AN: As you can probably see my Beta is back, I've edited the last few chapters if you want to check it out. I would like to congratulate my Beta, Duesal, on graduating High School =]
Takara arrived in the Uzumaki Compound covered in a cloak of raging chakra, slick with blood and stinking of death; Mito remembered that part of her childhood vividly.
Years had passed and yet Mito thought it was strange how something didn't change much, even as she watched Takara enter her home with blood crusting on her uniform and death acting like a macabre perfume. And yet some things did, Mito would admit as she watched children surround her ex-body-guard, reaching out with searching hands and words of affection leaving their lips as they tried to be heard all at once.
The blank mask that Takara wore every time she went out to kill someone cracked as eyes warmed and a small smile twisted at her lips while she attempted to sooth her eager crowd of children.
"Such a shame," Kurama sighed sadly, making her twitch.
She hadn't realised the man was beside her, and shot him a sharp glance. The other redhead looked most displeased as Takara smiled happily at the children, a grumpy frown twisting his fox-like features and making him look very child-like—it was disturbing.
"What is?" Mito asked with as little interest as possible in her tone.
"That such a raging beauty is allowing herself be shackled by weak humans—human children to make it worse—and hides behind a gentle smile." His sharp orange-red eyes glanced at her. "She was beautiful as she ripped through the enemy. It's a shame that she dons this mask of false humanity around the snivelling brats she claims as hers."
"It's not false!" Mito denied sharply, a frown twisting her pretty features and one hand automatically resting on her rounding stomach as if to sooth her baby as it felt her spiking emotions.
Kurama just laughed lightly before leaving her, Mito glaring at his back.
Sharp green eyes had watched the by-play between the two redheads, and a frown began to knit at her brows before she swiftly replaced it when someone's tiny hand tugged at her trousers.
"Why don't you kill children?"
Takara barely blinked in surprise as she waltzed over to place fresh flowers into the vase on the bedside of her first son's hospital bed.
"I've been gone for over a month, and this is how you greet your mother?" Takara asked almost idly as she arranged the yellow daffodils in the simple glass vase.
"You haven't answered the question." Akio frowned faintly at his mother as she turned to face him.
"Does it really matter?" she asked with raised eyebrows.
"Who's the man that Kurama calls Naru-chan?" he asked in return.
He watched as her features tightened before she smoothed them out into a blank mask.
"So this is what it's about," she mused to herself. "Kurama's been taunting again, has he?"
"Takara, answer me!" he snapped fiercely before both stared at each other in silent shock.
Akio had never called Takara by her name before, she had almost always been Kaa-san and before that Nee-san.
Takara's lips twisted into a smile that didn't reach her eyes, and Akio supressed a flinch because she had never looked at him like that before—like he was an annoying enemy that she wanted to silence but for some reason couldn't.
"Very well." Her voice was deeper, lacking the casual inflictions that she normally spoke with, no warm affection lightened her tone and Akio hated it. "His name was Uzumaki Naruto and he was my teammate. I loved him fiercely, I would have died for him, I trusted him with all my heart and soul, and he died to save me, to send me to the Uzumaki so I would be safe. And part of me hates him for that while another is grateful, because of everyone I have met here and have been able to come to love is because he chose to save me.
"He had a lover once, a gentle and kind woman who should have never been a shinobi. They were going to have a child, a son, and I was to be his godmother," her eyes were distance, years in the past and far away from Akio, "but he died minutes after his birth. He was murdered by his own mother."
He inhaled sharply at that, and a sardonic edge appeared to her smile.
"She had been confined to the base-camp, had to watch as children were trained to be cannon fodder and be bought broken back to camp to burn. She had to live with the constant stink of burning flesh—knowing that it was more child corpses being burned than adults— in her nose, hear the fearful cries and desperate pleads of dying children who were ignored for adults, for the adults were always more important than cannon fodder." Her lips twisted in a snarl and Akio dimly realised this was the first time he had seen her angry off the battle-field, "she had to walk through the camp that's very floor was covered in the ash of dead and burnt children, had to watch as lines of crying civilian children were marched in to receive half-hearted training and had to know that was the fate that awaited her son."
She paused and looked away, out of the window to the bustling village.
"We—Naruto and I—were selfish and didn't see her pain, didn't see her turmoil, and left her to drown in it. Naruto wanted to save everyone and was almost constantly on the front lines, and I, I wasn't going to be left behind again, so I always followed him. I should have stayed with her, should have seen the signs, but when it came to my boys," her eyes pierced him then, "I've always been selfish."
She turned away again, only this time turning her back as she stared out of the window.
"We had just be patched up when Naruto felt his son being born, felt his son's powerful and bright chakra, and he had been bursting with pride as we went to greet the new member of the family. I will always remember the look on his face as he felt his son's chakra—his very life—be cut suddenly off, and how fast he had ran as if he could save him when he was already gone.
She had her back turned to the few medics that were franticly trying to bring the small baby back—they wouldn't be able to as she had destroyed his heart with one jab—and had been silently crying.
It took a while for it to click what she had done and I wanted to kill her in that moment, a woman I had called friend, a woman I had grown up with, and I wanted to destroy her like she had destroyed my godson.
She told us that she had to do it, she had to save her son, that it was an act of mercy. Naruto couldn't forgive her, and frankly, neither can I.
Despite not healing completely from the birth, she left the camp and walked into the enemy's camp where she acted as a bomb and blew up herself and everyone around her up. I imagine she died with a smile on her face, certain that she would be with her baby boy again."
She was silent for a brief moment and Akio just watched her, he kept his silence as she turned to him with wet sharp green eyes.
"And it's because of my godson that I don't kill children, it's because of her and her pain that I don't kill children, and it's because of both of them that I made sure I would never bring a child of my own flesh and blood into this world.
"It's hard enough watching the children I have claimed as my own go out into the world and fight for their lives, it would be harder if I carried one of those children for nine-months, had that child completely dependent on me, had that child part of me, and watch as that child marched out to its death.
I am selfish, Akio, and I'm a coward when it comes to children, especially those I claim as mine, as I want to protect them with everything I have and I'm afraid that one day they'll come back as broken corpses and not the beautiful lively children that I know."
"I'm sorry," he told her with great remorse. He had hurt her greatly by making her talk, but he wasn't sorry he asked. He felt like he understood her more after that.
He was selfish too; he was, after all, his mother's son.
"I know." Her eyes had a knowing glint to them, and she probably knew exactly what passed through his mind, most likely strangely proud of her son for that very fact.