Chapter 13: No Going Back, Only Forward (Kaito)

The flight from Niseko back to the Leaf Village took two full days. On the first day, Kaito and his hawk battled a vicious storm the entire time.

He had opted to stay low and close to the steep cliffs. The cloud cover was lacking, and many trading routes and villages were dotting the way between Noodle and the Leaf Village. After all, he was still supposed to hide most of his identifying abilities.

In hindsight, staying close to the shore before cutting inland was a bad idea. Dark, ominous clouds above the Kanashii Ocean formed seemingly out of nowhere, as they often do. Years spent in the Land of Fire's central forests must have dulled his weariness around the southern storms.

But after two tiring days, the Hokage Monument finally appeared on the horizon. Kaito descended to a secluded clearing several miles outside The Leaf Village's outer walls. As soon as Tachi's talons hit the dirt, he all but collapsed out of the saddle. His boots hit the compacted earth releasing a dull thud into the forest, spooking a nearby squirrel.

"I don't know what I would do without you." He whispered while patting Tachi's feathers where the saddle straps ruffled them.

"You'd do a lot more walking. Probably be late to every mission." The feminine hawk rumbled out. She tilted her head towards him and butted him playfully in the chest. He chuckled and wrapped his arms around her neck, scratching the spot he knew she loved. Her copper-tinged tail swayed back and forth, throwing dust into the air.

Tachi and his other hawk summons were the only ones. The only beings that crossed over with him. The others in the Leaf village may look the same, but they weren't. Memories and shared experiences make bonds. Other than the camaraderie with his anbu team and his working relationship with Minato and Jiraiya, he had none here.

"As always, you're right." He breathed into her feathers before dispelling her in a cloud of smoke so that she could get her hard-earned rest.

Now alone in the center of the clearing, he marveled as the sounds of the forest rushed in. As if the disappearance of the predator hawk freed the forest's inhabitants to go about their daily routines.

Frogs croaked, cicadas released their raspy tone, and birds fluttered in the upper canopy. Kaito should feel at home here. He'd spent most of his life in the central region of The Land of Fire. Yet all he felt was agitation.

Perhaps his recent mission to the coast revived his love for the sea.

Kaito huffed and shook his head. No, who was he kidding? He knew what had him worked up. Even two days later, his chakra was still agitated, twisting, and swirling in his body, eager to be set free.

Eager to fight.

That bastard was out there. An entire year with no clue, not so much as a whisper. But now he had a lead.

Images of that man laughing as the nine tales ravaged his village resurfaced in his mind. Of his crying son laying cold and alone on that fucking pedestal with no mother or father to comfort him.

Kaito clenched his fists, and his blood writhed within him. His chakra mimicked his fight internally, withdrawing to his core. He desperately tried to contain it there, but it only condensed it. It stayed there for several moments, thickening with malice and pushing back against his will.

His will faltered like a spider web of cracks, and chakra burst through. A veil of blue chakra laced with wind exploded outward in a dome. The earth below him cracked, and the grass in a ten-yard radius dislodged from the soil and blew away with the dome. Trees swayed and splintered as chakra laden with wind slashed into them.

He screamed. Hatred, anger, regret, and sorrow all joined the vicious outburst of chakra that echoed into the forest.

Then with a deep breath, the clearing went still, and all that could be heard were his ragged breaths. Just as suddenly as it had turned violent, Kaito managed to rein in his chakra. He cut the flow to the outward burst, and the earth below him settled.


Kaito grinned. He may not be from this world, but this forest now knew him. Those two Mist swordsmen would never forget. He was dangerous, deadly, and just like how the forest cowered from his hawk, the Leaf's enemies would learn to cower from him as they did from his own reality.

Now with his chakra calm, Kaito turned toward the Leaf but halted when he heard the cry of an animal. Its tone was filled with desperation and pain. Kaito slowly made his way over and pushed aside the overgrowth.

Lying in a growing pool of blood was a young doe not more than two years old. Its brown fur was matted with blood, and an enormous gash to the bone ran vertically up its torso.

Shame quickly replaced the previous dominant emotions as he knelt next to the writhing animal. This being was innocent, caught in the wrong place, and killed because he couldn't restrain his own emotions. Jiraiya would be ashamed, and Kushina disgusted.

He gently placed his hand on its head and brushed, trying to soothe it. But the doe knew who had done this, and it looked up at him in fear. Its cries grew louder, and its legs kicked in an attempt to flee. Kaito hung his head and reached for a kunai. The doe's fate was sealed. The only thing he could control was how long it suffered. With a quick slash, he ended its life.

