All in Red

She never met another soul who liked pigeons. Seriously, who in their right mind would? They had buggy eyes and with them they relentlessly looked into her soul until she threw a rock at them or something. Last of all these birds were just too arrogant, honestly believing they could ran her hidden village like some missing-nins gang. And today they were everywhere! No matter where she turned, there already was a pigeon staring at her, the girl's own worst nightmare – so she did one possible thing.

She gritted her teeth, glared at these feathery monsters with her violet eyes and ran. The child's feet were made to travel at speed and as light as the paws of a cat. Heart strong, breathing steady - this child was born to run. She bolted down through the harbor's streets like a hunter-nin after his prey. She quickened her pace to an all-out sprint as bird shrieks rose into the air in a cloud of feathers. Nevertheless the uproar disappeared in the sounds of the bustling village and its loud citizens.

Uzushiogakure was not one of the big hidden villages, nevertheless it was full of life mainly because of its people. The majority of the residents came from the Uzumaki bloodline so it was normal to see streets bursting with redheads of all kinds. Anyone could say they were a loud and lively bunch. The girl proved it laughing. People think of laughing as a noise that comes from the mouth, but when she laughed it was nothing like that. The laugh was in her eyes, in the way her face changed into that image of happiness and unrestrained mirth. However to tell the truth, it wasn't in her face either. This laugh came from within, it was just the way she was.

She had not stopped laughing even when she went through two streets and ran across the bridge. It arched elegantly over the clear blue water. At first glance, it seemed calm and peaceful, but underneath the surface were violent currents that would whisk away anyone who dared to touch it. Stone bridges were the only way to cross it if you were not a shinobi, for the deadly waters split the entire land in parts. The swirling waters, shimmering in the sunlight, were the reason for naming her homeland – the Village Hidden by Whirling Tides in the Land of Whirlpools.

For her it was the best place in the entire world. Pale stone palaces and towering columns were squashed against modern buildings, some rising up to five stories tall. Two narrow arms of sparkling water carved the city into three parts and a placid sea stretched around, peppered with countless ships which like the buildings served as homes, shops, restaurants and everything else. Despite the huge amount of boats it was not a port city. Trade was conducted almost exclusively with allied Konoha. After all, Uzu was a hidden village and had many enemies.

Hostile tides were not the only defense of the city. Anyone who wanted to conquer their border had to go through the gate, otherwise would encounter the force thanks to which all reckoned with them. Fuinjutsu – skill of the sealing was a closely guarded treasure of the Uzumaki clan, whose secrets came to know very few outside of their village. It was a feared and highly apprised shinobi art. Many would kill for it. Many would kill to get rid of it and many would gawk at marvelous pillars with complicated swirls of seals that stood throughout the village maintaining a protective barrier around Uzu; but not the girl. She passed them without a glance and with impetus fell into the old building near the main market.

Inside it, dust collected everywhere as far as the girl could see, spider webs wove around scrolls, books and shelves. Few tables were littered with brushes, ink bottles and torn papers. Dust floated lazily in the air causing her a difficult time breathing, and every step put more of it in to the air. All she could hear were the scurrying feet of people accompanied by the faint chirps of seagulls outside and the rustling of papers from the nearby corner.

The last sound was created by a small child quickly leafing through old sketchbooks, taking notes. Purple eyes glittered with mischief and in the next moment the girl stood behind the smaller redhead, ruthlessly carrying out a tickle attack.

"Kushina-san, please stop," pleaded the squeaky voice between volleys of laughter.

"What have I told you about this whole san crap? For you it's Kushina-nechan, dettabane!?"

The child was not able to answer through a particularly severe attack that ended so quickly and suddenly as it had begun, leaving Kushina empty-handed.

"Seriously, Kushina-chan, stop bothering my little sis. Even if she's nothing more than a pompous, grumpy squirrel."

The seven year old gawked at three years older girl that was her role model. For Kushina, Uzumaki Suzu was the epitome of coolness. With long, coral hair, fair skin and golden heart-stopping eyes she was something boys called eye candy, but only when Suzu could not hear them. Otherwise she would kick their asses. Kushina knew with the certainty of a seven year old that Suzu could kick every ass in all Elemental Nations if she only wanted and one thing stopping her was Yori obaasan – at least two hundred years old, cranky witch who was one of Uzu's elders and grandmother of these two sisters.

