Snap Back To Reality @jazhop
Chapter 58

Snap Back To Reality 58

We went back to work and back to war. My short moment at home had ended quicker than I'd ever anticipated. I could see it in the way the group moved how everyone was so tired. It had been a long five years of conflict. Many people had lost loved ones, some lost their will to fight and live. The only ones left were people hardened by war. It didn't matter if you were Genin or Jounin in that front, war equally hardened the soul.

"Are we taking down enemy lines at a trade post?" I asked Gaku.

It had been a while since I'd done anything but specific sabotage missions, so I had been saved from larger scale conflicts. While I did go out to the front lines it was almost always for infiltration and assassination missions with Orochimaru. Now I was going back to the centre of the war and I wasn't used to it at all.

"No, we've been fighting for so long that we know each other's next targets by heart. We've lost too many forces attacking each other's outposts. The conflict is centred around the border villages now, and we're expecting to push them back a village down. We're currently fighting it out in the Land of Rice."

"Just a village down?" I asked in disbelief.

"As I said it's incredibly slow. Basically were going straight into a war zone for direct contact nowadays," he explained.

I hummed. So basically, we'd exhausted our posts so much we were using poor border villages to get a base. I could just imagine how shitty that would be for the civilians in those towns. It was hard to think all the proper military posts were destroyed now. My team had done a great job at dismantling several supply lines in the past and no doubt Orochimaru did a lot more during my mission to Kiri. Both sides were tired now but Konoha especially so. It wasn't foreign knowledge that we'd probably end up losing this war. That did worry me a little. Just a little though. If we lost things would be hard, but with Suna backing us up Kumo and Iwa couldn't ransack the Village. At that stage it would be a war between the Daimyo's too and when nobility got involved things get very complicated. They did hate each other but they also had assets to protect.

"Don't think about the schematics too hard. Just do your job in the field and you'll be fine. I have to warn you though. It's nothing like you've ever seen before. It's hard to think training even matters in that chaos," he said honestly.

I paled a little and he chuckled, patting my shoulder. So it was almost like the war I'd heard of from my old world, where luck mattered a heck of a lot more than training. I didn't quite like the sound of that. I wasn't a very lucky person after all, and the only part I enjoyed in a fight was the challenge, not the luck of it all.

"It's good to be scared. Keeps you on your toes out there. Just don't freeze up."

I smirked a little and spoke in an African accent. "I never freeze."

Nope, I didn't just quote Black Panther. No one got my references anyway. So I ignored the confused look on Gaku's face as I laughed at my own joke.

It happened suddenly, without a moment's notice. One minute we were travelling and the next I felt the change in the wind, and the sound of rustling leaves. I dropped the firewood I had been gathering and pushed Kakashi out of the way as kunai rained upon us. He recovered quickly, rolling to his knees before taking out his tanto and blocking several shuriken. I held out my palm and expertly caught the shuriken by their holes and looking up to pinpoint the enemy Shinobi on their tree perches. I smirked as they tched in annoyance as I stood back-to-back with Kakashi.

"Thought we were easy prey just because we were grabbing some supplies?" I teased.

The Iwa nin dropped to the ground. There were at least 5 of them, although only 3 had come down from their hiding spots. That wasn't good odds, especially considering that they were at least high Chunin, if one could judge by chakra alone.

"Leaf brats sure do talk a lot!" the Iwa-nin laughed as he held a large Fūma Shuriken by a string, spinning it around in a wide circle with a grin.

Kakashi behind me held out his tanto defensively at the threat. I subtly stood forward, the itch of challenge taking me to its call. Kakashi didn't think I could fight as well as he could against people wielding weapons. I whole heartedly disagreed. I got low in my beast form and grinned at the man whose expression quickly turned to irritation. He spun the weapon around more.

"Enough chit-chat! Kill them!"

Without waiting another moment he threw the shuriken straight at me. I quickly dodged making my way into attack radius. Before I could hit him, I felt the air pressure behind me change and I gripped the ground with my fingers before propelling my body upwards, jumping on top of the blade that would have otherwise cut me on half. I jumped back to the ground and Kakashi threw out his sword to block a few kunai. He glared at me and I smiled back infuriatingly no doubt.

"Leave him to me!" he growled.

