The Encroaching Frost
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of its characters.
Special Thanks to HolyKnight5 for all his support!
Chapter 6: Dire Straits…
Genkei slowly made his way through the meandering halls of the administration building, wandering arbitrarily throughout the vast complex for some time before eventually exiting through the back entrance and crossing over into the hospital.
"Come to my office after hours Master Genkei and I would be happy to divulge to you his secrets, and if I am not there, feel free to carry out an investigation of your own; the file's in the top drawer."
They were the words she said to him quite carelessly after she irresponsibly told him she would "spill Yukio's beans" and so he followed her instructions afterwards to the 'T', ensuring the absence of undue risk as he made his way towards his goal. When asked for a reason though, she replied, quite strangely at that, that she "rather liked not being enveloped within family affairs other than her own." It was from that, however, that he had come to understand why it was that Yukio's arrogance seemed to risen beyond the norm that morn.
Now that he knew what it was that Yukio was hiding though, he could not say that he was pleased with the way it was handled, especially before the council and him, not to mention their not-so-dire situation with birthrights within the clan.
Yukio, who was not quite as old as he was but was still well into his midyears, was nearing the point at which it was mandatory of him to designate and groom the successor to the village. Azumi, who was to be the next and only logical choice had more than outright refused the heritage by becoming a successor to the medical arts, and with her refusal, the future of the village fell into the lap of his only son, Toushiro.
But Toushiro could not become the successor for several reasons.
For one he was too incomprehensive – he was born and bred to be a Kenjutsu master and it was all he knew. He had not the skills to become a well-balanced leader. Secondly, his becoming the leader of Snow would take away from his duties within their Dojo for which he was sorely needed, as he was to take over in his stead once Genkei's time was over.
Lastly, the young man had not the initiative or the drive to want the position as leader. The boy was almost sloth-like in almost everything he did except for swordplay – something that both pleased and irked him to no end, and many felt that he would only treat the village's welfare with the same enthusiasm.
It wasn't to say that there were not others outside the family who were not suited to become the leader however; the list of those currently and joining the rank of the elite was indeed quite extensive, but there would never be one amongst those who would ever possess the same potential to wield their element at the same level as one hailing from the direct descendents.
So it was to that effect that the present leader, should they not be able to cultivate a suitable heir directly descending from the Shiraiyuki, will remain in the seat for as long as they are able to until an heir to the seat is found.
Finding the door to the chief medic's room unlocked he opened it slowly, checking naturally for any precarious presences before slipping silently inside, closing the door soundlessly behind him. He approached the desk, finding the documents she referred to laid out before him just as she had said and he flipped through them meticulously, since, more than just knowing, he needed to understand fully the situation about him to plan accordingly. The aged Shinobi's eyes gradually widened as the truth was slowly revealed with each written word but he was far from surprised, however.
Because for Yukio to go to such lengths to insist that the boy is indeed of use to them, a radical and substantial claim to support him had been needed.
And what a claim it was; to say that there were others outside of Shimogakure, hell, Yukiguni with the abilities of those of the Shiraiyuki? Such a notion would leave the elders reeling in distress.
"Not to mention this report states nothing of the child's parents, just that he is one of us. If this is to be his driving point, it is hardly convincing…" He thought, closing the folder. It had been a waste going there but at least he knew what to expect, and before Yukio decided to reveal this boy's nature to the others he would demand that the truth be known to him first.
It would have to be the least he could do if he wanted to keep this secret of his from reaching the ears of the elders.
-Elsewhere, in Hi no Kuni-
The Genin cell of three raced vehemently along the trail connecting the Port City with their home, trying to complete a full day's worth of travelling within only a few hours of constant sprinting. It was quite a brutal test of endurance – something Kakashi had no doubt that Gai and his equally…exuberant 'mini-me' would enjoy thoroughly – but his team was not one that was built for the grueling effort involved and so their journey was filled with many unwanted breaks.
He could hear Sakura wheezing quite terribly behind him for the tenth time within the past three hours and he sighed, raising his hand and signaling for his team to slow to a stop in which Sakura took the chance to immediately collapse onto her knees.
"Sakura, don't slouch…It'll only restrict your air intake." Kakashi warned, glancing around to get a sense of the time remaining at their current pace. Not hearing an affirmative from the girl however, the copy-nin turned his gaze upon his two fledglings, finding that the two had found a dried up old stump for Sakura to rest on, with her ever stoic companion sitting directly behind her, acting as a support for her exhausted self to lean back on, never minding the fact that he himself was most likely also on the brink of shutting down.
"Sasuke-kun…you don't…have to do this…" Sakura breathed to her partner as she extended her arms backwards, panting heavily all the while.
"I don't like…being indebted to people." He muttered, linking his arms with hers.
The boy perked and flushed slightly, her protest being cut short by a moan of relief (which sounded strangely more like one of pleasure) when he effectively stretched her out by bending forward.
"Ahhnnn…Sasuke-kun! No more!" Sakura groaned out (in pleasure or in pain Sasuke still didn't know) and he snapped out of his reverie, easing her back into an upright posture. It wasn't long before that, however, that the pink-haired Genin begun to imitate his actions and was bending forward, only to meet the immovable, iron-clad resistance that was the Uchiha.
