~Shattered to Dust: Why Not Start with the End~
"How long ago did she leave?" Itachi asked Kakashi and Shisui who had come back to the lake where Naruto's clone disappeared from earlier.
"A Week Ago," Shisui answered, seeing that Kakashi wasn't going to say anything. "She has a lot of work to do before we can finally end this."
"I don't think the end is coming any time soon, seeing that Naruto had to leave the way she did," Kakashi said.
"This is not as easy as it looks," Itachi responded. "Naruto's underwater cave is the place to talk about this, let's go." He said, pointing at the lake, to the boys who sighed in resignation, knowing that the underwater cave was the safest place from the ears of the Hokage. Naruto had warned them that she had put a seal on the second entrance, so even though they knew that there was a chance of the lake entrance being watched, they had to use it.
The three of them traveled under the lake to the entrance of the cave, they swam past the entrance until they reach the end of it where there was no more water, dropped down the hole there.
"No wonder she's good at holding her breath, she found this place when she was three and has been using it ever since," Shisui said offhanded as he looked around the room, it's been a while since they used Naruto's cave, lately they have been meeting her hidden office.
"What did you bring us down here for? I'm sure you know Naruto doesn't like other people intruding in her space." Kakashi said looking around, seeing that Naruto had made the place at least a bit more hospitable, it looks quite comfortable for a cave.
"Did she tell you anything about the last mission we had before I disappeared?" Itachi started looking through the books on the wall.
"After the last fight we had with Madara about a week before we found you, she told us she was getting ready to leave and that we'd be finding you soon. As for the rest, she said to hear it all from you." Shisui said.
"I'm sure by now, all of you have figured out that I wasn't kidnapped, I was the one who left with him." Itachi started.
"We're not idiots, we know you left with him, what we don't know is why you felt that you had to leave with him," Shisui answered when he saw that Kakashi wasn't responding to anything Itachi said.
"It's not as easy as that, there were a lot of blanks after the Kage Mission. I knew if there was a chance of me finding out the answers I needed, I'd have to go with him and find them out." He answered.
"Answers to what?" Kakashi asked.
"I knew Orochimaru wasn't working on the reanimation jutsu on his own, I knew the level of planning it took wasn't something he could do on his own, I also knew from watching Naruto undoing the jutsu that it wasn't over and the only way to get to the bottom of this was through Madara."
"Okay, for argument's sake let's say you're right," Kakashi said getting up. "Let's say there's more to the story than we were being told, I understand the need to know more, I also understand you wanting to go out and find those answers, what I don't understand is why you had to hide it from the team." He said turning around to look at Itachi who wasn't looking at him when he answered the question. "Not only did you hide it from us, but all of your findings were also hidden from us as well."
"All of this," Itachi pointed around him as if he was referring to the village and everything that went down during the "Uchiha Coup D'état". "My clan started it, the mess that we now have to clean up, all of it was because of my father's greed, my mother's inability to speak her mind even though she knew that the level of greed my father harbored was beyond normal, and the fact that Madara laid it all out for my dad and sat back to watch how his plan was not only messing with the first generation, but it was rolling down to the third, and till this day we would still be going through it had the execution order failed." He answered honestly.
"This was my mess to clean, and if I had to leave the village to find the answers, then I had to on my own without dragging all of you guys with me." He continued.
"Wow, you're dedicated, aren't you?" Shisui said sarcastically from where he was leaning against the wall. "I wonder Itachi, are you the only one that carries the Uchiha name? Are you the only one that walks around with The Stigma? Are you the only one that feels responsible for what the clan did to the lives of the people in this village?" He asked getting up from his seat to come to stare at Itachi who had forgotten about Shisui's family's part in the war. "If you're not the only one, why do you get to decide how to resolve it? Why do you get to leave us behind like we're a hindrance to you? Tell me, why you get to go with a murderer and leave us all behind to worry about you?" He shouted the last question; the cave walls echo the sound back to them.
Silence overtook the room after Shisui's question, no one dared move, no one dared say anything that will break it first. They were down there for two hours just sitting there, no one said anything during that time.
