Tsunade is a sucker for risky games.
Tsunade will be the first to tell you that everything begins with chance. A spin of luck’s wheel determines which family you’re born into, a roll of fate’s dice tells you who will be on your team. Some things will always be out of your hands, she’ll say, so stop worrying, have a drink, and learn to just go with the flow.
What Tsunade won’t tell you is how she determines an attractive bet once the cards are dealt, or how she plays her hand. Just like a magician doesn’t show you how to perform their tricks, a woman doesn’t reveal her secrets and gambler won’t tell you how to beat her at her own game.
But anyone who knows Tsunade will pull you on the side and whisper that even with a winning hand and a safer bet Tsunade’s always a sucker for playing the riskier gamble.
Make no mistake, Tsunade wants to win the pot, and always plays big to win big. But what she knows and doesn’t say is that the real prize is what she gains from simply playing her opponent.
That’s Tsunade’s greatest trick. Picking the right opponents.
As the First Hokage’s granddaughter Tsunade has scores of old family friends whose fingers are still on the Villages political pulse and can still pull some tight strings in a pinch, and as a medical pioneer and one of the Legendary Sannin affluent clans and establishments always were, and still are, more than eager to accommodate and entertain her during her travels. In seedier places, where none of these make a difference to anyone, her sassy wit, power packed punches and ability to drink anyone under the table make her blend right in with a chameleon’s ease. Playing darts while inebriated always proves entertaining. Sometimes Tsunade breaks even, sometimes Tsunade busts heads.
No matter which circles she’s in, Tsunade knows what to do, what to say, how to play and walks away from her matches with a little more information, some leverage, complimentary meals, a few names to look up in the near future and a few more for a rematch and, on rare occasions, even some cash. She’s a player and loves to play, and also picking up a few more tricks and strategies to use another day.
Besides, if Tsunade always won then she’d be no fun to keep playing. And having no one to play with is boring.
Real combat, Tsunade will say, is serious business. Training is strategy and skill combined with full on hand to hand action, and a skilled opponent will give you a run for your money- and a rush you’ll never forget. The higher the stakes the bigger the gamble, and the kick of adrenaline makes the risk even more worthwhile.
Training is the only thing that Tsunade’s ever taken seriously, next to studying but that was boring too and nowhere near as much fun, and from the start Tsunade’s selection of sparring partners has always been much stricter. Class clowns are slower learners, easy wins just wouldn’t do.
Young Tsunade bet on black, and has never been disappointed. It’s always the quiet ones that surprise you the best.
Black is sleek and smart, a precocious mind like hers but sharper. Orochimaru soon becomes the top pupil, the quiet star of their class. He’s turning heads with every graceful word and move, and he’s soon the protégé the senseis are whispering about behind closed doors. Tsunade always sensed something building in his studious and piercing serpent eyes, the kind that look right through you if you stare at them long enough, but they were both young then and that which hasn’t been revealed yet cannot be named.
It’s hunger, Tsunade realizes years later, a taste for knowledge and skill that rivals her own. They spar hard and fast, quick slices, powerful jabs, sweeping kicks a hair away from hitting their mark; Orochimaru’s shed his shy skin and his smile has become nothing less than beautifully deadly and sly. Tsunade fights hard, giving it all she’s got, while Orochimaru’s hands and tongue flick serpents and blades before she can blink. It’s a mock battle to test survival of the fittest, of who has learned to adapt, overpower, conquer and move forward. Leaves swirl around them, bark shatters and the ground rumbles; Orochumaru’s grown up nicely and has impressive tricks up his sleeve, and Tsunade feels her first rush.
He’s good, he’s really good and he knows it. Training has become a game to him and she’s the only one who can keep up. He’s having fun keeping everyone on the edge of their seat, bending all the rules to suit him and keeping her guessing and taking bigger risks. She uses less jutsus in favor of close contact, immersing herself in the subtle seductive rattle he reserves just for her, reveling in rippling heat as his tongue dares between skill and impropriety. Orochimaru has become so formidable and fun to train with and Tsunade’s so addicted and just can’t get enough.
Neither can he.
Win or lose it’s all about how you play the game, and how you advance from the ranks of lucky novice to true expert. Practice, practice, practice as they say and over the next few years Tsunade is truly fortunate.
Orochimaru casually tells her one day that he plans to live forever, just before his tongue swords flash forward at her legs. Tsunade leaps and smiles, considering the implications before slamming her fist into the ground, forcing him back to regroup. Tsunade can’t lie, her interest gleams in her eyes and he sees it, if she could keep her youth and beauty that would be a trick worth learning.
Eventually training ends, school’s out and they’ve graduated. Tsunade decides to travel to further regions for longer periods to hone her skills and pharmaceutical craft, and there’s talk that Orochimaru might finally accept a new student for training. Knowing him, Orochimaru will string them along for a while before making his final choice. Jiraiya is as he always was, sitting on a rock with one eye on his telescope, still peeking into the women’s bath houses. Tsunade and Orochimaru leave him there and go into the woods, to spar for old time’s sake before they part ways once more.
Bells chime and birds scatter, leaves twist and spin in the winds. Orochimaru’s relentless in his attacks and Tsunade’s merciless in hers, and that’s just the way they like it. Stone shatters and bark breaks, and they leap higher and higher into the narrowing branches.
Control. Breathe. Focus. But there’s nothing to hit in the air. No boulders to shatter in his direction, no ground to disrupt under his feet. His tongue darts out and snakes up, and Tsunade pulls back and her feet reach the tree. Punches shoot forward, right, left, left uppercut, some avoided, others blocked, blades strike and slice around her, behind her. With a final stroke Orochimaru cuts through the branch under Tsunade’s feet and lunges forward as she jumps back.
Orochimaru’s upon her now, and Tsunade’s limbs are caught in the thicket, his trap. His breath is cool against her neck, and there’s his sly smile again, and fresh tingles ripples along her skin. Snakes slowly coil along Tsunade’s bare skin, slowly sliding up her legs where his hands are on her thighs and down her arms as Tsunade holds her breath. The slits in his eyes glow; he flicks his tongue, rounds her breast and dips low, such a rebel, so rogue, and probes through the folds of her vest, playing with her soft skin and her hard peaks until she breathes long and deep and bites her lip. Bells chime in slow motion and sensation whirls in a winding coil.
Hands and tongue change places, slick muscle slowly spirals up the soft skin of her thigh. His eyes smolder, her mouth falls open and her head rolls back; he’s taking his time to find what he’s looking for, but every swirl and flick convinces Tsunade he’s after something else entirely. His long slow sweep makes her gasp, his rhythmic movement makes Tsunade arch her back, close her eyes and shudder. The tip of his tongue is hot and wet, and Tsunade almost whimpers when he retracts it.
Tsunade opens her eyes. Orochimaru dangles the bells between their faces, moves his fingers and the bells chime once more. Tsunade quickly snatches them.
“Let’s play again.”
~ Fin ~