Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

A/N: Big thanks to all those reviewers and followers. Though I can't reply to all of reviews(since I'm both working and studying), I'm deeply appreciated.

BIG thanks to my lovely Beta Vermouth, who'd done all those troublesome corrections for me.


Act Two : Itachi

Chapter 3.

Wearied fingers rose to poke the side of her forehead, her eyes rapidly scanning the clipboard she was holding. She closed her eyes, trying to get rid of the dull throb on her temple..

She really needed to sleep, but she still had much left to do..

"I'll just take a five-minute rest." she announced to the nurses and headed to the lounge.

Once she arrived she took a seat on a chair beside the large window.

It was a cool autumn afternoon. Konoha was beautiful, with multi-colored leaves and the relative tranquility surrounded its inhabitants.

Large, soft brown eyes briefly twinkled with hope, only to be filled with sadness moments later.

She was aware that she was sometimes too sentimental, which had often caused both Kakashi and Minato to berate her for it..

Maybe that's why I can never be the type of girl who suits him.

Feeling even gloomier, she stared up at the once blue sky which was slowly turning crimson

Tears began to be fill her eyes. When she was in that particular sort of mood, the memory of a specific toddler always burst in her mind.

It also happened every time she came across playful, young boys.

Naruto... He may be in their age now...

Ever since the day Danzou had taken Naruto, neither Minato nor Rin had spoken a word about it to each other. Minato was - quite a busy man, what with him being a Hokage; and Rin hadn't dared to talk a word about it. Although frankly, she sometimes felt angry at him for abandoning his son in that way.

Sometimes, it pained her when she saw Namikaze girls together with their parents, the thoughts of the blond babe constantly hounded her. Even though she didn't exactly know about Danzou's ROOT, she was well aware that the boy would be -

"Look, it's Kakashi-san!"

Rin quickly whirled around, the whispers coming from the admiring bordering on sycophantic nurses alerting her of her teammate's presence. Startled brown eyes widened for few seconds, soon to be filled with a sweet joy. "Kakashi-kun!"

"Hey, Rin." The silver-haired ANBU waved a hand at her, while tugging the other hand into his pocket.

Rin gulped. Kakashi didn't seem to be wounded, or sick. Why would he be there, then? Was he there to see someone? Was it a girl?

"Got out of work now?" Lifting his silver eyebrow the ANBU strode inside the lounge, his voice as lazy as usual.

A slow smile lit up Rin's face at the question. Kakashi never tried to start a conversation with her, and therefore that type of question was a very rare occurrence. "Frankly, no. But -"

"Well, sadly, you should be getting out of work right now."

Her brown eyes were filled with confusion. "Huh?"

"Yeah. The perverted Sannin is here, and he wants to meet us after. It's been such a long time, after all."

She jumped down from the chair she'd been sitting on. "Jiraiya-sama is here?"

Kakashi lifted his hand and ruffled his own hair. Silver strands parted wildly between gloved fingers as he took the seat she had just left. "He barged into Sensei's office just a while ago. He did confess that he'd already been in the village since last week, busily peeping at the public bathhouses and just about everywhere young ladies can be found."

Rin tried to force back giggles, but she was already laughing. "Oh, he hasn't changed a bit."

A sudden silence fell.

Noticing an abrupt seriousness that fell upon the ANBU's aura Rin carefully asked. "Kakashi-kun?"

"Hm?" The ANBU responded with a lazy, pensive voice, his visible eye blankly staring at the outside of window.

"Is - is there something wrong?"

The silver eyebrows twitched a little. "What do you mean?"

"I - I mean..." Her face flushed with embarrassment. "You just seem to have something on your mind."

Kakashi sighed. Frankly he really felt tired whenever Rin acted like that, when she kept on studying his countenance and worrying about things she hadn't actually done.

Such actions made him feel guilty again, again and again... And Hatake Kakashi was so sick of feeling guilty.

"I'm just -" He took a deep breath. "I'm just thinking about how the Pervert Sannin will react once he finds out our Sensei's neglecting attitude towards his own children."

