Fair warning, only because every single review so far seems to mention it - this switches to first person perspective. The reasons will become clear as you read, it just wouldn't flow nearly as well in third. The epilogue is entirely optional so don't feel that you have to read it, but I still feel it's a relatively nice closing point. But then I'm the one who wrote it... so yeah. Take it or leave it - the choice is yours. Enjoy, hopefully.
As is the situation on most days, I have no idea why I woke up when I did. My blanket was warm and I was in a very comfortable position, prompting thoughts as to why, for the life of me, I could not fall back into the blissful oblivion of sleep.
Then again, I realized it should not have come as much of a surprise, as I'd gotten quite used to only needing four or five hours of sleep in order to regain full functionality. Honestly, I usually didn't even need that much.
Finally yawning and deciding that no matter how much I desired it, I wasn't going to fall back asleep if only because my body was wired that way. Sitting up with a groan, I stretched and prepared for my normal morning routine.
Only to stop short when I realized that I wasn't in my room. Well, technically it was my room... I simply didn't have much use for it anymore. One of the perks of my job was that I got a fully furnished apartment on the premises, and a large majority of the time I just used that. It's what it was there for, after all.
After waking up the rest of the way and going through the motions of the morning routine, the first place I headed was the kitchen. Softly padding down the hallways and entering the bright room, a small smile settled on my face as my eyes landed upon the only other person in the room. Considering I hadn't seen or heard anyone else yet, it was likely she was the only other one here. Everyone else had their own things to deal with, after all.
"Good morning, Orihime-san."
The long-tenured family maid turned her head slightly to look over her shoulder, offering me a small smile before she turned back to her task.
"Good morning. You were just going to bed when I got here. I'll never understand how you shinobi function on so little sleep."
I couldn't stop a chuckle from leaving my lips. "I remember a lesson from Tsunade-sama long ago, something about shinobi having an enhanced metabolism due to our active chakra systems."
Orihime hummed for a moment before nodding. "Well, that would explain some things..." I could hear her murmur something more, but decided against paying attention. The smell of food was becoming overpowering, and my stomach chose to announce its displeasure at still being empty.
"My my, always so demanding."
"Who, me or my stomach?"
Orihime turned from the counter with a nicely prepared meal as she walked over to me. She always enjoyed teasing me, and this moment didn't seem like it would be any different. "Well, usually both. But your stomach is definitely much easier to please. I was preparing a meal, thinking you would be waking up until later to eat it. I was just getting ready to wrap it up. You have impeccable timing."
I hummed and started digging into my food as soon as it was placed in front of me. Delicious as always. Looking up I noticed that Orihime was taking off her apron, which she never did unless she was leaving. Well-ingrained manners made certain that I quickly chewed and swallowed before posing the ultimate question:
"Where are you going?"
Orihime offered a faint smile as she grabbed her work bag and headed towards the front door. "I promised to meet Gendo-kun at the Academy. They have half-lessons today because of the upper years' graduation testing, remember?"
My eyes widened as my brain finally decided to kick into gear. It would have come back to me as the day went on, I was well known for being a bit of an airhead for up to an hour after I woke up.
"Thanks for the reminder. Tell the brat I said hello."
Orihime's tinkling laugh came from the entryway. "I will. Can I trust you to clean up after yourself?"
"I guess. I'm not a kid anymore, you know."
"Really? You could have fooled me." I heard the front door open. "Have a good day."
The door closed, and I grumbled to myself as I returned to consuming my morning meal. I loved Orihime dearly, and to be honest she was one of maybe five people anywhere in the Elemental Nations that I would allow to get away with calling me names. She knew it too, though to her credit she only acted that way when we were alone or around our respective families.
As I turned back to my food, my eyes happened to scan over the counter where she had been standing. I noticed that while all the food had been put away, there were still dishes to clean.
Dammit. I hated doing the dishes.
Today was technically supposed to be my one day of the week off barring any unforseen emergencies, so I took full advantage of that fact. Dressed in my usual jonin attire, complete with orange open-fingertip gloves and both Uchiha and Uzumaki crests embroidered onto the collar of my flak vest.
Making my way slowly around the former Uchiha District, I offered greetings and was given many in return as I moved from stall to stall, checking for any interesting items one of the vendors may have had. None of them seemed to have changed much inventory since I was last through here about a month ago, but I'm not sure what I was expected. While aimlessly wandering around the village was not something I was responsible for, most of the people I talked to appeared to appreciate my visits.
Moving back to one of the main paths and looking around once again, I couldn't help but marvel at how quickly things were capable of changing. What had once been a primarily residential district had managed to transform into a large trade bazaar that always had something exciting going on. The Uchiha clan was still headquartered here, of course, as was my 'permanent' home, even if I used my apartment more often than not.
Hiding a yawn behind my hand, I gradually made my way out of the bazaar and onto the main concourse, idly watching as carts drawn by all manner of creatures from horses to mules to even the people themselves as they went by. Some recognized me and offered greetings, which I felt compelled to return.
I had a destination in mind, thinking that I hadn't seen the people that resided there in a while. Well... it had been maybe three days, but in my line of work it felt like forever. Hopping up to the rooftops, a few quick jumps had my target in sight, and it was barely thirty seconds later that I landed silently outside of a small, well maintained area.
The Uzumaki Compound.
That was the official title on the books at least. I'd heard the Yondaime grudgingly refer to it as the Hellhole every once in a while. I'm certain it was in a completely affectionate manner. Really. He was usually smiling when he said it.
Walking over to one of the larger houses, I knocked on the door, honestly unsure if anyone was home at this hour. Luckily it didn't take long for me to hear footsteps running up to the door, followed by said door being yanked open and a little missile with red hair jumping right into my gut.
Trying to ease the pain in my abdomen and peel the little squirt off of me at the same time, I couldn't help but chuckle. "What are you doing home, Chika-chan? I thought you still had school today?"
Before the little girl could answer, there was a faint laugh from the doorway. Looking up, I saw one of the women I admired most in the world... after my own mother, of course.
