Edited, like, two seconds after publishing because I realized there was some icky, unintentional subtext. Hopefully I fixed it!
Minato watched with growing amusement as the girl child marched right up to Hatake Sakumo, the White Fang, hero of the Second Shinobi War, her face scrunched up with anger. His senpai, for all his formidable reputation, held up his hands and backed away, putting on a show of fear before the child's ire.
"Me?" The older shinobi asked, expression one of carefully crafted yet friendly confusion.
"Don't play dumb! Did you think I wouldn't recognize you! You may not be wearing a mask, but your hair's the same color, you old man!"
Oof. Minato let himself smile as the girl struck right in the center of Sakumo's sore spot, but Kushina laughed outright, clutching her belly as she guffawed loudly at their senpai's expense.
"Hey, I'm not old!" Sakumo crossed his arms over his chest, sniffing disdainfully. "My hair is naturally silver."
"Yeah, that's what happens when you age, stupid."
It was, admittedly, pretty funny to watch a soldier of Sakumo's caliber trade barbs with a child half his size, but not funny enough to warrant Kushina's breathless laughter. Sometimes Minato wondered what it must be like to see the world through her eyes, to feel emotions so extremely?
Well, she was cute when she smiled, so it was fine.
"So? What do you want?" The child demanded, crossing her own arms in a mirror of Sakumo's posture. "Has your Hokage finally decided to pull his head out of his ass and apologize? I don't accept groveling via proxy, though, so he'll have to come do it, himself."
"Apologize?" Minato asked, genuinely surprised. "Apologize for what?"
The girl spared him a withering glance, full lips twisted with scorn. "Wow. Got no brains in that pretty head of yours, do you? Real himbo material."
Kushina's laughter, which had begun to fade, picked right back up and Minato didn't even try to resist the urge to pout. It wasn't that funny.
"It was a serious question," he muttered, pointedly looking at anything but the girls. Instead, he found himself looking at the short, red headed man who'd told the sharp tongued child about their arrival. He looked awfully familiar…
"If so, then you're seriously stupid," the girl said with a shake of her head. "Or your Hokage gets a kick out of keeping his soldiers seriously uninformed."
"It's the latter," the red headed man said gruffly, turning a page in his book. "All Kages are like that."
The girl clicked her tongue, making her feelings about that perfectly clear.
"If you're not here to apologize, then what do you want?"
Kushina bounced up and down in place. "Ooh! Ooh! Me! I know! We're here to study the seal!"
"Which seal? There are four in the temple, right now, and one of them should be familiar to you, already."
Kushina cocked her head. "The one that makes it invisible?" She leaned in close to Minato, stage whispering. "There's more than one?"
It was weird, watching her play up her normal exuberance, but it wasn't too far from her typical self. She may have been playing a part for their audience, but it was pretty similar to the act she put on for children back in the village. As such, he knew his part in the bit by heart.
"Just go along with it and maybe she'll tell us."
It was a ploy meant to give the child a false sense of power, to convince them that they had something that the adults wanted. In most cases, it made the child more willing to negotiate. Lots of information had been gained for the paltry price of some candy or a meal for the night. It was cruel and manipulative, but that was their job description.
This child didn't look like she would take the bait, her sharp green eyes jumping from Kushina to Minato and back again.
"Does this work for you?" She asked, short golden brows furrowing in confusion. "Like, is this a thing that gets results? 'Cause you look dumb as shit."
Kushina squawked indignantly and Minato could only chuckle as the girl turned back to Sakumo, her glare as sharp as ever.
"Bad dog!" She scolded, and even Minato had to choke back his laughter. "You dare bite the hand that fed you! I saved your life, you know! I could have just let you drown, but I didn't! You're alive because of me, and what do you do! You tattle on me! We have a saying where I come from: snitches get stitches!"
Throughout her tirade, she kept one slender finger pointed up at the silver haired elite jounin, shaking it up and down like she really was scolding a very large puppy. It was, again, amusing, but unproductive.
"Is there something we can do to make it up to you?" He interjected, keeping his tone light and friendly in the way little Kakashi-kun liked. "We're not here to start any trouble, really. We just want to study the temple."
