resented the position but served in it for a lack of a better position being available, but as her eyes stared dispassionately into mine I found myself questioning my previous bias.

The woman glanced down at the basket I carried. "Is that liquor?"


"Among other things." I answered.

The woman sighed and muttered under her breath, "Every fucking time the three of you gather." The woman looked up to the ignored ANBU and waved a dismissive hand. "Get outta here. You lot aren't doing any good standing around with your thumbs up your ass."

Then she slammed the door on Konoha's shadowy elite.

"Change out of your damn outside shoes." She ordered and began walking down the hall. I shrugged and did as she asked before obediently following after. I considered the old lady. She had her fire still, even as the peg that served as her foot made the faintest sound on the floor as we walked. She was not the broken and bitter woman I had thought for years. She was just a soldier that did her dues and found a new purpose in life. Something that you could find everywhere in the ninja world. The old people that had been damaged and found a way out, a new calling that didn't guide them battlefield after battlefield.

I was led to what I knew to be Hiruzen's least formal meeting room. The one decorated with the cheapest furniture and his own art he wasn't very fond of.

It was the room he used when he thought things might grow violent.


"Here." My guide said with a gesture.

"Thank you, Kobayashi-san." I stated with a bow, "And thank you for the inspiration."

She glanced at me with suspicious eyes before giving a sniff of dismissal and walking away at a more hurried pace. My danger did little to phase the woman, but a cryptic compliment was enough to send her running. The Shinobi World in miniature. A small laugh bubbled from my lips as I opened the door.

"Hiruzen-sensei, I hope this time you will-" the teasing words and amusement faded before the senbon needle impacted the door as I leaned my head inches to the side on pure instinct. I had expected many people to possibly be in the meeting. Jiraiya, Tsunade, and Kakashi I was vindicated on, but the last member was one I had been very specifically avoiding thinking about.

There, with a gaze full of piss and bile was my former student, the hand of Jiraiya on her shoulder being the only thing stopping a follow-up from the needle.

"Anko." I half-whispered.

"How ya doin' sensei?" She spat back like a curse.

Such contempt in her eyes. To my teammates, I had always felt that it wasn't really a betrayal against them, but against the institution of Konoha. We had fought, but I had not directly gone against either of them except to fight Jiraiya as I made my escape, and even then he was only hospitalized for a scant few days. Anko, however, I had directly betrayed. I had made her feel lesser. I had marked her with a seal I wasn't sure she'd live through and was in it's experimental stages. I had acted purposefully cruel towards her because Orochimaru...because I needed to be cruel to her more than the rest because I cared for her and needed to push her away.

What a fucking coward I was.

With an effort of will I tore my eyes away from her face and my mind gave a glance to her condition. She hadn't been sticking to the diet regime and exercise program that I had designed for her.


"Far better, as of late. You have grown into beautiful young woman, Anko." I said softly.

She recoiled as if I slapped her before her anger redoubled. "How DARE-"

"Anko." Sarutobi cut in, his voice neither chiding nor disappointed but commanding. Anko straightened with a scowl, but made no further moves. Jiraiya took his hand off the woman's shoulder and stepped back to stand at Hiruzen's side, Tsunade on the other. Kakashi was a bit further behind, leaning against the wall with a forced casualness that would have fooled most people, but the way he held his eye and the set of his shoulders told me that the man was almost as wound as Anko was.

"Orochitama. I have considered your request and-"

"With all due respect, Sensei, I did bring refreshments. If we are here to represent different nations, there is certain niceties that should be observed, no?" I asked with a forced cheerfulness.

"No." Hiruzen stated firmly. "You have snuck into my home, made fools of my village to the public, and made quite clear that you are not one of my ninja. You do not get to forgo politeness only as you find fit then weild it against us to get what you want. This is deeply personal and emotional for all here and you will not dictate to us the pace of things for your own comfort."

I paused. Hiruzen was right. I was trying to pull things into my own pace, and make myself comfortable without thought of how the others here would react when, in some ways, I was the one asking for a favor.

"Of course, Hokage-sama." I stated, inclining my head and dropping the basket of treats on to the table. "Eat them at your own convenience, I apologize for interrupting. Proceed, Hokage-sama."