"So, what did you learn?" Kakashi broke the silence first, he was getting too anxious to know what was really going on.
"Madara's preparing an attack on Konoha, one that could wipe out the village completely, even knowing that I would be coming back with that knowledge, he's still planning on doing it," Itachi said.
"Meaning that he knows there's nothing we can do to stop him at this point," Shisui said.
"He calls it the Pain's Almighty Push, I'm not sure what the significance to pain is, but I know he plans to inflict maximum pain on everyone in the village," Itachi added referring back to when he found the plans Madara was making. He wasn't even shocked to see Itachi with his plans, he walked past him, took the plans from him, and continued on his way. "There are more players involve than Madara," Itachi said.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that Madara was being manipulated back then without knowing it, by the time he came to find out, it was already too late. The person manipulating him had already formed the Akatsuki and sent them out on their mission." Itachi said.
"What their mission?" Shisui asked this time.
"It's a group of elite criminals with an ax to grind against the hidden villages, so they were tasked with infiltrating all the hidden villages acting as the oversight behind the elder council members, all decisions come from them, and they are hidden so far in every single village that they are completely undetectable," Itachi said.
"You mean there's a criminal running all the hidden villages?" Kakashi asked in shock.
"There's also a hidden spirit from the spiritual world here, hiding until it can accomplish its goal, I'm not sure of what its goal is yet, but he was the one manipulating Madara," Itachi said frowning, they could tell the second part was the one he was worried about, having to deal with the tailed-beasts was one, but another being they had no idea who it was, or even what it wanted, that was too much for them to handle.
"You mean other than the tail-beast spirits, there is another spirit here that we don't know about?"
"Black and White Zetsu, he's running the Akatsuki, he can separate the black and the white part of himself; he can be undetectable when he's white, and the black part I'm not sure of yet. Madara is not the only enemy we have to go after; we need to know who's behind the Zetsu." Itachi said.
"Is it just me or is the room spinning," Shisui asked holding his head.
Kakashi's phone buzzed with a message from Jiraiya. "We have a new mission; they stole the previous Hokage bodies again." He said reading the text.
"You're captain again?" Itachi asked frowning before he left Kakashi was injured and Naruto took over the team until he healed.
"Naruto signed off on it before she left, after our recent fight with Madara, she said I was recovered enough to be captain again, even though the wound in my chest is still tender, I can handle it," Kakashi answered as he touch his chest when the memory of Naruto following him to his last physical came forward in his mind.
"Did she say when she was coming back?"
"It's an undetermined long-term mission, Jiraiya signed off on it before anyone could know, and Naruto left a week ago before the Lady Tsunade had a chance to interfere."
"What's the mission?" Itachi asked.
"On paper, she's tracking Madara's movement, but in actuality, she's going away for a while to remove the tail-beast before they come for it, she found a way to remove it safely and she wants to try it so that she could help the other Jinjuriki," Kakashi said before jumping up at the opening to swim ahead of them leaving Itachi standing there looking around with a frown, she chose to leave without talking to him, just like he did without talking to her. At this point what kind of relationship will they have when she comes back. "Essentially, she's acting like a guinea pig for them, no matter how much she tried to be unlike her parents, still deep down in her there are some similarities." Kakashi thought to himself.
~Rewind: How Did Everything Get So Far from Us ~
~Flashback: 17 Years Ago, ~
"What are we supposed to do with the kid?" an Anbu agent asked the other standing there looking at two of the great Sannins standing there consoling each other while the child was crying her head off.
"Let's wait until those two realize that they are no longer alone to ask them." The other one answered. Before they could even ask, the woman ran away from the man, and he followed without even looking behind him.
"They have tunnel vision those two, one can only see herself, and the other can only see her; oh, I'm so sick of Jiraiya and Tsunade only focusing on what they want." The third Hokage said after dropping down in the area where Kushina and Minato had died. Their bodies had been carried away like he ordered, since he was told to take over Minato's duties, for now, he resigned himself to fill in until they can find a proper Hokage to take over for him, he was getting too old for this mess again.
"What are we supposed to do with a baby?"
"For now, take her to the orphanage, until I can track down those two there's nothing I can do. Jiraiya is to be her legal guardian according to her father's will, so we have to wait until he comes to get her."
