Talk-no-jutsu is no joke . . . It was the only thing that could explain why she said anything to Naruto about a girl who hadn't ever existed in this world in the first place. But there was something light and fuzzy that was left behind when she finished. She didn't give him anything explicit, didn't tell the truth about her circumstances, but it felt nice just describing what that girl had been like.

Maemi had existed, and that had to be enough for her.

Haruhi fussed in her arms, and the clock struck three in the afternoon, signaling the end of the school day. Sasuke would be home soon.

"Why can't you see her anymore?" Naruto asked; he'd long been done with his meal, and was a surprisingly good listener for how much of a talker she'd seen he had been. Or would be. "You keep mentioning her in past tense but what happened?"

"She's . . ." Yuri didn't know how to respond.

"Was she an Uchiha?"

Surprisingly, Yuri admired that he didn't pussy-foot around the clan name, even how he subtly acknowledged it.

It made her feel more awkward when people refused to talk about it, made Hiyori's dead family feel like a dirty secret to be swept under the rug and—ah, she supposed that was the real reason she finally felt a bit lighter for having talked about Maemi. The Uchiha clan was to Hiyori what Maemi was to Yuriko.

And it forced her to admit that it was time. It had been long enough, and she was now more prepared than ever to accept what had happened.

She would never be happy with it, would never be able to change it. But it had happened. And she accepted that.

Wishing she could be more honest she replied, "No, she had been an average civilian . . . but I think if given the chance, she would have been an awesome shinobi. To be honest she would have made an awkward Uchiha." The thought caused her to chuckle. She'd have been just as picked on as much as Hiyori had been. As much as Obito.

No, if Maemi had been reborn in this world, like Yuri had been, she would have made a fantastic Uzumaki instead. The girl would have liked having red hair, it'd been something Maemi had always commented on, wanting to express herself in vibrant ways. She had adored fashion, loved picking outfits for everyone and making them act as if they were models on a runway at her leisure. She had been a funny girl with a brave smile, and had done her best in a horrific situation. She had been beautiful.

Since it'd been so long, she didn't expect it to hurt as much as it does coming out, her next words. "As for why I can't see her anymore . . . well, I can't see her anymore because she's dead."

And it was my fault.

"You know, nee-chan, you aren't what I'd expect," Naruto mumbled, and then coughed a bit into his shoulder, pointedly looking at her as he did so.

"I have to agree, you aren't what I expected either." I didn't know I would be as vulnerable as everyone else to you. She didn't regret opening up, however, though he probably thought she was a weirdo.

"I should probably get going," he coughed again, which made her think, fat chance I'll let that happen. She would agree normally, knowing Sasuke would not take well to the idea of this certain blonde boy being in their kitchen, but since Naruto was sick, she didn't like the idea even more leaving Naruto to take care of himself. She hated the thought of him feeling lonely, especially when sick. She knew keenly what it felt like.

Yuri wrung her hands together. Maybe it was a new obsession of hers, taking care of children that weren't her own—and wait, no, scratch that. They were hers. Each of them had become hers the moment she laid her eyes on them.

"You don't have to leave, Uzumaki-san."

"Isn't Sasuke coming home soo—"

"Yori, what's this bastard doing here?"

Speak of the devil.

Yuri didn't look towards the raven haired child she knew would be standing behind her. Haruhi was fussing in her arms, and it was near time for the twins feeding time.

"Don't use that language around your cousins," she instead chided, and offering a warm smile for Naruto, stood from her seat at the dining table to set the dishes in the sink, Haruhi on her hip. She couldn't get anymore domestic if she tried. Asahi made loud giggling noises from where he was laying in his little small crib she'd gotten for the kitchen. He'd been giggling at Naruto all afternoon, the latter making funny faces when he thought Yuri wasn't looking.

"Yori, you can't just—Yori," Naruto snickered the moment Yuri sends a tight glare towards her ward. Sasuke groaned, irritation puffing his chest and hardening his stance.

"I don't understand this dislike you boys have for one another."

