Story: [A Ninja's Parents] (expanded)
Summary: They didn't talk about her sister, usually. And they never talked about where her parents had been born. But her family had always had a thing for swords. WARNING: Character death.
Crossover: (Naruto) / (Sword Art Online)
Genre: Family, Drama, Adventure
Sakura had always known that she'd had an older sister. That once upon a time, before she was born, her parents had had a different daughter. She'd seen a few pictures, and it was obvious that her sister had taken after their father, even as she herself took after their mother.
At least in looks. Mom always insisted that Sakura had inherited her father's smarts, and when she could convince them to talk about her sister, they both agreed that Yui had always taken after mom in sheer stubbornness.
She wished that she could've met her, could've talked to her, could've asked her for advice. But Yui had died before she was even born. She didn't even know if her mom had been pregnant with her yet when she died, or if they'd only decided to have a second child after they'd already lost their first.
She didn't really like thinking about it, and her parents didn't really talk about those days unless prompted. So she didn't know.
What she did know was that she'd had an older sister, once. She also knew that neither of her parents were born in Konoha or any of the other Villages, so they didn't really understand how things worked. But most people who knew them could figure out that much.
She had a suspicion that her parents might've been samurai at one point, because there were a few swords in the house and her dad would sometimes reminiscence about practicing with wooden swords with his little sister.
Ninja didn't use swords though, so she hadn't ever really seen the point in learning. She practiced a bit, but she was going to become a ninja, not a samurai. No matter how cool her parents looked when they sparred, wooden blades a blur as they danced.
She was pretty sure her parents came from rich families originally, but she wasn't entirely sure what kind. Her dad would sometimes tell – probably exaggerated – stories about how sheltered mom had been when he'd met her, and mom would smack him for calling her a princess.
Sakura was also pretty sure that her dad was actually a genius. That, despite him fumbling around and never seeming to understand ninja at all, he actually knew thousands of things that most people would never have even considered. Mom knew a lot of things too, but she mostly just seemed to enjoy listening to dad talk about whatever strange topic he'd decided to research that day.
Sometimes, Sakura wondered if everyone her parents knew were dead. A lot of them seemed to be, or maybe that was just them having cut ties for some reason. It was hard to tell, and neither of them really seemed willing to talk about it.
In the end, dead or distant, it didn't matter. Life continued as normal.
Then, finally, she graduated from the Academy.
And was sorted onto the same team as Sasuke and the loudmouth.
Hatake Kakashi wasn't entirely sure what to make of Haruno Sakura.
On the one hand, she had all the marks of a civilian-born – more book-smart than athletic – despite the general suspicion that her parents were samurai who'd eloped. On the other, she knew more than he did about some things.
Usually, it was just random trivia. Useless things that compounded into giving her a good base for building up fake identities for missions, should she ever put it to use. But the sheer diversity of it was something he couldn't quite help keeping an eye on.
He'd have to look a bit closer on her parents' files.
His other two students were a lot easier to understand in comparison. A class-clown desperate for acknowledgment, who was only now finally beginning to apply himself to the life that he'd chosen. An emotionally scarred boy, who'd latched onto the only thing he knew in order to defend himself from the horror and despair inflicted upon him by the person he'd loved so dearly.
Oh, they were both veritable minefields of problems that could cost them a mission or their lives. But at least Kakashi knew what their problems were, if not how to deal with them.
Sakura though? She was clever, very well educated, surprisingly fit for a civilian-born, definitely crushing on Sasuke, definitely not appreciative of Naruto's advances, and with an inclination towards thoughtful silences.
She also seemed very practiced at avoiding topics such as family-members. Almost instinctively well-practiced, actually.
Kakashi sighed. He should probably look into that as well.
What a troublesome student he had.
Coinciding with the theory of them eloping, there was no country of origin listed for either of them, or at least no country that they actually had been born into. They had a citizenship in one of the minor countries that was friendly with Konoha, but before that their records were perfectly blank.
Of course there was the possibility that they were long-term infiltrators, but apparently they'd been taken off that list after some check-ups into their personality-types and behavior-patterns. Security-wise, they were low-priority as civilians, and they hadn't shown any inclinations towards ninja-like behavior, so they'd been allowed to stay and no more had been said about it.
A more thorough check into their family-register however explained why Sakura was so used to avoiding bringing up family-members in conversations.
A daughter had been listed as deceased before they ever arrived in Konoha, the place where Sakura was later born. The ages were a little bit odd, but it might help explain why they'd decided to elope in the first place.
Their first daughter would've been old enough to go to the Academy by the time of her death, and considering their own ages in relation to that-... well, they must've caused quite the scandal when the pregnancy was discovered. Especially so if there was any weight to the rumor that the mother came from a wealthy family. Possibly a scandal big enough that someone might decide to forcefully remove her from the family-tree, depending on the family.
And then there were two runaways, without a clan, without connections, and with a child to feed. Yes, that sounded harsh. But they'd apparently made a good show at it, until their daughter had died.
Cause of death wasn't listed so Kakashi couldn't be entirely sure, but there was generally only one reason that a family would uproot themselves in order to move into a Village. Fear.
Whether the fear was bandits, or a lack of proper medical care, or ninja. Happy families didn't suddenly up and leave, not that they would've been very likely to have been 'happy' in the wake of their daughter's death.
So they'd moved into the Village, hoping to save Sakura from whatever fate had befallen her older sister. And then they'd settled in and been a happy family, albeit one that didn't really understand the ninja they lived next to, or the profession that their daughter had decided to pick up.
Interestingly enough, it seemed as if both parents still practiced swordsmanship when they could find the time. A way to keep healthy, a way to protect, or simply a habit. It was noteworthy, mostly because it probably helped to explain why Sakura's fitness was above average for a civilian-born, but also because it likely meant that there would come a time when she'd try using a sword as a ninja.
Should the time come, he should probably have something picked out for her as a 'gift' in order to keep her from picking up something unsuited for their lifestyle. Otherwise her parents might saddle her with something purely samurai-friendly instead, and then she'd probably get herself killed.
Kakashi briefly considered having a face-to-face talk with her parents, but dismissed it.
It wouldn't do to get overly attached.
Sakura looked curiously at the sword. It was good quality and resembled her mother's preferred type, but it looked sturdier than the thin rapier that her mother favored.
"Umm, thank you, sensei?" She tried, still a bit confused as to why he'd bought her a sword.
Kakashi smiled at her over Naruto's head, not letting go of the blond – who'd taken great and violent offense to not also receiving a gift from their teacher – despite him slowly turning blue. "You're welcome, Sakura-kun."
