Shimura Danzo appreciated predictability for the same reasons he tried to avoid being predictable himself. It made one vulnerable when someone could decide what you were going to do and where your priorities would lie. He had been known to let some pieces be sacrificed that could have been saved just so that others couldn't truly see what he valued. It was the best way to keep enemies from striking at what truly mattered and kept them from thinking they understood you. If you understood something, you did not fear it.
Orochimaru though had always been predictable. Sure, his specific actions might not always have been predictable, but his goals? His methods? Transparent to anyone that knew him well enough. He was just skilled enough to use those methods in new ways and coming at his goals from unforeseen angles, but on the whole, you could get an idea of what the man wanted.
The whole...busty flirt thing was odd enough, but it could have just been a change in tactic, or some effect from a technique Itachi pulled on him. However, as time has gone on, the more it displayed that this Orochitama was not the same person. The fair, the art, the play, it was all things that Orochimaru would despise. Frivolity and petulance was how the Snake Sannin had described such things previously. To put all this effort, resources, and time into something like that?
Unthinkable for Orochimaru.
Thus, this Orochitama, she must be different significantly. He didn't know her. He didn't understand her, and she wielded too much power. He couldn't let such a wild card stand. It could disturb too much. She was exactly the sort of thing that might trigger another Shinobi war. A war Konoha wouldn't be ready for right now.
Thus his path became clear.
"Come on! There is only one more show! Everyone's talking about it! I'm the only kid that hasn't gotten to see it! We gotta go!" The mewling voice of Hiruzen's brat of a grandchild greeting him as he walked into the Hokage's office.
"I am certain it isn't all of them, and I'm afraid not. It's just too dangerous." Hiruzen rebuffed in a strained voice. "We can see about having another board game night though, I know how much-"
"Forget it then!" Konohamaru yelled before stopping out past Danzo, flinging the door open on it's way so it hit the wall with a loud bang and several scrolls fell from the shelves on the nearby wall.
Hiruzen sighed as he collapsed back in his chair and the weight of the world seemed to settle on his old comrade's shoulders.
"What do you want Danzo?" The voice sounded tired and strained.
Hiruzen would need to be replaced soon. The man didn't want to pass on the seat to someone else, but he was clearly slipping. He had hoped Orochimaru might be the solution to that problem, but that didn't seem to be working out. He'd have to settle with Hiruzen still. For now.
"I come to offer intelligence I have come across." Danzo stated before tossing a scroll towards the desk.
A blur intercepted it, materializing into the form of Saru, Sarutobi's youngest son, closest body guard, and pain in Danzo's ass. It had been much easier to manipulate Hiruzen before his son began to see personally to his safety.
It was a shame when competence was a deficiency.
"What sort of intelligence?" Hiruzen asked, suddenly in full alert while his son looked over the document.
"Proof that Orochimaru, or rather, Orochitama is the leader of Hidden Sound Village."
"Completely." Danzo answered as Hiruzen was handed the documents. Something he had long kept on the backburner if he ever needed to deal with Orochimaru. It didn't take much to adjust for current events and point at the target he wanted now. It took some creative editing to make it look like it wasn't something he had been sitting on for years, but it was doable. Additionally, he had long ago used Shisui's eye to make sure Hiruzen gave much weight to anything he said. He knew what would happen next.
A few more moments passed as Hiruzen looked over the information until a look of resolve came over him and he stood up.
"Summon the Department Heads. Get me Jiraiya. We have much to discuss." He ordered, and an ANBU disappeared to enforce his will.
"We will come up with a plan and take care of this threat." Danzo stated firmly. Hiruzen gave a firm nod of agreement.
Danzo kept his face blank as satisfaction came to him. It wouldn't take much maneuvering and pushing to get what he wanted here. They might not be able to just attacking Sound during the Chunin exams. Too many eyes from the other nations watching for weakness.
After though? When they were taking all those items back home and traveling? Well, whose to say what terrible things might befall them? After all, they were just a small village that was new. It had no allies to speak of. No one would really care if they were wiped off the map. Danzo highly doubted they'd get any sort of information in their investigations to the contrary.
