A/N: For future reference, I apologize in advance. School has just started, and being involved in High School activities sometimes keeps you more than busy – sometimes more than you enjoy. Like today, I didn't even go to any of my classes – I was forced to stay in the gym and round up students of all grades for yearbook pictures. (It isn't fun)
I like to hope that my updates will be within a two weeks radius, but time can really only tell. I do not know when I'll be specifically busy, and I also work part time, so this isn't the best time for me this year.
The Testament of True Warriors – The Favor for Relics
Chigiri Sea – Twenty Clicks South of Benisu Island – 1330 Hours
ANBU Captain Ryuu was infamous for his null and void record of unsuccessful missions. He was silent on missions, only occasionally murmuring out coded orders or commands to his team, Echo Platoon One. ANBU Captain Ryuu was also very, very annoyed with this particular assignment.
For starters, they were in the middle of the ocean.
The client, a wealthy politician from Kirigakure no Sato, was also very frightened of being ambushed and affronted with assault. The man had hired ANBU, to do complete this mission, and he really wished that Uzukage-Sama had selected a B-Rank team. Who thinks they were going to be attacked in the ocean? Pirates? Dolphins?
Walking calmly beside the slow moving ship, Ryuu glared down at the scroll unraveled in his gloved hands.
We have come to the judgment that Uzumaki Kenshin is incompatible for the rank of Ansatsu Senjutsu Tokushu Butai. We also find that the rank of Jounin would be more suitable for his caliber. Not for in strengths of power, but as a head figure for Uzushiogakure no Sato.
This letter is a notice of relinquishing. After following procedure of ensuing mission, we expect Uzumaki Kenshin to cede his mask as Ryuu and the Prohibiting to be bestowed upon the bottom of the tongue for secrecy purposes only.
We thank you for your duration, Uzumaki Kenshin.
The Foundation Assembly
Ryuu allowed the scroll to burn away with a high pulse of his potent flare of white chakra, watching impassively as it crumbled into ashes, dissolving in the deep blue of the sea as it touched the surface of the water. He was angry, despite attempting to be calm about the situation, that they were saying he was only compatible as a Jounin for the sake of impressions. And what frustrated Ryuu more about the situation was that he knew politics enough to know that all of this was to detect Uzushio a powerful threat. What was the Foundation thinking?
"Umi to Ryuu, location is secure. Regroup?"
Ryuu loosened his shoulders before gazing out at the silent, steady ocean that stretched hundreds of miles. "Affirmative."
Hi no Kuni – Konohagakure no Sato – Third Training Ground – 0540 Hours
After Yamanaka Inoichi had departed the previous night, Kenshin had realized his situation quickly. He had nowhere to sleep. No food. No shelter. So he had resorted to finding a nice view of the moon above his prone form, with his head propped up lazily against a stout tree. His sleep had been restless, invaded with nightmares and bloody faces he dearly wanted to see again, though as they looked then in his mind, wished they would just disappear from his memory.
So at three in the morning, Kenshin finally abandoned the idea of resting. He finally resolved to exploiting exercises. Push-ups, pull-ups, running laps, chakra control training, and meditating. After a full two hours of nonstop exertion, Kenshin felt immensely better in strength and felt fresh and anew.
"Fifty-nine, sixty, sixty-one." Kenshin counted the number of pull-ups he performed on the thick tree branch, torso and back glistening with sticky sweat as he had long but gotten rid of the long-sleeved grey shirt. He tried to think of the muscles contracting and tightening around his biceps as he pulled himself up, but his thoughts were rapidly shifting into what would turn into the Third Shinobi World War.
War's, as he came to know, were prolonged and hematic. This meant that they could be extended by years and years, maybe even a decade, and there would always be bloodshed – as a Ninja, there was always blood. Iwagakure no Sato were known for their rock-like personalities – headstrong and stubborn, a common trait that was almost related to the Uzumakis' – and to do as ordered from their Tsuchikage without a single hesitant thought. That is problematic when dealing with a war, especially considering when the Tsuchikage would probably be howling for bloodshed when he figures out what Konoha had attempted to infiltrate his base camp along the borders of Iwa and Kusa.
