By the standards of people that weren't ninjas Gato had an iron clad security. The men were all alert and mindful of their surroundings. They had overlapping lines of sight. They even had regular checkpoints and ID cards. It was very impressive for a civilian outfit. Most chunin probably wouldn't be able to get in without raising alarm.
Though the difference between a chunin and myself was the difference between a puddle and the ocean.
All the preparation and defenses that Gato had made delayed me for about three more seconds than a padlock would have. Taking a peak inside each and every shipping container took quite a bit longer, since I also had to look behind the boxes to see if they were concealing something else.
Gato was a smuggler, and those guys tended to have bolt holes in pretty much every place you can think of, and then a few you didn't.
I had been expecting some of the typical smuggling stuff. Drugs, stolen paintings, and maybe even some human trafficking. Though what I found was kunai and exploding tags. Lots of exploding tags.
I found opium and paintings too. Plus a room with handcuffs bolted to the wall. So my estimation of Gato had't been too far off. Though considering the number of exploding tags Gato had, he certainly had a ninja backer. Outside of Zabuza. I had already suspected he had some connections, since missing nin were not exactly easy to find. But this seemed to imply that there was someone even more directly involved with Gato. Someone invested in his business.
Someone I needed to look out for if I was going to complete my plans.
I couldn't very well leave such a potent weapon just sitting here without me knowing where it was going. The collateral for the island could be huge. One could actually destroy every single home on the island with the amount of exploding tags I'd found.
So I did a quick summoning and a dull brown snake blinked up at me, head tilting to the side as he looked at me.
"Yes. I look and smell a bit different than normal." I confirmed in a low tone,"But I need you to watch this crate for me and come tell me if someone moves it or takes a bunch of stuff out of it. I'll reward you with three mice upon completion of the task."
The snake flicked it's tongue out in thought before nodding it's head.
"Thank you Azuma-kun." I said as I gave his head a few loving pats.
Before the Orochi-merge I had been scared of snakes. Spiders and other creepy crawly things I had always been fairly nervous around as well. However, I now had hundreds of hours of memory of things much worse and far more disgusting, not to mention years of memories of being literally inside snakes.
It inured me to the creep factor of everything that slithers and scuttles. I even found the danger noodles to be somewhat cute, something I hadn't really thought previously.
My summons slithered under the pallet of exploding tags and I made my own swift exit. Leaving no sign of my presence. The remaining warehouses I checked weren't nearly as interesting. Some food, some clothing, a decent amount of swords, and a crap ton of what I recognized to be field rations. At each place I found food I skimmed a little of it off the top, but never took enough for it to be overtly noticeable. Warehouses always had a certain amount of shrink after all.
Soon I left the docks with my spoils and made my way to the bridge. I had underlings waiting to report after all.
One thing I don't miss from my old world was light pollution. The passive light from a large city made it where most of the stars in the sky weren't visible, requiring one to travel to distant mountains, open seas, or vacant deserts to see the true majesty of the night sky.
That wasn't a problem most places here though. Unless you were in the capital or a hidden village the night sky was available for everyone to look up in the sky and see just how very small the human race was.
"Hey Boss Lady. We're back." Tayuya's voice came, sounding casual despite her bow of respect.
"Glad to see you both made it back safe and sound." I said as I again turned my gaze up towards the ocean of stars above me; the sound of waves lapping against the bridge below me was incredibly comforting. "Were there any problems?"
"No Orochimaru-sama." Kidomaru said, "Though a ninja wearing a hunter mask of Mist seemed to sense me for a moment, they did not raise any alarms."
Haku had sensed him? That was impressive. Kidomaru was no slouch when it came to stealth.
"I don't think you will have a problem with him for the moment. So long as you didn't linger in watching the injured Demon of the Mist too much. So avoid doing that."
"Yes ma'am." The two chorused.
"Anything of note found?" I asked.
"Yes. He's currently set to send some big shipment to a major client. None of his men are sure who it's for though. When it came up near Gato he would suddenly change the subject to the bridge."
Not surprising. The one crate of exploding tags was worth more than the entire contents of all the other shipping containers. There wasn't a way to mass produce exploding tags, so they were never cheap.