They all stared at me with a wide array of emotions. Anko was the most disturbed by my behavior; doubtlessly she didn't expect me to apologize and show respect without a mocking tone. Jiraiya looked at me with naked suspicion and my respect did nothing but increase his skepticism. Kakashi and Tsunade sat on the opposite end of things, as they regarded my actions with an affable air of expectation. Hiruzen though, he visibly held back some emotion that I couldn't identify beyond a flash of sadness in his tired eyes.

"We have considered your proposal." I didn't bother hiding my smile. "However, it is with conditions."

My smile remained firmly in place. "Name them."

"Kakashi." Hiruzen began, and the man stepped forward.

"You know the Three Tail's connection to me. To Rin." Kakashi stated, it wasn't a question, but I answered anyways.

"I do."

Kakashi's eyes grew harder. "Then why choose me?"

"Because you can protect him." I answered immediately. "Because Akatsuki will come for him and if you have the power of a tailed beast on your side, I don't think any of the Akatsuki can defeat you, and because you have a heart that can forgive him."

"Forgiving the Tailed beast?" Kakashi asked without judgement, but with incredulity.

"Isobu is a living, thinking, and feeling creature, a comrade. You must gain balance with him to use all his power, but even if you don't, you just having access to more chakra makes you ten times as dangerous as you are now. There is no one else that can claim the same."

Kakashi quietly contemplated my words for a handful of heartbeats. "Do you feel any guilt about asking me to do this?"

I winced and gave a nod. "For what shallow comfort it provides, yes, but it is far too practical of an idea to be ignored, so I asked knowing you would consider it your duty to do so for Konoha."

Kakashi stared at me for a moment longer before nodding and taking a step back, but rather than lean against the wall again, he stood at attention, staring me down. A deserved reaction. In the minds of the ninja, I might as well ask someone in my old world to forgive a nuclear bomb.

I looked to Sarutobi in expectation. There was no way that Kakashi's questions were the end of his demands.

In response, Hiruzen slowly, methodically, pulled out his pipe and tobacco and at a glacial pace prepared the pipe to smoke; all with absolute silence in the room. The five ninjas in the room not making a sound as they stared at me in absolute quiet and focus. A power play on their part, or at least a defensive one. I had long taken the pacing of every conversation I had with each of them individually, kept them on the backfoot and dictating the course of conversation and thought. This was their way of actively fighting against it. The message was clear, they were not my puppets and they refused to continue to be led by the nose.Unauthorized use of content: if you find this story on Amazon, report the violation.

I accepted the silence easily. This was the time for them to have the metaphorical ball in their court; I wanted their cooperation not their subjugation. Still, the pressure of so many high level shinobi, three of which that had a solid chance at killing me in a one on one fight, was nerve-racking and I had to fight against the instinct to make a joke or innuendo to break the tension.

After a small eternity, Hiruzen finished lighting his pipe and taking a long drag, speaking on the exhale, "First, I want your word that you nor any of your ninja will set foot in Konoha again without the explicit permission my office."

I nodded my head. It was a reasonable request even if a laughable one. No Ninja Village passed up the opportunity to have spies in another village, it just wasn't done. What Hiruzen actually meant is that if he was ever able to prove I or my ninja stepped into his village he wouldn't go first to politics, he'd go first to war.

"I promise. I, nor any ninja under my command will return uninvited by the office of the Hokage."

Hiruzen thought over my words before giving a nod of his own.

"Second. You have made an enormous amount of profit from your 'fair' during the Exams. Money you could not have made without Konoha gathering all those people in the same place. We demand fifty percent of your profits." Hiruzen said simply; as if that was not the most ridiculous sentence the man had ever uttered.

"Sensei, I did not realize that you were going senile. Fifty percent is a ridiculous number and regardless, it was held outside your walls. In your own village charter, merchants outside the walls are excepted from any sort of taxes or tariffs to the village." I replied, strain clear in my voice.

"Ah, but it is internationally agreed that all merchants at a Chunnin Exam must pay the hosting village a fee for the opportunity." Hiruzen replied while taking a slow puff, cold eyes staring me down.

"At ten percent, not fifty!" I stated in a manner most would reserve for the word 'bullshit'.

"Consider it repayment for damage to reputation."

"Your reputation is not that damaged. I'll do the fifteen percent of the NET income."

"Forty percent of the gross." Hiruzen replied, like a mad man.

I opened my mouth to immediately slap down the counter offer for the ridiculous price it was. Hiruzen, was looking for me to give a large amount of money. Money that, frankly, I didn't really have any more. All those zeroes seemed like an impossible amount but dwindled rapidly when you funded the creation of an international village, paid thousands of employees, built infrastructure, and developed education. I was, in fact, in a not insignificant amount of debt.

