AN at the bottom is fairly important. Disclaimer for the ENTIRE story. I don't own Naruto. I wish I did, but I don't.


There are a few religions that believe in reincarnation. I didn't belong to any of them. Reincarnation is the belief that a soul is eternal. It doesn't die. I just couldn't get behind that thought process. Probably because it lead me to thoughts about how the soul came into being the first time. Also, how are new souls being created? In all of those religions, the gods are dead themselves. It made no sense to me. The population of the earth kept growing. Too many for the theory of reincarnation to account for. So, no. I didn't believe in those religions.

It didn't really matter, in the end. I WAS reborn... Just not in the way I expected. No, that isn't right. I never actually expected to BE reborn. But I was all the same. Not that I really knew that's what happened to me. Not at first.

You see, an infants brain isn't fully developed after birth. It isn't capable of the higher functioning thought processes of an adult. So, those fuzzy colors and blurry blobs that occasionally popped into my head never set off any signals for me. The weird noises didn't register. Those things just... WERE. That was my theory anyway. Not that I could test it...

To be completely honest, once the realization I was a baby for the second time hit me, I was glad I wasn't fully there to remember it. Side note, teething sucked. No wonder babies cried so much. That aside, I didn't WANT to remember being breastfed. Being aware of being changed was bad enough. Not being able to do things for myself... Frustrating didn't even cover it.

I don't know how old I was when I settled into my new head. Not quite a toddler, I don't think. I could roll over so that was something. That was about it. My caretaker left me to my own devices for the most part. The part of me that knew I had been an independent twenty-five-year-old woman didn't mind. However, I wasn't in my twenties. I was a baby. Whoever my new parents were should fire that woman. She barely seemed to remember to feed me.

The woman was pretty if a bit of a space case. She'd stare vacantly into space, often for hours on end. Sometimes, she'd set me in an enclosed area and go to sleep on the couch. A couple of times, when I had to resort to crying to get changed after soiling myself, she'd look irritated. I couldn't help but think she should try sitting in a dirty diaper and see how she liked it.

It wasn't all bad. There were moments when she'd rush into the room I was in as if she was worried. She'd scoop me up and speak softly to me with words I couldn't understand. Sometimes she would cry while she rocked me. I'd come to the conclusion I'd been orphaned in this new life after I'd spent maybe a month (don't ask me how I figured the timing. It's very hard to keep days straight as an infant what with sleeping all the time...) with this confusing woman. A woman who should not have ever been put in charge of a baby. That conclusion was shattered the day a man walked into the room I was in.

I just knew, from the very first moment I'd set my eyes on him, that he was my father. He came and picked me up, holding me in a tight hug. This feeling of love and comfort and HOME filled me when he did. I'd let my head rest against him, content. Then he went and walked towards the woman that had been watching me and... kissed her.

The negligent woman was my mother... My mind couldn't comprehend that revelation. I hadn't even realized I'd started crying until my father was rocking me gently. The actions, or perhaps inactions was the better word, of my mother in this life did not bode well.

...

My father was only home for short periods of time. I cherished those moments. My mother seemed to come out of herself when he was around. Her eyes were bright. She'd laugh and play with me. We were happy.

Then he would leave. Usually for a month at a time. My mother would revert back to her confusing self. Knowing that she WAS my mother meant that her actions were seen in a new light. I wasn't a doctor before but I had suffered from depression. So I knew the signs. Postpartum Depression. I... was older than a few months though. I knew that much. Which is why her behavior was so concerning. PPD normally only lasted a couple months after the birth of a child. Going by my progress physically, I was older than a year.

It turned out I was closer to two. Found that out when my dad came back one day and started talking to me about it. My grasp of the foreign language wasn't perfect but it was a lot better than it had any right to be. Thank God for the child brain being a flipping sponge. Anyway, my second birthday. My mother went out to pick up the things needed for my birthday dinner I'd chosen. Udon and yakitori, in case anyone wanted to know.