Ninja didn't just jump right into alliances and it was doubtful they'd suddenly receive information that one the major hidden villages would be supporting Sound.
"Wow, that's so amazing Tatewaki-sama." Gazeru gushed vapidly. She found that pretending to be an empty headed bimbo not only seemed to please the human shaped sack of excrement that was Tatewaki, it also seemed to raise no red flags to the man either. It bizarrely also seemed to make the conversation somehow more bearable. Probably because it felt like she was mocking him in her head.
"Please. Call me Tatewaki-dono." He said magnanimously, as if he hadn't just told her to refer to him as a higher form of address than most Kage's got.
By the Elements was this man insufferable.
"Wow, if you think that's best Tatewaki-san!" She gushed.
The man nodded his head as if he granted her a boon. "So, where was I?"
"You were talking about how totally awful the mean scientist was that was supposed to get you the instruments." She informed.
The man had started naming some names in the village they could do something with. Hibiki and a Kabuto. Common enough names and according to Tatewaki they were pretty low on the ladder, but it was possibly something the higher ups could do something with.
Still, it was getting closer to what she needed to know. Talking about higher ups and goals could seem a natural flow to the conversation. Considering how drunk and handsy he was getting, this probably wouldn't take too much longer. At least she hoped so. She didn't want to have to actually bed the man. He almost certainly was going to be bad at it.
"Oh, please don't remind me of their incompetence. It took days for them to make the prerequisite instruments for the musical piece. Equipping a proper symphony shouldn't have taken so much valuable time." The man said dramatically.
"Gosh, it must be hard having to deal with all those dumb people." Gazeru stated with a concerned look as she placed a hand on his thigh that slowly began to ease closer to his inner thigh. "I hope your bosses aren't as bad."
"Boss." Tatewaki corrected. "I have but one boss. A gorgeous creature that's like does not exist on this Earth. What's more, her brains almost matches her beauty. Truly, a more lovely creature I have not seen."
Progress! The leader of Sound was a woman. An attractive one with large breasts, if his previous comments were to be judged.
"Oh, she must be pretty great. I hope she sees how great you are." She said breathily.
"She has caught glimpse of my magnificence, though has not yet appreciated me for what I truly am. Though she will. In time. If she can avoid being distracted by her dalliance with-" The man cut himself off suddenly.
Oh. The leader of Sound was having a romantic tryst with someone? That was a leverage point that they could potentially use. Though she needed to make sure to not press too hard. It could raise suspicion. Then again...if she grew a bit more aggressive, he might share the information more freely if he though it would get him the bedroom activities he clearly expected to happen. She just needed to withhold it from him in a way that would make him want to pursue.
"Oh, are you jealous, Tatewaki-dono?" Gazeru asked tearfully.
"Me? Jealous? Hardly. The fool just has some temporary luck for political reasons. The heart shall find it's way to me."
"Her heart? Oh." Her hand came up to her mouth in shock. "You're in love Tatewaki-sama!? I'm so sorry." She stated tearfully as she suddenly stood up and began to back away. "I did not mean to do something that might serve as an obstacle between you and your love! I can't stand in your way. I'll just-"
"Wait!" Tatewaki said suddenly, "There is no need to apologize, for my heart has not felt a thing towards you. This is merely a meeting of purely carnal desire. My heart will not waver." He promised sincerely.
Irritation flooded her veins. He had said, with no guilt, that she was just going to be a bedwarmer for a night and he had absolutely no feelings towards her and just expected that to turn out well for him. She was beginning to suspect the man was a virgin, because there is no way he ever landed anything previously with this attitude. He ignored all social pretense of politeness. She'd seduced literally drug lords that treated their prostitutes better! Despite, or possibly because, she was trained for seduction his sheer lack of ability at it was breathtakingly infuriating.
"Are you sure? Your love sounds so pure, and I would hate to get in the way of your love in the same way that your bosses' current partner, um, what was his name again?"
She withheld a wince. That was clumsy. She'd let her feelings get to her.
"I shan't say! To expose the weakness of my Ivory Goddess would be-" The man stopped and his eyes narrowed. "You are trying to turn me against her. You intend to take information from me that would harm her!"
