The Recovered Spiral
At the Kage Meeting in Iron Country, the name Uzumaki Naruto comes up in conversation. The Godaime Mizukage, Terumi Mei, is not happy. Companion piece to "The Missing Spiral"
Terumi Mei was not prone to showing her true emotions; she smiled while threatening death and frowned when she was amused, and now was no exception. No one around her could tell, but Mei was angry, beyond angry, really. The Raikage shouted and huffed and snapped marble pillars in half like a fussy, spoiled brat. It was almost embarrassing.
The focus of her anger, however, was not on the Kumo leader, but aimed instead at the infamous Uchiha Madara. The tangerine-masked man stood above them, his voice calm and eerily boyish for his age. He stared down at the five Kages with his one eye as if they were a bunch of uneducated, academy students.
It made her sick.
"I won't let you take Uzumaki Naruto!" The young Kazekage growled, glaring fiercely up at the spiral-masked figure crouching so commandingly above the mismatched group of twenty-three.
"Me, either!" The Godaime Mizukage agreed, keeping up her unfazed, strong appearance. Inside, she was stunned, but not at anything Uchiha Madara said—though that too was shocking and disturbing. Her mind whirled around the name just spoken by the Kazekage: Uzumaki.
The Tsuchikage, Onoki, and the Raikage, E, pitched in their two cents quickly after her.
Mei's mind went into overdrive and she quickly shoved the too-familiar surname to the back of her mind before it could distract her. Madara and the remaining Kages were a more important matter at the moment. She would ask questions later. Uchiha Madara had been a Mizukage once, not that Mei was about to inform any of the other Kages of that dishonorable little fact, and she was well aware of how dangerous a threat he posed evenwithout Biju to aid him. Konoha had terrible enough tales of him in their history books, but in Kiri mothers told their misbehaving children terrifying tales of a phantom in samurai armor possessing red eyes that could suck a person into the deepest levels of hell. The mansion he had lived in during his time as Mizukage was a ghost fortress, filled with dust, jumping shadows, and innumerable curses. His ghost supposedly wandered its halls, though that was apparently untrue now that she had witnessed him alive and breathing before her. Perhaps he went back once in a while for a visit down memory lane.
E was right about one thing: the sooner the Uchiha was taken out, the better, and that went for the impulsive, irrational, attractive, young one too.
Finally, equilibrium had been reached. A Five-Nation Alliance formed. The Raikage had left in pursuit of his brother, the Hachibi Jinchuriki; the Tsuchikage gone back to Iwa to ready his troops, and the Hokage, that Danzo… no doubt he would be replaced soon enough. Mei wondered what the Uchiha wanted with him so badly; something to do with the eye Ao had recognized, perhaps?
But she was focusing on unimportant things now. The Kazekage and his escorts had not departed just yet, and Mei approached the younger redhead before he could vanish.
"Gaara-sama," Mei began, "If you're going after Hatake and the Kyubi Jinchuriki now, I'd like to come as well."
He turned to face her fully, eyes glinting with both interest and suspicion. "Why should I allow that, Mizukage-sama?"
She allowed herself a sultry smile. "Come now, we are allies." Her expression became serious again. "The name 'Uzumaki' is something vary familiar to me, and a name that brings back grief-laden memories for all of Kirigakure. If there is one still living, I want to see him for myself."
The young, redheaded male gave her a long look. "Very well," he said finally.
Chojuro spoke up hesitantly, causing her to glance back at him. "Mei-sama, what about Ao?"
"Ah, of course! We must retrieve him. We'll go after him at once!" She said. "In that case, we shall catch up with you, Kazekage-sama."
He nodded, and she took it as a cue to blur out of sight.
Going after Ao had been a blessedly good decision, thought it destroyed her chance to catch up to the Suna trio. Still, Ao rarely needed help fending off his foes, and trying to meet the Kyubi Jinchuriki in a timely manner wasn't as important as Ao's life. Being a little late never did anyone any harm.
That Danzo really was a shady bastard. Did he not understand the concept of the spoils of war?
By the time Mei and her entourage had found the Konoha shinobi, the legendary Hatake Kakashi—which she wouldn't admit she actually wanted to meet—was long gone, and the Kyubi-boy had suffered an intense panic attack. The jonin remaining with the boy had immediately purchased a room at an inn and waited for the boy to awaken—trying to travel with someone in that state was never advisable. So, Mei had opted to wait. She had to see this child. She had to know.
Chojuro pestered her with questions for a short time—Ao, apparently, was learning, what a blessing—and she finally answered with:
"Just something I need to confirm for myself."