Doesn't mean you just tell another nation that kind of weakness though.

"I have a compromise. I will give you five percent gross, however, my village is planning on continuing to do the play in other places. Any shows done in the boarders of the Nation of Fire will continue to get you the five percent."

The old man puffed on his pipe with an unflinching gaze, doubtlessly doing the math. Hiruzen's greatest strength as a Hokage had never been his command of ninjutsu, his charisma, or anything of the like. It had always been that the old man had a great head for numbers and attention to detail. I didn't report my income to anyone at any capacity, but I had no doubt that Hiruzen would have a general idea how much money Sound took in during the fair just because he had people tracking the number of customers entering and their spending habits. Hell, the memories of another world were what allowed me to realize that my old teacher had almost single handedly INVENTED statistics.

The man had a mind for numbers and laws well beyond what any average person could hope to have, but he lacked anywhere near that same grasp when it came to art. What other people enjoyed when it came to matters of fiction and games had always seemed to escape him and he was always dubious on the lasting success of anything that counted on the whims of interest from the masses. I was asking him to give up money now for possible money in the future and the edge of a frown began to form on his face. He opened his mouth to dismiss my proposal when Jiraiya cleared his throat. Hiruzen's eyes glanced towards his only male student before returning to me.

"How many shows are planned in the nation of Fire?" He asked instead of shooting my proposition down.

I smothered my own smirk. It was nice to see that Jiraiya did enjoy the play and expected it to be successful.

"We are currently booked for fifteen venues where we will run through the plays just as we did here. Two of which will be in the capital and be more than three times the price of tickets in Konoha." I replied with a smirk.

Hiruzen's eyebrows rose and the man quickly replied. "Fifteen percent."

"Eight percent of the gross of tickets and refreshments."

My added condition to the percentage gave Hiruzen a pause as I could visibly see the man wondering what else I could possibly be charging for besides tickets and refreshments, because clearly there was something else there if I had added that term. The silence between us stretched as he doubtlessly then began to wonder if I was trying to psyche him out and this was a bluff and his mind fell down that slippery slope of questions instead of asking a straight forward question.

"Twelve percent of all tickets, refreshments, and game-booths." Hiruzen finally stated.

"Ten percent of all tickets, refreshments, and game-booths, but you you provide a C-Rank capable group of ninja as a protection detail to all shows while in the Land of Fire."

A single long C-rank mission was a drop in the bucket cost wise compared to the kind of money we were talking about, but I was, in fact, offering to make it easier for him to send people to spy on my people while in his nation as they were officially part of the team and wouldn't have to sneak around. It had the added benefit of making it more difficult for a third party to set one of us up to make us go at each other.

"Agreed." Hiruzen stated before leaning back into his chair, certain he'd gotten a good deal. He had, but I was quite proud of the fact that he managed to not touch the most significant profit maker soon to come.

Merchandising! Even as we spoke I had a warehouse being slowly being filled with plastic periscopic lightsabers; without electronics, but I was certain those alone would make me enough to buy an island within the next year.

"Finally, there is one last demand. This one is not negotiable." Hiruzen stated firmly and I sat up striaghter in response. This was it. This was the one thing Hiruzen really cared about. My mind raced, considering the possibilities but I found I couldn't think of anything he would demand that was too terrible. At worst it was some concession on-

"You will teach us how to remove one of your Cursed Seals."

Shit. I internally panicked.

"I can't do that." I answered, pained.

"I knew it! You just want your experiment to not be fucked with. You won't-" Anko began.

I raised a hand and cut her off.

"No, I can't because I don't know how to teach you all to do it. The seal holds a fraction of my soul to guide the chakra in the seal. The only method I have discovered to remove the seal requires my own chakra to resonate and stop the chakra that's inside the seal from killing the victim as it's removed. I don't have a method that you can use without me."

Hiruzen looked to Tsunade and Jiraiya the two didn't move, but I could see from the flex of their arms that they had signalled something behind their backs. Likely something about how what I said made sense from their own knowledge of seals and how foreign chakra interacts with the human body.

"Then you will remove Anko's seal and allow us complete access to the process. We will be able to study it in full and you will answer any questions about the process."

