EDIT NOTICE: April 2014. All previous chapters have been edited. For returning readers: the Uzumaki clan's taijutsu has been removed, and it has done little to affect the grand scheme of things. No other major changes have been made, most edits were grammatical.
Author's Note: As far as I can find, the Uchiha Interceptor Fist Style (or any other specific Uchiha Taijutsu style) is a work of fanfiction. If anybody has evidence of it being canonical, I'm happy to be proven wrong in my research. Regardless, it's got a good ring to it.
Chapter Disclaimer: This chapter contains another reference to a scene from The Girl From Whirlpool, by SilverShine. which is a story I love (can you tell?) and I demand you go read it and bother her to update it as much as ya'll bother me to update this...
Author's Second Note: I liiivve!
o- The Legacy of Clan Uzumaki -o
Naruto's first birthday was marked by an assassination attempt.
It was the end of fall after Harry's ninth birthday. The early October evening was cool and breezy with the threat of a storm to blow in before the night was through. Rin had thrown open all the windows of the house to let the fresh air in and the heat from the stove out. Harry sat at the table, enjoying the cool air and the smells from the dinner Rin was preparing, distracting the energetic little blonde in his lap with a handful of crayons and the white tablecloth. Naruto was currently scribbling a bright green in wide arcs across the blue circles Harry drew.
"Are your studies going well, Hisui?" Rin asked. Harry looked up at her, taking in her hair, which she'd pulled up into a ponytail, and the pink apron wrapped around her torso.
"Only if they don't ask me to do clones," Harry said sourly. And so long as the fox doesn't fight him too hard, he thought.
"Still having trouble with chakra control?"
Harry scowled, "yes."
Rin gave him a sympathetic look. "You'll get the hang of it eventually. And I'm sure your tests will go well in the spring."
Harry didn't really share her optimism, but he was stubborn enough to keep trying regardless. He was determined to be able to do a technique without fighting with the stupid fox in his head every time.
Sudden silence from the kitchen made Harry pause and look up again. Rin was standing still, staring out of the window to the darkening yard, a sliver of anxious worry crinkling her brow and eyes. They were waiting on Kakashi and Minato, and both were late for reasons that Harry didn't know, but he suspected that Rin did. Her occasional pauses in her action tipped him off to the seriousness of whatever mission Kakashi had been sent out on. Minato would unlikely leave the missions office, or his own office in the tower until his first student returned safely. Harry hoped they wouldn't be waiting too long. He hoped that Kakashi was alright.
Naruto's sudden chanting drew both of their attentions away from the window. "Isui! Isui! Isui!"
"Hey," Harry said, grabbing the toddler's wildly waving fist and the crayon-turned-weapon that was stabbing dangerously close to his eye. "Careful."
"He has so much energy," Rin commented.
Harry nodded, returning to coloring blue circles across the tabletop for Naruto to cross out. Over the toddler's happy gibberish Harry heard the sounds of Rin returning to her cooking.
With the noise, neither of them heard the approaching footsteps until there was a scuff of a sandal just outside the backdoor. It was an entirely foreign sound to the house. None of its visitors made such a noise while walking – especially the two missing dinner attendants. Harry's head shot up just as the door banged open with a thunderous crash.
A darkly dressed and masked figure burst through the doorway, silver glinting ahead of him. There was the clang of metal on metal and Rin's kitchen knife embedded itself into one of the walls. Harry hadn't even seen her throw it she had reacted so fast.
The intruder moved quickly, advancing on Rin even as a second followed him into the house. Harry sunk down underneath the table, his mind entirely on protecting the child in his arms.
The fight in the kitchen was quick and loud and ended with a sharp, pained cry from both the combatants. Rin's sound of pain rang loud in Harry's ears.
By the time she yelled out, the second intruder had crouched down beside the table.
Harry glared at the masked face, his only weapon a handful of bamboo chopsticks and the crayons that had scattered across the floor. He thought of his weapons and tags, all tucked away in his tool pouches, all stacked neatly by the back door in the kitchen – he lashed out with his foot instead. He hit the man's shin first, and emboldened by his success, struck again. The man caught his ankle with a harsh grip and dragged him out from under the table. Harry lashed out with his second leg, swinging it up with all his strength and catching the man squarely in his chin.
He recoiled, clutching his jaw and Harry saw the sharp anger that flashed through his eyes.
"Get the kid already!" the one from the kitchen ground out.
"I'm working on it," the man over him said, reaching for him again. Harry scuttled backwards, his progress hindered by the struggling toddler he held to his chest and his worry for the silent Rin. He almost made it to the front door before he was stopped.
Harry kicked out but was again grabbed and dragged back across the floor. A heavy sandaled foot struck him in the soft portion of his side, digging deep into muscle and tissue and organs. Harry cried out in pain at the strike and was wholly unprepared for the second that landed in the same spot. It made him curl tightly around his middle, the action instinctive and protective. Naruto's scared cries were loud in his ears and he could do little to fend off the hands that pried at his arms.
A third blow struck his back, hitting him squarely in a kidney.
"Give it up, brat."
"Move it Shoshi!"
Harry fought, but he couldn't prevent the two men from prying his arms apart, away from Naruto, and he cried out in anger and pain as the little blonde was taken from him, his voice joining Naruto's in the house.
"I said shut up, kid," and Harry was kicked again, the blow striking his diaphragm and leaving him gasping and winded and his eyes watering. He couldn't yell. He couldn't breathe.
He couldn't hear Naruto.
Harry struggled against his body's desire to pass out and sleep. He forced himself to his hands and knees, gulping in air and half crawled half stumbled across the floor to the kitchen.
It looked like a great struggle had occurred. Vegetables and dish ware had been knocked off the counters, joining Harry's tool pouches and the downed Rin. She was slouched against the fridge, her chin low and tucked into her chest. One arm was bloodied from shoulder to elbow and dripped onto the floor in a steady pattern.
Harry snuggled up close to her, putting his ear against her stomach, unable to raise himself much higher. Her heartbeat sounded muted against the side of his head.
Her fingers brushed against the top of his head, soft and shaky. "I'm alright."
"They took him," Harry choked out.
Rin's breath was a little ragged, occasionally hitched in pain.
Harry squeezed his eyes shut, his emotions swirling dark and hot and the waters in his mind were rising. His anger and desperation sank deep and the sky in his mind was turning dark and cloudy.
"No," he whispered, denying the fox.
Rin's voice was dim through the angry bubbling of the well. "Sensei will find him."
But Minato didn't know.
Harry pushed himself up, his anger and rising determination dulling the pain of his torso. He pulled one of his pouches towards him, his hip bag, and gripped the sturdy canvas tightly in his fist. The heat of his anger rushed through him, carrying the memory of Naruto's scared cries with it.
The waters retreated and surged, splashing against the knot work of chains that held it down. Harry repeated his denial, though whether it was from Naruto being taken or the fox attempting to get out he wasn't sure.
The waters hissed up at him, sinuous and serpentine, yellow eyes glowing out at him through the chains even as the waters leaked through the links. The waters rose to a boil that splashed out hot and sizzling into the mud around the well, collecting and slithering towards him like a snake. Harry felt it wrap up around his leg, his torso to settle around his collar and ribcage. The watery serpent hissed at him and Harry hissed in return and suddenly it struck.
