"Mom," Tobi started, "I did a thing."
I didn't even turn away from the TV. It was one of those shameless dating shows where one dumb bro gets to pick from twenty-five dumb bitches to marry. It was a bunch of fake drama, and the relationships never worked, but it was entertaining. "Oh no," I said. "Not a thing."
"Soooo," said Tobi, sitting down on the couch. Chisana, who had been sitting on my lap, perked up her ears and looked over at him questioningly. It was very rare that Tobi would sit in the living room with me, especially when I was watching my reality shows.
"What happened?" I asked. Then I gasped. "Is this about a girl?"
"No," said Tobi. "I wish it was about a girl. It's about...this is hard to explain. There's this card game all the kids Boruto's age are playing. It's like Ultimate Shinobi Deathmatch but with cards. I don't think it's anything special, but they're all collecting them and stuff."
"Oh, I've heard of this," I said. "Your dad has a card."
"Dad has a card? Really?" Tobi asked. "Huh. Well, Boruto and Metal started this whole campaign to put people on cards. I don't even know who. I don't care. Tenzi and I were just passing through to Ichiraku when they were making a big stink about it, and we decided to mess with them."
"Oh no," I said.
"We found some cardboard and some markers, and Tenzi goes, who's the worst person you can think of? And of course I said Danzo Shimura," said Tobi.
"Naturally," I said, swelling with pride that my teachings were still fresh in his mind. Then I began to connect the dots. "Oh no, you guys aren't rallying to add a Danzo card, are you?"
"No!" Tobi said, defensively. "We-"
The doorbell rang. I was expecting some packages, so I excused Tobi for a moment to answer it. Instead of a delivery person, I was greeted by three teenage girls with Uchiha crests painted on their cheeks. One had blonde hair, light skin, and flowers. One had auburn hair, tan skin, and a plate of cookies. The third had dark hair, dark skin, and was carrying an armful of lawn signs. They squealed when they saw me.
"O.M.G., Mrs. Uchiha!" the girl with flowers squeaked. And I'm not just abbreviating. She literally said "O.M.G." She threw her arms around me. "These flowers are for you!"
"Oh, okay," I said, taking the flowers awkwardly. "I'm not really-"
The other two girls pushed their way in. "Tobi!" they squealed. They plopped down on either side of him on the couch, and Tobi's face displayed a mixture of horror and pleasure.
"Mrs. Uchiha," said Flower Girl.
"That's not my name," I corrected. "It's Mrs. Inuzuka."
"Oh," said Flower Girl. "Well, I just wanted to say we are here to support you and Tobi."
"Oh?" I said.
"Yeah," said Sign Girl. "I made a bunch of lawn signs to support the cause."
"The cause, huh?" I asked. "Do tell me more about this cause."
"Why, the Remove the Danzo Shimura Card cause, of course!" said Cookie Girl.
"But that's just the beginning," said Flower Girl. "We want reparations for all of the years of Uchiha repression."
"Yeah," said Sign Girl.
I had to scurry into the kitchen so that the girls didn't hear me laugh. I tried to find a vase for the random flowers. Meanwhile, the girls doted on Tobi. Well, the boy certainly had done a thing. I wasn't sure if it was flattering or insulting. They were certainly over the top, but they were giving Tobi a lot of attention.
"So, Tobi, what do you think of the signs?" Sign Girl asked.
"Uh, yeah," said Tobi. "Great. Wow."
"Try a cookie, Tobi," said Cookie Girl. "I worked really hard on them."
"Wow, thanks," said Tobi. "You didn't have to."
"But you're so brave, Tobi," said Flower Girl. I was super tempted to see where Flower Girl had sat down. I hoped it was in my chair and not on his lap. Or did I hope it was on his lap? I placed the flowers, which I still wasn't quite sure why I had, in a vase, took a deep breath, and carried them back out into the living room. She wasn't on his lap. She leaning against the back of the couch rubbing his shoulders. Well played, Flower Girl. "Oh, Mrs. Uchiha!" she squeaked, taking her hands off my son's shoulders, but letting her fingers rest against his hair.
"Inuzuka," I corrected again.
"But you are an Uchiha," said Sign Girl.
"You're my hero," said Cookie Girl.
I wasn't sure how much Tobi had told them about me, but I got the impression that it wasn't much, if anything. "Okay," I said. I put the flowers on the dining room table and started down the hallway.
"Uhhh...Mom?" Tobi asked.
I locked eyes with him. He wanted help. He wanted me to get him out of this situation. I smiled. "Have fun! Keep fighting the good fight!" I told the kids, and I went to wait it out in my bedroom.
He had gotten himself into this situation. He could get himself out.
Tobi and the girls left the house, and I called Sakura.
"What's up, Saki?" Sakura asked.