"Wait you were aware we're sworn enemies?" Naruto chimed in surprise.

She frowned, "Of course."

"I thought you were just being nice thinking I was just his classmate . . . " Naruto murmured to himself. Ah. It tugged at her, knowing he had been anticipating a big reveal that would turn her against him. Little did he know, there were no big reveals for her to witness. Everything was obvious on her board of chess, the game having finished before it began.

"You're sick and have no one looking after you, I wouldn't care if you were the nine-tailed fox, Uzumaki-san. I'd have still offered you the soup. Which by the way, we have a spare bedroom you can use for the night, your fever still hasn't broken." To be sure, she came to stand at his side, pressing her hand against his forehead. It was still as hot as a furnace to her, and she didn't miss the flush to his face, nor the sweat that stuck to her fingers when she pulled them away.

"Yori if he's sick, even more of a reason for him to go the hell away," Sasuke grumbled, and snatched Haruhi from her arm, making as if he could protect the babies from the germs just by his intense gaze alone.

"Shut up," Naruto mumbled heartlessly in his defence. He looked like he would keel over any minute. "And it's okay Nee-chan, I can get home by myself. I'm used to it." Used to it. It began to ring in her head like a gong.

That sealed it.

"No you are not, now come on, I have medicine and a glass of water with your name on it." He resisted at first, that is until she invaded his personal space and nearly hauled him up herself.

"You're so heavy for a kid," she grumbled, taking some of his weight.

"You're small for an adult," he shot back, acting peeved. She didn't miss it though, his face telling her all she needed to know. He couldn't even look at her.

Everyone is a damn tsundere these days, no one can be honest.

She helped him to the spare bedroom and into the bed that had been meant for Sasuke, but went unused and forgotten when they'd decided to just sleep next to each other. Now Yuri is grateful she didn't just decide to turn the room into an office or an extra storage room.

"Are you comfy?" she asked, fluffing the blanket on him.

"It's hot," he murmured; there was moisture in his eyes as he said it. She couldn't help it then, the soft caress she gives his face. There'd been a time where she loathed skin contact, knew none of it would come with good intentions and fearing when it ever did.

Still, more than torture or assault, Yuri had once feared kindness. Maybe that was why Maemi had terrified her.

But now she knew better, knew how reassuring depraved skin would find sincere affection.

"Sasuke is so damn lucky," Naruto mumbled drowsily, she didn't think he was even aware he had spoken it aloud. "Hate him."

"Don't go to sleep yet, you still need your medicine," she told him sternly, and stood from where she'd been crouched attending him. When she stepped from the room to get said medicine, Sasuke caught her.

"Yori," he started.

"Sasuke," she smiled warmly.

"You don't have to pick up strays off the street. Alley cats can defend themselves."

"Sasuke, I love you dearly, but I'm not leaving a child to be sick alone."

The fight left the irritated boy at once, realizing the futility in his conquest to get Naruto to leave, and instead he grumbled, "I get it, it's not in your nature," before heading off in the direction of the babies. She shrugged, unable to correct him.

It was in her nature no longer.

When she came back to Naruto, he was only half awake, mumbling things incoherently. He looked uncomfortable, shifting and turning in bed, his expression pinched.

"Come on, I have medicine, it will make you feel better, I promise."

She had him sit up, gently coaxing him to swallow the bitter sweet substance with a watchful gaze. His face twisted in disgust and then he surprised her when he began to cough. Concern governed her actions, unable to help her physical need to comfort him by rubbing at his back as they waited for his sickness to settle. She hated it, seeing how weak it left him.

Glad she'd had the foresight to bring a glass of water with the medicine, anticipating the taste needing to be washed down, she wordlessly hands him the cup. Naruto refused to meet her gaze, the coughing fit having brought tears to his eyes.

Still, he mumbled out in a gravelly tone, "I think you're the nicest person in existence, Nee-chan."

"There are kinder people," she assured him, thinking of Maemi.

"No, you're definitely the nicest."

She hummed, pretending not to notice it when the tears slipped off his chin.


