Snap Back to Reality 9
To my utter dismay we didn't just go back home when we reached Konoha. Instead we reported to the mission's desk, where the Hokage actually greeted us this time. I hadn't seen much of this man before, and so it was always an awe inducing moment when we did. He gave us a tired smile and then I realised that while I would be getting a few weeks off, this man was working non-stop at all hours of the day. My respect for the old man just shot through the roof at my realisation.
"Hokage-sama," Gaku greeted professionally but kindly.
"Gaku-san, I've read some of the mission reports. I'm truly sorry it's been such a hard time for you and your student on your first mission outside Konoha."
"That's ok, we came out alive. That's all that matters," Gaku said casually.
"Yes, I'm glad to hear. Hina-chan correct?" the Hokage asked, for the first time looking at me.
"Y-yes Hokage-sama," I replied as professionally as I could. It wouldn't do me any good to look silly in front of a military dictator would it.
"At ease Hina-chan," he chuckled, and I deflated slightly in embarrassment. "I've heard about your professionalism and contribution out at the border post. Everyone is very impressed."
"Thank you," I said a little stumped. I hardly did anything… actually well I did do things, but nothing that everyone else wasn't already doing. Then it struck me… oh yeah, I was a kid to them. Of course it was a little odd that a child my age would show the maturity and quick thinking I did in the situations we were put in.
"For your notable hard work I have decided that you and Gaku-san will not be posted on border patrol but will rather be taken for mission orders in short bursts."
"Hai Hokage-sama!" I said in disbelief.
In other words You've turned out to be a future asset so we're not going to throw your ass constantly out in the front lines for you to die. Well it was that in not so many words, and with a subtler tone. If the Hokage thought I was good enough to be considered a future asset to the village, who was I to protest? I looked up at sensei who had a proud look on his face. So he realised the hidden meaning behind the Hokage's words too.
"You will have a week break and a further 2 months training period before your next mission. Thank you for your service," he said with a smile.
"Thank you, Hokage-sama," Gaku said with a grin as he bowed to which I copied lagging after him. I sent the Hokage a smile, because the man was actually smiling at me and it would be rude not to return it. Wow, the way he managed to exude kindness while still maintaining respect and professionalism was kind of awe inspiring.
"I want to go dunk myself in an onsen and stay in there for a week," I said stretching my limbs out like a cat after the door closed behind us.
"How about you go back to your family first kiddo," sensei snorted.
"That too," I grumbled. "But I smell like I've run a marathon in Suna for a month!"
"Well I have to go back to my lovely wife. Say bye, Yama."
Yama whined, nudging my chest and I hugged the dog back as he licked me. I was so desensitised to the slobber that it didn't even bother me anymore.
"I'm going to miss you too buddy," I chuckled.
"Don't be dramatic, I expect us to go out for celebration dinner in two days."
"Of course Gaku-sensei!" I beamed, my mood lifting.
I waved a goodbye before taking off over the rooftops with ease I wouldn't have managed just a few months ago. I had changed a lot, and I wasn't exaggerating when I said that. I was just glad to be alive and judging from the pay I had collected from the Hokage, my whole family could live comfortably for the next half year on it. I was grinning like a madman when I got home. I barely even noticed the civilians giving me a curious look, because I spotted my dad. He didn't notice midget-me until I crashed into him with a hug. He let out a shocked sound before noticing me.
"Hina, you're back," he said tears prickling his eyes as he knelt down and pulled me into a tight hug. I hugged him back, taking in the scent of fresh bread and pastry. I had missed this scent. We stayed in a tight embrace for what felt like a lot longer than it would normally last when I heard Taichi's voice.
I was barrelled into by my older brother who had grown a few more inches taller in the time I was away. I laughed glad that he was here. The two men in my life pulled away when I turned my head to see mother looking at me wide eyed. My eyes trailed from her face to her stomach and I gaped for a second. Yua was pregnant!
I walked up to the stunned woman and tentatively put my hand on her stomach with wide eyes. I was going to have a little sibling. To my surprise a slender hand rested on my head and I looked up to see mom smiling at me, her eyes glistening with tears.
"I'm glad you're alive," she whispered.
I didn't know what to say to that, so I focused on her belly again. "I'm going to be an older sister," I said with a grin.
"You are," she smiled back.
Wow. That was awesome!
"Come on, let's take this conversation away from the shop," tousan said gesturing me to go up stairs with him. I nodded gratefully, suddenly aware of the whispers from the civilian women who had come to buy bread. They all waited patiently, probably knowing that I had just come home after months at war. I couldn't care less what they thought. I made it back alive.
I didn't regale stories of war with my parents. They didn't ask either and honestly; they didn't need to. I had scars everywhere to show for it. I had a few kunai wounds, the most noticeable one being the one I got when I stopped a kunai with my hand. I had a few lightning scars from my last battle with a team of Kumo-nin and Iwa-nin combining forces. There were smaller cuts and nicks everywhere, including a few on my face telling stories of how close weapons came to kill me. Most of all, I had that look on my face, the look of someone so completely exhausted that it was almost always associated with the ninjas that went out into the front lines for extended periods of time. I really didn't want to grow up with Itachi level eye bags, but if my career was any indication, I probably would end up with them. I looked too old for my childish body. I looked like a mini-soldier and so I couldn't fault the civilians, and even some Shinobi, for being put off by my appearance and attitude.
The first thing I did was dunk myself in my hot tub for about an hour until my skin pruned and all the dirt and grime and been soaked out of my skin. I used a few fire jutsu to keep the tub all hot and toasty which was just great. I'd missed bath time. Dunking yourself in a cold river with a bunch of other naked women was not bath time, that was mandatory hygiene time.
