Utakata and Hotaru were admitted into the T&I for about a week (just standard procedure—nothing to be worried about; we were able to visit them multiple times, and they assured us their treatment was fine), and at the end of the week, they were supposed to be transferred to Wave.

The timing could not have been better. From what I had calculated, the Invasion would happen in about eight days. So they would be out of Konoha the day before the Invasion, and there would be no way to track them. I knew that they would be safe in Wave while Pein attacked Konoha… and hopefully… they would stay safe.

Even if Pein learned about them going to Wave, I doubted he would stop his pursuit of Konoha. Konoha was personal for him. It was his way of… justice.

Heh. Not that I could blame him...

Jiraiya struggled to sit up in his hospital bed. I leaned towards him from my chair, pressing firmly on his shoulders to push him back in a lying position. "Don't strain yourself."

He shook his head, sighing. With a bandaged hand, Jiraiya gestured to the notepad and pen that sat at his bedside table. Naruto reached around me, grabbed them and held them out to our godfather. Jiraiya quickly wrote something down.

Not being able to talk for so long sucks ass.

My lips twitched. "Frankly, I'm just glad that you're al… you'll be able to talk again."

Jiraiya eyed me a moment, his expression somber. He turned to another page and wrote something down before presenting it to us.

Aa. Both of you better stop being so gloomy. There's a reason why I asked you both to come here. Although I've already told Tsunade what I know about the enemy, it's about time I told the two of you… Tonight, both of you will be leaving with me to begin the next stage of your training.

Kurama purred, Well. Naruto will partake in the training.

"Next stage?" Naruto echoed.

Jiraiya waved his hand in a dismissive manner (the universal sign that he would explain it later) just as Tsunade entered the room.

"Out, you two," Tsunade said. "You can talk to him later."

Naruto's brow furrowed, but he didn't argue. Standing up, he left the room and I followed after him.

"Actually… Nii-chan," I asked softly, grabbing at his sleeve. Naruto glanced back at me, cocking his head.

"Yeah?"

"Can I talk to you? Privately."

"... Sure?"


(´・ω・`)


The two of us sat in front of each other on Naruto's bed in our apartment, our legs crossed.

"What's up?" Naruto asked curiously.

I took a deep breath. "I need you to cover for me."

Naruto blinked vapidly. "... What?"

"Kurama and I have a pretty good idea what Jiraiya-sama will be teaching you - and attempting to teach us," I said slowly, "and… and Kurama and I have different plans. Plans that involve me being outside of Konoha. Alone. Without you. Or anyone else."

Naruto stilled. "... What."

"We have to do some things," I confessed, fidgeting nervously. "I, um, I can't say what exactly because I, er, don't really know myself."

Naruto's eyes narrowed. "This is all Kurama's idea, isn't it?"

That's right.

Naruto's eyes narrowed even further, and he started to frown. Kurama didn't speak to both of us at the same time often, but it wasn't exactly new.

"What do you need to do?" Naruto asked.

None of your concern.

"It is my concern," Naruto said lowly, his hands clenching into fists. "I wasn't - I wasn't there to protect her from the Akatsuki, and - "

"I'm not some helpless little girl," I cut in, my temper getting the better of me. "Naruto, I could have probably handled Hidan and Kakuzu if I didn't restrict myself. Or at the very least, I wouldn't have lost so much. I'm not doing that anymore. And if worse really comes to worse, I'll use the Flying Thunder God and teleport straight back to you."

"You couldn't do that last time," Naruto argued, "so you can't promise you can do that again."

I shook my head, disagreeing. "I can, and I will. Please, Naruto. You have to trust me."

Naruto stubbornly folded his arms across his chest. "I trust you, Imouto. I don't trust him, though."

Kurama sneered. I'm not the one who let her down. I may have done many things, brat, but that is not one of them. Whereas you, on the other hand, have, and you're about to do it again. Is that all you're good for? Letting your precious people down?

Naruto's cheeks took on a rosy hue, and he snapped, "You're also the one that murdered our parents!"

"Enough," I said sharply to both of them, disliking where this conversation was going. Both of them were fidgeting, Kurama's anger spiked and Naruto's patience was running thin. "This isn't about the past. This is about now. Naruto, if you really trust me, then you need to trust me to make my own decisions."

