Ophelia is Konoha's newest Jinchuriki
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He nods very seriously. It's probably not actually a big deal, as he would reckon it, but this kind of thing can be really important to a child and it's hardly helpful not to take it seriously. In a couple of years they might really end up learning some things he'd rather be told, too, and it's much better to form the habit now if he doesn't have to force it. Plus, whatever Naruto came up with is probably an interesting diversion from his paperwork.

"Of course. Should we go get something to eat, and then find a private room where we can talk about it? The Anbu will keep away any listeners; they're pretty good at that." He smiles at the last bit, making sure to include Naruto in the joke.


She's just gonna...climb the Hokage like a tree, to murmur in his ear.

"...if you're sure you trust them.  The ones with the animals seem fine but the other ones are...weird.  I don't like them.  They look like they're trying to be nice to me when they know I know they're there, but they aren't, I can tell.  They move wrong.  They feel wrong.  ...who's in charge of them?  'cause.  Maybe it's related."


"All the anbu here are loyal to the village, Naruto, but if you think it's important I can make sure to rely on the ones I personally trust, and none of them will have blank masks."

Danzo isn't supposed to have any of his root ninjas on duty guarding Naruto, but Hiruizen just knows that if he talks to his old friend about it he'll say something about how the guards he's assigned clearly aren't adequate. And if he has to be informed of their presence by a literal child... he can't even say Danzo would be wrong. Still, he'll have to do something; having two seperate protection details that don't work together is just asking for a friendly fire incident, and if it doesn't it'll be because one of the groups ends up lowering their suspicion enough that they risk assuming an infiltrator just belongs to the other detail. It's not a sustainable solution, and if Naruto already has bad associations with root he'll have to bridge this gap by moving more normal anbu over off rotations to guard duty, and plug the holes with root agents.

"I'm afraid I can't give you details on anbu assignments. If any of our enemies even suspected you might know them, they wouldn't hesitate to try and kidnap and torture you to get at them, not to mention the risks of you just accidentally letting something slip. Even among professional anbu members, we try and keep the information as compartmentalized as possible; that's how you keep secrets. I promise you, though, they have the job for a reason and I'm confident they would never betray Konoha."

With Naruto already climbing on him, it's simplicity enough to shunshin them over to Yakiniku Q, his control of the technique fine enough not to ruffle a single hair on Naruto's head, and ask for one of their private rooms to dine in. The Akimichi take that kind of thing seriously.


"Wasn't asking who the ANBU are, Hokage-sama."  Her nose is wrinkled in disappointment at him.  "Just if there's someone in charge of them that I'm allowed to know about."

...'Naruto' is going to enjoy the good food, before the conversation starts.

Otherwise the opportunity to eat might get thrown out the window by 'angry'.

And when the food is consumed...

"Does Konoha have a..."  She sounds out the syllables, "eu-gen-ics, program, Hokage-sama?"


"Where did you hear that word, Naruto?"


"The Kyūbi-no-Kitsune," she carefully pronounces, "said that 'an Uchiha with Senju flesh grafted on to them' killed my mom.  And that you would absolutely know about programs like this if they operated in Konoha.  And he said a name, too, when I asked.  And I said I thought that the Will of Fire couldn't possibly allow that sort of thing.  ...Am I wrong about that?"

On the one hand...  Her mama's dead and that's really sad and maybe Hokage-sama is a hypocrite which would mean that she's gotta let the fox out and that would be really sad because it'd mean that everyone dies.  On the other: Keep up, old man.


The fox is talking to Naruto and he's listening. That's just about the worst scenario imaginable, and even in retrospect it's hard to be sure what went wrong. No, actually, once he raises that question it's obvious; the seal in use may have been designed by Minato Namikaze, but it was an untested design, and the only one who had the skill to diagnose any problems has spent the last few years systematically avoiding the village as much as possible. If there was a flaw, it's entirely possible nobody would have noticed until now, and it's a stroke of immense fortune that Naruto trusts him enough to talk to him rather than fall for its lies. He needs Jiraiya back here yesterday, and he doesn't give a damn how busy his student claims to be.

