Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Harry Potter; they belong to Masashi Kishimoto and J K Rowling respectively.
I am making no profit from this story, it is only for entertainment.
Thank you to all those who reviewed, favourited and followed this story.
Well I'm glad you all enjoyed that cliffhanger so much! You have all been so kind and wonderful with your reviews and I am honoured that so many of you like what I'm doing.
As a thank you for all your support over the years, I am going to write a one-shot based on this crossover. However, you the readers are going to choose what I write! You have all had such interesting ideas in the reviews that I haven't been able to implement so this is your chance! Let me know what you want to read and the idea with the most reviews will be the one I write! The ones that don't make it, I try to incorporate as much as I can as long as it fits with the premise of the winning idea. I am also going to do this on my Ao3 account and depending on what people say, you might get two one-shots, one on each platform.
I also know that there have been quite a few of you asking for a sequel. I'm not going to write one as I want to move forward with other projects so this is my compromise.
This is the penultimate chapter so you've got until I release the final chapter to shout your ideas at me. I'll announce the winning idea then!
Again, thank you so much. We're almost there so I hope you enjoy!
Chapter 30: Truths
It hurts to breathe.
Every breath he took sparked a sharp pain in his chest so he kept them shallow and slow, although that did not help the pain that thrummed with each heartbeat.
He tried to process the events that had led to him staring up at the old, arched ceiling but for some reason it was not as clear as his thoughts usually were. He had been fighting Death Eaters; he had taken most of them down. People, allies, had arrived and Potter had rushed out. There had been a blue light. He was sure that he knew why the blue light was bad but he could not recall that right now. So much of his thoughts were occupied with the pain.
As the muffled sounds of his name reached him, someone grabbed his shoulder and sent waves of agony through him. Whatever had happened, whatever was happening, it was being overshadowed by the painful actions of the person next to him.
He had to focus. He had to get this person to stop shaking him. He had to get up.
He weakly batted the hand away from him and hauled himself upright, black spots appearing in his vision as he pressed his mouth shut to prevent a scream.
He was so tired. He had used so much chakra in the fight against the Death Eaters and the earth wave technique was not light on chakra usage; combine that with the Sharingan and Kakashi was pretty sure he could sleep for the next month. He clumsily yanked down his headband over Obito's eye and took a moment to regulate his breathing again. That was the trick with broken ribs; slow and shallow breathing.
"Kakashi, you can't move! You got hit with Expulso; you're lucky to be alive!"
Kakashi shot a baleful glare at Granger. He turned his gaze to Neville who was staring at him, his hand raised in midair.
"Do not touch me again."
He took in his surroundings as the shock began to fade, the fog slowly lifting from his mind as he regulated the pain. Lupin had secured Malfoy although he kept throwing worried looks at him. The rest of the students surrounded him, Neville with tears in his eyes. He searched the room again, finding the rest of the room empty bar the prone bodies of the defeated Death Eaters.
"Where is Potter?" He huffed, bracing himself to stand.
It was common enough to sustain injuries on missions and Kakashi knew how to deal with it and move on better than most. He had to admit though that this might be the worst injury since before he joined ANBU; the pain was more distracting than usual. He would still be able to complete the mission, but it was annoying when his body would not obey him.
"He went after Bellatrix," Weasley pointed at one of the exits. "The rest of the Order already left to gather up the rest of the Death Eaters so Sirius went after him. The ones in here aren't moving anytime soon."
Kakashi tucked his legs under him and pushed himself up, taking a few extra steps to stabilise himself as he tottered. He rose to his full height and tried to control the breathlessness that erupted from the movement. He could not waste anymore time here.
"I need to get him," he said urgently. "You will stay here under the watch of Lupin. I will go after them."
"You are in no condition to go anywhere!" Granger yelled at him.
"Are you going to attempt to stop me?"
"We'll come with you!" Weasley announced as she glowered at him.
"Stay here," Kakashi insisted, trying to keep the pain out of his voice. "I do not need more people to worry about protecting. Do not make my mission harder than it is."
Neville and Lovegood watched him quietly as the others spoke over each other in dispute.