Sakura made a face, a little bit annoyed at the man for completely missing the point of her hesitance. "Is there a reason for this particular type?" She tried.
Kakashi hummed noncommittally. "It's good in enclosed spaces, and you're a Konoha-nin."
Naruto finally managed to use a Kawarimi to get himself away from slowly suffocating in Kakashi's grip. "What's being a Konoha-nin got to do with it, sensei?!"
Kakashi tilted his head. "The land of Fire is a forest." He said bluntly, before realizing that Naruto still didn't seem to get it. "For example, Water consists mostly of islands, lakes, and rivers. So their ninja fight on open water or beaches more often than not. In that kind of situation, a greater reach is an advantage, which is part of why their Seven Swordsmen were so feared. In a forest on the other hand, a longer weapon would just get caught on tree-branches and get its wielder killed." He motioned towards Sakura's new sword. "Which is why Sakura-kun here gets a sword most suited for thrusting."
Well, that did clear up the reason behind this particular sword being given to her, but it still didn't explain why Kakashi had given her a new sword in the first place.
She didn't figure out that part until she returned home and her dad paused with a worried frown before suddenly nodding in resignation.
She was a ninja, an adult, someone who would walk into battle some day soon. She needed a weapon for it, and a sword was what she had trained with. And Kakashi-sensei knew how to fight like a ninja, and which weapons would help them stay alive, better than her parents did.
A purely practical gift, designed to keep her alive.
She'd be lying if the prospect didn't scare her a little bit. That the reminder of the dangers involved with being a ninja didn't send a shiver of trepidation down her spine. But even so, it was a gift that she was happy to receive.
Their first C-ranked mission wasn't anywhere near as glamorous as Naruto had hoped, that much was obvious. Still, escorting an old man across the country was probably better than weeding gardens every day for the rest of the week.
It was all about seeing the silver lining.
Sakura continued to think like that until they got jumped by two chunin and the old man admitted that there was a lot more to their mission than he'd originally told them. Then she started to worry.
She was just a genin, even if Sasuke was really strong and Naruto could take a beating with the best of them. Even if Kakashi-sensei was unimaginably strong, being forced to rely on others for her own safety didn't exactly leave her feeling calm and relaxed.
So when Naruto started to jump at shadows and attack the innocent – and adorable – wildlife, Sakura was high-strung enough to react to their teacher's order before she even registered what it was.
Which was why she was face-down in the dirt when a massive sword flew over their heads.
Then their real troubles started.
Kakashi's reliability in the eyes of his students had been somewhat dented when he'd originally decided to play dead for a bit at the start of the mission. It wasn't exactly improved by any marginal that, despite his impressive stunt of playing 'I know that you know but do you know that I know that you know' with the enemy ninja and water-clones, it resulted in him slowly drowning within a water-prison.
Sure, they'd probably be a lot worse off than Kakashi, seeing as how they were genin, and the memory of him kicking their asses during the Bell Test was still fairly vivid-... But it really wasn't a good show on Kakashi's part.
Their problem could roughly be translated into 'without Kakashi we'll die' and 'saving Kakashi might help our odds of survival'. It wasn't exactly reassuring, but it was the best they had.
Zabuza might try to convince them that he'd let them go if they didn't interfere with him killing off Tazuna – and Kakashi, but their teacher had a bounty on his head, so that he would refuse to give that up was hardly a surprise – but in the end it was an obvious lie. He had nothing to gain from letting them run free, and he'd already admitted to being a murderous psychopath who'd killed his former classmates for 'fun'.
That Zabuza would let them go without putting a sword through their vital organs as they fled was far too optimistic to be sane.
No, if they tried to run away he'd just kill them. And if they fought he'd probably kill them too, but at least he probably wouldn't make a sport of hunting them down and toying with them before going for the kill.
Their only real option was to free Kakashi-sensei from the water-prison. But at the same time, they couldn't count on that somehow being enough to save them. Kakashi had lost once already, and it probably wouldn't be turning out much better on his second try.
Thus, they needed a plan to free Kakashi, and then use Kakashi being freed to somehow help their sensei to ambush Zabuza even further.
At their disposal they had Naruto who had a semi-infinite supply of clones, and the ability to turn into pretty much anything through his henge. They also had Sasuke and his fire-jutsu and chunin-level taijutsu. And finally they had Sakura and her sword.
Sasuke's fire wouldn't do much of anything in the current environment, but he was good at throwing things, and Naruto was good at transforming into things, so it might be possible to have the two of them provide an endless barrage of projectiles. It wouldn't be enough to bring a jounin down, especially one who wasn't surprised by it, but it would put them on edge.
Sakura was pretty sure she could block one of Zabuza's cuts. Not well, and not without risk, but her sword was designed for taking hits and she had some experience in how to pull it off.
So-... First a trap, something to put Zabuza on his guard and with luck free Kakashi; then a sustained barrage of projectiles to try and hedge him further into a corner; then Sakura would disable his sword for a single moment; then Kakashi would go in and deliver the final hit.
It wasn't an overly complex plan, but it relied on Kakashi instinctively going for the opening when it appeared, and for Sakura not to get hit by the projectiles, and for Kakashi to be anywhere nearby when an opening actually appeared in Zabuza's guard.
A lot of variables, a lot of things that could go wrong. But they didn't really have a lot of choice. At this point, it was do or die.
Kakashi was impressed when Naruto and Sasuke came together to force Zabuza to break the water-prison. He was a tiny little bit worried however when they didn't stop there.
Kunai, shuriken, windmill-shuriken, ninja-wire, more kunai, and everywhere he looked puffs of smoke and bright flashes of orange. Sasuke had turned Naruto into a walking arsenal, and was seemingly determined to empty it completely with all due haste.
Then, in the middle of all the distractions, Zabuza dodged away from Kakashi before he could counterattack after blocking the missing-nin's attempt at returning fire with Sasuke's windmill-shuriken. Kakashi followed after, and Zabuza drew his sword.
Then the sword was suddenly off at an angle, deflected by-...
"Switch!" Sakura's voice rang clear, and she rolled away from where she'd left Zabuza suddenly wide open.
Kakashi didn't really have time to blink before his instincts took over. And then Zabuza had a kunai lodged in his neck, aimed upwards into his brain.
It was over in an instant, three genin coming together to bring down an A-class missing-nin, only relying on Kakashi's interference to land that final blow.
If he'd been impressed before, he was now vaguely suspicious that his genin-team was secretly an undercover ANBU-team with several years of field-experience. They'd managed to leave 'impressive' in the dust somewhere in the span of a few seconds.
