Karin's eyes slowly opened, pain shooting through her limbs. She groaned, remembering her circumstances. The drug Astra had given her had worn off and she could see clearly now. She was in a large room, judging from its concrete walls and floors and lack of windows it was probably a basement. The only exit was a flight of stairs, that lead to a heavy metal door that opened upwards. Karin struggled against the chains that bound her to the wall, but she felt drained. The metal probably absorbed or blocked chakra, and since she could not sleep properly, she was exhausted.
And she had to protect her baby. She had to stay alive for the baby's sake. But she also had to get out of here for his sake.
His. Karin laughed to herself. Of course she would want another boy. She loved her boys. And she missed them terribly.
The metal door suddenly opened, allowing Astra entrance. Karin glared at the woman as she descended the stairs and approached, a bowl in her hand.
"You must be hungry," Astra stated. Karin's stomach made an odd noise, proving the Hyuuga right.
"Why would you bring me food?" Karin asked.
"I don't want you to die," Astra replied. "That would be pointless. I'm evil, not cruel."
Karin wasn't sure if the two could be differentiated. Because evil and cruel always came hand-in-hand. Astra kneeled before Karin and lifted a piece of bread to the red-head's lips.
"Eat," Astra ordered. Karin did not budge and just glared. Astra smirked. "Don't eat for yourself, Karin. Eat for your unborn child."
"I was not aware you cared," Karin spat.
Astra just continued smirking. "Your child is innocent, I don't kill the innocent."
"Oh, really? Then why are you after Ino? She's not your Ino! She's not the Ino who abused you! She's innocent!" Karin argued. Astra's smirk vanished and her eyes narrowed.
"Let me tell you a story, Karin," Astra whispered. "Several years ago, I was in prison, patiently awaiting for my trial to begin. I'm still not sure why they even bothered with a trial, they should have just executed me on the spot. I did, after all, commit the worst crime there is."
Karin froze. She did not like the sound of this...
"You killed the woman who raised you," Karin whispered.
Astra narrowed her eyes. "And she killed my father. She challenged his leadership and they battled to the death. She won and was named Hokage."
"That's not how the Hokage is chosen," Karin retorted.
"Not in this dimension, no," Astra replied. "Mine is different. In my dimension, war is what defines us. Violence is what elects our leaders. And violence is what kills us all in the end. In my dimension, the war never ended."
"Then shouldn't you strive to end it? Why prolong the violence?" Karin asked.
"I'm not finished with my story yet," Astra retorted. "One day while I was still in prison, days away from my trial, I was knocked unconscious by an invisible source. When I came to, there was a voice inside of my head. Can you guess whose voice it was?"
Karin's eyes widened, memories flooding back to her of the time Ino had been found unconscious several years earlier at the training ground. When the blonde had awoken, she claimed there was a voice in her head, an obvious side effect of her first attempt at using Five Dimensions to Heaven. And it had nearly killed her...
"Oh yes," Astra smirked. "I could hear her, just like she could hear me. I was forced to watch her live in a dimension where there was no war and where my father lived, happily, with the very woman who had murdered him in cold blood."
"I still don't understand why you are motivated to get revenge on a woman who is innocent," Karin muttered.
"I don't need you to understand my motivation, Karin. And whoever said I want revenge?"
Karin blinked and looked up into Astra's blank eyes. "That is not your goal?"
"Ino has something of mine," Astra replied. "and I want it back. Whether she dies after that, well, that's not my problem. It's her fault for intervening when she shouldn't have."
Karin frowned, still completely confused. Astra spoke in circles and never fully answered her questions. She was still nowhere near close to understanding the woman's motives. Astra moved and lifted the bread to Karin's lips again.
"Eat," Astra ordered. Karin obliged, simply because she knew she had to put her unborn child first. When she was finished, Astra stood and prepared to leave, but not before activating her Byakugan and looking straight into Karin's eyes.
"Sleep," Astra ordered. Karin tried to fight the sudden fatigue that washed over her, but it was futile. The darkness swallowed her whole.
Konoha was glorious. Yoko stared in fascination at the buildings around her, Kurama laughing at her expression. The village was completely different from Mabashi, the buildings were newer, the streets were clean and the trees...the trees were so green! But what Yoko loved the most was the six faces that overlooked it all, carved into a mountain top. She had read about the monument in countless books, but there were no words in existence to describe it. The books did not do the real thing any justice.
"Wow," Yoko breathed in awe.
"Pretty cool, huh?" Kurama asked. Yoko nodded. "Do you want to meet the man behind one of those faces?"
Yoko blinked, not sure what Kurama meant, and then it clicked. She gaped.
