Author's Notes: As some of you may have guessed this is a prequel to my other story, A Mother's Love. To all those of you who enjoyed that one I hope you will enjoy this one too. This will be the story of Kushina from the time she became a ninja onward. For all those of you who have not read the original you won't need to in order to understand or enjoy this. This story is an AU, so please keep that in mind for later chapters. Hope you all enjoy.
Her sensei led her to some of the sand flats near the sea. He pointed to a spot. "Stand there Kushina."
She did so.
The ninja took out a sword and drew a large circle around her in the sand. "Did you bring any food or water with you?"
He nodded and then performed three quick hand signs. He stuck his hand down into the circles and a golden flash of light surrounded her and then was gone. Chikara wiped his hands. "If you wish to be a ninja of the Whirlpool you must remain in that circle for twenty four hours with no food or water. If you step out of the circle you will not be permitted that honor."
Kushina looked up at the grey sky. It looked like rain; it always rained in the afternoon. "Sensei, if it rains…"
"You are allowed to drink rain water Kushina." Chikara answered. He looked down at his watch. "Your twenty four hours begins right now. Good luck." With that her sensei leapt away and she was alone.
She sat down and checked her watch. It was 12:06, six minutes past noon. She went ahead and sat down to conserve her energy. It was late spring and it was a bit warm, though it usually never got too hot, not even in the short summer time. She was not too worried about passing the academy graduation test. The test was well known and all the fourth year students had spent much of their time building up an endurance to thirst and hunger. She'd had a large breakfast and was well hydrated, she would definitely manage.
She was after all Uzumaki Kushina, daughter of the village Headsman and a proud member of the strongest clan of her village. She wore the black and red bodysuit like a badge of honor. Everyone who saw her in it immediately knew what clan she was a part of.
From her back she pulled out her sword and looked at it. It was a good sharp blade made from good steel. But it was no katana. She smiled.
"Good luck today Kushina," her father smiled at her.
"My baby is graduating today! She is going to be a ninja!" Her mother grabbed her and began to smother her with kisses.
"Moooom," she whined. "I'm not a baby; I'm going to be a ninja!" She looked at her father eagerly. "Will I get something special after I pass the test?"
He gave her a blank look. "Like what?"
"A katana!" she said excitedly. "I want a katana like all the ninja in our clan!"
Her father quirked an eyebrow and had that look that she knew meant he was trying not to laugh. "And what makes you think you deserve a katana?"
"You gave one to Urusai and Temjin when they graduated." It was true; her two older brothers had both gotten their katanas after passing the graduation test.
"Kushina!" He mother said sharply. "Your brother's name is Shinzou not, 'Shut Up.' Show your older brother some respect."
Kushina crossed her arms and looked defiant. "Why should I? He's a meanie!"
Her mother shook her head wearily. "Have you ever thought that if you would stop playing those pranks on him he would be nicer to you?"
"If he were nicer to me I wouldn't play so many pranks!"
Her mother groaned knowing all too well that neither her daughter nor her oldest son could see the vicious cycle they were in.
Her father just chuckled, which earned a look from mom. "You better get going dear." He leaned down and gave her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. "I know you will make me and the clan very proud."
"I will dad, and when I come back I better get a katana."
"We'll see." Was all her father would say.
Leaving the main house everyone wished her well. The entire family wanted her to succeed, and she wouldn't let them down. Temjin wished her luck, but Urusai (to her he was always Urusai and never Shinzou) was oddly absent. She grinned, certain she knew why.
Outside it was a crisp cool morning. She could smell the ocean on the wind. Near the gate she spotted her cousin Daiichi, he was in her class and also taking the graduation test today. Uncle Saishu and aunt Nitsune were giving him last minute encouragement. Daiichi was a really good hearted boy who tried hard. Unfortunately, he just wasn't a very good ninja. He had poor chakra control, his taijutsu was sloppy, his jutsus were weak, and worst of all he was a painfully average swordsman in a clan famed for its swordsmanship. She was only twelve and not yet a ninja but she was already considered a first level blade master. Her father and uncle Saishu were fifth level blade masters.
She frowned, as was her meanie brother Urusai, the clan heir and genius. Why did everyone think he was so great? So he was a fifth level blade master and an ANBU captain. So what? He was seventeen and had been a ninja for a whole five years. She was sure that by the time she was 17 she would be much better than dumb old Urusai.
"Hey Kushina!" Daiichi bid his parents goodbyes and ran up to her. "Are you ready for the test?" He sounded a little nervous.
She gave him a huge smile and a nod. "Of course! I'm sure the whole class will pass. I mean we have to, the village needs every ninja it can get."
Daiichi nodded. Being part of a ninja clan and having the clan head also be the village Headsman they both heard things.
Dinner the previous night.
"There was another attack along the border yesterday." Ususai said frowning. He didn't seem to have much of an appetite. "There were six people killed this time."
Up and down the long dinner table there mere mutters of, 'damn rock nins' and half whispered curses.
"The rock nins seem to be a bit friskier than usual of late." Her father said.
"It's not just with us either." Uncle Saishu said. "There are rumors that they've sent expeditions in Grass and Star countries as well. There have been reports of a lot of fighting just about everywhere along their border."
"It makes sense," Urusai said. "Sand is fighting Leaf and Mist is at war with Lightning, the damn rock nins probably want to see how far they can push."
