Chapter 30 Start

Uchiha Menma is not a prodigy. It is a fact he acknowledges and understands, because that's what everyone tells him so it must be true.

People always regale him with tales of his dad, how powerful Uchiha Naruto was at this age. That Oyaji had fought off an invasion when he was thirteen and gone off to kill traitors that were too strong for even the Godaime Hokage.

Menma isn't like his prodigious big sister and brother. He struggles with Shinobi arts, and sometimes it feels like the only people that care about that are the ones that are closest to him. Oyaji, Kaa-chan, his sister Ichika and brother Habiki, Sasuke Oji-san, even Fujita-sensei. Everyone who points out his struggles to climb up the ladder are the ones who have the least to gain from him being strong. And sometimes it hurts. He has the unconditional love of his family but it's as though those on the outside expect more of him than they do.

So, he skulks to the training grounds where he knows Oyaji is slacking-off, just to ask what to do, what the secret is to getting stronger.

Oyaji looks his way. The way Menma understands it, his dad can feel someone a whole nation away. He's been told that he's 'very easy to sense' but hasn't really gotten an explanation for it. Maybe some people don't know why?

"Menma." Oyaji smiles, his one visible eye sporting the Sharingan, shadowed by the angular hat on his head.

"Oyaji, what the hell do I do?" Menma blurts out quickly.

"About? You crushin' on someone?" He asks wryly.

"What? No! I wanna get stronger!"

Dad leans back against the tree a bit with Menma still hovering over him.

"Stronger? You're plenty strong Menma, don't be too hard on yourself. Fujita has been telling me about how well you're doing in your D-Ranks and teamwork-"

"Of course Sensei would say that, Oyaji! He looks up to you and he doesn't wanna disappoint you, and I don't want to disappoint you either!"

Oyaji straightens, looking a bit confused.

"What's brought this on? You've never disappointed me. I see how hard you work and train, you've got clear goals, you operate very well in team environments and you're my son who I love very much, why would I ever be disappointed in you for your skills and character? You haven't been comparing yourself to your siblings, have you?"

"They're like you and I'm not!"

"Yeah, I was a bit of a pain in the ass at your age. It's probably a good thing that you're not trying to start wars."

"But I want to be strong too..."

"I'll give you a tip then, because it's pretty obvious to me why you're feeling like this. Stop caring what other people think. If you want to be strong for the sake of being strong, then train your guts out for it. Don't do it for the sake of gossiping losers who don't have anything to gain from supporting or deriding you. The expectation that you're gonna disappoint someone is only going to hold you back."

"I can't help it, Oyaji." Menma sulks. "Everyone wants me to be like you and I wanna be like you too."

Naruto rests back again and sighs. "How long has this been on your mind? You know that you can come to me any time if you need help?"

"I didn't want to bother you at work..."

"Pfft, my job is easy. I've got a clone in the office right now doing all the boring stuff."

"And I didn't want Fujita-sensei to be upset."

"Fujita knows that he can't teach you how to fight like an Uchiha, that's why I'm here for whenever you need me."

Menma feels a thrum of warmth. He never feels disregarded when he talks to his family about stuff like this. Oyaji takes him seriously.

"He won't be mad then? If I get you to train me instead?"

"No, of course not. He out of everyone knows what it's like to be in someone's shadow and feel like you've got expectations to live up to. He moved past it and made his own path. I do expect, however, that you take your drills and missions seriously."

"Yeah! Yeahyeahyeah! Let's train!"

"Hold your horses, we haven't assessed which areas you're lacking in yet. You must study yourself with the same intensity that you study the Shinobi Arts as a whole. What's the biggest thing that you think is holding you back?"

Menma thinks hard. He has always struggled with Ninjutsu, taking days at a time to just be able to use it, let alone master it, and he's not very fast with it either. Similarly with Genjutsu, he always fails to maintain a strong connection with other people's Chakra, being thrown off easily, especially during the Academy days before he was a Genin. His Taijutsu is pitiful for the son of Uchiha Naruto, Hyuuga Sara had destroyed him with her Jyuuken because he'd been too slow.

"I guess... speed and Genjutsu?"

"Take me through your line of thinking for reaching that conclusion. Why speed and Genjutsu?"

"Well... I'm really slow at hand-seals, so I can't use Ninjutsu in a fight before someone else, so I don't have that advantage. My Taijutsu is slow too, even though I have the Sharingan. I can see people moving but I'm too slow to react to it. And Genjutsu- I suck with the Sharingan." Menma looks down at his still-seated dad, who nods as he goes through his points.