Once I was out, I tied my now shoulder length hair into a bunch at the bottom of my neck and cut it all off, and then proceeded to cut my side bangs chin length again. Feeling the weight off my head (literally), I dressed in my casual green slacks and tight turtleneck black top before going downstairs.
"Hina… you know you didn't have to—" dad said as he looked at the slip of paper I had left out.
"I do. I know we don't have the money. It's why I graduated early," I said absently.
"Hina, it's not your job to look after us," dad sighed, running his fingers through his dark brown hair.
"It is. You're my family, and that means your problem is my problem," I said resolutely.
"Come here," he said pulling me into a hug. He kissed the top of my head. "You've grown up so fast, and into such a fine young woman. I'm just sorry I couldn't be the kind of dad you could look up to."
"What are you talking about tousan?" I asked.
Then I noticed the dark look in his eyes, the bags under his eyes and how slumped his posture had become recently. The house looked a little less maintained and I realised that maybe things weren't as good as they seemed.
"I was going to sell the bakery before you came back," he sighed.
"But- but it's been in our family for years," I said, and then I shook my head, because no he didn't need to hear this from me. "You're not a bad father. We're just going through a rough patch, and I-I had a solution, so I took it."
"I just wish you didn't have to risk your life for it. You're too young to be out there," he sighed aggravatedly. "What you've done for our family though… I couldn't be more grateful."
"Thanks tousan," I whispered, and then I looked around. "Where's kaasan?"
Tousan looked angry for a moment and then sad again. He winced as he caught my eye. "She went out."
"But I just got back home, doesn't she want to have lunch with me?" I asked, my eyes downcast.
"She just needs time Hi-chan… she—"
"—She doesn't have time for her own daughter?" I asked, my voice raising an octave. "I thought—I thought she would at least be happy to see me. Why does she hate me?!"
"She doesn't hate you," dad sighed, which just made me angrier.
"Then why does she never look me in the eye? Why does she push me away? What did I do to deserve this kind of hate from her?" I asked in growing pain.
When she had put her hand on my head and said she was glad I was alive… was that all a lie? Why was she doing this to me?
"She doesn't hate you Hina, she's just a weak woman. She's not as strong as you," he said bringing my attention back.
"What do you mean? It doesn't take a lot to just acknowledge your own child after they've been at war for months!"
"Hina, she's afraid."
"What's she got to be afraid of! I'm the one out there fighting people, not her!"
"Hina, come back!"
I didn't want to hear anything anymore. I was angry and when I was like this, nothing could quell my temper but time, so I stormed out. Taichi wasn't here… did mom—she took him with her! I felt the hurt overpower my rage for a second. I trained my ass off to graduate early for her, I spent 3 months in hell working day and night for her, and she dare take Taichi away from me like I was some… some…
I didn't care that people were staring at me as I stormed out of the shop. I was tearing up pathetically in front of this audience though and I felt ashamed of it. I hated when people saw me emotional. It wasn't something I could take. The vulnerability I showed now was humiliating so I pushed back the tears as I ran out, using my chakra to take my feet across the village, until I didn't even recognise where I was. It didn't matter. I slumped down by a tree and buried my face into my knees.
Stupid emotions. Stupid, stupid expectations. I had a loving mother before. So why did it hurt so much that Yua was rejecting me? I wasn't a kid anymore… right? How much was this stupid baby body effecting my emotions and my expectations? Had it instinctually sought out the love of a parent despite my mind being well past that desire. I didn't know, all I knew was that it hurt. It hurt worse than having my ribs cracked back and seared into place.
I snapped my head up to see Obito there, and I wiped at my eyes furiously. Damn, why did he have to catch me here, crying of all things. I sniffled pathetically, giving up on looking put together. I hoped he would go away, leave me alone entirely, but he just sat down besides me, tilting his head my way in worry.
"G-go away," I muttered, burying my face back into my knees. Stupid emotions!
"Are you alright?" he asked carefully.
"M' fine," I said muffled.
"You know when I'm sad I laugh, and then the bad feelings go away," Obito suggested awkwardly.
I took in a deep breath and calmed myself down, but kid or not, I didn't want to talk to anyone right now. I just wanted to wallow in self-pity alone. Unfortunately 6-year-old Obito didn't quite understand that concept.
"Everyone's going to be really happy to know you've come back," he continued. "Guy has been constantly crying every day that you haven't come back. Even Kurenai and Asuma have been asking the missions desk if you've been back."
"Really?" I asked looking up, because that had taken me off guard.
"Really! So um… why don't we go hang out with them! I'm sure it'll make them happy and it'll make you happy!"
"Ok," I relented because this really was the best way to get my thoughts of things. Goddamn I did not need Obito squirming his way into my heart with that utterly innocent smile of his. Wasn't he meant to go on and cause the massacre of his entire clan or something? I couldn't see a trace of that here, just a small kid who had a big heart. I let him help me up. He was a short little thing. I was about a head taller than him, but then again, I was taller than most people my age. Hanging around adults had muddled my concept of the appropriate height for ages. I considered myself a midget when really, I was anything but.
"How do we even know where they are?" I asked.
"They'll be at the Academy," he shrugged.
"Wait, why aren't you at the Academy?"
I got a cheeky grin in response and I let out a sigh. "Today was history and that's boring so I snuck out to throw kunai!"
"How are you going to pass if you keep skipping classes?" I huffed.
"Ugh, you sound like the clan heads," he said sticking out his tongue.