"Chika was complaining that she wasn't feeling good this morning, and since it was a short day I let her stay home. However she seems fine now, so perhaps I should oversee her training myself for the rest of the afternoon? Hmm?"
"Ohhh, I'm not feeling so good..." The spunky redhead collapsed in a controlled manner onto the ground at my feet, moaning piteously. I tried to keep it back, but I'm pretty sure a giggle escaped my lips.
"Is there something I can do for you, Hikari-chan? It's nice to see you, as always."
I tried to keep my face from twitching, but I'm pretty sure it did since the woman in front of me immediately graced me with one of her knowing smirks. Other than Orihime-san, this lady was one of the others I'd unwillingly allow to treat me like a kid, but get away with it.
"Yes, actually. Do you know where Minato-ojisan is, Kushina-obasan?"
Kushina actually rolled her eyes and shook her head. "No, sorry. Last he told me he was working on some super secret project with Morino Ibiki and Yamanaka Inoichi. Something to do with the sensory barrier, I'd guess."
The older redhead snorted and crossed her arms over her chest. "Men and their toys," she muttered.
On one hand, I felt myself agreeing. On the other hand, however, I understood the necessity of the barrier. We kept impeccable records of all people who entered the village both legally and illegaly. At least we tried to, no village security system was perfect, no matter how much I'd like to delude myself that ours was.
"I see," I said, shrugging. "Well, if you see him, can you let him know that I'm looking for him? It's not that important, but I'd like to pick his brain about a few things."
I nodded and was about to walk off, before her voice stopped me. "By the way, do you know when Jirou-kun might come over to visit again? Naomi misses her best friend."
To be honest, I wasn't sure how to respond to that. Jirou was my next youngest sibling, and he was a bit of a hothead... or at least he used to be. He and Uzumaki Naomi had been virtually inseparable growing up, but something happened a few months ago. They got into some massive fight, and Jirou pretty much turned into a recluse.
I was curious, naturally... but I wasn't the type to pry into someone's private business. I don't know if he appreciated that or not, because I very rarely got anything more than one word answers out of him. Sadly, we were never that close growing up because Naomi pretty much hogged him all to herself, so pulling out the sibling card to help him with his problems was a definite no-go.
"You know I can't very well order my brother to do something he doesn't want to do, right?" I spit that out with a bit more vitriol than I intended, and immediately felt guilty when a wince passed across my aunt's face before she looked away. I immediately opened my mouth to apologize, but she beat me to it.
"No, I understand. I didn't mean it like that, but she's been inconsolable for a while now and I have no idea what's wrong."
I let out a sigh. "Did you ask her what happened?"
"I tried." My aunt pushed some loose strands of hair back behind her ear. "She won't answer me. All she does now is go about her business like a drone. Even her usual teammates have visited, asking if I could do something. I'm at my wits end."
I grimaced. "If I talk to her, it won't end well, you know. Even if she is my cousin, we've never really gotten along." Perhaps that was a bit blunt, but it was the truth. I think in every family you're guaranteed to have at least one person you don't like all that much. For my family, that person was Naomi.
Not just because she pretty much stole one of my brothers from me, but she also loved being the center of attention. In class when she was in the academy, on her squad, in any bar. She let the fame of her parents get to her a little too much, and for all intents and purposes acted like a spoiled little princess.
I know for a fact that my aunt didn't raise her like that, and even if Minato-ojisan could go easy on her from time to time, I have no idea where she learned that behavior from. She was so bad at times that even my dad tried to keep her at arms length.
Now that is saying something.
Kushina didn't say anything further regarding Naomi, instead letting out a small sigh before clapping her hands. "Come on, Chika. Get up and get inside. You've got some studying to do, or there will be no dessert for you tonight after dinner."
The little redhead hopped to her feet faster than I thought possible, and without so much as a 'by-your-leave' ran around her mother back into the house.
"By the way," Kushina began once Chika was back in the house, "Nagato returned from Rain Country yesterday, he's visiting with his niece. You know the one, Konan and Yahiko's little girl?"
"Of course!" I smiled. The girl was adorable, and could do amazing things with paper. "Since he's back, do you think he'd have some free time to do a little training?"
My aunt smiled at me. I was once again struck by how pretty she was. For a forty-something, she didn't even really look thirty. Uzumaki longevity is amazing.
"If he wasn't available I wouldn't have mentioned it. He actually suggested it to me when he got back, but he wants a day to rest first."
I waved my hand. "No problem. Just tell him to stop by when he has time. I'll make some free time for myself."
"Certainly. Thanks for stopping by, Hikari-chan. I'll make sure to mention to my husband that you're looking for him. Whenever he decides to stop playing with his toys and come home, anyway."
I grinned slightly, secretly relieved that she either forgot to talk more about Naomi or decided to leave the subject be. Either way was fine with me. Waving goodbye, I jumped back up to the rooftops, thinking about what I wanted my next destination to be.
Frowning, I quickly realized that I didn't have much to do, short of perhaps going shopping or tagging around with one of my family members. Perhaps a random, surprise visit to one of Konoha's departments? Nah. It's my day off.
Sighing internally, I started jumping around from rooftop to rooftop, stretching my senses and looking for familiar signatures. I had the chakra 'feeling' of all my immediate family memorized, so I knew how to pinpoint them exactly should the need ever arise. So far it hadn't, but better safe than sorry.
As I neared the edge of the second ring of Konoha, I started picking up one... no... two traces outside the village in one of the training grounds. As I got closer, I noticed that it was Training Area Sixteen, which was often used by chunin who were experimenting with new techniques.
Imagine my surprise to find Jirou there along with my next youngest sister, Amaya. Jirou was watching her with his Sharingan active, while she appeared to be doing some sort of chakra-related exercise. Her chakra was fluctuating a bit, but it was nothing severe. Both of them looked up when I landed.
Jirou's Sharingan immediately faded, returning back to his dark onyx colored eyes. Amaya, meanwhile, stood up and rushed over to me, giving me a tight hug. "Neesan! It feels like forever since I saw you!"
