Hello everybody, it has been exactly two years since the creation of Hikari Senju and exactly one year since I posted the epilogue to my first Itachi/Hikari fanfiction entitled Itachi's New Partner. It's Itachi's birthday again. A big life change happened for me this year. I was accepted into the #1 school of Social Work in the country for my master's degree (not at all to brag, just sharing because I thought it would be funny to shed some light into who I am as a writer. If you know about social work you can probably see a lot of references to the discipline in my previous story. I'm pretty serious about the themes I wrote about!) Once again, it is June 9th. Because of the wonderful reviews I received on my first story, I am happy to be submitting the first chapter of my continuation.

Before going on, if you haven't read Itachi's New Partner, I strongly recommend reading that one first! Most of this is new stuff and I recap it in this story, but you will be missing a lot of character development and many good chapters of lead up. Go to my page and find Itachi's New Partner or search it in this website.

For readers who were introduced to my first story because they are interested in reading about Itachi, I am happy to say that his character will live on in this one, and that he and Hikari are still very much in contact. But because he's dead, he won't be in it in quite the same way! It will be exploring Hikari and Sasuke's unique relationship and covering the time after Itachi's death, the 4th Great Ninja War, and into Boruto (because adult Sasuke and Sarada have got to be involved). So many of the very valid points raised about the shinobi world seem to have been largely ignored and forgotten by Hokage Naruto, and I want to write a story in which they aren't just left for the history books. It will also be exploring the idea of (rogue) half Uchiha and half Senju offspring. Because I'm in quite an intensive program, I might have to take a break part way through writing this story. But I'm going to try my best to get my writing out in a fairly timely manner! I've spent a lot of this year writing to give myself a head start.

In any case, I hope you enjoy! And please do send me messages and reviews even if it's a question about this story or the last one. I really take my reader's input into account!

Two months had passed since the day Sasuke learned his brother's truth. Blinded by pain and vengefulness, he sought solace in the Akatsuki and in Madara, his only remaining relative. War was close on the horizon, and the young teen dedicated himself to making preparations with his team to capture the eight-tails.

In hiding, Hikari Senju followed the raven-haired boy; keeping true to her promise every day, taking on the role Itachi had given her as a protector. And while Madara hid her existence from the boy until he was ready, even he did not know the woman's secret.

On one particularly chilly September evening, Sasuke had sent his teammates on separate duties. In the middle of a sandy plane, he stood alone waiting for his target. When she did not come of her own volition, he lost his patience.

"Come on out. I know you're there."

Hikari smiled, and stepped forward. She knew that Sasuke had stationed Karin nearby just in case, which made this arrangement all the more convenient.

"Very good, I'm impressed." No longer wearing Akatsuki attire, it took Sasuke a moment to recognize her.

"You're the one from before. The one I fought the day before he died." Sasuke thought back to that moment, caught in her wood style, partially paralyzed with the poison from her vines. As much as he tried to dismiss her that day, he remembered the conversation they had back then:

Itachi is our strongest member, and one of the most loyal. You're his younger brother. Let's just say.. I'm curious about you. Fine. I'll humor you. Let's say you were strong enough to kill Itachi. What then? You would be the last Uchiha."

"I'm going to restore my clan. I'm going to take back all that that monster took from me!"

"Such a pointless aim. Itachi was smart to have killed them. The Uchiha had always been a troublesome clan. Their arrogance and pride blinded them to their limitations. They thought they were better than the rest of your pathetic village. It's no surprise the others resented them. They made a certain impression, like they wanted more power than they deserved. I bet that someone would have gotten rid of them if Itachi hadn't taken care of the job himself."

"You know nothing of the Uchiha,"

"And you think you do? You must have barely been a person when your brother took them all out. The Uchiha had always been at odds with the rest of the village. You could say they were disliked from the beginning. That's why they were overrun."

"I don't want to hear any more from you! My clan did nothing to deserve a massacre! Itachi is pure evil. And I'll avenge everything. I'll make him sorry he was ever born. I swear I will." Hikari's heart sunk, as she was almost certain Itachi felt that exact way at times. "So just tell me where he is." Hikari smiled at the angry teen gently, with closure.

"You really hate your brother, don't you?"

"With every fiber of my being." She nodded.

"Good. Then use your desire for justice to fuel your strength." The boy looked at him questioningly. Itach's crow flew to her shoulder. Sasuke was close to breaking through her trap, to cast a genjutsu. "It will certainly make for an entertaining show. I'll be watching your fight, Sasuke."

