A/N: Hello, people!
I don't own Harry Potter or Naruto.
I have no beta.
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-So it's been a while, and I tried to get this out a month ago, but for some reason, nothing was coming to mind. And when I say that I am frustrated over that, I MEAN THAT I AM FRUSTRATED. Especially since I had the outline, because I know what I want to happen in future events.
-I got the individual ideas there, but I wasn't sure how to word them. While it's pretty easy to turn a 10 word idea into 1,000 words, sometimes details escape you, or your mind decides that it doesn't want to cooperate and things don't come out detailed enough, or then sound weird. It's annoying sometimes.
-I told everyone the war in Kiri wasn't to be ignored, and from this chapter and on, it will play a part in the plot. Stuff happens and as I guess I'm using the 'butterfly effect' and 'avalanche effect' things, I'm really changing things around. Just think, Hari changed one thing, or interfered somewhere, stopping one thing from happening, or changing the canon future. By using the Imperius on Gato and not killing Zabuza and Haku, things already drastically changed. Naruto didn't meet the Kyubi at the right time and Sasuke didn't unlock(for the 2nd time) his Sharingan either, meaning that they were lacking experience. By having them skip the Chunin Exams, they missed several key plots from canon, which I fucked around with and did not have happen.
Stopping only one thing has long-lasting consequences no matter what happens. So we can't expect everything to happen exactly as it did in canon, even if I am loosely following the canon timeline. Things just keep changing from here on out.
-As for Itachi, well, more on him and such will be explained later.
-I'm also taking liberties with Mei's life.
-Karin's official Konoha name is now Potta Karina, and she dyed her hair black. That way if Kusa has people in the next Chunin Exams, they wouldn't notice her by name or appearance.
Itachi knew that he was severely limited once he could not move his body. At the most, his eyes and a Shunshin would save him from any trouble. Kisame not so much. The great shark was struggling against whatever was binding them, and his only chance of escape was to Shunshin, if he even thought of using it. Kisame was more of a man of action and while he was a brilliant thinker, his frustration tended to take control of his mind during times of hardship.
The woman, whose name he had learned was 'Hari', gave a sigh. "Do I take the kids somewhere?"
Hatake gave a curt nod. "They don't need to see this. Sasuke especially."
Itachi could feel the pang in his body, unable to determine just where it came from. Sasuke was here. As in, in Uzumaki Naruto's house. The woman knew Sasuke well, it seemed. Why was his little brother in the company of theses... people?
'Hari' turned and walked down the hall toward Uzumaki's room. Suddenly, where the room had once been quiet without even a sound to tell them that anyone had been there, he could hear snoring. Snoring that had not been there before. Almost as if a veil had fallen.
"Nee-chan?" a gravelly voice that could only belong to Uzumaki Naruto sounded, muffled and laden with somnolence.
The woman hushed him and a second later, a small pop sounded, taking all other noise with it.
"Kakashi," said Gai, "don't look him in the eye. I know enough about his particular Sharingan to know that you can't afford eye contact with him."
"You're telling a Sharingan user this, Gai," Hatake retorted, lifting a fuin fuda used to cancel chakra flow. "I know how it works."
Itachi took a deep breath and focused his chakra. Just as Hatake lunged, the sight of Uzumaki's clean kitchen disappeared from view, and he found himself standing in his clan's old district.
Unfortunately, he couldn't move still, but at least he was away from Hatake. His only hope would be that Kisame was smart enough to follow his actions, though he didn't really know the layout of Konoha and could possibly get lost. And then he'd most likely get caught.
If he could move, he would have flinched. Especially since he had not heard her approaching him.
The woman, 'Hari', came to stop in front of him. She was perhaps four inches shorter than he, and her stunning eyes trailed from his chin, to his feet, lingering on certain places a little longer than they should. Or was his mind playing tricks on him?
"He who single-handedly slaughtered a clan of five hundred plus people in less than an hour."
He did not respond to her goading. He would not give her the pleasure. Instead, he was more interested on how she had followed him. How she even knew where he had gone?
"Or should I say, he who teamed up with an unknown man in order to slide by on the undercover order of one Shimura Danzo?"
Itachi's eyes widened without his permission, but he actually could not help himself. This unknown woman somehow knew about what had happened. She claimed to be a personal favorite of Hokage-sama, but Itachi was certain that the man wouldn't go around telling just anyone about what had really happened.
She smirked. "Danzo messed with the wrong person and got busted. It was bloody brilliant how just when they thought that they had enough charges against him, more kept on coming. He tried to take one of my kids, and that is not done, sir. It is simply not done."
Itachi felt a low tingle trail up his spine at the sight of her eyes. They made him think of the Sharingan. Glowing in the darkness.
They were standing on an abandoned street, in an abandoned section of the village. One that not many people knew about. The street lights no longer worked in this area, because no one lived there. There would be no point for them to waste energy over it.
Her eyes glowed threateningly. He didn't know if it was a sort of Kekkei Genkai or just his imagination.
There were often people who were born with Kekkei Genkai who never got Shinobi training. It would explain the strangeness of it. But Itachi was shrewd and he knew that it was something else.
"So, Uchiha-san, why did you lie to Sasuke about what had happened? Do you know how much work it's taking to get him to socialise with people? To look at people beyond what use they are to him? Merlin, that kid needs so much help, and he's getting better, but very slowly."
Itachi did not have an answer, because once again, the mention of his little brother choked him up inside.
"You know, I know that you care about him a great deal. And I know that you aren't as terrible as you think you are. Frankly, you are a pacifist first and foremost and this little mission that you've been on for forever, is simply a mission. On top of that, Danzo manipulated you and your clan to a very elaborate extent. More than you will ever realise unless you look into it yourself, and discover the long list of charges against him.
One of the first is the theft of the Sharingan of his kidnapped Uchiha Ne operatives. Another is his hand in the Kyubi attack and the growing resentment of the Uchiha clan. Basically, your clan was played masterfully."
Itachi's entire self seemed to just freeze. Not his body which was already immobile. It was as if his mind, heart, and soul had all decided that it was just too much, and had shut down.
All he could think of was fruitless everything he had done, had been.
He was so caught up in his own thoughts that he hadn't realized the woman was looking him in the eye, until he found himself in the Tsukuyomi.
The woman was there in the negative space. As usual when he had some poor soul ensnared in his inner world, she was affixed to a cross. Though she didn't look alarmed in the least.
Itachi realized that he had freedom of movement. So whatever she had done only affected his physical form. It was an interesting piece of knowledge to keep in mind.
"So this is what happens," she murmured, looking around with obvious interest. "Seems kinky."
Itachi very nearly spluttered in embarrassment, vaguely reminded of Mitarashi Anko.
"You are not… worried? I have tortured many into insanity using this method."
Her only response was to smile and while it was enchanting, it also unnerved him. Especially when a dark Figure seemed to take shape behind her.
"You may be more powerful than I, but my friend holds more power than all of us." She craned her neck back in order to see the black blob. "Hello, Death."
From the darkness stepped a Figure, cloaked in an inky blackness that he couldn't even described. There was a hood pulled over what he assumed was the head of the being, masking it's features.
A sort of cold chill creeped down Itachi's spine. Especially when a slightly breathy, but almost bone rattling voice responded, "Mistress."
Sasuke rolled over, his head swimming just a bit. When he blinked, he found Naruto staring out the window of his bedroom. Sasuke's bedroom. He was staring out Sasuke's window, in Sasuke's room, in Sasuke's house.
