Yay! I'm back! I'm happy to be posting again. I'm going to do a better job posting more often since I decided to shelve A Deathly Contract. Since I can finally see the finish line for TLP, I thought I'd focus all my attention on this fic. I took down ADC because I didn't want people asking for updates every so often. It will be back, tho. As soon as I finish The Last Prayer, I'm jumping back to From Ruin and A Deathly Contract.
Warning: Violence and Profanity.
14.7K words. Enjoy!
From her high perch atop the Yondaime's stone head, Hinata overlooked all of Konoha but her thoughts didn't reflect the night-time beauty of her home nor the talking-to she'd receive for staying out so late. The midnight-haired kunoichi could only focus on what is and what isn't. For a long time, Hinata felt lacking, insufficient, as a daughter, a ninja, and even a friend. She hoped she was wrong and worked hard to prove that feeling of doubt wrong, but after what she heard hours ago, it was the biggest blow to her progress. Hinata felt as if she lost her sensei and the man she's loved all her life in one night and it was demoralizing.
Looking out to the peace of her village and the hope of a better future, she mindlessly asks the view as much as her aching heart, "don't I deserve… something more?"
The loud familiar voice shocked her into twisting about to look at the railing directly behind her. At the sight of her beloved Naruto, wearing a red and black cloak over his orange and black uniform, Hinata panicked as he gushes, "I made it in twelve hours!" Focusing on her ahead, Naruto leaps over the rail to the bust of his father on the Hokage monument and beside the Hyūga. "Hey, Hinata!"
"…Naruto-kun," she says absentmindedly. Seeing him up close, Hinata immediately focuses on his toad-like pupils in the middle of yellow irides and the orange pigmentation around his eyes. He smiles when he catches her staring and she looks away in blushing embarrassment.
"It's fine," Naruto told her. "I like your eyes when you use your Byakugan. They're super cool." His compliment used to be a source of uplifting energy. Now that she knows the truth about him and her sensei, she doubts he even means it. When it appears as if she won't respond, Naruto asks, "what are you doing up here so late?" Before she responds, however, her blond crush puts his hands together, voicing, "actually… Kage Bunshin no Jutsu."
Hinata is confused when another Naruto—minus the pigmentation around his eyes—pops into existence, to which he answers, "sorry, since I'm still on mission, I have to get to Ji-chan right away, but you can talk with my clone. You won't believe how badass I got the last few days!"
With a salute, the sage Naruto leaps away into the serenity of the village below them. Naruto's clone only grimaces, "tch, just leaving without letting you say a word," he judged. "Not that I don't get it," he said to Hinata. He then takes a seat and pats the stone flooring as he asks, "so, what's going on? How come you're here this late all by yourself?"
Hesitantly, Hinata politely takes a seat, however, she couldn't express the turmoil in her heart and turned her gaze to the village down below as she slowly answered, "thinking."
"Hmm, about what?" Again, silence, as she couldn't voice what was disappointing her so much. Instead, Naruto shared, "you don't have to say if you don't want. You wouldn't believe the mission the Boss has been on. He actually had to fight off Orochimaru! I don't know if you remember him. He's the one who tried to kill Ji-chan. The boss fought him off practically by himself! It was pretty awesome. That's the mission we're completing now." Normally, Hinata is always thrilled when Naruto spoke with her, only now, she can't help but wonder if he would prefer to talk to anyone but her.
"Are you okay? You seem down," he observed.
Feeling like she needed to stop holding him back, Hinata weakly explains, "I… heard about you… and Kurenai-sensei."
His eyes widen a moment as he asks, "really? Hmm, I guess she finally told you. Isn't it great?" His levity only confirmed what she knew; he was better without her. It was a bitter pill to swallow as he added, "I never thought I'd find someone who not only cares about me, but wants to take on life together, like family."
"…Y-you already think of her as family?"
"Hmm, definitely," he hummed with a bright smile, oblivious to her dead expression. "Having dinners with you and Kurenai were some of my most happiest times."
Certain of the answer, she only continued proving her theory right by asserting, "B-but you would still feel happy if I weren't there-"
"Definitely not," he flatly told her, looking at her as if she were crazy. His genuine expression as he assures her, "of course I want you there," perplexed her. "I like how kind and badass you are. I may not know what's bugging you—don't think I can't tell either—but if it's something you can fight, then you definitely should!"
"Of course," he proclaimed before pointing out to the village below them. "We all fight for the things we want, right? I want to be Hokage more than anything and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise." Nudging her shoulder with his own he adds, "whatever's in your heart of hearts, you should fight for it too. Hell, I'll help you. Whatever you need, you can count on me."
Looking at the sincerity in his deep blue eyes rocked her certainty that no one needed her to the core. She looked away and tried to say, "I wish… I w-wish-"
"Don't worry about wishing," he interjected with gusto. "Let's just fix it! Whatever the problem, whatever's bugging you, let's face it head-on. So, lay it on me. What do you need?"
Hinata stared at a very animated Naruto as she fiercely debating with herself the way she always does when considering the next step. She wanted him more than anyone she knows or could think to know, but how could she be so selfish when clearly, she's not enough. Her chest inflated and deflated painfully and still, her mind debated speaking the words she's always wanted to say.
Clapping each of her cheeks with cupped palms, Naruto bellows, "HI-NA-TA." Despite being so close and touched by him, she only focused on his hypnotic eyes and the feeling of comfort and friendliness he radiated. "Nothing you say is wrong or offensive, so don't worry about it. Whatever's bothering you, I'm on your side. Share it with me."
As he let her cheeks free, the cold quickly took their place and Hinata wanted to cry right there. The memories of Kurenai and Ino talking, the unfairness of it all, the one wish she's had since she met Naruto as a little girl, they were all on the very tip of her tongue when an unsettling sound of a flute raises to a volume they can hear, then louder still.
The moment the pair of ninjas question it, they suddenly can't feel their bodies. The second panic courses the length of their bodies, Hinata's special eyes are made to witness a very long golden arrow drilling explosively through Naruto's unprotected neck. She saw every millisecond of the golden point jutting through his neck and the thick red blood slowly yet violently ejecting out as the metal pole exits the punctured hole. The violent murder lasted forever in her eyes, as if she saw the man she loves die a thousand deaths before he mercifully pops into a white puffy cloud of smoke.
"Are you fucking-" Hinata absentmindedly heard from the shadows of the tree line behind the monument. "Fantastic, a fucking clone," the same female voice said.
A second voice asks, "language."
"Fuck off," the female returned.
"Now what?" Asked the second voice.
"Orochimaru-sama ordered us to capture or kill him," a third stated with authority.
"Yeah, and Kabuto said if we can't one-shot him with a surprise attack, avoid him at all cost," a fourth voice retorted.
"We don't have a lot of time," the first voice reminds everyone. "He's bound to be here in a few minutes."
"Take the girl," the third voice in the shadows ordered. "If he comes chasing, it means he cares. We can use that."
The fourth voice asks, "and Sasuke? He's our main objective."
"Orochimaru won't be happy if we return without him," the second voice warned.
"We still have to find him," the third voice, who appears to be the leader replied. "We'll come up with a plan back at base."
Hinata heard it all but could do nothing as she's kept under genjutsu. Finally, out of the corner of her eye, she observed a large, heavy-set boy leap out of the tree-line beyond the railing, right to her side on the stone bust. He easily picks her up and lays her on the shoulder before leaping away, the sight of Konoha, of her home, quickly disappearing from her sight, and the words she wanted to share with Naruto along with it.
Leaping from one building to the next, Kurenai has yet to stop searching for Hinata. She wasn't at the Hyūga compound, at any of the training areas, Iruka's, her teammates' homes, the Hospital, the parks, or ponds. Kurenai's only clue came from Haku when she checked the new Uzumaki residence and complex. Though she was upset at Haku for leaving her alone, Kurenai was more upset with herself for the failure of her plan.
Sensing a familiar chakra land behind her, Kurenai asks Anko, "did you find anything?"
"No sign of her," Anko answered as they both stretch their senses as far as they're capable. "Kinda regretting your plan, huh?"
Kurenai's gut sinks at the reminder, however, she remains straight-faced as she replies, "now's not the time, Anko."
Without taking offense, Anko nods before assuring her friend, "don't worry, she'll be fine."
Grateful for the latitude Anko's giving her, Kurenai felt comfortable sharing the unrest in her chest. "…I only meant for Ino to overhear it like that," Kurenai insisted.
"I know," Anko empathetically confirmed.
"Hinata shouldn't have heard it like that," Kurenai argues as if to herself.
"I know," Anko agrees before expressing, "but this isn't genjutsu. You can't control everything. And it's not like you could've told one and not that other. That would've been unfair."
"What's unfair is how Hinata must be feeling right now," Kurenai retorted. "Because of my stupidity."
"If you ask me, I think it's better this way," Anko thoughtfully alleges. "Sure, overhearing it like that doesn't fit Hinata's personality type like it does Ino, but if she can get over this, it'll be easier later."
Shaking her head at the stupidity of her plan, Kurenai longingly expresses, "right now, I just want to find her."
"We will," Anko assures her dearest friend when they both feel a powerful disturbance in the serenity of the night. It felt so strong, Anko needed to ask, "you feel that?"
Before Kurenai answers, the pair see off in the distance, a yellow flash streak across the night sky of the Hokage monument. They look at each other a moment before rushing after the power source.