"But Shiori-chan always has a stick up in her ass. She never wants to play, so my super-cool-tickling-attack is the only way for her to loosen up, dettabane!"

"Come on, Kushina-chan, give up on this shrimp. Why you need her when you have us!"

"Yeah!"

The Uzumaki princess was locked between two young boys with smiles three times too big for their identical faces. The twins bounced on their feet like they were dancing to music only they could hear. Kushina thought it could be the case, her parents said that Isao and Hisao were a few feathers short of a whole duck – whatever it meant. They were also tall, scrawny and had matching scars on their elbows and knees that distinguished them as resident troublemakers. With her they formed the Uzu tripled terror squad to whom Suzu-senpai took unofficial tutoring in ways of awesome shinobi moves, even more awesome fuinjutsu and the most awesome pranks.

"Besides the last time Suzu-senpai promised to play ninja with us," reminded one of the boys, probably Isao.

The oldest girl assessed three pairs of hopeful eyes in front of her and sighed theatrically.

"Well," she started, glancing at her sibling - that all the time she had hanging upside down by the ankle – and encountering brows furrowed in heavy disapproval, what only increased her internal glee. "You know that I'm chunin now and I shouldn't waste my precious time with a bunch of kids… but I suppose that in all my awesomeness I shall play with you the most marvelous ninja game in history of Uzu!"

All kids cheered loudly – minus the one still dangling upside down – and began to shout ideas for their made-up most marvelous mission, not paying attention to the quiet but annoyed voice reminding them, they should finish the fuinjutsu lessons that Yori obaasan told them to do.

While having fun, time went by inhumanly fast. Kushina could swear that in one moment she was in the Uzumaki clan library and in the second she struggled through the crowded streets of the village along with her beloved Senpai and twins. It was the time of the equinox festival and unrestrained joy, rebellion of colors that lit up the autumn's day so it could rival with any gardener's paradise. Music filled the air, festive beats lifted the spirits and made the people want to move, jump and sing. It was a time to celebrate being alive, celebrate the wonders of creation and be one with the community. The air tasted so heavenly, every delicious thing ready to be shared with friends.

Tonight she was a proud Uzu kunoichi, cloaked and masked like an ANBU she pretended to be. Around each of her wrist hung a delicate metal chain that clanked as she walked. Next to Kushina walked the most important Kage in the world, ten years old that wore the leader hat like a pro. But for Suzu it was not about sweets and performing ninja. Tonight, the world was her stage and she fed on the drama through her skin. She was not really walking. The young chunin marched, head high, chin out, arms moving like she was leading the clouds above. For Kushina she was.

Unfortunately, even her Senpai could not compete with the privileges of her parents, who pulled her away from her friends toward the elegant restaurant, where she was seated at a lavishly set table where apart from her family sat three ninja from Konoha. To tell the truth, they did not look so special. Only one with odd, spiky silver hair and kind eyes attracted her attention, maybe because he was making funny faces behind the menu when no one except of her could see him.

They were talking about Third Mizukage illness, some Hanzo guy, First Hokage grandchildren and upcoming Kushina's family moving to Konoha. With this last subject, the girl stopped listening. Long ago, she told her mom and dad that if they wanted to move out they could. She won't go anywhere from here. The small redhead sighed, looking out of the window. Everywhere she looked warm faces of children and adults grinned back at her. Almost no-one walked anywhere, they danced, skipped, jogged, jumped, hopped and wiggled. It was the day when extraordinary was the norm and just being alive was a riot. And she had to sit here and listen to boring adults talk while outside she could hear cheers getting louder and louder with every second. It was unfair, dettabane!

And then with one moment everything changed.