Rin blinked at that. A sudden realization hit her head, causing her slender body to tremble as the thrill of fear penetrated her brain. Oh Kami-sama, Jiraiya-sama will notice the flaw in Minami. He'll notice the absence of the Bijuu's power once he examines her. He'll find out... Oh my, is Sensei ready for that?

However, not noticing the horror that had risen on her face, Kakashi continued. "Well, Sensei is guilty. I mean it's wrong to neglect your own children, but in some ways I do understand him." He sighed again. "Now, I'm not sure if Minami-chan is the right vessel for the Bijuu's power. She's - too lively, loud, and fiery - but not strong. She can't even control her own emotions, in my opinion."

Rin could not believe what she was hearing. She'd never heard Kakashi speaking his own views that frankly. And he was talking to her.

She was on cloud nine.

"To be honest, it's not even 're getting all the benefits anyway. He just gave up on training them. And the training... It's Kushina-sama's job actually, her being a former vessel. I don't understand why she hates him so much."

Rin couldn't help but be taken aback. "Hate him? Kushina-sama hates Sensei?"

"You can see it clearly. Sensei's fault is... well, all he wanted was a son. That's all." The ANBU smiled bit sardonically. If one of the Namikaze girls had been a boy instead, things would had been very different. It would had been more fun for Hatake Kakashi too. He could have had spent a lot of time with his sensei's son, training him and playing 'boys' stuff' with him.

No. Kushina-sama doesn't hate her husband. Rin gulped. It's not a hatred. She worshipped him, just like so many other ladies... And she still loves him. She then remembered their wedding day. Kushina had been as beautiful as a goddess, with a happy smile upon her matured face, while Minato had been - well, a lot of women had sobbed on that day.

It's Sensei who's done wrong. He had another relationship, whether a mistake or not, and gave his illegitimate son off to a man like Danzou... I wonder how Kushina-sama will react if she ever finds out..

"What with marriage and children, anyway? Darn, I'll never get married." then yawning Kakashi stood straight. "All right, let's go."

"Sensei has a son." Rin blurted thoughtlessly, busy as she was in her own contemplation and almost forgot the fact that she was with Kakashi. "Even though he's away, they'll have a chance to meet again."

Kakashi turned to her. "What?"

Realizing her blunder, Rin began to flush again.

"I-I… Nothing."

"What do you mean, 'nothing'?" A coal eye narrowed dangerously at her. "You've just said something quite nonsensical to me."

"Nothing, nothing. I was just..." Smiling helplessly Rin took a small step backward, inwardly scolding herself. "I was just - confused and -"

The silver-haired ANBU stepped towards her, his cold onyx eye fixed on her. "You were confused?" His voice had lost of its previous traces of laziness. Instead, it was dry and stern.

Rin gulped again, her hands starting to shake, tears starting to pool in her eyes. I wish… I just wish I hadn't been involved with that matter at all. I want to forget how the baby cried that night, how he slept peacefully in my arms, how he giggled when his father tickled him, and how he screamed when Kyuubi's chakra was sealed into him. How he looked at me for the last time before Danzou-san took him away...

Sadness that had been caused ...

Her hands tensed tightly, painfully gripping, tearing, clawing at each other.

Suddenly, a rough, gloved hand forcefully gripped her wrist. She gasped, then glanced at his eyes, surprised.

"Stop it."

Confused, startled. "Huh?"

"You -" Kakashi's visible eye narrowed again. Unknown to her, his feelings of guilt were shifting into fury. Images flashed through his mind, even the images he had been trying so hard to forget.

White Fang, Obito, Shisui, the Uchihas...

Slowly, the ANBU released her arm. Neither noticed the red finger marks he had left on the fragile wrist."You make me feel miserable," he blurted.

Her jaw fell open, stunned. What?

His eye was shining with a strange light, Rin noticed, as Kakashi stared down at her for a long while before turning away.

"Ka -Kakashi-kun -" Rina was barely able to mumble.

"Let's go." He muttered crossly, striding ahead. "They're waiting."

With teary eyes, Rin followed him, desperate and with an aching heart.

