Can I say one thing?
MOVING. HOUSE. SUCKS.
Especially with a toddler who caught chicken pox. WAAH! It's been a few eventful weeks! I'm sorry if you guys have been angsty and antsy waiting for this chapter!
A few more fanarts of Akani have gone onto deviantart too by the way! SQUEE!
Many thanks to lover-of-books1, einalemhaber and Abalisk on deviantart for drawing her!
It makes me UBER happy to know that people are reading and liking this story. I never imagined FORETHOUGHT to get such a following!
PS: I don't know what's happening with the Doc Manager at the moment, so keep your eyes peeled for this chapter being updated... unless I'm just an idiot and can't work the new controls or whatever which is highly likely.
I'm not really happy with the ending of this chapter. The first two-thirds have been written for about two weeks now, but I got stuck on how to progress but HOPEFULLY it appeases y'all. I'm uber tired right now so I'm cutting this A/N off here.
Hiruzen Sarutobi felt old. A child stood in front of him and his board, as well as the Daimyo and she made a valiant effort at remaining respectful and polite. She was nervous, no doubt, but he felt twice his age at the thought of a nine year old child being sent out to fight a battle the older generation had started.
He couldn't help but notice how pale the child went when her sensei agreed with what his old rival said about broadening her horizons. She could read the undercurrents of the conversation well enough, which somewhat didn't surprise him.
But surely the child doesn't know about his old friend? About what he embodies?
She is prophetic, and it has been a long while since he spoke to her last about her dreams.
She couldn't possibly know what Danzo has done in the past.
But the relief was clear on her face when Kushina voiced her want of apprenticing her.
… A most interesting development.
Further action must be planned, and as he opened his mouth and revealed her heritage, once speculated but now no denying, he couldn't help but think 'you owe me one.'
"Is she dead?"
"Of course not, moron, she's still breathing."
"Who are you calling moron, Kaka-teme! I'm a chunin now too!"
"Of course you are."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean? Last I checked, you were beaten by a gi-"
"Keep it down, -ttebane! You're going to wake her up!"
I groaned, shifting slightly. "Too late. Geez, you guys are so mean to me." I flared my chakra and almost choked. I wasn't back in the Hokage tower with my sensei – shishou, I mentally corrected – and my teammates. In fact, I wasn't anywhere near the Hokage tower. "Kushina-sensei?"
"… what the hell are we doing at Ichiraku's?"
"Eating! Celebrating your promotions! What else, -ttebane?!" she cheered before shovelling some salty broth in her mouth. Minato let out a small sigh that was drowned out by a large slurrrrp!
I'd been propped against a wall in the corner, out of sight and out of mind while Team Two and Team Seven chowed down to their hearts content. I was mildly surprised to see Kakashi eating with the rest, since he'd been missing (read; avoiding everyone) for the last week or so but reasoned that Minato probably bribed him with some special training to get him here. I was surprised, however, when he tilted his head towards me and nodded a small greeting. I answered with a bright smile, happy to see this new development.
My stomach grumbled as the smell of fresh noodles hit me, though I didn't really feel like eating once I realised what had happened earlier.
I was now an apprentice under an older Uzumaki. I was now recognised as an Uzumaki. I'd just met Danzo for the first time, and he looked… normal. No eye patch, or bandages with hidden Sharingan's he'd plucked from corpses.
I grimaced, feeling a little faint again. Oh Kami, he was normal. He wasn't at all like I expected and that terrified me because it was going to happen and it was going to happen to Shisui-chan. It was going to happen to Itachi. It was going to happen to Obito and Mikoto and Fugaku a-and…
I leapt to my feet and bumped Muta's chair by accident, causing him to cough on a stray noodle. Suddenly the air felt too hot, and the space too cloying. I needed air, I needed…
I needed to see Shisui, if just to confirm he was okay.
I bolted out of the door and onto the street, answering the shouts of my friends and sensei with a garbled 'gotta go.' I took a brief moment to shoot Kushina a thumbs up, letting her know that I heard her deafening demand that I be at the Hokage tower the next morning at eleven. The sun wasn't harsh, and the air was getting cooler which meant that it was nearing sunset. Shisui would either be in his clan's training grounds or at the Police station learning the ropes.
I decided to try my luck with the latter.
I immediately leapt onto the rooftop of the ramen shop and used the shinobi highway to sprint as fast as I could towards Shisui, my panic making me go faster. I ignored the incredulous looks I was getting from shinobi and civilian alike, taking care not to crack the tiles beneath my feet too much.
I could have scanned the village looking for his chakra signature, but that would have wasted my chakra, time and given me a nose bleed. I was gonna have to look for him the old fashioned way.
The Police headquarters loomed just ahead and I leapt onto the dirt street, feet skidding and kicking up dust as I went. The place practically smelled of Uchiha, and the mass of chakra signatures milling about the place that were so similar yet different it made my head spin.
I barged through the entry way and jogged towards the front desk that was manned by a rather prim looking woman. Maybe that was just Uchiha in general. They didn't just have sticks up their asses, they had the whole freaking forest.
"Can you tell me where Shisui-chan is?" I blurted before she could say anything.
The woman pursed her lips. "Excuse me?"
"Shisui Uchiha. Eight years old, learning the ropes around here. Son of Kagami Uchiha-san? Is any of this ringing a bell, lady?" I snapped. I couldn't help it; I was panicky and needed to see him. Needed to see he had two eyes still in his sockets. Needed to see he was okay.
