Some people might be confused regarding the last chapter, so I'll clear some things here.

In the last chapter, there was a 2.5-3 year time-skip, during which Naruto joined his new team. He mentions that they have been out of the village for a year now, which means either he was stationed in the village back then or had gone back during a break. It is ambiguous and doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things. Izumi and Tenzo ended up joining the Anbu under Kakashi. So Naruto and Izumi should be about 14-13 here, with Natsumi and Sasuke being approximately seven.

One more thing. Canon Shisui was either in the Anbu or root; I'm not very clear regarding that because different arguments could be made. In this world, he's not in any kind of organization (Or is he?)

Chapter 13

The mist.

Naruto hated every bit of it. It brought back nothing but bad memories. The loss of vision didn't bother him too much – no, he had ways to 'see' that did not require eyes. But the sickly vapor hugging his skin, climbing up to his arms, violating his nose; all brought up a sick sense of anxiety—a fear.

Fear that he had not felt for a while.

I hope you two are stronger the next time...

The weapon clattered under the strength of his grip.

He couldn't breathe. He couldn't see. He couldn't smell. Feeling like a guest inside his own body, he was trapped. Naruto raised his hand, bringing it in front of his face.

'Zero visibility. Great.'

He didn't turn his head, didn't make a sound, didn't dare to breathe. He shut off his eyes – didn't make any difference anyway – reaching out for his friend, expanding his senses.

'Found him. He's still here. That's good.'

Naruto took a few steps in the general direction of Tomura's chakra and shot off his hand, intending to place it on his teammate's back. He felt him straighten for a second in surprise.

'Page 37 Tactic R, Rabbit,' he signed off with his hand.

Tomura was gone the next second.

'Earth Style: Encasing Walls Level three!'

The ground reverberated and groaned. Three thick walls emerged from beneath, true to its name encasing him—and a good deal of area. With some luck and help from his calculations, he had trapped the enemy with him. This should buy him enough time.

'Now to see if they take the bait...'

If his hunch was correct—and there was little room to believe otherwise—he was up against Shinobi from the Mist. The Mist was known for their ruthless aggression, like predatory sharks in the sea. They tore their enemies apart mercilessly, not giving any chance to flee.

There was no way he could win here. Not while being so heavily outnumbered.

But he wasn't trying to win.

"Awfully stupid, are you? hehh?"

Wha— his eyes bulged, hearing the gruff voice so close to his ear. A momentary lapse of concentration repaid him with a deadly blow to his abdomen, one that nearly made him fold—Poof!

Or not.

"Tch. A clone," the voice spat the words as if poison.

The Mist was infamous for its ruthless aggression and short thresholds of patience. If he was right, he had managed to trap the three highest chakra levels with him. The other ones had stayed behind, and he could sense them trying to break the walls.

They could try their damnedest, but these weren't any typical walls.

"Just make it easy on you, boy," it was a different voice this time, one much calmer than the first one. "We can talk our ways out of this. You won't be seeing tomorrow's sun if this goes any other way."

'He's baiting me. He can't find me.' "Oh? Do you wish to leave so soon? Don't tell me you guys are just lost on your ways." Naruto's voice came from everywhere, echoing off the walls.

"Quit yammering, boy. Or I'll have to rip that tongue out," a third voice growled in cold fury, slightly raising the hair on his hands.

'This one...' "Yeah, no, I'll be needing it, you see—"

He couldn't complete, forced to dodge a sword that would have pierced his kidney, pivoting on his heel. The wind rushed by him, the blade cleanly nicking his jacket.

That was close! "Hey! I just got this one!"

"You can stop your breathing... but you can't stop the thump of your heart." A chuckle followed; he couldn't tell if it was more humorous or condescending. "Well... doesn't mean I can't help you with that, now, does it?"

"Ameyuri!" the calm voice spoke chidingly. He was clearly the leader and had the other two under control. "Konoha Shinobi..." he called.

Naruto tensed.

"We'll offer you a deal," the man spoke. His voice was confident. Fearless.

The boy scoffed. "You seem to be trespassing if you didn't know that. Do you really expect me to abide by your rules? Konoha is the governing body here."

"Konoha has grown weak. It isn't the strongest of the five any longer. Not since your Fourth Hokage perished."

"I'd almost think you're trying to hurt me with your little monologue."

The man ignored him. "We were hoping to reach your border watches by tonight. But, you can make things easier for both of us..."

