Mandatory vacation time was a bane to Kakashi's existence. Technically, that wasn't exactly what was happening, as he was assigned to watch over his gennin as they explored the carnival and trained for the exams, but that's what it essentially was. For the rest of the time for the Chunin exams he wasn't supposed to so much as darken the doors of the missions office and Sarutobi had made that abundantly clear in explicit detail. He hated it. It left him with too much time with thoughts and he struggled getting out of his his thoughts on the best of days.
Though no use complaining about it now. He was in the festival and he was watching after his cute little gennin.
"Come on. We're going to the next stall." Sasuke stated as his blond teammate sulked at the loss of a carnival game. One designed for ninjas.
"No way, I'm going to get this!" Naruto yelled back as he handed money over to the person manning the stall.
"That's what you said last time." Sasuke scoffed.
He was right, but he recognized the stubborn look in Naruto's eyes. He'd be here trying to play the game for a while. As amusing as it would be to watch the blond's frustration mount at repeated failures, there were several other things in the carnival that had been capturing his attention. The Sound Ninja had begun putting up tents to display artwork and small groups of them were touting new genres of music. He was intrigued. It might even have a clue as to why the ninja village was going through all this trouble.
Since it probably wasn't just to fuck with all of them...probably.
"Leave him be. We'll just move on and he'll catch up when he wins or runs out of money." Kakashi stated as he turned to walk away. There were many jounin around and he knew Jiraiya was keeping an eye out. He didn't need to be that close to Naruto right now. Just close enough to respond in a few seconds.
They turned and left Naruto behind, going off into the crowd. The carnival was an interesting experience. Whoever put it together put a lot of thought into how one might make such an event comfortable for ninja. Sound had guards posted, but they didn't keep them hidden, just badly disguised and they gave off an aura of "please try something, I'm so bored" which was something any ninja ever set to guard duty could understand. It didn't claim safety, it just let people know what they were dealing with.
They also made clear pathways where most of traffic was meant to go, but also gave plenty of places for someone to slip out from the crowd and break line of sight. The food was all prepared right in front of everyone with the chef eating the food themselves occasionally to show there was no poison. They even had pickpockets out in the crowd leaving slips in people's pockets for discounts on the food being sold. Jounin could always appreciate someone trolling their gennin. Kakashi had seen Naruto get eight slips so far and had to hide a giggle every time. Especially after Sasuke caught the second one trying to give him one and Naruto loudly bragging that he'd never let someone slip by him like that.
Naruto was adorable, if nothing else.
Then a sound caught Kakashi's attention. It was music, but unlike any he had heard before. He turned to look at where it was coming from in curiosity. A small stage had been set up where a group of Sound Ninja's were holding odd instruments. All of them various kinds of handheld stringed instruments with a long neck and wide base, however they all differed from each other in small ways to produce different sounds. The strings twanged fairly quickly, but the vocals to the music sang slow and seemed to hold notes for long moments. The song spoke of sadness and hardship.
"It sounds...weird." Sakura stated, brows furrowing. "It also also sounds like it's kind of whiny?"
"Well, he is talking about the sorrow of loss." Kakashi added before pausing. Did he...enjoy it?
"Let's just go." Sasuke stated, doing a good job of masking a look of discomfort on his face. For a gennin.
"Sure. We still have a lot of looking around to do." Kakashi replied kindly as he turned to walk away just as the song ended to a round of applause from the audience of mostly civilians and people pretending to be civilians.
"Thank you, that type of music was called Blue's Grass. You can get the instruments we play for it at the tent down a ways a bit." The dark-skinned man said gesturing down the way. "The next bit is called Flamenco and comes with a dance as well."
With that, several of the people left the stage and new people came up to the stage. Two of them dressed extravagantly with outfits that had lots of frills and bright colors. The sight stopped Sakura in her tracks. Sasuke continued to walk away and Kakashi began to call for Sakura to follow.
Then the music began. Fingers danced with an impressive speed on the guitar as notes staccato out of the instruments. Then the woman began to tap her shoes on the stage with a rapid cadence of clacks. Sasuke stopped in his tracks and turned to look at the stage in curiosity.
