AN: Welcome readers to my first fanfiction story… well on this account. My previous account is for some reason inaccessible to me so I can no longer post on it. Regardless, view me as a new writer and please enjoy my first story. Before we begin, there are a few things you should know going in:

There is no Uchiha massacre- I've decided to opt out of it as I feel it is too commonly used, with good reason.

Sort of a neglect fic- As you read, you'll understand. It's just not your ordinary hate filled story. You'll get it.

Pairing undecided- I have yet to even decide if Naruto is going to be paired with anyone yet soo… yeah… and I don't do polls.

No Yaoi- I refuse to do it. Don't like it one bit.

No incest- No… just no… get help.

Alive Minato/Kushina- They're alive. Can't have a "sort of" neglect fic otherwise.

Older Naruto- He's older… the ages are explained, just follow along.

Chapter length- I'd like feedback on what you guys think. I can do longer chapters (Such as this one) or I could do shorter but more frequent, review and let me know

No Akatsuki… kinda- There is no Akatsuki, you'll understand the "kinda" later.

Naruto's quoting- Naruto enjoys books in this fic. He commonly quotes things from the books. Everything he quotes is of my own creation. If I for whatever reason use a quote from somewhere else, I will mention it in future Author's Notes.

I Read It In A Book: Chapter 1

The village hidden in the leaves fell silent in the aftermath of its near destruction. Capable shinobi of all ranks worked diligently to put out the remaining flames and rush survivors to the hospital for treatment. Everyone working in silence, too shaken up to speak about the horror they had just witnessed. Too traumatized to even process what had actually happened.
The Kyubi.

The strongest of the nine Biju. The beast had appeared so suddenly. There was no time to prepare an adequate defense against such a threat. The monster tore through the village with ease. The shinobi did their best to save as many lives as possible, but their task seemed pointless as the Kyubi killed faster than they could save.
The massacre was only stopped when Minato Namikaze, the fourth Hokage, used his famed Hiraishin to teleport himself and the beast outside of the village. It was there that he and his wife, Kushina Namikaze, were able to subdue the monster long enough for them to come to the decision of sealing the beast into their newborn children Mito and Menma.

They both settled their resolve and were fully intent on giving their lives with the remaining chakra they had left to seal the monster away, but after a heartfelt speech from Minato's predecessor Hiruzen Sarutobi, they allowed him to perform the jutsu giving his own life in return. They prayed he found his peace in the afterlife.

Now, hours later, Minato waited outside of his wife's hospital room with his daughter in his hands. Looking down at the bundle, he grinned sadly at the red tufts of hair on her small head, imagining what she would look like in the future. Much like his wife, he presumed. "Little Mito…" he whispered gently.
To his right, Tsunade Senju's apprentice, Shizune cradled the other bundle. The child within sporting tufts of blonde as bright as his own. Each of them marred with three whisker like marks on their cheeks much like his first child, his four year old son Naruto whom was currently on his way from one of the civilian shelters.

He was broken from his thoughts when the door creaked open. Tsunade walked out with an unreadable expression. Minato stood to his feet, fearing the worst. He pulled Mito closer to his chest as if to shield her from the news until he himself knew it first.

"Tsunade-sama." He said urgently. "i-Is she… Is she alright?"

Calming him down, she took Mito from his arms. "Yes, she's fine. She'll need a few more days to recover than a normal pregnancy of course, but she is fine."

Immediately, Minato smiled and squeezed her shoulder gently as he passed, offering a quick 'thank you' before rushing into his wife's room.

Kushina was awake and staring at the ceiling. When she saw Minato, she nearly jumped up, inciting a squeak of pain in place of her planned stream of questions. Minato quickly rushed to her side gently pushing her back down to her back whilst whispering 'everything's fine' over and over to calm her worries. Ignoring her pain, she called out hollowly, "My babies" asking for her children.

Tsunade and Shizune strolled in rocking the two bundles all the way to their mother's bed side. They each placed the two into her waiting arms as she somehow had the strength to carry them both. Minato stood to her side, smiling at his children along with his wife. Tsunade and Shizune both smiled at the scene playing out before them, a picture perfect family.

Walking through the halls of the hospital, the four year old Naruto clutched his stuffed bear to his chest. The ANBU behind him had a hand on his back gently guiding him to his mother and father. He was quite worried as the last time he was in this place, his father's former student Obito Uchiha died. That's all he really knew about hospitals, people die inside. So, if his mom and dad were here, then that meant, someone was dead. His small sandals tapped loudly against the floor directly opposing the hollow silence around. He couldn't even hear the ANBU behind him.

On the way, they stopped abruptly hearing the sound of laughter in the room to the right. "This way, young Namikaze." The ANBU directed, opening the door. Naruto looked up at him before walking in. He saw the room was filled to the brim with people he knew. There was Kakashi and Jiraiya leaning on the window ceil, Tsunade and Shizune standing at the foot of the bed, and his mother and father at the head of the bed cradling two bundles. He walked in but wasn't noticed. Not until the ANBU shut the door.

"Naru-kun." Kushina said weakly trying her hardest to sit up a little more. Naruto walked over to her bedside allowing his father to pick him up.

Adjusting his grip on his son, Minato leaned him over the bed a little more. "Meet your new baby siblings."

Naruto looked down at the two babies that shared his whisker marks in wonder. His hands rested timidly at his sides not wanting to hurt them. He looked at their hair colors in wonder, specifically Mito's. "She looks just like you Kaa-san." He said inciting a round of laughter and 'awws' from the room. He looked around wondering what he did until Kushina brought his attention back.

"That's right… she does." She smiled up at her oldest with tears brimming the bottom of her eye lids. "That's Mito."
His gaze then shifted over to his little brother. "And he looks like…" he paused in thought.

"You." Said Minato filling in the word for his son who looked him in the eye. "He looks just like you." Naruto looked back down at him in amusement. A small smile tugging on the edge of his lips.

"Yeah… he looks like me." He whispered quieter. Amazed by the similarities. Everyone around them looked at the family now in completion. Smiles on their faces as they imagined the things they would accomplish in time. Saving this moment in their minds for as long as they could.

-5 years later-

Things were different now. No longer was the family as complete as they had hoped at one point. Not that they noticed. Everything was about Mito and Menma. Every day, no matter what day it was. It was like their birthday. The villagers showered them in love and endearment for their noble sacrifice. They were worshipped and praised and now adorned the titles of the Prince and Princess of Konoha. Kushina and Minato were no different in their treatment of them. Whatever they wanted they got. Which is why their training began earlier than planned.