Now-... Now he was... proud. Yes, that's what that feeling was, wasn't it? Pride.
They'd come a long way from when he'd first met them on that rooftop.
Then his moment of self-reflection was rudely interrupted by a hunting-nin from Kiri dropping out of the trees to check on Zabuza's body.
It took him about half-a-second to notice the flinching tremble in the hunting-nin once they realized that Zabuza was well and truly dead. Then everyone was back to fighting, as with a keening wail, the hunting-nin turned on them with murderous intent.
Because of course Zabuza had had a partner.
Heavens forbid that Kakashi's life would ever be easy.
If Zabuza had been deceit and powerful attacks, the man's partner was speed and endless attacks.
The hunting-nin seemed to aim most of his attacks towards Sakura and Kakashi, which was a bit of a relief seeing as how at least they didn't need to really think about Tazuna at all. However, it also meant that Sakura spent all of her time trying desperately to deflect the countless senbon raining down on her from seemingly every angle at once.
That left Sasuke and Naruto to help Kakashi in attacking. And neither of the genin could even really scratch the missing-nin's ice-mirrors. Kakashi could, but after he'd used that lightning-punch of his once, he'd come to the conclusion that he couldn't damage enough mirrors for it to be worth it. He couldn't break them faster than they could be replaced.
They were on the defensive, trying to catch the hunting-nin as he jumped between the mirrors, and at the same time distracting him from focusing all of his lethal effort towards Sakura. A distraction that was very much necessary, considering how the hunting-nin was seemingly determined to blame her for Zabuza's death.
Maybe it was because she'd technically fought the man sword-to-sword, or maybe it was because she'd been the final key to opening a path for Kakashi, or maybe it was simply because she was a genin and the hunting-nin was planning on aiming all of his efforts on Kakashi the moment she went down.
Regardless of the reasons behind it, it left Sakura nearly covering behind her teammates at times, trying to keep away from the hunting-nin's line of sight.
And then Kakashi was in front of her, and the hunting-nin was caught.
There was a crack, like dry twigs breaking.
The hunting-nin fell to the ground, throat a ragged wound and blood spilling everywhere.
Kakashi slumped, and Sakura nearly dropped her sword trying to catch the man as he nearly collapsed on top of her.
"Poison." A brief hiss between his teeth. "Accumulating poison. Zabuza started it." His breath hitched worryingly. "I hate poison."
Then he passed out.
There wasn't really anything they could do about poison other than to send for the closest thing Wave had a to a doctor. Ignoring that their mission was to get Tazuna home, the man's house was actually the best place to go to, seeing as how they couldn't really carry Kakashi around indefinitely and the fact that Wave didn't really have a functional clinic. Konoha was simply too far away to try and run back.
Their best option was to go to Tazuna's home, send someone to go fetch the 'doctor', and try to keep Kakashi from dying before they arrived.
Considering how none of them had any medical training beyond wrapping bandages, that last step was very much a worrying one. And it wasn't made any better by the dawning realization that the doctor probably wouldn't be arriving until a bit before dawn the next day.
There really wasn't much they could do other than tuck Kakashi in to the best of their abilities, and then take turns to sit watch over him. A task which wasn't made any easier by their own exhaustion.
Naruto still fidgeted in a way that proved that had the circumstances been better, he might've been bouncing off the walls; but he was alone in that. Sakura was bruised and battered and the only reason she was taking care of her sword instead of passing out in a corner somewhere was because her parents had always been very insistent with her learning how to maintain her own equipment. And Sasuke was slowly being bandaged-up by Tazuna's daughter, Tsunami.
Hell, the fact that Sasuke wasn't even putting up a fuss about being cared for by a civilian kind of went to show how bone-weary he was by now. He hadn't even bothered with token protests, and if it wasn't because he was halfway to falling asleep whenever Tsunami didn't jostle his injuries for a few seconds, then Sakura might've been honestly worried.
They'd checked everyone for poison, but the only one that had seemingly been targeted by it had been Kakashi. Or else he was the only one who'd run their chakra low enough – and been hit enough times – for it to be noticeable. Either way, they were in the clear, and Kakashi very much wasn't.
It was a long and restless night.
"He'll be lucky to last until noon."
Naruto made a choked sound. "But you're a doctor! You can fix him, right?!"
The man glanced his way, but shook his head. "I'm a doctor, not a medic-nin. I can't perform miracles." He sighed. "Poisons are a nasty business. Even if I knew what it is that's been used, it could take me days or even weeks to make an antidote for it, depending on how common it is. And this doesn't look the least bit familiar."
Sasuke shifted in his seat, eyes narrowed, even as Naruto kind of just slumped bonelessly. "Is there anything you can do?" He asked.
The doctor made a face. "I can try to make it painless, but really I'd be better off just trying to keep him comfortable as he dies."
Sakura took a deep shuddering breath, hearing the bitter helplessness in the man's voice.
Kakashi-sensei was going to die, and there was nothing they could do about it.
Even if they'd turned around back towards Konoha immediately after their encounter with Zabuza and his partner, they wouldn't have made it in time. And that was if they hadn't collapsed on the way there from exhaustion at carrying their teacher on top of their own injuries.
Kakashi's death was as prolonged as it was inevitable. And they were going to have to watch him fade.
They were starting to worry that he wouldn't even wake up to say goodbye before he died, when their mission forced itself back into the forefront of their minds.
Gato's thugs, shouting on their doorstep about teaching Tazuna a lesson, and with some foul words towards the 'weaklings' he'd hired to help save his country.
Both Sasuke and Naruto looked furious, but it was obvious that Sasuke wasn't in any position to fight – no matter his opinion on the matter. Sakura was mostly... numb, actually. She hadn't really had time to process things, and right now she mostly just wanted to retreat in a corner until things stopped happening.
But they had a mission, and neither Sasuke nor Kakashi were in any condition to help with it. That left her as the only person available to rein in Naruto before he flew off the handle and bit off more than he could chew.
So she got to her feet, and pushed Sasuke down in his seat with a hand on his shoulder. He glared up at her and she glanced meaningfully towards the form of their unconscious teacher. "Keep sensei safe."
Sasuke's glare didn't soften, exactly, but it lost a bit of its feral edge and he stopped struggling.
A deep breath, and then she followed Naruto through the door as he rushed into what was most likely going to be an ambush of some sort.
