Honokuni Monogatari - "Fire Country Stories"
Kage no Naka - "In the Shadows"
By Aoikami Sarah
Two weeks later, Kakashi strolled down Konoha's main street. Decorations hung between all the telephone poles, celebrating the accession of the new Hokage. Despite the struggle Naruto had as a child, Konoha was completely taken with him and nightly parties were still being held in his honor two days after the ceremony. Dusk had just fallen but everywhere red lights on strings illuminated the streets with a fire-like glow. Joyous shouts could be heard from every restaurant and bar he passed as toasts went up.
"To Rokudaime and to Konoha!"
Kakashi smiled beneath his mask and his thoughts drifted once again to his students. Naruto had achieved his goal: he had become Hokage. Sakura had achieved her goal: she had found a purpose in the medical field. Sasuke had achieved his goal: becoming strong enough to kill his brother. Kakashi would never forget that night. He had run in the pouring rain to the hospital where Sakura was already tending to Sasuke's wounds. Naruto sat outside his room, slouched in his chair, exhausted from carrying him back. "He did it," was all Naruto had said. Kakashi had hardly spoken a word to any of them in three years.
As he made his way to his apartment, Kakashi watched the revelers. A couple coming towards him in the dim light could have been Sakura and Sasuke by their heights and her pink hair glowing in silhouette. When they stopped just a few feet before him, he stared more directly at them.
"Kakashi-sensei?" she asked.
Without a doubt, standing in the eerie red glow of the red string-lights and the green glow of a neon bar sign were Haruno Sakura and more unbelievably, Uchiha Sasuke. Sasuke's single coal-black eye widened slightly; the left one lost in the fight against his brother three years ago. A diagonal scar crossed the closed lid.
"Ah, minna, long time no see," he greeted them in the classic cool Kakashi manner but inside he was nauseous.
"Aa," Sasuke replied, his eye not leaving his sensei's.
"Pretty great about Naruto, ne?" Sakura piped, trying but failing to hide her own nervousness.
"Yeah. I'm actually going to see him tomorrow."
"Oh! Great!" Sakura chimed, clutching her hands together. "He must be really busy. Will you tell him we said 'hi'?"
"Sure," he said with a closed-eye grin, allowing Sasuke to look away. "Well, have a good night." Kakashi bowed and continued on his way. When he was a few blocks from them he let out a long sigh. "Well, well," he mused quietly. "It seems that things are on the mend if those two were out together in public. This old man shouldn't worry so much."
It was always busy around the Hokage's office, but inside the inner sanctum was peaceful and quiet. Kakashi was shown in and stared at the young man seated on the floor in front of him. His official hat hid his face as he looked down at the Hokage's crystal ball. His spiky, yellow hair stuck out from underneath. Kakashi imagined that he could very well lift his head and be either the 6th or the 4th Hokage. Naruto's shoulders convulsed with a quiet giggle suddenly. Kakashi cleared his throat.
"Ah!" Naruto suddenly looked up, dispelling whatever it was he was looking at in the crystal ball. "Kakashi-sensei! It's not what it looks like!"
"Then it definitely is…" he mumbled. "If it's any consolation to me or to you, I'm almost certain Sandaime-sama abused his position a little that way as well."
reddened. "I wasn't…!"
Kakashi waved, showing he neither cared nor would he report that the Hokage was a closet pervert. "I'm glad that you had a moment for me, Hokage-sama."
Naruto took his hat off. "Please, Sensei. In this sort of situation you don't hafta call me that."
"Alright, Naruto. I came here today to tell you a couple of secrets." He sat down across from him and folded his arms. "One of these secrets mustn't leave this room. The other you may do with what you will because it's yours, not mine."
"Mine?" Naruto asked, curious. His brows came together. "You have my word."
Kakashi nodded in thanks. "First I'll tell you a story. When I was born, I was also put into the Plan…"
"You're an orphan?"
"Yes. My parents were unprepared to care for me. My father entrusted my future to his student, should I survive. My father wrote a letter and gave it to this secret-keeper when I was still very young. It was not to be given to me until I turned 18. Unfortunately, that letter came into my hands when the secret-keeper died. I was only 12. I didn't read it till much later. When I did, I learned that my parents were none other than Tsunade and Jiraiya." Kakashi watched Naruto's face carefully.