"The Kyuubi is not trustworthy, Naruto. Everything it says and does is aimed solely at destroying as much as possible; it hates everything else alive except itself. It knows a lot, yes, but it's also a consummate liar, including here; it was the one who killed your mother when she gave birth to you. She was the one who contained it before you, and when you were born it seized advantage of her distraction to kill her. As for eugenics programs, Konoha does not and never has had one of those. Hashirama and Madara were the first to start the village system, and in addition to their own clans they had their pick of the best people to recruit. That's why Konoha has so many clans today, and why we've never tried to have a eugenics program, much less one like Cloud where we try and kidnap kids from other villages. We've also been lucky in that Tobirama was as upstanding an individual as his brother and never even considered it, but I won't deny that if we didn't have those advantages I might have had some concern about one of my successor's successors straying from the will of fire and trying something."


"Hokage-sama, I know it's not trustworthy.  It has an agenda and that is 'getting me to let it out so it can kill everybody'.  It hasn't disguised that.  But I'm equally sure that it's not trying to kill literally everything, because it's human enough to talk.  To form an opinion that the existing system of ninja killing everybody sucks and want things that aren't that.  To call me 'not the most irritating brat' it's ever been bound to.  To admit doubt.  ...Investigate Danzo Shimura, Hokage-sama.  Please.  The worst you'll find is nothing.  It thinks you won't find anything.  It thinks it makes more sense that Danzo has retired from doing whatever he might have been doing.  But it was pretty sure he did something, when it could still see anything - which I know it can't right now because it tried to bargain with me that it'd heal me when I got hurt if I let it see or hear or smell - and that that something wasn't at all in line with the Will of Fire.  ...It thinks that if we had more medi-nin they'd get sent to battlefields instead of going out to heal more civilians.  And it can't have been expecting to gain anything from telling me any of this, because it's not like it trusts you further than I can throw you and I've made it very clear that I owe the people of Konoha too much to just let them die because they live here.  Even if they're jerks, they haven't killed me."


"...And another thing!

"You know what the Kyūbi-no-Kitsune could have told me, and didn't?

"He could have told me that you killed my parents.  And even if Konoha wasn't killed by a fox in that moment it would never have been safe."


"I would hope," he says, quietly, "that if he had said that, you would have seen through his deception. Your parents were loyal ninja of Konoha to the last, and it was a great tragedy that they both perished that night. This is a common thread with lying, that they will teach you in the academy later; a skilled liar, once identified, does not give the lie that is most damaging to believe but rather the least damaging one that will accomplish what they wish to do. By its own unambitiousness it seeks to give itself credibility. Any time you hear yourself asking 'but what motive could they have to pick this lie,' that question is itself the motive.

"I am wary, even in small ways, of doing things just because the fox suggests them. I am not too proud to admit that it is more clever than I, and just because I cannot see the ends it's working for does not mean the trap is not waiting to be sprung. But I do not think it would be doing you a favor, to fob you off with platitudes when you think you have good reason to be suspicious that something is going wrong. That's an attitude we want to nurture in our ninjas, not crush, and it seems to me possible that such a reaction is in turn the fox's actual goal here. If this is what it would take, for you to feel confident that it seeks to deceive you... I will have Danzo Shimura quietly investigated, though I cannot promise you will be cleared to know the details of what it finds."


She nods.  "Thank you."

...Would he like a - it's too late, he's getting a hug now.

"'m sorry to - put you in a dilemma like this.  He's your friend, or so I'm told.  But - if he's really doing the things the Kyūbi thinks he's doing - thinks he has done...  You need to know, Hokage-sama.