"Did anyone mention where the big package is being shipped to?"
"No. Not even the ship it's meant to go out on." Kidomaru said.
I heave a sigh and pull out my smallest sealing scroll. This particular sealing scroll had been designed to maintain the temperature of it's contents. In moments I had a kettle of hot apple tea with honey mixed in. I handed two of the cups over to my minions.
Kidomaru looked like I just asked him to kill himself, and Tayuya just gulped down her tea without tasting it.
I silently swore I'd one day get one of my people to have tea with me without them thinking it was some sort of plot.
"Ara ara, Kidomaru. It's just tea. It just seemed to be the perfect weather to enjoy warm tea under the stars."
Kidomaru followed Tayuya's example and downed the whole cup, then sat very still, as if waiting for symptoms.
"Kidomaru-kun, please just make us some hammocks under the bridge. The weather is just a bit chilly, but nothing a blanket won't solve. Tomorrow I want the two of you to find out some local legends. Something that comes out of the water and destroys ships. Every coastal town has them. Then I want you to use those legends to not let a single ship get more than a kilometre away from port." I said, switching to something they better understood. "Decide which of you will be best suited to stopping ships, and the other will continue to find more information on Gato."
"Fine. I'm willing to give this Gato bastard a black eye. Heard him talking about ninja with his men like we are just some thugs with smoke and mirrors." Tayuya spat, "I hope he chokes on his lobster breakfast."
"Lobster breakfast?" I asked.
"Yeah. The midget apparently wants a lobster breakfast and eggs with fucking caviar in the morning."
I mulled that over in my mind before deciding it would be a good idea to give Gato something to worry about other than the nearby town.
"Tayuya-chan, while Kidomaru-kun is setting things up for us, would you be so kind as to go shopping for me?" I asked the kunoichi.
I didn't want to show up to my new breakfast meeting empty handed after all.
Hatake Kakashi came to consciousness and immediately cast his senses out for any feeling of killing intent. When none was found his mind slowly began to focus on things like remembering where he was, why he was in so much pain, and what smelled like teenage boy.
He sat up with a groan, prompting a cry of "Kakashi-sensei!"
The sound helped to further his migraine, Sakura had a lot of potential in her, but sweet Icha Icha did she have a shrill voice sometimes. And no, he wasn't being biased just because of his migraine.
"Sakura, please don't scream when people are just waking up." He groaned as he looked at what was probably the bridge builder's home. Or at least a room in it. It was sparse of decoration, though he spotted two sleeping bags that explained where the teenage boy smell was coming from.
In short order Sakura had gathered the rest of her the team and the three gave him a brief report on what had happened after he lost consciousness. Well two of them gave a report. Naruto gave...
"Then after you went all 'ugh' and fell then we were all like 'hungh' and you were really heavy but I managed to carry you with a little help. Then we saw this really colorful frog, right, and Tazuna said it was poisonous so we should totally get some of it's poison. But there was this tree that looks super haunted just a way down the road-"
Well, he'd have a talk with him later on what constitutes a mission report.
Then, when Kakashi had just gotten done going over the fact that Zabuza was probably alive and the three genin had their minor little freak out over that, a woman he was guessing to be Tazuna's daughter stuck her head into the room.
"Oh! You're awake! Well I wanted to let you all know that I'm about to start on breakfast, and you should know that I invited a guest to come by, so I don't want any of you worried when a stranger comes to the door.
Kakashi found himself pausing. It wasn't unusual for people to have guests. Though the timing did have him concerned.
"Ma. Sorry for the inconvenience. Thanks for the heads up. Mind if I ask who is coming by? For security reasons." Kakashi reassured.
"You know...I don't think I got her name." She admitted.
Little alarm bells started to go off in Kakashi's head.
"Oh? How did you meet? An invitation to your home when you don't even know the person's name is a bit odd." He said with his typical lackadaisical manner.
"Yeah. But she's really nice. She was handing out food in the town to everyone. She might have even saved lots of people's lives. I told her the least I could do is have her by for breakfast." Tsunami promised.
