-REVISED-08/04/2021-

Hey guys. So, a couple of things. My absence/silence for the past 3 or so months was due to trying to get my financial life back together. I was tired of being broke and stressing about bills. Anyway, I got a really good job and doing much better now. I apologize for the long delay.

I am reposting this chapter because before writing chapter 41, I needed to re-read chapter 40 just to refresh my memory of where I left off. I ended up editing a lot of it and even added 1.1K more words. If you want to read it, cool, if not, the bulk of it is the same.

Next, I want to address some of my creative choices. There are two decisions that I made that was purely an homage to canon. Those are Naruto catching a blade with his bare hands during the Tsunade retrieval arc, and Sasuke going into Naruto's seal and disrupting Kurama's chakra. I've always liked those moments and if you enjoyed reading the nod in my fic, great, but I recognize they didn't quite fit in my fic. And if some of my readers were jolted out of the story because of that, sorry.

Lastly, I finished the biggest draft of chapter 41 yesterday. It's going to take me another couple of days to edit and fix a lot of the mistakes. Its a whopping 27K so it's going to take some time, but I should be posting before the week is done. That's it. Thank you for you patience, and enjoy.

-REVISED-08/04/2021-


Hey Friends! I'm happy to be back!

So, apologies are in order. I said I'd have more time to write, but then I finally landed a really good paying job, like, REALLY good paying job. So, I've been working more, which is why this chapter took so long.

Just a reminder, LDK means living room, dining room, kitchen. 2LDK is 2 bedrooms living, dining, kitchen.

Warning: Violence and Language.

18K. Please Enjoy!


KURENAI'S BEDROOM

After the meeting with Darui and Omoi from Kumogakure, where Naruto assured Tsunade and Ji-chan he wanted to accept the Raikage's request, Naruto rushed to Kurenai's home—chatting with Naru-nii along the way—and to her bed so he can finally sleep. His mission and battles accumulated enough weariness and fatigue to enjoy sleeping the rest of the day and night away, and by morning, he felt perfect again. He half-awoke when he felt the temperature suddenly drop, as if someone pulled away the covers and a chill licked at his skin. With slumbering eyes closed, a frustrated hand reaches out for the warmth to return, only to grab hold and bring Kurenai's body back to his side.

"Naruto," Kurenai yelped in surprise, though, she doesn't fight him off from snuggling up to her. A sound rings through the bedroom air and Kurenai forcibly extricates herself from his greedy hands, finally waking him up enough to see the comfort he desired was her and not her comforter. When she's out of bed, he wakes up further when he notes her thin, loose, white tee and red silk short-shorts, showing off her long and toned legs. As the extremely sexy sensei dons on a silk robe, covering her apple bottom, Naruto suddenly recalls he hadn't had deep, dirty, or nasty sex in over a week. She leaves the blond ball of carnal energy in her room to rush downstairs, and he grows excited by the second for her inevitable return.

He senses she's talking to someone at the door, and two dreadfully long minutes later, she returns to find Naruto leaning on the edge of the bed with a massive erection pointing to the ceiling. He's as hard as steel and his feet immediately hone in on her like a famished bear after sweet, sweet honey. The raven-haired beauty gasps in surprise before using her footwork to maneuver out of the way, calling out, "wait! Wait!"

"If there's a mission, it can wait," Naruto proclaimed, using his own footwork to cut off her evasion.

Gripping his hands and trying to evade his kiss-seeking lips, she quickly announces, "it was Karin!" Naruto stills at the mention of his cousin. She can read the concern in his blue eyes and assures him, "don't worry, she's fine. She wanted me to tell you your clan meeting starts in three hours."

"Oh," Naruto hums, feeling good about remarking with a devilish smile, "so we have three hours."

"Wait," she quickly protests. "She also wants me there; well, an hour after your meeting. She wants to talk about the Omiai and what that means for your clan."

"Fine, fine," he hastens to say, leaning in to kiss her again.

Kurenai evaded as she continues to delay his passion to inform him, "I also… told her I'd bring Temari, Ino, and Hinata, who's in her room right now, so no funny business until the girl with eyes that can see through walls is no less than eight hundred meters away."

Like a kicked puppy, a wounded Naruto cries, "what!" Kurenai claps her hand over his mouth before using her sense to check if Hinata had awoken. His arms wrap around her thin waist while they wait and soon after they were sure she wasn't awake, Naruto begs with large wet eyes, "she can see eight hundred meters away?"

Nodding, she answers, "which means we're well within her range." At Naruto's sudden depression, Kurenai assures the cute blond, "it's only been a week, and she'll be returning to the Hyūga tonight." Caressing his neck and chest, she moans, "come on, you can wait a little longer, right?"

His face crinkles in pain, as if being kicked in the gut, before grumbling, "I guess."

Kurenai happily kisses his cheek before grabbing his hand and walking to her bed, voicing, "besides, we need to talk."

She sits on the edge of the bed and crosses her legs as Naruto steps before her, his erection still prominent. Gesturing down to his crotch, he asks, "what am I supposed to do with this? Can't she see it right now if she wanted?"

Kurenai peers down at the thick, towering love-meat pitching out of his boxers in longing and restrained desire. Feeling her resolve begin to crumble, she instead grabs the comforter and pulls it back, telling him to, "here, sit." When he does, she quickly throws the comfy blanket over his jutting erection, disappointing them both.

Shifting his legs wider to soothe the tight strain, Naruto bellows, "what happened?"

"As far as…"

"Hinata wanting to marry me," Naruto started. "You being cool with it? But more than anything, why ask Hinata and Ino when you and I are already a couple? I mean… I'm worried there's something bad I don't know about, but I get this is the first time we're talking, so, I want to hear what you have to say."

Kurenai nodded her head as he spoke, then takes a few seconds to gather her response. Tucking strands of her long ebony hair behind her ear, the beautiful woman looks him deep in his sky-blue eyes before telling him, "first, I love you." Instantly, Naruto is fighting a smile creeping on his face. Kurenai felt perfectly at ease to say it out loud and happy to see his reaction. "I missed you," she added. "And welcome back."

"Thanks," a bashful and blushing Naruto spoke. As if a burdensome weight had been lifted from his shoulders, he returns her warm gaze and replies, "I love you too."

He leans in and though Kurenai knows it's a risk with Hinata in the room down the hall, their lips meet after far-to-many days away from each other. Radiating, yet tender, heat is the first thing they register as their warm soft lips bond to one another, and soon afterward, fluffy emotion fogs their brains so no thought could remain but how amazing this felt. Tilting their heads, their kiss deepens and intensifies in a matter of seconds, however, the moment she felt his hand caress the nape of her neck, the electric shudder that traveled up and down her spine forced her to pull away with a wet suction.

They take a few calming breaths before Kurenai clears her throat and says, "later. Tonight… tonight."

"Take a nap today," a very stirred-up Naruto suggested. "I don't know how much sleep you're going to get tonight."

Inhaling deeply, Kurenai absentmindedly bit her lower lip, sitting up straighter with sheer anticipation coursing through her at the thought. Shaking her head of stimulating thoughts, Kurenai continues, "the, uh, reason… I didn't say anything to the Hokage about us was because I wanted to make amends more than I wanted to be forthright."

"How come?"

Kurenai gazes into his eyes a moment before hesitantly revealing, "…I knew how Hinata felt about you before we even met, let alone became intimate." Naruto quirks his brow as she continues, "she cares about you deeply and for longer than I have. A part of me always felt bad, like I was stealing something from you both; maybe a love that could've blossomed into a happy marriage & family. It's not outside the realm of possibility even if it's unlikely. Not to imply you're property to be stolen or anything," she added with a laughing scoff.

"It's just, I love her so much, and she loves you, and yet I was the one sleeping with you, her sensei. I didn't want her to feel betrayed further when she heard about us and Omiai, even though she still felt betrayed in the end anyway." Kurenai sighs before confessing, "I suggested Hinata because for a long time now, I felt like I, as her sensei and pseudo-sister, owed her a chance, if nothing else."

"…And she said yes," Naruto voices in slight awe. "Which still blows my mind."

"If you want to understand her feelings, you should talk to her more," Kurenai happily suggested.

"Yeah. I'll do that," he mentions before asking, "and Ino? Why recommend her too?"

Huffing with a sense of awe, Kurenai points out, "that girl is a force of nature! I'm certain if I didn't add her and she would've found out about the Omiai anyway and demanded to be included." Naruto chuckles as Kurenai adds, "she said yes right away, literally as soon as Sandaime-sama finished asking." Naruto laughs silently at the thought of the brazen girl.

"You like her, right?"

With flashes of fun times and lots of laughter, Naruto smiles fondly as he answered, "I do." Kurenai simply nodded sternly, as if his acknowledgment confirmed what she already knew.

Hesitant to address an unnerving thought that's been nagging him since he and Kurenai became an official couple, Naruto gently asks, "you did all of this, so I have to think you approve… but are you really okay with this?" Scooching closer, making them bounce on the bed a bit, he conveys, "I don't know a love like I know you, so even if I could care for the other girls just as much as I care about you, I'm not there yet. If you said the word, I could say no to all of this. I love the idea of a big family, but no matter what, you need to be in that family… even if it's just you and me."

Kurenai was overcome with a pure fondness for the blond boy sitting next to her. Languidly, her arms gently wrap around his neck as she leans in and takes his warm lips once again. Their mouths fasten to one another as their heads tilt left and right for minutes, sucking in air and making out desperately like it's been years since rather than days. At the taste of his rough tongue entering her oral cavity, an aroused Kurenai pulls away again, visibly pained to do so.

They're heaving and aroused for several long minutes before Kurenai conveys, "I needed to hear that more than anything else."

"I just want to be honest," he sincerely admitted.

"Then let me be honest, too," Kurenai softly voiced back. "So long as I'm in your heart, I'll always be in your life." Naruto smiled to hear her declaration. She then states, "And even if I couldn't have predicted this situation in a million years, when I focus on Hinata also being with the person she loves, I'm happy with that." Taking the opportunity to air out a concern of hers, Kurenai asks, "do you have any idea how this might work? You, me, Hinata, Ino, and Temari? I have some guesses, but nothing that completes a mission of this caliber."

Tilting his blond head to the side to consider her query, he answered, "I haven't really had a lot of time to think about it, if I'm being honest. Mnnn, I guess I always pictured a team; doing what we can to help each other out."

"Ninjas are raised with fanatical order and structure so that's understandable," Kurenai articulates thoughtfully. "But for this kind of marriage? It would involve a hierarchy, which would offer challenges since I don't think one wife would like to feel inferior to the other."

Thinking of how he hated feeling inferior to Sasuke, he nodded before acknowledging, "makes sense." Without any real answers in mind, Naruto suggests, "maybe we should talk to someone, like an expert or someone with experience. Every time I don't know something, I just find someone who does."

"That's a pretty good idea," Kurenai noted. "For now, I have to get going. Our team has training soon." Naruto's face warps into pained frustration and at his whining—like a cute puppy—Kurenai replies, "tonight, Naruto. Tonight. I'll even clean my ass for you."

His face lit up, repeating with much more energy, "tonight, tonight!"

"Don't train too hard," she asked, suggesting, "save some energy for later."

"Oh, you don't have to worry about that," Naruto assured her with fiercely determined eyes. "See you at the meeting?"

"Wouldn't miss it," Kurenai assured him with a quick peck on the cheek before getting ready for the day while Naruto fell back in bed with a flop, lamely waiting for his erection to subside.

UZUSHIO

After Tsunade reassured him Kakashi-sensei would be fine, Naruto and four hundred clones train for the next three hours on Mount Myōboku. He thought of the lush mountain when he needed a river large enough for his hundreds of clones to comfortably train in, however, Pa reminded him of the benefits of training in secrecy. So, while five clones were etching the hiraishin marker into the metal handle of his kunais with a hammer and chisel, three hundred were in the large river swimming against current using only their chakra to propel themselves. The remaining ninety-five clones were practicing the Kuji-in chant his mother taught him.

Unexpectedly, Naruto felt more and more at ease every time he repeated the chant, like an old lullaby sung sweetly before bed. He tried to recall the hot, metallic feeling in his body when his mother used the chains, but the chant amazed him. He always felt like he had more energy than he knew what to do with but the chant felt like pouring water into words; something akin to giving his chakra to the chant.