I Know that I don't deserve you, but. please don't tell me that I'm hurting you..

During the past years, Danzou had never spared the wife of Yondaime an ounce of interest.

The woman was from Uzumaki clan, had been a vessel of Kyuubi no Kistune, a fact that Minato had tried very hard to conceal before their marriage. Currently, though, there was no reason to hide it anymore. However, when Danzou had found out even when it was still a major secret, it still hadn't interested him that much._.

The holder of the Bijuu's power was now his man. Although Naruto was still a young boy, the level of his power was growing at a steady pace.

Danzou hadn't been that surprised when Naruto's eyes had turned into an odd. The changed crimson eye was obviously due to the Bijuu's influence.

There's nothing you can do, really. Just let him concentrate on training as much as possible. That's the only way to ease his pain. When he's grown up he'll either be able to control his power or...The power will control him. It depends on the strength of his very own soul. The voice of Shinno seemed to whisper into his ear.

Danzou's lips curled. In any case, the Bijuu was in his hands, so those Namikaze girls did not interest him at all.

But… Why had Kushina asked him to visit her house?

The old man's eyebrows twitched. When the council meeting was over and he proceeded to exit the Hokage's office, he had spotted her there, obviously waiting for someone.

Waiting for him.

What was her purpose?

What did she want from him?

I can pay her a visit later.

Having arrived at his office, Danzou immediately headed to his desk and took a seat, shrugging the thoughts off. He had a lot of things to do. The festival was just days ahead and he had to keep guards out for Kumo spies, and also he needed to monitor Naruto to check whether he was adequately carrying out the mission he had been given.


The old man frowned in sudden annoyance when he noticed a certain kunai placed on his desk.

The only problem with the boy was that he resembled his biological father too much. People like Sarutobi or Jiraiya would immediately be reminded of Minato's early years if they saw him.

Apart from the looks, some of the techniques Naruto had developed were similar to Minato's. It could be regarded as one of those bloodline limits. But did Minato have a bloodline?

Especially the unique space–time jutsu. Minato was quite famous with that technique, and Naruto could already perform a similar jutsu, although the range was shorter. Danzou just couldn't figure out how the hell the boy had managed to develop the jutsu. The difference between the two was that Naruto implemented a seal onto Kunai itself. He then plucked it into any spot he needed to get back.

'I don't know how I did it. I just did it. It was as if I have always known how to..' The boy had pleaded when he'd been interrogated for the jutsu issue.

Danzou rubbed his chin. The jutsu was useful, that was true - until someone noticed the resemblance between the two.


When he'd taken Naruto ten years ago he hadn't expected that kind of problem: the resemblance between the father and the son.


Even though ten years had passed, Danzou still hadn't realized that not an hour was passing for him without thinking of Naruto.

Her heart was bumping wildly with excitement. She had never felt so excited. She had never felt the urge to laugh as boisterously as she did at that moment. Yes, she was smiling so uncharacteristically much that her mother had come to ask whether she had been praised by her father.

It's not because of such a trifle thing, she wanted to say.

Thinking of only one thing, she finished her shower and put on yutaka, her pupil-less white eyes dreamy in reminiscence.


"Tell me why you're so miserable," the boy said to her softly. His spiky hair was as golden as sunlight and his eyes were red and blue, which made him have a rather dangerous aura despite his prim and calm face.

She gathered her knees within her arms and sniffled. This guy had stopped her from jumping down and breaking into pieces.

The boy sat beside her, perked on the railing, and then stared at her. "You're a heiress of Hyuuga Clan, aren't you?"

"Ye-Yes." Then, possessed by a sudden thought, she abruptly clung onto him. "Pl-please don't tell my father about it. He-he'lll be so disappointed and -"

The boy blinked. Slowly, he held the wrists that were grabbing his sleeves hard. "Don't worry. So are you going to tell me why you tried to kill yourself?"

She blushed as she felt his fingers around her wrists, and sniffled again. She was beyond miserable, for there was no-one she that would lend her an understanding ear and listen to her pain.

Not her family, not her classmates, not her servants... She felt so lonely.

