Author's Note: This is the final chapter. I hope you have enjoyed it. My thanks to all of you have read and left your reviews.
The next day a number of construction workers came to the Namikaze mansion. A great deal of work would have to be done. The Grand Hall and much of the first floor had been destroyed in the blast and would take weeks to be fully repaired. A new and stronger iron gate was being set up. All along the perimeter of her estate spools of barbed wire were being placed on top of the eight foot high fence. She had also ordered two hundred pieces of red plywood that were cut in three square foot sections. She ordered a message written on each one and then had the workers place them along the entire length of the fence. The message read:
'All trespassers shall be killed on sight and without warning. Enter these grounds only if you seek death.'
While the construction was going on Kushina had some shadow clones keeping a close eye on everyone. In the meanwhile her real self and her baby were temporarily staying with the Hyuuga.
A week had passed since the attack on the estate. It would be about a month for the damage to be completely repaired.
"Thank you again for allowing me and Naruto to stay here while they work on my home." Kushina said. She was having lunch with Hiashi and his immediate family.
"Think nothing of it Kushina," Hiashi assured her.
"Why don't you and Naruto move in here permanently?" His brother Hizashi asked. "It would be safer that way."
Kushina shook her head. "Thank you, but no. Naruto needs to grow up there. That mansion is his proper home and will be his when he comes of age. I'm not going to have him chased from it."
Hiashi nodded in understanding. "Well, you and your son will always have a safe haven here whenever you need it."
She bowed her head to him. "Thank you Hiashi, you Hannah and Hizashi are among the few true friends I have left in this place and I am truly grateful for your support."
"Dear," a very pregnant Hannah spoke. "I know you want him to grow up there but wouldn't it be better for him to be here? At least for a few years? He can grow up with Neji and my little girl as play mates."
"I'll bring him over regularly so they can play together, and your children will always be welcome. But I want him to stay in the mansion whenever I'm there. Any time I have to be away I'll bring him here."
As they ate a cadet branch member approached. "Pardon me Hiashi-sama, but a message has just arrived here for Kushina. It is from Whirlpool and marked urgent."
"Thank you!" She took the letter eagerly. "I sent a message back home the morning after my son was born. I've been waiting this whole time for a reply." She'd wanted to send the letter out by ninja courier. That was the fastest and surest way to deliver messages. (Unless you had messenger birds.) Unfortunately with all the chaos following the Kyuubi's attack no ninja were available for regular missions. She had been forced to rely on the regular post. Checking the markings on the envelope she was surprised to note it had been sent back by regular post as well. I would have thought for sure my father would have sent a courier to deliver this. She hoped Whirlpool had not suffered too badly and everyone was all right. The Kyuubi had not been within two hundred miles of her home village, so she didn't think it could have suffered too badly. The Kyuubi had gotten within two miles of Konoha and most of the village was still standing.
Ripping open the envelope she pulled out a long letter. She noticed immediately that it was not written in her father's hand or in her mother's. That immediately worried her. She quickly saw it was written by her uncle Saishu. As she began reading it she gasped. "Oh, dear kami no!"
"What's the matter dear?" Hannah asked.
"Whirlpool, there… there was a terrible earthquake."
"Was there a lot of damage?" Hizashi asked.
"Yes," she said in a lifeless voice. "The… the village was… was leveled and al… almost everyone killed. A part of it slid… slid into the sea. Including my clan's compound. Every… everyone there was killed. My whole clan… except for my uncle died." She saw wet spots appear on the letter and abruptly realized she was crying.
Hannah was beside embracing her and pressing her face to her chest as she comforted her friend. "Oh Kushina! Oh my dear, I am so sorry."
"They're… they're all gone, my… my whole family is gone!" She cried out.
"No dear," Hannah said to her. "You still have Naruto, you still have your son, and you at least have your uncle. You still have family."
Through her tears she nodded. That was something, she was not alone. But all she could think of was her father, her mother, her brother Temjin, all her cousins, her aunts and uncles, all the people she had just lost. She would never see them again, just like Minato, just like Kaede. Despite the shame she couldn't help but cry even in front of fellow ninja. Neither Hiashi nor Hizashi said a word they left it to Hannah to comfort her.
The next day Kushina appeared in the Tower. The ninja and civilians who spotted her all spoke behind her back. Though it was a very different sort of talk than it had used to be.
One mother pointed the woman out to her young daughter on the street. "Do you see that woman over there Lucu? Her name is Kushina and she is a terrible monster, she cuts people's heads off!"