'It's weird… but weirdly comforting,' he thought before opening his eyes. Leaning back to rest, the sun's position made him realize he was going to be late. He hopped high before landing on his feet and ordered his clones to dispel a section at a time before being reverse-summoned back to Konoha.

Popping out of a puff of white smoke in the middle of Konoha, the frantic blond rushed through his village's bustling streets and avenues as fast as his chakra-filled legs would take him, all the way to his Clan's established complex, Uzushio and waved to Tsunami-san, Inari, and Konohamaru before sprinting up the wall of his apartment building.

In his barren home, Karin was tapping her feet waiting, prompting Naruto to give his cousin the biggest smile and apology. Though slightly annoyed by his tardiness, she quickly forgave him by shoving a folded article of clothing into his chest then turning the sweaty boy about and pushing him toward the bathroom.

In the bathroom, Naruto unfolded what was actually a short robe; his clan's official black and orange accented haori. He quickly took a fifty-second shower before lifting the soft, flowy clan robe up to his shoulders and his eyes sparkled at the dream turning into a genuine reality. He drooled at the carefully-stitched orange Uzumaki swirl on the back and over the heart, and the Konoha leaf of the same color on the shoulder of the black haori. Naruto cooed in unbridled joy as he delicately donned the black robe over his orange shirt and black slacks, then meets Karin, Haku, and Jiraiya in his office.

It was the only room in their home that he's had a chance to secure with his best Fūin security seals, and Jiraiya insisted having meetings in private was a good practice they should get in the habit of. Naruto immediately notes that he only matched with Karin. Haku's haori was navy-blue with orange accents & crests, and Jiraiya's was the same, only white instead of blue. With a chakra-covered palm, Naruto activates the security Fūin seals of his office while Karin explained the hierarchy to their haoris.

"Black and orange means relation by blood or marriage," Karin began. "Black because we'll always mourn the near extinction of our clan. Orange because it's your favorite color and you're the Head. Blue and orange will be for clan members not related by blood or marriage-"

"But you know I don't care about stuff like that-" Naruto began, while Karin nodded.

However, Haku explained, "it was at my request."

"Why?"

"For distinction," Jiraiya answered. "Within the clan, we can all care for each other the same, regardless of blood, marriage, or neither. Outside of the clan, it's like a badge of leadership and responsibility. If- …excuse me, when this clan reaches large numbers once again, this system will be very helpful in maintaining order and promoting respect."

With the exception of a desk, the room was as bare as the rest of the home leaving more more than enough space for the four to gather around the only counter in the room. Placing three hiraishin-etched kunai on the table, the ecstatic blond asks, "is ero-sennin's white because of his hair?"

"No," Jiraiya caws back with an up-raised jaw. "It means the purity of my heart is unblemished!"

Naruto only scoffed as Karin explained, "it's a different status."

Shrugging his shoulders, Naruto asks everyone, "please take a kunai. Underneath the wrapping, I etched the hiraishin mark on it so I can teleport to you in case of danger. Or," he began to say, creating a visible mark made of chakra on his palm. "If you want, I can mark your chakra directly but it won't ever go away."

Tilting forward to eye him over her red-rimmed glasses, Karin asks in a serious tone, "you promise to use it only in emergencies?"

"Oh, obviously," he assured her and she immediately stuck her palm out. Considering she was nearly kidnapped by Root, Naruto was happy to place the receiving signal on her outstretched hand. Haku also accepted the mark on his body while Jiraiya simply took a kunai and slid it in his green kimono.

"Now that that's out of the way," Naruto begins. "Let's get down to business. I'm glad you're all here for the first-ever official Uzumaki Clan meeting! It's going to be the first of many… Wow… paving the way for the entire future of the Uzumaki clan… nuts."

Shaking her head good-naturedly, Karin grumbles, "Kami, help us." Naruto snorts a bit before Karin voices, "as we all know, Naruto is the Clan Head. As Deputy Head, I'll be taking the minutes." Very professionally, she takes out a pen and a scroll and is ready to do the task.

Jiraiya asks the young ones, "do we have titles?"

Smiling, Karin answers, "you're listed in our official register as Clan Elder. It's also why your haori is white. All clan elders will wear white."

The white-haired man smiled proudly at that until Naruto added with affection, "but you'll always be our Ero-sennin."

He huffed, "shheeuut up! So disrespectful to your Clan Elder… Is that really what you want to pass on to future generations?"

"Maybe if my Clan Elder would stop peeping on women," Naruto grumbles.

"It's research!"

"Moving on," Karin loudly interjected. Turning to the unnaturally beautiful boy, Karin announces, "Haku may be wearing blue but he's an honorary member of the Uzumaki Clan, and First Adviser!." Naruto starts clapping to which they all join in. "We can add levels too, so different designs mean different ranks, or something," Karin finished.

"Naruto-sama, Karin-san," Haku voices with such mirth. "Thank you for allowing someone like me, with my history, to be a part of your family and home. I can't say I've ever felt like this before… Zabuza-sama truly is amazing."

"Hhaahhhh," Karin sounds, looking at the boy in confusion. "How's that?"

Haku softly replies, "if he hadn't ordered me to help bring Naruto-sama's dream to life, I can't say I would've ever come across a feeling like this." None of the others are sure how to respond, except they know they love Haku and his peculiarity.

Naruto shrugs and voices, "I'm just happy you're here."

"Same," Karin cheered.

Naruto turns to his red-haired cousin to ask, "now that we got our titles, what's next?"

Rather awkwardly, Karin clears her throat before she nervously voicing, "well… the first thing I wanted to bring up… I propose our clan take out a bank loan."

Quirking his blond brow with confusion, the clan head asks, "how come?"

Karin takes out another scroll and lays it down next to her meeting's minutes. On the scroll were their financials and she explains to the gathering, "it took all the money we had to buy the property, titles, licenses, completely renovate the building, and add two more floors. The little that's left can be saved for emergencies or used for some furnishings, but we certainly can't afford new appliances like stoves and refrigerators. Tazuna-san and his men are repairing and using the old ones for now, but many of them are extremely worn. Not to mention, we don't have the nearly six million ryō to furnish our home."

"Six million," Naruto hollered. Karin nodded in response before her cousins settles to ask, "so you want to borrow six million-"

"Nine million ryō, actually," Karin interjected, making Naruto whistle at the number. "It's better to invest in new appliances in the beginning. Less problems later on," she explained. "Plus, with our property and our Fūin businesses, we can pay it all back in ten years." At Naruto's raised eyebrows, she quickly adds, "which sounds like a long time but it really isn't."

Not thrilled the financial news, but placidly accepting, Naruto hums, "well, if you think we should, then that's what we'll do."

Scratching his jaw, Jiraiya closes his eyes and loudly hums, "hhhmmmm," intentionally drawing everyone's attention. "What should I do? What should I do?" he asked himself. They eye him curiously, as he voices to no one in particular, "it's true I haven't been around when I probably should've, but money management is a good lesson for them to learn." After a five-second pause, he claps the tabletop, then tells his young family, "ah, what the hell! There's no shortage of lessons in life."

Perplexed by his Godfather's rambling, Naruto asks, "what are you talking about?"

However, Karin realizes right away. "He's going to give us money!"

Jiraiya tries to pacify their large feasting eyes, quickly putting up his large hands and pumping them as he relays, "relax, relax. I'm only covering the cost of the new appliances and half of your furnishings; so pick only the necessary rooms. We'll call it your belated birthday presents… and graduation present… and promotion present, clan restoration present, grand opening gift… hmm, what else can I tack on?"

"Holiday presents," Karin offers.

"Who cares," Naruto blurts with a wide grin. "Tack on whatever you want! We appreciate it, Ero-sennin!"

Widening her crimson eyes wide with sudden recollection, Karin shoots up her hand and calls out, "wait, wait, wait… would you be able to buy the property behind us instead? Obviously, I'm only asking out of curiosity, but, a realtor came by and told me it's also on the market. If we can buy that, we can expand our clan's estate."

Jiraiya doesn't flatly deny her query. He hums in deep thought, allowing them to raise their hopes for a moment before answering, "well… despite my rather social lifestyle, I do make far more than I spend." When he leans closer, as if to whisper something to them, they lean closer as well. He then softly suggests, "I'd consider it… if my dear Godson finds it in his heart to elaborate on the juicy parts I know he's leaving out!" Naruto drops his blond like a sack of annoyed potatoes as Jiraiya declares, "this could very easily be the best series I've ever written!"

In utter disbelief, Naruto turns to Karin and replies with absolute conviction, "I guess we're going to have to go it alone."

"As your elder, I advise against that," Jiraiya quickly countered.

"That's so crooked," Naruto yelled. "What kind of elder are you!"

"Clearly the most enlightened one," Jiraiya happily asserted.

Karin turns to Haku and asks, "what does our adviser think?"

"Hmm," Haku hummed a moment before answering, "it wouldn't be a bad direction to take."

"AHAH!" Jiraiya cheered. "Another man of vision! I always liked you Haku."

"On the other hand," Haku continued. "Purchasing another property when we don't have to funds or the source of fund to complete the current project may only add more complications in the years to come."

"Like bitting more than we can chew," Naruto suggested, to which Haku nodded.

Sighing, Karin concedes by telling Jiraiya, "appliances and furnishing it is then."

Eying Haku with comically large eyes of betrayal and huffing in sadness, Jiraiya notes, "I can see a great feud between Elders and Advisers, but fine!" With a deep breath, Jiraiya continues onto another topic. "It's surely come to your attention now that the land whispers to me. Too much of life is spent trapped indoors, so like the nomads of old, my manly feet must hike far & wide to answer the call."

Mildly amused, Naruto deciphers his Godfather's talk by assuring him, "if you want to come and go whenever you want, you can just say that."

"Whether you're coming or going, you're going to need a place to rest when your 'manly' feet decide to stop," Karin tacks on. "What better place than Uzushio?"

"I suppose," Jiraiya gruffly admits. "At the very least, you can benefit from my network, which should be easy for us," he said, motioning toward Naruto. "I'll send a toad periodically, let you know what I'm doing, where I've been, what I've seen."

With concern, Karin asks the Elder, "you're not leaving before the grand opening are you? Because you have to be here."

"Yeah," Naruto hotly insists. "You can't leave until you've partied with the clan!"

"I'll stay for the opening," the amused elder assured them. "But afterward, I'm off to gather information."

Haku found this a proper moment to relay, "I've received word from Zabuza-sama," and Naruto becomes giddy to learn about the mission he gave the Kiri-assassin. "He said they've made contact with many of Yagura's forces. He's been at the center of a few skirmishes and many have died. He seems quite happy. He'll send us a message when they've succeeded."

"…Uh, okay," Naruto politely replied, hoping there weren't too many deaths.

Anxious, Karin turns to her cousin to ask, "do you really have to go to Kiri?"

"Just for a little," he begrudgingly answered, however, he was quick to reassure her. "Once I finish talking with Yagura and the three-tails, I'll come right back. Promise."

The red-headed Uzumaki was not happy to hear as much, but replies, "…Fine, but I'm noting on here that I don't like it. Moving on from plans that could get you killed, we've already started receiving applications to lease our commercial and living spaces."

Giddy by the news, Naruto quickly asks, "what about Teuchi-jichan? Did he say he'd come over?"

Karin winced a little before delicately answering, "sorry, he decided not to relocate. However, he did say he'd be happy to open a second location here with Ayame-san running it."

"Oh… well, that's good too," Naruto reasoned with an accepting nod. "So long as they know the Uzumaki clan will always support them."

Smiling, Karin assures her noodle-loving leader, "they know."

Haku informs the group, "I've convinced Tenten-chan that moving her home and business here would be more cost-effective than where she lives now."

With evident concern, Naruto asks, "is she doing alright?"

"Well enough," Haku laments. "Even with my help, managing the store and home is a lot for one person who's also active military. I explained if she came here, the Uzumaki Clan could potentially offer her more than her current circumstance."

"Yeah, sure," Naruto quickly asserts, before turning to Karin. "Can we offer discounts to shinobi?"

"Yes," Karin hesitates to answer before adding, "but I also want to have regular civilians stay here as well. Not to wish any ill omen on anyone, but, a ninja's life is fairly dangerous when compared to that of a civilian."