Naruto looked away, his gaze trailing downcast and his shoulders fell. "I… You really want to do this?"

"I do," I said firmly.

"... Do you have to go alone?" Naruto asked, turning his pleading gaze back to me. "Can't someone else - anyone else - go with you? Please?"

At that, I had to pause. Naruto rarely used that tone with me, and he even more rarely asked anything of me. My hands curled into fists and I dug them in my lap, shifting anxiously. I couldn't bring myself to meet his warm, concerned-filled eyes, and so I was forced to look down.

"W-Well…"

"Please?" Naruto asked again. "Please?"

Kurama gave a giant sigh. Oh, good grief…

"I-It's just th-that…" I trailed off, then I readjusted my gears. "Well, who could come with me? You'll be training with Jiraiya, and Jiraiya will be training you. We can't trust all of our friends to just go along with me on Kurama's wishes. Can you think of one person who will be willing to indulge Kurama and myself and not report us to Konoha?"

Naruto frowned, then his face brightened. "Sasuke!"

NO UCHIHA.

Kurama's roar had both of us wincing.

Naruto sighed. "Well… there has to be someone. Maybe Kakashi-sensei?"
"No," I said flatly. "I don't trust him not to drag me back to Konoha."

"You don't know that for sure," Naruto argued.

I folded my arms across my chest. "Oh? You think he'd be willing to humor me? Humor us?"

Naruto shrugged. "It'd give you a good excuse, though, wouldn't it? He could say he wants to train you some more in ninken or something, right?"

"He'll think it'll be safer if I stayed in Konoha, so he'll take me back to Konoha," I said firmly.

Naruto threw his hands up in the air in exasperation and flopped backwards on his bed. "I don't know! I just don't want you to go alone, okay? I just…"

"I'll be fine," I soothed, crawling off the bed and standing up. "I'm not a helpless girl. Besides, you can't always be there to protect me."

Naruto rolled over on his side, tossing his arm over his eyes and sighing.

"... Please?"

I sighed. "... I'll see what I can do."


(´・ω・`)


It'd be easier to find someone to come with us, if you'd tell me what we're doing in the first place, I thought. And if you were a bit more cooperative.

No one can come with us, Kurama argued stubbornly. It'll ruin everything.

It'll destroy Naruto's peace of mind and he won't be able to focus on training!

I'll remain in constant contact with him and tell him how you're doing, Kurama attempted to placate me.

You'll fuck up his training even more so!
Humph. Not my fault the idiot wants to train with toads when he has me.

You wouldn't train him if he was the last living creature in this whole damn universe.

So?

Nevermind, I thought morosely, deeming the situation of persuading Kurama to be hopeless. At least in regards to Naruto's training. Can't you be at least a little cooperative?

No.

Don't make me take away your scenery!

You wouldn't.

Don't make me take away the communication seal!

You won't.

… Don't make me…?

Mm-hmm…?
I'll tell Naruto you're a tsundere.

Do that and I'll pump so much energy into you, you won't sleep for a week.

You're really mean, you know that?

It would not be the first time I've heard that. Look, kit, this is something you're just going to have to trust me on. I don't want to say anything and spoil the… surprise… but trust me… You'll be just fine.

I trust you, Kurama. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't. I just… I don't want Naruto to be so… uncomfortable with this. He doesn't trust you and you aren't exactly helping the matters.

Kurama seemed to be shrugging, because his tone was nonchalant. That's his issue. He hasn't learned to look underneath the underneath and he's not ready to accept the fact that believe it or not, I'm not evil incarnate. That's Madara.

Madara-sama, I corrected.

Drop that damn sama.

My lips twitched.

There. Done with the seals. Do these look right?

I leaned back from my work, massaging my sore hands as I looked at the many seals I had spread about in our living room. They were a basic design that Kurama remembered Mito using when she imprisoned him. They, in short, created a sort of barrier in a designated parameter. They completely cut off the chakra inside from the outside world. It would be perfect if, say, a bijū wanted to go wild inside that thing without getting noticed. They weren't perfect by any means, but they would do for the upcoming plans.

In regards to Danzō.

They look right. Go ahead and pack your things now. Be careful packing them – we don't want to set them off.