"Logical thinking, unfortunately marred by a lack of understanding as to what your body is really capable of. The best way to address a problem is to look at the root of all of these. I feel like I have neglected your training when you've asked me, so I'm sorry. I'll fix it now."

Oyaji stands up and makes a hand-sign. Out of Dad's body spouts a miniature Naruto.

"This is me, when I was your age."

"You don't keep up with fashion trends, huh Oyaji?"

"Ohoho! Oh son of mine, your bark is louder than your bite! Pay attention, I'm going to walk you through how to understand what you're doing wrong. Spar with mini-me."

Menma activates his Sharingan, flecks of his eye-length red hair parting out of his face.

He immediately goes for the first hand-sign of Goukakyuu when mini-dad blurs and grabs his hands, kicks him in the stomach and sends him tumbling backwards.


"Stop whining. Assess the encounter while you can. What did your opponent do?"

"You stopped me before I could use Ninjutsu."

"Correct. How?"

"With Taijutsu."

"Good. What could you have done instead to counter?"

"Use Taijutsu too?"

"Yes. Taijutsu is...?"

"The art of physical combat using hand-to-hand or weapons."

"And Taijutsu prowess changes in accordance with-"

"-Technique, strength, power and speed."

"Which, to a Shinobi, is affected by?"

"...Chakra Control?"

Naruto smiles down at his son.

"Now, let's do that again with Genjutsu. I want you to ask yourself the right questions this time. If you come to the same result that I do, then you'll know what to do for the rest of the basics too."

Menma tries to wrangle the wood clone under his control with the Sharingan, but it virtually slides off and again, he gets punished with a retaliation.

"Genjutsu. What's the first question?"

"There's only one question, I guess. Genjutsu is affected by...? Chakra Control."

"Very good. Your issues in power are stemming from one basic factor. You've assessed yourself and your level of strength, so how do you go about fixing it?"

"I need to do a lot more Chakra Control exercises."

"You're very clever, Menma. Don't underestimate yourself. I'm gonna let you in on a little secret that the people saying bad things about you don't know." Naruto pokes Menma's chest. "You have more Chakra than I did at your age. The more Chakra you have, the harder it is to control it. You let yourself get swept up in gossip and didn't give yourself enough credit. You figured out the problem, figured out how to fix it, and have the drive to fix it too."

"Fujita-sensei was right, Oyaji. You're a good teacher."

"I hope I'm a better dad than I am a teacher?"

Menma jumps on him and hugs him.

Naruto chuckles.

"I'm proud of you my boy, don't ever forget that."

Hyuuga Sakura is a happy woman. It is a fact she acknowledges and understands, because it's something she has earned and is happier for it.

After the fight to save the world, they'd awkwardly stumbled slowly into getting to know eachother better. Neji had been attentive and Sakura had been fearful, unsure of relationships in general but Neji kindness and compassion had slowly won her over into looking at things differently, outside of childish crushes.

They had struggled a bit to conceive, but when they did, Hyuuga Sara came screaming into their lives with hearty lungs and bubbly laughter.

"Menma has been weird lately." Sara comments at the breakfast table.

"...He isn't being bullied is he?" Sakura asks with concern. Not just for Menma, but for anyone dumb enough to bully him with a family of Uchiha ready to tear anyone who might dare to try apart.

"Nah. Just being real secret. I never see him anymore."

A part of her is mightily proud that their daughter had achieved Rookie of the Year, despite Naruto's youngest being in the same class. And as ashamed as she is to admit it, also proud that even Menma couldn't beat their daughter in spars, although that is tainted by the fact that Naruto's boy seems to have some difficulty in learning in the way of practical Shinobi arts, despite his clear gifts academically.

Still, out of Naruto's kids, Menma is the one that takes after Naruto the most. Just out of sheer drive alone.

"Well, if if you're not careful then Menma might just overtake you. His dad was the same at that age, keeping things to himself and then 'pop!', turns out he was stronger than most Jounin." Sakura subtly pushes her to keep up her training.

"Nah, Menma's a complete dunce." Sara insists, though the tone wasn't malicious, she could still feel the casual disregard for someone she went to the Academy with.

"That is not how you should speak about your friends. It's disrespectful, you should be encouraging him." She scolds.

"Eh, whatever Mama. It's not like he's on my team or anything."

"Still, just be careful with what you say. You don't want him to take it personally. I know what it's like to not be very good at the practical side of things and feel like you're being left behind."