While she was out, I decided it might be a good idea to let my father know about the difficulties my mother was facing while he was gone. I'd done my best to make it easier on her. I kept my crying to a minimum. Only when I needed to be changed or if she hadn't fed me by noon. I was quiet beyond that. I was only a child and could hold a conversation yet so I tried the 'being there' for her approach. I'm not sure it really worked.

Sure, I didn't feel as strongly for her as I did my father. There is something to be said for those books on bonding with your child after all. Still, she WAS my mom in this new life and I loved her. She was just struggling right now. I wouldn't give up on her. Of course, trying to tell my dad was easier said than done. I was only turning two. My comprehension of the language was better than my ability to speak it. I had to try though.

"Daddy..." I felt my heart swell when he sent me a smile.

"Yes, Nazoko-chan?"

I frowned as I tried to think of the words. "Mommy... Mommy sick."

It was his turn to frown. "What do you mean?"

"Mommy sick. Mommy not... okay." I made a frustrated noise. Not at him but at my own lack of ability to say what I wanted to. How did I convey that my mother was suffering mentally with the vocabulary of a, well, a two-year-old? I pointed to my head. "Mommy sick here." I sent him a silent plea to understand.

"You mean she has a headache?" He questioned with a tilted head.

I shook mine in response. "No. Daddy gone then Mommy sick here." I, again, pointed to my head.

He seemed to consider me silently for a few moments. "Okay, sweetie. I'll talk to Mommy."

I don't know if he really understood what I was trying to say, but at least he didn't brush it off as two-year-old nonsense. Then Mother came back and the conversation was over.

...

"Nazoko-chan, would you like some onigiri?"

She looked up from her crayon squiggles, she was working on getting better hand-eye coordination but she'd keep letting everyone else believe it was just squiggles. Her mother was standing in the room with a gentle smile on her face.

Ever since the conversation with her father, things seemed better. Perhaps it was wishful thinking on her part, but a little trust could go a long way. Her mother gave her more attention and rarely missed mealtimes.

"Nazoko-chan?"

With a start, Nazoko realized she's been staring at her mother for a little too long. She felt the blood rush to her face, an over-reaction because she was just a child and didn't have good enough control over her own body yet, and sent her mother a shy smile. "Okay."

She heaved herself to her pudgy feet and followed her mother to the table. She hid her grimace at the umeboshi. Perhaps it was her tastes but she just couldn't get behind pickled plums. Still, she munched on it without complaint. She was an adult, at least in mind, she could at least appreciate the effort her new mother had put into the snack.

Her mother sat at the table with her and stared at her with her head tilted. "Nazoko-chan, I think we will go out into the backyard after this."

Nazoko blinked a few times, her cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk after a particularly large bite. She swallowed painfully and gave a cough. "Okay, Kaa-san." She didn't miss the way her mother's lips quirked up at the sides and her insides warmed a little.

'This. This is what it's supposed to feel like,' Nazoko thought. It had worried her when she didn't feel the same love for her mother that she had for her father. It was nearly twice as worrisome since her mother was the only constant in her life. Her father would be gone for a month or two at a time and was only back for a week before needing to leave again.

There was a process that, to most people, was natural. Simply doing things like holding your child or taking a few minutes here and there to play with them was enough, in most cases, to form a bond. PPD, or postpartum depression, made it hard for the mother to do that. It was likely due to the sudden decrease in hormones. It wasn't a fun situation.

Nazoko had gotten so lost in her thoughts she didn't even realize she'd finished until she was standing outside with her mother. Time outside was a rare thing when her father was gone.

"Come here, Nazoko-chan. I'm going to show you the proper way to stretch."

The stretches her mother showed her were a little more intense than the ones she'd learned in gym class once upon a time. Or maybe it just seemed that way to her since she was still only two. It took about half an hour to go through the simple routine.

Her mother sent her a tiny smile. "Good. Now I want you to run around the yard. I'd like you to keep going until I ask you to stop."

Nazoko tilted her head slightly. Her mother probably just wanted her to run off any excess energy. She shrugged it off mentally. "Okay, Kaa-san." She decided to just run along the side of the fence that sectioned off their backyard. It was fairly large, at least it was to her small body. It only took three laps until she was thoroughly winded.