(´・ω・`)


"You told Sasuke?!" I demanded, glaring furiously at my brother. Naruto squirmed under my gaze.

"Just listen," Naruto said consolingly, "you know I suck at lying. I can't cover for you over something this big! Sasuke's not going with you - he's staying with me to help me cover for you."
I turned my irritated gaze to an indifferent Sasuke. Sasuke shrugged. "I trust you're capable of taking care of yourself. I don't know why Kurama or you want to do this, but I understand personal matters. Sometimes rules just have to be broken."

I sighed.

Naruto has a point, Kurama told me. He sucks at lying.

… I know. Are you okay with this?

So long as he stays with Naruto, and doesn't follow us, I couldn't care less. We'll have a lot of ground to cover, and you'll be sprinting for the majority of it, so I doubt he'd keep up, anyway.

I see.

"Fine," I sighed. "Does Jiraiya know Sasuke is coming?"

Naruto nodded his head.

"And he's okay with this?"
Naruto nodded again.

"Do what you want."


(´・ω・`)


I shifted the backpack on my shoulders, hovering close to Naruto and Sasuke. Jiraiya stood in front of us, grinning widely and holding a notebook. He wouldn't need to use the notebook to talk for much longer – perhaps a couple more days and then he would be able to speak again.

Okay, Miwako and Sasuke, you two hold onto either me or Naruto. Any minute we'll be reversed summoned… Jiraiya wrote.

Sasuke grasped my hand, holding it loosely in his own. I squeezed his hand in return, and grabbed onto Naruto's. Naruto grinned brightly at both of us.

Within minutes, there was this odd sucking sensation and white clouded my vision.

When the smoke cleared… we had arrived.


(´・ω・`)


Naruto created a clone of myself and I handed him one of my special daggers.

"Considering how poor Jiraiya is with genjutsu, the clone should work for a while," Sasuke said. "Although, you may be having a lot of bladder issues."

I shrugged, nonplussed. "So be it. Just keep Jiraiya from finding out I'm gone."

Naruto sighed. "We know, we know… Hey, what are we supposed to say when he tries to train you?"

"Tell him I'm on my time of month and it's messing with my chakra control," I said bluntly.

"Since when does that…?"

"Tell him I'm grouchy, so I'm making Kurama grouchy and he's messing with my chakra control," I said, rolling my eyes.

"I can believe that," Naruto said.

I grinned at him. "Okay… I should get going now, and you two should head back. We just arrived here, so I doubt Jiraiya's gonna let us out of his sight for too long. It's amazing he let us look around in the first place. Be safe and have fun you two."

"Stay safe," Naruto told me.

"Come back," Sasuke said quietly.


(´・ω・`)


Stop.

I planted my feet firmly on the outrageously large (seriously, these trees were larger than Konoha's) trees. They were large enough they could comfortingly fit two of our apartments.

Where are we? I asked hesitantly, finally taking the time to look around. The trees climbed high above me, disappearing into the clouds. I don't remember reading about a place with trees this big… in this life and the last.

It's protected by an undying Genjutsu, Kurama responded softly, his voice surprisingly gentle. It's a safe place. When we… the bijuu… were small, this is where we stayed. However, as our chakra grew, and so did our bodies, we had to leave… or else we would have been found out and the humans would find this place, too. The Sage, Ōtsutsuki Hagoromo, made this place just for us.

This is… this is the forest from before. When you first adjusted the environment to the seal, this is…

Yes. It is a safe place. Not even the Akatsuki will reach us here.

Why don't you stay here, then? Far away from the human world?

Because while the Akatsuki cannot find us, now, they would still be able to find us if we were not in a jinchuuriki, and thus hiding our massive chakra signatures. Bijuu cannot hide their chakra like humans can - our chakra does not suppress. And none of us want this place to be discovered and… tainted

Then why show this place to me?

You will keep it a secret. I know this. Besides, Gyūki has already shown his jinchuuriki this place. I know that scent anywhere.

I didn't smell anything particularly unique in the air, but I could have been wrong.

Drop down to the forest floor.

I did as he requested, hopping off the tree branch and falling to the soft grass. The grass reached as high as I did, if not taller, and I had to brush it away from me.

Turn right and continue to go straight. We're almost there.

