It was morning and the sun had yet to grace the village of Konoha with its warming rays. While most citizens were still sleeping dreamily in their beds, there was one who had awoken with a jump. Every morning was the same; he would rouse at 4:30AM into full awareness teeming with energy. Before his clock reached 4:31AM, he was on his feet, beginning his morning exercises of 200 squats, 300 push-ups, 600 sit-ups and 100 pull-ups; and this was only the warm-up. An hour later, he began his routine of preparing for the day. He showered, dressed and just as he was grooming himself, he heard a firm knock on his front door.
A large, black eyebrow rose in question, "Who could that be, at this time of day?" He stole one last look in the mirror before going to the door and opening it. There he was greeted by a familiar face.
"Shizune! What a pleasant surprised! I did not know you to be a morning person."
She smiled sheepishly and scratched the back of her head, "Believe me, Gai. I really wish I was in bed right now."
"Ah, come now Shizune. What is better than greeting the sun when she shows her radiant face in the morning?"
The woman recoiled slightly, "I can think of a lot of things."
"Nonsense! There is only one thing more beautiful than a morning sunrise and that is the sunset. To see both in a day is truly," Gai paused for dramatics and raised his fist enthusiastically. "A sight to behold!"
Shizune raised her hands in a pleading gesture, "Gai, please. Shhhh! There are others trying to sleep."
He nearly shouted his next words, "Well, perhaps they should rise! Enjoy the morning, with its fresh and invigorating air!"
In a flash, a delicate hand pressed against his mouth. "Gai, must I remind you that trained killers live in the near vicinity? The last thing we need to do is piss them off. "
With his mouth still covered, Gai responded by widening his eyes. Then after considering her words, he narrowed them -- looking from side to side suspiciously. She was right, you can never be too careful.
Still muting the man, Shizune spoke with determination. "Gai, I am here on business, so I'll keep this brief," she removed her hand. "Lady Tsunade has sent me here to tell you to report to her office first --" she hesitated. "Eh, to report to her office at 8AM this morning." If she had told him 'first thing', he would be knocking on the Hokage's door in five minutes.
Gai nodded in understanding. He had expected as much; only official business would bring Shizune to his door before daybreak. "I will be there."
"Good," she waved as she turned to leave. "See you then!"
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Shizune checked the small note she held and timidly looked down the alleyway. 'Surely this isn't right. Did Lady Tsunade give me the wrong directions again?'' She took the note and turned it counterclockwise. 'Ugh, her handwriting is so bad when she's hung-over. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to try.' She tucked the note into a pocket and set off down the dark path. She didn't have to walk far before reaching the end, where she found a narrow, metal door; the number '33' painted in red letters to the side of it. She bit her lip and knocked, 'I really hope this is the right place.'
A minute went by and there was no reply from behind the door. Shizune checked her watch: 6:34AM. She knocked again, this time harder. Another minute passed and there was still no reply. Flustered, Shizune brought her fist down hard on the metal barrier, not caring who she woke up. This approach apparently worked as she heard a muffled, "Hang on, I'm coming already!" from behind the door. Soon after, there was the sound of foot falls, then the dismantling of numerous locks. When the door finally opened, Shizune was taken aback. Apparently the one before her was even less of a morning person than herself. The sight of this disheveled being made her seriously question whether she had the correct address; however, this person did have the physical traits she was told to look for, so her fears were somewhat alleviated.
"Can I help you?" came a soft, but somewhat annoyed voice.
Shizune held out an envelope, "I am assigned to give this to " she was interrupted by a loud yawn being issued from the homeowner. Failing to keep her eyebrow from twitching, Shizune continued, "Assigned to give this to you and inform you to meet at the Hokage's office at 8AM."
Languidly, an arm reached from the door way, taking the paper message and with another yawn, the tenant closed the door.
Shizune stood there, with only one thing on her mind, 'How could that have possibly been a Ninja?'
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The sound of knocking could be heard from the door. "Come in!" spoke an authoritative voice. The door didn't just open, if flew open and in walked Gai, with a confident gait and beaming smile.
"Good morning, Hokage-sama!" bellowed Gai.
Sitting behind her desk with Shizune at her side, the older woman grinned slightly, "Ah, Gai. Early, as usual."
With one hand on his hip, he brought the other forward and gave them both a thumb-up, "Better to be early than late, I always say."
Tsunade leaned her head on her hand, "Indeed." She took a file Shizune held out for her and opened it on her desk. "Gai, we called you in because we have a special s-ranked mission for you." She took out a photo from the file and sent it soaring towards Gai, who caught it easily. "That photo is of a feudal lord named, Hakanza Toki of the Buzen Province. He came into power just recently and didn't hesitate before participating in a war going on in that area."
Gai looked at the photo closely.
"Apparently, the war is costing him a fortune and he has agreed to negotiate in an attempt to end it. You may notice that you two have a striking resemblance to one another."
He looked to Tsunade and blinked, 'Resemblance?'
"And that is why you are being assigned to this mission. Hakanza will need you to impersonate him at his mansion while he leaves for negotiations. There are quite a few people who are profiting from this war and they would do anything to insure it continues."