"Keep going!" Her mother snapped.

Nazoko jumped and ended up falling to the ground getting a face full of dirt and scraped knees in the process. A second later a hand gripped her upper arms and pulled her up. She couldn't help the small trill of fear that rippled down her spine when she saw the ugly sneer that twisted her mother beautiful face. It was replaced by a horrified look the next second.

"Nazoko-chan! You're hurt. I'm so sorry! I- Let's get you cleaned up. I think we're done here."

Her mother cleaned her up mechanically. She pulled her pajamas over her head and placed her in her crib before leaving the room. Nazoko didn't eat supper that night.

The next morning came with her mother rushing into the room. The relief on her face was... Well, it made her feel a little relieved as well. It must have just been a small relapse. She was very attentive all day. A little after lunch, Nazoko decided to bite the bullet and ask her if it was okay to do the stretches again. It was selfish of her, she'll admit. She wanted to go outside. She thought she felt worse about NOT feeling worse that it could trigger another relapse.

She didn't have to worry, it seemed. Her mother agreed and stood patiently while she did the stretches. The laps around the yard were fine as well, though she did push her to make it to five. She was tired after that but her mother decided it would be a good idea to teach her even more stretches, although this new set was for her hands. She just shrugged it off. It hadn't triggered her. Things were going well.

...

"Kaa-san, could you read this to me?" Nazoko asked her mother.

Her mother didn't answer and just continued to stare out the window.

"Kaa-san?" She placed a hand on her mother's arm. Faster than she could see, her mother's hand moved. A resounding slap echoed in the quiet house and Nazoko's cheek was left stinging. Her palms were raw where they had slid across the wooden floor. She brought one up to her cheeks, tears gathering in her eyes from surprise. "K-kaa-san?"

Her mother stared at her with a blank face. Her grey eyes were cold. Slowly, her head turned back to look out the window. There had been no recognition.

Nazoko took a quiet, shuddering breath before she walked back to her room. She slid the door closed and curled up on the floor by her crib. Today was a bad day.

...

Her father had been due to be home a week ago. He still wasn't and Nazoko was worried. Her mother had gotten worse. Where was her father? Why wasn't he back yet? She really needed him to be there.

She slid her door open just enough for her to peek her head out. Her mother was in the kitchen.

"Red bean mochi is your favorite, right Kenta? I think I need to pick up some more green tea powder. Then I can make enough from the both of us. Doesn't that sound nice? I think so too."

Nazoko pulled back into her room and slid her door shut. Kenta was her father's name. He wasn't home. There was no one else in the house beside the mother and child. Her mother had gotten a lot worse.

She slid down the wall she'd leaned against and pulled her legs to her chest. She'd resigned herself to staying in her room again for the fifth day in a row.

It took an hour before her mother left to do some shopping. Nazoko waited for fifteen minutes to make sure her mother wouldn't actually come back before she quickly crept out of her room. She practically flew to the kitchen. She'd never been outside of the house so she didn't know how long she had before her mother came back.

During her time being fully aware, she'd come to the conclusion that she'd been born in a rural area of Japan. She never heard any cars outside. So, that would mean their house was in the country or in an out of the way village. If the first, she had some time to find something to quiet her grumbling tummy. If the latter, she might only have minutes. She didn't want to risk it. The bruise on her cheek had only just faded.

She had to use all of her body weight to open the fridge. Being tiny sucked, she decided as she rubbed her sore butt once she stood up. There was an onigiri on the top shelf. She carefully placed her foot on the bottom shelf to get enough hight. Her foot slipped as she grabbed the snack.

Her chin hit the second shelf hard and the milk tipped over, splashing her and the floor. She tasted blood in her mouth from where she'd bitten her cheek on impact and could only stare at the mess in horror.

She froze for a few seconds before her brain kicked into gear. She needed to clean up fast. She whipped her head around frantically, searching for a towel. When none were within reaching distance she pulled her shirt over her head and set about wiping up the spill. She tried to be as meticulous as possible. She didn't know what her mother would do if she saw something amiss. Nazoko couldn't risk it.