The voice had me whirling about to come face to face with Mikoto who was smiling gently at me while the woman at the desk murmured a polite 'Mikoto-sama.'
"Akani-chan, what are you doing here so late? Is there a problem?"
"A-ano, Mikoto-san, I'm looking for Shisui, have you seen him?"
The Uchiha matriarch blinked in surprise. "Shisui-kun?"
"Please, Mikoto-san, I need to see him," I pleaded. A step further would have had me on my knees and begging but I didn't care. I was getting desperate. She must have seen something in my expression because she relented his location pretty easily.
"Shisui-kun is at the hospital with his father. Kagami-san is dying. Come. I'll escort you there."
Nurse Miki stopped giggling with her friends to glare at me when she saw me enter the hospital again, but didn't bother me since I was with a clan head's wife. As soon as Mikoto and I turned a corner, the whispers erupted and I hated it.
Stupid Nurse Miki.
It's funny how something as trivial as a door could almost make me comatose with fear. Fear that Shisui wasn't there, and fear that I couldn't save one of my friends. Fear that I would simply turn around and walk away like a large part of me was screaming at me to do.
Mikoto placed a hand on my shoulder. I glanced at her. She was smiling that small, gentle smile.
"It's okay, Akani-chan. You're his friend. He'd want you there."
She'd completely misinterpreted my fear, but I suppose a part of me was also wondering if I was welcome into such a private moment between father and son.
I swallowed thickly and went to tug at my braid before remembering I had short hair now. I settled for twirling a lock tightly around my finger. "A-are you sure? I mean, I don't want to intrude on something so private and I'm not even family so I shouldn't really be here. You know what? This was silly. I'm gonna go and-"
I turned to leave but in a very Kushina-like moment, the Uchiha matriarch snagged the back of my shirt collar and all but dragged me back to the door, plopping me down right in front of it before knocking on the wood.
The voices inside hushed immediately before a quiet 'come in' was heard. It was Shisui.
I bit my lip and shot Mikoto another glance but she simply gave me an encouraging nod. I gave her a timid one back before turning the door handle and poking my head inside. There were two signatures. One was Shisui, sitting beside a comfortable bed with various machines and seals littering any other spare space.
The figure on top of the bed was Kagami Uchiha, Shisui's father. His thrum was so soft and weak it made me feel helpless in turn.
"Akani? What are you doing here?" Shisui asked incredulously, rising.
"Is this a friend of yours, Shisui-kun?" Kagami asked softly.
Shisui hesitated a moment before nodding. "Hai, tou-san. This is Akani."
"Don't leave the young lady out in the corridor, invite her in."
Shisui nodded at me and I slipped through the door, closing it behind me. Mikoto had already slipped silently away. I twiddled my thumbs and shifted my weight from one foot to the other anxiously. Shisui was fine and the tension I'd felt in my shoulders disappeared completely at the sight of him in perfect health. I approached the Uchiha quietly before coming to a stop at the foot of Kagami's bed.
I bowed. "It is a pleasure to meet you at last, Uchiha-san."
The sickly man chuckled slightly but it sounded wet. Was there something wrong with his lungs? "Please, call me Kagami. Such a lovely young lady, Shisui-kun. I approve."
Shisui spluttered. So did I. "Tou-san! It's not like that!"
"Absolutely not!" I agreed. "I just keep him on his toes and beat him mercilessly in a pranking war that- oops."
Maybe not a good idea to bring up the fact that I was the one torturing his son day in and day out. Stupid. Stupid Akani.
The sound of laughter made me look at the older Uchiha in shock. Kagami wiped a tear from his eye. "Oh! So you're the one my son has been complaining about all this time? Incredible. Some of your pranks are ingenious, might I say. I particularly liked the one where you glued his slippers to the floor of his bedroom."
I grinned foxily. "Thank you! Simple but effective." Shisui groaned and rested his face in his hands. "Aw, Shisui-chan is embarrassed?"
Kagami's lips twitched. "You call him –chan?"
His son's head snapped up to glare at me murderously. "Not. A. Word."
I mimicked zipping my lips and locking them before handing him the key. He gave me a funny look but took the imaginary bit of metal regardless.
"So, you are an Uzumaki?" Kagami asked. I stiffened but nodded. No point denying it since the Hokage sold me out earlier. "I haven't seen an Uzumaki besides Kushina-san since the days of Mito-hime."
"The Shodai Hokage's wife?" I asked, relaxing. Did I look like a true Uzumaki, like Kushina and Mito? I didn't know he knew the deceased Uzumaki matriarch personally.
"Hai. She was beautiful and fierce. A common trait amongst the Uzumaki women, so I've heard," the man smiled.
I blushed and ducked my head. "I never knew my heritage until I arrived in the Leaf."
"Woah, woah. Wait, are you saying you weren't born here?" Shisui asked, a brow raised.
"Hai. That's what I'm saying."
"Then where are your parents?"
"Dead," I answered. Kagami reached over to slap his son on the back of the head.
Shisui blanched at my bland tone. Even Kagami seemed to shift a little on his bed. I waved them off with a small smile. "It's okay. I mean, I miss them of course, but my new family is always growing so that's a plus. Right? A shinobi's duty is to endure. Having friends makes it easier."
"Of course," Kagami nodded.