In the Hokage's residence, the Naruto clone releases his sage mode as he set Katsuyu down. He wanted to walk over to his slumbering Ji-chan when he felt his clone being forcibly dispelled. He quickly alerted Katsuyu that he had to run and to summon Tsunade before leaping out of the window. Landing on the ground, Naruto was already in his golden-white chakra cloak, and zeroing in on Hinata. He didn't know if it was Danzō or something worse, but just like Karin, he wasn't going to let anyone take one of his friends.
The golden flash sprinted and leaped over buildings, mountainside, then trees faster than sound could travel until he felt four sources of negative energy in the forest behind the monument. Nothing about them gave him the distinct feeling that he would have difficulty dealing with them. Even if it was four against one, Naruto landed in front of them, cracking the ground radially as he cut their escape.
The four were dressed the same as Orochimaru and recalled them all from the invasion. One was dark-skinned, with a black ponytail, and an oddity Naruto's never seen before; six arms. He effortlessly recalls the only girl among them, with her slender build, fair skin, and long red hair, as well as a clone marking her as they escaped with Orochimaru. The one seemingly leading them was fair-skinned with grayish long hair and what appears to be another head at his back. The last one was tall, fair-skinned, with three tufts of orange hair on his otherwise bald head, and he had Hinata on her shoulder.
As Naruto mentally recalls Naru-nii's description of the Sound Four, Tayuya cursed, "shit that was fast."
"If you don't want to see any harm come to the girl," Sakon began, and Jirōbō immediately placed a kunai near Hinata's neck. "Come quietly."
Her eyes were open but it didn't seem like she was conscious, making Naruto wonder what they did to her, and angering him even more. Looking at their formation, with the girl in the middle of the other three was perfect for Naruto. As she brings her flute to her lips, he recalled why he marked her back then despite her being on Ochimaru's side, and points at her before asking, "hey, you. Are you an Uzumaki by chance- oh, what am I talking about-"
Time stops for them as the distance between himself and the mark he placed on Tayuya shrinks to the point of touching, like two worlds colliding and when the flow of time is felt again, the golden boy of light is no longer in front of them. Naruto appears right beside the redhead and her eyes manage to widen before he hits her hard enough to send her folded body flying back thirty yards.
However, even before Tayuya's flying body touches the grassy floor speeding under her, Naruto has more than enough time to kick the much taller boy holding Hinata in the back of the knee, ripping a blood-curdling scream as Naruto drives his knee into the dirt. He couldn't hear the crunch over his scream but he could feel it as he gently grabbed Hinata. The one with the two heads and the other with the six arms splinter away just before Naruto kicks the orange hair large boy in the back, sending him meters away whilst Hinata remained firmly in his arms.
"Sakura said they can just test blood," Naruto finished saying as Tayuya finally stopped rolling to a stop and the large Jirōbō slams painfully hard into the tough bark of Konoha's tall trees.
"Jirōbō! Tayuya!" The spider boy yelled while the two-headed leader watches Naruto lay Hinata down.
"You guys really fucked up," Naruto coldly told them. He faintly recalls what their abilities are, however, he's completely certain he doesn't care who they are or what they can do because he'll stop them at all cost. "Leave now and you'll have a head start before Konoha shinobi come after you," he fumed.
Sakon, followed by Kidōmaru, immediately transforms into his final form resembling an oni. His skin tone became red, the irises of his eyes turned yellow, his black mouth is torn from ear to ear and gains canine teeth, his chin elongates, and a single long horn grows on the left side of his forehead. Kidōmaru quickly evolved into a second then the third stage until he had horns protruding out of his forehead, fangs, dark brown skin, and light-gray hair.
Sakon yells at Kidōmaru, "keep your distance! Aim at the girl!" And the spider-boy immediately leaped into the canopy above.
Naruto is about to finish off the leader when a bloodied Jirōbō yells as fully transformed with glowing track marks spread throughout his heavy-set body, nearly instantly healing his destroyed knee before charging straight for Naruto. The monstrous red-skinned Jirōbō is now easily three times Naruto's size clears the distance in a matter of seconds to punch the golden-glowing Naruto with a fist the size of a watermelon, however, it may as well have been an eternity for Naruto. With the speed of a neural impulse, Naruto's palm extends out and halts the barreling fist like throwing an egg at a brick wall.
The snapping of multiple bones muffled by layers of muscle fibers is immediately proceeded by the puncturing of sharp bone through muscle and skin, hemorrhaging blood profusely. Jirōbō's momentum bounced him back and only then did he realize his wrist is snapped back, his shoulder is dislocated, and his bloody radius bone snapped and torn through his forearm.
"Aaah…. AAUUUUOOAAAAHAHHHAAAAA-" he yelled in agony as Naruto sensed attacks from three additional fronts. A large spear-like arrow shot directly at Hinata moving nearly at the speed of sound and Sakon and Ukon attacking in perfect synchronicity from his left and right. Naruto was faster than all of them, however, Hinata came first. Inches away from the point of the spear tearing through her torso, it, along with Sakon, Ukon, and the screaming Jirōbō froze in place.
Naruto gripped Hinata, surrounded her with his chakra, and instantaneously leaped through space and time to end up right beside the unconscious Tayuya. They were still in the forest, however, away from imminent danger. Naruto created a clone who immediately entered KCM, sensed the negative energy, and sprinted off in an instant, leaving behind little more than a yellow flash.
While his clone handled the arachnid-like boy, Naruto picked Hinata up princess style, held her tightly against him, then sprinted through the terrain faster than a bolt fired from a crossbow. The forest was like a blur and his eyes quickly narrowed in on the twin oni demons in a fraction of a second. Even if Sakon might've been capable of catching a speeding arrow with his bare hands, Naruto's foot carried far more power behind it.
Without the use of his hands, Naruto's ungodly speed connected his foot with the leader's face, breaking his horn clean off. Ukon could barely register his brother spinning in the air before hitting the floor when his knee was kicked out with a sickening crunch, dropping him to his other knee just as the heal of Naruto's roundhouse kick plowed through his cranium. Like having a boulder fall on a rubber ball, Ukon's head didn't pop like a balloon due to his enhanced durability, however, a fist may as well have punched him directly in his brain, to which he promptly passes out.
The only one still moving was Jirōbō, clutching his mangled arm. Sweating profusely, he glared at Naruto who could easily sense the negative emotions building within him. Naruto could tell he was moving closer to becoming blind with rage and attacking, despite their overwhelming difference in strength. Jirōbō moved to get up when Naruto's clone landed behind him with Kidōmaru and Tayuya. The large Jirōbō swallowed audibly before settling back down and letting the fight within dissolve into nothingness.
After telling his clone to wait for reinforcements, he leaped away to the treetops and traveled leisurely from branch to branch. Naruto allowed his golden cloak to dissipate as he neared the village, and not long afterward, Hinata slowly comes to. He felt her snuggle in a moment before opening her eyes to look directly into his, and absent any thought, she hugs him around his neck tightly.
"Hey," he softly said as she hugged him, stopping gracefully on a tree branch. "How do you feel? You're not hurt are you?" He couldn't see very well in the darkness and leaps upward seven branches before reaching the very top of the tree and the light from the moon above.
"I'm sorry," she said into his neck where she recalls a copy of him be pierced through.
"Wha- hey, don't apologize," Naruto assured her as he tilts his head to try and see her. "You did nothing wrong."
The memory replays in her mind, compelling her to hug him tighter as she voices, "you came for me."
"Without question," he quickly reassured her. "There's no way I was going to let anyone take you." Hearing his voice seems to calm her so he continues, "you know, this sort of reminds me of a story kaa-chan told me."
"Your mother," Hinata questioned, moving back enough to look him in the eyes. "But I thought…"
"Oh, yeah," Naruto realized with a silly smirk. "She died on the day of my birth but she left me a message that I got to see recently. When she was around our age, she was kidnapped by Kumo shinobi, and they would've gotten away with it, but my tou-chan found her. He beat those ninjas to a pulp and saved her all by himself. Isn't it funny how history repeats?"
Hinata seemed pleased to hear the story but saddened a moment later as she replies, "some things don't change, even if you really want them to."
"Yeah, but it's funny because you can do anything you want, right? We can train and grow, and even then things can still repeat. I guess the stuff that matters will always stay around in one way or another."
"The stuff that matters?"
"Yeah, like love, honor, integrity, friendship, personal growth," he answered, before looking out to the lush green under the bright moonlight. "Even if you think nothing's changing, when it comes to the things that matter, you gotta keep trying, right? Never quit."
Recalling the words that were on her lips before his clone was violently killed, Hinata voices what she couldn't before. "…Is it really okay? To- to pursue the thing I w-want… e-even if it b-bothers others-"
"Hell yeah it is," Naruto loudly interjects, his voice carrying far in the dead of night. "If there's something in your heart you want more than anything, you owe it to yourself to go after it or nothing you do will make the hard moments in your life worth it. Trust me, it might be really hard to become Hokage, but I know in my heart all the crap I go through every day to earn that damn hat will make it all worth it in the end."
Under moonlight atop one of the tallest trees, Hinata turned silent and remained so for so long, Naruto was about to continue on, but instead, he enjoys the view with one of his better friends in his arms. Hinata then shared with him, "aside from your… relationship with… sensei, I also heard about your Omiai with Temari-san."
"Really? Isn't that just bonkers?" He asked with a snicker. "Even now, I don't totally get why she said yes to that. I get Kurenai more, but we haven't even talked about it really."
Curious, Hinata asks, "why haven't you?"
"We had met the night before but then a bunch of stuff came up, then the next morning I got my mission and left, so, even though she knows and agreed, we haven't talked it all out yet."
