Fun Fact: I posted Sarutobi Yosu's character profile! You can find it by going to my Tumblr and searching for the tag "Samsaric Character Profiles" or "Sarutobi Yosu."

Chapter Forty - Didactic

[didactic—adjective 1: intended for instruction, instructive 2: inclined to teach or lecture others too much 3: teaching or intending to teach a moral lesson]

"You'll need to stand here," Raidou said, pointing to the empty spot in the middle of the ring the three of them made. "We'll do the jutsu a few times so you can focus on what each of us is doing. I'm responsible for the space-bending component, which means it's my job to make sure we actually get from here," —he tapped his foot against the ground— "to there." He pointed across the training ground where a hiraishin kunai was sticking up out of the grass.

"You'll probably want to start with me," Iwashi cut in. "I take care of sensing—so we know where to go—and stabilization—so we don't get ourselves or our coils torn apart along the way." He nodded to Genma. "The time component is important for reacting and landing, especially in a fight, but you can technically operate without it if absolutely need be."

"Personally, I think the time stretch within the jutsu is invaluable," Genma cut in, jabbing Iwashi in the ribs with his elbow and a playful grin. "But he's got a point; it's completely useless without the other two parts. Without the space component, you won't make the jump at all. Without the sensing or stabilization, you won't have a target or be able to stay in one piece to get there. Without the time stretch, the worse you'll get it a clumsy landing." He shrugged. "Or a kunai in the ribs because you didn't give yourself the necessary reaction time when landing in a battle."

"Got it." I stepped in the middle of the three of them and adjusted so I was watching Iwashi. "I'm ready."

"Alright." Genma's brow furrowed. "Make sure to tell us if it bothers your hypersensitivity, alright? The chakra layer for the transport might be too much."

"I'll be fine." I focused on Iwashi's chakra as the three of them took each other's hands. "I'm ready," I repeated.


Their chakra started to build, and it was Iwashi's that layered over the four of us. He nodded, and something in his chakra pulled in one direction. Raidou's chakra followed, with Genma's close behind, and the world bent. For just the barest of a second, I felt like I was in two places at once. One foot on one side of the training ground and one foot on the other. That faction of a second stretched into a full second as we found our footing. But even with that, when the shift finished, I found myself stumbling a couple steps.

A hand grabbed my shoulder. "Careful."

I looked up, and Genma snapped his hand back. I glanced around to confirm that, yes, we really had moved. "That was incredible."

Genma grinned. "Your old man's jutsu are all pretty impressive."

I hummed and nodded, swallowing down my protest that hiraishin had been created by Tobirama and not Minato. Instead, I looked to Iwashi. "I can't feel it and you can because it's linked to you, right?"

"Right," he confirmed. "So when you get around to your own seals, we won't be able to use them. Just like how you can't use this." He stooped down and yanked up the kunai. "Ready to go again?" He threw the kunai, and it sunk into a tree across the training ground.

I grinned and turned to face Raidou. "Ready."

"That's a lot of shinobi," Sai said, leaning far over the edge to look at the foreigners entering through the gates.

I propped my elbow up on my knee and dropped my chin into my palm. I listened to the newcomers' chakra. "Some of them aren't even genin," I mused, a bit puzzled.

He glanced at me. "Their jonin sensei, right?"

"Some," I admitted. "But some of them definitely not." I nodded to an older woman, heavily scarred, leaning on a cane, and surrounded by four shinobi—three young and one adult—wearing Taki headbands. "She's got the coils and reserves of a chunin at the least, but it doesn't look like she's been a shinobi for a while. And I don't think those two have ever been shinobi." I pointed at a Suna genin team accompanied by a man without a hitai-ate, carrying a girl Konohamaru's age on his shoulders.

"That's cause they're family, not competitors."

Sai tensed, and I looked over my shoulder. I had felt the wall patrols' chakra when we first arrived and been ignoring them up until now. I grinned. "Kotetsu!" I shifted and turned to see him better. "What do you mean?"

He crouched down. "They're family members attending to support their genin. Need the host Village's approval for that, but Konoha has always been pretty lenient there."

Sai's nose wrinkled as he thought. "So, their . . . parents come to watch?"

Kotetsu shrugged. "Parents, siblings, clan members. The like." He got back to his feet with a groan and stretched until his back popped loudly. "Anyway, I came over to let you know shifts are switching soon, and Tonbo's not as nice about these things as me. He wouldn't like you sitting up here. Probably best to make yourself scarce."

"Ah. Yeah, he's pretty strict with rules." I climbed to my feet and helped Sai up. I didn't release his hand. "Thanks."

The two of us jumped down from the wall, and Sai stayed close enough that his shoulder knocked against mine. "Are you going back to class in the morning?"

"Not just yet. I'll still be training with Yosu's genin until the Exams actually start. Asuma wants them to get all the help they can, especially from someone who knows them better than he does."

"Oh." He frowned. "Does it help?"

"Help what?"

"That he's gone."

I tilted my head to the side and considered the question. "No," I concluded. "It doesn't help. But I want to work with them anyway." I saw him lower his head out of the corner of my eye and looked over. "Why?"

He gave a half-hearted shrug, and his hand tightened around mine. After a little while, he softly said, "I just want to know what might help. 'Cause it still hurts. In here." He brought his free hand up to tap his chest.

I stopped in my tracks and turned to face him. "From what?" I asked. I winced and softened my voice. "From what?" I asked again.

He looked up, but he still wasn't looking at me. "My . . . brother," he said, the word almost sounding like a question. "Shin."

"Shin," I repeated, testing the name. I felt like I should know it, but I just . . . didn't.