The five years old stared at the fearsome looking woman and paled. "She does mommy?"
The woman nodded. "And bad little girls who don't do what they're told will have her come and cut their heads right off!"
The girl began to cry.
Seeing the effect the story had a few other mothers who had overheard decided to tell their children a similar tale. The children would hear about the red woman Kushina who would come for them if they were bad. The woman some people were starting to refer to as the Red Death.
"I need to hire a mission," she told Sarutobi.
"We are a bit short of ninja at the moment," he told her. "Is this something urgent?"
"To me it is, I need to hire a courier to deliver a message to Whirlpool and wait there to bring the response."
Sarutobi shook his head. "We're not running courier missions right now. After all the losses we suffered against the Kyuubi, and after all the ninja and medic nin who are out on humanitarian missions to places that were stricken we just don't have enough ninja left for low rank C missions."
"Then rank it a B and charge me for B, I'll pay for it," she said. There were times when being rich did have its advantages.
The old Hokage looked at her in surprise but nodded. "Very well If you do not object to the cost."
"Here," she handed him the letter. "Please have it sent out as soon as possible."
"Kushina are you all right?' he asked.
"No, not even slightly." She left the Tower without saying more. She didn't want sympathy or to talk about it. She was growing accustomed to losing the people she loved.
In the letter her uncle Saishu had asked her to bring Naruto and return to what was left of the village so that the three of them could try and restore their clan.
It was a noble dream, but a foolish one. With the village and ninja gone it was only a matter of time before the Iwa nin swarmed in to take everything. She was not about to bring Naruto anywhere near the rock nins. If they learned whose son he was they would send an army after him.
Besides, her son was a Namikaze; he would have to restore that clan. His future was here in Konoha, not in the shattered ruins of Uzu. She too could not help; she wasn't having any more children. She had decided and not even for her clan's sake would she change her mind. The best thing for her uncle to do was to come here and join her. As the last living member of her family she would welcome him with open arms. If he wanted to try and father some more children she would help him find a wife. The Uzumaki would no longer be a clan, but they could keep the family name alive. With the shortage of ninja she was sure Sarutobi would be happy to enroll a Jonin and sword master. And maybe in time it would even be possible to gain clan status.
She got back his answer just four days later.
Her disbelieving eyes she read his answer. It was a, 'no.' To the Uzumaki family loyalty had always come before everything else. As his only remaining family she felt it was his duty to come and support her. She wanted the comfort of his presence and wisdom of his counsel. She wanted her son to get to know him.
But instead he wrote to her that his duty was to remain near the village and their ancestral lands. She wrote him more letters, asking pleading, demanding, and finally begging him to come to Konoha and stay with her. She took a picture of her young son and sent it to him hoping the sight of his living grand nephew might change his mind.
After several months of this she finally gave up with bitter resentment, she felt he had abandoned her and her son. In her last letter she informed him she no longer considered him kin and would have nothing more to do with him.
Three years had passed. The feelings in the village had cooled just a little, but only enough to bring things from full boil down to a low simmer. She was in the Hyuuga mansion with her son to celebrate Hinata's third birthday. Watching her son play innocently with Hinata and Neji made her happy. She wished her son could remain a happy child forever. But it was impossible. He would get about one more year of childhood, and then she would begin training him in the ninja arts.
As she watched Naruto was hugging the little Hyuuga girl playfully and she was laughing. The two of them were so cute together.
Mommy, what's a Hokage?"
"Well son, the Hokage is the strongest ninja in the village, the one chosen to lead. It is his job to protect and guide the village and the people who live here."
Naruto had looked up at her with wide eyes. "So he protects everyone and keeps them safe?"
She nodded. "That's right, that was what your father did and what the Third Lord does." She had told him many stories about his father and Kakashi and Rin had told him many more. He knew how hard his father had worked to protect the village
"That's what I'm going to do!" Naruto shouted. "I'm going to be Hokage and protect everyone! And I'll be the best Hokage ever!"
"Are you sure Naruto-kun? That's a fine goal, but being Hokage is very hard and requires a lot of sacrifices. You don't only have to be the best ninja in the village. You also have to be prepared to do whatever the village requires. Are you sure you want to make so many sacrifices for these villagers?" The same ones who came here trying to kill you? He didn't know about that or about how most of the people here hated him. She sheltered him from that.
"That's what I'll do!" Naruto said with absolute confidence.