"Come…on…Sasuke…" Sakura groaned as she struggled to bend the unrelenting Uchiha, clamping her arms onto his with a vice-like grip when he tried to wriggle free. "Let…me…stretch you too!"
"No…! I…don't…want you to!"
Sakura paused. "Ahhhnnn!"
"That works…" Kakashi thought offhandedly, closing his book before approaching the two. "As amusing as it is to see you two in the middle of your skinship, it's about time we got going."
"Ok, Sensei!!" Sakura chirped before smiling brightly at her fallen comrade. She was still tired but was feeling much better after the stretch. "Thank you, Sasuke-kun."
Kakashi cast a hidden smile down on the writhing Sasuke. "How're you feeling?"
"How does it look like I'm feeling?" Sasuke seethed back, sending a withering glare at his sensei who was clearly amused and unaffected.
"Good, it's a lesson to be learnt. Now let's go, we've only got a few more miles to go."
-Tsunade's Residence, Konoha-
She sighed deeply yet softly, letting her almond hues roam the expanse of her darkened ceiling a few times over before rising slowly to meet her elevated knee with a hug, her long, thin, blond hair rising just as listlessly as she was to greet her back. She just sat there for some time listening passively to the many sounds permeating through her walls and windows from the surrounding foliage; the high-pitched chirps and croaks of the fauna and the faint rustling of the flora in the night breeze though being one of the most perfect lullabies nature had to offer could not induce sleep into the wide awake blonde.
And it was bad for her too seeing as she was one of the few people in the world who had a job where there was truly no time off – she needed all the sleep she could get.
"It's probably just one of 'those nights'." She reasoned, not even bothering to entertain the fact that she had said the same thing the night before, the one before that, and even still another before that. Five days straight had she been plagued by an unsuspecting bout of insomnia and for the life of her she could not find a medical justification for her illness. Despite her never ending schedule, the blonde Hokage always ate regularly and healthily (despite her sometimes over indulgence on her favorite rice wine), she always found time to exercise daily, not to mention that she always got the required number of hours for rest thanks to all those naps in between all her sessions.
Although, now that she thought about it clearly, she had been having a fairly light week in terms of work load. On top of that, she had been getting more and more reports of successful missions from all of the teams she sent, including one regarding a Chūnin team who apparently did such a good job that the village had been rewarded with enough money to run the Genin Academy for almost a full term.
Had all of those occurrences been Lady Luck trying move in on her?
Feeling quite bored and having nothing to do at that moment, she stood to full height, lighting a candle on her bureau before moving over to stand before her full length mirror. In the warm glow of the candle light her striking body glistened magnificently, her obnoxiously large breasts jutting out awesomely from her chest to leave the front of her transparent camisole unnecessarily airy, allowing the cold of the night to mercilessly attack body. Her slim waist then widened into full, shapely, thong-clad hips to give her an equally full and firm backside (that she just had to resist slapping by the way), before thinning back into those gorgeous, long, and always deliciously smooth appendages that hung from her body.
With a playful smile on, she placed a hand on her hip before leaning on it and giving her hair a flip. "That's right bitch, I'm way too sexy to swing that way so you can take your luck elsewhere." She sassed before taking a much closer look at her face and eyes. "It's a damn good thing this Genjutsu's on, else I'd be scary enough to have Jiraiya's luck with women…" (Which was actually pretty good but she didn't know that)
Joking aside though, if it had all been instances of full blown luck on her side, then going with past happenings she should be expecting something bad to happen soon, and since she'd been having such a swell week so far as it was, she could expect whatever it is to be pretty darn foul. Maybe the insomnia was her body's way of letting her know something was wrong with the universe.
And as if she had spoke too soon, the universe decided to send deposit another one, this time directly onto her windowsill.
"Ah you're up, Tsunade-sama. Look, there's something I need to discuss with you that—Gyuh!" The silver-haired elite hadn't even gotten to the crux of the problem before he was on the receiving end of a thrown chair, sending the man flying out the window and onto the ground with a 'poof', a log now lying where a broken man and various pieces of scattered furniture lay.
From the tree standing a good ways from her home Kakashi stared down at the split log with a subdued expression. "Err…that was quite…unnecessary, wasn't it?
"Not as unnecessary as what I'm going to do to you when you come within reach, you one-eyed pervert!" A bright red Tsunade wrapped up in a makeshift bed-sheet-made toga yelled, pointing as she locked her blazing eyes onto one of her most capable Jōnin. "What the hell took you so long to return, where are the brats, and more importantly, h-how long were you standing there?!"
Picking the question "Not that I'd want them to miss out on this…" He began, giving Tsunade another once over and dodging a lit candle in return before continuing. "…but I sent them home. We had to pretty much rush the rest of the way here. I have something important to tell you."
She slipped on the robe, flipping her hair so that it wouldn't be trapped on the inside. "If you sent them home then it can't be that important. See me tomorrow before I assign you your mission."
