Alrighty! So, Benihime won the poll by a very large margin. Apologies to those of you who voted for the other options, but I also voted for Beni, lol. I have learned my lesson. I will never again try to be clever in a language I don't speak, lmao. I have already changed all the chapters to have Beni instead of Unko, so I invite you to read them through again to make the name change less jarring.
I also deleted the massive author's notes, but we all know what went down, lol.
A reminder: Benihime (紅姫), or just Beni, is a reference to Benzaiten, the only female among the Seven Gods of Luck in Japanese mythos, and to the color red (beni) being a lucky color in a broader Asian context. In the rewrite of chapter 7, Benzaiten is not mentioned because I figure Choumei serves as the Narutoverse's God of Luck, but it was part of my decision to include the name in the poll.
Another change: Roshi calls her Hime-chan instead of Uu-chan. I think it's still just as cute. :)
Thanks to everyone who participated in the poll and who pointed out my mistake! Here's hoping I never make one on that scale, again!
Roshi watched the man from Konoha through narrowed eyes as he explained kanji to an illiterate child. She was looking at him like he'd placed the stars in the sky, her green eyes glittering with excitement as he patiently told her the symbolism behind each component.
Well, the Nana—Choumei—told him, didn't he? The White Fang, most formidable soldier in Konoha's army, was special to her. The first human to see her and not immediately go for the kill, even though he probably should have. Sure, Roshi could see why she'd get attached. She'd latched onto him pretty quickly, too, chattering up a storm until he got fed up and told her off. He regretted that, his impulsive demand for quiet a mistake he desperately wished to undo in the face of her crestfallen expression. She was much quieter now, even though he never commented on it again. She was a kid, for all she was nearly his height, and impressionable. Iwa kept him away from children, even the shinobi ones, for fear that the Yonbi—he still needed to learn his name—would run rampant and kill an entire generation. Even when he was a child, himself, he was isolated from his peers, treated with the odd juxtaposition of care and fear that all jinchuriki had to deal with. As an adult, he did the isolating himself, believing himself to be the threat he'd always been called.
Both Hime-chan and Choumei told him about the beast sealed inside him, the child somehow able to contact the great monkey from within her own mind. As terrible a calamity as he was, the Yonbi was still a primate at the end of the day, and he was governed by the same instincts as the troupe of monkeys living at the temple—who were meant to represent him, he realized with a smile. He was a social animal forced to live alone, just like Roshi. Was it any wonder he was so bitter all the time? Roshi certainly was, before stumbling across his little kouhai.
Really, he should have realized she was like him sooner. He remembered feeling bijuu chakra in the air and dismissing it as his own without much thought, even going so far as to distance himself from the temple and the child within, lest he accidentally lose control and hurt her. She'd welcomed him with somewhat open arms, not even asking him where he came from or why he didn't want to go back. In hindsight, this was clearly because she already knew, gossiping about him with two bijuu like an old woman with too many grandchildren, but at the time he was grateful to be given the chance to exist without justifying his presence.
"Roshi!" He looked up as she ran over to him where he sat lounging on one of the walls surrounding the courtyard. "I can write my name now! Look!"
She held up a paper torn from one of the other books given to her by the many Konoha teams sent to sway her loyalties. Sure enough, there, in splotchy ink, was her name. It was crooked and needed finessing, but it was more than she'd ever written before.
"Wonderful," he said with a smirk. "Now you can sign away your soul."
She scowled up at him, but he saw the uncertainty growing in her eyes. She was a sensitive soul, his Hime-chan. Always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was one of the reasons he made sure to say everything in the same teasing tone, so he could gage her reaction and pull out before he caused her any undue stress. It was likely a result of being a child jinchuriki, though he hadn't asked her about it, yet. Even he hadn't seriously considered leaving his village until he was well into his teens, only acting on it now that he was in his twenties and a war kept Iwa from sending anyone after him. She'd actually done it, and at a much younger age than eight, if he was understanding it right. She'd lived on her own in the temple for a while before he happened upon her, Choumei serving as her only parent, friend, and mentor.
"You're good with children," he called out to Sakumo, turning Hime-chan's attention away from his words and back to the man she idolized. "Is that a village requirement or do you have some hell spawn of your own?"
The smile he got in return was strained, clearly worn rather than felt. It looked like he wasn't the only one keeping the princess' emotions in mind. "I am a parent, yes."
Oh. That was more information than Roshi thought he'd be willing to share. It was probably another tactic to try and connect with Hime-chan. "Woah, really? Any tykes the brat's age?"