"Don't be a child," I admonished.
"You wanna hang out or not?"
"Ok just for today," I relented as we snuck into the Academy gates, which was considerably easier when you looked like a kid.
We waited outside for a bit and when the lunch bell rang Obito and I split up. The plan was that I would grab Guy, and Obito would grab Kurenai, Asuma and we'd sneak out. I was hiding behind a bush around the route Guy took often for his runs and when he came around, I grabbed him like the stealthy ninja I was and back into the bushes.
"Shush," I said quickly closing his mouth with my hand.
To my surprise Guy didn't scream, his dark eyes just glistened with tears and he threw me into a crushing hug. I let out a sound of distress as I could feel the strain of his goddamn too ripped muscles.
"You're killing my Guy," I said breathless.
"Sorry, I am just so relieved," he said in a whisper.
Wow could Guy whisper? I felt like this was a special moment, so I let him linger in his affection before my quota for the day was met. I pulled away my hands on his shoulder as I gave him the best grin I could. He sniffled at my reassurance.
"Ok so the plan is we're going to sneak out and regroup with Obito, Kurenai and Asuma at the big sakura tree outside the gate."
Guy shouted his agreement to which I nearly facepalmed before I grabbed his hand and ran to the gate. I didn't blame the Chunin sensei's for not noticing us sneaking away. When you had about 60 other brats to take care of, your attention was rather divided. To my surprise when we reached the tree even Rin was there. I didn't think she was the kind of person to sneak out. Kurenai gave me a relieved hug and I hugged back the red eyed girl awkwardly. Asuma, the ultimate dude bro he was, just shot me a cool wave which I couldn't help but reciprocate.
"Welcome back Hina-san," Rin waved.
"I'm so glad you're back Hina-chan," Kurenai breathed in relief. "You were gone for so long."
"You got some cool scars huh?" Asuma said nodding in approval.
I rolled my eyes at that. Of course as children they all assumed this was a lot more glorious than it seemed, but I couldn't help but puff out in a bit of pride. I mean the scars were kinda cool, because the reminded me how hard I fought just to stay alive out there. In the grander scheme of things this war was kind of meaningless, like all wars were, but when you were just a normal person trying to survive, every single reminder of living was a blessing.
"YOUR FIERY SPIRIT OF YOUTH HAS NOT DIMINISHED HINA-CHAN!"
Guy took me into a bone crushing hug again which I somehow managed to worm my way out of. Obito laughed at my misery before Guy crushed him too. Hah! See how you like it brat! We made our way to the customary dango stand where we normally celebrated. I noticed Obito sending me odd looks as Rin chatted with Kurenai and Asuma, Guy trailing along like a rather enthusiastic puppy. I didn't bring my wallet but to my surprise Obito of all people offered to pay for me. I declined of course, but then all the kids ended up scrounging up precious coins for me. I felt more than a little flattered, considering that I was probably infinitely richer than them having done service in the border post for 3 months, which mind you, had the equivalent of several D ranks, a dozen C ranks, two B ranks and even an A rank when the Earthquake Iwa-nin was involved. I was practically loaded with money… which was an average amount for a ninja, but to a kid like me was essentially millions.
"Hey Hina-chan," Obito finally asked as he sat down next to me by the river.
"How did you become so strong?" he asked.
I took a moment to think about it. A head start was one of the reasons for sure. My body was moulded to be faster and stronger than the kids my age because I had needed to pull up my yang energy. I was sure in a few years when the boys hit puberty, they would unfairly become stronger than me. Besides my physical strength, I just naturally was more aware of my chakra and hence had more control of it than most Shinobi. I also had the mental fortitude of someone who'd been in the scientific field for quite a while, someone who had a PHD on Biochemistry and the Immune System. I had a whole lifetime of experience to go on, and future knowledge on this world to make sure I made decisions that were relatively more informed than the average person.
"I take this life very seriously," I eventually decided to say.
"I do to! I wanna be Hokage!" Obito declared.
I levelled him a serious look and his fanfare quieted down as he looked almost downcast. He probably thought I was going to shoot down his dream. I was… but he needed to hear this.
"You won't be Hokage the way you are right now," I said sharply.
"Everyone says that, but they'll see," he huffed angrily.
"I didn't say you could never become Hokage, I just said you couldn't the way you are right now. You don't understand what it means yet to be in that position, kid. Leadership positions are often not best given to people who want recognition, but to people who are willing to serve others."
Man that was my Christian background talking. I was never really that into religion ever being an agnostic and all, but something about the way Jesus portrayed being a leader spoke to me… an idealistic part of me at least. A leader was someone that served others. It's why I never wanted to be a leader. Too much responsibility. I'd much rather be a researcher, a scholar or someone in a field of study because that was where I thrived. I desperately wanted to just screw the whole ninja war thing and go to college… but there wasn't a college here. Knowledge was shirked away to be known by the few lucky ones, the general population only ever learning basic literacy and arithmetic. Just enough to do their jobs. The scientists and engineers were rare, all coming from the richest of society, more often than not from the Daimyos courts rather than a ninja village. Of course it was my luck to be born with the wizard assassins and not to a rich noble house where I could have revolutionised the backwards scientific fields here.
"I'm going to be the best leader! Just watch, I'm going to serve the crap out of everyone!"
I snorted, pulled back from my musings as Obito continued his tirade. Kami, was he just Naruto in Uchiha skin? Still a part of me couldn't help but root for him, because all things considered, he was actually a pretty genuine kid. I mean most kids were genuine, but he saw a crying girl and decided to help instead of awkwardly running away like most boys his age would do. Also the whole nepotism business with only the Senju descendants ever getting a spot in the Hokage position seemed kind of unfair. It seemed about time an Uchiha got up there.
