It all started like it was a normal day.
She had just started her day at work. It has been a busy couple of weeks. They had been putting the screws into Kabuto Yakushi's teammates. Those two were spies too. Just sloppy ones in general. So, under Ibiki and Anko's tender mercies, the fools just sang. Which led them to a few more spies, which led them to a few more, and so on it went.
So far, they had managed to round up more than twenty people loyal to the snake bastard. Some were shinobi, some were just civilians in convenient places. The worst part of it was that Danzo had a hand in all of this. The paranoid bastard allowed Orochimaru to install some of these spies in exchange for some experimental stuff. The rest were independently placed by the traitorous snake under Danzo's nose. Those two assholes were playing snakes and ladders and it just pissed Anko off.
Anyway, this was supposed to be a normal day at work. Usually, she would be sent on missions, but she was assigned to this clusterfuck because she knew how the snake operated. Her insights came in handy when dealing with these spies, who all had seals or other nasty fail-safes. Venomous pills in their teeth and all sorts of messed up shit.
The first indication of something being wrong was the fact that she had sensed something weird.
And wasn't that a kicker in itself? Anko never had a talent for sensing. But it was one of the unintended side effects of getting rid of the curse plaguing her. Oh, she still had the cursed seal, it was just defanged. Habitually, she ran her fingers over the new seal enveloping her cursed seal. It could be removed since its job was done, but she wanted it to stay there. It was partly due to paranoia, just in case the damn thing started acting up again. Another reason she wanted it to stay was because it was a reminder. It was a reminder that she was no longer hampered by her bastard of a sensei.
Ichigo's seal was a modification of the seal he used for Yakumo. It was a high-level containment seal. That was the primary purpose of it. Since Yakumo's condition came with a split personality, the seal was by default equipped to deal with issues inside the mindscape. And wasn't that a nasty surprise? When the seal was doing its work, she was abruptly pulled into her mindscape or soulscape or whatever the fuck the nerds called it. Lo and behold, in that place, was a chakra imprint of her traitorous teacher.
Since Ichigo had rigged the original seal to contain a reality-altering entity, Orochimaru was child's play to it. It had the piece of him wrapped up. She took an inordinate amount of pleasure in murdering the fuck out of that little piece of Orochimaru. She often dreamt of a repeat performance where she did it to him in real life. Nonetheless, that imprint was gone, and with it, most of her troubles.
Anko was finally free. She was free of the interference, the pain, the humiliation. It was the limiter that kept her at the Tokubetsu Jonin level. Whenever she lost control over her emotions, whenever she used chakra above a certain level, the damn thing used to act up. It took her so much control over her chakra and emotions to function normally. And now that burden was gone.
Alongside the removal of the imprint came some benefits. The seal was a receptacle of natural energy. It no longer contained Orochimaru's chakra, but it was designed to draw in natural energy and store it for usage. Now, not only was she free of the negatives, but she had also gained a massive boost in power whenever she decided to activate it.
Lord Jiraiya had told her that there was reportedly another level for the new experiments of Orochimaru. He had come across some twisted experiments which took on demonic characteristics through their cursed seals. Hers was an early model though, one of his first attempts. She didn't have the level two, and she didn't want it. To be perfectly honest, she did not want to use the level one itself. She had yet to use it apart from some intense training sessions.
Without Orochimaru's will and chakra, she was at her peak as it was. She could use more chakra than usual without worrying about the seal acting up. She could push herself to the brink, and the results were showing.
Apart from all this, upon Ichigo's urging she began talking to the snakes about senjutsu. They flat-out told her that she needed to be stronger before they start anything. They were willing though. The cursed seal exposed her to a lot of natural chakra, so compatibility was not an issue. The issue was that her body was not strong enough to learn it on her own. She was close though. And the snakes were eager too. They were petty and jealous creatures. They wanted their summoner to be a sage. Orochimaru could not be a proper one because apparently, the twisted fuck had messed with his body too much to do it the natural way. The snakes wanted to compete with the frogs. They had high hopes for Kabuto but he got speared by Kakashi, so there went that avenue. Apart from Manda, most of them liked her, so, it was only a matter of time.
She was indebted to Ichigo. That's why she tolerated training his sister and her friend. Not like the kids gave her much trouble. They were proper kunoichi, and Ichigo had trained them well. Thankfully, they didn't have fangirl tendencies. Well, there was some. The Yamanaka was smitten, but she never displayed that outright. The girl took her training seriously so that was all that mattered.
Now, back to the matter at hand, she had sensed something weird when she was interrogating one of Orochimaru's spies. The same chakra signature of this person pinged at the edge of her senses. It was as if he was in two places at once.