Her father shook his head. "Grass has a pact with the leaf nins. Sarutobi will never allow earth country to get a stronghold on his border."
"Well that's presuming the leaf nins can actually do anything." Saishu said. "Their war with Suna seems to have sucked in most of their resources. They might not have the strength to spare."
Her father grinned. "Don't ever underestimate the leaf nins, they have a nasty habit of surprising the people who do."
"Well I don't much care what happens in Grass country or in Leaf or in Wind. I'm a lot more interested in what's going on here." Urusai said. "People say all this fighting is turning into a third great ninja war. I'm sure Earth country wants to add us and Waterfall to their territory."
"They have always wanted that." Father said solemnly. "That is why we must always be ready to defend Whirlpool."
"We are as ready as we can be." Urusai assured. "But there are a lot more of them than there are of us."
"Well then we had better get some reinforcements." Her father looked at her and gave her a wink.
She sat up proudly. She would help protect her country from the damn rock nins.
"The village is depending on us! The clan is depending on us!" She looked to her cousin with fire in her eyes. "We have to pass, we can't let them down."
His cousin's sudden enthusiasm was kind of scary. He smiled and nodded, and carefully put some space between them.
A hard land makes a hard people. That was one of the many saying that her mom loved. But she thought it was pretty true. Whirlpool could be a harsh place, especially during a winter storm. Her father had often told her that their graduation test was deliberately cruel to prepare you for the difficult realities of being ninja. For her this was not so bad, she had spent many days going from sunrise to sunset without food or water to prepare for this. Most of her classmates had done the same.
It rained in the afternoon as it almost always did. She put on her poncho and drank some of the rainwater. She rested while the sun was out and went to sleep as soon as it was dark, her battle suit kept her warm enough. When the sun came up again she was thirsty and hungry, but the idea of leaving the circle never crossed her mind.
When she spotted someone coming towards her she immediately checked her watch. It was still only 11:36; she still had half an hour to go. When she saw who it was though she stood up and smiled, her brother Urusai had just arrived.
"Nice eyebrows." Kushina said innocently.
"Thanks," Urusai replied without any emotion.
His eyebrows had been shaved off and been drawn back in with ink.
"You know kooky you really are the best in our whole family when it comes to stealth. But then again since we're combat specialists I don't suppose that's saying very much."
Kushina sniffed and crossed her arms. She hated being called kooky. "You're just mad because you can never catch me."
Urusai flopped down in the sand and relaxed. "Well I probably could if I really worked on it. But some of us prefer to be well versed with the sword."
"I'm a blade master!" She reminded him angrily. Urusai had an absolute gift for getting under her skin. He seemed to do it about as easily as he drew breath.
He waved that away. "First level blade master, our clan has ten ninja who are second level or higher. And none of them still have to work on the circle drill."
She glared at him; it figures he would bring that up. "Just you wait! Some day I'll be a much greater ninja than you and a way better swordsman! You are so totally overrated."
"I am? Well please don't tell the ANBU, they might take away my captain's rank."
"What are you doing here anyway? I thought I was supposed to be alone until the twenty four hours were up."
"Technically you are, but so long as I don't give you any food or water it won't affect you passing the test. I just wanted to come out here and cheer on my little sister." He casually reached into his back pack and pulled something out.
"Hey!" Kushina shouted. "Are those my cookies?!"
"Oh, you mean the special double mint fudge ones you keep hidden way in the back of your closet where you think no one will find them? Yeah, these are yours." He popped one into his mouth and began chewing. "Mmmmm, oh these are soooooo, good! I can see why you like them so much." He took a couple more and tossed them in. "You know it's a real shame they don't sell these anywhere in the village. I mean they're so hard to get, you have to import them all the way from Fire country. These are probably the only ones for a hundred miles." As soon as he swallowed what was in his mouth he had another. "And they are soooo good."
Kushina stood there being consumed by hunger and thirst forced to watch as her brother devoured her precious cookies.
"I hate you." She turned her back to him and sat back down. She didn't have to look but she heard him laugh before he got back to eating.
The whole clan turned out to greet her and Daiichi as they made their weary way home. They had both passed the test and been awarded whirlpool hitai-ites. They both wore them around their foreheads with great pride.
The clan threw a huge celebration to honor their two new ninja. Kushina ate and drank to her heart's content. (Though she still would have liked to have had her cookies.)
Late that evening her father took her to his office.
"This is yours now Kushina." From behind his desk he handed her a katana in its sheath.
"Yes!" She shouted. Even more than the hitai-ite this was a true symbol that she was a ninja. Or more specifically, that she was an Uzumaki ninja. "Thank you dad, I love it." She immediately pulled it out so she could admire the razor sharp edges that only a katana possessed.
"Now I know that after all this time I don't have to remind you to treat a sword with respect." He said while reminding his daughter of exactly that. "And a katana is much more than an ordinary sword; it is a part of you. You must name it and give it just a little bit of your soul."
"I know dad!" She was so excited.
"Have you chosen a name for yours?" Her father asked.
He nodded and placed her left hand over the blade. "You are Homeward, because no matter how much trouble I may get into, you will always help me find the way home again." She let the sword cut into his palm. "Taste of me and know me, for you are part of me now."
Her father nodded. "A good name daughter and a good sentiment." He reached down and hugged his little twelve year old. "I love you and I am proud of you Kushina."
"I love you too dad." She smiled and was happy.
For from this day forward she was a ninja of Whirlpool.