Oh yes, planned. They've had a scheduled plan for training for both of them, everyone who specialized in a field of study had agreed to assist. The two were to begin their training as soon as they got out of the academy. They'd be placed on a team with whomever was the rookie of the year, if it wasn't one of them, and given to Kakashi. He would train them in chakra control and Ninjutsu. When time permitted, they'd go to Kurenai Yuhi to learn Genjutsu, Might Gai for help with Taijutsu, and they'd go to their mother for Kenjutsu training. They'd be trained in Fuinjutsu by Minato personally. When they were ready, they'd learn Minato's Rasengan and Hiraishin and Kushina's chakra chains. After that, they'd undergo the tutelage of Jiraiya and Tsunade, whomever they decided.

This was all to take place after their graduation from the academy, but after a few good hours of pleading their case with the help of their undeniable puppy dog eyes, Minato caved and they started early, two years ago actually. Consequently the assistants were no longer able to uphold the plan as they had matters to attend at the time. So, they decided to handle it themselves.

That was all for the two youngest Namikaze children. As for the oldest, well it couldn't be called neglect exactly, but he wasn't much a part of the family training or any other activity they underwent. The last time he could remember doing anything with them was when he entered into the academy and his family had to attend as his father gave the opening speech for each new class. That was the last time he could remember any amount of attention on himself. The last time he had smiled sincerely.
That day, it was as if his parents just assumed the academy would eat up most of his time. As if he was no longer in need of their assistance in any matter. He would have been upset had he not found a passion for reading. It was a simple pleasure that brought him peace in times of self-loathing. When he felt like he wasn't good enough to be in the family he was in. Or when he felt it would be better for them if he was no longer around. He'd read a book. Anything with words would interest him. He'd read anything that he could find, fiction, non-fiction, ninja scrolls, bingo books, history books, everything. It was an escape from the material world for him. He's lived a thousand lives within his young mind, he's loved and hated and understood the meaning of both in various ways.

In his readings, he's learned many things. He's learned various jutsu and techniques suitable for his level of understanding. His reading brought him to his own self-made taijutsu which he has not named. After reading a book based on the various clans within Konoha, he found interest in the countless taijutsu customs of two of the greatest, the Uchiha and the Hyuga. The Uchiha's style consisted of blocking and countering an enemies attacks. The Hyuga's famous gentle fist revolved around the use of their doujutsu the Byakugan to see the tenketsu of their oponents, using chakra to block them. Reading that got him interested in taijutsu altogether. What brought him to his own style was after he read through a medical book that he had, at one point, heard Tsunade call a "doctor's bible". He learned of various pressure points on the human form that could shut a person's body down with a few quick hits. Using that knowledge and the theory of the Uchiha and Hyuga fighting styles, he waited for a chance.

Every day after the academy, he'd go to the training grounds and wait for this Uchiha kid to come train with his father, Shisui he believed. Then, he'd go to the Hyuga compound and stand on the building across the street watching, from a distance, the branch family running through their daily training routines. After trying whatever he saw, he was able to somewhat duplicate both of the styles, sloppily of course but his taijutsu style was unorthodox and was supposed to look chaotic.

Naruto's entry into the academy is what made his younger siblings want to begin their training early. Of course caving, Minato decided it best he assist in their training personally and took a leave from office, placing his trusted friend and advisor Shikaku Nara in control of all matters not involving foreign threats while he worked diligently on training his children. He was in charge of everything including matters of the academy, domestic complaints, ninja ranking, and even ANBU missions. Minato had expressed he did not want to be bothered unless one of the other villages randomly sent a message declaring war. True to his claim, the Namikaze family essentially entered the seclusion of their own compound. The training schedule was so tight knit it left absolutely no room for anything. Not even the esteemed Ichiraku's ramen they were all so fond of. The Namikaze family wouldn't be seen for a long while.

In the academy, a test is given to the first year students to see who of the bunch is suitable enough for an early promotion. The test is administered two weeks after the start of the academy and the results are sent directly to the Hokage for his decision. The written test covers topics taught in the third year and even a few questions designed to see how they work under pressure. Questions they couldn't possibly begin to understand. Not since Kakashi Hatake has there been a student able to jump to the third year. Two years ago there were two, Naruto Namikaze and Itachi Uchiha. The two young geniuses were placed in the same third year class under the watchful eye of the very confused Iruka Imuno. Confused as the two nine year olds excelled at everything he put in front of them. Half way through the year, he went to Shikaku requesting they be given the test early.

Shikaku at first was surprised but accepted regardless. The two took the test designed to weed out the weak links and passed flawlessly. Shikaku was of course impressed and even thought of congratulating the fourth on such a prodigal son, but could never find the time. He placed the two on a standby support team as he still feared they were too young to do actual missions. They were under the guidance of a former ANBU agent named Kaijo. He trained the two as he had once trained his fellow agents, pushing them to their limits each day as they awaited a mission.

After the first week, he witnessed their talent in the arts and requested they become an active assault team instead of support, but Shikaku refused as he was still timid about putting the two on the field so early, they were only nine.

Wanting a second opinion, he went to the Namikaze compound in search of Minato. He caught them in the middle of training, it must have been a frustrating evening as Minato seemed quite stressed. Seeing Shikaku, he immediately asked if another nation was attacking. Shikaku said that wasn't the case which seemed to tick him off more as he angrily barked out tips to his children as they engaged in a taijutsu match. Shikaku was no longer able to get a word out as Minato turned to him calming down a bit, "Look, whatever it is then, just handle it please. As you can see this really isn't a good time." Before he could argue, Minato already left his side.

Now, with the decision left to him, he decided to trust his gut and keep the team just a support team for the time being. A few days later, a seasoned Genin team requested back up while on a C rank mission that apparently turned B due to an attack from a few low ranking rogue ninja. Figuring it would be an opportunity to test their skills in the field, Shikaku sent Naruto's team. With Kaijo, he figured they'd be able to handle it.

When they returned, he was shocked by the report. Naruto and Itachi seemed to have been the biggest hitters among the group as the two took down an A-rank rogue on their own after being separated from the others. In a joint effort, the two worked the man down until they were able to get a killing blow on the man. Their first kill. After consoling from his mother and father, Itachi was fine the next day. Naruto on the other hand had to deal with it on his own, but he handled it none the less thanks to his books. At that point, the two nine year olds of team Kaijo became true ninja.

Their training surpassed even their own expectations. Itachi leaped through every technique within his father's study learning old Taijutsu techniques, every fire based Ninjutsu, and a few techniques left behind by the clan founder Madara Uchiha. He became one of the best Uchiha and he was only nine. Naruto too fished through his old man's stash and read up on techniques. He learned everything written on the pages in his father's study. Every fuinjutsu note, every taijutsu technique, every Ninjutsu theory, even his father's main techniques Rasengan and Hiraishin. All of those techniques were now within his back pocket.