Since when did they fall asleep at Sasuke's house?
"Nee-chan brought us here," the blond said quietly, gesturing to the side where Ino and Karin also lay. "She just woke me up and then did this weird popping thing and brought us all here. She hasn't come back yet. I can't get out of the window or door either."
Potta Hari had taken them to Sasuke's house - which not many knew of - and then somehow locked them inside so they couldn't leave. Why? Why did she feel the need to sequester them away unless there was some kind of danger?
But he and Naruto could plainly see out the window and the village looked perfectly fine. As if nothing was wrong. So what was it?
"So we can't get out?"
If only they'd pushed for the Shunshin training.
Yamanaka Inoichi sighed, feeling ten times his age. Why? Because he'd just been called into T&I - in the middle of the night no less - in order to give a 'mind walk' to three Level 7+ people.
When Hari-hime had been revealed to be one of them, he'd almost had a heart attack from the sudden strike of worry that filled him. But then he'd learned from the on sight Iryo-nin that she had been caught in a Mangekyo Sharingan and they needed to evaluate whether or not she was mentally stable and if her mind was safe.
One of the other persons who was peaking over Level 10 threat and beyond, was none other than Uchiha Itachi. Hoshigaki Kisame was detained elsewhere, still unconscious and unable to be questioned at present.
Hokage-sama was already in the room, and he looked stern, though not worried. Uchiha was seated at the interrogation desk of Room 00, the most important cell at T&I.
Due to the information he'd been given, as Head of T&I, and a Clan Head, he knew that some of the things Itachi had done, were under order of Shimura Danzo, but who was to be certain that whatever he'd done since then, had him still loyal to Konoha? They just couldn't afford to make any sort of mistakes regarding the teen.
Kami, he was only a teen. Sometimes it was hard to reconcile such a skilled warrior with the picture of a child. Because that was all he'd been when he became a tool for Konoha to use. It was… disheartening to say the least.
Hari-hime was seated across from the criminal, looking unphased by the happenings going on around her. Both were chained to their chairs, and the Uchiha was covered in all manner of chakra repressors and gravity seals.
"Hari-hime, I apologize," Hokage-sama said, sounding much older and more saddened than Inoichi would have expected.
She gave a shrug. "It's not a big deal."
Inoichi opened the door, making the only woman in the room jump and twist around the best she could, in order to see who had entered. Her hackles dropped instantly upon seeing him. As in he was a sort of visual comfort for her. He couldn't help but smile at the thought. The last time they had seen each other, she had still been uncomfortable with eye to eye contact.
"Hi," she greeted simply. No bowing of the head or formal suffixes added. It was refreshing in a sense.
"Hari-hime, Hokage-sama," the blond responded with a polite nod in both of their directions.
The princess huffed at how respectful he was being, but said nothing. Probably because of the High Priority S-Ranked shinobi sitting across from her.
"Hari-hime, would you be able to recount the evening for us so that we have the full story from your point of view," Inoichi asked as he took a seat at the table.
With slumped shoulders, she nodded. "Okay, so Team Seven had dinner at our home today. The children walked in around 8:02, and Karin followed about two minutes later. Kakashi had beaten them by eleven minutes and had set the table for me while I went to wash up."
Inoichi quirked a brow and how familiar she was with Kakashi's name and how she seemed so unshaken by the fact that man had set her table. Inochi was going to have to talk with Kakashi later about certain things that he'd never expected from his fellow Jonin.
He was also minutely impressed by her time keeping.
"At 8:47, one of my Anbu watchers Shunshined into the kitchen and summoned Kakashi away for 'something important'. The kids wanted to know what was going on, but Kakashi simply gave them, 'an old lady needs help walking across the street' as an excuse."
The blond nearly face-palmed. Kakashi needed better excuses, or at least needed to stop using the same ones over and over just to infuriate people. Entertaining for him though it may be, it was annoying.
"I proceeded to make the kids some tea to calm them down. I laced it with a heavy dose of Valerian Root and they fell asleep in their chairs at about 8:55, and I levitated them into Naruto's room a moment later.
"I cleaned until Kakashi and Gai appeared, informing me that Luna had a vision about two S-Ranked Shinobi breaking into Naruto's flat within the hour. I was instructed to 'play along' and that Hokage-sama had ordered me to use my Kekkei Genkai to stall both for as long as I could."
Hokage-sama nodded to prove her words as truth. Inoichi made a mark on his notepad.
"I cleaned up the remnants of dinner and took another quick shower. I stepped out at 9:03, and found two unknown men in my kitchen at 9:07. I used my Mahou to stick them both to the floor. They were talking about Naruto. We exchanged some quips before Kakashi and Gai appeared.
"Kakashi advised me to take the kids elsewhere, so I Apparated them to Sasuke's flat and sealed them inside. They should be sleeping still. I hope."
Inoichi nodded, thankful that his daughter was not lost in the woods somewhere.
"Because he and his friend were in Naruto's flat and my Mahou touched them, it left a lingering trace, which allowed me to track him. To be honest, he wasn't even a mile from Sasuke's new location, which is a bit annoying. He still couldn't move his body, though I made the mistake of looking him in the eye."
Inoichi did not miss Itachi's narrowed gaze when she said that, and the young woman sighed. "Fine! I looked deliberately because I wanted to know what would happen. Also I have a pretty strong line of mental defence. You met them before," she said with a slight nod.
"The cloaked Figure or the animals?"
"Yes. Everything represents some kind of defence one way or another, remember that."
Inoichi nodded, adding that little tidbit to his mental file on the woman. The mental Figure that called itself Death, was considered a defence. That would explain why it held the power to push him from her mind.
Also, she looked an Uchiha in the eye despite knowing at least to some extent that she shouldn't?
"I found myself ready to be crucified in this odd place where the sky was an unnatural shade of orange and our skin was as black as the night. Like looking a photograph while it's in the negative. It gave me a bit if a headache. But then I brought Death out and they switched the positions really quickly.
"I had only just gotten Uchiha-san comfortable in his new position, when I found myself sitting here."
She pursed her lips and gave another shrug. "That's what I got."
Inoichi set the pad down and focused all of his attention on her. "You know what comes next."
She stiffened only slightly. A lot less than the former times she'd gone through it. She was becoming accustomed to it, and Inoichi wished she didn't have to be.
The woman took a deep breath and closed her eyes. A moment later they opened, and he was faced with the most deadened color green he'd ever seen.
As if she'd gone blank.
Placing his thumbs on either side of the bridge of her nose, and the rest of his fingers over her temples, he stared into her eyes and immersed himself within her inner world.
It was… a lot different than he'd last seen it.
The sky had gone from black, to a bright shade of orangey/pink, smattered with bright white stars. Like the sky at dawn. Amidst the lush grass that was still vibrant in color and covered in lilies, were little, albino piglets and mask wearing scarecrows.
On the wood of each shelf, were small, red and white uchiwa evenly placed in the center on each end.
The air smelled sweet, like perfume, and if he listened quietly, he could hear the laughter of children.
The longer she spent in Konoha, the much her inner world took shape of what was around her. Kakashi and Ino were in the grass. Naruto was in the sky. Karin and the orphans were in the air, and Sasuke was on the shelves.
And the small snakes slithering on the ground had to be Anko. She was opening up a lot more and was accepting her new life and the influences around her.