"Makes sense," Jiraiya touts. "If you're born, you'll die eventually, but if you become a ninja, dying tends to happen much quicker. Field operatives can't even sign yearly leases since they spend most of their deployment post-hopping around the country's borders."

"We won't discriminate or enforce a hard line," Karin assured everyone. "I just think having some civilians would be good too."

Looking down at Karin's financial notes, Naruto asks, "how much space do we have?"

Karin points down on her notes as she answers, "we can accommodate four moderate-sized businesses or a combination of six different-sized businesses. The Ramen stand, Ten Out of Ten-"

"I'll also be supplying my herbal medicines from Tenten's shop," Haku affirmed, adding, "no sense in wasting space."

Karin continues recounting along with her fingers, "Ichikaru's, Ten Out of Ten, our Uzu-Fūin company will also double as the leasing office. That's three small spaces and one large, so, depending on size of applicants, we can accept two or three more businesses. As for residential space—floor's two through five—that's thirty units total; four 2LDK's, ten LDK's, and sixteen studios."

At the aggravating memories of paying rent every month since he was six, Naruto hotly proclaims, "as long as they're cheap, I don't care."

"You should care," Karin resolutely informed him before thoroughly explaining herself. "You should care a lot. If we rent out apartments at, let's say, ten percent below market value, it'll only attract cheap-minded people. I'm not saying we should over-charge, but, a renovated apartment complex at the price range of other apartments in the same district is already a steal. I actually think we should charge ten percent more."

Naruto focused on, "more?"

His cousin nodded before detailing, "I want to stimulate growth in Wood district and the most effective way of doing that is by stimulating this section of Konoha's economy. If we have clean homes and nice stores that attract a lot of business, it'll attract more traffic. With more traffic, we'll need more police presence, which also means crime goes down. A safer, cleaner, neighborhood promotes appreciation, pride, and more importantly, growth. Naturally, other businesses will want to set their product, their restaurants, their services up in this area as well, which will bring more people, more opportunity, and before you know it, our district will be just as lively as main street." The three remained quiet, in awe of her unexpected thoughtfulness. Clearing her throat, Karin assures her cousin, "we can still offer discounts to those who serve. More shinobi here will help maintain order and safety in the area."

"You really know your stuff," the thoroughly impressed Naruto happily shared with his cousin. Mildly pleased, she shrugs before Naruto gratefully states, "let's do it that way then. And you can teach me some of the practical ways I can help." He suddenly recalls. "That reminds me! I learned this super cool Uzumaki technique I have to teach you! I can teach you guys too, but it only works with Uzumakis."

Confused, Jiraiya asks the blond, "a blood-limit?"

Seesawing his blond head like a mixture of yes and no, Naruto answers him, "yeah, but not like a typical kekkei genkai. It's more like a chant and even among Uzumaki, only a few can use it." Turning to Karin, he happily informs her, "Kaa-chan called it Kongō Fūsa, or Adamantine Sealing chains."

With a swift trip through memory lane, Jiraiya abruptly stands as he voices, "well, that's my cue to leave."

Confused, Naruto holds up his palm as he asks the standing man, "wait, what? Why?"

"I heard Kushina mention her chains before," he began. "She made it abundantly clear they were a clan secret only Uzumakis are allowed to know of."

With much more grace, Haku stands from his seat, prompting Naruto to assure his best friend, "you don't have to leave."

"I know," Haku affirmed. "But even if I don't have to, I want to respect your mother's customs and wishes. Apart from that, it's unlikely I'd be able to learn it anyway." Turning to the Fūinjutsu-tinted window, Haku tells them before exiting the relatively bare room, "I'll go prepare for the others. They should be arriving in half an hour and I'm not sure we'll have enough chairs for everyone."

After Haku's exit, Jiraiya encourages the dutiful blond, "don't save for tomorrow what can be done today. You two go ahead and talk. I mean, how often have you been able to spend time together without a mission or invasion getting in the way?" He smacks his Godson's shoulder lie it's a travesty as he adds, "I wouldn't be surprised if you've spent more time with me than your own cousin."

"…Yeah," Naruto weakly grumbled.

"There you go," Jiraiya voiced before waving them goodbye and exiting the secure room.

Realizing the truth in Jiraiya's words, Naruto turns to his cousin and sincerely expresses, "sorry."

Shaking her head, she quickly assures him, "no, hey, it's okay. I know you have a lot of responsibilities that keep you busy."

"That's no excuse," Naruto said more to himself than her. "Especially for someone who can make clones of himself."

Leaning forward to look him deeply in his eyes, Karin confessed from her heart, "Naruto, it's more than enough that you've given me a place to call home, a bed to sleep in, food to nourish me, and no one here takes advantage of my ability because you stood up for me." He silently heard her words and she smiles as she adds, "on top of that, I wake up every morning with real purpose. What more could I ask for?"

Smiling a bit himself, Naruto admits, "it sounds nice when you put it that way." However, taking accountability, the blond purports, "still, I should be around more. You're my family and I want the best for you."

"Spoken like a true Clan Head," she replied, smiling more broadly. He returns her warm smile before she voices, "if you really want the best for me, how about starting with the Adamantine chains. I think I remember Okaa-san mentioning it once before. Since she couldn't do it, I assumed I couldn't either and let it slip my mind."

Recalling fondly the feeling of chains erupting from his body and holding Kurama down, Naruto boasts happily, "I've seen it in action and it's pretty freakin' amazing!" Tapping his chin with his finger, he mumbles, "let's see, how did Kaa-chan explain it…"

Raising one hand in confusion while the other rubs the bridge of her nose—momentarily displacing her glasses—a confused Karin begs to know, "uh, I feel like we're getting off on the wrong foot. How'd you see the chains? And more importantly, how'd you meet your mother? I thought she was…"

"Oh, yeah, she is," he somberly answered. Clearing his throat, he explains, "tou-chan and kaa-chan sealed some of their chakra in me before they died, and during the mission, I got to meet her; in my head. She used the chains to hold back the Kyūbi inside me."

"Wow," Karin hummed. "That's top-tier Fūinjutsu."

"You know it," he confidently asserted. "The first thing to know, Adamantine chains use both our chakra and life energies, which is where we lucked out since Uzumakis tend to have unnaturally strong life-force."

"Does this technique shorten our lifespan?"

"Not sure," he bluntly answered. "But if it did, I'm sure Kaa-chan would've mentioned that."

Absent any confirmation one way or another, Karin simply speculates, "maybe that's the reason we tend to have longer lives? Like, constant practice and use strengthens our life force?"

"Maaaaaybe," he queerly sounds with a scrunched facial expression. She shrugs before he continues. "Kaa-chan explained that our physical form is like a natural Fūin seal for our chakra, and like any seal, Fūin-specific hand seals are the characters used to harness the life-energy within us. It's called Kuji-in, or the Nine Seals." Chuckling, Naruto voiced, "Kaa-chan was sure this would be a lost art, but after I tell you and any other Uzumaki we find, it won't be lost anymore, huh."

"That's the purpose I was talking about," Karin sincerely professed. "Bringing our clan back from the brink of extinction feels incredibly meaningful. Not that we should dwell on the past, or anything, but our history is a long one and that massacre is a big part of that. I mean, we don't even know details of who or why. I just think it's practically criminal to ignore it and move on as if our parent's home never mattered-"

"Like it's fine if we forgot them," Naruto strongly corroborated. "I mean, what kind son would I be if I inherited all of my parent's cool jutsu without even bothering to learn anything about them or the family history, or our native village? It's kinda cold-hearted."

"Agreed," Karin hummed. "'Out of sight, out of mind until-I-need-a-technique-from-them,' just feels disrespectful." Considering another angle, Karin tilted her head back in thought before asking, "did your mother mention if the Adamantine chains was something they could evaluate, or was it a surprise to the family every time it happened?"

"Nope. I have no clue," an equally dissatisfied Naruto replied. "She did say I should go back to Uzushiogakure, though. There are probably some bunkers with scrolls and stuff only Uzumaki can access. We might learn more if we check."

"Definitely planning that trip," Karin adamantly asserted before writing that down in the minutes. She then assures him, "as soon as things settle down, of course."

Naruto continues, "Kuji-in, or the Nine Seals, is a nine-word prayer you say in your head. It's meant to give form to your chakra-mixed life force, exactly like how Fūinjutsu characters give direction to chakra. I remember how it felt when mom used it, so at least I can explain how it should feel."

"That'll be helpful," the redhead remarks. "How do the seals go?"

Facing her properly, Naruto brings his hands to his sternum as he explains, "like this; Rin," he said, showing her the appropriate hand seal for Rin. Karin mimics him before he continues. "Hyuo… Tou… Sha… Kai… Jin… Retsu… Zai… and Zen," he finished, displaying all of the Kuji-in hand-seals to her.

They repeat the seals a dozen times, getting quicker with every set and he wonders if she also feels the pleasant serenity. Observing his redheaded cousin, Naruto was happy to see how easily Karin seemed to pick up the movements without making mistakes. He recalled it took him a few times to get it right, however, at the time, talking to his mother felt much more important. At the fond memory of his flaming red-haired mother smiling proudly as she taught him their family jutsu, Naruto's whiskered cheeks spread with a gentle smile, and his eyes prickled with moisture.

Taking a deep breath to settle the melancholy taking hold of his woeful heart, he moves on to explain, "the uh… hand seals translate to, 'May All Those Who Preside Over Warriors Be My Vanguard.' She said the chant harmonizes your chakra & life force, focusing them into protective sealing chains, and that the properties of the chain can differ from person to person since one person can have a different interpretation of the word protection than another. She mentioned there were only a dozen Uzumaki in the clan who could use the chains, and apparently, none of them did the exact same thing."

"Mnnn," Karin hums in deep thought. "Makes sense. Do you know what some of them can do?"

Tilting his head to carefully recall his mother's remarks about past users, he replies, "they were all great for sealing—Kaa-chan's, in particular, was great for restraining Bijū chakra—but there was an Uzumaki whose chain was awesome for healing. Another Uzumaki could cancel ninjutsu, one could absorb chakra, one was great for tracking, and another amplified the effect of their genjutsu."

With supreme focus on her face, Karin repeats, "all of these extra abilities can be seen as protection… which is why they vary from Uzumaki to Uzumaki since it depends on what they believe will best protect them." When a funny thought popped into her engrossed mind, Karin smirks broadly as she jests, "I bet my chains'll just pop out more Narutos. 'Go forth, Naruto-sama! And protect your gorgeous cousin!'" Naruto bursts out laughing and she joins for several long and merry moments. Karin chuckles out, "ultimate protection!" They laugh together for minutes, winding themselves before they call their first family meeting to an end.

The chuckling Uzumakis exit his bare office to the unfurnished living room, empty hallway, and exit their bland apartment. They take the elevator down to the lobby to meet the attendees of the second portion of their first clan meeting. At the sight of the group ahead of them, Naruto suddenly recalls with teeth-sucking dread something he said he'd do but only just remembered. and quickly turns around to Karin.

Quickly turning around, he whispered to his cousin so the others wouldn't hear, "I forgot to mention! We definitely need to honor Kurenai and Ino's family! Without them, it would've taken us a lot longer to get to this point." Haku, Hinata, Kurenai, Ino, Temari, Gaara, and Kankurō all watch on as Karin nods and writes in her notepad.

"Way ahead of you," she said. "For the Yamanaka clan, I was thinking of putting their crest somewhere on our haoris, with their permission, of course." Straightening his black and orange haori, Naruto nods with keen approval. "For Kurenai-sensei, I can't think of anything perfect but we can brainstorm when they're not waiting on us!"

"Right," Naruto nodded before turning and greeting the group with his usual gusto.

Noting Kurenai's approving smirk, Naruto enjoyed approaching them in his official black and orange Uzumaki haori. Only then did he come to understand that the seven people standing in front of him are very much like the family he's found in life. He couldn't have a family upon his birth, but the people around him love him… and he couldn't help but grin broadly. So thrilled to be surrounded by family and future family members, he couldn't even trust his voice to talk properly. Imagining his parents looking down on him, Naruto barely restrains the tears of happiness about to burst from his eyes and waves with full swings for everyone to follow him.

The residential elevator couldn't comfortably accommodate more than eight, but since Naruto has a hiraishin marker in his office, he tells them, "ah, uh, everyone get in and I'll just meet you upstairs."