I licked my lips, suddenly feeling nervous. How was I going to play this? I had wanted to meet Kagami, if just to get his personal view on the village and the Nidaime's role in 'ostracizing' the Uchiha clan. He was one of the few the legendary Senju trusted with his life, and one of the few who held the village above his clan. That trait would be passed down to Shisui. Already the seeds had been sown and were sprouting wildly. Itachi would in turn learn from Shisui. They were both incredible.
Having Shisui here to listen to his father's words was a good thing.
"I read that you were on a team lead by Tobirama Senju-sama, the Nidaime Hokage. Is that true?"
"Hai. He was a great man. He sacrificed a lot for his village, including his life. He was a true Leaf shinobi."
Okay, here goes. "Forgive me for asking, but… you don't spurn him?"
Both of the Uchiha's frowned and Kagami – although on his deathbed – began to radiate an intimidating aura, making sweat bead on my brow. "I'm afraid I don't understand your question, Akani-chan. Would you care to repeat?"
I felt myself begin to shake at the subtle jab but steeled myself. He had given me an opportunity to take back my words, but I wasn't going to. "I was just wondering because… well, sometimes I hear people talk around the village and…"
"And… and they say that the Nidaime secluded the Uchiha from the village through the means of the Military Police. That is was a way to keep an eye on your clan."
"… People seem to say interesting things," Kagami murmured, eying me sharply. "What stock do you place in rumours, young one?"
I scoffed. "Rumours may have some grain of truth, but to think that the Nidaime created an entire faction run purely by a strong clan like the Uchiha just to keep an eye on them? How stupid. It takes incredible skill to keep order inside a shinobi village and it takes even stronger shinobi to keep peace amongst other shinobi. The Uchiha clan was willing, and accepted the offer despite an eruption of suspicion about the man's motives. To be honest, I feel sorry for the Nidaime." I was only mildly aware that I was ranting, but I couldn't help it. I'd been thinking about this for a while and now it was all tumbling out.
"Why would you feel sorry for the Nidaime?"
"Because the man had the toughest position of Hokage so far! I mean, Hashirama-sama bought the clans together under a single banner and bought about the Leaf's existence but Tobirama-sama was left with the messy politics of running said newly formed village because coming straight out of the Warring States period where it was literally 'kill or be killed for your clan and no one else' would have been awful. Inter-village politics, inter-village squabbles… I mean, the man couldn't have possibly been able to please everyone but each clan was still only looking out for their own kin instead of banding together to make the Leaf strong through unity. But somehow he did succeed, and he left the Hokage's legacy to Sandaime-sama, entrusted the village to the next generation during the middle of a freaking war! The man died for this village, entrusted it to the next generation and his choices are still regarded with suspicion? How stupid!"
I was huffing and red faced by the time I stopped, both Uchiha simply staring at me blankly. Shisui's 'blank' was more incredulous though.
I turned my face to the floor, allowing my short hair to shield my face as it burned in embarrassment. Why, oh why couldn't I keep my Kami-damned mouth shut?!
"Gomen," I muttered. "I didn't mean to offend you."
"You didn't. In fact, I'd say that your spiel was quite… insightful," Kagami mused.
I snapped my head up to the man. He was smiling. At me. He pat the side of his bed, an invitation for me to join him. I did so hesitantly, perching myself on the very edge of the mattress so to not disturb his comfort.
"You think of such mature things, Akani-chan," Kagami said. "Things that a child shouldn't be worried about, especially when it doesn't regard them."
I instantly bristled. "It involves my family, and if my generation is to run the village one day, I'm making my issue."
The older Uchiha laughed heartily despite the wetness in his chest. "Somehow, I knew you were going to say that but it is most refreshing to hear it said so vehemently."
I grinned broadly, my chest warming at the praise. "Thank you, Kagami-san."
"Why are you asking father this?" Shisui suddenly asked.
I blinked at him. "Huh?"
"Why are you asking father instead of Fugaku-sama or a clan elder? Or a constable in the Police headquarters? Why my dad?"
"Was on a team with the Nidaime, right? So you just came here to poke your nose in places it doesn't belong-"
The younger Uchiha shrank back from his father's stern tone, averting his gaze from me entirely. I could only blink at him in shock. Was… was that what he thought I was doing? I suppose from his point of view, it was.
I couldn't tell him, though. I couldn't tell him that I needed to confirm that my presumptions about the clan and the village were true. I couldn't tell him that this information, that this incredible man lying on his death bed would inadvertently affect the outcome of the Uchiha massacre years from now.
Kagami passed on his legacy to his son, who passed it on to Itachi who would become a stronger person than I could ever hope to be by choosing the village over family, save Sasuke. Heck, he did it for Sasuke, so the boy wouldn't know the horrors of war.
"I'm sorry you feel that way, Shisui," I muttered, making him whip his head up to stare at me in shock. I hadn't tacked on the –chan. "But… how far would you go for pride?"
Both men blinked at me. I raised my head to look at them impassively.
"How far would you go for family?"
They remained silent.
"… how far would you go for the pride of your family? What would you risk destroying for that?"
I slipped off the bed and cleared my throat awkwardly, bowing low. "Forgive my intrusion, Kagami-san, Shisui. I'll leave you be. It was an honour to meet you, Kagami-san."
I turned and made to exit when Kagami's raspy voice stopped me in the doorway.
"Come back tomorrow if you can, child. I wouldn't mind your company once more."
I shot him a small smile over my shoulder before nodding and closing the door behind me. I'd gotten halfway down the street leading away from the hospital when I stumbled into a fence and slid down into a heap.