Something in him snapped, and the tolling sound of chains rattled across his mind followed by a rush of boiling water that surged into his limbs from the point the snake bit – his shoulder, just behind his collar.
Harry was up and racing out the door before he even realized what he was doing.
Harry didn't know what guided him except that he heard Naruto and followed the sound. His vision was hazed dark and red at the corners but it didn't slow his sprint through the streets. Nor did the action of strapping his hip bag back to the place it should have been – on his belt.
It wasn't fast enough. They had too much of a head start, they were faster than he was, he was too slow, too heavy. He needed more speed. He pushed hard, and pulled deep and speed came from some far off corner and Harry dashed after the sound of his little brother's echoing cries, suddenly light on his feet.
He heard them before he saw them, but it was a narrow difference.
They weren't running very fast, and as Harry gained ground he could tell that they were slinking across the rooftops trying to stay hidden. It allowed his winding race through the streets to keep pace even as they took a more direct route towards the village walls and the training grounds that lay outside.
Harry caught them in a park just shy of the wall.
The two paused at the base of the tall village wall but Harry didn't even slow down.
His target barely had time to turn before Harry barreled into him at full speed. His shoulder dug deep into the man's gut. They didn't move much. The larger man let out a woosh of air, his arms locking around Harry's shoulders and head, his feet dug solidly into the ground.
Harry's right shoulder was numb from the blow and he couldn't move his arm, but he got his feet under him enough to slip a paper tag from the pouch strapped to his belt. He slapped it onto the man's leg and it activated almost instantly.
A surge of electricity shot through both their bodies, making the man cry out in shock and pain. Harry felt his body tremble from the surge, and stumbled backwards, his fingers tingling and feeling like sparks were rocketing around in his mouth.
He was grabbed roughly by the scruff of his neck and thrown away like a sack of potatoes. Harry rolled and skidded across the ground, and pushed himself up to a crouch. His body was shaking, burning, and Naruto's cries had only increased in volume and they echoed in his mind like a stream of tolling bells. It didn't drown out the roaring of the waters.
"Damnit," ground out the first man, squinting and twitching.
"He's fast for such a little brat," the second said. He held Naruto against his chest with one thick arm. He had thrown Harry halfway across the park.
His downed partner was already pushing himself to his feet and Harry felt satisfaction in the sight of him having to use the wall for purchase. "How'd he follow us?"
"Doesn't matter," the larger one passed Naruto over with little gentleness. Harry narrowed his eyes, catching sight of Naruto's closed eyes and sleeping face – even as his cries still echoed in his mind. Harry's anger burned over his curiosity, though.
"Make sure he doesn't follow us again. We need to get to the forest."
The larger man advanced but Harry's attention was mostly on Naruto and the kidnapper scaling the wall with him. His split attention cost him.
The ground surged under his feet and Harry stumbled against the rock that was no longer solid. It crawled up his shins like living molasses, anchoring him to unsteady ground and preventing him from giving chase. Harry struggled against it, pulling one leg up and out of the sticky stuff only for his other foot to sink further in.
"Stubborn kid," the man ground out. "Let me give you some advice. Quit struggling."
Harry ignored him and tried to find purchase in the heaving and liquidated ground.
"You'll only sink faster, kid," the man said, his smirk clear in his voice even while his dark mask hid his face.
He was right. The sticky mud had sucked him down to his knees and Harry couldn't move out of the area of its effect without sinking further in. The man had turned the usually solid earth into a sticky quicksand.
Harry heard the man chuckle darkly. He looked frantically up the tall village wall but the kidnapper had disappeared into the trees beyond, Naruto with him. Harry was torn between struggling against the technique holding him with all his strength and the warning words the man gave to him to avoid doing exactly that.
It didn't seem to be making much of a difference. He was still sinking, only slower. Harry sucked in his breath as the ground crawled up his thighs, trapping him further in the earth. A snarl rose through him, fueled by frustration.
Harry whipped his head around in time to see Duck slam his hands into the ground. They met solid earth and thick trees shot up out of the ground in a long line straight to Harry. They grew fast and tall and thick straight out of the muddy earth, sprouting wide branches that blossomed into leaves. He felt one grow up at the bottom of his feet through the molasses and push. Harry let his legs fold as the quicksand slid away and suddenly the growing tree propelled him hard and fast out of the sinking earth and into the sky.
Harry flew high and dropped just as fast. He flailed slightly at the summit of his flight, the sudden weightless feeling strange and jarring and suddenly he was falling. Straight towards his target. Harry tucked in his arms, crossing them in front of his head and rolled into a ball and let the weight of his unusually heavy body pull him to the ground in an increasing pace.
He dropped like a ton of stone.
The masked man's eyes widened as Harry freefalled into him. They collided hard, Harry's weight and momentum driving the ninja to the ground.
Harry rolled away from him, dazed, bruised and his shoulder still numb while his arm pulsed with dull shooting pains. He tried to stand but fell just as fast. His limbs felt heavy, as if weights had been strapped to his wrists and ankles, slowing him, holding him down.
He focused on his opponent, searching the area for him, and finding him sprawled across the grass not far away. He was still, except for his chest rising and falling in a slow, shallow rhythm.
Someone's feet jumped into view and crouched down next to the masked ninja and Harry recognized Duck's white mask.
Duck pressed his fingers to the man's neck. The man didn't move and something in Harry dismissed him. Duck rose and approached Harry, helping him to his feet with obvious effort. Harry wavered once then found his balance again. There was a roaring in his ears that nearly drowned out the sound of Naruto's cries.
Duck spoke but Harry was no longer hearing.
"Naruto –" Harry said, eyeing the tall wall. He moved towards it without thought, fighting through the heavy sluggishness of his limbs. He needed to move. He needed to hurry. His body cooperated, slowly moving faster, and then quicker, the strange heaviness weighing him down lifting as if he were shedding weighted packs – but his motion was stopped. Harry followed his shoulder and arm with his eyes to find a hand holding him back. Duck.
"Let me go," Harry said.
Harry saw Duck's head move and a distant sound of a voice filtered into his mind. He shook his head and repeated his words, but Duck's hand did not let him go. Harry frowned at the restraint, his mind filled with snarls and cries and Naruto's voice growing dimmer with each passing second –
Harry lashed out.
The ANBU retreated, his mask scratched by Harry's clawing swipe, but his only thought was that he was now free and Harry turned back to his pursuit. The wall was a hindrance, an obstacle, but he ran towards it anyways. He needed speed and lightness, and with barely a thought he ran up the side of the steep stone, digging the toes of his sandals into the barely-there crevices, scratching at the surface of the wall for purchase, scaling it foot by foot with nothing but determination to drive him to its peak.
He topped it and sprang off its edge and sailed into the trees beyond, following a path that he couldn't see and could only hear in his head. He barely realized his own actions, taking note only that the trees were passing by in a blur, that he was kicking up dirt and leaves as he ran. The noise of his own footfalls were drowned out by the snarls in his head and Harry let sound bubble up from the depths of his throat to sound out loud into the forest as a roaring cry.