Gai narrowed his eyes as he brought his thumb and index-finger to his chin. "Seems simple enough, how long do they anticipate these negotiations to last?"
"It's hard to say, could be days or weeks."
"Hmm," he nodded sharply. "Yosh! When do I leave?"
Tsunade folded the mission file and handed it back to Shizune. "Within the hour. They will need you to arrive there as soon as possible and it will take you three days to get there."
Bringing one clenched fist down into an open palm he spoke, "Then there is no time to lose!" he pivoted on his heel and headed towards the door. His exit was detained by his commander's next words.
"By the way Gai, you will not be alone on this mission."
He turned to the desk, "Oh? And who will be accompanying me?"
Before Tsunade could answer, there was a faint knock on the door. Smiling, she looked to the clock on her wall: 8:12AM, "And this one is late as usual." She grabbed another file on her desk before responding, "Come in!"
With all eyes on the entrance, the door opened, revealing the new arrival. A young woman stood in the doorway; she wore a shiny, teal kimono, decorated with orange koi; the fabric accentuating her curvature exquisitely. Her hair, which she wore in a neat bun, was shockingly bright blonde. Her skin was fair and flawless. Just above and to the left of her upper lip was a small beauty mark. The most striking aspect of her appearance was her large, violet eyes; like two deep pools a man could easily drown in. She wore only a little make-up, accenting her cheeks, lips and a soft frost over her eyes. On her ears, were two large, hoop earrings, dangling just above her shoulders. Her posture was perfect, and when she entered the room, a book could have been balanced perfectly on her head. It was obvious this woman took her appearance very seriously.
Acting as if it had a mind of its own, Gai's eyebrow shot up with an almost audible ping at the sight of her. Her beauty could easily have rivaled Tsunade's, if not surpass it. Gai refrained himself from making a comparison glance, fearing the outcome if he were caught. Immediately he thought: 'I wasn't aware we had Geisha in Konoha. Or maybe she is a daughter of a nobleman?'
As the woman approached the middle of the room to stand beside Gai, Tsunade opened the new file she had grabbed. "So nice of you to join us," she said, indicating the woman. "I would chastise you for being late, but knowing you -- it would be a futile."
Gai furrowed his brows; the Hokage would never talk to someone like that, unless they were
"Maito Gai, I would like for you to meet the 'yin' to your 'yang'. This is Hachi Hani," she nodded her head towards the flaxen haired woman. "And she will be your partner for this mission."
Gai had to clinch his teeth to prevent his jaw from dropping. He looked to the woman at his side where he was greeted with a pleasant smile, "Ohayou, Gai."
He could feel his eyes bulging; was Tsunade serious? This delicate woman couldn't possibly be suited for an s-ranked mission -- she didn't even look like a ninja. Gai scratched the back of his head and chuckled nervously, revealing his uncertainty for the situation.
The woman responded by placing a small hand before her mouth and giggled softly in return.
Soon, both were laughing, but for different reasons: Gai, for the ludicrous proposal of teaming with this woman and Hani, for him being completely clueless.
Still chuckling, he held out a finger to the woman, "Just one second." He turned and moving nearly fast enough to break the sound barrier, appeared before Tsunade's desk leaning over it. With only a small distance between his frantic face and her mildly amused one, he whispered forcibly, "Hokage-sama, you cannot be serious."
"Is there a problem, Gai?"
He thrust a finger towards Hani dramatically, "She isn't even a ninja! Why would you assign her to be my partner? She would be nothing but a liability!"
Tsunade's eyebrow twitched as her facial expression turned to that of annoyance, "Gai, do you doubt my abilities as Hokage?"
Gai's own eyebrows shot up, "Of course not, Hokage-sama. But --"
"Let me tell you something, Gai." She leaned in closer to his face to emphasize her next words, "She is a ninja and will not hold you back. In fact," she returned back to her chair, placing an elbow on the armrest and brought a loose fist to the side of her face. "I'm more concerned on whether or not YOU can keep up with her," the last she said with a grin.
Gai's face went slack and his jaw nearly dropped to the desk.
"Hani is to act undercover as your concubine," she smiled mischievously at his reaction; from white terror, to red embarrassment. "Her talents are excellent for this position and there would be no one better suited for the part."
"But, Hokage-sama! Surely there is someone who would be better for this than me? Kakashi, even! He would love the details of this mission, it goes right up his alley," he indicated Hani with the backwards flick of his head and the rolling of his eyebrows.
Tsunade chuckled slightly, "I'm afraid not, Gai. This mission could take weeks and it would be difficult for any ninja to maintain a henge disguise for that long." 'Aside from myself,' she thought. "The fact that you and that lord look so much alike makes you the one and only for the job." Her eyes were shining with glee at the difficulty he was having accepting his orders. "I suggest you just accept this and get started. There isn't much time left before you two need to be up there," she took a large, yellow envelope and held it before his face.
Gai stood and took the offered paperwork reluctantly. Crestfallen, he nodded to his superior and walked towards his new partner. Once he had reached her, he held out a hand, "Good to meet you, Hani." He gave her an awkward smile.
Taking his hand, she smiled sweetly in return, "The pleasure is all mine, Gai."
Thank you for reading!