Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto/Naruto Shippuden. All characters are copyrighted to Masashi Kishimoto.

Chapter 17

Suspicion & Superstition

"Tsunade-sama, please! You…can't…drink…at… the school… like this..!" Shizune was desperately fighting a losing battle of tug-of-war with a bottle of liquor against Konoha High School's principal, Tsunade Senju.

Tsunade, equally determined, glared at Shizune, "I don't care, Shizune! He's coming today, so I'm going to need this more than ever." She said, pulling the bottle with all she had.

"Tsunade-sama, you'll just have to endure him. Being intoxicated on the job could damage your reputation and this school's! You're the principal!" the dark-haired secretary gasped.

"Shizune, I'm going to lose my temper if you don't—"

"Please, Tsunade-same, it really isn't the place for this kind of thing!"

"Is that Shiranui-san?" Tsunade suddenly asked and Shizune blushed, letting the bottle go in surprise to turn around. Seeing no sight of the Physical Ed teacher, Shizune turned back to the principle, and gasped to see her going for a bottle opener to pull out the cork.

"Ha-hi! Tsunade-sama—" she was cut off as the door was practically kicked open by a new guest.

"Hey, what's shaking! Long time no see, Tsunade-hime! Who'd have thought you'd be the one to call this time, but I suppose it's not hard to see why. After all, I am the great, and gallant, top-selling smash-hit author, Jiraiy—agh! Watch where you're throwing that thing! Someone'd think you were trying to hit me." Jiraiya gasped, dodging a glass bottle as it when careening into the wall beside him.

Tsunade merely glared at Jiraiya. Why did she think calling him was a good idea again? Oh yeah…that Konan girl.

"Glad you could make it," she said through gritted teeth, "Let's get to the point. You remember our conversation over the phone…?" she asked him.

Jiraiya sighed at his childhood friend's coldness, and stepped over the broken glass and pool of liquor to take a seat in front of Tsunade's desk.

"I do… but are you sure the girl's name was Konan Wakeshima? Not Wakemura? How am I to know she's really the same kid I fostered all those years ago?" He asked.

Tsunade brought out a file and opened it, showing Jiraiya the woman's photo, "Then let's make sure we're clear on her identity. Is she the girl you know?" she asked him.

Jiraiya picked up the file and looked at the photo. He sucked in a breath, "That's Konan all right." He muttered, furrowing his brows, "But…why would she do something like that? She was always a good girl. Heck, they were all great kids." He said.

"Well, it's been years since you've seen them Jiraiya. People can easily change according to life's circumstances and the hands they are dealt." Tsunade reasoned.

"Yeah, but breaking into confidential school records? And you say she was likely looking for information on Minato's kid? That's so far from like Konan that there's no way I can believe it!" he said in disbelief.

Tsunade paused, "Well it could just as easily have been about the Uchiha kid. But what could she want with him? It doesn't make sense."

"I hear ya," Jiraiya nodded in agreement, and they were silent a moment, as Shizune swept up the glass in the background, "I'll give Yahiko a call. See if he can tell me anything. Those three are so close, they're probably all still living together today." He said, fishing out his cellphone.

It was then that the phone on Tsunade's desk rang and she picked it up, "Hello, Konoha High-school, Principal's office, Principle Tsunade Senju speaking. How can I help you," she asked, and paused to listen.

"Well, well…it's been a while since I've heard your voice. But you won't find Kakashi-kun in here. I'll forward your call to the staff office." She said, and began dialing a few numbers.

"Who is it?" Jiraiya asked Tsunade, blinking.

"Normally it wouldn't be your business, Jiraiya…" she paused, and Jiraiya sweat-dropped, "However…this time… well. It's Minato-kun." She said.

"What? No way, I haven't heard from the little runt in months! Pass 'im over to me!" Jiraiya gasped.

Tsunade raised an eyebrow, "Weren't you already calling Yahiko-kun?" she asked.

"Ahh.. right." Jiraiya sighed.

"Besides, it sounded like he really wanted to talk to Kakashi-kun about something. You can call him any time." She reasoned, and began forwarding the call.

"I guess so, but still…" Jiraiya grumbled and Tsunade rolled her eyes at him.

It was a little under a week until Konoha High-school's annual cultural festival and class 1-B were nearing the completion of their preparations. Most of the waiter and waitress costumes were nearly completed. Kiba pulled at a collar that was just a little too tight, frowning. He suspected this was punishment from Sakura for all the comments he kept making…she seemed to be pleased with her handiwork.

He snorted, turning away from the smirking Haruno, spotting some other girls in his class chattering away with blushing, smiling faces.

"…you're thinking of confessing?"

"Yes! After all, you know how the legend goes…if I do then there's a good chance…!"