Birds scattered and the sound of their wings thundered in his ears.
Harry burst through low foliage into a clearing just in time to be blinded by the wild flash of lightning as it streaked through the trees. He cried out sharply, falling to the ground as he clapped a hand to his eyes.
The inability to see slowed him, made him pause crouched in the fallen leaves of the forest floor, his ears his only point of reference. The roaring of the waters in his head made it difficult. Harry tried to silence them, tried to hear because he could only see spots of white and black across his vision.
"– ake him!"
"He's too fast!"
Harry snarled quietly, frustrated, nearly desperate. Where was Naruto?
"– my son!"
Minato. Harry knew that voice, even when it sounded cold in anger. Minato was there.
The clanging sound of metal on metal rang through the trees.
"You said he didn't have it anymore!" a voice called out – the kidnapper. Harry growled low in his throat at the sound.
"Focus! Who cares if he still – ergk –" That was the sound of pain, and it was followed by a wet cough.
"Pay – attention –" Harry could hear the deep gurgling that signaled a punctured lung, or blood in the esophagus. It made a deeply satisfied feeling bubble up in his gut.
"You've been weakened, Hokage," another voice called into the clearing. How many were there? "You're not worthy."
Footsteps sounded behind him and Harry whipped his head around, little good it did him. He still couldn't see more than shadows and spots.
"Hisui!" It was Duck's voice, and suddenly the masked teen was next to him, and Harry felt his hand touch his shoulder softly, gingerly.
"Naruto?" Harry asked, urgently.
There was a pause and Harry pushed his body to his knees, wavering, blinking rapidly in hopes to restore his sight. He was starting to see color, but it was all patches of green or brown. He could see the vague shape of fallen leaves, his hand – was that mud splattered across his skin?
"Hokage has him," Duck said.
Harry wished that his guard's words soothed him, but they didn't. He could still hear Naruto's faint cries through the waters in his mind, as if the waves and splashes were echoing them back to him from far away. His body seemed unresponsive, as if cocooned, unable to move.
Bright light flashed across the corners of his eyes again, making him whip his head around and squeeze his eyes shut. Thunder crashed loud and sudden into the trees, making his ears ring in protest.
The ringing echoed across the space of his mind, and the flooded waters began to still. Harry stood in their depths, watching the waves ripple against his shins, slowing. When did the well flow over?
Distant light flashed across the clouds over his head, as if a shadow of lighting, and the thunder sounded again, distant.
Harry looked out over the shallow waters that stretched across the landscape, lapping against the empty foundation of the house and splashing into the walls of the well. They were no longer agitated, but rippling like a pond under an autumn wind.
Harry knew the voice, looked up at the sky and the distant cloud of thunder that rumbled there.
"Minato?" he wasn't sure if he said it aloud or only in his mind.
"Hisui," Minato repeated. "You can hold him, I know you can."
Harry didn't know what he was talking about at first, but the knowledge came to him slowly, trickling into his thoughts like a leaky roof. The Nine-tails. He was holding the Nine-tailed demon fox. The waters was the Nine-tails. And they had flooded him.
Harry frowned at the watery landscape and the well that stood over it. He moved through the water, slogging through the muddy bottom and forcing his feet forward through the current. It flowed faster the closer he got to the well, as if it was a river flowing outward in slithering streams, wrapping around his legs and tugging at his knees.
"Let me pass," he ground out, digging his feet into the ground to push forward. He reached out and gripped the edge of the well, the stones hot and wet under his palm. Harry pulled himself to the rim.
He looked into its depths.
The well's waters were surging up against his chains as if about to burst out, but only trickling rivers were able to escape the spaces between the links. Those little snakes of hot water were streaming their way over the edge of the well and into the muddy landscape of his mind, filling it like an overflowing river in flood season, crawling up his body like twining ivy.
"Go down," Harry commanded, frowning into the depths.
A hiss echoed up out of the well and Harry thought he saw glowing orange eyes glare out at him. "Be still," Harry said. "Go down."
The chains were easy to reapply, crisscrossing them over the well's opening in intricate layered knots. They stopped the leaks, holding the fox's power in its hole. The waters lowered and then surged back up at him in a hissing mass of watery serpents, roaring out at him in fury and anger.
"Be silent," Harry hissed in return.
The fox did not try to rush him again, but every once in a while a slender tendril of water would slither up the side of the well to push at the chains. Harry watched it for a moment, making sure there were no holes. The watery red serpents that had twined around his body were gone, melted back into the flood waters.
He turned from the well and inspected the flooded landscape of his mind. The waters were still, if lapping against his ankles and the side of the well. He had no idea how to return them to the well.
"Hisui," Minato's voice echoed from the clouds. "Well done."
Harry blinked at the words, suddenly feeling very tired. He closed his eyes and slipped to his knees in the muddy waters. The feel of a hand on his shoulder made him open them again. He blinked at the dim light and the dark spots that danced in the corners of his vision.
Before him crouched Minato, his hair bright even in the evening gloom. The blonde was watching him with some intent, his good arm reaching out to him, clasping his shoulder firmly.
"Minato," Harry greeted.
The man's smile was bright. "Well done, Hisui."
Harry frowned, a little unsure of what he had done. "Naruto?"
"He is safe," Minato said, "I promise."
Harry's frown deepened though, when the man's assurances did nothing to allay his worry.
"Let me take you to him," Minato said.
Harry nodded and made to move only to discover that he could not. He looked down at his body, hoping to force it, but found an encasing of – was that wood?
"Ah, Duck, if you please?" Minato said, gesturing to Harry's bound body.
"Yes, Hokage," Duck said from behind Harry. The masked man's voice held a hint of embarrassment in it. The wood melted away, slithering off him as if alive, dissolving back into the ground at his feet. Harry watched it in fascination.
"Come on, Hisui," Minato prompted, pulling him into his side. "I'll take you to Naruto."
Harry just nodded and let the man's arm wrap around his shoulders. Just before Minato's flash of lightning, Harry spotted the downed and bloody figure of the masked kidnapper.
He was not breathing.
Naruto had been ensconced in the little L-shaped room of the Hokage Residence, watched over by the white-masked Duck. Harry scaled the ladder as soon as Minato let him go, curling around the little body and relishing in the feel of the familiar heat. He stared at the whiskered face, running his knuckles across the baby's cheek. Naruto's eyes peeked open, revealing sleepy, bright blue before closing again. His little body curled into Harry's own.
Harry let out a long sigh that seemed to take all his tense worry with it.
"Rest, Hisui," Minato said, peering over the raised edge where Harry was curled on the futon.
Harry just nodded, tired and relieved and wanting only to sleep with his arms around his little brother so he could make sure no one ever tried to take him again.
"They did not hurt him," Minato soothed. "They were not after him to hurt him. They only wanted me."
Harry peered blearily at the man, hearing the sadness and the anger that laced his words. Minato was watching Naruto sleep, his hand curled gently around the baby's head, fingers carded through the thin, fine blonde hair.
"They wanted me," Minato repeated, "Because they thought I was weakened."
"Hokage?" Duck said, sliding into the room and closing the door behind him.
"They wore Iwa headbands," Minato said, his voice laced with something dark. "But they were no Iwa ninja."
