Wow. An Update.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, as always.


It was not two men and a child who had arrived at the gates of Konohagakure. Rather, it was two boys— one nearing a decade older than the other— who approached, a bundle held carefully in the arms of the eldest.

Strangely, the youngest of the pair was almost disturbingly casual in his gait while the elder held himself with a certain caution, his strides long and steps light although measured.

"Oi, Gaku. How long are you gonna watch those kids? If I didn't know better, I'd think you were planning something."

The Chūnin gave a sigh. "Daichi."

Daichi scoffed. "No greeting, Gaku? No, 'Hey, how's it goin'? Just"— here, he deepened his to a comical degree— "'Daichi'. You could at least act friendly; you already look the part, with the blonde hair and big eyes. Just like Hokage-sama, ya know? Even if you're a cold-hearted prick.

Gaku scowled at the comment but otherwise ignored it. "When was the last time we had kids coming through here anyway?"

"A few days ago. With the merchant—"

"I meant by themselves." And while that fact was not particularly damning in and of itself, they couldn't afford to take even small risks. "Just by looking, you can already tell they don't have any form of identification on them and despite being children they've made it here virtually unscathed." Because even if they were only kids, the chances that any wandering bandits, traffickers, or other malcontents would pass up an opportunity— even as small as this one— was low.

Daichi gave him an exasperated look. "You're thinking too hard, Gaku. They're just kids."

"And so are Uchiha Shisui and Hatake Kakashi. Every monster of shinobi was a kid at some point— please get that through your head, Daichi."

Daichi ran a hand through his mop of brown hair and sighed. "You want me to go down there then?"

"No; you go fetch somebody, Daichi. I'll just make sure they stay here." At this, Daichi vanished in a Shunshin and Gaku leapt from his perch.

He landed before the children with all the grace expected of a shinobi, his appearance startling enough to send both children stumbling back— the youngest of the two actually falling on his rear. The boy scrambled to his feet quickly enough and ran to stand next to the older of the pair.

The eldest boy— and if it turned out Gaku's suspicion was unfounded, wasn't it likely the boys were brothers?— bore a look of resignation despite the fact that words had yet to be spoken.

Gaku gestured to ground around them. "You may as well get comfortable; we won't be moving for a bit."

The brat of the pair looked between Gaku and his brother(?) before finding a tree he deemed suitable to rest against. The other remained where he stood, a bundle cradled in his arms.

Gaku hadn't much attention to it before it— it was a baby, he noted dimly— but he hardly let it phase him and took the boy's refusal to move in stride.

Shizuko hadn't paid particular attention to the journey they made to the village. Throughout the entirety of the trip, she'd been ensorcelled by The Blue flowing within her, experimenting as much as her limits allowed.

In her previous life, she would never have put so much of her precious energy into entertaining herself. The Blue, however, was fascinating like nothing she'd ever seen and despite how straining it was— and she was slowly becoming aware that perhaps she was pushing against some barrier meant to protect her— she was drawn to it.

It came so easily. She could move it as she wished with nothing but her will. The amount of control she possessed over it was amazing. It was comparable to... well, she couldn't compare it to anything really; it was unlike anything she'd experienced in her first life. The closest she'd come to such tranquility in the past had been her brief forays into meditation during her fledgling years— something she intended to take up once more to assist in her continued understanding.

It was an intrusion— soft and soothing but an intrusion all the same— of other into her body, her stream of tranquil Blue, that woke her. There was but a moment of panic before her body was once again calm even as she squirmed within the recesses of her mind. In this drowsy half-lucidity, her eyes opened slowly but she couldn't make out any forms. She attempted to take hold of the energy that had come so naturally before, yet her concentration slipped and she managed little more than displace a bit of it.

It wasn't until Shizuko heard a startled gasp— a woman— and felt herself being shifted that she realized she was being held in somebody's arms.

Then the woman's voice cooed to her, "I'm sorry, dear. I didn't mean to wake you." There was a scoff and, though she'd never heard him express himself in such a way, she recognized this as the boy Hirohito-san referred to as 'Aniki'.

"I told you she was sensitive." He spoke to the woman harshly and when she replied it was equal venom, though heavily tempered by cold professionalism.

"You neglected to mention she was sensitive to chakra." Shizuko was rocked softly in the woman's arms.

"Aren't all children?" There was silence.

Chakra. That's what it was then? It made a degree of sense; the chakra pooled in certain areas, in a manner reminiscent of the 'chakras' of her first life. Though, so far as she knew, that's where the similarities stopped.

"So, sensei, anything I haven't already said?"

The woman released a sigh and Shizuko was exchanged between arms.

"Apparently not. Aside from the aforementioned chakra sensitivity, there was nothing out of the ordinary. No hidden seals or anything that would imply some form of deception." A pause. "Does that answer your questions, Jōnin-san?" Shizuko had been distinctly unaware of the third person in the room until that moment and suddenly it became a presence in and of itself.

