HOWDY MY BEAUTIFUL AND FABULOUS FANS AND FOLLOWERS!
I hope you're all doing well and enjoy this chapter because it made me tear up a bit.
Also, next chapter will contain some time skips so I can get the story progressing faster!
Please enjoy this chapter~ :3
Kagami stared at me for a very long time. "You do realise that you're asking something very steep of me."
I nodded my head slowly, unable to face him. "Yes. I know."
"And that your plan, if it goes wrong, will have far reaching consequences that could raze this village to the ground."
"So convince me why I should help you."
My mouth went dry. I didn't think that after all I'd told him, that he'd refuse. I hadn't even factored that into the equation. Looking back, I could see why he wouldn't want to help me. The plan was elaborate and hinged on the smallest of things. Opportunities would have to be taken, forcefully or otherwise. Timing was everything. Some parts I know I won't like, but if I wanted to change things then they had to be done. My hesitation seemed to irritate the older Uchiha.
"If things go wrong, then you'll die," Kagami murmured grimly.
I frowned. "If things go wrong, everyone will die. I'm an anomaly. I know all of this for some reason, and I intend to use it for good."
"And some of those actions, though intended for good, will be bad. Do you think that you can live with that? Become someone who is seen as heartless?"
"Better me than someone else who has no business shouldering so much," I replied, thoughts flitting over Itachi, Minato, Kushina, Naruto, Kakashi…
Kagami sighed, long and slow. "I almost wish this was some sort of delusion of my looming death." I flinched slightly. "But… yes, I will help you."
I sagged with relief, giving him a smile. "Thank you, Kagami-san. It means a lot that you'd do this for-"
"My son," he cut off harshly.
I blinked. "Huh?"
"I'm doing this for Shisui. If what you told me is true, then that makes it my duty as a father to leave something behind to protect him, so he can protect the village. I am not doing this for you."
My throat tightened a little but I nodded all the same. I understood the need to protect family.
"I can't expect you to swear that you'll do everything in your power to help," Kagami said dryly. He held up a papery hand when I opened my mouth to protest. My jaw clicked shut. "It's illogical to think you can be in so many places at once. You're young, and inexperienced. But that will change with time. And time is a valuable commodity, one you'll have to utilise with all your strength."
I nodded seriously. "I know."
"I'm not sure you really do. What you're planning… it involves going against entities and plans within plans that have been centuries in the making. You intend to try and fix everything in twenty years."
"Well, when you say it like that…" I grumbled, slightly put out. Hearing it out loud sounded much worse than when I ran through the plan in my head. Suddenly, I started to doubt the plan. I hesitated slightly. "I… I just… if this doesn't work… if everything goes wrong, then who can I turn to for help? I mean, what I know is a weapon in the wrong hands. Hell, it's a weapon in the right hands."
"Which is why you lied to the Sandaime," Kagami said, comprehension dawning.
"I didn't exactly lie," I muttered, shifting uncomfortably. "Just… withheld some of the facts. I'm still not sure who I can trust with this. Sometimes I think it would have been better if I had died along with my mother."
Kagami sunk further back into his pillows, rubbing the bridge of his nose tiredly. "Shinobi walk a fine line of morality. Is what we do right? Is it wrong? We elect those who have a strong sense of self and unwavering determination to lead us, so we know whose example we need to follow. Sometimes falling into despair is so easy which is what makes it an attractive option, but we can't afford to be weak. Not with so much resting on the prosperity we bring with our own blood, sweat, tears and two hands. You're a leader, Akani-chan. Maybe not now, but you will be."
My eyes welled with tears. I suddenly felt so lost and burdened, but I'd made my bed so now I'd have to lie in it.
"I'm scared," I admitted. "Which makes me feel so selfish because I shouldn't be. I know what I have to do, but I'm still scared. I'm terrified. I want to leave it all behind but I love this place too much. I know I have to fight, but the very thought makes me feel like I'm breaking. I don't feel worthy of wanting to love and be loved. My friends now… they love me, and I don't deserve it because of what I'm going to do!"
My chest heaved with sobs, cheeks streaked with tears. Everything that I hadn't realised I had been dwelling on was suddenly being unloaded on this brilliant, dying man in front of me. I felt ashamed, but also cracked. I was discovering darker parts of myself that had always been there, but greatly ignored until now. It made me realise that I needed someone to talk to about all of this. I needed a confidante, someone I could trust completely.