"While you were away, Hokage-sama assigned Kurenai-sensei to manage your Omiai," Hinata informed him. "They called in myself and Ino-chan, and asked if either of us would consider being… your f-first wife."
"Get the fuck out," Naruto bawled in abject disbelief. "Really? They asked you and Ino? Why? Why would Kurenai even do that when she agreed to herself… or I'm pretty sure she agreed… Damn, me and that girl really need to talk."
"…I think she did it for me," Hinata admitted, feeling slightly better for letting this all out rather than keeping it in.
"What do you mean?"
Staring at the bright moon above, Hinata confesses, "she always looks out for me…"
"Of course, she does," he quips like that's nothing new. "You're like family to her." After a quick hum of realization, the blond asks her, "were you upset earlier because they asked you? Because you can say no, if you want to."
Hinata suddenly felt hotter in the cold night. Her chest constricted as she felt nearer to exposing herself. Typically she would remain quiet, as she's accustomed to doing, however, seeing his clone disperse nearly felt like the real Naruto dying and she couldn't keep her true feelings inside any longer. Hinata shook her head, shuffling her silky strands of black-bluish hair before slowly admitting, "I was h-happy when they asked me."
Wide-eyed, Naruto gasps, "really?" Blushing deeply under moonlight, she nods her head before he asks, "why?"
Gathering all her courage to look him in the eyes, she struggles to ask, "w-would you… h-hate it… if I… accepted the proposal?" His eyebrows slowly raise higher, raising the black hem of his hitai-ate bandanna. She hoped deeply with her pale eyes as she continues, "w-would y-you not want me in your l-life… that way?"
"Wait… …just to be clear… you mean as my wife?" A shocked Naruto could feel her heart racing and the heat radiating off her skin, and he panicked at the thought of her passing out. "I, uh, no- no, I wouldn't hate that… at all," he tacked on, trying to make sense of this.
Though he didn't doubt her, he couldn't understand why she felt that way. Ino, Sakura, Tenten, Temari, and to some extent, Kurenai were all either mean, abusive, dismissive, or ignorant of him, and they all wanted something from him first; even Mabui and Samui specifically targeted him because of the sword he owned. And yet, Hinata doesn't fit any of those categories. He couldn't understand why she would like him enough to marry him if he doesn't have anything she wants.
'Maybe… she doesn't want anything?' Naruto's cautiously postulated. 'Haku sings her praises, Nai-chan loves her, and she's always been kind to me despite the shitty way her family treats her,' he realized, then voiced, "I, uh, like you, a lot, actually. You know, now that I think about it, besides being quiet, you've always been nice to me. And some of my happiest memories is sitting at the dinner table with you."
"And Kurenai-sensei," Hinata couldn't stop herself from saying. She instantly looked at him in fear of offending him.
"Well, yeah," he said with a big smile. "But that's how I see this whole thing with the Omiai. One big happy family." Naruto smiled at the thought and Hinata couldn't help picturing what living with Naruto and Kurenai as a family could look like, because she undoubtedly loves both of them. Naruto's face suddenly sours as he practically yells, "wait, does this mean Nai-chan doesn't want to marry me?"
"No," a voice called out from below them.
Extending his neck out as far as he could, Naruto looked down to see Kurenai. He beamed before jumping down to the branch beside her as he calls out, "Nai-chan!" Her tilted head of tender frustration has the blond chuckle before apologizing, explaining, "it's been a while."
Kurenai looks to Hinata in his arms and she asks, "can we talk a moment?"
With a deep breath, she nods, and is then set down by Naruto, who points to a branch as he tells them, "I'll just be over there," before giving them some privacy.
When the two are alone, Kurenai quickly begins saying, "I'm so very sorry, Hinata. I never intended for you to learn about me and Naruto that way."
Playing with her silky long hair, Hinata can't look her sensei in the eyes and struggles to ask, "you… how long have you known… about my feelings for Naruto?"
A firing of amused air from her nostrils and a smiling Kurenai easily answers, "from the very first moment you told me about him."
Hinata's widening lilac eyes turned on her smiling sensei a moment before she turned away again. Hinata then asks the heaviest question in her arsenal, "do you… love him?"
Again, Kurenai easily answers, "I do."
Hinata couldn't deny it hurt to hear. The doubt within her fed off of that truth, as if reinforcing every negative opinion of herself and she wanted to leave, however, taking notice of Naruto when she was about to leap away, she remembers there's something else in her heart besides her doubt. She's seen him hurt terribly on two separate occasions and yet he always pushes forward. In her mind, his voice asking her to fight for what her heart desires, regardless of who may disapprove, herself included.
Gazing at Naruto creating a clone before dispelling it for strength, she voices to herself, "I'm nervous."
"You don't have to-"
"I don't like how you deceived me," Hinata interjects. Turning to face Kurenai directly, she continues expressing, "even if I know you didn't do it on purpose, even if I know this feeling sitting on my chest is irrational, I don't like it."
"Okay," Kurenai agreed with a firm nod. "I know this hurts as much as it does because I'm the cause of that pain but you have to know I never intended… to feel this way."
"…I love you sensei," Hinata stated. "I can't say you're like a mother to me—because, no one could ever replace her—but, you still mean so much to me, like the older sister I've always wanted."
"I feel the same way," Kurenai reflected, taking a step closer to her student. "And I hate that I'm the cause of your pain, because when you hurt, so do I."
Turning to Naruto who's still creating and dispelling clones, the Hyūga princess softly declares, "I'm following my heart, sensei… even if that means you have to share the person you love with me."
A small smirk graces Kurenai's beautiful face before she responds, "because it's you, and I know how much you love him, I'd be happy to."
Surprised to hear anyone share the person they love, Hinata whips around to gasp, "really?"
With a shrug and a slow knowing nod, Kurenai simply bemuses, "I've already moved past how strange this all is. So long as I'm with Naruto and you're happy, then I'm happy too."
To hear that, Hinata suddenly remembers the nature of a relationship with Naruto and nervously admits, "I think… if I can be a source of happiness for him, even if it's a small amount… I'll be happy as well."
The blush on Hinata's face makes Kurenai smile from ear to ear before she takes one of Hinata's hands and squeezes it firmly. She assures her, "then let's do that." They both look at a ponderous Naruto as Kurenai adds, "I'll teach you everything I know to help you do that."
Sluggishly walking down the familiar path to the village he grew up in, a beaten, battered, and bloody Sasuke winces with every arduous step. His left ankle flares with pain at the slightest bend, he's clutching his throbbing stomach as it feels likes it's been gouged out, he's heavily bruised, cut, and his jaw aches from repeated counters. However, nothing hurts more than his memories as Sasuke's sharp mind replays everything he's been led to believe as true, the lies that were readily fed to him, and how his brother enlightened him.
"Hello," Sasuke yelled through the door of the inn. He was desperate to find his brother, but he was also concerned about his team. He banged on the door again, asking loudly, "is anyone there? Naruto? Sakura?"
Sasuke didn't have to wait before the door opened to reveal the very reason for his current life of revenge; his brother, Uchiha Itachi. The reveal of Sharingan eyes staring back at him was so unexpected, Sasuke couldn't immediately connect to the rage, fury, and vengeance that's never far from his heart. At the moment he paused, Itachi opened the door wider to walk out, and as Sasuke saw it, to walk away from him as if he were nothing but a stranger.
The raven-haired avenger found his rage instantly, and his hand snaked its way to his holster, drawing a kunai and immediately stabs Itachi in the heart. The impact felt light, however, and soon afterward, his brother turned to a flock of flying crows. Sasuke looks around the room, then down the hall, and spots Itachi continuing to walk around the corner.
Then, no matter how fast Sasuke ran, it seemed Itachi was perpetually turning the next corner, always far out of his reach, until the man he hates more than anything in his life finally stops in the middle of a clearing in the forest. Sasuke must've ran miles—out of the inn, out of the town, and deep into the forest—to finally face his brother, and only then did he realize this setting was for the better.
"I wouldn't want anyone getting in the way either," a manic-looking Sasuke yelled at his silent brother, his rage easily activating his three tomoe Sharingan. The way Itachi seemed hesitant to speak only infuriated him further and could not stop himself from attacking; for his father, his mother, his clan, and his sanity, Uchiha Itachi had to die.
"Welcome back, Sensei," Tsunade said as Hiruzen was waking up.
The old warrior looked around his room in the Hokage's residence before focusing on his blond former student. "Tsu- Tsunade-chan," his grisly and aged voice asked.
"I made it just in the nick of time," she informed him. Hiruzen was in his hospital bed connected to monitors, but then, what he took most note of was his amputated left arm. He stared at the loss as Tsunade points out, "an hour later and that cursed poison would've entered your heart and the only thing I would've on time for would be your funeral."
Lamenting the loss of his arm with a casual shake of his head. He then turned to his student to lend voice to his gratitude, "thank you, Tsunade." Tsunade imagines he knows—as she does—he's not long for this world and the extra time ahead will be ideal to put all his affairs in order.
Smiling back at him, she replies, "what kind of student would I be if I let my own sensei die?" He has enough energy to chuckle once as she continues. "You're going to be fairly weak for a couple of days but I don't foresee any complications. Even still, I'll stick around just in case."
"I can't thank you enough," his croaky voice commended. "Seeing you back does me a world of good. How have you been?"
"I was on the biggest winning streak of my life for a while there," she remarks, certain he knew how that worries her. "So that really stressed me out."
"Mnnn, I suppose you had an inkling of what was to come even before I sent Jiraiya. No doubt he told you?" Tsunade half shrugged and nodded dispassionately before Hiruzen officially voiced, "I feel certain I could pass in peace if you, Tsunade of the Senju, succeeded me as Hokage of Konohagakure."