"Yessir," Duck said.
"Don't let them out of your sight," Minato said sharply.
An echoing "yessir" filled the room and Harry frowned at the sound.
Harry glanced at the man in the doorway and back to Minato, then paused and looked to his side, to the white-masked figure that slouched against the wall at his feet. Duck.
"Two?" Harry asked, looking between the two ANBU with identical masks, one lightly scratched as if by a clawed hand.
"Both are Duck," Minato said, glancing between them as well. He turned back to Harry with a little conspiratorial smirk. "It's a secret, Hisui," he said, putting a finger to his lips. "Two Ducks to watch over my two sons."
Harry just blinked back at the blonde, too tired to really respond except to marvel at being claimed as son by the man. He wasn't sure he'd ever get over that.
Minato seemed to understand his fatigue for he reached out to run his fingers through Harry's mop of hair, pushing him back down into the blankets of his futon.
Harry snuggled around the baby in his arms and groggily asked one last question, "Rin?"
One of the Duck's answered, "she's fine."
Harry closed his eyes and he slept, soothed by the heat of Naruto's little body.
Harry was very reluctant to let Naruto out of his sight for some time after his kidnapping. Minato indulged his protective streak for a few days before he forced the two to part ways. Harry had to attend classes in order to graduate and Naruto was not welcome in the walls of the Academy just yet. It was no place for an infant, after all.
"Duck will be near him, always," Minato assured, as he pushed Harry into the Academy's yard.
"But – "
"And Mikoto is perfectly capable of defending Naruto along with her own son."
"Yes but I – "
"And the Uchiha District is nigh impossible to infiltrate without the Clan knowing of it," Minato continued through Harry's weak protests.
Harry couldn't really deny what the blonde said. He knew Mikoto was strong, and that Duck would not let Naruto out of his sight, and that the ever-watchful eyes of the Uchiha would know if their neighborhood was breached by an outsider, but Harry didn't want to let his little brother out of his sight. Harry wanted to take little Naruto and burrow into a cave and keep him safe forever.
"Go to class, Hisui," Minato said, his voice lowering into sternness and his hand pushing Harry further into the yard.
Harry nodded, though didn't move at first, watching as Naruto tugged at his father's long bangs, fitting the bright strands into his mouth and drooling down both his fist and the man's vest with happy abandon.
"Go on, Hisui," Minato said again, his eyes soft even as his voice remained stern. "Learn, grow, become even stronger."
Harry nodded again and finally turned towards the Academy yard and the classroom waiting for him. He may not be able to mold chakra with any consistency or skill, but he was determined. He would pass his tests and graduate and he would become Shinobi and he would protect Naruto.
Harry jogged across the yard, glancing once over his shoulder to the two blondes in the gateway before slipping inside through the classroom window. It took far too long to go around through the doors.
The Academy was both easier and harder for Harry. While his grasp of the written language had solidified into something vaguely useful, he still struggled with chakra application, and Chouga was well aware of his troubles; as was all of the class. His attempts at any form of chakra technique usually resulted in failure due to either inability to channel chakra at all, or way too much of it.
One such disastrous attempt occurred on a chilly November morning with his entire class out on the Academy yard. Harry had lingered amongst Kabe and Itachi, ignoring Lin's glowering at the younger boy for some perceived slight against her as Chouga reviewed a basic body replacement technique.
"It is a simple technique," he said, "but also very useful. You have all had time to study the theory, and today we will be putting the Kawarimi into practice. Hana, will you please start us off?"
The girl went forward from the mob of students, three grey puppies ambling happily at her heels.
Chouga motioned to a log that lay a few meters from where the girl stood. "Please replace yourself with the log, Hana-chan."
The girl nodded and stared the log of wood down. Her hands carefully went through the seals needed for the technique, Tiger - Boar - Ox - Dog - Snake, and with her intonation, "Kawarimi no jutsu," twin puffs of cloud and smoke appeared where the log lay and she stood. As the smoke dissipated and cleared, the class could see her success -
"Ah, you left your partners behind, Hana-chan," Chouga said, motioning to the trio of puppies that surrounded the log where she had stood but a minute ago. One was sniffing at it, while one of its brothers barked across the distance between them and the girl.
"Oh," Hana said and whistled her pups to her. They sprinted across the distance in a mass of puppy-limbs.
"Try once more," Chouga told her.
Her second attempt surpassed her first, and she rejoined the class with a satisfied smile on her face.
"Hisui," Chouga called and Harry took his place across from the log.
"Kawarimi no jutsu," Chouga told him, motioning to the hunk of wood.
Harry eyed it warily, but flashed through the hand seals and called out for the technique to work - he felt it - his chakra rising to his call, the chains rattled, the waters in his mind swirled and followed the path of his chakra and suddenly surged through him in a boiling rush like a firehose suddenly turned on.
Smoke billowed wildly around him and Harry stilled, unable to see through the fog.
It was as it cleared that they all discovered the results of his attempt. He had succeeded, sort of. The log now stood where he had when he began, and he in its place - along with his entire class.
"Ah," Chouga said, eyeing Harry. "That was a little strong, Hisui-kun."
Harry hunched his shoulders and eyed his classmate's varied reactions of surprise and hilarity.
"Try again, please."
Harry did. Twice more, once not succeeding at all except to create a miniature puff of smoke in front of his nose that gave him a fit of sneezing. But on his third attempt he managed to replace just himself - but his distraction of wrestling with the waters in his mind caused him to replace himself with one of the large trees instead of the log. The uprooted tree swayed dangerously on its torn root system and toppled with a groaning crash, scattering his classmates and sending dust and leaves up into the air. Harry just stood and glared at the downed tree while in his mind he chucked a rock down the well at the hissing fox.
"Well," Chouga began, dusting off his shoulders. "Perhaps you should work on some chakra control exercises for the rest of the lesson, Hisui-kun."
Harry didn't say anything. He just plucked one of the falling leaves from out of the air in front of him and stalked over to sit against the Academy wall. He sullenly held the leaf against his forehead with one finger and forced his chakra to behave.
Harry remained there for the rest of the morning, holding the leaf to his forehead with chakra alone, glaring past the edges of the leaf at his classmates as they practiced the body replacement technique on the other side of Harry's tree.
Harry wasn't sure what to make of the two Ducks. He could not ever tell a difference between them, except that one was easier for him to spot – he made more noise and didn't bother to hide himself much, though kept his distance – and the other was very silent in his comings and goings but was more willing to talk to him. If Harry was with Naruto than only one Duck was nearby, and Harry assumed that when the two boys were separate a Duck was with either.
Distinguishing the two turned into something of a frustrating game for Harry. They were visually identical – both skinny teens with short dark hair – and spoke similarly, if at all. One had a faintly scratched mask while the other did not. The most frustrating was that the only time he had ever seen them together was in his room in the tower and he had been far too fatigued to take note of any differences.
Which was what brought he, Anko and Lin to the top of the water tower just outside the Uchiha district.
Harry had not told the girls exactly what he was doing. Minato had said that the two Ducks were a secret, so Harry had drawn Lin with him by another method – the simple and very effective excuse of skiving classes to eat sweets and gossip. He would have brought the boys, but they had already incited Chouga's ire and were being carefully watched throughout the morning's lessons.