A weathered hand reached out and gripped mine tightly in a show of comfort. It helped calm me somewhat.
"Akani-chan," Kagami whispered, voice low and slightly hoarse. "We fight to protect those things, and hopefully to one day experience them for ourselves. I have no doubt that you will find the answers in time. Vigilance and determination are what make a shinobi strong. The ability to choose the right path, not the easiest, is what makes a shinobi great. Protecting those we love, and finding the happiness amongst all of the war and pain in our souls is what makes us human."
I stared at his blue, eyes wide and heart skipping beats. His words struck my core and wound themselves into my mind deeply. I knew I'd remember this moment for the rest of my life.
I leaned forward and leant my forehead against his hand grasping mine, more tears falling.
He squeezed me tighter.
I shuffled awkwardly. "Uh… shishou?"
"What, -ttebane? You need the bathroom?" came the distracted reply.
"No!" I snapped hotly, stilling to glare at her before averting my gaze from her smug smirking face. I coughed lightly into my fist, cheeks slightly flushed. "… can you teach me storage seals?"
Her head whipped around. "You can't have forgotten such a simple-"
"I mean on the body. Like, tattooed on the skin to store other stuff like chakra and whatever…" I rolled my eyes. "Sheesh. Ye of little faith."
Kushina's eyes narrowed a sliver. "… why, -ttebane?"
"I realised that I'm a liability if I run outta juice. I refuse to let that happen," I intoned firmly. "Never again."
She stared at me for a while, something akin to thoughtful pride thrumming in her chakra.
"… Alright. We'll start with the bones," she chirped, patting the spot beside her. I sat warily. She was way too happy. "They've got the same basic principles of a scroll based seal, only your skin will be acting as the conduit, not paper. Remember the first thing I taught you?"
"Seals can be used like cement to create foundations, or like patches to repair certain damages," I rattled off monotonously.
"Exactly! For example; a storage seal is a foundation, an enhancement seal is a patch. A storage seal is made from scratch and has chakra added to its finished bones to activate. An enhancement seal needs the chakra base already there to work at all. Seals on the body are a bit of both… Oi! You listening to me, -ttebane?!"
"Maa, you're so noisy, shishou."
"What do you mean I'm not allowed out of the village?!" I screeched loudly. A window shattered. Dogs barked in fright. A few passing chunin dropped their large stacks of paperwork. I ignored it all to glare hotly at my shishou.
Kushina bit back a wince, speaking through gritted teeth as she steered me none too gently away from the mission's desk. "You're staying here because you're an asset, -ttebane."
"I can be on the field and be an asset too!"
"Because that went so well last time, -ttebane," Kushina drawled. I gave her a sullen look. "Hokage-sama has tasked us with the upkeep of the village's barrier, -ttebane. It's a boring job, but an important one. You remember what I told you about the barrier, right?" she asked pointedly.
I rolled my eyes, walking glumly beside her as we wound our way through the mid-morning crowd around the Hokage tower. "Yeah. It's a remote long distance seal that encompasses the entire village proper, the village walls acting as the seal's bones which were built by the Shodaime at its founding and cemented by the work of Mito-hime."
"It's how they fell in love you know," Kushina sighed wistfully.
I blinked. "Huh?"
"Mito-hime and Hashirama-sama. When the village was still new, because of the Uzumaki's close ties to the Senju they sent someone skilled in the sealing arts to help erect the barrier. Mito-hime was that someone, -ttebane. Uzushio was just getting off the ground at that stage so they could only spare one fuinjutsu specialist."
Well, that was certainly news to me. I clicked my tongue. "Heh. Must have been love at first sight." From what I'd been told, Mito was exceptionally beautiful and Hashirama wasn't anything to scoff at either.
Kushina chuckled. "Not at all, -ttebane."
I choked a little. "Bwah?"
"Mito-hime told me that at their first meeting, Hashirama-sama was so nervous about meeting her that he spilled ink all over her favourite kimono."
"No," I gasped.
