Jiraiya had to admit, the amount of seal work that had to go in to making one of those lightsabers was impressive. Possibly one of the most impressive things in a whole play rife with jutsu. Particularly since he was pretty sure the damn things couldn't cut anything at all and would just give someone some toasty skin if it touched them. The various seals placed around the tent that produced sound on command were also rather inspired.
Genjutsu was generally separated into two categories. The most useful ones involved shoving your own chakra into the target and showed them what you wanted. This method had the added benefit of using the target's own thoughts to fill in any discrepancies. The other method of genjutsu was to make an illusion in the world that would be visible by anyone walking by. It was useful, but any ninja worth their salt should be able to sense the energy there. This play used the second to make scenes and sound effects not otherwise possible. The whole thing took talent and brilliance.
The music came in as the final scene finished. Big and brassy, like most of the music in the show seemed to be. The main character, the lovable rogue, and his partner took a bow as they received their just recognition. Something shonobi are not often given. The music continued as the cast came up to give their bows, all the while that unique heart-pumping music continued to play. The room was silent as everyone there realized that it was over. The experience ended and their minds were catching up to what it was that just happened.
"Woo! Yeah! That was great!" A single loud voice cried out, drawing Jiraiya's attention to the whisker-faced blond sitting next to Kakashi. A bitter sweet smile tugged at his lips...and then the damn seemed to break. The room stood up in applause. Cheers, clapping, cries of appreciation began to fill the air. Not everyone clapped. Some ninja took their leave quickly and quietly.
Jiraiya quickly excused himself as well. Doing a quick ring around the tent to make sure there was no ambush lying in wait. There wasn't, nor did he really expect there to be. The show that was just put on was a labor of love. It was not just one person's passion project, but many. It was unlikely that people would invent several seals and ninjutsu to put on a play, only to use said play for an ambush. They wanted to make other people see it.
The story itself was typical. Classic even. Good versus evil. The reluctant hero called to action. Trusting your instincts. All familiar, but with a spin that already had him planning Icha Icha In Space. Still he had to be professional. He left quickly and began to write down everything relevant that he could think of. He made a trip to a medic to make sure he didn't have any foreign chakra in his system nor that he had ingested any mind altering substances.
He was given a clean bill of health and he went into the Hokage's office.
"Hey, Sensei, the report." He stated from the sill of the window to the office. Going through the door was for people less awesome. Jiraiya tossed the scroll to the desk, where it landed with a click.
Sarutobi glanced at him and Jiraiya felt a tug at his lips. His sensei had come in from home to receive this report, judging by the casual wear the man wore. A shirt and pants showed far more of his teacher's age than the concealing robes of the Hokage.
His sensei looked at him a moment longer, eyes gazing for something, before opening the scroll and beginning to read through. The old man's face scrunching up as he went. He withheld questions though. His sensei always liked to read the report before speaking if he could help it.
Sarutobi reached the end and let out a sigh before leaning back into his chair and groped for the pipe in his top drawer. "I'm not going to make it back for the rest of game night, am I?"
"I don't see why not." Jiraiya stated simply. "This actually all seems on the up-and-up. It really was just a show."
"Just a show?" Sarutobi asked with a raised eyebrow. "You think they poured the time and resources in to making several brand new seals that weren't interrupted despite dozens of ninja's in the crowd attempted to dispel the illusion. A wind jutsu to move objects without a single hand-sign. You think they made all of that and just advertised it to the world because they wanted to entertain a bunch of enemies?"
"Yes." Jiraiya answered.
Hiruzen gave him a withering look. His sensei just didn't have an appreciation for the arts. Not the showy ones anyways. The old man's version of art involved things being hung on walls and quietly considered.
"No, really, the thing is a labor of love Sensei. A lot of people put a lot of effort into making this not just a distraction, but making it good. This was made by someone who wanted it to be shown and wanted it to be popular. No doubt." Jiraiya stated.
"I don't doubt that someone artistic might have been involved. But who is the one footing the bill? The one in charge of the ninja doing this instead of missions? Why did they approve this? I assure you, that was likely not for artistry." Hiruzen answered as he stuffed tobacco in his pipe.