Anko was just a bonus. He and Lin had literally run into the older girl on their way through the village away from the Academy Yard.
"So a couple of crazies kidnapped Naruto to lure Hokage into the forest so they could fight him to prove that he was weak?"
Although, Anko was far more interested in the night that Harry learned of the two Ducks.
"Yes," Harry replied shortly. "They wanted to kill him."
He was still annoyed at the kidnappers' success in taking Naruto from him.
"They wanted to kill the kid!?"
Harry shot the older girl a sharp look. "Minato."
"And they didn't have an army?" Anko asked, shoving the first of her supply of dango into her mouth.
"There were four of them," Harry said, still short. He didn't remember seeing all four, he actually could only recall seeing two of the team. He had had to ask Minato what had happened. He was quite sure that the blonde had only told him a little bit of it all – he was sure, actually, that Minato wasn't telling him something. He just didn't know what.
Anko was silent for a long moment, and then, "and they lured Hokage out into the forest to fight him?"
"He has had his arm in a sling for months," Lin said.
Anko didn't seem to think that this mattered one wit. "He's Hokage."
"A Hokage with one good arm," Lin countered.
"He's the Fourth," Anko repeated.
Lin made a frustrated sound that was almost a growl, which only prompted Anko to cackle out a gleeful bark of laughter. Harry glanced between the two girls flanking him, wondering if he should be worried that they might brawl and push him off the edge of the water tower. Lin looked about ready to pounce, but Anko merely grinned widely around her dango stick, settled back on her heals.
"He took out an army all on his own in the war," Anko continued gleefully. "And they sent how many?"
Lin scowled at her.
Satisfied that he wasn't about to plummet three stories to the street, Harry returned to his vigil.
He had Duck Number Two tailing him today, the Duck that made more noise and didn't hide as well, but never talked to Harry - the one without the scratches on his mask. He was perched on a roof somewhere off to the kids' left, tucked into shadows of ventings. Duck Number One - the one with the scratches and who liked to read and had more experience with Harry's range of hearing - Harry presumed, was near Naruto, who was still at Mikoto's for the day.
They would likely have to enter the Uchiha district to spot him, and Harry really wanted to get the two Ducks closer together so he could compare any physical differences. Unfortunately, the Uchiha district was not conducive to sneaking around.
Harry hadn't yet figured out the next step to his plans, which was why he was perched atop the water tower like some gargoyle, twirling a senbon between his fingers and glowering down at the gate that marked the Uchiha district's main entrance.
Harry's planning and the girls' gossiping was interrupted by Kakashi who was ambling down the street that passed by the Uchiha's gate. Harry spotted him quite easily and before the girls, who weren't really paying any attention to the people on the streets as much as their current point of interest. Kakashi's mass of white hair made him easy to spot, and Harry watched the older boy idly as his mind toyed with various ideas of how to sneak into a district full of police officers that commanded eyes reported to not miss any detail.
It was as Kakashi passed by the tall, blue-painted gate to the district that it happened.
Three young Uchiha teens had been loitering beneath the gate, perhaps guards or just a few Chunin with a day off. Harry hadn't thought much of them, but as Kakashi went by them, the three perked up and called out to the other teen. Their faces were twisted into revulsion and contempt, and while Harry could not hear their words, their tones were taunting and degrading towards Kakashi.
If Kakashi responded, Harry could not hear nor see, but as soon as one of the Uchiha drew a kunai from his hip pouch Harry was moving.
He heard the girls behind him call after him in surprise, but he didn't even pause. Harry jumped from the water tower to the nearby roof and skidded down the side of the two-story building, tumbling into the road curled into a summersault. He was up and dashing across the street before he even came to a stop and as the Uchiha raised the kunai across his chest in preparation to throw, Harry sent the senbon in his fingers whistling through the air.
It struck the kunai with a bright clang and all four of the teens turned to stare at him as Harry skidded to a stop in front of Kakashi's shoulder. His defensive stance was very obvious to them all and Harry had little doubt that they could not see the anger on his face.
How dare they!
"Hisui -" Kakashi said, surprised.
"What is this?" one of the Uchiha boys asked, looking down at Harry with a sneer.
"Hisui," Kakashi repeated, "shouldn't you be in Academy?"
"Why are you attacking him?" Harry demanded.
The Uchiha with the kunai tossed his head arrogantly. "We did no such thing, brat."
"We were just talking," another said.
"Letting this one -" the first gestured to Kakashi, "know that we expect the return of our clan's property from a thief."
"So keep your nose out of it, brat," the second said.
"Hisui," Kakashi said, placing his hand on Harry's shoulder. The older boy exerted some pressure, pulling Harry back and out of his defensive stand against the Uchiha teens. Harry stumbled into Kakashi's solid weight, but he didn't take his eyes off the three Uchiha.
"He's no thief," Harry nearly spit at the the three. They did not look to believe him, and only sneered at him more.
"Come on, Hisui," Kakashi urged, "I'll take you back to the Academy."
Harry let Kakashi pull him away from the Uchiha district, but it wasn't until they turned a corner that he stopped glowering at the three teens. It was only then that he realized that the girls and Duck Number Two had joined them.
"What was that about?" Lin asked Harry, her hands on her hips and Duck hovering just behind her.
Harry ignored her and looked over Kakashi, as if assuring himself that the teen was still in one piece. He paused his inspection when he caught the look in the older boy's one eye. Kakashi was looking at him with an irritated sort of fondness.
"You don't have to protect me, Hari," Kakashi said quietly, but without any true reprimand.
Harry shrugged, feeling a little embarrassed at his reaction to the threat against Kakashi. He knew that the other could well take care of himself. Kakashi was a Jonin, after all, and could handle a trio of upstart Uchiha teens.
"Nice throw though, kid," Anko said with a gleeful grin and clapped Harry harshly on the shoulder. "I think you actually managed to surprise the Uchiha brat. You might make a halfway decent shinobi after all."
Harry rolled his shoulder to dislodge her hand and frowned at her. "I will be shinobi, and I will protect my precious people!"
Anko blinked at his vehement reply, but then grinned widely. "I know you will, kid."
"Why do they think you are a thief?" Harry asked Kakashi.
Kakashi merely tapped his face once, just to the side of his covered Sharingan eye.
"But - "
"Obito gave it willingly," Kakashi said softly. "But they do not care if he did or not. They don't think I should be allowed to keep it. I am not Uchiha."
Harry frowned, which prompted Kakashi to reach out and ruffle his mop of hair. "Don't worry about it, Hari," he said, his uncovered eye revealing his smile. "We know the truth."
"Still," Harry started, his frown still there.
Kakashi just made a sound that came out as a sort of muffled hum and slouched away, his one visible eye creased into a smile.
Harry stared balefully after him.
"Well that was exciting!" Anko said happily.
Minato confronted Harry about him leaving the Academy in the middle of lessons one day when Harry and Naruto were lounging the blonde's office atop the tower. Minato was working through the pile of paperwork on his desk, and while waiting for him to finish so they could go to dinner, Harry had pulled out his sealing kit and a box of crayons. Naruto happily scribbled across an endless stack of papers with a brilliant orange while Harry carefully drew up a stack of basic seal tags.