Naruto could handle a few bandits, sure. Any genin worth their salt could do at least that much. But Naruto was about as strategically aware as a brick – which sometimes made him very useful because of the sheer madness that were his 'plans' – so it wasn't really that unlikely that he'd end up at a disadvantage.
And they really couldn't afford losing another fighter, especially if Gato was planning on continuing sending mercenaries and missing-nin their way. The bastard had some deep pockets.
In hindsight, they really should've expected Gato having someone keeping an eye on the only doctor in Wave. Not that there was much they could've done about it, even if they'd thought of it. Just another thing to remember in the future.
Sakura didn't really register that she'd killed someone until five men were already down on the ground, crimson spreading like gooey puddles around her thrown kunai.
Not that she could really afford to stop and think about that any further than acknowledging that her response to someone trying to shoot her with a crossbow had at least discouraged them somewhat from trying it.
An unwashed person leapt at her with a sword, so she deflected it and slid her own sword through their neck. A brief pause to flick the sword free from the person desperately clutching their throat with both hands, Sakura leaned out of reach of another thug's grasping hand and delivered a kick to the side of their knee. The knee bent sideways with a crack, and then she flicked her sword along his stomach as she spun past him.
Not quite dead, and technically still a potential risk, but it was a fatal injury and he was in no shape to move around so it was classified as a negligible risk to continue onwards.
Naruto was keeping them away from the house with his multitude of clones, and was tearing his way through them as if they were wheat, snarling like a cornered beast. He could handle himself. Sakura continued to aim for the places where someone tried to restore order in the enemy's ranks.
If Naruto was a hammer to smash aside all opposition, then she was a sword to cut the head of the snake. Useful, but perhaps mostly superfluous in the face of the feral ruthlessness of her teammate's rage.
Finally, she caught a glimpse of something, a type of clothing that didn't coincide with the makeshift armor of the thugs. A business-man, amidst a mob.
Sakura blinked, and then changed her direction. She didn't want to try fighting her way directly towards the business-man, that would likely remind him of the danger he was currently in and convince him to run off, but it shouldn't be a problem to work her way around and cut off the man's retreat before he really started to notice her.
Sakura stepped around a wild lunge with a pitchfork and flicked her sword along the tendons of the thug's ankles. They went down with a cry, leaving their partner's back wide open for a stab at their kidney.
Despite what people assumed, a sword was really most efficient in the concept of 'death of a thousand cuts' than the ridiculous inclination to go around cleaving people in half. All she really needed to do was hit an artery and they'd bleed to death in no time at all, and there were a great many arteries that were barely even covered in skin in the first place. Speed and precision was far more important than committing her strength to any particular strike.
Then suddenly she caught the business-man's eyes over another fallen thug. He'd spotted her, but at least he didn't actually have anywhere to run to now.
From his panicked shouting about 'pay', it was fairly easy to surmise that this was in fact Gato himself. So she didn't feel even remotely bad about the bloody smile that spread across her lips as she slipped past his guards and buried her sword in his stomach, upwards towards his lungs.
Sakura spun around another thug's attack and retaliated with an elbow to his throat.
Gato was dead, but the thugs were either unaware of this fact, or sincerely believed that it would be better to try and bring the ninja down in an upfront battle rather than flee for their lives whilst they still had them available.
In the end, it didn't matter. They'd continue fighting until the thugs stopped attacking and fled.
No matter how many of them they'd have to kill for that to ever happen.
There was a scream, the sound of metal clashing against metal, more screams, and the distant and muted sound of bodies hitting dirt; that was the sounds that Kakashi woke up to.
He was running a fever, and he couldn't feel his legs, so – considering his last conscious memory – apparently they hadn't been able to find anyone capable of removing the poison in his systems. Not that he'd really held much hope about that actually, he was pretty sure the poison had been specifically developed by Zabuza and what had likely been his apprentice.
Maybe if he'd had been on a squad with a talented medic-nin, or been nearby to Konoha when he'd been poisoned-... As it was, his only chance had been to be miraculously lucky and either stumble on Tsunade's secret hiding-space, or spontaneously develop a new immunity on the spot. Chakra had done stranger things in the past, Kakashi was sure. Though, admittedly he'd been very close to hitting chakra-exhaustion at the time, so he probably wouldn't even have access to the chakra that might've made such a thing possible.
It wasn't as if removing the poison would've been similar to removing the poison of a snake-bite. It was already inside of him, and there really wasn't anything the genin could've done about it.
There were better ways to die, but at least this would be an end to things. A chance to finally rest and meet up with all those precious people who'd gone on to the afterlife before him.
"Kakashi-sensei." A hiss of air through gritted teeth, Sasuke still managed to make it sound relieved somehow. "You're awake."
Kakashi smiled at the little brat, even if his outline looked a bit blurry. "Ah, what's happening?"
"We're at Tazuna's house, and Gato attacked. Naruto and Sakura are dealing with it." Sasuke reported. "You're dying."
Kakashi hummed an affirmative to that last statement. "There are worse ways to die, Sasuke-kun."
Sasuke frowned. "What are our orders, sensei?"
Kakashi heard his own voice echo back to him, childishly stubborn and clinging desperately to following the rules that his father had died for breaking. It was painful to hear his student walking in his footsteps like that, even if perhaps he ought to have expected it.
Sakura had been a bit of an enigma when he'd first landed himself with them, but Sasuke was probably the most scarred one of the other two. Naruto could probably have turned traitor on a dime if an enemy of Konoha had just been nice to him, but Sasuke had lost. After all, it was hard to lose something when you'd never had anything to call your own.
No, if anyone picked up his childhood-mantle of being a mission-focused dick, it would've been Sasuke. He just wished that he could steer him away from that path. Away from turning himself into a tool for other people to use and discard as they saw fit.
Sasuke had an ambition, didn't he? A personal goal where a 'proper' ninja-tool had none beside what was given to it. That would probably break him in the end, whether by betrayal or madness.
"Itachi was a perfect ninja." He said, ignoring the way Sasuke flinched at the name. "An emotionless tool for the sake of the Village." He took a deep shuddering breath, remembering the endless bodies. "We all saw how that ended, Sasuke-kun. Don't become a tool for your vengeance, it will only end in blood and tears."
Sasuke was gritting his teeth, and probably glaring, but it was hard to see.
Kakashi was quiet for a bit before speaking again. "A cousin of yours once told me something." Because if anyone deserved to hear that tale, it was Sasuke. "He told me that if a ninja who abandons a mission is trash, then a ninja who abandons their friends is worse than trash." He smiled up at his student. "I was probably a bit too much like you to listen to him then. But he still saved my life, more times than I can count. Your orders are to take care of the others, finish the mission to the best of your ability, and burn my corpse so that nobody can misuse Obito's eye."