Kushina looked at her son and knew there was no way he could understand just what being Hokage truly meant. The sacrifices it required. But for now…
"If that's what you want then I'll help you get there."
"Of course," she smiled and kissed her son's cheek. "I will always help you reach your dream Naruto-kun."
Mai and Dita were at a small café with their three year old daughters following a day of shopping.
"Well will you look at that!" Dita suddenly said.
Mai looked out and there she was, walking down the other side of the street. None other than the legendary Uzumaki Kushina, the woman they had both lost out to. She didn't seem to notice them and continued to walk; drawing glares from people on the street.
"Mommy!" Mai's little daughter said pointing. "Is that the bad woman?"
Mai smiled. "Yes honey, that is Kushina the red death. If you do bad things she comes for you."
The little girl cried and buried her face against her mother's body afraid to look in the direction where Kushina was.
"What are you doing?" Dita asked with a frown.
"What?' Mai asked.
"Why are you telling your daughter those stories?"
"What, you don't?"
"No as a matter of fact," Dita answered. "I would never tell Ino such things. I think that family has suffered enough, they didn't ask for what happened."
Mai frowned as well. "Maybe not, but you know what that boy is."
"He is Minato's son," Dita said quietly. "Whatever else he is he will always be that."
Mai looked a little angry. "That doesn't change what he really is." She had been married just over a year when her husband had been killed fighting the Kyuubi. Since then her husband's family had turned it s back on her and Sakura so she had changed back to her maiden name of Haruno. She had loved her husband and they had been happy together. But that happy life had been shredded in a single night.
"You can't blame a little child for something he had no part in." Dita said.
"I can blame him for whatever I want."
The two old friends looked at one another.
"Come on Sakura," Mai stood and put some money on the table. "We're going now."
Dita sat there in silence and watched her old friend go. Their friendship did not end, but from that time on they would drift apart.
As she did every night Kushina made a handful of shadow clones before going to bed wearing her armor and bodysuit. She kept her sword and equipment on a table by her bed. She could be fully armed and ready in under twenty seconds. She was not sleeping well. When she'd gone to bed it had been October ninth, when she woke up it would be October tenth. It would be her son's birthday as well as the Festival of Salvation. The annual festival that marked the defeat of the Kyuubi.
There would be a mass parade that would snake all the way though the village, including past her gate, ending at the shrine where her husband's body had been laid to rest. Then there would be feasting and dancing and general celebration culminating in a massive fireworks display.
If that had been all she would have tolerated it. She could not take any joy at being reminded about the Kyuubi or her husband's death, but she would have endured it without comment and concentrated on celebrating Naruto's birthday.
But every October tenth people got excited about the Kyuubi and some of them always felt the need to try and do something about it. She was getting very sick of having people coming onto her property thinking they had almost an obligation to hurt her baby. He was turning four tomorrow and she was sure that at some point she would have to go and kill some idiots rather than spend her time playing with her son.
She felt a twinge on her left forearm and came awake immediately. As she bolted out of bed and put on her equipment she glanced at the clock. It was 4:19 a.m. "These damn idiots can't even wait for this stupid festival?"
She contacted the ANBU and left her shadow clones to protect Naruto. They moved him to a different room in the mansion and watched over him in the dark. The original meanwhile rushed out to the appropriate section of the fence to deal with the threat.
When she got here she was amazed at what she found. Six completely drunken idle aged men were climbing all over each other trying to scale the eight foot high fence. The idiots had thought to bring ropes and thick blankets to toss over the barbed wire. But they weren't having much luck climbing the ropes.
She got on her radio communicator and informed her clones to cancel the call to the ANBU, they wouldn't be needed. She sat on a nearby tree branch and watched as these morons struggled to get over her fence. It was actually comical.
She thought about actually just letting them go.
Then she noticed the bats and broken bottles they had brought with them along with their ropes and blankets. Comical or not, drunken or not, these men would stab him with those pieces of jagged glass and beat him to death with their bats if they could. The fact they had no such ability didn't make their intentions any less serious.
And they had already woken her up.
One of them stood on the shoulder of another and somehow got up to the top of the fence. With his help one by one the rest all managed it. It took more than forty minutes but all six finally made it down onto her property.
"Congratulations," she said as she walked up to them. "You must all be very proud."
One of them waved a bat at her. "Out of your way or…"
His head flew off with one slice of her katana. His blood pumped about four feet into the air before his body fell.
His five companions all shouted and looked frightened and suddenly very sober.
"You killed him!" One of them screamed.