"Meet the Hokage?" Yoko asked.
"Yeah," Kurama hummed. "That's why I'm here. Hokage's orders. Sort of."
Yoko wanted to say yes, she really did, but then she remembered who the Hokage was. Uzumaki Naruto. He was the reason why people always assumed she was a kunoichi, just because they had the same last name. He was famous, especially in the Land of Fire, and people were always curious and nosy. And Yoko preferred to keep her past buried deep.
"Maybe next time," Yoko whispered. Kurama nodded. He could feel her turmoil, so he wasn't going to push it. Perhaps if she settled a bit in the village first, she would feel more comfortable. His thoughts immediately went to Ino, the woman would know how to make Yoko feel welcome, but before he could suggest they go to find her, he spotted a familiar figure with dark hair heading towards them. He smirked, time for some fun.
"Miss Shimura," he greeted the woman when she nearly bumped into him. She was distracted by a scroll she was reading and when she heard his voice, she looked at him in horror.
"K-Kurama," she muttered, her stance suddenly stiff. Yoko frowned, why was this woman so frightened?
"Interesting scroll?" Kurama asked with a toothy grin, purposefully showing his canines. The woman nodded slowly, too shocked to respond. Kurama just continued grinning and pointed at Yoko. "Ayaka, can I call you that? This is my friend, Yoko."
Ayaka just nodded again, her dark eyes wide.
"You alright?" Kurama asked.
Ayaka finally found her voice. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, you know, just visiting," Kurama hummed. "How is the council?"
Ayaka's gaze shifted away from Kurama when he asked this, which he had noticed years before was a nervous habit of hers. He raised an eyebrow, she was clearly uncomfortable talking about the council. Interesting...
"How long are you staying?" Ayaka changed the subject. This just made Kurama more suspicious, because she was obviously dodging the question.
"Until Naruto no longer needs me, of course," Kurama replied. Ayaka pursed her lips, then forced a fake smile.
"Enjoy your stay then," she muttered. She bowed and quickly turned to jogged away. Kurama snorted, he could feel her fear, she wanted to run, but did not want to appear cowardly. Foolish woman, she clearly inherited the trait from her stubborn uncle.
"Who was that?" Yoko asked when Kurama started walking again.
"She represents the Shimura clan on The High Council," Kurama explained.
"She seems to be afraid you," Yoko whispered.
"That's because she is."
Yoko frowned. "Why?"
Kurama just smiled sadly and took Yoko's hand into his own. "Does it matter?"
Yoko blushed. "No, but...I'm curious. Who are you? How do you know so much about my clan? And what did your friend mean...'another Uzumaki'?"
Kurama sighed and squeezed Yoko's hand. "Perhaps you should come with me to see the Hokage, then you will understand."
Yoko wanted to shake her head, wanted to pull away and refuse, but she knew that she had to stop running from her problems. She had to stop judging everyone in her clan, because her father was only one man and what he did, did not define others with the same name. She knew that, she did, but she still felt nervous. But she so desperately wanted to know, because Kurama was so mysterious. Like the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat.
So she took a deep breath and nodded her head.
Uzumaki Naruto was a very attractive man was what Yoko thought when she first laid her eyes on him. He was clearly several years older than her, but his age did not deter his large smile that made him look like a little boy. Yoko stared, fascinated when Naruto got up from his desk and hugged Kurama. It was unexpected and the most intimate thing she had ever seen Kurama do. And when Naruto returned to his seat, she could finally see Kurama's face. He was smiling too, like he was seeing an old friend for the first time in years. And that's when it clicked.
This was the person Kurama had told her about.
"You have a friend," Naruto stated, his blue eyes focused on Yoko. She blushed and bowed. Despite her nerves, she was in awe. She was standing before the Hokage, the man who had ended the war, the man who had fought for the bijuu's freedom. Bijuu...Yoko's eyes widened and she looked up at Kurama. Blood red hair, vermilion eyes, incredibly powerful chakra...her father's stories about the nine beasts came back to her like a torrent. It also explained Shimura Ayaka's fear of him. She gaped, how had she not noticed before?
"You alright?" Kurama asked. Yoko nodded, not sure if her voice would cooperate if she tried to speak. When she had learned that Kurama wasn't human, she hadn't even considered he was a bijuu. After all, she had never heard of them being able to take on human form.
"Would you like a drink?" Naruto offered, noticing that Kurama's friend looked petrified. She nodded. Naruto stood and left the office to get her a glass of water, leaving Yoko and Kurama alone.
"You're..." Yoko trailed off before she could finish her sentence.