"Why are you skipping your lessons at the Academy, Hisui?" Minato asked him.
Harry froze in his motions of drawing a shock tag, the ink from his brush pooling at its tip as he held it over the linen tag. In the silence, Naruto's happy gabbing sounded loud.
"Chouga-sensei tells me you have missed three of his lessons in the past two weeks," the blonde continued.
The ink from Harry's brush dropped, marring the seal and Harry finally laid the brush down atop the tag, letting the linen soak up the excess ink in the bristles. The tag was already ruined.
Harry, tense, rocked back on his heels and finally chanced meeting the man's eyes. Minato was watching him with a rather blank face, emotions making his eyes darken from their usual brilliance into deep blue pools. He did not appear angry or even disappointed - just concerned. Harry relaxed marginally and let out the lungful of air he had been holding.
"Are you ok, Hisui?" Minato asked, rising from his desk to come closer. Harry watched him and felt accomplished when did not tense again or flinch when the man laid a hand on his shoulder. Harry had not felt such trepidation from a guardian in years and it had surprised him - the shiver of fear that had come out of the deep recesses of memory.
Harry let out another rough breath and gave the man a thin smile.
"I am not angry, Hisui-kun," Minato said softly, his face confirming his words. "Why are you not attending your classes at the Academy?"
Harry shrugged weakly, but answered, "I can't do the ninjutsu, anyways."
"Are they difficult?"
Minato's voice never lost it patience. "Then why can't you do them?"
"I use either too much or too little chakra every time," Harry confessed. Chouga probably told the man already anyways. "I can't do them."
Minato was silent for a long minute and the time allowed Harry to recognize his own feelings: shame and embarrassment. He could hear Kushina's voice in his head, offering encouragements, telling him he'd be able to do it, no matter how long it took and it didn't matter at all if it took until he was fifty, she loved him no matter what. She had failed Konoha's graduation tests, too after all, and she was still amazing.
"You'll do it, Hisui," Minato said and it took Harry a minute to realize that it was Minato speaking and not the memory of Kushina in his head. He blinked up at the man and caught an encouraging smile from him.
"You just have to keep practicing," Minato continued. "And one day you'll be amazing. You can do anything you put your mind to, I know it. Just like Kushina."
Harry hung his head, memories of Kushina playing strongly in his mind, intermingled with his memories of Minato who was as dear to him as she had been. He mumbled a quiet, overwhelmed "thank you," for the man's confidence in him.
Minato must of heard him anyways, for he ruffled a heavy hand through Harry's wild white hair, the gesture familiar and comforting and making Harry peer up at him with a smile.
Naruto suddenly threw his hands up into the air, sending a fistful of crayons scattering around him. "Haa!" the boy exclaimed, grinning and cheerful.
Minato laughed and scooped the toddler up, tossing him over his head and making the boy squeal in delight. Harry watched father and son with a grin, feeling very much a part of the family.
Despite Minato's confidence that Harry would work out his issues with his chakra, Harry continued to struggle throughout the entire following academy session, from January straight through March and the two week spring break before the next session did little to increase his control.
Harry did, however, stop skivving off on his lessons though and so had to largely but his investigation into the Ducks on hold.
Harry enjoyed the two week vacation from classes, glad to be done with the pressures of learning and away from his peers, who found his lack of control an endless source of amusement, and his connection to the Hokage an endless source of gossip.
Harry spent much of those two weeks at Kushina's house with Rin and Kakashi, and with Naruto instead of leaving the toddler with Mikoto during the day. In exchange for the woman's babysitting the little blonde so often over the past year, Harry would take Sasuke along with him as well, which drew Itachi more than not. The group filled the row house with bodies again, something that brought Harry a certain joy. It seemed to be good for Rin and Kakashi too, as they both took days off from their duties to share the vacation with the boys and by the second week, Minato was showing up from his work as Hokage earlier every day.
It was one of these afternoons at the house, with Itachi laying on the living room floor beneath two giggling toddlers, that Harry expressed his frustrations with his inability to adequately complete the general ninjutsu skills his classmates were largely accomplishing, and Minato suggested a solution.
"Perhaps sealing would help," the blonde said, not really looking at Harry but at the children on the floor with Itachi. He seemed to have been thinking aloud.
"How so, sensei?" Rin asked from her place next to Harry at the table. Minato blinked and turned to look at them over the tabletop. He looked at Rin a moment before shifting his attention to Harry.
"Kushina mentioned something about her clan using basic techniques through fuinjutsu rather than activating them via handseals." Minato smiled fondly, sadly. "She thought Uzushio's way was better than Konoha's. She struggled with our Academy's basic techniques, too."
"Uzushio," Rin said softly, "That's the village of the land of whirlpools, right? It was destroyed."
"Years ago, yes," Minato said. "Kushina hailed from Uzushio."
Minato gave her a comforting look, then to Harry, "I bet she has some of her training scrolls here."
Harry perked up at that, having seen Kushina rifle through some of them, or read them on occasion, but he had never thought there'd be something in them for him.
"Come on," Minato said, rising and offering Harry a hand. "Let's go take a look."
"Don't take too long!" Rin called as they ascended the stairs, "We're having dinner in an hour!"
"Yes, yes," Minato said, dragging Harry up the second floor and the large master bedroom that Kushina had always slept in. They passed through a sitting room that housed a number of shelves and scrolls of its own along with a pair of deep, comfortable couches before entering the bedroom. Harry lingered just inside the doorway as Minato crossed to the wall of shelves along one side of the room. He hadn't been in the room since Kushina had died. Minato still slept there, on rare occasions, but they usually slept in the tower now and were rarely in the row house anymore, unless visiting Kakashi and Rin. The room hadn't changed much at all. It was still packed full of the odd things that Kushina had collected, sea shells and coral sculptures, scrolls that hung from the walls depicting artful drawings of a coastal sea, braided strands of red threads, and a wall full of shelves that had collected books and scrolls and knickknacks of all sorts.
It smelled like her.
"Ah, here!" Minato exclaimed, pulling a scroll from a pile of its fellows. Minato tossed it to Harry, who inspected the small thing curiously. It was not overly large, no longer than his forearm and not terribly long, either, though it was certainly not a short scroll. It was a little worn, its edges scraped and dog-eared and dusty. It had been well-used, but it had been some time since its last use.
Harry rolled it open between his hands and inspected the neat kanji that stretched across the surface. He had, at least, caught up with his peers in his ability to read in Japanese, no matter his struggles with his chakra. The scroll was not complicated. It read much like a recipe book, sectioned off by technique and listing their requirements and final outcomes. There was little in the way of hows or whys included, and Harry did not fully understand the recipes.
True to Minato's sharp memory, the very first seal in the scroll was a variation of the clone technique. "Fuin Bunshin," Harry read aloud.
"Keep trying with the Academy version of theses techniques, Hisui," Minato said. "You should learn them and know them. They are very useful. But Kushina would want you to have these, I am sure of it." Minato smiled sadly and laughed softly. "She would have given them to you even if I had told her that you should learn things our way too. I am sure she would have said that her way was better anyways."