The dancers began to move. The swirled cloth swaying and making their dance mesmerizing. An impressive display of physical ability with a rapid pace to the music that made the heart speed up. An impressive innovation of song and dance.
It was unique, but not quite Kakashi's preference for music, though as he watched his two students it seemed to be very much theirs's, albeit for different reasons. Sakura's attention was rapt to the dancing couple on the stage. No surprise considering the almost sexual nature of the dance. The two seemed locked on to each other and would often entwine themselves as they danced. Grace, skill, and a dose of sexual was very much up Sakura's alley. Even if she tended to deny the last bit.
Sasuke on the other hand had his eyes locked to the fingers of the musician as they danced up and down the strings. An impressive display considering the instrument didn't have normal metal string. It was ninja wire that could cut a finger off with a wrong move.
"Didn't you guys want to go?" Kakashi asked, doing his best to sound genuine.
Sakura startled from her staring and opened and closed her mouth a few times before turning to her crush, who didn't even glance back at her.
"We can stay just a bit longer." Sasuke admitted magnanimously and not at all petulantly. "For this one song."
"Sure. This one song." Kakashi agreed.
After they listened to five songs, one involving a strange brass instrument with a reed called Jazz that Kakashi found himself quite fond of, they finally made their way from the stage. The experience was odd and had Kakashi pondering on the purpose.
There were too much music happening here for it to not be a concentrated effort from the village for it's ninja's to not just practice music, but to innovate in it. To make new instruments and genres of music. Why? What purpose does it serve to put resources behind this? The play and everything else was enough to draw attention. Why all this other stuff?
Then he noticed another new tent. Inside were displays of art ranging from painting, to pottery, to sculptures. Again. Why? What was there to gain?
A particular statue caught his eyes. It sat on a pedestal and he registered it as looking like infant made of metal and swaddled in paper. White paper with...were those exploding tags?
Kakashi's pulse spiked as he studied it closer and then relaxed after looking closer.
"Kakashi-Sensei, are those exploding tags?" Sakura asked him, sinking into a protective stance, Sasuke tensing beside him at the same time.
"No." Kakashi reassured. "It's just scribbled nonsense."
The two relaxed, then Sakura got angry. "What the hell is the big idea anyways? Who puts fake explosive tags in a public area?!"
"Art types are usually a bit odd." Kakashi said comfortingly and was ignored.
Fake exploding tags was an odd choice unless they were just attempting to prank shinobi, which seemed rather against what they were trying to do with this this whole fair thing. Then he noticed the metal of the statue. The infant was made of kunai, shuriken, and senbon needles that had been bent and warped to make the appearance of an infant child wrapped in exploding tags. Poignant by itself but what really flummoxed Kakashi was the headband with no village symbol, but had a line through it.
It was politically charged for sure, but Kakashi couldn't decide it's meaning. Born a weapon and a traitor? The title of the work on the plaque only complicated matters.
"Reflection?" Sasuke read aloud.
Kakashi hummed in reply. Thinking it over.
"So reflect on the statue? Or that it's a reflection of something?" Sakura asked as she leaned in closer.
"Someone felt set up to fail? Feels the world betrayed them? Feels that traitors are born that way? That the world is made to create killers and traitors from infants?" Kakashi listed. "It could be any of them."
"Well that's all confusing." Sakura complained.
"I think..." Sasuke trailed off before speaking confidently, "I think that's the point."
Perhaps. After looking at it for a bit longer the trio reconnected with Naruto and went to their seats, plus some strangers Naruto brought along. The Suna nin were suspicious, but Kakashi was confident he could handle them before they did anything. Especially with so many jounin in disguise hanging around.
Besides, if Episode Five was anything like the previous play this would just be some good mindless fun with nothing particularly deep in it.
"So the last one had these Empire guys, right? They're bad and are blowing up planets and stuff. Oh, this is in space with aliens. Then then good guy founds his dad's laser sword-"
Kakashi took his seat as Naruto loudly yelled the explanation for the previous play as Kakashi settled in for a nice uncomplicated story about space samurai. A welcome rest after the experience in the fair. The big brassy music kicked off and the show about some people from long long ago in a galaxy far away began.