The forest grew quiet again. Suddenly the silence Kaito had previously relished in made him feel empty. He wanted to go home.

Kaito looked up, and like a beacon, the Hokage mountain, far off in the distance, was barely visible above the tops of the tree canopy. He stood and took one last look at the bloody doe at his feet. Then in a burst of wind, he was gone, racing through the forest in a blur.

He reached the main gate in minutes and skidded to a halt. Several merchants queued in line were startled at his sudden appearance.

"Bloody ninja." Kaito heard one mutter under their breath as he made his way to the front of the line and checked in with the ninja operating the gate.

The Leaf had made much progress in the year since the nine-tails sudden attack. Areas previously dominated by shattered buildings and debris strew streets now had open lots and wooden frames outlining future buildings.

Some of the oldest sections of the village had been the most affected, but like a fire raging through a forest, destruction often brought new growth. The village had wisely taken its time rebuilding these sections, using the opportunity to plan and improve the neighborhoods. Better road layouts, more efficient plumbing, and stronger buildings were but a few of the improvements made to these areas. Soon these new sections will become the most sought-after and valuable property in the Leaf.

But Kaito didn't want new. He wanted the old and familiar. He wanted alcohol and knew just the dive bar to get it. Unfortunately, it had to wait until after briefing Minato on the mission details.

The walk to the Hokage office was uneventful. He'd been here only a year, so most people had no idea who he was and paid him no mind. But some of the ninja he'd done missions with, particularly in anbu, gave him a nod.

This was a change that cut both ways. Sometimes he liked being left alone. The civilians here had no expectations of him. He didn't have to act Hokage like all the time. But he would be lying if he didn't sometimes miss the attention before it would take an hour to cross the village. As the Hokage, he would get stopped and pulled into countless conversations with citizens. Now they just left him to his business.

Eventually, Kaito found himself leaning against the wall near the reception desk. The commanding oak doors guarding the Hokage office loomed before him. Takano Mekichi, funny enough, the same receptionist he had employed, sat at the desk. The brunette with thick-rimmed glasses did her business despite the clearly agitated man beside her.

It was annoying now since he was the one trying to see the Hokage, but he had employed the women precisely for this reason when he wore the hat. Takano had the uncanny ability to completely ignore the overbearing presence of clan heads and council members who were all vying to meet the Hokage. She stuck to the schedule and held fast when high-ranking officials demanded to be moved up.

The oak doors swung open and out hobbled a man Kaito had thoroughly enjoyed not running into since his arrival here. But all things eventually ended, and with a single black eye narrowing at the sight of him, Kaito knew a new thorn in his side had just appeared.

Kaito pressed himself off the wall and made his way toward the doors, but as he passed the root commander, the sound of a wood cane hitting stone echoed throughout the hallway.

"Kaito Furukawa, how nice it is to finally meet the Hokage's new dog."

Kaito paused and sighed. He knew eventually he'd draw the attention of Danzo. But right now, he did not have the patience. "Danzo Shimura, it's an honor."

"No, the honor is mine." The old man grumbled. The white bandages on his face stretched with the movement of his jaw. "For an outsider such as yourself to become a Leaf ninja, receive the rank of jonin, and then gain the trust of the Hokage, you must truly be special."

Kaito cooled his emotions and eased the subtle twitches in his face. He knew Danzo's motive and how dangerous the man was. If he gave anything to the man, anything that was involuntary, the old crow would see it. "The Leaf required my skills, and I was happy to provide them."

The old council member hummed and brought his other hand onto his cane. "Yes, yes, it did. A symptom of a greater issue. But something has me intrigued…."

"Oh," Kaito said with a raised eyebrow, "and what would that be?"

"How does a man of your caliber go completely unnoticed in the mercenary world? A-rank at least, skilled in wind and earth style ninjutsu, knowledgeable in black ops tactics. There should be whispers of your achievements, traces from your past, and yet" Danzo rattled on while tapping his cane rhythmically on the floor. "The only thing I get is silence. Why is that?"

Kaito suppressed a grin, the man had done his homework, but then again, it was expected. Danzo was dangerous.

"Maybe it's because everyone who saw me in action is dead."

The old man grinned and instantly reaffirmed why he still held the dirty position he had. "Or you're hiding something. Nevertheless, you're an unknown, and unknowns are dangerous. If I were you, I'd finish the good work you're doing in the east and move along."