I kicked a low-Chunin level Iwa nin off her feet and shook my head before taking another in a Taijutsu battle, tag-teaming him with Kakashi as I threw my weight entirely in a chakra enhanced jab at the man's throat. He fell back, gasping painfully for air, before we dodged out of the way of the large shuriken. Kakashi looked at me and then at the enemy and I grinned. No way, was he taking the fun from me.

Circle Step Form 4: Total Wind Phase!

I shot forward in a gust of wind, he grinned as he spun the weight of his Fūma Shuriken to my side in a perfect trajectory. Before he could get me, I ducked and grabbed the string, ignoring how it ripped the skin off my palms. I dug my knees into the dirt and heaved the string my way, toppling the man of the centre of his gravity. While he recovered rather quickly, it wasn't quick enough to stop me from grabbing his main weapon and flinging it at his head, lopping it straight off.

Before I could celebrate Kakashi threw up a mud dome wall around us as several Katon Jutsu were thrown our way from the trees. I winced at the blistering heat inside the dome as Kakashi struggled to keep it up. What were Shinobi with such intense Ninjutsu control doing acting as the standard back-up? I didn't have time to question it was the mud wall turned a bright red from the sheer intensity of the heat. I didn't want to be burnt to a crisp. It wasn't a fun way to die, so I went through my hand seals. Tiger → Ox → Dog → Rabbit → Snake

Wind Release: Great Breakthrough!

The mud dome wall burst outward by the wind I had conjured around us, but I didn't let go of the jutsu and Kakashi quickly copied my hand seals to achieve the same result. I grinned, unwilling to let him one-up me in my own jutsu. Sharingan or not, I didn't have impeccable chakra control and the ability to mould fire and wind like a pro, for no reason. So I concentrated as I gathered the two elements around us in an inferno, before going through my hand seals again. Snake → Dragon → Rabbit → Tiger

Fire Release: Dragon Fire Technique!

A dragon boosted by wind and created entirely of fire shot out into the air, twisting in its path until it caught in the tree of one of the Iwa-nin. The Shinobi jumped away, and normally that would be the end of the jutsu, but I twisted the dragon to his direction using the wind element to propel its pathway and he was caught in the maw of the fiery beast. A chilling scream rang out as Kakashi in the distance used a lightning jutsu that was equally as awe inspiring. It sounded like the chirping of birds, but it held a hot power as it shot through the enemy's chest. I watched on impressed at the speed in which he dispatched the other Shinobi before turning to the Fūma Shuriken and picking it up. I spun around the weapon and quite liked the feeling of it in my hands.

"Is now the time to be picking up a weapon?" Kakashi asked with a 'really look'.

"A girl can't window shop?" I asked in amusement before I paused. "Actually scratch that, I'm looting this one of his corpse."

"You're morbid," he muttered before turning his direction to the camp.

"They were ambushed no doubt. We should go," I said.

"Minato-sensei no doubt made light work of them," Kakashi replied, too relaxed to be safe.

Maybe having an S rank Sensei did that to him, but it didn't do the same for me. Gaku was a Jounin sure, but he was just a normal Jounin. No amazing abilities, and no outstanding lineage or destiny. I didn't have the luxury of feeling safe in battle, so I ran ahead. I stopped at the sight in front of me.

I stood in the middle of a bloody field. I'd never seen anything like it before. Hundreds of Shinobi clashed in their colours, large gusts of jutsu rained from either side and the sounds of exploding tags set the ears ringing and the earth shaking.

The front lines.

I'd barely had a moment to panic, my mind and body instead kicking into survival mode. Weeks of silent travelling forbode this moment in time when every single decision mattered. I had almost instantly activated my total concentration breathing. Instead of panicking I sent my chakra to my nose and ran straight to Gaku sensei. He shouted out my name and I engaged an enemy-shinobi who had double-teamed him. Yama bit the man's leg, ripping out his flesh, and I quickly dispatched his neck from his shoulders. After that we barely had the time to acknowledge each other. I stuck close to Gaku and Yama as we both entered our beast stance.

"Give me wind support!" Gaku ordered.

I went through my hand-seals in quick succession before throwing wind blades at the Iwa Shinobi who preferred their range attacks. Then as Gaku barrelled into an opposing enemy I brought up my chakra enhanced palm to block a kunai to my face.

