A few things: due to the chaotic-and often contradicting timeline in the Naruto manga (I use the manga for my stories), I am making this story occur some time after the Second Ninja War. I could not find an exact time as to when Sarutobi became Sandaime-though I am under the impression that both he and Minato were quite young when they became Hokage. So, at this point in time (during Minato's pre-teen years) I'm going to assume that Sarutobi is, indeed the kage.

Also, if you are looking for a cookie-cutter Minato and Kushina,this story may not be for you. They are imperfect/flawed. I think it's boring to read about perfect people, no? Because Kishi doesn't show use every little action and thought, I'm taking the liberty to delve into the characters' psyche. It has to be tough being raised to fight and kill at an early age, and I'm not convinced it was easy for Minato to interact with those his own year, given his prodigy (that we hear about). But, that's my take on things, take it or leave it.

So, with that said, trust me when I say that I have a reason for how I choose to portray characters-even if it seems OOC. I don't want to divulge too much of the story here, so I'll leave you to the reading.

Please let me know what you think, even if I'm 20+ chapters in!

Thanks for reading. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, I just toy with the plots and characters. Don't like it? Don't really care, I'm here to write.


"You talk too much!" came the snide reply. "And your hair is the color of blood! It's u-g-l-y!"

The newcomer felt her stomach sink as the uncontrollable anger began to take over. How could this snotty-nosed boy be so rude to her? She had done nothing to provoke such commentary!

"Who do you think you are?" she replied with a shaky voice, puffing out her flat chest in defiance. She was new to the Leaf Village, and, already, she had successfully made one enemy.

His sparkling blue eyes narrowed at her. "Hmmph, like I have to answer that! I live here," he gestured toward the village. "This is my home."

His words stung her to the core: his home. Did he know how much pain he had provoked? She had no home. She had no one. No, she was no one! She was a refugee from the Land of the Whirlpool. And this young upstart was going to pay for his words.

"I don't care who you are," she ran her hands through her short, red hair. She could feel her fingers sticking in her tangled mane. "You are not important to me. You are nothing but a brat of a boy!" Her mouth puckered into a disapproving scowl as she thrust her hands on her non-existent hips.

"Fine," he shrugged, casting his chin into the air, "but you still talk too much. And you look like a dog!"

She knew that she looked like a refugee; she sure felt like it. She had barely stepped foot into the village for an entire twenty four hours, and this blonde-haired boy had managed to make her feel more unwelcome than she had in her own war-torn country. She could feel the tears prickling in the back of her eyes. But she wouldn't let him have the satisfaction of making her cry.

"I don't care what you think about me," her voice was rising, "I'm going to be one of the best kunoichi in this village!"

"Good luck with that, refugee!" he waved his hand before casually stuffing it into his pocket. "I'm going to talk to the attractive girls." With that, he walked back toward the group of young boys that he had been horsing around with before he approached the young girl. She watched them slip something into his hand, which he subsequently put into his pocket.

Before he had walked up to her, she had been sitting under a tree, talking to the other children who had also just arrived that morning. They were awaiting the Hokage's presence—as he was supposed to welcome all of the displaced villagers into Konohagakure. That was before he strode up to her. He had haughtily introduced himself claiming to be the future Hokage of the village. She had been relieved that someone was being nice to her, and opened up to him immediately. Though, as it turned out, he wasn't as nice as she had initially expected.

She knew it was impolite to stare, but she glared at him anyway. She drew her knees closer to her chest, no longer happily chattering with the homeless children around her. She suddenly felt self-conscious about her appearance. She knew she stood out, an easy target for anyone who wished to prey on the newcomers. And that was exactly what had happened.

She tried to push the unfortunate circumstance from her mind as she stared at the welcoming doorway to her new home.

Home, she thought. She missed her old home. She missed her family. No, don't think about that!

She tried to push the thoughts from her mind. But she knew, in her heart, that her family was gone. Dead. Killed by a small band of shinobi that wished to wreak havoc on the tiny village. Her family had been one of the few remaining resistors to the usurpers.

She allowed her mind to wander. It had stormed that night. She hated storms. Often, she would crawl under her bed and sleep with the pillow pulled over her head so that she could shut out the sound. It was one of those nights. She hadn't even heard the intruders.

No, don't think about it!

"...the Hokage..."

"...one of the greatest shinobi of all time..."

"..pupil of the first two hokage..."

She concentrated on listening to the rumblings around her. The tiny band of refugees huddled together as the grandoise figure of the Leaf Village's renowned Hokage approached them. The voices became louder, the conversation became more excited. The tiny red-head jumped from her seat under the gnarled, wilted tree, and tried to push her way through the crowd.

"Excuse me!" she yelped as she peered through a sea of legs. She could see people walking toward them.

"Welcome to your new home!" bellowed the deep, soothing voice. She guessed it was him. "I am saddened at the circumstances of the ninja world, and welcome—with open arms—anyone who is need of a home!" He was met with a few, exuberant cheers.

His voice sounded like her father's, and she was curious as to what he may look like. Could it be him? Was her father still alive? She knew it was a child's dream, but she held onto it as she pushed against the resisting crowd, hoping to get a better peek at the village's idol. She was so close...

"We have provided accommodations for temporary housing. Anyone who wants to become a shinobi will be welcomed into our Ninja Academy. For those of you looking for employment, you will receive further information at a later time. I'm sure all of you.." he continued to talk to the refugees, as they quietly stared in awe at the benevolent man. Tears streaked many a face, as this was the first time, in a long time, that they had felt welcomed anywhere.

The young girl was almost there, she could see his sandals! "Excuse me, please—oof!"