Still, he could tell that some of the flowers had wilted, turning brown and shriveling up. Recent trauma. Very recent. In fact, it could probably be from being confronted by the Sharingan.
She was strong, true, but not strong enough. And while her mind had heavy protection, it wasn't good enough to fully withstand the effects. Though he was impressed.
Besides dying flora, there was a lingering darkness around some of the shelves, despite the fact that the sky was light, allowing him to see almost endless shelves in every direction. Certain sections were covered in a black haze that he could not see through or past, which worried him a little.
He was not shocked to hear the voice this time. He merely turned and regarded the dark clad Figure with a calm gaze.
"Is there something you wish to add?" he asked the being.
"She might need counseling."
The being then turned and disappeared into one of the many blotches of darkness surrounding the world.
"No, I don't!" a sharp voice sounded through the area, the vibrations so thick and heavy that the ground shook from it.
He couldn't see her, but somehow, Hari-hime had somehow found her way into her inner world.
"Inoichi, I don't need counseling. I don't even know why they suggested that."
"Where are you, Hari-hime?"
"Hari-san," he corrected reluctantly.
"I'm watching you. It's kind of like watching a programme on the television. I see you, but you don't see me."
A sort of third person experience perhaps?
"Why do you think you don't need counseling?"
"Because I'm fine. Everything is fine."
Inoichi hummed, though he didn't believe any of it.
"You don't believe me, do you?" came her deadpan question.
A moment later, he was back in the interrogation room. Hari-hime was facing away from him, her arms folded tightly across her chest.
"She'll need some counseling, though not for too long."
Her rigid shoulders loosened up a bit, and Inoichi knew he'd dodged a sharp kunai.
Now for Itachi. And then Kisame.
"Hari-chan, when is your birthday, so we know when to celebrate it?" Ino asked as she munched on a cookie the woman had baked for Team Seven and the kids.
The brunette was sitting on the ground beside her, watching as the boys tried to instruct the nine and under orphans in Taijutsu. At least so they would know how to escape bullies. There was no harm in teaching them self-defense.
Hari seemed to pause for a moment, before she laughed once. "My birthday was yesterday."
Ino's ear-splitting exclamation was met with silence in every direction. Naruto, Sasuke, Kakashi-sensei, and the children had all turned in their direction to see just what was going on. And Ino was intent upon telling them.
"Hari-chan's birthday was yesterday and she never told any of us!"
The children collectively groaned and stumbled on over to Hari's side. Several of them wanted to know why she hadn't said anything. Others exclaimed that since she celebrated their birthdays with a cake and some ice cream, then they should have celebrated hers.
Naruto looked the most offended.
All Hari-chan did was shrug. "I don't celebrate my birthday. There are just certain days I don't find to be particularly important and my birthday is one of them."
"Of course it's important!" Ino blustered. "You've helped all of us in some way and we think your birthday is important because if it wasn't for that, we wouldn't have you!"
And Hari-chan gave a small smile in response.
"Did you ever celebrate your birthday?" asked Sasuke, who was looking a lot less stoic than usual.
"Almost never," the woman answered. "Years and years of lacking birthdays and boring or painful things happening have just turned me off to them in general."
Ino could see it a lot clearer than any of the others, sans Kakashi-sensei, would. She still stood by her original assessment that Hari-chan had been abused and this just gave her belief more credence.
Why would someone hate their birthday unless they had terrible experiences on said day? And as she had lived with her crummy relatives for so long and her birthday was in the summer when civilian schools were not in session, it had to be their fault.
Hari-chan didn't feel that her day of birth was anything important and that kind of hurt Ino, because she'd been so excited about Sasuke's birthday and celebrating that in order to draw him from his depressed silence.
It was like the woman had all of these wonderful and kind things to say, but no matter how inspirational, she never though they included her.
It was sad, and Ino didn't really know how to deal with it.
Perhaps asking her father would be helpful.
"Well I'm buying you a cake nee-chan! -ttebayo!"
The children gave a cheer.
"Hari-chan, I passed!"
Karin was grinning from ear to ear. When Anko had told she and Sakura that she was going to train them hard, she wasn't lying! She had put them through hell in only a month, and when Karin went to take the Graduation Exam in order to become a Genin, she had found it to be a lot easier then either girl had made it out to be.
Or maybe she had been worked up so hard so that she could pass with ease.
It was definitely harder than what Kusa demanded of their Shinobi, but nowhere near hard enough to give Karin any trouble.
Potta Karina was now a Shinobi of Konohagakure, apprenticed alongside Haruno Sakura, under Mitarashi Anko. It was awesome!
Hari smiled in response to her announcement. "Congratulations. Is there anything special you'd like for dinner?"
Karin dragged her fingers through her now dyed black hair. "Okonomiyaki, if you know how to make it."
Hari reached up and took a book off the top of the refrigerator. Flipping it open, she spent several moments just staring at the index, before turning to the proper page.
"I can totally do that. Anything else?"
Assured that the woman could in fact make her favorite food, Karin added, "And some of that really spicy rice you made that time, with all those peppers?"
Hari tended to make spicy food the most. Something about nothing liking food that lacked 'a kick'. She also preferred to eat things that were carefully prepared ahead of time and quick and easy for she was unable to enjoy heavy meals.
It was why she made food small enough to be eaten by hand, often times. But now and then she would accept a request for something different.
Karin, or better known officially as Potta Karina, rushed out the door to find her 'master'. That way she could totally get that dango Anko promised.
Sarutobi Hiruzen was beginning to feel his age. There was just so much happening at once that he wasn't certain he'd be able to take much more. He was well into his seventies for Kami's sake! He really needed to find a permanent replacement. So that he may live the rest of his life in relative peace.
Kirigakure was in the middle of a civil war that had spread through almost all of Mizu no Kuni. The Bloodline Rebellion against the Mizukage's Faction.
To be honest, Hiruzen had been completely baffled by the sudden change in the Mizukage. He never understood why the man suddenly began the mass killings of anyone with a Kekkei Genkai. He also never agreed with the decision.
Innocent lives were being lost, and protection for their village was lowered. Kirigakure was the weakest of the five great nations, and it was Yagura's actions that made it so.
So when Hiruzen received a missive from the leader of the Rebellion, Terumi Mei, pleading for some assistance in finally ending the decade long war, he had to consider everything carefully.
Who would he send on such a mission? Who could handle a war?
Already there were several shinobi he had in mind. And thankfully, the village was being repaired at an alarming rate, meaning that they could afford to send some of their military force out to the battlefield.
Terumi, if all plans went well, would be the Godaime Mizukage when all was said and done. And in her letter, she cited a few of her followers who spoke on Konoha's behalf, one Momochi Zabuza being among them. She admitted her skepticism in Konoha's ability to aid them, but asked anyway, because she didn't want to lose any more lives.
As a sign of good faith, she added that she had two Kekkei Genkai, and was the daughter of an Uzumaki. Her mother's mother had been a prominent Iryo-nin in Uzushiogakure. Her daughter had fled the village with her five year old daughter months before the mass attack on the village. Mei's father(a non-Uzumaki) had died when she was young, from defending the village.
They had made their way to the outskirts of Kirigakure, where Mei's mother used her training from her own mother, to help small villages. Her ability gained reputation and she and her daughter were welcomed into the hidden village.