Why did he suddenly feel like he'd walked into a trap?
The girl shared a devious smile with her red headed companion before turning to look all of them up and down.
"Well," she sniffed haughtily. "If you're going to be making a nuisance of yourselves, you may as well be useful. Roshi-senpai," she turned away from them, marching back toward what must be her home. "You're in charge!"
She disappeared inside the building with a slam of the makeshift door. The man sitting beside the boar carcass sighed and rolled his neck, filling the air with sickening pops from the joint.
"Alright," he said, getting to his feet and pointing at Sakumo. "You can go help her inside. You've got history, or whatever, so that means you're not out to kill her, at the very least. You two," he said to the younger jounin. "Can stay out here with me."
"Um," Kushina began, raising her hand in the air like they were in the Academy. "What are we doing?"
The shorter red head snorted. "Isn't it obvious?" He jabbed his thumb at the dead pig. "We're making dinner."
Unko returned to laying out her mushrooms, organizing them in a perfectly normal way, thank you. Some would need to be dried, but there were a few she could imagine going well with pork. She'd have to double check with whatever recipe Roshi ended up picking, but—.
Why is she still alive?
She sighed. "I can't just kill someone who hasn't done anything to me, first. You know that."
You know what she's done to Kurama! What her predecessor did to him! He's in pain!
True. It was hard to look at Naruto's parents when she knew exactly how much suffering they would put—were putting—Choumei's elder brother through. Kurama was an asshole, like most bijuu, but he didn't deserve a lifetime of torment. At the end of the day, he was a giant predator and humans the most abundant prey. If she couldn't get mad at the foxes living in the temple for stealing her preserved meat, then she couldn't get mad at the King Fox for eating what was available to him.
He doesn't even eat humans! Get that nonsense out of your brain!
"Son-sensei said he does."
Son is a stupid head who likes starting fights.
She laughed. "I'm telling him you said that."
Her happiness disappeared, the voice like water on the flames of her joy. She angled her body so her back was to the intruder and continued laying out her mushrooms.
He sighed. "I'm sorry, Unko-chan—."
"No, you're not," she bit out, not really angry with him but still using him as the convenient punching bag he was. "If you were sorry, you'd go home and tell your Kage you couldn't find the temple."
He came to crouch beside her, watching her sort the fungi before reaching out to help her. She slapped his hand and he cradled it to his chest.
"Wash your hands!"
He chuckled but didn't leave.
"You're right," he said lamely. "I'm not so sorry that I would ignore my orders for you. I am, however, sorry that my village has so badly handled this. When I gave my report, I didn't expect anything to really come of it. This region isn't exactly coveted, so I was very surprised to learn that, not only have we been fighting over it so desperately, but that this temple had become such a point of contention. I honestly thought you would be left alone. In fact," he sighed and rubbed at the back of his neck. "I felt a little bad about not bringing you with me."
She scoffed, still refusing to look at him. "Why should I care? I don't wanna go to Konoha, anyway."
That wasn't exactly true. She'd love to visit the main setting of the story she remembered, but Choumei's bitterness made it hard to even think about the Land of Fire without frowning.
"I heard you had some grievances against us," he began, clearly being careful with his words. "I don't think I'm qualified to speak on that, but I will say this: most people in Konoha don't know about what happened here. They also had nothing to do with it. Holding them responsible for things they didn't do is a bit cruel, don't you think?"
Yeah, she knew that. She watched Sesame Street growing up, ok? Elmo told her all about blame and forgiveness. She wasn't the one holding the grudge, though.
"It doesn't change anything," she said bitterly. "Even if I did go with you, abandoning my country and my duties to the temple, my life wouldn't get any better. I'd just be broken and remolded into something Konoha could use." She finally looked at him, taking in his dark eyes and sliver hair, confirming his identity as she compared him to the other two men in her memories who looked like that. "Besides, I'm willing to bet all my money that your village teaches its kids that people who look like me are evil or some other bigoted bullshit. You're at war with Kumo, too, right? Can't have the next generation be open to reconciliation, now can we?"
He looked decidedly uncomfortable. "You don't know that—."