Kami, what was I thinking?
My gut rolled and I had just enough time to turn my head to the side before emptying my stomach onto the ground.
Kagami stared at the door Akani had exited moments before, lost in deep thought.
What an interesting child. And she was a child. Barely older than his own son, but her maturity far outweighed his. True, Shisui had an incredible grasp on what a shinobi's duty to the village was, but this girl…
She spoke as if she knew an unpreventable storm was coming and she didn't know how to take, or guide others, to shelter.
She spoke as if she was lost, and damn if he didn't want to give her some guidance before he parted for the afterlife.
"Akani-chan is weird," Shisui deadpanned.
Kagami shot his son a sly smile that made the boy shift uncomfortably. "Akani-chan, huh? Like I said, son… I approve."
He laughed as Shisui turned an interesting shade of red.
"Ew! Gross, Red!"
I opened my eyes – unnecessarily – to glare at the form of Obito as he casually strolled down the street. He was munching on a hard candy. He had obviously been helping Junko-obaa again. I wiped my mouth on the back of my hand before standing on shaky legs away from the puddle of bile. "Shut it, Obi."
"Woah, are you okay, Red?" he asked, genuinely concerned as he watched me lean heavily against the fence. "I mean, you shot outta Ichiraku's like… like an electrified kunai or somethin'."
"Not really," I muttered, scrubbing my face with my hands before sighing wearily. "Long day, is all."
"… and the puke?" he said, wrinkling his nose.
I half-shrugged. I didn't want to worry him by saying I just power spewed because of stress.
"Want me to walk you home?" he offered.
"Oh, is this a date?" I drawled, batting my eyelashes dramatically.
Obito spluttered. "W-what? No! Who'd want to date you?!"
I raised a brow. "Thanks," I deadpanned. Kami, it was like he was about to spout about cooties any second or something.
"No! I didn't mean it like that! I meant, why would someone like me want to date someone like you?"
"That's not any better," I sighed. "Just stop before you force me to punch some sense into you."
He chuckled sheepishly, scratching the back of head and making his goggles shift a little. He eyed my shaking form. "You okay to walk on your own?"
I shrugged again. "Probably yes, maybe no."
He sighed and turned around, squatting as he did so. "Hop on and I'll get you home."
I stared at him like he'd grown a second head, or suddenly declared he was giving up on Rin. "What?"
"Hop on," he grumbled. I had the feeling he was blushing. I flared my chakra and sure enough his blue was twitching in embarrassment.
I frowned a little to cover my own flush of awkwardness but complied, crawling onto his back. He was taller than me, so I had to hop a little and the bastard didn't even drop any lower to help me. "I'll try not to breath too heavy on you 'coz, you know… puke breath."
Obito gagged as he leapt onto the nearest roof and made his way to my apartment. "Gross, Red!"
We travelled in silence for a short while. The sun had set while I was in with Kagami and Shisui, but the village was still bustling despite the hour and circumstances of war. The civilians didn't know of the struggle that shinobi faced daily, but I'd like to think they thanked the soldiers of the village whenever they sat with their families around the dinner table, or tucked their children in at night.
We were the ones that kept them safe.
We were almost to my apartment when I spoke above the rustle of wind, my voice slightly muffled from my face being pressed into his shoulder blade. "Hey… Obi?"
I squeezed his shoulders a little tighter. I don't think he realised how much I just needed some familiar company right now after the stress of the day. "Thanks for being an awesome friend."
"Any time, Red."
As soon as I sensed Obito peeling off towards his own apartment I stripped off my outer clothes and fell face first into the bed, not even bothering to remove my hitai-ate as I wormed myself into the sheets. I was asleep in seconds and was blessed with a dreamless slumber.
Something poked my shoulder blade, making me grunt into my pillow. "Go 'way."
I waited for a few precious seconds and was about to slip back into dreamland when my entire mattress was upended, sending me skidding across the floor in a tangle of sheets. I cursed colourfully as I fought against the fabric, flaring my chakra to see who the hell was in my apartment.
I paused for a bare moment before continuing trying to free myself. "What are you doing here, Kakashi?"
My fellow chunin – how weird was that? – crossed his arms over his chest and leant his weight on one foot. "Waking you up. What else?"
I finally poked my head free from my sheets and glared at the older boy, blowing a stray lock of hair from my face. "Seeing as how you were avoiding me this last week or so, I didn't expect to see you so soon."
"I wasn't avoiding you." I scoffed. "I was training. Don't think you're special."
I trembled my bottom lip dramatically, sniffling. "B-but, Kushina-sensei says I'm special all the time!"
A part of me was glad we were back to our usual witty banter and insults, but another part was pissed that he woke me up.
He kicked a stray pillow at me and it thwacked me in the face, making me fall backwards from the force. "Special in the head, maybe. Get up. Uzumaki-san said you're late for mission assignments."
I blinked. "What time is it?" Surely it couldn't be that-
-late. "ACK! Why didn't anyone come get me sooner!" I shrieked, resorting to shredding my bed sheets with chakra laced fingers to free myself. I'd buy new ones later. Mission assignments for a majority of genin teams led by rookie chunin were most often delegated before noon, leaving the afternoon free for mission reports. I was supposed to be at the tower an hour ago. I'd just grossly overslept on my first official day as a chunin.
I darted past Kakashi and frantically looked for my sandals, spotting them tossed beside my battle scroll that Kushina had been kind enough to fetch for me. My hitai-ate bounced merrily against my throat.