If there were any doubts about their motives, they were cleared. But the fact that this man was so openly admitting raiding the Konoha outpost... Naruto didn't know what to feel. The outpost had a decent force, consisting of precisely seven Jonin leaders, each responsible for a team of two other chunin ninja. A specialized Jonin oversaw everything else. It was a rather efficient system, all in all, having a headcount of exactly twenty-two shinobi at any point in time.

That strength was nothing to scoff at.

But it wasn't something that could hope to survive a surprise attack by forty or so enemy shinobi—at least three of them having chakra stronger than any normal Jonin.

Why now? The third war had ended almost a decade ago. Was ten years of peaceful life the only thing they were getting?

The only thing his father and the last generation managed to scrape?

Naruto shook his head. "Don't tell me you are arrogant enough to believe that. You cannot conquer Konoha by yourselves." The village might undoubtedly be weaker than it was during the last great war. The world sang tales of his mother's fiery temper and father's strength. Lord Third was still somewhat young. The legendary Sannin were still loyal to the village. But that didn't mean they were incompetent by any means. And the Mist had their fair share of problems too. "Not after that civil war of yours."

It started as a weak sound before emerging into something entirely unexpected. Laughter. Laughter echoed off the thick stone walls. Mocking. He decided he didn't like it one bit.

"Whoever told you there was a Civil war?"

Shocked, he could not dodge the next hit.

"I'm clearly much too old for the job." A weary sigh. "It would be best to retire now – and pass my mantle on to Natsumi – the only one who is ready to become the Hokage."

Hiruzen removed his Hokage cloak, revealing a vacation outfit, and promptly leaped out through the window.

"All right! About time, old man." A giggle, high-pitched and gleeful.

Man, this was easy!




"Hokage-sama! What are our orders?"

Being the Hokage was so fun!

"Heh heh ehe. Let's see... My first order is: Every restaurant has to serve Ramen on their menu. Yes!"

"Excellent decision, Hokage-sama. Finally, something that I can stand by." An elderly man. More bandages than skin. "This will surely push the village towards greatness. Ramen for all!" He raised his hand in the air

She already had supporters! Awesome!

"Ramen for all!"

"Ramen for all!"

The world shook and groaned.

"You're late! Wake up!"

The earth split open.


Volcano erupted.

"Wake up!"

Wak up?


It was a regular morning for Uzumaki Natsumi.

"No!" She stood up abruptly on her bed, messing her hair. "No-no-no! I'm late! Aunt Tsuna! Why didn't you wake me up earlier!"

Tsunade crossed her arms under her chest. "I've been trying since the last half an hour. What do you think?"

"Agh! You probably just woke up yourself! It's my first day of the academy – don't wanna be late on the first day!"

"As if! I didn't. And if you want to get there before the ceremony, you will focus on getting ready."

"Don't have to tell me twice!" The girl hurried off, jumping off her bed and landing in a crouch. She started running, intending to catch up with some breakfast before leaving. Her heart hammered within her chest, a blinding smile on her whiskered face. Anxious. Excited. Will she make a lot of friends? Will Hinata-chan be there as well? What kind of teachers will she have? The best, of course! Maybe the old man himself!

Although, she had to stop her chain of thoughts when she realized she wasn't getting anywhere. Her brows furrowed. A thorough inspection and she found out why.

"Lemme go!"

Tsunade stood behind her, lifting her up with her shirt, her legs still kicking around. "What did I tell you? The first thing you do when you wake up is...?"

"Uhm... eat?"

"Make your bed!" the woman roared.

Make her bed?! She didn't have the time for such useless things! She growled, furiously kicking her legs. "Lemme go, you old hag!"

She was dropped, instantaneously.

Hey! It worked!

Who knew that would work? She should try this often.

"Old... hag?"

A terrifying bloodlust swept the house.

Thinking back, it was a wrong move.

White eyes blinked – concerned. Curious.

"What... happened to your head?"

"Ahaha! I fell down the stairs."

"Natsumi... you live on the ground floor."




"Hinata-chan! Hey, look! The ceremony is starting."

Natsumi dragged her friend by the hand, unashamedly ignoring the seething glares of hate from the Hyuuga family. She didn't know why they were so mad about it. Orange was an awesome color!