Kaito tilted his head; a threat?

"And if I don't?"

"Then I'll keep digging until I find something."

"That'll be a messy job."

Danzo smirked and raised his bandaged hand, "I didn't get to where I am by keeping clean." With that, the old man stepped out of his way and continued down the hallway.

He'd have to address the issue of Danzo sooner rather than later. If not, the man would form all sorts of theories in his head, and if he deemed Kaito a genuine threat, he'd make Kaito's life very difficult.

Kaito entered the Hokage office and closed the doors behind him. Minato stood facing the window. The blond Hokage's hands were clasped behind his back, and he appeared deep in thought. His fingers idly picked at his nails.

A welcome site lounged lazily on the couch, his long white hair draped over the arm and coiled on the ground. He gave Kaito a thumbs up and mouthed 'Yo.'

"Kaito, please tell me you have some good news." Minato turned, stress apparent in the wrinkles forming near his eyes.

"A mixture of good and bad." Kaito breathed out as he shushed Jiraiya from one side of the sofa and plopped down beside him. "The paper bomb factory is in the Niseko region, either in the city itself or the surrounding mountains."

Minato nodded, "Good, so we know where to concentrate if tensions boil over. And the bad?"

"There were mist ninjas everywhere."

Minato's shoulders sagged, "what is your analysis?"

"Similar to Wave and Hotsprings. They are building infrastructure in nations bordering Fire Country. These countries' governments allow the Mist to operate in large numbers without supervision."

"Whatever happened to having some damn backbone," Jiraiya grumbled. "These countries turn belly up at the slightest sign of pressure."

"Can you really blame them?" Kaito questioned rhetorically. "We used the same tactics in the second and third wars."

Jiraiya frowned and crossed his arms in defeat, enticing a laugh out of Kaito. He had forgotten how childish his mentor could be at times.

Minato sighed and sat down at his desk. "Danzo just briefed me on much of the same." He ran bandaged fingers through his disheveled hair with one hand and ruffled through a pile of scrolls with the other. Minato must have begun training in earnest again if the state of his hands were any sign. "Not even three years after the war's end, and we're so close to entering another one."

"There's more," Kaito said while leaning forward. Minato seemed to wilt into his chair, the blond's eyes losing some of their characteristic sapphire glow. "During my escape, I ran into a boy in the sewers below the city."

A single blond eyebrow raised in question, "Most likely a homeless orphan calling the tunnels home. He was drawing a mask, the same one as the man that attacked us that night."

Minato's fingers stopped their idle fidgeting and froze. The room grew cold, and the hair on Kaito's arms rose. Jiraiya also leaned forward, any resemblance of immaturity gone, replaced by undivided attention.

"How long ago?" The blond asked.

"The most recent appearance was a month ago, but the boy stated he'd seen him twice in the sewers."

"What was he doing? How long between visits? Where…" Minato began rattling off until noticing Kaito shaking his head.

"That's all I know. Unfortunately, I had to retreat before I could get any more info. But I doubt the boy knew anything else, and the entire city is now on high alert, so gathering more info would be tough."

"Finally," Minato breathed, "More than a year has passed without any clue. But finally, we have a thread. Something to pull and see what's on the other end. I'll assign an anbu operative to the city to investigate."

Kaito stood abruptly, "Minato, with all due respect, I should be the one."

"No." Minato shook his head. "You're too valuable to be holed up in a sewer for who knows how long before that man shows again. That is if he even returns at all. But rest assured; I also assigned Jiraiya to the region."

Kaito clenched his fists and tried his best to rein in his chakra, but it still slipped out, like wind whistling through the trees. "What is the reasoning behind this? You told me two months ago that you still planned on keeping Jiraiya out of the region because it would be redundant with the both of us there, but now you've changed your mind? And to top it off, you're telling me I can't follow the only lead we got on the masked man!"

Jiraiya stood next to him. One of his large hands reached out, clasped Kaito on the shoulder, and gave a reassuring squeeze. "Don't worry kid, I got this one. This actually works out perfectly. I've been meaning to do some research in Noodle Country. I've heard they have some spectacular springs."

"Jiraiya, this isn't the time for fooling around. This is the man that took everything from me. And he almost did the same here." Kaito growled. Another wave of chakra escaped sending papers flying.