"Good luck Obito-kun," I said gently punching his shoulder.
He grinned at me and I couldn't help but smile back. Then I tiredly looked back at the river, glistening under the sun as people milled across the bridge. Huh… this was an oddly anime moment. All the kids here together sitting by a river eating dango. It felt so surreal. I turned to Guy and looked at the baby fat on his cheeks, his still stubby little hands and feet and then I turned back to the river. Children. I didn't think I'd befriend any kids. I wasn't much of a kid person, I'd never wanted to start a family with children in it, being so career focused, but hanging out with these kids made me realise what I might have missed out on. I was stupidly protective of little things after all.
We talked about random things, things only little kids could really pull up in a conversation so seriously, like how there was a hunk of a Uchiha in one of the older classes, how the Aburame boy in their year had the most angry wasps in his colony. It was recounted with arbitrary fervour as I watched them talk, learn and converse in a way only children could. It was kind of relaxing.
"So you need more yin energy to produce that green chakra?" I asked.
Hanami sighed and nodded. I was bugging her now, but honestly, I just didn't want to have to go home and because I was on mandatory leave for a week, that meant sensei would get on my ass for training. I got in trouble when the Chunin realised I had snuck out some Academy students, and then a lengthy lecture about how it was unbecoming of a Genin to pull such immature acts. The Chunin sensei who had lectured me went on for so long I had to interrupt to go for a bathroom break. Ugh. Troublesome.
"Yes Hina, but it takes a lot of practice and not everyone can do it," Hanami replied patiently.
"How does it instantly fix tissue? Does it replicate cells? If chakra is life energy, then does that mean it can cause a form of cellular regeneration? Oh Kami, that's amazing! It's like mitosis on steroids! Wow are there any chakra papers on what exactly chakra is or is it just magic? Inexplainable?"
I realised my curiosity had gotten the better of me because Hanami was just staring at me mouth open. I let out a resounding 'uhhhh' that made me feel so stupid. I was an idiot! How the heck was I going to explain mitosis? Was mitosis even a thing here or was I just ranting of random English words.
"Sometimes you say the weirdest things. How did you figure out it fixes tissue and what is mitosis?"
"Oh I just… guessed? And ah—mitosis is like when cells replicate?"
"And why would you call that mitosis?"
"I guess I just didn't know the proper word for it, so I made up one," I shrugged averting my eyes.
Hanami snorted before her suspicion dropped and she smiled fondly. "You know you're wasting your talents out there fighting. Maybe I should help get you sponsored," she pondered.
"Sponsored?" I asked, perking up.
"Well there are requirements that you don't meet yet, but once this war is over, I'll see to it that you join the Nara research team. I'm sure you'll do good there."
"What are the requirements?" I asked.
"Well you'd have to be apprenticed for at least 5 years before getting a research grant. Either you were accredited by a tutor or you specialise in a chakra research RnD field, but you'd have to be at least a Tokubetsu Jounin to join."
"Why in the name of Madara's spinning red balls would you need to be Jounin level to get a research grant? That makes absolutely no sense at all," I said in exasperation.
"Well the information you'd become privy to is purely confidential village secrets, so either you prove yourself trustworthy as a Jounin or you prove your knowledge and character to a Teacher."
"Ugh, life would be so much easier if we just had a universal college. Free of expense," I grumbled. "Think of how fast this world would progress!"
Hanami scoffed at the idea of free and equal education. I had to remind myself that while my ideas were the norm in my old world, in the Elemental Nations information was hoarded and not treated as something for the masses but to keep those in power strong. I hated it with a passion. It irked me more when it came to the scientific and medical field. I was sure there were very specialised Iryo-nins out there who could have done a world of good if they just shared their knowledge. Stupid ninjas and their stupid secrets.
"Troublesome," I grumbled.
Hanami just laughed, a note of approval in her eyes. I rolled my eyes. Kami, I sounded like a Nara too much for my liking. I needed to change the topic. Questioning the state of the village governance for too long was risky here.
"How's Shikaku-san doing? I haven't seen him in forever. I miss playing shogi with him," I sighed.
"The war's made everyone work overtime you know. Shikaku-sensei happens to be a busy man as head Jounin Commander and Clan head. He probably won't have the time to see you until the war ends, but don't hold it against him."
"Ugh that sounds like such a drag. I'm glad I'm not him," I grumbled.
"Talking about responsibilities—I need to get back to work. My shift starts in five."
"Aww already?" I whined.
"Yes, now be a good little leaf and bug someone else."
"Fine," I grumbled, stabbing my katsudon.
"Hina—do find yourself a hobby outside of training, or you'll find that once this is all done and over, you won't have anything else."
Wow… what a way to drop that bomb on my head. With that Hanami rushed off back to her hospital shift and I stuffed my fried prawn into my mouth. I finished up my food before wondering just how my life was going to turn out here. The war would be going on for a while, in which time technology would remain stagnant, because here it was all about developing new jutsu to kill each other, not the best guns. Everyone involved in the scientific fields would be focused on helping war time efforts and even then, their research grants would probably have a sizable dent in the funding aspect of things.
In conclusion, I would not end up in my preferred career path for a long time coming.
I put on my favourite shiny kimono. It was the kind that sheened purple, teal and violet and with the patterns on it made me look like a particularly haughty peacock. I absolutely loved it. A part of me wished I could be sneaky enough one day to wear something as outlandish as this to a ﬁght. Maybe I'd grow my green hair out to an absurdly long length and pierce my ears and adorn them with studded emeralds, the kind that were dangly and very impractical. Maybe I'd be so good that I could wear traditional sandals to a ﬁght. Like a true flamboyant anime character!