Sasuke loved tomatoes. It was a well-known fact in his immediate family. He loved Onigiri too! Not nearly as amazing as tomatoes, Onigiri were great as well.

"Mom," Sasuke spoke between bites. Mikoto hummed sweetly in response. "Can we grow some Onigiri too? Like we did with tomatoes."

His mother laughed. Sasuke smiled too, and his cheeks colored red.

He loved making his mother laugh.

"Sasuke," Mikoto struggled to speak between laughter, "Oh Sasuke. You cannot grow Onigiri, silly boy."

She patted his head, and Sasuke puffed up his cheeks.

He wasn't a child anymore! He was going to become a ninja today. Now all he had to do was get his sister to teach him powerful Jutsu. His father would praise him again – like that time when he practiced the Fire Jutsu by the lake.

'That's my boy!' He could almost imagine.

"Oh? You seem to be very excited," Mikoto raised a brow. A sly smile overcame her features as she leaned in, whispering, "It's because of that girl, right?" Her smile turned into a teasing grin, and Sasuke's face lost its color. "I heard she'll be joining with you."

He stood up abruptly, accidentally kicking the table. Mikoto seemed startled too.

No! Not that girl! No-no-no-no!

Sasuke shook his head rapidly, and his eyes shut tight.

His elder sister's friend, that fool Naruto, had once come over for dinner – mainly because his mother just won't give up and had threatened the blond into visiting. Sasuke couldn't say he was impressed.

He was really not impressed when the older boy had brought his evil sister the next time. She was evil! Evil! He was sure of it. There was no way someone would squash his dear plants unless they were the devil incarnate!

"Come on, Sasuke, she apologized. It was an accident."

It didn't matter if it was an accident or not – apologies won't bring his plant back!

If she would be in his class...

"Hey, you aren't thinking of backing up on the first day, are you?"

Sasuke didn't speak for a while as he looked down, staring at his half-eaten breakfast. True, he didn't like her one bit. In fact, he was sure that he would never, ever like her. He would even prefer her idiot brother's company instead.

"Even if your father agrees to go along with you?"

He shot off his head to look at his mother's smiling face.

This changes things.

Sitting a little far away, having his own Onigiri, Fugaku stiffened. Sasuke stared expectantly at him for a minute, and Fugaku ignored it as long as he could before he finally sighed.

"Wash the crumbs off your face first."

He almost whooped.

"Konoha's destruction is inevitable. Aid us to make it easier, and we'll let you join the new age of Kiri. Konoha is just a beginning, everything else will follow."

"Keh! Ao, are we really doing this? Just let me kill this punk already."

"Calm down, Zabuza."

He bit back a curse, clutching his side where the weapon had cut him. It burned fiercely, as if someone had stabbed him with a red hot iron rod. A thick, deep red stream of blood trailed down his sides, pooling down on the ground. The boy slightly raised his hand from the wound, looking at the damage.

'It's going to be a pain.'

He was naive to believe that he could fool them in their own turf—the mist. He needed to buy more time. This wasn't enough. Another injury, and he might as well forfeit his life. He could stay on the defensive, or he could hit them back. Hard. Staying on the defense wasn't looking too good a prospect from where he was standing.

The boy tasted blood in his mouth and spat it. "There's no way that I'm betraying my people."

Ao sighed, almost disappointed. "Well, in that case–"

Naruto grinned. He was just getting started.

The air around him shimmered as he molded chakra, flying through hand seals at an impressive speed. Ao stopped talking, or maybe he still was, but his voice was drowned.

'Water Style: Wrath of Whirlpool!'

A burst of gruff laughter reverberated. "Using a Water Jutsu against a Kiri Shinobi? You amuse me."

Ao, however, had other thoughts. "Zabuza! Ameyuri! Fall back!"


It started as a weak pull in the mist, before it engulfed everything. The pull transformed into a rotating whirlwind of water. Angry. Sharp enough to cleanly bisect the trees of Fire Country, with deadly pressure sufficient to throw away the toughest of animals. The water entity devoured the vapor from the mist, strengthening itself, growing in size and speed until it grew unstable.

The Earth walls shattered outwards violently.

"Do you still think conquering Konoha would be so easy, Kiri Shinobi?"

The tornado calmed down eventually, returning the water to seep deep into the ground. The technique was new, something that he based upon his mother's home. Usually, he'd have to use much of his chakra to extract water from the atmosphere.

The Hidden Mist Jutsu made that part laughably easy.