"Yeah, yeah," Tsunade grimaced with mild irritation. "I'm not going to stop drinking though."
Hiruzen simply chuckled before noting, "I never stopped smoking; a habit I'm afraid I passed on to Asuma." With a knowing smile, he asks, "so, what do you make of Naruto-kun? I believe he's a distant cousin of yours."
Tilting his head back as if to search for the long-lost knowledge, Hiruzen hums before recalling, "your grandmother, Uzumaki Mito, was his mother's, Uzumaki Kushina's, great, great, grandmother."
"Huh, go figure," Tsunade casually mumbles. "He's still a little knucklehead… and admittedly, one perplexing ninja." Suddenly recalling, she quickly asks her sensei, "did you know he could perform his father's Hiraishin?"
Sitting straighter and looking at her in disbelief, he replies, "you're kidding."
"You didn't know?"
Shaking his head, Hiruzen understands the importance of such a feared technique. "He's growing at a remarkable rate." Turning to her, he claims, "I've never seen a shinobi grow as much as him. Most either take years to developed their talents or are simply born gifted beyond others. You will have to be careful with him. He'll always be a topic of foreign policy."
"Yeesh, I just remembered I told him I won't pass that hat to anyone who can't beat me."
Shaking his shoulders in silent laughter, Hiruzen jests, "ho, ho, ho, if he's not beating down your door for a fight in a week's time, I'll be quite surprised."
"One can only hope," she happily challenges.
"Don't underestimate him."
Rolling her eyes like she was a genin again and he her Jōnin-sensei, she reassures him, "trust me, I'm not. But if I fight him, it's going to be in front of the Jōnins."
Recalling the old custom, the elderly professor voiced, "…Ikki-uchi. Challenging and defeating an opponent in front of his retainers to force his entire unit to retreat or submit. Is that how you're planning on cementing your command over Konoha's forces?"
"I'm tired of so many ninjas losing their lives over something that's more trouble than it's worth."
Tsunade is certain he knows who she's talking about and he pauses a moment before softly conveying, "so long as a person has a dream, he or she will always risk their life for it. We must be grateful for those who make it and those who try…" placing his wrinkled hand over hers, he finishes, "…because they inspire those left behind."
Tsunade looks in his weary eyes before looking at the hat and taking it. She eyes the worldwide symbol of leadership a total of ten seconds before Utatane Koharu and Mitokado Homura enter the room with a scroll with the official wax stamp of the Riakage of Kumogakure on it.
After spending hours dealing with the reports, debriefs about Orochimaru's Sound Four infiltration, and Hyūga Hiashi's insistence on knowing everything that happened to his daughter, it was nearly morning. Naruto's clone had been communicating with the original regularly by dispersing clones relaying everything. The last of the original's instructions was to prepare a marker for their return. Naruto's clone is in Kurenai's house etching a special kunai to act as the final destination while Kurenai and Hinata are in the kitchen preparing breakfast for six.
Naruto blinks with new knowledge, then calls out, "they're ready!"
Kurenai and Hinata make their way from the kitchen to the living room. The clone had cleared out a large enough space by moving the furniture toward the walls and placed the kunai in the middle of the room. Quite suddenly, where there was empty space, now lands Naruto, Jiraiya, Sakura, Shizune, and in her arms, Tsunade's ninja pig, Tonton. Jiraiya seemed fine with the mode of travel, however, Shizune and Sakura are visibly startled, with the pinkette groaning, "that was soooo weird!"
Naruto feels drained and then his clone disperses, sending the last bit he didn't know and kindling the beginnings of a migraine. Lethargically, his heavy head whips around to the couch moved against the wall and immediately drags his feet over for much-needed sleep.
"I'm just… going to rest… here," he lazily alerted the room.
"Bah, quit your bellyaching," Jiraiya expounds, clapping Naruto on his slanting shoulder. "It's only a little chakra exhaustion. You got us all here so that's what matters." Turning to the others, a single eye zeroes in on Kurenai as he tells everyone, "I should, uh… get going."
"To report to the Hokage?" Sakura asked.
"Uh…" Looking between Kurenai and Naruto, Jiraiya immediately turns bright red and giggles. "No, no, I should just, uh-hehehe… I need to leave. Amazing works of art don't write themselves." Sakura is suddenly very conscious of Kurenai as Jiraiya greets the beautiful Jōnin-sensei. "Kurenai-sensei, always lovely for such weary eyes to gaze upon such beauty."
Kurenai is taken aback by Jiraiya's forward compliment and demeanor, and Naruto's tired voice explains for her, "he's been really weird since I told him about us." Naruto practically punches the couch cushions to puff it up as he adds, "kept me up all night asking me stupid questions."
"I see," Kurenai hesitantly voices before turning to pink Sakura, a stunned Shizune, and then a grinning Jiraiya. "I'm sure it was very unexpected," she told the renowned shinobi. Jiraiya hummed gleefully as he nods his head while Shizune whispers to Sakura, 'that's her?' Sakura nods in disbelief as Kurenai pats Naruto's back, "get up and eat first, Naruto. Hinata made it mostly by herself."
"Hinata," a tired Naruto cried out as he sits right up. He then rushes straight to her before asking, "are you sure? Because if you ever feel like it's too much or- or if you think you made a mistake-"
"I- I- I haven't… changed my mind," Hinata stutters a bit to reassure him, fortifying her new way of life with, "and I don't believe I ever will."
"She must've made one hell of a meal," Jiraiya mumbled to Shizune and Sakura. "Maybe I should stay… see this happy couple for myself haha… hahahaha…" The large white-haired man giggles to himself and Sakura can't deny she wants to witness this first-hand as well.
"I'll check on Tsunade-sama," Shizune tells the gathering before greeting Kurenai and Hinata, then bidding everyone a good day.
Moving to the dining table, it was an awkward breakfast for everyone except Naruto, who seems oblivious to just how shocking it is for everyone at the table to know about his incredibly unlikely relationship with the distinguished & beautiful Kurenai. The blond shinobi only seemed to pay attention to the food.
"Hinata," he happily praised. "This tastes delicious! I didn't know you were such an awesome cook- I mean, I knew you could make salads and stuff, but you know, that's a salad. I love miso and rice about as much as anyone, but I never get to have it with tamagoyaki!"
Though everyone else agrees the food was very well prepared, none can truly ignore the disappointment they're all secretly harboring; Sakura for being forced to, yet again, realize just how wrong she was about Naruto, and bemoan the acute loss her stupidity cost her; Hinata couldn't stop thinking how everyone correlated Kurenai as Naruto's girlfriend and is disappointed in herself for feeling so jealous of her sensei; and Kurenai is disappointed she's yet to talk to Naruto about every point of the Omiai, from their feelings about it all to who else is included.
Above them all, Jiraiya's disappointment stems from the certainty Kurenai is unlikely to share with him the very details Naruto left out of his retelling; all the truly salacious content of her romance with his Godson. There's a fierce urge in him to know the truth and his calculating mind is searching through his training and experience to discover a solution to this problem; whether from a girl-friend of Kurenai's, her diary, an eye witness, 'anything!' his mind yelled.
With a mind wrapped warmly in the goal of a lifetime, Jiraiya casually voices to all, "well, if you'll excuse me, I have to get going. Breakfast was delicious Hinata-chan. Your future husband is a lucky man."
Naruto's eyes widen when he suddenly realizes she's an amazing cook. He then shakes his head and tells his Godfather, "ah, before I forget. I told Karin we'd have our clan meeting when I get back. You have to be there."
"Best save it for tomorrow," Jiraiya tells him. "Get some rest. And good job, Naruto. Your father would be damn proud."
Naruto chuckled in embarrassment as his Godfather leaves and the ladies at the table couldn't be happier for Naruto to hear that. They're far too conscious of how lonely his life has been and to hear someone with a close relationship to the Yondaime say he'd be proud of his son, they can tell it was a big deal for the blond.
After Jiraiya leaves, Sakura, Kurenai, and Hinata begin clearing the table as a lethargic and weary Naruto bemoans, "uuuugh, I feel ready to pass out."
"Take Hinata's bed," Kurenai suggested, shocking the blushing Hyūga to stop washing dishes. Kurenai smiles at her young ward as she asks, "you don't mind, right, Hinata?"
"I- uh, mnn," Hinata struggles nearly avoid Naruto's tired eyes before telling him, "h-have a good rest."
"…Thanks for the meal," he lamely calls as he shuffles out of the room.
As Naruto nears the front door to go upstairs, someone rings the doorbell, making Naruto growl in annoyance. He looks from the entrance door to the warm bed waiting for him upstairs, and after a second ring, Naruto takes a deep breath before moving to answer it.
"Just go upstairs," Kurenai tells him, walking into the entryway and patting him on the butt. "I'll take care of this."
Naruto looked around before asking, "wanna join me?"
Eying him seriously with a withheld smirk, the raven-haired beauty reminds him, "not on Hinata's bed."
He smiles at a funny memory and comments, "you didn't mind when she watched."
"That was your clone henge'd- And we were in my room!" Pausing a beat she stands firm as she expresses, "go to bed before I make you sleep on the couch."
Naruto chuckled drowsily before walking up the steps. He could hear Kurenai answer the door and speak to someone a quick moment before she calls out, "Naruto!"
"Aaaeeeehhhhh," the blond growls from the top of the stairs and groans back, "what now?"