"You need to relax!" Jiraiya yelled next to him, startling Kaito out of his daze. Suddenly the memory of what happened out in the forest came rushing back, and with it, shame. "Kaito, you, of all people, should know how dangerous it is to have someone so emotionally invested hunting this guy. You're obsessed, your chakra is always agitated, and your missions report have grown darker and darker."

Kaito looked to Minato in surprise, "You're showing him my mission reports?"

"Yes, he is, and it's because we two are the only people here that could even begin to understand what you're going through," Jiraiya said.

"People don't need to understand. They just need to get out of the way."

"There, there it is." Jiraiya reaffirmed and poked Kaito firmly in the chest.

Kaito swatted the man's hand away and pushed him firmly. Jiraiya took two steps back and almost toppled over on the sofa. But his sensei wasn't done and waved off an approaching Minato.

Jiraiya got right back into his face, "Kaito, you're not going home."

The words hit like a bull, almost knocking the breath right out of him.

"We can't send you back home. Minato and I have combed the archives. I've traveled the world in the past year, turning over every stone, every clue. The only constant I get is that you shouldn't even exist."

Kaito looked coldly at the man in front of him. Jiraiya had his hands on each shoulder now, gripping him tightly. "You don't think I fucking know that! I'm no seal expert, but I know the ridiculousness of the ask."

Jiraiya's eyes were filled with sorrow and pity. But in them, there was also true compassion. Leave it to Jiraiya to care for a man that he had no knowledge of until a year ago.

"It's just, without the goal of hunting down that bastard I…I don't know what to do with myself. This isn't my village. My son is growing up alone in some far-off reality, and I'm stuck here." He said, gesturing to the floor beneath his feet.

"So make this your village," Jiraiya said so calmly that it almost made Kaito laugh. "Make this a home filled with friends. Build relationships with the friends you had before instead of avoiding them at every turn."

"And just give up on the masked man?" Kaito asked, his voice breaking with emotion.

"No," Jiraiya said softly. "Neither of us will give up until this guy is dealt with. But it can't be the only thing in your life."

"Kaito, let me explain," Minato said, finally interjecting. "I had already decided to deploy Jiraiya to the region even before this new information, and it's because I need your skills elsewhere."

"Minato, I'm the main reason the Mist isn't at our border already. So, what could be more important than keeping me operating in the region?" Kaito said.

Minato nodded and sighed, "Your right. You've been instrumental in delaying their advances until we had time to recoup some of our losses from the nine tails. I'm not completely pulling you out. I'm sure there will be some anbu-related needs for you. It just won't be your only focus."

"And what is this new focus? Making a life here?" He asked mockingly.

"Two new responsibilities. First, I need you to start taking on a more general Jonin role. You have the rank, but you've been operating in the shadows the entire time. Because of this, most of the Leaf ninja don't know you."

Kaito stepped back and brought his breathing under control. He knew where this was going, but part of him still objected. He could do so much under the mask; there was less red tape when working in the shadows.

"War is coming, Kaito. I know you've known for a while. I tried to beat the inevitability back, but it will always happen when one side wants war. When it breaks out, I'll need leaders. Men and women who can make decisions on the field without all the information present. I'll be damned if I have a man with Hokage experience slinking around the shadows instead of leading forces on the front lines."

Kaito bowed his head; there it was. He certainly couldn't argue with the logic. He probably would have come to a similar conclusion if he were in Minato's shoes.

"For this to work, I need the village to know you. They need to trust and follow your orders without question. But I also need our adversaries to fear you. So, no more hiding in anbu and concealing your power. It's time for the world to know."

Kaito collapsed onto the sofa, let his head fall back, and softly hit the cushions. The green wooden slats of the ceiling stared down at him, and his eyes hovered over the false panels from which anbu operatives could fall at a moment's notice. Of course, none were there right now because of the sensitive topic of their conversation. But he remembered fondly several times he summoned a very annoyed Kakashi for some odd job.

Minato and Jiraiya were right; the Leaf needed more from him, and the hunt for the masked man was tearing him apart. An innocent mutilated doe in the woods beyond the wall was evidence of that. He just wasn't ready for everything that came with it. Moving out of the shadows would push him into contact with people he knew before. Friends from his memories that would look at him like a stranger. It hurt every time he saw one. They didn't share the same memory that popped into his head. But there was no going back, not for him.

"So, can you do that? For the Village and for you." Minato pleaded.

Kaito sighed and pointed back and forth between Minato and Jiraiya, "You two are fearsome together."