"He wasn't actually—" He paused and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. When he started talking again, his words were carefully measured. "Like how Hatake-san is your brother. When Danzo-sama told us— He wanted the strongest out of the two of us. Whichever one won. But I didn't want to hurt him, and he was sick, and . . . he said I didn't have to share how he actually died." He turned his head away and pulled his hand free so he could curl it into the hem of his shirt. "I still miss him."

"It sounds like he cared about you a lot," I said quietly. "It's understandable that you would still miss him. I don't think you ever stop missing people like that. You just . . . find ways to deal with it."

He looked up, finally looking at me again. "Like what? What helps?"

"Doing things that remind you of them," I said immediately. "Spending time with people you still have. Talking about it."

"Oh." And then, "Is that what you do for Shisui-san?"

I froze, and my breath stopped up in my throat. "What?" I rasped.

Sai looked away uncomfortably. "I didn't know him, but Sasuke and Naruto say you miss him a lot."

I forced a breath, but it didn't come easy, scraping and dragging its way up my throat. "Yeah. I do. And it does help."

"Okay. Do you . . . think you would have liked him? Would you have wanted him to be an Uzumaki, too?"

"Shin?" I smiled and offered my hand to him. "Of course I would have. He cared about you, and I care about you. We have a lot in common. Would you have wanted him to be an Uzumaki?"

Sai stared at my hand and then dropped his into it. "Yes. I would have."

Asuma called the fight when I had Zaji pinned with a kunai-tipped chakra chain and he had his tanto pressed under my ribs. "That's plenty," he said, already holding a bottle of water out for the genin. "No need to gut each other."

"It wouldn't've worked," Zaji muttered, clambering to his feet. "I couldn't move my arms anymore."

"You got close, though," I said, rubbing my wrist. "There's no way you're not going to get a promotion. Cheer up a little."

"Yatogo," Asuma said, motioning him forward. "You're up once Zaji's caught his breath."

Yatogo looked up from the book he'd been studying, staring Asuma down for the briefest second. Then he nodded, set the book aside, and moved to take my spot. In turn, I wandered over to where Mozuku was doing stretches and sank into my splits beside him. "How you feeling?"

"Fine." Despite his words, he gave a visible wince as he pulled his knee up to his chest. His face was red, and it was hard to tell how much of that was from the workout, his frustration, or the still irritated burns. "Stop looking at me like that."

I knew better than to ask like what, so instead, I just nodded and glanced towards Yatogo and Zaji's spar. "You three are good. You'll get the promotion."

"They'll get the promotion," he corrected.

I jerked my stare back to him at that. "What do you mean?" I asked sharply.

He shrugged, only to then immediately grimace and pull at the collar of his shirt, lifting it away from the bandages I could see under it. "I'm in no condition to be a chunin right now, but the first two stages of the Exam are team-passes. If I don't pass with them, they don't have a chance. So I just need to make it that far, and then I'm done."

I took a steady breath. "So the third stage?"

"I'll forfeit. I won't participate in that. I can't."

I couldn't help but flick my gaze back towards the spar.

"Mirai," Mozuku said, his voice going quiet. "Don't tell them. Please."

And I really didn't feel like I had a choice in how to answer. I didn't smile, but I did look at him. "I won't."

His shoulders sagged, and he sat down with a heavy sigh. "Thank you."

I bit my lip and leaned towards him. "Do you need anything? Can I help?"

He shook his head. "I just . . . think I wanna be alone."

"I can do that." I got to my feet and, after throwing him one last look, moved to stand by Asuma. "How are they doing?"

"They're both exhausted from their spars with you but holding pretty well." He glanced at me. "Taking a break?"

"If you're keeping them busy for a little while, I have some of my own stuff to work on." I folded my hands behind my back and looked up at him.

He shrugged. "Go for it. We'll probably pause for some lunch after this anyway."

"Alright. Thanks." I stepped away and towards the trees. I picked two out and focused on snapping chakra chains around them, well aware Asuma was watching my work. I summoned chakra between the chains.

The air between the chains flickered. It flickered again. It solidified in a shaking, shimmering red.

I stopped in front of the temple to give Sai a moment to get his bearings as well as take the opportunity to steady myself after so many subsequent shunshin. Sai was still gripping my hand hard enough that it just might bruise anyone else. He squinted at the temple. "Where are we?"

"The Uzumaki Temple. I don't think anyone really paid attention to it for years and years. I don't think even Kushina knew about it."

He frowned. "It looks in good shape."

"Yeah. I've been fixing it up. C'mon." I tugged on his hand and headed around the side. "That's not what I wanted to show you." I led him back to the torii and Uzumaki monument then past even that. Several paces behind it, I'd set up a second rock with it's own engraving.

Uzumaki Shin.

Sai's hand dropped from mine. He didn't say anything.

I cleared my throat. "I come here to this," —I reached a hand out to the cracked stone of the Uzumaki monument— "when I want to remember and honor people. I thought you should have a place for that, too."

He stepped forward and slowly, so slowly, lowered himself to his knees.

"I put some incense and a burner bowl here. In case you wanted to use them."

At that, he reached for the incense. He stared down at it, brow furrowed.

"What is it?"

"Did you bring anything to light it with?"

"Oh, uh. Sorry." I leaned down and pressed my finger against the end of the incense, concentrating as I summoned a spark of katon chakra.

"Thank you," he said quietly, setting the incense down in the bowl. He bowed his head.

I kept my voice soft and low as I asked, "Do you want me to stay?"

He looked up at me, uncertain. Then he shook his head.

I smiled. "Alright. Take as much time as you need." I bent down to kiss his forehead and then shunshined away.

It was an odd feeling, being deep enough in my subconscious that I couldn't talk to Kurama. On one level, it made sense. He never was able to tell me anything about my dreams, so this seemed to be a part of my brain locked away from him completely. On another level, the emptiness in my ears where his voice was supposed to be made my skin crawl. I pulled my knees up to my chest and hugged them there. "I miss you," I whispered to the black fire.

