Chapter One : Well, We've Gotta Start Somewhere!
"A ninja must always compensate for their surroundings. Let's say you're going on a mission where there's a high chance you could go from the bright outdoors to dark caves. Name some ways you could prepare for this." Iruka Umino scanned the room for any raised hands. Really? Nobody wants to answer me? That's odd. "I'm calling on someone in ten seconds." He took a moment to evaluate his students. Most of them were either staring listlessly ahead with a glazed-over look in their eyes, or staring bug-eyed up at the front. None of them were moving. Wow, they're all half-asleep today, normally they're so energetic, and someone would participa—Iruka cut off his line of thought with a hand to his face. Then he slipped his fingers into the by-now-familiar handsign, "Kai!"
And then he was alone in the room.
Sakura gasped and giggled all at once. "I can't believe we did that!" She snickered into Ami's shirt sleeve. The rough rocks of the Fourth Hokage's rocky head were scratching against her legs, but she hardly noticed.
"Pfft. I can. We're the number one unpredictable ninja class in the Hidden Leaf." The last part of the declaration held Ami's usual lofty pride.
She's always so dignified. Sakura sighed internally.
Then Ami burst into snicker-snorts and giggles too, and the juxtaposition of her thoughts and Ami's action sent her into a new round of laughter herself.
"Yah, well it's high past time we took all of you guys out. It just took us awhile to get the logistics right." A new voice chimed in. Sakura looked up to see Ino Yamanaka, ponytail flickering in the breeze. One of the biggest reasons we're called the Unpredictable Class. Sure, she and Ami were proud to be in their year, but they weren't the reason Iruka was going to go bald by twenty-five.
"We're really grateful!" Sakura piped up.
Ami voiced a more composed agreement of, "It was very thoughtful."
"Yeah," Isuru piped in from his perch on a hair spike above them, "this is awesome!"
"Glad to hear it!" A blue and orange and yellow blur landed with a thump-ka! a few feet behind Ino. "We were almost worried we wouldn't be able to pull it off. The genjutsu part was pretty tricky. And with only a few weeks left til' we all graduate, it was a tight deadline."
Sakura smiled a bit nervously at Naruto. He was the unpredictable element of their class, the master originator of every scheme and the most charismatic member of the Eight Future Clan Heads. She was always a little nervous talking to the Eight. It wasn't their fault, they were all very nice and friendly, but they were always so much better than the rest of the class at everything. It was a bit intimidating.
"So how'd you pull it off?" Isuru shouted down.
"We got Itachi in on it!" Naruto's face lit up in a wicked grin.
"Yeah!" She could hear Sasuke Uchiha off in the distance. Man, that kid had good ears. "You wouldn't believe how hard it was convincing him to help us play hooky!"
A few hours later, as the sun was setting, the class finally quit playing on the monument and began the process of jumping away home. When the sun finally disappeared, Sakura turned to the two remaining students. "Sensei should be off her shift by now. You guys ready to go?"
Ami lifted a side of her mouth in her customary I-know-everything grin. "Of course. Isuru?" Her smirk dropped off face when no response was forthcoming. "Isuru!" She snapped, turning towards their napping classmate. "Up! Now!" she kicked him in the side.
"Aamii!" Isuru pulled himself into standing, "Why did you wake me up? I was dreaming about good food!" His speech was speeding up as he woke up. Soon they wouldn't be able to understand a word he said.
"We have to go! She's gonna be off her shift any minute now!" Ami yanked him by his wrist and started heading down the mountain. She slipped her arm companionably around Sakura's shoulder as she passed, and the three of them made their way down to the village.
Sakura's face crafted itself into a serene smile. Life was wonderful, after all.
The Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, was counting backwards from ten. Again.
It wasn't working.
"Kushina, my beloved wife, please tell me why the cat is dead?" And in fact, Tora was very dead. He wasn't even sure it could be called a dead cat. More like an incinerated pile of ash cat.
"Because that cat was an enemy menace, you know!" Kushina scowled and crossed her arms. "My students were completely justified."
The amount of diplomatic maneuvering it's going to take to get us out of this without a large-scale war… "Kushina, do you have any idea what this is going to do?" He was going to pull all of his hair out.
"What are you so worried about Lord Hokage?" The chipper purple-haired student of Kushina's whose name he could never remember demanded. "We got a replacement cat."
"The Daimyo's wife will be able to tell the difference." He pointed out with his head buried in his hands. When did that happen? Five seconds ago he'd been stern and chin-up.
"Pfft. No way! She won't be able to tell." The brash and loud one named…something…pointed out with incredible volume.
"How do you figure?" he sighed staring at the jet black and clearly not Tora cat.
The smart one with glasses—how did he not know this one's name either? It must be because he spent all of his time trying to forget about them—chose that moment to pipe up, "We put a bow on it."
Kushina nodded proudly, "See Minato? I told you an all-girl team was a great idea! You know!"
Minato sighed, he felt a little off honestly, a bit clammy, and like his head was made of something lighter than the rest of his body.
"I'm here for my precious Tora!" An oddly sing-song voice called out.
Oh no! She's here!
"Here is your wonderful feline. Tora's absolutely beautiful by the way; you must take such good care of your lovely child." Purple-hair piped up with a ridiculous grin. He'd have to remember she was a suck-up. Oh, and he couldn't feel his hand. He decided just to wait for the inevitable downpour of political damage to come.