After two more successful support missions and a heap of backing from the other sensei's, Team Kaijo became a full fledge assault team. They worked diligently for a year racking up mission after mission, not a single failure to their record. In some of their more strange missions, they even saved princesses and killed tyrants. All in all, throughout the nations, they made a name for themselves. Word was passed around the Uchiha clan of Itachi's success within a year and he was praised throughout the village. Naruto however flew under the radar. No one really praised him inside the village. There were a few minor villages that held him in high regards though, so he didn't mind. From the way Itachi despised it, he figured he wouldn't enjoy it much anyways.

Now, ten years old, Naruto had decided to move out of his parent's home as he felt bad he was taking up space and using their utilities without helping pay. He had found a small apartment in the crummy side of Konoha that he could afford, but figured he wouldn't be there often anyways.

He and Itachi became the best of friends over the years. They did everything together. Naruto would even help him train Sasuke every now and then. They both excelled because of the other. Neither of them were willing to be outdone by the other so they pushed harder and harder trying to gain the upper hand. A healthy rivalry built on friendship. They fought constantly whenever they had the chance. Always testing the others skill to gauge their own progress. Their greatest match was later on that year during the chunin exams held in Kumo. They faced each other in the final round and fought each other to a standstill.

The battle was the most magnificent spectacle the non-shinobi viewers had ever seen. The battle of the Uchiha prodigy and the son of the Yellow Flash was a sight to see. They held nothing back and attacked each other with the intent to kill, as they knew the other expected nothing less. It was there which Naruto brought to light his father's technique, Hiraishin for the first time, as well as a technique of his own creation. The perfect clone as he called it. It was a clone that, with the help of fuinjutsu, was actually brought to life. While in a tough spot, he used the technique away from Itachi's view and sent the clone out to fight in his stead as he thought up a strategy. The only issue with the technique is that, much like water clones, it only holds a portion of the originals ability. It is also aware it's a clone so it has no adrenaline when in danger.

Itachi had no idea as it even fooled his fully matured Sharingan. So, he continued to fight with the same intensity he had been and unleashed a technique he intended to use as a distraction. Although a powerful attack with the main purpose of killing, he was sure Naruto would find his way out, but to his horror, he did not. All he saw was his best friends body hit the ground burnt to a crisp. His heart sank as the entire stadium fell silent believing the match to be over. The proctor dropping down to the arena to check on the body made it that much more real.

He looked up to the Kage box which held only the Raikage and Kazekage and gave a shake of the head. Everyone knew the implication of such a gesture and remained silent.
Itachi's eyes burned as his heart sank. He dropped to his knees staring at the ground wondering what he had just done. He was praying to whatever god was up there that it wasn't real. His mind didn't register how much clearer the world seemed to him or the fact that his eyes were still burning. He just couldn't think. He was brought back to reality with the popping of a clone. Looking up, he saw the proctor looking down at the spot Naruto's body had been in wonder. Itachi felt the ground beneath him rumble. He jumped back, narrowly avoiding the hands that popped out trying to clamp down on his ankles. The proctor jumped back up seeing the match was not yet over. The crowd went wild seeing the Namikaze was still alive.

It was truly the greatest match in the history of the Chunin Exams. Two boys, no older than the second year students at the academy, displayed abilities on par with that of legends. The fact that they were both from Konoha stirred up a heap of commotion among the other nations. If Konoha was breeding monsters such as these, they questioned any sort of attack against them would be beneficial.

When they returned to the village, the two boys were immediately granted the rank of Chunin and shortly after were approached by the ANBU captain, Kenji Horo. Captain Horo explained his interest in them joining his force even at their ripe age of 11. He went on to describe the training they would receive in stealth which is one thing they lacked.

They'd have to pass the Jonin exam first which they would not be eligible to take for the next two months, but they accepted never the less. Of course, in normal circumstances, rank didn't matter much when making the selection, but Captain Horo figured Shikaku would be more inclined to accept the request if the two were able to prove they were on par with the higher ups of the village.

When they achieved the rank of Jonin with ease, Captain Horo brought the matter to Shikaku Nara who was still a bit timid to allow it, but Itachi and Naruto expressed their want for such an opportunity, so he allowed it on the parameters that they were not able to take on solo missions until they turned twelve. Horo agreed and they were admitted for the ANBU exams.

Three weeks later, they were members of the prestigious ANBU black ops. They were placed on a team with two other agents, Yugao Uzuki, and Hayate Gekko, the captain. Through them, they learned Kenjutsu and Naruto of course found a way to perfect the style shown to him thanks to a Samurai book he had once read. Their team underwent multiple ANBU missions involving various instructions. The two eleven year olds were thrusted into a world of bloodshed and hatred. And only one of them had the support needed to handle such a life.

-Two months later-

It's been a month since Naruto Namikaze's twelfth birthday, not that anyone aside for his teammates knew that. He got a few things from each of them, a new jacket from Yugao, an all-black sword from Hayate, and a new book from Itachi. And he even got a cake and congratulations from the Uchiha clan as a whole which he was very grateful for. Since that day, he has been undergoing solo missions like a mad man. He took two every week the first month and even went for three if his time allowed it. With the pay he received, he upgraded to a nicer apartment in the wealthier side of Konoha. It was a fully furnished Condo fit with everything he needed. Two bedrooms, a bathroom with actual hot water! His old place didn't have that so that was a big plus. Then, there was his study. It was like a mini library with books stacked from the floor to the ceiling with barely enough room to walk.

He was dressed in his street clothes which consisted of a plain black t-shirt, black baggy ANBU style pants, black ninja sandals and black wrap around his mid-calf. Over that, he wore the hoodless white jacket Yugao had gotten him with the Namikaze symbol proudly displayed on his back and he left the front unzipped. The jacket went down to the bottom of his back and was long sleeved. (Like young Minato's) His headband hung loosely around his neck.

Walking to his mirror, he looked at himself, his hair was as shaggy as it usually is except for the right side of his head which was shaven down for some reason. A while back in training, he narrowly dodged one of Itachi's kunai, but it nicked the side of his head deep enough for him to need stiches. His hair just never fully grew back, because of it, it looked as if it slouched over towards the left. His face had shed itself of its rounded shape and instead resembled his father more than ever. His eyes had heavy bags beneath them as it had been a few days since he had last slept. With a yawn, he stepped out of his bathroom and headed for the front door, ready to start the day.

Red hair strewn across her bed, drool slipping out the side of her face and a screeching sound from her nightstand. Mito's eyes creaked open slowly. Her bright blue eyes wincing at the sun in her face. "Urgh" she groaned sitting up in her bed stretching out her sore body. Today was going to be great. She just knew it. This was the first birthday they were going to be celebrating since they started training. Before, there was just no time for it. The most they got was one gift each year from their parents. Today would be different.

Her door swung open with her brother charging in. "Mito!" he yelled. "Hurry up and get up! Kaa-san said come down stairs!"

She rolled her eyes throwing a pillow at him for being so loud. "I'm up you idiot!" Menma snatched it out of the air and threw it back.