"We should stay in case any of these guys wake up," Neville said firmly. "We can't stop him from going and we've seen that he's better without us to worry about."
"But he-" Granger started but Lovegood intervened.
"Neville's right; we should let him go."
Kakashi started off towards the door and was grateful as none followed him. He would have to thank Neville once all this was over. He shoved himself through the entranceway and walked quickly, getting back to the circular room. The walls spun again and he took the closest door, trying not to sag in relief as he spotted the lift at the end of the hallway. He did not have time to search through each door and as he waited for the lift to arrive, he tried to breathe steadily. It was getting harder and harder the more he moved to maintain a regular breathing pattern; the pain was increasing with every step.
He knew he had more than one broken rib at this point, probably some severe bruising training down to his abdomen too. He did not have time to heal it; he had to get to Potter before something else did. He just had to hope that his rib would not puncture a lung before he could get it seen to. That was always a pain to deal with.
He stumbled out of the lift, following the sounds of spells being thrown around. Black and Potter were taking cover behind the fountain as Bellatrix shot spell after spell from the other end of the atrium. He managed to dive out of the way of a red spell and pushed his back against the cold stone, tensing as the pain flared up.
"Kakashi!" exclaimed Potter. "What are you doing here, I thought-"
"You thought wrong," Kakashi grunted. "Why exactly are you chasing this woman?"
"I couldn't let her escape!" Potter said defensively, ducking lower as a spell shot overhead. "She hurt you and she's going to go on to hurt others. If we can get her here, then Voldemort has lost all his people!"
"That's the reasoning he decided on after he ran after her," Black added, shooting off spells of his own.
"You cannot win!" The woman screeched, apparently unbothered that she was outnumbered. "I am the Dark Lord's most loyal servant! He has taught me the most powerful and greatest of the Dark Arts and you, a pathetic boy and a smear to the House of Black, could not possibly hope to defeat me!"
"Interesting claim to make when you're the one running away!" Black shouted back.
"Shut up!" She shot a green spell that barely missed them. "You will give me the prophecy or I will tear you apart!"
"It broke!" Potter yelled gleefully. "I dropped it when you threw that Expulso spell at me! It's gone, and no one will ever hear what it said! How do you think old Voldemort will feel about that?"
Kakashi flipped through his repertoire of jutsu; he had to have something that would either kill her immediately or bind her hands. He was teetering on the edge of chakra exhaustion but she was the last one. He just had to stop her and it would be over.
"LIES! Accio prophecy! ACCIO PROPHECY!" Nothing happened. "MASTER – I TRIED – DO NOT PUNISH ME–"
Potter gripped his forehead tightly, his knuckles turning white.
"He can't hear you from here!" He bellowed. "Just give yourself up!"
"Can't I, Potter?"
A high, cold voice echoed through the chamber and Kakashi rose to look at the source. Enclosed in a dark hood, the man stood with his wand pointed at them in his bony, ashen hands. He had serpentine features, even more so than Orochimaru, and his blood red eyes were focused on them.
"He speaks the truth, Bella," Voldemort drawled. "I can see it in his mind; months of work and preparation and the boy smashed it. No doubt because of you, shinobi."
The man turned his gaze to Kakashi.
"You have been a greater annoyance to me than even Potter; this is an unusual feat, I must tell you. You really should have joined me while you had the chance."
He finally settled his gaze upon Black.
"The brother of Regulus," he said dispassionately. "What a disappointment compared to your late brother."
Black snapped his wand up but Kakashi managed to grab it in time. There was no tactical sense in impulsively sending off spells; that had led to this situation in the first place. He began to pool what was left of his chakra. He would only get one shot at this but if he took out Voldemort then Potter would be safe even after his mission finished. There would be no war without an enemy to fight. From what he had seen of the Death Eaters they would fall apart without their leader.
"Master, I'm so sorry!" Bellatrix flung herself forward, to Voldemort's feet. "That shinobi ruined everything! Master, you should know-"
"Be quiet, Bella!" Voldemort snapped. "I shall deal with you in a moment; did you really think I entered the Ministry of Magic itself just to listen to your snivelling excuses?"