He didn't wake until past nightfall. Mei sat by the fireplace, which was crackling brightly, though the moon reflecting off the snow provided plenty of light through the windows. The Konoha jonin—Yamato, she'd learned his name was, though she thought it fit him too well to be his real name—had gone to the room to check on his companion and returned with a blonde teen wearing an orange and black jumpsuit and a depressed expression. Ao took up a prepared stance and Chojuro tore his eyes away from the fire. Mei instantly frowned at the sight of him.
"Whaddya want, 'ttebayo?" He asked, his voice monotone.
Chojuro stood then, picking Hiramekarei up from its place beside him. "Oi, this woman is Terumi Mei-sama, the Mizukage, show her a little more respect than that!"
Any other time, Mei would have smiled; Chojuro really was a very sweet boy, though she feared that it would develop into a potential weakness.
The blonde teen bowed. "My apologies. What do you want with me, Mizukage-sama?"
Better, though not by much. It was obvious the boy was in no mood to bother with the more proper mannerisms, he was upset, downtrodden, and irritable, by the looks of him.
'Something to do with Uchiha Sasuke?' She asked herself. 'They are both from Leaf; perhaps he knew him.' Her body betraying none of her inner thoughts, she stood and approached him, shoulders thrown back confidently. "You are Uzumaki Naruto, yes?"
He glanced up at her, still bent at the waist. "Yeah?"
Her visible eye narrowed. "Let me see your face," she commanded, placing one slender finger under his chin and forcing him upright once again. Mei frowned lightly. "You don't look anything like… no, wait." She released his chin and placed her hands on his shoulders, kneeling to observe his facial features more closely. He became tense and uncomfortable under her scrutiny, but she was unfazed by his discomfort. "Your eyes…" She ran her thumbs over his fine cheekbones, brushed his sunflower hair aside to reveal his ears. "Your ears… that mouth…"
"Who is your mother?" She demanded.
He tensed, as did Yamato with him. "I don't know who my mother is."
"Your father then."
His hesitation was obvious.
"Please," she insisted.
"The Fourth Hokage."
The world stopped. The shock that rippled through the meager group went unnoticed by her. Her blue-painted lips opened and closed several times as she stared at the boy—no, not a boy, a young man—standing under her fingertips.
"That's… what I thought." A tiny smile graced her lips and she removed one hand to wipe at the moisture gathering in her eyes. "The color is wrong, but… you have your mother's eyes… Naruto-kun." She used the familiar suffix hesitantly.
It was his turn to stare open mouthed. "You knew my mother?"
Mei stood. She felt lighter than she had in years, but somehow more weighted down than ever. "She was my sister."
"But… your name…"
"I was married for a short time, but Uzumaki Mei is my maiden name." She tried to smile, but it came out pained. "I guess that makes you my nephew, ne?"
"Nephew…" he murmured. "What… what was her name?"
She tilted her head to the side, her gaze soft. "Uzumaki Kushina."
"Kushina," he echoed, seeming to be somewhat dazed.
"Kushina-sama never left any records that she had family," Yamato intercepted.
The Mizukage turned her eye onto him. "I suppose she wouldn't have. She had a bad falling out with the entire clan. She wrote me once, telling me she was well and of the man she had fallen in love with, the same man who was your Fourth Hokage, but I was still too hurt at the time to respond. I daresay that falling-out was probably what saved her life. If she hadn't gotten so angry and left…" Mei's expression darkened with grief, "She would probably be at the bottom of the sea along with everyone else."
Naruto looked stricken. "They're all dead?"
Her lips thinned, while inwardly she flinched. "Yes, and all of Uzu no Kuni in shambles on the ocean floor. Please, don't ask me how it happened. As far as I knew, I was the only survivor and I didn't dare venture to Konoha in search of Kushina, not that I could have been able to had I dared. The bloodline purges as well as nature itself contributed to Whirlpool's downfall."
"Bloodlimit?" Yamato asked. Naruto's eyes went wide.
Mei smirked knowingly. "Don't get your hopes up; both kekkai genkai were very recessive traits. I am… was… the first to posses both since Kirigakure's founding. If you haven't awakened such abilities by now, you won't ever, trust me. They always manifested young."
"Oh," the blonde looked a little disappointed, but she had the distinct feeling that it wasn't for the lack of power.
'That he has one less thing to connect him to our family, perhaps?' She pondered.
The young boy placed a hand to his head. "I need to sit down, dattebayo." Mei and Yamato immediately moved to the blonde's side. The Mizukage led him to the table while Yamato pulled a chair out.
"Of course, Naruto-kun. I'm sorry for overwhelming you so," Mei apologized.
"No, no, that's okay, really. I'm glad you told me," Naruto said quickly, "It's just… this had already shaped up to me one of the worst days of my life, and…"
"I understand," She said, sitting down beside him.