"I get it!" Sara whines in exasperation, making Sakura roll her eyes. "You were on a team with Hokage-sama and Sasuke-sama, yeah yeah, cool cool. Gotta go now, bye Mama!"

Sakura watches her daughter disappear in a rush out the door.

"Keep training for the Chuunin Exams!" She shouts after her.

She picks up the unwashed plate.

"That girl..." She shakes her head.

Uchiha Sasuke is a busy man. It is a fact he acknowledges and understands, because Naruto won't shut up about him taking a break and spending more time with his family.

He had to admit, he was surprised that Naruto had gone so far to ensure that nothing like that would ever happen again. He'd redivided the Juubi and let the Bijuu roam free. Naturally, this caused a geopolitical disaster that Tsunade had quickly shunted off on to Naruto as soon as he'd recovered. The other nations were always scrambling to capture them again, so Sasuke felt that the responsibility fell to him to keep tabs on the Bijuu and make sure that they weren't going to be used to cause mass destruction, not on Konoha, but the rest of the world. Konohagakure doesn't have to worry about being caught in crossfire; the world is already too scared of Naruto to make a move on the village, but many innocents die in the path of people learning to control their Jinchuuriki powers, so Sasuke and Matatabi make sure it's contained to the respective village that finds the Bijuu.

Naruto had figured out a way to outright dismantle the Gedo Mazo and turn it into Natural Energy, flung across the world so far that the air itself had fragments of its power. But such a result required an equal sacrifice. Naruto had used the remaining power of the Juubi to destroy the possibility that anyone could ever possess the Rinnegan. Now, even with the right genes, no-one could ever reconstruct the Juubi or create a new disaster on the level of Mugen Tsukuyomi.

After that, Naruto had been bedridden a whole year. So he, Karin and Sakura, all closely guarded him and nursed him back to health when he was on the brink of death. It had been two years before Naruto could even walk on his own, and shortly after, Naruto and Karin had gotten married and had their first born; a daughter named Ichika for which he became the proud uncle of.

And as was Sasuke's desire, Naruto had sent him off out into the wilds to go on with his goal. He'd not given much thought to settling down, preferring to be active and in pursuit of anything that might be a new goal, just something to do so he doesn't get bored. ANBU had become a bore long ago, well-beneath his class of mission.

So he goes exploring a bit. Finding rare and esoteric knowledge about the ones who were here before, ancient ruins dating back to before even the Rikudo's time.

To make sure that the Rinnegan wasn't the only method to bring about destruction.

And he was happy to come across nothing. But he'd prefer if he'd been coming across nothing on his own, in peace. Not with-

"Nii-san, when are we gonna stop? My legs are tired~"

"Patience and persistence are virtues, Tsukimi."

"That's still not an answer!"

Tsukimi had thankfully taken Sasuke's and her parent's advice about avoiding Shinobi life. She'd insisted that she wanted to be just like Nii-san, but capitulated in the end when she'd found an interest in digging up rocks with words on them. Archeology, in other words. And Sasuke is actually grateful for her help. While they hadn't found anything relating to 'threats' per-se, her research had been invaluable to scholars across varying fields in Konoha. Primarily historians trying to catalogue what the age of Ninshu was like. Tsukimi had nearly been brought to tears when he'd told her that Naruto had destroyed a priceless artifact in the Uchiha's possession.

The whining from a grown woman(and wasn't that quick?) does get on his nerves from time-to-time, but there are few people he would trust with her safety on potentially dangerous excavations and adventures. It's why she finds the valuable stuff. Because he's here to stop her from falling into pitfalls and traps left by people of the past wishing to preserve artifacts.

Uzumaki Clan ruins were the main offender for that. Figures.


"The port town is just ahead, Tsukimi."

"Not that! When are you bringing your girlfriend home?"

Sasuke refrains from vocalising his annoyance. He instead tries to think what anyone else would do in the scenario. Turn it around.

"What makes you think I've got a girlfriend? Why not a boyfriend?"

"Wh-" Tsukimi stops, sucking her lips in and stuttering. "Wait- I didn't know- Nii-san likes boys?"

She spots what must be visible laughter in his eyes and immediately turns cross.

"Screw you! I remember my first joke too, geezer Nii-san!"

"Was it your life?"

Tsukimi pushes him, ignoring his chuckling and storming past him with hurried steps.

"And Tsukimi... soon."

She turns around and walks backwards, doing a little skip.

"Really? Those hickeys aren't just a roll in the hay?"

"I'll be sure to tell Kin that you thought she was just a 'roll in the hay'."


"Watch where you're goin', asshole!"