"Looks like you're laying down you dummy." He said jogging out and down the hall. Mito just shook her head as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes still trying to find her bearings. When she finally did, she rolled out of bed and headed downstairs.

Rounding the corner from the living room, she was greeted to the expected big breakfast with the entire family in attendance. By entire family she meant her, Menma, Minato, Kushina, Jiraiya, Tsunade, Shizune, and Kakashi. Everyone else was at the long table already serving themselves, there was a space to Menma's right reserved for her. Taking her seat she was greeted by everyone when their individual conversations allowed it.

"Morning Mito-chan!" Kushina said happily. "Happy birthday!" she said passing her a plate.

Mito gave her a quick thank you as she took it and filled it with various breakfast goodies that were prepared on the table.

"So, how's it feel?" Minato asked taking a sip of his juice. "Ya know, being eight years old at last?" Mito gave him a bashful smile shrugging her shoulder in reply.

"Well to me it feels great!" Menma said. "I finally get to go to the academy!" he said excitement pouring from his mouth in the form of his noodles.

"Yeah you say that now." Kakashi informed him. "I was only there for a year but man was it a lot of homework."

"Yup, lots and lots of books and studying. Something you haven't been too great at as of now soo…" said Jiraiya.

"Oh, you shut up Baka Ero-sennin." Menma replied in haste.

"He is right ya' know." Kushina added. "Ninja studies probably should've been added to the list when planning. There's still another year. Maybe we can fit that in." She said.

"Yeah maybe. Then they'd have had a chance at the advanced placement test. They're already miles ahead in everything else." Kakashi said peaking their interest.

"The advanced placement test?" Mito asked.

"Ah, yeah I almost forgot about that." Minato said. "It's a test given to the first year students that decides if they are liable for early promotion to the third year class or not. But, it's incredibly hard to do and not many are able to do so. In fact I believe Kakashi was the last one ever."

"Uh, actually I heard there were two of them just about three years ago." Jiraiya said.

Minato was shocked by that. To think he hadn't heard of it. "Really?"

"Yeah, I think it was Fugaku's brat, Itachi. Yeah he was definitely one of em'." Jiraiya replied looking up in thought.

"Oh, Itachi-kun? Wow, how talented is he? We haven't seen them in a while. " Kushina said.

Minato raised an eyebrow in thought. He hadn't really thought about that. It's been like what two, three years? 'Man, Menma and Mito's training ate up most of our time. We haven't seen a lot of people in a while… I haven't even checked up on Shikaku. Well, that's definitely on the to-do list.' He said picking at his food. For now, he had to enjoy the day since this is the first time they were actually celebrating the joyous occasion.

"Regardless, I think we'll hold off on the academics and all that. I want you guys to learn with your friends. I don't want you rushing out of your childhood so fast, lest you'll end up like Kakashi." She said inciting a round of laughter from the table at the man's misfortune.
The table then broke up into their own individual conversation with Mito and Menma discussing who they wanted to invite to the party later on, Tsunade and Jiraiya were reminiscing old times, Kakashi and Shizune were just discussing previous missions they've been on and Kushina was watching Minato in wonder. He seemed troubled.

Reaching over, she put her hand on his forearm rubbing her thumb across his skin. "You ok?" she asked sincerely.

Snapping out of his daze, he smiled back to her. "Yeah, yeah I'm great. Just… thinking is all." He said. "We've got to get back in the swing of things within the village." He said confusing her.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, we've been here at the house since we began their training. The only time we've left has been when we went out to the Hokage training grounds, but when's the last time you've seen any of your friends?"

At that, Kushina really had to think. It has been a very long time. She couldn't even remember the last time they've left the house. "Oh… I guess you're right." She said.

"Yeah. I mean, we haven't been to Ichiraku's in ages." He joked.

"Ugh, don't remind me. I'm dying to get my hands on a few bowls." She said with a smile. "But, really. Have we been so caught up with their training that we've just negated going out?" she asked getting back on topic.

"Well, that's gonna change today." He remarked wiping his face as he stood up, getting everyone's attention. "Everyone, when we finish our meal, we're gonna go for a walk through the village. We've been away for far too long. We must reconnect with the people. So, once you finish, I implore you to go and reconnect with friends and what not." He said as they all agreed.

Walking through the streets of Konoha with his prized Icha Icha book proudly plastered in his face, Kakashi made his way towards the ANBU HQ to catch up with a few of his old teammates. He found it strange that he too had been away from the swing of the village for a while. If he wasn't on a mission he was with the Namikaze's assisting in their training. As he walked, he noticed a kid walking quite a ways ahead of him. He noticed he too was reading a book. He looked awfully familiar from the back too.
Kakashi noticed the Namikaze symbol on his back, 'Naruto? Where's he been?' He noticed Naruto seemed to be heading in the same direction as him so he decided to catch up.

"Hello there Naruto." He said not looking up from his book.

Naruto had momentarily looked away to see who was there, "Oh, Kakashi-nii. How are you?" he asked hollowly.

"I'm fine. And yourself?"

"I am well. It is strange to see you out and about. What would be the occasion?" Naruto asked.

Kakashi raised an eyebrow, "Well, it's Menma and Mito's birthday." He replied.

Naruto's steps faltered slightly. "So it is." He said looking ahead from his book seeing the ANBU HQ in sight. "Would you happen to know if they are having a birthday party by chance?" he asked.

At this Kakashi truly seemed confused. They had been talking about it all week. Had he not heard? "Uh… Yeah. Yeah, they are." He answered.

Naruto nodded with his eyes on his book. "I suppose I should stop by then. I'll sign in first." He said whispering that last part to himself. Kakashi heard however and watched as the blonde turned to enter the building he had just been heading towards. Confusion and curiosity prodded him into following him in. Naruto noticed, but didn't find it weird as Kakashi had been ANBU captain at one point.

Walking in, Naruto was greeted by the head receptionist. "Welcome Tora-sama." She said passing him the forms for check in.

"Good morning Hebi-san." He replied formally. "I am signing in. Please inform Weasel I will return shortly."

"Of course, Tora-sama." She replied writing it down on a spare piece of paper so she remembered. Naruto nodded and turned to leave giving Kakashi a brief head nod before walking out. "Welcome Kakashi-sama." She said seeing him standing there. His eyes however followed Naruto all the way out the door, not paying her any mind. Confusion still wrapping his brain in a tight grip.

The Namikaze family strolled through the village streets for the first time in three years. Greeting every person that approached them. The people's admiration of the family gladly did not dwindle with their absence. They were all still adored and loved. Children passing by viewed them with wonder and awe. When they made it to the park, they had to stop and address the crowd of young fans before leaving Menma and Mito to greet their peers who were playing a game of Ninja.