Said 'Jōnin' only snorted. "Hand the girl back to the doctor; you'll be coming with me for the time being."

Nestled up to her guardian's chest as she was, she felt more than heard him let out a stuttering breath before she was handed over to the supposed doctor.

Shizuko allowed her focus to slip; there was little left for her to do now. All faded to black as she finally succumbed to sleep.

He sat with his hands chained to the table and tried his best to ignore the sweat he could trickling down his spine.

The man across from him stared, sharp eyes peering above steepled hands. It had been a while since the boy had felt so small under another's gaze.

After an extended period of staring, his interrogator seemed to do away with his observation and leaned back his chair, folding his hands in his lap.

"What's your name, kid?" At this, the boy averted his eyes— if only momentarily— before clearing his throat.

"At the moment, I go by 'Onishi Tora'." His interrogator didn't openly react but 'Tora' was vaguely certain that he'd at least garnered the man's suspicion.

"'Go by'?" His gaze never moved from Tora's own but when it became obvious that he wouldn't be getting an answer he ceased his silent pestering.

"Fine then. Where are you from?"

There was barely a beat before Tora responded, "Kirigakure." At that, his interrogator made a sound that could be interpreted as interest but showed nothing else.

"And why was it you decided to leave?"

"I decided that if I'd be raising two children, Kirigakure wasn't the place to do it." His answer came easily, like water over a greased pan. Not that he had much experience with them and the little he did have essentially boiled down to a few meals he had shared with—

"How did you go about leaving? Kirigakure's been pretty closed up, so far as I could tell." His interrogator's gaze was as dull as it had been since the start.

Was that meant to be unsettling?

"We used a henge— well, a solid henge. I was afraid there might've been a shinobi at the docks that could've seen through anything else." It had been almost unbearably tiring but it had worked.

His interrogator raised an eyebrow. "A solid henge?"

"Ah, the shinobi who taught it to me said that the standard henge fell apart too easily once you lost concentration, so he created his own that was self-applying— given you had enough chakra."

The interrogator let out a hum. "Alright then. Continue."

Tora shifted, doing his best to ignore the feeling of his sweat-soaked shirt sticking to his back.

"I asked a merchant if he'd be willing to ferry us to the mainland. He agreed and dropped us off onto 'a peninsula at the edge of Mizu no Kuni'. We walked the rest of the way."

"You two walked across Hi no Kuni with an infant? With no problems at all?" His interrogator spoke with something resembling wonder.

"I'm not stupid enough to waste my time dragging two kids across a nation just to let them die— not before me at least."


Tora rolled his shoulders as the shinobi in front of him leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.

"Shinobi-san, for an interrogation this is rather..."

An eye was opened. "Would you prefer I start pulling off your fingernails?"

Tora turned his gaze to the wall. "I'd probably die from anything more than that, really. I'm not exactly in the best condition."

That itself was an under-exaggeration. As it was, the last 'bite'— because you could hardly the meager scraps he scrounged up 'meals'— he had was three weeks ago in Kirigakure. He'd been prioritizing Hirohito and Shizuko through the entirety of their trip and the only reason he hadn't keeled over while they were still on the road was that Suzuki-san's map had made it so they weren't wandering blindly.

"Hm? Ah, well one more question and we can wrap this up then." A sigh and the shinobi leaned forward again. "The shinobi who taught you that henge, do you know their name? Any distinguishing features?"

"Name? No, I'm not even sure he ever told it to me." Tora leaned as far back as restraints allowed, staring up at the ceiling. "Distinguishing features... He was a missing-nin, I remember that much. Other than that, he looked pretty dull."

The interrogator stood from his chair and brushed off his shoulders. "Alright then. I'll talk my guys and then you'll be on your way." The shinobi left through a door in the corner of the room.

Tora let out a ragged breath as his head lolled back.

It was so unbearably hot.

The door closed.

"Oi, what was that? That's all? You're not even gonna pressure the kid a bit?"

A shrug. "He was pretty forthcoming. Even then, it was pretty obvious he wasn't lying."

"But still—"

"Do you really want to watch me torture a kid?"

Silence. Then:

"Do you think he might be part of a clan? I can't see a missing-nin taking interest in a child for any other reason."

"It's a possibility but it's not very likely. You've heard about the Bloodline Purges in Kiri, right?"

"Oh. Oh, I'd kinda forgotten about that."

"Well, even disregarding that issue, his reserves are barely Genin level. I even cast a genjutsu on him at one point but I'm pretty sure he didn't even notice."

"Eh? What were the details?"