I stopped my thoughts there. For now I would remain happy to just be extra on the occasion. I combed my birds' nest of a hair and pinned my side fringes with clips. I looked like a cute little muscly child. I wasn't exactly pretty, in fact normie beauty standards wise I looked just above average, but I had a thing for enjoying the fruits of my hard labour, and oh boy did my muscles look good. I pulled up my kimono sleeve and ﬂexed at the mirror for a while, striking a few poses. I would look so cool in the future... if I ever reached S Rank that was. If I didn't get there I vowed to look as boring and plain as I normally do for the rest of my life. Only the strong could afford to stand out after all.
I decided to stop being such a narcissist for a second, taking my handbag before striking one last cheesy pose at the mirror and leaving. I walked past the kitchen and stopped when I saw Yua there with Taichi. My brother turned around and gave me a big smile, shyly bounding my way with wide green eyes looking me over.
"Hi-chan, you look so cute!" he squealed, giving me a hug.
I hugged back and chuckled as he pulled away and commented on my aesthetic. As it turned out, Taichi was apparently really in touch with fashion. He was also good at cooking, sewing, singing and basically everything else I was expected to be good at as a girl. The poor boy was shy about his feminine interests and honestly, I loved him for it. It took guts to go for the things you truly enjoyed, and he was doing it despite being shoved into the life of a baker. I vowed to make my own path too, no matter how long or arduous the journey was.
"Where are you going?" Yua asked.
I sent the woman a stink eye and she winced back. Serves her right. I hope she dies of guilt.
"I am going to go have dinner with sensei to celebrate my ﬁrst mission and my birthday which you forgot about," I said slowly and with a great deal of venom in my voice.
Ok? Is that all she had to say? Woman! I'm your daughter for fucks sake! No don't you turn your back on me! I narrowed my eyes at her back, wondering how family could do this to family? Did she have no shame?
"Oh— Tai-nii," I said turning to him.
He was smiling at me nervously. The poor boy was looking between me and Yua, unsure of exactly what he was meant to do. I sent the woman a particularly nasty look before turning to Taichi and smiling sweetly. I stood on my tippy toes and pat his head consolingly.
"See ya later Taichi. Don't ever become like that witch," I said vindictively pointing at Yua.
Before she or Taichi could say anything, I decided to leave. I strode out of the house at a quick pace and found myself out of the bakery in record time. Huh, it felt stupidly good to put that supposed mother in her place. I jumped onto a fence scaring the poor civilian couple next to me before I hopped onto a streetlight and spun myself onto a roof top. Then the running began, which was admittedly quite harder in the outﬁt I was currently wearing, so I had to go half the speed I usually did, which just ended up making the run a little therapeutic.
I dropped down at the front of the Inuzuka compound and quickly sniffed my shoulder. Did I stink? I didn't want to stink at a dinner I was invited to. It'd been so long since I'd been invited to any dinner. Oh I missed going out to fancy parties with... Cat. My mood soured at the thought of my old wife. Sometimes I wondered if it was better that I remembered nothing at all. It was easier before I had that dream.
The dog turned to me and barked happily. I grinned in return, grabbing his neck in a quick hug. He tried to lick.
"Ah-ah Yama, I don't want to get slobber all over me when I'm all dressed up!"
Yama gave me a cheeky lick anyway, too fast for me to protest and I groaned, wiping at my face.
"Troublesome dog," I grumbled, before a smile took my face and I followed him through the compound and to Gaku-sensei's house. The door was already open, so I just walked in, leaving my shoes at the entrance before following the trail of amazing smells into the kitchen.
I was pulled into a bone crushing hug by Nami and shaken around a little before she put me down and I struggled to get my breathing back to normal. Then I turned to Gaku-sensei who just pet my head in greeting. I swore he thought I was a dog sometimes. I noticed a really big Akimichi behind him, with kind brown eyes a very square nose and an infectiously hearty laugh.
"Is this the brat you were talking about?"
"Yes this is. Meet my student Suzuki Hina," Gaku said affectionately as he ruﬄed my hair.
"Hey, I spent time on this today," I grumbled patting my hair down. "Ah—nice to meet you Akimichi-san."
"Call me Doto, brat," he said grinning.
"How do you know Gaku-sensei?" I asked curiously.
"We used to be on a Genin team together," Gaku grunted.
"Oh and the stories I have to tell about this one. Did you know he was practically the class dunce? He once threw his test at the-"
"Hey! Now don't go and ruin my image," Gaku said ﬂustered, holding my ears and pulling me away.
I grinned evilly. "Oh tell me more Doto-san!"
"Nope! Noooo! Come on, let's get you going with cooking before he corrupts you."
"Aww, but I wanna hear about your Academy days," I said with a fake pout.
"W-we can do that later!"
I'd never seen Gaku-sensei so ﬂustered. It made me grin evilly. It was time for some payback. I egged Doto on constantly for all of the dirt on my sensei who eventually just groaned and gave up. Nami congratulated me on my very Nara-esque traits and I preened from the attention. Mainly we just cooked together because that was apparently a tradition for this little family. I liked it. Meals should be shared, and cooking was always more fun when everyone was around. It also helped that an Akimichi was here, and by Kami did Doto live up to his family name. The food tasted divine after he touched it up.
"Every border post needs an Akimichi for morale," I concluded sagely.