We had walked right into an Iwa ambush. 100 Konoha-nin to a 1000 Iwa. The odds were against us and we were being overwhelmed but I felt no fear. I felt an excitement that I wanted to ignore but couldn't. This battle had become a part of me, beating elation into my heart like an escalating drum, and so even when I was flanked the smile on my face simply grew. In the middle of a battle there was no time to fear anything.

"Gaku-sensei, cover me. It's time!" I shouted expectantly.

To his credit he didn't even take a moment to question me and instead took point on ensuring none of the ranged attacks hit me. I got low into my beast stance and ran. My lungs sucked in air greedily, the drums of my heartbeat increasingly faster and the blood in my veins pumped and heated to my call. I could feel the countless chakra in the battlefield everywhere all at once, like I could suddenly sense the world in every minute detail.

Total Concentration Breathing: Circle Step Form 4: Total Wind Phase!

And just like that I began compounding my speed twisting my body almost blindingly around my opponents that my form itself was becoming a mirage. With Gaku taking care of the opponents attacks around me I was able to freely take my previous time to gain an incredible speed that even a Body Flicker could not compare to and in that moment, I knew what Gaku had trained me for. Speed and precision. The Circle Walk guided my steps and jumps, and the Tiger Palm struck fast and mercilessly.

The Shinobi around me didn't even have time to blink before my hooked fingers had ripped out their throats, stabbed into their lungs and severed their tendons. I could feel the chakra inside of me increase as my heart did and I wanted to continue but I knew I shouldn't. If I went further, I would die of heart failure and even I knew that, so I stopped compounding speed and continued in a mad haze to take as many lives as I could.

It wasn't until I had ripped through a third dozen enemy shinobi that a Jounin level enemy had intercepted my movement with a painfully punch to my gut. I was flung by my sheer momentum down into the middle of the battle, crashing into someone I could barely recognise the allegiance of.


Before I could regain my senses, before I even saw the katana coming down at my neck, Yama had bitten into the blade, growling, teeth bared at its owner. I coughed blood and then stumbled to my feet to deflect a volley of shuriken coming my way. 10 more enemy Shinobi were circling me and even I wondered if I could win this. Yet I didn't stop.

"Come at me!" I shouted; teeth bared similarly to the dog besides me.

A few faltered at my eagerness but I got quickly into my stance deflecting a kunai, twisting it out of the man's grip and jabbing my fingers into his throat, larynx, and chest in such a brutal succession that he was on the floor writhing. Yama bit the man coming at me to my right and I bit my thumb before summoning a horde of snakes from my sleeves and mouth. They dug into the ground and the shinobi around me charged at my moment of preparation. What came next was a mad rush to block several coordinated attacks. Being so overwhelmed I knew I would die soon, but I hadn't summoned my snakes for no reason. They shot out from the earth, baring their venomous teeth into the flesh of several Iwa nin. They shouted, jumping away.

"Fuck you. Kill this bitch!" one of the older women growled.

Yama was kicked away, and the sound of his pained whine propelled me forward in fury. Before he could be stabbed by a kunai Gaku had blocked the attack and stabbed his hands through the man's chest.

"Let's show these stoned idiots that Konoha Shinobi are a league above them," Gaku grinned, cracking his blood dripping knuckles.

I grinned back in response. Ah yes, the look of absolute terror on their faces at our blasé attitude to battle was what was making them falter. By all rights we should have given up and died. I hadn't even realised that my killing intent was incredibly potent because I had been enjoying the adrenaline a little too much. I should feel guilty for finding pleasure in this but at the heat of the moment my morality didn't even register, and all I could do was enjoy the absolutely enticing challenge in front of me. It was one of the few personality traits I had brought over from my old life that stuck to me even now.

Unfortunately for us, we were still overwhelmed. I took a volley of kunai to my back while I engaged in a Taijutsu battle and Yama was limping. Gaku was the only one so far without any grievous injuries. I let out a muffled gasp of pain when my leg was kicked out from underneath me and a kunai was placed at my throat.

This was the end huh... no fucking way. I grabbed the woman's shirt from behind and pulled with all my strength until she flipped over and slammed onto the ground. Her kunai cut deep into my collar bone, but I pulled it out quickly to regain my composure. It wasn't enough because I was detained by a larger man this time, his body slamming me to the ground and pinning my arms above me.