Bellatrix shrunk back as Voldemort brought his gaze back to them.
"You all irked for me for too long," he said quietly, raising his wand. "Potter, in particular, but it would be better if all of you were done away with. I do not have time for your interference."
He snapped his wand and Kakashi shoved the two wizards back behind the stone fountain, the burst of green light just barely missing the top of his own head. He continued trying to breathe steadily as the spells kept coming.
As Voldemort strode forward, Kakashi prepared himself to face him. If he was hit, he was done. He would not be able to move as he normally did but he still had a jutsu or two up his sleeve. As he ran though possible scenarios, he realised he did care if he got hit; he wanted to survive this mission.
He had spent so long running missions he knew had a high chance of taking him out; it was the reason he accepted those missions in the first place. He was not actively trying to die but he did not care if that was the outcome. He had always managed to make it home but that had never been a specific goal for him.
Now though, Kakashi wanted to go home. He wanted to see Gai and do his ridiculous challenges; he wanted to go to the Memorial Stone; he wanted to play with his ninken in Konoha's forest; he wanted to see his village flourish; he even wanted to talk to Neville about everything that he had not been able to before. He was not sure when this change had happened. There was no singular point in the past ten months that he could pinpoint as the moment his thinking had changed but it had.
He wanted to succeed without sacrificing himself for that success. He was already in a precarious position from his earlier stunt; he would have to be careful. As he began to stand, plan in mind, Voldemort shot another spell straight at him.
Kakashi ran through the seals but before he could defend himself, the headless gold statue on top of the fountain moved. It hopped down from its plinth and landed with a crash in front of the group of three, the green light bouncing off its broad chest.
"What?" Voldemort looked around, freezing as he spotted something behind them. "Dumbledore."
Kakashi joined Blank and Potter in looking behind them, although his was only a glance, before he turned back to keep eyes on the enemy. Dumbledore indeed stood there, face hard and furious.
"You know how foolish it was to come here tonight, Tom," Dumbledore said calmly, walking forward slowly. "The Aurors are already on their way–"
"By which time I will be gone and you will be dead!" Voldemort cried as he waved his wand.
He shot the green spell at Dumbledore but he missed and the security desk behind them burst into green flames. Kakashi made sure to keep a grip on Black and Potter before they got any ideas to rush out and try to help. Dumbledore sent off his own spell and the hairs on the back of Kakashi's neck rose at the level of power. It hit Voldemort's hastily cast silver shield and released a loud, ringing sound as they collided.
"So you do not seek to kill me, Dumbledore," spat Voldemort. "Above such brutality, are you?"
"We both know there are other ways of destroying a man, Tom," Dumbledore replied mildly.
The man continued his stroll towards the enemy without a care in the world.
"There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!" Voldemort snarled vehemently.
"You are quite wrong," Dumbledore replied and Kakashi hated that he agreed with the old man. "Indeed, your failure to understand that there are in fact much worse things than death has always been your weakness–"
Dumbledore defended himself against the next green spell and Kakashi moved slowly into position, still making sure the pair behind him would not do anything stupid. He moved through his hand seals, determined to strike at the enemy while they were distracted with the headmaster.
"No, Kakashi!" He stopped as Dumbledore shot him a sharp look. "Do not kill Voldemort."
Kakashi stared back at him incredulously. He could not be serious; this man was the biggest threat to Potter. If they could take him out now then it would all be over. This war would be finished before it could start; so many lives could be spared. He did not care about protecting the headmaster, but this would be better for the students of Hogwarts in the long run.
"That is an order!"
Kakashi hesitated, still with half a mind to disobey. It would go against mission protocol to disobey a direct order from his employer but this could make a positive impact that lasted beyond this mission. Before he could come to a decision, voices began to float over to them. Kakashi watched people emerge from the fireplace as Voldemort grabbed Bellatrix and vanished with a loud 'crack'.
"Is Harry okay?" Dumbledore asked him and Kakashi frowned back at him.
"Ask him yourself," he said tonelessly as he slumped down, resting his head against the cold stone behind him.