Kakashi stepped down into her room. "I'm afraid that it can't—"
"Listen Kakashi…" She turned and advanced towards him. "I haven't been able to sleep for the majority of this past week so unless all of Tsuchi no Kuni is barking up our asses…I don't want to see you." She warned, poking him with a neatly manicured finger for every word she emphasized. However, before she could give him the final push that would send him flying out her window, the man said something to her that made her pause briefly.
"Naruto's in trouble."
Unflinchingly, Tsunade brushed off the remark. "What did the little moron do now? I mean not even two seconds into returning home and he's already pissing someone off? Shit, my record was 5 minutes…tops."
"Hokage-sama, he's not here, in the village. He's still in Yuki no Kuni."
She rounded on him so fast that he thought her head did a full 360 before her body spun to match the direction it was facing. Shit, she was plenty scary enough already without him seeing things. "W-Well you see, Tsunade-sama, there's actually a very good reason for that."
That little moment of weakness was all it took for Tsunade to close the distance between them instantly, grabbing hold of a place an experienced pervert would never leave unprotected in her presence with a non-too-gentle grip. "Well let's hear it. I've already got one reason to end your bloodline filed away for future reference so don't give me another one. Oh, and just so you know, I'm no good with even numbers." She warned before her eyes took on a certain hint of darkness to them. "They always seem to make me…twitchy."
Kakashi did the only thing any self-respecting man in his position could do — he sang.
-Hospital Room in Shimo, Yukiguni-
"'As long as nothing changes…'"
Cold and dark the corner was but he was there, sitting quietly with his forehead resting on folded arms and his body being embraced loosely by the ice that no longer felt so chillingly cold touch as he whispered continuously to himself. With his mind no longer fully contained within a stupefied shock he began to move about with some semblance of inner life. He knew nothing of the time of day it was, only that the once white room had gradually been morphed into a dark remnant of its former self signifying the setting of the sun. He knew not even how he found himself to the corner of the room, his last coherent memory being of him lying on the bed.
His head lolled to the side, catching sight of a tray of food laid nearby. It was most likely Azumi's doing he deduced, his spirits lightening at the thought of her kindness. However, just by looking at it he could tell that it had long since gone cold, signifying that it had also been a while since she last came to see him.
"'…I should be fine', was it? Why…why does everything seem to just go wrong? Why did this have to happen?" He outstretched his hand and a gleaming wall of ice appeared before him seemingly knowing exactly what it was he wanted. It mattered not that it was dark to him for he could see as clearly as he needed to thanks to his now dimly glowing ice-blue eyes, the dull hues staring right back at him with that blank expression he so hated. His hair, no longer a sunny blonde resembled the very snow he walked on to get there and his skin was a now a few shades lighter, lacking the tanned warmth it once possessed.
Who was that? He didn't know that person…
How…Why had he changed?
The name, so easy it was to call…so easy it was to deposit all his worries and more than a decade's worth of blame onto…
But this time there would be no comfort from the accusation, not when the fox had explicitly stated its intentions of withdrawing from his life. And even if the fox had been merely lying as a part of some elaborate plot, he would have known the moment it started to move. Its chakra, so vastly different from his in so many ways made him more conscious of it than anything else that went on inside his body.
With that said, he could tell that it had not made even so much as a peep ever since the previous night and that was what scared him.
He could no longer justify the strange happenings of his body.
"You wretched beast…don't you dare glare at me!"
He no longer…had any excuses.
He cringed inwardly and clutched at his chest as the memories pressed onto his soul with the weight of a massive anvil. And then he realized that nothing had changed from all those years ago. That even though he met the Sandaime, his team and got some recognition during the exams, things would never change for he would always be alone; there would be not one soul that would be able to understand what he went through…
What he was still going through…
Azumi left because she didn't understand…
Kyūbi…it never understood in the first place…
He was tired of struggling, tired of chasing meaningful relationships with other people; it no longer made any sense for him to do so.
He just wanted a break.
He just wanted to be left alone…
In compliance with his wishes the ice grew beneath him, raising his body a few feet from the floor before conforming to form a prism, encasing the prone Naruto and separating him from the outside world completely.
"It's cold…" She breathed after being hit with a blast of cold air that rushed outwards after she managed to get the door open with a few effortful jerks, the ice laden rail the door sat upon being the culprit. "That girl…she could have at least given me a warning." With the lights off and the curtain pulled fully across the only window the room was immersed in darkness, so she reached out to the wall beside her with a chakra coated hand, feeling for the seal that activated the artificial light sources spread about the room.
A wave of ill intent washed over her body and she faltered, pulling away as she glanced towards the direction the uneasy feeling came. She could hardly see anything but she ventured forward regardless, trained blue eyes searching the darkness for anything resembling human life. That is, until she wandered into the far corner of the room and found the giant crystal and its wound up, solemn person inside.
"Is this him?" She said out of the blue, naturally assuming the person to be who it was she was sent to approach. Reaching the giant crystal she reached out with her hand and touched its surface, the ice's coldness eliciting an uneasy feeling from the woman. "I see you're still somewhat here…in a sense." She tapped lightly on the ice's surface. "Can you hear me in there?"