"Ah, clicked has it?" Kurama asked with a grin.
"Naruto was your Jinchuuriki...how is he still alive?" Yoko asked.
"Uzumaki quirk," Kurama shrugged. "You guys never die, it's freaky. Naruto's mother was my Jinchuuriki before him – she survived the extraction as well, but she was weakened considerably and died from fatal wounds she received in a battle to protect him."
Yoko was speechless. It made sense now, why Kurama knew so much about her clan. He had been associated with them for decades. Yoko wanted to ask him more, she wanted to hear his part of the story, but they were interrupted by Naruto returning. He handed Yoko a glass of water, which she took gratefully. Kurama jumped straight into business.
"Why did you summon me?" he asked.
Naruto glanced at Yoko, then back at Kurama. "I need your assistance with an urgent matter. We can discuss it in detail later."
Kurama frowned, but then he noticed Naruto glancing at Yoko again and he understood. It wasn't something they could discuss in front of her. Yoko also noticed this, because she smiled.
"I can leave," she offered. "Maybe I'll have a look around."
"I apologise, I don't usually chase people out of my office," Naruto said. Yoko shook her head. It did not bother her. She was an outsider, private and delicate matters of Konoha was none of her business.
A knock on the door interrupted the conversation and although he seemed annoyed at the intrusion, Naruto invited the person inside.
"Yo, Naruto," Inuzuka Kiba greeted with a toothy grin that could rival Kurama's. "I got some boring paperwork for you."
Naruto grumbled as he was handed the paperwork, but then a brilliant idea hit him.
"Are you busy, Kiba?" Naruto asked.
"Nope," Kiba replied, his gaze now shifting to Kurama and Yoko. "Hello, Fox, long time no see."
"Likewise," Kurama returned the greeting. "You still smell of dog, I see."
Kiba snorted. "And you smell like alcohol."
The two stared at each other, then burst out laughing. Yoko watched, fascinated. She was still trying to get used to people actually being comfortable in Kurama's presence, in Mabashi she had been the only one not bothered by his inhuman appearance.
Naruto cleared his throat, regaining Kiba's attention. "Kiba, could you give...I'm sorry, what was your name?"
"Yoko," Yoko introduced herself. She hesitated before adding; "Uzumaki Yoko."
Naruto's eyes widened for a fraction of a second, but his shock quickly melted away into a broad smile. "Kiba, I want you to give Yoko a tour of Konoha, she's visiting with Kurama."
Kiba looked at Yoko carefully, almost as if he was sizing her up. "You like dogs?"
Yoko blinked, confused, but nodded anyway.
Kiba grinned. "Awesome. Let's go!"
Kiba grabbed her arm and dragged her out of the office much to her surprise. She glanced at Kurama, who just stuck his tongue at her. She rolled her eyes and allowed Kiba to pull her down the halls, down a flight of stairs until they were outside, where a big white dog was waiting for them.
"Akamaru," Kiba scratched the dog's ears affectionately, "this is Yoko. She likes dogs. Yoko, this is my best friend and companion, Akamaru."
"Hello," Yoko greeted. Akamaru barked in response.
"He says you smell nice," Kiba stated. Yoko blushed.
"Oh, really? Or is that just an excuse you use to woo women?" she asked, placing her hands on her hips. This time it was Kiba's turn to blush.
"What!? No! He is a ninja dog, they are trained to communicate!" Kiba argued. Yoko laughed and patted his shoulder.
"Whatever you say, now give me that tour, lover boy."
Kiba's blush darkened.
Sasuke growled as he read the contents of the fake mission scroll that Karin had received. He did not recognise the writing, which worried him. He had turned the house upside down to find it, and nearly kicked himself when he had finally found it in Karin's bedside table drawer. Why hadn't he looked there first? What a waste of time!
"You alright, father?" Masashi asked from the doorway. He had just returned from a mission, only to find the house in a mess.
"Your mother is missing," Sasuke whispered. Masashi's eyes widened and his eyes darted to the scroll in his father's hands.
"Where is she?"
"Did you not hear me?" Sasuke yelled. "She's missing! That usually means I don't have a fucking clue where she is!"
Masashi stepped back, surprised by his father's outburst. He was used to his father being composed, so to see him so unhinged was a shock.
"I-I apologise," Masashi muttered. Sasuke's gaze softened, but before he could also apologise, Suigetsu appeared behind Masashi with a hard expression. He squeezed the young boy's shoulder and then motioned with his head for the boy to leave.
When Masashi was gone, Suigetsu narrowed his eyes at Sasuke. "What the hell is your problem, Sasuke?"