Kushina stayed behind to watch as Mikoto had just arrived with her youngest son Sasuke. They decided to stay and chat for a bit so Minato decided now was as good a time as any to drop in on Shikaku to check up on things. He was returning tomorrow, but he wanted to make sure there wasn't anything major to worry about. On the way, he greeted everyone individually as a Hokage should. He shook every hand and hugged everyone who offered. The exhausting journey reminded him why it was they didn't have time to walk around the village much before. Even so, he loved it.

Finally making it to his office, he sighed as he stepped in. Shikaku was signing a document and seemed to release the breath he had been holding. "Oh man. Finally. I thought I was gonna be doin' this forever." He said sitting back in the chair with a sigh.

Minato chuckled at the lazy man. "Yeah sorry. Not back yet. You've got one more day of it all. I just came by to check up on things."

Shikaku looked at him in thought. A perplexing look on his face that didn't fully believe him. "Really?" he asked incredulously. "After three years…"

"Uh, yeah. Well, we all got a bit… preoccupied by the training and all that so…" he said dying off.

Shikaku just nodded his head as if assuring him he was listening. "How was that by the way?" he said giving up on whatever slew of curse words rested on his tongue.

Minato sighed at that, running a hand through his hair. "As good as it's gonna get for the moment. I mean, they excel at everything mostly. Their taijutsu is good, Ninjutsu is fairly well, can break out of most any Genjutsu they are subjected to and their teamwork together is good enough to land a blow on Kakashi so that's pretty good. At everything else though, they're pitiful. Horrible at fuinjutsu, lack the proper chakra control necessary for medical jutsu and god, their book smarts are awful." He said finishing his assessment. "I'm really disappointed by their fuinjutsu more than anything though. The way it's looking, neither of them will ever be good enough to get the Hiraishin down. I know it's a complex seal, but I was hoping at least one of my kids could learn it."

Shikaku wanted to palm his face. They have literally been living in a cave. As nice a cave it was, it still hid them from the world outside of their compound. The way he said that statement though gave a pang of hurt through Shikaku's heart though. It was as if he wasn't even thinking about teaching it to his oldest. As if he didn't even remember he had another child. His first thought was to ignore it and just let it blow up in his friends face when the time was right, but he figured he should at least give him a little nudge. "Well, what about Naruto?"

Minato froze completely for a second. "Naruto? Yeah, he should be graduating this year huh? Maybe he'll show an aptitude for it."

Shikaku wanted to palm Minato's face! Was he that unaware of his other son's accomplishments? If he didn't even know he was no longer in the academy, then he couldn't know about his son being one of the few to pass the advanced placement test. He couldn't know about his son's alias amongst the other villages which was based off of his own. He couldn't know of his son's unblemished mission record or the various monuments popping up around the nations with his son's name on them. He couldn't know of his son's entry into the ANBU black ops at the ripe age of eleven! He couldn't know any of that!
"Where is Naruto by the way? Have you seen him today?" Shikaku asked prodding him further into the trap he had set himself.

"Uh yeah he's uh… Well, he was…" Minato was drawing a blank. He couldn't remember if he saw his son today or not. Or if he saw him last week. Or in the last year! "He was…" he tried. Shikaku watched the confusion play out across his face in wonder. It was as if he truly didn't understand the question he had been asked. "He…" Minato looked out the window truly confused by his inability to picture his own son within the past two to three years. It broke his heart that he couldn't. Completely shattered his soul.

Sitting on the park bench, Kushina and Mikoto laughed as Kushina was telling stories of the events that happened during their three year training period. They watched the kids playing a strange game they had never seen before involving cardboard ninja tools and a flag. It was apparent to Mikoto that Menma and Mito were well trained by the advanced tactics they were using, but she was filled with pride as she watched Sasuke, on the opposing team, holding his own.

Kushina noticed as well. "I see Sasuke has a bit of training as well huh?" she inquired.

"Ah, well. That's all his brother. Always wanting to imitate him and what not." She said with a grin watching him run around and laugh with the others.

Kushina smiled and nodded understanding completely. "How is Itachi doing anyways?" She asked. "I heard he was one of the boys able to pass the advanced placement exam huh?"

Mikoto looked at her in confusion as she said it as if she didn't know already. I mean, with her son being the other, she'd figure she'd know. "y-Yeah… Yes he did." She replied brushing it off for the moment.

"What is he a chunin now?" she continued further confusing her friend.

"He's ANBU…" she said now truly looking at the woman as if she were an enemy in disguise.

Kushina didn't notice the gaze as her eyes were still on the children. "ANBU? Wow, that's amazing…" she said lowly.

Mikoto kept her gaze on Kushina wondering what it was that seemed so wrong. It was like… she had no idea her own son was the other boy whom rose through the ranks alongside Itachi. They're only twelve years old and they are already ANBU agents. Surely Naruto would've told her. Through their conversations, Mikoto knew they weren't exactly close, but still. When Itachi returned home with the news of his acceptance into ANBU, Fugaku and she threw a party for him. The entire clan was in attendance to witness the great feat. Yet, it didn't seem as if Naruto had told her anything.

Deciding to test her theory, she adjusted her positioning on the seat so that she was looking more towards Kushina than the kids in the playground. "Hey, Kushi?" she called out. Kushina tore her smiling gaze away from the children at play and looked to her friend who seemed to have something to say. "I was uh wondering. How is Naruto doing?"
For a second, a look of confusion crossed her face hearing the name. Then a mix of many more.

Walking down the street in thought, Naruto searched for his family. He had gone to the compound after signing in, but they were nowhere to be found. He searched for a bit until he decided to head back to HQ. On the way, he ran into Itachi which the two boys then decided to continue the search as they now had a better chance.

"So, now that they are eight, I assume they will be entering the Academy along with Sasuke and the other clan children next year?" Itachi asked as he walked along the path with his best friend who still had his nose buried into his new book.

"Yeah. I suppose so." Naruto replied casually.

"Is there a reason they ended their training a year before they head for the academy?" he asked.

Naruto brought the book down in thought. "I believe they said so they have a little time to be kids again before shinobi duties become a reality."

Nodding in understanding, he continued. "Since their training is over, that would mean Hokage-sama will be retaking office sometime soon." He said receiving nothing more than a 'mhm' from the blonde. "Does he know of your rank?"

At this he pulled the book down away from his face. "I am not sure… I would assume not as they have not left the compound in such a long time." He replied.

"What about Kakashi-san? He has taken missions outside of the village a few times since our… foreign exploits. He possibly could've told him." Itachi suggested.

Naruto nodded. "Indeed. However, he seemed surprised when I signed in today. I am sure he was unaware of my status within in the ANBU black ops." He said.

Itachi nodded again. "… What of Jiraiya-sama? I'm sure his spy networks have been buzzing with your name."