"Hahaha I'm glad you like the food brat," Doto grinned. "So kid, how was your ﬁrst mission."
"Scary. Informative. A very exhausting learning experience," I said quickly as I scooped in some more rice.
"You must be happy to be home huh," he grinned, deciding not to push the other subject.
"I am now," I said ﬁdgeting awkwardly.
"Oh by Senju's saggy tits, she's precious!" Nami said grabbing me from the side and squishing me against her chest.
"Kami woman, you have to be the most energetic Nara I've seen," I grumbled in embarrassment.
"That's why I left that boring old clan and joined the fun one," she said with a hearty laugh. "Why don't you show us the Circle Walk once we're done eating. I want to see the progress you've made!"
"Get me some pants and I'll put on a show you won't forget!"
I grinned excitedly. Oh there was something I wanted to try! I was so goddamn excited about it! Of course it would be the ﬁrst time I'd try something like this so I hoped it would work and I wouldn't just be ﬂailing about looking weird.
"Eat your dinner ﬁrst kiddo, or you're going to be a midget forever," Gaku snorted, pointing his chopsticks at me with a mouthful of food.
"I am NOT short!"
I stabbed my meat particularly hard, doing my darn best to look irritated but the adults just laughed. Dammit, why did my baby features always get in the way?!
The table was full of chatter, there were many stories about near death escapes. Everyone treaded carefully on what they said in regard to missions. War could recount some rather victorious and proud moments, but more often than not it sprung up terrible memories of comrades dying and near-death misses. The talk was almost always about progress. How faster you managed to get. That new jutsu you created. The new Inuzuka pup that managed to learn a Clan jutsu. It was always about progress, because that's really all anyone could say to lift up their spirits. Then mealtime was over, and the sun had begun to set.
"Ready to show us your Circle Walk?" Gaku asked.
"Of course," I said, nodding my head in preparation as I ﬂicked my arms and legs, cracking my neck.
I had changed out of my favourite kimono and into more comfortable attire. We walked into the backyard and I could see all three adults watching me expectantly. This may have been casual, but this was also an evaluation of my skills. They wanted to see my progress. I was always competitive by nature, someone who put pride and integrity in my work. I was never going to hold back in any assessment.
I nodded, then breathed through my nose, pushing the dirt with my toes as it circled around to my right, and my torso twisted in tandem. The Circle Walk was a footing based taijutsu, with an emphasis on the ﬂow. It felt and looked a lot like Wing Chun, which was made by a woman for woman. It was a kata made for evasion and parrying. Use your opponent's movements against them. Tiger Palm however was a quick blitz like style, made for wild unpredictable jabs of curled ﬁngers ready to tear out ﬂesh, and palms striking vulnerable points in the body.
Essentially, I had mastered ﬁre bending and air bending. I knew I was being childish simply by associating these Taijutsu styles to a story that probably wasn't real, but it was where I had gotten the idea from. I found the perfect way to blend in Taijutsu and Ninjutsu. I was going to be the Avatar! A mad grin took my face as I began the fun part of the Circle Walk kata, the part where I used chakra slide to propel myself in the air. I kicked and spun mid-air before using the seals for a D rank ﬁre jutsu that was often used as basic ﬁre release. I pushed the chakra to my feet and kicked out a bout of ﬁre.
I went through the extremely acrobatic and aerial kata, kicking and punching ﬁre until I ﬁnished the 8th stance and felt my chakra depleted at least halfway. I let out a tired breath before moving into my ﬁnal stance and bowing. I looked up at the three stunned adults. They looked wildly pleased.
"Incredible, a perfect blend of ninjutsu and taijutsu," Doto said clapping.
"When did you learn how to do that?" Gaku asked, a look of pride on his face.
I preened at the attention, grinning as I felt my achievement push my elation to new heights.
"I wondered why we didn't kick ﬁre you know. We always seem to blow it from our mouths or release it from our hands. I have really good chakra control so even if I don't have too much tenketsu in my feet, I can release ﬁre from there. I still have to mould it with the hand signs though," I said, frowning at the last part.
"Sure it drained a lot of your chakra, but every new technique takes time to master," Nami said ruﬄing my hair.
"So until you master it in training you promise you'll never use it in battle unless necessary, ok kiddo," Gaku said strictly.
"Fiine," I grumbled. "Kill joy."
"I mean it, I don't want you using up all your chakra. It's too dangerous. Only ever use techniques you are sure you have got down."
I nodded, seriously this time. I could be a brat if I wanted to be, but I had a professional switch and it always turned on when sensei put on that no-nonsense tone. If he said something it usually was for my beneﬁt, so I listened.
"You've got a ﬁne little kohai there. You're making me want a few gakis of my own," Doto muttered.
"A Genin team, huh? I think you'd do good with one," Gaku agreed.
"Come on Hina-chan, we still have desert!"
"Is it chocolate?" I asked.
"Of course it is."
I couldn't help but quicken my pace a little. Nami went to the fridge and to my surprise brought out a chocolate cake. I gaped in surprise, and grinned. Cake. By the heavens above, I was craving something sweet. Stupid war getting in the way of my stupid desires!
"Happy birthday kiddo."
I smiled up at sensei as his familiar hand fell on my head. I looked up at him, which was always a little annoying when he was basically a giant. I jumped up onto the chair and Nami brought out a camera. Oh my god, those were rare!
"Doto, can you take a picture of us?"
The Akimichi agreed and Nami, Gaku and I stood behind the cake, all grinning happily. Doto snapped a picture and it came out of the camera. He shook it and handed it to me.
"Thanks," I whispered, suddenly feeling very warm inside.