Charity wasn't unheard of. He recalled several times in war seeing the determined faces of those that just wanted everyone to stop being in so much pain and pursued that goal with their whole hearts. Hell, the thing that kept him from just writing off all of humanity were the people handing out food to the downtrodden in war torn areas. There have always been people with hearts so big that they couldn't just watch people die of sickness and disease. However said person was a ninja or had their backing to be able to accomplish anything.
In this case, someone had gotten large amounts of food on the island without somehow using Gato's docks. That took ninja stealth, or being on Gato's payroll.
"What a nice lady!" Naruto yelled. "Is she like a priestess or something?"
"They don't have to be a priestess to be nice Naruto." Sakura chastised, "I'll be sure to help you cook for her though Tsunami-san!"
"That's what they are in all of the stories." Naruto defended.
Only Sasuke seemed at all suspicious of the coming guest as the other two bickered.
"This woman. What does she look like?" Sasuke asked.
"Oh. Well her skin was perfectly white. She had long black hair. She looked about my age. Oh! And her eyes were this golden color and were silted, like a snakes."
The bells in Kakashi's head were no longer little. They were big gonging bells that sounded for miles with a marching band as back-up. He tried to remain calm though. Tsunami was talking about a woman. Orochimaru was a man, and while the Sannin could obviously disguise himself as a woman, if he was going to put on a disguise he wouldn't leave the hallmarks of his appearance still present for all to see.
So the better question is, who would have something to benefit from having people think that Orochimaru was a giving soul?
"I'll go keep an eye out for her." Sasuke said, giving a nod to indicate it was to see if the guest was coming with anything suspicious.
"Ma, no need," Kakashi said with a wave of his hand, "Best to stick around here."
"But-" Sasuke started.
"I'd feel more comfortable if you were here to help me out." Kakashi interrupted.
Fear crossed Sakura's face. She was a smart kid and could put two and two together. Once she grew a little less naive she would be a wonder to work with. Though her skill in combat wasn't great, she had a solid foundation for however she decided to develop as a shinobi. She was smart, quick on the uptake, and knew how to follow orders. She was also absolutely not equipped for this mission. None of the genin were. And that was before someone with a connection to the most dangerous Sannin was set to visit for breakfast.
"Well I'd love to meet her." Kakashi told Tsunami, who was beginning to catch onto the tension in the room. "I'd love to ask her what brought her here, and see if she could assist us in protecting your father."
His genin immediately caught onto what he meant. She was a possible threat, but not a confirmed one. Whoever this was could just be someone who was set to throw their hat into the proverbial ring before they even showed up. The weird female Orochimaru bit was probably just part of someone's plan, he just needed more information on what was happening. It could be that this other player was also opposed to Gato, which could mean an ally. His cute little genin immediately understood what he meant with that one line.
"Eh? How's she supposed to help against Gato? She's not a ninja." Naruto asked.
Well two-thirds of his genin got it.
"There are lots of ways to assist us, Naruto. Gato will also have plenty of soldiers. If she has food she might have the resources to help get the island to make sure we don't have to fight his men and Zabuza again." Kakashi said as a half truth.
"Oh. Yeah that makes sense." Naruto said as he folded his arms over his chest and nodded his head as if he were the one who figured it out.
At least he was a cute kid.
"Tsunami-san. Do you happen to have a pair of crutches that I can use?" Kakashi asked.
"Sure. I'll go get them real fast." The woman promised as she exited the room.
"Sasuke." Kakashi said seriously, "As soon as you hear the door knock, head to the roof. Don't engage with anyone unless you hear fighting."
The dark haired boy gave a nod.
"Hey, wait, what's going on?" Naruto asked.
"Sakura, do your best to stay between Tazuna and this newcomer."
"Wait. The nice lady is bad? Why?" Naruto asked.
"Think, dumbass." Sasuke growled. "The woman had enough food to feed an entire town of people. Think about how we got here. Now how did she get that much food in?"
"I mean, she could have, um...stolen it from Gato!" Naruto shouted triumphantly.
"Yep. She could have." Kakashi confirmed, "She might be an ally. But my concern is her description. Everything but the gender matches to one of Konoha's missing nin."
"What?" Naruto asked voice soft.