The atrium was full of people now, all speaking at the same time at different volumes. He recognised most of them as employees of the Ministry. It was over. Potter would be safe. He closed his eyes, trying to regulate his breathing once more. It felt like someone was stabbing a kunai between his ribs with every inhale.
"He was there!" He overhead someone cry out in panic. "You-Know-Who!"
"I know, Williamson!" That sounded like the Minister himself. "I know, I saw him too! Here, in the Ministry of Magic! It doesn't seem possible–"
Kakashi missed Dumbledore's next words as Black tapped him gently on the shoulder.
"Hang in there, Kakashi," he said softly. "We'll get you healed up; just stay awake."
Kakashi opened his eye to glare weakly at the man. He knew how to manage his own injuries; he did not need others to tell him that. Potter was hovering over his shoulder, switching his worried gaze between him and Dumbledore.
"You saw for yourself, Cornelius!" Dumbledore thundered, his voice rising. "You have seen with your own eyes that I have been telling the truth for months; Lord Voldemort has returned! You need to listen to sense!"
The Minister spluttered, his eyes flickering away from the headmaster to land on Black.
"Sirius Black!" He squeaked. "Aurors, arrest that man!"
"Sirius is innocent!" Dumbledore stepped in front of them. "We can prove it; he does not deserve to be hunted down for crimes he has not committed any longer. He has been one of the last lines of defence against Voldemort while you have refused to even acknowledge that he has returned!"
"Well – I – don't –" the Minster blustered but Dumbledore continued.
"We can discuss this once I have sent Harry and Kakashi back to Hogwarts."
Dumbledore did something to a piece of debris. It glowed blue and trembled against the marble floor before becoming still once more. Dumbledore picked it up as the Minister appeared to lose his temper.
"Now see here, Dumbledore!" he said indignantly. "You don't have the authorisation for that Portkey! You can't do things like that in front of the Minister of Magic, you – you –"
He lost his voice as Dumbledore threw him a look that Kakashi could not see from his place on the ground.
"You will give the order to remove Dolores Umbridge from Hogwarts," Dumbledore began calmly. "Although I suspect you will hear from the Americans on that front. You will tell your Aurors to stop looking for my Care of Magical Creatures professor so he may return to work. You will grant Sirius Black a full pardon and allow him to move on with his life in peace. I will give you half an hour of my time which should be more than enough to cover the events of tonight; after which I shall need to return to my school. If you have any further questions for me you are, of course, welcome to contact me at Hogwarts. The owls will know how to find me."
The Minster's face grew pink as he spluttered in an attempt to reply. Kakashi could not blame him. As far as he was aware the Minister for Magic was meant to be the highest authority within the British magical community. He thinks it would be the equivalent of the Hokage but the Minister lacked the respect, power and responsibilities of that rank. There was too much leeway and other voices in the mix; unlike the democratic nature of the wizards, the Hokage's word was absolute.
Kakashi could not help but feel his system worked much better as the Minister lost control of the situation.
"Here," Dumbledore placed the rock in Potter's hand. "Kakashi, place your hand on it."
He did so and Kakashi felt the familiar tugging sensation that he had experienced at the start of his mission. The Ministry disappeared in a burst of colour and sound.
"Lift your arms up."
Kakashi sighed as Pomfrey wrapped the last bandage around his chest. She secured it tightly and shoved a blue potion in his face.
"Now drink this," she insisted firmly. "This should speed along the healing process but you will still be here a few days. There was a lot of damage; it's a miracle that you made it to me at all."
Kakashi pulled down his mask and swallowed the bitter liquid, in no mood to argue with the woman. The others had had a check-up but he was the only one injured enough to have to stay. Pomfrey had thrown him a few unreadable looks when the kids had spoken of already having their wounds healed by him. He was grateful for the peace and quiet as the students and members of the Order were ushered out by the healer. Potter was still with Dumbledore so he did not have to worry over his safety; if something happened to Potter then that was on Dumbledore.
Kakashi pulled up his mask as she went over to the door. Quiet words were exchanged before she stepped back, allowing Neville into the room. She said something about checking in with the other staff members before she left them alone. The silence stretched as Neville came and sat by his bedside, fidgeting awkwardly.