"Well, you were out on assignment for three weeks, and I was busy when you got back. So, in our line of work, it sort of has been forever."
She grinned at me and I looked to see if I could notice any changes. At sixteen, she was already what I'd consider a knockout beauty, though I liked to believe I was no slouch in the looks department either. However while I took after my father, Amaya more resembled our mother.
If I was to be petty and further compare our looks, she had legs I would gladly kill for, though I beat her handily in the bust department. We both kept our hair at about the same length, just above our shoulder blades – however my hair was a deep golden color just like my father, whereas Amaya had a rather unique very deep red. So deep that it appeared black unless you held it directly under a bright light.
The one trait we did share was that we both were born with our father's bright blue eyes, though mine had leaned more towards a greenish-blue.
Glancing over at my younger brother, I saw him staring dispassionately at us, not moving.
"Hey there, Jirou."
He simply nodded, followed by a succinct, "Hello."
"What, you're not going to come give your big sister a hug?" I rearranged my face into a pout, hoping to tease him a little, but as usual lately he completely ignored it. Snorting, I began arguing with myself about mentioning Naomi, but Amaya posed a question to me that made me temporarily forget about it.
"Hikari-neesan, you know the Rasengan, right?"
Raising an eyebrow, I slowly nodded my head. "Yeah. It's something like a rite of passage in our family." That was perhaps stretching the truth a bit, even if from a certain perspective it was true. We weren't forced to do it at any point, but when asked about it we were all willingly given instructions by the adults. Now it had become something of a new tradition. I knew for a fact that my older brother and Jirou could both do it, and I'd seen my cousin Masahiro do it as well. The only one I didn't know for sure was Naomi... but I didn't really care about her anyway.
Among all of my siblings and cousins I did hold a trump card - I was the only one who could successfully complete and use the Rasenshuriken other than my father. Uncle Minato could make one, but he needed four clones to my two, and he was completely wiped out after making one.
"Do you have any tips?"
I eyed her hands critically. "Has Jirou suggested anything?"
Amaya frowned briefly before fixing into a neutral mask, shaking her head. The frown was quick, but I saw it. "He said that he'd let me know if something was wrong, but other than that, nothing."
Nodding more to myself than anyone else, I did a hand-seal then held it to the inside of my left wrist. A small puff of smoke later and a small marker appeared in my right hand. Most people thought it was silly of me to seal away writing utensils, but in my line of work I never knew when I'd need to sign something.
Reaching out and grabbing Amaya's left hand, I made our leaf symbol in the middle of her palm. A few of the lines were a little squiggly, but I'm sure she understood what it was. As I re-sealed my marker away, my sister looked curiously at the mark, then back at me, obviously waiting for an explanation.
"Focus your chakra onto that point. Worry about the power later, right now you just need to be able to focus, focus, focus. When you can feel the chakra in your hand, start spinning it in one direction first, then continue adding directions until you can contain all that spinning chakra into a ball. Add some power to it and you'll have a Rasengan before you know it."
As if to solidify my point, in a little over a second I had lifted my hand and held a perfectly round Rasengan in it. Amaya looked at it, then me, and finally nodded with a smile. "Thanks, neesan."
As Amaya moved towards the shade of some trees to practice for a little while, I slowly walked over to Jirou, who stared at me the entire way. At first I was getting cold feet, but I knew deep down that something needed to be done.
"I know you likely don't want to hear this, but you need to do something about Naomi."
His face immediately darkened, and I believed with that one sentence I effectively burned any amount of sibling-sympathy I had from him.
"Kushina came just short of begging me today. I don't know what it is that's going on between you two, but I for one am tired of it. I miss the brother I almost never had because that girl sunk her fangs into you early, and now you're essentially a recluse. I don't care what you have to do – short of outright killing or injuring her, anyway – but this shit needs to stop, now. Do you understand?"
I hated to pull the authority card – as limited as it was over family – but I really was tired of this whole situation. I was tempted to bribe some of the mission assignment people to give Naomi some long term border patrol mission on the ass-end of nowhere. I'd even be willing to prostrate myself before my aunt and uncle to beg for forgiveness, believing it was a necessary evil to do so.
Jirou had paled as I moved along on my rant, before scowling near the end and simply disappearing with a Body Flicker.
I sighed. So much for that.
"Was that really necessary?"
I couldn't stop my shoulders from shrugging. "Perhaps. Perhaps not. At this point I'm about to give up on him and Naomi both. They need a kick in their respective rears. I don't like getting involved in personal affairs like that, but Kushina-obasan asked me to try to do something... so..."
Amaya was awesome. She always accepted simple explanations and didn't press for details unless lives depended on it. My parents were both usually the same way. It was amazing when child-rearing worked correctly.
I was about to ask my sister if she needed any further help with learning the Rasengan, but a flare of chakra from an arriving ANBU operative stopped that. It was a woman with long, flowing purple hair, though she didn't look to be in uniform.
I have to admit that I'm biased towards some people, if it hasn't been obvious already... though I believe most others are just like me. Yuugao is one of my favorite people since she used to babysit me on occasion when I was little, along with the rest of her genin team. It sucks when everyone grows old and starts doing their own things, though there were a few bonds that I tried desperately to keep from breaking. Yuugao was one of them.
"Yuugao-nee, how are you?"
She graced me with a small smile as she walked closer, offering the same to Amaya who made a point to go over and hug the other woman. "I'm doing well. How are both of you?"
We both chirped that we were fine. I then simply stared at her with a raised eyebrow, physically asking her what she was doing all the way out here. As brilliant as Yuugao is, she picked up on it immediately.
"I met your brother in passing, he asked to meet you at your office when it's convenient."
I sighed and rubbed at my forehead. 'When it's convenient' in Itachi-speak was 'get your ass here now'. Yuugao was the only one who would phrase it so nicely. Did I mention I really liked her?
"Thanks, Yuugao-nee. Did he volunteer you again? Do I have to kick his ass?"