Kurenai rushed upstairs in two bounds before informing him, "sorry, I know you're tired, but, apparently this can't wait. Hokage-sama needs to see you right away."
Confused, Naruto asks, "how's he even know I'm back?"
Shaking her head as if to say that's not the case, she explains, "they only wanted me to relay the message if I saw you before they did."
Though pained by his sense of duty when he was so close to some much-needed sleep, Naruto nodded in compliance before asserting, "fine, but I'm jogging… lightly."
Kurenai happily teases with hungry eyes, "the faster you finish the faster I can take that nap with you."
"I'll be back asap," Naruto yelled as he jumped downstairs, and Kurenai giggles as he ran out of the house.
Naruto is sprinting through the early morning streets of Konoha, with deliveries taking place and vendors setting up their stalls or stores when he hears a growly voice echo in his mind, 'that Hyūga girl seems willing to involve herself with you…'
Naruto nearly loses his footing whipping his head around, as if he thought the sound came from behind him. 'Holy shit, Kurama? I didn't expect to hear from you. I almost tripped.'
'I need permission from my jailer to talk now,' he grumbles from deep within the seal.
Rather than appear in the dark and dank space, Naruto continues running as he mentally responds, 'no, no, it's fine. And I'm not your jailer. I just wasn't expecting to hear from you, is all.'
Naruto hears Kurama grumble before bemoaning, '…it's not that shocking.'
'I guess,' Naruto agrees with a smile before asking, 'what's up? Oh, Hinata. Uh, yeah, it seems that way.'
'Along with Kurenai, the Yamanaka, and that Suna girl,' Kurama lists. '…It would appear you're accomplishing what you said you would.'
The blond jinchūriki squints his eyes as if he's trying to see where Kurama is going with this line of comments. For clarity's sake, he attests, 'I still have to talk with everyone, but for now, it seems that way at least,' however, he truly wants to ask, 'Why? You startin' to trust me now?'
'Don't flatter yourself,' Kurama quickly returns with much more energy. 'I'm simply acknowledging that you're not a complete liar.'
'I can feel it, Kurama,' Naruto gushes. 'Pretty soon we're going to be best friends!'
The mighty tailed beast yells loud enough to make Naruto lean away mid-run, nearly making him lose his footing again. 'You can feel a Bijūdama down your throat if you don't shut it!'
Naruto wasn't phased by the vivid threat, replying, 'friendship is right around the corner-'
'Never going to happen,' he yells before cursing, 'you can go die now!'
Naruto happily snickered to himself as he sees HQ in the distance.
"Ino! Ino! Ino! Ino!" Sakura called out, waving at Ino's parents in the living room as she rushes upstairs. Hinata didn't seem to know much or wouldn't reveal much when they were alone and Sakura found it very difficult to ask Kurenai-sensei about her personal life, even if it involves her teammate. The moment she left Kurenai's home, she rushed to tell her best friend everything she's learned. Sakura bursts through Ino's door and found the blond laying on her bed simply staring at the ceiling.
Closing the door behind her, Sakura hops on the foot of the soft bed as she relays, "I have to tell you something!" Fearing the effects of her news she quickly tacked on, "I should warn you, this might be difficult to hear."
Ino's reaction wasn't what Sakura expected. The beautiful blond couldn't appear less interested in her news. She was unresponsive as she maintains eye contact with the ceiling and asks in a disillusioned voice, "Naruto and Kurenai? Or the Omiai between Naruto and Temari of Suna?"
Hearing the right response, an excited Sakura nods mightily, quickly confirming, "Naruto and Ku- wait, … an OMIAI!" Recalling the outdated word and custom, Sakura's shocked from head to toe, unsure about anything anymore. She covered her face with her hands, wondering all the while about the many twists and turns of Naruto's life. Absentmindedly, she asks her non-responsive sister, "what the fuck is going on?"
Patting the bed space beside her, Ino casually bids, "lay down, my dearest babe. I have one hell of a tale for you."
Rather than take the front door and go up six levels of stairs, Naruto molding enough chakra to be noticed by any keen shinobi before rushing up the side of the central tower and entering the Hokage's open window. As they could all sense him, none of the hidden security stopped him. Immediately, Naruto focused on the two shinobi from Kumogakure standing in the empty space in the middle of the room and ahead of the Hokage's large desk.
As he hopped into the room, Naruto didn't recognize the two men standing in front of Konoha's Hokage. They were both tanned-skinned like Mabui, with one silver-haired like her as well and sucking on a lollipop. The taller, more muscular, one had a very bored expression on his face and fluffy straw-colored hair that gave Naruto the urge to run his hand through it. Tsunade was right beside her sensei and patient, listening to their guests as intently as Utatane Koharu, Mitokado Homura, and Shimura Danzō do to the side.
It's the first time Naruto's seeing Ji-chan since he left for his mission, and it's shocking to see how ghastly he looks. The skin under his eyes are dark, he leaned back on his chair rather than sit straight, and his left arm was tightly fixed to the body with bandages. 'Still,' Naruto thought. 'His eyes look strong; very much alive.'
Everyone takes note of Naruto's entrance and Hirzuen laughs his slow laugh before commenting with energy in his voice, "ho, ho, Naruto… I hadn't expected you to return so soon."
"Yeah, it wasn't easy but I managed," he voiced as he moved to stand beside Tsunade.
Without taking her eyes off of their foreign guests, Tsunade casually places her hand over Naruto's forehead before gathering green healing chakra to her palm. "It's nothing serious," she mentions. "Just get some rest and you'll be fine."
Despite how serious and stuffy the atmosphere in the room seems, Naruto casually asks the obvious. "So, what's up?"
"This is Darui and Omoi from Kumogakure," Tsunade answered.
"Hey," Naruto informally greets them before his sluggish mind makes the connection to Mabui and Samui.
"Uzumaki Naruto," Darui's strong voice stated. Naruto turns to the straw-colored afro who then voices, "my Raikage sent me to tell you he's in favor of signing the Omiai proposed."
Every eye in the room flicks over to Naruto to gauge his reaction; whether he'd deny it or play it tactically. With any other shinobi, the leaders could take a stand and expect others to follow, however, with Naruto, even if they took a position that was nothing more than posturing, he would outright deny so. They didn't want to look foolish in front of Kumo and so waited for Naruto's lead, who simply nodded nonchalantly with a casual, "oh, cool."
Naruto hears Kurama ask from within him, '…does he mean those two submissive mates? The two you so infuriatingly asked to leave?'
In his exhausted state, Naruto exhales as he bids for patience while Hiruzen communicates with Darui, "if you would excuse us. Your escort will take you anywhere within reason."
Kurama calls out, 'ask if it's those two? Ask.'
Rolling his eyes, Naruto asks the men leaving, "did Mabui and Samui make it back alright?"
Everyone was shocked to hear Naruto ask about foreign operatives who must've infiltrated Konoha to meet him and many in the room didn't like how amiable he seemed to be to potential enemies.
'You can be so infuriating,' the great beast within him yells.
"Why do you care," the one sucking the lollipop suspiciously asked.
Naruto recalled what Naru-nii had told him about Omoi and chuckled before answering, "well, I was afraid if I didn't ask, you might think I didn't care, and if you told that to Mabui, she might be sad and throw a rock into the face of the mountain you guys live on. It might cause an avalanche that could kill thousands, and when the snow melts, it could cause a giant flood that might kill everyone in the world."
Nearly everyone couldn't make heads or tails of the gibberish Naruto was spewing. Tsunade molded chakra in her hand before checking his forehead again to make certain she hadn't missed some form of mental damage.
Omoi stiffly nodded before muttering, "makes sense."
"They're fine," Darui answered in a clipped tone.
"Good," Naruto cheerfully professed, missing them more with every thought. The room is stunned again when Naruto casually states, "we approve of the Omiai with either Mabui or Samui-"
"Thank you," Tsunade voiced louder than Naruto, placing a firm hand on his shoulder and squeezing. "Darui-san, Omoi-san. If you would give us some time to properly discuss this, we won't keep you too long."
Once they exit the Hokage's office, Tsunade lets go of Naruto's shoulder as a tired Hiruzen slowly asks, "Naruto, if you would catch us up, we can get to the bottom of this quicker."
Naruto winces as he rotates his aching shoulder. Looking around, he can tell they're all expecting an answer, and after a deep exhale, he begins, "man, feels like ages ago." Eying Hiruzen, he asks, "you remember when I beat Zabuza-jiji and he gave me Kubikiribōchō?" The elder nods as the rest listen. "Apparently, it's a really popular sword and people from all over wanted to buy it."
"Including agents from Kumogakure?" Tsunade asked.
"Yeah, but, I didn't know that at the time," Naruto confirmed. "I told them I wasn't selling but they stuck around to try and change my mind. They left after Orochimaru's invasion."
Hiruzen then asks, "when did you learn of their true origins?"
"The morning they left."
The elder Koharu demanded to know, "why didn't you tell us?"
Turning to the rude woman, Naruto hotly answered, "I left the village literally less than an hour later to go get Tsunade-baachan."
"Will you stop calling me that," Tsunade hotly proposed.
"But you're old," Naruto countered as if it's the most obvious thing in the world.
Grabbing and pulling his cheeks, an irked Tsunade growled, "I'll show you how old these fists are-"
As if asking two children to play nice, Hiruzen pleaded, "Tsunade, please," before turning to the blond boy. "Naruto, even if it didn't amount to anything, you still should've told us."
"Fine," he grumbled, rubbing his red cheeks. "I might as well tell you someone from Kiri came for Kubikiribōchō and Haku as well. And before you all get bent out of shape, you should know she already left a long time ago! She didn't get Kubikiribōchō nor Haku because he decided to stay. This is his home now and he's part of my clan!"