For the Leaf Village, that meant that they would be fighting a huge war in the middle of a very small country of Kusagakure no Sato. Kenshin felt sorry for the civilians residing there, perhaps the Sandaime will be charitable enough to offer expatriate status in Konoha until their home is a safe zone, destroyed or not. But then again, that was a huge security risk on the village; he doubted Konoha's council would approve of the idea of rebel Kusa villagers attempting to kill Konoha inhabitants with butcher knives and makeshift weapons.
That was one of the most profitable aspects about Uzu no Kuni. As a remote island, putting an expatriate status would be useless, sense they had been secluded and in the middle of the ocean it was dependent as someone claiming to house refuges – so Uzushio never had that issue at hand. They would offer Shinobi and Kunoichi services, food or supplies, and housing around the island only if communion had been made outside of war. A cautionary of safety.
" . . . But Minato-Senseeeeeiiii, I already know the Tree Climbing Exercise, why are you making me do this? I'm a Chunin!"
"I know that, Obito. You've been Chunin for a year now. But your chakra control is still sloppy, coiled enough for jutsus, but you need more control for the more advanced regime that I have in store for you."
"Yeah, Obito. Listen to Minato-Sensei, he's a Jounin."
"I don't care if he's freaking ANBU, Rin! My chakra control is fine!" Shuffling. "What? You got something to say, teme!?"
"Oh shush, Obito. He didn't even look at you, sheesh." Minato's voice was coming from the foliage of the trees to Kenshin's far left. Just as they stepped through the outline of the forest, Kenshin let go of his grip on the branch and dropped to the ground, swiping a sweaty lock of red hair from his face. He noticed he needed to shave, and he also smelled, but simply grinned at the Leaf Ninja. Minato didn't look surprised to see him; neither did the gray-haired kid. "Oh, Kenshin-san," the blond Shinobi smiled grimly. "You look busy."
"Eh, you could say that." Kenshin looked at Rin with a raised eyebrow as she blushed a bright blood red and hid behind Kakashi's shoulder, who looked irritated. "You also look busy. Your Genin team?"
"Yes. Introduce yourselves, Team Seven."
"Nohara Rin, Chunin of Konoha, registration 010885."
"Hatake Kakashi, Chunin of Konoha, registration 009720."
"The name's Uchiha Obito, old man, and dontcha forget it!" The goggle-wearing brat stuck out a thumb as he grinned cheerily, taking a completely open stance without a care in the world.
"Obito-kun! Chunin are supposed to say their ninja registration!" Rin, brown eyes wide and horrified at his lack of morality, smacked him in the back of his head. "You must be more respectful! Kenshin-san is obviously out superior."
"Heh, he's not my superior unless he's a Shinobi of Konoha!"
Kakashi finally voiced his agreement, surprising Kenshin who hadn't even heard the voice speak at all since meeting him the prior day – well if you call getting kidnapped and interrogated a 'meeting'. "For once, I agree with the dobe."
Kenshin rubbed the back of his head sheepishly as Minato sent his students stern, calculated looks. "Ehh, I can honor that type of judgment, Obito, Kakashi." They blinked in unison at his words, having not percepted him to full-heartedly agree with their ignorant decision. "Anyways!" Kenshin clasped his hands behind his head. "I heard, Obito, that you are having trouble with your chakra control . . . why is that?"
The Uchiha grew an uncharacteristically serious, guarded expression and traded looks and eye contact with his sensei. When Minato gave a curt, indication with his head, Obito was all boastful grins and obnoxiousness once more. "Yeah! I've been working on it for ages!"
Rin rolled her eyes. "Only three years."
"That's a long time, Rin-Chan!"
"At times, it could take a Shinobi or Kunoichi years and years to perfect the control of the capacity of chakra."
"Thanks, Minato-Sensei! That helped me a lot," Obito pouted and crossed his arms grumpily across his chest. "Besides, my chakra control is good enough. You've never worried about it before, why are you concerned now?"
Kenshin observed as Minato's expression grew impassive, and his eyes met the Uzumaki's dark blue and a silent message was passed: War is on the horizon. "As a Shinobi," the redhead crouched and held out his hand, "if you cannot control your chakra, then you do not know yourself. Your reserves are a spiritual and physical source, your spiritual and physical source; you must know that connection to be a ninja." He curled his fingers as a motion of 'come here'. "Give me your hand."
Obito hesitated before he placed his blue fingerless gloved hand inside of Kenshin's scratched and calloused palm. Kenshin was no sensor, far from it, but he could easily feel the Uchiha's large reserves. The magnitude of blue energy hit him with full force and the Uzumaki snapped open his eyes and stared at the boy in slight awe. "Interesting. Say, Obito, are you familiar with Fūinjutsu?"