There was no response of any form. He was like a sitting corpse just staring languidly into an undefined space. But… "I want you to help him Kaasan, please. I may not be able to, anymore." …in the way that Azumi seemed to be quite taken with him, she hoped the feeling was undoubtedly mutual. "Azumi sent me, Naruto."
He shifted…he was listening.
"In fact, she was the one who insisted that I address you so informally; said that addressing you any other way made you quite irritable." She continued with a soft laugh, hoping that with her continued mentioning of the girl would draw him back slowly to reality.
"Tell me, what do you think about Azumi?"
Hope filled her as she saw him shift his glance slowly towards her and gradually part his lips as if to respond to her prodding.
"I…" Thinking back to all he had been through, he said the only thing that could properly generalize the woman. "…think that she's a nice person."
"Is that all…don't you think that she's a monster as well?"
His eyes widened at the question and suddenly he was filled with much vigor. "W-Why would I—?!"
"But she is the same as you is she not?" She asked him evenly, not really expecting an answer from the confused child. "Azumi came back to see me after she brought you your dinner you know. She was so excited when she spoke of you, of your recent change and the thought of you sharing more than just a friendship…" She trailed off, turning to walk away briefly before regarding him from over her shoulder. "But to think that this is what you thought of her. She wouldn't show it, but if I told her, she would be quite overcome with sadness."
"How would you know?" Naruto grumbled but not so inaudibly that she wouldn't understand and she turned to face him once more, hitting him with a fact that pierced him like none other.
"Because I'm her mother, and mothers know their children best."
Naruto turned and frowned. "I wouldn't know; I've never had one…I've never had—"
"—Anyone?" She finished for him but he said nothing. "You are never truly alone Naruto; your lives, your experiences and even the people you meet may be different, but even the most miniscule of similarities will be enough to bridge the gap between any two people, and all it takes to find those similarities is one, little, conversation. We'll never understand what you went through since we particularly don't read minds, but I can try to, Azumi can try to, if you'd just let us."
He hadn't said he was alone but somehow the words touched him, his eyes widening slightly at those words causing moisture accumulating to re-wet the drying-out surfaces.
"As long as you are here, Naruto…we'll never let you be alone."
He blinked. His cheek was wet. He dabbed at the wetness with his cold fingers, stunned at the realization that he had been crying.
How long had it been since he had last cried?
"Too long…" He figured, unconsciously relishing in the weightlessness he was now experiencing.
"You're a smart person, Naruto. You just need to learn to move past what's…" she poked him in his abdomen "…in here and believe in…" she pressed her palm lightly against his chest, "…what's in here more."
It took him a moment, but when he caught himself he jumped back as if he had been burned.
"Azumi told me, of course." She said, answering the unasked question. "She doesn't know what the red chakra within you is in particular, but she knows it's something unnatural and dangerous. She thinks it is why you fear letting it be revealed."
Naruto nervousness gradually began to surface as the conversation drew on. He was careful, especially careful, to not let his anger get out of hand. He knew he was. There was no way that Azumi could have ever found out about Kyūbi's chakra. As he struggled to replay the memories of every waking moment he had with Azumi, this lady before him soon begun to tap-dance wrongly in an area of his life that now proved, without fail, to set off a rather short fuse in him.
"You fear this…thing, and let it steadily control your life but it shouldn't be so. As long as it remains a part of you and as long as you have the will, then there is nothing in this world that could stop you from doing with it what you will." Glancing downwards, she gripped the small lump of flesh beneath her left shoulder tightly before continuing, a pained expression on her features. "You—"
Her eyes widened in shock at his tone and she returned her gaze upwards only to meet a dark, overshadowed look over his former innocence.
"Ero-sennin once told me something similar, y'know. He said that if I learned how to control this thing inside me that my strength would raise exponentially, but you have no idea of how scary this thing is, of how much it scares me. This thing came to our village a long time ago and killed so many people…left so many families broken." Two people; a man and a woman with blurred facial features – his supposed parents, visions of his encounter with Mizuki and Iruka in Konoha's backwoods, and the withering stares from the villagers flashed before his eyes. "…and even our Yondaime died y'know and he was said to be the best! So if I had to choose between even looking at this thing and dying, I'D RATHER DIE!!"
The woman flinched at his astonishing confession, realizing from his words that whatever it was inside him was more than just a source. And then it hit her…she had heard of something like this before in her home country. The sealing of massive beasts within human containers as a means to harness their incredible strength…
"You…you're a—wait, where are you going?!"
"I'm going to see Yukio. This is all his fault, right? I'm going to get him to change me back to how I was." He said, barely managing a backwards glance towards the person who was able to renew his resolve. "Good-bye…Azumi's Kaasan."
He turned fully to make his exit, leaving the trembling female behind to reflect on her actions. She had danced on a floor that had been eroding away for years and it crumbled under her weight, releasing whatever was building up beneath it. However, it did not come without gain. It allowed the boy to finally shed some thought for his own situation.
