One of my favorite parts of this story is how much time I was able to cover up 'til now. Really, it's amazing. I have a tendency to get bogged down and linger in my writing, typing out every minutiae and slowing my pacing to a grinding halt. I think I was able to go so fast in this story because there's no canon I'm trying to follow, like in the first Shinobi Isekai. The story is all mine, lol, I can skip as much time as I want. From here on out, though, things will be slower. Thus is the village life.
Hiruzen puffed on his pipe, the familiar flavor of his favorite tobacco blend filling his mouth and nose. Sitting across from him, legs crossed in her seat as she glared at him, was the child who'd made life harder than it needed to be for his men on the Iwa border. At first glance, her golden crown of riotous curls and rich dark skin brought Kumo to mind, but the longer he looked the more she appeared markedly different from the Raikage and his kin. Her pupiless green eyes were upturned and set beneath short, golden eyebrows that stood out against her warm skin. Her eyelashes, too, were golden, framing her eyes in a charming way.
Or, it would be charming, if she wasn't making her anger known in every possible way.
She was sitting in a chair, but she still crossed her legs, her arms propped on her knees in a rude posture. She hadn't eve bowed to him or his council when she was escorted into his office. Mitokado and Utatane made scowled at the obvious disrespect, but Hiruzen was more amused than offended. Despite her incredible height—another thing he ascribed to her Lightning heritage, they were all tall out there—she was still a child, only a few years older than his youngest, at that. Her cheeks were still somewhat round with baby fat, accentuating a pointed chin. Having lived her entire life in another country with a jinchuriki as the highest authority…well, it was understandable that she didn't have a grasp of basic Konoha etiquette.
"It is nice to finally meet you, Benihime-chan," he said amicably. "I've heard so much about you."
"It's all lies," she said blandly. "Lies and slander."
He chuckled, not at all minding that she'd technically interrupted him. "Indeed? Well, that's too bad. Sakumo-kun said you were clever and a joy to teach. Are you saying that isn't true?"
She nodded sharply, her curls bouncing. "Yeah. It's true for him, because I like him, but I don't like you, so." She shrugged, as though she hadn't just told off the most powerful shinobi in the village.
Danzo slammed the butt of his cane on the floor, the sound sharp and angry though his expression looked much like it always did—sharp and angry.
"Your insolence goes too far!"
"Wrong!" Hiruzen raised an eyebrow in surprise as she pointed a finger at his old friend. "It can go a lot farther!"
Ha. She was cheeky, he'd give her that.
"Benihime-chan," he interjected, as much to save her from Danzo's anger as to keep himself from laughing at her antics. "I believe you already know why you're here, yes?"
"The old man is a good little soldier and brought the anomaly to his commander."
"Indeed." Some of his jovial mask slipped at that. She wasn't wrong, of course, but the way she worded it was…less than savory. "He has yet to make his own report, as I believed it best that we finish your processing first. Do you want to tell us what brought you to Konoha after making your feelings about us so abundantly clear?"
She cocked her head at him, those golden eyelashes fluttering closed over inscrutable eyes. He held no illusions when facing this child. Every second he held her gaze was a second he was judged. Did she find him wanting, he wondered? Did he meet her standards?
Yes, he'd gathered that much. She sat before him wearing one of Sakumo's shirts, the neckline hanging over her shoulder and the bottom hem barely reaching her knees. She was wearing a pair of what had to be Sakumo's shorts, though Hiruzen couldn't remember ever seeing the shinobi wear them. They were too large for her, her slender legs swimming in the excess fabric. He may not have spoken to Sakumo about the incident, yet, but it was obvious that she'd gone straight to him.
"Yes, but why? More specifically, why now? Sakumo-kun has been gone from your temple for almost a year. What could have possible called you here?"
She looked down and away, her full lips pursing as she bit at the inside of her cheek. "I can't say."
Oh? He bit down on the stem of his pipe. "Can't? Or won't?"
She raised an eyebrow at him, looking very much unimpressed by his shift in tone. "What are you gonna do? Throw me at a Yamanaka?" She scoffed. "You can try. It won't end well, though. I can't," she insisted. "Because it's not my business. He hasn't told you, yet, and I don't know what he will tell you, so I can't just run my mouth. I came for him because he needed me, and that's all I'll say."
Well, he couldn't exactly argue with that, could he?
"How did you know? Your temple is very far from Konoha, my dear."
She scowled as he gestured at the map of the continent spread out on the wall. Her temple was marked in the forested corner of what might become the Land of Fire's territory. It really was quite far. Well over a thousand kilometers. An incredible distance for a child to traverse alone.
"I had a dream," she answered after a long moment. "A dream that almost came true. I won't tell you any more than that. If you want to know, you'll need to ask the old man."
That was fair enough.
Utatane sniffed disdainfully. "A dream? You crossed an entire nation for a dream?"
Benihime bared her teeth in a humorless smile, her crooked eyeteeth jogging a memory in the back of Hiruzen's mind.
"Sometimes, my dreams come true. I'd rather this one didn't, so I'm here."
That was quite the confession to make. Was she claiming some kind of foresight?