Sasuke looks down at the woman. Straight black hair propped out of her face by a Konoha headband. He doesn't recognize her but she seems familiar with Jiraiya, who'd he'd come to for tales of the Rikudo, something that might help his search.

He doesn't have time for this. He walks past her and towards the old man, who's languidly resting in a soft chair on a porch in the Senju compound.

"Hey! Don't ignore me!"

"Kin-chan," Jiraiya looks a bit sleepy but smiles. "Don't go bullying my apprentice now."

"I don't care if he's your apprentice, he knocked into me and I want an apology!"

She hadn't left him alone since. But it all worked out in the end, in a way.

They're happy in their own little bubble, taking some kind of refuge in each other. His friends had been supportive; there's no keeping secrets from them. But they hadn't even remembered the little team that Jiraiya had convinced to turncoat during Orochimaru's invasion of Konoha.

It's really hard to keep her out of his head these days. She just keeps worming her way into his head. He'd been very awkward about it to start with, asking everyone close to him what he should do to explain his affection to her and court her.

"Bang her." Jiraiya recommends, before getting hit over the head by the aging Tsunade.

"Why don't you ask her out on a little date. If it goes well, you can ask her out again?" Shizune is more... delicate.

Kakashi doesn't say a word with feminine glares pinning him down to prevent him from suggesting what Jiraiya did.

"Bang her." Naruto has no such filter or fear.

Sakura slaps her forehead and groans.

Yuito and Himari don't even give him the chance to ask, merely pointing out and teasing the love bites on his neck.

Matatabi looks at him like he's an idiot for the first time he can recall. After-all, what does a Bijuu know of human courting rituals?

Is this what romantic love feels like? He doesn't quite get it yet, but he's willing to try.

As soon as this menace he's dealing with right now stops asking invasive and probing questions.

Uchiha Karin is living her best life.

A two-year waiting period of anxiety and stress had passed. Things only went up from there for her. Doing what makes her happy; being a mother and wife. Things were bleak for a while. She thought that the choice that Naruto had made could have been the wrong one for them.

She was sure that she wouldn't be able to cope if he'd died.

But that's now in the past. In the present, she's a busy woman. Ichika and Habiki are about ready to leave the nest. They'd always been pretty independent, but that's about as much as they got from their dad besides his talent.

Sure, she still puts her Shinobi skills to good use. Her two eldest can be a handful. But they know to fear the righteous anger of an Uzumaki woman.

"Kaa-san, you don't have to keep packing me bento." Ichika is very much unlike her and Naruto. She has the family values that they'd instilled in her since she was young, but her personality isn't quite as lively, or serious as her parents.

Her smooth black hair nearly reaches her ankles now. Dark grey eyes look down at her fondly. She's a bit taller than Karin herself.

Still, Karin worries that Ichika doesn't take things seriously enough. She's gifted, very gifted. But she spends more time socialising than she does training. Networking can be a valuable tool for learning from different people, but ignoring your studies just because you pick things up quickly is a surefire way to get caught off-guard. Maybe things are just too different now, but that Shinobi-instinct in her wants her kids to be a bit more ready for the dangerous world. There's always someone stronger. And it could be an enemy.

"If I don't pack it, then you're not going to eat. How are you gonna cope when you move out, huh?"

Before Ichika can answer, thumping footsteps come down the stairs in a slow crawl.

Habiki looks very much like his dad. A bit shorter, and with shorter and less-wild hair.

Dark circles under his eyes are not from training too hard. They're from spending all night up with his friends chasing skirts.

"I better not see some hussy up there again." Karin pins him down with a glare. Habiki has gotten good at barrier-ninjutsu, just for the sake of hiding his escapades from her senses.

"Kaa-san..." He mumbles lazily.

"Eat, you've both got missions today. And take your bento with you or so help me-"

They both nod hastily, fearing her wrath.

Bursting through the front door is their most recent spawn.

"Kaa-chan! I need foooood! Pleeaase?!"

Menma is direct, like his father. Tall like his father. So self-driven and disciplined, like his father, and inherited the exact same prankster mentality that his father has.

It's almost like looking at a mirror image of Naruto at that age. Only with red hair, not black. And a little less self-assured due to his struggles with controlling his immense Chakra reserves. Something has given him a bit of faith in himself in the past few weeks. Maybe Naruto has given him a few tips?

"Settle down, it's too early for noise." Habiki groans, taking nibbles of his breakfast.

"You can eat Habiki's since he wants to eat like a hamster." Ichika suggests, getting a dirty look from Habiki.