"It's true! She said he tried to get the stain out by doing a low-level water jutsu that went horribly wrong and just made everything worse. Did I mention she was still wearing her kimono when he tried? Ha! Apparently they got into a shouting match and didn't speak to each other for a few weeks, -ttebane."
"That went downhill really quick," I deadpanned. Hashirama being anything other than a capable shinobi with a playful personality and Mito being anything other than graceful and calm equals does not compute. "Sounds like everything worked out okay in the end, though. I mean, they married and procreated and all…"
Kushina rolled her eyes at my flippant remark. "Yeah. They grew closer when a few issues arose with the seal. Their marriage just made the ties between Uzushio and Konoha that much more solid."
Well, you learn something new every day, I mused.
Before I knew it, Kushina was ushering me into a single story building that didn't look all that remarkable from the outside. I could sense a few signatures milling about below the surface, though, which lead me to believe that there was a few sublevels below ground. We rounded a corner and descended a set of concrete stairs, pushing open a door that opened into a cavernous room dissected by an artificial stream.
My senses tingled as they brushed against the large sphere of water hovering in the centre of the room, fed by the trickle of water. I'd heard about the method of sensing threats to the village via the barrier, but this was the first time I'd 'seen' it. All the hairs on my body stood on end, but not in a bad way. The expanse of rippling blue hovering in front of me was something I'd never seen before. I was entranced, enough so that I didn't even notice when Kushina left my side to speak to a few of the barrier's keepers. Ripple, ripple. I wanted to poke it.
I snapped out of my daze and jogged over to my shishou and an older gentleman wearing robes and a ceremonial cap. It was hard to keep a straight face. His outfit reminded me of a chicken. Judging by his stern, deadpanned demeanour however, I don't think he'd appreciate the analogy. I pasted a plastic smile to my face, swallowing a giggle.
"Akani-chan, this is Pinpin-san."
My lips twitched. Pinpin; lively. That giggle was giving me heartburn. Kushina's smile was a little too wide, her tone a little too sweet. A warning.
"Pinpin-san has been gracious enough to show you the ropes here in the control centre. I know you'll be on your best behaviour, -ttebane. Isn't that right, Akani-chan?"
My voice was little more than a strangled squeak. "H-hai." Wait… "What will you be doing, shishou?"
"I'll be refreshing the seals in the hospital, -ttebane," she said, already halfway to the door.
"O-oi! You're just gonna leave me here? Shishou!"
"Yup! Be good, -ttebane!"
The door slammed shut behind her and I frowned, sagging as I followed her signature until it disappeared out of my current range.
A throat being cleared had me glancing at Pinpin. "Hah… what's up?" I grinned.
The small crease between Pinpin's eyebrows furrowed even more, but I decided not to give up. I performed a snappy salute.
"Akani Uzumaki, reporting for duty, sir!" My hand drooped slightly. "So, uh… what are we gonna do first?"
Pinpin sniffed disdainfully and spun on his heel, heading towards the edge of the room. "Follow me."
Kami, even his voice was greyscale.
I scrambled after him, almost tripping in the manmade stream as I did so.
I smothered a yawn.
Pinpin should read bedtime stories. One sentence and you'd be out of it, I though wryly, propping my chin on my fist as I sat opposite Pinpin. We were seated at a small table, an aerial map of Konoha spread between us as he pointed at various sections, detailing how they corresponded with the village seal and what happened if one was tripped or manually triggered. All I can say was that the Shodaime and his wife were people you didn't want to tangle with. Some of those seals were ancient and nasty.
It seemed my dear shishou had also omitted the fact that I was blind so I couldn't see anything in front of me except the outline of blank paper.
I cleared my throat, unable to bear the torture anymore. "As wonderful as your knowledge about the seal is, Pinpin-san," I cut in, trying to keep a straight face as I said his name, "Didn't shishou tell you that I'm blind? I can't see anything on paper unless it's either Braille or written in chakra-conductive ink."
To my surprise, Pinpin's eyebrow twitched a little. Wow. Maybe not so robotic after all. "I'm afraid she forgot to mention that," he said blandly.
"Oh. Silly shishou," I laughed awkwardly. "Look, can't you just show me where these places are?"
I frowned. "Why not?"
"The barrier must be upheld at all times."
"Can't the others do that?"