So, she began to act. Anko raced through the rooftops and followed the chakra signature. She loosened the valve over Ichigo's containment seal a bit, and her range exploded due to the influx of natural energy. If this were just the bootleg version, she shuddered in pleasure imagining how potent a real sage mode would be.
The moment she spotted her target on the street down below, she unleashed her favorite jutsu. Without warning, several snakes sprung out from under her sleeve and wrapped the spy tightly.
"You thought you were slick eh? I don't know what trick you're pulling, but you can't escape us that easily," she said, as a few shinobi around the street tensed up and took a ready stance in response to the sudden violence.
"What are you doing Anko?" someone asked from the crowd.
"Suspected spy. Code white snake. I'm carting him off to T&I," she said as her snakes opened their maws wide, to administer a paralytic agent.
To her shock, the features of the suspect twisted as if they were made of clay. Within a second, his transformation finished. He had short green hair and chalk-white skin. He only had one yellow eye, while the right side of his face looked like it was melted.
At first, she thought that her captive had managed to escape from the T&I building using some trick. But it did not seem like the case. Instead, it looked like this was an imposter.
"Wait, you are not… Who are you?" Anko growled.
But instead of answering, he smirked as he sunk into the ground, and his chakra signature disappeared completely. Her snakes had tried to constrict him, but it proved to bear no fruit since that jutsu had just been too quick for the snakes summoned from Sen'ei Jashu. If it had been her named summons, he might not have escaped.
Without giving him time, she ran through a set of hand seals and stomped on the ground, upending the area beneath her. But the imposter was nowhere in sight.
Before she could do anything more, a team of Anbu dropped down next to her.
"Anko, report to Lady Tsunade at once. Go to the tree in the east district. To the ex-Root site," said the familiar cat-masked Anbu. It looked like Yugao was hard at work.
"What about the intruder?" she asked.
"This is not the only one. Report to your assignment now. We will look for this one," was the tense reply.
Knowing the seriousness of the situation, Anko did not speak anything more and immediately shot off towards the newly formed giant tree.
Within minutes, she reached her destination, only to almost get impaled by a wooden spike.
"What's the big idea?" she asked as she turned furiously towards the perpetrator. She had heard about the Mokuton user, but it was her first time meeting him. And as far as first impressions went, this was not a good one.
For a second, her seal tingled, and then went back to normal.
"She's clean, Tenzo," said Ichigo.
As both she and the so-called Tenzo relaxed, she took another good look at the situation. Apart from Tenzo and her, Hiashi Hyuga was there in the clearing as well. As usual, the white-eyed clan leader had a stick up his ass and was standing a bit away from the others.
A wooden bench had been erected in the clearing, and atop it was the body of the white asshole that had just escaped from her. Lady Tsunade and Shizune were studying it, while Ichigo was working on a projection similar to the ones the barrier teams worked on.
"What the fuck is going on in the village? I just sensed the chakra signature of a new prisoner outside T&I. I caught him, and he transformed into some white freak. The slick fucker just escaped from me. Yugao said that there was more than one, and I see it now," said Anko, pointing at the dead body on the table.
"What happened, is that someone has once again, tampered with my grandfather's corpse," growled Lady Tsunade as her chakra bore down on everyone.
"Please calm down, Lady Tsunade," urged Shizune as the ground beneath them began to crack.
"Oh, I am calm. Believe me. I am very calm. But I swear that heads are going to roll for this. Such disrespect," she said through grinding teeth.
"I had an experience similar to yours. I was training inside my clan compound when I spotted something odd. A person was walking down the street near our compound, but at the same time, quite a distance away, the very same person was knocked out and stashed away. I wouldn't have caught it normally. There was practically no difference in the chakra signatures. This person wasn't careful. It seems like an intentional mistake. Likely a distraction," said Hiashi.
"Speaking of, while he is not transformed into someone, his chakra is very similar to the Mokuton dude over here. And now that I am here, it does seem very similar to the tree as well," said Anko, whose seal was still active.
"As I said, someone has been tampering with my grandfather's corpse," the Senju grumbled as she placed a glowing green hand over a petri dish, which presumably had samples from the corpse in front of them.
"We caught this particular one trying to snoop around this tree," said Tenzo.
"Yeah. It has been a nightmare of a day so far. Someone has been probing some sensitive areas without the necessary clearance. They have the chakra signatures and pretty much everything down pat. But one thing they lack is the new encrypted keys I created. So, the body is a one-to-one clone. But it does not have the fuinjutsu that gives them access. And all of these assholes tried to enter different places at the same time," said Ichigo.