Most shinobi would refrain from discussing their family in any capacity, especially when the one asking technically belonged to an enemy village, but the princess was interested. Roshi could feel her radiating curiosity as she waited for Sakumo to answer. If he wanted to fulfil whatever evil child manipulating orders he had, he would need to tell them something.
"Ah, no, my oldest is only three, though he'll be four, soon."
"Aww, how cute! Is he a little old man, too?"
Roshi laughed out loud at the nickname she'd given their guest. He clearly didn't like it, but he didn't say anything, either. The silver hair of the Hatake Clan marked them like spots on a poison toad, giving their enemies the chance to flee before they fell beneath a White Chakra blade. To Hime-chan, though, he just looked old.
It seemed Sakumo had no issues with the nickname being applied to someone else, even if it was his child. He laughed, the corners of his eyes creasing with genuine sentiment. "His hair is silver, yes. It's a marker of our Clan."
Hime-chan made an appreciative noise, her happy glow fading. "He must be lonely. He'd probably be sad if he found out you were out here playing with me, huh?"
Roshi glared at the Konoha shinobi even though it wasn't his fault. "Come on, Hime-chan. The war's been going on longer than he's been alive. He's probably used to it."
That…didn't help. Why did he think it would help? He had zero experience with children! He should have left it to the man who had one!
"That's so sad, though," she was saying, the paper with her name crushed to her chest as she wrapped her arms around herself. "He's just a baby." She looked up at Sakumo with a fire in her eyes. "You said he's turning four, soon! When's his birthday? You should go see him!"
Well, Roshi certainly wouldn't mind sending the older man on his way. With any luck, he'd never be able to find the temple, again, and he and his cute little kouhai could go back to their lives.
"September is a long way away, Beni-chan."
She cocked her head, golden halo of curls bouncing with the movement. "Is it? What month is it now?"
Roshi's smile faded as Sakumo informed her that it was, in fact, March. Damn. So, he'd be stuck with the man for at least another six months. Tch.
"When's your birthday, Hime-chan?" He asked, trying to distract her from the sad thought of a child without a father. "We can have a party."
The obnoxiously tall eight year old was quiet for a long moment and he immediately knew he'd fucked up again. "I don't know." Her voice was small and her eyes downcast, full bottom lip pushed out in a pout. "I think it was in summer, but I can't—."
He was starting to understand why she left her village at such a young age. Even he knew his birthday, though no one ever celebrated it. It was part of his file and, even if it wasn't, there was one person, a caretaker whose name he'd long forgotten, who'd mentioned it and the customs he'd never get to partake in. She was a kid and probably wouldn't have had access to her paperwork, but it was heartbreaking to think that no one had ever thought to give her a gift or even mention it as a cruel reminder that she was different from everyone else. Was that their fate as jinchuriki?
His face twisted as a sour taste filled his mouth.
"My birthday's in summer, too, brat," he said with a patently fake smile. "What do you think? Wanna share?"
She looked up at him with open mouthed surprise, her grip on the paper with her name slackening. The crumpled thing fell to the ground as she jumped at him, hitting his chest with more strength than he'd anticipated and sending them both over the wall. He hit the moss covered forest floor with a sharp exhale, the air forced from his lungs by the him sized child on his chest. Her arms were wrapped tightly around his neck, her face buried in the crook of his shoulder.
"Woah, Hime-chan," he said gruffly, hands held up and away from him as she did her damnedest to choke him to death. "What's all this?"
She pulled back and his voice died in his throat. Her green eyes were glistening with unshed tears as she looked down at him, all her teeth bared in the widest smile he'd ever seen. She radiated happiness and a strange warmth began to spread through him, starting in his seal and moving outward to suffuse his chest.
"Roshi, you're the best senpai ever!"
Well, of course he was. He'd butchered that entire boar practically by himself, after all, and he'd rebuilt half the temple without any help. Those words sat on his tongue, ready to be said, but he couldn't voice them. He didn't want to turn…whatever this was into another bout of teasing. She was happy. Truly, exuberantly happy. And he'd made her that way.
Take that Sakumo.
As if he could read Roshi's mind, the older shinobi called down to them from the spot on the wall they'd just vacated.
"You two alive down there?"
"Old man!" The princess turned to look up at him, her smile still in place. "You can stay until our birthday then you can leave for Kakashi's! How does that sound?"
Roshi was a little too busy basking in the word 'our' to really notice the fact that she knew the kid's name despite not being told. The old man leaving would be an excellence birthday present.