The goggle-wearing boy widened his onyx-colored eyes before shifting his gaze to Minato. "Sensei's uses that stuff all the time, right?"
"I do," the Jounin replied.
"Well, if I was you, I'd find out your Elemental affinity. Knowing you as an Uchiha, you will probably have Katon." Kenshin noted the way Obito produced an annoyed grimace at the mention of 'Uchiha'. "Although basic chakra control has to reach so far to start the fundamental elemental training, if you begin now, it will work five times faster than climbing trees or water walking."
"That's correct," Minato agreed. "But I was going for a 'slow progressing' rate process; I don't want Obito rushing in too fast."
"I'm not!" Obito argued defensively, lips twisting into a childish pout.
Kenshin felt a grin tug at his mouth, realization setting in as he remembered that Uzushio and Konoha were two different places, the altering morals and traditions of things. "My home is far different from yours," Kenshin smiled as he bent forward to grab the dirty grey shirt to wrench back on. "We graduated from our school at ten, and would already be well-educated into fundamental elemental lessons."
Rin's face grew into one of questioning awe. The ex-Jounin, or metaphorically retired Shinobi, could instantly see the potential in this young Kunoichi. Rin was young like her peers, with an average height for a girl that dwarfed her to his size. She had bistre brown hair, which was cut chin-length and eyes the same shade of her short locks. The most distinct feature was the rectangular, purple markings on each side of her cheeks. Her attire consisted of a long-sleeved black shirt, loose yet fitting, and a light purple apron-skirt, under which were black shorts. He admitted, the red stockings and sandals were odd with her other coloring of clothing, but Kenshin would never voice his opinion. Rin looked curiously up at him, feminine brown eyes glittering with interest. "I heard that Uzushio was known for their Fūinjutsu, like Kushina-san, are you a master?"
Kenshin chose not to feel uncomfortable as the Hatake kid scrutinized the black sealing marks along his torso and arms. "What do you think, Rin-san?"
"Uzumaki Kenshin is in a side-column in our history book back in the Academy, when we were studying the history of Uzushiogakure no Sato, you were mentioned. The Six Seal of Uzushio, you were called." Rin's eyes told him she respected his amount of power.
"There were six of you, and the largest number was the strongest. The Six Seals from Uzushio were almost as famous as the tailed-beasts Jinchuriki." As Kakashi stated that fact, Kenshin saw a slight tense shift in Minato's shoulders. Oh yes, Kushina's the Kyuubi Jinchuriki now, isn't she? Caught up in so much turmoil over recent events, he's almost forgotten the status of his niece.
"Well, even I'm not one for modesty, and I'd say that that is way over exaggerated. Very few people could possibly measure to a Jinchuriki." Kenshin stuffed his hands inside his pockets and yawned. "I think I'll let your team go ahead and start their training."
As he began to stroll to the right, Minato spoke: "Thirty minutes from now, a Council meeting is taking place. Here, I'll have Kaka-Chan to lead you there."
Kakashi had an expression as if he wanted to do anything but said order, but he nodded his head in compliance anyway. Judging by the appearance of the Hatake child, Kakashi must've been Sakumo's boy. He even had the lazy, yet stern expression plastered permanently on his face, which was an unfortunate deplorable genetic trait.
As they ventured back inside the main part of the Village, Kenshin came to know that the War Council Meeting was deep inside the right wing of the Hokage Tower. It was actually the administrative part of the Academy, as well as the civilian sanction that was mainly used for civilians to report complaints or use for business meetings or arrange financing funds and charity events.
He was surprised, really, that Konoha hosted a war meeting so originally in place. The Foundation had always changed locations of their assemblies, only allowing a tiny slip of information to let the delegate members meet in foreclosed secret. Konoha must have such confidence in their abilities to allow an audience so liable. Kakashi immediately halted when they reached the corridor to the third floor, frozen and alert just like any battle-worn Shinobi that the eleven year-old shouldn't have been. "I am not authorized further entrance; you should enter two doors down to you left."
Kenshin mustered up a smile and felt his grin spread further as Kakashi scowled when he patted the top of his dark silver-colored hair. "Thanks, Kakashi-Kun." As he turned on his heel to follow the instructions of the meetings, he winked at the Hatake Chunin. "Eat your vegetables, kid – or, uh, isn't that what adults say to children?"