She heaved a sigh as she sat back. She didn't think anything was different besides the drop in milk. She could only hope that was enough. She closed the door to the fridge and eyed the incriminating onigiri. If she was going to get in trouble, she might as well get in trouble without a growling tummy.

She scarfed the food down as she quickly grabbed a new set of clothes and made her way to the bathroom. She struggled to get her bottoms off before turning the shower on. It was a difficult job. She barely reached the handles and only just had the strength to turn the water on. The water was freezing but she forced herself to wash quickly.

She took the quickest shower of her life, in either life, and turned the water off. It was harder this time around. Her hands had gone numb from the cold and she couldn't stop shaking. Still, she managed. She used a spare shirt to dry herself off then clumsily got dressed the best she could. She spent a few minutes using the shirt to dry the floor. Couldn't be too overly cautious.

Her heart only stopped racing once she'd made it back into her room. She couldn't climb into her crib so she settled down into the blanket and pillow on the floor next to it. The little excursion out of her room took what little energy she had. She was out in seconds.

...

Something was different. Nazoko knew it the moment she was even half awake. Something in the air felt oppressive. She pulled in a sharp breath and opened her eyes before turning her head. She let out a startled gasp.

"K-kaa-san!"

Her mother tilted her head as she stared down at the trembling form on the floor. "You've been a naughty child." Her tone was flat. Not even a hint of emotion was to be found.

Nazoko blinked rapidly to clear the sleep from her eyes. It was hard to see anything else in the room. The moon was the only light and her mother was bathed in the light from the window. It made her look like some sort of angel of death. Doubly so when she shifted and the light hit an oddly shaped object in her hands.

"I'm going to make everything better. Mommy's going to fix everything."

Her already thudding heart lurched painfully in her chest as the pressure in the room increased. She could barely draw in a breath as she saw her mother raise the object. The light glinted ominously along one of the four edges of what she now knew was a knife. She managed a strangled scream.

Her door burst open and she jolted back. Her head smashed against the edge of her crib. Nazoko managed to catch sight of her father's horrified gaze before darkness consumed her vision.

...

It was to an annoying beeping that Nazoko woke up. Her eyelids fluttered open and she saw a white tiled ceiling. There was a faint buzzing in the air that was palpable.

'Hospital.' The knowledge didn't make her feel anything. It was just a fact. She was in the hospital. The question was, 'why was she in the hospital?' As the images rushed forward she regretted her question. She closed her eyes against the onslaught of the memory. The beeping had picked up its pace, as had her breathing.

A rustle of clothing came from a corner of the room and she tensed, her heart monitor skipping a beat before shifting into overdrive. She opened her eyes and turned her head slowly, wary of who she would see. She felt tears threaten to fall as her anxiety and fear overloaded her tiny body.

Her eyes landed a solitary figure. Dressed in all black besides a grey chest plate and arm guards. A white mask covered his face with red-rimmed eye holes and two thick red lines on each cheek.

She had a sudden urge to laugh. If it weren't for the memory she had of her father when he burst into her room, wearing a green flak jacket, bandages wrapped around his thigh, and a headband engraved with a stylized leaf, she would have thought this was a weird cosplay dream.

She'd come to accept that she had been reborn. She might have even believed that she had been reborn into some weird past time with no cars or telephones. But THIS? This was just too much.

So yeah, the urge to laugh at the ridiculousness of her new reality hit her hard. Yet, it didn't drown out the urge she had to cry. To scream. In the end, with her head and emotions completely in chaos, she did nothing. She COULDN'T do anything. The conflicting emotions and her warring thoughts weren't able to be processed by her underdeveloped brain and body. She was left numb.

The Anbu man tilted his head the slightest bit. He probably found it odd that the heart monitor had gone back to a steady rhythm seconds after she spotted him. She was a two-year-old who was just attacked by her own mother and was now alone in a room with a stranger. Any normal child would be crying right now.

