AN: The following chapter contains mentions of suicide and death. Continue with caution if you are sensitive to those topics. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or an equivalent number and seek help. Don't be afraid to reach out.
Mita Takumi had always been agreeable.
Once, he'd had a friend—
(No, that was too far back.)
Takumi had never liked conflict. In some ways, that made him a great merchant. He knew how to please people, and naturally, others reciprocated. It was even how he'd wooed his darling wife Emiko. After flowers and dinner and careful listening, she'd fallen in love. They'd married quickly, spurred by raging Second Shinobi War. Even civilians couldn't be sure of survival during those times.
Perhaps they had married too quickly. They'd been very different people—Takumi with his quiet realism and Emiko with her naive optimism. Both had been determined to make it work, so they struggled and argued and talked and loved. It was difficult, but they'd learned to understand each other, not just listen. Their marriage, first based on sparks and infatuation, slowly grew a foundation of love and respect. (Quietly, Takumi admitted that being agreeable helped. Emiko had a spine, and it was often Takumi who gave way.)
In the lull between the wars, they'd had a kid. Emiko and Takumi had long wanted one, so it'd been both a surprise and a joy. After an easy pregnancy, Kimiko was born. Kimiko, with Emi's brown hair and his brown eyes and a soft smile that was entirely her own. He'd known she was different. He wasn't Emiko, who only saw what she wanted to. Kimiko was considerate and careful and intelligent in ways that weren't entirely normal, but that made no difference to him. Takumi had watched her grow, and he'd never known it was possible to love someone so much.
Takumi had grown overconfident, then. He'd ignored the whispers that the "end" was more of a stalemate, and he'd begun branching into luxury goods. It was a gamble, and one that had certainly failed. A few weeks after his daughter's second birthday, the Third Shinobi War began.
It hit his business hard, and it was only their careful savings that kept them from being bankrupt. Still, with his daughter's school fees, the expenses of running a business, rent, and all the other costs, they found their nest egg to be quickly dwindling. Emiko had retreated into stubborn optimism, and Takumi found his patience to be disappearing as fast as their money. They did their best to keep their troubles away from Kimi, but they weren't good enough.
When his daughter announced her desire—her decision—to become a ninja, Takumi's world stopped, and he felt as if he was a child again.
He'd had many friends when he was young, but his closest friend had been a brilliant boy by the name of Shuji. They'd grown up together, two thoughtful souls, and they'd spent many evenings climbing an oak tree while Shuji explained his newest idea of the day. He'd understood concepts and patterns with a glance, soaking up everything and anything. Takumi wasn't as bright as his friend. Instead, he had loved to sit and listen, though he sometimes didn't comprehend; Takumi had always been the best audience.
Even then, ninja were always searching for bright children. Shuji was just the kind they liked. He joined the Academy when he turned seven, which was a little later than the rest, but he still excelled. Shuji always excelled. On the other hand, Takumi studied in civilian school. He'd never go to the universities in the capital, but his parents insisted on him having an education before he joined trade as a merchant. Despite their diverging lives, Takumi and Shuji still met by the oak tree. Why wouldn't they? They were friends.
As the years dragged on, Takumi took over his family's business, and Shuji continued in his career as a ninja. Though he never divulged specific details, Shuji mainly worked with cryptography. It was work that kept his whirling mind occupied, that kept up the constant spark he'd always had when working on a difficult problem. For a time, both were happy. Shuji would have never been content being a craftsman or merchant. For a time, Takumi believed that being a ninja suited his friend.
Then the Second War broke out.
Shuji's eyes grew dark and haggard as the war dragged on. He no longer had the luxury of staying in Konoha, working with piles of obscure scrolls. Every ninja was needed on the front lines. Sure, he never was sent into the high conflict areas, but each time he returned from his excursions, Shuji became dimmer and dimmer.
Reminiscence had taken the place of hypotheticals, and they shared the occasional bottle instead of making paper airplanes. Takumi suspected that his friend had been drowning his sorrows in more alcohol than was healthy, but he kept silent. Shuji's wry smile hinted that he knew where Takumi's thoughts had gone. One bottle became two, then three, but what could Takumi do? He kept silent and dragged his friend home after a drunken escapade when he could.
