Listening To: Supreme Lifestyle by Alien Ant Farm.
Author's Note: The value for someone's life is usually a soul. Hanabi sacrificed her soul to save her life. Jiraiya requested Mirai Naruto's soul to bring back Sakura. So I think it's safe to say these two things are the most valuable of the offerings. Then again, it may vary from spirit to spirit.
Anyway, thank you so much for reading this story. It has been my biggest project to date. Love you all!
The Chaos Theory
by Bullwinkle's Lady
"...the dead can be bitter, greedy creatures. The living are not meant to communicate with them."
The twittering of birds filled the air, gently rousing the time travelers from unconsciousness. The sun rose upon five unmoving figures. Four of their chakras were strong; constant.
Hinata stirred as the clouds shifted, causing the sunlight to hit her face. Curled against the grass, she wearily opened her eyes, then smiled at realizing they had successfully returned to the future. Hinata passed her gaze over her friends, from Naruto, to Sakura, then Kasai, but Sasuke's pallor caught her attention. She forced herself up to climb up to her knees, then crawled over to him. "Sasuke," she whispered, as she noticed he wasn't breathing. She leaned down and pressed her lips to his, breathing air into his lungs, but he would not accept it.
As she pulled back, she activated her byakugan, to realize her husband's heart was not beating. She laid her hands on his chest and sent a surge of chakra through it, tempting his heart to awake. She'd done it before. "Sasuke!"
Naruto and Sakura stirred at her exclamation, but Kasai awoke completely. She sleepily glanced at her parents and activated her sharingan, noticing her father's absence of chakra. "Tousan…" she mused.
Her mother was shaking now. She tore her father's shirt, revealing the seal missing from the back of his neck. She turned to his wrist, to find his seal there was gone as well. She withdrew her hands and trembled worse, and at that moment Kasai realized–
Her earliest childhood memories would be the things that followed – jiisan suddenly scooping her up and carting her away. Obasan kneeling down beside her mother, embracing her.
She would stay with her aunt and uncle for a few of the following weeks, but neither could seem to summon the enthusiasm to play sannin or any of their other games. They left her alone a lot, and she kept to her own devices.
At present, Kasai was nine, and stalking Sarutobi Asuma in her gray jumper dress and black leggings. She clutched her sword in the hand that wasn't clutching the stupid stuffed hawk – the chokuto was too big for her, and dragged along the grass behind her.
The sword was supposed to have been buried with her father four years ago, but she had cried so much, they decided to keep it, apparently. Kasai couldn't remember doing that. She couldn't really remember…him, but assumed the sword was important. She assumed he had been important. He had been a sharingan-holder, like her – like no one else.
Asuma's father was dead too. Kasai darted behind a tree as he glanced back at her. He was on the way to the training grounds to meet his genin team, and she couldn't have been more jealous. She didn't know why she couldn't qualify as genin, she was just as good as he was – she was sure of it! As he raised his eyes and spotted her, Kasai quickly activated the sharingan, just before being captured in his technique.
She was suddenly surrounded by a vortex of colors and shapes, but she spread her arms, and burned them down with her own genjutsu. The colors peeled around her like burning wallpaper, the real world progressively appearing in its place, and the fogginess subsiding just in time for Kasai to spin and block a cuff aimed for her neck. "Katon-!"
Asuma dodged her fireball with a side step and kicked her in the back, causing her to stumble forward. She knew she shouldn't have had the sharingan activated for longer than a minute or two, but she was so close to gaining her edge!
Collecting her sword from the ground, she arduously lifted it up over her head, a maniacal grin crossing her face. She barely even noticed that her stuffed toy had disappeared, but Asuma did.
Her eyes rolled upwards, and she dropped to the grass.
She didn't know how much time had passed before she came to, but there was someone crouched beside her, watching her with a look of indifference. He was dressed in ANBU armor, which puzzled her, because he had never been in the ANBU as far as she knew. She blinked at him a few times. "O-otousan?"
"Kasai," he stated flatly. Her father seemed unimpressed.