"...I really hope that things are as simple as you think they are.  That it's just some impersonal force of destruction lying to me.  But there's too many details and they came out all wrong.  In the wrong order, in the wrong shape.  I -"

She hiccups a breath, waves an arm to hold the conversational flow in place while she gets things back together, and picks up where she left off.

"It was something about the boasts, really.  'I've shattered mountains, razed cities, burned forests, and', quote, 'even eaten a few of you gnats in my time.  Of all the monsters...I'm the strongest.'.  And maybe it's some perfect liar that can lie with its feelings and probably-chakra and whatnot, but - it seemed more proud of being strong, than - of hurting anything.

"And maybe it's just lying to me, or picking the most agenda-y truth, but...it kept coming back to the thing it hated about ninja, the thing that made it want to, quote, 'tear the system out by its roots', unquote, was that they kept killing eachother.

"I don't think that you can say that and mean it like I felt without it being...

"...At least real enough that I want to see if there's a chance we could be Senju Hashirama and Uchiha Madara.  I -"

"The Kyūbi keeps saying it's enslaved.  It's not wrong, even though there's not a better solution available, considering all the murder.  But think about the things we could do, if Konoha managed to create mutual trust of a sort.  Breaking's easier than making, but...I keep imagining raising cities instead of razing them."


He hugs Naruto back. He's often restrained on what kind of comfort he can offer Naruto, while keeping their relationship unsuspicious to spies, but he's already paid the cost of having a secret conversation; the least he can do is give them one of the hugs they deserve.

"I won't lie to you Naruto, I am very nervous about the fact that it can freely talk to you; I didn't expect it would be able to, and I've sent a message to our best sealmaster - my student Jiraiya - to make sure everything is functioning properly and it's not a sign that the seal is breaking down. And I would like to warn you in the strongest terms that Bijuu have tricked ninjas with far more experience than you; this is a healthy respect for its capabilities, not a dismissal of your efforts. But if you do it safely and if you are careful and if you agree to immediately tell me or Jiraiya as soon as it seems like something even might have gone wrong, and to consult with us before making any changes, you may make an attempt. And just to be completely explicitly clear - if you break these rules, and then come tell us, we won't be mad at you or punish you. These rules are to keep you and everyone else safe, not because we want to hurt you if you get tricked. I don't want you to find yourself in a situation where it talks you into doing something you promised not to and then traps you unable to tell us without admitting to having done something wrong."


"Yes sir."  She nods, oh-so-dreadfully-seriously for such a tiny little kid.  "I promise, I will."


"Good." He smiles at Naruto, and ruffles their hair. "What do you say we go grab some dango?"


"That sounds like a wonderful idea."


It's a little over a week before the promised expert makes his appearance.

"From the east! From the west! From the north! From the south! My name echoes from the four corners of the world, its owner's fame undeniable! The legendary toad sage of Mount Myōboku himself, Jiraiya of the Sannin!"

The man has long, white hair and red markers on his face, plus a headband that bears the kanji for Oil rather than the more normal Leaf that every other shinobi Naruto has met makes use of, but these details might seem to be a bit less important compared to the fact that he just appeared out of a puff of smoke on the back of an enormous toad to make this bombastic introductory speech.




He deflates at that, though thankfully not literally, and the toad disappears in another puff of smoke.

"Sheesh, kids these days, no appreciation for art. Fine, to business then; I hear sensei told you I was coming?"


She was definitely surprised!  He saw her blink!  It's just, well, she's used to hiding her emotions.  It makes her less noticeable.  And it's better when people don't notice her.

In answer to the question, she nods.  "You're here to look at the seal and make sure it's not - leaking, or anything, right?  I have a lot of questions.  Like, I can feel it, I'm pretty good at feeling things, but I don't really know what each bit does and I don't wanna poke it wrong!  That would be bad!

"Also I really probably ought to talk to the Kyūbi-san anyway, 'cause of - stuff, and things, even if they're not really much - so I'm glad you're here to keep an eye on that?  It was pretty surprising when it happened and I wanna make sure I'm not gonna fall over and break my skull if I do it again?