Kushina just looked at him feeling annoyed. "What did you think I was going to do? Honestly don't people read the signs?" No longer amused she made swift work of them, chopping all their heads from their bodies.
Looking at the bodies she felt angry at the thought that a parade of people would be going past in a few hours with people probably dreaming of hurting Naruto. I'd like to show all of them these heads! Then maybe they'd get a real idea of what trying to hurt my son means. She tried to imagine that. All those oh so happy villagers being forced to look at some of their fellows who had tried to do the thing they all wanted to. Hmmm, well… why don't I?
"Kushina! You can't leave them there!" Kakashi said horrified. He was in ANBU uniform and along with three other ANBU was pleading with her to be sensible.
She had taken the six heads and oiled them into a little pyramid just outside her gate but still on her property.
"I promise I'll have them taken away, after the parade," she said.
"You'll ruin the parade!" One ANBU with a boar's mask pleaded. "What will people think when they see this?!"
"That they should pay more attention to the signs I post." She said.
"Kushina if people see this they'll say you're a monster!" Kakashi said.
"They already say that," she told him. "If you listen to some people I spend all my free time roaming the streets looking for bad children. By rights no one should even be shocked; I'm just living up to my reputation."
"The heads are on my property, they stay." She said.
The show had the exact effect she'd hoped for. She remained by her gate to make sure no one tried to disturb the heads. She watched as happy revelers suddenly looked sick as they saw her there by her handiwork. She knew the story about this would spread and get blown out of proportion. Before long it would be a hundred heads and they would all be from naughty little children. But her point was being made to the very people who were most likely to come after her son again.
When the parade had passed her home she then quietly disposed of them.
She was not surprised when the Hokage summoned her later that day. Sarutobi was probably as angry as she'd ever seen him.
"What were you thinking?! Do you have any idea how many complaints I have had?! From the priests, the merchants, from the clans, and from individuals too! You have ruined this year's festival! Half the usual crowds have gone home!"
"Good," she said without an ounce of apology. "Their probably the same ones who came to my home this morning."
"Why did you kill those men?" The Hokage demanded. "I've been told they were all middle age workers who were drunk. They couldn't have been any threat to you."
"Well no, they weren't." She admitted.
"Then is there was no serious danger why did you kill them?" He demanded.
"Everyone who lives in this village knows where my estate is and who lives there. I have an eight foot high iron fence topped with barbed wire. I have big red signs every few feet warning people that they'll be killed if they trespass. And even with all that these men still hated my baby enough to try and hurt him. As far as I'm concerned that was serious enough to warrant killing. And if seeing those heads convinces others not to make the same attempt I consider what I did well worth it."
Sarutobi was furious, but there was nothing he could do. She hadn't broken any laws.
She took her wooden practice sword and drew a wide circle around herself in the dirt.
"Time for circle drills Naruto-kun, come try and knock mommy out of the circle."
"All right!" He cried eagerly. He came at her with his own wooden sword with all the energy and enthusiasm a seven years old could have.
She smiled as she blocked all his attacks and easily held him off. She was fondly recalling her own circle drills with Urusai. Unlike her Naruto never got upset or frustrated. He loved training with her and never complained. He was turning out to be something of a prodigy. He could already use jutsus and he'd even learned the kage bunshin in one day. That a seven year old could do something like that was astounding. Kakashi, Jiraiya, and even Tsunade were all eager to take him as a student.
Next year he would enter the academy. She worried about that. After so many years she hoped the village had finally learned to accept him. But keeping him safe still plagued her mind. Soon she would have to entrust his safety and his education to others. But for now at least he was still hers and her alone.
"Weird." Naruto said. Without a thought he grabbed Hinata's hand and began leading her to the academy entrance. "Come on Hinata-chan we don't want to be late." He was looking at the academy so completely missed the look of relief on Hinata's face.
Kushina watched the two of them go with a shake of the head. It suddenly occurred to her that of all the lessons she had given her son on history, ethics, math, taijustu, weapons, chakra control, and other subjects she hadn't spoken to him even once about girls and how to deal with them. She shook her head not believing she had completely forgotten something so vital. Great I've sent him into battle completely unarmed. Well if he survives today I'll start explaining about girls tonight. After all they're at least as dangerous to him as assassins
Watching him lead Hinata into the academy, she smiled. He wasn't an adult yet by any stretch. But she was having to let go of him at least a little. It's all right I suppose, she decided. Where ever he goes he will always have his mother's love with him.