This will be the last chapter for this story for about a month or two as I go through the previous sections of the story to fix certain parts, especially the dialogue in parts, and a few other things like adding scenes to flesh out friendships and other things.
Given that the story is over 500k words, the next chapter will have the chapters mentioned where I added or fixed parts to make them better, given I don't like inconveniencing those who remember most of the plot into reading the entire thing instead of going through specific parts to see the additions.
For the changes, I'll be trimming the profanity some and I'll curb some of the comments made by Naruto to be less jarring. A few details will get added during the training part and above all, I'll make the rather edgier jokes a little less incessant and constant. I honestly don't know what the hell I was doing having constant jokes like that. They'll be used more sparingly instead of oversaturation.
If there are ideas anybody has for certain parts to add to better flesh out Naruto's friendships with Ino and Hinata, or Rin and Sasuke, feel free to either comment them or PM me. I'm going to add multiple ones.
I'm doing it, even if it will be a challenge in multiple ways, because I genuinely enjoy writing this story. I want this story to be as good as it can be, and I feel like this is a good thing to do to accomplish that.
There weren't as many comments from the last two chapters and I'd like to know what people thought of the reveal about Ashina and the massive change of Itachi returning to Konoha?
Itachi wouldn't have normally been convinced, but actually seeing Sasuke train and be around Rin unsettled him from realizing he might not have the will to hurt Sasuke. The final nail was a mix between Obito giving Orochimaru Ashina's blood to resurrect him, which Itachi was not warned about, and the big one, Sasuke already having the Mangekyo Sharingan.
With Itachi not terminally ill and his brother already having the eyes, he has that faint glimmer of hope that he can finally stop the lie he's had to live for almost 5 years now.
Ashina was always going to be someone who had a certain degree of foreknowledge, thereby causing the AU aspects of the story, specifically the fear that other villages have of the Uzumaki. I think I've only read one insert fic where another person with knowledge was around decades before the MC. But Ashina and Naruto are definitely different from one another.
The two types of inserts in most fics are the reincarnation types, such as Naruto, and then the types that have memories and certain personality quirks, but are still the same person they were before the memories, like Ashina. Except Ashina wasn't able to do planning stuff with the knowledge as effectively because the memories were disjointed and it confused and frightened him.
That was his reason for researching things later, such as the reincarnation of chakra and other things that seem obvious later. If you had what you think could be knowledge of the future, wouldn't you test out things that could validate it?
His character was based as a honourable type of guy who died horribly after carrying such a terrible burden and failed to save his family and clan.
Someone asked about whether Madara was dead. Sasuke has Indra's chakra. Madara survived fighting Ashina, I just haven't given how he survived, only clues.
And I'd just like to say thank you to everyone who has favorited and followed this story so far, and the 1k plus reviews for it. Whether it be just a simple 'Nice Chapter', or a several paragraph long dissertation on what you liked and disliked about the chapter, I love all of them and read them more than once. The ones that say they love the story and the ones that give helpful criticism are both welcomed and I just want to let my appreciation be known to all of you.
Without further ado, let's get into this chapter, shall we?
I woke up in the middle of the night with Jiraiya standing over me as I was laying in a hospital bed, my headache finally gone.
I didn't immediately let him know I was awake, I just laid there for a little bit, trying to get my eyes to adjust to the minimal light.
After a few minutes, I cleared my throat, causing him to turn sharply.
"Naruto." He said my name softly, his voice suprisingly gentle as his eyes met mine.
"Ero-sennin." I smiled slightly, noticing him huff good-naturedly.
Jiraiya held his hand up to stop me from talking some more. "I'm a Kage bunshin. I'll let prime know you're awake."
With that, the clone popped, leaving me alone.
I felt around with my sensing and was relieved it didn't hurt, Jiraiya's presence coming down the hall like a massive furnace just a minute or two later.
The door opened and my godfather came in, a relieved expression on his face.
"Didn't think you'd be awake this soon." He said, "Docs said you'd be asleep for a few days from the Genjutsu used on you." His face twisted into a grimace, "I can only imagine what it felt like."
"We just talked." I assured him, "I was able to convince him to not run."
I planted my right elbow against the bed and pushed myself up some to get a better look at Jiraiya.
"That was a question that I had," Jiraiya said with a raised brow, approaching the bed and sitting in the chair next to me, "How did you know what he did?"
"I always thought there was a reason he did it," I looked at Jiraiya, being truthful, "I saw a lot of myself in him from how he looked at Sasuke. That's why I didn't doubt my grandfather when he said Orochimaru told him."
Jiraiya nodded along, his head tilting slightly where I noticed something.
He looked tired.
His eyes were bloodshot and there where bags under his eyes. I then noticed there was dried blood on his clothes and slash marks on them. He'd evidently not changed clothes.
"How long was I out?" I asked.
"About 30 hours."Jiraiya grunted, scratching at the side of his nose. "It's been a little chaotic, but not too bad."
That didn't sound good.
"What's going on?" I asked, concern leaking into my voice, "Are my classmates okay? What about Jiji?" The last part had me almost try to get out of bed in worry.
"Sit down," Jiraiya grumbled, shooting me a warning look, "The other Genin are fine and the old man's still alive."
I didn't miss how he said it.
"What do you mean still?"
Jiraiya sighed and grimaced as he shifted how he was sitting.
"He took a bad hit that destroyed one of his kidneys," Jiraiya explained, closing his eyes and breathing his nose, "He's definitely stepping down as Hokage."
"But how bad is it?" I asked again, wanting Jiraiya to not mince his words.
"Bad enough where Tsunade needs to come back and treat him if he wants to live for several more years."
I shook my head angrily as I absorbed the news, looking away from him.
"Damnit." I looked down at my hands, clenching the sheets.
Jiraiya then explained everything that happened during the invasion, including how Konoha suffered hundreds of casualties, including some civilians.
"It would have been thousands." Jiraiya murmured to himself, "But your grandfather seemed to know what he was doing."
The talk of the mist used and the butchery carried out unsettled me, especially since they were all kill shots.
A shroud that you couldn't see through as mizu bunshin were formed from the water behind you, cutting you down before realized it.
Baki was trying to negotiate terms, now that it had been discovered that the Kazekage had been killed and that they were played for fools, but Jiraiya, who was basically acting Hokage currently, had made sure the Kazekage's children, especially Gaara, were kept under ANBU guard.
Hiashi and the Hyuga had been scrambling to think of something after a specific flaw in their seal was pointed out and they'd been wanting to talk with me because of who it was that attacked them during the invasion.
Overall, the village was better off than Canon because of what I did, but there was an issue that left a bone deep chill.
"Will Sasuke be told about his brother?" I asked quietly.
"He will," Jiraiya nodded, "I can't imagine how he'll take the news."
"Not well." I said sadly, knowing it would tear him apart.
If Konoha is told of the truth, the reputations of Itachi and the clan he slaughtered would be inverted. The Uchiha will be seen as bad and Itachi the tragic hero. I have no idea how they'd see Sasuke though.
After a minute or so of silence, Jiraiya spoke again.
"Kakashi told me how bad of a mess you looked when he got to you. I also saw the aftermath of the battlefield. Kami knows how you survived fighting a Kaguya. They're something else in taijutsu."