She abruptly sat up. "Am I dead?"
"Am I dreaming?"
He inclined his head just slightly enough that it didn't help with her nerves.
Kasai pressed her lips. "B-but that doesn't make sense. I don't remember you."
"It seems you remember more than you think."
A silence fell upon the two of them, hers uncomfortable, and his…natural. Her father didn't seem very talkative at all. He mirrored the few pictures she had seen of him, with the dark hair that hung in his face, and the weary shadows beneath his eyes. She stared into those similar eyes…then her gaze shifted to the sword on his belt – her sword – and she frowned, subtly shifting her feet beneath her. She charged at him with all intent to take it back–
And then she gasped awake, and found herself sprawled on the grass, with Asuma knelt beside her, peering at her with his crimson eyes.
"What did you do?" Kasai demanded.
"What–?" Asuma seemed confused.
"You were using your genjutsu on me!" she accused
"No – I wasn't…"
Kasai got up and ran off, her sword and hawk left forgotten.
The blonde-haired little girl offered Ryou a flower. Ryou didn't respond, he just stared blankly at her until her bottom lip quivered.
Hinata frowned. "Ryou, you have to be nicer to-"
"Tousan!" The girl was distracted when she spotted Ino and Neji walk into the courtyard, both dressed in their ANBU armor. She ran to her father who scooped her up, where she smiled contently and sat on his shoulder.
Ino scowled. "I'm back too, you know."
Hinata smiled as she approached, Ryou trailing behind her. "She reminds me of how Kasai was at her age. She used to favor Sasuke, and now..." Hinata trailed off, but made sure her smile didn't waver. "Now she's a little more balanced." Hinata wondered if she wasn't making an inaccurate statement. Kasai seemed to get along with only one person.
Sarutobi Asuma was friendly, but in the way that Kurenai-san was. He held his friends dearly, but liked to keep to himself a lot of the time. He reminded Hinata of Sasuke – not how he had been when he was Asuma's age. Maybe when Sasuke was in his later teens, more mature, and less conflicted. Maybe that was why Kasai seemed drawn to him.
"Oh?" said Ino, who still looked concerned as she eyed her four-year-old, who had yet to take notice of her. Her gaze shifted to Ryou. "Have you two been getting along?"
Ryou shifted behind Hinata's leg, giving Ino a wary look. Hinata rubbed her temple. He was so serious for a four-year-old. "They got along fine," she lied. "You're watching them next week, ne? I have a mission in Suna."
"Of course. I need you to bring something for Shikamaru-"
Hinata stiffened at this. If she wanted to find Shikamaru, she would have to go to the Kazekage tower, where she would be obligated to greet Gaara, who wasn't known for his small talk.
"Hey everyone," said someone new, entering the gates.
As Neji responded with "Hokage-sama," Hinata said "Kiba-kun!" and Ino muttered, "Melon-fucker." Walking passed the rest, Kiba embraced Hinata in a bear-hug, ignoring Ryou as he tried to place himself between them. "Is Hanabi around?"
When Kiba pulled back, Hinata forced a smile, and nodded. "She should be inside."
"Thanks," said Kiba, ruffling Ryou's hair in a way he didn't like, before walking off toward the Hyuuga house.
Hinata absently stared after him. The Hokage was dating the head of the Hyuuga clan. At a time she would have imagined it to be her and Naruto playing those roles.
She reflected on her sister's new part in this world. Hinata knew the sacrifices she and the others had made were permanent, if just by the indifference she continued to feel towards Hanabi. And what did it matter? She could live without the things she had given up.
Regardless, Hinata remained cautious towards her sister, even more so than the others, as she watched and waited for signs of cruelty blossoming. Maybe she was being paranoid.
It was like they had never gone to the past – no one but they knew how they had saved Konoha. No one knew what Sasuke had died for. As far as anyone understood, he had simply collapsed from an unknown medical condition.
When Hinata had returned to the future, her life was very different from the way she had left it. Friends who were supposed to be dead were alive again. In her first few weeks back, her mind was assaulted with new memories of her past, new experiences that overwhelmed her, new events between her and her family, some endearing, others frustrating, some that made her smile, and some that just made her cry harder.