"But at what cost?" Where was that going to leave Azumi? The boy was now more determined than ever to go home and she hadn't even gotten to the real reason why she had decided to confront him on Azumi's behalf. Releasing a hefty sigh the violet-haired woman gave the room another once over as the light from the open door made its way inside. The ice acted as a series of mirrors, reflecting the light repeatedly inside the room and illuminating it quite clearly. The whole room had been coated in a thick layer of ice with tiny prisms of ice congregating in several places along the floor. What caught her attention, though, was the large prism the boy had been in as each of its sides had bent and unfolded completely, a single glistening flower blooming in the barren expanse.
It wasn't enough to rid her of the dreaded feeling she got from merely standing there as the throbbing in arm returned with a vengeance and so she turned, making her way towards the door before giving the room one, final look.
"God, I hate ice…"
-Konoha, Tsunade's Residence-
In the middle of his report Tsunade had released her hostages to find a more comfortable seating arrangement to listen out the entire tale, all the while keeping an eye on that soon-to-be-smushed roaming eyeball of his. She got the gist of what happened though, and now that silence had fallen upon them it was only a matter of time he suggested that…
"Tsuna–no, Hokage-sama, I would like to request a team of experienced Jōnin to pursue further. I can track them on my own but since I don't know how many or how skilled the enemy is I…" A raised hand from the aged female brought him to a halt.
"Considering the situation we're in I can't allow you to leave again Kakashi. You've been expected back for some time now and I already have a few 'S' ranked missions lined up for you. Add to that you're exhausted; what do you suppose that you'll be able to do in that condition?"
"I can rest on the boat ride back. Naruto's my–"
"No, he's not." She cut him off, predicting his train of thought. "Your responsibility, as Jōnin, is to your village. I will take over all matters concerning Naruto's retrieval so your orders henceforth are to return to your dwellings, unwind, and report for a mission briefing at noon tomorrow. Tardiness will not be tolerated. Is that clear?"
Through his one visible eye she could see the urge to rebel and retort welling inside him – or at least that was what she hoped it was, for his sake – but if there was one thing she could say she liked about Kakashi it was that he knew his worth as a Shinobi.
And if he dare forgot, she would simply remind him with a well placed finger to the brow. He was simply too skilled to be up and down behind one wayward child, no matter how important/potentially-dangerous-in-the-wrong-hands that particular child may be. So despite his burning desire to leap out the window and gather his own mates, he simply bowed and acknowledged her orders before disappearing in a puff of smoke.
"Now if only he could show that same manner of appreciation to the rest of his job…" She thought fleetingly, sighing as she hoped and prayed that he wouldn't be late on the subsequent morning. Turning in her chair she faced her desk, opening the top drawer where she kept a copy of all her available Nin before picking out a couple from the ANBU division and one from their Hunter sub-division. She was about to close the drawer when another section caught her eye and after mulling the thought over a few times in her head, she agreed that it would be a good decision. "Having Naruto see a familiar face wouldn't hurt, but man…dealing with this one can be, in some ways, nearly as painful as having to deal with that one-eyed pervert. Let's just hope there's not much hassle." She surmised exhaustedly, reaching into the drawer below to pull out some blank sheets on which she could write some formal to send to the ones chosen.
"Hmm? Who's as troublesome as me?"
Resisting the urge to flinch in surprise (and pound him into oblivion – she needed him for a mission and couldn't hurt him) she gripped the sides of her desk painfully before jumping up and jabbing a finger in his direction just shy of his face.
"You…! Why are you still here?!"
Leaning just out of reach Kakashi had his hands up and splayed before him in defense. "I thought you might need someone to deliver those messages for you."
"You wanted to know who's going…" She sighed, taking her seat again. "Well, it's no secret so take a look." Surrendering her choices to him she watched as he mulled over them with a critical eye, grunted his approval somewhat, before turning to her final choice.
"Yes, him." She replied offhandedly. "Do you know how hard it is to find a mission that he wouldn't spend half-a-day whining about before leaving? I figure he'd at least be interested in this one, and he could get some experience at the same time. Two birds…"
"Okay?" She parroted, a bit skeptical. "Is that all you have to say?"
"Well, sticking him with special-ops may irk them a bit but I don't think it's a bad idea. Who knows, it might change his whole perspective of things once he sees them operate."
Tsunade sighed. She didn't want to get her hopes up when it came to that one.
After proofreading them a few more times she applied her seal of authenticity before folding them up and handing them over to Kakashi. Before he left though, there was still something bugging her that she wanted to address pronto.
"Err, Kakashi…" She fidgeted nervously. "During the mission, when the princess didn't want to leave Fire Country at first, you said you used some kind of jutsu to put her to sleep. What was it exactly?"
"Hmm?" He had to stop and think for a moment. "Ah, it's a little trick I picked up after a mission when I forgot to cover up my Sharingan and stared at this guy too long. I won't tell you what happened, but after that it caused me to re-evaluate the actual workings of the Sharingan. Long story short, I found out how to induce hypnosis using the eye."
"Oh? Interesting…" She thought, before remembering what he said. "Wait, is this thing dangerous?"
"Then why can't you tell me what happened on your mission?"
"I don't think you would fancy that kind of information at the moment." Kakashi said nervously.
"If you're going to be using this thing on me, then I think I have a right to know what went down."