"You'll never believe what Tobi did," I said.
"Oh my gosh, the campaign!" Sakura exclaimed.
"Yes! What, did you get visited too?" I asked.
"Yeah," said Sakura. "Someone wanted to give Sarada money."
"What?! That's crazy!"
"I know!" Sakura exclaimed. "At first, I thought it was cool what Tobi was doing, but it's getting out of control fast. Like...we're fine."
"Okay, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks this is crazy pants," I said.
"I had no idea Tobi was so passionate about this sort of thing," said Sakura.
I laughed. "He's not," I said. "He doesn't care about any of it. I don't even think he cares about the card. It was all a big joke with him and Tenzi."
"Okay, that makes more sense," said Sakura.
"I mean," I said. "They probably should get rid of the card. That's not someone we want to glorify. But...these three girls came over, and they were all over Tobi."
"Oh gosh," said Sakura. "How'd you handle that?"
"It's Tobi's problem," I said. "I'll let him figure it out."
"I mean," said Sakura. "Aren't you worried he might...take advantage of that attention?"
"So what if he does?" I said. "They're throwing themselves at him. He could stand a little practice."
"I don't think I'm in any position to tell my kid not to explore his sexuality," I said with a laugh.
"You're his mother."
"I did plenty of exploring at his age. He knows the jutsu." I sighed. "If he gets a little confidence out of this, I'm cool with that. I could do without their patronizing. One of those girls gave me flowers."
"Are they from Tobi's class or something?" Sakura asked.
"I don't know!" I said. "But in all honesty, I think they're nonchaks. They were a little too out of touch to be from ninja families."
"True," said Sakura. "You know, maybe it is kind of strange that ninja families barely bat an eye when an entire clan disappears."
"I mean, we were so young when that happened," I said. "Honestly, I don't remember my parents doing anything."
"Mine neither," said Sakura. "There was really nothing to do. Usually when there's a tragedy, you reach out to the survivors, but...well..."
"There was one survivor, and let's be real, that wasn't handled well," I said.
"You're right," said Sakura. "Wow, that is crazy to think about. It makes me think back to what Kakashi said on Parent Child Day. Was that generation really so numb?"
"I think so, Sakura," I said.
We hung on the phone for a while after that, and then I got a text from Tobi telling me he'd be spending the night with Tenzi. I wasn't sure what to make of it. Either he was staying away because he was embarrassed, staying away to launch a phase two of their epic trolling of all of Konoha, or staying away to lay one of his groupies. Was Sakura right? Was I supposed to try to stop him from having sex? My parents certainly didn't keep tight tabs on me, but we were nontraditional even by nonchak standards. Tobi had a loaded name: Obito Uchiha-Inuzuka. Maybe the Kureji-Wu parenting model wasn't the way to go here. I started to call Tenzi's mom, but then I canceled the call after one ring. I told myself it was because I trusted my son. But if I was being honest, I just didn't want to know.
Kiba was out on a tracking mission, so I didn't get his two cents on the matter. The next morning, there was a knock on the door. Tobi wouldn't knock, so I braced myself for more weird encounters of the nonchak kind. I was greeted by Boruto and a tall, businessy looking man. "Hi, Aunt Saki," said Boruto. "This is Mr. Kaminarimon. Can we come in and talk?"
"Um, sure," I said. Boruto showed Mr. Kaminarimon in, and they sat on the couch together. I sat in my chair with Chisana. "Can I get you guys anything? Tea? Coffee?"
"No, I'm fine, thank you, Mrs. Uchiha," said Mr. Kaminarimon.
"Do you have cookies?" Boruto asked shamelessly.
"Of course," I said. I set Chisana down and went to the cookie jar. "You know, Mr. Kaminarimon, I really go by Mrs. Inuzuka. My full name is Uchiha-Inuzuka, but I'm no Mrs. Uchiha. I didn't marry Sasuke."
"Oh, right, sorry," said the awkward man. I brought a plate of honey almond cookies back into the room. "So," I said. "To what do I owe this visit?"
"It's about the Danzo card," said Boruto.
"Oh, that," I said. "It's fine, really. I appreciate the concern, but honestly, it doesn't concern me much. And honestly, it doesn't concern my son either. This was all a joke that went horribly sideways."
"I KNEW IT!" Boruto blurted. "Tobi doesn't care about things!"
"I mean, I wouldn't say that, but," I started.
"Aunt Saki," Boruto said. "When Tobi and Tenzi brought this up yesterday, I was really upset about it."
"Okay," I said.
"I went to Mr. Kaminarimon immediately," he said, "because if we got rid of the Danzo card, then we could have both the Shino and the Rock Lee card."