"Thank you! What a polite girl you are, what's your name?" Minato wasn't even paying attention anymore at this point. His whole body felt as light as his head now.
The onslaught of paper work once she realizes it's not Tora.
"That's a wonderful name, dear! Thank you so much for finding my baby. Bye bye now!"
The door shut.
"Ha! It worked, see Lord Hokage!" That was the brash one.
"Of course it did." The smart one.
"Minato?" That was Kushina.
Thwump. That was the floor.
"Did the Hokage just faint?" Mai jumped over to the indisposed village leader, her purple ponytail trying desperately to keep up with the head it was attached to.
"Yuup." Tomoyo clicked her tongue. "I would say he is absolutely unconscious."
Kushina rolled her eyes. "That's what he gets for staying awake three days in a row, you know." She crossed her arms.
At the seat next to where the Hokage normally sat (when he hadn't jumped up in terror at his wife's mission report) Jiraiya woke up to see his former student passed out, sprawled a bit haphazardly across the floor. He immediately looked to Kushina. "Again?" he grinned good naturedly and shook his head. "Thank you! Minato is such a workaholic. We've been in here for what feels like days!"
"You have been in here for days." Tomoyo pointed out.
Kaida let out a booming laugh, "No duh! Does Lord Hokage ever go home?" Then her eyes widened and her hands flew up to her mouth, "I mean, uh, of course he goes home a lot, I meant to ask if he ever…uh…"
Kushina bit her lip and then covered it up with a laugh and grin. "He's a dedicated Hokage! I just haven't been around as much lately to get him to take a break, that's all, you know!"
Well, I have been around. Minato…not so much. Her husband was a dedicated Hokage, he was also dedicated to staying out of the house. Things had been…tense. For a while. For years. For forever.
"Well, you all have the rest of the day off, I've gotta get Minato home." Kushina slung the Fourth Hokage of the Hidden Leaf Village over her shoulder. "I'll see you all later, you know!"
Their sensei always worked late. She was dedicated. She was devoted. She was committed. She was determined…
She was obsessed.
The one-day-soon-to-be team of healers lounged around their customary spot in the hospital lobby. They were a one-day-soon-to-be team of healers whose team bonds had been forged in the boredom of waiting room magazines and bulletin boards. Often they were waiting for their sensei long after they'd done their homework, and long past their bed-time.
Ami had come up with a game where they had to pick a flower color, and then see how many people came in carrying that flower. Whoever picked the flower with the most of that color lost. Ami was weird like that.
Sakura had come up with a game where they had to see how many nurses they could help before sensei left her shift.
Isuru's was more of a team exercise, played against their record. It was how long they could entertain all the tense and extremely bored children in the lobby so parents could get some shut eye.
They were good students.
They waited patiently (relatively). They worked well as a team. They got along. And they didn't know it yet, but that would keep them alive.
They're nothing like my team. Rin mused, a small smile on her face as she watched from the doorway to the waiting room, where they laughed and talked. Takeout boxes were stacked neatly on the magazine table in the corner. Untouched and ready to be eaten by the four of them. And that's why I love teaching them.
Really, it was time that had smoothed out their rough edges. Our Hokage made the right decision all those years ago. It had been a revolutionary idea. Make them teams while they were in the academy. Simple, but effective. Don't just expect them to know that teamwork was important, drill it into, and give them all a chance to show they could learn. Instead of wasting years of potential team-building time, use it to make cohesive units that knew how to cover each other's weaknesses and support each other's strengths. It had been inspired by the fate of her team.
It had turned the Hidden Leaf into the uncontested strongest Hidden Village.
It also meant her students by now knew her favorite food.
She walked over and snatched the takeout box she knew to be hers, "Ready?"
"Yah!" "Yes sensei!" "Of course."
"Good, because tonight we're taking a break from chakra control and medical ninjutsu." She smiled brightly, knowing full well she had their attention. "I'm showing you how to level an opponent."
Even Isuru let out of "Squea!" at that.
He'd totally deny it if you ever asked him though.
Obito Uchiha wanted to make a new world.
Unfortunately his genius plan of using a rock dead tailed beast carcass in the sky to brainwash everyone was a long time in coming.
The good news: he had a pet project on the side.
He could create worlds! With…genjutsu?
At least, he was pretty sure it was genjutsu…yah…he didn't really have an answer, so he was going with genjutsu. It was kind of his fall back. Change the world: genjutsu. Screw with the enemy: genjutsu. Brainwash the masses: genjutsu. He was not going to fix a method that wasn't broken.
The world, however, was very broken. He wanted to fix it, he did. It was just that there was something so appealing about the idea of creating a new one.
That was going to take some experimentation, though.
As best as he could tell, the easiest method of creating a world was creating one you wanted, that you wished for. That way all the time you had spent thinking about that perfect reality would make you familiar with it.
Or something. He definitely knew what he was talking about.
So what did he wish for? No war, of course, but that was a bit intangible.
On the tangible side of things, Rin… and his team.
With a shrug and a what could the harm be in trying? He focused with everything he had on his team. Mainly Rin, but the rest of them too.
And that's when the correct neighboring worlds started to feel a tug.