Sasuke was staring at him now, eyes wide. But he nodded, and Kakashi smiled.
"Kakashi-sensei!" A new voice joined their conversation as a blur of yellow and orange and red moved towards him. "You're awake!"
Kakashi hummed in agreement, suddenly overcome with the nostalgia of having Minato-sensei fretting at his bedside. "The attackers are cleared up?"
Naruto flinched, but nodded. Considering the red, someone was going to have to ease Naruto into dealing with his first kill, since Kakashi himself was dying. And Sakura's, he amended, as another shape moved through the door. She was covered in even more red than Naruto, though how much of that was actually her clothes and how much of it was blood was hard to tell with his eyes as fuzzy as they were.
"You did good, Naruto-kun, Sakura-kun." He reassured them as much as he could in what was likely to be his final moments – he doubted he'd ever regain consciousness if he fell asleep now. He glanced back towards Naruto to see him fidget despite only recently sitting down, and felt another fond smile curl his lips. "Your parents would've been proud, Naruto-kun."
The fretting attention narrowed into a sharp edge as Naruto latched onto that. "You knew my parents?" He sounded a bit terrified, emotions mixed together until it was hard to tell.
Kakashi sighed. "Yes. Once upon a time." He frowned briefly, remembering that it was very much classified information for a reason. "Not a word of that leaves this room."
His other two students nodded, but Naruto looked a bit like he was going to cry.
Kakashi sighed, understanding. Nobody ever talked about them, and he was probably as hungry for stories about them as Sasuke was hungry for having his family back. "They were good people, Naruto-kun. Some of the best I've ever met." He smiled again, perhaps a little sadly. "Your father's looks, but your mother's heart. Ask Jiraiya for more, he'll tell you when you're ready."
Naruto nodded, and yeah he was definitely crying now. Though from the way Sasuke nearly bumped his shoulder with his own, nobody was going to make fun of him for it.
Family was important on his team.
A boy who'd never heard of his parents, a boy who'd lost everything to his brother's madness, and a girl who'd never met her older sister. And then Kakashi, who'd lost everybody he loved, one at a time to the endless dredge of a ninja's life. Yes, family was important.
"Sakura-kun." He turned his attention to the last member of his team. "You're the eldest now, take care of these two trouble-makers for me, okay?"
Sakura's breath hitched, and he was pretty sure she was crying. "O-Okay, sensei. I will."
He felt a little bad at using that against her. Of using the memory of her being the youngest sibling against her. It was a cruel thing to do, but the three of them were his precious students, and they were the closest thing to a family that he had left.
Hopefully, this family would have a happier ending than his own; even if it started in tears, with three siblings bent over his cooling corpse.
Three genin returned alone to the gates of Konoha.
A mislabeled C-ranked mission had been the end of the legend of 'Sharingan Kakashi'. It was a grim reminder of the motivation behind Tsunade's attempts to place a medic-nin on every squad. Of how big of a difference that could've made.
Somehow though, Hiruzen got the feeling that the genin-team the man had left behind wouldn't simply fade away in his wake. Almost as if the shared trauma of watching him dying had stabilized the ticking time-bomb which most had been worried that Team 7 would be.
They brought with them their teacher's ashes, a completed mission, and the sword of one of the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist.
It was a blow to Konoha's reputation, even if Wave had apparently decided to name their bridge after the man in honor to his sacrifice for their country. But on a more immediate basis, it was a blow to Konoha's order.
Team 7 belonged under a jounin-teacher. They'd more than proven themselves worthy of that much. But due to sheer scheduling-issues there wouldn't be any appropriate jounin-teacher's available until the next batch of Academy-students graduated. And trying to split up Team 7 was very much a recipe for disaster.
Still, it wasn't as if there weren't contingencies established for the eventuality of a genin-team losing their jounin-teacher. But that was more designed as a temporary stop-gap until a new jounin-teacher proved available, and basically consisted of dumping the trio on D-ranks under some no-name's supervision and give them time to grieve.
Which in normal cases was perfectly fine, but most normal teams didn't have the Jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi and the Last Uchiha on it. People were expecting great things from at least those two, and since they'd clearly proven themselves capable of performing C-ranks, there would be a lot of pressure to get them to 'graduate' from the pointless D-ranks and start building up the reputation that Konoha lost at the death of their teacher.
Ruthless and cruel, perhaps. But such was the lot of a ninja, and Danzo had never been one to mince words. No, Hiruzen would definitely be under pressure to come up with a better option than the normal contingency.
Not to mention that he would likely be under heat from people like Iruka who'd been against Team 7 leaving on a C-ranked mission from the very beginning. The 'casual arrogance' of Kakashi refusing to end the mission – or even call for backup – despite the mislabeling, wouldn't help matters.
And that still wasn't touching upon the fact that a trio of genin were clearly grieving their teacher, or that they wouldn't be alone in their grief.
Hiruzen sighed, ignoring his own feelings on the matter, Maito Gai would likely create a scene. Possibly, he might just try and drag the student's of his 'rival' underneath his wing, regardless of the appropriateness of such an action – or their own thoughts on the matter. On the other hand, he might cause enough of a fuss in his own version of 'mourning' that Konoha would be lucky to remain standing in the aftermath. Or he might simply disappear into a bar and not come out for a week, before returning much the same as he'd gone in.
Gai could be unpredictable like that.
Hiruzen put the damage-control out of his mind before it started to give him a headache, instead focusing on what the regular contingencies would tell him to do. Turning back to his paperwork, he found that headache make a reappearance in full force.
The 'no-name' that they would've been placed under was Ebisu.
The very same Ebisu who happened to get along with Naruto much akin to a house on fire. Yes, that's exactly what a grieving genin needed. Someone in authority hanging around to be antagonized by.
Some days, he really wished he could be selfish enough to uproot himself from the mess of his position and just drown himself in the bottom of a bottle somewhere.
The silence on their way back to Konoha had been eerie.
Sasuke and Naruto had stopped fighting, and apparently neither of them were capable conversationalists when they weren't trying to beat each other into the dirt. Not that Sakura had really been expecting anything else.
For all his obnoxious clowning, Naruto could be very quiet when he wasn't trying to fight someone for the spotlight. And Sasuke had sometimes gone entire days without saying a word.
There wasn't really anything to talk about, they'd hashed out the likely results of returning without a jounin-teacher back in Wave, and nobody really wanted to risk jostling Kakashi's ashes any more than necessary.