"The orphanage may not be the best idea for the Jinjuriki," one of the Anbu said.
"I know that, but for now that's the best solution, just stay with her and watch over her a bit. I can't dispatch a protection mission until I have a cause for it but knowing that doesn't mean I want to wait until she's hurt to have someone protect her. So, for now, just watch out for her when you have the chance." He said.
"I'll do my best," he said.
Thirteen years old Itachi was walking around with his three years old brother when he came upon an Anbu agent standing by a tree watching a little girl play on the swing by herself.
"Itachi look, she's weird," Sasuke pointed at the girl who was pushing herself with all her might on the swing.
"She's not weird, she's just playing by herself, that's all" he explained to Sasuke who's face contorted in confusion. "That's silly, why doesn't she play with her friends or her family?" He asked. Itachi looked down at Sasuke in wonder, will his little brother continue to grow not being able to sympathize with other people, or will he be able to when he grows up and make friends of his own.
"Not everybody has to have friends or family," Itachi heard someone said, he looked up to find the little girl staring at Sasuke with a frown. She reminded him so much of Minato Sensei he wondered if other people in the village could see it as well.
"You're stupid," she hmphed at him walking away from them with her pigtails swinging back and forth.
Itachi looked down at his hands to find them empty with Sasuke running after the girl. "She's not a friendly child, you might want to get your brother away from her." The Anbu said motioning for Itachi to follow him. By the time he reached his brother, he was on the floor crying because she kicked him.
"You know it's not nice to kick people," Itachi said picking up his brother and bending down to talk to Naruto.
"Why should I be nice, other people kick me and no one tells them it's not nice." She answered him with a glare.
"Just because they do it, does it mean you have to do it as well?" Itachi asked instead of answering her.
"No, but he was pulling on my hair." She said pointing at Sasuke who was hiding behind Itachi.
"Well, that's not nice either," he said to Sasuke.
"She called me stupid," he said pointing.
"Because what you said was stupid," she said back to him.
"No, it wasn't"
"What do you know? You're a stupid kid who knows nothing." Naruto said back to him. Sasuke stood there crying silently.
"I'm not stupid," he said to himself.
Naruto scoffed. "Crying doesn't solve anything idiot, go read a book before you say something stupid again." She said before taking off, leaving them standing there, with the Anbu following after her at a distance where the child couldn't see him.
"She was not nice," Sasuke said looking at her running off.
"She's a child who's hurting, don't take her words to heart."
"She didn't fall, how is she hurting?" Sasuke asked Itachi.
"Never mind, let's walk home." He said instead of answering.
Three days later, Tsunade took the Hokage offer, went to the orphanage to get Naruto, and brought her to Jiraiya since it was his name in the guardianship papers, and just because she was married to him, doesn't mean that she had to be involved in the child's life.
~End of Flashback: 17 Years Ago, ~
Naruto was standing on top of the highest hill in the village, she could look down the village and see just about everything she wanted to leave behind. Starting with Tsunade who was supposed to be her godmother but never had time for her, following all those people at the academy who never really saw her as a student like them trying to make it year after year, and finally coming down to the villagers who want nothing more than to see her disappear, but still want her to hang around and help them when they are in trouble.
Naruto scoffed at the view. "Disappointment is the only word I have to describe this entire village that sits at the heart of fire country." She said to herself looking down at it.
"I guess I must be part of that disappointment too, huh?" Jiraiya said dropping down next to her out of nowhere.
"Still following me around I see, when are you going to stop doing that, this is my last year at the academy before I decide what to do, I'm a senior now, do you still have to follow me around?" Naruto asked looking straight ahead instead of at him.
Jiraiya hugged her from the back, putting his arms around her shoulder, the height difference was too much to hug her properly. "I raised you since the age of three, even after you get married, I will pack my bag and move in with you, don't have any expectation that you'll get rid of me one day." He said looking at the view with her.
"I guess this village disappointed you, a lot, huh?" He said seriously.