Mei's mother was made an Iryo-nin immediately and Mei was signed up to enter the Academy a year later. Neither had ever told anyone of their Uzumaki heritage, not until the Mizukage began to act differently and problems began to rise in the divisions of Shinobi throughout the land.
Mei was one of the few able to hold out for more than five years, but she too eventually fled, taking with her a fifth of Kiri's shinobi force.
Ever since then, the Rebellion had been doing any kind of work they could to gain the funds necessary for food and equipment. Wars were not cheap after all, and they had much to fight for. So in the end, all the Nuke-nin who had come from Kirigakure hadn't become bounty hunters to satisfy their own pockets, they were aiding their leader in a war.
It was a noble cause, Hiruzen would admit. And to learn that so many people in the Bingo Book weren't what he would consider to be evil, did make his feelings regarding the entire missive, much lighter. Easier to handle in a sense.
He wanted the Purge to cease. It not only affected those in Mizu no Kuni, but also other nations. Kirigakure had cut itself off from the rest of the Shinobi worked, in essence, leaving any sort of trade with the entire nation strained. The Daimyo had next to no power thanks to Yagura's iron fist, and that meant that each Shinobi nation suffered in some way.
So Hiruzen would not only be helping his own people in forging a new bond with Kirigakure, but he too would also be aiding the minor countries that had lost so much without the backing of Kirigakure's shinobi and support.
He wanted to help, he just wished he had more people like Minato under his command. Minato decimated an entire battalion in less than an hour. All on his own. With people like him fighting, there would be less lives lost and more time for the victors to regain the control they needed over the nation.
There was more to war than just the big battles. Small missions intermingled within the grand scheme. Connecting with the people first and foremost. Letting them know that you would be there for them and that they would not be forgotten! There was more to being a leader than just sending out fighters and waiting for news.
Sometimes the leader had to get out there personally and demonstrate their beliefs on the battlefield. Sometimes it was by their leader's example that the fighters found the resolve they needed to keep fighting. It was support and faith in those around you. Showing that you cared and that you would fight for what you believed in. That was what the Will of Fire was!
Hiruzen retrieved a blank scroll from his desk drawer and proceeded to draw up teams that would be the proper aid in such a venture.
Team 1: Hatake Kakashi
Uzumaki Naruto, Uchiha Sasuke, Hyuga Hinata, Kurenai Yuhi, Mahi Youna, Tenzo, TenTen
Team 2: Maito Gai
Hyuga Neji, Hyuga Keiichi, Ororo Rin, Mizumi Nora, Shiranui Genma, Inuzuka Hana, Yamishiro Aoba
Team 3: Sarutobi Asuma
Nara Shikamaru, Higurashi Suzaku, Haruno Sakura, Li Ho, Gekko Hayate, Hyuga Bo, Akimichi Chojuka
Team 4: Mitarashi Anko
Potta Karina, Yamanaka Ino, Bakiwa, Hino Masashi, Ebisu, Uzo Ishimaru, Aburame Shino
Team 5: Uzuki Yugao
Hagane Kotetsu, Kamizuki Izumo, Shibi Aburame, Inuzuka Kiba, Namiashi Raido, Akimichi Furoka, Aburame Shibuta
Team 6: Morino Ibiki
Yamanaka Inoichi, Nara Shikaku, Akimichi Choza, Kururugi Kagome, Ren, Yamamoto Murasaki, Inuzuka Tsume
He sighed. At least five more teams to make a Company of Shinobi.
He hoped he was doing the right thing.
"Hokage-sama, Nara Shikaku has arrived!"
"Send him in."
Hari stared at the elaborately decorated invitation and literally had to run a finger over the upraised lettering on the card. It looked like someone had painted over it with gold lacquer. And if so, it was definitely sent by someone who had a lot of money.
|Konohagakure no Sato|
You are invited!
Urameshi Sanju, Daimyo of Hi no Kuni, is turning 50!
|20 August - 27 August|
|Tanzaku Gai|Royal Palace|
Daimyo-dono requests the pleasure of your presence as he celebrates his fiftieth birthday.
You are allowed a maximum of three attendants, and all shall be provided for during your stay at the palace.
You are also allowed to bring one guest.
You will need:
His lordships hopes to see you there.
In her opinion, the invitation was incredibly informal. She didn't even know why she was getting an invitation. It wasn't like she was important or anything. And it wasn't like any of them knew her.
And did she have to go?
And of course Death would know. "If you do not go, it will be seen as a snub."
"So I have to buy all of these stupid dresses too?"
"I don't want to go!" she whinged. "I hate parties. And who parties for seven days in a row?"
That meant she would be gone for seven days.
"Ten at the least, due to travelling there and back and time in between for resting," Death interrupted her thoughts, making her frown.
"Ten days away from the orphanage. From Naruto. From people and places I know."
"Don't tell me you're shy," Death purred, their voice lowering a tad for effect.
"Hell yes I am shy. I don't like being around people I don't know. Can Luna come with me?"
"It does say 'one guest'."
Hari nodded and set the card down, intent on going to ask Luna.
The door rang though, cutting her plans down a few minutes. Ironically, it was Luna at the door and she was smiling largely. "Of course I'll go with you! I already know where we're getting our kimonos."
That saved so much time.
"Now we have to go shopping!"
"Can I at least get a hug from everyone before I have to go on this ridiculous trip to spend time with annoying people that I know I won't like?"
Sasuke stiffened when everyone turned to look at him, as if he was the one holding the duo up from leaving.
He still hadn't been given a good enough reason as to why she had felt the need to lock them all in his apartment that night, and he wanted answers. But no one felt like giving them.
Still, Hari-san's bottom lip began to quiver just the slightest and she sniffed once, before looking away.
Crying. He was not good with people who cried. He didn't know how to handle them.
Personally, he hadn't cried in years. Not since… it had been years. He didn't like it when people cried because he didn't know how to handle them. Was he supposed to be kind like his mother had been, or harsh like his father, who had claimed that emotions were weakness?
Sasuke's thoughts were interrupted by Naruto, who decided to give him a little push - literally - and shove him in his sister's direction.
The woman wasn't clinging. She lightly wrapped both arms around Sasuke's shorter frame, but she didn't drag him in and squish him. She didn't try to suffocate him or anything. There was a small rub on his back, like he was the one that needed reassurance or something, and a ruffle of his hair, before she pulled away.
"Be good, and protect your friends, okay?" she whispered, eyes pleading. "They need you to remain strong for them. Both like to act tough, but they're really just big softies underneath all the bravado, and they need someone with a level head to keep them afloat."
She was essentially entrusting him with not just Naruto's life, but Ino's as well.
And it wasn't as if they were in danger or anything, but she would be gone for a little over a week and would surely miss them all, because that was what Hari-san did. She worried.
Sasuke gave a firm nod, because it had been years since anyone trusted him with… anything.
A relieved smile made her worry disappear and she patted his head. "Thank you."
The woman and her blonde friend gave a little wave and signed themselves out of the village, alongside their escort.
Sasuke also noticed how not once did Hari-san look in Kakashi's direction. He wondered what that was about.
When Kakashi said that he had wanted to get some more experience under the belts of his Genin, he hadn't meant like this. But the Hokage was certain beyond a shadow of a doubt, that all of them would come back from their mission.
Rarely did fresh Genin have to see war, and Kakashi surely hadn't wanted any of his kids to have to bear it, but unfortunately they had to. It was just the way of a shinobi's life.