That was something he had a harder time arguing against. It was a ninja village and the souls devoid of showmanship had to sign off on this too. This likely did have some other reason.
"Well sure." Jiraiya started, not sure where he was going with this yet, but he'd get there as he went. "If it was just a show it could be done anywhere. They did it here. At the Chunnin Exams. And it was-" then it clicked. "It's in the spirit of the exams. It's a show to attract clients. Konoha's clients."
Sarutobi's brow went downwards as he lit is pipe. "Explain."
"The exams are about attracting business. It's about showing all the things you can do and flex on the other villages. That's what they are doing. They are showing new innovations and political acumen in front of the other ninja and the connected and powerful clients, and they are doing it in a way that makes them look nice. Friendly even. The kind of ninja you can trust to do the right thing."
"The sort of reason people usually come to Konoha." Sarutobi finished for him.
"Bingo! The people that come to our exams are going to be the ones that's effective with because that's our reputation among the Five Ninja Villages. It's exactly the sort of thing that draws attention. The fact that they did this at all is going to make them the biggest source of attention for any minor village, but them doing it well is going to make them more talked about than Suna!"
"Hm." Hiruzen drew out, pondering.
"Plus we can keep things going the same. Keep ninja posted to watch things and make sure nothing gets out of hand. Watch what they do. Everything we are doing already. We don't have to change anything." Jiraiya continued.
"So just have a bunch of ninja sitting around there? It's possible. Though we might take a hit to morale from having to babysit the area so much."
Ordinarily that would be the case. Anyone not in ANBU typically hated an assignment that you had to stay on guard for but also stay in the same area for hours on end. It was tedious and boring.
"That's not going to be an issue here." Jiraiya promised. "You'll have people coming to you to ask for the assignment."
"It's that good?" Sarutobi asked, surprised.
"I-" Jiraiya stopped for a moment to consider before answering. "Its story is fine. It's very classic and familiar. It doesn't do a lot on that front, but everything else in the show? The music, the effects, the world it's set in. It's made a new genre of entertainment. This will be copied by others. It's classic good and evil, but in space. Who the hell ever thought of a classic hero tale in space!"
"Space?" Hiruzen asked in question. "How do they breathe? Space is also very large, there is no way they could get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time."
Jiraiya stared at the man. This legend of a shinobi. The man that quite possibly understood ninjutsu better than anyone else in the world. Yet couldn't understand that in fiction sometimes things just work because it's cool.
"You really suck the fun out stuff sometimes, you know that sensei?"
Hiruzen pulled his pipe out in affront. "I do not. I'm very fun."
Jiraiya opened his mouth and then shut it. Best not poke that bear. "Sure you are sensei. Just go back and enjoy board game night. I'm sure you left everyone sitting on the edge of their seat to see if you had the right Mahjong tile."
"We weren't playing Mahjong. We were playing Go." Hiruzen stated, as if that somehow made the situation better.
"Uh huh. Well report done. I'm leaving." Jiraya stated as he stood up form the window sill and got ready to leap away.
"Where are you going?" Hiruzen asked.
"I'm going to get another ticket and try some of that Fun Nel Cake that they were selling. Then I'm going to keep an eye on the changing area for their actresses. To see if they have...concealed weapons or seals on them. For safety reasons."
Hiruzen sighed and stood up. "Just don't cause an international incident."
Jiraiya shot a salute and leaped away. The play going through his head as he went. There was one thing that was bugging him though.
"Why did they start with episode four?" He muttered as he went.
Tsunade wasn't drunk enough for this bullshit. Orochimaru in a sundress as a busty woman that flirted like she was paid to stand in front of a whorehouse. No. Not even a violent fever dream of Jiraiya could come up with something like that. It was probably fake. A well done one, but still, likely fake.
"Tsunade, you shouldn't be leaving yet." The pale woman said from ahead of her, leaning against the wall with all the casualness of someone just enjoying the day.
However, she did by running ahead of Tsunade's not insignificant pace. All while not giving herself away to Tsunade's senses and without seeming out of breath.
She also appeared to be wearing heels.