I expected a struggle and then a kunai to my abdomen, but it never came. Instead a three-pronged kunai embedded itself into the ground next to me and then in a blink of an eye the man's heavy weight was off my shoulders. I struggled to stand up and process my thoughts when suddenly the battlefield became incredibly silent.

When I next turned around, I could hardly tell what was happening. Iwa Shinobi began falling left and right, a hole left in their heads, heart, throats, and abdomen as they fell to the ground in a withering heap of gory flesh and blood. All that could be seen was a streak of yellow.


I stumbled to hold myself up in awe as I noted that the dozen or so Shinobi that had cornered me were all lying dead at my feet and I hadn't even noticed. Then when I next looked up everyone was still and more bodies had fallen and standing there in the middle, back turned to our people was the Yellow Flash covered from head to toe in a shower of red.

My jaw nearly dropped. I looked back at the people I had killed with my wind walker technique and it suddenly paled in comparison. The hundreds, nearly a thousand dead bodies lying on the floor wearing the Iwa uniform signalled the end of something I had been excited for.

A horn was sounded, and the rest of the Iwa Shinobi retreated. We all stood still in complete shock until Minato turned around. Then he raised his fists, and a roar of triumph surrounded the field as everyone rushed towards the man that had single handily turned an epic battle around. I ignored the men and women bumping past me to get to him.

This was a legend.

This was why he had been voted in as Hokage. I never really understood it before but seeing it in person I could suddenly picture why. I was so caught up in my revere that it took Gaku slapping my shoulders for me to turn to him.

"Where's that energy from the fight gone?" he asked.

"Gone with my chakra," I mumbled with an amused smirk before I turned my attention back to Minato.

I only managed to catch a glimpse of his face admits the mass of bodies between us, but I could tell quickly that the smile hadn't reached his eyes. This was an empty victory for him. His eyes were locked onto Kakashi across the field and I knew why. Rin and Obito weren't here. He had been too late, and for the fastest man in recorded Shinobi history that was a hard shame to bear.

I could only think the same. What if he had mastered it earlier? What if I had been strong enough to protect Kusari? What if I had the power to take down Danzo before the hit on my parents? So many what ifs. I shook my head. No.

"Victories and failures," I repeated to myself.

Victories and failures...

We stayed at the border posts for a few months and my twelfth birthday had come and passed under the radar. I noted Fugaku's team had come in part way. I had the chance to see his famed Sharingan in battle and was surprised by how terrifying an Uchiha's Genjutsu really was, especially from a man who possessed the Mangekyo Sharingan. And a few smaller skirmishes later marked the end of it all. I was sleeping on Yama, hogging his soft fur all to myself in camp when some bright eyed Genin came running in shouting, "It's over! It's over!" like his life depended on it.

I was about to throw a nearby pot at his head and tell him to let me sleep when one of the Aburame hastily men took the scroll from him and opened it. I had never seen an Aburame weep so loudly in my life. In the end some unnamed man had to take the scroll and read it out.

"Kumo and Iwa have called for a ceasefire," he said in disbelief.

"Surely it was Minato-sama that had scared them away!" another exclaimed happily.

As a matter of fact, a lot of people had wept that day. I noted Gaku wiping his eyes too. I put a hand on his arm, squeezing it reassuringly and he smiled back. Yama lightened the mood the only way a dog could, by slobbering all over everyone's faces with comforting licks. I grabbed the dog, wrangling him to the ground with a laugh to stop him from wetting my hair up into a mohawk.

"It's really over," Gaku muttered, holding his head, and looking up. "That's two wars now…"

I looked up and noted that he still looked unnaturally wary. I couldn't blame him. Maybe the first war he'd witnessed was as a child, but this one was fresh and hard to let go off. It had just finished, and it barely felt like it was over. I didn't think I could so easily let go of it either.

"It is over," I said a little more resolutely.

Maybe there wouldn't have to be another one. Naruto made peace… didn't he… He brought the Shinobi Villages together against a single threat. He'd united them all under the banner of Ninshu. I paused in my thoughts feeling wholly unprepared now. Naruto could very well not be born at all. I'd erased Sakura's existence entirely. None of the children that were meant to be would be. There would be no child of prophecy. Or maybe there was never a child of prophecy in the first place.