At that, the girls broke into an annoying fan-girlish squeal and the Inuzuka winced at the sound. They were gonna confess to Sasuke, he bet. Some stupid legend wasn't gonna make him say yes to them…Kiba thought the girls were delusional as usual.

"Jeez….why do I have to do this again? This outfit is so dumb!" Kiba turned at the sound of Narumi's complaints, and caught a glimpse of her in her maid-uniform. She looked less than pleased, but Kiba could testify that Ino's sewing skills were not to be matched. Narumi looked great in the red and white outfit. He grinned stupidly, and gave a wolf-whistle.

To which, Narumi turned as red as her outfit, and glared at him. He only laughed at her humiliation.

"Kibaaaaa! That's not funny!" she whined, stomping towards him.

"Oh come on! Why're you complaining anyway? It looks great on you. It's no different to your part-time job's uniform!" Kiba pointed out and a smug Ino joined the two.

"Why thank you!" she smirked at Kiba, before turning to Narumi, "Come on it's not over yet. We've gotta add the finishing touches!" she said, dragging Narumi off.

"Noooooo! Kiba, stop this mad-woman!"

"Who are you calling a mad-woman!"


"Have fun!" Kiba laughed and waved them off. He let out a sigh, and rested his chin in his hand thoughtfully, watching Ino drag his crush away. He wondered if those girls silly legends actually came true…no, what was he thinking!

He screwed his eyes shut and quickly shook his head. It was too embarrassing to do something like that so publicly…!

Sakura walked over towards the dog-lover, looking curious. "What's wrong with you? Collar too tight?" she asked, subtly teasing him.

Kiba frowned at her, subconsciously holding his collar, "I wonder who's fault that is," he scoffed, but Sakura didn't bat an eye, "I was just thinking about this silly rumour I overheard just now…the girls were saying how if you confessed to someone during the cultural festival, they'd return your feelings. Crap like that only happens in Shoujo manga!" he explained.

Sakura hit him over the head, "Idiot! That's so no true," she said and Kiba looked at her incredulously, wondering why she'd had to hit him for that; "The rumour is based on truth, in actuality! See, a few years ago, a third year student confessed to the boy she liked ever since her second year, and even though everybody said he'd never return her feelings, they were proved wrong! The boy said yes, and now that couple is rumoured to be engaged to marry!" Sakura said, and sighed out, 'And this year, we're gonna be the ones who live happily ever after with Sasuke-kun, shannarou!' her inner-self cheered excitedly, punching the sky.

At this thought, Sakura squee'd excitedly, and Kiba looked at her strangely.

He rolled his eyes, and got up, "Whatever!" he muttered, "I'm heading out to get some food…" he said, leaving Sakura to her daydreams.

The Legend of the Cultural Festival Couple…. Kiba wouldn't admit it out loud, but he himself was wondering if he could be the same with Narumi…should he try confessing again…?

Well…he had been looking for the opportunity since that weird photographer guy Sai had ruined it last time…

As he walked down the corridors heading for the students' shop, he passed by a group, who were chatting rather loudly with each other.

"Did you hear? Last weekend at shooting set for that new action film, that famous martial artist Fuu Takine disappeared into thin air!" said one guy.

"I read about that! The police are saying it's just a missing person's case…they'll sort it out, they say. But I have my doubts." Another guy declared.

"Ahh. That's how they all start. They don't wanna worry people, so they say 'oh they're missing, but we'll find them'! Wanna know what I think?" asked the first boy and the others in the group looked interested. Kiba himself had paused to listen. "I think someone took Fuu-sama! An' they've got her locked up in their hideout or something! Like a crazed stalker fan! Apparently, Fuu-sama has a lot of 'em!"

"Ehh, don't say that, Hitori-kun!" a girl squeaked, creeped out.

"What, like you? You watch too many movies, man!" laughed a third guy

"Hey I'm not a stalker, shut up!"

"The shrine says otherwise…"

"But that reminds me…there was a stunt guy who disappeared too, wasn't there? It said it in the papers. I'm getting really creeped out!"

The chatter faded as Kiba continued on his way down to the student's shop…Lots of crazy disappearances had been happening lately, and he had to admit, it was starting to bug him too. Especially when he heard about that Gaara guy from Narumi and Shikamaru. He'd seen the guy just a few months back…it was hard to believe he was a missing person now.

Kiba shook his head. It wasn't like it was his business. Like those kids were saying, the police'd handle it, like they always do.

Meanwhile in the staff office, Iruka had just about given up on trying to get Kakashi to return to supervise his class. He had a free period right now, and he was going to mark some papers, but he'd decided he could just do those in the classroom while he made sure Kakashi's class got on with it. After all, there were the likes of Narumi, Kiba and Shikamaru in the class, who were well-known as slacker extraordinaires.