There was a possibility that Konoha would try to split them up, and each of them would be fighting the people in charge if they tried it. There was a small chance that someone would try and promote one or more of them to chunin, but they wouldn't be able to split them up with just that. There was a likely chance that they'd end up with a new jounin-teacher, and they'd try to be courteous to them even if they were never going to be a good replacement for Kakashi-sensei. There was even a chance that Sakura's parents would try and withdraw her from being a ninja, but both of the boys had apartments of their own, and there weren't really any true legal pressures her parents could bring down on her to force the issue.
Their entrance into Konoha had been somewhat anticlimactic. They'd reported to the Hokage who'd frowned sadly and given his condolences, before telling them that a proper funeral would be held and that they were off-duty until then. Then they'd all gone their separate ways to find a decent bed to sleep in, with a promise to show up on their regular spot on the bridge the next day.
It'd been awkward telling her parents about it, about the fact that her teacher had died on a C-ranked mission and that she'd killed dozens of people. About telling them that she honestly didn't feel much about that massacre of a battle, except for the niggling annoyance that she'd never be able to wash the blood out of her clothes.
She wasn't entirely sure how her parents had been raised, but beyond the original shock of hearing about it, both of them seemed content in just hugging her. She thought that there might've been tears too, but by then she was just too exhausted to care.
The thing that stood out the most, was that as her parents hovered around her, tucking her into bed as if she was half her current age, was the heartfelt invitation to bring her teammates back for dinner someday soon.
They were both at the bridge when she arrived.
Naruto still looked... 'hollow', and Sasuke still had that thoughtful expression.
"I'm going to become a medic-nin."
Sakura blinked stupidly at the boy for a long moment. "Why?"
Sasuke shifted uncomfortably. "I'm sick of people dying in front of me."
Sakura stared at him, but nodded. He'd been the one at Kakashi's side there at the end. Naruto and herself had been out fighting, doing things, and Sasuke had simply sat next to their teacher and watched him die. Perhaps that kind of thing left other types of scars.
Naruto didn't much react to hearing it, even if the brief flicker of surprise on his face meant that Sasuke had been waiting for both of them to be there before talking about it.
There was something truly disturbing about how empty Naruto seemed to be, though he hadn't really reacted much at all since Kakashi's eye slipped closed that final time. He'd seemingly cried all of his tears right then and there, and he hadn't stopped crying until the ashes had started to go cold.
Sakura made a thoughtful sound, shifting the sword on her hip. "I probably need to learn a bit of genjutsu to go with my kenjutsu, and I'm pretty sure Naruto needs to learn some more long-range ninjutsu if we're going to be trying to fight jounins again."
Naruto blinked lethargically, but nodded.
And apparently she couldn't hold a conversation with her teammates anymore, because Naruto had all but gone mute, and Sasuke only opened his mouth if he felt like he had something important to say.
The thought of that became much more uncomfortable when Sakura remembered that she was quite possibly the only person her teammates had to turn to. They were orphans, and they'd never really gotten along with each other. With the future of their team still undecided as far as the higher-ups were concerned, Sakura was quite possibly the only thing keeping them together.
Frowning, Sakura took a deep breath and grabbed onto the boys' sleeves. "Right. Mom's making dinner, and you're coming. Both of you."
Sasuke's eyes narrowed, even as Naruto's started to widen. But that just meant they weren't struggling just yet, so Sakura started to pull them along with her. "I'm pretty sure dad knows some stuff about medicine, and mom's food is the best. So no arguments allowed."
She only managed to pull them along for a few steps before the both of them fell into step next to her instead.
Because she wasn't the only one who desperately wanted to stay together.
Hayate was used to being overlooked. It kind of came with the territory when your main focus was sneaking around, with a bit of kenjutsu thrown in to spice things up a bit.
But being overlooked was no excuse for being uninformed. He'd known that Team 7 had come back to Konoha with their teacher's ashes, because the death of someone of Hatake Kakashi's caliber spread like a wildfire in Konoha's rumor-mill.
Of course, generally it was more amusing to try and work out the origin of whatever absurd rumor had popped up. But to go digging and find out that he really was dead? It was a blow to everyone.
A legend who could've one day been a candidate for the position of Hokage, dead on a mislabeled C-ranked mission. Ninja life could be hazardous, but that kind of thing really drove the point home. One moment of inattention could mean the end for anyone.
Still, he hadn't exactly been close to Hatake – hell, he wasn't even close to anyone else who'd really been all that close to Hatake, Yugao included – so the man's death hadn't really effected his life any. That is, until he got a summons from the Hokage.
Three genin who'd grown too close in their grief to be split up, three genin without a jounin-teacher, three genin who'd likely have reacted quite hostile to the special-jounin whom they would've been assigned to by default. Apparently, Uzumaki and Ebisu had history.
In hindsight, maybe he should've even been suspecting it. His miserable health wasn't exactly a secret to anyone, and neither was his ability with a sword. So to put him in charge of a team of genin who'd be temporarily restricted to Konoha, when one of the genin came from a family of eloped samurai, one of the others had bad history with a great many people, and the final one was a political minefield...
Well, Hayate had never shown any political inclinations, and he'd never really had cause to interact with the Uzumaki, so he was actually probably a really good option. At least on a temporary trial-basis, until a better alternative could be provided.
But that didn't make it any less bizarre to be told that he was going to be supervising the three genin of Team 7 on their many future D-ranks.
Hopefully, it wouldn't start any hilariously absurd rumors about him teaching a young girl how to wield a sword like a ninja instead of a samurai. Not so much because it'd be false, but more because the rumor would in all likelihood include a reminder of how he'd met his current lover.
Yugao had come to him for training with kenjutsu, once upon a time, and he was sure that some gleefully sadistic bastard would make a mention of him 'trading her in for a younger version' that would then explode all over the rumor-mill.
Hayate paused, thoughtfully.
He should probably go dig out some of his blackmail on Ibiki as a preemptive measure. His old friend might not decide to start the rumors – this time – but it probably wouldn't hurt to have him help out with keeping Mitarashi Anko's mouth shut.
Yugao probably wouldn't fall for it, but she could get frosty when she was upset, and he really didn't want to risk it.
Hayate leaned back into the tree, thoughtful.
Uchiha Sasuke was described as asocial at best, and Uzumaki Naruto had a long history of being at odds with civilians. So, that he'd end up finding the two of them in the Haruno-family living room was a bit of a surprise.