Then, Shuji met Kenta and left it all behind. Takumi was not surprised. He had long guessed what Shuji's inclinations were. Konoha turned a blind eye to those who preferred the company of their own sex; the life of a ninja was short, and everyone took happiness when they could. Those men or women were still expected to have children, of course, but whose company they spent time in was their own business. Takumi was a civilian, and while his circles tended to be more conservative about related issues, Takumi didn't give a damn. All he hoped was for life to improve for his friend. And in some ways, it did. Shuji's eyes resembled those of their childhood again, eager and animated. For the first time in years, his friend began to think of the future.
They were by the oak tree again when a hawk delivered a black scroll. Takumi had never seen someone break before. The look in Shuji's eyes would haunt him for years. (Takumi would see the same look in his own after learning of his wife's death.)
Takumi met Emiko a few months after and fell in love. Shuji drifted away, unable to bear the happiness of his friend but unwilling to ruin it. After proposing to Emiko, Takumi begged Shuji to stand in for his family, to say the prayers by his side. Takumi's parents had died years ago, and Shuji was the closest he had to a brother. Shuji refused with a sad smile.
Two weeks later after his wedding, saw a messenger hawk by his windowsill, and Takumi received a black scroll. He was Shuji's only contact, listed as his next of kin. Shuji had committed suicide. He was a casualty of war that would not have his name written on the Memorial Stone. Shuji's only apology note was his will. Apart from a hastily scribbled "I'm sorry," it said to give what little he had to Takumi.
It took years for Takumi to recover, years for him to be able to think of Shuji with forgiveness and understanding instead of grief and irrational anger, years for him to walk by that damn oak tree without wanting to cry and scream and he just wants his friend back, please—and everything just rushed back the moment his daughter looked at him and said, "I will be attending the Academy."
He couldn't do it again. Takumi didn't want to come home to the broken eyes of his too-intelligent daughter, to false smiles and shaking hands, to a black scroll… he doesn't want to see that happen. He wouldn't. So Takumi closed his eyes and pretended that his little Kimiko wasn't becoming a stranger with every passing year. When they learned that Emiko was expecting, Takumi had naively hoped that everything would be better. (Hadn't he learned his lesson?) He would name his son Shutaro in honor of his friend, and Kimi would spend more time at home with her little brother, and his business would boom in peacetime.
Then the Nine Tails attacked, and his crumbling world shattered. Instead of picking up the pieces and trying to rebuild, he ran away.
God forgive him. Takumi had left his daughter in the hands of thieves and killers. There was nothing he could do, not without power or wealth or influence… not if Konoha wanted her. Konoha always got what it wanted. It was the price of living in the village, and Takumi had paid the price again and again. It had taken his dearest friend, his wife, and it would take his daughter. There was nothing he could do but nod his head and smile.
Mita Takumi had always been agreeable.
AN: Kimi's father hasn't gotten much metaphorical screen time, but I hope this snippet gives a glimpse into his character. It ended up being a little longer than expected, but that's how things usually go for me. There was also supposed to be several scenes from Inoichi's POV, but they neither made it into the side stories nor the uploaded chapter. Oh well. I suppose that I'll post them alongside chapter 11 of Mind the Gap.
As you may have guessed, I've always intended for Between the Spaces to be more informal, a place where I can point out logical reasons for certain decisions, potential AUs, Easter eggs, and so on. On that note, chapter 10 of MtG (not the card game) included more poetry from Itachi. Be not Defeated by the Rain (Ame ni mo Makezu) is another incredibly famous Japanese poem. It describes the ideal behavior of a truly great person according to Buddhist philosophy. Well, it's a little more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it.
So, I got to thinking what would've happened had Kimi been reincarnated in the Warring Clan era. It was supposed to be a small aside, but it really got me thinking. She'd be born in a poor village and be able to put her medicine skills to use, and... hey, that'd be an interesting story, huh? So I began to write, and rewrite, and plot, and I basically ended up with a whole another story with different characters. In other words, Sanitize, which I posted a few weeks ago. Yeah, that was to blame for the delay in the newer chapter and the lack of an AU snippet. Though that story was inspired by Kimiko, the OC Yui is entirely her own character. There's basically no connection besides the initial thought.
Thanks for reading.