Tsunade turns to Hiruzen and the elders as she asks with genuine curiosity, "do foreign shinobi just walk in here whenever they want?"
"I know right?" Naruto bellowed, annoyed by their finding the fault in him when it's obvious their security is seriously lacking. "And I had to deal with those Sound-nin not five-six hours ago, too! It's like a revolving door here."
"Another thing to fix when I start," Tsunade called out, making Hiruzen clear his throat with a hint of embarrassment.
Danzō's voice immediately agitated Naruto as he asked, "have you come across any other foreign agents or potential threats to the village?"
"I come across a lot of people," Naruto snidely challenged the old war hawk. "But no, no one like that." Though Naruto wanted to argue that Mabui, Samui, and Mei weren't any sort of threat, he didn't want to speak with Danzō any more than he had to.
"Tell us how these agents learned of your Omiai," Koharu demanded as if annoyed with this entire affair.
"That doesn't matter because I'm totally for them joining," Naruto proudly professed.
"You have no right to determine that," Koharu retorted.
"Actually," Naruto effortlessly challenged. "The only two people who have any right to determine that is me and Ji-chan." The blond waved his finger at the three of them as he expresses, "so if you guys can leave, I'd really appreciate it."
"Naruto," Hiruzen chided. "Speak to them with the respect they're owed."
"…Fine," the blond grumbled, however, he purposely points his thumb at Danzō and assures the room, "I was mainly talking to him anyway." Danzō didn't seem offended as he looked directly at Naruto. He simply looked past the blond as if he saw nothing at all. "Don't think I don't know you tried to take Karin," Naruto huffed, feeling anger course his veins. The recollection of that day, the fact that he hadn't seen Danzō after that, Naruto's feet and heart needed to face the man directly and relay what needed to be said. "Actually, I'm glad you're here. I never did get to say this to your face."
If anyone was about to stop the hot-headed youth, they were all stunned still when Naruto suddenly bursts into bright orange-yellow flames with six magatama markings around his neck and a prominent circular swirl design over his stomach. The power emanating off of the golden boy could be felt on their skin as he antagonistically growls in the face of the old War Hawk, "you ever come near my family again, if I even think you're pullin' some sneaky plan to snatch her or anyone I care about… I'll bury you."
Naruto's glowing eyes finally got Danzō's attention and the blond didn't back down. Despite what was covered under bandages around his eye and arm, despite how sleepy he was or how unprepared he was to start a fight at the moment, Naruto was more than willing to throw down if it meant getting rid of one of the worst evils he's ever witnessed.
"Naruto!" Hiruzen yells, abruptly standing as he smacks the desk. The exertion was too much too soon, however, and he slumps back in his seat as he weekly voices, "tha's …enough."
"Easy, sensei, you're still recovering," Tsunade asserts, molding her healing chakra and pressing a palm to his chest and forehead. "All of you leave, now. Doctors orders," she commands, adding, "not you, Naruto."
The elders, Koharu, Homura, and Danzō slowly leave the office, observing Naruto in a state they've never seen before; uncertain what to make of it. Once the door clicks closed, Naruto rushes around the desk in clear concern for his oldest friend. He watches on as Tsunade alleviates the elder's pain and weariness.
"How are you?" Naruto quickly asked as the yellowish flames vanish as quickly as they came. "I didn't want to ask in front of the guys from Kumo, just in case you wanted to pretend you were alright."
"I'm not a hundred percent," Hiruzen slowly mumbled. "But… I'll live for a little while longer at least."
Tsunade unwraps his bandages before removing the prosthetic left arm. Naruto is shocked and saddened to see such an awful conclusion. While he knows the elder dies in Naru-nii's timeline, Naruto had hoped to use all his strength to keep him alive and in one piece here. Naruto could stop his lips from voicing the obvious.
"You lost your arm?"
"I'm fine… Naruto," the elder said with a weak grin. "I've lived through war and long after. Trust me when I say this is nothing." Taking a deep breath, he instead wants to know, "tell me what you wouldn't say in front of the others."
"…We should get Ero-sennin here for this," a dour Naruto told them. "I gotta tell you something that's going to be hard to believe."
With the Hokage's nod, Naruto assumed a group of Anbu were out searching for Jiraiya. He quickly rushed to the couch to take a quick power nap while they searched, but, he barely closes his blue eyes before there's a knock on the door and Jiraiya walks in afterward, making the exhausted blond groan in frustrated annoyance.
"Heard you were looking for me," Jiraiya voiced. "Lucky for you I was just on my way here."
Once the door was locked, Hiruzen voices, "S-Class Security protocol. Sarutobi, Hiruzen, 000261, Kage."
The sun-light office suddenly hums to life as the windows are darkened and thousands of previously unseen Fūinjutsu characters glow blue along the walls, ceiling, and floors. Ten heavy locks click loudly and the now black room is lit by lamps with blue flames. No one reacts to the overly hostile changes, and now that the room is dark, Naruto feels like sleeping even more.
The blond boy looks to Jiraiya to start, who shakes his head and asserts, "this is your show. Go on."
Taking a deep breath, Naruto shuffles in front of Tsunade of the Senju and next Hokage, as well as Sarutobi Hiruzen the Sandaime, and felt unexpected pressure. They're ready and willing to act on the words he relays to them. He felt the need to get it right, to not mess up, because the future is depending on this. His Naru-nii trained him for this.
Standing straighter, Naruto explains, "I told Mabui and Samui about the Omiai because I wanted to go to Kumo."
They allow the silence to drag for several seconds before Hiruzen asks, "for what purpose?"
"There are specific reasons," Naruto assures them before asserting, "but it all boils down to me wanting to unite the five nations." Their necks straighten and eyes widen to hear that.
Hiruzen slowly repeats, "unite… the five nations…"
"Like I said, there are specific reasons," Naruto reminds them.
"This should be good," Tsunade snickers.
Clearing his throat, Naruto claims, "there's an organized group of S-Rank missing-nin who are trying to kidnap all the Jinchūriki so they can take their Bijū from them." Again, their necks straighten and eyes widen at his claims. "They're called Akatsuki and I fought two of them on my way to find you."
"Two of them… searching for you," Hiruzen repeats, turning his words over in his mind before asking, "are they the ones who infiltrated Konoha and incapacitated Kakashi-kun?"
"Yeah," Naruto answered.
"So, Uchiha Itachi is part of this group," Hiruzen gravely voices.
Thinking about the unfortunate man and all he's gone through Naruto assures his leaders, "he is, but not really." When they look at him curiously, Naruto explains, "it's more like he's undercover, but he doesn't report to us. He protects Konoha on his own."
Growing grimmer, Hiruzen asks with a hard brow, "did he tell you this?"
"Yeaup," Naruto instantly attests.
Feeling something between his sensei and Naruto, Jiraiya interjects, "we secured him in a room twenty clicks east from here."
Surprised, Tsunade asks, "you managed to capture him? Uchiha Itachi?"
Naruto wobbles his head left and right in uncertainty. "I mean, technically, we did, but, he wanted to talk with me so it's more like he let himself stay caught."
Curious, Hiruzen inquires, "what did he want to talk about?"
"Sasuke," Naruto easily responded. "I had my own questions, too."
"Such as," Hiruzen bids to know.
The blond replies, "Why he turned out this way. Why it all turned out that way."
Sensing something between her sensei and Naruto, Tsunade interjects, "we need to send Anbu right away."
"When I was fighting Orochimaru, all my clones dispersed, including the one watching him," the blond boy expounds. "You can check if he's still there but I doubt it. And more to the point, I don't think he's a bad guy."
The thing in the air they were all sensing is known between Naruto and Hiruzen as disappointment and reluctance. Disappointment from Naruto for witnessing the man he admired so much make such a terrible mistake, and Reluctance from Hiruzen, as the elder didn't want to call to mind one of his gravest and repeated errors.
"He told me what happened," Naruto directed at Hiruzen. "He told me why that night happened when it didn't have to. It sounds like he was put in an impossible position. For the life of me… I just don't get why you didn't talk to Fugaku."
Hiruzen remained impassive, like stone, staring at his young blond shinobi for many silent moments. Naruto stared back unflinching, hoping for an answer it appeared he wouldn't get. "Not that it matters," Naruto voiced. "The Uchiha will still be dead."
"…Of all the mistakes in my tenure as Hokage," Hiruzen slowly, laboriously, admitted. "That is by far my most reprehensible sin. Not a single day goes by I don't replay my part in all that bloodshed and ponder what I should've done differently."
"That's enough," Tsunade voiced, cutting the thick air between the oldest and youngest. Jiraiya pats Naruto on the shoulder as if to agree with his former teammate. Tsunade realigns the conversation, urging Naruto to continue. "You were saying a group of S-Ranked missing-nin are after you. And that's why you want to go to Kumo?"
Shaking his head, he clarifies, "they after all the Jinchūriki, me included."
"Did Itachi explain why," Hiruzen asked, tacking on, "what their goal might be?"
Though it's unlikely Itachi will talk with Tsunade or Hiruzen, Naruto doesn't want to lie and say they talked about something they hadn't. Though, he realizes Itachi is smart to cover for him, he'd rather not take the chance and replies, "that's a little tricky. Itachi believes they're gathering all the Tailed Beasts to make sure no one has more power than them and force peace between all the countries."
Curious, Tsunade asks, "why's that tricky?"
"Because of what Kurama told me," Naruto quickly replied.