"Good idea!" Menma takes it seriously and goes to snatch the plate.

Habiki lifts it above his head. The quickest he's moved since he woke up.


"Get your own. This is mine."

"You're not even eating it! Kaa-chan!"

"C'mere Menma. I'll make you something. Just be patient, okay?" Karin offers gently.

"Okay~" Menma gives Habiki the stink-eye, who just looks back vacantly and boredly. "I dunno why I can't have his though. It's not like it's gonna cure his crabs."

Ichika stifles a laugh and Habiki narrows his eyes.

"Just sit down!" Karin puts an end to it, or tries to.

Menma just happily lets Ichika know all about his morning. She listens patiently as Menma explains that he's been training, but refuses to give away any detail as to how when he's prodded. Apparently, he's learned Naruto's infuriating evasiveness.

"You know you can come to us if you need help, don't you?" Ichika is delicate, knowing it's a bit of a sore spot for Menma.

"That's okay! I got it figured out. I'm gonna be stronger than you two soon!"

"As if." Habiki mumbles, just to tease if the glint in his eye is anything to go by.

Menma's eyebrow raises and he gives an exaggerated frown, as if to say 'you really wanna do this?'.

Habiki returns it, but stops when an eerie expression crosses Menma's face.

The boy wore a smile. One of nightmares. One of pure evil

And as soon as Karin places a bowl in front of the boy, he and the food vanish.

To be replaced by a civilian girl half-naked and braiding her hair.

Karin recognises the sheet covering the girls' body.

It's from Habiki's bed.

Ichika makes a quick act of disappearing as Karin draws a frying pan like it's a weapon of war.

Senju Fujita is a patient man.

It's the way Naruto-sensei taught him to be. It helps him in his goal of doing what Naruto did for him; giving children of Konoha the right tools to be ready for a dangerous world.

He'd always wanted to be a Sensei. He'd even been prepared for the inevitable difficulties. Some kids just need a bit more attention than the others.

And if he does say so himself, he's pretty good Sensei.

But sometimes he doesn't feel adequate when he doesn't get the results that he expects of himself when teaching.

He brings this up to his girlfriend when he's feeling a little down.

"Don't stress so much!" Minako says over a mouthful of dango. "It's not as though kids like Menma don't have more than one teacher. I mean, look at Naruto-niisan. He learned from everyone he could, his jiji, my dad, Jiraiya-sama. He even learned from his enemies if you count the Sharingan teaching him."

"I dunno, I mean, Naruto-sensei trusted me enough to teach Menma. I don't want to let him down."

"Otou-san probably felt the same." Minako says nostalgically. "Honestly, Naruto-niisan was a force when he wanted to know something. But just be proud that he's taking initiative. People learn in different ways. Menma's just like his dad. He picks up on things, even when he doesn't want to. It could just be a single word that you won't say to him that he'll use as a clue to help himself. And besides, Menma isn't your only student. Don't go neglecting the other two!"

"I'm not, I just hoped that Menma would bring it up to me so I could do something about it."

"Hmm." Minako doesn't dismiss him, but doesn't really help either.

"And I kind of hoped he'd be ready for the Chuunin Exams coming up soon. I know he'd been feeling a bit in the shadows of his siblings."

Minako starts to smile like she knows something he doesn't.

"The Chuunin Exams? Ohohoho! That explains it..."

"What? What does that explain?" Fujita is confused.

"You were a bit sheltered back then, but did Naruto ever tell you about his Chuunin Exams?"

Fujita tries to think back, but no. Naruto hadn't really brought it up.

"Nii-san's Chuunin Exams were when he revealed that he had the Sharingan. That's so cute! Menma just wants to surprise you with something!"

"That's it?" Fujita is disbelieving. "I've been stressing just because Menma wants to do something big like his dad?"

"I dunno." Minako states with inappropriate cheer, making his face fall flat.

Before he can respond, they're interrupted by a few guests of esteem.

Fujita stands up to make room.

"Kakashi-san. Shizune-san. Jiraiya-sama, Tsunade-baasama." Fujita dips his head politely.

"Mah mah, Fujita-kun. No need for that." Kakashi waves it off.

"C'mere knucklehead." Tsunade pulls Fujita into a hug.

"This is where you were hiding?" Shizune asks her daughter.

"Not hiding, more like listening to Fujita complain about Menma not liking him anymore."

Fujita splutters.

"Menma-chan huh?" Jiraiya gets whimsical. "That brat actually-"

"Hush, Jiraiya." Tsunade wags her finger at him.