But this guy…

"Oh, I forgot to introduce myself." The boy curled his lips. The smile was cold and clipped, almost derisive. However, it was strangely attractive. "I'm a secret ANBU of Yondaime-sama."

Hinata's eyes widened in amazement. "You- you're an ANBU?"

The boy who looked only around thirteen nodded. "Yes. And you know, I'm ten, just like you. It's good to meet someone my age. It's fun."


Hinata looked down at her hands, held them together and then clawed them.

Silence momentarily fell upon them, and she slid her gaze to look at him once again. He's so pretty, she thought as she stared at his thoughtful profile against the twilight. He's even prettier than Sasuke.

"You don't have to kill yourself," he suddenly muttered.


"You don't have to kill yourself if you want to die so badly." Strange red and blue eyes gazed at her, compassion in them. "You'll die soon, of natural causes."

Startled and horrified white eyes stared up at him. "Wha-what?"

"All you have to do is to wait, if you want to die so badly."

"W-wait. Why will I die?"

"Because you're once again being targeted by Kumo ninja." The blond smiled again that derisive, attractive smile.

Hinata's mouth dropped in pure horror. "B-but – they have already taken my uncle's body -!"

"His Byakugan was useless upon his death. The leaders of Kumo are seeking revenge." He squeezed her hand with his own large one as if to comfort her. "That's why I'm here. I'm here to request you protect yourself."

Her eyes were teary with fear, the Hyuuga heiress gulped. "How?"

"Don't tell anyone yet," he ordered. "There's a spy among your midst. We don't know who the culprit is, so be silent and act as usual."

"O- OK." She nodded like a good girl replying to her older brother. "And?"

"Always keep this one with you." Nonchalantly the blond pulled out a kunai from his chest and handed it to her.

Hinata blinked. The kunai looked like an ordinary one, but was made of silver and had a symbol of Kumo engraved into its shaft. "Kumo kunai?"

Sparkling red eyes shone.

"Anyone around you with same kind of kunai is the culprit."


She placed her palms on her reddened cheeks. Strangely, she wasn't afraid anymore. She was thinking of the blond instead, and she couldn't stop the blush.

His eyes were like jewels and his hair was as magnificent as real gold.

'Will I see you again?' she had asked.

'Soon.' The blond had smiled at her before vanishing away.

Why didn't I ask his name at least? Feeling a strong impulse to slap herself, Hinata buried her face in her pillow.










It was only then they realized they were in the presence of a woman, and Jiraiya let out a laugh that resembled that of a mating elephant's, then let go of poor Uchiha ANBU's shoulder.

Minato rested his arm against the wall and began to chuckle as well.

Only Rin and Itachi kept quite embarrassed looks, both of their faces flushed like tomatoes at the perverted jokes coming from the perverted Sannin.

"My-my apologies" Minato could barely utter his apologies at the Uchiha ANBU, laughing as he still was.

Itachi blushed again. "It-it's OK, Hokage-sama."



Watching the two men laughing helplessly Hatake Kakashi smiled. He hadn't seen Minato-sensei laughing so cheerfully in the past ten years.

"And you, you've become prettier." The perverted Sannin gleefully rubbed his hands together while his gaze was fixed on Rin.

Rin blushed madly, and when she noticed Kakashi's staring, she began to fume.

"Have you met Kushina-sama already?" Kakashi then asked the Sannin.

"Of course, I met your girls too, Mina-kun!" Jiraiya laughed again, pointing a finger at the Hokage. "I've seen all of them! SO ADORABLE, ALL OF THEM, I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING THEM WHEN THEY HIT PUBERTY -"

The Yondaime's sapphire eyes suddenly widened. "Sensei, ARE YOU TELLING ME THAT YOU'RE PERVYING ON MY DAUGHTERS?""



"So he's the one who wrote the strange orange book you are always reading?" Itachi asked Kakashi.

Kakashi could only chuckle in response.


"Eh… Jiraiya-sama, I guess you're talking about my sensei, but he's been in this village for all these years and has never left."