Kakashi's scowl only deepened until his eyes were narrowed into a daggered glare. "I'm not a child," he huffed silently. "And as a Shinobi, I already know to maintain a high amount of protein and carbs. We burn it off faster and at a higher rate than civilians."
"Right," the Uzumaki agreed with a nod of his head. "Anyways, I might see you later, Kakashi. Tell your ole'man that I think I owe him a drink after he restrained Kushina from lacerating me yesterday." Kenshin almost grimaced when he saw the way Kakashi's black eyes darkened further with resentment. So his father was already on the receiving end of criticism and appraisal after his performance on the S-Rank mission. As sad as it was, it was not uncommon. Kenshin just foresaw that the villagers or even leaf Ninja would realize that they weren't all perfect; missions were predicted to be a sixty-eight percent success rate, the majority of that being secret agents, ANBU, or another Village's top Ninja organization. That leaves a forty-two percent fail rate, which was low in standards considering the speculative S-Rank missions.
Kenshin blinked when Kakashi shunshined away with a smudged blur, leaving the reluctant redhead to 'look' forward to walking in on the War Council Meeting.
And that he did, humiliatingly so.
Kenshin was pretty positive that spittle flecked on his cheek from someone leaning across the table nearest of him, who was yelling absurdities toward a rather composed Clan Head who looked exactly like one of their famed Hyuuga. There were other shouts of denials, but most of them were shaking their heads in disapproval.
The twenty-five year-old raised his eyebrows when the commotion suddenly went silent, and everyone's attention was pirouetted to his presence. The stares and silence was unwelcoming and almost deafening. "Um," Kenshin twisted his nose with discomfort and hastily crossed his arms. "I'm not late, right?" He was quickly discovering the seriousness of the dilemma set forth. Lines were gradually forming around his mouth as he arranged his lips into a thin, rigid line.
"No, no, Kenshin-Kun." The Sandaime Hokage was situated at the head of the long rectangular table, robes untouched and unwrinkled, hands folded in his lap. Despite the previous verbal match, he seemed unfazed and serene, almost peaceful. "In fact, I can finally now initiate this War Council Meeting." Sarutobi motioned toward him, curling his hand in an indication that he wanted Kenshin to come stand beside his chain. "Come, come, Kenshin. We must discuss."
"Hiruzen," a woman with her hair placed in a bun, a Senbon lodged to hold them in placed, stated sullenly. "Not trying to sound rude, but this is an exclusive meeting."
"That's Hokage-Sama to you, you old hag," a woman toward the end of the table snarled out, her grin feral when the elder scoffed with indignation. "But I am curious as well, Hokage-Sama." The woman didn't try to conceal the way her eyes roamed up and down his well-built frame. Her grin stretched. "Very curious."
"Koharu, you may address me as Sandaime or Hokage only. Tsume, please, refrain yourself from casting out name-calling, this isn't the Academy." Sarutobi smiled genuinely at Kenshin when he finally took in step beside his chair. The redhead wondered how a leader, fixing to throw themselves headlong into a Shinobi World War, could even formulate expressive friendliness. "Now, I would like the council to present themselves in an orderly fashion, please."
A man, thin black glasses shadowing his eyes, didn't even raise a hand. His voice was nearly emotionless, but there was a small movement of his eyebrow. "Aburame Shibi, Head of the Aburame Clan."
"Akimichi Chōza, Head of the Akimichi Clan." A man, physically his age, smiled briefly in his direction. His hair was spiky and red, slithering purple marks tattooed against his cheeks, curling directly underneath his seemingly closed eyes.
"Hyuuga Hiroshi, Head of the Hyuuga Clan."
The feral woman from before grinned and winked in his direction. "Inuzuka Tsume, Head of the Inuzuka Clan." Kenshin mildly noted her longer canine teeth and slitted-like eyes. She certainly looked dangerous.
"Kohaku Fumiko, Head of the Kohaku Clan," the woman looked rather upset, arms crossed over her ample chest and olive-colored eyes adverted to the lines of the wooden table.
"Kurama Murakumo, Head of the Kurama Clan."
Kenshin eyed the man with a profound curiosity. He had heard of the Kurama Clan, known for their enormous gifted Genjutsu users. The man didn't seem distressed about the meeting, his shoulders relaxed and eyes half closed.