I snatched one up and proceeded to tug one on until Kakashi cleared his throat awkwardly. I faced him and raised a brow. "What?"
"A-ah, maybe you should… put on s-something more d-decent," he stammered, chakra shaking with embarrassment as he pointedly looked everywhere except at me.
"Whaa?" I glanced down and felt myself go pale. I was in my under shirt and undies. In front of Kakashi. Who was a boy. I screamed and kicked my half-laced sandal at him, conking him in the side of the head as I tried (unsuccessfully) to stretch my shirt down to my ankles. "Get out, get out, get out! You pervert!"
"I'm not a damn pervert! It's not my fault you're an idiot!" he snapped back, only to realise he was looking at me again. He choked on air and hastily spun around. "I'm going to need my eyes scrubbed!" he cried.
"What are you still doing here?!" I squeaked. "Get out!"
He bolted for the window and slipped outside, almost breaking the pane with how hard he snapped it shut.
I waddled over and tugged the curtains until they were closed, slumping to my knees in relief. How awkward. My face burned before a foxy smirk graced my features.
"Well, at least I have blackmail material on the perv now." I cackled evilly as I dug around to find a new pair of pants and a fresh shirt. I located my sandals and tugged them on, jogging to the door. I paused long enough to don my sunglasses and swing my battle scroll onto my back. I ducked out of my apartment, flaring my senses and echolocation until I found Kakashi.
I turned my face up towards the roof of my apartment building and planted my hands on my hips. "You can come down now, ya perv."
He flickered in existence beside me, glaring. I could almost feel how hot his face was from his blush though. "I'm not a pervert!"
"Well, not yet," I grinned. He'd never know that I was telling him a little about his future self. A cool breeze brushed my skin and tussled my hair, making me frown a little. That didn't feel like a normal midday breeze. "Is there a storm coming? That breeze was a little cool."
"No. It's only six thirty."
I balked. "Eh?! But you just said-"
"… You're an evil person, Kakashi Hatake," I snarled. I turned around, fully intending to snuggle back into the covers but only after I set my alarm clock. I was stopped by a hand fisting into the strap of my scroll. "Whaa?"
"You didn't eat last night, did you?"
On cue, my stomach clenched and let loose a loud growl. I whimpered and curled into a ball off the ground, making Kakashi sigh. He didn't let go of me as he began to march down the street, holding me out in front of him like I was something smelly.
Oh. I hadn't had a shower since yesterday morning so I probably was. Oops.
It was still too early for a majority of the civilians to be up and about. The only ones gawking at us were the shinobi loitering around and the shop keepers setting up for the day. I wasn't too worried about what people would say. The onlookers probably assumed I was being punished for something stupid. They knew Kakashi's reputation, and they knew mine. I was the loudmouth apprentice of a loudmouth Uzumaki. Kakashi was a calm, cool and collected prodigy.
I couldn't really fault them their logic.
Kakashi turned into a small tea house that was already open and plonked me down none too gently on a spare seat before slipping into the opposite chair. I was too busy feeling the pain of my stomach eating itself to notice his strange behaviour.
Most notably, he was willingly seen in public with me.
I didn't even notice when the waitress came and took our order, and by 'our order' I meant Kakashi ordered for me because I was too busy cooing to my aching stomach.
"Stop that," Kakashi snapped after listening to me whine for the umpteenth time.
"But Mr Tummy so hungy," I whimpered.
"'Hungy'? What are you, three? It's not even a real word."
A bowl of freshly steamed rice with grilled fish was placed in front of me and a pot of tea and two saucers placed in front of Kakashi. The steam wafted into my nose and I began to drool. I patted the spot on the table to my right, where I normally find the chopsticks.
I came up empty because Kakashi was deftly twirling them artfully over his fingers. If I tried that I'd stab myself in the eye for sure.
I wrinkled my nose. "Unhygienic, Kashi-chan. Now gimme!" I reached for them, only for him to pull them back out of my reach. "Don't play games with me, kid," I growled.
"Is that any way to speak to your senpai?" he drawled.
"No, but it is how I'm speaking to my friend when he's being a jerkface!"
Kakashi paused in slight shock long enough for me to swipe the utensils from his grasp. I proceeded to inhale the rice and fish. I was starving, so every grain went down my throat. I polished the bowl off quickly and plonked it back on the table, smacking my lips happily.
"Ah! That was so good! Uh, Kashi-chan? Why are you looking at your tea like that?"
His brow was twitching and he had a pained grimace on his face. "Your despicable eating habits filled my teacup with rice granules."
I blinked. "Oh. Um, extra protein? Or is it fibre…? Hm…" Kakashi twitched. "Oh, just give it here ya big baby."
I snatched his cup and gave him the spare one that was thankfully clean and poured him another cup. I down the tea, rice grains and all. Huh. Green tea with jasmine petal. How… girly.
"That hit the spot," I sighed, patting my full belly. "Thanks." I blinked when something occurred to me and suddenly felt like puking all of my breakfast up. "Oh, Kami… You're being nice to me. Are you dying? Wait, no, that's not it…" I paled further. "T-this isn't a date, is it?!" I squeaked, horrified.
Kakashi almost spilled his tea all over himself. "W-what? Hell no! You're too stupid to look after yourself properly and if I feed you now, I don't have to put up with your whining all day!"
Relief was too tame a word. "What do you mean 'put up with me all day'?"
"It means we have a joint mission together today," he answered, like he was speaking to a toddler.