"I miss her," Harry said, eyeing the neat writing on the scroll in his hand. He wondered if it had been Kushina's hand, but it didn't have the same character and flourishes that her handwriting did.
Minato kneeled down in front of him and gripped Harry's shoulder with his good hand. His face told Harry that Minato, too, missed Kushina, terribly, and that he understood. The blonde didn't even have to voice it.
"She loved you," Minato said. "You were hers in her heart, as much as Naruto is. These scrolls are yours, Hisui. They are your heritage. Most are from her home village and her clan, to which you are a member."
Harry nodded, his eyes tracking along the wall of shelves that was overflowing with books and scrolls.
The spring session of the Academy began at the beginning of April and it heralded a rise in the pressure to perform and succeed.
"You have all been assigned to this class because you have been marked for possible graduation at the end of this course," Chouga began.
Harry stared at the man, then glanced around the classroom. He was relatively familiar with most of the faces within, having been in and out of lectures and yard practices with them for the past three years. He knew some better than others, having jumped around in his lecture courses as much as he had done due to various convalescences, but not a single one was a complete a stranger to him. Given a bit of time and a good memory day, Harry could even name them all.
Amongst the group were those whom Harry knew best, Kabe, Idate, Lin and Itachi. There was the girl with the puppies just two rows ahead - Hana - and the brown-haired twins in the front row who routinely failed to perform their yard exercises with any skill, and the girl from the bug clan, whom Lin alternately got on with or hated depending on the day and the Hyuga boy with the bandana around his head - the entire class of kids stared back at Chouga with a variety of expressions from excitement, trepidation to out-right fear.
Harry was feeling rather close to the fear side of the scale, and he thought of the scroll of general techniques from Kushina's - and his! - clan that he hoped against hope would allow him to pass the Academy graduation exams he'd be facing in three months.
He did not want to fail them.
Harry's last session in the Academy passed in a blur of training, lessons and hair-pulling evenings bent over Kushina's training scroll in a corner of Minato's office or the kitchen table at the row house with sealing supplies scattered across its surface while he attempted to master the technique.
It was tricky, if just because the theory differed so much from what he had been taught at the Academy. Konoha relied on a series of handseals to trigger and mold the use of chakra into the desired results. The handseals were for triggering the correct, muscle-memory responses in concentration and chakra molding and putting them out of order or skipping them, while possible in one with a very strong will, usually resulted in failed techniques. Uzushio contained all of that into a seal and a seal without the use of the linen tags that Harry was familiar with using.
The Academy had given Harry three years of training and lessons in the use of handseals, and while Harry was familiar with fuinjutsu, and even Uzushio's fuinjutsu to a point, he had to learn an entirely new branch of theory before he could accurately perform the seal clone without the crutch of a tag - which Kushina's scrolls stated was the desired result.
His need for more information had driven him back into Kushina's bedroom and the wall of scrolls and books. He had found the theory he was looking for, but he also stumbled across a scroll that told of the fall of Uzushio. Written as if it were a collection of stories taken from a bunch of people and narrated by one author, it told a varying and knotted tale of betrayal, rebellion and slaughter amidst the destruction of fire and tsunami - a force of nature loosed upon the remnants of a village feared for their skills in fuinjutsu.
Harry was pulling at his long hair, bent over the scroll, when Minato interrupted him.
Harry did not even look up from the scrolls that lay scattered around his knees on the floor of Kushina's bedroom. He was eyeing them rather blindly, his mind turning over the contents of them in a shadowy turmoil of information and story and accounting.
"Hisui," Minato said and Harry peered at the man through the curtain of his hair, idly thinking that it was getting awfully long. It nearly reached down past his shoulders when he stood upright. With his head bent over as it was, his hair curtained his entire face.
"Hisui," Minato said again, and suddenly Naruto was placed atop the mess of scrolls, right in front of Harry's crossed legs. The little blonde leaned forward and looked up at Harry from beneath his curtain of hair, his big blue eyes wide and curious, as if looking behind a sheet to see who was there. Naruto recognized him suddenly and grinned widely, reached out with his little fists and gave Harry's long hair a good yank.
"Ow!" Harry called grabbing the toddler off the floor and pulling him into his lap.
Naruto just laughed at him, his hands knotted into Harry's hair as if they were glued there, waving his arms around and yanking the locks every once in a while. Harry hugged the boy to him and dug his chin into the boy's neck and blew out through his mouth. Naruto squealed, squirming and giggling and finally let go of Harry's hair in order to grab at his face.
"Naruto!" Harry called, but couldn't be angry with the boy when he was giggling and wiggling and warm in his arms.
Harry tracked his fingertips down the boy's ribs and sent the toddler into another fit of cackling giggles. Naruto curled up tightly into his lap, trying to fend of Harry's tickling fingers with knees and elbows.
Suddenly Harry felt a set of fingers against his own ribs and he whipped his head around to see Minato crouched over him, grinning widely and soon Harry was curled around Naruto, giggling just the same.
The three ended in a heap on the bedroom floor, scrolls scattered and faces still grinning. Naruto was sprawled across Harry's chest, his hand fisted in his father's coat, and Harry was using Minato's stomach as a rather effective pillow.
The sound of paper being shifted echoed in the now quiet room as Minato picked up one of the scrolls Harry had been reading. There was a few moments of silence before the man gave a sad sigh and dropped the scroll in order to push his hand into Harry's hair.
"You chose some heavy topics to read, Hisui-kun," he said.
Harry remained silent, reflective and it was a long few minutes before Minato spoke again.
"Uzushio were our allies," the hokage said. "I remember the day Kushina came to Konoha. She was a part of a group of refugees fleeing a civil war. My teammate had dropped a dango stick in my hair that afternoon and I was picking it out as we watched the refugees arrive. Kushina came alone, with no family. I remember her hair - it stood out so bright!"
Harry smiled, despite himself. He had loved Kushina's beautiful hair, too. Minato let out a breath that Harry felt more than he heard.
"She is - was not the last Uzumaki," Minato said, seeming to skip a great deal of story between Kushina's arrival in Konoha and her death there years later. "But there are few of the clan left and they are very scattered now."
"It wasn't a civil war," Harry corrected quietly, thinking of the scroll's dark contents.
"No, but that is what everyone was told."
They were both silent again and Harry realized that Naruto had fallen asleep and was drooling onto his jacket. The toddler was still sprawled bonelessly across Harry's body and the boy's warmth was a remarkably soothing thing to him. Kushina had had the same sort of heat.
"This collection is a part of her family's library," Minato said and Harry saw his arm wave over them at the wall of shelves. "It is what is left of it, most of it anyways. It contains all that she could find and collect about her clan's techniques and history. It is their legacy, in written form."
The two lay on the floor in companionable silence until Harry began yawning. Minato tucked Harry and Naruto into the big bed that once slept Kushina and without a word, crawled in beside them, wrapping a long arm across both the boys. Harry snuggled his nose into Naruto's hair, and watched Minato's face until he fell asleep, his mind turning over abstract thoughts of Uzumaki seals and a village sinking beneath fire and waves as it fought destruction.