"Which is concerning in itself. This means that someone had access to high-level information before Strawberry set up those new seals of his," said Lady Tsunade.
"The new barrier is working double time. The barrier squad has warned us of several unauthorized additions from underground. But they can't track them now because the chakra signal is all muddied with some weird jutsu. The transformation changed the signature so much that it removed the trackers the barrier had placed on them. That's how we found this issue in the first place anyway," he said.
That was all fine and dandy, but Anko did not know why she was called here.
Before anyone could say anything, Ichigo straightened up and looked at the tattoo on his right forearm.
"Fuck!" he shouted as he immediately performed the summoning jutsu.
The next moment, his trusty summon, Shirokuma appeared, carrying a smaller polar bear on his shoulder.
"What happened, Shiro?" asked Ichigo, losing all his usual composure.
"Saya here was summoned by Sakura. Their team got ambushed. Kakashi asked for you as reinforcement. So, she returned to the village, and I used our specialized seal to ping you," said the bear.
"Fuck fuck fuck…" Ichigo began to mumble. To Anko's eyes, it looked like he was ready to bolt at any moment.
"Impossible. We need him here for a little while. We have an emergency on our hands. The village has been infiltrated by multiple imposters who have been trying to breach some key areas. Ichigo is the one who set up the seals that caught the issue. We can't let him go just right now," said Lady Tsunade.
Ichigo turned towards her, his eyes blazing. But before he could speak, she raised her hand, stopping him.
"Trust me brat, I know. I can empathize. I had a brother too, remember? You can go. But before you do, I need you to finish what you started. We will take over and complete the job. Remember, the rest of your family is in the village. You can't just run off half-cocked. If you play this right, you can protect them all. Moreover, we have a way to solve a major issue," said Lady Tsunade as she summoned two small offshoots of Lady Katsuyu. She then turned towards Ichigo and handed him one small slug. "Here, let your bear keep this offshoot. We will have the other with us. This way, we can communicate in real-time with your sister," she finished.
Anko saw several expressions pass through his face. First, there was disbelief, then rage, then frustration, then acceptance. But some of his confidence had bled out of his face. As if things were not going as planned. To her, it looked like he finally got a taste of everyone's life. He was always on top of things, but this had really taken him by surprise.
He stood there for a few seconds and then took a deep breath.
"I suppose this works. Thank you, Ladies. Remember, Saya, wait for Sakura to summon you. Then stay hidden near her team. Don't give yourself away to anyone. All the while, Lady Katsuyu will support us with communications. If you spot any sign of major trouble, you reverse summon me instantly," said Ichigo and handed over the small slug to the bear.
"Got it, Ichigo," said the cute little bear as she slipped Katsuyu inside her sleeve and stood in attention.
An awkward silence followed that as everyone returned to their previous tasks. Ichigo was still monitoring the barriers while the two medics were studying the abomination, trying to see if they could figure something out.
For a few minutes, nothing happened.
"You think this is his work? This tree and Tenzo here were his, weren't they? And this white bastard feels the same as the two," asked Anko finally.
"We can't say for sure. If it was him, then he would have already mounted an attack with such infiltrators in hand. Jiraiya said that this seems to be Zetsu, a missing-nin belonging to a shady organization. Still waiting on a positive ID, since the black half of him seems to be missing. We didn't know that he could separate like this or anything about this person. He is a notorious information broker in certain circles, but nobody knew of these capabilities before," said Lady Tsunade.
"This does make it obvious how he gathered his information," mumbled Ichigo.
"More interestingly, the first appearance of Zetsu predates all of Orochimaru's experiments. So we can't say for sure if he is Orochimaru's pawn or not," said Lady Tsunade with visible distaste on her face.
Right then, the bear popped away.
"You can leave, Shiro. If there is a need, Saya will let me know through Lady Katsuyu," Ichigo said. The bear silently nodded in response and popped away.
Another couple of minutes passed, and Anko felt Yakumo's chakra signature approaching.
"What happened?" asked Yakumo as she reached them quickly with surprising agility.
For a second, once more, it seemed like her seal tingled for a brief moment.
"Come here Yakumo. I need you to take a look at this," said Ichigo, pointing at the barrier.
The moment Yakumo stepped close to him, Ichigo became a blur.
Anko caught the movement of him unsheathing his famous sword. But she was too far away to do anything. Before Anko could react, Yakumo's head had been separated from her body. Zangetsu was out on full force, a black coating of chakra dancing around the blade.
Anko expected the fresh corpse to revert to the white face of Zetsu. But that did not happen. The body and the head stayed as they were, spraying blood everywhere. She looked at Zetsu's corpse on the table and saw there was no blood there. It looked more like a dried tree.