"Right," I said. "Makes sense. I'm sorry, why is Mr. Kaminarimon here? No offense, Mr. Kaminarimon."
"You don't know who Mr. Kaminarimon is?!" Boruto cried.
I laughed. "Sorry, Boruto. Contrary to popular belief, I do not know everyone in the village," I said.
"Mr Kaminarimon makes the X Cards!" Boruto said.
"X CARDS! Extreme Shinobi Picture Scrolls!"
"Are these the cards with the Danzo card?"
"YES AUNT SAKI! Well..okay...about that..." Boruto came down from his frustration and collected his thoughts.
"Look, Mr. Kaminarimon, I've thought about it, and I'm really not angry about the card. If you had to strike everyone from history who did anything bad, you wouldn't have any cards," I said. "But you know, that's just me speaking. I'm not like the mouthpiece for the Uchiha clan or anything. Not that there are many of us left...because of Danzo...erm..."
"Mrs. Inuzuka," said Mr. Kaminarimon, "there is no Danzo card."
"Okay," I said with a shrug. "It's totally up to you."
"No, I mean, ever," said Mr. Kaminarimon. "There has never been a Danzo Shimura card."
And then the meaning of those words sunk in, and I busted up laughing. Of course there wasn't one. Tobi and Tenzi didn't play this game. They wouldn't even know. And all of the nonchaks flipping shit didn't know.
"Mrs. Inuzuka," said Mr. Kaminarimon, "I'm terribly sorry for the confusion and pain this must have caused."
"Stop," I said, wiping away laughter tears. "Are you really apologizing for something that doesn't exist?"
"Well, I'm not sure where your son got the mistaken impression that this card existed, but now there are signs and petitions everywhere, and...and I'm not blaming you, but it is kind of problematic for us. So I was hoping we could work something out together to try to fix this situation," said Mr. Kaminarimon.
"Oh," I said. "Right. Well, why don't I get my son and his little friend in here so they can talk to you about what they've done? Also, there are some nonchak girls who should probably meet you too." I opened the front door. "Boruto, you can whoosh, right?"
"I can what?"
"What am I saying? Of course you can," I said. I weaved the signs for the Smoke Sentinel jutsu, and my smokey Obito-shaped slave appeared to do my bidding. Through Smokito's eyes, I located Tobi, Tenzi, and the girls in the Hyuuga district. Perfect. "Boruto, go grab Tobi, Tenzi, and three dumb nonchak girls from the Hyuuga distict."
"What just happened?" Boruto asked.
"I'm giving you a mission," I said. "Now, whoosh!"
"WHAT IS WHOOSH?!"
"Dammit, your dad always knew what whoosh meant without me having to explain. Just go fetch, alright, boy?"
Boruto pushed himself off the couch in the most un-whooshy manner possible. "I'm not your dog," he grumbled as he whooshed out the door.
"Ohhh wow, Mrs. Uchiha! You actually got the president of the Kaminarimon company? You are amazing!"
"Sit," I growled at the girls. "And it's Mrs. Inuzuka. I didn't marry Sasuke."
And that was officially the last straw. For Tobi.
"Who's Sasuke?! Are you for real?! You're trying to champion the Uchiha cause, and you don't even know about Sasuke Uchiha, the head of the Uchiha clan, the lone survivor of the Uchiha massacre that you claim to be so upset about?! What is wrong with you?! Hell, I can't. I can't do this anymore. Guys, it was a joke. It was all a big dumb fucking joke that you dummies ran with for Sage knows fucking why!"
I squealed in pride. The girls cried. It was at this point that I realized that the blonde girl Boruto had fetched was different from yesterday's blonde girl. Tenzi stared at Tobi in disbelief. "Dude..."
"Sage, I'm sorry," said Tobi. "That was harsh. But really though. Tenzi, this was your dumb idea, and I just went along with it."
"Dude, I didn't know it would take off any more than you did! I just wanted to mess with Squirt!" Tenzi pointed at Boruto, who scowled. "I didn't know hot girls would get involved!"
"Don't call me Squirt!" Boruto exclaimed.
"You think we're hot?" the dark-skinned girl asked.
"What's going on?" said the new girl.
"Were you here yesterday?" I asked.
"No," she said. "I was delivering packages in the Hyuuga district, and that kid just grabbed me said I needed to follow." She pointed to Boruto. "I have no idea what any of you are talking about."
I looked at Boruto, who shrugged. "Boruto, you had one job," I said.
"You just said...actually, I can't repeat what you said," Boruto said nervously.
"Woooow," I said. "We just all look the same to you ninjas, don't we? I'm sorry, sweetie. You can leave."
"Thank you?" the blonde girl said. She walked out the door in a daze.