"How the hell was I supposed to know that?" I snapped.
"Had you stayed at Ichiraku's you would have received the details along with the rest of us."
"Well sorry I had other stuff to do," I huffed, crossing my arms over my chest. I was not about to say I had a minor freak out over something that hadn't even happened yet, and if I have my way it won't happen at all.
"Like what? You haven't even been a chunin for twenty four hours and you already think you can just walk out on your mission assignments?"
"Where is all this concern suddenly coming from?" I snapped. "You never seemed to give a crap before."
"A mission that runs smoothly is one that is understood by all of its participants," he replied testily. "I'm merely doing my duty as a mission leader and informing you of its parameters."
"Okay, fine. Can we at least get to the 'parameter' part?"
"Meet at the Hokage tower at eleven for further details," he answered, rising from his seat to drop a few bills on the table. I followed him outside.
"You sound like a damn robot," I grumbled. "Glad that hasn't changed. Not."
"Remember, eleven at the tower. Don't be late, Akani."
With that, he disappeared in a swirl of leaves. I didn't even notice the lack of suffix.
I brushed leaves out of my hair angrily, shredding them in a small hissy fit before I was aware of a pair of eyes on me. It was the waitress in the tea shop.
"Do I have something on my face?" I asked, rubbing my cheeks against my shoulder. It was just like Kakashi not to tell me I had something on my face and let me walk around in view of the public all day.
She rapidly shook her head. "N-no, kunoichi-san, it's just…"
"Are you dating Kakashi Hatake-kun? You shinobi always seem to grow up faster than the civilians…"
I stopped breathing. "EH?! Me and Kakashi? Where the heck did you get that idea from?"
"G-gomen! I-it's just that… well, he bought you in and sat with you and paid too. He always comes in alone."
"He's a regular?" I blurted without meaning to. Kakashi was a creature of habit; wake up, train, breakfast, train, missions, train, dinner, train, bed. Rinse and repeat with a few smatterings of 'torture Akani for fun' to mix it up. To know that he bought me to one of his usual haunts was… embarrassingly sensitive. Right?
"H-Hai. He used to come in all the time with his… father…" she trailed off awkwardly. "G-gomen for wasting your time, kunoichi-san. Have a good day and thank you for your business."
She bowed a little before toddling back inside, leaving me a frozen, blinking roadblock. Kakashi came here with… Sakumo? A wave of nostalgia swept over me. I'd thought he didn't want anything to do with his father anymore, so to learn that he still kept up at least one familiar thing he used to do with the man was like a peek into his mind.
It was incredible. For all that talk about not wanting any tie to the man the shinobi world deemed a disgrace, he still couldn't let go of one routine from his past. And he'd willingly bought me into it.
In light of this new development I quickly brushed all notion of blackmail aside, conveniently forgetting everything to do with that morning. Kakashi was making baby steps, but this morning felt like a giant leap. Did he know the waitress would let that bit slip?
Maybe. He probably hoped that she wouldn't but I knew now. Despite his words, Kakashi considered me as someone close enough to trust.
No. I wouldn't be using this against him. That would go against everything I just concluded.
I smiled and placed my arms behind my head, linking my fingers as I began to meander through the waking village.
I'd made a breakthrough in Kakashi's frosty shield, and it felt great.
My best friend was back and all for the better.
I found myself near the outskirts of the village walls where a majority of the major clans were housed. If I recalled, the Inuzuka clan were around here somewhere. The training grounds were more frequent, allowing more room for the ninken to run around to their hearts content, as well as their owners.
I briefly wondered if any other shinobi villages had clans like the Inuzuka; tracking and veterinary specialists were handy to have.
I froze midstride. Veterinary specialists. Injured animals. Animal summons.
I quickly nicked my thumb and flew through the seals to perform a summons. I slammed my hand to the ground. "Summoning; Usagi!"
There was a puff of smoke and a chakra drain as a new presence was added.
"… at least it isn't a forest," the hare drawled.
I panted from the expenditure as I dropped into a crouch, peering closely at the bundle of fur. He wasn't sitting properly, his powerful hind legs skewed at an uncomfortable angle.
"Usagi-chan, do you remember me?" I asked. I had to remind myself that this wasn't just an injured animal. It was an injured summon. I could sense chakra in him, and he wouldn't hesitate to de-summon himself, bite me or yell at me if I did something he didn't like.
I'd never been bitten by a rabbit before and I didn't really want to.
Usagi scoffed before preening his whiskers. "Of course I do, girl. You're still as strange as ever."
"I killed Hayase," I said tonelessly, making the hare pause in his cleaning.
He slowly lowered his paws. "… I know. His name disappeared off our contract only to be replaced by yours. Do you need my specific help? You don't even know what my specialty is."
"I don't need your help, but I think you need mine. May I pick you up?"
He eyed me dubiously. "Why did you summon me, girl? If this is a waste of my time I think I'll just excuse myself."
"No!" I shouted, making him jump a little. He couldn't go just yet! Usagi wasn't the young hare that I caught in a barrier anymore. He was acting like a seasoned veteran. It saddened me. His wince of pain made me cringe. "No, I want to help you! You're in pain because of me and there are good vets here that can take a look at your legs. Please, Usagi-chan. I want to help you."
He was quiet and tense, which in turn made me tense too. He was obviously weighing my words against my actions. I felt truly awful for forgetting about him, though he seemed in much better health than I had imagined. I decided to sweeten the deal.