Kakashi did a double take. "Wait, I'm gonna' be using this on you?"
"Just tell me what happened!"
Kakashi sighed deeply, averting his eyes from Tsunade's inquisitive ones. "Fine…He said he was starting to feel funny and that he suddenly had a huge urge to read some Icha Icha."
Bathed in silence the two simply stared at each other for a few moments, one trying doubly hard to avoid the gaze of the other. Tsunade, still confused, tried to make sense of what happened.
"I was thinking of Icha Icha…"
"I somehow projected my thoughts, and desires, onto him with my Sharingan…"
Disgusted into silence for a moment she responded in kind. "You're right…I shouldn't have asked."
"But why am I using this on you again? I think I missed that part…"
Tsunade sighed. "I haven't been able to sleep lately so I was looking for a quick fix."
"Ah, I see…" He trailed off sagely before clasping his hands together like an eager merchant and giving a smile that made Tsunade shiver. "Well, you've come to the right place!"
Having very little choice but to leave her delicate, maiden's body in his nefarious clutches she relented, sending him a withering glare and a bark to turn around while she took off her makeshift toga and hopped in her futon. "Don't send me any of your weird thoughts, pervert."
Kakashi smiled. "Your current…attire isn't helping, you know."
"Damn-it Kakashi, I can't help it if I get warm while I sleep! If it's going to be such a problem then close your eyes!"
"If I do that, how am I supposed to hypnotize you?"
"I don't care, just do it!"
Kakashi sweat-dropped. "You're being unreasonable."
"Fine…" She yielded. "But so help me God Kakashi, if I start thinking of groping myself I'm gonna'…"
"Yes, yes…end my bloodline you will…" Kakashi laughed silently to himself before finally putting the exhausted Hokage to sleep.
-Somewhere In Shimo-
It felt like she was sitting in an alternate reality.
The room was disturbingly empty, free from anything that should serve as a well-appreciated distraction from the silence – even the most miniscule of particles had been removed from the room in an attempt to keep it barren. There were no distinctions between the room's boundaries and it seemed to stretch on forever in every direction, making it so easy to lose one's sense of direction and balance, sending their minds into a spiraling frenzy. And it mattered not if it were a Genjutsu, for in such a nauseated state, one was simply too disoriented to complete a series of complex thoughts and actions to alleviate their misfortune.
And even then the room seemed to be under constant surveillance; enabling the captors to simply re-engage the Genjutsu should it be broken free of.
The White Room…
Azumi had heard rumors of this room, of its level of efficiency and effectiveness but to experience it…it was nothing short of stepping right off the edge of the earth.
"To think he would go to such lengths…" She thought somewhat disbelievingly. Still, she supposed it was not the worst thing that could have happened to her (the room was just shy of outright torture and interrogation) but it was something she would rather avoid in the future should she be able to help it.
Trying to minimize her movements as much as possible she tried to settle into the most comfortable position possible to organize her swirling thoughts.
Had her mother been successful? Had Naruto been calmed to the point of regaining rational thought?
She hoped so.
He had…worried her when he could no longer handle the gravity of the situation that was his transformation, and as with the complications with their bloodline he could have proved to be a threat to all those who ventured near in his panic-induced state, even more so since he had no training in controlling his bloodline.
Azumi took that moment to take a deep breath as she felt the bile rise in her throat from the nausea before continuing with her line of thought.
It was a surprise though. The last thing she had ever expected when meeting the teen was that he would share with her a blood relation. It was an unprecedented event, not only for those who share the same line as they, but for the village as well. There was now potential for a new heir to be bred, a dilemma that she had no intentions of relieving should one not had been found.
However, Naruto's reaction to his new found heritage confused her.
To show such an adverse reaction to his changes… was he that appalled with the idea of having their bloodline? "But…he had been so…happy when he was under the assumption that we shared similarities between us." She thought, furrowing her brow. It was with that thought that she also assumed that he would have been quite pleased with his new abilities. But it wasn't so, and he had been anything but pleased when he had lashed out at her with his emotions.
"He was never of this village to begin with so it may have been absurd to expect…"
How could she have forgotten? The only thing he had wanted thus far was to be able to return home which had ultimately ended in her trying to aid him in his it be, then, that his sudden change in appearance is a hindrance in his goal of returning home? The more she thought about it, the more she saw his logic. Not only had his appearance changed drastically, but with the awakening of his bloodline, his chakra signature had also been altered. There would be no way to identify him based on those traits alone.
But when exactly had her thoughts migrated from those of simply rescuing him from her father's grip? No, more importantly than that, just when had her thoughts been predominantly occupied by him? Over the short time he had been in her supposed care she had learnt so many things and regained so many feelings her body thought to be long forgotten. It was only after he came here that she had finally, after so long, been able to put her mind at ease about Koyuki, even though he could have been lying to her just as easily.
In fact, had he not been there, would she ever have had the courage to stand against her father for her own beliefs?
She once thought that the only reason the two of them had for being together was because of their common ground in the form of Koyuki, but it was so no longer. Their relationship had evolved to the point where the one each shared with their mutual friend had taken a backseat to the one developing before them, and she grown dependent upon it, no longer being able to conjure thoughts of her returning to a life of stale monotony. Her thoughts, in turn, soon began to take a dangerous turn.