"No. Whatever you want, the answer is no. I'm not interested. I don't want to talk." Tsunade turned and began to walk in another direction.
"Just a moment of your time. The Cell Dissection deal again." The woman stated and Tsunade came to a stop.
Years ago, Orochimaru had been trying to quantify all the parts of a cell and what they were made of. It was edge science at the time. He had done most of the work and he was just asking for a day or two of work from her to help him identify some of the finer parts that he was having trouble with. In exchange, he gave her over a hundred-thousand Ryo and a bottle of Azure Hills sake. He got the work she put in and also got to keep his name as the only one to get the credit. Something she didn't mind.
It was also something she'd never told anyone about. It was almost code for them. Anytime he needed a favor that her name would be kept out of he asked for a Cell Dissection deal. He'd never done it in front of anyone. He'd only done it two more times after the first.
Whoever this was, they at least knew Orochimaru well enough to use a phrase that was to be used sparingly.
"I'll listen, but you're paying for breakfast." Tsunade stated. "If you don't make it seem appealing by time I'm done eating, I'm out."
"Wonderful!" The woman said, clapping her hands together like an excitable housewife. "I know a lovely place, we just have to make a brief stop."
She was going to make them stop somewhere else? A trap laid? Somewhere with less witnesses? Some other manipulation?
"I want to be clear. If I don't like what you have to say, I'm gone. If you follow after that, things will get violent." Tsunade threatened as she flexed her chakra, pushing the feel of her conviction into it.
The woman didn't flinch or even react. "Of course! Continuing to pursue after being told you aren't wanted is quite unattractive."
Did she just make fun of Jiraiya? The instant and casual comment almost made her feel nostalgic. She squashed the feeling as the woman led them back the way they came. Shizune caught up to them moments later but stayed distant. Likely keeping a view from the rooftops to intervene only as necessary.
In moments, they were in front of the building they had their brief altercation on. Some bakery of some kind. They walked in and the imposter went to the man behind the counter immediately.
"I don't want bread." Tsunade stated. She wasn't going to let this woman get off by just buying a loaf of bread and claiming it was breakfast.
"We aren't here for that." Orochitama stated dismissively before turning to the man behind the counter. "Excuse me, is this your business sir?"
The man behind the counter was portly. Middle aged. High bread diet. Going by the look of his veins and the way the man's finger glazed over the tools he was setting down he had a minor case of diabetes that had begun to effect his extremities.
"Yes, that is me." The man stated hesitantly.
"My friend here just had a misunderstanding with me on your roof and she just broke your chimney. We came in so that she could apologize and I could pay for the damages." The woman stated.
What? Apologize!? Why was she the one expected to-
"That should cover the damage." The woman stated, dropping way more than the chimney should have cost before bowing to the man at the waist. "I apologize that our disagreement effected you."
"Oh, um, it's no problem." The man said as his hands hesitated above the money. The baker looked to her as if she were to explain things. She shrugged her shoulders in response.
"Ara ara, Tsunade, it's only right that we apologize when we hurt an innocent. Right?" The woman asked.
What a loaded sentence. On the one hand, no such statement would ever come out of Orochimaru's mouth without dripping in sarcasm. On the other hand...they were her words. The exact words she'd chide Orochimaru and Jiraiya with whenever there was collateral damage and she wanted to heal some civilians. Something Orochimaru always waved off as unnecessary and a waste of time. It both confirmed and disproved the woman's identity simultaneously.
It was irritating.
"Lets just go." Tsunade stated turning to the door.
"Sorry for her manners. She's been having a rough time lately. I'll have to come back and buy some bread later though. What's in the oven smells delightful." The woman's voice continued as Tsunade walked out, eye twitching.
This was a mistake. She should just cut her loses and-
"Now that's done, I know a great place to get food down the way. They have a great grilled chicken that pairs wonderfully with their in house sake." The woman stated as she began to walk down the street.
Tsunade sighed. Of course she knew her favorite meal too. Whatever, free food tastes better anyways.