Basically everyday of their lives they were on the precipice of war, it was just by the Hokage's good graces that things he considered to be minor infractions, did not become aggravated into a war. So obviously there was a chance that his Genin would see war in their lifetimes, he just wished it didn't have to be so soon.
But soon it was. Hokage-sama had faith in the group of people he'd assembled for this mission, and Kakashi knew that he would have to do the man proud.
What worried him the most out of everything though, was how Hari would take it?
And the sad part was that she had left two days before, on an unfortunate - according to her at least - journey to the Daimyo's palace where she had to attend some sort of party. She had whined and bemoaned the entire idea and had tried to get him to give her some reason stay, so she could refuse. He'd had none to give her.
She had pouted and refused to look at him the entire time she packed and even left with her blonde friend, and the ninja they had hired. A Chunin who was rising through the ranks at a steady pace. Would probably become a Jonin in another year. He should be more than capable of defending the two women, and it wasn't like they weren't able to protect themselves if it came down to it.
Kakashi hadn't been as unaffected as he'd let everyone assume. It kind of annoyed him that she had just ignored him the entire time, though he didn't know why. Especially when he made a habit out of ignoring everyone around him in order to annoy them.
Anyway, she was gone, so there was no way for her to learn that he wards was being taken on a very dangerous mission. An A-Rank level mission, though it wouldn't go down as a 'paid mission'. The payment was a treaty with Kirigakure should they help the Rebellion win, and that was the important thing.
He could only hope that they could end the war quickly, before the next Chunin Exams. He had plans for his team and with his extensive knowledge of Tetsu no Kuni, he hoped to give his team the upper hand in the biggest exam in the past twenty years.
Kakashi knew that his team would be the knock out team. The one that everyone would have to keep an eye on. He was working to make it that way after all.
This war would cut into training time. He still needed to teach them how to Shunshin.
"Sensei, can I send a Kage Bunshin after nee-chan? I don't want her to come back and find me gone. The Anbu aren't always the greatest at spreading info and they tend to force instead of ask first, so I don't want them to scare her the moment she gets back. No matter how awesome she is, she's still a civilian."
Kakashi considered it. For a Shinobi, it should only take a few hours of medium paced running to reach Tanzaku Gai. The Bunshin wouldn't take too long, should he go now.
"Go ahead," the masked Jonin relented.
As the Kage Bunshin rushed off to do as the original ordered it to, Kakashi took a good look at the team he was personally leading.
Each person held a particular place of importance. Of course the Hokage knew what he was doing when he had assembled the groups.
Uzumaki Naruto, was most familiar with him as a Jonin, and Uchiha Sasuke, was in the same boat. They also worked well together, which had shocked many considering how much they had opposed each other in the Academy. Still, they had many team formations down perfectly and had a few maneuvers of their own that worked well. It was best to keep them on the same team because they motivated each other to do better.
Frankly, he was pleased to have them to work with. He could pass on his knowledge of wartime in order to prepare them for the possible future.
Hyuga Hinata and Kurenai Yuhi were from the same Genin Cell and each held a significance of their own.
Hinata needed a strong female she was used to, to help guide her. Placing her with her cousin would have been folly, but Hokage-sama knew what he was doing.
Kurenai was a master at Genjutsu, and Hinata's Kekkei Genkai could see through them easily. Luckily that the Byakugan was good for stealth and their Company had a few Byakugan users among their number to aid in the planning.
Mahi Youna was a Tokubetsu Jonin who showed impressive skill in Shurikenjutsu and basically weapons in general. She would get on great with TenTen, who was a weapons specialist and in terms of her art alone, would already be a Tokubetsu Jonin. Their in depth knowledge of weapons would aid the Company immensely.
And finally, there was Tenzo. Tenzo was the only person alive who could possibly calm Naruto down should he go on a rampage. The Shodaime Hokage had been unnaturally good and subduing the Kyubi, and the Mokuton was incredibly good at cutting off Biju chakra. Therefore, his ability would no doubt be helpful for Naruto.
Kakashi just hoped they could prevent him from using too many Mokuton Jutsu, so no one would notice just how important he was to the Company.
Naruto had finally tasted the power of the Biju within, and Tenzo would be the greatest ally needed, in terms of Naruto staying safe and sane.
Also, there was a rumor that the Yondaime Mizukage, Yagura, was also a Jinchuuriki, and if anything else, Tenzo might be able to help restrain him as well. It would take careful planning, but it would be worth it.
Overall, Kakashi was proud of his Team and intended to lead them well.
In terms of leading the Company as a whole, Kakashi, Shikaku, and Inoichi had been put in charge, though as Kakashi had served as Anbu Honsho for a time, they deferred to him if the decision wasn't major. Kakashi had already gotten used to Shinobi who were older and had been in their profession for much longer, bowing to him in terms of leadership. It happened all the time.
"Halt!" a stern voice called out, making the progression stop before they could even begin.
Two Anbu Shunshined before the lined up teams and Kakashi recognized them immediately.
"Hokage-sama wishes for Minku to be stationed under Hatake's direction."
Minku was Uchiha Itachi's code name in the Anbu. They couldn't give him the Itachi mask because it literally would have given him away. His hair was bad enough as it was and the boy had refused to cut it like a sensible person. Not that Kakashi had room to talk about give-away hair.
Still… "Is Hokage-sama sure about this?"
Yes, he had been briefed, but that didn't mean everyone else had been.
Sasuke didn't know that his brother was back and not considered a 'bad guy' any longer. That would probably explain why the teen was masked. No one knew exactly how to break this to the boy and Kakashi knew that the moment Itachi's true actions were revealed, would also be the moment when Sasuke's goals for the future disappeared.
Anbu Buta held out a scroll and Kakashi gave it a close look before nodding. It was official, with Sarutobi's personal seal of approval.
"Okay, Minku will be joining Team Kakashi."
The Anbu bowed and departed immediately, leaving Itachi to await instruction. Honestly, having him would definitely aid in the upcoming battles.
He just wished he knew how to handle the whole revealing Itachi to Sasuke thing.
Perhaps after the war was won.
Hari held her fan in front of her face as she tried to keep some level of privacy between her and the rest of the people in the room. Luna was sat beside her, fanning herself. The blonde didn't seem as annoyed as Hari, no doubt used to having to play games and pretend to be something she wasn't.
Hari wasn't that great because while the laws of the land decreed that she was a 'princess', she most certainly wasn't one and had not been reared in the mindset required of royalty. Though she had a brief stint as a Baroness, but that had ended after a few years. It wasn't like any had given her the training she would need to be the Lady or 'Princess' of her lines/Houses.
So far, Hari had been dragged into two conversations about the orphanage, which she was proud to speak on behalf of, though was annoyed when some questioned the capability to a woman as young as she, watching over forty plus children.
One woman had even tried to rile her up by talking about how 'untrained' she must be.
Of course, Hari had laughed politely and let slip that the Hokage recognised her work and how the orphanage had been better than it was in the past four decades since she had taken control.
"The former matron was quite lacklustre in her overseeing of the children. Illness and uncleanliness was rampant in the building before I came along. I decided that a change of scenery was in order, and set to fixing up a larger and better building.
The children receive First Aid Training, and all of them get to attend school now. They have their own rooms and chores, and are quite happy to help out whenever they are asked. They merely needed the correct minder and as I've managed to pull the orphanage out of debt as well as set up quite the future in terms of management, I'd say I'm the best thing to have happened."