Haruno Sakura might've invited them, but that they'd taken her up on that invitation showed that the trio had grown a lot closer since they'd left on the Wave-mission. Which was good, because teamwork was important and there'd been a lot of worries on whether Team 7 would last a week before they tried to kill each other.
That, however seemed to have resulted in a different kind of development.
If Hayate was reading the mood right, the five of them all seemed to get along fabulously. Sure, Sasuke still kept mostly to himself, but he listened attentively whenever Sakura's father went on one of his – somewhat infamous in the neighborhood – long-winded data-dumps of random trivia, and he wasn't above joining in on the conversations that sprung up around him.
As for Naruto... well, he seemed to be either trying to empty the Haruno-family's pantry, or pass out from blushing too hard whenever Sakura's mother smiled at him. Which probably meant that someone had a crush, which was kind of childishly adorable.
It didn't look like two boys being invited into a female friend's home by her overprotective parents, but an awful lot more like an extended family reuniting.
And civilians generally didn't do that. Not with ninja. Not when their daughter had just come home from a mission that had killed the man they'd entrusted her safety to. Not when their daughter had come home with a kill-count in the double-digits.
No, whoever Sakura's parents were now, they'd been exposed to battle at some point. Probably to the point where they'd wandered around in a battlefield of their own, but considering the timing-...
Samurai didn't field child-soldiers. Ninja did, to the point where it didn't even seem all that strange to send off ten-year-olds into war-zones. But samurai were notoriously decisive about that kind of thing. They trained and they trained, and they didn't see true battle until they were well into their teens.
And yet Sakura's parents must've been exposed to a war-zone at... mid-teens at the latest, if the time-line matched up properly. Which was very curious because they were generally assumed to be samurai who'd eloped at a young age.
If they'd been exposed to an actual battlefield though-... well, that might mean that their first daughter – and the ridiculously young age they must've been at the time – maybe wasn't actually the reason that they were clan-less.
Hayate made a mental note to drop off that theory at the Hokage's office, just to make sure that it was added to the pile of potential things to keep an eye on. Regardless of harmlessness, more information was always better.
Black eyes glanced out through the window, passing over his genjutsu-hidden form, and Hayate suddenly had to suppress a shudder. There was something... eerily deliberate about how those eyes had not lingered on his hiding-place.
Oh sure, Sakura's father was likely a trained samurai, but samurai couldn't see through genjutsu. At least not ones that were as good as his. He'd damn well made sure of that over the course of his career. But even so-... Hayate got the distinct feeling that he was being deliberately ignored for some reason.
Shaking his head, Hayate glanced back at the gathered family and the two boys who'd been so readily welcomed into their home, and decided that perhaps he should just go and report this to the Hokage and then go home for a nap.
He knew where they were now, and had some idea of their interaction. And honestly, he wasn't paid enough to justify standing around outside staring through a window.
Much better to turn in a report to the Hokage, and then get back to his apartment and see if Yugao had decided to commandeer his bed again.
Sakura woke up half-collapsed across something warm. A weight was pinning her hips sideways, she was stretched out across something that was breathing slowly, and a blanket had been draped awkwardly over her.
Blearily opening her eyes, Sakura realized that she was on their couch, and that her uncomfortable position was due to her teammates sharing the couch with her. It wasn't really designed for one person to sleep comfortably in, let along three.
Still, from the way the blanket had been twisted around, Sakura was willing to bet that they'd all fallen asleep sitting up, and then kind of fallen into a heap at some later point. Probably because Naruto – the one she was currently on top of – had leaned outwards instead of inwards, which had caused Sasuke and herself to follow after him.
Considering that the edge of Sakura's hip was digging into Sasuke's ribs, and that Naruto's arm had kind of turned pale from lack of blood-flow at some point during the night, everyone were going to be pretty miserable waking up.
Making a mental note to never fall asleep together on the couch with the boys ever again, Sakura wondered how she was supposed to untangle herself from the blanket and the way Sasuke's weight was pinning her down.
Blinking stupidly for a long moment, a small part of Sakura's brain suddenly registered the technicality of how jealous Ino would've been if she could've seen them right now. But that was mostly dismissed, because she wasn't going to be dealing with this shit until she'd at least had breakfast.
It was nice to see that her parents hadn't been hostile towards either of her teammates, though from some of their reactions Sakura was guessing that they either reminded them of someone or something in their past, or that dad had taken another dip into psychology-books recently. The Wave-mission had hung like a weight over the conversation, true, but it'd been fairly easy to ignore it for some reason.
Maybe it'd been the rarely shared stories from before her parents arrived in Konoha, or the way mom had kept stuffing Naruto with food until he looked like he was about to burst, or how her dad looked genuinely interested in what a medic-nin could expect to study.
Somehow, as she lay there, staring up at the ceiling and pinned awkwardly to their already lumpy couch, for the first time since Kakashi-sensei's death, Sakura got the feeling that things were going to be alright.
There were generally two ways for a team to work together. Trust, or reliance.
The Ino-Shika-Chou trio was a 'reliance'-oriented team, whilst the Legendary Sannin was a 'trust'-oriented one. Which, when compared with those examples, made it seem like one was better than the other, which was wrong.
Reliance-teams worked with techniques that relied on the presence of other techniques to be effective. Combination-jutsu, usually being the center-piece. It was a synergy-effect, where the pieces became stronger when they made a whole. And most teams were combined so that at least some type of reliance-orientation was possible within the team.
There was a reason that the Ino-Shika-Chou trio had been immediately recreated in the next generation.
Trust-teams were usually what happened later on in a shinobi's career. A group of individually skilled ninja, being placed on a team to carry out a specific mission, and then trusting each other to actually be capable of watching each other's backs. There wasn't really much of a synergy-effect on these teams, but it usually lent itself towards some very powerful individuals.
In truth however, most reoccurring teams were a mixture of both.
The Sannin had focused on different specialties, and it had let them rely on the others for backup in situations where one skill was better than another. And the members of Ino-Shika-Chou were powerful shinobi in their own right, even if they were stronger together.
Team 7 was very much a 'trust'-oriented team.
Hayate wasn't entirely sure what to think of Uchiha Sasuke declaring that he wanted to become a medic-nin, but considering that the kid had watched his last teacher die in front of him whilst he was helpless-... Well, Hayate certainly wasn't going to say that his new ambition was a bad one. The world could always use more healers.
Uzumaki Naruto wanting to get better at distance-fighting was a bit less of a surprise, but it wasn't as if Hayate could really help him on that front. He was specialized towards kenjutsu and stealth, not long-distance support. Still, he'd heard some rumors about Gai and his students, and Gai was very much a close-distance fighter, so it probably wasn't impossible – though considering how it was Gai that was probably a bit too generous – to teach something outside of his own specialty.