"What the fuck have you done?" screamed Anko. It looked like Ichigo had mistaken Yakumo for a spy and had killed her in the heat of the moment.
"Relax. This is not Yakumo," he said without any inflection. But she could see the disturbed expression on his face. He had seemingly killed his best friend, after all.
"How can you be sure?" asked Anko.
"No seal. How do you think I cleared you and stopped Tenzo from wrapping you up? The seals I gave you and Yakumo have a function that's there to bring you out of your mindscape. It needs remote injection from me. I sent out a ping and only got a positive acknowledgment from your seal. This is not Yakumo. Because her ping came to me from several blocks away," he said, not once taking his eyes off the corpse.
As Anko stared at the corpse as well, she realized that nobody else in the clearing had been all that surprised by it except for maybe Hiashi. She realized that he must have already briefed them, as he would have done something similar if a doppelganger of hers showed up. Although, Lady Tsunade looked pale as she stared at the blood.
"Should have told me before, Jackass," she said.
"Sorry, forgot about it due to Sakura's situation," he said sheepishly. And that, Anko could understand perfectly. When it came to his family, especially his sister's safety, Ichigo just worked himself up too much.
"Interesting," said Lady Tsunade as she crouched on the ground and examined the new body with her iryojutsu. But there was a hitch in her voice, and her hands were trembling a bit. But she seemed to power through it.
"What did you find, Lady Tsunade?" asked Shizune.
"This is definitely Zetsu. Same cellular makeup. But you can't tell if you're not specifically looking for certain things. For all intents and purposes, this can pass off as Yakumo's dead body. The jutsu did not get canceled even after death," she said.
"So they can only be reverted consciously?" asked Anko, as she remembered how the thing had transformed only after she had cornered it. He had then used a jutsu to go underground.
"That, or if Tenzo gets his claws on him. Mokuton is surprisingly effective in undoing this mess," said Ichigo.
"Convenient little Kekkei-" Anko stopped midway as she felt two massive chakra signatures closing in. She had been relying on her seal too much during this fiasco, but it was necessary.
Before her mind could process the information her senses felt, the two people had already reached them.
Standing in front of them were Lord Third and Lord Jiraiya.
"So, how are you going to verify these two? They don't have any seals on them, do they?" she asked.
"Even if they do, it doesn't matter. That is another reason why we would have called you even if you don't have the seal on you," said Lady Tsunade.
"I don't follow," she said.
"What do you three have in common?" asked Ichigo.
Anko didn't need to think for too long.
"We are all summoners," she said.
"Bingo. All of us summoners already vetted each other. There is no way to fake the summoning contracts. Even if the chakra signature is the same, even if the body is the same, the summons will not appear if you have not signed the contract," said Ichigo.
"And that is why Lady Tsunade has called this emergency meeting," said Shizune, causing Ichigo to spit out the water he had just started drinking. Everyone looked at him for a second and ignored the coughing that followed.
"Indeed. It is nice to see you taking charge, Tsunade. I just wish it were under better circumstances," said Lord Third, with a grave expression on his face.
"We are done with our tasks, by the way," said Lord Jiraiya, causing Ichigo's coughs to get stronger.
"What else now? I'll follow your lead, Tsunade," said Lord Third. It seemed like the rumors of her taking up the office were spot on. It felt like she was witnessing a live Hokage apprenticeship where the mentor lets the mentee do the tasks and correct any mistakes.
"Alright. Anko, you are here for a reason. We immediately need high-ranking shinobi we can trust. So, I called for you. Yakumo is on her way. I'll explain fully once we are ready. Meanwhile, take an offshoot of Katsuyu with you. We need communications that are not sabotaged," said Lady Tsunade.
By then, Ichigo had stopped coughing and mumbled in a low voice, "How am I not the one making the references?"
Nobody paid heed to his eccentricities at present. They all knew that he was stressed due to his sister's team facing some trouble. It made sense for him to babble some nonsense.
Right on cue, Yakumo arrived. And this time, there was no surprise attack. Instead, she was looking wide-eyed at her twin of a headless corpse lying on the ground.
Once more, Anko felt her seal tingle for a brief moment. Now she recognized this as Ichigo pinging the seal.
"She's clear," said Ichigo, as Lady Tsunade went over the situation and explained everything in detail.
For the next few minutes, she went over everything, detailing the attack plan. Anko was clear about her role and was eager to rid this village of these parasites.
"Sensei and Jiraiya have placed the village on lockdown. Following the barrier team's warnings, they have also gone and placed some seals that destabilize any underground jutsu. Now, we are ready to strike," said Lady Tsunade.