But if he thought that that was it, he couldn't have been more wrong.

There was an explosion. Violent. Debris flew all around, making him shield his face. A figure emerged from the rubble, leaning on a giant sword. A man wearing black Anbu armor, now somewhat damaged, his face hidden behind messy bandages.

What made him feel uneasy was the gleam in his eyes.

And that aura...

From the moment their eyes met, Naruto saw something that made his muscles tense, almost unconsciously. It wasn't an ordinary man. It wasn't someone he could reason with. It wasn't someone capable of mercy.

It was a demon.

"That wasn't half bad," the man said with a crazed grin, sharp teeth visible through his bandages that had come undone. Small cuts and bruised lingered his body, his clothes in disarray, but his posture didn't show any of it.

He was a demon.

"What's your name, kid?" he asked with the same shaky grin.

The boy blinked in confusion. "Uzumaki... Naruto."

As if impossibly, the grin grew wider. "Uzumaki? I've only heard of them. I'm Momochi Zabuza, one of the Seven. I wield the Kubikiribōchō."

"Seven swordsmen?!" He couldn't mask his surprise. His only saving grace was that he wasn't facing the entire seven at once. If the seven fought together, it was said they could defeat an entire army.

Zabuza threw back his head and laughed. Naruto was stunned by the genuine laugh, so much so that he almost didn't dodge the deadly, swift slash to his legs.


'Lightning Style: Lightning fang!' The destructive bolt of lightning missed him narrowly, nearly electrocuting him as he jumped in the air. The newcomer grinned toothily, showing her sharp teeth. "Ringo Ameyuri. One of the seven. I wield the Kiba."f

She radiated bloodlust just as much as Zabuza, but her's was more of the playful kind. Seeking the fun to fight someone strong.

"Ameyuri!" Zabuza growled. "We were talking."

"Blastoff, Zabuza! I'll kill this boy!"

Zabuza spat. "The only one who gets to kill him is me."

"Tch. You'll die if you interrupt my thrill."

"Stop, you two." A man wearing an eyepatch emerged from behind a still-standing wall, slightly bleeding from his forehead.

"Keh! The one-eye's back. The heck do you want, Ao?"

Ao looked up in the sky before he made a hand seal, his patched eye surrounding with suspiciously familiar veins. "Can't you feel it? Ameyuri? Zabuza?" His voice, once confident, now had a tinge of fear laced with it. A whisper. It was blatantly noticeable. "This chakra..."

'This is... different. I can't believe it! But still..."

One moment he stood alone.

The next moment it was green. Green, soothing, powerful chakra surged. It made him feel as if nothing could touch him. Nothing could harm him. He was invincible. An ethereal warrior's upper body surrounded him, something out of this world. Two gigantic arms extended from the entity, the right arm wielding a drill-like lance coated with flames.

"It's Shisui of the Body Flicker," Ao said, gritting his teeth. "This... Retreat!"

Zabuza seemed shocked for a moment before his grin returned. "Today's my lucky day." He lifted his sword with laughable ease, resting it on his shoulder.

And then he blurred.

Crrrk. The blade impacted the chakra warrior, a deafening sound in their clash, but failed to put so much of a crack on it. The giant cleaver blade groaned as Zabuza increased the pressure, gritting his teeth harshly.

The demon roared.

There was a second war cry as Ameyuri broke out of her shock, her entire being radiating excitement. She flexed her arms, wielding the twin swords of lightning, surging with destructive electricity.

'Lightning Style: Lightning fang!'

Crrkkkkk. The explosive lightning impacted alongside Zabuza's sword, managing to slightly crack the green warrior's torso, almost pushing it back. Ameyuri laughed in delight, but Zabuza didn't look too happy with the intervention, his eyes bitter.

"Fools!" Ao cried out from a distance. He made a hand sign, and the remaining Kiri shinobi appeared beside him, all of them already molding chakra.

'Water Style: Great Waterfall!'

"This isn't good." Naruto blurred through his own hand seals, but Shisui didn't look fazed, an unnatural apathetic look in his eyes as he stared at the incoming tsunami.

The Uchiha raised a hand. "Leave this to me."

"But—" He could only stare in surprise, letting his hands go limp.

The Chakra entity cried, pulling back its arm. There was only a fraction of a second for the Kiri shinobi to widen their eyes before the giant warrior thrust the lance.