Packing up his test papers and putting them under his arm, he turned to frown at Kakashi, about to tell him he was off.

He was cut off by the phone ringing, and promptly picked it up, "Hello? Oh, Principle Tsunade, how may I help you?"

"Kakashi's got a caller…but they got my office instead of the staff office. He's probably there since his class is preparing for the cultural festival, right? Hand it over to him." Tsunade's voice came through the receiver.

Iruka twitched…good guess.

He gave an affirmative, and turned to the silver-haired teacher reading at his desk, "Kakashi, the principal says you've got a call." He said, holding the phone towards him.

Kakashi blinked, looking up from his book, before slowly getting up and strolling towards Iruka, "Going somewhere, Iruka? You're free this period aren't you? …Hello, ma'am?" he asked, putting the phone to his ear.

"Yeah I'm going…to watch your class!" Iruka snapped, before sighing and rushing off, muttering unintelligible things.

Kakashi blinked at the brunet's departing figure, before shrugging, "Who's calling, principal?" he asked, taking a seat at Iruka's desk and bringing out his book again to read.

"I'll redirect you to him now. You know him." Tsunade said and Kakashi's eyebrows raised curiously. There was a dial tone, for a few minutes, before the caller picked up.

"Kakashi-kun?" the questioning voice came.

Kakashi's eyes widened in surprise, and after a moment he sighed out lightly, and once he was composed, he responded, "Minato-sensei. What can I do for you? What's the occasion?" he asked the caller.

After a short pause, Minato replied hesitantly, "….Just wanted to catch up." He said softly. Kakashi's dark eyes rolled over to the phone against his ear.

"Are you sure that's all?" he asked.

"Mm." came the reply. Kakashi sighed out lightly, but didn't question Minato. Minato continued, "Kakashi-kun... I heard you took Narumi-chan back from Gai-kun. How is she settling in?" he asked.

"Well enough. Pakkun and the others love her. She's already a part of the pack. Though she's not too pleased about having to share a bed with Bull." Kakashi replied with a chuckle, "She's doing well." He added.

There was a sigh of relief, "That's great." Minato said.

Kakashi paused, "Excuse me for being abrupt. But every time you call me it always seems to be about Narumi-kun. Sensei…are you thinking of finally meeting her?" he asked, and heard Minato gasp, followed by a loud clattering noise. Kakashi blinked, listening to a rustling noise as, apparently, Minato picked the phone back up.

"Umm…uhh." Minato tripped over his words, wondering how to put it. "M-Maybe… Actually… I actually saw her last month, on her way to school… She looked so much like her…I… was surprised." he fell into a silence. Kakashi waited for him to speak again.

"Have you seen the news reports?" Minato finally spoke, his voice subdued and anxious.

"Which ones?" Kakashi asked.

"The missing persons reports. Just today they announced the actors Takine and Iwashi* missing. And then there was Sabaku industries heir… Yugito Nii, and that prodigy scientist…and A**'s nephew has been attacked three times now." Minato said.

"Ah yes. I've seen them…." Kakashi nodded in acknowledgement. He perceptively added, "Are you worried about Narumi-kun, sensei?" he asked.

Minato breathed out, "How can I not be? Don't you see the pattern that's emerging?" he asked, "Takine and Iwashi both come from families of old money. I knew their parents. The Sabaku boy's father too. Miss Nii and Killer Bee both link to A', and he and I were…"

"Yeah I noticed. That's why I'm keeping an especially close eye on her now, and have her staying in my apartment with the pack and I." he explained.

"Then why are you in the teacher's office? I heard someone yelling about going to supervise your class for you." Minato blinked.

"Ah…that. Well, she is surrounded by her friends and classmates right now. I don't believe the 'Akatsuki' would dare to infiltrate school grounds. It's too risky." He shook his head. Minato made a grunting sound that didn't sound too convinced. "And I have faith that Iruka will watch over them too. He's a natural mother hen." He added as an after-thought, amusedly.

"That's supposed to be your job you know."


"The Cultural Festival for your school is coming up isn't it?" Minato asked, pausing slightly. Kakashi gave him an immediate affirmative. He was glad to steer the conversation away from the fact that he was ditching his class to read certain…novels.

"Narumi's class is holding a maid-butler café as their attraction. She's not too pleased at having to wear a maid outfit. I keep hearing her yelling 'too many frills' from down the halls." Kakashi said. Minato chuckled.

"Kushina never liked wearing anything frilly either. She was a real tomboy…but I still thought she was beautiful …" he trailed off. Kakashi nodded.

"The festival is open to the public you know. You could see her. I could… maybe arrange it?" He said gently. He didn't want to push his sensei into anything…but it had already been 15 years now. It had been long enough now to heal.