"Actually, Uzumaki-dono," Kurenai softly interjects, drawing everyone's attention. Hearing her use honorifics with his last name made Naruto grin so broadly his cheeks hurt. However, he focuses on her as she bids, "I know this is your meeting, but I was hoping Hinata, Ino, Temari, and I can have a quick word in private before we start."

A dead-eyed Gaara coldly asks the adult, "to what end?" Crossing his arms, he gravely adds, "what are your intention with my sister," and even without his sand gourd, the blood-redhead can be quite intimidating.

Without flinching, Kurenai nodded before answering the Kazekage's son, "we'll be discussing pertinent details of the Omiai. If you don't mind hearing about her marriage, you're welcome to join."

"He does mind, actually," Temari quickly answered for him, turning to her youngest brother and emphasize her point with a sharp gaze. "I want to talk with them as well. I've gotten a few reports but nothing more than a line or two of what's been going on." Turning to Naruto, she voices with a small smile, "I heard you were on a mission. I never got a chance to welcome you back."

"Thanks," the blond returns with his trademark smile before telling Kurenai, "I'm cool with that." Shoulder-bumping Gaara cheerfully, Naruto tells the group, "I can show the boys around while you talk. Let's pick this up in an hour."

Stepping onto the elevator with the ladies, Karin casually remarks, "I guess I'll go with them." When Kurenai turns curiously to the pretty redhead, Karin readjusts her glasses as she responds, "what? I'm his blood and Deputy Head," to which Kurenai nods acceptingly in the face of truth.

After hearing the lobby's door open and close behind them, the inquisitive sound of "Naruto?" draws everyone's attention. Sakura watches the girls in the elevator—easily noting Ino in the square space—and the boys outside of it before the elevator doors slide together with a ding.

Turning to his teammate, he rushes up to her with a greeting wave before asking, "hey, what's up?"

Watching the closed elevator doors for a moment, the pink-haired kunoichi slowly answers, "…I was hoping we can talk."

"Uh, yeah," he agrees. He waves to the men, calling out, "come on!"

NARUTO

Under Konoha's typically warm sunny day, Naruto and Sakura trail several paces behind Haku, Gaara, and Kankurō as they walk around the shoddy neighborhood of Wood District. Speaking with his teammate in private, Naruto also has the opportunity to view his neighborhood in a new light. Whereas before, he'd only ever rush through the destitute district to begin his training. Now, he's looking around the downtrodden neighborhood for opportunities he and his clan can help with. He's sad to note his neighborhood isn't lacking in opportunities.

Most of the businesses were dirty, faded, cracked, and or blanketed with graffiti with litter peppering the base of most buildings. The villagers listlessly meandering the streets wore either dirty, wrinkled, or ill-suited clothes. Around them, boisterous groups of children or adults loiter on every slum-like street. Almost every electrical pole had a myriad of bird droppings. Wild cats, dogs, and smelly garbage were in every alley and the smell in the air was like inhaling the hairy armpit of a hobo who hasn't showered in months.

This was the area his family would be living in, and with Karin's words in his mind, Naruto suddenly felt driven to do anything he can to develop the area for the better. However, realizing his teammate has been quiet for some time, seemingly also deep in thought, Naruto asks, "so what's up?"

The question shook her into the present, causing her to voice, "…huh? Oh, sorry. I just…" When his question sunk in, she shakes her head before answering, "it didn't feel real—you getting married—to multiple women… not until I saw them."

Certain he hadn't told her yet, a curious Naruto asks, "how'd you hear?"

"Ino told me last night," she revealed.

"Oh," the blond hummed in acceptance. Nodding, he shares, "yeah, it's pretty nuts, but you know I've always wanted a big family."

"When people say that, it usually means they want a lot of kids," Sakura denotes in sheer disbelief. "Not multiple wives."

Shrugging, Naruto notes, "I mean, there'll probably be kids too-"

"Kami, stop," Sakura called out loud enough to turn Haku and Kankurōs head up ahead. "Hearing something so grownup coming out of your mouth is just too much! I'm not mentally prepared!"

Chuckling, an amused Naruto simply asks, "what's up? Why'd you come over?" Pointing behind him, he innocently inquires, "unless you're here to join?" Her silky-pink head snaps to him in deep shock, and at the robust blush coursing up her neck and cheeks, he quickly clarified, "the meeting! I mean, did ya wanna join the meeting?"

Able to inhale once again, Sakura's heavy blush recedes as she nods deeply and answers, "n-no… no. I, uh, actually came because of Sasuke."

Piqued at the name, he asks, "what about him?"

The reason for her visit seems to sober her up of all levity or invitations and she claims with serious intent, "I think he's in trouble." Naruto listens closely as she relays, "he came looking for me this morning. He had a lot of injuries and wanted me to heal him. It took me over an hour to treat most of them."

Concerned, Naruto's brows draw together as he asks, "what happened?"

Slightly dejected, she answers, "he wouldn't tell me. After I patched him up, he said to mind my own business, made me promise not to tell anyone, and then he left."

"Friendly as ever," Naruto mumbled loud enough for Sakura to hear, though she just shakes her head of it. He then tells her, "I'll go talk to him."

"I'm coming too," she interjects.

His face crinkles into an expression of regretful apology before speaking, "I don't know, Sakura. He wouldn't tell you when you guys were alone. I don't think he'd tell me if you were there."

Feeling offended, she hotly returns, "why would he talk to you more than me?"

"Cuz I have no problem kicking his ass to get him talking," Naruto easily answered.

"I can beat him up too," Sakura harshly vented. Naruto's expressive face squints, eying her kindly as if waiting for her to see reason without pointing out the obvious to her. Though it took a few seconds, Sakura eventually sighs and slumps her shoulders before sadly asserting, "fine, maybe not! But I can't just do nothing! He's my teammate, too! We're team 7." Glumly, she confesses, "I just don't want to end up being the useless teammate."

"Wha- hey, you're not useless! Don't even say that," he quickly balks back, hating it when she loses confidence in herself. "You're getting better! Everyday! It's just, well, in this case, there are some things guys are better at handling themselves. I mean, I'd totally come to you about medical stuff."

Rolling her eyes at the pity wafting from him, she flatly asks, "why bother when you heal from practically anything overnight?"

"…Well," he mumbled without finishing.

"It's okay," a sullen Sakura assures him with a sigh. "I know I don't have a lot to offer-"

"That's not true," he vehemently disputes. And like a ton of bricks, an idea Naru-nii had mentioned hits his mind, lending conviction to his voice when he asserts, "there is something that can make you just as strong as us! Something only you can do!"

Sakura looks at him suspiciously for a moment before informing her blond teammate, "I train nearly every waking hour of the day. What more could I possibly do to get to your level?"

Smirking, he happily answers, "easy. First, you need to get Tsunade-baachan to accept you as her apprentice. She has some pretty wicked moves she could teach you, but, there's one jutsu she has that you absolutely need to learn. It lets her heal from any physical damage she takes almost instantly! I don't know the details, but I'm sure it has something to do with that purple mark on her forehead."

Realizing he's serious, Sakura slowly asks the most important question. "But… why would she accept me?"

"Why wouldn't she," the blond casually returned, stunning the pretty pinkette into thoughtful silence. He then adds, "things are going to get a lot worse, Sakura; for all of us, not just Konoha. I want us to be ready for what's coming, so we need to get back to work and train our asses off."

Curious by the ominous assertion, Sakura bids to know, "what does that mean?"

Shaking his head, he answers, "it's hush-hush right now, but I'll explain later."

Doubtful of that, she attests, "oh? Will you? Like how you were going to explain getting married? To multiple girls? My Ino included!" Frustration mixed with disbelief has her grip her head with both hands and mush her skin like a rough massage. "Kami, help me! I can't believe you're getting married…"

Eying her suspiciously, he remarks, "you're acting really weird about this."

She quickly turns to him, ready to counter but stops herself. Looking deep into his eyes for a silent moment, she starts, "because…" Sakura turns away from his pure blue eyes and continues, "it's- it's a political marriage to multiple women! Everyone in the village'll say there's no love in that—they might even hate you for it—but you're acting like it's just the usual!"

"That's a big steaming pile of horse shit! There's plenty of love," he argued. "It's not the norm, sure, but none of us are doing anything against our will! We're doing it because we want to and I'm sure we can work."

"How? How can you possibly think all of you are just going to get along like one big happy family? It's not like you're all going to agree on everything that comes up."

"I'm not saying we won't have our disagreements," he reasonably offered. "But all it takes is wanting the best for each other and being really honest with ourselves about what that means." Leaning closer, he expresses with real honesty, "I mean, I'd want the best for you, even if that, somehow, means your being with Sasuke. Sure, I don't get it and I used to wish it was me, but if he makes you the happiest, then I'll support you to the fullest no matter how uncomfortable."

Eager for her—above many—to understand, Naruto steps in front of the thoughtful pinkette, stopping in the middle of the dusty street so he can assure her, "as long as I'm breathing, I'll love them in a way where no one can doubt, no matter what, that I'll always want what's best for them, even if that means there is no marriage. If they feel the same, I can't see how we'd ever regret this."

Naruto couldn't know this, however, Sakura was very familiar with Naruto's serious stare. His conviction was palpable in everything he did and it truly made her think he could do what was seemingly impossible. 'He has before,' her mind reminded her. She sighs before walking around him and thinking of the differences between Sasuke and Naruto. She couldn't deny Naruto has been on her mind far more fondly than Sasuke, and in a moment of honesty, she confesses, "…He may not be…"

He tilts his head back in confusion, asking, "huh?"

"Sasuke," she woefully clarified. "He… may not make me as happy as he used to."

It's Naruto's turn to be stunned for several moments before he manages to think to ask, "uh, are you serious?" With her dour nod, he huffs, "wow… wasn't expecting that."

"It's not so unthinkable," she defends, starting to walk again. Naruto matches her steps as she relays, "I still care about him. I simply came to the realization that I may have been sacrificing a little too much of my sanity to prove to him my love was the best thing he could ever have. It's actually a little scary to think about now; just how far I could've gone to prove that…" Shaking her head of how much she was willing to sacrifice for him, she says, "anyway, after getting a dose of reality shoved down my throat, I can't see things the same way again."

"I'd say so," Naruto readily agrees before leaning in and boasting, "you're even cooler now, Sakura! That's why I know there's a great guy out there just itching to be with you."

With sagging shoulders, a doubtful Sakura lamely responds, "I don't know about that. I might go it alone like Tsunade-sama or Shizune-san." With a wide smirk, the pinkette couldn't help nudging Naruto's shoulder and joking, "you don't think your wives might lend you out a couple of nights a month, do you?"

Snorting laughter bellows out of his gullet for a spell before responding with a snicker, "sorry, Sakura. This tasty treat might be communal, but it's members only."

"Tasty treat? Shut up!" a riled-up Sakura huffs moving away from him. Half appalled and half-amused, she demands, "just tell me what the second thing is. Unless Tsunade-sama's technique was all you meant."

"Mnn? Oh, yeah," he recalled as he rushes beside her. "You remember when Gai-sensei and Kakashi-sensei were talking about the Eight Inner Gates? During the prelims? Kakashi said most shinobi don't open the Gates because it's really hard to do-"

"And tears up the body way too much? Yeah," she replied, noting, "I looked it up. The downside of the Eight Gates is far too debilitating to be used with any sort of regularity-" Suddenly struck with the track of his thought, she gasps, "oh! You're thinking I should combine the Eight Gates with this ultimate healing technique that Tsunade-sama knows!"

With a comfortable smirk, Naruto nods in agreement before saying, "Lee showed us that opening the gates can make you strong enough to go toe-to-toe with a Jinchūriki. Imagine doing that without ripping up your muscles, boiling your organs, or killing you! You'd be crazy strong!"

Her beautiful green eyes were wide in excitement at the possibilities and she couldn't help calling out, "I'm talking to Tsunade-sensei right now!"

"She should be in Ji-chan's office," he called out with her, pumping his fist from the feral passion of training. He also offers her, "and if she gives you a hard time, just remind her she still owes me."

"Oh, Naruto, I could leterally kiss you right now," she cheerfully tells him. Leaning in closer, she voices with a sensual smirk, "if your wives ever do give you permission, just let me know."