"Um.  And I'd like to learn about sealing, Jiraiya-san?  If there's...time, I guess?  I've been practicing my calligraphy!"  She gives him her best angelic grin, hands respectfully clasped behind her back as she looks up at him.  "I just don't really know the other bits yet..."

(And the mask she's donned wobbles precariously, about to fall from 'happy to see him' directly to 'completely (and honestly) devastated' if he says a firm 'no'.  He wouldn't disappoint a child like that, would he?  (She knows he would, if he had to.  He's a legendary ninja.  She knows what that means, though she comes at knowing it from a different direction.  She just hopes he doesn't.  Because...he doesn't treat her like a monster.  He's treating her like a kid.  And she wants to hold on to that, for all it's worth.  There's so much she's already had to let go, for nothing more than her own birth.))


"Good instincts, kid, messing with seals is extremely dangerous when you don't know what you're doing. Now, I'd be one of the world's biggest hypocrites if I told you never to do it, but believe me, this is one of those cases where you should do as I say, not as I do. The seal was fine when I last checked it, but it's been years since then and Bijuu can be slippery customers when they feel like it. Now, as for teaching you sealing... I'm a busy man, you don't get to be a legendary ninja and a bestselling author without figuring out that time is precious. On the other hand..."

He pauses, rubbing his chin; his face is an exaggerated display of thinking.

"Well, you also don't become a legendary ninja and author without learning a thing or two about time management. I suppose I could take some time out of my busy schedule to show you a thing or two, if you demonstrate you know how to have patience."

He grins at Naruto.

"Now I'm going to need to see your stomach, okay kid? The Kyubi isn't actually physically inside there but for complicated metaphysical reasons that's where it's easiest to view seals affecting the chakra gate in question."


She has plenty of patience.  And a positively beaming grin.

And once either she's gotten Jiraiya to somewhere she won't bash her head open if she falls over, or he gets her somewhere - she hopes he has a laboratory or something for this; she doesn't - she can show him what he needs to see.  The seal as it normally is, to start off with.

(She barely says a word as she goes, not even in what few symbols she knows of ninja sign, moving with near-silent tread and preternatural awareness.)


Apparently he doesn't seem to think that's necessary, because when you're Jiraiya you can clap your hands and pull a stone table out of the ground and somehow have it be clean and comfortable to lie on (he might be showing of juuust a little bit).

When he looks at the seal, he starts out with it looking the way it normally does, but that doesn't last as he quickly demonstrates the ability to zoom in, out, rotate it in multidimensional space, and view separate portions at the same time alongside each other. Apparently the seal is a lot more complicated then it looks at first, which is impressive since it looks quite complicated. Once he gets into it, there's a bit of a running commentary.

"Damn, Minato, what the hell were you thinking? I know you were a genius, but seriously, who the heck taught you it was a good idea to make a self modifying chakra filter and - oh, that's why. Huh, I'll be damned. But doesn't that- no, the outer structure keeps it meta stable so it never diverges too far from acceptable values. I swear, Uzumaki seals are actual witchcraft half the time. Now how about the overflow channels, are those working properly..."

It takes him a good twenty minutes to satisfy himself, but eventually he returns it to the default state.

"I'm not seeing any issues with the individual structures; I think it's an intended emergent behavior I just didn't notice until it activated. But to be sure, I'm going to have to see what it looks like in action, which means taking a look at the liminal space in person. Now hold still please, this might tickle."

He then pulls out a brush and a pot of ink, and starts drawing something broadly circular around where the seal displays.


She holds still, as best she can; she breathes very steadily.  "I know I can take me there, I kind of - remember how it goes - is this so you can come along?"


"That's right. It's much easier for you, since the seal stabilizing the space is designed to respond to you, but I need to do it manually."



And they're both in the dark cavern, standing in front of the bars.

"What's this? Was my having to deal with one human not enough torment for you?"

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