"No! I just was trying-"
"Silence wench!" He shouted as the bar grew deathly quiet. "I shall trust your poisoned words no longer! I know where my loyalties lie and you will play me for a fool no longer!"
Damn it. He was on to them. It was a foolish mistake, but it also wasn't something she expected Tatewaki to even notice.
"Now either fulfill your bargain to join me in coitus without uttering another word or be gone with you!"
Nope. No. This man did not just expect her to silently fuck him after he had stated he had no feelings for her and called her wench with poisoned words. She was a professional, but so was Chouza, and she'd seen him throw a man out of his restaurant for demanding a well done steak topped with peanut butter. Even a professional can only handle so much demeaning and humiliation.
Gazeru turned her nose up and walked away from the man. She had suffered enough humiliation tonight that she was beginning to rethink her position in ANBU.
"Good riddance! I would likely have received a disease anyways." The man scoffed behind her.
This man had a death wish.
She reached for the blade hidden at her inner thigh. Well, her job was to bring about men's wishes.
"I can't believe you would undercut my artistic integrity like this!" The angry Sound Ninja yelled at me. I was finding that while a Sound Scientist was difficult, a Sound Artist was apparently impossible.
"Wakana-kun, I greatly respect your piece. It's one of my favorites of the whole show, but we can't put an entire bundle of explosive tags in the middle of the fair and expect ninjas to actually show up. That's not even taking into account the risk of someone setting it off." I replied as kindly as I could manage.
"That's the whole point! I-" Wakana started to say before a disheveled and bleeding Tatewaki burst in.
"Tatewaki!" I exclaimed before rushing forward, a hand coated with chakra coming up to diagnose him. "What happened?"
"I was attacked by a spy! A cruel and venomous woman that approached me with mediocre beauty and honeyed words!" The man shouted.
Oh. Exactly what we wanted. Good. Though she must have been a rather clumsy seductress if Tatewaki managed to sniff her out.
"I'm just going to go fix my-"
"Wakana-kun. You are free to go. If you try to place exploding tags on your display you will find yourself missing a hand and your display will be removed." I said sweetly.
The artist gasped and held a hand to his chest. "Not my display!"
"Then you are excused for now. I have other business to attend to." I stated before turning to Tatewaki. "Tell me what happened exactly." I ordered as I continued to look at his injuries. A lot of scratches. Some lacerations. No poison besides alcohol. He got away fine. Though I'd need to have people be on alert to see if he was just cut loose so that others could track him back to me.
"I went out on the town to receive my just revelry when this harlot approached me claiming to want to bed me for my success with the music of this festival." The man stated confidently. I gave a simple nod. That all checked out, more or less. "I regaled her with my triumphs and the challenges that I overcame to complete the task. Then she began to speak of you. Asking for further information on who it was that could obtain the loyalty of such a pillar of brilliance as myself."
A smile tugged at my lips. "And what did you tell them?"
"Nothing!" The man responded happily and my heart sank. "I refused to give any information! I gave not your name, your habits, or your motives! I only gave exaltation to your beauty and intelligence! I put the spy in her place for asking that I betray you and she attacked me!"
He didn't leak the information. Shit.
It wasn't the end of the world, but making people think that we had an alliance with Sand was going to be a boost that we could have used. It also would have helped with convincing people that I actually did intend to attack Konoha.
"I did not wish to be attacked by the locals for participating in the fight, so I defended myself while retreating. Eventually the ANBU of Konoha apprehended the vile spy and carted her off after approximately ten minutes of defending myself. I must give them some acknowledgment. They must have rushed to the scene as they all seemed very out of breath."
The spy was almost certainly a Konoha ninja. The ANBU was probably trying to stop a diplomatic incident because the woman had gone off script, or they were trying to make sure that Tatewaki went back to where he was supposed to. Though it was worth noting that while Tatewaki was far from being what I'd call a decent fighter, there were very few people that could manage a defending retreat even half as well.
Still, it was unfortunate that he didn't let the information slip. Hopefully we wouldn't need to convince anyone we had the backing of a major village soon.