"Neither do you," she shot back, turning back to the task of cleaning fungus. "But you should. You've got a kid, don't you, Mr. Hatake Sakumo-san?"
He tensed, the very air around him taut as a wire. The only name he'd ever given her was Wolf, and he'd sure as fuck never mentioned Kakashi, so he had every reason to be nervous. For a moment, she considered leaving it at that. She didn't want one of the only nice shinobi she'd ever encountered to become her enemy.
Do it. It's my temple, and I say do it.
Well, there was no arguing with that.
"Namikaze Minato and Uzumaki Kushina were interesting choices for this," she continued, spurred on by Choumei's chanting of do it do it do it in the back of her mind. Really, if he did turn out to be an enemy, what was he gonna do? She and Roshi had eleven tails between them. Not even Kushina could stop them if they joined forces. "What are you planning to do with the seal when you find it? Destroy it and leave us open to attack? Or copy it and apply it wherever helps your invasion the most? Because that is what you're doing," her words were again laced with an anger that wasn't really hers. "You know, for a village founded on the premise of peace and friendship being the only answer, you sure do start a lot of wars to prove it."
He didn't say anything. He was still tensed and ready for violence, not even relaxing when she continued doing her chores. She was content to ignore him, letting him stew in the provocation she'd dropped at his feet. Now that she'd said it, she kind of regretted it, but it wasn't her fault. Any time Konoha was mentioned, she just got so angry.
It was all Choumei's fault.
So? My anger is perfectly justified, thank you!
It was. She'd never say it wasn't. Being enslaved was a horrible thing and he had every right to hate the system that did it to him, but not everyone who existed within a system was aware it existed or of the ways it affected them or others. If a little kid from Konoha showed up, would he be as cruel?
That's not fair~, he whined. Kids don't get to pick where they grow up.
Neither did Sakumo. Or Minato. Or Kushina. Especially not Kushina. The things she did to Kurama were evil, but she'd been raised to believe he was a demon, just like Roshi. That the Iwa jinchuriki only ignored Son was actually one of the better outcomes. Crimes committed when ignorant of the law could not be prosecuted.
It wasn't like he couldn't hate the government. It was cruel and evil and used child soldiers. That shit needed dismantling, big time. But people who were raised under its thumb probably should be given the benefit of the doubt.
Well, as long as they weren't fucking Danzo or Orochimaru. Or any of the ruling elite, really. The big wigs. People like Minato, an orphan, and Kushina, a misguided jinchuriki, couldn't really be blamed for fighting in the war. As far as they were concerned, they were protecting their home and its interests, fighting for a better future for their children.
Sakumo, too. He had an actual child at home, waiting for him. How heavily did that weigh on his mind?
Ok! A zap of indignation ran through Unko, straightening her spine against her will. I get it! It's not their fault their founder stuck me in a human. Get that image of baby Kakashi out of your head!
…Oh, she had been thinking about the little masked asshole. Well, he was cute. Thinking about his reaction to finding his father's corpse was enough to make even a tailed beast sad, it seemed.
Gah! No more! I concede!
Hah. Really, she completely understood why he was so angry. Why all the bijuu were angry. If, after being told how and why their actions were wrong, everyone they hated still acted the same way, then they could be wiped from existence. Unko would even help.
The sound of shouting voices shattered the tense quiet inside the house. Both Sakumo and Unko got up to see what had caused the commotion.
Roshi made a point of raising his hands in the air in the universal symbol of nonviolence when he saw Unko.
"I'm not fighting," he told her calmly. "Unlike some people, I know better than to perform violence on holy ground."
That last bit was aimed at Kushina, whose red hair had risen around her in a facsimile of Kurama's tails. She looked to Sakumo as she pointed, rather rudely, at Roshi.
"He's the Yonbi!" She spat the word like it was somehow foul. "He's one of Iwa's jinchuriki! He's the one who buried the Getsubutsu canyon in lava!"
Minato was already in a combat stance and Sakumo sank into one, as well. Unko could only shake her head and sigh.
"And you're the Kyuubi, bitch. Seriously, hypocrite much?"
You shouldn't have said that.
Yeah, no shit.