"Shouldn't you be overjoyed that Karin has been taken?" Sasuke asked. "You've always wanted to drive us apart."
"That was just fun and games," Suigetsu hissed. "Believe it or not, I never wanted that to actually happen. You and Karin are my team mates, the only two still free, I don't want to lose you too."
Sasuke sighed and pulled his fingers through his hair. "Shit, I'm sorry. I just...everything is going wrong all of a sudden. I don't like it."
"Hey, I get it man, life gives you lemons and shit and you can't throw the little sour bastards back."
Sasuke snorted. "When did you get so wise?"
"I've always been wise, idiot," Suigetsu cackled. "Now, our team mate is missing, aren't we going to do something about it?"
"Yeah," Sasuke agreed. "Yeah, we are."
She was dreaming again, she concluded. It was the only way to explain the disjointed feeling she had from the events that unfolded before her. Karin could feel herself walking, but at the same time it felt like she wasn't. It was difficult to comprehend and she knew she would not be able to explain it if someone ever asked her what it felt like.
Karin glanced down at her cuffed hands. She was a prisoner? She investigated her surroundings. A dark hall, definitely Konoha's prison, but it had subtle differences. Two men were walking beside her, both had a forehead protector on. Neither of them looked pleased.
Was she in Hoshiko's body again? Was this when she was taken to prison for killing...Karin inhaled deeply. It did not make sense. The Hokage in Astra, Hoshiko, whatever her name was, was selected through a challenge and the victor became the next leader. Was that not what Astra had told her? So why had she been imprisoned for killing Ino, instead of made Hokage? It did not make sense. In fact, the whole dimension didn't make sense. Just what sort of horrible place did the woman come from?
"Get in," one of her escorts hissed when they reached a small cell. The other escort unlocked the door and pushed her inside. Karin stumbled and collapsed onto the ground. The two men laughed.
"Have fun rotting in here," one of them jeered. "Did you honestly think you'd get away with murder? I bet you hoped you'd be able to take over as Hokage. Pfft."
Karin whimpered. "I'll have a trial."
"Yeah, you will," the other escort snorted. "But only because Lady Hanabi requested it."
Karin whimpered again.
"Pathetic," the first escort whispered when they closed the door and walked away. His companion laughed in agreement.
Karin felt her body move to sit up and for several hours she stayed like that, completely quiet, her eyes focused on the wall in front of her. Karin had lost count of how long she was like that, but after quite sometime she started sobbing. Eventually the sobbing turned into wails which echoed through the room. Karin once again felt her heart break for Hoshiko, the poor woman had been treated terribly, but that did not mean her actions were justified.
"Why?" Hoshiko asked herself. "Why would she say that?"
Karin had no idea what the woman was talking about, but her voice was so raw, so broken, it saddened her.
"Why?" Hoshiko repeated. "Why, Ino?"
Another few hours passed in silence and Hoshiko remained still in the same position. Karin wondered if this dream would ever stop...and then something powerful swept through her, it felt like an electric shock, but at the same time it felt like fire was engulfing her. She gasped and struggled, grabbing her neck as she tried to breathe. What was happening? Karin could feel Hoshiko's panic and fear so clearly, it became her own. An image flashed before her eyes, too quickly to see what it was, but she did remember seeing something akin to pale blonde and blue.
And then there was the voice. A voice that appeared out of nowhere.
"Dimension," it whispered and then vanished. Karin recognised it. She knew that voice, very well. Ino! It was Ino's voice! But not the cold, hard voice of the Ino that Karin had seen in the previous dream Astra had showed her. No, it was a warm voice, it was Karin's Ino's voice.
Hoshiko's panic rose and she not stood leaning against the wall, trying to fight whatever it was that seemed to be attacking her. She had also recognised the voice, and now she was panicking for a whole different reason. The dead was coming to haunt her! With that thought, Hoshiko collapsed again and her mind dived into darkness.
A/N: No, Kurama and Yoko will not have a romantic relationship - some people have commented on this, some were for it, others were not. It was never my intention for them to be romantically involved, mainly because Kurama is not human and although he is more tolerable of them, even cares for some of them, he still finds a majority of them untrustworthy. And he's a bijuu, he can't just shake off his animalistic nature, even if he is parading around as a human.
As for Shukaku being a monk - that's actually my play on the story of how the people of Suna believed he was a living ghost of a corrupt priest. Shukaku decided to become one for shits and giggles, because I'm sure we have all noticed he has a few loose screws in the head. Or at least, that's how I have come to perceive him.
Hmm...I might reattempt some flashback scenes in the next chapter. I'll see how it goes.