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Shiho is born on a humid, sweltering day near the end of the summer before Ino turns fifteen.

A week before Shiho, Ino returns from her first two-man mission. One to take the documents, one to distract their owner. The mission was a success, and Ino's superior gives her high praise for her work, declaring her far more advanced than any in her age group, recommending her for more missions of this kind in the future. Ino smiles meekly, puts herself down as manners dictates, takes her pay for the mission, and leaves the building without even a twitch in her littlest finger.

She is a kunoichi; she can wear a thousand masks with pride, and no one would know the wiser. Still, it's a comfort to shed all the masks every once in awhile, so Ino finds Asuma-sensei two days later and makes him take her out to lunch. They make small talk about recent non-classified missions, how Kurenai-sensei had liked the roses he'd bought last month, wondering if the newest rumor about Naruto coming back is true. It's pleasant, but not what Ino is looking for. It's a relief when Asuma-sensei gives her a look as he sets the last batch of steak and vegetables to grill on the barbeque between them. What's wrong, it says.

She tells him.

She's not worried about breaking any laws by discussing it - the part that is important right now is the part they didn't bother to classify. Still, what she needs to say is not something she really wants to say out loud, so she carefully tiptoes around the topic, hoping he'll understand what she's implying.

Asuma-sensei's not a jounin for nothing; his expression barely changes throughout her babble, except for a momentary tightening of his jaw toward the end. He puts his hand on her arm to stop her, the laughter lines around his eyes softening. "That's enough," he says, and, "Come with me."

He brings her to Kurenai-sensei, tells her to repeat her story more completely, more honestly. After Asuma-sensei leaves, Kurenai-sensei gives her an understanding look, and tells her a story of her own.

Kunoichi always have stories like these. Ino had known that, but she hadn’t known, not really. And now…

Kurenai-sensei understands. She offers Ino a sympathetic ear, a shoulder to cry on if she should ever want to (she doesn't), and, when none of this proves enough, gives her a scroll that should provide, if nothing else, an interesting mental exercise.

It’s partly genjutsu, partly a complex variety of bunshin ninjutsu. Nothing on Naruto’s kagebunshin level, but complex all the same. It works mental muscles Ino hasn’t had opportunity to use for a few months now, and she relishes the challenge.

When she’s done, successfully solved it after only a week of study, her mind is finally at ease, and Shiho is born.

Ino gives Shiho all the things about herself that Ino doesn’t like to look at. The insecurity and nerves, obviously, but also the thoughts and feelings that she has no use for, at least not right now. Maybe someday her knack for code will come in handy, but right now it’s a distraction.

One that can be put to use.

Because there’s a policy in place already for people like Shiho - and there would have to be, wouldn’t there? If the jutsu is found in unprotected scrolls, it’s commonly used enough that Konoha must have to deal with the results.

So Ino goes back to the missions she’s been so highly recommended for, and they don’t bother her anymore. (Much.) And Shiho happily devotes her time to research and analysis. She’s much too nervous a personality to go out into the field, and anyway, they can’t risk her getting hurt.

Ino wouldn’t survive it.