Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or Pokémon. If I did, I'd have a lot of money…but I don't. So don't bother suing, you won't get anything out of it.
Notes: (Crossover, could be a crack!fic if you want) Here there be Naruto characters and Pokémon monsters! This is a story which takes place around the end of the events of "Let's Go Safari!" and beyond.
Read, review, and enjoy!
Caught in the Whirlpool
"You want me to go…where?" Kushina asked sharply as she glanced up from the notes that she was copying.
"I would like you to go help Professor Utatane at her lab outside of Uzu Town in the Land of Whirlpools," Professor Sarutobi repeated calmly. "One of her assistants is off on his month-long honeymoon and the other recently broke his leg. Koharu tells me that there's something odd going on in her area and she needs someone able-bodied, trustworthy, and good with pokémon to help her. You'll get double-pay for your trouble."
"Why me?" Kushina demanded. "Why not send Iruka or Ebisu?"
"You are familiar with the area and the local culture," Hiruzen replied.
"Uzu no Kuni is a patriarchal sort of place so men automatically get more respect there than women," she argued.
"Professor Utatane is a woman and she does alright out there," the old man chuckled.
"When I was a little girl, all the kids I knew were sure that she was some sort of witchy mad scientist," Kushina snorted.
"From what Koharu tells me, the Uzumaki clan is one of the oldest families and consequently has a great deal of respect. You can serve Professor Utatane better than some unknown foreign man," Hiruzen responded.
"That might be true…if I'd been born a boy," Kushina grumbled sourly.
"If you go, you'll have the opportunity to see your family again," the old professor pointed out. "I know that you have issues with them, but the last time you had any real interactions with them was when you were a young girl. Time has passed and you're a woman now. Perhaps you'll have a chance to reconcile and have a positive relationship."
"I don't think so," the red-head scoffed and bent back to working on the notes.
"You won't know unless you try," the professor shrugged. "Think it over."
"Yeah, yeah," Kushina grumbled as the old man left. Stupid old man being all smart and logical and making all kinds of sense…
Kenjiro Uzumaki paced around the central battling pool at the heart of his gym. The land that the building was located on—the tiny chunk of rock just off shore of the main island of Uzu no Kuni too tiny to bear any name of its own—had been held by his family for as long as anyone could remember. It was the oldest of the four gyms in the Land of Whirlpool's league and had always been regarded as the most difficult.
And it was also the most ornately decorated. The other three gyms were simple buildings made of steel and concrete, or wood and stone, with minimal decoration that hinted at the leader's particular specialization. The Uzumaki gym had been wood once, too, but a fire had burned it down to the foundations about a hundred years ago, and the gym leader of the day had rebuilt it in grand style. Now it was a structure of carved stone, concrete pillars, and tall windows with the interior walls covered in murals and mosaics formed by tiny colored tiles.
What a waste of money, he mentally sighed.
The roof leaked in a dozen different places now and one of the smaller secondary battle pools was so badly cracked that it wouldn't hold water. All of the murals had tiles missing; some were so damaged it was difficult to make out the details of the image. And one of the huge windows had been completely shattered and had yet to be replaced.
In the past such problems had been quickly and easily repaired. Insurance covered most of the cost and the clan's fund always was able to cover the rest. But times were different now—the clan was smaller and all but broke, and the insurance company had dropped them when they couldn't pay their premiums. With no money, nothing got fixed, and more things broke.
His clan, much like his gym, was a shadow of its former glory. Fewer children had been born over the generations and more of those children had grown up to die childless. Of his two brothers one had died as a teenager in an accident and the other had been killed trying to rescue a sinking ship's crew during a terrible storm after having a single daughter. And of his large clutch of children, only his eldest son had married and fathered a child. His other three sons showed no desire to marry or have children or pursue any ambition at all. And of his daughter…
Kenjiro shook his head and paused by one of the largest murals, which depicted the fabled mysterious founder of his bloodline along with the monsters which had made him legendary in his time. His name and most other details about his life had long been lost to time so the image of the man himself was vague, with his face turned away. The old gym leader brushed his fingertips over the red tiles that formed part of the gyarados and sighed as he tried to pull his thoughts out of the old grooves worn by comparing the glorious past to the increasingly bleak present.
With fewer Uzumaki around, the clan as a whole brought in less money. Since his younger brother's death he'd been saddled with supporting his sister-in-law, Asuka, and his niece, Akane, who had yet to marry and move out. Kenshin was stuck paying alimony to his ex-wife, Suzume, since she hadn't remarried. And Arashi's current problem kept him deep in debt and was threatening to draw the whole family in after him.
If we can't find a good infusion of cash soon, we might have to start holding all gym matches outside in the ocean to keep this place from falling apart…
"Dad?" Kenshin's voice echoed through the vast main chamber. "Another call from some mainland folks that want to set up a televised exhibition match."