"Possibly. However, I do believe I overheard Shikaku-sama explaining in frustration to someone that having both Jiraiya-sama and Tsunade-sama on leave as well was in a way crippling Konoha's defense." He said still reading. "If that is to mean he has not been out of the village, receiving the information from his contacts would have been relatively impossible, as Konoha accepts no foreign carrier birds unless marked by the other Kage themselves." He explained.

"So, Hokage-sama has no idea his neglected son is an actual prodigy?" he asked in a joking manner.

Naruto snickered. "I'm not a prodigy. And I was not neglected. My parents took the steps necessary to ensure that my younger siblings were well taken care of. If I had to be set to the side for the time being, then so be it." He explained.

Itachi sported a small grin. "You are humble. That is good. But, if you were not neglected, then who taught you everything you know?" he asked.

Naruto thought about it for only a second. "Everyone has." He said looking at the ravenette. "Through the books they have written or left about, I have learned everything I've needed to know to become an adequate ninja on the battle field. From Jiraiya's book The Tale of a Gutsy Ninja, I've learned to remain true to myself and to the people I love. From my father's notes, I have learned fuinjutsu to a high enough degree that I am able to perform his signature jutsu the Hiraishin."

Itachi stared ahead in complete amazement at the love his friend held for those around him even when they didn't deserve it.

"And it is thanks to my mother's spare key that I had access to the Namikaze library. She gave it to me on my sixth birthday. I've learned to 'always look underneath the underneath' from watching Kakashi-nii spar with Might Gai-san. I've learned a decent level of medical jutsu from the book Tsunade left at my house, and I've learned of the Uzumaki clan and some of their sealing techniques because of the books brought from my mother's homeland." He finished with a soft smile as he stared ahead.
"Everyone in my life has done more than I could have asked for." He said. "If I must endure a few years of lonesomeness, then I will do so while carrying my family name with pride."

Itachi looked at the blonde teen with a shake of his head. "There is no man more noble than you Naruto."

"Nobility is a trait we all share. As human beings compassion shapes our existence. Sadly so does malice. When we find ourselves, we find which of these traits suits us best." He said in a poetic way that Itachi found to be completely true. He smiled at him before looking up at the sky.

"Are you still looking?" Itachi asked. The sounds of the street and the nearby park seemed much more noticeable as he found himself in a moment of profound amusement with the world around him.

"Are you?" he asked him looking away from his book. Itachi smiled a bit, perking his lips to give a reply until they tightened when they both felt a buildup of chakra. As ANBU of Konoha, they were obligated to handle any disturbance within their path involving ninja. They shunshinned to the disturbance cutting off both of the attacks before they collided. To their surprise and amusement, they were holding onto their own respective brothers.

The Rasengan in Menma's hand died out as he peered up into eyes he has not seen in a very long time now that he thought about it. Sasuke allowed the ball of fire within his own hand to die out as Itachi gave him a knowing look before poking his forehead with his middle and index fingers.

"Naruto-nii?" Menma asked. Clearly surprised by the sudden entry. Kushina and Mikoto came jogging up, stopping a ways away seeing it was handled.

"Otouto." Naruto said with a grin. "Picking fights on your birthday?" he asked letting his wrist go.

"Naruto!" Kushina yelled a bit louder than she meant to. "I uh." She said unable to find her words as she was now face to face with a child that should by all rights hate her guts.

"Hey Kaa-san." He said with a small smile. "It's okay. It was just a little playground skirmish, no harm done." He said putting his hand on Menma's hair and rustling it up.

Menma pushed his hand away glaring up at him. "It was his fault!" he yelled pleading his case to his older brother. "He's the one who cheated!"

"That's a lie! Naruto-nii!" Sasuke yelled in defense. "He's just being a baby because I beat him!" his rant was ended when Itachi squeezed his shoulder gently.

"No you didn't! And don't call him nii-san!" Menma yelled in reply. Naruto chuckled at the little verbal spout and rubbed Menma's head.

"It's fine Otouto. We win some we lose some. As Ninja we're expected to cheat. Had it been a fight you'd have lost regardless." Menma listened in finding truth to his brother's words as he at one point heard his dad say something similar. Naruto, seeing his downtrodden expression, leaned down closer so that he could whisper in his ear. "But, had it been a real fight, I'm sure you would've won hands down."

Menma's face lit up with a smile as he turned to his brother who had his fist out towards him. Understanding the gesture, he fist bumped his brother and looked over to Sasuke who was also receiving some form of praise as he and Itachi high fived. When they caught eyes, they both grinned and took off back to the playground where everyone else was watching the spectacle.

Naruto looked over at Itachi already figuring he had said something along the same lines. "Oh Itachi. Lying to your little brother?" he asked jokingly.

"Not one bit." He said with a smile. "You'd know, you helped train him." Their conversation ended when they walked over to their mothers. "Good Evening Kaa-san, Namikaze-sama." He greeted.

"Hey Itachi-kun, Naruto-kun" Mikoto replied. Kushina just gave a quick nod with a strange expression on her face.

"Hello Mikoto-sama, Kaa-san." Naruto said waving his hand at the two women.

"So." Mikoto said with a sigh. "What happened with those two?"

Itachi and Naruto walked until they were on either side of their respective mothers looking out to the children playing. Itachi answered her question. "Ah, it would appear Sasuke used unfavorable tactics in their game to win."

Mikoto sighed again. "That boy. He's just like his father. Can never admit when they've lost." She said shaking her head. From there Mikoto and Itachi got lost in their own conversation of who Sasuke was more alike. Kushina however had her perplexed expression directed at Naruto. In her musing earlier, she was sure she hadn't seen him in years. But, they lived in the same house. That's neglect. Hell that's borderline child abuse. Yet, he seems as if nothing has ever happened. Like he's been there forever.

She watched him as he pulled out a little black book and began reading. Examining him further, she saw the headband around his neck. 'But, he doesn't graduate for another week… right?' Her mind then traveled back to the way he was able to stop Menma's attack. It would take a skilled ninja to do something like that.

"Well." Mikoto said after a fit of laughing, breaking Kushina from her thoughts. "We better head home. I've got to get Sasuke ready for the festival." She said bidding Naruto and Kushina a farewell. "You coming Itachi-kun?" she asked as she walked towards the children to get Sasuke.

Itachi nodded before turning to Naruto. "I already spoke with Yugao-san. She says we are to stay on call." He said as Naruto nodded. With that, he nodded back and followed his mother and little brother away from the park and back to the Uchiha compound, leaving only Naruto and Kushina sitting on the bench.

Now alone, Naruto decided to address the elephant in the room, er in the park. "Kaa-san?" he said getting her attention which was already on him. "Is there an issue? You have been staring at me for quite a while."

Kushina blinked a few times. Tucking her hair behind her ear she looked back out at Mito and Menma. "Oh… I'm sorry Naru-ku…" she said, her voice fading out.

Naruto looked at her strangely. "Are you feeling ok?" he asked.