Curious to see what our destination was, I picked up the pace and quickly sprinted through the grass. When the grass cleared, I stumbled out into a rocky clearing with a large cave entrance. Large enough Kurama could easily fit through.

Go on. You won't need a glowstick, so don't bother.

Frowning, I broke into a steady jog and entered the cave. After a while of going straight, the light seemed to dwindle down to near nothing. However, I could still see well enough I didn't feel the need to pull out a glowstick. After a while of walking down the large pathway, winding further down, I reached a dead end.

As in a giant pit of darkness below me now.

I looked down it nervously.

You'll have to make scarier drops on missions, Kurama dismissed. Besides, you'll like this one. Probably.

Taking his nonchalance as some semblem of assurance, I leapt down into the pit. After a couple seconds of falling, my heels slammed into something wet and hard, and I fell backwards, landing on my tailbone. I managed to suppress my squeal as I started to slide down.

Feelings of giddiness and adrenaline ran through me as I slid in the darkness. Unable to help myself, I even giggled a little it. It was… fun. I could feel how relaxed and content Kurama was, as well - he really liked this place - which made it even more enjoyable. It wasn't frightening or nerve-wracking as some might have believed it to be… it was… nice.

I wasn't sure how long I slid down. It seemed to go on for minutes, but all too soon I popped out of the tunnel.

Light bloomed in front of me, as I slid across the smooth crystal floor. My breath was caught in my throat as I took in the scene.

When I stopped sliding, I slowly stood up.

I looked around at all the crystals, taking the sight in with such wide eyes. "So beautiful."

There wasn't a single portion of the room that was not crystallized and gleaming. It was a humongous room - it seemed to stretch on forever before being enveloped in darkness. The crystals climbed higher than I could see, and the single stream of sunlight that peeked through the cracks reflected and bounced and transformed into a wave of rainbows all around. I slowly sank to the cold, crystallized, smooth ground, and continued to stare in awe at the environment. "How…? How is this possible?"

Don't concern yourself with that, brat, Kurama snorted. We are here… we are here because it's time.

"Time?' I echoed back faintly, still overwhelmed by its beauty. Was I really still in the mortal realm?

Originally Naruto had the Hachibi and his mother assist him in this. You do not need that.

I froze.

"Kurama… are you saying…?"

You cannot master my chakra now, Kurama went on, because you are too attached to your emotions. I cannot take you to the Waterfall of Truth, but I can take you here. To the Seeing Crystals. Stay here. Relax. Meditate. And when you have reached a tranquil state, you will face your true self. When you have defeated them, we will begin our training.

By defeating them… you mean… accepting them…?

Yes.

I closed my eyes, a sinking feeling in my gut.

I don't know… I don't know if I can do that. Accepting… accepting means forgiving, Kurama. I don't know if I'm capable of doing that.

Acceptance does not always mean forgiveness, Miwako, Kurama said, his tone surprisingly gentle, and his voice rumbling. Understand?

Not quite, I admitted. But I will try.

Pulling off my pack and tossing it to the side, I then got in a more comfortable position and prepared to meditate.


(´・ω・`)


Anger.

That's all I could feel.

Anger and utter loathing.

It burned and raged through every inch of me, swaddling me. I opened my eyes and I was breathing heavily from this overbearing emotion.

No one stood before me.

There was no 'dark me' that I could confront like there was with Naruto. There was a swing and the academy and the sun was setting. I could see Naruto through the window, working on his detention, while I sat on the swing, just staring.

It was a memory.

Just as soon as I recognized it, it shifted.

I sat alone at the kitchen table, bruises and sores dotting my form. Fear and anger were the only two things I knew at that moment. Fear at what had happened - that it had actually happened and anger that I was helpless to it.

Again, the scene moved.

The next memory was over Naruto trying to shield me from the next attacks. I had screamed at them, spitting curses and clawing like a madwoman. They were too big.

Once more, the scene shifted.

Memories of my life replayed before me. From beatings, to lonely ones, to grief and loss. All the emotions replayed in an endless loop and I was lost in the sea of memories.

Accept…? Forgive…?
In a way, those memories had seem so far and unreal, as they had happened so many years ago. But, seeing them again, so vivid and clear before my eyes, brought them back as though they had only just happened. With them, came the accompanying emotions I had felt at the time.