"The fox and being a sensor is the only reason I'm alive." I said dully, remembering how many close hits struck me, even when I knew how Kimimaro fought.
Jiraiya nodded his understanding.
"The Iryo-nin also said you almost cooked your brain from too much chakra in the two Gates in your head." Jiraiya added, his voice tight, "I'm not going to scold you for doing something you were told not to do. You either risk a career ending or fatal injury, or you die. That's not much of a choice and I've had to do stupid things to reach my age."
I was relieved he understood. A choice between death or possible death isn't an actual choice.
"What about the two Hokages?" I asked, "How are they going to go back?"
"Tobirama-sama said he can disable the reanimation, but the two are waiting until Hiruzen can be treated." Jiraiya remarked, "They're standing vigil over him."
That would make sense. The two would definitely be the type to interrupt their eternal rest to protect a student.
"How are they adjusting to things?" I wanted to know how they felt after being dead for decades.
"Tobirama-sama almost wants to stay and keep fighting," Jiraiya almost winced, "That's how pissed he is. The Shodai talked to him, while he wants to see Tsunade before he goes back, so they're going to be staying a week or so."
I couldn't help but let out a snort of amusement at the thought of the two standing over Hiruzen like two overprotective old men, ready to bring down a building.
"I bet it's helping morale."
Jiraiya, for once, genuinely laughed.
"You have no idea, gaki." He chuckled, his exhaustion seemingly vanishing. "Seeing all the Shinobi and civilians working together to repair and help the wounded. They keep saying it's a sign that we're finally destined to get out of the crap hand being sent at us. Some Shinobi saw the Nidaime and I escorting Itachi. All the stuff over the years are supposedly a build up to the two returning to deliver us or something."
"I doubt the Nidaime is amused." I laughed, assuming he would be annoyed, judging by what I knew of him.
"The Kage bunshin he and his brother have sent out to help keep on getting swarmed by civilians practically on sight." Jiraiya was smiling as well, "Hashirama-sama calmed some of them down, but the Nidaime has no patience for it."
Jiraiya continued on with explaining the other things that happened, eventually finishing.
"Can," I began to say, trying to think of how to say this, "Can I see them?" I asked.
"It's 3 in the morning, Naruto." Jiraiya deadpanned. "Talk later."
"And I've been asleep for 10 times that." I protested, genuinely wanting to see the two.
The Sandaime, Jiraiya, Kakashi, the Rookie genin, they didn't feel like fictional characters. They were real. The two Hokages still felt, since I'd never met them, less than real. I wanted to meet the two men who pretty much built and structured this village.
"And besides," I added, "It's not like they need sleep or anything."
Jiraiya sighed irritably under his breath, pressing his index and thumb against his brow in frustration. He knew I wouldn't drop it until I got my way.
"Fine," He said, walking towards me, "But on my terms." He then proceeded to grab the scruff of my collar and dragged me out of bed, hoisting me up onto his shoulder.
I yelped as he picked me up and I tried to wriggle out of his grip, but his hands felt like iron.
"Let me go, tree." I growled, his shoulder digging into my stomach as he carried me, "I'm scared of heights."
"Not my fault you're still a shrimp." He muttered, walking towards wherever Hiruzen was.
After the humiliation of being carried like an infant, Jiraiya set me down and held me close. I appreciated it after I realized how weak I felt from not walking for a little while.
Jiraiya pushed the door open and I saw Hiruzen in a bed, sleeping. The two other men in the room were two that I had always respected for their dedication and service to their clan and later village.
They looked as they were shown in the anime, silver white hair and reddish eyes, with a fur lined set of blue armour. And the reincarnation of Ashura having long, black hair, a more tanned complexion than his younger brother, dark red armour, and a kindness in his dark eyes that felt like the sun.
"Shodai-sama," I bowed to Hashirama first, then I turned to Tobirama, "Nidaime-sama."
Tobirama raised a brow and glanced towards Jiraiya.
"You said he was impertinent."
"Only towards him." I replied with a smile.
Hashirama chuckled and smiled down at me.
"Jiraiya told us about you, Uzumaki Naruto." The man glanced at my hair and face, "You remind me of Mito's brother."
"Yes," Tobirama nodded at his older brother's observation, "He resembles Tadamichi a great deal."
"My grandfather's oldest son?" I asked. Ashina had mentioned that I looked like the son that resembled him the most.
"Yes," Tobirama nodded, "I got along with him very well ever since your grandfather trained me."
I tried to sense their chakra, just out of curiosity. The two couldn't have been any more different while still having a lot of familiarity from being brothers.
Tobirama's was cold. It felt like a tightly controlled river that had slight ripples in it, but could explode into a hurricane.
And I understand why Madara seemed obsessed with fighting Hashirama.
Senju Hashirama's chakra was obscenely bright. I could almost bask in the warmth and not have a single care in the world from how at ease it left me.
"I see that you're a sensor." Hashirama smiled, noticing how I spaced out.
I heard Jiraiya snort and Tobirama slightly smirked as I felt my face redden.
"Sorry," I said sheepishly, my hand ghosting towards the back of my head, "You're chakra is really bright."
I didn't tell him that I suspected why. It was bright like how Rin's was in some ways, but it was definitely less chaotic than Rin's.
"I'm not sure what to say or ask," I was honest, looking between the two of them, "The two of you are legendary figures from history books, yet I'm talking with you right now."
"Your reaction is far more preferable than most of the people we've encountered." Tobirama said gruffly, his arms crossed as he looked at Hashirama. "You are more of a people person than I am, elder brother. And it shows."
Hashirama looked prepared to chastise his brother for being a little cold, but I interrupted a likely old topic of contention between the two brothers.
"Does that include interacting with females?" I asked as innocently as I could manage.
Tobirama's eyes narrowed and Hashirama laughed.
"I told you that you would never live it down, Tobirama." Hashirama shook his head amusedly.
"I'm not sure I actually want to know now." I said, grimacing. The stuff left unmentioned should probably be left that way.
Instead, I looked at Tobirama.
"I have a question for the genius inventor of multiple jutsu and the brilliant mind that made the academy system and the ANBU."
Hashirama seemed to deflate as I added accomplishment after accomplishment for his younger brother, while Tobirama practically preened like a peacock from the attention.
"It's not often that one as young as you truly understands the depths of complexity I made the village into." Tobirama nodded gratefully, a smile on his face.
"But," Hashirama seemed to protest, "I fought the Kyuubi and Madara."
"But I've got foxy-kun under a leash." I smiled, "And I'd love to hear the invigorating tale of you hitting an Uchiha with a tree, but I can do that by myself by bonking my friend with a stick."
Hashirama's chakra dimmed massively and he slumped forward, looking depressed.
I could practically feel the pride oozing off of Tobirama as he looked at his brother.
"So, Nidaime-sama," I looked at the guy who made the Shadow Clone Jutsu, the Edo Tensei, Hiraishin, Water Dragon, and many others with a questioning look, "I've always wondered...what were you smoking when you made your Hiraishin notes?"
Tobirama's face twitched as he realized I built up tension, only to slap him over the face with that.
"Did he put you up to this?" He looked to Jiraiya as Hashirama began laughing again.
"He got you, didn't he Tobirama?" Hashirama had a face splitting grin on his face. "I knew he was a good kid."
"I still like your brother more." I deadpanned at Hashirama.