The fire roared as if alive. It devoured the forest around them within a split second. The water was evaporated at once, hissing with hot steam. It grew and grew until it was as tall as the green entity, and Naruto shielded his face out of instinct, but it wasn't necessary. He couldn't even feel the heat from inside the chakra construct.

This... this wasn't something he could ever hope to match.

Another swing of the lance and the flames died out instantly. Vanished. As if the forest wasn't on fire a second ago.


"They got away," Shisui spoke finally.

The warrior disappeared, and Naruto instantly missed the warmth.

"What was that?"

The Uchiha blinked, and then almost as if a switch was flipped, he grinned.

"Nothing! You didn't see anything."

"Bullshit!" Naruto dodged Shisui's hand, inching close to his hair. It didn't matter anyway, as the older boy managed to put an arm around his neck, then ruffled his hair with the other.

"That's all you're getting."

He laughed merrily as if he had not just murdered dozens of shinobi.

Naruto pushed himself away from the older boy, and his eyes widened. "Your eyes... they're bleeding!"

"It's nothing. Let's go home! But we need to dress your wound first. You can debrief me on our way back."

"We're going back to Konoha? You got it approved?"

"Of course!" Shisui puffed up his chest. "I'm pretty respected around here."

"You changed the topic. What happened to your eyes? And what was that thing from before?"

His usual grin slipped, and he struggled with a shaky smile but finally seemed to give up and frowned. Shisui looked up in the orange evening sky. The sun would set in a few minutes. He did not speak for a while, just stood there with a melancholy air around him. His eyes continued to bleed endlessly. The dark red blood flowed down his cheeks as if tears of sorrow. It looked painful to Naruto, uncomfortable.

His voice was surprisingly quiet when he spoke.

"It was one of my two most powerful Jutsu—the Susanoo. Only an Uchiha who has awakened the Mangekyo Sharingan can use it."

"Mangekyo? I thought the third tomoe was the highest."

"Yeah, it usually is." He waved his hand dismissively. "Although it's not without its own side-effects."

Naruto felt a pit in his stomach. He asked cautiously, "What... effects?"

"Nothing too extreme," Shisui waved his hands again, prompting Naruto to exhale in relief. Good. He thought it'd be something bad– "Just takes away my sight and destroys my body."

"Nothing too extreme?! Why t—Why would you even use it if it hurts you so much?!" He cried out immediately, the words almost stumbling on his tongue.

The usual grin returned to his face, and he laughed, ruffling Naruto's hair yet again. This time the boy didn't lean away.

"I don't have any siblings, but my sight and this body is a small price to pay if it keeps you and Izumi safe. And besides, I know you'll do the same for me."

The blond turned away from the older boy as he crossed his hands, and Shisui blinked.

"Oi oi, you aren't crying, are you?"

"I'm not!" choked out Naruto, turning his face away.

Shisui smiled broadly, patting his shoulder. "Come on, let's go home."

He nodded, wiping his eyes with his sleeves. "I know you begged them to let us go home."

Shisui gasped, appalled beyond belief. "I didn't! Come on, do you really think so low of me?"




"I just asked them nicely!"

Figures. Naruto shook his head. "Where's Tomura, anyway? I assumed he'd come along with you. I sent him to get you."

Shisui stopped abruptly, his face dawning with realization. He scratched his head, laughing somewhat uneasily. "Tomura! Ahh right. I... I forgot to bring him along. I admit, I kind of just rushed here when I heard about the situation."

Naruto palmed his face.

The first day of Ninja academy was always an exciting one – be it a new student or a returning one. Being the Hokage, the responsibility of ensuring a safe environment for the young and eager fell upon his shoulders. He was the pillar, the support, the shield. Being the Hokage, all of its citizens were his children. And they looked up to him for guidance when the lights got dim.

The Academy instructors were handpicked by him and his team of advisors—always have been. And such decisions rarely brought up much of a debate.

Indeed, even today, as a new year begins, he had appointed a new batch of teachers. But he knew not everyone would agree so wholeheartedly with his decisions.

One of those included the man standing in front of him.

"Team Ro, dismiss."

—The most elite of his shinobi.


There was one that did not vanish like the rest, leaving swirling leaves in his wake. The only one who stood even after the others left. The only one who waited silently, a question undoubtedly brewing up in his young mind.

"You are off duty, Kakashi. The mask isn't necessary."