They started to walk down the street and Tsunade could feel her irritation rising. The woman moved completely differently from Orochimaru. Hell, she moved different from most ninjas. She had the gliding grace, but the subtle details were wrong. She went out of her way to make useless motions as she walked. She made herself less efficient consciously. Why?
"You aren't Orochimaru." Tsunade stated. She left the village for a lot of reasons, but one of them was absolutely so she didn't have to deal with this beating around the bush bullshit.
"Yes, I changed my name to Orochitama!" The woman stated cheerily. "I wasn't aware you had been informed of my name change."
This woman had a very punchable face.
This woman, Orochitama she claimed, took her to a restaurant a short distance away. The restaurant was nice but not so nice that you needed to wear fancy clothes to get in. The place had a bunch of exits too, possibly to make any visiting ninja feel more at ease. Not that Tsunade needed that though, walls were more suggestions to her.
Still, they were sat at a table in short order. Tsunade moved before the other woman even had the opportunity to chose a seat and took the one with the best view of the restaurant for incoming threats as well as the ability to see into the kitchen. The pale woman took the position across from her without a word and picked up her menu, seemingly unbothered by the positioning whatsoever.
"I have heard wonderful things about the teriyaki grilled chicken here. I think their wakame might be a good compliment as well." The snake woman said from across the table.
Damn, that did sound good. Still, this woman, this person claiming to be her former teammate, had an angle and had power. Power enough that she should make herself give a shit about what this person wants and what she's doing. She wasn't exactly running missions for Konoha right now, but this was the sort of thing she should probably gather information on and send back home. She'd read the reports of what Orochimaru got up to after she left and most likely anything involving him was bad stuff.
Didn't mean she had to be nice though.
"Spill. What do you want?" Tsunade ordered.
"Well I just ate, so I was thinking of just ordering a dessert." The woman stated, looking through the menu.
Tsunade's fist came down, shattering the table into splinters. The sounds of people eating and the sound of cooking in the kitchen suddenly grew deathly silent.
"Don't fuck with me." She growled.
Orochitama gave her a half-lidded stare before heaving a sigh and shaking her head.
"Was that really necessary? Please, act your age." The woman said chidingly. Not angry, not spiteful, but like when an authority figure saw a child do something foolish. As Tsunade built up steam to tell the woman where should could shove that attitude, her opponent stood up, walked up to the nearest server, leaving her back completely exposed to Tsunade if she wanted to attack.
"I'm so sorry about my friend. Can you please bring me a broom? And here-" the woman passed a wad of cash to the waitress, "for the damages. Again, I'm very sorry. Won't happen again."
Tsunade blinked. That wasn't how this was supposed to go. Forget Orochimaru, ninja didn't act this way. Sure, some ninja might come back and help with collateral damage, but they didn't do it in front of the enemy while giving them your back. Hell, you didn't even do stuff like that when your allies were feeling peeved at you.
Then she watched in shock as Orochitama swept up the splinters from the destroyed table herself.
"If you are going to be rude, I suppose we can get down to business." The woman stated as she swept. "I have a member of the Kaguya Clan that is suffering from an autoimmune disease that has his body attacking itself. I've been trying to treat it, but the source seems to be coming from somewhere in his marrow and I can't seem to find the issue. I want to hire you to save his life."
"The Kaguya Clan?" Tsunade asked in question. She'd heard of them. Fought a few of them even. Crazy bastards that never joined up with any of the ninja villages when all the clans came together to fight bigger more organized wars instead of the random free-for-all it had been previously. "I was pretty sure they had been wiped out."
"I saved one." The woman said, a soft smile on her face as she put down a dust pan and began to sweep the splinters into it.
"Yeah, I'm sure you saved him with the goodness of your heart."
"No. I did it for selfish and terrible reasons and he has served me well. I seek to repay that loyalty." The woman stated as she looked up from her sweeping. "The question is simply if you will help me to do that, because I fear I won't be able to save his life alone."
Why would she admit to that? Her whole presentation had been to act like some kind soul that above selfishness and violence. Turning the conversation on its head to admit to doing bad things seemed rather counterproductive to that. Then again, admitting to a wrong while sounding regretful was a great way to minimize people's perceptions of poor behavior.