"How-how are you?" The boy began hesitantly.
"I will make a full recovery," Kakashi replied evenly.
The silence continued as Kakashi tried to find something else to talk about. He had always been told his social skills were terrible and it had never been more apparent than right now. He moved to say something but Neville got there first.
"I'm so sorry, Kakashi!" Neville cried, tears filling his eyes. "I said I wouldn't treat you differently if I knew the truth but I did, I'm so sorry, I promise I want to be your friend, you are still the best thing to happen this year, please don't hate me!"
Neville gasped as he ran out of breath from his outburst and Kakashi stared at him.
"Neville, you are not at fault," he insisted. "It was a natural reaction to the situation; I never thought less of you for that. I can appreciate that my true nature can be disconcerting to your kind."
"My kind?" Neville asked, confused. "Does that mean you're not a wizard?"
"I am a muggle, as you people call them," Kakashi shrugged. "I have no magic."
"But you've been the best in classes!" Neville exclaimed. "How?"
"I am a shinobi, Neville," Kakashi finally admitted. "I use chakra, not magic. What you have seen were genjutsu; illusions that I adapted to mimic the spells. The rest has just been memorising material, which is something anyone can do."
Neville sat back and processed his words.
"So why were you at Hogwarts this year?"
"I was hired by Dumbledore to protect Potter and the school from the very threat we faced last night."
"So you're like a bodyguard-for-hire or something?"
"Or something," Kakashi shrugged.
"So that's why you were so good at fighting," Neville reasoned. "You probably have to do that sort of thing a lot."
"Can you-" the boy cut himself off abruptly. "Merlin's Beard, I'm so sorry, I'm asking too much. Are you okay with that?"
Kakashi could not help but feel a bit touched that he had asked. Neville had every right to have questions but even now, he would not push Kakashi if he was not comfortable.
"I promised you the truth, Neville," he replied warmly.
"Okay," Neville nodded to himself.
Something suddenly occurred to the wizard as his posture snapped straight.
"Wait, so are you actually from Japan?" He leaned forward intently.
"I am not."
"So this is why you can't send me letters?"
"Yes," Kakashi nodded. "I live in a place isolated from the rest of the world; even more so than the wizards. I do not know if an owl could find it. There is also the security risk attached. I cannot reveal the location to you; someone could follow the owl to my home or someone could interfere with the owl mid-flight."
"Oh. I didn't think of that."
"It is my job to consider every angle and eventuality."
It went quiet for a moment as Kakashi waited for Neville to speak.
"What if there was a way we could write to each other without the owls?" He frowned in thought. "Nothing that would give away where you were?"
"I would be willing to try it," said Kakashi.
"Great, okay, I have an idea," Neville grinned. "Leave it with me."
They were suddenly interrupted by the door to the infirmary opening and Pomfrey entering.
"I guess that's my time up," Neville shrugged helplessly. "It was hard enough convincing her to let me in; I don't want to push it and get totally banned."
Kakashi reached out and grabbed his arm before he could stand. Neville turned confused brown eyes to him, his blond hair flopping over his forehead. He had lost a lot of the baby fat over the course of the year; his face was now sharp angles and although he was still short, he had lost a lot of the bulk. He had grown into his own skin. The difference between the Neville at the beginning of the year and now was startling, but in a good way. Kakashi was a bit mystified to think he had something to do with it. Neville had changed him too, but not in the physical sense.
"You know you are not at fault for anything?" He gripped his arm. "Your first thought was that I had used you as a cover and I promise that I did not. I never intended to interact with anyone more than I had to for the mission but you changed that."
Neville stared at him with wide eyes before a bright smile spread across his face.
"I know," he grinned. "I didn't really think that either. I just panicked because why else would this amazing guy be friends with someone like me."
Neville shook off Kakashi's hand and turned to leave. Kakashi jolted forward, hiding his wince at the pang of pain that shot through him at the movement.
"I am your friend, Neville, because you are amazing. You do not see it; the way you have been treated in your life makes you blind to it, but you helped me too. The privilege is mine."