I looked at the sky in growing anxiety. Wars were often waged on the backs of previous ones. It took nuking entire cities into oblivion for large scale war to end in my old world. It took a world ending Bijuu attack for the Elemental Nations to come together. It took a much more headstrong, unrelenting individual with insane charisma to bring everyone together as a uniting force. It took Naruto specifically.

I looked at the people around me and wondered if my existence was the precursor to their doom.

I walked besides a silent Kakashi into a desolate village we would be occupying until we had finished treating all the wounded. The Land of Rice had been ravaged during this war by all three sides and so there were always a few smaller villages to enter and settle for the night before leaving.

Men and women cheered and talked happily, walking admits the rubble and destroyed homes with a grin on their faces. I stepped forward unsurely, looking around in an odd disconnect. There was so much joy in their faces, a relief that their pain would come to an end. I felt a crunch under my boots and turned down to see a skull. I pulled my feet back, blinking in confusion and some dreadful feeling, when I turned to see Kakashi looking at me in worry. I looked away from his quiet posture to the loud laughter surrounding me and I felt out of place. There was a skull beneath my feet. A small skull I hadn't even noticed before. Now that I looked around, I could see the decaying bodies hidden away in the crooks of this abandoned village. Toys, pans, and other such daily equipment left outside and, on the sidewalk, taking dust and losing colour.

"Hina…" Kakashi ventured quietly.

I stepped over the corpse and took his hand. It wasn't often Kakashi showed comfort like this. I didn't know why he was comforting me. Just that there was a quiet discontent in my heart that whispered the wrongness of this all, and somewhere along the way I'd forgotten why.

That feeling stayed with me through the night as we camped and ate hunted meals against a bonfire that we normally didn't put up. Gaku and Yama had been part of the hunting team, bringing back the wild game, while I had helped collect some of the herbs, and then joined in on skinning and cutting the animals for dinner. It kept me busy and my thoughts quiet until I decided to call it a night.

"You're going to sleep already?" Gaku asked.

I nodded, turning to look at the pretty stars for a moment. I was tired. So very tired. I just wanted to go to bed and sleep for a week with no interruption.

"Where are you staying for the night?" I asked.

"It's not an issue today kiddo. Just take any of the houses. This place is as secure as it gets," he said casually.

If Gaku wasn't worried about safety, then it must have been pretty safe. So I waved him a goodnight before I made my way away from the celebration. Once the light had dulled and the cheering and laughter was off in the distance, it felt like the world was right once more. Not that the cheer wasn't a welcome distraction, but it felt off today. Looking into the disquiet landscape before me I could understand why. I didn't feel like celebrating.

I walked into a house at random, feeling no real need to be choosy. When I entered, it felt almost like an invasion. As I turned to the picture frame on the wall, I felt like the outsider I was, peering into what was meant to be a lively place. There was a mother, a father, and their children here once. It was a jarring thought looking at it now, quiet, and empty. But as I entered, I felt even more troubled. I traced my finger over the kitchen table and pulled to eye level, scrutinising them. There wasn't enough dust here.

A sudden alarm went off in my head as I shot my head around and used my nose to sniff out any potential threats. I caught the whiff of dirt and sweat and a bunch of other unpleasant smells… including a festering sickness. When you had to make decisions in these moments, it always was wrought with uncertainty, but eventually I decided direct confrontation wasn't going to be an issue as long as I played it smart. I took out my kunai before stepping towards the carpet as silently as I could. If there were Shinobi under there, they would have made a move by now, but whoever they were obviously was either too hurt or not skilled enough to catch my light footsteps. I pulled up the carpet before I ran my finger over the board. There was an empty space down there alright. Slowly I pulled open the wooden panel there, and even in the dim light I could make out two scrawny forms underneath.

"P-please don't kill us—"

The words I wanted to say caught in my tongue, and all I could do was nod. Before I could ask anything, I sensed Kakashi coming over from his distinct scent and I quickly covered the board back up before throwing the carpet on top and rushing quickly to the door.

"Gaku-sensei said you were coming here to sleep," Kakashi said.

"Yeah, I figured for one night I could have a house all to myself rather than sleeping in the trees," I chuckled, hiding the nervousness I felt behind a veneer of mirth.

"Today, I noticed you looked sad," Kakashi noted.