"Judging by what you told me that day, you must have been a coconspirator with him and Madara. You knew the truth about Itachi, didn't you? Who are you?" Sasuke demanded, guard up. Hikari gave a tender and slightly sorrowful smile.

"There's much about Itachi that even Madara does not know. I've been waiting for a long time to tell you everything. Because my name is Hikari Senju, and I was Itachi's wife.

Sasuke looked at the woman and felt his blood run cold as she held out her hand, displaying a ring on her fourth finger.

"You're… what?" The woman chuckled at his puzzlement.

"I know it sounds ridiculous. He knew he was dying of course. Neither of us had ever planned to get married, and it isn't as if we had a ceremony or anything. I suppose it was just one of his ways of seeing through the plans he had in his youth, to tell himself he had accomplished all he had hoped he would. I was the only feasible option."

Sasuke's heart stung at the reminder that Itachi's life had been cut short, that so much happiness had been taken away from them. Hikari felt his emotions empathically, and wished she could take that pain away from him.

"How long have you been following us?" The woman smirked, slightly apologetic.

"Since the very beginning." The boy scowled.

"That's impossible. Karin would have sensed you."

"You think I would have been made Itachi's teammate and counterpart if a little sensory dojutsu got in my way? I've stayed out of her range mostly, but with my abilities, I can erase my presence almost entirely. Sasuke, Itachi chose me as his partner not only so I could help keep him alive, but so I could watch over you. Through my eyes, Itachi was able to see you grow. I watched you train with Orochimaru for years all from within the bases of the Akatsuki."

The words almost went over the boy's head. Sasuke had grown accustomed to Orochimaru keeping a close eye on him while training under him. But the idea that this woman who he had met only once had known him for years, completely undetected, was too strange an idea to consider. Even more surprising was the reason why.

"Itachi… watched me grow?" Grinning tenderly, the woman tilted her head. At his question, the woman felt Itachi's etheric presence appear beside her. A faint, peaceful smile lit up his face.

"Yes. Oh Sasuke, there's so much you deserve to know. I will tell you everything, if you'll let me."

"Hikari, be careful." The telepathic message came from Itachi.

"I know what I'm doing." She telepathically replied back. Communication was difficult between the land of the living and the Pure Land, but the two had put in effort to try. Hikari remembered then, Madara's warning.

Sasuke had requested to move into his brother's room at each base. Karin had been stationed in the room beside hers, and Suigetsu was placed across from the temporarily retired Kisame. At her request, Madara had reported Hikari dead or missing. With no place to hide in the base, Hikari had crafted a wood style room for herself under the roots of a tree not far away. It was here that Madara would visit her, if only to ensure she did not return to the Leaf.

"You cannot tell Sasuke the full truth. If he learns about you and what you did in Danzo's ANBU, he'll take revenge and kill you," he mumbled sitting at her table.

"What if that's what I want? Sasuke deserves to kill me just as much as Itachi did." It wasn't a completely true statement, but she could not risk the man finding out her secret motivation.

"You're far more valuable a player in this plan than that. When he is ready, you will guide him as I do, taking the role his elder brother once did. As Itachi's closest ally, you will be highly trusted and together we will guide him down the path of annhialating the Leaf, as well as the corrupt world of shinobi."

"No. I will lead Sasuke in my own way."

"Itachi lied, Hikari." Hikari paused, fists clenched.

"And perhaps if he had not, the massacre might never have happened. Don't you think Sasuke might become more hostile at any hint of mistruth after all that has happened to him? I am not Itachi. I do not doubt Sasuke will try to kill me. But I have my own way of getting him to understand."

Now, Hikari stood in front of the boy, so young and still so pure, despite the grief that darkened his heart. Sasuke's expression wasn't quite as stoic as it was with his comrades. There was curiosity in his eyes. Unlike his comrades, who he looked at without really seeing them, the boy now looked at her as if he truly saw her, unable to totally hide his disbelief. She hoped that one day, he would look to her as a friend.

"Only truth. Sasuke, that is my vow to you. It is what you deserve. I will not lie to you for as long as I am alive. But in order for me to tell you this story, I need you to promise me you will listen until the very end."

"How do I know I can trust you? You could be making all of this up in order to manipulate me." The confidence in the woman's eyes did not falter.