Poor behavior was a bit of an understatement here.
"So what, you pay me money and I follow along someone I know is a liar into a location of your choosing while no one knows where I'm going and I can potentially disappear with no one the wiser?" Tsunade asked incredulously. "Hell, I'd probably take the money with me and you can just take it off my corpse costing you nothing."
Orochitama let out tittering of laughter as she maneuvered a new table to go between them.
"Please Tsunade, I can do many things, but even with all the preparation in the world we both know you would not go into the void quietly and without notice." The dark haired woman shook her head fondly. "But we don't have to go back to my place for this. Kimimaro can be moved to a location of your choosing, but we would have to be careful. He can't stay off life support long without his health diminishing greatly right now."
An autoimmune disease progressed that far? That was serious stuff. It was the kind of thing she could still help with too, since it would be unlikely for her to have to do anything with his blood. At least not anything she couldn't just assign Shizune to. On top of that, this woman was offering her the opportunity to just walk right in to one of her bases, or at least know a location very close to one. Someone that sick couldn't travel far and anywhere she went would be a damn good indicator of a hideout close by.
Plus the woman had already managed to track her down and then catch up. If the goal was an ambush, it would have been better to take her out without announcing her presence. Then again it could be that the woman would just kill her after she healed the subordinate so no information leaked. On the other hand-
God damnit, she hated this bullshit. She could go down that rabbit hole forever. Time to cut the chase.
"If I'm going to consider this, I need to know who you are." Tsunade stated, leaning forward.
"Oh my, I told you, I'm Orochitama." The woman stated airily.
"Stop with the double speak!" She snarled, "I need to make sure that I'm not helping some enemy that's going to just stab me in the back!"
The woman looked at her, an unreadable expression on her face as the two stared each other down. The atmosphere tense as they tried to find some hint at the other's intentions.
"Please don't break another table." Someone behind Tsunade asked before the brief sound of flesh being smacked sounded through the room.
That rather ruined the mood.
Orochitama laughed and shook her head. "I'm guessing that was the owner and his wife. Lets not ruin the day of all these nice employees and customers."
The woman reached into her cleavage and produced a small scroll before unrolling it on the table. Tsunade quickly identified it as a storage scroll as Orochitama unsealed it's contents.
"What?" Tsunade asked, blinking in surprise at the bottle. A very familiar bottle.
"Azure Hills Sake. As we always agreed." The woman said and held it out to her. Tsunade's eyes scanned over it and noticed the year on it. The same year that Orochimaru always gave her for the sake. The familiar bottle brought memories unbidden to her head. Late nights with just her and him and a microscope. Laughing over medical jokes that only a handful of people the world could understand enough to even chuckle at. Orochimaru coming by at her darkest moments and just sitting nearby, since he didn't know what else to do.
"I swear on the memory of my parents, that no harm will come to you on this job. I just want to save a life." The woman stated simply and sincerely.
Tsunade stopped herself from taking an intake of breath. That was a lot of evidence that this was Orochimaru, and if it was, that was as close as you could get to a statement you could trust. However, she didn't have any guarantees that this wasn't just a pile of bullshit. It was a risk no matter what she did. There was so much that hinted towards her being a fake but now there was much that showed her to be the real deal. She wasn't sure which one she wanted to be dealing with either. She was stuck at a nexus and wasn't sure what to do.
So she decided to let fate decide.
"Play me for it." Tsunade stated.
"What?" Orochitama asked, coming up short and for the first time since their meeting seeming surprised.
"Play me for it. Poker. First one out of chips wins. You win, I do the job for the stated money. I win, I don't do the job and I get paid double." Tsunade stated, laying it out. It favored her greatly financially either way.
A brilliant smile crossed the woman's face. Like a teenage girl just asked by her friend if she wanted to go out on the town.
"Oh, that does sound like fun. You're on."
They had a bet, and no matter how it turned out, Tsunade was confident that she'd come out with a win. She might lose the game, but she knew poker players. When the game has something that really matters on the line, people reveal their true selves, parts of them that even family and lovers didn't really know.
She'd find out who this woman really was, one way or another.