"But... but why?" Hashirama asked sadly. "What does my brother do that I can't do better? I have the Mokuton."
"I'm thirteen, remember?" I rolled my eyes, "Making copies of myself, teleportation, giant dragons, and being a necromancer. Who doesn't want be your brother, especially because his armour looks awesome?"
Tobirama seemed to take offense to the necromancer part, but Hashirama looked beside himself.
"It seems the stripling understands that hitting something with a tree isn't all that is needed to be a Shinobi." Tobirama smiled.
"He's still the Kami no Shinobi, Nidaime-sama." I countered, seeing Tobirama frown, "And I'm pretty sure a toddler has better record keeping than you. What in your brother's name are your Hiraishin notes?"
Tobirama groaned under his breath and muttered something about 'Here we go again', while Hashirama perked up again and was chuckling at the abrupt shift.
"None of my students or any of our clansmen," Tobirama gestured himself and his brother, "Were interested in learning it, so the importance of organizing the notes in a more cohesive fashion fell to the wayside while I improved other facets of the village."
"Sounds like an excuse to be lazy." I mused as I looked at Hiruzen.
Tobirama huffed and decided not to comment further.
"I do want to talk with you about some things to do," I looked at Tobirama again, "My natural affinity is water and I've tried to get the Hiraishin to work, but I keep causing my bunshin to explode when I send them through a cheap anchor based on yours."
Tobirama's posture shifted as I said that and he looked at me seriously, his eyes boring into mine.
"Thirteen years old, you say?" He narrowed his eyes, "And you managed to get the smoke to come out of the other anchor?"
"Yes." I nodded, a little unnerved by his single-minded focus on me.
He eventually straightened up and had a thoughtful look, glancing at Hiruzen then Hashirama.
"Jiraiya informed us that you are extremely capable," Hashirama seemed to take over, all humour absent in his voice, "And your goals of obtaining the title of Hokage."
I could tell what was going to happen next would determine a great many things.
"Yes," I replied, looking at the two, "I plan to be Hokage one day."
"Then you won't take offense to just one question, correct?" Tobirama asked, his arms crossed as he seemed relaxed.
I slowly shook my head, turning towards Hashirama.
"Just one question, Uzumaki Naruto." Senju Hashirama's voice pierced through the room, his entire attention on a thirteen year old redhead.
"Tell me, Uzumaki Naruto, what does it mean to be a Shinobi?"
A simple question, but also not.
"I assume you want me to answer how I personally see it and not how my teachers at the academy told me to think?" I started, looking at one of the strongest men in history.
I took a deep breath and began.
"A Shinobi is someone who endures, no matter the cost." My eyes went towards Hiruzen lying in the bed. "He shouldn't be Hokage after serving for decades. My father should be, and I shouldn't have been forced to bear the hatred and scorn of the villagers for being a Jinchuriki. But he took over because he knew Konoha needed him."
My eyes looked straight into Hashirama's.
"The Sandaime told me some of the stories about you and your brother, the ones in relation to what it was like during the Warring States, including when your brothers died."
Both brothers' postures shifted slightly at the mentioning of their brothers.
"Neither of you deserved the pain of loss, neither did Madara. I doubt I would ever recover from losing my twin sister. But instead of going the easy path of hatred, you took the hard path of moving on. You endured the pain of loss and refused to be carried by the world, and became the one who carried it instead."
"You changed the world by helping create Konoha," I continued, "Mostly for the better. I've seen how much hatred can twist otherwise good people into monsters, and I know I'm one of the select few in this world that has the power to stop that from happening. A Jinchuriki, an Uzumaki, and a better intellect than many."
"But would you kill your best friend to protect the village?" Hashirama asked sadly, "Would you do what I was forced to do?"
I closed my eyes and counted to three, visualizing that terrible prospect.
Stopping Sasuke from going down that potential path was something I was truly grateful for. But could I have really done it?
"I can't exactly answer that," I said, looking up at the Shodai, "Sasuke and Madara's similarities are only their eyes and hair."
"And what happens when he learns of what his brother did?" Tobirama stepped in, "We were told by Hiruzen when he was awake for a short while hours ago. Uchiha Itachi made an unmatched sacrifice. He, above any Uchiha or Shinobi for that matter, has proven that horrific things must sometimes be done for the greater good. That is the burden of being Hokage."
"Was it also mentioned that he tortured Sasuke for the express purpose of his brother killing him?" I asked, displeased with the stance Tobirama took, "He used the same Genjutsu on me and it left me out of it. He ran the risk of creating a second coming of Uchiha Madara."
Both Senjus' chakra simmered, the two of them staring at me more so. I could also feel Jiraiya in the corner, listening intently.
"How did you come to that conclusion?" Hashirama asked, his voice a slow and weighted kind.
"Suppose you've been hating someone for years, fantasizing about killing them for years, and you finally accomplish it. You then, after having fulfilled that desire, come to learn that all the heartache, pain, and anguish suffered was caused by the village that you've been raised to protect and lay your life down for since birth. That kind of hatred doesn't go away, it just finds something else to consume, and what better target than a village that seems like it conditioned you into an obedient dog?"
"Is that what you think of the Will of Fire?" Tobirama narrowed his eyes, his index flicking upwards. "Propaganda and conditioning?"
"If it is, then it has a great deal of truth in it," I said simply, not backing down from the challenge, "Objective reality means little to our own perception giving us motivation to commit ourselves to something."
"Care to elaborate?" Tobirama seemed to be taking point right now, likely from being the more clinical of the two.
"My sister and I each have half the Kyuubi sealed in us," I pointed at the whisker marks on my cheeks and bared my teeth to show my longer canines, "It's chakra has marked me. The civilians see me and are reminded of the family and friends they lost thirteen years ago. Their reality is that we either are the Kyuubi itself, or our minds are touched by it like our faces."
"Idiots." Tobirama muttered, his brother shooting him a look.
"Fine," Tobirama sighed, "Continue."
"If they accepted that they were wrong, it would destroy them. They either accept the harm they caused, or they hold firm to their hatred and disregard anything to the contrary, and may even silence anything that defies their need to validate their hatred."
"I'm sure you have hatred of your own." Tobirama raised a brow, "And you haven't mentioned it."
"Hatred like that is toxic," I replied, "It serves me no good to stew over that kind of hatred. I won't let emotionally scarred people determine how I live my life."
"But my point on Sasuke," I finally got around to it, "Is that it's natural to lash out at the thing he thinks is responsible for such an action that was the murder of his clan."
"Itachi, in the end," I looked directly at Tobirama and dared him to counter my reasoning, "did not embody the Will of Fire. He used hatred to fuel Sasuke's progress and risked twisting him into thinking violence is always the answer."
"It is all well and good that you have an understanding of right and wrong, Naruto," Tobirama said with some condescension in his voice, "But what solution would you have thought of? What would you have done if you were forced in that situation and had to abandon your sister? Or kill her?"
Why? You promised. We promised.
"I would have taken her with me and explained everything," I replied coldly, "I would have been honest about why it needed to be done and I would have made sure she would never blame Konoha."
"Such situations are not always available," Tobirama replied sharply, "There was no alternative for me when I was killed. I didn't have enough chakra to flash back to Konoha with my students, so I chose to die to ensure the next generation lived on to carry the Will of Fire."