"If I ever do get a pass, telling you would be the last thing I do," Naruto humorously assured her, making her knit together her pink brows in confusion. "Picture this instead," he told her. "One day I casually ask you to spar with me. You think it's nothing more than training, but oh no, then I overpower you, tie you down, and use your sweet little body however I want for my own filthy pleasure… then I'd make you love it too." Sakura's cheeks blush and she swallows as he leans in and urges, "wouldn't that be better?"

"…A-and you'd th-think I'd just… allow that?"

Smiling at her blushing cheeks and dilated green eyes, a confident Naruto doesn't voice the obvious. He simply looks at her with confident eyes she knows so well before turning and leaving as he vocalizes, "later, Sakura."

UZUSHIO

Karin leads the curious of kunoichis through her home. Passing open doors to empty rooms, Ino, Hinata, Temari, and Kurenai observe the wide open and bare space, imagining the possible decor as they make their way to the large living space where Haku had set up a makeshift carpenter's table and nine mismatching chairs. The Uzumaki clan home is the epitome of a blank canvas these women will have to agree to paint together.

When everyone declined tea until the men returned, Karin considers the nature of the conversion at hand and wonders if some Fūinjutsu privacy wouldn't be better. Asking the ladies their preference. they easily decide on Naruto's office and file into the moderately-sized room before Karin activates the Fūinjutsu. The room's natural light dims as blue Fūin characters flare brightly before dimming as well; impressing Temari and Hinata.

Kurenai begins the address, "I suppose there's no point in beating around the bush." She and Hinata were on the south side of Naruto's simple table, Ino stood on the east of the table, Temari faced opposite Kurenai on the other side of the desk, and Karin stood opposite Ino to simply observe.

"Before we begin," Temari voices in her strong tone. She eyes everyone with genuine sincerity as she expresses, "I'd like to say, on behalf of my family and my village, we deeply regret our actions against your village. I understand this marriage was born out of that offense but I am dedicated to doing my part to make amends."

"Thank you, Temari-chan," Kurenai replies. "And I'd like you to know that doesn't mean anyone has permission to take advantage of you. I know many will see you and this wedding as nothing more than political pageantry, but I don't think that means we can't live together in harmony, if not love each other." Temari nods with resigned acceptance, then Kurenai looks between Hinata and Ino before asking, "are you two certain this is the path you want to take for better or worse? Because if you even think you might change your mind five, ten, twenty years-"

"I'm sure," Ino interjects with absolute confidence.

"As am I," Hinata softly states.

"Wait," Temari quickly pleads, eying Ino and Hinata suspiciously. "Are the two of you- …of course," the Sand princess realizes. "It makes sense all the sense in the world that Naruto's first wife would be from Konoha, but, I didn't expect two wives. Can't have the numbers in my favor, I'd imagine."

"Three… actually," Kurenai admits, raising her hand then realizing that's unnecessary then quickly puts it down.

"Maybe even four," Ino slyly added, half jesting but half not.

Turning to the blond, Kurenai asks for clarity, "Ino?"

"I'm just saying," the blond beauty asserts. "There's room for nine, right? Not too long ago, I thought I was the only girl in his life, let alone marrying him—from Konoha, anyway—when in fact it's three!"

Closing her eyes a moment to take a deep breath, Temari then looks between all three Konoha kunoichi before carefully asking, "all three of you want to marry Naruto?"

"Four… wives," Karin gasps with wide eyes, her red eyebrows rising even higher than the frame of her glasses. She then whispers a little too loudly, "our clan's going to double in one generation!" When the girls turn their gaze on Karin, the redhead clears her throat before quickly relaying, "sorry."

"This is what I wanted to talk about," Kurenai confesses to Temari. "This… situation obviously requires more details, but suffice it to say, yes, the three of us want to marry Naruto."

Stunned, Karin quickly asks, "why?" before clapping her mouth and adding, "sorry. I'll just sit here."

"No, no, that's a good question," Temari voices whilst maintaining her attention on the three. "By all means, let's hear some of these details. Help me understand why all three of you have decided to be with him, because you can't expect me to just casually accept this and move on."

"We're not expecting you to accept anything without at least hearing our explanation," Kurenai asserted.

"Please don't speak for me," Ino voices, drawing Kurenai's crimson eyes. The beautiful sensei wasn't angry or even upset, just surprised. She nods and waits for Ino to speak her peace, to which the blond eventually abandons her bravado and confirms, "but, yes, it would be unfair if we expected you to accept it without some background."

Temari reminds the potential Konoha wives, "in the interest some background, I should remind you, that of all of us here, I don't have the option of changing my mind; not to say that I would. In some ways, the politics behind this makes this the easiest for me because no matter what happens, I have to make it work. So, to avoid a lot of drama later on, I need to know why you're doing this?"

"That's barely a question," Ino starts, speaking up and clearly. "Obviously, I want to marry him because I love him. And more to the point, I like him… a lot. We get on like a field of flowers on a sunny day and I can't imagine a better man to be with. I'll do anything for him; if that wasn't evident enough," she tacks on in subtly reference to sharing him.

Weighing the response in her mind, Karin liked that answer a lot and wondered how Kurenai-sensei and Hinata will illustrate their feelings for her cousin. Temari nods with reserved acceptance before turning to Kurenai-sensei and the red-haired Uzumaki was eager to hear from the most controversial of the three.

Calm and collected, Kurenai confesses, "it took some time for me to realize my feelings for Naruto, and even more time to accept them." Glancing in Hinata's direction, she sincerely expresses, "I know that everyone who hears about me and Naruto is surprised by how unexpected or unlikely it is, but, it's the greatest surprise to me. Before him, I was set with the best I could hope for and couldn't imagine feeling more than that." Eying Hinata directly, she softly admits, "I didn't think love could feel this way, so free and unconditional. And now there is no other man for me."

Hinata turned to her sensei and even if she didn't voice her thoughts, her lovely countenance couldn't hide her thoughts. The flustered Hyūga was torn and unsure of how to respond because it was her sensei and it was the boy she's loved since she was six. Hinata could feel the familiar doom creep into her heart, as if telling her she wasn't good enough for Naruto and certainly not better than Kurenai. However, her mind knows with absolute certainty, Naruto doesn't believe that. Hinata has been putting her faith in Naruto and Kurenai, and if they believe in her, she knows she should believe in herself too.

So amazed by her poise and answer, Karin cooed from her throat and quickly cleared it away to avoid interrupting this raw and revealing moment. Again, Temari nods with reserved acceptance before turning to a bashful Hinata and asking, "and you?" However, the gorgeous Hyūga doesn't answer right away. Karin couldn't see how anything she said could top Ino or Kurenai, but she leans in, eager to listen.

Kurenai interjects, "she has more incentive than any of us."

"I'd like to hear that from her," Temari voiced assertively, like the daughter of a Kage. Karin, Temari, Kurenai, and Ino wait a few quiet moments as Hinata thought.

Feeling their impatience and doubt in the air, the beautiful midnight-indigo-haired girl explains to Temari, "…I asked him if he'd have me." All the girls weren't quite sure what her words intended to mean until she finishes, "and he s-said yes."

Several seconds pass in silence. Expecting more, a perplexed Temari asks, "is that it?"

Hinata looks from Temari to Karin, Ino, and Kurenai before simply nodding. Karin, like the other three, wasn't sure how she felt about Hinata's response. How they feel about entering this type of marriage is very important, as they'll all have to get along for years to come, however, it slowly dawns on the smart women that Naruto's opinion should be included as well. Her response nearly makes it seem as if disapproving of her means disapproving of Naruto's endorsement, though, Kurenai, Ino, and Karin are certain Hinata didn't intend anything so underhanded.

Kurenai felt she needed to explain to Temari, "in my personal opinion, one of the biggest reasons why we're all here… is because of Hinata."

With a quirked brow, a stunned Ino curiously asks, "how's that?"

The ebony-haired Jōnin-sensei answers, "while the village only cared to hate Naruto, while you, me, and Temari were busy trying to use him for our own gains… she's loved him with all her heart even before entering the Academy." Hinata blushes furiously before looking away, making Karin add a point for the girl's cuteness. "The only reason I began interacting with Naruto was for Hinata's sake," Kurenai continues. "And if he weren't with me—if he didn't learn what he did from me—he likely wouldn't be as, um… consistent in captivating us as he currently is."

Karin couldn't help but ask, "w-what did you teach him?"

The remaining girls blush just as furiously as Hinata at the swarm of erotic memories swarming their minds. A feverish Ino clears her throat and challenges Kurenai with, "that's debatable."

While Karin lamented their unwillingness to answer her question with puffed out cheeks, Kurenai answers Ino, "we don't need to get into it now. That's just how I feel."

Sitting straighter, the blush on Temari's cheeks lingers as she moves on. "It'd make a lot of sense for me to contend with one or possibly two of you for my place in this marriage. And I can't say I won't fight to state my opinion, but, I acknowledge there needs to be balance—give and take—or this won't work."

Irked by the remark, Ino asks, "what do you mean, 'or possibly two of you?' You think one or two of us won't marry him?"

Half nodding, half tilting her head from side-to-side, Temari roughly answers, "I only just thought of this so I can't give you solid reasons yet, but, yes, I doubt all three of you will actually end up marrying him. I just can't imagine your Hokage or your village—or anyone, if I'm being honest—simply allowing this. One of you? That's an obvious yes. Two of you? Possible, but, unlikely. All three of you? No. Unless you're a Daimyō, it just doesn't happen for shinobi. Not unless you want clans everywhere to adopt the same practice simply to multiply their numbers."

The three Konoha women glance at one another as they mull over the probability of their families, friends, peers, and neighbors happily accepting Uzumaki Naruto's marriage to two heiresses of Konoha's Four Noble Clans along with the very popular Genjutsu Mistress of Konoha as well as the only daughter of the Kazekage. Using psychology, Kurenai and Ino can't imagine that reality sitting well with many men, boys, and mothers. And Hinata didn't need to know psychology to expect unfairness to follow Naruto.

Men of every rank and station would be jealous, which could lead to bias treatment. Women would feel mistreated, which could lead to objections and protests on behalf of women everywhere. And they would feel that way because everyone is unaware that the three of them marrying Naruto has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with love. It's simply unimaginable to the general populous that three beautiful girls would want to be with Naruto, and due to Temari-chan, marrying him was the only way they can do that.

Temari continues to say, "I won't be the first wife; not that that has the kind of significance many seem to think it does. At the most, there'll be two of you and one of me, and I'm fine with that arrangement. All I ask is when there's a problem or a decision that needs to be made for the family, you allow me to speak my mind even if you won't take my counsel."

Kurenai compartmentalizes her doubts about her Hokage allowing all three of them to marry Naruto to answer the sandy-blonde, "regardless of the numbers walking down the aisle, that's not how a relationship like this is going to work. We all have a say and should respect the other's point of view no matter what village we hail from. Because you're right. We will be family. And that means a lot to Naruto."

"…It means a lot to me tooTrue," Temari slowly agrees before adding, "but I imagine there'll be times when decisive decisions need to be made."

"We all want a voice," Ino tells Temari. "None of us want to be overshadowed by the other, but unintentional or not, I don't see how it won't happen from time to time. We need to plan of communication for those awkward moments." At the rational expectation, Karin can't imagine how this will work in the long run. It's difficult enough with two people trying to make a marriage work, make it last, and remain loving, however, Hinata softly voices the most crucial piece to this engagement.

"I trust Naruto," the beautiful girl softly voices. "I think we can all trust Naruto."

The silence lingers as they all recall their blond fiancé is a specialist when it comes to thinking outside the norm or succeeding when no one can reasonably expect him to. It's as if the social laws of society malfunction when he's in the mix, which means none of them can truly know what to expect.

With thoughtful consideration, Temari shares with them, but mostly with Hinata, "in the vast oceans of sand surrounding my home, getting lost and dying is the most effortless thing to do. It's why we teach everyone in the country to rely on a specific star to guide them. Polaris, always points north and helps everyone find their way home. Everyone from Suna recognizes and appreciates the value of a fixed point because it provides reference. It can literally save you." Turning to the other two, Temari confesses, "in case your- …our Hokage places a limit on Naruto's partners, and my opinion is asked, I'm voting for Hinata-chan."

