The fifth Hokage was finally enjoying a quiet afternoon. The village was almost back to full strength, so that pressure was off. And Jiraiya had finally taken Naruto away from the village. She loved the kid, like the nephew she never had. But he could be so trying at times. Like all the worst parts of both his parents, exasperated by that damn monster sealed inside him.
She was roused from her reverie by a knock at the door. Tsunade turned back, and shuffled the short stack of papers, to make it look like she was working. A second, louder knock caused a frown to split her beautiful face.
"Alright, come in," her voice was slightly annoyed. Genma slid into the office looking very worried.
"What is it?" his nervousness set her on edge.
"I have mail for you Lady Hokage," the Jonin said.
'What's the big deal?' she thought, demanding "And?"
"It is from Kushina Uzumaki," he cringed as he said it, "It was sent over fourteen years ago."
"WHAT!" She leapt to her feet, stalking towards her assistant.
"She sent it, just before she gave birth," he held out the envelope, while taking a step back, "But when the Fox Demon attacked, the runner was recalled. After that, with all the death and confusion, the letter was just… lost."
She snatched it out of his hand, and stomped back to her desk.
"It was found in some old paper work, andIbrought itstraight here," he offered. But she ignored him, and he took the chance to leave.
Tsunade lowered herself slowly into the chair, her anger spent. Instead, she felt trepidation. She carefully slit the communication carefully, and drew out the slips of paper. As she unfolded them, even before she was aware of the words, she recognized the thin, bold script.
"Kushina," she whispered, and then started to read the missive.
I hope this letter find you well… What am I talking about? You left the village because you weren't well. And frankly I don't have time to waste on pleasantries.
I know you are having a tough time right now, and I hate to add to it. But you were my teacher, and more than that, my friend. And I can think of no one else I can turn to.
I… This is harder than when I told Minato. He suspected, and our relationship was already intimate. But he forgave me, and accepted me; and I fear it is too much to hope you will do the same. My name is not Kushina Uzumaki, at least not my True Name.
Tsunade paused, not surprised, but a little frightened.
I am not even human. I am the Kitsune no Kyubi, what humans call the Calamity made Flesh. You probably don't believe me, you are probably thinking I am crazy, or hopefully that I am nothing like that monster. But I am that monster, and almost everything I have been accused of, I did. It was not my choice, but I don't say that to absolve my responsibility.
More than five centuries ago, I made a horrible mistake. I trusted, and respected, a man who was not worthy of my regard. I told him my True Name, and in return, he stole my blood. Using those talismans, he created a contract scroll, one through which I can be summoned and forced to act. A scroll I cannot destroy. It has passed through many hands, and some have used me as a weapon, forcing me to destroy their enemies.
Fifteen years ago, I managed to capture the contract. I hid it as best I could, and then hid myself. I took on human form, and made my way to the Konohagakure, the village with the best reputation for kindness and generosity. I fit in here. For the first time in a very long time I was happy. I made friends, and I could be myself… more or less. And then I found love. My only mistake, my greatest regret, is that I did not trust Minato to find and destroy the scroll. And now it is too late.
Someone has found the scroll. I think I know who, but without proof, I will not accuse. He has been trying to summon me for the better part of a month. It is only because of our baby that it has not worked. Once I give birth, I will once again be at the mercy of that jutsu.
If you do not believe me, ask Jiraiya or Sarutobi. I'm sure Minato has convinced the old perverts by now. I would send you to Minato, but if he is planning what I have foreseen, he will be gone. I wish I could do something to stop him, but he would hate me if I saved him at the cost of the village. And I agree with him.
But I am not writing you to assuage my guilty conscious. I am asking you to watch over my son. I know you have a lot on your mind, but as I said, you are the only one I can trust with this. His life will be very hard, and it will have been my fault.
But I also have to ask you not to tell him any of this. If he knows, it will just make things worse.
I want you to know that I am happy to have met you. You are one of the best friends I have ever had. Maybe, somewhere in the future, our paths will cross again.
Your old friend,
The Fifth read through the letter again, and then a third time. During the second read through, she almost began to cry, full of sadness for her friend, and regret. But in her third pass, the sadness was replaced by an expanding rage. She grabbed her letter-opener, and stabbed her thumb aggressively. Spreading the blood quickly, she summoned a fragment of Katsuyu.