The purple haired woman let out a tinkling laugh, shaking her head. "No, it's fine. He's just on baby duty today or he may have come to get you himself. I was just dropping off some of my own paperwork."
It made sense. Yuugao was in charge of ANBU Division Delta, while Itachi was the ANBU Commander, so they were often relaying messages for each other.
"Now that my job is done, if you'll both excuse me I need to go get my kids from Anko's before she completely corrupts them."
I winced. Between Anko and my Uncle Obito, if she wasn't careful her kids would never be the same. "Yeah, you'd better hurry."
She laughed again before disappearing in a swirl of leaves. Turning back to my sister, I saw that she had plopped down on the ground again and was focusing on the spot I had drawn on her hand. There was chakra pulsing rapidly, so she was well on her way.
"Do you need anything else, Amaya?"
"Hm?" She looked up at me. "Oh... um, no. I'm going to work on this a little more before I go home. Will I see you there?"
I didn't really know. "Maybe, if mom and dad get back today, I might stay over for the night."
Amaya smiled. "It would be nice to have us all at home for a day. It's been a while."
Running through my recent memories, I had to agree. I think the last time we were all at home was for my father's birthday, about... oh, seven months ago? "True. I'll see if I can make it. Anyway, I'd better go see what Itachi wants now, so I'll see you later. Good luck with your project."
"Thanks Hikari-neesan. See you later."
Thankfully when I arrived at my office, it looked to be a quiet day in the rest of the building. Stopping by my secretary, she only handed me a few forms – likely the ones Yuugao dropped off earlier – and told me that my brother was in fact waiting in my office.
Thanking her, I opened the door to my office and entered, looking around the room. I hadn't changed it much from the way my predecessor left it, other than perhaps a few pictures on the wall and on my desk. There really wasn't much to change.
Well, there was a playpen in the corner, because for some reason or another a lot of baby-monitoring seemed to have happened here. That's what happens when your family controls the office for over twenty years.
I sighed and counted to ten in my mind. "Aniki, how many times have I told you that you can just use my name when we're like this?"
Itachi chuckled from where he was sitting at the desk, holding and playing with his son who was already nearing toddlerhood. I couldn't believe how quickly he was growing. "Likely over fifty times. Maybe a hundred. I stopped keeping count, but if I don't act in a professional manner, who knows what kind of precedent that will set for the rest of my people under my charge."
I tsk'ed as I walked over to them after closing the office door behind me. "Even in private? I don't think I'll ever understand you."
"That's fine. I've never asked you to."
I lightly chuckled at his blasé attitude before crouching down in front of his son, who clapped excitedly and mumbled baby talk at me before sticking out his pudgy little hands in my direction.
"Aww, and how are you my little Sasuke-kun? Did you come to see your Auntie Hikari?"
He gurgled something before I clearly heard a repeated 'Higgi, Higgi!' and continued holding his hands out. I grabbed the little one and hoisted him up much to his delight, assuming the squeals were any indication. Of course at the same time I was trying to keep myself from melting into a pile of goo and letting out a squeal of my own, hearing the little one attempt to say my name. I was more professional than that. Especially in front of Itachi, as he'd never let me live it down, not to mention that he was in charge of nearly one third of my forces. You know, the ones who were supposed to be under my executive command? I can imagine them snickering from their hiding places now.
Trying to regain my composure and ignore Itachi's knowing look, I deliberately changed the subject. "So the missus had to work today?" I asked.
My older brother nodded. Settling Sasuke on my hip and bouncing him a little, I examined Itachi for a moment. He looked more content than I had ever seen him, and that's really saying something. Growing up he confessed to me when we were both older teens that he always felt so overshadowed by our parents, that they had such monstrous figures to live up to and match.
Of course, both of our parents being who they were spotted this rather easily. They simply told both of us, as I believe they have since told all of my siblings, that we only have to do what we want to do. There were no expectations.
While that eased our minds somewhat, Itachi still wanted to get as far as he could, and I think he even wanted to be Hokage at one point, but that was barred from him thanks mostly to Konoha's charter, which said that an Uchiha could not be Hokage after the whole Madara debacle from long ago.
The council at the time had pushed that through back then because all of the clans were rather upset with the Uchiha, and no one had really worked to reverse it, though the Nidaime Hokage had given my ancestors the Police Force as a 'oops, we're sorry' gesture.
My brother had settled for ANBU Commander before they figured out a little loophole, likely figuring it was the next best thing. He chose to maintain his course. Needless to say he's the youngest one, ever.
As for me? Well, I was the best pick for Hokage after the Yondaime stepped down for multiple reasons. Even though I was born an Uchiha, I lucked out because my father is an Uzumaki. That little loophole from before? Yeah, thanks to a trick of paperwork and the way my parents marriage contract was worded, for the duration of my tenure as Hokage I'm technically Uzumaki Hikari. There wasn't a single complaint then, and still hasn't been one almost a year later, so I'd venture a guess that I'm not doing too shabby.
In my heart, though, I'm pure Uchiha. Don't get me wrong, I adore my Uzumaki heritage... I just wasn't raised understanding the history and the way of life of the Uzumaki clan, but rather the Uchiha one. Dad told me bits and pieces, but I honestly don't think he even knew much about his old family, since he and his sister were orphans. He claimed that she knew a lot more, as she was the history buff between them, but I never bothered to ask.
I handed Sasuke back to my brother as I moved around my desk. Thankfully it was still clean and neither of my assistants had decided to junk it up. I had to admit that they were rather competent, so it wasn't much of a surprise.
Sitting down, I smiled to myself as I heard Sasuke giggling with his father, I looked at my older brother again. He was, for all intents and purposes, a perfect copy of our mother, just obviously with more masculine features. It was fairly amusing to both my parents then when I ended up being a perfect copy of my father, whisker marks on my cheeks and all while... you guessed it... having more feminine features. Though to be fair, all of my siblings had the whisker marks, minus Itachi. As for the reason why, it's all jibberish about seals that I don't really know that well, but it has something do with the old fuzzbutt, Kyuubi.