The three Konoha girls add another thing to contend with to their worries and Karin mentally whistles at the turbulent gravity of this marriage.

NARUTO

Observing the long the abandoned area of homes and shops, a detached Kankurō voices to the others, "so, this is the Uchiha compound." The sun was high in the clear blue sky as Naruto, Haku, Gaara, and Kankurō run through the long neglected district. Dusty homes and shops were sadly empty and eerily silent. Birds congregated the tiled roofs, dogs or cats can be seen around every avenue, and weeds grew from the unkempt roads.

As they made their way through the avenues of bare streets toward Sasuke's home, the unfortunate history of this clan easily impacted Naruto. He knows their intimate and tragic history, and considering he's on the precipice of restarting his own clan, the responsibility of that makes the death and loss around him feel more acute. The surrounding makes him hate Danzō even more for taking so much away from Sasuke and the village.

"Yeah," Naruto replied as they reached Sasuke's small mansion. The blond was grateful Gaara and Kankurō were willing to come with him, however, he's certain they'd be more comfortable if they were back with their sister. "Sorry I made you guys come with me," he voiced as they walk under the first gate and into the first courtyard of Sasuke's large, classical, home. Eying the modest mansion that's beyond the second gate ahead, the architecture was very much like the Hyūga clan's mansion.

"Better than hanging around the girls and talking about wedding crap," Kankurō grumbled.

Smirking, Naruto poses, "you're fine missing a chance to talk about makeup?"

Whirling angrily on Naruto, Kankurō growled, "you know it's warpaint-"

Gaara cut off his brother with a soft, "Uchiha." Naruto, Haku, and Kankurō turn to the menacing Sasuke who suddenly appeared stepping past the threshold of the inner gate. Naruto can tell the raven-haired boy was highly strung, staring at them with a cold menace as he casually walks to them. Stoically, Gaara shares, "he has eyes like I do."

Sasuke glares at them a moment before demanding to know from his teammate, "why are you here?"

"I just got back yesterday," the blond boy casually answers. "Thought I'd come and check on you."

"…Sakura told you," the avenger reasoned with a shake of his head. "Running to you like a child and crying my name is exactly the kind of aggravating thing she'd do."

"You don't have to talk about her like that," Naruto hotly protested. "She's just worried about you."

"I don't care," Sasuke strongly asserted. "But, now that you're here. We need to talk." Turning to the others, he orders, "the rest of you leave."

Staunchly rejecting the attitude, Naruto promptly pointed a stern finger as he declares, "hey! You can be an ass to me all you want, but not my friends! You want to talk, be nice to them!"

Naruto notices red eyes flash behind Sasuke before disappearing, and a moment later, he hears a familiar voice calmly say, "Naruto-kun, Sasuke is trying to say he'd like to have a private conversation." At the cool sound of Uchiha Itachi, Naruto quickly scans the area around them, to which the older Uchiha informs him, "you and Sasuke are the only ones that can hear me. If you would speak with us, I'd be grateful."

An annoyed Naruto grumbles for a moment, before touting, "fine… but only because you asked nicely." Turning to the others, the blond asks, "you guys mind waiting for me? I promise I won't be long and we can head back right after."

Eying the stern and irate Sasuke closely, Haku's growing concern prompts him to ask, "are you sure?"

Nodding, the blond answers, "yeah, I'll be fine." He walks under the blue & white gate and into the main courtyard ahead of the large home. Softly padding on the hardwood floor of the entrance, Sasuke leads his teammate down the hallway to the elegant living room while Naruto happily looks around the large house's decor. Though impressed by the spacious and traditional architecture, the blond's a little jealous by all the lavish furnishing. Rather than dwelling on the luxuries his home is currently lacking, he uses his senses to search for Itachi.

Once they were in a spacious and luxurious living room, Naruto excitedly calls out, "I can't believe you're here! You made the right choice!"

To Naruto's delight, Itachi appears near the far corner of the room like a hazy mirage focusing into clarity. The stoic older Uchiha leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. He still wore a black travel cloak with a high neck, however, it didn't have red clouds on it. Naruto moved to greet him when Sasuke steps in the way, as if creating a wall of defense between them.

An irate Sasuke quickly demands to know, "how? How do you know?" When Naruto present a confused expression, Sasuke takes hard step forward to specify, "how did you learn about what happened to my family! …to my clan?! To my brother?!"

Looking from Sasuke to Itachi leaning against the far left corner, Naruto wondered why the older Uchiha had told the younger. It's painfully obvious how angry Sasuke is, shoulders hunched, fists clenched, and Naruto can see he's barely holding it together, making him wonder if Itachi revealed anything at all. The wrath in his eyes made Naruto recall one of Naru-nii's worst revelations.

Slumping his shoulders as if crushed, Naruto laments asking Sasuke, "you're not planning on blaming Konoha for what happened to your family, are you?"

With wide furious eyes, Sasuke loudly retorts, "who else but Konoha!"

Trustrated by the devastating turn, Naruto groans, "well, shit. I was really hoping to avoid this." It's not that Naruto didn't understand Sasuke's pain but he was hoping to help his teammate without him trying to take his anger out on Konoha. Though looking at the irate boy, Naruto can tell that was always a pipe dream.

"You… were hoping to avoid this," Sasuke slowly repeats with sheer disgust. "Why? Because you think what happened to my family and our clan deserves to be ignored and forgotten!" His fists are shaking with fury as he growls on, "because you think the Uchiha should be brushed aside and thrown away like garbage so the rest of you can live in comfortable peace!" Staring deadly in Naruto's eyes, Sasuke's Sharingan activated as his snarling face took a deep breath before yelling, "BECAUSE I DON'T!"

Quick as a whip, Sasuke was suddenly in front of him with an enraged right fist aimed at Naruto's smart mouth, only to be caught by the blond's left hand. The impact felt like catching the head of a sledgehammer in full swing, making Naruto grit his teeth and bear with the pain. Blue eyes peer into blood-red and black eyes, and Naruto can see, as much as physically feel, the deep pain and rage storming within Sasuke. For someone so close to him, even if only as a teammate, to be hurting this much makes him feel dejected.

Sasuke's left fist cocks back, ready to smash through his teammate's face, only to clap loudly, caught in Naruto's other hand and angering him further. Naruto doesn't let go and as they struggle, he notes the vein popping out of Sasuke's forehead and can imagine even simply defying the avenger is more than enough to fuel enrage him further. Still, Naruto won't let go or back down.

Unexpectedly, Sasuke's pure agony forces him to transform directly into the second state of his cursed seal. His skin turns gray, his hair lengthens past his shoulders, and two hand-like wings explode out his back—tearing his black Uchiha kimono. The enraged avenger's strength and speed increase dramatically, causing Naruto to quickly tap into Kurama's chakra to avoid being overwhelmed. His body is suddenly engulfed in a flaming coat of yellow chakra and six magatama form around his neck along with a black swirl at his stomach.

Having sensed the drastic increase in power emanating from the room, Haku, Gaara, and Kankurō burst through the front doors and sprint down the hall to witness Sasuke's demonic appearance, and Naruto, a sun in human form, linked and struggling at the hands like elemental creatures locked in a test of will.

"It's okay," the golden Naruto called out. Easily sensing their apprehension, he voices out. "I'm fine! We're fine!"

Anything that comes out of his mouth only adds fuel to the Avenger's rage and he yells, "what part of my family and clan's murder is fine!"

Naruto looked into his hate-filled eyes and expressed with every ounce of empathy in him, "what happened to your family was horrible! Terrible! I hate that it happened and I hate how much you're hurting because of it, but, this isn't smart! Whatever your plans are, the last thing you need right now is Anbu knocking down your door and interrogating both of us!" Sasuke seemed to waver in his fuming anger and Naruto added, "come on man, you're supposed to be the smart one on Team 7, so, calm the fuck down-"

Naruto was suddenly inside of his and Kurama's spiritual portal, and to his surprise, Sasuke, with his glowing Sharingan eyes was looking at the glowing source of his additional strength. Shocked Sasuke could be in this space, observing the large room, Naruto didn't move when the Avenger outstretches his hand and completely disrupts Kurama's chakra as only a Sharingan user can. The plethora of energy was not gone, but Naruto quickly felt the devastating imbalance and it effortlessly destabilizes his ratio control of his chakra network. His golden cloak flickered on and off as Naruto tried his hardest to regain Kurama's protective & power-enhancing chakra.

In that very instant, a demoniacal Sasuke—with evil-looking wings flexing up—was far stronger, faster, and durable. Superior in every way, it was effortless for him to punch Naruto in the face. With a meaty crunch, the blond is spun in place from the tremendous force, effortlessly allowing Sasuke to slip his teammate in a headlock. Tightening his grip around his weaker neck, Sasuke warns Haku, Gaara, and Kankurō with just his glare alone, and everyone knows with certainty the furious and mutated Sasuke would snap Naruto's neck in an instant if they tried anything.

Confused, reeling, and disoriented, a stunned Naruto fumbles to take a weapon out of his leg strap, but a strong grip from Sasuke has him drop his kunai on the floor by his feet with a loud metal thud. Bleeding heavily from the nose and mouth, Naruto grits his bloody teeth as he tries to regain his loopy senses.

Sasuke leans close to his captive's ear and growls, "how! Do! You! Know! About! My! Family? Who gave you the right to know these secrets? WHO TOLD YOU!" Naruto's constrained windpipe is suddenly forcibly closed as Sasuke yells, "answer me before I snap your neck like a twig and see if you can heal from that!"

Struggling to speak with his windpipe forcibly half-closed, Naruto pulls at Sasuke's strong arm as he squeaks, "yu- yo- yur… frieenndd!"

Observing from ten feet away, Haku and Gaara felt right away that was the wrong answer as Sasuke seemed to become still with seething wrath. Before sand or senbon could stay the Uchiha's homicidal hands, before Sasuke, himself, could snap Naruto's neck, everything freezes in place.

Adding more chakra into the Fūin-contract, the room around them warp away first, followed soon after by Haku & his thrown senbon, Gaara & his fired sand bullets, and Kankurō. The furniture around Naruto and Sasuke flatten and warp away into a cylindrical wall, followed by Sasuke himself until everything around Naruto warps away like wallpaper placed on a circular wall three feet away from him. He was in his tunnel now and exerting chakra from his hands, feet, elbows, and knees, he easily navigates the short distance from the seething Uchiha toward the beacon still placed on the calmer Uchiha, still hidden from everyone with genjutsu.

Sasuke's strong arms are suddenly twisting air rather than flesh and bone. His enhanced eyes alert him to the senbon and sand bullets he easily catches or dodges. Hearing the rough, loud sound of wheezing coughing behind him, Sasuke spins to the sight of Naruto gripping his strained neck as he tries to regain normal breathing. Shocked by how impossible that speed was, Sasuke demands to know, "how- how did you do that?"

Naruto's answer is to create a Rasengan in his right hand while his strained voice croaks, "oh… I'll be happy… to show you-"

Sasuke blinked and even with his powerful eyes, he couldn't see a hint of where Naruto went; as if he were simply gone from existence in an instant. The raven-haired avenger suddenly registers a large source of spirit energy behind him and barely manages to turn his head before he feels a force of nature akin to a meteor slam into his back, exploding his spine and cranium with unbridled pain.

Sasuke's enhanced sight of the room immediately spins in rapid circles as he's blown through the far wall, then through hard cabinets, shelves, and more walls like a human wrecking ball through seven rooms. He finally lands on the hardwood floor before rolling and skidding to a stop. Oozing blood from many cuts all over him, Sasuke can barely register the pain from his chest and face over the pure agony radiating from his spine, as if his back had been gouged out. In tandem with the throbbing agony, the dramatic loss of power in his body makes him wonder if he's paralyzed just before he passes out.

Despite knowing Haku, Gaara, and Kankurō are in the room, a heaving and bloody Naruto asks no one they can see, "want… ahem! Want me to… bring him to the hospital? I hit him full on so… I'm sure he's going to be down for a while." The other boys watch Naruto pause, as if listening to a response before roughly replying, "you sure you want to take care of him?" Again, he waits for a response. "Copy that. Oh, and, uh, sorry." He wipes the flowing blood from under his nose with his black sleeve before voicing, "yeah, I think so too. Baby steps, you know?" Weakly smiling with bloody teeth, Naruto affirms, "I'll be fine… thanks. See ya around." To his friends, he croaks, "let's go, guys."