Of course, they didn't answer. The moving eye continued its random pattern, not even seeming to register that I was there. I bit down on my lip hard enough that if I was in my actual body I would probably bleed. I reached out a hand, proud that there was no trembling, and touched it to the flames.

There was heat—blazing heat—but it didn't burn. Instead, Itachi's chakra pressed into my coils and twisted fiercely there. I shut my eyes, focusing on the feeling.

"Cut deep, Mirai-chan. Please don't let me suffer."

My heart drummed against my ribs, and I gasped. I tried to open my eyes. They wouldn't budge.

"Deep. Steady. You can do this."

No, no, no. Itachi's chakra thrummed loudly in my veins, and I couldn't move.

"This is just another lesson."

There was something wet on my face and iron in my mouth. I couldn't move.

"Mirai. I believe it's my turn."

Fugaku's voice made my stomach turn. If I could just move—

"Hold still. Let me help."

That was not Fugaku's voice. It was male, exhausted, and warm, but it was not familiar. I tried to open my mouth to ask. Ask what, exactly, I wasn't sure, but I needed to ask something. I needed to know what was going on.

I slammed back into my physical body, fear and anxiety still curling between my bones and tears still burning my eyes. I struggled for air, hunching forward and catching myself roughly with my hands against the floor. There was someone in my head. There was someone in my head!

There's someone in my head!

I'm in your head, Kit.

Not you! Not— There's someone else! I didn't recognize the voice, but he's there! There's someone. "Oh, kami," I gasped, slapping a hand over my mouth and trying—failing—to force down a sob.


"I— I can't," I choked out. "Ku, I—"

Is the Hatake back?

"No. No, he's—" I swallowed and stumbled up to my feet. I pressed one hand to my throat to remind myself to relax it, to try to focus on remembering what breathing was like, and the other hand to my Hatake mark. Finally, I had enough presence of mind to get my shoes on and change out of Shisui's shirt and into Kakashi's. Then I headed out the door.

Once I was on their doorstep, I knocked and listened to the quiet chakra inside. One was easy to read and recognize. The other was hidden and muffled and unfamiliar but hot enough that I felt if I touched it I might get burned. The second was the one that stirred and awoke. I took another breath to steady myself as best I could and wiped at my eyes with the sleeves of Kakashi's shirt.

The door opened a crack. It opened wider. "Mirai-chan?" Genma asked, his voice heavy and raspy with sleep. "What's going on?"

"Kakashi's not back yet," I murmured, tugging the sleeves down over my hands. "I . . . thought maybe I could stay here tonight?"

"Yeah." He dragged a hand down his face and through his hair as he stepped aside. "Of course." Once I was in, he closed the door. "What . . . what does Kakashi usually do for you?"

"I usually stay in bed with him."

He visibly hesitated. "I don't want to make it worse," he said carefully. "If you've already had a nightmare, being around me—"

"I'll be fine." I curled my hands into fists. "If you were Itachi," —my voice caught on his name, but not for the reason Genma probably thought— "it'd be different. But you're not, so I'll be fine."

Genma stared at me for a moment, mouth downturned and brow furrow. He reached out a hand and didn't touch me, instead gesturing towards the couch. "Sit down." He moved into the kitchen. By the time I'd done as he'd said, he was back with a glass of water in hand. "Drink this," he ordered. "I'll be right back."

I took the glass and watched as he disappeared back into his bedroom. I stared down into the water.


I knew better than to argue. I drained the glass and moved to the kitchen. As I set the glass in the sink, I heard the door open again.

"Alright, c'mon," Genma said, a hand extended towards me. "Let's get some sleep."

"—damn cute! I want one. Now. Let's make one."

A strangled sound. "Anko!" he hissed. "You can't just say that in front of her."

"Aw, c'mon, she doesn't mind. She's asleep!"

"I'm awake," I rasped, mouth dry from sleep. I pushed myself up unsteadily on one elbow and rubbed my eyes. I squinted at Anko. "And I'd really appreciate if you waited to do that when I'm not here."

Anko grinned, completely unfazed. "Morning, Red. Sleep well?"

"Yeah, actually. Thanks."

Genma was standing at the end of the bed, toweling his hair, and he looked relieved. "Good. Shower's open if you need it. I can go to your place and grab some clothes."

"I've got some." I shuffled to the edge of the bed and hopped down. "Thanks," I said, giving him a quick hug and then disappearing into the bathroom.

When I made it out to the kitchen later—wearing some of Shikaku's old clothes and braiding my still-damp hair—Genma was setting the table. "Breakfast," he said, pulling out a chair for me. "Hope you're hungry."

"Always," I said. "This looks way better than when Kakashi cooks."

Genma made a face. "You actually eat the food he makes?"

"It's edible," I said, picking up my chopsticks. "And he just wants me to eat."

"That we have in common." He hesitated for just a second before dropping a kiss to the top of my head. "Thanks for trusting me, Pumpkin. And I'm glad you're feeling better."

I smiled and refused to acknowledge the thrum of uneasiness under my skin or the echo of the voice I still didn't recognize.

All throughout the day, I listened to the multitude of new chakra in the building. Genin who weren't quite sure how to hide their chakra as it swirled and turned in frustration. Mozuku's especially was loud, alight with worry and determination alike. They hadn't finished by the time class let out, so I said goodbye to everyone else as they left and settled on a bench outside the Tower to wait. After a while, Asuma joined me.

"Been waiting here long?" he asked, leaning up against the wall instead of sitting down. He dug his cigarette pack out of his pocket and flicked it open.

"Not very." I tilted my head back and listened to their chakra again. "They're headed this way, though. You've got good timing."