Tsunade and Hiruzen look at each other before the Hokage asks, "Kurama?"
Wincing at the magnitude of his slip-up, Naruto answers with clear embarrassment, "oh, um… the Kyūbi." Unexpectedly, the blond boy then looks to his stomach before blurting, "sorry, it just slipped out." The three simply watch as Naruto mumbles to himself, "uggghh, yeah, fine. I'm doing it, I'm doing it." He then turned to his leaders and bids, "uuuumm, if everyone can please not mention his name to anyone or use it, he'd really appreciate it. He's trusting you with this. Trust me, that's a big deal to him. And he's ultra picky about who's allowed to say his name. Ero-sennin, he gave you permission."
Jiraiya smiles proudly as Tsunade deadpanned, "it can hear us?"
"When he's not napping, yeah, he can," Naruto returned with emphasis.
Hiruzen curiously voiced, "what does… the Kyūbi know?"
Eager to move on, Naruto answers, "way long ago, before there were nine Tailed Beasts, there was one giant one. The only reason Kurama can think anyone, let alone S-Ranked missing-nin, would want to capture all the tailed beasts is to mash them back together and make a ten-tails." Far more than anything else they've heard from Naruto, Tsunade and Hiruzen quickly became gravely serious about the possibilities of this situation.
Adding to the gravity of what's to come, Jiraiya states, "a Jūbi in the control of S-Ranked Missing-nin. It's like a kunai at the throat of the world."
"That's a lot of bad for everyone, not just Konoha," Naruto adds.
Tsunade eyes Hiruzen as he ponders what he's been told. His condition doesn't seem to slow his mind as he remarks, "assuming all of this is true, your plan is to go to Kumo to talk with their Jinchūriki and warn them?"
"I figured the quickest, most legit, way to get there was to use the Omiai," Naruto explained, to which Jiraiya nods with esteem.
"So, you have no intention of marrying… is it one or two girls?" Tsunade asked. "You mentioned two names, so who is it?"
"Mabui and Samui," he reminded her. Scratching his chin with a quirked brow, he assessed, "I don't know who between them decided to be 'the girl,' but one of them, yeah."
The Hokage asks, "did you tell them everything you told us?"
"No," Naruto answers, shaking his head.
"Then why would they bring this option to the Raikage," Hiruzen wonders aloud.
"They wanted me to defect to Kumo," Naruto admits, assuring them, "which I'd never do, but I still told them I wanted to go. That's when I told them about the Omiai."
"Without proof, the Raikage is unlikely to believe you," Hiruzen advises. "Even if I sent you with a letter with my official seal, he'd sooner believe you're trying to deceive him."
"I wouldn't be surprised if they tried something on route or while you're there," Jiraiya added with his tactical experience.
"I still have to go," Naruto tells them. "This is way too important to not do just because they might try to do something to me."
They were all silent with a large amount of information and the future implications ruminating in their minds. Konoha could lose Naruto and or the Tailed Beast within him. Kumo could gain a third Tailed beast. Akatsuki could still gather all the Bijū and either force the world to submit to them or recreate the Ten-tails and do the same. Almost any decision they make can lead to catastrophe, making Tsunade bemoan, "well, looks like I got my work cut out for me."
"This will take some time to plan," Hiruzen voiced, clearly growing tired.
Naruto asks them rather innocently, "you believe me?"
His Ji-chan exhales with a bit of a smile before affirming, "I take you seriously, Naruto. So I will trust you and gather the evidence we need to convince others. If this is really a fight for the world as we know it, it's going to take more than us if we want to win it."
Naruto nodded, smiling back before he warned his Ji-chan and Tsunade, "be careful with Danzō. He's a big reason why the Uchiha massacre happened and I wouldn't be surprised if he uses this somehow."
"For now," Hiruzen starts. "This will remain between us."
"I'll bring in Shizune," Tsunade proclaims, explaining, "I trust her with my life."
"I need to tell Gaara, at least," Naruto quickly included. "I'm sure he can keep a secret and he's sorta involved anyway. Is he still here? Have we let them go yet?"
"We've already concluded the most pressing terms," Hiruzen's gravelly voice states. "Temari-chan, Gaara-kun, Kankurō-kun, their sensei, and a few others have stayed behind." Smiling he tells Naruto, "Suna and Konoha are at peace again… so long as this marriage happens."
"Hehehehehehehehe," Jiraiya giggles to himself.
Shrugging, Naruto sounds, "cool. I'll talk to him… tomorrow." Yawning, he shakes his head to stay awake before telling them, "I need to sleep before I pass out." Naruto moves to leave when Hiruzen interjects.
"Before you go," he says, slanting Naruto's blond head in defeat. "I should at least tell you… while you were away, we've asked your classmates, Yamanaka Ino and Hyūga Hinata if they would consider the position as your fiance and first wife."
"I heard but I don't get why Ku- …Nevermind," Naruto stated, realizing that would only keep him there longer. He asks, "can it wait till later?"
"Saving Hinata seems to have bought you goodwill with the Hyūga," Hiruzen points out. "So not only did the Yamanaka clan accept, so too did the Hyūga." Jiraiya's jaw drops and his eyes widen in complete shock at the news. "It seems you have much to think about," Hiruzen finished.
"Not really," a tired Naruto returned with a lethargic shrug. Walking to the blackened door, in the middle of a yawn, he thoughtlessly relays, "it's not like I'd say no to either of them," stunning Tsunade and Hiruzen, and dropping the dumbfounded Jiraiya on his knees. "…Night guys."
Walking under the tall entry gate of Konoha village, a Chūnin guardsman was immediately concerned with the physical state of the limping Sasuke. The blood from his forehead, under his nose, and around his mouth had long since dried. He could barely feel his ankle anymore, he was starving, sleep-deprived, and his vision was blurry. Like many in the village, the guard instantly recognized the popular Uchiha and rushed to the genin's aid.
"Are you okay," the Chūnin asked looking over his various injuries. Limping on with a single-minded purpose, Sasuke only ignores the man, who voices with urgency, "here, let me help-"
The guard tried assisting Sasuke and the moment he moves too close, Sasuke angrily yells back with a fury, "get away from me!" The Chūnin was so shocked by the young boy's ferocious riposte, he stayed in place as Sasuke continued to hobble away, all the while, the avenger's mind withdraws into the past; into the only thing keeping him going.
Sasuke coughed as he gasped for air. He's been fighting in the forest for hours and he's just discharged his Chidori for a fourth time on what he was certain was Itachi, however, the tree bark his chakra-covered hand struck exploded, sending chards and splinters everywhere, cutting him as well. As usual, Itachi appears twenty yards behind him and Sasuke could only glare at him, getting more and more angrier.
"Why!" Sasuke yelled before trying to catch his breath. His brother hasn't retaliated a single time in the eight hours they've been fighting. All he does is evade, defend, or deceive with his petty and cowardly illusions. Even with his Sharingan, Itachi always manages to trick him and it's all just making him feel like such a failure, fueling his rage further. "Why aren't you fighting back, you coward!"
"…Because I deserve this," Itachi quietly spoke.
"You deserve far worse than this," Sasuke spits back. "And I won't be satisfied until you're coughing up blood from a Chidori ran through your chest!" The ebony-haired avenger tries to summon the technique again, thrusting his hand downward, but it only sent a flurry of electric agony up and down his body, dropping him to his knees.
"Rest Sasuke," Itachi voices, looking at his struggling brother dispassionately. "You'll have another chance soon enough."
"…Why?" Sasuke asked. "Why… are you playing this sick fucking game!" Taking a deep breath, he yells, "you deserve to die by my hand for what you did!"
"Correct," Itachi calmly agreed. "I thought that was the best way to help you, and I'm not completely certain it isn't, but I have my doubts now."
"You… you have… doubts," Sasuke repeated slowly in disbelief. "Murdering our father… our mother… our uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, our entire fucking clan! And now you have doubts! To do what you did, there's no room for doubt or a sense of humanity! You're nothing more than an animal who needs to be put down!"
Itachi remains silent for some moments before admitting, "Uzumaki Naruto made me doubt what I've done and why."
Shocked, he repeats, "Naruto?"
The name confused Sasuke. He couldn't understand why his brother would bring up that idiot. That blond loud-mouth had nothing to do with them, however, he couldn't deny he wanted to hear more.
"What you know about that night isn't the complete truth," Itachi added on. "Naruto told me to help, to meet you and explain what our clan was subjected to. But I understand your feelings well, Sasuke. So I'll stay here until you're ready to listen."
Getting on his feet through sheer force of fury, Sasuke yelled to the skies above, "I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ANYTHING YOU HAVE TO SAY!" The Avenger's hate resumed with new life and chased after his elite target with reckless abandon.
Rushing back through the afternoon streets of Konoha to Kurenai's home for some much-needed sleep and snuggling with Kurenai, Naruto hears 'knock, knock,' in his head. The blond nearly trips by the sudden voice in his head but upon recognizing it, he happily cried out, "NARU-NII!"
The villagers around Naruto were startled as well, and though he had expected them all to glare at him like usual, most looked at him in confusion, disinterest, or favorably. Naruto quickly bows a few times before running up the nearest wall and mentally declaring, 'it's been so long!'
'Heh heh, yeah,' Naru-nii voices. 'Me and Kurama have been breaking down Tou-chan's Hiraishin. I don't have to remind you how insane that system is.'