Haku is quickly by Naruto's side asking with growing worry, "are you okay? Here let me take a look," he demands as he tenderly touches his bruising neck, jaw, cheek, and broken nose. Naruto allows Haku to look him over while he checks on Kurama. Though his furry friend is embarrassed and annoyed, he seems fine and Naruto allows him to rest in peace.

Gazing from the empty space behind them to Naruto, Kankurō wanted to know, "who were you talking to?"

As Haku is whipping the blood from under the blond's nose, Naruto croaks with a bit of a chuckle, "Sasuke's… nanny," hoping Itachi heard.

With deep thought expressed on his pale face, Gaara softly voices, "if only I met you as a child, I would've been better for it."

Smirking, Naruto cheerfully answers, "without a doubt," as he wraps his arm around Gaara's neck, suddenly scaring Kankurō. When Gaara didn't seem to mind, the four make their way back to Uzushio.

UZUSHIO

At the bloody sight of Naruto entering his large bare living room, pandemonium ensued. He took a seat at the makeshift carpenter's table as Kurenai, Karin, Ino, Hinata, and Temari surrounded him, disturbed and agitated at the beaten and bloody state of his face. Though Naruto didn't want to reveal who had done it, an irked Haku was quick to assert, "Sasuke," and the girls were instantly wrathful. With wide eyes, Naruto turns to his best friend as if to ask, 'what the hell?' However, Haku didn't seem to care, raising his chin and closing his eyes in defense of his action. Naruto then had to assure them he was fine and that he gave far more than he took. After refusing Karin's teeth-scarred arm for the third time, the meeting finally began.

Fortunately, there were enough seats or boxes for everyone to sit on, however, no two seats were alike and some boxes were taller than others. Naruto was at the north point of the long table with Karin and Haku on either side of him. Temari, Gaara, and Kankurō were on Karin's side while Kurenai, Hinata, and Ino were on Haku's side.

With a bandage on his face, Naruto begins by saying with a cluttered and strained voice, "so, I guess I should start by admitting I'm the Jinchūriki of the Nine-tails… for those that didn't know." Only two of the nine were surprised to hear such a confession.

"Uh, I didn't know that, at all," Ino gasped. The model blonde looked around the table and it appeared as if everyone but her and Hinata didn't know, urging her to ask, "is that what they meant when they said you have two chakras? Yours and the Kyūbis?"

"Uh, yeah," Naruto answered, wondering if he had ever told her. Shrugging his shoulder, he continues, "I think it's really important that we're all open and honest since we're going to be family. It's still against the law to talk about the Kyūbi so you'll have to keep it to yourselves but I can answer a few questions before we move on."

"Does it hurt," Hinata asks with a hint of worry. "Being the Jinchūriki?"

Smiling a lopsided smile, Naruto's battered mouth answers, "not always, but, the villagers who knew didn't treat me well because of it."

Having endured the same treatment, Gaara comments, "they treated you like a monster."

The two Jinchūriki easily empathize with each other's pain and Naruto nods before Ino states, "for the longest time, I wondered why so many people hated you… I remember my mom telling me they blame you for one of the worst days in the village, but I didn't think… I didn't think it was that."

Looking from her youngest brother to Ino, Temari elaborates, "without understanding, the villagers could only fear them. What they collectively feared, they then summarily judged as evil, to either be controlled or attacked. Without the strength to succeed in either, they hate from afar. It's the sad truth of being a Jinchūriki."

Naruto could feel their sympathetic gazes on his feverish skin, and though they're only being kind, he's moved beyond that sort of attention. Kurama's his friend now and nothing anyone says will convince him to feel ashamed of him. Waving his open palms at them to liven up, he assures them with the widest smile he can muster, "hey, come on. Everything's fine now. Most of the village doesn't treat me like that anymore and I have a lot of friends, family, and a clan to raise, so I'm really happy."

"Don't expect it to last," Kankurō speaks up, drawing curious glances from all of them. At Naruto's knitted brows, he elaborates, "the institution of marriage takes no prisoners. That expression, 'happy wife, happy life,' it's more like a threat than a motto… and you're marrying my sister-"

With a threatening hint of malice laced in her tone, an eerily calm Temari evenly interrupts, "Kankurō, it's not polite to speak out of turn." Her brother cleared his throat and remained silent.

Feeling oddly playful, Gaara asks Naruto, "would you still have her?" At the unexpected betrayal, Temari swivels to her youngest brother as he adds, "even if she can be overbearing?"

Temari grumbles, "not you too," as Naruto chuckles and smiles at Gaara, he nods.

"War between countries if you don't marry, personal war if you do," Kankurō chimes to Naruto while nudging Gaara with his shoulder. If not for the small smile on Gaara's mostly expressionless face, Temari would've throttled Kankurō. She instead just glares at him and Naruto continues chuckling, glancing over to Haku, Kurenai, Ino, and Hinata. Though they didn't know the Sand siblings well enough to be amused by their family banter, Naruto's contagious joy feels like a weight being lifted, giving them permission to smile and enjoy the moment with him.

Gaara continues to tell Naruto, "Baki informed us you must take a wife from Konoha as well." Turning to the kunoichi from Konoha—who stop smiling—he asks, "is that why you're here? And why you wanted to speak with Temari earlier? One of you will marry Naruto?"

Nodding, Kurenai answers, "yes-"

"Actually, all three of us are marrying Naruto," Ino flatly interjects, causing Kankurō to choke on his own spit going down the wrong tube, coughing violently. Though Gaara didn't know either, he only raises an eyebrow before turning to Naruto, who confirmed it with nimble nods.

"Talking to Sakura earlier made me realize I haven't told you guys," Naruto began to tell the group. "I want everyone here to know if this isn't what you want, for any reason, I want you guys to know you wouldn't be hurting my feelings by backing out. I only want…" Feeling more exposed under the gaze of nine of his closest friends and family, Naruto chuckles nervously as he fumbles to express, "what I'm trying to say is… I don't want anyone to regret this later on. I know what it's like to be alone, unwanted, and I promised myself if I ever made a friend, I'd never let them feel that way. So I'll give you the promise of a lifetime, even if we don't become husband and wife, or brothers, we're still friends, and I'll do everything in my power to never let my friends down."

Ponderous silence descends upon the gathering for several long moments. Everyone had their own thoughts about Naruto's life, his future, and their part in it. It was painfully clear to all he simply wanted the best for them, whether that meant proceeding with or without marriage. Those that knew him well enough weren't surprised by his integrity, and those whom didn't felt more favorable to him. The bright blond felt as comforting as a warm sunny day, and even Kankurō had to begrudgingly nod in acceptance to Temari.

Eerily unsettled by the long silence, a nervous Naruto sheepishly asks, "uh, did I say something wrong?" Karin put her hand on his shoulder, drawing his blue-eyed attention before she shakes her head, no, with a proud grin.

Standing abruptly, Hinata draws all their eyes and can barely maintain eye contact with each of them, but drew strength when Naruto's eyes settle on hers. Taking a deep breath, she states, "I'd be happy… t-to proceed. And I won't regret lo- lov- mmn, I won't regret this." Blushing furiously, she quickly sits down.

Proud of her student, Kurenai nods as well before answering, "I'm with Hinata. I won't regret marrying you either. Besides, we only just became a couple," she tacked on with a sinful smirk.

Shocked by the admission, a distraught Kankurō whips his head from the gorgeous adult to Naruto and back before yelling, "are you fucking serious?"

Humored, Kurenai nods in response before the second-born of the Kazekage's children turns to Ino. The beautiful blond turns to Naruto and only smirks and winks confidently as if she didn't need to restate her position. Kankurō then looked to Temari, asking with his desperate eyes if this was what she wanted.

"Oh, will you calm down," she chides her younger brother. "I realize the steps we took to gather here today but I will not back out now." Turning to Naruto, she asserts, "despite what I did, how I lied to you, and everyone here, I want to get to know you better. I want to build something real… if you'll have me, of course."

"Yeah, obviously," Naruto assures her with his trademark smile. "When we first met, I knew we'd eventually be really close but I didn't think we'd be family, which is awesome. I'd be happy to build a real connection with you, Temari. And I've always wanted brothers- Ah! Haku, you're my brother too, but, you know, it won't be by marriage… …unless," Naruto ponders aloud before looking at Kankurō.

Squinting his eyes, the face-painted puppeteer asks, "what?"

"He's not gay," Temari answered for him, making her brother sit up startle before wondering herself. "Actually, are you-"

Affronted, Kankurō reaffirms, "I'm not gay!"

Temari barely restrains a teasing smirk as Haku assures his best friend, "it's okay, Naruto. He's not my type either."

"What is your type, actually," Ino asked. "I've been dying to know."

Everyone turns to Haku who pleasantly smiles before answering, "peculiar men."

"…Well, if that's not mysterious," Karin interjects. Turning to the others, she voices, "if we're all certain about our decisions, I feel it's important for everyone to know that our clan is only just restarting. As you can see, we still have a long way to go before we're completely comfortable, but we're not stopping until our clan returns to our former prominence. To that end, we owe a great deal of gratitude to Ino-chan's family and Kurenai-sensei. If not for them, we wouldn't have had the position to buy this land with which to restart our clan on."

Naruto claps for them, prompting everyone else to clap for them as well. He then gestures to his cousin before announcing, "our deputy-head here has been doing a great job getting us going, as well." Everyone claps for Karin before Naruto laments, "makes me wish I'd be around more. I'll start leaving clones for you every morning to help out."

Confused, Karin asks, "wait, what? What do you mean you wish you'd be around more?"

"Uh, that's the other thing I wanted to mention," he told her before turning to the others. Taking a deep breath, he flatly states to them, "there's something coming. Something we all need to prepare for." Recalling his conversation with Tsunade, Jiraiya, and Ji-chan, Naruto groans as he admits, "I don't know how much I'm allowed to say just yet, but, I'll say this much. There's a really, really dangerous group of ninjas out there who are planning to do terrible things to our countries and the entire world. Part of their plan is to capture Bijū, so, they're after me, Gaara, and others like us for what's sealed within us. So, we have to train hard if we want to stop them."

The room remains silent for several moments after Naruto finishes and a series of questions fill their heads. Temari is the first to ask, "what more can you tell us?" Looking at Gaara with worry, she adds, "this is the first we're hearing about this."

"I've been ordered to keep it classified for now," Naruto sadly denotes.

To be certain, a suddenly strict Kurenai asks, "by Sandaime-sama?" Naruto nods in the affirmative before the raven-haired Jōnin-sensei states for all to hear, "then until you're given permission, you shouldn't say more."

"I already cleared telling Gaara with Ji-chan, since it involves him," Naruto affirms. Looking to the others, he expresses, "sorry, I want to tell you guys, too, but it's early stages. When I get the all-clear, I'll definitely tell you guys more."

A serious Kankurō wonders, "do you have a time frame?"

"Mmmn," the blond hummed before finishing, "not sure. Depends on how fast they come after us."

"How strong is this group," Kankurō continues, eager to learn more.

"Some of the strongest you can imagine," Naruto vaguely answers.

"Can't you tell us more," Kankurō protests. "This is our brother we're talking about."

Ino hotly contests, "it's Naruto too, you know!"

In a calmer tone, Kurenai explains, "he's under direct orders from the Hokage. He's not even supposed to talk about his status as a Jinchūriki, but he did so to be honest with all of us. When he's allowed to say more, you can be sure he will."

"If Gaara knows," Temari starts, looking at her brother. "That's enough for me." Turning to Naruto and Karin, she asks, "can we visit the Sandaime?" At their questioning looks, Temari elaborates, "as you know, the civilians of this village and some in this country won't truly accept the peace treaty between us until you and I are married, but it hasn't even been announced yet. I'd like to begin the process."

"We have to inform him of our decision first," Kurenai replies with some trepidation over how their leader will react to the news.

Looking between Naruto and Kurenai, Temari asks, "is today okay?"

"I was waiting for Naruto to return," Kurenai pointedly remarks. "It'd be unfair to make this decision without his input." Gazing at Naruto for a moment, Kurenai decides, "I feel Ino, Hinata, and I should inform Hokage-sama that the three of us want to join the Omiai. I'm certain things will pick up speed from there."