Upon returning to her time, she had been welcomed with a new life, a new ranking, and new people and things in her environment. There was even a trio of teenagers who called her sensei, and had inquired about her husband, who owed them a new technique.
Soon enough, the new memories began to mix with the old ones, and she had difficulty deciding which were real and which were not. She had experienced every one of them, and somehow none of them felt authentic.
Sometimes it was hard to remember her own physical changes – which techniques she could still execute, and which ones she couldn't. There was an uncomfortable vacancy in her sensory skills, in its place, an abundance of Hyuuga tact and technique. Sometimes she fell into her old abilities, ones her body did not know how to perform. Her mind had difficulty sorting new from old and real from fake.
Someone poked her waist. "Okaasan?"
"Kasai." Hinata looked down at her nine-year-old, who winced as she rubbed some dirt off her cheek. Kasai had long dark hair, messy bangs, and onyx eyes Hinata oftentimes reflected upon. "What's wrong?" said Hinata. She could tell Kasai was upset about something by the way she pouted, her arms linked behind her back.
"What? N-nothing!" Kasai was instantly defensive.
Hinata watched her for a moment, then dismissed it. "Let's go."
"Naruto and Sakura's."
"Don't forget your toy."
Kasai paused, and looked up to see her stuffed hawk perched on the wall, gawking at her in that foul way it did. Sighing, she grabbed it then trailed after Ryou and her mother.
Naruto was getting a little tipsy.
"When he died, I just started...kind of cataloging everything I could remember about him." He forced a grin. "Stupid, ne? He was my brother."
Hinata observed him. It had been four years, but he was still hurting so much.
"What if it should have been me?" Naruto continued. "How do I live the rest of my life knowing I'll never see him again!"
Hinata didn't understand it. Naruto had lost so many people throughout his life. Sasuke was just another.
"Don't," whispered Sakura, placing a hand on his. "Those kinds of thoughts are what started it all. Don't speak like that."
Hinata glanced at the door, hoping the children couldn't hear them. They didn't know the occasion – that it was the anniversary of their father's death. Hinata didn't want it to be an occasion, she just wanted to forget it had ever happened.
Tomorrow would be another day. Naruto and Sakura would be back to their happy, playful selves. And she would stop having to think about it.
For a moment, Hinata wondered if she was she becoming numb, like she had a lifetime ago, when she had not been rescued from being attacked and raped. She didn't think she was…she hoped she wasn't. She liked to think her children kept her grounded; she didn't want the anesthesia to spread to them.
How do I live the rest of my life knowing I'll never see him again?
For some reason, Naruto's words echoed in her mind.
"Are you okay, Hinata?" said Sakura.
She smiled. "Of course."
Sasuke was in the past. He was someone who no longer existed. He was like a childhood friend who moved away, only, he was dead, and it had been four years ago, but it felt like centuries, so Hinata smiled to herself, because she didn't know what else to do. She heard Naruto get up and sit beside her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder. He pulled her against his. "It's okay," he told her, and she remained there, against him.
Naruto had promised Sasuke to keep an eye on her. He had kept his promise.
Kasai sliced open the creature's skull, white stuffing bursting out from its temple.
"It's your turn Ryou," she told her brother, who stood behind her shoulder, blankly watching. "Cut me off a wing, okay. Then we'll cook the meat." She smiled and showed him the first hand seal of her fire technique.
But Ryou was pointing at one of the shelves in jiisan's living room. Kasai followed his gaze to see the hawk perfectly intact, perched there in all of its plump glory. Her cheek twitched.
She had tried to get rid of the thing on countless occasions, from hiding it, to burning it, mutilating it, and drowning it, but the stuffed toy always seemed to come back to her like a hideous, extraneous limb. In fact, it was sealed to her.
Kaasan called it her chakra allowance.