Neville's eyes glistened with tears but before he could reply, Pomfrey hustled over to them.
"Mr. Hatake, lean back at once! I will not have you aggravating your wounds any further. Mr. Longbottom, I must ask you to leave so the patient can rest undisturbed."
Neville nodded, waving to him as he left the infirmary. Kakashi leaned back against the mountain of pillows behind him as Pomfrey fussed over him for a moment before leaving him be.
He was not going to lose Neville; the boy did not hold a grudge over his secrets. He said he would not but there had been a part of Kakashi that had not believed it. That fear had almost been realised but now he knew it had more to do with Neville's self-confidence issues than any real betrayal. He had not told him the whole truth, and perhaps he would in time, but it was not important right now.
What was important was that Neville would continue to be his friend.
The prophecy kept swirling around Harry's thoughts, the words repeating themselves over and over in a loop since Dumbledore had first revealed them to him.
'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...and the Dark Lord shall mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not...and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives...the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies...'
There had been so much to take in: Neville could have been the Chosen One; the reason why Voldemort had been targeting him all this time; that he had to kill the man or he would die instead. Dumbledore had kept so much from him. There had been so much he hadn't been told.
Hermione stomped into the Room of Requirement with Ginny on her heels as she brandished a newspaper like a weapon. They hadn't wanted to be around the rest of the school body and the Great Hall was too crowded; it was a Sunday and classes were finished so Ron had suggested hiding out instead. The Room was laid out like the Gryffindor common room and Harry lounged across the couch as Ron mirrored him on the other sofa. Luna was sitting in front of the fireplace contently reading a paper.
"He Who Must Not Be Named Returns!" Hermione began without preamble. "The Minister finally made a statement about last night. Harry, you're back in the good books; they're very complimentary about you."
"You-Know-Who's Last Attempt to Take Over, pages two to four, What the Ministry Should Have Told Us, page five, Why Nobody Listened to Albus Dumbledore, pages six to eight, The International Crimes of Dolores Umbridge, pages nine and ten, Exclusive Interview with Harry Potter, page twelve..."
Harry listened to Hermione rattle off the contents of the Prophet.
"There's a lot for them to write about," she frowned. "And that interview with Harry isn't an exclusive, it's the one that was in the Quibbler months ago..."
"Daddy sold it to them," Luna piped up, turning a page in the Quibbler that she was reading. "He got a very good price for it too, so we're going to Sweden this summer to see if we can find a Crumple-Horned Snorkack."
Hermione's eye twitched and Harry shared a grin with Ginny as she shoved his legs aside, setting onto the couch next to him.
"It's kind of weird that everything has gone back to normal after everything that happened last night," Ron spoke up, in the middle of stuffing a chocolate frog into his mouth. "Filch must be happy."
"Not at all," Ginny grinned. "He's absolutely miserable. He keeps saying that Umbridge was the best thing to happen to Hogwarts."
"It's crazy that she was arrested by the Americans." Hermione finally settled down next to Ron, brushing chocolate frog wrappers to the floor in mild disgust. "We knew she was horrible and broke all sorts of laws but to know she was doing it in other countries? Thank Merlin she was finally caught."
"Kakashi was investigating her, along with that Slytherin girl," Harry added.
"They probably had a lot to do with it," Hermione nodded.
"When did he have the time to do that though?" Ron asked. "He literally never left you alone."
"Neville's at the infirmary with him, right?"
"Yeah, Madame Pomfrey said he's only allowed one visitor," Harry nodded to Hermione. "She doesn't want to crowd him. He was pretty badly injured; plus Kakashi has already annoyed her this year by avoiding her so she's not willing to cut him any slack."
"How long until he's out of the infirmary?" Ginny broke the silence.
"No idea," Harry shrugged. "Before the Feast, probably."
"Kakashi really isn't like us, is he?" Hermione said quietly. "I mean, we knew, we've known from the beginning but..."
"To actually see it?" Ginny spoke up.
Quiet descended over them only broken by the flip of a page.
"He's leaving in a few days."