Facing Kurenai, Ino, and Hinata individually, he asks with his eyes if anyone had objections. When it didn't seem like any of them were against it, he then shares with Temari, "Ji-chan is still recovering so if not today then tomorrow." With Temari's nod, Naruto whips his eyes on Gaara before then asking everyone, "do you guys mind if Gaara and I talk? It's really important."

"If it'll help keep him alive, go for it," Kankurō asserted, almost as if daring anyone to object to sharing vital intelligence. "We'll just stay here."

Kurenai stands before eying Hinata and Ino, who follow suit, and tells Naruto, "dinner at mine tonight." She faces the others and humbly offers, "regardless of how it happened, you're all important parts of Naruto's life now, which means you're part of mine too. I think the best foot forward is getting to know each other. So, I'd like to invite you to my home this evening for dinner."

Temari stands as well. She observes each of her potential sister-wives before nodding and answering Kurenai, "thank you. We'd be happy to."

"Sweet," an exuberant Naruto called out, hopping off his seat. He grips Gaara's elbow and pulls him up before leading him out of the room, calling out over his shoulder, "see you tonight!"

Naruto takes Gaara to his office and the blond Jinchūriki activates his Fūinjutsu security measures before hopping on the basic table and sitting cross-legged. There's enough space for Gaara to sit in front of him and Naruto pats the smooth space to urge his soon-to-be brother to sit. The redhead appeared like a fish out of water, nervously looking around, unsure of how to handle such an extroverted person, but eventually, he hops onto the tabletop and sits cross-legged in front of Naruto.

What followed was a two-hour-long conversation about their bijū; the truth of their origin, their names, how to talk to them, and what it could mean to be friends and partners with them as opposed to adversaries who only feel shackled to one another. He told Gaara about Akatsuki, their goal of kidnapping all the Jinchūriki and strip their bijū from them, and the possibility of merging them all back together to create the Jūbi, making them the strongest group on the planet. It was a very sobering two hours and Gaara appeared more stoic than ever before.

After two minutes of ponderous silence, Gaara asks, "can I tell my family?"

"Well, I can't tell you not to," Naruto weakly professes. "I'll just say do what you think is best."

"We should train together," Gaara suggested.

With a strong fist pump, Naruto yells, "Definitely! Oh! You should come with me when we go to Kumo!"

"Kumogakure?"

TSUNADE

Sitting at the Hokage's desk, Tsunade is reading the first page of each stack of paper before shuffling it to the side for Shizune to organize piles on any available surface area still available on the desk while also explaining to Darui that both Naruto and the Hokage have approved the Omiai with Kumogakure. While Hiruzen is resting in his residence, Tsunade had promised to take care of a few of the important tasks on the day's agenda. With Nara Shikaku and Shizune's help, it wasn't overly arduous, however, Tsunade was still craving a drink.

Darui only nodded, his bored face never betraying his thoughts, however, when he realizes she didn't see him nod, he answers, "understood." The lowering sun more-easily shining into the office brightens Tsunade and the desk as she asks who Kumo want Naruto to marry. Darui answers, "Nosekai Samui, of the Nosekai clan in Kumogakure, one of the founding clans, and a Jōnin."

"Okay," Tsunade dully voiced before assuring the Kumo-nin, "I'll inform-"

"And Shizen Mabui," Darui interrupted, before adding, "recently promoted to Jōnin and head secretary to Raikage-sama."

Tsunade stops arranging paperwork and both she and Shizune finally pay attention to Dauri before the next Hokage asks with a confused expression, "excuse me?"

Tsunade was impressed with his poker face but the afro-blond pauses for a break longer than necessary, making her Tsunade wonder if—like a gambler's tell—the pause is something she should pay closer attention to. Clearing his throat, the Kumo-nin seems willing to admit, "they both want to do this for their country… and they seem fond of him."

Tsunade glances over to the attentive Shizune, who raises her eyebrows, then back to Darui before verifying, "both of them?"

"…They're adamant," Darui lazily submits. "Will that be a problem?"

"…No," Tsunade finds herself saying, praying this ploy eventually falls apart. When the future Hokage mentions, "Naruto is fond of them as well," she noted Darui's shoulder tense enough to hear cracking sounds from his shoulder joints. Other than mentally filing away his response, she continues to explain, "with bodyguards, Naruto will travel to Kumo to meet the Raikage no earlier than a week. Though that may change depending on various factors. If we're delayed too long, please expect a courier with an explanation."

"Understood," Darui lazily voiced, adding, "so long as we have an idea of when to expect you, so that we may prepare properly for his arrival." Tsunade didn't like the sound of that, however, it could just as easily be nothing than that. She nods in agreement, wishes them safe travels, and they leave immediately afterward.

It takes several minutes for the sensor-types to sweep the room for any enemy surveillance. When their specialists guarantee the room's privacy, Shizune asks, "what team have you decided will go with Team 7? "

"I decided on a few teams."

"It's highly likely we'll be sending them into a trap," Shizune can't help but point out.

Tsunade only smirks sadly, voicing in a melancholy tone, "such is the life."

"Tsunade-sama-"

"It's okay, Shizune," Tsunade interjects. Disregarding her negative outlook, she states with a more energetic mood, "I realize it's very likely a trap, but Naruto knows that too and he's still going regardless. He has to. We'll just have to plan for every event."

"I understand that," Shizune voices, easily recalling everything Tsunade divulged to her earlier. "But no plan survives first contact with the enemy."

"Dan used to say that," Tsunade happily recalls, to which Shizune nodded.

The dutiful assistant expresses, "I know Naruto-kun is very strong and unlikely to die, but I'm worried there may be casualties we can't prepare for."

Eying Shizune with grave seriousness, Tsunade evenly states, "that's the job."

As evident by her reluctant expression, it's not what Shizune likes to hear, however, a knock at the door interrupts them. The secretary states who is there to see her. Both Tsunade and Shizune grow curious for the visit and allow a stern-looking Sakura to enter the office.

INO

Kurenai, Ino, and Hinata have been waiting in the reception area for nearing ten minutes when the door to the Hokage's office finally opens and out walks Sakura carrying a stack of books from hands to right under her chin. Ino is shocked at the sight of her sister-friend and rushes to her. Ino notes the seriousness in her green eyes, as if determined to the point of anger.

"Sakura," she gasps, before running her hand through her roughly cut pink hair. "What happened to your hair!"

Sakura tried to shrug, but with the books in her arms, it wasn't effective. Swaying her now shoulder-length pink hair, she voiced, "Tsunade-sama didn't think I was serious enough. So I had to show her how serious I was."

"Serious about what?"

"I asked her to take me in as her student," Sakura boldly answered.

"Wha- are you serious," Ino gasps. Looking at the stack of books from hands to chin and her confident expression, they all realized what Tsunade's answer was. Excited by the news, Ino had to ask, "she actually took you as her disciple? Thee one and only Tsunade-sama of the Senju? Sakura, that's amazing!"

"It certainly is," Kurenai voiced from behind Ino.

"Congratulations," Hinata voices.

The pinkette nods to them before telling Ino, "she already gave me a ton to do, so I have to go study."

Sakura motions to leave when Ino stops her to say, "ah, before you go, want to come to dinner at Kurenai-sensei's tonight? Everyone's going to be there."

With raised eyebrows, Sakura asks, "even Naruto?"

"Especially Naruto," Ino easily remarked with a smirk.

The pink-haired kunoichi hesitates to answer right away. It's evident she has a lot on her mind and eventually voices, "um… if I have time, maybe." At Ino's disbelief, Sakura adds, "sorry, Ino, but if I ever want to catch up to the rest of my team, I have a lot to learn."

Ino argues, "you have to eat too, you know."

Scrunching her face apologetically, Sakura winces a bit before answering, "I'll let you know if I change my mind."

However, Ino was undeterred and quickly promises, "I'll make a plate for you, so you better come and eat before I go get you."

Snorting a bit with light happiness as she thins her lips to restrain her smile, Sakura jests, "bossy as ever," before walking away.

Ino smiles with a measure of pride as she watches Sakura walk away, then yells, "and fix your hair!"

Ino, Hinata, and Kurenai stand in front of Tsunade of the Senju and are surprised to learn that she'll be the next Hokage. After explaining that Hiruzen is resting for the remainder of the day, Kurenai highlights the key points of the Omiai before then rendering their decision.

Tsunade pans her rounded eyes from the three kunoichi in front of them to the very stunned Shizune beside her, then back before clarifying, "the three of you?"

"Hai, Hokage-sama," Kurenai answered with respect.

First Mabui and Samui, and now Kurenai, Ino, and Hinata, Tsunade leans closer to her dutiful friend and assistant to whisper, "what is going on here?" Shizune could only shake her head with just as much uncertainty and bafflement. Clearing her throat, Tsunade sits straighter before looking to the highest-ranked and most responsible, and speaking, "Kurenai-sensei, simply put, I'm at a loss. Please explain your decision and keep in mind, if it's not satisfactory, I may have to decline this… whatever this is."

"Hai, Hokage-sama," Kurenai returned. She glances at the girl at each side of her before explaining to their leader, "we love him… like no other, and rather than give up on that love, we've decided to marry him."

Tsunade is more obvious when she whips her head to Shizune, and asks with her eyes alone, 'what the fuck?' Shizune shrugs and shakes her head, easily relaying to everyone with eyes, 'I don't know.' Tsunade returns her focus on Kurenai and simply admits, "…I still don't understand." Clearing her throat, she asks, "do you mean love, as in romantic love? Also, why the three of you? And, why not just his girlfriend?" The final question was directed at Kurenai and Tsunade could tell it bothered the other two, however, they remained disciplined in front of the legendary kunoichi and soon-to-be Hokage.

Kurenai states, "I prepared a black scroll for this eventuality, if you'd like to read it. There are specific events and background that's led us to this point, however, the details will only reinforce what we're telling you now. We fell in love with him before this Omiai. We understand our duty comes first, of course, however, as people with hearts and minds, we can't ignore our feelings. The uniqueness of this situation is simply allowing us to abide by our duty without giving up on the man we love."

Stunned and confused, Tsunade had to triple-check by asking, "…the three of you?" In unison, they reply, "hai, Hokage," yet again sending Tsunade's mind for a loop. Everyone's astonishment is truly beginning to amuse Ino, however, it wasn't funny when Tsunade exhales before telling them, "I have to discuss this with sensei, and if I'm being honest with you, I don't see how he can approve this. In either case, you'll have our answer by end of day tomorrow. Dismissed."


40 chapters! Thank you for those who noticed. Happy Birthday to The Last Prayer. 2 Years old and 40 chapters deep!

This chapter wasn't supposed to be so long. The big dinner that I mentioned was supposed to be in this chap as well, but the more I thought about other characters, what they know, and what they want to know, the bigger the chapter got. So, the next chapter will continue right were we left off here.

Also, there will be lemons, dammit! I don't care if it doesn't make sense in the story, I started this whole thing to write lemons and it's been like 6 or 7 chapters since the last one! That's like 6 or 7 months ago. Anyway, it's coming soon and a lot of it, so for those that don't like that kind of stuff, the next chapter may not be your fav.

I harped on the whole moving on from the Uzumaki massacre in canon because it always irked me that Kishimoto would ignore one of the biggest events in the lineage of the main character. No, we only have time enough to delve into the Uchiha and their past… gimme a break.

Any artists out there… Sakura opening the Inner Gates on top of the Hundred Seal. Red skin, pink hair, the tattoo-like marks, green glow around their skin. Make it happen.

Average cost of furnishing an entire 3bd/2bth home is around $45 K(USD). Convert that to Yen and it's ¥4.91 Million(JPY). Convert that to Feudal Japan's ryō, and that's 5.94 Million. Little research like this is fun for me.

Lastly, I want to thank my fans and amazing patrons for your continued support! I always say I love writing so I'd do it with or without fans, but you guys make want to write every single day! For those who'd like to support, you can become a patron on pay (tree) /graefoxx. Or you can tip by purchasing my book on Amazon, called Old Hand Steel by Santana Bazil. It's three bucks, like a cup of coffee. Thanks again friends 😊😊

I'll write as fast as I can but I'm not sure when the next update will be. Thanks a bunch. Please be safe out there and have a great one,

-Grae