"If you decide not to trust me, you can verify my motivations by asking Madara yourself. It was his idea to pair us together. Listen to my story, Sasuke, and then in time, you can decide for yourself." The teen eyed her suspiciously as she threw off her bow equipped with arrows, her weapons pack, her cloak, and the two blades she kept tucked away in her boots.

"Fine. Talk," the teen commanded. Completely disarmed from weapons, the woman took a deep breath in and spoke.

'I was born in the Leaf Village to one of the last remaining families in the Senju Clan. As a direct descendant of the First Hokage, my family was very wealthy and influencial. My title was Lady Hikari, just as the current Hokage is Lady Tsunade. The members of my family were closely networked with the leaders of the village, and far removed from ordinary society to the extent that even the most educated were unaware that there were others besides the first Hokage who could use wood style." Sasuke inwardly grimaced. It was true that he still could not completely accept Madara's story as purely true, but from what he had come to understand, all of the leaders were his enemy. She continued.

"Since I could speak, I displayed the rare trait of heightened intuition. I would occasionally discover truths that were meant to be kept secret, and see far away what was not meant for my young eyes. While my mother worked as one of the head medics directly for the Hokage, the higher ups discovered this trait. And while nobody believed anything I said, they thought it would be best for me to be kept separated from the rest of the children in the village. Due to the priviledged status of my family, and certain unique gifts from a young age, I was assigned to a special teacher and separated from the students in the Academy. Because of this, I never had the chance to meet your brother who studied at the Academy, or any of the other peers I would one day serve."

"It was when Danzo discovered my strange talents that my life changed. Like your brother, he began to watch me. And when I left my family at the age of nine, it was he who took me in. With my mother still partially invested in my life, I was not given a new name. But it was for almost a decade that I raised myself with the assistance of Danzo. Sheltered away from the village, I was the perfect puppet for him to carry out his plans. I'm sure you can guess which plans I mean." Sasuke's face looked serious as he looked intensely at her. It was clear she had his complete attention. Hikari took another deep breath, tasting bitterness in her mouth. Sasuke could tell she was filled with remorse.

"Over the next two years, I was gradually brainwashed by Danzo and placed in a three person squad that was under near constant supervision by him. My team had all been isolated from the main village, so we were particularly vulnerable to his lies. We were told to take out certain people who posed a threat to the safety of the village without being told why. The first time I saw an Uchiha up close, it was while standing over a dead body. There were many times where I felt a sense of guilt for killing members of the village I was taught to protect. But people are weak. And under the right conditions, we are capable of following even the most heinous orders."

"At the age of twelve, the tensions in your clan were rising. Danzo knew that he had to move quickly, before your clan's coup de tat started. My team worked hard to eliminate the stronger, more outspoken members, but the strongest had caught on to our scheme. They began concentrating more on the Leaf Police Force, rather than any outside missions for the Leaf. This allowed them to work in places where the public could see anyone who might be targeting them. Without any way to divide and eliminate those who posed the most threat to the village, time ran out. Danzo had one last option. It is my deeply held belief that this option is the one he had been working towards all along. He would close the curtain on your clan with Itachi's hands. In order to do that, he needed me. Of our team, I was the most well-suited for the operation. I was ordered to track the strongest double agent, Shisui Uchiha, and sneak up on him undetected. I weakened him with a slow acting poison, so that when Danzo confronted him, Shisui would not be strong enough to withstand him. It was because of me, not the rest of my team, that Itachi was backed into the corner Danzo had long since set up for him."

As Hikari continued, she could feel the anger and hostility emanating from the boy. He silently moved his hand towards his back, but out of caution decided to continue listening.