"Not all of them, obviously," she said with a laugh. "God, can you imagine if giant beetles took over the world? That would be something."
Hiruzen let himself laugh as he revised his opinion of the girl. So, she'd admitted to having an incredibly valuable ability but she'd downplayed it by making it sound unreliable. Hmm. Clever.
"You must be exhausted, my dear," Hiruzen crooned, channeling his parenting skills as he looked at her with a kindly expression. "You must have been on the road for quite a while."
She shrugged again. "It's no big deal. I had to get here, so I did."
That kind of dedication was admirable. And exploitable.
"You must care greatly for Sakumo-kun. I'm sure he is grateful for your allegiance."
"My allegiance," she cut in. "Is to myself. Sakumo has my affection."
Indeed. "And how far does that affection go, I wonder?"
She sighed, rolling her beautiful eyes with all the force of a teenager's angst. "Ugh, just cut to the chase. At this rate, I'll be as gray as the old man by the time you slap a headband on me."
Hiruzen chuckled even as his old teammates bristled with anger.
"Very well, then," he said with a smile. "Why don't you tell us what you think we want."
She bared her teeth at them, again. "Isn't it obvious? I'm a shiny new toy to add to your collection, complete with cool, never before seen powers you can't wait to try on your enemies. I'll bet you're thinking of setting me against Kumo, just for the poetic irony of it all. Am I wrong?"
No. Not at all. Still, he couldn't just admit that. Especially not the way she'd phrased it.
"I'll tell you what," she said, unfolding her legs and stretching them out, pointing her bare feet in a stretch. "I'll join your village. For free, even. I'll stick around, do your evil bidding, until the end of the war. Then, we can hash out a new deal. How's that sound?"
How amusing. She really thought she was in a position to negotiate.
Well, there was some use in a child's naivety.
He smiled benignly, letting himself laugh at her youthful optimism. "That suits me just fine. And you, my friends? Any objections?"
"I want it in writing!" The girl insisted, hopping to her feet and approaching his desk in a serious breach of etiquette. "I want signatures, seals, the whole caboodle—in triplicate!"
She came to a stop in front of him, looking him in the eye. He leaned back in his seat, smiling around his pipe stem at her audacity.
"That can be arranged."
He reached over and pulled a clean sheet of paper. He dipped his pen into its inkwell and began to write out a 'contract' for his newest little kunoichi. She leaned forward, tilting her head as she tried to read what he was writing.
"Now, before I finish this," he said slowly, looking up to gauge her reaction. "There is one thing I want you to do for me."
She scowled and crossed her arms over her chest. "What is it?"
"I don't suppose you can mark Taki down on our map for us? No one has ever known its exact location, and we would be ever so grateful if you could—."
She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, ok, whatever. No need to lay it on so thick."
She walked over to the giant map on the wall, reaching out with her hand to point at the marker for her temple. From there, she slowly moved her finger northwest, further and further from the border with the Land of Fire.
Finally, her finger came to a stop. "Here. Ish. It's around here, anyway."
Danzo stood, walking up behind the girl and marking the location for future reference.
"How easily you give up your village," Hiruzen's teammate accused lowly. "I don't suppose we can expect any loyalty from you, either."
She scoffed, stepping away from him and heading back to Hiruzen's desk. "Trust me, there's nothing you could possibly do that would be worse than them. Taki can burn to the ground for all I care."
With that cheery incentive, Hiruzen wrote his name at the bottom of the page and pressed his thumb into a sponge soaked with red ink before adding his thumbprint, channeling chakra to make it official. He passed the contract over to her before pulling out another page and recreating the contract word for word.
"I'm keeping this one," she said as she signed her own name and added her thumbprint below his. "Wouldn't want it to be conveniently lost, or anything."
She really distrusted them, didn't she? Very well, she could keep it. With any luck, her time in the village would endear it to her and she would forget about the vague time limit on the paper in her hands. It was an official contract signed by the Hokage, but it was only binding if she wanted it to be.
He smiled at her as she looked over the contract. "I hope this has satisfied you, my dear. Now, I'm afraid I need you to go over to the immigration office. Take this," he handed her a scroll. "And show it to them. The process should be done by the end of the day, and I will have Sakumo-kun pick you up. Does that sound alright to you?"
He was asking as a courtesy, but she actually sniffed at him. "It's something. I'll see you around, head honcho."
She turned and walked away, not even sparing him or his council a glance as she left the room.
Sakumo stepped in shortly afterward, his hand on her head as he pushed her down into a bow.
She echoed his words, clearly insincere, before ducking out of his grasp and escaping into the hallway with a cackle.
Hiruzen laughed at the White Fang's beleaguered expression and waved for him to enter.
"So, tell me, Sakumo-kun, just what could possess that child to come to this village?"
"Excuse me. Is this immigration?"
Maito Dai looked up from the pile of paperwork on his desk. Well, it wasn't really his desk, but all the chunin who usually worked in this department were off supporting the war effort and the genin were left picking up the slack in the village. As one of the most senior genin, he was trusted with the incredibly important job of managing the Internal Affairs office.