"No, yeah! I'm fine!" she said perking up too quick for it to seem natural. Clearly forced, Naruto gave her an unconvinced 'mhm' before sticking his nose back into his book.

"So. Where will the party be?" he asked her casually.

"The party…" she whispered in slight confusion. "Oh right. The uh… the party. It's at the house." She muttered out. "It's at home…" a little softer.

Naruto nodded from behind his book. The conversation fell silent as Naruto read and Kushina watched the children at play, mentally berating herself on how awful a mother she was. Her heart was breaking piece by piece and the silence between them was making it worse. It hurt worse that Naruto seemed so easily forgiving. In an unexplainable way, she wanted him to hate her. She wanted him to hate all of them for leaving him to the wolves. She wanted him to tell her how much she hurt him by forgetting about him. She wanted him to say anything that would justify the feeling of hatred she felt towards herself. All she got was a smile and a wave with a sweet 'Hello Kaa-san'. She felt sick to her stomach.

"Kaa-san? Do you enjoy reading?" Naruto asked suddenly, breaking the thick silence between them.

Kushina, caught off guard at first, processed the question. "Um. Reading?" she asked as he nodded. "No I can't really say I do… your father is the reader…" she said, a bit disappointed she didn't have that in common with him.

Naruto nodded. "Ah. I figured as much." Kushina saddened a bit more at that. Was he calling her dumb? "You always seemed like the type to see the beautiful world yourself instead of reading it in a book written through someone else's eyes."

She looked over at him in confusion. Was he complementing her? Really?

"I guess Tou-san put the books down when he met you, huh?" he asked with a smile as he looked at her. Her confused visage remained the same. "I read in a book written by Kiori Kotari, a poet of rice country, which said, 'Through my books I experience life in all aspects. They are my eyes for the sights I can't see and my ears for the songs I can't hear. But, one day, I will meet someone who, in a strange way, will share their sight and ear with me. So that I may, one day, put my books down… and enjoy life through my own eyes.'"

Kushina dazed off in thought of the mesmerizing words. She had never heard anything so beautiful. It made her reminisce, briefly, the many adventures she and Minato ventured on. The amazing sights they witnessed as they traveled the shinobi world. Naruto made it seem like people like herself who didn't like to read were somehow special. As if they were so brilliant, they didn't have to understand what they were looking at to appreciate its magnificence. She smiled and realized she still had yet to answer his question.
"Yeah… yeah I guess he did." She finally responded.

Naruto smiled as he looked out towards his little sister who was playing tag with her own group of friends mainly consisting of the clan heiress's of the Hyuga and Yamanaka clans as well as a young girl with pink hair. "Mito is a lot like you huh?" he asked in wonder drawing her attention to the little redhead. "I hope she stays that way." He whispered gently.

Kushina smiled allowing a tear to fall from her left eye, away from Naruto's view. She couldn't take much more of this if she was honest. It was tearing her heart apart bit by bit. Wiping the stray tear, she allowed the thick silence to settle back in. The minutes rolled by and the only sounds present to her were the normal sounds of children at play, distant chatter, and Naruto occasionally flipping pages.

"Kaa-san?" he said standing to his feet, getting her attention. She gave a 'hmm?' in reply. "Would you like some lunch?" he asked suddenly.

Looking up, Kushina was surprised to see it was already a bit pass noon. She didn't realize how long they had been out there. Apparently it was more than a few hours. "Oh. Yeah, I guess it's about lunch time." She said getting to her feet calling out to her children. Off to their long awaited meal of the gods!

Walking into the new and improved Ichiraku's Kushina, Mito, and Menma looked around in amazement. The place was amazing. There were tables all over the place with booths lining the side. When they walked in, they were greeted by a woman they hadn't seen before.

"Oh my." She said in amazement clearly recognizing the family of the Yondaime. "Um. Welcome to Ichiraku's Mrs. Namikaze! I am pleased to serve you!" she said clearly excited by the group. She almost didn't notice Naruto.
"Oh! Hey Naruto!" she called out again.

Naruto smiled at her and waved. "Hello Hakari-chan."

"Please follow me. I'll take you to your booth." She said grabbing a stack of menus. The family weaved through the restaurant waving and smiling at the other customers who stopped their meals to say hello to the Namikaze family. They made it to the back booth that had a reserved card on the top. She took it off and quickly wiped it down for them to make sure it was clean.
Menma and Mito sat on one side against the back wall to which they could see the rest of the restaurant. Naruto allowed his mother to slide in first and he sat on the edge. Hakari passed out the menus before giving the table one more smile. "Ok guys, I'll give you a minute to view the menu and I'll be back to take your order."

Before she turned to leave Naruto stopped her and whispered something in her ear. She nodded and walked off. Now, the table sat in relative silence as Naruto read his book and Mito and Menma argued over whatever could be argued over.
Kushina felt a bit awkward sitting there with all of her children. Her mind still had no idea how to wrap around the fact that they forgot about one of their children. She wanted so badly for someone to at least talk about it, but he seemed not to care for it. Why did it hurt more that he didn't? Shouldn't she be relieved?

"So. How do you like the new place?" Naruto asked directing his statement to his mother even though he didn't look her way.

Kushina peered over her shoulder at the décor which she only briefly glanced at. "It's uh… It's beautiful." She said vaguely.

"Why thank you. We've worked very hard on it." A new voice said shocking the group.

"Teuchi!" yelled Mito and Menma scurrying out of their seats to give the man a hug. Ayame walking up right behind him.

"Oh! I knew my favorite family hadn't forgotten about me!" he said scooping the kids up. Naruto scoot out allowing Kushina to get up and greet them.

"Hey Teuchi." Kushina said with a smile giving the man a hug.

"Kushinaaa" he replied wrapping her up as well. "It's so good to see you!"

"It's great to see you too." She replied hugging Ayame. While everyone retook their seats, Teuchi and Ayame began to explain their improvements and the need for expansion. They rambled on for so long, Mito had to remind everyone what they had originally came there to do.

"Right! The ramen!" Teuchi exclaimed. "Don't worry, I already know the order. It is the Namikaze special after all." He said as he and Ayame headed back to the kitchen to prepare the food. Again, the table fell somewhat silent as the kids found something new to argue about as they always did. Kushina again fell back into her own mental state of depression over what she had done and Naruto was stuck in his book as usual.

Their attention was drawn to the front of the restaurant however as there was even more commotion than when they had entered. Whoever was coming in seemed to gain enough praise for a few of the patrons to stand and greet. Seeing who it was, Mito and Menma were the first to react with a simultaneous shout of "Tou-san!"

Minato quickly greeted those around him as he followed the waitress to where his family was. His face was set in an indescribable expression. A mixture of worry, sorrow, sadness, anger, and grief all barely masked by a smile.