Then again, she wasn't a normal child. She turned her head and looked down at her body. She looked even smaller when compared to the size of the normal hospital bed. She had an IV in her arm and one of those sticker things on her chest for the monitor. After briefly tensing and untensing her various body parts, she ascertained that her body wasn't injured so she pushed herself upright. Her head began pounding. Reaching up, her hand landed on a patch of bandages.

Oh. That's right. She'd hit her head. She shrugged it off and pulled her pillow into a better place to keep her upright. Once she was satisfied with her new position, she turned back to the Anbu.

The second look, she studied him a little closer. His posture was open but tense. So, he didn't want to appear threatening but he was ready to MOVE if the need arose. His head was still tilted. He was curious. About her, yes, but she didn't know what he was trying to figure out. She had no doubt that he was studying her too.

"Are you allowed to talk?" She swore she FELT his surprise though he made no outward sign of it. He probably wasn't expecting that to be her first question.

"I am." His voice came out distorted somehow. Knowing what she did, she supposed it wasn't all that odd. Just like the fact that his hair was covered. When she thought about it, it actually was rather odd that the Anbu division hadn't covered their DISTINCTIVE hairstyles and colors or their voices. Then again, the author did need some way to show the reader, or the watcher in her case, who was behind the mask.

This wasn't the television show she grew up with though. This was all very real. The last year was enough to show her that. Now that she was thinking about time...

"How long was I..." She frowned when she couldn't think of the word she wanted. "Asleep?" At least she was able to force some emotion into her voice. She'd deal with the trauma later, she told herself.

"You were unconscious for nineteen hours."

She nodded then heaved a sigh. A concussion then. It could have been worse. She nearly asked him what happened while she was out but pushed that thought away. She wasn't ready to deal with any thoughts of her mother right now. She moved to the next question. "Where is Tou-san?"

"He'll be along shortly."

Her eyes narrowed. His tone was off even with the filtered voice. Hm... A knock at the door disrupted her from her thoughts. She flicked her eyes over to it as it opened. Two people walked in and... Oh, fuck! Her heartbeat picked up its pace slightly as pressure seemed to close in on her with each step the men took towards her. The robes and hat gave the first man's identity away. The Hokage. The Third Hokage, to be precise. A rather younger version than she would have expected to see. She chose not to dwell on the implications of that. The more pressing matter is why was he here and why was there a Yamanaka with him? For the second man could only be a Yamanaka with the blonde hair, that was really more like straw in color, and the teal pupilless eyes.

Her response was automatic. When faced with a situation she didn't know how to handle, lay on the sarcasm. If anyone asked, she'd blame the whole thing on child ignorance. "Normally, when people knock, they wait for an invitation before letting themselves in."

Everyone in the room froze. If it weren't for her current head injury, she probably would have smacked herself in the head. To her surprise, the Hokage chuckled.

"I suppose you are right. Forgive my rudeness, Nazoko-chan." His tone was comforting but his gaze was sharp. "You are rather well spoken for such a young child." He said it as a simple statement.

It worked in her favor. It meant that she didn't need to respond. She hadn't had time to really think about what she was going to do. Regardless of where she was in the timeline, and she suspected it was before Minato was killed due to Hiruzen's appearance, she couldn't live as a civilian. That would put her at a very distinct disadvantage.

If Hiruzen was alive, that meant Danzo was too. She didn't want his attention on her. Not that she'd be a prodigy. Sure, she could probably pass all the academic tests of the academy, once she learned how to read and write the language, well before the other children, but she probably wouldn't be anything amazing to look at physically. She'd have to play that carefully when she entered the academy, and enter it she would.

On the other hand, was this even the same world that Kishimoto wrote about? Her eyes strayed to the anbu in the room before moving back to Hiruzen. Not everything he "wrote" was accurate. Maybe everything she THOUGHT she knew about future events was wrong as well? Either way, whatever plans she'd make would be ruined if the Yamanaka used his clan jutsu. She couldn't help the weary look she sent him.

"My apologies, again. I didn't introduce myself. I am Sarutobi Hiruzen, the Third Hokage. This is Inoki Yamanaka, head of the Yamanaka clan. May I sit?" He gestured to the chair beside her hospital bed.