"For years I served under the Third Hokage after Danzo's Root was thought to be dismantled, unaware of the blood on my hands. It was only when your brother returned to the village that my intuition kicked in and Danzo was no longer able to hide the truth from me. I fled the village that very night. Some rogue ninja created a secret underground system that linked between the villages. That was another thing I had picked up on when I was so young. It's far underground, and most who know of it don't associate with the nations up above, which is why I was able to hide it from the Leaf. It was at an underground hideout that I discovered the Akatsuki was looking to recruit a new member. I found your brother and pledged myself to him as his healer. From the very beginning I had planned to die by his hand before he died by yours. I suppose I overestimated my skills as the keeper of village secrets. I had no idea he was able to infiltrate Danzo's records to find my history. As our friendship grew, we both came to realize that we complimented each other in every way. Over time, racked with loneliness, our feelings grew and eventually he allowed me to become closer to him. Of course, this was not without ensuring that he knew exactly what kind of person I was and minimizing any risks that could arise in a relationship. Some time before he asked me to marry him, he discovered my secrets and guessed at my motivations. But there was one thing I was able to keep from him. Late into my time in the Akatsuki, I was confronted by Madara. For a time, I had even planned to work with him to overthrow the Leaf alongside you. Ultimately, I decided that the most effective way to overthrow the system was to force Itachi into killing me as planned and erasing all traces of my body. My death would be a small justice for the Uchiha, and a large loss for the village due to my lineage. It was only because he planned ahead better than I did that I am still alive. Your brother backed me into a corner and convinced me to continue living, of only to protect you and the future of the Uchiha. I fully understand that you might not agree with your brother's decision, but it is my hope that one day you will grow to honor it. I would protect you as your equal, and live the rest of my life repaying what I can of my debt."

Hikari felt dead. And from the looks of it, Sasuke wanted her that way too. In the ether, Itachi placed his arm gently on her shoulder.

"You said too much." She heard, but ignored the warning. She knew perfectly well what she had done.

"I still don't know if everything Madara told me that day is true. If you're lying, I have no use for you as a partner. And if you're telling the truth…" Through Sasuke's normally calm exterior, he looked emotionally drained; even dismayed. "Then you deserve to die by my hand for everything you've done. I am not my elder brother. Because I have no use for you either way…" the boy's hand went towards his blade. "I suppose I should take you out right now." The piercing, steely gaze of the eternal mangyekyo shot towards her and the boy took off in her direction.

Hikari, whose eyes were already closed, smirked and dodged his first lunge. Hikari had known all of his moves since the boy was thirteen. She had practiced this fight in her head all month. The eternal mangyekyo was a trait that would one day surpass her, but it would take weeks and months more for him to master. Until then, she was confident that she still had him beat.

The two exchanged more blows, the woman on the defensive. Without normal weapons, Hikari simply made her own, using her chakra to produce the strongest form of petrified wood. The almost metal glimmered gold in the setting sun. Hikari's kekkei genkai was strong against lightning style- the defeat of her former best friend was proof of that. And when Sasuke lit it on fire, she simply made more.

Three arrows shot towards the boy from separate directions, connected to chakra threads. When one changed direction and aimed at his head from behind, Sasuke expertly turned in time to dodge it. The arrow turned into a smirking Hikari, who shot a poison vine at his hands in an effort to restrain him. The boy dodged just in time, unable to stop the look of surprise on his face. She had used a naruto-like replacement technique. He wondered if she had done it to mess with his mind, or if it had been a coincidence. For a moment, a flashback of his past arose in Sasuke's mind. The boy enabled his susanoo which wrapped around his body, shielding himself from the woman's confident gaze.

Hikari was unhindered. Forming a wood flute in her hand, she dodged several aggressive attacks from the etheric creature's free hand. Thank you Itachi, for pushing me to fight you until the very end. She inwardly mused.

"Do you really think that a premature susanoo is enough to kill me? You'll have to learn to do better than that, Sasuke." With a loud, sharp blast from the instrument, Sasuke's etheric weapon weakened, then completely dissipated. The woman's head reeled as she panted. Sasuke's fighting style was much less passive than Itachi's, and fighting against his new abilities was more exhausted than she had thought possible.

"Damn you!" The visibly frustrated boy lunged at her again, this time turning his ordinary sword into a long beam of lightning. On reflex, Hikari jumped out of the way, weaving hand signs in the air in preparation for her last attack. Karin was getting close, just in time. Without the full use of his ultimate defense, Hikari opted to summon a miniature forest around the two of them. Woven through the trees, she crafted the same poisonous vines he was familiar with.

"What irony the same trees Itachi proposed to me under are the trees that will end this fight once and for all. " The boy grimaced, eyes filled with resentment. "If you light them on fire, it will burn you. If you use your Susano, you know it won't work. Now calm down Sasuke." With a single hand sign, the vines dripped with a sedating elixir, prepared to shoot at their target. It was here, she thought, that they would be able to talk for a moment before she departed. But it was not to be.

Just before the vines short towards him, Sasuke smirked, and lifted his sword to his own neck. Hikari gasped, taken by surprise. She lunged at him, and just in time used her own smaller blade to pull his away from himself.