"The reason for his rejection of his changes was not because of the bloodline, but because he would not be able to go home otherwise. So, should that factor be removed he would no longer have a reason to…"
"You brought this upon yourself, Azumi."
Recovering from the shock of her own thoughts she tuned into the voice echoing about her, sending a response. "Your assignment to me was to care for him, was it not? I have not done anything in which such an arrest would be warranted."
"Indeed…" He agreed without hesitation. "However, as things begin to progress it was decided that you be detained in order to prevent you from further…influencing any future decisions of his."
"This is about me being a deterrent? Somehow I find that difficult to believe…" She thought skeptically from her position on the floor.
"You should use this time wisely to carefully rethink your stance."
"Oh, I see…" It was clear now. Because she had repeatedly disregarded his wishes time and time again she had been given an ultimatum. "For something that requires much deep thought on my part, I find it quite difficult to do so in this room. May I request a different room, preferably one without spinning walls?"
Because of her predicament she couldn't tell, but she knew he was quite annoyed.
"You can manage…you wouldn't be my daughter otherwise."
Now, Azumi didn't exactly know what to make of that threat of disownment. He was never one for joking (not surprising really given the nature of their line) and she was beginning to think that maybe she had pressed luck too far. She had nothing but the village and her relations within it and while disownment was, at the moment, an agreeable punishment, if he went to the extreme (which he was rather fond of doing) and exiled her, it would prove to be quite disadvantageous turn of events, and while there was the possibility of meeting and staying with Koyuki, there was no guarantee that she would even be remembered by her friend of old.
She could hear his voice no longer which meant the beginning of her slow torture within the unnerving room and she sighed, wishing things had not escalated so far. She was of no use to Naruto within the confines of the ANBU compound.
She wanted to leave…
She wanted to see him…
She wanted to talk to him…
She was worried for his condition…
But despite all that she couldn't give in to her father's whims. A solution was needed and quickly, before the point in time where it wouldn't matter approached her.
"This feeling I am experiencing now…" She thought wearily. "I am not too fond of it."
In the middle of his preparations to leave his post for the night Yukio glanced up from his documents, beholding the sight of the heavily panting boy before him and the secretary behind him.
"I apologize, Yukio-sama, but he insisted on seeing you. Shall I forcibly escort him back out?"
Startled, Naruto hurriedly turned to face her, reflexively bracing himself for an assault of any kind. Her intent had been masked perfectly underneath her apathetic visage and as the seconds ticked on she appeared to be growing ominously in size, her studious figure soon looming heavily over his much, much smaller one. Gripping folders in her left, she reached down slowly with a massive palm in an apparent move to grab him and he flinched, closing his eyes as he prepared for the worst.
"No need. Please retire for the night, Inoue; you've done enough for the day."
And just like a gentle breeze passing through a light fog, the heavy atmosphere around Naruto was lifted suddenly and he opened his eyes to the sight of a completely normal Inoue.
"Very well then…"
Without sparing the boy a second glance she bowed and left swiftly, effectively leaving the room in a morbid silence.
"Sit wherever fancies you most." The always composed leader broke the silence, gesturing towards some of the several seating arrangements strewn about the large room but Naruto didn't move, opting to stand and face his seated form squarely.
"I want you to change me back." Naruto said frankly, causing the normally featureless face of the man before him to take up a look of confusion.
"I beg your pardon?"
"My face, my hair, my chakra…I want you to change them back!"
Closing a file he had not too long ago finished up, Yukio moved on to another without so much as looking up. "There is no need to do something so unnecessary. This is who you are; you cannot be changed back to something you never were."
"Well I'm asking you to do it anyway! You can't expect me to return home like this, do you? No one would know who I am anymore!"
"There are other means of identifying a body. If they reject your identity based on your outward features alone, then you were not meant to be there in the first place." He said nonchalantly, having no intentions of telling him that he was not going to be returned to Konoha now that he was proven to posses their blood.
"Well it's not your decision to make, damn-it! This is all your fault that I ended up like this in the first place, so fucking change me back!"
"What exactly is it about our bloodline that appalls you so?"
"Does the mere notion of settling down in such frigid conditions deter you?"
"N-No, that has nothing to do with it!"
"Then there is no reason to return you to your false identity. You are Shiraiyuki and quite frankly, now that I know what you truly are I am finding it immensely difficult to simply let you leave and return to a place where the blood within you would putrefy."
"I can't believe you're doing this to me just because I happened to pick up your abilities…"
"This can hardly be compared to picking up a wary coin, boy. This gift of ours can only be received through birth."
It took him a moment, but when he understood, his mind reeled at the thought. "Wait, what…?"
"Shiraiyuki Yukika, my kin, has been proven to be the woman that birthed you. Therefore, you should do away with thoughts of leaving and stay here, in the place your mother held dear."
Yukio watched as the boy staggered momentarily on his feet before ending up on his rear-end, the information seemingly too much for him to process. He could not understand why though; something like this should be something he thought the boy would be elated over. It was then that the boy started whispering though, and with them more queries than he had the right to ask.
