Chapter 15: Farewells

Kushina fidgeted as the black mourning clothes pressed down on her shoulders. The light fabric felt as if it weighed a hundred pounds. Her shoulder throbbed as her fidgeting continued and she frowned at the image reflected int the small mirror.

It had been a little over a week since they had returned to Konoha. The large village had been abuzz as news of the supposedly diplomatic mission spread. Anger and hatred towards the Stone Country grew and the war efforts doubled. Minato had been helping out as much as he could, despite Tsunade's warnings about his health. With the Legendary Sennin's abilities, his injuries were, for the most part, healed, but the Yellow Flash still recovering from the worst of his redhead's hand massaged her throbbing shoulder. She could relate.

The amount of times her shoulder had been wounded during the mission was making it difficult for it to heal properly. The medics were already predicting that she would never have full mobility of it again. Tsunade had been trying her best, but it still didn't look promising. Pulling her hand away, Kushina poked at a rather large bruise on her face. Why was it that there nothing the medics could do to get rid of it? The number of bruises peppering her body had made it almost impossible to move the first few days.

"Miss Kushina. It... it's almost time to leave. Yo.... you do not want to be late." The small voice could barely be heard through the thick door. A smile pulled at the girl's lips. Aiko had been adapting to life in Konoha rather easily. The Hokage had welcomed her with open arms and Tsunade had taken her on as her apprentice once the girl's abilities were revealed.

"I'll be there in a second." Grabbing her new headband from the top of her drawer, she quickly tied it around her forehead. The konoha leaf stood out against the silver metal plate. It had been forever since she had worn the insignia.

Aiko met her as soon as she opened the door. The girl was also dressed in the traditional mourning clothes , her dirty-blond hair tied into a braid at the base of her neck. "You sure you want to go Aiko. You can stay here if you want."

"I'd rather... rather go with you Miss Kushina. If... if you don't mind." Her pale eyes glanced nervously up at her caretaker. Kushina smiled and ruffled the girl's hair.

"Of course I don't mind. We better leave now if we want to make it on time." The twelve year-old nodded and followed the redhead out of the house. The bright sun made Kushina blink as they left the apartment. Everything seemed bright, happy, perfect. It was ironic. The day they said to goodbye to the sun of Konoha was the brightest, clearest day of the year. She almost wished that it was raining. At least then she could use the weather as an excuse for her depressed attitude.

With Aiko still learning to use even the most basic ninja skills, the two girls were forced to walk to the grave sight. People looked at them as they passed, sending sympathetic glances their way. Kushina resisted the urge to pound them into the ground. She didn't need nor want their pity. Didn't they realize it would be easier to recover from this blow if they didn't keep reminding her of it?

Nevertheless, they managed to cross Konoha without anyone being attacked which the redhead took as a good sign. Maybe she could do this after all.

Minato met them outside the graveyard. His large hand gently squeezed her uninjured shoulder and her gave Aiko a quick hug before returning his concerned gaze to her. "Are you going to be okay? You don't have to do this. Everyone will understand."

"I'll be fine. Besides, I'm not doing this for them, I'm doing this for Ryou." The blond chuckled, though it didn't hold its usual merriment, and nodded.

"Alright. Then we should go." The trio walked over to the group of people congregated around the memorial, the Heroes' Stone. The group was larger than Kushina had expected. The ceremony was the same as always; people speak about how great Ryou was and how unfair it was that he died so young, tears are shed, memories shared, flowers placed, goodbyes said...

The entire time, Minato stayed by Kushina's side offering whatever comfort and support his presence could offer. Aiko listened attentively to the people around her, helping ease their sorrows the best she could. The whole ceremony passed by in a blur of colors and sounds. Several times, Kushina had tasted salty tears on her lips and not remember ever crying in the first place. Until the end, the sun shone down on the magnificent black stone. Hideki's name had been carved yesterday and shone as brightly as Ryou's own engraving.

"Kushina. It's time to go." Minato's soft, authoritive voice pulled her form her stupor. Blinking away the next batch of tears, the redhead nodded.

"Can you do me a favor?" The blond quirked an eyebrow at his companion but nodded. "Can you take Aiko home for me. I have something I need to do."

"Of course, but what..."

"I'll tell you later okay. Can you just do this for me?" The blond nodded and called the younger blond back. HE quickly explained the situation and the two left with a short goodbye.

With them gone, the redhead quickly disappeared. The village flickered by beneath her feet as her chakra fueled the body flicker jutsu. She only cut the flow when the huge building housing the Hokage's office towered above her. Once inside, it wasn't long until the Hokage granted her access into his office. The wise old man looked up as she entered and frowned.

"Miss Uzumaki! What are you doing here do late? You know I can't assign you a mission until Tsunade clears you." A smirked pulled at his lips and his grey eyes sparkled in amusement.

"Actually. I was hoping you could do something for me Lord Hokage."Kushina bowed at the waist in respect, praying he would accept. The village leader furrowed his eyebrows in confusion.