He frowned and lit the cigarette. "You can tell that?"

I just hummed and nodded. Sure enough, a minute later the doors opened and chunin-hopefuls flooded out. I hopped to my feet, scanning the crowd. I grinned. "Mozuku! Zaji! Yatogo!"

Mozuku stumbled harshly, and Zaji caught him. Yatogo looked over at us and then tugged both of his teammates through the crowd to reach us. "We made it," he announced, though he wasn't smiling.

Asuma raised an eyebrow. "And you look like this is bad news . . . why?"

"It's nothing," Mozuku said quickly and firmly. He had a hand pressed to his ribcage. "We passed. We were told to rest up for tomorrow."

Asuma clearly wasn't buying it, but he shrugged and pushed off the wall. "I'm sure you three can make a little time for dinner before you head home. What do you think about barbecue?"

"What are you working on?" Shikamaru whispered, elbow bumping mine as he pressed into my space.

I threw a glance at the front of the classroom to see if Iruka had noticed before refocusing on my notebook. "I'm calling it chakra bubbling. Sakura mentioned chakra transfers can be disorienting and damaging if not done right."

"And you're trying to make it disorienting and damaging on purpose," he concluded.


Iruka's lecture stopped, but it wasn't because of us. The door opened, and the chunin that stood there was only vaguely familiar. "Pardon the interruption, Iruka-sensei. I've been sent for Uzumaki."

Iruka nodded and waved a hand towards where I was sitting. "Go ahead, Mirai-chan."

Naruto leaned forward. "Hey! What if he's asking for me?"

The chunin blinked at him. "I was told to get Uzumaki-sama."

Naruto didn't move for a split second, and then he sagged back in his seat. "Oh. Okay."

I closed my notebook and sealed it away. By the time I made it to the front of the room, Iruka had already resumed his lecture. "Where am I going?" I asked the chunin, following him into the hall.

"The Hokage has called a Council meeting."

"Oh. What about?"

"I wasn't given that information." He stopped outside the Council doors and then stepped back.

"Ah, well, thank you." I gave him a tight smile and then pushed my way inside. Everyone was already there—except for Kakashi, who was still on a mission—and I moved quickly to my seat. I frowned, staring at Ibiki where he was next to the Hokage. He was heavily bandaged and sitting in a wheelchair as opposed to a regular chair.

"Good. We can get started now," Hiruzen said. "Last night, Morino Idate and Rokushou Aoi stole the Raijin no Ken and fled Konoha."

"That was Tobirama's sword, right?"

"Right. Ibiki managed to get the Nidaime's notes back, but Rokushou still has the blade."

"And . . . ." Shisui frowned. "What? You want me to hunt it down for Konoha. How would you even try to pass that off as believable?"

"No, not exactly. Um." I cleared my throat. "We're going to kill Rokushou. Then we're going to hunt down Idate and bring him and the blade into the Skulk."

Shikamaru still had the same look he had when I first brought the plan up with him: intense focus as he sorted out a puzzle. He had his notebook open in front of him where he was sitting at my desk, his notes filling the lines and margins of the pages.

Shisui, meanwhile, seemed to be having more trouble than usual catching up with what I was saying. Finally, he asked, "We?"

"I double-checked my henge seal for Hitomi and added in a chakra distortion, so no one will have a chance at knowing it's me." I paused. "Well, it'd be helpful if you could get your hands on some weapons that I've never been seen with. Just to make sure her skill set is visibly different."

He frowned. Instead of addressing that, he said, "You said Idate was dead."

"I said Ibiki said he was dead. Listening to his chakra told me otherwise. I don't understand how everyone else couldn't tell. I mean, Inoichi probably did, but I wouldn't put it past him to let it slide. He's a bit selective with the rules sometimes. But Danzo—"

"You're the only one I know who can do that."

I pulled back. "What? Do what?"

"Tell what people feel or think from their chakra."

"Really?" Shikamaru looked up and frowned deeply enough that it wrinkled his nose. "I thought that was a sensor thing."

"I've never met another sensor that can do it. At least, not any that volunteered that information."

"Huh." I listened to the piqued interest in Shikamaru's chakra. "I've always been like that."

No, you haven't.

I yanked my attention away from Shikamaru's chakra and frowned. What do you mean?

You're the first jinchuuriki to not forcibly keep me away from your mind and chakra. I didn't know what it would do to you. Still discovering parts of it. I hadn't realized the empathy was my fault until now.

But I've always felt chakra like this.

Since you were three, he corrected.


I blinked. "What?"

Shisui was frowning, his chakra stirring with worry. "You with us?"

"Yeah, sorry." I cleared my throat and rubbed my forehead. "Ku says it's his fault I feel chakra like that."

"So . . . it's a jinchuuriki thing?" Shikamaru asked.

No. It's us.

I grinned. "It's an us thing."

Shisui barked out a short laugh. Shikamaru huffed and sat back. "I hate when you do that," he muttered.

"Do what?"

"Act like you and him are inseparable. Like you're one person."

"We are inseparable."

"And if you could split up?"

I pulled back, and the sinking feeling yawning in my gut was undeniable. "I—"

No, Kurama said with finality.

The yawn disappeared. "We wouldn't." I reached out and tapped the edge of his notebook. "Anything to say about Rokushou or Idate?"

"Your plan for Rokushou is fine." He shrugged. "Kill him and take the Raijin no Ken. Sounds good to me. But I don't understand how you think you can trust Idate. If he says anything to anyone—"

"I've got something for that!" I interrupted proudly. I tapped my arm and unsealed a stack of my fuuinjutsu work. "I need you to test this for me, Shisui. Just in case. I'm confident, but it's always good to know for sure."