I swallowed. I did not want to remove a cursed seal any time soon. I had been researching how to do it, but I kept coming to the conclusion that I'd have to take the chakra from the seal into myself to do it and with that the tiny piece of soul within. The soul of how Orochimaru was before we did our little fusion dance. I frankly was not certain what effect it would have, if at all. I had previously subsumed Orochimaru and incorporated him into myself and it might be fine and nothing would change, or it could make it where I was more like the Orochimaru that had previously been.

I didn't know.

However, I needed Konoha to agree and it was clear this final point was what the whole appointment had been leading me to. It was a character test. They wanted to know that I was not like the Orochimaru of old and that this was not all lip service. They wanted to see me give them power to remove an advantage of my village, something Orochimaru wouldn't do.

It wasn't a risk I wanted, but the small piece of soul left in Anko should be meager and insignificant. It probably wouldn't effect me even as much as the girl that owned the body that I/Orochimaru currently possessed.

That word "probably" scared me though.

Still, I could tell that this was not a point that could be compromised on. All the ninjas in the room gave me a steelly gaze that told me there would be no further wiggiling on this subject. I would have to hand over the information if I wanted Konoha to give its endorsement of my village. I need their endorsement of my village to make certain that Lightning or Stone wouldn't come to start a war.

In the end, I had only one option.

"When would you like to begin?" I asked.

"My whole afternoon is free." Hiruzen replied mildly.



The Shadow Clone technique was forbidden for multiple reasons; the massively prohibitive chakra cost was but one aspect of the danger. The rest came from the fact that the created chakra construct was still you. On the surface, such a statement would be met with an profound rebuttals such as "duh" however, when one recognizes that it is an exact copy of one's self but with the complete awareness that it's existence was, by its nature, extremely temporary. Some that use the technique and realize this feel comfort in the fact the last vestiges of chakra for the clone return to the original, satisfying a continued shared existence. Others that the technique does not hold great drawbacks for are those not prone to deep thinking in the times where they use the technique.

However, most people do not react to the situation nearly as well. When a clone realizes its own separate existence it's something the original will learn too. Memories of that drawing fear and the knowledge of impending death will tend to make the user wary of using the technique. This can compound with the clones, exercising their autonomy, debating internally with running from the fight to live or to wondering if betraying their originator would somehow make them live longer, to cling on to what little life they were granted. Each time one makes clones again, the easier it is for the clone to harbor these thoughts, because the original KNOWS those thoughts and feels them too. Actual betrayal or cowardice from a clone is rare, but the inherited memories make a shinobi just decide the Shadow Clone is just not worth the risk. To actually use a Shadow Clone with all that knowledge one had to either greatly believe in the cause or have an acceptance of death that could be worrying.

Hiruzen heaved a sigh as the Orochitama in front of him disappeared in a puff of smoke. That the woman meeting them was, again, a Shadow Clone said much about the content of his character and it alone was great evidence to Orochitama being a wholly different being than Orochimaru was. Orochimaru had, of course, learned the Shadow Clone techniqued, long ago, but the man had refused to use it extremely quickly and refused to speak on his reasons. Hiruzen used to think it was because he feared death too much, but looking back he couldn't shake the feeling that the Orochimaru's very first clone had quickly thought of betraying its creator.

"A Shadow Clone? For a meeting?" Anko asked, well aware of the issues with the technique.

"I wouldn't want to personally show up for a meeting with three of my greatest enemies either." Kakashi pointed out as he withdrew his book and began reading; or at least pretending to. Hiruzen was never certain which it was.

"Think she's actually coming back?" Tsunade asked.

"Yep." Kakashi stated firmly. Though when the room looked to him, he ignored everyone.

"You sure? You saw her blink. When Sensei went for her money she got mad, but it was controlled and barely noticable. A genin could tell she didn't want to remove the cursed seal. She does not like this deal." Tsunade continued.

"Just a guess." Kakashi said simply.

The Shadow Clone of Orochitama had disappeared with the promise of her real body returning in two hours with both the research notes on the removal of the Cursed Seal as well as the schematics for the seal she wanted to use to turn Kakashi into a Jinchuriki.

"You did good." Muttered Jiraiya, catching Hiruzen's attention. "You got her guard up and fought her big on the money so she felt like she couldn't fight as much on the Seal. Secured a damn good money deal too."

Hiruzen nodded before saying, "And yet."

Jiraiya nodded too. "And yet." He agreed.