Other than tooting her own horn a bit, she rubbed it in the face of the woman that Hari was better.
Yes, Kurosaki Sayori was just one of the various women who had attempted to take the position from the former matron, and had failed. She had then tried to oppose Hari's leadership of the children, but was ignored. Finally, her daughter had failed to acquire a job as one of the assistants that Hari needed to hire to help watch the children.
The woman was simply offended that she had no control whatsoever over the new generation of children. Hari didn't give a damn about her feelings.
Hari also had to turn down a would-be suitor who had gotten quite boisterous and had loudly proclaimed that he would obviously be the best suited for her hand.
That had started a discussion about marriage in which the Daimyo had quickly claimed the discussion once again, regaling them all about his marriage and how lovely it was. He had his wife had been together for thirty-five years already and did not feel the need to separate.
Even people like the stuck up nobility could find love somehow, in an arranged marriage.
If Narcissa Malfoy ended up loving her husband despite their marriage being arranged, then surely Hari would be able to find a significant other!
Luna placed a calming hand on her forearm, or rather, the thick amount of cloth covering her forearm. With a sigh, Hari tried to relax and wait for the first night of the celebration to end.
The night was quiet. Nearly as silent as death. The coordinates would lead them to the general area of the Rebellion's lair, but they were to be met by a group.
Kakashi was hopeful that things would not start off on the wrong foot. That everything progressed smoothly and that they could hopefully provide the right amount of assistance needed to end the war.
Four months. They had four months to do this.
The collective group barely made any noise as they traveled across the forest floor. They'd already sped through the water without so much as a problem, easily passing out ships and civilians lingering well into the night.
They spent less than half an hour speed running across the surface, in the cover of the darkness. It was just easier to do it this way, than risk being spotted in the daylight. And it wasn't like one hundred Shinobi could just get on a boat unnoticed. Especially when the only boats that would be larger enough to fit them, would be either full of pirates, or would be holding weapons.
Thankfully, Mizu no Kuni wasn't a large island, which meant that from where they were entering, the land was currently controlled from the Rebellion. That made their progression much easier.
Kakashi was certain that the eventual meet up would be interesting.
"Halt! State your name and reason for trespassing!"
Well, he was expecting it to be interesting.
"Luna, I need liquor. I need so much liquor."
They'd left their guard to her own devices. Both insisting that they didn't need to be so carefully monitoured.
The blonde gave a nod. "I have several hungover draughts prepared ahead of time. You can drink as much as you want."
"Thank, Merlin!" the brunette praised.
The reason for her sudden need to drown herself in alcohol, was because it had only been the first night of the 'celebration' and she was already through with it.
The kimono she had to wear on the first night, was hell. Twelve layers. Who the bloody hell needed twelve damn layers for a fucking dress?! And she wasn't the only one to wear one!
Nearly every woman of incredibly high standing had to wear one as well, though they all looked to be fine with the arrangement and some even tried to walk sensually.
She didn't see what could be so sensual when not one part of the body save for the neck and head, showed. There wasn't even a small line to tell where her knickers were! Nothing to hint at what could possibly lay beneath. Nothing about the outfit screamed 'attractive' in her eyes.
More like 'suffocating'.
Hari's kimono had consisted of varying shades of dark red(that all had strange names). Not a usual colour choice, seeing as most of the women had worn rainbow like colours, but Hari wasn't usual. She had chosen her dresses specifically to be different. Hari didn't like bright colours in mass quantities anyway.
Then there was the whole 'speaking' thing. Ladies of the court weren't allowed to speak often unless spoken to first, or they had specific knowledge in the subject in question. Hari had bitten her tongue so many times and had found herself holding her fan in front of her face in order to hide her frustration from people.
The traditions of the royalty and noble class were much too high for her to keep up with. She wasn't ready to do this. And she had not wanted to be considered a 'hime' in this world, but look at what happened anyway.
Bloody Death. They never told her anything!
"You never ask."
On top of that, her hair had been in this incredibly elaborate updo that she didn't even want to take the time to suss out. Overall, she had a headache and her body was so hot from the bajillion layered dress she had to wear.
And to think, she had six more days of it.
"Cheer up," Luna ordered. "We don't have to attend the breakfast in the morning, meaning we can sleep into until eleven. So tonight is all about us."
Hari threw an arm around her friend's shoulders. "I'm going to get pissed, just so you know. You might have to lug me around a bit."
Luna smiled. "And if we need to relax tomorrow, we can avail ourselves of the town's prized onsen."
The two women slipped into the liveliest building they could find, seeing lights of many colours flashing about. Music was blaring loudly in their ears, and people were all over.
"I think it's a casino," Luna murmured.
"And a bar," Hari added, eyeing the long object directly in the center of the room. The one that was basically calling her name.
"That as well."
The two made their way over, enjoying the cool breeze from the air conditioning. Hari had to be grateful that in this world, they actually had air conditioners. Sure, a cooling charm was useful, but sometimes it was a hassle having to remember to reapply it. This way, she wasn't wasting energy or magic by sitting directly in front of the cool air blasting down from above.
She and Luna took their seats at the bar, beside two women were looked to be familiar with their surroundings.
"Whatever has the strongest alcohol content is what I'll take," said Hari, placing her money purse on the mahogany bar.
The bartender gave her a searching look. "Are you even old enough to drink?"
Luna tsked under her breath and looked away. Hari's face had gone completely blank.
"Do I look like I'm in the fucking mood to argue my bloody age with you? I just had to sit in the Imperial Palace, listening to several old men who think far too highly of themselves, whinging about how unfair it is that the dear tea they prefer, has gone up three percent in taxes as of last week!
"And don't even get me started on how ridiculous it was when they started complaining about rough it was for them to have to live in such rural places. How they wanted better servants. How they 'deserve better things'. On and on and on.
"If you do not give me my liquor, I will raise all hell and most likely shut your entire establishment down."
For a solid minute, Hari and the man stared each other down. Luna was shaking her head slowly and the two women were watching in avid interest.
"Fine," the man relented.
Hari barely withheld the need to rub her victory in. That wouldn't make her seem mature enough to drink and then he might refuse to give her any more alcohol.
Fire Sake, something that Hi no Kuni was well known for. And she was only getting a shot to start with.
With a scowl, she slung it back immediately and didn't even blink at the burn that accompanied the liquid. It was nothing like Firewhiskey, which usually had the drinker belching a fireball immediately. The flavour was potent though, so it wasn't a total loss.
Luna was already pulling a bottle from her bag. "I keep it on me just in case." She poured it in the shot glass and Hari shot her a grateful smile and she downed that one as well.
This burn was more pronounced, scorching almost in its intensity. The liquid went down quickly and the fire followed. Her tongue and mouth were numb now. The gurgling alerted her and she opened her mouth, breathing out a large cloud of brown smoke.
Probably because she was used to drinking Firewhiskey.
The bartender was staring. "People usually cry when they have Fire Sake for the first time."
"I'm not 'people'."
Holding her glass out to Luna, the blonde refilled it. "Would you have something fruity, but not overly sweet?"
The man shrugged and set to preparing a mixed drink for her.
Hari choked around her liquor and Luna had to slam a hand into her back to help her get the drink down. Not the best of surprises, especially when one has a mouth full of Firewhiskey.
Turning, Hari found herself facing Naruto, who was standing about a foot behind her. His blue eyes were wide with excitement and wonder as he looked around.
