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 one-shot which takes place between "Rain Brings Rainbows" and "A Wild Tomboy Appeared!".
Read, review, and enjoy!
A Fateful Encounter
Kushina's first impression of Senju City was that it was big. The downtown area had several skyscrapers and there were at least three Pokémon Centers that she'd found on the map. People crowded the sidewalks and trucks and taxis rumbled along the streets. There were more stores, restaurants, and gambling halls than she'd ever seen in her life and everything seemed made of shining steel, glass, and flashing lights.
This place is way bigger than Spiral City…
Shaking off her apprehension, she tucked herself just inside of an alley mouth so that she was out of the flow of pedestrians and studied the map she'd picked up from the train station. Weeks of zigzagging away from the Land of Whirlpools had led to her to this city in the Land of Fire and she'd decided that this place was where she was going to win her first badge. Now all she had to do was find the gym on the map so that she could get to challenging the gym leader.
Where is it…where is it… What's this big green splotch in the middle? The Senju Forest Preserve? Huh, maybe I'll visit it later—
"Are you lost, young man?"
Kushina ignored the question until a walking stick tapped her ankle.
"Are you hard of hearing?"
She looked up from her confusing map with a scowl to find an old woman looking at her. The old lady was very elderly-looking with a wrinkled face and silver hair half-up in two buns, half-loose down her slightly bent back. She wore a very simple kimono, leaned on a gnarled wooden staff, and she either had a diamond tattoo on her forehead or it was painted on with make-up.
"I'm a girl," Kushina informed her with a glare.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" the old woman blinked and leaned in closer to get a better look at her. "So you are. With how short your hair is and the clothes that you're wearing I thought that you were a boy! If you don't like long hair maybe you should wear a hair clip, it'll also keep your bangs out of your eyes and no one will mistake you for a boy."
"No thanks," Kushina frowned.
"Well, young lady, are you lost?" the old woman asked. "I might be able to give you directions."
"I'm looking for Senju City's gym," Kushina said. "But this stupid map is complicated and confusing!"
The old lady cocked her head. "You've come to challenge Tsunade-chan?"
"Tsunade-chan?" Kushina repeated. "That's the gym leader's name?" Anyone who wants to be called -chan is a sissy. This'll be an easy fight!
"What pokémon do you have?" the old woman inquired.
"A totodile, a kabuto, and a magikarp," Kushina replied.
"Oh dear," the old woman frowned. "Just those three?"
Kushina lifted her chin defiantly. "Yeah, so?"
"Perhaps you should come back later," the old lady suggested. "Tsunade-chan isn't the best at going easy on the greenest of trainers."
"No, I'm taking her on now!" Kushina insisted, stomping her foot.
"Alright, no need to shout," the old woman sighed and shook her head. "If you're sure that's what you want to do, you need to follow this street to—"
A sudden clap of thunder interrupted her. The overcast sky was rapidly turning black, a clear sign that heavy rain was imminent. Kushina glowered sourly at the incoming bad weather.
"Ah, so the weatherman was right after all," the old woman remarked. "Well, I suppose that you can continue on to the gym, but it's more than a half hour away so you'll definitely get rained on… Or, if you don't mind keeping a poor old woman like me company you can come to my apartment, which is much closer than the gym, and have some tea. And if you mind your manners I might tell you a thing or two about the gym leader."
Kushina took a minute to chew this offer over. Skill and luck were important factors in winning a pokémon battle, but so was good information. If she could find out weak points in the gym leader's pokémon collection or general battle strategy, it would make her battle a cakewalk.
She bowed to the elderly woman and groped for her manners. "I…would be…honored if I could join you for tea, missus…"
"Call me Mito," the old lady beamed. "But let's save the proper introductions for when we get inside. If we don't hurry, we'll get rained on!"
Old Mito's apartment was small but homey. It smelled of old incense and tea and was traditionally furnished with low-set tables that people had to sit on the floor or on pillows to be level with the top. Kushina struggled mightily not to fidget as she knelt by the table and listened to the pattering of rain on the window while the old woman brewed up a pot of tea.
The teapot let out a shrill whistle and then was silenced. And a few minutes later Mito limped out of the kitchen with a steaming tea pot, two cups, and a tray of cookies. An elderly espeon, stiff with arthritis, hobbled in after her and slowly settled down by the table where it watched Kushina with sleepy, half-blind eyes.
"Here we go," Mito said as she sat down and poured the tea into the cups. "Now do you mind telling me why you're so far from home, Miss Uzumaki?"
Kushina flinched so badly that she almost spilled her tea. "How do you know that I'm an Uzumaki?"
"I suspected you since you claimed to have a kabuto and don't look rich enough to have had one revived from a fossil or bred from a revived specimen. I suppose that you could've stolen it, but you don't strike me as a thief good enough to snatch one. That means that you must've gotten one through some other means…" Mito sipped at her tea and smiled. "Also, I'm quite familiar with that particular shade of red hair."
The tomboy eyed the old woman with suspicion. "Who are you?"
"I am Mito Senju," she replied. "And may I have the pleasure of your name, dear?"
"…Kushina Uzumaki," the girl answered.
"That's a pretty name," Mito smiled.
"Thanks," Kushina muttered warily. I think…
Mito offered a cookie to her old espeon. "Why are you so eager to battle Tsunade-chan?"
"This seems like a big, important gym," Kushina said. "I want to make my first challenge to be an impressive one."
"So this is your first gym challenge ever?" Mito frowned slightly. "You haven't tried to take on any of Whirlpool Country's gyms?"
"If you know anything about Uzu no Kuni, you'd know that if I tried the gym leaders would laugh their heads off at me and then send me home to play with my dolls," Kushina growled, squeezing her teacup with a death-grip.
"Well you could've tried persistence," Mito suggested. "If you badger them enough they'll eventually give in and give you a chance if only to get rid of you."
"I'm done with the Land of Whirlpools!" Kushina declared. "I'm never going back there, I'm making my way here! Or someplace else. Anywhere but Uzu no Kuni!"
"…Alright," Mito nodded. "You're still determined to take my granddaughter on?"
"Yep," Kushina said, and then blinked. "Your granddaughter?"
"Yes, Tsunade Senju is my granddaughter," the old woman smiled. "She took over Senju City's gym a few years ago after getting some training from the current national champion, Hiruzen Sarutobi. Her grandfather, my later husband, and her great uncle, my late brother-in-law, also managed the gym before seeking the league championship—Hashirama-kun earned it first and Tobirama sought it after his brother's tragic death."
"…Wow," Kushina muttered. Okay, maybe this Tsunade's not really a push-over.
"My advice to you would be to face her once you've earned a few badges," Mito told her. "Trainers with moderate to extensive experience have the best chance of getting a Leaf Badge from her."
Kushina gave a slow nod and worked on drinking her tea and eating cookies while she thought. Maybe challenging Tsunade right now was a premature move. She had plenty of time to build up the power needed to take down this woman gym leader (a woman gym leader, how cool was that?) and there were surely plenty of other gyms to choose from. With how big and populated the Land of Fire was, there were probably more than double the number of gyms that were available back home.
But then, just as she finished her cup of tea, something sparked in her brain.
"I have an ancestor named Mito…"
"I know," the old woman chuckled. "I was named after her."
"Really?" The tomboy squinted at her. "You're…an Uzumaki? All the way out here?"
"I was an Uzumaki before I married," Mito replied. "This city was my husband's home and the ancestral home of his entire clan, so when I accepted his proposal I moved here with him." She shook her head sadly. "My family wasn't too happy about that. When I left—when I defied my parents wishes to be with Hashirama-kun—it was made clear to me that I was no longer welcome."
In that moment, Kushina decided that she liked this old lady. Not only was she named after Kushina's favorite ancestor, she was a kindred spirit of sorts. Mito's family back in Uzu no Kuni was the enemy, just like Kushina's.
"Who cares what they think," the girl sniffed. "You don't need them!"
"True, but I miss talking with them," Mito sighed and traced a finger along the rim of her teacup. "I miss knowing how they're doing and what they're up to. I wish I knew what became of little nieces, nephews, and baby cousins. Like my favorite nephew, adorable little Kenjiro, what did he grow up to be?"
Is she talking about Daddy? Kushina wondered as she wrinkled her nose, unable to fathom her father as 'adorable' or 'little'.
"I wish that things had turned out differently, but I don't regret my decision," the old woman said sadly.
"They disowned you because you married the guy that you wanted?" Kushina scowled. "What a bunch of jerks!"
"They saw Hashirama-kun as a dreamer that would never accomplish much, and they knew that if I married him I would be moving far, far away," Mito replied. "They felt that he was a bad match for me and leaving with him would be a betrayal—that I had chosen him over the rest of the family and the clan."
"That's just dumb!" the girl declared. "If they couldn't handle your decision, that's their own fault. Just like my brothers are dumb for thinking that I can't do anything important because I'm a girl, or Aunt Asuka and Akane treating me like a freak because I don't like prancing around in stupid dresses like an empty-headed—"
A wizened but gentle hand touched her wrist and choked her off mid-sentence.
"You should not be so angry," Mito said softly, her gaze full of compassion and understanding. "If you don't let it go, it will fester inside of you and you will never be happy."
Kushina was left speechless by the old woman's words and kindness. It was so very different from the way that she was used to being treated by Aunt Asuka. There was no coldness, no criticism, no dismissive looks, only warmth and gentleness. The girl dropped her eyes to the tabletop and shifted uncomfortably, unsure of how to respond.
"What have you left home to do, Kushina-chan?" Mito asked.
"I…want to prove myself," she mumbled. "They all said that I can't be a trainer and go on a real journey because I was a girl. They all said that I should do Contests if I really wanted to have pokémon of my own, because that's what girls do. I can't have a gyarados because I'm a girl, I should train a dumb milotic instead because that's what I'm supposed to do. I'm going to get badges from pokémon gyms—more badges than anyone back home—and I'm going to travel and I'm going to be great! I'm going to be just as great as Mito-sama—I'm going to be better!"
"Admirable goals," the old woman said. "I hope that you achieve them. But do it because it makes you happy. Have fun. Make friends. Enjoy this journey that you've embarked on."
"Okay," Kushina muttered, tracing endless patterns on the table with her index finger. Maybe I'll slow down a little…and make some friends while I'm out here.
"Families don't always get along. Even though you have differences of opinion I'm sure that your brothers and relatives love you." Mito patted the back of her hand. "I hope that someday you can reconcile with them and not end up like me."
Kushina kept her head down, but rolled her eyes. They don't love me…
Mito broke off abruptly as a coughing fit wracked her frail frame and she raised a wide sleeve to cover her mouth.
"Hey…" Kushina anxiously chewed at her lower lip. "Are you okay?"
"Yes," Mito wheezed as the coughing finally subsided and she rubbed at her chest. "Just a side effect of being old." She managed a wry grin. "And I am very old." The old woman poured herself a fresh cup of tea and sipped at it for a moment. "Eifie," she said to the espeon, "could you bring me my jewelry box?"
The elderly pokémon's foggy eyes glowed blue and a wooden box, like a tiny treasure chest, floated into the room, wobbling a few times before thumping down on the table in front of Mito. She gave the espeon another cookie and started sifting through the contents of the box. When she found what she was looking for she held it out to Kushina.
"I'd like you to have this," Mito smiled. "You don't have to wear it, but I'd like you to hold onto it for luck."
It was a large metal hair clip that was gold in color, a few inches long, and had a pattern of playful fox silhouettes etched in black on it. Nine tiny chains trailed off along the bottom of it with red and yellow crystalline beads hanging from them. It was a bit gaudy and something that Kushina would never wear, but it was pretty and felt important.
"This thing is lucky?" Kushina asked as she gingerly turned it over in her hands. I'd need a lot more hair if I even wanted to wear it.
"I think so," the old woman nodded. "It's always seemed to bring me luck in the past. I hope that it works just as well for you."
"…Thank you," Kushina said softly, rubbing her thumb over the line of tiny rearing foxes. Nine… It makes me think of Kyuumaru.
"You're very welcome, Kushina-chan," Mito beamed. "Now, what are the names of your pokémon…?"
When the rain cleared an hour later, Mito Senju reluctantly bid her young guest goodbye. She watched the girl with the close-cropped red hair marched down the street with purpose from her apartment window until she vanished from sight. Then she slowly went about cleaning up the teapot and cups.
I'm glad that our paths crossed, Mito thought as she rinsed the cups in her sink. She reminds me a bit of myself and some of my favorite relatives. It was so nice to talk to another Uzumaki again…
Her mind drifted through the mists of her past as she cleaned the teapot and dried the cups. She thought about her early career in Super Contests and how much more exciting she found Battle Contests once she discovered them on the mainland. She recalled her family in happier times and how much fun her smallest relatives were. She remembered Hashirama and how charming he'd been, and his goofy younger brother Tobirama. There had been joy when she'd married and had children and then grandchildren, sadness when Hashirama had died unexpectedly, and regret that her family back in Whirlpool Country was ignorant of all of it.
But at least there is one Uzumaki that knows now, Mito reminded herself as she put the cleaned dishes away in their proper places. It's too bad that she didn't want to talk much about her family in detail. I wish I knew exactly how we are related…
A fresh spasm of coughing overtook her and she again covered her mouth with her cream-colored sleeve.
I hope that I'll see little Kushina-chan again.
When the coughs stopped she lowered her sleeve and grimaced at the tiny flecks of blood left behind.
However, I fear that I don't have much time left…