While the events of Vol 2 In the land of waves takes place Team Asuma is sent on a mission to the capital. There is a princess of the Land of Fire in danger and Ino is the perfect person to go undercover to find out just who is targeting the princess.
“You look like a princess” The words brought Ino out of her daydream in time to receive Miku’s hug, the younger girl taking care to not damage Ino’s kimono, robin egg blue with a shower of white rose petals.
“The blue looks beautiful on you”
It will be our first time apart, Ino thought as she patted her little sister’s head. Ponytail? “You have a mission too?” Miku’s hair was pulled up into a long ponytail with a ribbon their father had given them.
“I’ll be out of range soon, so I sent a clone. We are heading to the land of waves and it kinda sounds like a lot of fun.” The shadow clone of Miku was practically bouncing with excitement. “I sent a clone to tell daddy and mom I wouldn’t be home for a few days.”
“Wait, do you have enough time to help me with the shadow clone technique. I might not be able to make as many as you but I get the feeling I’ll need the technique.”
As Ino watched Miku replicate the signs for the multiple shadow clone technique she had to admit her sister had grown quite a bit since joining team Kakashi. Now she would be leaving the village for the first time, of course, she was leaving as well for the capital. She supposed it would be the roughest on their father and she was glad that work had increased in the intelligence division while they were gone otherwise she would be worried he’d climb the walls with worry.
Both Ino and Miku’s shadow clone had left leaving Ino to wait for Asuma to arrive. She quickly made a few signs moving her hands down her long hair each strand turning from blonde to chestnut. Operation Yukiko was about to begin. On her way to the Konohagakure village, Princess Yukiko was attacked by several rogue ninja, while the attempt had been thwarted it came with the loss of half her guard and with the rogue ninja in question still at large. The only clue they had was a scrap of paper with a drawing of a spider wrapping a fox in silk. Team Asuma’s part of the mission would be simple enough, escort the princess while several other teams hunted down the rogue ninja responsible.
The faster they found the rogue ninja, the faster Yukiko would be able to come out of hiding. In a way, Ino was happy Miku would be out of the village and even the land of fire after she saw the spider picture. Did the third Hokage know about this when he sent her sister off on that mission? It didn’t seem like a dangerous one. All they would have to do is escort a bridge builder back to his home. It was hard to not worry about her sister and Hinata even so.
A knock on the door brought Ino back to the situation at hand. Yukiko’s maid, Aoi, entered the room checking to see if she was ready before waving in Asuma and his team. Ino could feel a slight headache forming as her clone followed the team. This arrangement might stress her chakra but the deception might be the trick they needed to draw out the rogue ninja hunting down Yukiko. The third Hokage had originally suggested placing another Genin in the slot to replace Ino but Shikamaru quickly pointed out that the Rogue ninja could see through such deception if they were familiar with the leaf village. In this case, the history of the Ino-Shika-Cho teams worked against them as even the regular villagers of Konohagakure would question Ino’s absence.
“Princess this is Asuma Sarutobi, one of the Shugonin Junishi, who once defended your father. The Hokage generously offered his team’s services to escort us the rest of the way back home.”
Ino gave thanks to all of the acting lessons she went through as part of her Kunoichi training as she greeted Team Asuma carefully separating her role as Yukiko from her identity as Ino. Acting is all about keeping track of the tiny details that could if left unchecked become red flags. She wondered how Yukiko was performing in her new role as she greeted herself, this missions was going to be one long headache.
Yukiko couldn’t believe her good luck. She was going to live in Konohagakure, a ninja village. Already she was assigned new guards but most of those were her own age and she is surrounded by ninja anyway. The thought of new guards did bring sadness at the guards who gave their lives to protect her. She knew why she had a royal guard but never actually expected them to be needed. They kept her safe standing against odds they couldn’t win to give her time to escape. Looking now at the four ninja guards with her she wondered if something would happen to them as well. They seemed capable even if two of them seemed a bit strange. The leader of the team, Maito Gai, seemed very energetic but his outfit was on the strange side and one of his team members, Rock Lee, copied him.
She had met the other two members of Team Guy before. Neji Hyuga had visited the capital a few times along with several other members of the Hyuga clan. Through these meetings she had meet both Neji and Tenten. She greeted her friend Tenten with a hug and without missing a beat immediately hugged Neji catching him and even herself by surprise. She lingered longer than she had planned, doing everything in her power to regain control of not just her actions but her emotions. Her heart was still beating rapidly long into the tour.
Rock Lee was mesmerized by the princess his team had been introduced to. She wasn’t as pretty as Sakura but she seemed far more elegant. He supposed that came from the training princesses received. It looked like that training slipped the moment she saw Neji. Since becoming a team he had gotten more and more used to that. Neji tended to attract every female eye in the general area. It would almost be as bad as being teamed up with Sasuke except at least Neji wasn’t younger than him. No sense in being bitter Rock thought to himself until he noticed Tenten’s reaction to Neji being hugged. Maybe the training Guy had given him had altered the way he looked at the world, he was sure he wouldn’t have noticed it before. Tenten flinched. It wasn’t noticeable unless you knew Tenten and watched her closely. Lee had watched her training with Neji several times and had seen her not even flinch when Kunai flew by her with not even enough room for air between them. She never flinched in combat but yet there it was the briefest glimpse. He wasn’t sure why she flinched but something important had to have happened.