I had the sudden urge to call sensei dad and hug him, but I didn't. I just smiled because I was truly grateful to not be so alone in this world. Sure there was a war, and we were all in danger, but I was happy.
"We got a little present for you too!"
"Oh?" I asked curiously.
Nami brought out a green box with a little blue ribbon on it. I pulled the ribbon apart and opened it to see gloves. Khaki green gloves with metal studded on the knuckles and the palm. I traced it with wide eyes.
"Its chakra reinforced," I said in wonder.
And it wasn't cheaply reinforced either. It was some good quality chakra. This must have been expensive. Apparently, my observation didn't go unnoticed.
"How did you notice?" Nami asked, giving me a curious look.
"I just knew... aren't I meant to know?" I asked.
"You can sense chakra in objects?"
"Yeah in everything with chakra, like trees and animals too. Is something wrong?" I asked.
"No, but how far exactly can you sense?" sensei prodded.
"Only as far as I can see," I shrugged.
"So a mild chakra sensor huh? I can't believe I didn't see it before," Gaku snorted with a grin.
"Hey, does this mean I can become a tracker like you?" I asked.
He shook his head and I deﬂated a little. "You'd need a wider range of sense for that. If you want though we can—"
"—No training for a week, remember," Nami cut in crossly. "Now let's eat some cake!"
Then like the true alpha she was, Nami got us all to sit and talk about something other than Shinobi related business. I indulgently ate two pieces of cake and packed another two for Taichi. I began doing a mini kata with my new gloves, enjoying the glint of dangerously sharp chakra reinforced metal on the ends. Oh punching people was going to do a whole lot more damage!
I pulled out the picture of Nami, Gaku and I, and felt a pool of warmth take me. Life was more than just training. Life was the people we shared it with, and I was proud to share it with them.
I found myself not really wanting to train. I enjoyed running and I spent 2 hours every morning running with Guy, but that wasn't something I could spend the rest of the day doing. I wasn't meant to train. This was my mandatory week off and that meant I couldn't book a training ground. I didn't have a private one either, so I was stuck actually having nothing to do for once in my life. Sensei had Clan business, Hanami was always busy with the hospital, all my young friends were at school and I didn't feel like staying at home with my family when Yua was ignoring me. I huffed as I ate some dango.
What the heck was I meant to do?
I had nothing to do... no hobbies outside of training like my life depended on it, because honestly it did. Now that my life wasn't on the line, I felt lost. An itch to jump back into training was threatening to take over again but I knew that wasn't healthy. I knew how to do things that could be considered a hobby, like draw, read, and cook, but I did those activities out of necessity. I didn't do anything for fun.
Wow was I a boring person? Maybe not— hopefully not, at least. I sighed again as I knelt down and thought about how to spend this week. I wanted to wind down, to ﬁnd something outside of training to look forward to. Could I pick up an instrument? No, that would take too much time.
The sound of soft classical ﬁlled the air. Clear blue eyes looked back at me, soft golden hair highlighted by the sun behind as Catherine arched her back and kicked her legs up in a perfect arc. It was beautiful. My breath was caught in my throat and I found myself still, unable to move, entranced by the beauty and emotions behind every bend, turn and change of pace. This was dancing.
The memory caught me of guard. I felt like crying. Something about remembering was painful and unnatural because I shouldn't be able to remember my past life. It was like the world had glitched when it threw me out again. I sighed, trying to compose my feelings. I could vaguely remember dancing with Cat, although I clearly remembered my preference for Jazz. I had two left feet back then, barely managing to look any good with my better half while she shook her body to the tune and I just shook it in general. That was fun.
I don't think I could bring myself to dance like that again, at least not by myself. I could barely stand the sudden loneliness I was hit with.
"Stop moping around Hina. Don't think about the loss... It's sad but you need to get over it," I huffed to myself slapping my cheeks. "I should probably go soak in a hot spring and stop thinking."
That was how I found myself going to a hot spring for the ﬁrst time in years. I'd only ever gone one other time before with Hanami. The experience had been odd. As a child I wasn't expected to show any form of embarrassment about being butt naked. The older women too didn't wear anything as they got into the water. I was pretty sure even the Japanese back in my previous life wore towels in, but apparently this world was a bit freer with bodies. Women and men often were ﬁne being seen naked around their own genders.
I tried not to look of course. It felt a bit wrong on my end because not only was I a kid, but I was also a 35-year-old woman who was attracted to other women. I paid up the front desk for my time there and went to the changing room before unwrapping my hitaite, folding my clothes and putting them in my assigned locker. I jumped into the shower, glad no one else was here before scrubbing myself clean and making my way into the hot spring.
Steamy air hit my face, burning my nostrils and eyes for a second before I took a moment to adjust to the sensation and sight. It was a pleasant view. Light brown rocks surrounded the steaming clear water and bamboo surrounded most parts of the tall wall. There were already two women, probably in their 30's sitting in the water chatting with each other. I tried not to look about self-consciously as I walked to the water. They sent me curious looks. I didn't blame them. Normally 6-year-old girls weren't as toned as me, or had as many scars as me, or even came to a bathhouse without supervision.
I dunked myself in the water, glad that it came up to my neck because of my height as I sat down. It burned nicely. I was feeling rather calm and I decided to spread out my chakra sense out of curiosity. Gaku-sensei said I was a sensor, if not a very weak one. Every Shinobi was a bit of a sensor, but they had to actively train in it to be any good or to even sense their own chakra. Doing it on my own without any thought meant it was possible to expand my senses.