Hound did not move. But Hiruzen knew he was listening. The young man was alert, his chakra in a scattered mess, dozens of emotions waiting to burst, but none of them showed when he spoke. He was incredibly frustrated, the Hokage was sure, but managed to sum up his thoughts in a single word.


"Are you questioning my judgment?"

"No, but I'm slightly curious."

"More than slightly, I'd presume."

There wasn't a response. Hound did not remove his mask, neither did he take a step. He just stood and stared.

"Give him a chance. Childhood trauma brings out the worst of us all, after all. I thought you would be slightly more empathetic than this."

There was still no response, but the aura in the room had shifted all of a sudden. It was like a fresh breath of air. The tightness was gone – if only marginally.

"I understand that you mean well, Kakashi, and I'm grateful for it. But give him another chance, and you may find out he's not as bad as you thought."

The young man's shoulders almost slumped, and Hiruzen knew that he just needed another small push.

"And what if he's just as bad as I thought? What happens then? We know what he had tried."

Hiruzen's hand twitched, inching for his pipe, but he stopped. He interlocked his fingers in front of his mouth, his eyes closed. His voice was unforgiving when he spoke. Cold.

"Then do what you must."

When he looked up again, the only thing left was a green leaf descending down peacefully.

The ringing bells marked the end of the day, immediately followed by a large number of children clustering the gates. One could compare them to a swarm of bees. There were smiles. There was laughter. New bonds were forged for some, while some spent their day alone, away from the others. The parents greeted their children with smiles. Some fathers carried their children on their shoulders, making them whoop in joy.

A black-haired boy stormed past the gates; an uncomfortable expression etched on his face. Her eyes lit up, noticing a familiar face. Hinata had left earlier along with a guard, and she had been waiting since. Shizune might come for her, the elder girl being somewhat of a regular visitor at her home. Her first shift at the local hospital ends by noon, so it wasn't a far-fetched theory that she might come to get her, the time being well past noon.

A slight snicker escaped her when the boy stumbled, a trio of girls trying and failing to be discreet while following him. All of a sudden, he smiled and waved at someone.

"Nee-san! You're back!" she heard him shout.

If he was jogging earlier, he was now sprinting across the ground, his pursuers a lost thought. It didn't take long for him to run over to his sister, where he proceeded to talk animatedly, making silly gestures and telling what they'd learned today. The older girl gave him a gentle smile, poking his forehead. It wasn't long when they walked past her, hand in hand, without so much of a glance in her direction.

She could tell both of them were very happy.

For a fleeting moment, she wondered if her brother would do the same with her. Would they walk hand in hand too? She'd talk and tell him about her day. For a moment, she imagined what it would be like.

But then, he hadn't come back in a year. Their only form of communication being letters that she had studied meticulously to write. Those magnificent two paged letters that she sent him. They were always replied, promises were made, more were broken. But he never came back.

Slowly, the swarm reduced to a small trickle of pupils, lazily walking out of the gates. Most of them were the older students, ones who were familiar with the system. The crowd of parents, too, was reduced to a fraction.

"It is mesmerizing, isn't it?"

"Mm," she said distractedly, sitting on the swing. Her lips twitched into a small smile, watching a mother pinch her son's cheek.

"Did you know that less than a third of them shall graduate? A rather minuscule amount, if I may say."

Her eyes drooped low, watching a pink-haired man pat her daughter's head. They never looked in her direction, and she doubted they will. Perhaps, it was nice in a sense. She could admire them all that she wanted from afar and never get caught.

"Each year, approximately a fourth of the academy students give up before finishing their first year. Do you know why?"

The girl shook her head but did not turn to look at the speaker. The voice was old; she thought subconsciously—an old man. Being subjected to a disturbing variety of emotions all her life, she had developed a kind of 'sense,' knowing what the other person was feeling based on their tone. The old man's voice was soothing but not caring. There wasn't a shred of hate in his voice. Nor was there any love. It was unremarkably neutral.

"It is because they lack conviction. They come under false understandings of what becoming a Shinobi entails. Riches and fame – they have no connection with being a Shinobi."

"Hey, gramps, that's fine and all," she said, turning her head slightly to look at the odd fellow. "But why are you talking to me?"

The odd fellow was not bothered by the confrontational remark, or even if he was, he did an excellent job of not showing it. "I see great potential within you, child. It would be a shame... if it were to go to waste." He shook his head.