Naruto smiled to herself. "It wasn't until last year I realized, I was waiting for something that was never coming, never thought of it properly, but I thought one day she was going to look up and see me." She said talking about Tsunade, but Jiraiya knew she was also talking about the people in the village even though she did not know it.
"How long are you planning on fooling them?" he asked changing the subject since Tsunade was a hot topic between them, he adopted Naruto fourteen years ago; so, she was his granddaughter formally, he was married to Tsunade so she also became Naruto's guardian, but he knew there was no love lost there.
Tsunade had only one reason for going to the orphanage to get Naruto when she took the Hokage hat, she wanted to see Minato and Kushina alive again in Naruto, but the pain of losing her friends was too much for her that when she couldn't see them in her after bringing Naruto home, she was too disappointed that she chose to stay away from Naruto.
Naruto being a sensitive child could always pick up on the feelings the people around her had for her, she grew up with the villagers' hatred, so she knew well what people felt about her, even if the person themselves doesn't know it; somehow the negative feelings toward her could never be fully hidden.
After getting Naruto from the orphanage, dropping her off with him, and coming around every once in while with the excuse that the job of being Hokage was too demanding, little by little he saw the light in Naruto's eyes dimmed whenever Tsunade came around, then at her thirteenth birthday party, he saw something that almost broke his marriage apart.
When he saw the light died in Naruto's eyes because of Tsunade's actions, and Naruto ended up in the hospital with a cracked spine, he knew from that point on he may still be married to her, but he had to make Naruto his number one priority, otherwise, he was afraid he would lose her, and the promise he made to Minato would be lost forever.
"Take care of my daughter as if she was your own, will you Sensei?"
He heard Minato's words echoed in his mind every single day, reminding him that he made a promise to care for Naruto as his daughter, no matter what Tsunade did, Naruto would always be his main priority, and until he could no longer draw breath Naruto's place in his heart will always be number one.
"What are you thinking about for so long that you've gone quiet?" Naruto asked.
"Quiet, me? I don't know, just this and that." He evaded the question. "Until when are you planning on taking this war between you and Tsunade?" he changed the subject.
"Until I find an opportunity to end it; for right now, I like being incognito, I like the fact that she doesn't know me, and I like her thinking I'm an idiot. It gives me an advantage." Naruto said.
"Is it the anonymity you like or privacy?"
"Privacy, what privacy, she puts her nose in every part of my life on the account of her looking out for me because I can't do it myself; besides what's the difference between the two anyway?" Naruto asked rhetorically, turning away from him to leave the hill.
"One doesn't require you to be alone." He answered anyway watching her go.
"I'm comfortable this way."
"That's what I'm afraid of. You, becoming too comfortable hiding the real you; you'll start to believe that the front you're putting up to protect yourself is the real you."
"You're worrying about useless things now," she said still walking away. "I suggest you take your mind off me, and put it toward your marriage, if your wife had something to do beyond uselessly annoying me daily with her foolishness, then maybe I could have some peace." She said harshly as she left, taking off in a run toward HQ.
"That was harsh, now you can't even differentiate between me and Tsunade." He said to himself following after her.
The door to the Hokage office bust open with a loud bang against the wall, Naruto dressed in her pajamas walked in even though she saw that Tsunade was in a meeting. She walked past everyone as if she didn't see them, she put down the piece of paper Tsunade has been sending to her house for the past weeks and slammed it down on her desk with a grunt.
"Yikes, that hurts. People in the movies do this all the time, and you'd think their hands are made of steel or something, but still, it was kind of cool." She said to herself.
"Naruto," Tsunade said looking at her through her bangs with a frown.
"Oh right, I almost forgot why I came here, what's this thing you keep posting to my door, you're polluting my property," Naruto said looking up at her. "Every single day I wake up to find this thing post to my door and believe me old woman no one who dares come to my door beside you, so don't even deny it." Naruto crossing her arms.
"Naruto, did you not realize I'm in a meeting before barging in here?" Tsunade asked wondering whether she was this slow. Naruto looked around her to see people looking at her, some were frowning, and some were wide-eyed.
"Oh, right well I…"
"You didn't see them, did you?' Tsunade asked.