"I'll get you some of your favourite food," I sang.
"… alright. I'll trust you, girl, for now. However, break this fragile trust and the Leporidae won't answer your summons again."
I nodded seriously before scooping him gently into my arms. "I look forward to working with you in the future, Usagi-chan. What's your favourite food, anyways?"
There was a slight pause. "… dango."
I laughed at the irony.
When Usagi heard the barking dogs he attempted to claw my face off, shrieking that I was a traitor and that I was going to feed him to the dogs… literally.
It wasn't until I pointed out the building with the large 3D sign that read 'Veterinary Surgery' that he calmed down.
He still didn't apologise for beating me up, though I'm sure the whole incident gave the Inuzuka guards something to laugh about for a while.
I had to bite my lip from crying when Usagi received the diagnosis.
He'd never hop properly again and if he pushed himself he would lose all feeling in his hind legs. A fleeting thought of 'I'm glad I killed that piece of scum' made me feel nauseous, because I didn't want to 'get used' to killing people. But Hayase had been a man who murdered innocents because he could, all in his quest for vengeance. In a way, I was glad he was gone because others were safe from his instability.
"I'm so sorry, Usagi-chan," I whispered as I cradled him, making my way back towards the tower. His ears were almost flattened against his back; a visible sign of his depression.
"… what good is a hare who can't hop?" he asked, voice small and utterly defeated.
"We'll work something out, Usagi-chan. Have some faith in me."
He snuggled into my chest.
I let him, and pretended I couldn't feel him shuddering as he cried.
"It smells funny."
"You get used to it."
"… you smell funny, too."
I lightly flicked the top of Usagi's head through my shirt. He was hidden awkwardly inside my clothing because the hospital wouldn't allow animals roam the halls. The Inuzuka ninken were the exception, though.
"Be quiet and stop twitching," I hissed. "I'll let you out soon enough."
"Be sure that you do," Usagi grunted before stilling.
I sighed and plastered on a bright smile, throwing the hospital entrance doors open. They banged against the wall, garnering the attention of the nurses on duty. One was Miki.
My grin widened as I gave her a lazy salute.
"Miki-san, you're looking marvellous today," I drawled.
She twitched and her welcoming smile was rather strained. "Akani-chan. What a… pleasant surprise to see you back here. Can I help you with something? A healing? Physical therapy? Maybe a mental health check up?"
A few nurses snickered at that.
I waved my hand blithely. "No, no. Keep doing a fantastic job at cleaning bedpans, Miki-san. I'll be going to see Kagami-san."
"I'm afraid he-"
"After all, he was expecting to see me back today and would be awfully disappointed if I was turned away. I'm his son's best friend, after all." A gross overstatement, since Itachi was pretty much Shisui's little bud, but I guess I could stretch the truth a bit. "So, since visiting hours have just begun, I'll be on my way. Only if that's okay with you, Miki-san?" I asked innocently, eyes wide.
I thought I heard her teeth crack a little as she fought to keep her smile. "Of course," she grit out. "Go right ahead."
I bowed dramatically. "Thank you, oh wonderfully wise Miki-san. Have a lovely day!"
I flounced down the hall towards the stair and whistled jauntily, pretending I couldn't hear Miki's grumbled curses as she stomped off towards the break room.
After going up a few flights of stairs I came to a stop outside of Kagami's room. I hesitantly knocked. What was I even doing back here?
Oh, right. Because I promised a dying man I'd come back and see him.
Damn my soft heart.
I heard a quiet 'come in' and pried the door open, smiling a little to see Kagami propped up on his bed reading a book.
His chakra flared happily when he saw me. "Ah! Akani-chan, you came back! I was hoping you would."
I shrugged awkwardly. "Yeah, well… I promised, so…"
He dogearred the page he was on and set the book aside, gesturing towards the vacant chair. "Please join me."
"Thanks." I moved to sit beside the bed when I felt sharp teeth sink into my stomach. I shrieked in shock. I'd forgotten momentarily about Usagi who was now trying to worm his way out of my shirt. I tugged the collar of my shirt out enough for him to pop his head out. His ears tickled the side of my face and it was difficult to keep up the glare. "Was that really necessary?"
"I couldn't breathe!" the hare snapped.
"You coulda poked me or something instead of biting me! Knowing my luck, you've probably got rabies or something!"
"R-rabies?! How dare you! Stupid girl!"
"I'm a hare!"
"Um… may I know what's going on?"
I snapped my attention back to Kagami, flushing a little. "G-gomen, Kagami-san. This little idiot is Usagi-chan, one of my summons."
"Oh? A hare summon? How peculiar," he murmured, ignoring the glaring ball of fur. "You're able to summon? At such a young age? You must be quite skilled."
"U-uh, well… ya know, I… I try," I stammered.
"She's not that skilled," Usagi sniffed, but I only smiled down at him. I'd seen his chakra thrum because he'd fibbed. Usagi's nose twitched as he sunk down a little into my shirt.
"Even the most beautiful of roses start off as buds," Kagami said sagely.
My blush deepened, though I didn't know why. I knew it was an analogy for training to become the best you can be, but I instantly thought of my appearance. It's not like I really cared about what I looked like. I was infinitely curious, to be sure, but I'd never know so why even bother?
I dug Usagi out of my shirt and placed him in my lap since he was still a bit tender from the healing the Inuzuka vet gave him. Apparently the Leporidae summons had special healing moss that grew underground in their burrows so the little guy had been munching on that since the chunin exams. It was probably the only thing that saved his life.