Though I hated, hated, hated when he performed that 'sexy technique' of his. Ohhhh! It made me so mad to think of that completely perfect figure. Of course, my mother would be the only woman in the village who would laugh along with my father when he did that. I bet every other mother would be absolutely scandalized. Thankfully he didn't scar my mind with it until I was well into my teen years.
But... wait, wow. I've started digressing all over the place.
"So what did you need to see me about, Aniki?"
Itachi looked at me before his gaze shifted back to his son, who was now trying to eat his own hand, apparently. "Two things. Father sent a clone here earlier today, but since you weren't in it came to me before dispelling. They're returning from Kiri and should be here this evening."
I raised an eyebrow. "Did they say how things went with Yagura?"
"Not too much, other than it was successful. Somehow they talked him into coming to visit Konoha, something about the Sanbi and Kyuubi catching up on old times."
"Do I need to prepare for a diplomatic visit?"
Itachi shook his head, though still watching Sasuke as he bounced the giggling boy on his knee. "No, it will be purely informal from what he says. Besides, you have enough on your plate with the Tsuchikage coming to visit in a few days."
That was true. Though I think Kurotsuchi was just using this string of diplomatic visits to get away from the stuffy old men she was waiting to die off on her advisory council, relics left over from before her grandfather passed on. Her dad didn't want the spot so she was literally handed the Tsuchikage position on a platter.
I thought it was fairly amusing how she was even a year younger than I was. Perhaps she was just coming to me for advice? Like I'm some sort of bastion of kage-advice.
Naaah. We end up drinking the nights away, usually.
"What was the other thing?"
Itachi paused for a moment, as if steeling himself. He'd even stopped bouncing Sasuke, who was looking about randomly as if wondering why the bouncing stopped.
"Jirou applied for ANBU yesterday. I just found out from Rin-nee this morning. I'm guessing he thought she wouldn't come directly to me with it."
I leaned back in my chair, arms crossing over my chest. Well, this was interesting. Rin was in charge of Beta Division, and while we were acquaintances, I wasn't nearly as close with her as I was with Yuugao. Still, Jirou had to know that Itachi would have seen the application eventually, and then me. "Do you know what's up with him and Naomi, by the way? Do you think that had something to do with his application?"
"Perhaps..." Itachi's voice trailed off, obviously thinking about it. "Some ANBU assignments have been known to last for months, perhaps he feels the urge to just get away for a while."
I sighed and rubbed at my forehead. I could already feel a headache coming on, and today was supposed to be my day off, dammit. "I already talked to him this morning about the whole Naomi thing. Before that I've already mentioned to him about becoming a jonin, I mean he's twenty years old now and more than capable of taking up the new rank. He's already been sitting at special jonin for three years. As much as I don't want to say it, I think following Naomi around has messed him up."
Itachi simply nodded, not denying a word. I knew that he didn't particularly care for Naomi either – no one in my family did that I knew of, but Itachi was the most patient with her. Whenever I asked him why he had such patience for her, he would just ruffle my hair in an affectionate manner then state that he had practice from dealing with me.
Of course I'd be mad at him for all of five seconds before realizing he was probably right. I was a bit of a brat until I graduated the Academy. I had even adopted my father's mannerisms when he was young, or so he claimed.
I was such... no, I still am such a daddy's girl. My mother used to joke that she'd have to watch out for when I got older or I'd steal my dad away from her. I was perfectly willing to do just that until I started entering my later teens, but I'm mature enough now to admit that I used to have a serious crush on him, as odd as that may sound.
I take solace in the fact now that I'm likely closer to him than any other women in the world, barring his sister and my mother. I'm comfortable with that.
Bringing my thoughts back to the matter at hand, I said, "Tell him I said no until he becomes jonin and can have a mature conversation with me that consists of more than two words. Until then, ANBU is barred to him. If he needs an assignment to get away for a bit, I'll see if I can find one for him if he can ask me personally for it without being a baby."
Itachi actually winced. "Isn't that a bit harsh?"
I shrugged. Honestly, I was just tired of the whole situation. "Maybe, but give me some credit, Aniki. We're a family of shinobi. So are the Uzumaki. I know that Minato-ojisan used to cater to Naomi a little too much, but I can cut him some slack since she was his first born daughter. Okay, I get that. But I'm not the Yondaime Hokage, and I won't tolerate either of our families not acting like what we were born to be."
I have no idea where that speech came from. But I thought it sounded pretty cool. Itachi must have thought so too, because his face showed surprise for a moment before it morphed into a grin, and he made a show of wiping a fake tear from his eye.
"Look at my Imouto, all grown up. It makes a grown man cry."
I growled at him, tempted to throw a paperweight at his head, but he was still holding Sasuke. As if sensing my desire and subsequent predicament, the little squirt gurgled out a laugh.
Or maybe he was laughing at me too.
Down, Hikari. Don't think about throwing things at babies. You like babies.
A knock at the door caused me to frown. I wasn't supposed to even be here today, and everyone in the village knew I was off, so who the hell...
Sighing again and sending a glare at the amused look Itachi gave me, I shouted for whoever it was to enter.
"Hokage-sama! How are you?"
I groaned internally. That was Uzumaki Masahiro. He was equal parts crazy and scary smart, in a strange sense he was almost like a perfect mix between my father and his own mother, Kushina. Uncle Minato had jokingly washed his hands of Masahiro, suggesting that he was a little too intimidated to try to handle a male version of his wife.
Rumor was that he spent a week on the couch for that joke.
"I'm fine, Masahiro-kun. How are you?"
"Great!" In a creepy way, the beaming smile he was giving me reminded me of my father. Honestly, we all noticed that he looked exactly like my dad, the only difference was that he had red hair like both of his other siblings, and not blond.
It was something of a running joke, though as we got older, Itachi and I both noticed that whenever the subject came up that the four parents all had these knowing looks, like they were all privy to some inside joke that us kids wouldn't understand.
When we asked, they either brushed it off or tried to joke about how it would be interesting to have a non-redhead Uzumaki for the first time in who knows how long. Of course with me that joke fell a little flat, because I was the first blond Uchiha-born in about sixty years, according to the clan record.