"Nara Shikaku, Head of the Nara Clan." Shikaku lazily raised a hand before allowing it to fall limp against his lap. "Troublesome," he added glumly.
"Sarutobi Ichiro, Head of the Sarutobi Clan."
"Senju Kujiama, Head of the Senju Clan."
"Shimura Danzo, Elder Adviser of the Council and Head of the Shimura Clan." More than a few people rolled their eyes impatiently at the long, nearly self-proclaimed title.
"Uchiha Fugaku, Head of the Uchiha Clan." Sharingan red eyes flashed like a light blinking into a pitch black forest, almost startling Kenshin as he gazed into the crimson eyes, three tomoe marks spinning as they studied him with intimidation.
Kenshin almost felt like laughing. Almost.
"Yamanaka Inoichi, Head of the Yamanaka Clan." The blond-haired man nodded in respect to the redhead, pupiless blue eyes scanning the room.
And that's also when he finally noticed the lone figure that had been inclined up against the wall, rather stiffly, in a white cloak and blank, faceless mask. "ANBU Commander." Kenshin even wondered if it was male or female speaking, having found the tone so neutral that it was impossible to discover.
"Gukuro Daichi, Civilian Representative."
"Yakushi Nono, Head Medic of the Hospital's Medic Corps."
When they finally ended with introductions, Kenshin implanted their identity and names for future purposes. He stood at attention as he was scrutinized by the three Elders that looked at him with neither welcoming stares nor glares of disapproval. It was a moment in time where he realized his true S-Rank power; his chakra must feel potent in the room with the other highly capable ninja.
"Now, Hokage-Sama," Koharu almost scowled, "who is this man you have in our presence? He is obviously a Shinobi, but I do not recognize him of our own."
"Oh, come now, Utatane-san," Shikaku tsked at the older woman as he slouched down in his seat, "do you not recognize the red hair at all?"
Awareness hit Tsume before Koharu. "Yeah, wasn't you alive when they were made a clan, you old bitch?" Everyone in the room was unfazed by that insult, either rolling their eyes or a smirk twitching at the sides of their mouths.
"This, my dear council," Hiruzen quickly informed them to halt furthering bickering, "is Uzumaki Kenshin, otherwise once known as the Sixth Seal of Uzushiogakure no Sato."
" . . . Another Uzumaki? That's impossible," Nono, a woman with long brown hair and dark colored eyes, visibly frowned. "The Uzumaki Clan was killed off almost a decade ago. Kushina-san is the only known subsisting blood."
Kenshin felt his frown, which had been permanent since he had entered the room; deepen into a sullen grimace that revealed the sadness of his fallen home. But now, a new emotion was discovered: bewilderment. "'Known' Uzumaki? Does that mean –"
"There is to believe that some Uzumaki civilians had escaped before Iwa had fully infiltrated Uzushio." At seeing his hopeful expression, Hiruzen winced and said, "Their whereabouts are currently unknown."
Kenshin felt that tiny piece of hope that had been residing in his mind deflate like a busted balloon. His dark blue eyes dimmed and his shoulder slacked forward with heavy weight. Suddenly finding the meeting meaningless, hands were shoved into pockets, eyes adverted, and a scowl was set firmly in place. "Why am I here, then?" His voice was bitter, angry, and he couldn't help but wonder is this how Kushina felt for eleven years straight? "If this is about the Third Shinobi World War, I want know place in it. That has nothing to do with me."
"We just want to know what your intentions are, Kenshin-kun." Inoichi smiled briefly, though it was fleeting and held a variety of mixed emotions that the redhead couldn't place.
"I told you . . ."
"Yes, and you did not lie – but you didn't further in explaining."
"Ninja don't encourage peripheral information, Inoichi-san."
"But they also aren't granted excluding any necessary details from the indemnity of the village."
Kenshin blanched for a moment before squinting his eyes into a narrow and crossing his arms tighter. "Indemnity? You mean security?"
Shikaku then decided to voice his input, having not even shifted his relaxed stance besides closing his eyes. "You have a very high price on your head, Uzumaki Kenshin – or do you not remember the Second Shinobi World War?" There was an undertone of hidden meaning there.