There were many enormous explosions. It was as though a fist of orange flame had decided to punch its way out of the ground. Windows shattered. Smoke and fire rushed out. Thousands of pieces of glass, steel and wood showered down. Piercing and deafening screams erupted from everywhere. A series of new flashes broke out and then a great gush of flame arose. A column of some gas must have rushed up into the empty air space created by the explosions because the next blast of flame came nearly three thousand feet above the ground, and great rags of fire, changing from red to violet and back through the spectrum to red again, raised and then turned back being restrained by a barrier that had to protect the Village against outside threats. Rains of fire and molten rock fell on Uzushiogakure.

Kushina could taste smoke and the stench of burned paint on her tongue, could feel the heat of rising fire on her skin, see people fleeing in panic; and then she could not. She was in her father's arms and they were running faster than she had ever thought possible. The girl was safe with her dad, he was one of the best shinobi in Uzu, and nothing could go wrong when she was with him. The only problem was a blast that sent them through the wall of a nearby building.

Her back hurt just like her arm. Kushina sat in agony and semi-blindness among the chaos. Her father was fighting with six bad shinobi at once. There were shining chakra chains and small explosions, kunais gleaming in the warm red light. Everywhere was so much red.

A hand grabbed her hair from behind and pulled, exposing her neck in front of which shone katana's blade already covered in red, the same color as her hair. Then the sword was gone along with the arm that held it. The enemy shinobi roared but the next seal silenced him. His head exploded covering her Senpai in reddish paint.

"Kushina-chan, we must go." She had never heard the older girl so calm and cold. She always was like the sun, warm and caring. It was wrong!

"But what with otochan?" She asked with trembling voice. She could not leave him. He was still fighting with bad ninjas.

Suzu did not listen to her. She grabbed the little girl in her arms and ran in the opposite direction than everyone else. People fled to the water, trying to get off of the island, but the young kunoichi knew that the barrier would not allow it. The next opponent shunshined before them in a cloud of water and charged. The girl dodged to the side in one fluid move. Her enemy twisted in their direction. His menacing eyes were blazing and his black hood made the rest of his features blurry. The opponent thrust his sword forward, only to be met by Suzu's sandal. Her second foot met with his scull leaving there explosive seal. Kushina had not seen what happened to him after that. Senpai ran.

There were more explosions and bad ninjas. Kushina was left for a moment in the protective barrier so the older girl could fight freely. Then they ran again but Uzu kunoichi's breathing was heavier, more labored and deeper. They moved slower, Suzu was tired but also she carried a bigger weight because at some point Shiori-chan had appeared in the other arm of the preteen.

The youngest of the girls was quiet. The only sign of her anxiety were squeezed, trembling knuckles, holding her sister's bloody yukata. Kushina wanted to reassure her, say that everything would be fine; but she could not utter a word. It was not that she was afraid. Actually she did not feel anything at all.

Senpai abruptly stopped in the middle of a burning street. They were before Uzu's administrative building. Kushina often came nearby with her mother for a ramen. Here it was the best in the whole village. They both loved it. She was curious what had happened to her mom. When she saw an approaching shadow in the smoke, she thought it was her, but it was only the odd konoha shinobi.

"I'm sorry, but I can take only one. I don't have enough chakra," he said. His eyes were not kind anymore, they were empty.

Before anyone could think what to do, Shiori-chan pushed her out of Suzu's embrace into the arms of the silver-haired man.

"Go, now," she whispered solemnly through chapped lips.

There was no room to argue because the two sisters were gone and the odd man started to sink into the ground along with her.

Black replaced everything red.

"Kushina!"

The redhead woman woke up faster than a cat in ice-water. Every sense urged her to claw her way to stand up but something on her chest was stopping her. After a while, violet eyes adjusted to a faint glow from a street providing enough light to illuminate a gentle and worried face above her.

"Minato?" She needed to make sure it was him. She needed him.

"It's ok. Everything'll be ok," he repeated it like a mantra, until she believed him. As Minato stroked her ruby hair the woman's breathing calmed. Then he began to sing the lullaby he had always sung to Kakashi when the boy just lost his father and didn't know what to do or think.

Kushina's tears had stopped, leaving only their tell-tale wet tracks down her face.

"I must do something, Minato. I don't want to see it every night. I just cannot."

"Whatever you need, love, whatever you need."


Heartfelt thanks to mrsmiawallace88 - the best beta ever ^^