"Your book's fan, not your fan." The silver-haired ANBU yawned.

Then Minato, who'd finally found some control over his laughter, rubbed his face with one of his hands, and cleared his throat. "OK, I'm up for a drink."

"Yo." Kakashi thumbed up. "Sake battle once again?"

Minato grinned."So you do remember."

"Of course. You two were quite fantastic. At least to me, since I was only twelve back then."

"This time you'll join, too."

"Without bet?"

"What! You wanna bet?"


So far away.

They feel all so far away...

Of course, you can never be one of them, son of the traitor.

Itachi literally flinched when Jiraya suddenly turned and grabbed his hand, holding it between his own rough and large yet warm hands.

"It was good to see you, boy." The Sannin grinned heartily. "I knew your father. I feel sorry for your loss."

Startled grey eyes shook for a moment, staring back at the gently smiling Sannin.

He lowered his gaze, downcast. "Thank you."



"ALL RIGHT, MINA AND KAKA, I'LL SEE YA TONIGHT AT NINE FOR SAKE BATTLE! YEHEHEHEHE! AND YOU TWO, COME WITH ME!" Laughing like a lunatic, the perverted Sannin then walked out of the office, his arms over Itachi and Rin's shoulders, literally dragging the two away with him.

Minato went to sit in front of his desk, still giggling. "Man, he hasn't changed a bit."

"Yeah. and upon seeing him," Kakashi winked at his sensei. "I suddenly miss Tsunade-sama."

"What! Are you sure?"


"Tell me, my dear boy." Folding his hands together and his eyes twinkling playfully, the Yondaime asked. "Why are you suddenly being suicidal?"

Kakashi blinked, chuckled a little, and then grabbed a chair and sat in front of him. The chuckle soon subsided as his eye started to glaze with something like a bitter smile.

Minato tilted his head at this. "Eh? Is there really something on your mind?"


"What is it? Tell me about your troubles. But don't tell me it's something like you've actually fallen in love with the Slug Princess."

Kakashi chuckled again. Sometimes, the Hokage seemed like a young boy. "Sensei, I'd rather die than be hugged by the horrible lady."

"Hmm, I'm relieved. But then what's your problem?"

"Actually, it's about Rin." Ruffling his silver hair, Kakashi sighed.

Minato blinked, then a smile spread upon his face. "Oh? And how so?"

"You know that she – well, that she has fancied me for quite some time, right?"

"Of course. That's why Obito always tried to pick a fight with you."

The two chuckled together at those old memories.

"Well, she's..." The ANBU continued, staring up at the wooden ceiling rather thoughtfully. "She - she still idolizes me. Do you understand, Sensei? I know very well that her happiness depends on me, but I can't give her what she wants." He sighed again. "I'm a bastard. I know it. I tried to abandon her, and Obito died because of that. He made me promise to protect Rin, and here I am, feeling so uncomfortable every time I'm with her."

The Yondaime's deep blue eyes shone at his student. "You know, Kakashi-kun, I can understand how it is."

"You do?"

"Yeah. You get a shitty deal when someone idolizes you - even if it may come from your own family." The blond smiled. "Fans only see their ideal figure in you and expect you to act as they wish. It's different with love or adoring. Once you disappoint them, they'll start hating you. Sometimes, they lower themselves to carrying out really silly things in order to catch your attention."

Kakashi rubbed his masked chin. "Man, she's already in that state."


"Yeah, she started blurting nonsense and some other absurd things to me. Do you know what she actually said a while ago when I went to pick her up?"

"Eh, no. What happened?"

"We happened to be talking about your family..." The ANBU rolled his eye a bit nervously as the Hokage's golden eyebrows began to twitch. "Ahem, we were talking about your daughters, and that should have been the end of it. But she suddenly started talking about something that sounded like - you have a son."

The Hokage blinked. In a moment, thoughts cascaded through his mind like a raging waterfall. The effect of the words on him was electric. It was as if he'd forgotten how to breathe, as if his very blood had run cold. Slowly, he blinked again. And the fire… The raging fire flamed in his blue eyes.

However, Kakashi was still staring at the ceiling, and did not notice the sadistic rage that began to burn in the blonde's eyes.

"I dunno, it was as if she were trying to say that you have a son – behaving like your subordinates," The ANBU continued, totally unaware of the effect his words were having on his sensei. "But she made the sentence very absurd and twisted. It nearly sounded like you have a hidden child." He then giggled once again. "I've never heard her speaking in a such weird way before. I'm getting bit worried, if she -" "

"Maybe she's too tired nowadays," the Hokage spoke mildly, his once burning sapphire eyes now ice cold. "And also, she might have been trying to get your attention by speaking in an abnormal way, to look stressed or whatever."

"You think so, too?"

"Yeah. It's obvious." The Yondaime grinned widely. "Maybe you should be kinder to her?"


"Tell me frankly, Kakashi. Are you sure that Rin isn't your type?"

"I wonder if there would be any girl…" Then the ANBU suddenly made an evil eye-smirk at his teacher. "Well, I think I can wait until your daughters grow."

"Huh. Mind saying that again?"

"Jo-joke! I was just joking! I'll see you later!" A wave from a gloved hand, a wink, and Hatake Kakashi vanished.

The Yondaime stretched his long arms and opened his drawer. A vein throbbed in his forehead as his smile slowly vanished, a cold frown taking its place instead.

He found them in the drawer. Sandaime had loved smoking from his pipe, but Yondaime never liked the pipe.

He held the end of cigar with his lips and then lit it with a match. He avoided smoking in public, but he liked to burn two or three cigars when he was alone.

Amongst the white smoke, his cold blue eyes shone, A thousand thoughts and burning rage flooded his mind.

That damn nausea again.

Now it was almost like a congenital disease.

He needed to get back to training at once.


Breathing heavily, the blonde finally stopped throwing up and then wiped his mouth, his palm against a wall, he leaned on it to catch his breath.

His head felt strangely light. He stared at the view with blank eyes. All the buildings and the streets were glowing crimson at twilight - but they weren't as red as his right eye.

People were everywhere. The village festival was just days ahead, all the shops and stores were blooming with smiling people and their families, friends and lovers.

Naruto never understood the act of smiling. He was through with 'smile practice' which every rookie ROOT member had to undergo, so he knew how to move his facial muscles in order to smile - but he couldn't understand it.

Although, he did remember that Shin had always smiled.

He closed his eyes for a while. He never liked it when he was reminded of Shin. He'd been steadily forgetting the idiot; however, now the image of the grinning fool was pestering him again.

It was all because of Uchiha Itachi.

He'll be finished soon. Anyone who'd been caught in Danzou's radar had never lasted long. The Uchiha would have miserable end, too.

Naruto's plan seemed to be going well. The Hyuuga heiress had seemed to be utterly enamored with him. It wasn't surprising though, since he already had experience with that kind of girls – and even adult women during some missions. Most of them had been willing to strike a deal with him.

Although Naruto always felt strangely uncomfortable every time he had to deal with them.

Their scents, their cheerful giggles, blushes, and those beaming eyes made him feel so uncomfortable. He couldn't understand why, he just felt so.

Maybe because he wasn't used to girls? After all, ROOT did not have a single kunoichi among its hundred members.

Or maybe it could be because of the Uchiha.

Every time he faced a girl, he was reminded of screams that still echoed in his ears, the screams from the dead Uchiha girls that had been slaughtered by him four years ago.

He was well aware that it could be the one weak spot that could prove to be fatal, but he just couldn't stop feeling... bothered by them.

He felt nothing at the boys' screams. But the girls' screams were strangely unbearable, for him.

Fortunately until now, none of the ROOT comrades knew of the admired blonde's secret trauma.



The blonde whirled around, only to face a girl with pony-tailed blond hair who was staring at him with twinkling eyes.

"What?" Naruto muttered bluntly.

The girl's eyes twinkled again. "I just saw you dry-heaving Are you OK? Do you need help?"

Naruto gulped, suddenly alarmed. He knew that look. He knew those twinkles.

It would be troublesome.