Forgive…?

How could I forgive…?

It didn't feel like I had a body, but I couldn't help, but feel my hands clench into fists. Subtle trembles ran through me, as I was helpless to watch my brother be beaten to protect me.

I will never forgive Konoha. I will never forgive them.

Then you will never reach your potential, Kurama whispered in my ear.

You know what they did! They don't deserve my forgiveness. They don't deserve our forgiveness.

You do not need to forgive, Kurama murmured. You need to accept.

That is forgiveness!
Is it? Your anger… your hatred… while delicious… should no longer control you, brat. You confine yourself with your anger; you let your past and scars write out your future. You limit yourself with your hatred.

My hatred is what drives me, Kurama. I would have lost my will to fight long ago without it!

Is that so?

I felt Kurama's hot breath wash over me, then disappear entirely. Whiteness replaced the scene I had currently been watching and a sudden warmth took over me. My eyes widened in surprise, and my breath hitched as a warm hand rested on top of me.

I stilled.

"Maybe it would be better if we didn't keep watching that, though, huh?"

Slowly, oh so slowly, I turned around. Warm blue eyes and spiky blond hair was the first thing I noticed. He was tall and lean and was smiling ohsovery openly at me.

Minato.

Papa.

"You're…" I whispered, uncertainty clawing at me. I felt exposed and vulnerable under his eyes. I squirmed and averted my gaze.

"You don't need to hide your eyes from me, Miwako-chan," Mina… Papa… said softly, warmly.

I swallowed roughly. "What… What are you doing here?"

"The seal came loose," Papa said. "You aren't aware of it, though, because you were deep in your subconscious."

"Oh…"

Papa smiled gently. "You accidentally drew on his chakra - you seem to have gotten into the habit of doing that whenever you become stressed."

"Oh…"

Papa's smile slipped, and he looked at me with mournful eyes. "I'm sorry."

I looked back up at him, confused.

"It's because of me that you have carry such a heavy burden," Papa said. "I failed as your father, and for that, I'm sorry."

My eyes widened and I furiously shook my head. "No, no… I know it's not your fault. It couldn't be helped. You were dead the moment Kurama pierced you - his chakra's too volatile, it wouldn't make a difference if a medical-nin found you. You did the best you could, given the circumstances."

Papa gave a small shake of his head himself. "If I had been stronger, faster, then things would be different. You and Naruto would not have had to have lived such a life. You wouldn't feel the need to carry your hatred so close to your heart."

"That's my choice, Papa," I said quietly.

Papa's eyes shined when I called him Papa, but it was a sad shine. The kind of shine that came before the tears. "You don't need to carry that burden, Miwako-chan. I know… I know it's hard, but there are other ways…"

"I won't forgive them," I said, shaking my head. "You can't ask me to forgive them."

"I know and I'm not," Papa said. "I'm not even sure if I can forgive them, Miwako-chan. But, I know that hatred does not have to be the answer."

"What else is there?" I demanded.

"Acceptance," Papa said.

I shook my head. "That's the - "

He placed a finger over my lips, and his eyes took a teasing light to them. "At least I can teach you something. Miwako-chan: it is not the same thing. You won't forgive them, that's fine, I don't blame you. But, you don't need to confine yourself - you don't need to keep hurting yourself."

Folding my arms across my chest, I eyed Minato with open skepticism. "I'm not hurting myself - "

"You are," Papa disagreed. "You've gotten better - you've learned to open up a bit more to others, which is wonderful, Miwako-chan. But you still isolate yourself, you still choose to carry your hatred in all your actions. You hold onto your pain and your anger - it's taking its toll on you. You can't keep doing that Miwako-chan, or else it will consume you."

My brow furrowed.

"You need to learn to forgive yourself, Miwako-chan, and you need to find peace within yourself," Papa said softly. "That is how you can find acceptance."

"Peace… within myself…?"

"Don't dwell on the things you can't change, Miwako-chan don't drag yourself down by your own scars," Papa said, and the whiteness disappeared and replaced itself with another scene. I saw my team and my friends all looking at us and beaming brightly. "This is your life, Miwako-chan."