Kenshin tensed and felt cynicism fill him to the core. That was classified information. During the Second Shinobi World War, having started when he was twenty-one had been a conflict of deception and anonymousness. Uzushiogakure no Sato had played a hidden portion of the war – absorbed into the shadows of blood and fallen bodies as they represented the job of hired assassins without the pay of money. Kenshin had been one of them, sworn to secrecy and shoved into mayhem by the treaty that Uzushio held with Konoha. Basically, Uzushio was pushed into war because Konoha needed their assistance. Uzu no Kuni was a peaceful nation, war was unheard of, and since keeping to their selves in their own political affairs, wars were never formed.
Kenshin came to the only thought that his befuddled mind could process in complete thought: "That was a very long time ago." A long time of cries, blood, wounds, and scars that never would heal. "A very long time ago."
"So tell me, since that was such a long time ago, do you hold any grudge or harm toward the village and its residents?" The Third Hokage questioned seriously.
"I will explain this only once, Hokage or not," Kenshin disregarded the narrow of eyes from the Elders. "The Second Shinobi World was ruined my life." A pregnant pause, decision clouded with uncertainty. "My relationship was ruined with my brother; he was a tool to subjection for the Foundation Assembly. I assassinated children, I was ordered to assassinate infants by this nation." Blue eyes fluttered close and a flitter of a smile flashed across his face. "But it was also my salvation. It proved to me that the innocent is guilty, and the guilty may be innocent – it taught me not to trust just anybody. I met my love a year during the war, I lost my siblings, but I gained insight. So no, I do not hold it against this village, because I know they suffered the same, more badly than others."
The War Council Meeting was casted into a dreary silence at the Uzumaki's bold, colorless, yet expressive speech. Sarutobi Hiruzen unclasped his hands in his lap, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Thank you for that inspirational dialect, Kenshin-kun. I have every vibe in me saying that you are being honest as any Shinobi would be in those words." That's not a lot of honesty. "But I have something to request of you."
"Oh?" Kenshin raised an eyebrow, seemingly half-bored by the statement. "And what is that?"
"I need your service, Uzumaki Kenshin."
" . . . You need my service . . ." It wasn't spoken in a confused question, but more of a flat deadpan voice.
"I realize that Uzushio and Konoha have had its past differences. But that is what it is, the past. The past, prior, and I am willing to allow bygones to be bygones. Truth be told, I have nothing here to give you for your assistance – but I have disclosed knowledge to something you might need." Kenshin noticed the way the Council now stared at their Sandaime Hokage with worry and perplexity, it was obvious they did not know what he was going to mention. "I know where the Artifacts of Uzushiogakure no Sato is."
Kenshin was dumbfounded for a split second, not understanding his words until his eyes widened with realization. The Testament of True Warriors, the Shrine of Lost Scrolls, the Directory of Uzushio, the Summoning Scroll. Kenshin, his insides previously numb, felt a heat ignite underneath his skin. "They're here –?"Unwantedly, his voice cracked with what he was frightened of: sadness, anguish, a sorrow that he had hid desperately up until he heard those words.
"No." Hiruzen's eyes softened. "They are within Iwa's borders. But I know of the location."
"Hiru – Hokage-Sama!" A man that was around Koharu's age had wide eyes behind his green-framed glasses. "Are you positive of this? This, um," he flicked his gaze to Kenshin, "these relics are Konoha's possessions'. Uzushio lost their rights when – when –"
"When the Clan was eliminated?" Kenshin felt his face twist in fury at the thought. "How could you state such claims when the Jinchuriki of the Kyuubi no Kitsune resides in your village? Sacrificing herself for Uzushio and Konoha, both. She is the last Uzumaki; those are hers, not Konoha's."
Sarutobi Ichiro raised an interested eyebrow. "You deny allegation for the Uzumaki Clan?"
"Of course not," Kenshin scoffed sharply. "I've been presumed dead for eleven years. Kushina has full claims to our Clan, our money, and our ruins."
"Very noble of you," Chōza nodded.
"It has nothing to do with that," he growled. His eyes shifted to the Hokage's. "So if I offer my aid during the war, you offer me information on my family's heirlooms."
"Not all of them. I will give you the location on them the passing of every month you benefit my village."
Kenshin couldn't help but unleash an indignant sneer. No matter how far you travel, it seemed like everything came with a heavy price of payment. He thought maybe this place wasn't comparable to the Foundation Assembly, but he'd been wrong. Ransom and bribery were far beyond becoming dastardly in the eyes of leaders. "I understand your meaning in doing that," he said slowly. "No matter of the pusillanimity you prove to me."