The stuffed bird was the reason she tired so quickly during battle. It was the reason she couldn't use the sharingan to its full potential. Most importantly, it was the reason she couldn't keep up with Asuma.
Asuma was the one boy she got along with, even if he was five years older than her. He wasn't stupid like other teenagers. Once they had even played a trick on one of her father's students – the cocky one. They had made him think he was trapped in a box, and he couldn't figure his way out of it for a whole hour.
Kasai figured she and Asuma got along because of their taste for genjutsu.
She was unaware of the irony of this inheritance; that she was adept at illusions her father couldn't have fathomed when he was her age; that she might not have gotten it from his side of the family at all.
She roughly grabbed the bird off the shelf, then wrenched open the window and sat on the sill. Facing the room, she closed her eyes. "Three…"
Ryou watched her with his big white eyes, his face pinched in curiosity.
Ryou slowly realized what Kasai was planning to do. He also remembered that jiisan's apartment was five stories high.
"One." Kasai flashed him a grin.
She dropped backwards from the window, her hair flying into her face as the air pressed her back. She squeezed the hawk against her chest, but it suddenly disappeared, leaving her arms empty. She reached out for something else to grab–
When she hit the ground, her back should have broken, and her neck should have snapped.
Groaning in pain, Kasai opened one of her eyes. She looked around for any more apparitions, then lifted hand to her face and stared at it.
Her reckless nature was exactly what Sasuke had been trying to suppress in creating the seal. It was designed to exist even in his death, and to only break to save her life. He had known some day she would figure it out, he just hadn't known it would be so soon.
And as Kasai stared at her hand, she felt raw power coursing through it. She turned it to look at the back of her arm, reveling in the absence of ink on her flesh. She forced herself to sit up, and looked behind her shoulder, where she saw that the entirety of the seal had disappeared with the hawk. A weary grin spread across her face. Maybe it was time for that rematch with Sarutobi.
But then Kasai dropped back down, concussed and unconscious, Ryou's blank eyes staring at her from the bottom of the window.
As Naruto and Sakura got up to do the dishes, Hinata stared into her drink.
Sometimes she marveled at the way their roles had shifted. In Sakura's death, Tsunade had lived, and vice versa. Naruto had lost the Hokage title, and Kiba had taken it in his place. Sometimes she wondered whether Hanabi's role as their ender would be shifted to another. Would someone else play with fate and make the biggest mistake?
Neji had taught her the technique some months ago, when he had been assured she was too well-adjusted to do anything stupid with it. She was a Hyuuga, and had every right to their kinjutsu. Pushing her drink aside, Hinata pressed her pointer fingers together lengthwise. She closed her eyes, and focused her chakra, then activated the byakugan as she opened them again. As a Hyuuga, she didn't have to take Naruto's manual approach. It was her birthright, her trump card, her mistake. "Sasuke."
Suddenly the world was white, and there was nothing, except for him.
"What are you doing here?" he muttered, staring at her in a way that reminded her so much of their son.
She had not expected the abruptness of the environment or her company. On some levels, she had not expected the technique to work at all. For a moment she couldn't breathe; didn't know if she even had to. "I wanted to see you!" she cried, as though he had made the stupidest inquiry. Tears ran down her cheeks for the first time in such a long time, and there was so much she wanted to say, but didn't think she could get any of it out. Was this him, or just a piece of him? Did it make any difference? "I w-want you back," Hinata admitted, as she fell into a fit of sobs.
"Aa." With indifference that could have been authentic or unnatural, he reached up to trace her throat with a cool hand, but it was his hand. The sensation of his calloused skin flooded her with memories, and for once, they all felt real. She almost drifted into the captivation of the technique, but wearily, she mumbled, "You want something from me." Her eyes lifted up to meet his.
A flicker of emotion crossed his face, but it was indecipherable, and disappeared just as quickly as it had shown. Maybe this was her Sasuke, or a version of him, if hollow. He had taken the place of the man dressed in white, her guardian; her demon. She closed their distance and rested her face against his shoulder, his body cool, and his breath icy on her temple. And then in a harsh whisper, he told her what he wanted–