I pressed my lips together and was left confused myself. "I don't know why either," I admitted.

"You don't know why you're sad?" he asked, mildly exasperated, and confused.

"You know what they say, a girls mind is a mysterious place… although they probably left out the part where it's also a mystery to the girl," I replied with a lopsided smile.

"Weird," Kakashi grouched before he slouched back into a more casual pose. "Well I'm done talking feelings. Come back when you figure out how girls think."

I barely repressed a relieved sigh as Kakashi left. I closed the door and went back to the hidden boards. I pulled up the carpet and then the wooden tile, this time finding my voice.

"I promise not to hurt you… can you come out."

"Do we have a choice?" the woman asked.

There was a very real tremble in her voice, and even from here I could smell the sickness down there. If I said yes, they very well wouldn't come out.

"No, you don't have a choice," I replied, finding it odd to hear my voice come out so commanding in tone.

I opened up more of the boards. The woman looked young. Somewhere in her mid to late twenties, with dishevelled black hair, and holding a little boy about 4 years old, in her arms who seemed wide eyed and terrified. She did as I asked though as I helped her out of the small cellar below. I noted it was the boy who was sick. He looked to be going through a rather bad fever and his breathing felt stifled.

"Please don't do anything to my boy. I'll do as you ask… just leave him alone," she begged.

This was a woman who'd seen what Shinobi in all forms could do, who knew even someone who looked like a child had more power over her than she'd ever be able to achieve. I didn't know what to think about that. I felt dirty when she looked at me like I was some sort of aggressor to be feared. I scratched my nose looking away pointedly as I ignored the way it made my heart sink in my chest.

"I won't hurt you or your boy. Can we get him to a bed?" I asked.

"For what reasons?" the woman asked, pulling her child behind her even more fiercely protective.

I blinked in realisation and scowled. "I'm not going to do anything inappropriate… dammit lady. Just take us to your bedroom. I can't just let a little kid die from a fever."

"You aren't… going to tell the others we're here?" she asked.

"No, now come on. You don't have a choice remember," I replied a little impatiently.

Shinobi didn't carry around antibiotics on a whim, they did it for infections and other such things that came with the business of war. Tsunade had initially helped Konoha on that front, possibly being one of the biggest underlying reasons we won this war—with her revolutionary medicine. I didn't know how to feel about her. On one hand she had run away from it all, and for a long time I'd looked at her with disdain. Orochimaru, despite being an evil cunt, still aided his Village. Jiraiya while not being much better than Tsunade was still doing an important role by infiltrating and gathering information. I'd thought nearly all the Sannin were better than her. I was revaluating those thoughts. Maybe she was the sanest out of the Sannin for doing what she did. Maybe the only reasonable thing anyone could do when faced with war was to run, run far away before it caught you in its grasp.

"Why are you helping us?" the woman asked.

I didn't have an answer. It's not that I went out of my way to help people. I wasn't some saint or sage who walked the earth looking for people in need of help. But seeing someone in front of you in need was different… it made you unable to look away if there was even an inkling of empathy in you.

"Probably to make myself feel better," I admitted with a frown as I wiped the now sleeping child's forehead.

"Something's just cannot be fixed," she pointed out a little bitterly.

"They cannot," I agreed.

She clearly wasn't expecting me to agree with her and so we fell into a tense silence. There was so much resentment in her eyes, but also conflict now. I didn't think she needed to be conflicted. On the larger scale of things, what had I done but plaster one small cut in a litany of wounds? I could understand now why I felt so sad despite winning. With the sudden clarity came disbelief that I hadn't seen it in the first place. I was sad because we had entered a village we had destroyed, of whose peoples', had withered and wilted leaving only the bony remainders of once thriving life. We had caused this… this grief… and the people in the Land of Rice had been the ones to take the brunt of it. And outside the people who had aided in a part of it was looked upon as heroes and victors, and they justified the mysterious and arbitrary reason for these wars with pride.

"There's not one single thing I can do or say that could fix this… any of this," I continued gravely.

Not what everyone had done to this lady, not what I had done to my own family, and not to the countless people I had hurt inadvertently in many other ways.

"You're fixing things now," she said, catching my attention.