"It would be a breach in security if there are enemy spies lingering and they saw me showing you critical vantage points to the village's seal."
My eyebrow twitched. Now it sounded like he was making up excuses. "You just don't wanna spend any more time than necessary with me, do you?"
I shrugged, grinning. "Eh. At least you're honest. Can I touch the floating water-ball thingy?"
I pouted. "Why not?"
Pinpin sniffed haughtily. "While you have talent as a sensor, you are still young and inexperienced. The village's barrier seal is still much too complex for you."
"Oi! Did you just call me dumb?" I snapped. Stupid, robotic, not-like-his-name Pinpin.
Pinpin sighed, looking like he was barely reigning in a temper. "You are here to learn as much about the barrier as possible. Kushina-san has placed you in my care for the time being. You will listen to what I say."
I ground my teeth. "Fine," I huffed petulantly. "But I don't have to like it!"
Pinpin's face dropped into an unimpressed scowl. "Then we have a mutual accord. Do you carry any chakra ink with you?" I gave him a 'duh' look. "Very well. Hand it over and we will start from the beginning."
I numbly handed it over, resisting the urge to cry.
I had to sit through the whole lecture again.
I was gonna kill Kushina.
It was well after lunch by the time Pinpin got annoyed with having to constantly wake me up from my unscheduled naps. It wasn't my fault he was so freaking boring.
I should record his voice to listen to when I have trouble sleeping. My face went a little ashen. Actually, no… that's a bit creepy. Stupid Akani.
"Hey Red! Uh… why do you look like a zombie?"
I twitched and stared blankly at Obito. He hadn't really let me out of his sight since we'd come back from Rain. I had to constantly give him the slip which was actually pretty easy. Almost embarrassingly so.
"What do you mean, Obi? I always look like this," I deadpanned. "Are you saying I'm not pretty?"
I watched, amused, as Obito floundered a bit. "N-no! That's not what I'm saying! Of course you're pretty! But like in a sisterly way! I mean, you're like my sister… who is also… pretty?" he trailed off, sounding unsure and mildly disturbed.
I laughed in his face. "Just messing with you, Obi."
He huffed a little but smiled all the same. He slung an arm around my neck, walking beside me as we made our way through the village. "So, where you going?"
"I'm going to find shishou so I can murder her."
He laughed uneasily. "Um… don't do that?"
"Are you asking me or telling me?" I said, brow quirked.
"… telling you?"
I blew a lock of hair away from my face. "You're hopeless."
We playfully shoved and insulted each other without real heat until our feet bought us to a yakitori stand. We bought a handful of skewers and sat down on a nearby bench to eat, watching people pass by.
I chewed thoughtfully. "Do you think they're grateful?" I asked.
Obi almost swallowed a skewer whole. "Huh? Who?"
"The villagers," I elaborated. "You think they're grateful that we're keeping them safe?"
Obito slowed his eating, glancing at me before mulling it over. "Uh… yeah, I think so. I mean, they live in a ninja village so they've gotta know we protect them, right?"
My thoughts flitting towards the future and how the Uchiha were ostracized by the village for… for… I frowned. What were they ostracized for, again? I realised I hadn't answered Obito's question. I shrugged lightly. "I guess."
"Everything okay, Red?"
I shoved the last skewer in my mouth and stood, brushing off my pants. "Yup! Let's go find Rinny and see if we can haul her into pranking someone."
Obito's face flamed red, not really hearing anything after I'd said Rin's name. "O-okay!"
Despite Rin not really wanting to participate in our pranks, she'd decided to tag along with me and Obi as the voice of reason.
We'd chosen to prank – surprise, surprise – Kakashi. Something Rin wasn't really happy about, but whatever.
Instead of relaxing he was out training. Again.
Instead of training I was planning to get him to loosen up. Again.
After a complex set up involving ninja wire, buckets of paint, glue, and a live chicken, the plan went off without a hitch.
But on the wrong person.
Guy had sped into the training field, still dirty from his latter mission outside of the village and triggered the elaborate set up in his haste to battle his eternal rival. He was left multi-coloured (so I'm told) with a squawking chicken stuck to his head, legs and arms pinned to his side with ninja wire.