"You know something?" Fujita asks.

"Naw, I'm just reminiscing. I've seen him running around the village like a madman. Boy can't keep still, always has something on his mind."

"Menma-chan is just like his papa~" Minako coos.

"The harassment being one thing he has in common." Tsunade reveals. "Honestly! He's been at our compound nearly once a week to try and harass our son into telling him about the Mokuton."

"The Mokuton? I think I would've noticed if Memna had visited."

"The fact that you didn't means that either you're not paying enough attention or he's advancing very quickly all of a sudden. Although knowing him, he's just figuring out his dad's weaknesses to ambush him."

Shizune puts a stop to all the Shinobi-talk.

"Are we interrupting?"

"What? Oh, no Shizune-san. I was just taking a quick break before I find all of my students for our first C-Rank."

"Well, you must be quite confident in those munchkins if you think they're ready for that."

"I am." Fujita states firmly. Despite his team having its share of problems like any other, he doesn't doubt that they're ready.

"Well, good luck Fujita-kun." Shizune bids him farewell with a kind smile.

"Have a safe day, Shizune-san. Everyone." Fujita dips his head respectfully again, before making a quick turn to kiss Minako and vanishing.

"Bye~" Minako whispers to the air fondly.

Hoshigaki Kisame giggles at the freaked out looks he gets from the Genin-squad.

"Hehehe! I've seen those eyes before. You must be Naruto's boy!"

The little redhead looks surprised.

"Kisame-sama." The team Sensei isn't afraid, but in awe.

"Aw shucks, if I'd known I'd have guests, I would've prepared some beds!"

"My apologies for the short notice, Kisame-sama. Would it still be okay if we stay in your cabin tonight? I'm happy to compensate you-"

"Nonsense! I'm happy to have some company once in a while. Come, come. Leave your sandals at the door."

The pouring rain and harsh winds wouldn't be good for this lot if they tried to set up a tent.

"Now, what brings you my to humble seaside abode?"

"We're actually on a missing person's search. We were commissioned by the current Mizukage to find Hozuki Suigetsu. It's rumoured that he managed to escape the prison containment that Orochimaru kept him in years ago, but his brother misses him very much."

"Ahh, so Mangetsu is the Mizukage? Good on him! Moving up in the world."

"Are you really Hoshigaki Kisame?" The redhead bounds up to him, fear forgotten.

"That's me." Kisame confirms with a grin. "I take it your dad told you about me?"

"Yeah!" The kid sounds excited. "He said you were the best Suiton-user who ever lived, and that you were a legendary swordsman! AND that you fought at his side and saved the world with him!"

"Bahaha! Naruto-san gives me too much credit." Kisame laughs it off modestly. "I'm afraid you won't see anything like that from me anymore. My old bones are much too dusty to fight."

"Still, you're so cool!"

The redhead's excitement seems to put the other Genin at ease.

Kisame reflects on his life after the final battle. He'd decided it would be best to find somewhere to retire. He was tired after all of that. Tired of the lies and lifestyle of Shinobi. He'd looked around for nearly a decade to find a place that would accept him, fish-face and all, and after accidentally stumbling upon a settlement built by former Amegakure refugees being besieged by bandits, he'd taken the time to butcher the assailants.

Not out of any real desire to save anyone, but just for fun. And the locals had praised him for saving him, calling him their hero, offering whatever they could to repay him.

All he'd asked for was some help building a cabin and a place to feel welcome. He'd been here ever since, only venturing out on occasion but making sure that Naruto knew that he could send teams his way if they needed somewhere to stay safe. He'd protect them. It was the least he could do after Naruto had saved the world and cleared his name from the Bingo Books.

"Can I get you tea, Kisame-san?"

"No- no dear boy. Rest, get your clothes dry. Actually, let me help."

Kisame pulls all the moisture from their clothing and flicks it down the sink. To little redhead's absolute amazement.

"You just pulled moisture!" He gawps.

"It's a good trick if you need water. It's important to stay hydrated in the field."

"Alright Menma, let's let Kisame-san have some peace."

Menma. A funny name for Naruto's son.

Later that night, Kisame is sitting out in the rain and enjoying it on his skin.

The kid comes out to see him.

"Hi! Sorry to disturb you."

"Not to worry young man, I enjoy the company. Got something on your mind?"

"I couldn't sleep. I just want to train."

"I was like that too when I was young. Couldn't get to bed unless I was exhausted. Now I'm lucky if I can stay awake for a few hours."

"Can I ask you something, Kisame-san?"