"No…it's too convenient. After so long…after coming here by chance…there's no way I could possibly believe…"
Yukio sighed and rose to his feet, moving silently towards the miserable lad. "Give me your hand." He commanded, the boy below him looking at him confusedly before complying. "I know not of the hardships you faced, but feel the connection to us through me." Yukio's chakra surged, setting his eyes alight in a light blue haze before crossing over to Naruto. He could feel the boy's chakra growing alert with his presence, racing throughout his body before setting his widened eyes alight in a similar glow. "If you trust nothing in this world, then learn to trust this feeling. You can no longer deny what has been there from the very beginning."
"I…I can't…" He murmured despairingly, truly at a loss. "I can't just abandon the place that I grew up in. My friends, everyone…I just can't."
With a stern look as always, Yukio returned to his place behind the large desk to resume his end-of-day filing. "Because it is ultimately your decision, I shall comply with your wishes for now, but on one condition only. I can recreate the seal that gave you your false image but this will take time. I only ask that within this time you at least learn the basics of controlling the Shiraiyuki traits. This is acceptable, is it not?"
Seeing no reason to refuse, Naruto agreed, thanking him unconsciously before leaving the room in a somber state. Glancing upwards only once to see him depart, Yukio couldn't help but feel a sense of accomplishment from the exchange. Now that he could no longer deny the presence of their blood within him, Yukio was going to slowly make him come to accept and cherish it, before sending him back with nothing but feelings of longing and remorse.
If it came down to that, that is.
Still feeling his assistant's presence outside his office, he called for her. "Inoue…" Said woman emerged from her hiding place behind the wall. "I need a message sent out to 'No's. 005', '006' and '007'; I need them here for a briefing tomorrow."
"Right away, Yukio-sama."
Meanwhile…Deep within the recesses of Naruto's mind…
The ice that had only just barely progressed had now almost completely taken over, moving aggressively through the sewer-like passages like a well-fed wildfire.
The Kyūbi's keep was no exception.
However, there was no sign of the Kitsune in question behind the massive iron bars that denoted its territory.
Suddenly, two, large, red eyes blazed from the darkness of the ceiling where a large, clawed appendage shot out from within, piercing the ice-laden waters beneath it. From the hole its foul chakra erupted and the fox let loose a loud, raucous laugh, watching with glee as red vein-like cracks raced forth from the fresh wound like a deadly disease.
It would have been fine had it not ventured into its domain but it foolishly did so, and now the fox was going to take it all.
A/N: Well people it's been a very long while but I have once again graced your presence with another chapter. Hope it wasn't that much of a snooze-fest but it's all for the sake of development.
Now, another issue to address is that of the genre labels for this fiction. I think I've said this before (in fact I know I've said this before) but the action in this story is going to be few and far in between so I'm sorry if that discourages the lot of you (besides the lazy updates). I'll try to get the next one up and out within a month, the latest, this time around.
As always I thank you for taking the time out to read my story and I look forward to your reviews. I hope you enjoy the Omake...
Alternate ending for "Hypnotize me, Pervert."
"Fine…" She yielded. "But so help me god Kakashi, if I start thinking of groping myself I'm gonna'…"
"Yes, yes…end my bloodline, you will…" Kakashi laughed silently to himself before finally exposing his covered eye. "SHARINGAN!!"
"Damn-it Kakashi, did you have to shout?!"
Kakashi chuckled sheepishly. "Sasuke always made such a spectacle out of it back in the day so I've always wanted to try it."
"Do it on your own time!" Trying to hit him as lightly as she could so as to not rattle his brains Tsunade clonked him over the head, but she failed as he lost his sense of balance and ended up sprawled all over her chest. "Get off of me, pervert! Oh my gosh this can't get any worse…"
"AN UCHIHA?! WHERE?!" Sasuke screamed as he burst through the window only to happen upon the scandalous scene that was his sensei with the village leader. Trying his damn well hardest to focus on her eyes he crept back…slowly. "Err…I'll pretend I didn't see anything."
"FUCKING HELL!!" Tsunade screamed, grabbing Kakashi and pitching him after the slow-to-retreat Sasuke, sending the both of them careening through the wall. Breathing heavily she calmed herself, finding her body feeling weightless as most of her pent up stress just literally flew out the window. It was definitely a good feeling and instead of boiling over at the thought of order a repair for her room, she simply shrugged it off and headed for the door to sleep in another room for the night.
Before she could make it to the door however, a very groggy Shizune (who had somehow managed to sleep through everything up to that point) came to inquire about the noise with her pet pig in tow.
"Tsunade, what's with all the noise?"
"Bui Bui…" Ton-ton agreed.
A vein bulged on the blonde's forehead.
"GET BACK TO YOUR OWN APARTMENT ALREADY!!"
The next day, Sakura dared not the reason why her sensei reported to duty with grabby fingers and a dazed look on his face, why Sasuke seemed to hold him on a pedestal that was even higher than the one he held for the Uchiha, or even why Tsunade seemed to want to strangle them all.
End of Omake.