"I was kind of in a hurry, so I wasn't paying attention to much of anything," Naruto said smiling sheepishly at the people, going with the excuse Tsunade provided for her before she could admit or deny anything.
"What do you have on?" Tsunade asked again. Naruto looked down and saw her pajamas.
"My PJs," she answered as if it was obvious.
"You walked five blocks in your pajamas in front of the entire village?"
"What are you the fashion police, answer my question, what's this thing?"
"I'm asking the questions here, why are you going around embarrassing yourself in front of the entire village? As if I don't have enough complaint about you already,"
Naruto scoffed. "Please, this entire village is an embarrassment to itself." Naruto rebutted walking toward the window ignore the Jounin that was standing there. "Besides, Jiraiya bought me brand name PJs so I can wear them out if I want." She said under her breath hearing someone laugh under their breath but ignoring it.
"That's not really how it works, Naruto," Tsunade said.
"Says you," Naruto said still looking out the window.
"No, says everyone."
"It wouldn't be the first time everyone was wrong, would it?" Naruto said turning around with her arms crossed over her chest.
"Hold on, who are you talking back to?" Tsunade said lifting a paperweight off her desk as if to throw it at her. Naruto shrugged as if it was nothing.
"Stop going off track, what's this thing on your desk?" She asked again going back to the window as if she was looking for something.
"What is it?" Tsunade asked seeing her attention going back to the window.
"Someone was following me, I thought he'd be here by now." She said still looking.
Tsunade laughed. "If anyone else had said that I'd be worried." She said dismissing Naruto's words.
"Meaning what old woman?" Naruto turned the corner of her eyes toward her.
"Meaning you have no sensing skills to pick up someone following you," Tsunade said skipping her disrespectful words.
"You'd be surprised with what I pick up, lady Tsunade," Naruto muttered low enough for her not to hear, leaving Itachi who was the window the only person who heard her. Tsunade turned her head toward Naruto seriously wondering if she was being followed.
"What did you say?"
"I said this paper you have your people put on my door interrupts my sleep every morning, I want to know what it is?" Naruto answered moving away from the window after she saw who it was that was following her, it seemed like there are visitors in the village.
"I'm creating Special Assignment Division Jounin Teams," Tsunade answered. Naruto walked around the people making sure not to bump into any of them to make it to the sofa across Tsunade's desk. She dropped there, lifted her frowny face slipper covered feet, and put them on the coffee table, looking up to see pen coming her way. She watched it come at her in slow motion thinking about whether to avoid it, in the end, she let it hit her.
"What does that have to do with me?" Naruto said rubbing the spot on her head the pen hit.
"Had you train like you were supposed to, you would have been able to avoid it," Tsunade complained. Naruto laughed.
"What does it have to do with me? Creating some division team sounds like your business?" she said dropping down on the sofa with her feet on the back of it dropping her head where her feet are supposed to be.
"I want you to compete," Tsunade said seriously.
"Are you trying to find ways to get rid of me, is child support that expensive?" Another pen found its way toward her head ignoring the laughter.
"I know you don't put a lot of stakes on your future, but what are your plans after graduation?" Tsunade said continuing with her serious tone.
Naruto shrugged. "I thought I'd follow Jiraiya out of the village one day and never come back, it doesn't matter to me anyway."
"And then what?"
"Who knows, might meet a weird guy, run away with him, who knows," she said laughing when she saw Tsunade's frown. "Like I said, I don't think about it."
"Do you not know your worth?" Tsunade said getting up to come toward her to lift her off the sofa and make her sit properly. Naruto scratched her head with her hair all over her face hiding her expression.
"What worth? Besides, what does it matter anyway? What I do in the future, the council members get to determine that, am I not just a weapon? Do you think they would allow me to have the kind of life you're thinking of?" She said trying to get off the sofa but Tsunade was blocking her.
"What are you so afraid of?" she saw the side smirk on Naruto's face and frowned.
"That look in your eyes that tells me when you're talking to me, you don't see me, but rather you are seeing who you want to see." Naruto thought to herself, thinking it was better to keep her feelings under wrap for now.
"Afraid, get a hold of yourself old woman, between me and this village, I wonder which one has more to be afraid of." She finally got off the sofa to walk back toward the window.