Of course, Sasuke wasn't a very happy camper that night. He chose to ignore that Naruto even existed, which was an easy thing to do when Naruto was sleeping his sickness off soundly. Throughout the night she tended towards the boy, replacing wet rags and providing basic comforts.

It made her angry, knowing that in some universe where she hadn't been shoved into Hiyori's dead body, Naruto would have had to deal with this all alone.

She wished it would be something she could just up and do, adopt the boy, even if Sasuke wouldn't like it. But fucking politics had to be a thing; it'd look suspicious if the remaining Uchiha clan took in the kyuubi's jinchuriki, the situation being as it was. They'd kick up a big fuss about it, even though he'd been completely neglected and mistreated in the first place. If she ever saw Hiruzen's stupid face again she'd probably end up doing something she'd regret. Like try to kick him in the balls.

Stupid fucking man. Can't wait for that fucker to drop and Tsunade to take his place. It was callous, but it was also how she felt.

"Come over anytime you want something to eat, just no ramen. I have a feeling I wouldn't approve the amount you eat as it is."

Naruto laughed, sticking out his tongue. "Nee-chan, you don't even wanna know."

Yuri shuddered, but still she grinned at him. Naruto looked healthy again and for that she was glad. She just wished it wouldn't be creepy to kidnap and dote on him for the rest of his life. If only.

"Do you usually take random kids back to your place?"

Kakashi's voice took her by surprise, scant moments after Naruto made quick work of escape. She jumped a bit, nearly jamming her elbow in the man's stomach when he touched her shoulder. It instantly had her mood sour.

"Sorry, thought you heard me coming." Liar. "So about the kid?"

"I didn't," she responded with a bit of bite to her words. It was thicker when she added, "And only those orphaned through tragedy and made victims through a system that would rather see them forgotten, yes."

The only real response to her words on initial impact that she could tell was the slight clicking of his jaw where his mask usually was.

"Sorry for asking," he said seconds after, good naturedly putting his arms up in surrender. As if that would placate her. She knew he wasn't actually apologetic. Of course it was a little suspect she was consorting with Naruto. He probably hadn't expected to see that boy walk out of her apartment in a million years.

Whatever. She was tired of liars.

"See you around," she said in departure and headed back into her place.


Yuriko had had some friends.

Friends who didn't know much about her background, but people she considered friends enough. They were the people she talked about anime and manga with. They were people who she could feel normal with, at least for a fraction of her time. They were the ground she stood on. The only reason she wasn't as messed up as she could be, honestly.

"Yuriko, did you read the update?" Taka asked, tapping the eraser of his pencil against a blank sheet of notebook paper.

She shook her head, flashes of the night before in her head before she could help it. "I wasn't able to."

"Ah, that sucks. Your dad being a dick again?"

She shrugged, "Something like that."

Her classmates all assumed she had something of an abusive family situation, that or she was a bit of a whore. She was never surprised when someone was up front with either assumptions. How else was one to excuse the bruises that were too dark to hide with concealer? Blushed red marks on her neck that she'd visibly shudder when someone eyed. Bruises made by tightened fists too strong for her fight at her wrists. Scars lining the parts of her thigh that was sometimes visible when her skirt shifted out of the way.

No one ever said anything, though they all thought about it. Especially the one who wore it all.

But Taka was different. Different in a way that confused her, but also made her feel . . . safe. Cared for. He didn't seem to believe the rumors that she fucked randoms on the side, at least he never seemed like he did, and he was always trying to make her laugh.

"If you ever want, you can stay at my place if it gets too bad. My mom is never home when I am, you know she works as a hostess so it'd be easy to hide you there. We can watch anime all night and play video games, too. Not like your dad would care, right?"

Yuriko watched the bounce of his pencil.

"I can't."

She wondered what Taka thought was going on, really. If all he assumed was an abusive relationship between a father and a daughter. Wondered what he'd say if she revealed herself to him. She wanted to trust that disarming smile of his . . . and she wanted to know what his expression would be, the curious part of her itching at the truth behind her lips.