"…Yeah. I'd like that." Minato softly replied, sounding a little distant - deep in thought.

Kakashi smiled faintly beneath his mask, "I'll see you soon then." He said.

Sasuke returned to his home after school that day, closing the door with a sigh. Kicking off his shoes and replacing them with slippers, he padded along the hall to his room to change. A figure stepped out from the living area to greet him, and he paused. Coal eyes met coal.

"Itachi." Sasuke acknowledged coolly, "You're back from university." He added.

Itachi Uchiha, was Sasuke's older brother, 21 years old and currently studying for a Master's Degree in law and psychology. He was rarely at home, and when he was, it was usually for a reason. Which was why Sasuke asked.

"What are you doing here?"

Itachi acknowledged the question with a slight nod, "I'm back to meet with an acquaintance. She had some concerns she and a friend wished to discuss. I'm already far along enough in my course that a few days does not damage my education." He replied.

"Hn." Sasuke nodded, and continued to his room.

Itachi turned to him, arms folded, "Sasuke." He called, and Sasuke paused to glance back at him over his shoulder slightly. "Father's home." He said, and Sasuke subtly flinched.

After a moment, Sasuke nodded in reply and continued on his way.

Hours later, dinner had been prepared by Itachi, and it was brought to the dinner tables in sets of three. Itachi took his seat next to Sasuke, and the brothers faced their father sitting on the opposite side of the table.

Fugaku Uchiha, the boys' father, was the chief of police, and a very detached and serious man. Since the passing of his wife, he'd become more and more absorbed by his work. The cases, and capturing the villains of society, was everything and he rarely spent time with his sons. Though he held his eldest in high regard, proud of his scholarship attainment, he paid little attention to his youngest, regardless of his achievements. Sasuke was past desperately seeking his father's attention as he had done when he was little. It had always seemed like no matter what he did, he was always in his brother's shadow. Now…it didn't matter. He was too distant. Without mother…nothing could reach their father anymore.

The man in question spoke up, startling his sons, "Sasuke." He paused, and examined his youngest. Sasuke looked at him warily, but kept eye-contact with his father's stony gaze, "I've received notice that your school's cultural festival is coming up. What type of stand has your class arranged?" he asked.

Sasuke paused, before responding, "A café, sir." He said straightly.

"A café…Hn." Fugaku nodded, lowering his head to bring some of his dinner to his mouth via chopsticks. The room fell into a heavy silence as the three Uchiha ate, for a good fifteen minutes. "And how is that little friend of yours…Uzumaki." He added, surprising the boys again.

Sasuke felt no need to restrain his surprise, but kept his voice even, "She's… doing well. Loud-mouthed and annoying as always." He replied. Fugaku merely nodded, and Sasuke decided to shake off the surprise, opting to finish his dinner and forget the strange enquiry.

Itachi however, discreetly narrowed his eyes in suspicion.

"Will you be attending Sasuke's school's festival, father?" Itachi asked.

Fugaku snorted slightly, "No. I'm much too busy to take time away from the office. Especially with the recent missing persons scandal." He said, finishing his plate and taking it to the sink.

Hn…Sasuke expected as much. He ignored to dull ache in his chest, and brushed away Itachi's hand when it landed on his shoulder.

He didn't care.

It's been WAY too long since my last update, like always. I can't apologize enough. My motivation's been glaringly missing lately. And I had like 3 deadlines in one week after Christmas. Guh!

I'm planning to start up some new stories. I'm hoping that giving myself more options for stories'll make it easier for me to update…eh.

Well this chapter is setting things up for the climax. Hope you like it. Let me know what you think! What do you think of Minato and Fugaku's appearances?

Ah, I hope that Kakashi and Minato's conversation made sense…it did in my head. Do you guys understand what's going on according to the conversation. Let me know if I need to look over it and make it easier to understand. I'll try my best to correct it!

PS. I think I screwed up on Jiraiya's characterization. I didn't think he'd be so hard to write. X(

*Takine and Iwashi. Fuu and the jinchuuriki for the five-tailed horse-dolphin thing (who's name I always forget), don't have surnames to my knowledge. All I know is Fuu is from Takigakure, hence surname Taki-ne; and the four-tail jinchuuriki is from Iwagakure, hence Iwa-shi. I just did this to give them a name to call them in the fanfic.

**A – In Naruto Shippuden the Raikage's called 'Killer A' or something right? So A is the Raikage in this universe. When Minato said Yugito Nii and Killer B were connected to A', he means they are both signed through Killer A's talent agency. I just didn't think it necessary to the plot development to mention in their conversation, plus it was kind of a tangent. But thought you might like to know anyways. Yup. =)

Thanks for reading! Love you guys!