"What are you thinking?! Your life is not your own!" Just as she yelled, she realized he had made a desperate attempt to trick her. Beneath all of the anger and hate, surprise welled in his eyes. Sasuke used his advantage to lead her out of the forest, buring the trees behind him with fire. Slowly, the trees burned to the ground in black flames. Out in the open once more the two panted. Hikari, eyes filled with friendship, Sasuke's cold and merciless.

"Give it up, Sasuke. I can tell that you're out of chakra."

"You speak as if you're not. My eyes can see through all of your lies," the boy retorted.

"I'm not here to fight you," Hikari insisted. "Let me help you."

"Why would I want the help from a despicable traitor like you who is responsible for the downfall of my entire clan and the death of my brother?" Sasuke's eyes were closed to anything but the idea of vengeance. "You deserve nothing but a long, painful death. I have every right to send you straight into the afterlife. This is where you die!" With that, Sasuke lunged at her one last time, sword raised above his head in preparation for an attack.

The effort was stopped dead in its tracks.

Half a foot away from the woman, Sasuke found that he was unable to move. Looking down, he saw roots wrapped around his legs from underground.

"Oh Sasuke, you have no idea how much I wish that were true. But I can't let you. Not anymore." Beneath a weak smile, Sasuke saw the years of deep remorse carved into her face. The woman was barely alive on the inside. Warmth spontaneously arose from within the woman's chest, as she reached out to grab hold of Sasuke's hand if only to place it on her lower belly. She watched as the confusion in the boy's eyes slowly turned to realization. It was ever so small, but the woman's belly bulged just enough for him to understand.

"I was almost unwilling, but Itachi gave me a new reason for living. Why allow the very person who is responsible for your clan's downfall to live to see another day? Because I am also responsible for assisting you in shaping the clan's future. Don't let your brother's sacrifice be in vain. And if you can't find it in your heart to forgive me, then kill me later Sasuke."

"Itachi… had a child?" It looked almost as if the woman might cry.

"Yes." Before she could reiterate that he would be an uncle, Karin was upon them.

"What the hell is going on? What are you doing with Sasuke?!" Just as soon as the boy heard her voice, he removed his hand from the woman's belly. "Karin, I need your chakra." The woman rushed over to him and held out her arm. "To attack her. Don't let her escape. She's out of Chakra. She has to be kept alive." The girl looked taken aback, as if she had never been asked to fight a day in her life. Hikari smirked. The setting sun reflected off the girl's glasses as she pulled out several scalpels, running chakra threads through them.

"I don't know what went on here, but if Sasuke needs my help, I'll do anything."

"There's no need to fight me. After all, we all know that against me, you would last only a few seconds." Hikari sighed, picking up her cloak. Inside it, she took out a large pouch and threw it towards the girl. "Give him one of these. One of them should restore most of his chakra. Have them on hand at all times. There's no need for you to use your own flesh. It's your body and you should respect it." Karin looked at her surprised.

"What- what do you mean? How do you know how I was going to heal him?"

"Karin, that's enough. Just take care of her now!" Sasuke ordered.

"I'm leaving, Sasuke. Give my regards to Madara. I will not set foot on his battlefield, in exchange for my life. Tell him if he tries to hunt me down, he'll just be wasting his time. I will see you again, when this war is over." With that, Hikari departed, heading North towards the Cloud.

And so Hikari fled the Akatsuki. Numb and for the first time apathetic, the woman ran almost a week towards the Cloud. Due to Hashirama's chakra running through Zetsu, it was hard to detect any pursuers. But the malice of the plantlike ninja was unlike that of her great grandfather's and so she could manage.

Hikari stopped in a clearing on the edge of the village, encompassed in forest. Exhausted from running, she formed a single hand sign and created a simple cottage for herself. Around the clearing, the woman placed wire, paper bombs, and scrolls containing genjutsu formula which would stay activated. With her remaining chakra, she used earth style to form rows of rich, fertile soil for a garden.

Making her way into the three-room cottage equipped with shelves, cabinets, table, and chair, the woman wiped her brow and sighed.

"This is where I will keep you safe," the woman mumbled with her hand on her stomach. Hikari fell to the ground in the bedroom without particularly caring, and fell into a dreamless sleep. For now, with Itachi's child inside her, she needed desperately to regain her energy. Tomorrow would begin the most difficult and high stakes mission of her life.

Stay tuned! The next chapter will come out next week.