Kenjiro let a brief bitter smile twist his lips before smoothing the expression away and approaching his eldest child. Of all his offspring, Kenshin was the only one that was really going anywhere. The boy—man, now—had (briefly) married, had a son, and sometime soon would fully take over the gym as its leader. He often wondered what he'd done right with Kenshin that he'd done wrong with all of his other children.
"What did you tell them?" Kenjiro asked.
"That we would consider it and get back to them," Kenshin answered promptly. "I know that you've never accepted an offer like that before, but…it could attract foreign trainers, foreign businesses, tourists, and their money."
Their land was a proud and stubborn one. They didn't much care to attract tourists or outsiders of any kind. All they wanted was a market for their fish, quarried stone, and other goods, and people to sell them what they couldn't produce on their own.
And being a proud and stubborn man, Kenjiro had never once even considered accepting a deal to have a staged match between himself and some other nations' hotshot trainers, televised or not. Pokémon battles were between two trainers and their pokémon to prove which man was better. It was not some show for a TV audience to ogle. The money that he'd been offered to do it had almost been an insult instead of an inducement.
"…Haggle up the price if you can, but tell them yes," Kenjiro sighed.
Kenshin started in surprise. "Dad?"
"You heard me." Kenjiro wearily shook his head. "We're no good at investing and since money doesn't grow on trees we need to get it from somewhere."
"…I'll go back home and call them back, then," Kenshin said once he recovered his composure. He started to leave, but hesitated. "Aunt Asuka's made some long-distance phone calls and it's driving the bill up."
"I'll talk to her after dinner tonight," Kenjiro promised with a slight grimace. "If she doesn't have a damn good reason for the calls, I'll get her to stop."
"Thanks, Dad." Kenshin smiled in relief and left.
What did my brother ever see in that woman? he wondered for the thousandth time. And why the hell did he have to die and leave me stuck with her?
He left the founder's mural and walked around to the other side of the pool where the legendary Mito Uzumaki's mural was set into the wall. Even though the tiles made it impossible for there to be tiny details like patterns on cloth in the image, she was clearly wearing an intricate kimono and her red hair was elaborately styled and ornamented. Her pokémon posed fiercely in a protective circle around her and looked anything but docile, like a woman's pokémon were supposed to be.
"I'm gonna be just like her when I grow up, Daddy… No, no, I'm going to be better! And I'll never wear a stupid dress, neither!"
Kenjiro sighed and headed for the back office to check over the books before heading home for dinner and an argument with his sister-in-law.
The night was inky black as a large rowboat slipped through the waves to a small fishing trawler anchored just off shore. When the rowboat reached the trawler, one of the rowers banged his oar against the metal hull several times in a particular pattern. Ropes dropped over the fishing boat's side to hold the rowboat steady while several crates were lowered down to the small wooden vessel.
To avoid drawing attention to their activities, the transfer was done in darkness with instructions exchanged in loud whispers. The operation was running smoothly until it was time for the very last crate. A rope that had been rubbing against some hidden jagged edge frayed and snapped, dropping the wooden box at an awkward angle and almost crushing one of the men in the rowboat.
"Damn it!" someone cursed harshly. "That almost punched through the bottom!"
"What a cheap crate…one whole side looks like it splintered," another muttered.
"Somebody get a flashlight!" a third commanded.
A dim flashlight was clicked on and the illumination that it provided revealed the extent of the damage. The busted crate was deformed and several planks had splintered. And worst of all, a viscous fluid was leaking from all of the cracks in the container—a clear indication that the goods inside were ruined.
"Shit," a man grumbled. "…We'll toss it over the side when we're halfway back to shore. The current will carry whatever doesn't sink miles away."
The others agreed and hurriedly secured the cargo that was undamaged so that it didn't shift. With that done, they untied their ship from the trawler, attaching a money bag to one of the securing ropes to pay the other boat for their services. And then the rowboat cast off and paddled back to the dark shore, pausing only to offload the defective crate.
The illicit exchange had taken a little more than a half an hour, and no one witnessed a thing.
The next morning, Kushina stalked into Professor Sarutobi's office with a hefty duffel bag slung over her shoulder and a sour look on her face.
"Alright, you win, I'll go," she growled.
The old man's arguments had chased their way through her head all night. She still didn't like it, but she couldn't deny that he'd made some very good points. And so she'd caved.
"I'm glad to hear that," Professor Sarutobi smiled and Kushina had a strong suspicion that he'd predicted her change of heart from the very beginning. "I'll make sure that your property is taken care of while you're away."
"Thanks," Kushina sighed glumly.
"It's no trouble at all," the old man assured her cheerfully. "I hope that you have a good trip."
"Me, too," she grumbled as she left. But somehow, I doubt it…