"That's not what I meant." She dropped off the swing, slightly dusting her clothes—her favorite orange jacket and shorts. The girl could feel eyes on her back. "I've been told not to talk to odd-looking geezers covered in bandages. And kick them in the balls if they try to touch me."

The odd-looking geezer covered in bandages frowned, looking at her with a narrowed eye for what looked like an eternity before he opened his mouth. All the while, she started to walk away from him. "Such vulgarities. Is this what Tsunade has been teaching you? I shouldn't have expected anything else."

"Yeah, well, it is what it is."

And then she walked away.

Natsumi roamed around the village the entire evening, observing weird insects, hanging out at the Ramen stall, talking to Ayame for hours, before she finally decided to get back home. Shizune hadn't made an appearance yet, so she assumed that the older girl was still at work.

It was almost midnight by the time her house entered her line of sight. Coming back to an empty house wasn't the best of feelings, but she had gotten accustomed to it for a while now. What with Tsunade's late-night shifts at the hospital.

I will be late. Dinner is in the fridge.

-Your pretty Aunt

At least she wrote a new message every time.

Taking off the note, she opened the fridge, and her eyes immediately narrowed dangerously. This could not be happening. She had been saving the special Ramen noodles cup for a special occasion – like when she becomes the Hokage. It was a pretty big cup as well, easily the size of four standard cups.

It was open.

And very empty.

The thief would be paying very dearly, preferably with some items of equal or more worth. But then she discarded the notion. There wasn't anything that she could think of being more special than the special Ramen.

But the culprit must be brought to justice. This was no minor inconvenience.

Her nose twitched. Once. Twice. The smell of Ramen was still in the air, the intoxicating smell that made her mouth water. She had to suck in the drool. And with that, the little detective began her investigation, armed with a frying pan.

Following the lingering scent was no trouble; she had perfected the art of sniffing Ramen and reviewing it even before taking in a bite. This was child's play.

The irony of actually being a child was lost on her.

She followed the scent expertly, her heartbeat building with every step she took. The smell led her outside her room, the door closed. This was concerning. The thief was in her room; she was sure of it. Little fingers wrapped around the doorknob, and the door opened without a creak.

Natsumi hadn't even seen the bundle on her bed before she began her most terrible and wicked onslaught. Large but quick overhead strikes with the pan, relentless and unforgiving.

"Take this, you thief!" she declared, pummeling the bundle for a good few minutes.

Satisfied that whoever was under the blanket had taken enough punishment, she stopped, huffing and taking deep breaths. But she still didn't know who it was. It wasn't even a second later that she had snatched the blanket, and something made her stop in her tracks.

"This is my brother's blanket."

Her temper boiled. The nerve of this—

The sound of laughter interrupted her vile thoughts. But Natsumi froze entirely, the voice being incredibly familiar to her. "Sorry, I was starving. It looked delicious, and I couldn't resist."

"You..." she tried to form words, but all that came out was a choked noise. But then she heard what he'd said, and her anger returned. She made to attack her brother, but she didn't remember when the pan had slipped from her grasp. Nor did she remember when her eyes had started to sting, her cheeks wet.

All she remembered was running straight into his arms.

All she remembered was whispering, "you're back."

When Uchiha Shisui entered the gates of Konoha, he had hoped to catch on a relaxing hot bath, then have a good night's sleep. Sleep was scarce at work, and he was made to get up at conflicting times. Five hours of sleep was generally considered a luxury.

He had hoped to cook something simple yet delicious for dinner. Something that would be easy to make but would hit that certain spot.

When Shisui had entered the gates of Konoha, all he wanted to do was finally rest. Using the Mangekyo had been a risky move, but it had paid off. He could not have hoped to extract his subordinate under such overwhelming odds, using the typical tactics. But if what he had heard from Naruto was any true, he might have to use the cursed eye again. If there really was a war brewing on the horizon, he could not take risks now that he had people to protect yet again – people precious to him.

But reality would not be so, Shisui realized, when he noticed a figure standing by his door. He did not question how the person may have known the exact timing of his arrival.

One does not question how Uchiha Fugaku knew his stuff.

Red met red, three tomoe swirling, and the next words firmly established his belief.

"We have a problem."

There would be no rest tonight.

I had fun writing this one, and I hope that you too had fun reading this. Have a good day/night.