My eyes left Tobirama's, went to Hashirama's, then back to the younger Senju.
"I would find another way."
"And if there isn't?" Tobirama asked, crossing his arms and tilting his head downward.
"Simple," I shrugged, mimicking his posture, "I'll do what your brother did."
"Hmm?" Hashirama frowned, confused by what I meant.
"Between killing Madara and continuing the war with the Uchiha, or killing you," I stared into the black and red eyes of Senju Tobirama's reanimation, "He was ready to kill himself to bring an end to it all. That is a third option."
I then looked at Hashirama.
"I didn't care about the exploits that the history books say about you in the Academy," I said, breathing lightly, "I cared about things that I could relate to. So, I asked the Hokage about you."
"And what did he say?" Hashirama tilted his head in question.
"He said you were a decent man. A peerless Shinobi, but a decent man. You spoiled your first grandchild rotten and taught her to gamble," I shook my head amusedly, "You lost some of that spark in your eye after you came back from fighting Madara, and you held no hatred for the same clan that took your brothers from you and made your childhood a nightmare."
Hashirama was silent, quietly listening to me speak.
"I want to be a Shinobi like you," I finally got to the end, "I want to be one like you, Nidaime-sama," I turned to Tobirama, "A Shinobi willing to die so the future could survive. I want to be like Sarutobi Hiruzen, a Shinobi who served for decades and fought his mentors and student to protect Konoha. I want to be like my father, he sacrificed his life to protect the village against the Kyuubi." I could feel a couple tears fall from emotion.
"I want to be Uzumaki Naruto," I said, clenching my fist, "Hokage of Konohagakure. I want my face to be etched into the mountain for centuries alongside yours, and in whose company... I will not be ashamed."
Neither of the two spoke for a long moment, no sound coming from them, given that they didn't need to breath.
Hashirama let out a sigh that seemed like a breeze and he set his hand on my shoulder.
"You have no idea what your answer has done for us." Hashirama was smiling like I'd never seen, "I'm thankful that Jiraiya didn't embellish how you are."
I frowned at the two Senju as I connected the dots.
"This was all a test?" I looked between the two. "To what? Determine if I have the temperament to lead?"
"Yes." both said at the same time.
I sighed irritably at the two devious dead men.
"You need to make sure the future is in capable hands then, yeah?" I frowned again, "Because of the Sandaime?"
Speaking of him, I completely ignored the two and lightly pulled Hashirama's hand off my shoulder and approached the bed.
He was fairly slim in stature, being about my height, maybe a little taller, but this was the first time I'd ever describe him as small. I knew he was old, but I'd never thought of the word weak to describe him.
In this bed, a patched together wound in his gut, Sarutobi Hiruzen was perhaps weak for the first time in decades.
"Hey, Jiji," I mumbled, reaching to put his hand in my own, "I'm sorry I couldn't say hi earlier. You're Senseis are scary and protective of you." I laughed softly to myself.
The fragility of his hand and how thin his skin felt caused me to begin to shake.
"I don't know what to do," I felt tears build up in my eyes, slowly falling down, "I can break things, but I can't put you back together."
I felt Hashirama, Tobirama, and Jiraiya leave the room to give me some privacy.
"I can't imagine how painful it was to fight them," I wiped my eyes with my left hand, still holding his with my right, "I could never fight Rin."
The memory of watching him summon the Shinigami was playing through my head. A possible future that I stopped.
"You don't deserve this." I shook my head, gazing at the old man that gave so much, "You don't deserve only a couple year retirement because of my dad. You deserve to live another decade or two and harass Konohamaru and Asuma's kids with stories about how back in your day, kids weren't rebellious little trolls."
I slowly untangled our fingers and I leaned towards him, just a hair's breadth from his face.
"You're technically incapacitated as Hokage," I whispered, "And since Jiraiya isn't here, I'm taking temporary role as Hokage. My first order as Hokage, Sarutobi Hiruzen, is that you are ordered to live. You do not have permission to die until I say you can."
I pulled away and forced my legs to remain steady as I walked away.
"This isn't goodbye, Jiji." I said as I reached the door.
I thought I heard my name, but I chalked it up to my hearing messing with me.
My hand pushed the door open with a slight creak and I saw the three men, Jiraiya gesturing for me to follow.
"It's time to lie back down, Naruto," he said, "You need to rest still."
I didn't protest. I really was tired and wanted to sleep. The two Hokages went back into the room to guard Hiruzen while Jiraiya helped me walk steady as we returned to my room.
"Tsunade-sama?" A man went up to her, holding a note, "A letter for you."
Senju Tsunade groaned under her breath and gave a side eyed glare at the man interrupting her time as she pulled the crank on the machine.
A new casino and she'd been on a winning streak non-stop for almost two days now at both the machines and cards.
If it were a one off thing, she would have assumed that it meant something bad was going to happen, but not this time. Oh, Tsunade knew she'd finally got a winning streak for once and she was hammering the iron while it was still hot.
"Not now," She said irritably, glancing at Shizune, "Shizune, be a dear and accept the letter from him on my beha- YES!," She suddenly shouted, "Mini-jackpot, baby. WOO!" She fist pumped, taking another shot of sake.
"I was told to deliver it to you personally." The man said stiffly.
Tsunade groaned audibly and turned around from her slot machine, glaring at the man with honey brown eyes.
Even in her drunken state, Tsunade recognized the purple haired man as a familiar one. Another one of Jiraiya's agents he had monitoring her undoubtedly. Whether for her safety, or for keeping tabs on her to drag her back, she didn't care.
"I recognize you," She said flatly, blurring towards him and picking him up without difficulty, the letter falling out of his hands, "Tell Jiraiya that I don't care what the hell he wants," She kicked her leg behind her and flipped the handle of the machine again, "I'm not coming back!"
The man shivered in her grip, but Shizune had evidently picked the letter up. The black haired woman gasped audibly, the letter almost slipping out of her grip.
"What is it, Shizune?" Tsunade asked, almost curious of what could cause that reaction.
"Konoha was attacked." She whispered, her voice still somehow managing to reach Tsunade's ears over the sounds of the slot machines, profanity, and drunken arguments in the casino.
Tsunade then heard the reels stop on her machine, whistles blaring loudly.
She turned, still holding the man, and saw the reels.
"Flaming nine's." She murmured, seeing the fox themed numbers seeming to taunt her as the world spun.
The highest jackpot the machine offered, and it happened right as Shizune said that.
Tsunade dropped the man unceremoniously to the ground, the man falling like a sack of potatoes.
The slug Sannin snatched the letter from Shizune and her breathing became erratic as she reread it.
Konoha was attacked by Orochimaru. Our traitorous former teammate is dead and you are commanded to return to Konoha at once.
If you refuse, you will be declared a missing nin and I will personally drag you back myself.
Your friend and teammate.
Tsunade dropped the letter in shock, her hands still held up to her face.
He didn't call me hime. Tsunade realized as she lowered her hands, the thought unsettling. Jiraiya always called her that in letters that were for her. Even after a shouting match between the two, he'd refer to her as Tsunade-hime.
As Jiraiya's agent scrambled away from her and casino employees got to her to go about giving her the winnings, Tsunade felt colder than she had in years.
Another day in this bed and I'm going to go insane
Two days after after I first talked with the Hokages, and I was being driven up the wall by Rin.