Obito and I lost it while Rin tried to scold us through the occasional giggle. Kakashi simply scoffed but I could sense his amusement. I sidled over and poked him repeatedly in the ribs.
"Loosen up, Kashi-chan. You're gonna get wrinkles before you're thirty."
He scowled at me, crossing his arms but said nothing. I grinned brightly, opting to poke his cheeks instead and he turned his head away in a snit. Undeterred, I went back to poking his ribs.
Rin watched the whole exchange with a strange expression on her face, something Obito missed but Guy did not despite the chicken screeching in his ear.
I flared my senses, double and triple checking that I was truly alone in my own home when I flared a silencing seal before summoning Usagi. He sneezed a little as the smoke cleared.
"Ugh, I can't have a moment's peace without you summoning me, can I?" the hare drawled, cleaning his whiskers. When I didn't reply he glanced up, tilting his head in confusion. "What's the matter with you?"
"We're friends, right?" I asked, dead serious.
"Uh… you're my summoner, yes," he answered cautiously, as if any answer was the wrong one.
"And you trust me, right?"
"I… suppose," he replied quietly, ears flattening. "You saved me, when you didn't have to. You were nice to me when you didn't have to be, so… Yes. We're… friends." The word rolled off his tongue awkwardly.
"… and you don't get squeamish, right? You're fine around blood and stuff?"
His eyes narrowed. "I'm a ninja summons. I can't be squeamish."
I smiled tightly. "Good, because I'm gonna tell you to do something and you might hate me for a while."
Usagi didn't speak to me for a week, but begrudgingly accepted the mission I gave him.
I made a mental note to buy him my body weight in dango.
The weeks passed quickly, Kushina dumping me with Pinpin every so often to learn more about the sensing barrier. He still wouldn't let me touch the water.
I helped out Kushina with the seals in the hospital. I even helped save a chunin's life which was amazing. We'd just finished with a rather large chakra-dialysis seal when a team was rushed into the hospital, one of the chunin almost at death's door from a nasty jutsu that turned his own chakra poisonous. The medics had been stretched a little thin and needed an extra hand so I sat down at one corner and offered my services. Kushina had been a little wary but after I tweaked a sealing bone in my area to filter the harshness off my energy, she relented.
I was completely drained by the time the chunin was pronounced stable and moved to another room. I collapsed into Kushina's arms and woke up fifteen hours later in my own bed.
And even though I knew it was coming, Kagami's death still came as a bit of a shock. Dark storm clouds had apparently gathered on the horizon, threatening rain when the news broke. I was on my way home when I ran into Obito and he told me the news, chakra thrumming with awkward sadness since he didn't really know the man.
Still, the death of a prominent clan member must have been hard to deal with.
"Where's Shisui-chan?" I immediately asked, concerned and slightly desperate.
Obito shrugged. "No one's seen him for a while. I guess it makes sense, though. Seeing your dad die in front of you must have been really…" he trailed off, not really sure what to say since he was an orphan and had never known either of his parents.
I frowned, gaze downturned. "Yeah. It's not easy. Hold up a bit," I added, closing my useless eyes and flaring my senses. It took a few moments to seek him out, his chakra being subdued and muted enough that a regular shinobi wouldn't even glance twice at his hiding spot. I turned towards the Hokage monument. "I'll see ya later, Obi. I'm gonna go and talk to him."
"Uh… if you're sure, Red. See ya later," he waved, sprinting off in another direction.
I was already on the rooftops when I sensed Obito sprawl across the ground after tripping up a gutter. I let loose a laugh as I roof-jumped, then tree jumped as the houses thinned before the mountainside.
The closer I got to Shisui, the more I got a feel for his chakra. It was the same, but not. It was more potent, but muted as well. Resignation, and a storm of bottled emotion, all in one.
Kami, why did a majority of Uchiha's have to be such dummies when it came to their emotions?
I pointedly ignored a little whispered voice in my head that said 'hypocrite.'
I eventually found him in a tree overlooking the War Memorial, chakra signature hidden but not from me. I strolled over and leant against the bark, slinking down into the grass at the roots with a sigh. "You know, people are worried about you."
There was silence for a little bit until he flickered and solidified next to me, his expression completely blank.
"I was looking for somewhere quiet," he muttered acerbically. "Then you came along."