Gukuro Daichi, the Civilian Representative, stood up with a scrape of his wooden chair, palms slamming flat against the table as he glared harshly at the Uzumaki. "You dare speak like that to Hokage-Sama! We should have you executed –"
"Under whose jurisdiction? The Communion Treaty – an alliance signed during the Warring States Period. If it wasn't for Uzumaki, for Mito-Sama sealing away the Kyuubi into herself to begin with, your village would be crushed to the ground by a single tail." Kenshin breathed heavily through his nose in a sigh, unloosening his arms from his chest and dropping him at his sides. "I am stating that I will aid you, even if I disagree with your terms of agreement. But a month from now, I expect a location."
Sarutobi Hiruzen was smiling, a pleased glint in his eyes. "I will send a contact for you. Now, Kenshin, if you would go to me secretary outside the door, where she should be waiting, I think you would find something worth looking into." Kenshin couldn't help but falter slightly at the smile the older man sent him, something akin to a father telling you to go look outside for a huge surprise, which usually ended up being a house puppy for you to raise. It reminded him of Tousen, even if his elder brother had been much younger than Hiruzen.
"Thank you," he muttered, making a sweeping gaze over the council, before closing the distance from himself to the door.
Just like the Hokage had said, a receptionist awaited his arrival. She was a middle-aged woman, perhaps five years his senior in physical appearance (the whole age with reality and physically was becoming very annoying). She wore a styled kimono that went just above her knees, the colors of dark green and beige. There were black tights underneath, trailing down to her ankles where she wore sandaled high-heels. She was obvious a Kunoichi, with her dark blond hair tied back into a pony tail at the nape of her neck, and faded blue eyes staring at him with modest curiosity.
"Hello, miss . . . ."
"You may address me as Tatsuya, Uzumaki-san." Tatsuya held out a sealed envelope with a red Konoha emblem waxed on the white paper. "This should cover payment the necessities of food, bathroom products, and basic furnishing requirements – as well as clothing. Since, you are standing here; I suppose that you have accepted Hokage-Sama's proposal. You do not haft to wear the standard Jounin vest, and we already know you will refuse to wear a Konoha Hitai-tae." The envelope was pressed into his hand as she then produced two twin keys. "There is an extra apartment loft at the Shinobi Quarters in Sector D. This is only a momentary arrangement. Sandaime-Sama cannot risk affording more things than weaponry and rations that his soldiers will need in war, understand?" She had a cold glint in her eye, as if she did not approve of giving him these awards for his service. He knew Tatsuya would change her mind if she would concentrate on taking a whiff out of him. He could only imagine how he smelled.
"I understand," Kenshin allowed the keys to drop into his left palm, a clink of metal echoing in his ears. "So the Hokage knew that I would accept his offer?"
Tatsuya peered at him before blinking her near-grey eyes. "As I have seen of Uzumaki Kushina, family must mean a great deal to the Uzumaki Clan. He knew, as a past acquaintance, that as coming from their bloodline, you would want to restore the Clan to its prior grandeur."
"Grandeur?" Kenshin felt his hand clench around the keys and envelope. His expression darkened. "No. There was never grandeur."
Hi no Kuni – Konohagakure no Sato – Shinobi Quarters – Sector D – 0730 Hours
The Shinobi Quarters were sanitary enough. Kenshin never thought himself to be extremely cleanly, but he liked things straightened up to an extent. The Loft was perhaps the size of a master size bedroom, small in some eyes, but more than enough in his. Perhaps the reason it was so small, was because his bedroom was connected to a small stairway that was only wide enough for one person.
All in all, it was a modest, yet gratifying set.
The first thing Kenshin had done when receiving the money, was to get supplies. He purchased the cheapest bathroom brand possible, he didn't really care how it was scented, just something to clean himself with. He also bought appropriate Shinobi attire that fit his satisfactory:
Black Shinobi pants, metal steel-toed boots, a new hip pouch and medic kit (which involved tools and therapeutic stocks), and a long-sleeved dark blue shirt. He knew it would draw attention to even wear a tee-shirt; the seals along his forearms would draw far too much attention he was willing to give. Even if it was summer, a long-sleeve would have to do, for now.