"Orochitama-sama asked me to tell you this information and stressed the importance of you not spreading the information. You must make sure you don't tell anyone else, no matter what." Kabuto's voice sounded almost pleadingly. He was laying it on a bit thick, but history showed that Tatewaki responded better to overly dramatic displays than what the average ninja would consider normal.
"I swear, I won't tell a soul. Unlike some, I don't have divided loyalties." Tatewaki replied snidely.
Kabuto bowed in acknowledgement. Fighting him directly on anything didn't work. He was a typical narcissist and manipulation of him worked better when he thought you saw him almost as well as he saw himself. Besides, the man's words were rather dulled by the fact that he had absolutely no idea of Kabuto's double agent status. Well, triple. Or was it quadruple agent now?
"Of course. Your loyalty is laudable." Kabuto nodded. "Now, please do enjoy your time off in the village."
"I will. Spending time coordinating all the music and dealing with those-" he trailed off. Likely due to the fact that he was about to insult the students that Orochitama had assigned him for this mission before settling on the word, "gennin."
"Yes, your hard work is appreciated. This event wouldn't be possible without you." Kabuto answered.
Tatewaki turned and left with a sniff and an upturned nose.
"I hate that that's true." Kabuto muttered as soon as the other man left earshot.
"Ara ara, don't say that, Kabuto-kun. Tatewaki-kun has many uses. I've never seen someone more talented with a supply log or spreadsheet." Orochitama said as she stepped out from the shade behind him.
"Then why did you wait to announce yourself until after he left?" Kabuto replied cheekily.
"That's fair." The woman responded gracefully. "Though I do have a good excuse if you must press the issue."
"Yes, my presence could distract him from the task we need him to do." The woman tutted primly.
Kabuto gave a derisive snort. Humor often escaped Kabuto, but he found making fun of Tatewaki to quickly be something that put a bright spot in his day.
"Tatewaki has fallen for three honey traps to date. He didn't even realize that he had compromised anything for two of them and one of them was to a civilian woman that was just idly curious." Kabuto shook his head. "They'll get the information out of him. Just as planned."
"Perhaps." Orochitama acknowledged. "Likely even, but people will surprise you."
Kabuto didn't respond. It was a true enough statement, but people not acting how they should was always a pet peeve of his. It often got him almost killed.
"Still, telling him that you are having an affair with the Kazekage in order to manipulate him into attacking Leaf seems rather unlikely." Kabuto stated doubtfully.
"Yes, but it is the believable kind of unlikely. Like winning the lottery or a prostitute that says she loves you. It's just believable enough that you have to check for yourself."
Kabuto had long thought that Orochitama's need to sexualize things was just a manipulation tactic. While it almost certainly was, in relaxed moments she still did it. He suspected she just had a raunchy sense of humor.
"As you say, Orochitama-sama." Kabuto specifically gave no reaction.
"Oh, you're no fun anymore." Orochitama groused before continuing at her normal teasing speech. "So, how is Danzo responding to the information on Akatsuki?"
"He doesn't seem to have any plan to attack them. I suspect he plans on trying to manipulate them for his own purposes."
"Of course he is. I don't know why I hoped otherwise." Orochitama tutted like a disappointed schoolteacher. "Then keep an eye out for the special guest. I imagine we can expect him before we show off Episode Six."
Kabuto nodded. "Is there anything else, Orochitama-Sama?"
"Yes." The woman gushed, smiling with a sudden enthusiasm, "Why do you think I chose Star Wars as the play to show? You asked me before and I told you to look at the themes. I'm interested in what conclusions you came to."
Kabuto had been thinking about that ever since she asked. He read over the play several times. Watched it practiced for weeks. The more he watched, the more certain he was of his answer.