"What's this?" Shisui asked, taking the set of tags I handed over to him.

"They're muffler seals. It's not like Danzo's. It won't hurt someone or force someone to say something. I based it off the genjutsu you used on Shikamaru more than I did Danzo's seal matrix. All it will do is prevent him from sharing specific things in the presence of those not tied into the seal; I have your chakra, my chakra, and Shikamaru's chakra keyed in."

Shisui looked the tag over, and Shikamaru made a sound of surprise. "Seriously? So it'll just . . . make sure he can't betray you?"

"No. Just . . . make sure he can't say certain things. He won't be able to make mention of where the Den is, or who I really am, and the like. He could find ways around that if he really needed to. But I'm not Danzo; I'm not going to force his loyalty."

Shikamaru tilted his head at me and then shrugged, closing his notebook with a snap. "Sounds like you've got it all figured out, then. And we've already pushed time a bit here. If I'm not back in time for dinner, Kaasan's gonna skin me alive." He got to his feet. "Let me know if you need me to give you notes on anything else." He tucked his notebook away and slipped out the door.

"How does it work?" Shisui asked.

"Apply and activate. I've set those test tags to block anything related to Hi no Kuni or Konoha. You can test them like last time. Place the splicer seal, stick on the muffler, test it, and then close everything up. You don't need to transfer this one, since it's only going to be temporary for them."

"Got it." He straightened the tags and then put them away in his kunai pouch. "So when I find Rokushou, how are you going to get where I am?"

"Reverse summoning. I talked to Chisai about it. She said it's not something they . . . normally would want to do, but they're willing to make an exception for this. Once I finish learning hiraishin, I shouldn't need to beg for a reverse summoning ever again."

He frowned. "Alright. But how will they know where I am to get you to me?"

"Ikebana's agreed to stay with you. He's the best at staying hidden, which will be good." I glanced to the side and took a deep breath. "But, uh, before I summon him and you head out . . . ."

I don't know if it was something in my tone or my expression that tipped him off to just how wrong I was feeling, but he snapped his attention to me immediately, sharingan alight. "What is it? What happened?"

"Do you know any reason why there would be Itachi's chakra in my head? Or a stranger's voice in there?"

His eyes narrowed. "Itachi's chakra? Mirai, I've been in your head. I've never seen any of his chakra."

"It's in my subconscious."

"And the voice?"

"I only heard it once. When I was in my subconscious, studying Itachi's chakra." I hesitated. "Can you . . . take a look?"

"Yeah. Of course." He leaned forward just barely, looking me in the eye. "Don't move."

When I opened my eyes again, we were in the halls of my mindscape. "Hold on. I think I can get us there. Or at least close."

Shisui glanced at me, raising an eyebrow. "Seriously?"

I shrugged. "I can control whether I show up here or in front of Kurama when I enter my mindscape, so I've been practicing. The best I've been able to do so far is get myself past the border of my subconsciousness. It's not consistent, though. I don't know if that's because I'm not precise enough or because of the way the subconscious is constantly shifting." I reached a hand out and grabbed his wrist. "Let's try this." I focused on the spot deeper in my mind and pulled it towards us.

This time when I opened my eyes, there were trees around us. I released him and turned on my heel as I looked around. I pointed. "There."

Shisui squinted at the distant black flames. "What is that?"

"Itachi's amaterasu," I said, starting forward. "Please tell me you can figure out why this is here." I stopped at the edge of the sharingan, curling my hands into fists.

He stepped forward, frowning, and reached for the fire. He didn't touch it, but he kept his hand there for a minute. He crouched down to look at the sharingan. Finally, he said, "This is a genjutsu." He still sounded confused.

"Genjutsu," I repeated. I stepped forward so I was beside him. "Why . . . did Itachi put a genjutsu in my head?"

"I can't tell for sure. It's not actually . . . active right now. Which means it's waiting for something."

"Waiting for what?"

He glanced at me, his sharingan fading from his eyes. "I have no idea." He dragged a hand through his hair, somehow looking a hundred times more tired now than he had the last time he'd come back to Konoha. "You said you heard the voice here?"

"Only once, and just for a second. Then I got thrown out of my mindscape."

His shoulders stiffened. "Thrown out? What do you mean thrown out?"

"I mean just that. One second I was here," —I tapped my foot against the grass— "and then next second I was back fully in my physical body. It hasn't happened since then, and I haven't heard the voice since then either. I—" I frowned. "I was having a panic attack. I was trying to move and get out of my mindscape myself but couldn't. Then he said he would help and—" I looked up at him. "And you have no idea what that could have been either, do you?"

Shisui sighed. "Other than the possibility that it's your subconscious itself?" He shifted and glanced around nervously. "I have no idea."

"My subconscious itself?"

"I don't know that much about mindscapes. More than the normal person, but definitely nowhere near as much as a Yamanaka." He scratched at his arm and frowned down at it. Then he pressed a hand to his chest. "But I do know that the subconscious can manifest things like voices. That's how dreams happen, after all."

"Right." I hesitated. "Are you alright?"

He shot me a wide-eyed, half-manic look. "You mean you can't feel that? Kami, is this what it always feels like inside your head?" He scratched at his neck. "It makes me want to claw my skin off."

"Oh. We can leave."

He nodded and glanced towards the flames again. "Keep an eye on this. Let me know if anything happens. Same with the voice."

"Got it."

"Sai!" Naruto shot to his feet and took no more than a half-second to try to shake the dirt loose from his hands. Then he threw himself at the genin, grinning. "You're back early! Why aren't you at training?"

"Genma-sensei ended it early," Sai said, for once not seeming to even register that Naruto was clinging to him. "He said he wanted to go visit Hatake-san."

"Niisan?" I looked up from the plant I was holding in place while Sasuke packed in the dirt around it. "Niisan's back?"