Once Naruto saw who it was, he smiled and turned back to his book. Kushina continued looking in desperation. She and Minato caught eyes as he came into view. Just by looking they could tell the other was thinking the same thing. All Minato saw was his wife. He didn't have time to exam the others at the table before walking up as his attention was continuously being drawn towards people welcoming him back.

Arriving at the table in panic, "Kushina, we need to t-…" he began until he finally noticed the subject of his worry. "Naruto…"

He stood there shell shocked for a moment as his two youngest crashed into his mid-section together. He didn't know what to say. He was fearing the worst as they were in such a public area. The troubled expression on Kushina's face told him Naruto had already said a few things to her. No question he'd have more than a few for himself.

"Hello Tou-san." Naruto said casually as the kids sat back down. Seeing there were no more seats he quickly got to his feet. "Here, sit down." He said gesturing towards the booth as he asked the table next to them if the empty chair was an extra. After confirming it was, he thanked them and set it at the open end.

Minato looked around the table in confusion. Mainly towards Kushina who had his hand in a deathlike grip beneath the table.

Seeing the whole family was now together, Naruto thought it rude to have a book out so he stashed it for the time being. Menma and Mito again, as always, began an argument that the others zoned out of. Minato and Kushina felt so tense and awkward that it would've been hard not to notice. Naruto of course saw it and wondered what the cause was. He tried to think up a conversation that families would have at a dinner table. In a few of the fictional books he read, the family dinners that described this type of silence always consisted of some dramatic incident weighing heavy on the minds of the characters. The silence would usually be broken by a joke.

Thinking up something quick, he opened his mouth in an attempt to break the ice, but as soon as he did, Teuchi and Ayame came to the rescue delivering the food. They had planned on the inhuman family devouring bowl after bowl so they brought more than necessary so each of them got one. After greeting Minato and bidding the family a good meal, he left them to their dinner.

Menma and Mito tore into theirs with a vengeance now making it a competition to see who could eat it fastest. Taking his jacket off and draping it over his chair, Naruto watched the spectacle in amusement before turning to his own bowl. He twiddled his chopsticks at the noodles still uncomfortable with the silence that settled back in. Peering over, he saw his father doing the same as him and his mother staring at the Naruto fish cakes in her bowl with glossy eyes.
Finally having enough of it, he cleared his throat. "So, will you be retaking office tomorrow?" he asked Minato who was caught off guard.

"o-Oh, yeah." He muttered out before clearing his own throat. "Yeah."

Naruto nodded. "That's great. I think Shikaku-sama was just about ready to quit the other day." He said with an amused tone.

Minato looked at the boy unsure of what to think. Was he not mad? The whole time he spent looking for Kushina, he had gone over many scenarios for what to expect when he faced him again. He expected anger, heartbreak, indifference, or anything else. But, not this. Not whatever this was. "Um.. Yeah. That sounds like him." He replied back forcing a few chuckles out.

Naruto smiled, happy they at least got the conversation started. "I guess Hokage isn't for everybody." He said chuckling as well. "If brains is all it took then we'd be run by the Nara clan… with mandatory cloud watching every other hour." He said receiving an actual chuckle from his father to his amusement.

"That's true." He said with a smile. "Or maybe an official nap time for the whole village." He said as he and Naruto shared a laugh with Kushina smiling off to the side, shaking her head.

"They're not all bad. I mean, Yoshino isn't like that." Kushina said defending her friend.

Naruto and Minato ended their laugh to plead their case. "Yes. But, she was not born in the clan. She was merely married into it."

"And according to Shikaku she does have her moments." Minato said with a few remaining chuckles. Figuring it an unfair match up, Kushina just chuckled along and began to eat her ramen.

"Do you plan on becoming active again Kaa-san?" Naruto asked.

Kushina slurped the noodles hanging from her mouth so that she could answer. "No. I think I'm just going to keep training Mito and Menma until they have gotten out of the academy. After that, I may consider it." She replied.

"Ah." Naruto said. "That is a sound plan. Will you be their Jonin sensei?" he asked.

"Well, I'm not sure. I think your father wanted Kakashi to be their sensei." She said looking his way.

Minato slurped the noodles in his mouth as well. "Ah, that is the plan." He said still chewing. "I mean, if he still wants it of course."

"Kakashi-nii sounds like a swell idea." Naruto said. Before the conversation could continue, a very unexpected statement left the mouth of someone none of them expected.

"I thought you were dead." The table stopped everything and peered over at Mito in shock. Her eyes glued on Naruto.

"Mito!" Kushina exclaimed. "Why would you say that?" she demanded.

Mito looked back at her mother in confusion as she didn't understand why she was in trouble. "What? We haven't seen him in years." She said pointing out the concern Minato and Kushina had been dreading.

"Mito that's…" Minato said trying to explain, choking on his own words. He looked to Kushina for assistance, but she didn't seem to have anything to say either. In an attempt to get something out, he muttered, "We haven't seen a lot of people in years."

"Yeah, but… He's supposed to live with us." She replied in confusion. "He doesn't come to breakfast or dinner or training or any of that."

Minato and Kushina were at a loss of words as they didn't know what to say. To their glee, Naruto answered. "Well, Imouto. You and Menma hold a very special power inside you. A power that you have to learn to control as soon as possible." He explained.

"You mean the Kyubi?" she asked.

Naruto nodded, "Yeah. The Kyubi… Well, in order to gain control over it, it takes a lot of practice and training. That's why you guys have been on a very strict schedule. From the moment you guys woke up to the moment you went to sleep you have had something to do, right?" he asked receiving a nod from the both of them. "Well, you see me? I'm much too lazy to do what you guys do." He said receiving looks of amusement from the two.

"You're lazy nii-san?" Menma asked.

"Oh, the laziest. What you guys do is way too much. You must be superheroes or something." He said receiving giggles from the two. Minato and Kushina watched the scene in wonder. There was a piece of them that felt guilty about what they did, but there was another that told them he understood. Now that Menma and Mito were at a decent enough level, they were both determined to train Naruto as well.
Well… that's what they were hoping for.

Mito, now comfortable with the explanation, was still hungry as Menma took the last bowl. Seeing Naruto barely ate his second one, she asked him for it. "Nii-san, are you gonna eat that?"

Naruto shook his head with a smile as he passed it to her. In doing so, Menma's eyes lit up with shock and awe as Naruto's left sleeve raised up from extending his body and he could see his bare arm. "You have a tattoo!?" he exclaimed.

Minato and Kushina both stopped their eating, hearing the exclamation. In Konoha, it was illegal for shinobi to have tattoos. Well, there was one exception.

"Ah, yes I do." Naruto replied rolling his sleeve up so they could see.

Menma and Mito leaned in, poking at it as if it were something you could feel. "What is it?" Mito asked.

"It's my ANBU tattoo." He said looking down at it as well.

Both Minato and Kushina thought the same thing. 'ANBU!?'

AN: Till next time