"No shit…" he said, totally wrapped up in the story. "That's incredible!"
"It gets better." Kakashi took a deep breath and continued. "Jiraiya's student was my secret-keeper…"
"Indeed. That is the secret I want you to know, but I want you to keep. I will now give you yours. When my sensei, the 4th told me that he had a letter for me, it was the night you were born. He was busy sealing the Nine Tails. I was there. His body was so battered, he wasn't sure it would hold out so he bid me go to the hospital and steal a baby for him to use as a container to guarantee the sealing method with 100 success. He then told me to tell Sandaime that he wished you to be known as a hero but that no one should speak of this incident to their children so that you might have a chance to grow up without prejudice. He also made me swear that no one would know your heritage." Kakashi paused and drew another breath. His nausea was returning as he approached the point of his visit. He had no idea how Naruto would take this, but he swallowed and hoped for the best.
"But…" Naruto's eyes were wide, unblinking. He looked like he was watching a movie and didn't want to miss a second of the thrilling conclusion. "What about my parents…? Was I in the plan at that point? Sandaime told me that I was sealed as a newborn…"
"Your mother died in childbirth that night. Your father died fighting the Nine Tails."
Naruto clutched the fabric of his pants on his knees. "I've always wondered… did they want me?"
"I can tell you with absolute certainty that they wanted you. I saw the room that would have been your nursery. The house doesn't exist anymore, sadly, but it was blue with stars and moons…"
"What?" Naruto asked, breathlessly.
"Your father and mother were like… no. They were family to me. Your mother's name was Sakai Kozue and you father's name was Yusaku… also know as Yondaime Hokage."
Naruto stared at the table between them and the darkened crystal ball that sat on it. His gaze slowly lifted and fixed on the wall to his right. The portraits of the first five Hokage hung in simple frames in a row. Naruto smiled. "I knew it…" he whispered. "Somehow, I knew it."
"You know what's funny…" Kakashi stood and walked slowly to the portraits. Naruto followed. "Shodaime and Nidaime were brothers. Sandaime, well, he was just the Second's student. But Yondaime, he was married to Sakai Kozue, who's mother's father was the First's son. And as you well know, Godaime is the granddaughter of the First. She and Kozue were cousins." Kakashi turned to Naruto. "You're related to four out of five of the last Hokage." He walked to the door. Their meeting time was up and Naruto would soon have much to do, as usual. "If you ever want to know more, I spent seven years with them. Don't hesitate to ask." He opened the door. "I know they'd be proud of you, Naruto."
"Kaka'i-sensei…" Naruto muttered, tears glimmering in his eyes.
Kakashi straightened up and walked back towards him. "I almost forgot. She'd have killed me if I didn't do this…" Kakashi stretched out his arms and gave a very surprised Naruto a tight, brief hug. "That's from Kozue-san."
The image of the girl by the pond, flaxen hair wafting on the breeze blew through his mind and he gasped. "Thank you," he whispered as Kakashi showed himself out. Naruto was left in silence for a moment. His father's portrait loomed over him. He examined it more closely. He wondered what the man looked like when he smiled. 'I'm gonna make you so proud…' he thought.
"Hellooo?" a voice to his left startled him. "You spacin' out, kiddo?"
"Tsunade Baa-chan! You scared the crap outta me!"
The fifth Hokage, now retired but still working as a medic nin at Konoha's hospital, leaned in the doorframe. "Che, some ninja you are!" she chided.
He laughed and smiled at her. 'She's my cousin,' he thought. 'I have cousins… I have a family!'
"You look like you been smokin' something good…" she said with a grin.
"Just had a nice chat with my sensei is all."
"That's good," she smiled. "I was just passin' through, checkin' up on ya, you know."
Naruto smiled that closed-eye smile so like his mother's that endeared him to just about everyone he met. "I'm doin' great. This is what I've always wanted. No matter how hard it is, how long the hours, how great the responsibility, this is what I was born to do. I'm absolutely sure of it now."
Tsunade blinked a few times, astounded. Although he was dead serious, Naruto wore a Buddha smile. She smiled back, infected by it. "That you were, kiddo. That you were."