"Good job making it back Tatewaki." I stated sadly.
"But of course!" Tatawaki gave his best smile as I finished healing him.
"Go rest Tatewaki. I'm sure you could use it after your...ordeal."
Conflict warred on his face for a moment before giving a short bow. "I shall see your radiance on the morrow."
As soon as he left, I heaved a sigh and pinched at my sinuses. Moments later Kabuto walked in.
"I take it he managed to somehow fail at failing?" Kabuto ventured.
"Seems he's touchy about sharing information about me." I responded as I gave the medic a disapproving look. Considering his timing, he almost certainly waited to see Tatewaki leave before approaching.
He did not even pretend to look contrite for leaving me alone with the narcissist.
"I have unfortunate news as well."
"Did someone finally try to assault a customer?" I asked with dread.
"Surprisingly, no. It's something much worse." Kabuto stated, standing at full attention with an air of solemnity. I stood upright.
"Danzo has issued orders to me that I am meant to find out your specific location and report on the best time and place to find you. He has also begun to send out Root agents to watch the roads leading away from the fair. I was also able to confirm that the Hokage called an emergency meeting with the department heads tonight."
Shit. Danzo wasn't going to sit by the side anymore.
"Do we have any idea what caused this?" Danzo had been content to just let Orochimaru do whatever he wanted previously. He'd even subtly pushed me to attack Konoha and kill Sarutobi-sensei previously. Well, not Orochitama me, but Orochimaru me. If he'd let me get away with all that stuff in the past, then what could possibly change his tune so much now?
"I can't say. Danzo doesn't share his reasonings, but I suspect it is because of the changes in your operation."
"What changes? Everything is mostly the same, as far as he's concerned." At least according to the doctored reports that Danzo had been receiving.
"To speak frankly, the fair itself is likely an issue." Kabuto stated bluntly.
"It was intended as a distraction and Danzo was meant to take it that way. It shouldn't have been enough for him to see an issue."
"Orochitama-sama. This fair took months of planning. Months of training, effort, and not an insignificant amount of money. If it were just a colorful distraction we could have done any number of other things. This is work of the heart and it shows. This is not something meant to be simply thrown away. This is not something Orochimaru would ever have done." Kabuto said as he watched me carefully.
The air grew tense before I gave a nod of acknowledgment. It was common now. Kabuto was trying to find the line between us. To see how blunt or disrespectful he could be before I would react, and most importantly, how straight forward he could be about saying that I am not Orochimaru.
"You're right. Orochimaru would never have done this." I acknowledge. I didn't have time for worrying about a back stab right now. Besides, everything was going to go quite quickly going forward. "What do you think their plan will be? Will he be brazen enough to attack us here?"
"I wouldn't put it past him, but the more likely plan is to have us ambushed on the way home. Everyone will assume it was Konoha anyways, so it would still get the acclaim even if no witnesses are left alive."
I gave grunt of acknowledgment. We needed a plan and if they were going to ambush us on the way home we couldn't be hauling all the stuff for the fair with us.
"The guest you have been waiting for has also still not arrived to any show yet." Kabuto added.
"He'll be here for the last show." I said with confidence I was beginning to lose.
"Very well. What are your orders?"
That was a damn good question. I didn't expect this to grow so hostile so fast. I needed something big to distract. They probably expected the fair to stay for the whole chunnin exams. I could use that.
My mind raced as I tried to put pieces together. I needed to get my people out, while simultaneously making everyone convinced that my plans lie here. It might not be enough. I needed something big. A show stopper. I needed-
"Kabuto. Get everyone prepped. The exams start in three days. Put out fliers that the day before the exams start we are having a big extravaganza. All prizes are doubled on that day too. Auctions for the artwork and instruments. Make a big deal that we are going to have a big interview with the writer of the show after Episode VI ends. From now until the show starts, have people subtly seal up any of the valuable equipment we can."
Kabuto's eye furrowed but gave a nod. "It will be done. Anything else?"
"Yes." I said as an evil smile began to grace my face. "I need a top-hat and a red coat."
After all. What was more distracting to the ninja of Konoha than me?