To her response, the teenage boy who really had no clue of what was about to be unloaded upon him, pouts.

This was during a time she hadn't been so jaded she couldn't feel romantic affection, so this had only endeared him to her. Yuriko had what most people would call, a crush. She will question this into her next life, why she had liked an idiot.

"You can't or you won't?"

"I—" she frowned. "I can't."

"Is he hurting you?" Taka asked, catching her off guard. Nobody had ever been so cavalier about this topic to her. It surprised her into what she'd call then weakness, but really now that she thinks of it, was really the path she had been too afraid to continue to walk.

Yuriko had been quite sensitive at the time. She had been fifteen and used to entertain fantasies of being saved by cute classmate friends who shared the same interests and made her feel loved. This was before she realized she was completely disenchanted by anything that could be found within her world and normality had sounded like actual magic to her.

So instead of telling the prick that she was uncomfortable with his question, she turned to him, wary of their classmates ears and leaned in to whisper. "Would you still like me if he was?"

Taka had the intelligence not to unpack that in the middle of the classroom.

Instead his eyes filled with an emotion she had never seen on a person before, but felt an instinctive dislike for it. Somehow it made her feel small and weak. Now she can recall, it was pity swimming in his eyes.

No one had given her genuine pity before. It had been a surprisingly painful thing to bare.

Later, when the last bell had rang and she was busy ignoring Maemi's puppy eyes across the room and her obvious desire to be played with, Taka approached her.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

And . . . she had. (She also should have continued speaking about it. To anyone that would listen. All it would have took was the right ears to hear it.)

So she led him to a quiet place in one of the closed off classrooms, and she told him about it all.

For some reason she expected him to be on her side, to want to continue to help her because they were friends and he'd sounded so supportive before. But when she'd stopped talking, and he was processing it all, she could see it on his face. The moment when he knew what his response would be.

And looking back, of course he had. His mom was a sex worker, too, when she wasn't being a hostess, and you don't have that sort of background and not understand what having the Yakuza own you meant. He knew he could do nothing for her, and thus he had to pretend. And really, it was for the best.

Thus, Yuriko didn't know why she was so surprised though when his response was this:

"Why would you lie about something like that?"

And she replied, faked laughter escaping on painful, confused exhales, "Ahaha, I wonder that, too."

Yuriko had to smile through it, those innocent feelings of romance that had just begun to take shape among the rough edges of her heart dying in her chest, right alongside that laughter.

The disbelief had only further sealed her into silence.


Yuri froze in place, eyes wide and breath wound tight in a ball in her throat.

"Ueda-san," the cloaked form greeted.

She swallowed the lump down, leaving the breath that had been trapped there to come out in a quick burst.

"Y-you," she grounded out with gritted teeth. "You shouldn't be here."

He was going to ruin it all. Ruin everything she'd worked too damn hard for.

"You have interesting things in that head of yours."

"Yeah? And? You've known this for a while now," since the day her sons—

She felt fear spike itself into her when she noticed he was holding one of her them, Asahi's innocent smile beaming at her from the moment he'd spotted her. He reached for her, light baby giggles leaving his bubbly mouth.

Yuri couldn't help it. She whimpered. She'd only ever heard a similar sound come from her once.

"Please," she got down on her knees immediately, unashamed to beg. "Please don't hu—"

"I'm not going to."

Itachi shifted the infant in his arms, and she was caught by the distinct youth in his face as he looked at her child. His face, and this is what had her in true surprise . . . softened.

"I want what you want for them."

He walked to where she was still frozen, and far more gently than she had expected of him, guided her by the shoulder to a standing position. She managed to swallow the sounds of fear that threatened to leave her, and then they stood at the same height, eye to eye.

"Thank you, Ueda-san." He trained his gaze on Asahi. "For fixing my mistakes. And for loving him."

She was speechless, unable to do a thing when Itachi pressed her son into her arms, and only by the instinctive strength to keep her son protected had her holding him in a sure grip.