It was the summer before Harry's tenth birthday that he graduated the Academy and became a Genin. He alternately struggled and succeeded in the exams. His written tests on theory and tactics and the like gave him some challenges but he soldiered through them. The tests in the yard afterward demanded he demonstrate his ability to throw kunai and hit targets and he did really well, hitting all bull's eyes - the only one in his class to do so besides Itachi - and he demonstrated his katas without any mistakes. It was the early afternoon where they would be called up to show that they could perform ninjutsu that had him nervous, even after all the written and accuracy tests.
He sat through almost his entire class being called into the room behind Chouga's desk before it was his turn.
"Uzumaki Hisui," Chouga said, motioning him to come down to the front as Itachi came out the door. Harry passed the younger boy silently, and noted the encouraging nod Itachi gave as he passed by.
Harry slunk into the back room.
He was faced with a long table pushed up against the opposite wall, behind which sat three figures, none of whom Harry knew, two men and an elderly woman. They took a long minute to notice his presence, but then the middle one waved at him.
"Show us the clone technique, then," the examiner said, barely looking up from the stack of papers in front of him. "And state your name, please."
"Uzumaki Hisui," Harry obeyed. "The clone technique?"
The man peered up at him over a pair of thick-rimmed glasses. "Yes."
Harry repeated the man's instructions in his head, and then nodded, satisfied. The three examiners all watched him as he pulled three slips of linen tags out of his hip pouch. He ignored one them beginning to speak and quickly slammed the three tags onto the ground at his feet, channeling a trickle of chakra - a trickle was easy - into the three to activate them before the examiners had a chance to recant any of their words.
The tags activated, spreading out lines of sealscript across the floor and with a swirl of air and smoke, revealed nine clones of himself, arrayed before him in a close-knit formation.
"Fuin Bunshin," Harry said softly, kneeling behind his squad of Harry-clones. "The clone technique, as asked."
"Bunshin, Uzumaki," one of the men said, irritated, "This is not - "
"We asked for a clone technique," the lady examiner interrupted. "We did not specify. He accomplished the task we set him and he did so with accuracy." She turned from her fellows to eye Harry with interest. "I hailed from Uzushio, boyo," she told him, garnering his surprise. "I have not seen our clone technique performed for many years. Well done, Uzumaki. Well done, indeed."
The disgruntled examiner grumbled but did not argue.
The lady from Uzushio wrote something down on the papers before here, folded them and put them in an envelope. She then held out the envelope to Harry, along with a shiny new hitai-ate, which he took with a respectful bow to her. His name was scrawled across the envelope's front.
"Congratulations, Uzumaki Hisui," she said, smiling at him. "I hope I see more of Uzushio's techniques from you in the future."
Harry bounded out of the Academy with a wide grin on his face, the envelope of his results clutched tightly in his hand and the cloth band of his new hitai-ate streamed from his fist. He skidded in the yard, where most of his classmates still lingered with family who had met them as they exited after their final test. Harry was one of the last of his class to finish and he scanned the busy yard for familiar faces.
Itachi was standing rather formally before his father and Mikoto, who had Sasuke on her hip. Lin was gabbing irately at a tall man with broad shoulders and greying red hair - her father, Harry knew, though he'd never met the man properly. Hana was amongst a veritable pack of clansmen and dogs and - there!
Harry squeezed between a pair of tearful girls who had failed their yard exams and sprinted over to Minato who stood near the missions office with Naruto perched on his shoulders.
"Well?" Minato asked, smiling as if he already knew the answer. He could probably tell from the proud grin stretched across Harry's face.
"I passed!" Harry exclaimed, waving his results absently. "I used the seal clone and they passed me!"
"They didn't ask for the Bunshin, did they?" Minato asked knowingly. "You saw a way through their instructions! Well done!"
Harry opened his mouth to recount the events inside the examining room by each exact detail but then noticed that Naruto's fingers, which were dug deeply into Minato's blonde hair, were covered with some sort of pink substance.
"Is that - jelly?" Harry asked.
Minato's shoulders slumped a little and his eyes rolled skyward as if he could see his son's happy, sticky expression atop his head. Naruto had the sticky substance smeared across half of his face, his shirt and his own hair as well as Minato's
"That would be dango sauce," Minato said morosely.
Harry watched Naruto tangle his little fingers deeper into his father's hair, the boy's expression one of deep concentration as if it was imperative to the continuation of the world that Naruto ensured the sticky sauce covered every strand of blonde hair.
"It's everywhere, isn't?" Minato asked flatly, as if both afraid of and already knowing the answer.
Harry merely nodded, eyes riveted to the sticky toddler.
Harry wasn't sure what he expected out of a Jonin instructor, but the man who collected them was not it.
Author's Commentary: Oh, Naruto, sticky Naruto, you scene thief, you.
DATA BOOK ENTRY: for fun. Enjoy.
Name: Uzumaki Hisui, AKA: Hari, Tadpole
Rank/Ninja Registration #/Age: Genin/010410/9.5 years
Height/Weight: 122cm (4ft)/variable
Dream: To be strong and protect his precious people.
Quote: "Family protects each other!"
Ninja Skills: Ninjutsu: 1.5, Taijutsu: 2.5, Genjutsu: 1.5, Intelligence: 2, Strength: 1.5, Speed: 3, Stamina: 2.5, Handseals: 2, Total: 16.5
From the Crystal Ball: Weasleys!
The impromptu group then introduced him to yet another orange-topped sibling. Harry, his hair looking jet white in comparison to the brilliant oranges and coppers around him, was beginning to feel a little outnumbered.
The twins gave him a back and forth introduction of the newest sample of Weasley.
"This is our littlest –"
"Our ickilest –"
"Our brother Ron –"
The ickle Ron took one startled look at him and blurted, "What are you, a Malfoy!?"
Harry didn't know what a Malfoy was, but he knew what an insult was and he wondered if he should bother to react to it yet or save it for later. He had been wanting to try out that stick-to-needle spell on someone's wand…
"Ron!" one of his brothers admonished, scandalized. It was the skinny, proper one. Ron only gave him a squint-faced, rebellious look.
"He does look like a Malfoy, with his hair," Bill mused, "But his face isn't nearly feminine enough."
"That's right," said one of the twins – George, he thought. "Malfoys are a might bit girly round the edges –"
Then the twins started answering each other's sentences again.
"Hisui now –"
"Hisui here is too square of jaw –"
"Much more masculine –"
"That's for sure –" the twins continued, not even missing a beat. Harry was finding their back and forth conversational habits to be rather amusing to watch, if difficult to follow at times.
"He does too look like a Malfoy," Ron insisted.
Charlie waved his hand in front of Harry's face as if pulling off a sheet from a statue. "Do try to look past his hair color, Ron," he said with a wide grin. "If you imagine him with different hair color he looks nothing like the Malfoys."
"His hair is white," Ron said, stubborn.
"What's a Malfoy?" Harry asked into the narrow space of conversation.
Ron and the proper-brother stared at him while Bill let out a loud guffaw, followed closely by the twins.
Harry's theory that all Englishmen were mad was quickly solidifying. Despite that, the collective Weasley's and their never ending stream of ribbing, jokes and laughter was rather infectious and they were quickly growing on him.