She nodded.

"Thank you."

"Where is Tou-san?" She asked before he could say anything more.

He studied her for a moment. "He will be in here shortly." He paused. "Can you tell me what happened to you?"

She blinked. That's why he was in here? "Kaa-san is sick," she answered bluntly. The numbness she'd pushed away came rushing back. She didn't offer anything more. She'd let him steer the conversation.

He didn't disappoint. "What do you mean?"

"Kaa-san is sick. Up here." She pointed to her head. "And here." She pointed to her heart. She was glad she didn't know the correct words, for once. It could only help her paint the picture of an innocent two... well, she was almost three now, she supposed... year-old.

"When did you start to believe she was sick?" Hiruzen prompted.

She shrugged. It was the truth. She really didn't know her age at the time.

"Hm... What made you think she was sick?"

She briefly wondered what he thought about her change from slightly sassy to a robot. She answered it on the same track. He probably figured she was a traumatized child. Well, he wouldn't be wrong. "Kaa-san... she was different than Tou-san. She was different when he was gone. She would sleep a lot. She got angry if I bothered her sometimes. When Tou-san was home, she was happy. Her eyes were happy..." She took a moment. "Then she started talking to herself. I think she thought someone was there but there wasn't anybody."

"I see. Can you tell me what happened last night?"

"Kaa-san tried to hurt me." She added her own question because... innocent children would do that. "Why did Kaa-san try to hurt me?"

Hiruzen sighed heavily. "As you guessed, your Kaa-san is sick. For that, I must apologize."

"Did you make Kaa-san do it?"

He blinked. "No."

"Then why are you sorry? It isn't your fault."

He stared at her for a moment before nodding. "You're Kaa-san is a member of this village. She was one of its shinobi. There are guidelines in place that were not followed like they should have been. She missed more than one follow up appointment after giving birth to you. If the rules had been followed, perhaps we could have seen her illness before it got to this point."

Nazoko frowned as she mulled that over. "Are you going to make sure it doesn't happen again? To anyone else?"

"I will do all in my power to make certain it doesn't."

She tested his words against his solemn expression. Deciding he was telling the truth she made a noncommittal noise. "Then I forgive you." She nearly laughed at his shock. "Can you let Tou-san in now?" She wanted a fucking hug and her dad gave the best ones.

"Of course."

She felt relief as the Yamanaka left the room... Wait... Inoki? Not Inoichi? Well... that just confirmed it really. Her father practically rushed into the room.

"Nazoko!"

Her lower lip began trembling against her wishes. By the time he had scooped her up and settled her on his lap, the sadness and anxiety had won out and she was bawling unattractively with snot dripping from her nose. The feeling of safety enveloped her.

...

Nazoko stared at the clouds as she worked to get her breathing under control.

"You did well, Nazoko-chan. That was six laps this time."

She sent her father a tired smile. She was tired almost all the time. She kept waking up in the middle of the night from nightmares. While the crying episode with her father had helped, it hadn't gotten rid of the problem. Someone she should have been able to trust had tried to kill her. She'd have thought that a couple months would be enough time to move on, but it wasn't. She just wanted to be able to sleep.

Her father had been very patient with her, though she had no doubt he had his own feelings to deal with. It made her feel even worse when her own anger would boil over. She'd just yell and scream for no reason at all. Her father just let her vent then gave her a hug until she calmed down.

"I love you, Tou-san." She said it was all the sincerity it deserved. She meant it. She might have the memories of a life before this, but here and now this man was her father. It was almost surprising how easy that was to accept. She'd have thought it would take her a lot longer seeing as she still remembered her other dad. Her other family. Still, she was able to separate everything.

He crouched down and placed a hand on her head. "I love you, too. Think you're up for doing some kata?"

Nazoko nodded and scrambled up. Her dad watched as she started on the kata, gently correcting her if she did something wrong.