"What missing nin, Kakashi-sensei?" Sakura asked in concern, while Sasuke's face grew dark, no doubt thinking about Konoha's other S-class missing nin.
"Orochimaru. A former student of the Third Hokage."
Sasuke and Sakura had the appropriate reactions to that news. Naruto though...
"Oh. Well that makes sense then." The blonde says as he puts his arms behind his head.
"Huh?" Kakashi found himself asking.
"Well I mean the Third is a huge pervert right? So his student would absolutely know the power of Sexy no Jutsu." Naruto said with a nod.
Kakashi ran his hand down his face, "No, Naruto, I'm pretty sure that isn't what's happening here."
"How strong is this Orochimaru?" Sasuke asked. The boy had a taste of a jonin's power the other day, and it clearly showed on his face that he wanted to know if he had any chance.
Kakashi knew he couldn't let them have hope of taking Orochimaru in a fight. With that in mind he gave his response. "You remember during the bell test how I completely outclassed all of you? Well Orochimaru can do that to me."
That managed to get through Naruto's head. The boy finally seemed to realize what kind of threat this guest might pose.
"Now this is probably not actually Orochimaru. He has never been the kind of person to hand out food to starving people. He also hasn't given any indicators that he might try to pass himself off as a woman."
It was a cornerstone of fake identities and illusions that you use as much of yourself as you can get away with. It makes the job easier, so there wasn't really a reason for Orochimaru to try and disguise himself as a woman in the first place.
"Naruto, if a fight breaks out, I'll need you to flood the room in clones. As many as you can make. Then get Tazuna-san and his family out of the house."
"Yes sir!" Naruto said with a salute.
"Kakashi-san. I got you those crutches." Tsunami's voice said through the door.
A few moments later Kakashi situated himself downstairs. Seated in a corner that gave him line of sight on every window and door on the first floor. Naruto was arguing with the client's child about their merit as ninja, Sakura was assisting Tsunami with boiling some rice, and Sasuke lurked at the stairs.
Their placement was about as ideal as he could ask for. Right when he was about to assure himself that he was over reacting he felt it. A powerful presence that was making no attempt to hide itself was approaching the house at a leisurely pace.
Kakashi felt his eyes widen. The presence was less than ten meters from the door, and he couldn't sense it only moments before. While he wasn't on the level of many people that could sense chakra, he was a decent hand at it if the person wasn't actively trying to conceal themselves. It was typically polite to not hide your presence when approaching an ally, and his time in ANBU had helped him learn to pick out specific people by their chakra signature.
Most people identified a person's chakra by the feel of their chakra natures. One of Kakashi's closest comrades in ANBU he only knew by his harmony of water and earth with shockingly low levels of wind chakra. People better than he said they could also feel general personality traits in someone's chakra, though Kakashi had never managed that.
The presence Kakashi felt. The unabashed signature happily announcing who it was. He could tell they had more chakra than he could shake a stick at. He could feel that they had a strong nature of wind with a solid undercurrent of earth. All of it felt exactly like Orochimaru's chakra had to him the one time he'd met the man.
A knock came at the door, and he almost shouted at Tsunami to not open it. But he reminded himself that Orochimaru was probably not going to be stopped by three centimetres of worn wood; the entire building attached to it was equally useless.
The only hope they had was that the Snake Sannin was not here to kill or kidnap any of his genin. Should that not be the case...well then most of his plans involved using suicide techniques that would possibly buy his team a few seconds to get away. Maybe long enough for one of them to think of something clever.
After the small eternity it took for Tsunami to reach the door, Kakashi could practically feel the Shinigami's hand clutching his heart in it's cold hands. Then the door opened and-
"Hello, Tsunami-chan. I brought gifts!" A woman in a white dress with pink and purple flowers stood in the door, her hair was tied back with a purple bow. She had no visible weapons and instead carried a basket of lobster, eggs, and caviar. Yet the summoners mark on her arm and her snake eyes were rimmed with familiar purple lines.
"Ara ara. If it isn't Kakashi-kun! You've grown!"
Kakashi could only make an odd mumbling sound that turned into a wheeze as his mind processed what was in front of him.
If he didn't die, they were going to put him in an asylum for what he was going to put in the report.