So far, I could sense about 100 meters away. It wasn't much, just a basic line of sight kind of thing, but it could mean a lot if an ambush were to happen. A split second's notice could mean the difference between life and death in the field.
I pushed out my chakra and I tried to concentrate past the walls. I could feel the receptionist ambling around, a few men on the other side and... a man kneeling outside just behind the wall. 2 minutes and he still wasn't leaving. A peeper? I blushed furiously, dunking my whole body into the water as I blinked in embarrassment. Oh Kami, why would anyone want to peep on me? I was a kid! I pulled my head out after losing my breath and then I turned my eyes to the other women in the hot spring with me. Oh right— there were actual women here with rather big breasts.
Dammit don't look!
I averted my eyes before jumping out of the water and running across the water's surface, startling the women. Oh right civilians didn't often see water walking. I didn't mind them though, as I made my way to my assigned towel. I spun it around me before startling the women again, leaping onto the wall opposite them and jumping straight onto the peeping-toms head.
"Bastard don't spy on naked women!" I shouted.
I jumped off the man, adjusting my towel again and thanking Kami that it basically draped over my whole body. The man muttered an "ita ita", as he stopped his bleeding nose. Paper sprawled everywhere and ink was spilling out. That's when I remembered his iconic face, that striking long white hair, and the pervy character before me suddenly had a name. Jiraiya! I had drop kicked a Sannin. I would have been horriﬁed if I wasn't so sure he didn't dodge me on purpose. No way would an S Rank Shinobi have not seen me coming so I crossed my arms and huffed.
"A gaki? Damn, I was hoping you'd be a big bosomed beauty," he whined.
So he didn't dodge because he wanted to be hit by a woman? Kink noted Jiraiya, you weirdo.
"It's rude and improper to look at women naked without their permission! Not only is it a volition of their privacy but it's also sexual harassment!" I scolded, face a bright red.
"Relax kid, I wasn't even looking at you," he huffed. "I was just enjoying the female form, and why does a kid like you even know what sexual harassment is? Shouldn't you be at the Academy?"
"I'm not just some kid," I scoffed before I gave him an appraising look.
He was a Sannin. A pathetic excuse for one, sure, but still an S Rank Shinobi... who knew Fuinjutsu. How the fuck did that not cross my mind?
"Yeah, yeah brat now scram. You ruined my research!"
"No, how about I tell those women in there that you've been peeping on them! I'm sure their husbands in the room next to us will be pleased!"
Jiraiya paled slightly before huﬃng and turning from the hole he had created. I bit my lip.
"I'll let you continue... if you teach me some Fuinjutsu," I said quickly.
Jiraiya paused at that and looked at me with a whole new gaze. His face went mildly serious and somewhat perplexed.
"You know of me then! The Mighty Sage and Toad Sannin Jiriya!"
"Of course I do and peeping on naked women makes your cool factor go down the dirt!"
Jiraiya sighed. "Tough crowd, eh? Ok how about this kid, I teach you some basic Fuinjutsu and you leave me to my business ok?"
"Agreed!" I replied, a little too enthusiastically.
"Ok now put on some clothes. I'm not training a naked brat."
"O-of course," I said quickly, unable to hold in my blush as I realised, I was in nothing put a towel. I jumped back into the establishment startling the women again. I sent them an apologetic look, because well, I was going to let Jiraiya peep in on them and that was wrong. But Fuinjutsu. I couldn't just say no to this opportunity!
I changed almost in record time and made my way back out in less than 5 minutes, barrelling past the ﬂustered receptionist and out. I ran straight to the back of the building and my excitement died the moment I saw no Jiraiya. I cursed my stupidity.
"Idiot, he's a ninja! I shouldn't have trusted him at his word!"
I was going to grumble more about how Jiraiya had outwitted me when I noticed a scroll by the wall. I walked over and picked it up before opening the note on top.
Deconstruct this and I might consider teaching you ;)
Fucking lazy, perverted, sneaky bastard! I wanted to pull out my hair in frustration. That stupid smiley face at the end of his chicken scrawl of a writing was infuriating. I grumbled my distaste as I opened the scroll to see a seal, or at least what I hoped to be one. Seals in this world was made by writing in Kanji and various other symbols. That's all I really knew about sealing. Everything else was a mystery. How the fuck was I meant to decode something I couldn't even get the information for basics on?
Something in me boiled at his challenge though. I never backed down from a challenge. Ever. I curled the scroll back in, face setting in determination. I would decode this piece of shit by this week's end.
My longest chapter yet at 10k words :') It took a lot of reading through to fix up all the mistakes in this one. Thanks everyone for the likes and reviews! You guys are so sweet and honestly give me the motivation to continue. I'm actually about 20 chapters ahead in writing compared to what I post hence why the quick updates.
RileyBlue00- You have to tell your partner your proud to be a nerd! XD Also thanks a lot for that! I actually stress at writing fight scenes, so it's good to know someone likes it! I'm so glad you're enjoying this!
Shadow Wolf 15846- You make me remember why the readers here are so sweet! Thanks a lot! Your reviews encourage me!
Unlimited Cookie Works- Thanks! I aim to please XD
Cwrywn- Actually I choked on some beef XD Yeah, Hina doesn't remember who Shisui is, but she sure as hell is not going to let him get away with any suicidal tendencies he has. Hina and Kakashi unfortunately won't spend time in battle too much, but they are friends and sparring partners later on!
Chillingbear- Thanks a lot for always reviewing! It's good to know that my fight scenes are well written since I struggle with them a lot
shadow patronus- and thanks for reviewing! Hope you enjoy the rest!