"Onichan," Rin whined, holding up a bento box towards my face, with a set of chopsticks and a sushi roll clasped between her fingers, "You need to build up your strength."
"I am not an infant, Rin." I rolled my eyes, annoyed by her messing with me, "Go harass Sasuke-kun."
"Nope," She shook her head, golden blonde hair moving with her head, "He's sleeping."
"In my bed." I pointed out. "My brand. New. Bed. That I haven't slept in for even two nights."
I'd gotten a bargain brand bed that was cheap as hell and used it as a replacement for the one Rin and Sasuke broke, but managed to get a good one and had it set up the last day before the finals.
"Don't worry," Rin rolled her eyes, "He said it's a wonderful bed."
"Rin." I said warningly.
"Naru-chan." She returned a warning tone, but her eyes were shining with amusement.
I winced at the demeaning nickname and I glared at the food she'd been mockingly trying to feed me with when I could feed myself no problem at all. It was my sense of balance I was still a little messed up.
"I'm sure I can come up with worse ones for you." I shrugged, leaning forward and biting her fingers lightly, intentionally missing the food.
Rin jerked her hand away and wrinkled her nose in either disgust or anger.
"Why do I even put up with you, Naru-chan?" She asked irritably, stressing the stupid nickname.
"Defect." I muttered, causing her eyes to flash.
"What?" She growled, climbing on the bed and staring at me, our faces inches apart.
Quick as a flash, I grabbed a lock of her hair, holding on to it.
"Miss Uzumaki has blonde hair," I grinned, fiddling with the aforementioned lock, "Everyone else has red."
"Let go of my hair." She warned me, her hand grabbing ahold of mine, "Or I'll tear some out."
"Jealous that you don't have any red and want some?" I smiled, hiding the wince as she tugged on my shorter hair, "You just need to ask, Rin. I'll share."
Her violet eyes narrowed and she was giving me a point blank death glare.
"I'm unique," Rin said, pointing at her hair with her other hand, "Not defective."
"That cracked plate of ours is unique, sis," I let go of her hair, which she followed suit, "Unique doesn't mean better."
Rin crossed her arms and scowled.
"You're a jerk, and the fox likes my mindscape more."
"That's because it's empty." I said almost instantly, grinning as she threw a sushi roll at my head.
"I swear," She grumbled under her breath, "You were only born first because I couldn't stand being around you and kicked you out."
I cracked a smile at that one.
"No," I shook my head, "That's only part of it. I decided you needed to win at something for once, so I let you win the fight."
Rin finally gave up the back and forth and sank into her chair, muttering to herself about idiot brothers.
"Now that you've learned your place, little sister," I smiled as she stuck her tongue out at me, "How has everyone been doing?" My tone got more serious at the end.
Hinata had not been able to visit, Sasuke had pretty much isolated himself as he came to terms with his big motivation for getting better becoming a possibility now, and everybody else had been somehow busy.
Rin sighed and started explaining, going through each one.
The Hyuga turtled up after it was discovered that Neji had his seal pulled off and that a massive flaw, which was not mentioned in detail, was found in how the seal worked. Rin had basically been pestered to give any insights we might have had since we technically had seal notes from the clan that made the seal.
Shikamaru had acute chakra exhaustion and had been sleeping the last few days, and Ino had been trying to help some of the injured on her own time, and had been busy.
I nodded along as she explained, but I turned sharply as I felt a presence come down the hallway, a chakra level that was very large, but unfamiliar to me.
"Rin." I gave her a heads up, but she noticed how my attention was moved to the door.
We both watched as the door opened and deposited a blonde woman that I'd never seen before.
Blonde hair, a green kimono, and the largest rack I'd ever seen in my life.
"Where's Jiraiya?" She asked, her voice cold, "He said he'd be in this room. Who are you two?"
I really wasn't in the mood to deal with Tsunade right now. It still rankled me that she never checked up on us, or even asked if we existed.
"Ero-sennin wasn't supposed to order room service for himself." I said flatly, wording it intentionally bad, "He really must have paid a lot."
Tsunade glared at my insinuation.
"I'm not a prostitute, gaki." Tsunade said irritably, "Now where's Jiraiya? You seem familiar with him."
I looked at Rin and saw that she was connecting the dots on who Tsunade was, and her chakra started to vibrate more.
"Probably speaking with the Shodai and Nidaime in room 11." I replied coldly.
Tsunade's face twisted into an angry one and she stepped towards me.
"Don't even joke about that," She growled, shooting Rin a warning look as my sister stood up in case Tsunade was going to throttle me, "And I'm a scarier blonde than you, girl. Don't try to protect your little boyfriend."
Rin's face reddened in anger and she puffed out her cheeks.
"He's not my boyfriend!" She stomped her foot, glaring up at the blonde Sannin.
"Then who is he?" Tsunade tilted her head, "You seem real protective of him."
"We're twins." I deadpanned, "And I assume you're Jiraiya's lover, given how desperate you are to find him."
Tsunade's head jerked up and she had a disgusted look on her face at the insinuation.
"I am not his lover." Tsunade was now within arm's reach of me. "I'm a friend."
"Friend. Lover. Same thing," I shrugged, smirking internally, "Jiraiya talked about a blonde that always eluded him. A 'fine specimen', he called her."
Rin had gotten acquainted with Jiraiya over the last few days and she both liked him and despised him. She was glad we had a godfather, but the light seem to vanish from her eyes when she found out that he was the writer of the Icha Icha series.
Tsunade glared at me and reached towards me, but she took a deep breath and gave me a withering look instead of hitting me.
"Someone ought to put you in a mental hospital." She shrugged.
Jiraiya chose the worst time to enter the room, his eyes flicking between me and Tsunade as he stood near the doorway.
"Someone should put you in a box floating down the river, grandma." I raised my voice as I looked at my distant cousin with a cold look, then turned to Jiraiya, "There, I said it Ero-sennin, do I get my reward?"
Tsunade's glare left me and she spun around, spotting her teammate, his eyes wide in fear.
"Gaki, you're going to kill me." Jiraiya sent me a death glare, before putting up his hands to try and calm Tsunade down. "Tsunade, just hear me out."
"You better have a damn good reason for sending me into a room with an even more insufferable version of you then you were as a kid, pervert." Tsunade looked up at Jiraiya, the height difference being more than a little amusing.
Deciding to be nice to my godfather, I explained who I was.
"I'm surprised you didn't connect the dots from my hair, cousin." I said coldly, grabbing at my crimson mane.
Tsunade took a second, but she caught on.
"Kushina's brats?" She asked, looking at the two of us, Rin glaring at the description of us. "This supposed to make me want to stay more, Jiraiya?"
Before I could say something harsh, a woman with black hair came racing down the hall, stopping right next to Jiraiya, a rather nauseous looking pig in her arms.
"Tsunade-sama," Shizune said breathlessly, "I see you found Jiraiya-sama." She then spotted Rin and me, "Hello, I'm Shizune."
"Uzumaki Naruto," I smiled as I introduced myself, "And my beautiful little sister, Rin." I pointed at the blonde in question, an unladylike snort escaping her.
"And you, Tsunade-sama," I eventually got to her, "You're not here for us to guilt trip you into staying, you're in this room because Jiraiya's our godfather and has been staying here while my head is still messing with me."