Sai nodded. "I asked Sensei if he was going to bring him flowers, and Sensei said that Hatake-san isn't ever awake enough in the hospital to notice them."

"In the hospital?" I looked down at the plant. "Is this done?"

Sasuke glanced up at me. "Uh, yeah. You can let go. Thanks."

I stood up, dusting my hands off on my pants. "I'm going to see Niisan. Don't wait up." I shunshined away.

When I made it to the hospital, the nurse at the front desk was the same that had been there during Mozuku's stay. She arched an eyebrow. "Uzumaki."

"Sana-san." I bounced on the balls of my feet and put my hands on the edge of the desk. "I'm here to see Hatake Kakashi."

"Ah. He's popular today." She nodded to the hallways. "124."

"Thank you!" I moved down the hall and sped up as I recognized the chakra. The door was open, and I peered inside. "Am I interrupting?"

Genma pulled himself from his conversation with Gai and Tenzo. He grinned. "Pumpkin! I figured you were gonna show up."

I stepped up to the bed. Kakashi was completely out, wearing a loose and papery hospital kimono instead of his normal clothes. His regular mask had been replaced with a surgical one. The cast around his right forearm was stark in the sharp hospital lighting. I glanced at Tenzo. "What happened?"

He frowned. "I can't tell you that."

I didn't look away, returning his frown with one of my own.

He huffed and glanced away, pointedly not looking at any of us. "Sempai overused his sharingan, leading to chakra exhaustion. Then he took a hit for," —he winced— "for me that broke his arm. We had to carry him back to Konoha."

I turned back to Kakashi and listened to his chakra. It was barely there. I'd never heard anyone's that low before. Not even civilians. I could feel someone else's chakra, strained and purified just like Sakura had described, trying its best to fill at least some of the void in his coils. This level of exhaustion was caused by his sharingan?

I hopped up onto the edge of the bed and shuffled forward. "Does he get chakra exhausted easily?"

"More than most, at least," Gemma said. "The sharingan requires chakra, so it's always draining his reserves."

"Right." I leaned forward and pulled his left eye open with two fingers.

Gai's chakra jolted. "He doesn't like people messing with his eye."

"I'm not messing with it," I said, pressing my fingers beside it and listening to the chakra there. "I'm looking. I think I can fix it. "

"Fix it? Pumpkin, a lot of medic-nin have tried and not been able to help. And you're not even a medic-nin."

"I know. But I understand fuuinjutsu." I let his eye close and turned to sit facing them. "If I can make something that seals away the sharingan and can be turned on and off, he'll be able to control it properly.

"You can do that?" Tenzo asked, leaning forward. "That's possible?"

I shrugged. "Maybe. I can try, at least." After all, I knew more about the sharingan than most Uchiha ever had, and I already had notes on a seal that could lock away a dojutsu.

His chakra had been stirring for quite a while, so I didn't realize he was fully awake until he said, "Hey, Pup."

I snapped up straight. "Niisan!" I scrambled to set my work aside, though I had to slow as I did that so I wouldn't knock over the stacks of papers and books that had taken over the rolling tray I was using as a makeshift desk. "How are you feeling?" I stopped at the side of the bed.

"Amazing," he rasped. He turned his hand palm up. "What are you doing here?"

"Keeping you company." I dropped my hand into his and squeezed tight. "I was worried."

He chuckled and squeezed my hand back. "It'll take a lot more than some chakra exhaustion to take me down." He looked past me at the tray. "What's all that?"

"I'm trying to figure something out, so your sharingan won't do this to you anymore."

He frowned and then pulled his hand free with a sigh. He pushed himself up as best he could and reached for the bed remote. Once he'd adjusted it enough that he could sit somewhat comfortably, he glanced across the books again. "I've managed just fine this long. You really don't have to try to do anything. Other people already have."

"Yeah, I know, but I really do think I can help."

"You don't have to. It's not your job to take care of me, Pup."

I frowned and crossed my arms. "Why not? Because I think that if you love someone, that makes it your job to take care of them. Besides," —I pulled myself up onto the bed and sat applesauce facing him— "I want to. Isn't that reason enough?"

Kakashi stared at me, open eye still half-lidded with exhaustion. He gave something of a smile, but it was hard to tell for sure through the mask even for me. "Alright. So what are you thinking?"

"Right." I cleared my throat and held out my left arm, palm up. "First, I can give you one of these." I tapped my power seal. "You can store chakra in it while you're safe in-Village. When you're running low on a mission, you can open it. You can measure out how much you need without draining it."

"Like a chakra pill?" He reached up and tugged off his surgical mask, frowning. "I don't use those for a reason. The side effects can be pretty severe."

"Not like a chakra pill. Those artificially inflate your reserves, and the external influence in your coils can irritate them at best and damage them at worst. This is your own chakra just returning to your system. The only danger is unsealing more than your reserves can handle, and I've put a limiter on it that helps and can teach you how to measure it properly."

I still had my arm extended, and Kakashi looked down at the seal. He curled his fingers around my wrist. "And after this? What's all the research for?"

"I think I can make a seal that would let you turn the sharingan on and off."

His hold on me tightened, and he jerked his stare back up at me. "Seriously? You can do that?"

I shrugged, glancing over at the stacks of books and notes I'd collected from Kagami, Itachi, and Fugaku's work. "I can try."

My training session with Shiryuu ran longer than usual. They'd made enough progress that I'd finally started them on learning kawarimi. Hanabi had managed the jutsu with partial success by the time we finished while the other three were still working on the theory and chakra molding. At one point, Konohamaru had loudly declared to Asuma that he'd be ready for the Chunin Exams just as soon as he figured the jutsu out. He'd then proceeded to attempt kawarimi before he was ready and knocked himself directly into the wall. That finally brought the session to an end.