"Yup, let's get to it.
"So, duties. One by one, tell me what you will be doing. Yakumo, you first," said Lady Tsunade.
"I will trigger a village-wide genjutsu with my Kekkei Genkai that will force anyone transformed into their original state. I'll also get them out in the open," said the Kurama heiress.
"I will be leading an Anbu strike team to capture or incapacitate our targets," he said.
"I'll be leading a team of toads to do the same thing as sensei."
"I will be manning the hub that Ichigo set up. I'll work with the barrier team and I'll be relaying information to our teams through Lady Katsuyu," said Shizune, as she pointed at the chakra projection that Ichigo was working on.
"Good. You'll be able to manage it even if Ichigo leaves to reinforce Kakashi?" asked Lady Tsunade.
"Yes. He explained everything to me."
"I will be guarding this command center."
"I'll also be guarding this command center."
"Anko, what about you?" she asked.
"I will be hunting for the targets with my snakes once they are out in the open. The same as Lord Third and the old pervert here," she said. Even though she respected Lord Jiraiya, she refused to show it to his face. That was not a good move. She grew up around the Sannin, after all. She knew them very well and knew what ticked.
Lady Tsunade smirked and turned towards Ichigo. But before she could question him, Lady Katsuyu spoke up.
"Zabuza Momochi and Raiga Kurosuki have ambushed team Kakashi. Raiga has kidnapped Sakura Haruno and Sasuke Uchiha. He has also put Naruto Uzumaki under a genjutsu, unleashing the Kyuubi chakra in a three-tailed cloak state," said Lady Katsuyu in an urgent voice.
The atmosphere shifted in an intense. To Anko, it felt as if there was a heavy weight bearing down on her.
The worst bit was that it was not the action of one single person. The emergency message had managed to trigger two people simultaneously.
A palpable tsunami of killing intent oozed from Ichigo. At the same time, Lord Third too looked like he wanted to murder someone. Ichigo's face looked blank, void of all expression. But there was a murderous aura emanating from him that reminded her of her sensei for a moment. She had never seen this side of Ichigo before.
He had always been a jovial individual. But now, it looked like he would slaughter an entire village without blinking an eye.
Yakumo seemed to be the most affected by it, but she still held her own. Hiashi looked nervous, but he was not a clan leader for nothing. Shizune, just like Anko had been around the Sannin for a long time. So, she was used to the intensity. But just like Anko, it seemed like she too have been surprised. People expected the Sannin to have such intensity and weight behind their wills. They didn't expect a fresh Jonin who was not even out of his teens to put up such a display.
Of course, it did not mean that Ichigo was as strong as the Sannin. But it sure did mean that he was well on his way to it.
"Well, it looks like you know what you have to do, Ichigo," said Lady Tsunade.
"Is there a way for me to go? I can suppress Naruto while you go after Raiga," said Tenzo.
"Reverse summoning won't allow people who have not been signed. Don't fret, Tenzo. Ichigo has it in hand. He's not our new premiere fuinjutsu specialist for nothing," said Lord Third.
"He'll be dropping in hot. Anything else you can tell us, Katsuyu?" asked Lady Tsunade.
"It seems like Zabuza was on a mission to get the bride builder. Raiga seemed to be there only to kidnap the genin. In fact, Zabuza and Kakashi are working together because Naruto is going out of control and destroying everything in sight. He is on the verge of a fourth tail. Raiga has someone with him that used the genjutsu. It didn't catch me, as I am an offshoot of a bigger whole. But it caught Saya, it took a little while to break her out of it. It is a strong jutsu," said the slug.
"If possible, spare Zabuza. He will shed light on who is targeting the genin, whether he wants to or not. I can understand if Raiga can't make it," said Lord Hokage. The last part was said with a sigh.
"Oh, don't worry. He won't die before he bares his soul to me. I'll find out everything," said Ichigo in a flat tone, which screamed bloody murder. "I'm ready Lady Katsuyu. Tell her to summon me," he finished as he drew his sword and rolled his shoulders, and stretched his neck, preparing himself for the conflict.
The next moment, he disappeared with the telltale sign of reverse summoning.
"This does not bode well for us," said Lord Third.
"Let's just get this shit over with first. Yakumo, get started," said Lady Tsunade.
Anko had to agree. The timing was highly suspect indeed. But right now, her job was to get as many of these imposters as she could.
A.N: Crossed 50k words with the last chapter, didn't even notice.
Also, remember that it has been a little while and Hiruzen has gotten Tsunade the help she needs with her hemophobia. She's not fully cured, but she is on the mend.
If you want to talk to me on discord, please find the invite in the auxiliary chapter.