Tsunade turned to Jiraiya and seemingly ignored me.
"Is he always this way?" The blonde Sannin asked her other surviving one.
"Only towards people he doesn't like." Jiraiya replied truthfully, "Now come on, you need to see something."
Tsunade reluctantly followed Jiraiya out of the room, turning back towards Shizune.
"Stay here for now, Shizune." She said, disappearing from sight.
Shizune slowly turned and looked a little uncomfortable as she sat down in a chair.
"So," Rin began, "How do you know Tsunade-sama?"
"That little brat is lucky I didn't break something and fix it." Tsunade growled under her breath, her fist clenched for more than one reason.
The faint scent of blood was present in the hallway as they walked towards a certain room, the Senju woman focusing on the clack of her sandals against the floor instead of the smell.
She'd learned that Kushina was one of her great grandfather's grandkids, making the two Uzumaki Jinchuriki cousins, several years back. She was still assured that they hadn't needed her, judging by how well they seemed to know and get along with Jiraiya.
And besides, she didn't speak with her Uzumaki relatives all that much. She was a Senju through and through, despite her great grandfather reaching out to her often.
"That brat," Jiraiya said beside her, his much longer legs going at a noticeably slower pace for her sake, "Fought the Suna Jinchuriki, several Chunin and Jonin, and a Kaguya in one day. He'd probably take it badly if you flicked him like you do when messing with people."
Tsunade hid the surprise she had from hearing that, simply raising her brow instead.
"I didn't miss who his sister resembled." Tsunade gazed into a room for a fraction of a second, not breaking her stride, "His kids?" She let the name go unmentioned.
Jiraiya nodded stiffly.
The two still walked, reaching the more secure part of the hospital, a few concealed ANBU in the hall.
"Your letter had few details," She remarked, looking up at him, "How did Orochimaru die, and what am I needed for?"
Jiraiya explained that he fought Orochimaru and he didn't die well, but he shifted to the other subject without giving detail.
"Sensei was severely injured." Jiraiya explained, his eyes downcast, "Iryo-nin said they couldn't even find bits of his left kidney and he lost a lot of blood."
Tsunade twitched at the mention of blood, biting her cheek as she narrowed her eyes and forced herself not to start breathing quickly.
"Is that all I'm here for?"
"No," Jiraiya shook his head, slowing down further and pointing at a specific door, "The old man is stepping down again. Someone needs to replace him and I'll be too busy with my spy network after the smoke clears."
"No." Tsunade said stiffly, "I don't plan on dying in office. The hat is a damn trap that took everything from me."
Jiraiya seemed to gather himself as they got to the door.
"I'm sorry, Tsunade," Jiraiya looked away from her eyes, "I'm sorry I wasn't there when you needed me. But don't let the things that happened stop you from protecting Konoha."
Tsunade felt her anger spike at that statement.
"Don't you dare accuse me of not protecting Konoha," She spat, standing on her tiptoes and grabbing Jiraiya's shoulder to force him to face her, "I have given everything but my life for this village, Jiraiya!" She pressed him against the wall, "My clan dies with me." Her grip on his shirt tightened as she remembered all the faces of her aunts and uncle's, her cousins, that didn't come back from missions. Of how the Senju clan was slowly whittled down from being targeted during the First and Second Wars.
She still remembered the day that her grandfather Hashirama died, the realization that she'd never play another game of cards with him again. Or her great uncle Tobirama, the normally stoic man taking the time to play with her when his brother had fallen ill.
Those memories were all she had left, aside from the necklace hanging around her neck. All of them would die again with her. She wouldn't give up the only thing she had left to satisfy Konoha's hunger for more Shinobi to throw in the cursed Hokage seat.
"I'll keep Sarutobi-sensei alive, but that's it." She let go of Jiraiya, putting her hand on the doorknob, "No one alive can convince me otherwise."
She twisted the knob and opened the door, entering the room. The sight her eyes took in had her almost tripping and falling in shock.
Standing over a pale, but awake, Sarutobi Hiruzen were two men she never thought she'd see again.
Her grandfather, looking healthier than she'd seen him, aside from the cracks on his face and his eyes being darker, and her Uncle Tobirama, who looked very much the same as he did just days before he'd been killed, aside from the cracks and his eyes.
Tsunade felt like she was suffocating for a moment as there was no sound except for the blood thundering in her ears.
"Tsuna?" Her grandfather asked in that rich and warm voice he had as he'd tell her a story at night or when he explained the rules of gambling.
"Jii-chan?" She managed to say, the shock overwhelming her. "H-how?"
"My Edo Tensei jutsu, Tsunade-chan," Her uncle replied, looking uncomfortable, "Your former teammate resurrected us and Ashina-sensei to kill Saru, but we were thankfully broken out."
Tsunade only now realized that Jiraiya remained outside of the room, probably to give her some privacy.
"Then how are you still here?" She breathed in and out, looking at the two of them.
"The Jutsu doesn't end when the summoner dies," Hashirama explained, "Tobirama knows how to sever it, and I'm sure Ashina already did it to himself, judging by his absence."
"But why not do it already?" She was lost as she thought of a reason for her grandfather and uncle to remain.
"I wanted to see my granddaughter again," Hashirama said softly, his eyes looking directly into her own, "I wanted to see my little princess again."
Tsunade gave in to what her heart was screaming at her to do and rushed towards her grandfather, hugging him with all her strength.
"I missed you." She whispered, tears starting to flow, "You have no idea how much."
Her grandfather returned the hug and her uncle was right next to them, but let the two have their moment.
"Hiruzen and Jiraiya told us everything that has happened, Tsuna," He gently stroked her hair, "I'm so sorry you've had to experience so many things."
This moment made her feel like a little girl again, safe in a grandfather's arms.
"Was it worth it?" She asked uncertainly, needing to know, "After everything you heard, was everything you did worth it?"
Senju Hashirama stepped away, but kept his hands on her shoulders, his right going up to cup her cheek.
"Every bit, Tsuna," He smiled, "You've grown into a strong and beautiful woman. Jiraiya told me of how kind you are, and that temper of yours." He laughed lightly.
Tsunade let out a small laugh, wiping her eyes.
"The village is larger than I ever thought possible." His breath caught as he seemed to search for the words to say, "And it has endured after Tobirama and I passed. And the fates smile on me as I look at my granddaughter, all grown up."
"I've seen things," She shook her head, remembering the horrors of war she witnessed, the shattered looks of children and the terrible injuries she treated, "I've seen the worst in the world."
"As have I," Hashirama whispered softly, "And I'm thankful that everything I did created a haven for you. Jiraiya told me of Dan and your brother."
Tsunade started shaking as she remembered, the choked gasps of Dan as she failed to save him.
"I'm not like you, Jii-chan," She gasped, trying to not start openly weeping, "I wasn't strong enough. I couldn't save them."
"I wasn't able to save my brothers Kawarama or Itama," Hashirama whispered, "And not a day went by where I didn't think of what could have been. But I carried them in my heart so no one else would be forced to hurt like I had, Tsuna."
"Jiraiya has faith in you," Hashirama continued to smile, "Hiruzen does. Tobirama and I have faith that you are strong like we were and will carry through as we did. You are my granddaughter, and I know you have the strength of our clan within you."