"Ohhhhkay," I said. "Let's all sit down and calm down. And you!" I looked at the girl who had just asked the offending "hot" question. "Grow a brain, or you'll never snag a guy as good as my son, alright? Tenzi might still be within reach."
"DAMN MRS. INUZUKA! I'M RIGHT HERE!"
"And we wouldn't all be right here if you weren't a bit of a jerk sometimes. There, I said it," I said.
"Perhaps I should just go," said Mr. Kaminarimon.
"No, sorry, Mr. Kaminarimon," I said. "Welcome to crazy town, population me and everything I touch. Okay. You had something you wanted to tell the kids about their prank."
"Hello," said Mr. Kaminarimon very uncomfortably. "I am the president of the Kaminarimon company that makes the X Cards. I made the X Cards because I respect shinobi and wanted to share my respect with everyone and bring you joy. So of course I was very upset when I heard that one of my cards was causing problems for you. I have been doing nothing but respond to emails telling people that this is a misunderstanding and a mistake. Running a company is very stressful on a normal day, and this was the worst."
"We're sorry," said Tobi. "It was a stupid joke that got blown out of proportion. I should have said something immediately. But...you know...there were hot girls." He blushed and put his head down.
Mr. Kaminarimon looked blankly at Tobi and Tenzi. "Well," he said. And then he grinned. "This I understand."
"So are we cool?" Tenzi asked.
"We are cool," said Mr. Kaminarimon. "Just please take the signs down and tell everyone to leave me alone."
"We can do that," agreed the auburn-haired girl. Then she looked at Tobi. "You really think we're hot?"
"OUT!" I cried. "Goodbye, girls!"
"Yeah, get out!" Boruto agreed.
Mr. Kaminarimon stayed for dinner, along with Tenzi and Boruto. Kiba came home just as we were wrapping up. He looked at the strange group assembled in the dining room, shrugged, and went to our room to change. We told Kiba the whole story after Mr. Kaminarimon left. He threw his head back and laughed.
"That's pretty epic," he said.
"It was actually pretty awful, Dad," said Tobi. "Like, those girls were sooooo annoying."
"Why didn't you just tell them you didn't like them?" Boruto asked.
"It's complicated, Squirt," said Tenzi. "You'll understand one day."
Kiba snickered. "You know, all three of you boys, you're going to have to deal with a lot of girls who are only interested in acquiring your last name. In the academy, Sasuke was the hot commodity because he was the last Uchiha."
"Did you get a lot of girls, Dad?" Tobi asked.
I snorted. "Akamaru got more action than your dad," I said, flipping through a pack of X Cards that Mr. Kaminarimon had left.
"Hey, there were other girls before I met you," said Kiba.
"Ohhh hell no!" I cried, holding up a card in disbelief.
"Calm down, Mom. He married you," said Tobi.
"No, look," I said, throwing down the card. "There's an Orochimaru card!"
"Really?" Kiba asked. "That's kind of weird."
"Mitsuki's dad? He was kind of creepy," said Boruto.
"Kind of creepy? He killed the Third Hokage!" I exclaimed.
"Wait, what?" asked Boruto.
"HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT?!" I cried.
"Let's call those girls back and start making signs!" Tenzi said, and Tobi slapped him on the back of the head.
"No, man," said Tobi. "Mr. Kaminarimon has been through enough."
I sighed. "You're probably right, Tobs." I put the card back in the pack. "It's just funny to me how much you kids don't understand about what happened before you were born."
"Hell, people who lived through it didn't understand it," said Kiba.
"You're right. I had to draw a huge diagram to explain it all to my family," I said. "Literally all they understood was that ninjas were fighting and they had to leave."
"Do you think anything like that will ever happen again, Aunt Saki?" Boruto asked.
"I hope not," I said. "But if I know anything about people...you kids need to be prepared for anything. But until then." I threw the pack of cards at Boruto. "Go have fun."
After Boruto and Tenzi left, my curiosity got the better of me. I had to go dig for information. Tobi was in his room texting someone. Indra was a giant mound of black fur next to him, taking up half of the bed.
"Hey, Tobs?" I asked.
"Yeah?" he said.
"It's okay if you don't want to tell me," I said. "But those girls."
"Okay, okay, fine," I said. "Were you respectful? Were you safe?"
"I didn't," he started. He blushed. Something happened. Of course it did. "It's confusing. I didn't like them, really, but I liked the attention. Anyways, I just apologized again to the girl I yelled at earlier."
My heart swelled with pride. "That's very mature of you, Tobi. I won't pry any more. But you know you can do better."
"I know, Mom," said Tobi. "I'll be more careful. You were right about something else, too. Tenzi can be a bit of a dick sometimes."
I laughed. "You'll just have to keep him in line, then," I said.
"Will do!" He grinned and put down his phone. "Goodnight, Mom."