She had tripped over a pair of wayward feet and had fallen face-first into the dirt. She could hear the hooligan boys' laughter as she pushed herself off of the ground. This time, the tears were visible in her deep blue eyes. Her face reddened with shame. She wanted to curl up into a ball and die. At least that way, she could be with her family once again.

Suddenly, an outstretched hand was proffered to her. "Please, let me help you, my dear."

Grateful for any act of kindness, she reached for it, reveling in the strong grip it offered. She rose, with the help of a stranger, wiping her eyes on her shirt. "T-thank you!" she replied softly. She looked up to meet her savior.

"Y-you're him!" she squeaked. More laughter rang out. She ignored the troublemakers' instigating, instead staring at the man before her.

"Who did you expect?" he stroked his bristling, mahogany beard, smiling as he spoke.

"But you're so...young!" Her face became as red as her hair. "I-I'm sorry!" she yelped, as she covered her mouth with her hand.

"Do not apologize, young girl," his smile widened. He leaned down, tipping his hat up so that she could see his eyes. "I get that reaction all the time. It's especially welcome from pretty women."

She gasped. He lowered the kage hat, towering above her once again. He winked at her, and she suddenly was overcome by a fit of giggling. He chuckled, placing a hand on her shoulder.

"And where do you hail from, young one?"

"The L-land of the W-w-whirlpool!" she said through bouts of laughter.

"You've come so far," he murmured, looking over her appearance. She was a dirty mess: tangled hair, soiled face, torn clothes. His heart broke from just looking at her.

"Yes, sir," she replied softly, sheepishly looking at her feet. They, too, were grimy from days of travel.

"And your family?" he glanced toward the crowd, looking at the haggard faces.

She shook her head, the tears in her eyes speaking a million words she couldn't muster. "I see," he replied quietly. "You are alone."

Alone! It was more of a realization than a spoken word. A lone tear streaked down her face as she nodded. She felt his grip tighten on her shoulder. He met the crowd's anticipatory stares, smiling at the dozens of homeless that had been taken in by Konohagakure-the Hidden Leaf Village.

"Please, follow my assistant, she will lead you to your temporary abode. If you are in need of anything, do not hesitate to let it be known. You are safe here."

His words were met with loud cheers from those who had traveled from all over the land. Most were survivors of dwindling, war-torn countries. The young girl before him knew that she was only one of three people who had survived the fateful attack on her village. The others were a pregnant woman, who had sobbed most of the trip here, and an elderly man. He had been kind to her, carrying her when the blisters on her feet became too painful.

"Would you..." his smooth baritone voice interrupted her thoughts. She jumped as she suddenly realized that the Sandaime was still standing next to her. "Like to join me for lunch?"

"Me? Join you?" she echoed, feeling slightly hopeful.

"Yes, I think that's what I said," he rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Of course," he grinned, "you can turn me down. It wouldn't be the first time I've been turned down by a pretty girl."

Her face turned red. She may only be ten years old, but sarcasm and flirting were not beyond her. She knew that he was being kind to the young homeless girl, and she appreciated the gesture. "I would be honored," she dropped to her knees, as others around her gasped.

"Then please, get up!" he frantically waved. "I'm not a slave driver! And you're making me look bad!" Again, he winked at her.

She giggled as he helped her to her feet. She was beginning to like this young Kage. He was nothing like the foreboding man she had heard so much about. He was renown across the land as being one of the most accomplished shinobi, fluent in many different types of jutsu. A jutsu master, she had heard someone call him. She, herself, had just begun to learn jutsu from her father. He had been a gifted shinobi of the Whirlpool, and had wanted to train his only child. Her mother had been against it, initially, but after the outbursts from local gangs, she had been more open to allowing her daughter to learn defensive jutsus. The young girl had been surprised at how naturally chakra control and jutsu had come to her. Within days, she had been able to create a handful of shadow clones, much to her father's surprise.

From the corner of her eye, she could see the same blonde boy from before. He was standing with his mouth hanging open. The two boys next to him began to whisper.

"..her? She's going to lunch with the Sandaime?.."

"..but she's not even from this village..."

"...loud-mouth refugee..."

"...the color of blood..."

She knew they were talking about her, but she raised her chin in defiance. She would not let those unruly boys make her feel worse. She had been through a lot. She was a survivor. She turned her face toward the blonde-haired boy from before, her dark blue eyes meeting his cerulean ones. She didn't break eye contact, silently challenging him to say something to her in the presence of his village's own Hokage.

He narrowed his eyes at her, jutting his jaw out in defiance. But, he said nothing. A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. And for a brief moment, she contemplated sending a shadow clone his way for a good ass-whooping. She decided it would be unbecoming of a new resident in the village.

No, he'll pay for it. Later, she promised herself. Before turning back toward the Hokage, who was waiting with an outstretched hand, she smiled as radiantly as she could muster. She would fight that boy's ignorance with kindness. For now.

She cautiously placed her tiny hand in the Sandaime's outstretched palm for the second time that day. He shook her hand lightly.

"I am Sarutobi Hiruzen," he replied formally. "And you are?"

"I am Uzumaki Kushina," she said steadily. She raised her chin with pride. "I hail from the Land of the Whirlpool. And on behalf of all who have traveled here, I thank you." There! That sounded grown up, she thought happily. Her parents would be proud...

From the corner of her eye, she could see the blonde boy following her with his eyes. This time, she ignored him, as if he were only a distant memory. She would remember his unruly yellow hair and light blue eyes. Oh yes, she would remember them!

She was not vindictive. Some had called her a prankster in her earlier years-but never vindictive. But, she would make sure that the mean boy with blue eyes would pay for how he treated her. She would make sure of it.

It was decided: from that day on, she was the sworn enemy of Namikaze Minato.