"Go on, little man."

"What was it like? During the bloody mist?"

Kisame hopes the kid is usually more tactful.

"It was horror. Imagine never being able to have a friend. Because you could never know for sure if you would have to kill them yourself."

"Aw, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked."

"Don't be sorry, but do take care about what kind of questions you ask. Curiosity is not a crime, and it is important that this generation knows what it was like so the world doesn't have to go back to being like that again."

"If you don't mind me asking, what kind of things did you learn?" Menma asks with avid curiosity.

"Every village is more or less the same. With a few differences depending on the needs of the nation, mostly based on location. The standard stuff we learned back in the day was management of intel. How to get it, how to dispose of it. And of course, fighting on, in, and with water."

"I'm trying to be a good Shinobi. Can you please teach me anything?"

"...I suppose giving a few tips here and there couldn't hurt anyone."

Konan is the last of the Akatsuki. The first Akatsuki, not the twisted vision of a desperate man.

She is the one who buries her best and only friend. Not in the mud and swamps of Ame, but in a lush field surrounded by flowers. Nagato lived his whole life in darkness and pain. She thought he'd want to be somewhere peaceful, in the light.

Nagato hadn't coped well. Not just because of his lack of sight, but a lack of hope for the world. He'd never been able to move past the catastrophic losses, and neither had she.

But Nagato just sort of... gave up. Lost the will to live. He'd gone in his sleep.

She hates herself for being a little relieved. She misses him every day, prays to every god, that his soul may find rest. But Nagato's death had been a weight off her shoulders. And now? She lives simply, with no-one the wiser that she even really exists.

Konan feels a shift in the wind behind her.

"Checking on me?" Konan rasps, unused to using her voice.

"Yes. And paying our respects." Naruto says, voice low.

Karin is at his side, having teleported them nearby. She really should find those pesky markings and get rid of them so she doesn't have to see these people again.

"The last thing Nagato would have wanted is the respect of someone who tore down his dream."

Neither Naruto nor Karin say anything. Konan frets over the details of her origami on Nagato's grave. Wanting it just right again.

She knows that they don't really care about Nagato. They probably just feel responsible for her in some twisted way, as Nagato's only real friend. And Nagato had tried to find another way to bring peace, he just didn't have the experience with the way normal people worked. And he was apparently an Uzumaki. There was probably some kind of clan obligation that Naruto felt he had to make sure she's alright.

It was Naruto's grandfather that had started this mess. It could be that too.

"Just do as you will and leave." Konan states, not looking back at them.

Karin drops a bag of supplies, and they both take-off.

Konan's lips wobble.

The Annual Chuunin Exams have finally arrived.

Naruto had been impressed by Menma's performance so far. His team had completely blitzed the first two exams. His youngest is quite sneaky, even the proctors had failed to examine how he'd stolen the exam answers. And then he'd come out unharmed from The Forest of Death, with a record time even.

"Thanks for sending out that team, Naruto-dono." Mangetsu slouches in his designated chair to observe his village's Genin participate in the newly built stadium. "My brother is back in the village. Can't remember shit but at least I know he's safe."

"It was no trouble. A good learning experience for that team, I'm sure."

"I'm not late am I?" Kurotsuchi enters the viewing platform. "I stopped at the ramen joint in the city centre, man!"

"Ichiraku's has been the best in Konoha since before I was born. I'm not surprised it took you a while to get here."

"No Raikage or Kazekage, I see." Mangetsu looks around.

"Their teams didn't make it through the second stage." Naruto replies honestly, having a sneaking suspicion as to who was responsible for that particular mess.

"Excited? Kid number three coming in for his Chuunin vest." Kurotsuchi takes off her hat and places it on the stand next to her seat.

"If he's ready to be Chuunin, then he will get a Chuunin vest. He will not be getting preferential treatment, just like his siblings didn't."

"Ugh, the wait is so boring."

"Attention! The first match between Uchiha Menma and Hyuuga Sara will begin shortly!"

Naruto pays close attention.

"Gooo Sara!" He hears Sakura scream from the crowd.

'This is it.' Menma is slightly nervous in front of the crowd but he's been working too hard to worry about them right now. He doesn't let it show on the outside.

"Ready to get your ass kicked again?"

Menma doesn't look at her. He must remain focused. But also hydrated. He takes a sip of the small flask in his pouch.

His hair is kept back in a spiky, low ponytail, with a few loose bangs over his forehead protector.

The proctor evacuates the Genin besides Menma and Sara

"Cat got your tongue?" Sara grins.

