SC: So… um… hi?

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. There. You made me say it. (goes off to emo in the corner)

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Chapter 17

Return and Punishment

It was a long trek back to Konohagakure- not only did the still-paralyzed Byakuya slow them down, but so did the black thought of what waited for them when they returned hovering over their heads.

"Shin?" She looked up to see Roba had fallen back to her slow pace. "Are you okay?"

Shingetsu gave a little half-smile that couldn't quite reach her eyes. "I'm not sure any more, Roba. I mean, we won. We got the antidote, we're gonna save our parents." She fell silent.

"But…?" Roba prompted.

"But why do I feel like we've lost?" She asked, her voice distant.

Roba sighed. "Because you know what's waiting for us back home." He said softly. "You know that Tsunade-sama's going to judge us, and she's going to-"

"No." Roba looked over at her, startled.

"'No?' Shin, what do you mean?"

She took a deep breath. "There won't be an 'us,' Roba. I'm going to take the fall for this." Her green eyes focused on the ground. "I'm going to tell Tsunade-sama the truth, and I'm going to make her let you guys off. I'm going to be the only one who gets stripped of my rank as a Shinobi."

"Shingetsu, you can't!"

"I can, Roba. And I will." She looked back up at him, her eyes boring into his. "Roba, promise me that you won't try to stop me, and that you won't tell the others what I'm going to do."

He drew away slightly. "Shingetsu… don't ask me to do that."

"Please, Roba. I need you to do this for me. You've been my best friend since before we could crawl. Please." She begged, grabbing the sleeve of his vest. "I can't let you guys ruin your lives because of my stupid idea."

"But we-" He stopped as she stuck out her lower lip slightly. Roba frowned, then let out a defeated sigh. "All right, Shingetsu. I won't stop you. But I'm not going to enjoy watching you crash and burn." He said before lengthening his steps and catching up with the others.

"I'm not asking you to enjoy it." She whispered. "Just to let me."

"Shingetsu, hurry up slowpoke!" Naruto called back.

"I-I'm coming!" She ran to catch up with the group.

"We should be back in Konohagakure in just a few hours." Kakushin said quietly to his sister as she slowed next to him.

"I know."

"We're going to be in big trouble when we get there."

"I know."

He glanced down at her. "What are you going to do?"

"What does it matter what I do?"

"Shingetsu, I'm your older brother- I know you. I saw you talking to Roba. Whatever it is you're planning, don't do it."

"I'm going to do what's right, Kakushin." Shingetsu said, looking up at him. Her emerald eyes were filled with determination. And, Kakushin noted, a little fear. "I'm going to do what I have to."

Kakashi glanced over his shoulder at the two siblings for a brief moment, then looked forward again, a small smile forming under his mask, though it was a sad one.

Shingetsu would have made a great Shinobi.

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The familiar sight of Konoha's bridge was not a comforting one to the group. "All right, we'll split up here." Iruka said. "I'll go ahead with Tsuki to the hospital. Chouji, take Byakuya to the ANBU. Naruto and Kakashi will take you guys to see Tsunade." He couldn't help frowning as he spoke, before turning and running with the kunoichi toward the hospital.

Chouji hefted Byakuya up over his shoulder and, with a nod, the group started moving again.

The walk to Tsunade's office took almost thirty minutes, but seemed very slow. Chouji continued down to the ANBU jail with Byakuya as Kakashi knocked on the door. It opened, revealing Shizune standing there. She blinked, obviously surprised. "Kakashi! You're back!" Her eyes fell to the rather solemn looking group standing behind him. "Oh…! Um, Tsunade-sama went to the hospital to check on… why don't you come in?" She finally managed, stepping to the side.

Kakashi nodded politely, walking into the large, circular office, his group of (forcible) tag-a-longs following behind. It took almost an hour before the door opened again, and Tsunade walked in, not looking very happy…

… along with the also not very happy looking parents of the condemned Genin, who were all flesh and blood again. Shingetsu's green eyes automatically fell on her father, and more specifically the small strip of fading grey peeking out from beneath his shorts. Tsunade took a seat at her desk, her eyes scanning over the grim looking young teens standing in front of her.

"So…" She started slowly, resting her chin against her folded hands. "The seven of you disobeyed a direct order from the Hokage. From me. That, by law, is considered treason." Not a flinch from the line. "Which one of you is the ringleader of this little group?"

Movement to her left made her glance over as, not surprisingly, Shingetsu stepped forward. "I did, Tsunade-sama."

Protest broke out among the line. "Shin!"

"What are you doing?!"

"Guys, shut up." She ordered softly before looking back at Tsunade. "It was my idea that we sneak out of Konoha and go to Kage Ryu island to try and find a cure."

"How did you know how to get there?"

"I…" She faltered, glancing over at her parents. "I stole the mission papers and maps from my mom and dad's specs."
"Shingetsu!" Sakura gasped. Tsunade held up a hand.

"Shingetsu, are you taking responsibility for this?" The fifth Hokage questioned softly.

"Yes."

Noise broke out again- protests, denials, and curses. Tsunade stopped them with a look. "You know what the consequences of this are."

It wasn't a question.

"Yes." Fear had leaked into the young girl's voice. Tsunade closed her eyes, and they stayed that way for a little over two minutes. When she opened them again, she only had one order.

"Out. Everyone. I need to talk to Shingetsu alone." Slowly but surely, the room emptied.

Hari grabbed Shingetsu's arm as he passed her. "Shin, what are you doing?"

"Just go, Hari." She whispered, lifting his hand off her carefully. As the door shut behind him, Tsunade stood and walked around her desk, moving over to a couch pushed up against the wall.

"Sit, Shingetsu." She said, patting the seat next to her. The brunette did so almost reluctantly. "What were you thinking, Shingetsu? Doing something this reckless, it's not like you."

She shrugged. "I don't know. I just… it felt like I had to, like no one else was doing anything. I wasn't thinking very straight."

"You did just find out your parents had been poisoned." Tsunade relented. "But that's no excuse."

"I know." She sighed, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees. "Tsunade-sama, I know I'm not in any position to be asking favors, but… this really was all my idea. I talked the others into it. I know you have to punish me, but can you let them off?"

"Shingetsu, that isn't an easy request. I can't let them off completely, but I can lighten their punishment." She paused, looking down at her. "I can't do anything about yours."

"I know." Came the reply, in a very small voice.

With a sigh, Tsunade stood up, walking over to the window covered wall, looking outside. "Three months."

Shingetsu looked up. "What?"

"Three months of no ninja activity whatsoever. That's your punishment." Tsunade said, turning around. "It will only be a month for your friends, but that's your punishment." The fifth Hokage smiled. "That should give you just enough time to get ready for the Chuunin exams."

"The… the Chuunin…? You mean, I'm still…?"

"Shingetsu, you may have disobeyed me, but you succeeded in your mission. And without you, Konohagakure would have lost some of its best shinobi." She smiled. "You did good, kid."

Shingetsu smiled, running up and hugging Tsunade. "I love you too, 'ba-chan."

"Alright, alright. Now, scoot."

"Yes ma'am." She said, leaving the Hokage's office in a rush. She had barely made it outside the building before she saw Sasuke sitting on a bench, obviously waiting for her. Taking a deep breath, Shingetsu walked over and stood in front of her father. "Dad… I…"

She cut off as Sasuke moved, and Shingetsu found her face buried in her father's shirt. He was hugging her? He should've been furious! Slowly, she glanced up at his face, and her eyes widened.

Uchiha Sasuke was… crying? "Dad?" She asked quietly.

"Do you have any idea how worried your mother and I have been?" He demanded.

"I know, I know! I'm sorry, I just… I couldn't sit here and not do anything."

Sasuke chuckled. "Well, you are definitely my daughter." There was a moment of silence.

"How's your leg?" Shingetsu asked. Sasuke blinked, surprised. "I saw the grey when we were in Tsunade's office."

"It's fine. The poison's fading fast."

Shin looked down at the ground. "Were you scared?"

"Yes." She looked up at him, startled. His onyx eyes softened as he continued. "But not for the reasons you're thinking. I was scared that my little girl was going to get herself killed and never come home again."

Shin couldn't help smiling a little. "I really am sorry, dad."

"I know." He said, putting an arm around her. "We should get home. Your mom is probably ready to burst." She nodded, following after him as he started down the road. Sasuke glanced down at his daughter. "So… what did Tsunade do to you?"

"Three months of no Shinobi activity." She said a little glumly. "I managed to get it down to a month for everyone else."

Sasuke chuckled, putting an arm around her shoulders.

"… dad?"

"Hm?"

"Am I grounded?"

Sasuke paused to think about this. "Mm… no. I think you've been punished enough."

"Mom's gonna lecture my ears off when I get home, isn't she?"

"You know it."

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SC: And so, finally, Child of a Shinobi ends. I'm planning on a sequel, but I haven't been getting much response on this lately- my own fault, I know- and I'm not sure if I should. Oh well. You guys know I will anyway. Reviews are, as always, appreciated.

Ja ne
SC

PS: Is anyone else not able to edit their profiles lately? I can't get the edit thing to load.