And behind us, I knew the scene changed to show a more darker memory of my childhood. I peeked over my shoulder to look at the gruesome scene, and I found myself preferring to look at my friends instead.

"Your past is a dark one, I know," Papa said firmly, wrapping his arm around my shoulders and pulling me close. "But your future doesn't have to be like that. Do you see what you did when you opened up?"

My friends were replaced with another memory.


Sakura giggled and there was a light knock at the door. I looked up, smiling shyly. "Hello, Hinata-chan."

Hinata gave me a warm smile. Hinata had been visiting me every day, even if she didn't enter the room (on the days that I didn't want company, she merely left some flowers and food before leaving). "Hello, Miwako-chan. I-I brought you some more books, the ones you requested."

"Thank you!" I exclaimed, beaming at the girl. She gave me a soft smile in return, pulling up a chair next to Sakura and setting the books in my lap.

Sakura giggled. "Ah, this sure is nice. It's been a while since the girls were together… When you're out of the hospital, Miwako-chan, perhaps we should throw a slumber party?"

"Slumber… party?"

"Th-That sounds nice," Hinata agreed, smiling prettily.

I shifted, feeling a little anxious. "I've never…"

Not in this lifetime and not in the previous…

"Really?" Sakura exclaimed, her eyes widening. "Then we better make this a huge one. Oooh, I bet we could get Temari-senpai and Tenten-senpai to come! We can hold it over at Ino's place because her parents are usually really cool about that sort of thing, not to mention she could totally get Chōji to make us a whole bunch of food. Have you had some of his cooking? It's the best."

I giggled. "That sounds nice. I think I would really enjoy that."

"I-I can talk to Chichi-ue and see if he would be willing to allow me to bring some of our movies. We actually have quite a big c-collection," Hinata added.

"Excellent! I'll talk to Ino about it and see if I can send out a letter to Temari-senpai…" Sakura trailed off, humming thoughtfully.


"Do you see how much they care? How much you care?"


Sasuke's hand squeezed my shoulder as Sakura summoned a small portion of Katsuyu. The slug summon then split in half and allowed half of herself to be dismissed and resummoned by Tsunade. He leaned forward and whispered lowly in my ear, "You still seem upset."

"It can't be helped," I whispered back. "Isobu - the Sanbi - has lost faith that he'll ever be free."

Naruto moved to stand on my other side, frowning as he whispered quietly, "Miwa, I know you feel strongly for the bijū, but - "

"I know. I'm sorry again for losing my temper."

Naruto shook his head. "No. I'm not upset about that - I'd be doing the same thing if I felt as strongly as you do about it. What I'm saying is, but what do you want us to do about it?"
My eyes widened and I looked at Sasuke, and Naruto. "You guys…?"
"We're a team," Naruto said firmly.


"And you know how happy you are with them - how happy you can continue to be."


I burst into a fit of giggles, covering my mouth to try and suppress my sound. Sakura and Sasame were giggling, as well, while Hinata's face took on a brighter red.

"G-Girls," Hinata pleaded, fidgeting nervously. "P-Please s-stop laughing."

My giggles erupted into full out laughter and wheezing, and I lost my balance. I crumpled to the floor, shaking and gasping for air.


"If you keep going on like this, though, if you keep turning to your anger; to your hatred…" Papa trailed off.


I was shaking minutely, and red chakra began to pour out of me, whipping around without prompting.

"Miwako, calm yourself," Kakashi said sharply.

"He hasn't done anything wrong!" I hissed. "We have no reason to seal him! That's just - no! I won't do it!"

They looked nervous. Shizune especially seemed uncomfortable, as she was under my dark glare. She shifted anxiously. "W-Well, Tsunade-sama thought it was best - "

"And what does she know?!" I demanded. "Why should we enslave someone who means us no harm?! Well?!"


"You'll push them away," Papa said. "To use your hatred, you would sacrifice the happiness you've found. You would succumb to the darkness all over again, and this time, I'm not sure anyone could pull you out again. Do you understand, Miwako-chan?"

My heart constricted and all the scenes dissolved away. Instead, I stood on a path that split off at a cross section. Papa stood on a path to my left, lit by white light. The path to my right was twisted and enveloped into darkness, and the path behind me seemed dark and lonely.