Yuri can't say that this is the most shocking moment of her life, that belongs to when she woke up in this universe, but it's certainly up there. Who could say that the Uchiha Itachi thanked them.

When he made to leave, she broke from her shell of inaction.

"Itachi, you can't just leave."

"I'm not going to tell anyone about your other life," Itachi said with an imperceptible frown. As if that was her problem.

"No, no! Itachi!" and she gasped as his name left her lips. She felt cold, conflicted and uncertain. He stopped, looking back at her with an impassive face. She stuttered, "I-I can't be the only one to make things better. S-sasuke could use your help!"

He looked at her doubtfully, and it's only a miracle that she was made an Uchiha that she can even decipher that in his flat expression.

She tried to gather her thoughts quickly, things she'd imagined saying to him at the off chance that they ever met again. Things she couldn't do on her own and was afraid to.

And what came first was this, "Do you really see Orochimaru being anything safe to leave Sasuke with in the future? I-I know he'll need to be strong," her thoughts go wild in her head. "To face Kaguya . . . and everything. You can help him, Itachi. Where I can't."

"I still have a mission to do, Ueda-san."

"D-don't call me that!"

He blinked. Asahi's brow furrowed in his tell tale sign of oncoming tears. She sucked in a breath, nerves rushing through her small frame. Settle, settle, settle.

"What do you wish to be called?" Itachi calmly asked, his gaze open.

An embarrassing amount of her wanted him to simply deem her Hiyori, but that was probably impossible for him considering he . . . had seen everything. He knew.

He knew all about Ueda Yuriko and her awful, horrific past filled to the brim with neglect, sexual abuse and assault. Knew she'd been there to witness crimes that would cause most individuals stomachs to turn, if not outright make them vomit. Saw the way people could be played like video games, felt the way it was to be puppeted into doing the wrong thing, over and over again.

He knew exactly what brought her here.

("Why do you even call me that?"

"Yuriko ends with child. And . . . we can't be considered children anymore. So Yuri it is.")

"Yuri." Yuri felt her cheeks warm. Claiming ownership of that name, of that person, somehow felt . . . freeing. "Call me Yuri, please."

"Yuri-san it is, then."

A weight lifted from her shoulders. The cloak of living as someone else falling at her feet, but the weight of her child reminded her at the same time that the mask that came with it would never quite leave her.

She had accepted this.

But it still felt so good.

"Thank you," she said.

Itachi looked slightly uncomfortable, resembling Sasuke when he received praise he didn't think he deserved. It reminded her that even though she disliked immensely the things Itachi had done, and that she would hate his actions for what they resulted into until her existence itself was no longer, that he was still a child. And her soft spot had always been for children.

Fuck, she thought.

She shook her head of her sudden desire to pat his cheek like she would Sasuke, and blinked when a sudden worry came to her.

Other than Orochimaru, what she truly worried over was, "Do you know if Danzo was successful in taking the clans eyes?"

Itachi's soft face became sharp, his fires appeared to deepen in their crimson-hued gaze.

She was then surprised by the amount of words he would say, "His fatal mistake will be just as it had been in that story of us you read. But his end will be far more painful. Be assured the matter will be settled in a way that will be suitable; think nothing more of it."

"I—" she swallowed unsure words, "I see."

"As for your wishing for me to stay for Sasuke," the now fourteen year old shrugged. "You'll take much better care of him, and there are still many more years to go."

"I can take care of you, too."

Yuri hadn't meant to say it out loud, but instead of taking it back, she gazed at him earnestly.

A small, budding smile took over his thin lips. "You have already adopted enough troubled youths, and I still have a job to do."

And then he was gone in a pile of leaves.

The fucking bastard.

.武士は食わねど高楊枝 — bushi wa kuwanedo takayouji — Lit. Even when a samurai doesn't eat, he holds his toothpick like a lord. Bushidou refers to a samurai's code of conduct in the face of adversity. Most often used to refer to holding one's head up high even if the going gets tough.

Hi, i'm not dead. Ahaha. Sorry it's been a few months. c: