The information I had gathered was burning a whole inside my mind. As I travelled from town to town, everything seemed to make more sense. Part of me had hoped that what Daishi had said was misinformed, pure assumption or a trick, but the more I thought about it, and the more holes I filled with the information, the more everything seemed to fit together.
Dark bursts of chakra in misfortune-struck places seemingly without a purpose. No traces of use, or result. Just an aftermath of destruction and acidic power. It made sense that the intention was to summon some kind of creature which was eluding the controller. I had travelled to a particularly bad and abandoned battle field, and it was with mourning eyes which I witnessed the catastrophe. From hill to hill the land had been murdered. Ruptured, charred, scared, savaged. There were a few crispy stumps of sliced trees beside upturned mounds of land, ransacked with black, from fire jutsus not doubt. In the middle there was a large area of upturned soil, where the nearby villagers had probably mass-buried the victims to fend off the crows and wild animals seeking a free meal. I wasn't sure even animals would near the area, however, for as I neared the pit a malevolent aura hung upon the air like a curse. I instinctively winced and took a step back, choking slightly. I had never felt anything like it. Spiders under my skin; crawling, consuming. The fine hairs on my body raised in goosebumps, a shudder of disgust shaking me as my chakra flared in retaliation. It might of well have been Takeo under that soil, just broken limbs and summoned demons.
I clenched my jaw and fisted my fists and stared at the scene we ninjas had created. It wasn't exactly pain; not piercing or burning. But it was defiling. Horrifying. Suddenly I couldn't breathe enough. My chest was contracting as if every horror I had ever witnessed, every person I had failed, suddenly came back to haunt me, devour me. My Family, my Village, my best friend. All the blood on my hands, all the things I had abandoned.
I ran out of there as quickly as possible, needing to breathe. It was a full five minutes of mindless running when I stopped and realised I was crying and shaking. I collapsed on the forest floor, afraid that I wouldn't be able to breathe in deeply enough.
My brother on the floor. The fire at my back as he screamed, screamed, screamed.
The old lady in her chair. Alone.
Takeo's sightless eyes. Green, green, green and then black.
I dug fingertips into the soil, curling into myself. I needed something, someone, something to tell me it was ok. That these things got better. That is was a panic, not a heart attack.
I slept there that night, passed out from exhaustion. Cold and alone and running from something I couldn't see in my nightmares.
Two weeks later, still having nightmares but trying desperately not to think about the feeling that battlefield had evoked, I was once again chewing internally at the information, making it walk circles around my mind as I walked into a tea shop. The very scent calmed me down and I ordered Camomile as I sat down. I was near Sand village and the inside of the shop was a relief from the scorching outside. I had presumed the stay would be fairly uneventful when, as my drink arrived, I heard a sentence that stilled me.
"It's the first time in decades that a Konohagakure Hokage is changed by a cause different than death," a blond woman was telling her companion who had her hair in dark ringlets and decorated her face with a splash of freckles across her nose. By brain stopped as it drew the obvious conclusion.
Maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised but when I was travelling it always seemed as if Minato belonged to another world. Any news of him was alien and nostalgic and, on top of that, such news as the fact that he had been chosen, and accepted the role as leader...the strongest ninja of leaf...
"He must be very formidable to attain the title without even a fight, but a simple acknowledgement from the current Hokage."
"I hear he's handsome too," one giggled.
"And single," the second one smiled jokingly. I choked even though I hadn't sipped my drink. What a blow to the ego; I was none existent in all things Konoha. I couldn't really complain though, it wasn't like it was Minato's choice to seem single.
"Erm, excuse me," I interrupted, making them look at me as I grinned good-naturedly. "I couldn't help but overhear you conversation. May I ask who you are talking about?" I said politely and the women smiled in return.
"Namikaze Minato he's called, from Fire Country. He's being crowned Hokage of his village in a few days. I think Fire Country is promoting the news to make it clear to Earth Country that they have various powerful ninjas in their ninja village," the blonde one replied. The other one snorted slightly.
"Just showing off, if you ask me."
"Oh, hush, its political war tactics."
I thanked them and stared into my steaming tea, winded. Hokage. The word was huge in my mind. I couldn't even believe it. Not only was it power and responsibility and a formidable title, but it meant so any things for Minato. It planned out his whole life, just like that. I finished off my tea, my restlessness propelling me forward as I tried to process the fact that Minato was going to take in the full, monumental, caging responsibility of leading a ninja village at the edges of wartime. He would probably never or rarely leave the village again for the rest of his life...
What a frightening thought.
I, who had done nothing but travel, nothing but run, found the mere thought of being tied down to one place terrifying. And considering I loved Minato...
I shook my head. I didn't have to decide anything yet, as much as it stressed me.
And the more I thought about it, the prouder I was. Minato, leader of a village. Honoured and acknowledged and with the power to make a difference. He would make a great Hokage. Not only strong but fair and kind and understanding.
I let the fear and anxiety and thrill and happiness and pride shoot through me until I knew I had only one option.
I had to see Minato's introduction as Hokage. I couldn't miss it for the world.
I doubled my chakra over as I passed the incredibly tight security around Konoha. I had had to undergo an energy test by a person I had known half my life to assert it was indeed Uzumaki Kushina who was going to see Minato put shackles and crowns on. As soon as I stepped inside the gate, butterflies came to life inside my stomach. The town was decorated in honour of the crowning. Golds and reds were threaded through the houses, through the trees and banners and air. I was surprised at what level of festivity Konoha could achieve in the middle of wartime, but if there was one thing Minato had always been good at it was to fight for hope where hope was dying.
The streets were deserted, shops barred and doors locked. The entire village was gathered beside the Hokage tower, I assumed, overlooked by the legendary cliff-face statues of our ancestors. I quickened my pace, leaping on roofs so I wouldn't be stuck behind the civilians. As I cleared a set of high buildings I let my eyes take in the scene that my ears had been hearing since I had stepped into the village; the mass of chattering, happy, cheering villagers, a burst of colour and energy. The shinobi were lined by level at both sides, with the counsellors behind Minato and Sarutobi, who stood on the roof of the Hokage tower. I scowled for a moment at them as I let myself stop at the closest roof, but let my eyes fall on the grinning form of Minato. He was dressed in the ceremonial robes, with the large, triangular hat posed over the unruly yellow hair. His eyes would fall on the clapping, happy people below him and then to the now ex-Hokage. I could barely wrap my head around the concept of Minato being Hokage. The official leader. After all this time...and all the work, and sweat and blood and grief and laughs.
"To lead the village into a time of peace. Trust in him to protect us from all ill that may seek our destruction, and defeat, with our help, our enemies. Using not only power and skill but kindness, understanding and empathy, cheer on out new Hokage. Namikaze Minato is proclaimed our leader and light through these dark times and with our support we will banish this era of hardship!" Sarutobi exclaimed, finishing his speech, and stepping down as Minato took the forefront as the crowd wailed and cheered for him. I felt my blood rush with pride, with the knowledge that if anyone could get Konoha safely through the war, Minato was the one to do it best. He deserved it. He was the strongest of them all. I had heard of other countries instructing their shinobi to flee at the sight of him. Such reputation was meant for nothing short of glorification.
"As I have always said; If the leader is brave, so shall the soldiers me. Let my strength not substitute yours, but aid you though all troubles!" He proclaimed and even the shinobi cheered, the masked ANBU clapping beside them, like still, upright animals. Suddenly, most probably noticing my chakra signature, Minato looked towards me and the blue pierced straight through as we looked at each other. The new leader of the Ninja Village. He smiled, is whole face lighting up and I felt myself doing the same, the wind rippling our clothes, his cape fluttering widely as the sunset lit up the sky behind me, colouring the glazed clay of the roofs on oranges and yellows, making the decorations glitter, and the blue in Minato's eyes be bluer still. I nodded at him and h nodded back, looking away. I blinked away tears as Minato grinned to the crowd, the ceremony over. The people cheered so loud I was half afraid the enemies would hear them and come running, but it was no moment for bloodshed. I fisted my hands hard and grinned at Konoha's new leader, feeling a single drop of salty water trail down my cheek.
The elders and Yondaime Hokage (the words were still utterly foreign in my mind) had left to discuss politics, no doubt. I had seen Jiraiya, his characteristic cross-armed stance and an unparalleled pride on his face as soon as I had reached the ceremony. I headed towards him, feeling shaken, almost detached from myself. I had to get used to the idea that Minato, just Minato, was now in charge of Konoha. That the pupil of this man had made it that far.
"Oi!" I shouted, and unceremoniously kicked Jiraiya at the back of his knee, too distracted by staring at woman to side-step me. He face-faulted onto the ground and I laughed loudly, mixing with the noises of the people setting up stalls and passing around drink in celebration.
"You brat! Your greeting skills leave much to be desired," Jiraiya grumbled, getting to his feet, but I could see the smile in the wrinkles beside his eyes.
"How's it going, old man?" I asked, and he frowned at me, posed on his high sandals.
"I'm no old man, brat! Be careful or I'll have to teach you what the legendary Sannin can do!" he threatened. I just laughed in his face, walking forwards with him, intent on wasting away the hours until Minato was released. We were about to enter a recently opened and already packed bar/restaurant when someone shouted,
I turned around and had to do a double-take at the pair standing a few feet from us. A young girl with short black hair and a friendly face, red rectangles marking her cheeks and the unforgettable boy with striking silver hair. Kakashi and Rin sure had grown up. Curves for the girl and lean, dangerous muscles for him.
They still looked like brats to me.
"What is up with your face, Kakashi? Every time I see you, a little more is covered up," I teased as the pair approached us, Rin still pointing her finger at me. Kakashi, to my surprise, shrugged and, of what I could tell, smiled a little instead of staying impassive. Rin, however, I could tell knew the reason for the masks.
"Woah. Did you just smile? Quick, Jiraiya, check the shinobi manual to see if that's allowed," I grinned, and Jiraiya smiled at us, shaking his head.
"Leave the kids alone, Uzumaki," Jiraiya said, though we could tell he was amused.
"Well, dumb-dumb, where's dumber?" I asked. Rin tilted her head in question but I saw Kakashi's eyes flicker.
"Goggles-kid. The Uchiha," I clarified despite the sinking feeling in my stomach. All amusement went straight out of Rin's expression. Her eyes went from Kakashi to the floor, shoulders tensed, mouth taunt.
"He's dead." Kakashi's voice was low, flat. I let my smile drain. Dead? The smiling, jumping, excitable kid was...dead?
"I see," I said. What else was there? Sorrys and scars and it-will-get betters. Lies.
"Well, no use standing around here. Let's go inside," Jiraiya interrupted. I wondered who had consoled Minato after one of his pupils died.
"Yes, before all the food is gone," Rin said quietly, and we entered the bar, subdued.
Life is little more than funerals and festivals, it seemed.
It was hours later when Minato caught up to us. I had stayed with Jiraiya, wanting to tell both of them what I had learnt about the bursts of chakra as soon as possible. The moment I saw Minato, still clad in the Hokage clothes, the information went straight out of my head. I felt my face split in a grin similar to his own as I let him wrap his arms around me, squeezing back with force, smelling the soft scent of him as we hugged. He hadn't changed much from the last time I had seen him. His hair was a little longer, and he seemed so much more professional and mighty in those legendary clothes. But it was still the same smiling, fair Minato who I loved that was crushing me in his grip.
"Kushina...I thought you wouldn't come in time," I heard him murmur and I shook my head, forehead against his shoulder, feeling the cloth on my cheek.
"Wouldn't miss it for the world," I whispered back, and tilted my head up to pull him down for a kiss when Jiraiya said,
"Ok, kids, settle down!" I felt Minato's chuckle as I turned around to face him, rolling my eyes but grinning.
"Says the pervert," I grumbled, and Minato put his arm around me, kissing my head.
"So, what's this you have to tell us, brat? I have to get my beauty sleep, you know," Jiraiya said, and I rolled my eyes again, but took a deep breath and began explaining. There was little use of sugar-coating or procrastinating the news.
I told them everything I knew. About the chakra bursts. The locations, the destruction. How it was possible to summon demons. How if something was possible to get more power, a human would do it. By the end both men looked grave and quite, reverting from playful to ninjas. They asked me all the questions they could but my knowledge was limited. It was an hour later when we had spent the subject, and sat in tired silence. In the end Jiraiya simply sighed and stood up.
"Well, it's good to know, but there is not much we can do about it now. It would be a good idea to talk to the elders, Minato, but that can be dealt with tomorrow." Minato nodded, knowing this, and smiled a little.
"Yeah. We'll deal with it in the new day. I think it's time to rest now," he agreed and I stretched, also getting to my feet. As Jiraiya was turning away with a proud pat on Minato's shoulder he suddenly looked at me and asked,
"Where did you get this information anyways?" I scratched the back of my neck, awkward, and looked away.
"Just, you know...around," I said. Jiraiya lifted his eyebrows as I glanced at him.
"Around? You mind being more specific? It may be useful." To my horror, I started blushing, and saw Minato looking at me curiously.
"Erm...I was informed by Daishi-san," I said grudgingly and just as I expected, Jiraiya's expression turned from surprised to amused.
"Daishi? Really? I see..." he chuckled. I glared at him and Minato frowned at us.
"What?" he asked, confused. Jiraiya shrugged, a casual wave in the air as he started walking away.
"Oh, nothing. Just that the only way to get information out of Daishi is to sleep with him."
I cringed as Minato looked at me, eyes burning, jaw hard.
"I didn't do anything!" I said guiltily. Whoops.
Why did this always seem to happen to me?
"And that's what happened. OK?" I said. We were sitting on his bed, squeaky clean after a shower. Minato was staring at me with a frown. Looking tired. I sighed. "OK?"
"...he kissed you. And he almost..." he trailed off, frowning harder. I was always amazed at how an easy-going man's expression can turn him so dangerous looking.
"Oi, have a little faith. He 'almost' nothing. You saying a civilian is a match for me?" I asked, and he relaxed a little.
"But nothing then. Relax, ok. I went in, got the information, went out. No problem," I soothed. Minato stilled for a couple of seconds before nodding slowly. I smiled at him and we sat there a little, until,
"So how did you do it, exactly?" Minato asked, with what I guess was morbid curiosity.
"You know...seduce him." I raised my eyebrows at him.
"Are you suggesting I don't seem like the type of woman that can seduce someone?" I asked. He blushed a little, shaking his head.
"No, no...I was just..." he trailed off and I laughed. Ladies and gentlemen, Konoha's Hokage.
"I just...acted all wishy-washy, subdued kinda thing. It wasn't that hard once I got the hand of it. Like..." I changed demeanour in a second. My whole body language and expression shifted to demure; shoulders down, knees bent neatly and gracefully, hands clasped gently in front of me. I let my eyelashes fall over my eyes, looking down, tilting my head down and blushing lightly, something that had taken me a while to master.
"As you wish, Namikaze-sama," I said softly, and with a slight movement subtly let the material on slide down to expose my shoulder, correcting it as if it had been a mistake but going as slowly as possible, letting my fingertips bush against my own skin, making him wish it was his hand lifting the shirt. When I looked up shyly, however, I saw Minato looking at me with a darkness in his eyes that was not desire, but anger. His jaw was hard and expression not amused in the slightest. Before I could even protest, he had me pushed against the head of the bed painlessly but firmly, eyes almost narrowed, they looked so dangerous. In that moment I thanked fate that this man was my ally in the war.
Ladies and gentlemen...Konoha's Hokage.
"That is not you," he said slowly, gravely. I raised an eyebrow at him despite his intimidating pose.
"I know; it was just an act. That's why they call it acting," I drawled, but Minato's expression didn't change.
"You don't need to do that to get information. To...to degrade yourself like that," he said, and my temper flared instantly. I pushed him away, and he sat back on the bed as I glared at him.
"Degrade? Degrade? You have people killing, mutilating, slaughtering each other out there, and you say I'm degrading myself by seducing someone into giving me such valuable information?! We are in the middle of a war, Hokage-sama, in case you haven't noticed," I said acidly. I would not be made ashamed of using my body to get information when others do little more than torture to reach the same end. I hadn't even slept with the man!
"I know, Kushina...look it's just I don't...like you doing that sort of thing," he said, frowning, but backing away. I knew where he was coming from. He was saying this as a lover, not a Hokage, but...
"And what would you have me do instead, Minato?" I asked a little more calmly but still with an air of hotness.
"Be a part of Konoha, that's what! Fight with us and-"
"Be a part of Konoha?" I interrupted. "I think we found out how much of a part of Konoha I am the last time I was here, Minato," I said quietly. We stared at each other in silence for a beat before he said,
"Well I'm Hokage now. Things are going to change."
I sighed, looking down, and Minato grabbed my hand, pulling me forwards. I let myself fall into him as he shifted, opening his legs so I could be held against his chest, his chin on my head. I sighed again but smiled.
I didn't know what to think. It was always the same with us. Fights and make-ups, all for the same reason. Me. Because he was Hokage-material and I was living life as if I were a fugitive. It was as if I were playing a mere game whilst Minato was doing the real deal.
But at the same time...I remembered what happened the last time I had tried breaking up with him. He had said it was his decision to make. And even though love is blind and sometimes people can't see what is best for them, I was selfish enough to want to keep Minato despite it all.
"Minato...I..." But I didn't have anything to say. I twisted in his arms as he watched me and for a second we just looked at each other before I leaned upwards, his hands rising to cradle my face. We pressed against each other chastely; once, twice, before I opened my mouth over his and he did the same, letting our tongues slide against each other in a dance that was enchanting, intoxicating. I slid my hands across his chest, feeling the hard plains of his body, the touch I missed every time I left. The touch he begged to know why I even left in the first place.
"Minato, Minato..." I whispered as he pushed back unto the bed, threading a hand in my hair, a faint dampness on it from the shower. My eyes fluttered open for a second before closing again as he lowered his lips across my face, a hand over my breast, already under my shirt and I moaned softly as I arched up against him, making him return to my mouth as I pulled at his hair, my hand lowering, making him want it as badly as me.
"I love you, Kushina. Don't leave me again." A whisper amidst moans and panting breaths and I squeezed my eyes shut tight, kissing him harder, pushing him closer, closer.
Never close enough.
Hey guys! Oooh, I've missed by little thunder baby. Between exams and real life and shit I know it's been a long while but I'm set to start the pace up again. I really really want to finish my other story 'Shiver', get it out of the way and concentrate on this and make it better because as this chapter kind of shows the quality isn't as good as I can make it. And there is so much to come! Though I swear each time I read the manga, it ruins part of my story and I'm just like uuuurgh.
But I'm in love with my story again, which is the best feeling ever, so review review review and keep it going.
Aaah. It's good to be back.