I looked at her in surprise. She seemed unsure as she leant down and touched her son's forehead. She looked like someone too tired, wary, and malnourished to have ever been anything but that. Sometimes it was easy to see these poor victims of war as something that had always been so sick, weakly, and pitiable, but that wasn't the case—we just liked to pretend they always were that way, because it was easier to think that, than to admit that once they had been just as happy and thriving as our families back at home had been. This village was a poor one even before the war, judging from the most basic of infrastructure, but they had not led a poor life. Now, as the mother looked into the distance, with faraway eyes, it was with only the barest of hope.

"He's all I have left. If you help me keep him, then you're already fixing things."

I wanted to know.

"What's your story?"

She lost her son, her husband, and her whole life to three villages who her people had no dealings with, just because their village was in the way, and an easy location to extort its people of its supplies for anyone who came by. They had tried to run but being civilians didn't know the routes Shinobi took and were killed by accident in their fleeing. She returned back to her Village which had been entirely ruined the next week in a raid and did not have the courage to flee again ever since.

That night I had given a stranger all my medical supplies and rations. I escorted her safely to the pass into the Land of Hot Water, with a map that detailed the safe passes and where to look out for intruders. Then as added precaution I summoned Amaru and bribed her with my last bit of chocolate. She had agreed to follow the lady and her son until they got to safety. There was a quiet moment where she had looked at me with thankfulness in her eyes, but it was as quiet as the way she left, silently and unsurely into the night.

I sometimes forgot tragedy took everyone, great and small, rich, and poor. So often I was caught up in my own worries, in my own tragedies that I lost sight of the rest of the world. Selfish as I was in my love. I couldn't be like Satomi who had entrusted her children to strangers to save as many as she could. Maybe that was true selflessness… but I did not possess it.

"Have you figured out the female mystery?" Kakashi snorted.

I turned to him and then gave the village we were leaving one last look.

"No but I figured out the human mystery."

"That is?" he asked.

"It wouldn't be a mystery if I told you, would it?" I asked back cheekily.

He snorted in irritation and I smiled. The human mystery… I hadn't figured it out yet, maybe I never would. I wasn't the most philosophical of peoples… but just maybe, just maybe I would.

I'd honestly never in my life imagined the day would come that I'd be one of the people greeted back home with a celebration. Although to be fair it was a large-scale celebration for a lot of people. But still, it felt almost surreal in a way. In war it was easy to forget just how out of the world it was to be fighting to the death. Seeing civilians, wives, children, and a bunch of other people throwing confetti at you as you walked into the village alongside a bunch of other tired, war weary men and women who'd lost limbs and lives, was another feeling altogether. I was unsure about it. I didn't feel like celebrating, just relieved that it had finally ended, and I could put it behind me and move on.

Shinobi often didn't cry, not even when they'd had an on-field amputation, or even when a loved one died in battle. They held it in and continued because they didn't have a moment to be distracted. To think it took relief to finally let the tears out made sense, because a lot of grown men and women were sobbing like children as they hugged families and friends in the crowd. It almost brought a tear to my eye too, but I'd managed to hold back my conflicting emotions and just focus on trying to find the scent of my family admits the crowd. I did not take too long in my search and Taichi in an uncharacteristic show of excitement had picked me up and practically twirled me in the air out of sheer joy.

"I never thought it would be over," he said in disbelief.

"Honestly, me either," I admitted.

"Does this mean you aren't going to go on missions all the time!" Tsukiya asked excitedly.

I pat his head and grinned. "That's exactly right Tsu-kun. I'm going to be around to annoy you a lot more."

I messed up his hair and he groaned pouting. It was only after that adorable interaction that Matsu took me into a calmer hug, and I felt the joy of being back with my family. A part of me could picture the relief on our parents faces at the end of this war too, as they held a little party with us. The vivid imagery did dampen my spirits a little, but it was overtaken by the relief of something big and menacing ending.

"The memorial is going to be held in two days, but until then the Village is holding a celebration every night," Matsu explained.

"That means no more running of for two days. Tsukiya is counting on you," Taichi chided lightly.

"I know, I know. Come on little bro, it's time to show you how awesome your big sister is in comparison to your boring nii-san," I chuckled.

"I didn't say that!" Taichi grumbled.

Tsukiya just giggled like he agreed with me as I picked him up to put on my shoulder. I jumped him around all the way home with a massive smile on my face. Ah it was good to be back with family.


Omg war… am I right?

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