In contrast, Haruno Sakura was very much within his own specialty, but her kenjutsu-style was different. More reliant on thrusts and quick deflects, than his own samurai-inspired style that emphasized slicing and dodging. But she had her parents to turn to for training in that, and Hayate could definitely teach her a few genjutsu to make her life easier.
First things first though, Hayate gave Sasuke a quick explanation of where to go and who to talk to at the hospital, because whilst Hayate didn't know anything beyond basic first aid, his chronic cough meant that he had become enough of a regular to have a few contacts. It always paid to have a few favors to call in – or a bit of harmless blackmail material to dangle over someone's head.
Interestingly enough, the Uchiha didn't immediately wander off in that direction, but instead stayed behind to try and explain how to pull off some of the more advanced shuriken-techniques to Naruto. Who in turn listened to him attentively, and didn't seem nearly as prone to zoning out as his academic records would've had him believe.
Whilst they worked on that, Hayate turned to Sakura, and quickly discovered why the girl hadn't become a prodigy at genjutsu despite her smarts and her remarkable chakra-control.
She thought in numbers.
Oh, there wasn't anything wrong with that. But when it came to genjutsu, it'd always been more of an art than a science. And even if Sakura spent the rest of her life dedicating herself to mastering genjutsu, she'd never become a genjutsu-mistress. She might be able to become decent at it, but the big stuff would be out of her reach.
Still, some ability was better than none, and it would give the girl an option to scare her enemies away so that she didn't have to kill them all the way down to the last man.
Hayate had read the mission-report, and he wasn't sure if he was worried or relieved by how at ease the two who'd actually killed people were. A seasoned jounin wouldn't blink at what they'd done, but they were genin who'd experienced their first kill in the middle of what might as well have been a war-zone. A bit of distress would've been expected, even if they must've had time to acclimatize to it all before returning home, and it hadn't really been there.
So, giving the genin who might be on the verge of a future breakdown a chance to solve conflict non-violently by intimidation-tactics-... There were certainly worse ways to spend his afternoon.
Hayate-sensei seemed nice enough. Kind of like looked he'd been coughing too hard to sleep for the last few years, but nice.
He was better than Sakura was with genjutsu, and probably always would be, because it turned out that – despite her impressive chakra-control – Sakura was ridiculously unsuited for it. But Sasuke was better at throwing weapons than their new teacher, so he'd been temporarily saddled with teaching Naruto to actually hit what he was aiming at.
All in all, it could easily have been worse.
Kakashi's funeral came and went, a quiet ceremony in front of the Memorial Stone, and the world continued onwards.
Ino had made a brief appearance, apparently having heard of Kakashi dying and wanting to check up on Sakura, but it wasn't really like they had a lot to talk about anymore. The rivalry for Sasuke's affection, that Sakura had once broken her friendship with Ino over, now seemed so distant to her mind.
Most of Team 8 also made a brief appearance, though despite being the loudest one among them, Kiba had definitely not been the instigator of the visit. Sakura made a mental note to tease Naruto horribly over Hinata's crush, but decided to let it slide until sometime down the road. No need to taint something like that with the memory of a dead teacher still clinging to the back of their minds.
Team 7 remained trapped on D-rank missions under Hayate-sensei, Naruto improved by leaps and bounds because apparently he'd been too easily distracted to learn anything at all in a classroom environment, Sakura's mom slowly started to look more proud than embarrassed when she taught her kenjutsu, and Sasuke got used to having his superiors yelling at him for having the worst bedside-manners this side of Kiri.
Despite his determination to heal people, Sasuke most definitely wasn't a people-person. And he didn't mind if the entire world knew about it.
It was kind of amazing watching him, in a morbid kind of way. He'd thankfully been permanently banned from interacting with children after that one time he'd tried to knock one of them unconscious because they were scared of the big needle. But his ninja-interaction was still going strong, and more than a few of his coworkers had begun deliberately releasing him on especially annoying patients.
Something about him having enough political clout that nobody would ever be willing to press charges as long as he didn't leave permanent marks.
Sakura shook her head, amused despite herself.
Konoha's hospitals were scary places.
Kabuto was a little bit frustrated.
On the one hand, with Uchiha Sasuke aiming to become a medic-nin, Kabuto had good reason to strike up conversation. Countless opportunities to endear himself to the Sharingan-bearer for the sake of then using those 'bonds' to lure him away from Konoha and into Orochimaru's arms.
However, that was only true on paper. In reality, trying to strike up conversation with Sasuke was a bit like trying to strike up conversation with a seagull defending its nest. It was far more likely to go for your eyes and then pretend as if nothing had happened once the danger of conversation was past, than it was to actually respond in an even remotely useful manner.
Which was frustrating. Opportunity upon opportunity, slipping through his fingers every day, because to actually act on them would be to have his fingers bitten off by the violent little bastard.
Orochimaru had expected for Sasuke to be easily lured from his course by the promise of power, tainted though it might be. But despite his atrocious bedside-manners and blatant hatred for humanity as a whole, Uchiha Sasuke was set on his course and far too stubborn to waver from it.
Sasuke had decided to dedicate his life to helping people. To healing people, rather than to protect them. He had no more desire for power than any medic grasping at straws to keep their patients alive, probably even less so actually, considering his general level of casual hostility.
There wasn't much Kabuto could do about that, really. He could try to sabotage the boy's education or testing until he grew frustrated with Konoha's inability to recognize his ability, and then try and coax him away. But that was very high-risk and would likely fall apart the moment Sasuke put any actual thought into the later offer of leaving Konoha.
So, in the end, he sent off a message to his master that the boy's personality had become unsuitable for plans relying on voluntary defection, and had offered a few non-voluntary alternatives to acquiring the aspiring medic-nin.
But of course, Orochimaru had an invasion to plan, a Kazekage to impersonate, paperwork to be done, and experiments to deal with. Acquiring Uchiha Sasuke would certainly be a boon, but it wasn't of immediate necessity.
Still, the boy's attitude and proximity grated on Kabuto's nerves.
A/n: This fic was expanded from "A Ninja's Parents" from ABoaU on behalf of two things. 1- Someone mentioned how swords were perfectly normal for ninja (and I wanted to rant about my thoughts on it), and 2- I'd just read "Firestorm" by PureWaterLily and been really annoyed by how it handled a lot of its plot-twists.
It kind of escalated from there, even if there'll only be one more chapter (the next chapter will also include the epilogue).