Tsunade wanted to tell him no, that she didn't have the strength to do it. But she never could say no to her grandfather, a man unmatched in kindness.
Tsunade gave a watery smile and slowly stepped away from her grandfather, her eyes going to her Sensei.
"Tsunade." He whispered, his face pale and sweating, "I would stand up and hug you, but I don't think the doctors or my Senseis would appreciate it."
Tsunade smiled at her Sensei, walking towards the left side of the bed.
"I'm not surprised you hurt yourself when I was gone, Sensei," She reached her hand out for him to hold, "You and Jiraiya are just alike."
The aged Sarutobi laughed softly, wincing as he did so.
"Eh, they did what they could without stressing my system," He said tightly, "But they couldn't do anything more risky. 'Too fragile', they call me."
Tsunade nodded along as she pulled her hand back and shifted the blankets, revealing the bandages around his chest.
"Freshly changed, I see." She murmured, slowly unwrapping them.
Hiruzen hissed lightly and Tsunade continued to remove the bandages, eventually seeing the last layers that were stained red.
Focus, Tsunade. She gritted her teeth. Fix him up and then you can fall apart.
With most of the bandages removed, she made a hand seal to make two Kage bunshin and ordered them to get her some equipment. This would take some time.
"So Tsunade is a pretty bad gambler?" Rin asked Shizune, the woman nodding.
I had gotten out of the bed and was gingerly walking around, attempting to keep my legs from cramping by laying around.
"Could you stop pacing, old man?" Rin asked me as I hobbled like a baby giraffe, "It's annoying."
"You're only three minutes younger than me, Baa-chan." I muttered, turning my back on her as I petted Tonton.
I felt something hit me in the back of the head and I winced, grabbing at my neck.
"Did you just hit me with a sushi roll?" I looked at Rin, the little brat grinning.
"I can't remember," Rin made her voice deeper and huskier as she talked, trying to sound like an old lady, "My memory isn't as good as it used to be."
I muttered under my breath and requested to pick up the pig, which I did, and sat down in a chair next to Shizune.
A familiar chakra signature made its way down the hall and I couldn't help but smile at the timing.
"Hey, Tonton," I looked at the pig, "Let's have some fun."
The door opened and Ino walked in, pulling her hair up into a ponytail.
"Just wanted to say h-" Her head tilted as she looked at me, specifically my lap, "Is that a pig?"
"Yes," I nodded, scratching the little animal's ear, "Why didn't you tell me you were a twin too?"
"What?" Ino asked confusedly, before she realized what I said, "Oh, ha ha ha," She laughed mockingly, rolling her eyes as Rin started laughing, "So very funny, fishcake. A name joke."
"Maelstrom," I corrected absentmindedly, handing the pig back to Shizune, "And come on, how often does an opportunity like that present itself, Ino?"
"Still not funny." She huffed, crossing her arms.
"Rin thinks it is." I pointed at my incredibly amused sister, who was still stifling giggles.
"I guess you don't want the takeout ramen I got for you." She held up the box she had been holding, the box turning out to be Ichiraku's.
"Wait, wait," I held up my hands nervously, "Don't be like that. Be reasonable."
Ino tapped her chin with her hand, pretending like she were debating.
"Nah, here you go, Rin." Ino gave my ramen to Rin, who didn't hesitate to begin eating it.
I just stared in horror as Rin ate my food.
"But I'm hungry." I protested, looking between the two blondes.
"Hi, hungry." Rin said through a mouthful of noodles, swallowing it. "I'm Rin."
Growling under my breath, I reached for Tonton again.
Shizune's eyes widen in worry.
"What do you want with Tonton?" She clutched the pig close to her chest.
"I need something to eat." I said flatly, reaching again.
"No!" Shizune kicked at my hand, "You're not eating Tonton."
I actually paused and blinked in shock, trying to work my mind around what she had just said. My nose then wrinkled in disgust.
"I don't want to eat the pig," I sputtered, waving my arms frantically, "I want you to get me something to eat and I'll watch Tonton. I don't trust either them," I jerked my head towards Ino and my sister, "To not eat it to spite me if they get me food."
To my annoyance, neither refuted what I said.
"Hinata wouldn't have done it." I muttered, giving Ino a mock glare.
"I'll let the two of you argue," Shizune got up, walking towards Ino and setting Tonton in her arms, "You impeded a patient's recovery. You take care of her."
Shizune then exited the room, hopefully to get something fit for human consumption for me, something that wasn't hospital food.
Tonton squirmed in Ino's arms as she sat down, much to the blonde's annoyance.
"Having fun?" Rin asked, still stuffing her face with my food.
"You're still a traitor." I frowned at her, my sister sticking her tongue out.
"I don't have Sasuke to annoy, so it's back to you."
"Defect." I muttered in English, trying to not think of how hungry I was.
Ino frowned slightly when she looked down at the ground.
"Isn't there a bento box right there?" Ino pointed at the floor, the discarded one from earlier there.
"That wasn't even remotely enough," I groaned, glancing at the girl, "I could probably eat five and still be good."
Ino scoffed. "You sure I'm the pig?" She then shifted her grip on Tonton.
"Yes." Rin and I said at the same time, the two of us snickering.
"This is exactly why I gave Rin your food." Ino grumbled, petting the pig on her lap, "And who was the lady anyway?"
Rin had slurped up some broth and couldn't answer, so I did.
"Kaito Shizune," I answered, scratching the side of my head, "She's the apprentice of Senju Tsunade."
"Tsunade-sama?" Ino asked, eyes wide, "She's returned?"
"Seems like it," I nodded, "I met her."
"Really?" Ino asked excitedly, the pig protesting the girl's quick movement, "What's she like? She must be awesome!"
"Yeah," Rin rolled her eyes, "She's real swell. Smells like sake and gives blondes a bad name."
After the enlightening explanation by Rin, I explained to a confused Ino.
"She's not exactly what you'd expect," I sighed, trying to keep my own annoyance with her out of my voice, "She lost people close to her during the Second Shinobi War, and she likes sake as a result."
Ino read through the lines and dipped her head with a saddened expression.
"That would make sense."
Wanting to cheer her up, I made a small comment.
"Who knows, she might see that you're learning some Iryo-ninjutsu and she might show you a thing or two."
"Really?!" Ino asked, smiling again.
The three of us talked some more about Tsunade and what else the plans were for after Konoha cleaned up after the fighting.
"Are you sure about this, Sasuke?" Kakashi asked him, his Sensei sounding concerned. "You can wait until Naruto and Rin are out."
The two of them were walking towards TI, the younger of the two going there for a specific reason.
"No," Sasuke shook his head, "I want to do this on my own."
Sasuke noticed how Kakashi fought the urge to not press his fingers against the bridge of his nose in resignment, simply following along.
"I don't want you getting hurt, Sasuke," Kakashi said, "Naruto already got hit by th-"
"I know," Sasuke snapped at his Sensei, glaring up at him, "I want to know why he was here training Rin and me."
Weasel was definitely Itachi, no doubt about it. Kakashi had said it was supposed to be a different ANBU helping them, but the ANBU in question was found with multiple Genjutsu on him to ensure he had memories of training them, but was actually in his house.
"Itachi would have done something then, not after the invasion." Sasuke kept thinking of some of the things Naruto had talked about and it chilled him.
They reached the entrance to the center for torture and interrogation.
Kakashi hit his fist against the door in a rhythmic fashion, stepping back slowly. A few seconds later, a slat in the door at head height opened and I set of eyes were visible.
"Thunder." The voice said, looking straight at Kakashi.
"Flash." The Copynin replied with a bored tone.
The eyes disappeared and the sound of several locks being pulled echoed slightly, the door swinging open.
"Hatake." The trenchcoat wearing Shinobi said, glancing at Sasuke for a moment. "Here to see him?"
"It appears so." Kakashi replied, walking forward as the man stepped out of the way.
Sasuke followed his Sensei and flinched as he heard a muffled scream from one of the rooms.
"Plenty of prisoners, kid," The man guiding them said, "And they attacked our village. So they're meat on a slab, for all the I care."
The coldness in his voice unnerved Sasuke, the previously polite man now gone.
They entered a section of the prison that was for high risk prisoners and Sasuke saw Ino's father speaking with Anko, the latter spotting them.
"Hey, Kakashi," She waved, turning to Inoichi and saying something, before walking towards them, "Didn't think you'd show up." She then turned to Sasuke, "You sure you want to be here? It's pretty bad in there."
"I must know." Sasuke said firmly, not making any compromise.
He needed peace. This right now was the key to that. He had to know, straight from Itachi's mouth, why he did it.
Before Anko could say anything, Inoichi stepped forward and Sasuke got an up close look at him.
His hair seemed a little disheveled and his face was paler than usual, and Sasuke couldn't tell why.
"We've gotten nothing out him for days now," Inoichi looked at Anko, then Kakashi, "He's constantly asked to speak with the Hokage or Jiraiya-sama, but that obviously isn't happening."
Sasuke had heard from Rin that the Hokage had been severely injured and that the two previous Hokages were guarding him in the hospital.
"I want to speak with him." Sasuke said again, looking up at the blond man.
Inoichi sighed and looked at Kakashi.
"If I have to talk with him after this, it's on you." The Yamanaka clan head then looked at Sasuke. "If you kill him before we get the information we want out of him, you'll be charged with treason. Please don't, that's all I'll say."
Inoichi then grabbed at the door, opening the lock and pushing it open, beckoning Sasuke to enter.
Sasuke steeled himself and entered, his brother inside.
Sasuke activated his Sharingan to adjust to the lack of light better and focused on his older brother, strapped to chair in front of a table.
In short, Itachi was a mess. He was extremely pale, even more so than normal, his hair was just as bad as it appeared before, the ponytail jaggedly cut off, and his eyes had bags under them from lack of sleep.
Despite this, he still sat straight and whatever pain he may have been in didn't seem to face him. He almost looked bored.
Sasuke deactivated his Sharingan as he walked forward and sat in a chair opposite of his brother, their eyes meeting.
"To think it took this long to try Henging as Sasuke to try and make me talk," Itachi's voice had a faint rasp to it, his lips dry, "And I can't even see through it."
That was when Sasuke noticed the seal on Itachi's forehead.
"A Hyuga elder was brought in to temporarily mark me," Itachi coughed slightly, a slight smirk on his face, "To think that I'm the first Uchiha to have this mark."
The two stared at one another for several moments, silently.
"Unless," Itachi tilted his head slightly, the restraints on his hands clinking, "It actually is you, little brother."
"Don't call me that." Sasuke's voice had an iciness that could've caused frostbite, "I came here for my own reasons, not to get you to talk to them."
Itachi slowly closed his eyes and exhaled, opening them and he leaned his head forward slightly, nearly identical eyes to Sasuke looking at him.
Sasuke activated his Sharingan, wanting to capture and see every moment.
"You're Weasel, the one who trained Rin and me."
"Yes." Itachi replied.
"You were good at it, and I learned more that month than I did with anyone else in a month."
"I based it on what Shisui and I did for training," Itachi's voice flattened, "And I'm surprised you haven't tried to kill me. I'm helpless, Sasuke. For the first time in your entire life, you have the ability to kill me, so why not?"
"I want little more than to rip your eyes out of your head and feed them to you." Sasuke said viciously, lunging forward with his hand reaching for the eye that put him into a living hell.
Sasuke stopped at the last second, his fingers a hair's breadth from his brother's eye, looking at Itachi with a murderous expression. Itachi didn't flinch at all, staring at him almost as if he were already dead.
"You infiltrated the village," Sasuke sat back down, "And for what? To train me? To help speed up my progress for our climactic battle?" Sasuke's breathing started to speed up, "Naruto always doubted the entire story about what you did. He kept poking at it and asked me to tell him every single detail of what you did to me." Sasuke stood up and dragged his fingers through his hair, clenching his hand and using the slight pain to concentrate.
"If you wanted to make sure that I would hunt you to the ends of the Earth, you only needed to hurt Rin and put me in a Genjutsu again," Sasuke sat back down, "But you didn't."
"No, I didn't."
"So why did you do it?" Sasuke asked, the answer something he desired more than anything, "Why did you kill our clan? Why did you kill tousan and kaasan? Is Naruto right about there being a bigger reason than testing your power?" Sasuke's voice was raised now, "Our father and Shisui were the only two S-ranks in our clan and you didn't fight either of them. If you wanted to test yourself, why not fight the Hokage? Or a Sannin?"
Itachi's lips twitched when the word 'Sannin' was mentioned.
"Tell me, Itachi." Sasuke was shaking, "Why?"
Itachi blinked and shifted his fingers, scratching at a cut on his hand.
"Our clan was an honoured one and our father was a respected veteran of the Third Shinobi War." His voice still had the slight rasp from lack of water, but Sasuke kept his eyes on Itachi.
"Then, everything changed when the Kyuubi attacked."
This marks the last chapter until I bring the quality of the earlier chapters up and add some things. Like I put at the top, it'll be a month or two at minimum of doing it before I begin writing the next chapter. I'll also be planning out how the Shippuden part will go, given that a huge amount of changes have happened.
Honest question: Should I have held off on the Ashina reveal? It was either now, or after the time skip and when Naruto tries to open the vault. It was going to be then for the longest time, but I decided now would be more realistic, given that an anomaly like twins would be something Ashina would investigate with extreme scrutiny, and he would stumble upon the notes Naruto has about future events when he broke into their apartment.
The choice of doing it now basically left me with a sense of buyer's remorse on doing it, mainly from wanting a big massive reveal later, but this seems more internally realistic for someone that learned his grandson was 'cursed' in a sense like he was wanting to convince him to kill Sasuke.
Tsunade gets rather rudely ordered to come back and she sees her grandfather and uncle again. I don't think I've read a fic, or only one or two awhile back, that had Tsunade speaking with Hashirama again. I wanted to see it, so I wrote it.
If Tsunade was able to muscle through her aversion to blood in Canon by what Naruto said, then freaking Hashirama could pull off something similar.
And Sasuke speaks with Itachi on why he did it. The realization of him being Weasel and the subtle hints and 'humouring' of theories by Naruto has him more restrained in wanting Itachi dead and wants to know if there were details that he doesn't know.
Any ideas offered about the sorta-filler stuff to flesh out a couple friendships are definitely welcome. I might use a couple.
And as always, reviews are the lifeblood of writers and I adore them. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day.