"How may I serve, Lady Tsunade," the large slug bowed her head respectfully.
"Go to Jiraiya's estate. Bring him here," she said gruffly, "If he refuses, tell him it's about Naruto's mother. If he still refuses, paralyze him and bring him back anyway."
"Yes, mistress," despite Tsunade's ire, the invertebrate was obviously amused by her mission. The ninja-slug vanished in a puff of smoke, and the medical expert stood, and started to pace.
As she waited and walked, the Sannin started to speculate.
'Judging by the letter, she knew Minato was going to seal her inside Naruto,' she said to herself, 'But it doesn't make any sense. Naruto thinks the Fox is a monster. Is the thing in him really Kushina, or something different?'
Any further thoughts were cut off when another puff of smoke marked the return of Katsuyu. The slug split apart, dropping Jiraiya into the room.
"Thank you, Katsuyu," Tsunade told her familiar, and the slug bowed again before disappearing.
"So, you couldn't go two whole years without seeing me," the legendary perverted intimated, in his best approximation of 'smooth'. Tsunade was not interested in his games, and rounded on him with a vengeance.
"Why didn't you tell me about this?" she snapped, shoving the letter in his face. Jiraiya took the note, and read it quickly.
"Minato always wondered how much she meant to tell you," the toad-sage spoke more to himself than his former teammate.
"Then it's true?" somewhere in her mind, the tiny hope that this was a joke or a trick was dashed.
"Well, I agree with Minato, that Kushina blamed herself too much for things she was forced to do," he offered, but then sighed, "But yeah, its all true. That's why Minato gave me the key to let her out."
"And inside Naruto, that's his mother. That monster is Kushina?"
"I've kinda wondered about that," Jiraiya confided, "I don't know if she is acting, or if we made a mistake in the sealing techniques and she lost her memory or something."
"I intend to find out."
Jiraiya reacted with shock to the announcement.
After a few days of intense study, the Hokage was ready. She laid out the three-layer sealing circle on the floor of her office, and then summoned Katsuyu. The slug delivered Naruto Uzumaki, rendered unconscious by her paralytic venom. Tsunade place him in the circle, and activated the guards and wards. Once she was certain he was secure, she unleashed the final jutsu.
Naruto's body surged to its feet. His eyes snapped open, and 'he' looked around the room. His gaze settled on Tsunade with quickly hidden surprise.
"What do you want, old woman?" Naruto's voice was layered with another, harsher, growl, "Why did you knock out the little bastard?"
"Is that any way to talk to your sensei?" Tsunade demanded. Then more quietly she added, "Is that really you, Kushina?"
The fox's borrowed face turned down, filling with regret.
"I thought you were still angry," the spirit said softly, "Or that you had rejected me…"
"I didn't know," Tsunade ignored the tears running down her face, "I only received your letter a few days ago."
"Figures," Kushina caused her son's face to smirk, despite her own happy sniffling, "I should have known it would take them almost fifteen years to deliver a simple letter."
Tsunade laughed, and released the seals. They settled down, and started to talk.
"There's one thing I still don't understand," Tsunade suddenly said a few hours later, "Why are you pretending to be a monster? Why not tell him the truth?"
Kushina walked Naruto over to the window, and looked out over the Konoha.
"Those people, they are finally starting to accept him," she answered, "Naruto finally has friends."
"But what would they do, how would they react if they knew he was not just the Jinchuriki of the Fox Demon, but also her son? And if he were to try to defend me to them?"
Tsunade nodded. She understood, like his mother, that Naruto could easily do that, regardless of the consequences.
"So it's better he think…" her continuation was cut off by a sudden bout of vertigo.
"What was that?" Kushina asked.
"Damn, I lost track of the time. Katsuyu's poison is wearing off. When Naruto wakes up, you'll be back inside him. And I need to get him back first, so he doesn't ask questions."
"It was nice to be able to talk to you again," Kushina smiled sadly at her mentor, "And thank you for everything you've done for Naruto."
"He's a good kid, all in all," Tsunade told her, "Even if he is a bit to much like his hyper-active mother. You can be proud."