"The three of us." Jiraiya said, nodding back at him and to Minato, who smiled in agreement.

"Ok, I'll try," Kaito said. A warm smile spread across his blond comrade's face, and suddenly a chill ran down his back upon remembering there was another detail he was forgetting. "Wait, what is the other responsibility you mentioned?"

Jiraiya smirked at the blond Hokage and then mouthed sorry to Kaito.

"Ha! You'll like this one." Minato half laughed and reached into a drawer. He then tossed a folder across the room. Kaito snatched it out of the air and opened it. A headache began to form behind his eyes. "How close were you to Itachi Uchiha?"

"Not very. Mikoto and her family were always more of Kushina's thing. We had them over for dinner once or twice, but that was the extent of my involvement." Kaito grumbled through the pit that was forming in his stomach.

"Well, get reading then because Mikoto requested a mentor for Itachi, and I'm assigning you."

Kaito's eyes twitched, and he glared at Jiraiya, "I'm guessing this was your idea."

Jiraiya huffed and folded his arms proudly, "damn right it was. Poor little Minato asked me for advice. I reminded him we have a blue-haired friend with extensive experience and in need of some youth to brighten his soul."

"Fuckin hell," Kaito said with a sigh. He pushed himself off the sofa and groaned at his protesting muscles, still sore from the long flight. "Well, I need some alcohol, and you are buying."

Jiraiya pointed to himself in mock denial, "Me? Shouldn't a student always treat his sensei?"

Minato walked around his desk and patted Jiraiya on the shoulder, "This time, I agree with Kaito. In fact, you can buy us both drinks. I need some after dealing with you two and Danzo today."

"This is perfect. Kill two birds with one stone. I can tell you about the two Mist ninja swordsmen I left quite an impression on in Niseko. The news will probably go down better with a chaser of booze." Kaito said over his shoulder.

"Ha!" Jiraiya laughed at Minato's expense. "Now you got me. To the Crooked Kunai, we go!"

"Kaito," Minato whined. "Please tell me it's not serious. It took a month to clear up the fallout from you sinking that ship in the middle of one of the most prominent shipping lanes."

Kaito shrugged, "Let's just say your plan of growing my notoriety already has a head start. Plus, we have one less Mist hand to worry about."

"Oooo," Jiraiya said while throwing his arms around both him and Minato. "I can't wait! Drinking with my two students and sharing stories. What else could a legendary sensei like me wish for!"

Kaito snickered and continued out of the office. Leave it to Jiraiya to take the credit from his other self. But after tonight, the old sage would second guess repeating the night because Kaito planned on drinking his sensei into poverty.

"Wait, when does the Itachi thing start?" Kaito asked, suddenly remembering the important detail.

"Tomorrow morning." Minato hummed.


Author's note 7/8/2023:

Hi everyone! The previous author's note said this chapter wouldn't take long. Sooooo, I guess that was a total lie.

RIP deer.

More cracks form in Kaito! I really want this story to be more than just some badass guy tearing up ninja. He's a man who has lost everything and stares daily at an alternate reality of what he once cherished. So he's gotta learn how to live again.

I also wanted Kaito to spend some more time in the village. Opportunities for him to come into contact with people he was close to before.

I have no clue when the next chapter will be done. Currently, with my fanfiction, I'm super scattered. I have six side projects other than the ones already posted. I think of a cool idea, write two chapters, and then move on to something else lol.

Time to address some reviews:

Dspot: Thank you for the encouraging review! Im glad you enjoy the Wind Walker Jutsu. My constant fear is that I'm not explaining how it looks correctly, but it appears I'm doing fine. Love your list of demands. It looks like you're getting your wish with Itachi. As for the others, I'm sure I'll hit some of them.

OneNOnly: Three re-reads! Your crazy lol. Thanks for the kind words and I'm glad you like the story enough to read it multiple times. Wind was always my favorite nature in the series. So many possibilities. Other than his more destructive wind abilities, Kaito mainly uses Wind to augment his mobility. My thought process is that as a ninja develops and gets more experience and stronger that doesn't just translate into huge flashy destructive attacks. Being able to conserve your chakra and be more efficient is more beneficial for most fights. Because most fights aren't against the ten tails lol.

Sirleirbag: Yikes, I may have done some preaching in this chapter. But at least it wasn't all about peace and love. Minato may be more pure at heart than Kaito, but he's still a badass ninja with hundreds of kills. I promise there will be some cool fight scenes with Minato as well.

- V3X