"Gimme a second, OK?" The girl then turned, ran to the opposite side of the street where five or six other girls were hanging around. She then whispered something to them. Soon, they all turned their colorful heads and looked at him.

They all burst into screams.


"Look at his eyes! He's so pretty, fantastic!"

"Who is he?"

Naruto gulped again, starting to feel insecure as he watched the girls swarming toward him, all of their eyes twinkling.

Cold sweat emanated from his forehead. Almost instinctively, he took a small step backwards.

They were scary.

So Naruto, the ROOT shinobi, the favorite of Danzou and also the center of admiration among his comrades, turned on his heels and began to run away.

It was almost midnight as they made their way through Konoha's dark, silent forest. The nightly wind was their only companion, gliding beside them silently, rustling the leaves. Some windows still glowed,, but little by little, even those were extinguished.

The cool wind helped her ease her headache. Humming, she brushed her red hair, tightly holding Aika's hand in one of her own.

"Kaa-san, is this moonflower?" Kazumi voiced a few meters away, inspecting blossoms on the forest ground.

Kushina smiled. It was a beautiful night. The wind was cool, the sky was starry, and most of all, Jiraiya was in the village.

At last.

Once the Sannin inspected Minami, she'd know what was wrong with her eldest.

And then, once Danzou visited her...

"Kaa-san, isn't she Uchiha-san?" Aika shook her arm gently, pointing her tiny finger at three certain figures that were coming out from the deepest part of the forest.

Kushina blinked. It took her no time to recognize the two Uchiha women, Mikoto and Kiyu, and then another figure, which was obviously an Uchiha ANBU.

It seemed like the Uchihas had recognized them as well.

"Kushina-chan." It was Mikoto who approached them first, her face flushed by cool night wind and her arms holding a basket full of chestnuts.

"Kushina-sama." Kiyu bowed at her politely.

Kushina threw a glance at the Uchiha ANBU. The boy gave her a polite bow and kept silence, his grey eyes mysteriously thoughtful as usual.

"Hey." Kushina looked back at Mikoto and smiled, feeling her own facial muscles tightening. "You were gathering chestnuts there?"

"Yes. There are plenty, and it's actually more fun than it seems." Mikoto giggled then. Her dark eyes shone brightly as she smiled, causing her to look almost half her age.

'I know that I shouldn't say something like this, so please just ignore it. I just can't help but feel that Mikoto-san has something for your husband.' The careful advice from Hyuuga Hikari rang up in the redhead's mind once again.

At first, Kushina had just waved it off, regarding it as absolute nonsense. However, as she had kept musing over those words, she had slowly become suspicious, especially considering that Minato treated the Uchiha brothers with absolute favoritism.

Rage boiled inside of her.

How dare she? Even when they had been in their teens, Minato had never given the Uchiha girl the smallest it of interest. Although to be fair, Mikoto had always been with Fugaku, just like Kushina had always been with Minato. Girls like Uchiha Mikoto or even Hyuuga Hikari weren't Minato's type, even though they were also well-known beauties. The blonde preferred more 'luxurious' type: girls like fully-bloomed roses, with vivid hair colors and exotic looks.

And that's me. Kushina bit her lip hard. Or had she been wrong about it all along?

"Come on, Aika." Kazumi grabbed her blond sister's hand and moved away from them, heading in the direction of Namikaze mansion.

Watching the two little girls' figures moving away, Kushina nervously smiled at the Uchiha.

"You should be careful," she spoke again, getting their attention. "My husband told me there's a warning against Kumo spies nowadays. Going into deepest part of forest at this time is dangerous."

Mikoto smiled again in response, and then turned to gaze at Itachi, her eyes filled with the tender love of mother.

"It's OK. My son will protect me."

What are you going to do if your son is torn to shreds? Kushina couldn't help it and burst into hysterical laughter.

Dark eyes stared at the red-haired woman in curiosity.

"What is so funny, Kushina-chan?" Mikoto asked without any venom in her voice.

"You'll know it," Kushina replied, giggling like a little girl. "You'll know it soon, dear."

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