"Of course. But what could you possibly need me to do?" The redhead finally straightened met the man's eyes, her own green orbs filled with determination.

The night air was cool and permeated through the thick traveling cloak. Pulling the straps of her backpack, she shifted the bag higher on her back. Sighing, Kushina pulled the hood over her head, hiding her features.

"You sure about this Aiko?" The girl nodded and pulled her own backpack over her shoulder.

"I promised I would help you Miss Kushina. I'm... I'm not going to break that promise." Kushina felt a swell of affection course through her chest. This little girl had given up everything in her old life to help her, and she was doing it again. The determination in the little girl's voice convinced her that the blond didn't have nay doubts about this.

"Thanks." Sticking to the shadows, Kushina led her charge through the village, avoiding any of the more populated areas. "We have to hurry. If anyone sees us, it'll ruin everything." The two girls slipped through the streets without much trouble. Kushina made sure to cloak her chakra in case someone decided to check on her. The purpose of this mission was to make sure no one saw them.

Kushina let loose a sigh of relief when the wall surrounding the village appeared. If the Hokage kept his promise, there shouldn't be any guards for the next three minutes. They were home free. Taking off the bulking backpack and letting Aiko situate herself on her back, Kushina silently scaled the wall. Without a sound, they landed on the top in a crouch. "This is it Aiko. There' no turning back now."

"What are you doing?" Kushina twisted around at the voice and felt her stomach flip. Damn. They had been so close. Letting her companion slide off, Kushina stood and smiled.

"Just out for a walk. What are you doing here?" Minato sighed and folded his arms over his chest, frowning at his friend as if he was rebuking a child.

"You're not fooling anyone Kushina. You've bene acting strange ever since Ryou's funeral. Do you even understand what you're doing? You'll be considered a rogue. You'll be on every mercenary's list. Do you really want that?" When the redhead didn't answer, the man sighed in frustration and ran his fingers through his yellow hair. "Why are you doing this?"

"I promised him and I'm not about to break that promise. I can't just sit here. If people from my village survived I have to go find them. I promised Ryou I would. We both know that just because Jun is dead the attacks won't stop. Jun had half of Iwagakure under his thumb. I have to warn them. It's my fault. They were looking for me. I'm not going to let more innocent people die!" Blue met green as the two jounin stared at each other. Minato broke the staring contest as he sighed.

"Nothing I say is going to stop you is it?" When he didn't get an answer he smiled wryly. "I guess not. Just don't do anything stupid alright. I also made a promise to Ryou that I don't intend to break. If you're not back in two years I'm going to drag you back here myself. Understand?"

A grin split the redhead face and she crossed her arms over her chest. "We'll see if you can." Her laughter was cut off as strong arms wrapped around her.

"Be careful alright?" Nodding against his shoulder, Kushina returned the gesture. Releasing her, Minato moved over to Aiko. "Make sure she doesn't get in over her head. Someone has to make sure she doesn't end up getting herself killed." Aiko nodded and gave him a hesitant hug.

Taking Aiko's hand, Kushina nodded goodbye to the blond and hopped off the wall. Minato watched them as they raced into the surrounding forest and disappeared.

"I guess I shouldn't be surprised you're here Namikaze." The blond turned to face the Hokage. The man carefully balanced the pipe with his tongue as he smiled. "You seem to have a knack for knowing when she's up to something." The two men chuckled. "You don't have to worry about her though. She's tough. She won't go down so easily."

"Will you report her as a missing-nin?" The Hokage smiled wryly and shook his head.

"I knew what she was planning so technically, she isn't really 'missing' now is she?" The man chuckled and breathed in heavily from his pipe. "I did say I do something for her, though I don't think its really necessary now." The blond frowned and cocked his head to the side in confusion.

"What is?"

"She asked me to keep you from going to look for her. I even came up with the perfect plan so I'm going to use it anyway." A sly expression crossed the old man's face. "There's a boy in the academy that is progressing faster than we can believe. He will graduate from the academy in a few days. The problem is finding a teacher as talented as him." The Hokage turned to leave, glancing over his shoulder. "Be at the school at eight o'clock tomorrow. You are to pick up you're new student, Hatake Kakashi. All those D-ranked missions should keep you occupied for a while."


Let me just say thank you. If it wasn't fro you guys, I would never of had the motivation to finish this and it would be one of the many fics wasting away on my computer. Thank you for all your wonderful reviews and criticisms. I don't know when the next book will be out, but I'll work on ASAP. I still have to get more detailed outlines of the chapters before I start. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it. Don't forget to review! Thank you.

Summary of 'Fated'

It's been four years since Kushina and Aiko left Konoha. With the war beginning to

become more bloody by the day, Minato has been unable to find them. But when rumors of

a mysterious army stationed on the borders of the Fire Country reaches Konoha, Minato

is thrown into another mission that could decide the fate of the war and the world forever.