"Hey, Hikari-oneesan? Can I pick up one of the graduating squads and become a sensei?"
My mind came to a jarring halt. I must have sat there and stared blinking at him for a few moments. Stopping yet another sigh and internally scowling at another amused look Itachi was sending my way, I simply asked why.
"Well, Etsuko-chan and Isamu-kun are both graduating today, right? I sort of promised them when we were all younger that I'd be their sensei someday."
Huh. I didn't know he'd said that to my youngest twin siblings. Learn something new every day.
"You're just now deciding to bring this to my attention today? On the day they graduate?"
Masahiro winced a little, and his smile faltered. It was only then that I noticed he entered with someone else... none other than one of my assistants, Hyuuga Hinata. Masahiro tended to have that blinding effect, bringing all the attention to himself and making everyone else around him sort of invisible.
That was interesting. Maybe there was some fact to the rumors that the Hyuuga planned on asking about marrying the two of them. Being my assistant, I saw Hinata quite often, and easily noticed the doe-eyes she would send towards my cousin.
Awkwardly, Masahiro used to look at me the same way. Yeah, I was aware of it but he never said anything, and there was no way in hell I was getting with a cousin that was just like my dad. I'd rather have the real thing, not the copy.
I can't believe I just thought that. I need to wash my mind out with bleach.
"Look, Masahiro-kun, first you need to be a full jonin, not just a special jonin. Go take your test when it's available next month, and I'll see about you getting a part time apprenticeship with them if both they and their assigned sensei agree. But the teams were already picked about a month ago."
He looked a little disappointed at first, but as I gradually explained, his face returned to the beaming smile.
"Thanks, Hikari-oneesan! I'll get right on it!"
Without another word, he immediately turned around and ran out the door. I couldn't stop a small, fond smile that worked its way onto my face – unlike the way my younger brother had been acting recently, Masahiro was still bustling with energy and willing to work to prove himself.
I idly nodded my head as Hinata made a small bow and quickly turned and ran as well, following after Masahiro. I admit to liking her, she's a competent worker and while perhaps a little on the shy side... she has an undeniable subtle, steely grace that was perfect for political work.
Itachi cleared his throat, making me focus on him again.
"Well, I think that's all Hokage-sama. If you'll excuse me, I need to get this one home to take a nap."
Looking at Sasuke, I could see that he was leaning back against his father's chest now, eyes drooping a little. If he was anything like his father, he was an early riser, and being as young as he was it made sense that he'd be tired.
"Alright. Will you be coming back home tonight if mom and dad make it today?"
He shrugged as he rose, then turned the question back on me. "Will you?"
Okay, so perhaps I was a little notorious for not being home since becoming the Godaime. But could you blame me? It was a lot of work.
"I promised Amaya that I would, so yes."
He nodded. "I'll be there. If Sasuke's awake and my wife is home, I'll bring them too."
I graced them both with a small smile, though it looked like the little one had already drooped off to sleep. "See you then."
The rest of the day, thank the gods, was dead quiet. After catching a nap in my office (don't tell anyone!), I stopped by my father's favorite place to eat... Ichiraku Ramen. I wasn't as big a fan of the stuff as he was, but I had to admit, their ramen was to die for.
Not only that, but Ayame was pretty fun to gossip with, and her little boy was quite the charmer as well. Of course, I just seem to have a thing for babies anyway. Not that I'd ever tell anyone that. Sure, I want one or two of my own some day, but not for a good few years yet. I had to find a man that I didn't completely intimidate with my eyes or my position first, and that I wasn't related to.
Sadly, that made the dating market rather small.
I sat up straighter at the ramen stall when a very familiar sensation brushed against the limits of my sensory capabilities. It was still a fair distance off, so I had some time yet. Still, paying my bill and quickly excusing myself, I hopped back to my office and grabbed my robe and hat.
Walking down the main concourse towards the outer south gate, I returned the greetings of everyone that was willing to offer one. Of course everyone was willing to say hello to the Hokage, so believe it or not I had to be careful where I walked in my garb, for fear of losing my voice of all things. The population of Konoha had burgeoned in recent years, what with the addition of nearly a dozen new clans in the last twenty five years, two full walled expansions, plus all the extra needs a village of that size entailed.
The workload of the position of Hokage had evened out a little bit, there was a lot more to do with the military, research, and security departments, but actual governing responsibilities had been shifted over to a new installed governor from the daimyo's court about seven or eight years ago. It was unprecedented at the time, and Konoha was really considered a fully-fledged city now, but the population was becoming a bit too much for our simple clan-based government to run.
Oh, the Clan Council still existed (Itachi had been the Uchiha Head for about three years now after mom retired, he'd often tell me all about the meetings) though they reported to the governor's office now. I was friendly enough with the governor, though we usually minded our own business where our jobs were concerned. Mostly because I couldn't stand stuck up court politicians and would sooner beat them into a bloody paste than deal with their political gimmicks, and the governor couldn't tell a kunai from a butter knife.
As I stood at the outer south gate and watched the sun start to set behind the trees, I began to wonder what the Konoha of my parents had looked like, before the way it became the way it was today. Certainly there were pictures, but not as many as you'd think. Of course some of the more interesting ones were of when my parents were dating, and I always enjoyed looking at the before and after's of the Hokage Monument.
Maybe I'm a little bit biased in that regard, considering my face is on it now.
I straightened up a little as I saw several figures approaching in the distance. To be honest, I was a little nervous about meeting the Mizukage, Yagura, even if he wasn't here on official business... but he was the only Kage that I hadn't met personally yet during the almost-year of me being Hokage.
It wasn't for lack of trying, but they had the Chunin Exams in Kiri about two months after my coronation, and I wasn't realistically prepared to travel. We were having them in Iwa next month, so I would have met him then anyway, if not now.
As they got closer, I could make out several other figures, who were probably the Mizukage's escort. There were three of them, and as they approached it was pitifully easy to recognize who they were.