I ignored the last bit. "Quiet's fine, unless you're not coping."
"I'm not some fragile kid."
"You're not fragile but you are still a kid," I pointed out, inwardly wincing when Shisui turned on me in a rage. Maybe I could have worded that better. After all, I was only a year older than him.
"What the hell would you know? Huh? You're not even from here! Why should you care about any of us?" he shouted, voice cracking slightly. He seemed shocked that he'd even said anything. "I-I…"
I stared at him blankly before grabbing his hand and turning on my heel, dragging him along behind me. His feet made grooves in the dirt.
"Shut up and come with me," I snapped.
People, civilian and shinobi alike, stared at us as we passed, no doubt unused to seeing an Uchiha being dragged by, well, anyone. Then they caught sight of my hair, muttered an 'oh' of realization and went about their business.
It seems my brashness was a useful deflection some of the time.
I kicked open my door and tossed Shisui inside, locking it behind me. Before he could get his balance – an indicator on how out of it he actually was – I'd already sped through the necessary hand signs for a silencing ward. It flared into place before settling softly against my senses.
"It's just you and me now," I said as Shisui eyes me warily. "No one's gonna hear you cry, or scream, or doing whatever you need to do. Mourn, Shisui. You owe yourself, and your dad, that much."
I don't even think he realised it when the first tear fell.
Or the second.
He probably didn't even feel it when his knees crashed to the floor and the tears wouldn't stop, or when I was there to catch him as he slumped forward, heavy sobs wracking his body.
I felt tears streaming down my face too but didn't bother wiping them away.
Shisui's blue was so turbulent and full of pain that it struck me to the core. And maybe, a little part of me was mourning for all the losses I'd had over the years and never properly coped with.
We stayed like that, embracing each other like a lifeline, even when the storm rolled in and drenched everything outside. But that was okay, because the storm was inside with us as well, taking on a different form.
We weathered it together.
Only the clan was allowed to oversee Kagami's funeral pyre. The man had opted to have his ashes scattered with the wind from atop the Hokage monument.
I spent the day of the funeral painting my living room in chakra ink, bones upon bones of an elaborate sealing array spreading out over the wood, and over my skin, the epicentre located deep on my sternum.
I double, triple and quadruple checked everything, mind going over calculation after calculation, scenario after scenario. If it worked, I'd have an awesome body-based seal.
If it didn't, well… It would be messy and I wouldn't be breathing.
I clapped my hands, smiling brightly. "Let's get it on!"
I sat in the centre of my first incredibly elaborate seal, the entire room smelling of ink and blood. It was a strange yet comforting smell to me now. I was careful not to smudge anything.
Once in position, I sat in a lotus position, breathing deep and focusing on the very centre of my chakra. I pushed.
The world flared bright blue, then seared white hot.
I collapsed as my chest burned, the throb rattling me to my very bones, white noise sounding in my ears.
It was overwhelming and never ending until eventually blissful unconsciousness took me.
I woke up to Usagi slapping my cheek, the slight taste of copper in my mouth letting me know he'd been doing it for a while.
I gurgled, trying to sit up. "Whazzat… wha…?"
"Your articulation astounds me," Usagi snapped.
I tried to focus on his blue, but I was still so disorientated. And tired. Kami, so tired.
"What were you doing in here, anyways? You reek of sweat and vomit! And you have the gall to call me filthy? Hah!"
The crustiness to my hair, spanning over my cheek let me know that yes, he was serious about the vomit.
But I digress. I worked to get my tongue moving, though it still felt thick and sluggish. "Everything go okay, Usagi-chan?"
The hare sniffed, unable to look at me and when he spoke, his voice was quiet. "Yeah. Yeah, I did what you asked." He dug into the small backpack he rarely wore, withdrawing a bottle and handing it to me carefully. "Don't forget you owe me dango."
"Yeah," I murmured, absently fingering the seal on my sternum.
I stared down at the light blue outline of a pair of Sharingan eyes glinting inside the bottle.
I'm feeling really lazy so i'm not gonna post any fun facts this chapter. Instead, tell me about some fun facts that you know! :D
Learning can be fun! Woo!
PS: If you like Ouran high School Host Club, check out my new story - Merry Senorita!
But, you know... no pressure or anything :P