"The first play is fluff. It just introduces concepts to draw attention. No deep meaning. Then the second one hints at your deeper themes, mostly through the comments of Yoda but also hints that our greatest weaknesses are within ourselves. That as much as there are threats outside us, our greatest enemy is what lies within. Then with the third play it turns into a condemnation of hatred and fear. It makes the statement that the way to victory is through love, forgiveness, and friendship of those we would think lesser."
"Yes, that is much of the reason!" She praised, "You're beginning to understand how I think."
That made Kabuto feel...something. Someone was happy that he know how their mind worked while also being okay with the fact that he had the ability to weaponize that knowledge. He could think of any number of ways to hurt Orochitama or just manipulate her. He was confident now that he could do it.
But she was happy that he knew her well and he found he didn't really want to manipulate her. It felt humbling.
"Orochitama-sama." Kabuto stated, drawing her attention. "I've begun to hear whispers from contacts. People are doubting your identity on a larger scale. People are starting to move to find out who you are. They won't think of you as Orochimaru much longer. The façade is breaking."
Then, to his surprise, she smiled.
"I hope so. Soon. Just a little longer. I need them to keep their distance just till the end of the exams." Her voice sadly hopeful.
"Then let us hope that when Tatewaki leaks the information, they will find themselves suitably distracted."
"Yes. If he doesn't succeed..." Orochitama faded off before an eager grin came onto her face. "I'll have to escalate the situation."
The illusionary eyes of Uchiha Itachi's avatar opened and he saw the various other projected images of Akatsuki's members. He was the last to arrive, though that suited him fine. He didn't care for their recent stream of accusations against him. He didn't even particularly care for busty women. He didn't particularly care for women at all in that sense, but if he had to choose he'd go with someone more athletic looking. Not all that- that.
The jokes were annoying to begin with and hand only gotten more trying. With this meeting, hopefully new information could finally distract them from inane prattling.
"Zetsu. You called this meeting. What is it?" Pein demanded.
Zetsu called the meeting. Meaning information gathering. Espionage. Good. Something he could potentially use.
"Someone has been talking~!" Zetsu announced in a sing-song voice.
The spectral images shuffled in place, glancing at each other. Itachi kept his face passive and cool. As one should always do during the talks of a traitor being about.
"What has been spread?" Konan asked.
"We don't know the extent yet." The black side of Zetsu growled, while the white one continued on cheerily. "Sand, Waterfall, and Grass has started probing for information about us and about the status of a few of our members. They've also started asking about the location of all tailed beasts."
That was damning information. They kept their members identities concealed, but that and searching for their mission goals and their group? It left little doubt over what happened and more just concerns over how much.
"How did we find out?" Kakuza demanded.
"You know how it is. Minor villages. Terrible networks." Black Zetsu growled. "Either way. We know we have a traitor."
The group went silent and started seizing each other up. They all knew who was most likely to blame, but no one wanted to seem too eager to shift the blame either.
"Orochimaru." Pein stated to a round of head nods.
"We can't allow this. We are not ready to be known yet. What are we going to do about it?" Konan asked to the room, though her eyes were locked onto Pein. Not surprising. The woman ranged from apathetic to actively hostile to all members of the group aside from Pein.
"I was content to leave Orochimaru be so long as he did not challenge our mission. He is a threat not easily handled." Pein announced as pressure built in the room. "We can't let this go on. We must take care of the threat. Permanently."
Pein's eyes began to glance over them. Judging. He was deciding who to send on the job.
"I'll do it." Itachi offered. He regretted letting the mad snake get away before. He looked forward to the opportunity to finish the job.
"Yeah, I bet you do." Kakuza grumbled and Itachi froze.
He was over eager.
"Trying to meet back up and see your work, hm?" White Zetsu teased to a round of low chuckles.
Itachi shut off his projection in irritation. This was going to be a thing now. They weren't going to drop it even if he did kill her now. Vexing.
He stood and walked away, Kisame following. They walked in silence.
"You know, if you're just looking to get your dick wet, I can-"
"I will kill you." Itachi cut him off.
"Like you're going to kill your weird Orochi MILF mind puppet, or-"
Itachi sped off. He hated all of them.