Hoshigaki Kisame, Momochi Zabuza, and Hozuki Mangetsu. All from clans that did not leave Kiri to come to Konoha, and all three were rather notorious members of the Kiri no Shinobigatana Schichinin Shu.
Itachi was going to be grumbling about the security detail needed for these guys. As they all approached, I first reached a hand out for Yagura, who for someone of his relatively short stature had a surprisingly strong grip.
Seriously, I was of about average height, but he was easily two to three inches shorter than I was. Poor guy. However, with his grayish-white hair, bright violet eyes, and facial tatoo that went from his left eye down along his cheek and ending at the jawline, he had a sort of bad-boy look to him.
Too bad he was about three decades older than I was. Wait, what am I thinking? Bad Hikari!
"It's nice to meet you, Mizukage-sama."
He grinned. Dammit, don't smile like that. "You as well, Hokage-sama. Your parents speak greatly of your talents."
"Do they now?" I smiled, equal parts amused and terrified. Knowing my parents... ugh, I can only imagine what they really told him.
"It's all good, I assure you." He chuckled, then made a show of looking around inside the gate. I hoped that I picked up on his gesture, and waved my hand. One of my ANBU dropped down behind me on a knee.
Nodding at the ANBU operative, I switched my gaze to Yagura again. "Do you and your escorts need a place to stay, Mizukage-sama, or did you already have plans?"
Yagura shook his head. "Please, we're not here officially, so feel free to call me Yagura. I would appreciate a place to stay, though, since I doubt I'll be here for more than three or four days."
"Very well." I smiled. "Then I insist you call me Hikari."
He nodded before I turned to look at the ANBU, who was still kneeling. "Bird, can you please show Yagura and his escort to the executive diplomatic suites? Let the staff know they'll need to prepare for five days."
As the ANBU affirmed the order and rose to his feet, he gestured for the group to follow. I noticed Yagura was looking at me with a raised eyebrow, but I merely shrugged. "Knowing my dad and my aunt, you may be here longer than you're expecting. Consider yourself warned."
He chuckled and nodded, starting to move and follow the ANBU. "Mikoto mentioned something to that effect." Waving his hand, he got his own escorts to fall in behind him, though they were busy looking around at everything to see in the village and muttering among themselves.
As they started moving away, I felt an arm drape around my shoulders. Pulling the Hokage hat off of my head, I leaned into the shoulder hug, letting the warm presence and familiar chakra wash over me.
"How's my girl doing?"
As I heard my dad's voice again for the first time in a month, I felt a pleasant sensation run up my spine. It was a deep and comforting voice, and was one that I could listen to for hours. I know at times he was amazed as to how I managed to pay attention to his lessons to me when I was younger.
"I'm great, dad. How about you?"
He chuckled, and the vibrations of that carried across my shoulder. "I'm wonderful. It was a long trip, but Yagura is a pretty fun guy, as always."
"I'm glad to hear it. It's nice to finally meet him."
My father hummed his agreement before releasing me, and then I turned to look at my mother. I seriously thought she was one of if not the most beautiful woman in the entire village, buuuut I can admit that may have been yet another bias of mine coming into play. In all seriousness, the woman was in her mid forties but barely looked a day over thirty, and she had no Uzumaki genes to fall back on.
That's not to say the difference wasn't more incredible in my father, as he was a year older than my mom but he didn't look like he had aged a day past twenty-five. It was just like my Aunt Kushina, and something to do with Uzumaki longevity. Uncle Nagato was still pretty spry for a fifty-something, instead appearing to be in his thirties. If he wasn't always so thin he might look even younger.
I seriously hoped that I inherited that longevity too, and that's not just my inner vanity talking.
Anyway, my mother still had this alluring 'I'm hot but I can kill you before you blink' look going on. There was some sort of battle that happened where she lost her eyes before I was born, and I know they don't like to talk about it much but she's always worn an eye patch ever since. In her other eye, I know that she had replaced her original eye with one from my grandfather, because she was losing vision in it. That meant she had the Eternal Mangekyou, but I'd never seen her do anything with it, or even activate it for that matter.
As a consequence of the exchange, however, her Sharingan was always active at its base level, but I thought it merely enhanced her look. After all, I could relate with how it felt to always have your doujutsu active. My Rinnegan was the same way.
I can still remember the day it activated like it was yesterday, mostly because it both saved my life coupled with the awed and fearful looks from my teammates and sensei. It made quite an impression on my then-sixteen year old self.
Luckily between my parents and Uncle Nagato, they helped me cope. The eyes were powerful – of that there was no doubt, but with them also came a lot of responsibility. Considering I could bring back the recently deceased if I was willing to part with some of my own life force in exchange?
Yeah, try to not let it go to your head.
Anyway, after greeting my mom and welcoming them both back, I peeled off my Hokage robe and we started walking back towards our old family home with them. They looked surprised at first that I was walking with them, but they didn't question it so I didn't say anything.
"So, are your brother and sister bouncing off the walls yet after graduating?" my mother asked.
I couldn't help but chuckle. "They were plenty energetic, certainly. I saw your clones in the crowd when I was offering my congratulations, and I think they're pretty excited to be placed on a team under Obito-ojisan. I had to hide the candy or we may not have had a house left."
Both of my parents chuckled. My mother seemed a little sad that we were all growing up, but she had confided in me a couple years ago that she wanted more children. Unfortunately there were some complications during the birth of the twins, and Tsunade-sama felt it wasn't safe for her health to have any more.
I couldn't believe that my mom wanted nine kids... most clan families don't have more than two, the so called 'heir and a spare'. Supposedly when my parents started dating, my dad jokingly asked for nine, and I immediately caught the Kyuubi reference. My mom was willing to go along with it at first because of both the uniqueness factor and she was newly in love, she confirmed, but then over time decided she actually wanted nine children.
She made it over halfway before she was told no more. Of course my dad was ecstatic with just Itachi, and each additional child doubled his happiness. But that's my dad for you.