"I hope you don't mind Usagi-chan being here, Kagami-san?"
"Of course not, though I'm rather impressed you smuggled him in here. The nurses usually crack down on the 'no animal' policy," he mused.
"A hint of misdirection never hurt anyone," I giggled. "It also helps that the nurses and I have a mutual hate-hate relationship at the best of times." I shuddered. Ugh. Hospitals.
Kagami chuckled. "A majority of the shinobi populace have that kind of relationship with the medical staff, I'm afraid."
I smiled. "No doubt. If you don't mind me asking, where's Shisui?"
"At the station running a few errands and learning the ropes," he answered. I could hear the fondness in his voice. "I appreciate you coming to keep an old man company, Akani-chan."
"O-oh, it's no problem," I grinned.
Kagami simply stared at me and I could feel the air begin to tense for some reason. Usagi caught onto it too, if his uncomfortable shifting was anything to go by. I idly pet his ears to calm him.
"A-ano, is something wrong, Kagami-san?" I frowned.
"… That depends," he answered slowly.
"On what?" I replied cautiously.
"On your answer."
I blinked. "But you haven't asked a question yet..."
His lips quirked upwards. "No. I suppose I haven't." He suddenly clapped loudly and whipped out a deck of cards from somewhere, grinning like a three year old. "Want to play Go Fish?"
I tried to smile as I shuffled closer, still cradling Usagi and fought the urge to bolt from the room.
Just my luck to befriend an Uchiha with a total whacko for a father.
After numerous rounds of Go Fish, filled with idle chatter and stupid jokes – I could see now where Shisui got his deplorable sense of humour from – Kagami asked me to come back when my mission ended. He said he had a good feeling about living to see me again.
I didn't really know what to say to that, so I simply promised to come back with a Go board.
I still had almost an hour to get to the tower, so I figured bonding time with my new summon would be a good way to fill in the time. A tour of the village should suffice.
I exited the hospital via the roof, Usagi tucked inside of my shirt once more.
"What a weirdo," he said bluntly just as I was about to power a jump with chakra.
"Not weird," I beamed. "Eccentric."
I wonder what types of things Kagami had seen.
Kushina was waiting for me outside of the missions office when I arrived at the tower.
"Where the heck have you been, -ttebane?!" she yelled before pointing at the furry bundle poking out of my shirt. "What is that?"
I'd sprinted through the village towards the Hokage tower after my visit to Kagami, stopping by the supply shops long enough to stock up on weapons to seal in my scroll. Usagi kept his face in my shirt at the sight of the weapons, but he seemed very interested in my fuinjutsu as I explained the basic of basics to him. His interest rapidly changed direction once I whipped out some dango I'd purchased for him.
He wasn't kidding when he said he liked it. He ate it quicker than Obito, and that was saying something.
Usagi twisted his head to glare at the woman as I answered. "This is Usagi-chan, one of my summons."
"A rabbit named Hare?" she blinked incredulously.
"A hare named Hare. It's a noble name for a member of the Leporidae," I said sagely, ignoring Usagi's hiss at my shishou.
Kushina growled in response and I smiled brightly.
I had a wonderful feeling about this.
"You've got to get rid of the fluffball, -ttebane. Come to think of it, I do need a new pair of slippers."
My mouth dropped as Usagi hissed again. "Shishou!"
Kushina looked at me innocently. "What?"
I glared darkly. "No turning Usagi-chan into slippers, though I do agree his fur is quite soft and warm and would do the job nicely."
Said hare decided to use me as a chew toy and latched onto my ear. I tried to frantically shake him off but he held tight despite my pleas of 'getoffgetoffgetoffgetoff!' Kushina was no help, being out of breath and crying from laughter in the corner as she was.
And that was the scene that Team Seven walked into.
I heard Kakashi sigh as Rin rushed to my aid. Obito joined my shishou on the floor in a fit of laughter. I kicked him when I was close enough. After coaxing the hare to gently let me go – because Rin was just so gentle and loving and motherly and ugh why can't she see Obito totally loves her – Minato cleared his throat, instantly making us all stand at attention. Even Usagi perked up in interest.
It was cool to see a glimpse of what kind of Hokage Minato would become.
"Simple C rank, typical for all chunin squads. You're relieving the border patrol along Fire-Rain border so pack for turbulent weather. Meet at the front gates in a half hour."
My good mood sunk well below the floorboards.
I was heading towards Rain.
Towards where Akatsuki was born, and the country was ravaged because of this damned war. Towards where the shinobi hated Konoha and Iwa with a passion because their homes and families were destroyed in the crossfire.
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND OTHER USELESS JUNK:
I'm thinking of writing a book. Not a fanfiction, but an actual novel. Don't know what about, or when, but I'm thinking about it.
I have never broken a bone. Have I already done this one? Hmm...
I make a mean homemade pizza (complete with homemade dough! Om nom nom)
I was a weird kid because I loved my vegies.
I still love my vegies.
Winston Churchill was born in a ladies bathroom during a dance.
A violin contains about 70 individual pieces of wood.
The underbelly scales of a snake are called 'scutes.'
0.3% of car accidents in Canada involve a moose.
Mexico City has the largest Taxi fleet, containing approx 60,000 taxis.
Disneyland opened in 1955.
There are about 8 million lightning strikes a day on Earth.
The country code for Russia is '007'
(The last one makes me giggle.)