"Yeah, Harry, you'll finally be left alone. No grumpy shinobi hanging over your shoulder all the time."
"Yeah," Harry said quietly. "I guess."
He couldn't muster the enthusiasm that he had at the start of the school year. He would've done just about anything to ditch Kakashi, but now the idea of the shinobi not being there twisted his gut uncomfortably. He had probably just gotten used to having him around; it's not like they were friends or anything. Kakashi was just here to do a job and that job was done.
Somehow the thought of facing his sixth year of school and the war with Voldemort without his guard wasn't as welcoming as he had once thought.
Rinri stepped down the last step, the statue behind her closing the way to the headmaster's office. The mission was complete; she had handed both Umbridge and all the evidence she had collected over and the payment had been sent to her village. She just had to stay until the end of the school year this Friday and she could leave without the students any the wiser about her true purpose here.
She couldn't wait to go home; there was so much she wanted to do. She could meet her sister's genin team; catch up with her friends; play Go with her father; go to her favourite yakisoba bar. She missed the food back home; it was so much better than stuff they had here. It was a small detail but she had never been away from the village this long. She was finding it was the little things that she missed from back home.
She looked up to see Hatake making his way down the corridor.
"So you couldn't protect them without getting yourself hurt?" She grinned. "Maybe you're not as good as people think you are."
Hatake sent a half-hearted glare her way as he stopped in front of the statue.
"We have finished our missions, Ishida," he drawled. "Is there any point to this?"
Rinri huffed as she crossed her arms.
"Don't act so high and mighty just because we're done here. Once we're back home, anything goes."
Rinri fought the urge to take a step back at the look Kakashi shot at her.
"I would still take you over these wizards." She shuddered as the words tasted like ash in her mouth. "Don't get me wrong, I hate your guts and everyone else in your pathetic village, but at least I know where I stand with you. I'd be happy to never see another wizard again."
"For once we agree."
"I'm going to tell my Kage to cease all contact and communication with the wizards," she continued. "They do not heed the mission parameters or client protocol and Iwa will not stand for such disrespect. They are going to be blacklisted."
Rinri let the silent question hang in the air.
"Konoha will take the same stance," Kakashi finally answered her. "We shall inform our allies of the same."
"And we'll tell ours."
Konoha and Iwa would always be enemies; Rinri had no doubt about that. There was a long and bloody history between them that was not easy to shake. Rinri had lost family and friends to Konoha and she was sure there were many in Konoha that could say the same of them. Rinri, however, wasn't about to let wizards pull one over them. They would learn that their actions have consequences.
"We also should never speak of this," she added.
"You would lie to your Kage?"
"Can't lie about something you don't talk about," she shrugged.
"A lie of omission."
"What, like you're going to march up to your Hokage and say 'hey, I've been working with an Iwa kunoichi, you know the one we were at war with a few years ago, that Iwa'. Like our villages don't have kill-on-sight orders if we end up on each other's soil?"
The copy-nin fell silent for a long moment.
"Ha," Rinri huffed. "That's what I thought."
"My promise still stands," he suddenly spoke up. "If I see you, no matter the country we are in, you are done."
"The next time we meet I won't be so easy to take down."
She held eye contact with the copy-nin before they turned away in unison. Rinri walked down the stone hallway as she heard the statue grind its way open.
This mission hadn't been anything like she had ever expected when she had first shown up nine months ago. She had managed to get the job done but she figured that she probably wasn't suited for undercover operations. She had learned a lot about herself and how much she had taken for granted back home.
Rinri also knew that she really needed to step up her training; there were stronger shinobi out there and as much as she hated to admit it, she wouldn't be able to beat them. Not as she was. It was all well and good making jounin but if she didn't have the power to back that up then she wouldn't be able to serve her village like she wanted to. She began to think of training plans that she could begin the moment she got home; her father would be able to help her and she could spare some time to train her sister. She could organise group spars with her friends too.
Everything she wanted and cared about was waiting for her after the End of Year Feast; she would be going home as a better kunoichi. Not even Hatake Kakashi could take that away from her.
This concludes the penultimate chapter.
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