The other reason she hadn't been able to sleep as much as she'd have liked was because she still had problems accepting that she had somehow been reborn into a fiction world. That, and she had absolutely no idea what to do about it. Was she supposed to try and change things? Technically, everything had turned out okay in the end. Was there even a point in trying to make a plan? She still had no idea WHEN she was in the timeline, or even if events would FOLLOW the timeline she knew.

The only things she had officially decided on was that she would become a ninja and try her best not to draw attention to herself while she did. Until she had more information, she would refrain from any meddling. Even though she had made that decision, she still worried. It only added to her frustration levels.

"So, am I gonna stay with Atsuko-san again?" Her father was due to leave again for the border. It made her incredibly nervous. While her father did his best to keep any bad news from her, she still listened. There was a war going on. The second or the third, she didn't know and she didn't ask. When he came home, he didn't deserve to be reminded of all the things he left behind. That, and it would be a little odd for a three-year-old to start asking some of the questions she was itching to ask.

"I'm afraid not. Atsuko is sick." Atsuko was her dad's genin teammate's wife. She was a civilian through and through. "You'll be staying with a different person this time. While my friend may not be there much, seeing as he's a shinobi too, his wife is on leave because she was injured. So, you'll have to be on your best behavior and try to help her out as much as she'll allow, okay?"

Nazoko shrugged. "Of course. Does she have a name?"

"Mm. Her name is Okami."

She paused. Wolf? "Is she an Inuzuka?"

It was her father's turn to pause. "She is," he said slowly.

Ah. She realized her mistake. She shouldn't know about clans yet. Whoops. The sooner she learned how to read and write, the better. Then she could blame her knowledge on books. As for now, she'd have to hope that her father would just shrug it off or assume she learned it from Atsuko.

"Well, her last name is no longer Inuzuka. Not since she married my friend. But she does have a ninken. His name is Haru."

She smiled. "Okay."

Her father sighed. "I'm sorry, Nazoko-chan. Even after everything..."

"Tou-san, I understand. You're a ninja and have a job to do. By protecting the village, you are protecting me. As long as you try to be safe and come home, I can handle it."

"You shouldn't have to handle anything. You're only three." He ran a hand through his hair. "You are far more mature than you should be, Nazoko-chan. Come on. Let's go get something to eat."


(Edit-7/6/20 to the AN- Since I'm so lazy, I'm not going through each AN to change this so I'm hoping this can cover everything; You can currently ignore any mention I make of not intending to finish this story. As of right now, I DO INTEND TO FINISH IT. I am currently heavily editing chapters and trying to get back into the mind of Nazoko though. So once all the prewritten stuff is posted, you WILL be looking at a long wait for anything new. Sorry about that in advance.)

Okay... So, a couple of things for you to know. First, this story has 150k already written. It is not finished and probably never will be. Never say never though. I'm posting this chapter to see if anyone has any interest in reading the rest even though it isn't done. Let me know. If I get enough people telling me that they want it, I will most likely end up bulk posting the rest of it within a week to a month depending on my schedule. (Please note, I'm not keeping the story hostage for reviews. I will eventually post all of what is written. The reviews simply motivate me to do it faster.)

Second, As I said, I don't know if I will ever get round to finishing this story, but if I do, I will post it as a new story. That being said, this one is written as is. Meaning, if you see plotholes or obvious mistakes, please point them out, but they will remain in THIS story until I get the inspiration to pick this story back up and start it from scratch.

Last but not least, if you are leaving a review, please keep criticisms on the constructive side of things. If you don't like this story, that's more than fine. If you feel the need to leave a review that says you don't like it, that's fine too, but be ready to also tell me why. Saying you don't like it because it sucks does not help in any way to make me a better writer. Just be courteous. (I am aware of the shift between first and third person. So far as I know, it's only that little bit in the beginning.)

One last thing... This story was inspired by all the amazing SI/OC fic I've read over the last two years. If I can find the names of all the people whose stories have given me ideas, I will come back to credit them by name in an author note. Otherwise, you can probably find them in my favorites list. There are a fair few. One that you won't find on this site is GremlinSR. She wrote an incredible fanfic on Ao3 called Deduction in Shadows. You should go check it out.