Ao finally spoke up. "My Lady, do you really think you are related to this boy?"
She looked at her underling long and hard. "I suppose we have no way of knowing for sure until a blood test can be arranged," she admitted, "But yes, I do."
"What was my mother like, 'ttebayo?" Naruto asked.
She smiled softly, reaching out to tuck a strand of yellow hair behind his ear. "What was Kushina like…? Well, for starters, she had red hair, like mine, only redder, and she had hazel eyes that were only a little bit more green than brown. She was… very loud, always shouting and running about. She was always full of energy. Kushina was very tomboyish too; she hated dresses, chopped her hair off at the ears if it got too long—though I heard she grew it out when she became a resident of Konoha—always had a new scrape or bruise every time she walked in the house, and, one way or another, she always ended up with a smudge on the tip of her nose. Dirt, dinner, freckles, a mosquito bite…it never stayed clean for long.
"You know the term 'lady's man?' Well Kushina was a 'man's lady,' she got on well with our brothers and was like one of the guys. All the boys in the village liked her, but whenever they tried to kiss her she would bite them, though she switched to punching them as she got older. Hah, mother and father would always get so mad! They wanted her to be a lady like me, and marry for the benefit of the family. Kushina wouldn't stand for that, of course. It was a big part of why she left."
She couldn't stop touching him, playing with his sunshine hair, trailing her knuckle softly down his cheek, which was marred by lines distinguishing him as the Kyubi container. He was listening intently to every word she had to say though she could tell he was unsure what to make of her consistent petting, torn between leaning into her hand and pulling away.
An ache rippled through her body and she clenched her fingers into a fist, brow furrowing in anger. "That Danzo…" she began. Naruto blinked. "Look at you: already grown, a young man in the prime of his youth. Why is it that only now we learn of each other? Konoha was not ignorant of Uzu. They knew who we were." She bit into her lip, feeling bitter, "You should have been mine."
A sorrowful silence followed.
"You're wrong," Yamato said boldly, "Naruto may have roots in Kiri, but he has them in Konoha also. Do not think you have rights to him just because you might be related."
She smiled pleasantly. "Shut the hell up."
Naruto frowned, shrugging Mei's hand away. "Don't talk to him like that," he said, much to the three Kiri-nin's surprise, "I love Konoha. It is my home. Kirigakure may be changing if it has someone with kekkai genkai ruling it and maybe… maybe things would have been better if you had raised me, but things that could have happened didn't and this is where we ended up now. Deal with it."
She stared at him for a moment then smirked. "Too true. Good to see they didn't make a total mess of you. I suppose you're not at all happy to have to miss out on all the action coming up."
His face hardened with something akin to pain. "Something like that."
She reached across the table to hold his hand. "I will protect you with my life, Naruto-kun. I don't know what your relationship is with that Uchiha boy," here, Naruto flinched, "but I will protect you from him, from Madara, even from the beast sealed within you. Should you ever need help, I will assist you. Should you ever need to talk to someone, I will listen. That's a promise."
He exhaled; a faint, breathy laugh. "Gaara said something similar."
"I'm not surprised. He is very fond of you, however indirectly he expressed it."
"My Lady," Ao interrupted, "It grows late. However much you would like to linger, we must return to Kirigakure."
The redhead and blonde both wilted somewhat. Her heart longed to stay, the talk through the night and learn everything about this boy sitting beside her, but war was ahead and her village needed her. Reluctantly, she stood, letting go of Naruto's hand.
"Yes, you're right, Ao. I let myself forget." She inhaled deeply, composing herself, and once again applied her bittersweet smile. "Let's get going then! Everyone is waiting for us!" She looked back at her nephew, "And, I'm sure everyone in your village is waiting for your return too, Naruto-kun."
He smiled, but it was a weak, lopsided smile. "Yeah, they are."
Mei pouted prettily, leaning down to cup his cheeks in her hands. "I'll stay in contact. No doubt I have to now, anyway. Come now, give me a real smile."
He did, and she saw the part of him that was purely Kushina drown out everything he inherited from his father. "That's much better." Odd, his cheeks were so flushed.
Satisfied, Mei pulled away. "Come, Ao, Chojuro."
Chojuro, ever the chivalrous fellow, opened the door for her. She glanced back one final time. "See you again soon, Naruto-kun, Yamato-san."
She was gone before they could say goodbye.
I got the idea for this right after I wrote "The Missing Spiral," but didn't get around to writing it until now. I like making totally non-related characters related. If anyone has any ideas for such oneshots they would like to see me write, let me know. This particular oneshot will not be continued. If anyone else wants to do so themselves, you are welcome to it.
Read, review, and all that jazz,