When we got to the house, I had to hide my grin as we entered into the foyer. I walked in and turned around, waiting for my parents. My mom walked in and turned on the light, only for a loud 'Surprise!' to be announced behind me.
My mom was honestly startled, but immediately started grinning. I don't think my dad was in on the planning of the birthday party for my mom, but he was always good at sensing chakra signatures no matter how much they were suppressed – likely something to do with him being a Sage. I actually didn't find out about it until an hour ago, when Itachi stopped by again to make sure that yes, I really would be home tonight. I thought it was a great idea.
Even if her birthday was a week ago, she wasn't here to celebrate, so everyone thought to throw her a party when she got back. It wasn't often we did parties like this, but for once everyone was able to get the day off, and I mean everyone.
Orihime-san was here with her husband and son, as were all the students and their respective families... Obito, Anko, Yuugao, Rin, Kakashi, Takuya, all of the Uzumaki's plus Nagato with his twelve year old niece. Even Naomi showed up, amazingly, though she looked like she was having a pity party in the corner. Oh well.
As my mother went over to greet and thank everyone for the surprise, I looked at my dad. Actually, I had to do a quick double-take, as I was pretty sure I saw tears in the corners of his eyes.
"Hm?" He responded, but he was obviously focused on the party and everyone gathered in the room.
"Welcome home." For some reason, the words left my mouth before I could think of why I wanted to say them. Something about them just felt... right.
The smile he graced me with was absolutely blinding, and it was impossible to miss the single tear that made its way out of the corner of his eye to trail down his whisker-marked cheek.
"It's good to be here."
21 years later... (approx 25.5 since arrival)
Naruto - 45(retired, consultant)
Mikoto - 44(retired)
Itachi(m) - 23 (ANBU Commander) + (wife) = Sasuke(m) 14 mos
Hikari(f) - 21 (Godaime Hokage)
Jirou(m) - 20 (Special Jonin)
Amaya(f) - 16 (Chunin)
Isamu(m) - 12 (twin) (Genin)
Etsuko(f) - 12 (twin) (Genin)
Minato - 42(retired Yondaime Hokage, consultant)
Kushina - 41(retired)
Naomi(f) - 20 (Special Jonin)
Masahiro(m) - 18 (Special Jonin) (original Naruto generation)
Chika(f) - 10 (Academy)
A/N: I realize the first person perspective shift for the epilogue might have seemed a little out of place, but as I started writing it... well, it just felt to me like it fit. Check my blog for the full low-down on this and about Rewritten B-Side. I'm going to go back through this and remove all the old authors notes, as I stated last chapter - and try to clean up a few of the still remaining parsing issues that have been nagging the hell out of me.
If you liked this epilogue, feel free to skip the next segment, otherwise read and have a laugh.
Oh, and to save myself having to read the same thing over and over again (because I've already seen it three times) - if you're going to complain about something in regards to Hikari being a Mary Sue... first of all, if you haven't written a single thing on this site or link me to something professional I really don't want to read what you have to say about a Mary Sue character. That's not to say I don't appreciate criticism, because I do - but I see 'Mary Sue, Mary Sue blah blah blah' and no reasoning behind it. I also don't say it to be mean, but I don't think a person can truly appreciate how difficult it is to write a character with flaws (and not go totally overboard *cough*Harry Potter*cough*) and still make it engaging and a joy to read. It is a very difficult thing to balance.
A Mary Sue character is perfect, has no character flaws, and are typically self-inserts. First of all, I'm a guy. So that's a definite no on the self-insert. Trying to write the way I think a female would think is already difficult enough.
But... damn people, it's one chapter, barely 10k words! Even a typical Mary Sue has at least a couple chapters of development. Why would I introduce SERIOUS character flaws in an epilogue? Get real!
I really shouldn't have to defend this. Rather than going predictable (Itachi) which I know the same people probably would have complained about, I made an OC - Hikari. She literally was groomed for and inherited the position after twenty years of peacetime. Is that her fault? No. Her father is a chakra powerhouse and she takes more after his genes than that of her mother, hence her inheriting the Rinnegan. It activated in a near-death, panic situation. (See UZUMAKI, NAGATO). She gets easily absorbed in work and rarely ever visits home anymore. She has problems with her family that she doesn't really know how to fix without using her authority as Hokage, and that blows up in her face. She admits that she doesn't even like a member of her family. She admits to being a brat until she graduated the Academy and didn't get her head on straight until she actually became a shinobi. She'd rather get drunk with the Tsuchikage than handle business. She can't run the regular government of the village because she hates noble politicians and would rather kill them than get along with them.
She even hates doing the dishes! Do I really need to point out more flaws? A perfect character would at least not mind doing the dishes.
*snort* For the love of Captain Kangaroo people... if you don't like the chapter that's fine. I've said plenty of times before that I know I'll never please everyone, but seriously? Seriously? Apparently a character can't be happy and liked and have a fair amount of skill without being a Mary Sue nowadays. No one has even seen what she was capable of, only been told a few things, but nope... still a Mary Sue apparently
She visited her relatives. She showed her sister how to do a Rasengan the same way she was taught. She activated her eyes by accident. She chewed the fat with her brother, played with her nephew a bit, and went to a surprise birthday party for her mother. Total Mary Sue Overload there. I'm literally smashing my head against my desk now.
For everyone else that doesn't really care (the majority of you) I'm sorry. Seeing 'Mary Sue' tossed around when they obviously have no clue as to what Mary Sue truly entails, well... the first time I rolled my eyes, because it was a troll account review (seriously, check the profile). Second time was just a 'really now?'. Third time I knew it was going to continue if I didn't say something.
If someone who has actually written another story, and perhaps even completed it(gasp), and can poke holes in my comments above, feel free. I promise I'll listen and perhaps even be suitably cowed. Just remember - I used Hikari as a plot device to show the overall advance and future of everyone, and the easiest way to do that would be with a Hokage - who was usually in charge of or knew everyone anyway and could link them all together.
*phew* Otherwise... damn it feels good to finally finish a fic!
paradoxjast . blogspot . com