Papa stretched out a hand to me. "I know your life has been hard, Miwako-chan. I know it's been painful and I know you're hurting. But, it doesn't have to be that way. You can be happy, Miwako-chan, but you need to accept that this is your life. That while it has been hard, it can still be wonderful. You can still smile, you can still laugh and your future is yours to control. You don't have to define yourself by your past, Miwako-chan. You don't need hatred to be strong. Accept your life, and accept yourself."

I stared at the hand Papa stretched out to me for several heartbeats before I glanced back. Red eyes glistened in the darkness behind me, watching me.

I closed my eyes, breathing out slowly before I reopened them.

I reached for his hand.


(´・ω・`)


My feet touched down in the water, and I looked up at the red eyes behind the red cage. Papa was beside me, but I did not look at him. Instead, I kicked off from the water and stretched out my hand.

My fingers wrapped around the seal tag over Kurama's gate and I pulled it back.

Papa floated up beside me, looking at the new seal to present itself. "I had embedded some of your mothers' chakra into the seal, so when you and Naruto were prepared to fight Kurama, she could help you. I didn't even consider the fact that you would befriend him."

I gave Papa a sheepish look. Papa smiled brightly at me. "I think it's wonderful, Miwako-chan."

Papa reached out a hand to the seal. His fingers dug into the seal and he twisted. Slowly, the seal began to unravel itself. As it did so, Papa turned to me and his smile softened.

"It's time I left," Papa said, his eyes warm.

My eyes stung and I flung myself at him, wrapping my arms around him and hugging him tightly. "Thank you, Papa."

He hugged me tightly. "Aa. That's what Papas are for."

"I love you."

"I love you, too, Miwako-chan," Papa said, his voice thick. "Take care of yourself and your brother… and Kurama… please watch over my daughter."

The gate opened and Papa disappeared. Kurama grinned at me, leering above me. "Keh. As if your daughter needs anyone to take care of her…"

I smiled warmly at Kurama, feeling his hot breath wash over me. "Looks like you don't need a seal on my side anymore."

"Heh. That didn't take too long," Kurama commented, raising his hands up into the Dragon seal and changing the scenery back to the beach.

"Papa helped me," I said, smiling.

Kurama lowered his head and eyed me. "You seem happier."

"I feel happier."

"I know. I can feel it. Keh… well, then, now that that's over with, let's get started with some real training."

My smile widened. "Aa, Kurama… sama."

Kurama sat back in surprise, his ears perked up and his eyes widening. He stared at me with an expression that reminded me vaguely of pleased embarrassment. He then turned his nose up and looked away from me. "Hmph. About time you started showing me the appropriate respect. Now then... Which do you want to start with first? Beast Transformation or Beast Bomb?"


Woot. Now we know where Naruto gets his therapy-no-jutsu from. Minato!

You know, I thought when I graduated HS, I would have more time. I could not have been proven more wrong. I got an engineering internship 'bout half an hour away from my home. Been workin' 8 – 10 hours a day for it, and then comin' home all tired.

Bah.

Double update in part for compensation for the lateness. I'll double / triple update next, depending how many chapters the next arc is. I'll post that arc in one go (possibly one more, depending on how many chapters it takes to transition), and then the final arc will be posted, too, in one go.

So, the second (maybe third, depending how many chapters) time this story updates, should be the last time.

In regards to the next arc, I've decided to do a movie, but I'm torn between which movie.

Either the time-travel one where Naruto (Miwako in this case) goes back in time and works with Minato, or Road to Ninja... Just to clarify, the genjutsu would be what Naruto and Miwako want, so they'll be some... twists... to say the least.

If you have a preference, please let me know. :)

Answer: Guilty-pleasure crack pairings, huh? HashiMada, and Ulquihime come to mind.

Question: Pick a favorite character from any form of fiction, and if they needed an intervention, what would that intervention be? (Such as Naruto would need an intervention with his obsession with Sasuke / need to save every goddamn person he comes across / infatuation with ramen / etc).

Reviews are love!

Eh. And because I'm a mean son of a gun…

Preview (maybe not for next chapter exactly, depending on which movie was picked, but in the upcoming ones, at least):

I am breaking the law.

I am betraying Naruto's village.

I am going to murder this man.