"Naruto, you're not supposed to go into bars!" the Mistress of Death hissed.
The blond sent her a bland look and said, "Nee-chan, I've killed a man."
She snorted. "Put a kunai against his head. Made a gash, now he's dead?"
Besides Luna's small snort at her absurd moment of humour, no one else seemed to find anything she said funny. "Just ignore me. Why have you traversed the wide plains of Hi no Kuni to seek me out?"
Naruto looked confused but he did begin talking. "We've been given a mission that will totally be ranked A if we succeed. Though my team isn't the only one on the mission. Still, Jiji got some kind of thing from some lady in Mizu no Kuni because they're fighting some war over there and she asked Jiji for help, so he's sending a Company of Shinobi over."
Hari's entire world froze.
War. There was a war going on. She'd forgotten about that. She'd forgotten all about it, because it wasn't like the news from the other countries made it's way into the everyday lives of the Konoha civilians.
It was far too soon for Naruto to be involved in a war. He was only twelve, soon to be thirteen! Hari hadn't truly been a part of a war until she had turned sixteen. She was given some personal time before the war had started, but Naruto wasn't getting any kind of reprieve.
"When are you leaving?"
"He winced. We already left. Like, hours ago. I asked to come and tell you because I didn't want you to go home and find me missing."
Hari took a deep breath. "Naruto, you do realise what a war is, correct?"
"People will die," she said plainly. "People will die because of you. They will die because of your friends and comrades. They will die whether you have anything to do with it or not. You cannot save everyone. Especially if you have been contracted to fight for a side in a war you know nothing about.
You realise that the side you're helping might have beliefs that you don't agree with? And that you cannot start problems and make a fuss simply because you don't agree with the leader's actions. Your feelings will most likely not be taken into account and you will have to hold your tongue when things become far too maddening. Can you handle that?"
The Kage Bunshin was silent for a moment.
"Nee-chan, I became a ninja for a reason, and while the reason has changed somewhat over the past few months, I'm still in this for the long haul. I will fight for what I believe in and I will do it to the best of my ability. I never go back on my word, nee-chan, because that's my nindo. And if I say I'm going to help end this stupid war, then damn it all, I'm helping no matter what!"
Luna placed a hand on Hari's shoulder. "He trains for the eventuality of this happening. He isn't just randomly being thrust into this world. We weren't so lucky. We had to do everything on our own because we had no one to help us. At least he has his friends and sensei with him. He'd not going in inexperienced like you had to."
Hari sighed. "Fine. I won't try to intervene, but you better tell Kakashi that if anything happens to you or your team, I'm throwing him out another window."
Naruto's whiskered cheeks stretched wide across his smile. "Sure thing, nee-chan!"
The Kage Bunshin placed a kiss on her cheek and disappeared in a puff of smoke, taking the information back to the original Naruto who was who knows how far away.
"They'll be fine," Luna said reassuringly, and Hari sent her a dubious glance. "I'm positive."
Did that mean she actually knew what was going to happen, or was just trying to calm Hari down?
Senju Tsunade hadn't paid that much attention to the young women seated beside she and Shizune, but when the Konoha Genin had showed up, she had definitely made it a point to pay more attention, because Shinobi were always ones to watch out for. For all she knew, Sarutobi-sensei was sending cute kids to try to reel her in again. She wouldn't have that.
But no, he was there to see his sister, who had a morbid sense of humor.
Tsunade was so sick of the Shinobi way of life and how they sent children out to kill and be killed. That was how she had lost Nawaki and hadn't wanted a repeat.
And the girl had obviously not liked the idea, although when her friend commented on their own war, she calmed down some.
And in the end, the kid had disappeared, proving that he was only a Kage Bunshin. She didn't even want to know what Sarutobi-sensei was thinking, letting a child learn something of that nature at his age.
And in the silence after he boy's disappearance, Shizune took pity on the girl and ended up offering some advice.
"It's best to think positively," she had said. "Do you have faith in your little brother's skills?"
The girl nodded. "Against certain opponents, sure. But war is vastly different from facing people of his own strength. It will be a lot harder than some random C-Rank mission."
"Do you trust his sensei?"
"Yeah. Pervert though he may be, he's pretty powerful and smart. But then again, keeping your eye on your pupils while fighting a war is going to be damn hard."
Tsunade hadn't met such a pessimist in years. The girl just seemed to come up with all manner of depressing things to say in order to tear apart Shizune's kind-hearted, well-intentioned words.
The blonde friend looked exasperated, though she did not say anything to calm her friend down some more.
Unable to help herself, Tsunade had to ask, "If you don't like that he could be in danger, why let him become a Shinobi at all?"
"That kid wants to be a hero. He wants to take after Hokage-sama and uphold that Will of Fire that the man talks so fondly about. Naruto and I aren't blood related, and I only came into his life about half a year ago, so it wouldn't be right for me to try to control his desires and dreams for the future simply because I don't agree with the idea of weaponizing children."
Shizune's mouth dropped open at the blatant categorizing of the Shinobi lifestyle. No one was ever so forthright, even among Shinobi. And civilians shouldn't have such knowledge to understand what being a Shinobi was about. But then again, her friend had mentioned a war they had to take part in, so it wasn't all too shocking.
"I was forced to become a weapon for my people. They hid behind me and expected me to do all the saving for them. Able-bodied men and women, pushing a child to do what they were capable of, but too scared to do. I don't agree with making children fight battles, but I'm at least softened toward the idea that there are Shinobi of all ages, and it isn't just older generations expecting children to do all of the work for them. It's why I don't make such a fuss about it."
"Sarutobi-sama did change the Academy requirements," Shizune added. "He wanted the children to have longer childhoods. And since there are no world wars at present, he doesn't have to enforce the mass production of Shinobi like he used to."
The girl sighed. "I'm conflicted, but I can try to be the support he needs when he comes home. And his team certainly needs it. His sensei is an orphaned recluse who reads porn to himself. His one teammate is also an orphan and we're trying to bring him into the fold. And the last is the only one with family out of our entire group, so we're trying to get her to understand the minds of orphans and why they would react a certain way to certain things.
"I'm trying the best with what I have. It's not much, but it's what I've got."
"That's good!" Shizune said with a smile. "You'd be surprised at how lonely Shinobi life can be. You might not know it, but having someone there to support you is something that most Shinobi wish they had."
Tsunade chugged what was left in her glass. "I just don't get why anyone would want to be a Kage. They always end up dying prematurely and for what, a group of people that don't truly know anything about them, nor actually care," she groused.
"You know, I have to partially agree. Being the one that people look to can be taxing at times. Especially when you make a mistake just once. People are so quick to turn their backs on those they claim to respect so much. It sucks a shit tonne. Especially when you try so hard and fell like you get nothing in return.
"But at the same time, there are people like Naruto, who want to keep everybody safe and happy. Despite how the villagers treat him terribly. Despite how they don't understand him and degrade his father's dying wish. He wants to change their perception of him and is very slowly doing so. He has the ambition and the drive, and he isn't afraid of toil. He's brave and courageous, and when the times call for it, incredibly inspiring and witty.
"That kid embodies things that many people lack, and if anyone can manage to change Konoha, and change the world even, I think it will be him."
Tsunade gaped openly because she hadn't expected a civilian who obviously had no Shinobi training, to be so supportive despite not agreeing with the basic idea of it all.