I was looking forward to a hot shower and, for once in my life, an early bedtime. But as I approached the house, I felt a familiar cold chakra. I picked up my speed and threw open the door. "Niisan!"

Kakashi looked away from Naruto and Sasuke, who were sitting at the table and sharpening their tanto. He smiled. "Hey, Pup."

I tugged my shoes off and left them in the entryway before skipping over to him. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, I got this off today." He lifted his right arm to show it was cast-free and then turned it to catch the hand I reached towards him. "And my reserves are back up. I figured now is as good a time as any for that seal you were talking about."

"Really?" I kept ahold of his hand as I shuffled around to sit on his other side. I took a second to listen to his chakra again. "You definitely have enough to store some away." I released him so I could unseal my supplies from my arm.

Kakashi shifted to face me. "Which is better?" he asked, lifting both hands.

"Whichever one you'd be more comfortable with." I leaned to the side to set the supplies out on the coffee table. He offered me his left arm again, and I took it. I started rolling up his sleeve. "There're two parts you control. There's a valve of sorts that you open to store chakra in. It only functions one way, so you can't let chakra out on accident." I traced my way down his arm and started listening to his chakra again.

"And the second part?"

"Another valve. This one releases chakra back into your system and controls how much is released to your system." I pressed my thumb to the inside of his forearm, a couple inches back from his wrist. "This good?"

"Works for me."

"Alright. Hold still." I picked up a brush and a jar and bent over his arm.

When I touched the ink-dipped bristles to his skin, he asked, "Does it have to be in a specific place?"

"It's better that way," I mused, drawing out the lines. "I can't locate exactly where your tenketsu are the way a Hyuuga can, but it's best for me to get as close as I can. Hold still," I reminded him. "Do you want the silhouette to be the kanji like mine or something else?"

"There are options?" he asked curiously. Then he shook his head, and I had to lift my brush when that made his arm move. "No. What you have is fine."

"Got it." I continued drawing out the seal, only to pause a few seconds later when I felt the security in my room shift for just a half-second. Just long enough to let someone inside if they were there, but I couldn't actually sense a chakra. And really, there was only one option for who I knew that could be.

"You okay?"

I looked up at him and smiled. "Yeah. Just focusing." I bent over his arm again and resumed my work.

"What are you doing?" Sasuke asked. I heard the chair squeak against the floor as he stood and then walked over to us. "Why are you giving him a seal?"

"Niisan gets chakra exhausted sometime." I inked out the silhouette. "This'll help." I set the brush and ink jar back on the table and pressed my thumb against the edge of the seal.

"This is safe, right?" Kakashi interrupted. He winced. "I mean, not that I think you don't know what you're doing, but—"

I pulled my hand back. "I've done this before," I said, looking pointedly at the seals on my own arms.

"To another person?"

"Yes." I sucked in a sharp breath. "I mean—"

"When?" Kakashi asked, frowning. He looked confused now. "I've never seen anyone with a seal from you. I know you've taken seals off of other people, but is it different putting them on someone else different than yourself?"

"I've done it," I murmured, ducking my head and focusing on reviewing the seal instead of looking at him. "You'll be fine."

"On who?"

I opened my mouth, but no answer came out. It'd never been so hard to say Shisui's name before, but somehow it felt like I'd be making things worse if I actually did.

Kakashi seemed to realize something—whether he realized it was Shisui or that he shouldn't press the issue, I wasn't sure—because he turned his arm so he could catch my hand in his. "Sorry. Go ahead. You know what you're doing."

I pulled on his hand. "Don't smudge it," I mumbled. Once he'd turned his arm so I could see the seal again, I looked it over to make sure it was fine. Then I touched my thumb to the edge of the ink. "Ready?" When he nodded, I activated the matrix. The lines turned and twisted to form the kanji. I sat back. "How does it feel?"

He turned his arm one way and then another, staring at the seal. "I don't feel anything. Am I supposed to feel something?"

"Ah, no, I guess not. You can't sense stuff like I can." I caught his arm again and tapped the left side of the seal. "The storing valve is here. Portion off some of your chakra—like you would for a kage bunshin—and then activate this side of the seal."

Kakashi nodded and drew up his chakra. He touched the edge of the seal, and I felt his chakra disappear into it. He snapped his gaze up to me. "And to get it back?"

I tapped the other side of the seal. "Here."

He touched that side, pulsed just a bit of chakra, and sucked in a gasp as the stored energy flooded back into his reserves. He huffed out a laugh as he sealed the chakra back away again. "Pup, that's incredible."

"You think it'll help?"

"I'm sure it will." He dropped his hands and looked up at me. His brow furrowed. "You look tired. Do you . . . want me to stay tonight?"

Everything in me screamed to say yes. Well, almost everything. One small part of me spoke up about the letter that was almost certainly waiting for me, and I caved. "I might come by later, depending on how I sleep. But I've been working on controlling my mindscape to end my dreams and wake up if I need to, and it's disorienting to do. Might not be the best thing if someone is there and I've just woken up."

His frown deepened. "Alright. Come get me if you need me." He dragged me into a hug, keeping it quick but firm. He moved to Naruto, bidding him goodnight as well before offering a brief farewell to Sasuke, too. Then he escaped out the door.

I sealed my fuuinjutsu supplies away and hopped to my feet. "Go ahead and take your showers. I'll need it when you're done, alright?" After I heard affirmations from both of them, I stepped into my room and shut the door tightly behind me. A tap against the seal beside the door brought up my second layer of security.

Yoru's head popped over the edge of my bed. A flap of his wings lifted him, and he landed atop my blankets.

"What are you still doing here?" I asked, stepping forward and glancing around fruitlessly for the letter. "Why haven't you left?"