"Simple stuff: insects in uncomfortable places and made myself look a bit inhuman— elongated fingers, sharper teeth, deeper shadows. I even scattered some offal around the place. All he ever did was shift around a bit, but he was doing that before I'd even thought of using a genjutsu."

"Genjutsu immunity?"

"No. My chakra had definitely locked itself into his system."

A pause.

"Did you release him from it when you left?"

"Huh? No, I wanted to see if he was faking his reaction."

"He looks pretty damn uncomfortable to me."

A glance toward the window.


A quickly muttered 'kai'.

"Hm. I guess he's just uncomfortable."


"Make sure that transcript is logged correctly. I don't know if Ibiki'll care enough about this but it needs to be somewhere accessible just in case. Like, I don't know, his desk."

"It was once and I was a rookie. You don't need to call me out like that every time."

The comment was ignored and footsteps echoed down the hall.

When the blindfold was removed from Tora's eyes, he was only dimly surprised to find himself standing before the shinobi who had stopped him at the gates.

Making a point of ignoring that fact Tora turned to Hirohito as the boy's own blindfold was removed. Upon making sure that his brother was fine and that Shizuko was safely secured within his arms, Tora turned back to the shinobi who watched them with an awful combination of frustration and patience.

The shinobi's partner— brunette as opposed to the former's blonde, he noted— had the decency to attempt to look cheerful but only looked as comfortable as his partner did.

The blonde cleared his throat. "I'm Gaku, this is Daichi; we'll be escorting you to the orphanage."

Tora nodded. That was more than he expected to be done for them.

Gaku-san turned stiffly and started walking, prompting his partner— along with Tora and Hirohito— to follow. The brunette took up the rear, while the other led.

Before the silence could become any more stifling, Gaku-san spoke up again.

"I hope you're not upset about all of this. It was a precaution."

Tora shook his head despite knowing the blonde shinobi couldn't see him. "I didn't expect we'd be let in at all. I was more prepared to sneak in than I was for all of this."

Behind him, Tora heard Daichi-san chuckle. "Then you would've been in more trouble. Honestly, this was the best-case scenario, considering we just finished a war a few months ago."

Tora blanched at that. As secluded as he had remained throughout the greater portion of his life, he had only heard vague mentions of the war and hadn't a clue whether it was still going strong. Finding out that he'd missed that chaos by a few months was... alarming.

Luck. He'd been lucky. He couldn't take the risk of not knowing ever again. Had he decided to leave Kirigakure even a month earlier, their trip could've been decidedly different.

"Ne, Aniki?"

Tora gave his brother a cursory glance— Ah, Shizuko was there as well— and leaned down even as they continued to walk. "Hirohito?"

"How big d'ya think—"

"'Do you'."

"How big do you"— he spoke slowly and with an emphasis that told exactly what he thought of that correction— "think this place is?"

Tora stood up straight and imbibed the sight Konohagakure.

"I wonder."

When they arrived at the orphanage, Tora and Hirohito were forced to wait as Gaku-san sorted things out with the matron— or at least, he'd introduced her as the matron. Daichi-san had left once they'd been within sight of the orphanage and had made a point of wishing them luck before vanishing.

It didn't take them long to be registered at the orphanage and once the process was finished— and Gaku-san left them as well— he and Hirohito were ushered into the baths and Shizuko was taken to the nursery. Hirohito found the experience quite novel but Tora did his best to make as little direct contact with the water. They were both finished within five minutes and— despite a particular caretaker's skepticism— were given a new set of clothes.

The matron led them around the orphanage, pointing out each room to them.

There was a lot of staring from the other children. It was disconcerting because while the pair had received a few stares while in the village proper, Tora could write it off as the novelty of watching shinobi lead children down the road and Hirohito could focus on Shizuko. Here, they were the center of attention by virtue of being there.

Tora, in particular, was already anxious with Shizuko out of his sight.

Their impromptu tour stopped in a large dining and the brothers were offered a meal. Both rejected with the claim of being tired and the sun was well on its way to setting. They would eat the next day.

They were brought to their beds— and the stares had halved by then but there were still far too many— among the other orphans. Tora made a point of not asking after Shizuko but his worry must have been clear on his face as the matron assured him that she was fine. The assurance did little but Tora gave her a nod regardless.

Despite his exhaustion, he laid awake until the moon had risen high into the sky.

Despite himself, he regretted coming to Konohagakure and its awful heat. Of course, there hadn't been any real options either.

Torii = Japanese gate found most commonly at the entrance or within a Shinto shrine

Wow, it's been eight months since I updated this fic. I'm pretty ashamed of myself.

In regards to the next chapter of Re-Re-Re: I'm really struggling with that for some reason. Like, it'll get done sometime but I'm still only two-hundred thirty words in.

Uh. I kinda wish this chapter had more Shizuko; she's a lot easier for me to write. But I started writing and then it was like "Woah, what happened?"