'Ugh, I remember all the days it took to write it out,' Naruto grumbles as he continues jogging on, only using his chakra when leaping from building to building. 'Have you tried using it? It takes a lot of practice to use without draining half your chakra. You have to learn to expel chakra out of all your tenketsus, then do that with like, perfect chakra control; it's insane! Today's the first time I took three people with me a reeeeeally long distance and it drained me!'
Naru-nii chuckles before stating, 'sounds fun.'
'It wasn't,' Naruto assured him. 'I was so scared my focus wouldn't hold up and I'd accidentally crush one of them.'
'But you didn't and you won't; not when lives are on the line,' Naru-nii replies with optimum confidence.
'You're not wrong,' the younger Naruto quips,
Naru-nii asks then, 'hey, you think you can dig up tou-chan's scroll?'
'I guess. Why?'
'I never wrote a Fūinjutsu contract here,' Naru-nii begins to explain as Naruto leaps over an entire street to the next building. 'If I can figure out a way to mimic tou-chan's chakra signature, then I should be able to get out of here by teleporting back to the real world.'
Pausing in shock, Naruto gasps, 'you can do that?'
'I've given others my chakra before, which is a lot like imitating their chakra,' Naru-nii replied. 'All you need is a good grasp of their unique signature and you can connect with them. I'm not a hundred percent sure just yet, but, I feel like there's an answer in that connection.'
Naruto mentally hums in thought, then shrugs when he doesn't see a reason why that wouldn't work. Curious, he asks, 'does that mean I can give my chakra to others too?'
'Of course,' he assures his younger counter-part. 'You'll have to be partners with Kurama first but yeah.'
'Sweet,' Naruto cheerfully voiced. 'Ah, so you need tou-chan's scroll because it has his chakra signature… but I don't see how that's going to help you if you can't analyze it yourself.'
'Hmm… another problem to solve,' Naru-nii stated, leaving that conundrum for later.
'Also, what about the Shinigami?' Naruto added. 'How's he going to react if you up and leave?'
'It's not like I'm going to leave with his stuff,' Naru-nii reasoned. 'I'm sure he'll be cool with it…'
Knowing him like he knows himself, Naruto asks, 'you're hoping he'll be cool with it, aren't you?'
After several seconds of silence, Naru-nii moves on. '…Anyway, what's been going on with you?'
Hit with a series of memories, Naruto guffaws as he relays, 'you were right about Tsunade-baachan,' to Naru-nii's amusement. Naruto continues jogging on rooftops and leaping from building to building as they talk about everything he's done on his mission, including beating back the legendary Orochimaru. Eventually, their conversation had to end and Naruto finally made it to Kurenai's bed for a well-deserved slumber.
Under the bright afternoon sun, Sasuke saw him; his blond loud-mouth teammate, yelling something odd as per usual. Sasuke didn't understand what a 'Naru-nii,' was, however, at least he seemed embarrassed. Sasuke watched the blond run up a wall and disappear to the building's roof but he didn't follow him. Naruto wasn't his target. Despite all the questions he has for Naruto, Sasuke turns his back on his teammate, then drags his weary and chakra-exhausted body to the far and long-abandoned Uchiha compound. He made his way to his home and found his brother waiting for him.
Itachi was staring down the hallway that leads to their parents' room, and it only angered Sasuke, ripping out of his throat a very angry, "if you're lying to me…"
Sasuke awoke to a forest drenched in cold darkness. The night was freezing and the canopy above was shielding the floor of all moonlight. Sasuke looked around and couldn't see anything through the veil of darkness until he activated his Sharingan.
"A fire may draw unwanted attention," Sasuke heard his brother quietly say.
Sasuke quickly turned to the source of the voice and winced at the pain in his stomach where his brother hit him and knocked him out.
"You need to learn to harness your anger constructively," Itachi continued. "Or it'll hinder your movements."
Even in his failure, Sasuke remembered what Itachi said. He hated how easily his body listened to his brother's words, as if his brother didn't ruin his life, however, he couldn't help wanting to know. "If what you have to say is a waste of time, I'm going to do anything and everything I can think of to make you regret it."
"Are you hungry," Itachi inquires.
"Talk," Sasuke ordered, and Itachi did.
In the pitch blackness of the cold forest floor, Sasuke was quickly ready to fight when he saw the red of his Sharingan, alarming him until Itachi explained it's only for privacy and visual purposes. The young avenger then heard and saw everything that was kept from him, including the masked man that helped murder their clan and even Naruto's role in convincing Itachi to try another way.
Every few minutes for the next hour, Sasuke would ask himself, "why?" He was tired, hurt, cold, his turbulent mind was in tatters and he'd ask himself, 'why?' Why Hiruzen, why Danzō, why the masked man, why his brother, why his family, why his clan, and on, and on. Finally, an exhausted Sasuke asked to know, "if this is all true, how does Naruto know?"
"That's for him to divulge, however, his source appears to be legitimate," Itachi answered, making Sasuke wonder where his idiot teammate, of all people, acquired this intel.
"I can't believe you… believe this," Sasuke's hollow voice spoke. "It's too much."
"Take your time," Itachi replied, nearly convincing Sasuke that his brother still had a heart. "I'll meet you when you're ready."
Curious, he asks, "where?"
"I won't lie to you," Itachi promised his brother while still looking down the hall.
Sasuke was silent until he couldn't stand the way Itachi seemed to feel anything over what he did. The younger Uchiha limps over to the living room where he takes out a first aid kit from the cabinet. He tries not to think about how strange it feels for him and his brother, the man he's wanted to kill for years, to be under one roof again. It almost sickens him to think he hasn't killed him like he promised his parents he would. However, after using all the time he spent walking thinking, it appears Sasuke's been wrong the entire time.
'No,' he thought. 'I've been purposely misled,' making Sasuke ask out, "what's next?" Itachi pulls himself away from the hallway to meet his brother in the living room. "How are you going to make them pay?"
"By them, you mean…"
"Konoha, of course," Sasuke hotly exclaims. "Just being here turns my stomach! Watching them all, walk and talk without a care in the world while our clan was murdered in their stead!"
Itachi seemed pensive for several moments before saying, "while there are those in the village at fault, and they will pay one way or another, there are those who had nothing to do with it. There are more variables to consider."
"What variables," Sasuke demanded, ripping off a piece of tape to keep the binding around his ankle together. "can't you see this entire village is at fault!"
"And what would you do, weak as you are," Itachi bluntly, yet calmly pointed out. "You can't even beat your teammate."
Quickly feeling angry and provoked, Sasuke returns, "n-neither could you!"
"I allowed him to defeat me because I wanted to discover what he knew," Itachi informed him. "Though he's certainly strong, he's not without weakness." Sasuke sucked his teeth and continued treating his various wounds. It's so much he considered visiting Sakura later. His brother then told him, "I'll teach you Sasuke. I'll stay and we'll go over everything."
"Utatane Koharu, Mitokado Homura, Sarutobi Hiruzen, and Shimura Danzō," Sasuke irately voiced. Itachi remained quiet as Sasuke added, "those are the names of the truly guilty. The ones most directly responsible for the fall of our family and clan… they let me believe you were… a monster."
"I am," Itachi expounds.
"Because they made you that way!" Sasuke couldn't help but yell back.
Shaking his head in clear disappointment, Itachi warns his younger brother, "throw away your vengeance, Sasuke. It's not that I believe such a drive is useless, but, I can see it clearly, it's not your strongest drive, thus, it will always fail you."
"What do you know-"
"I'm your brother," the older Uchiha interjects. "I know."
In the silence that follows, the quiet of their home only annoys Sasuke with memories of louder, livelier times and he couldn't help demanding to know, "how can you just… don't you feel anything?"
"Righteous anger will only hinder what we need to do, thus it is useless," Itachi flatly denoted. "The only thing that matters to a man like me is results. As such, until our goals are realized, I will do what needs to be done, even if that includes disassociating from my emotions." Though Sasuke understood compartmentalization, he didn't think he could do so when it came to the justice his family deserves.
"Get some rest," Itachi said. "Tomorrow we begin."
Hope you all enjoyed it. I think a lot happened, and there's more to come😊
How dare you all(not literally you all) think that my Kurenai would tell Hinata but not Ino. She may care for Hinata more but she's not that unfair. Some clues that pointed to this was the underlined journal entry: 'The trick now is getting the other girl(s) to feel the same.' Also, if you read that scene again, you'll notice Kurenai never once asked Ino how she learned about her relationship with Naruto. Still, I can understand why you thought Kurenai was being biased. I didn't specifically write it in during her mental thoughts. That was because I knew I was splitting this chapter
I'm of the belief that Itachi may have started as a spy but once he contracted his terminal illness, he changed his goal to simply helping Sasuke deal with his revenge. Even if it's stated Itachi was a spy for Konoha, it doesn't say who he reported to because it wasn't Jiraiya or Tsunade. I doubt he would've reported to Danzō. Since this area is kinda hazy, I'm just going to say he was after Tobi because he viewed him as a threat to Sasuke and Konoha.
Ugh, I'm so upset with Boruto. So upset. I can't read it anymore. KURAMA!
Yay! Naru-nii is back… for limited time only. Don't worry, he'll return.
I feel like salacious lemons are right around the corner😍. For those that don't care for the adult parts, prepare to skip soon…ish.
Thank you all for taking the time to read and support my fic. Special thank you to my patrons ( / graefoxx) and those who purchased my novel(Old Hand Steel by Santana Bazil on Amazon). Your monetary support is always a great boost of support and determination. If anyone would like to toss a coin to your writer😊😉, I really do appreciate it. You all get me excited to post more content for you to enjoy.
Let me know your thoughts or if you caught some of my mistakes. Be safe out there and thanks again,