And she felt a little sad because judging from her words, she too was an orphan and didn't have anyone but the small group of people she'd gathered together. And if she lost the kid she was so fond of, or anyone else, it might just destroy her.
Tsunade had stopped forging relationships with people. She had refused to make more 'friends' and avoided those who called her 'friend' for years. Tsunade was sick and tired of losing everyone she cared about and had even taken to sheltering Shizune.
Life of the Shinobi was hard. She had known that when signing up for the Academy. She just hadn't expected it to hurt so much.
"What if the kid doesn't succeed?" she asked, looking the brunette in the eye. "What if he fails at all his dreams?"
She refrained from calling his dream stupid, because starting a brawl in her favorite casino wouldn't do her any good. She didn't want to be kicked out and the girl was obviously opinionated enough to try and fight someone she didn't even know. Also, whatever positions she held that made her important enough to attend the Daimyo's birthday celebration, would obviously start legal trouble.
"He won't fail," said the girl with much conviction. "He has me on his side, and people like me hold more power than others want to believe. I will see that kid's dream become a reality, even if the people who will benefit from it aren't good enough in my eyes. Because I'm not doing this for them. I am doing it for him. He needs me and so long as I am here, he will have whatever help I can give him. In any way… I can give it."
Her green eyes, unnatural in shape and color, began to glow just the slightest. Tsunade could instantly see the ruffle that went through her messy locks. One the started from the tip and traveled to the root, so it couldn't be due to the air conditioner above her head.
There was something strange about the girl. Something different about her, starting with her civilian status, but being the leader in a war. And the many other interesting things that had come up since she had entered the building.
Tsunade found herself caught by the words as well.
"Many said he couldn't graduate, because he'd failed twice. But that kid mastered that super dangerous Jutsu in a few hours, forcing his way into the Genin position. Many claimed he wouldn't make it as a Genin, but he's succeeded for several months and came out of an A-Ranked mission alive and well. That kid's team was assaulted by a group of powerful ninja from Iwagakure and he managed to protect everyone until their sensei arrived to help.
"He's done so much already, so I know very well that he is capable of anything he sets his mind to. That kid will do many great things. I don't need to be clairvoyant to know it."
Zabuza stared at the goons who were guarding a large carriage full of scrolls and only scrolls. The men all stared at him blankly, no trace of fear in their eyes.
"Are you Momochi Zabuza?" one of the men asked, his voice monotone and unnatural for a civilian who was in the presence of an obviously dangerous Shinobi.
"If I am?"
"Kuro-sama wished to lend aid to your leader's cause and sent us to deliver the contents of this carriage to you."
Zabuza wasn't one to gape, but damn it all he was. Even if no one could see it beneath his bindings, his mouth was wide open from shock. A name he hadn't heard in months, coming up all of a sudden, the day after the Konoha Company blew into their hideout.
It was all convenient, but could potentially be helpful.
Gesturing to one of his Chunin to check the carriage, it was revealed that there was several million Ryo within. And all of it was real.
"And what does Kuro-sama want in return?" he asked, refusing to believe that this was out of the goodness of the woman's heart. Things always came at a price after all.
"Kuro-sama requests that you win at whatever the cost necessary, so that the Konoha Shinobi make it home in one piece."
That was it. Somehow, the Kuro woman knew what was going on and had decided to only truly invest herself because of Konoha. And since she had interrupted his plans last time on behalf of Hatake's group, and she admitted to having a connection to them, then she had to be someone important to either one of the children, or Hatake himself. Or all four maybe.
Still, Zabuza couldn't wait to tell Mei about this. The woman needed some hope, and shouldering the faith and hope of everyone else had certainly worn her thin over the past five years.
"Tell Kuro that we are… eternally grateful for her generosity."
The four civilians all bowed as on body and turned to depart, leaving the carriage where it was.
Among all of the happenings, Zabuza did not miss how the men had somehow known exactly where to find the area where the Rebellion's hide-out resided.
Terumi Mei looked out at the battle that had been going for nearly an hour. Sometimes Shinobi never realized just how quickly time passed until they were in the thick of the danger.
Only an hour, and yet there was still no obvious victor in sight. There was an even footing, although she was proud to say that none of those fighting on the Rebellion's side, had lost any lives, compared to the Kirigakure Shinobi they were fighting.
Still, she was looking for something to put an end to the battle, and make it in their favor.
This wasn't even the culmination. There would be more battles and much larger opposition to face. And while their chances were looking good thus far, she needed something more. Something to give her people the spirit they needed to keep fighting. Money was good, but victory would be better.
"Mei-sama!" someone yelled, catching her attention.
She side-stepped an opponent and with a round house, sent them flying.
The person who had called her, was pointing up toward the sky, where a small dot could be seen getting closer and closer. Faster and faster it seemed to fall, until she could finally make out the form of one Senju Tsunade, free falling toward the rocky earth in the center of their battlefield.
Her fist was glowing with chakra and was extended toward the ground she was nearing.
Mei's eyes went wide and she called out an immediate retreat for her people, Shunshining out of the way.
The female Sannin landed with the force of an earthquake, her fist creating mass eruptions in the damp earth. The ground splintered and then cracked under the sudden force of her attack, and human sized boulders went flying in various directions.
Mei could see the entirety of the enemy's line of Shinobi, fall into the wide fissure that came with the attack. She also noticed how no one on the Rebellion's side had been even near the massive cracks. As if Senju was capable of controlling just where the results of her extreme strength were directed.
If so, it had to be quite the boon in battle.
The remaining Kiri shinobi, took a collective step back once the dust cleared and revealed Senju, standing atop an upended boulder, looking at them with fiery eyes.
Almost as one body, they turned and fled.
Mei could only breathe a sigh of relief and began ordering her fighters to guard the large trench in the center of the field. If any of the Shinobi from before managed to crawl their way out, they would either be quickly disposed of or taken captive and drilled for all the information they had.
She wasn't playing games. She was in this to win and they needed all the help they could get in this situation.
Without even looking in their direction, the Sannin raised a hand to her mouth and spread some blood on her wrist.
She slammed her open palm into the boulder she was standing on, and said very clearly, "Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"
And Mei was witness to the miraculous appearance of Katsuyu, one of the greatest healing summons to have ever lived.
"Tsunade-sama!" the great slug greeted, her voice carrying over the field.
"Katsuyu, please help the injured to the best of your ability!" the strong voice of the world's best Iryo-nin filled the stale air.
"Right away, my lady!"
The slug began to separate into several mini slugs, each the size of a fully grown human. The slugs spread quickly, taking one person each and glowing green with healing chakra.
Tsunade's eyes trailed over the collected group of Shinobi and she asked in a very firm tone, "Who is the leader here?"
Mei straightened to attention and answered in the same, powerful tone, "I am."
A/N: Another is done!
-Next chapter will be so interesting!
-I love throwing unexpected things in the chapters. And now y'all get to consider just what is going on and what will happen eventually!
-I already know three things that absolutely HAVE to happen in the next chapter, and am excited to get to it! Mostly. They'll be war related.
-And for The Daimyo and the invitation, I made it incredibly informal for a reason. I also followed a light bit information on the high-court women of Japan and how they acted centuries ago. Of course, as it is present day, I tweaked some facts around to modernize it all.
-YAY, Tsunade! And Itachi! And Kakashi! And my peeps!
-Kakashi is on Hari's shit list. How will he get off of it? Should he give her the Icha Icha she didn't have, or something else?
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