"You're running, aren't you?" Tsunade said seriously.
Naruto laughed. "Been doing it all my life, I'm surprised you finally notice," Naruto said turning to walk to the door.
"Not what I meant."
"Not sure what you mean then," She said ignorance.
"Would it be such a bad thing to reach your true potential?"
Naruto laughed again. "True potential my butt, a luxury I can't afford," she said to herself. "Stop posting nonsense outside my door," she said leaving out of the open door.
"Were you the one following her? Did she sense you?" Tsunade said to Jiraiya who opened the window to come in after Naruto left.
"It's not like I was hiding." He said leaning against the side of the wall next to Itachi who hadn't moved.
"Did you hear?"
"It was kind of hard not to, with you yelling at her every other word," Jiraiya answered as he looked out the window.
"I told you to stop supporting her bad behavior."
"And I told you I'll always be on Naruto's side no matter what." He said watching her walk home.
"She's not improving."
"Forcing her on a Jounin team is not going to help, she'll only get hurt." He said knowing the kind of hurt he was trying to keep away from Naruto was the one Tsunade's actions will be bringing upon all three of them.
"Better that, than being the village idiot."
"This village is filled with idiots; how can you differentiate between them and Naruto?" Jiraiya said dogging the pen.
"You're the one teaching her that, aren't you? Do you sound like her, or does she sound like you?" Tsunade asked frowning.
He laughed. "I've been with her since she was three, I'm pretty sure by now you won't be able to tell us apart. Besides, leave her be, so she doesn't take her training seriously, she could be a civilian." He said flippantly.
"Don't you think it's a waste to let those two bloodlines go like that, not even including the Senju bloodline from Kushina's side? She's related to the first Hokage for crying out loud, you want me to let that go?" Tsunade shouted.
"You're the only one crying out loud here, besides, it's her choice, stop trying to force her, she's a strong-willed child, you won't like the response." He said in a warning tone.
"What can she do?"
"She could cut tie with you and disappear from the village if she feels pushed too much, either way, she could leave and never return, I'd rather have her here where I can see her every day," Jiraiya said looking down at her from his spot in front of her desk. "Leave it be, Tsu," he said before leaving.
"This is the best way to motivate her out of her laziness," she said to herself. "Keep posting the flyer on her door until the due date," she said to Shizune who looked kind of spooked to be caught in the middle of a scary family drama.
"Was that Sensei's daughter?" Kakashi asked Itachi who was sitting next to him in the training ground. They have just finished training and were taking a break.
"The eyes and the hair were too telling for it not to be her," Itachi answered taking a swing of his water bottle.
"Did she seem a bit unruly to you?"
"I don't know, I've only ever seen her a few times before today when she was little, there's not much difference; besides, with the way the villagers treated her, I can't fault her for developing a twisted personality."
"What do you mean?"
"She had an Anbu protector since she was left in the orphanage, I doubt she had a protector for no reason." He said.
"Should we have done something?" Kakashi asked looking at his hands, she was his Sensei's daughter after all.
"He named Jiraiya her guardian, us getting involve wouldn't have solved anything, she looked fine to me, just a bit off I would say," Itachi said remembering the girl who had walked in the middle of the meeting with no greeting and slammed her hand down the Hokage's desk.
"The way Lady Tsunade was talking about her, it seemed as if she was a bit dimwitted," Kakashi said remembering the way Tsunade was looking at her, she seemed rather disappointed the child held no interest in the tournament.
"So, what, because her father was a Hokage, does that mean she has to follow him?" Itachi asked, understanding the desire to go your own way, and not wanting to follow in your parents' footsteps.
"Lady Tsunade is forcing her for a reason, would she want the girl in the tournament if she was hopeless in fighting?" Kakashi wondered out loud.
"You heard her, I think she's trying to push Naruto into a corner where she has to take her training seriously; at her age now, if she didn't take it seriously then, she's not about to now," Itachi said.
Itachi said nothing in return, knowing that whatever the girl did it was none of their business, and it wasn't their place to talk about her like they knew her.
Author's Note: Thank you for reading!