Standing in the doorway was kid who could have stood in line with the Raikage's regiment and blended right in. How strange for a Kumo child to immigrate to Konoha in the middle of a war. How brave!
Tears were already welling in Dai's eyes as he thought of all the struggles she must have endured to come this far. Oh, the poor baby!
"I have a scroll," she said, walking up to the desk with a hesitant smile. She was a real cutie! "Do I give it to you?"
"Let me see! If it's not for me, I shall run a hundred laps around the village on my hands as punishment!"
She giggled at his antics, a fresh response after all the exasperated eyerolls he'd grown accustomed to. He unfurled the scroll and quickly read its contents.
"Well, how about that! It says here that you're exempt from the mental clearance, so we can get this done today! How exciting! Right this way, little princess!"
She laughed again, the tinkling sound fueling him better than a ten course meal! She followed behind him as he led her into an interview room, making sure to leave a note on his desk in case anyone needed him.
"Alrighty! First things first, what's your name?"
"Oh! I was right about the princess thing! How amazing! How is that written?"
She told him with a laugh, answering all his other questions with a smile as he filled out her forms for her, as was customary for minor applicants. Still, he hadn't realized how minor! Yowza, she was tall! And from Taki! He kicked himself for making assumptions based only on her appearance and tasked himself with running those laps as punishment. He'd be sure to give Guy a lecture about judging books by their covers when he got home, too, to make sure the lesson didn't end with him.
"Alright! So, next step, any living family in other villages we should know about?"
Her smile faded a little bit and she shook her head. "No. Not in a village."
"Any family outside a village?"
She hesitated, a far away look glazing over her pale green eyes before she nodded. "Yeah. Do you have a bingo book?"
Oh, no. He fished his copy of the latest publication from his back pocket, the paper thinner than past editions due to war rationing.
She took it from him with a small thank you and skipped right to the back of the book, where the A and S rank shinobi were listed.
She stopped on a page, pupiless eyes moving back and forth as she read what was printed there, before handing it back to him.
"That's my great-grandfather."
Dai felt a chill run down his spine as he looked at the entry for Kakuzu, the Immortal Bounty Hunter. How he'd earned that name wasn't hard to guess. If he was her great-grandfather, he had to be at least seventy, right? To still be operating as a shinobi at that age took incredible skill.
"He doesn't care about me, though," she added, looking up at him with a desperate concern. "He won't come looking for me or causing any trouble on my part, I swear!"
Well, given that she was applying for residency in Konoha instead of living a life of crime with him, that seemed pretty obvious. And sad. The only person in the world who should care for her was out wreaking havoc instead.
Dai tilted his head back to keep the tears from flowing. He was representing the village to a new immigrant! He couldn't let his emotions get the best of him!
A few tears still escaped as he wrote in the name of her only relative. Usually, anyone who was even suspected of being involved with a criminal of C rank or higher was sent to T&I for a proper interrogation, but this was a kid! And the Hokage himself had signed off on her exemption, so it was probably fine.
"Last thing," he said around the lump in his throat. "Anything to declare?"
The light came back to her eyes. She pulled her curls back from the side of her head, revealing delicate golden hoops with intricate designs along the bottom curve. "These are mine. They've been in my family for at least four generations."
Dai wrote that in happily. How wonderful that she had ties to her family that weren't criminal!
"This," she pulled out a necklace from inside her too large black shirt, pulling apart the pendant there and tossing it into the air. It expanded, becoming a short stick maybe as long as her forearm which she caught with clear skill. Dai watched with loud praise as she twirled it in her hand. "Is the Nyoi Bo. It's a living weapon that chooses its wielder. If anyone else tried to use it, they would die.
Dai wrote that in word for word, underlining the word 'die' many times to be sure it was noted.
"That's a very nice weapon," he said honestly. Her smile widened, revealing the cutest set of teeth he'd ever seen! Aside from Guy's, of course.
"Thanks! It was my mom's."
He made note of that, too.
"And then there's this." She held out her hand, unfolding slender fingers and revealing a wooden ladybug charm sitting in the center of her pale palm. "It was a birthday present from the old man."
"Old man? You mean your grandfather?"
She curled her lip. "Ew, no. That miser would never give anyone anything for free, not even me! This is from Sakumo!"
Ah! Ah! He threw back his head and laughed at his old friend's expense, the childhood nickname he thought long dead suddenly revived before his very eyes.
"That's wonderful!" He said, not even bothering to stop the tears of happiness flowing from his eyes, this time. "He is a good friend to have!"
She returned his smile with one of her own, her cute little nose wrinkling. "He is! Oh! I almost forgot!" She reached behind her head, lifting the curls off her neck and pulling something out. "This is Mushi! He's my best friend! Do I need to declare him?"
In her hands sat a large, living rhinoceros beetle. His horn was long and arched, the prong at the end widely parted. His carapace was a glistening black and he lifted his shell to buzz his wings at Dai in what he would always swear was a greeting.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mushi-san," Dai said with a small bow. "And, no, best friends do not need to be declared!"
This was obviously a nin-animal of some sort. Those, as far as he knew, were not to be treated like normal imported animals under any circumstances.