So as Uzumaki Kenshin basked in the hot water that pressed against his dirty scalp, he couldn't help but chuckle bitterly. How was it, which what felt like two days ago, that he had been in the Second Shinobi World War, and when he gets casted under the seal, and eleven years later, he's suddenly in the Third? Maybe Tousen wasn't as mad as people had made him to be. After Kushina's mother, Amaya, had passed away as KIA, Tousen had engrossed himself in seals. A specific jutsu. The seal that had been placed on him, the Confinement Seal. To put it exactly, Tousen was made to believe that he could transfer himself to the past, and prevent Amaya's death.
Perhaps he could have.
Turning the left knob counterclockwise, the water was shut off and Kenshin grappled with the towel he had slung over the shower curtain rod. Throwing on the casual wear he had bought, consisting of black slacks and the white tee-shirt he didn't feel like slipping on, he strolled out while rubbing the towel through disheveled crimson hair, steam rolling out of the meager lavatory in his wake.
Imagine his surprise when he saw a male leaning against his kitchen counter, arms crossed and expression troubled. It was that Namikaze. Kenshin finally took his time scrutinizing the man's looks and posture. Namikaze Minato was a couple of inches below his height, perhaps a solid six feet, with spiky bright blond hair that held jaw-length bangs framing his face. His eyes mirrored close to the ocean around Uzushio, and Kenshin briefly wondered if that caused Kushina to be more attracted to him for that very reason. His apparel was a standard Konoha Jounin uniform with two bands on each of his sleeves, a leaf-green flak jacket, blue forehead protector, and blue ninja sandals.
"Kushina won't even look at me," Minato explained wearily as his eyes gazed at the Uzumaki, who allowed the towel to drape over his right shoulder. "What is your relationship with my fiancé?"
Kenshin's eyes expanded. "Fiancé?" The word held such a deeper and painful meaning that his mouth almost hanged open in a shocked, perplexing surprise. "What?" It wasn't as if he hadn't come to terms that Kushina was now a grown woman, not a scrawny little teenager, but married? What. The. Fuck.
Realizing his brief, oversight in his choice of words, Minato grimaced visibly. "Eh, yeah. And I'm not about to apologies," azure blue clashed with Persian blue. "I mean no disrespect towards you or your family, but I do not withdraw my words from that one year, three months, and four days ago."
Kenshin felt himself smiling tightly as Minato said those words, a harrowing, uncomfortable awareness lingering in his chest. "No, no, I understand. In fact, when I got married, I did not even grant invitations to my clansmen."
"You were married?"
"I was. For almost three years. She was a civilian, and like all Ninja clans, civilians were not favored. So I married privately, moved out of the compound, and started my own life – end of the story." Kenshin threw the towel in the laundry room floor that was hooked onto a side door in the kitchen, shrugging his shoulders as Minato gained a distressed expression. "To answer your question, I kind of helped raise Kushina. She's my niece."
Minato sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "She's very upset right now. Kushina's loud, brash, and eats ramen every chance she can get – now she won't even look at me, won't even look at me, and won't touch any form of food."
"And what, you dare say, has to do with me?"
The Namikaze's head snapped up. "What?"
Kenshin walked past Minato and rummaged through the paper brown bags that stored certain foods he had bought from the nearest local store. He tore open a box of nutrition bars and began unwrapping two coconut-flavored ones. "To put it simply, I don't care." It sounded harsher than he actually meant it.
"You just said she's your niece."
"She's also an Uzumaki," he bit into the granola bar, "she can take care of herself. If she eventually grows a problem with my appearance, she will come affront me about it. But you do not need to worry about her well-being because –"
"- she's an Uzumaki," Minato rolled his eyes. "How can I forget?"
Kenshin winked, "You're finally getting the gist of things." He promptly wolfed down the other nourishment bar and stuffed the vacant plastic wrappers into the waste bin that he had yet to put a trash bag inside, that didn't really matter at the moment, though. "Kushina's strong, has always been, let her be the woman she is."
"That reminds me," Minato pushed off from where he was leaning and sent Kenshin an excited, slightly anxious smirk. "Hokage-Sama has informed me that there will be an evaluation of your skills next week."
He raised an eyebrow, "there is?"
"Yes. And guess who is evaluating you?"
"Ah . . . who?"
Minato's smirk widened into an uncharacteristically devious grin, "Me."