He made a kind of unimpressed clicking sound. "Good to see you, too. No letter." He extended his leg, displaying the storage seal band I'd given him there for easy transportation. "Delivery."

I tapped two fingers to the seal, and it dropped a scroll into my hands. "Scoot over," I mumbled, climbing onto the bed beside him. I unrolled the scroll. Shiusi's handwriting, neat and concise as ever, took up the designated message area at the top, followed by two storage seals.

Hope this works! it read. Careful with the ends.

I opened the first storage seal, and it spilled a stack of clothing out atop my bed. I reached for the shirt at the top of the pile—it was stiffer than I thought it would be and clearly reinforced with mesh armor in the fabric—glancing across the note pinned to it.

I hope Hitomi likes red.

True to what he'd said, at least half of the clothing he'd picked out for my counterpart was red, while almost all of what was left after that was black. He'd certainly made sure that I had options, at least. After setting the shirt down, I opened the next seal.

A heavy bo staff dropped into my lap. I smoothed a hand across the black, textured metal and laughed, not even trying to stop it. Circular engravings framed on either side of the midsection caught my eye, and I leaned close to see better. Running my fingers across the engraving, I frowned. "Are those seals?"

"Watch the ends," Yoru croaked.

I glanced at him and lifted the bo staff from my lap. As he hopped backwards and away from me, I shifted to the side so the end wouldn't be near my lamp. I pressed one thumb to each seal and charged just a pinch of chakra.

The bo staff hummed with my chakra for just the barest moment, and a steel blade unsealed from each end. I was holding a double-ended yari, now, not just a bo staff. Kurama gave a pleased laugh in the back of my head, and I matched it.

"It will work?" Yoru asked, titling his head to the side.

I grinned. "It's perfect."

"Nice seats. We have a good view from here."

Konohamaru jumped at the sound of my voice. "Neechan! You made it!" He scrambled to his feet.

I grinned and accepted his hug. "Of course I made it." I glanced at Mozuku, but he was staring down into the arena and determinedly not looking at me. I ruffled Konohamaru's hair and nodded to the empty seat beside him. Well, empty except for the blue scarf in it. "That for me?"

"Yep!" He snatched the scarf and started winding it back on. "I saved it. Ojichan said his friends are coming, and I didn't want them to take your seat."

I sat and reached out to adjust the scarf where he'd gotten it all folded up under his left ear, glancing at the empty seat between him and Mozuku. "Where is Asuma?"

"Making sure people didn't bail on us."

I twisted around to look at where Asuma was coming down the steps, two other shinobi trailing after him. "Do people normally try to bail on you?"

"With these two?" He jerked a thumb at the two behind him—Kurenai and Raidou. "Absolutely. You would not believe how many times they've stuck me with the bill."

"It's only fair," I mused, leaning towards Raidou as he sat down beside me. "I've seen Genma and Anko leave each of them to pay on several occasions."

"Uh-huh." Asuma sat and dropped a hand briefly to Mozuku's shoulder. "And who exactly am I supposed to cheat into paying for me? You?"

"And risk me complaining to Kakashi or Genma about it?" I asked innocently. "Or, kami forbid, Shikaku?"

He squinted at me. "He wouldn't care."

"He would only care that I hadn't thought a way out of it myself," I agreed, shrugging. "But Yoshino would definitely care."

Asuma raised an eyebrow, looking unimpressed, but I felt a shudder from Raidou. "Trust me," Kurenai said, leaning forward to look at Asuma past the rest of us. "I've heard the stories. It's best to keep Yoshino-sama happy."

"I'll take your word for it." His gaze flicked past us, and he grinned. "Took you long enough."

"Anko had to decide on what dango to get."

I turned towards the voice just in time to see Anko stopping in front of me, box extended. "I decided on all of them," she said, grinning. "Want to help me eat it?" Without waiting for an answer, she cut a sharp look to Raidou. "Shove down. Make room."

Raidou huffed and stood. Kurenai grabbed his wrist and arched an eyebrow at Anko. "He was already here."


"There's room down here by me," Asuma interrupted.

"Uh-huh," Anko said again. "Alright." She jerked a thumb at both Raidou and Kurenai. "Take a hike, you two."

"I like my seat," Kurenai said, sitting back. She finally released Raidou, and he shuffled to the side to take Asuma up on his offer.

"Right. And I like sitting next to my husband, so beat it."

"Your what?" Asuma asked flatly.

Without missing a beat, and without looking away from Anko, Kurenai said, "They got marriage a little while ago. You missed it."

"Genma got married?"

"You don't have to sound so shocked," Genma said, pushing past Anko and leaving her and Kurenai to their disagreement. "Hey, Pumpkin. Shift one seat that way," he said, pointing a thumb in Asuma's direction. Once the others had done so and I'd moved seats, Genma sat down in my old one.

Anko and Kurenai were still . . . talking? Arguing? Whispering death threats to each other? I leaned close to Genma. "What's wrong with them?" I whispered.

The look he gave me was desperate. "Please don't ask."

I separated from the festivities to sidle up to Mozuku. "You doing alright?"

The smile he gave me was almost plastic. "Please don't patronize me."

"Sorry." I shoved my hands in my pockets and turned to look at the crowd, Yatogo and Zaji the focus in their new vests. "They did really well."

Mozuku nodded. He was looking at the ground and not at them. "Sensei would be proud."

"He'd be proud of you, too," I said. I kept it simple, stating it like a fact because it was one. "You worked really hard to make sure they had this chance."

"I told you not to patronize me."

"I'm not. Just telling you the truth; Yosu would be proud of you."

Mozuku tightened his fists and flicked his stare towards me. "You think so?" he rasped.

"I know so."