Menma stares her down. "You won't put a scratch on me. I'm above your level now."

Several 'ooh's' echo from the stands.

Sara narrows her eyes.

Menma activates the Sharingan.

"Uchiha Menma versus Hyuuga Sara! Hajime!"

Sara gets low into her Jyuuken form as she sprints forward. Formidable speed for a Genin.

Menma predicts it however. She has tried this before, successfully. He drops low as well, using his longer limbs to block her strike from the inside of her wrist, pushing it outward and following up with a knee to her chin.

She tumbles back and lands in a crouch, Byakugan wide open with shock.

"Huh..." Naruto smiles. "That looks like one of Fujita's moves. Looks like my boy has gotten much better with the Sharingan."

"Don't sound too proud, Hokage." Mangetsu grins.

Sara glares. But she picks up details she'd missed before. Menma's Chakra is so calm and controlled, not wild like before.

She isn't like the Hyuuga of old days. She can adapt.

With a jab into the earth, she flips her palm upward and lifts a slab of Doton up vertically, pushing it with her Chakra forward to force him to weave around, where she can shut off his Tenketsu.

The giant brick slides forward and she goes to pincer him around the side she'd left more room to escape from.

"Hakke Kusho!" She slaps the air, sending a gust to make him get even closer to seal the deal.

Just as she's about to wipe that superior look off his face, the slab swaps with the kunai that he'd already had pointed at her.

Her Jyuuken strike leaves a crack in it, but effectively shields him completely from harm.

She gets frustrated. Menma has never lasted this long against her before.

'He sucks at elemental Ninjutsu, I'll give him a taste!'

Sara cartwheels back nimbly. The showy display is punished with a kick in the head just as she's about to right herself.

"You might as well stop now." Menma suggests boredly, making her prick up like an angry kitten.

"Don't get ahead of yourself!" She snarls.

"Oh dear..." Sakura sighs. "He's controlling the whole fight."

Neji had hoped to curtail Sara's attitude and temper. They've been too easy on her.

They see that she pauses for a moment though. So far, Menma had only been reactionary. Maybe he's relying too much on the Sharingan?

He starts to weave a hand sign.

Snake? What could he do with one Snake sign?

Menma stops himself from grinning. It feels good to be winning.

"Given up? Or do I have to put more effort in?" Menma taunts.

"Go on then! Give me your best shot!"

Menma tried to tell her.

He puts his hands in a single seal. Thank you Oyaji and Itama!

"Mokuton:" Menma announces loudly. "Daisoju(Great Spear Tree)!"

The ground shakes beneath them, and a massive tree erupts from where Sara is standing.

She flips between the branches in panic as it increases in size rapidly. More trees begin to sprout up and she does her best to weave around them with all her flexibility to land safely on the ground.

"You're very nimble, Sara." Menma compliments loosely.

She does not look happy with him.

"That does it!" She shouts angrily, putting her hands in a tiger seal.

Blue seal patterns melt out from her forehead, becoming more intricate and starting to glow lightly.

"The Strength of a Hundred Seal." Menma identifies out loud. "If I get hit by you now, I'd probably get hurt pretty bad. Shame that's not going to happen."

"I don't have to hit you!"

Sara roars, and with straightened fingers, jabs the ground so hard that the arena surface splits into two even and clean-cut pieces that collapse and leave Menma sinking into the crack.

Exactly where he'd be an easy target.

Menma doesn't even attempt to move.

But the Sharingan in his right eye-


Sara doesn't care if it's a trick or not. Using all her control, she speeds through the arena with a sharp jab straight at Menma's forehead.

The entire stadium is stunned into silence when Sara doesn't make contact, but instead slips straight through him as though he were a ghost.


Naruto is speechless.

He'd honestly thought that nothing would surprise him today. He knew that Menma would pull away with a victory today.

But with that? And be the only one of his kids to inherit his Mokuton?

Good grief. His son is going to be more of a menace than he is.

A few days later, the news spreads across the village like wildfire.

Naruto smiles proudly at his son. By a near-unanimous vote, Menma had earned himself a step above Chuunin. The same rank of Jounin that his brother and sister have.

Menma whoops loudly with a huge smile.

Naruto can say he didn't expect his life to turn out this well.

But is he glad that it did.

Chapter 30 End


We are done. That's it.

We reached our goal of 1000 reviews. We finished on chapter 30.

Crafting a Legacy is complete.

Thank you for reading. I will always appreciate the kind reviews and encouragement I got while writing this over the past nearly 3 years.

Until the next adventure.