It was as if she had been hit along the side of the head by a boulder. What is she? Did she just. She watched as Princess Yukiko lingered against Neji. Hugs should take seconds not minutes. Well maybe it wasn’t minutes but it certainly felt like it. Her emotions jumped all over the place as Guy walked gave the princess a tour of the village. She had been there once or twice already but she had only seen the Hyuga compound. She noticed Lee looking at her oddly. Did he notice? No Rock was pretty dense about these things but maybe she flinched without realizing it. That is something he would notice. He might not know why she flinched but she was certain Lee saw it. It would be safe enough as neither Gai or Lee seemed that insightful about these things. She stole several glances at Yukiko and Neji as they walked. Yukiko was being far more obvious about it to the point where Tenten was convinced she wasn’t even aware of her actions. She lingered near Neji barely allowed her hand to touch his at other times. Neji, however, remained a blank slate and she wasn’t sure what he was thinking. She was certain this was a result of being part of the branch family of the Hyuga clan. He usually kept his feelings well hidden behind a mask.
Sometimes Tenten had glimpsed behind that mask to see what Neji was like when he didn’t think anyone else was looking. She remembered thinking Ino was a danger because she was so beautiful, but Neji never seemed to notice. Miku could easily match Ino in beauty but she noticed that Neji treated her more like a little sister. Now again she could feel a bit of gloom, a girl from the village was one thing, but a princess? Tenten took a deep breath, if I don’t get hold of these emotions then Gai will notice her energy level changing if not the reason why.
Kidomaru cursed the luck he had ever since Orochimaru sent him off on a wild goose chase. With Sakon and Ukon in Sunagakure smoothing matters over for an alliance and both Tayuya and Jirobo keeping an eye on Sasuke, there wasn’t enough trustworthy and skilled ninja to send off after Princess Yukiko. The first attack wasn’t meant to succeed but it still annoyed him just how badly the ninja he hired bungled it. He had already decided he would just kill them if the leaf ninja didn’t accomplish the task first. Precision was the most important thing in life to Kidomaru even when you are tricking your opponent into thinking you are less qualified than you actually are. To go into a battle trying to win but failing is another matter not to be tolerated. True they lived through the adventure but only because the guards prioritized getting the princess to safety. Had all the guards gone after them then matters would be different, of course, that wasn’t their job.
“You seem lost Kidomaru, how are things in the land of sound?” Kabuto was the last person Kidomaru expected to see or to talk to him. More instructions?
“Well enough I have an easy job of escorting some merchants. There was talk about missing-nin on the road but they turned out to be nothing more than half trained bandits. Still Genin? You know you really should do something about that.” Kidomaru knew he shouldn’t dig into Kabuto like that but couldn’t help it.
“Perhaps I should. I have a feeling this upcoming exam will be unique.”
That wasn’t the message Kidomaru was expecting. The message in the code told him to continue on with the mission but be prepared for alterations to the larger plan. Did he find someone who was a better match than Sasuke? Did the timetable just get adjusted? No sense in worrying when the target moves just hit the target.
It didn’t take him long to locate the princess’ guards, several more from a local garrison had been sent to replace those that had been lost. As he made his way near the guards he released several small spiders he had summoned earlier. They could only remain summoned for a time but they would be able to mark his targets for later. The guards appeared to be on alert as they kept their eyes on him as he continued on towards the Hokage’s office. In addition to his mission, he did have a letter to deliver, an easy task. There was always something about the hunt that excited him although he wished his prey were a little more capable.
The game was changing on the fly as an already complicated problem kept compounding. Kabuto had hoped the spider message might drive whoever was the nine tails Jinchuriki might be drawn out or at least make some type of movement, but that was not the case. Asuma was on the move with his genin but they were just a distraction, or rather bait for Kidomaru’s team. At one time he thought Asuma might have been the nine tails, but if so he kept it well hidden. It certainly would have fit given the fourth Hokage and his family died in the attack, who else would they have put the nine-tails in? He supposed that Asuma was still a strong possibility which is why Orochimaru had this plan set up.
Attack the Princess and let her escape and then wait to see what team is assigned to her. Odds are that Asuma or Kurenei might be assigned to the princess to make her feel safer while more capable Anbu would follow them from a distance protecting them. The chances are given the position of the princess either nine tails would be Asuma himself or one of the Anbu guard.
He wanted to adjust the mission of Tayuya and Jirobo given he could easily handle his duties here in the village and keep an eye on Sasuke who had up until now been given grunt work to work on his teamwork. That, however, would not be possible as suddenly the Hokage sent him on a mission to the Land of Waves of all places. Perhaps the two could move along contact with that missing-nin from the land of water. Was there a reason why they were moving Sasuke? They couldn’t possibly know about Orochimaru’s plans, could they? The more complicated the plan the more things that could go wrong and this plan already had too many layers. Orochimaru if only you know the roads I had to travel to make your plans work.