A/N: Hi guys! Umm, I know it's been a year since I last updated. I apologize the being so damn late. Anyways, replies to all your comments after the chapter and more author's notes are below!
I would like to thank my awesome betas for this, SarcasmRocks, Gheloured, GG Anime, Akaichi-rin, Mistress Peverell, Regalithy. Thank you for all your help and for sharing your opinions and suggestions. I have fun discussing the plot with you guys,
THIS chapter is dedicated to AnonymousFambase. Thank you for your patience and rereading for another ten times XD Happy readings!
Dictionary: Oya-san= Parent
The Future in Our Hands
Chapter 5: Only One Soul
Minato Namikaze was an open-minded individual, so he was no longer a stranger to odd things happening around him. From complicated jutsu to flat-out teleportation, living in a world where the unordinary becomes normal tends to do that to a person.
Folkloric exotic creatures no one's ever heard of? Sure, why not. A world within a world? Sounds like a nice picnic spot. Alternate realities and time travel? Well, it is theoretically possible.
He just took everything in stride and rolled with it.
But even then, actually meeting your time-traveling son and grandson, while you were still trying to wrap your head around your married life was on a completely different level.
Minato Namikaze, age 23, a father and… a grandpa?
For Kami's sake, he just got married a few weeks ago!
It was a secret marriage known only to the Third Hokage and Jiraiya, he hadn't even told his students yet. Now he had a son and grandson to add to that?
'Maybe Kushina put something in my food again this morning.'
Minato stood there in a catatonic state, looking at a short blond kid pouting at the tall blond man.
The little midget in front of Minato had tauntingly changed his status from father to grandfather in less than ten seconds, when he was still processing the fact that he just met his fucking son from the future. His mind was spinning, unable to comprehend just how the hell that was even possible?
The boy seemed to be around thirteen years old, with blond hair and cerulean eyes, which he obviously inherited from Naruto, and which Naruto got from him.
Now, Minato was a responsible man, and he was definitely not a fan of drinking. However, he had a feeling that not even all the sake in the entire Elemental Nations would be enough to make him forget the glaring truth staring him in the face.
The blond kid's eyes flickered towards him and Minato felt his heart skip a beat. Sparkles seemed to surround the boy as his eyes twinkled in delight, and... was that reverence?
"Minato-jichan!" the kid exclaimed.
"Boruto, lower your voice," a woman–who definitely looked like a Hyuuga–chastised the boy, smiling apologetically at Minato.
He knew it was rude to stare but he did so anyway.
"Onii-chan, I think you just broke ji-chan."
A young girl with dark blue hair and two whisker marks on each of her cheeks popped out beside the blond boy–Boruto. She had those same cerulean eyes, albeit a shade lighter, and of course, the whisker marks which Naruto also had—probably the Kyuubi's influence. Minato's breath hitched and he choked on his own spit.
"Daddy, I think something's wrong with Minato-jichan," the girl said, pulling on Naruto's robe.
Naruto patted the girl's head. "Ah, don't worry Hima-chan. Ji-chan will be fine." He looked at Minato with uncertainty and added, "I think."
'A-A granddaughter? And a grandson? Not one but t-two—grandchildren?!'
He felt as if someone was pulling an elaborate prank on him, and Namikaze Minato was thrown into a myriad of complicated emotions and denial—I'm 23 and still trying to get used to life as a married man. How did I... how is this even possible?!
Whoever was responsible for this sick joke must have thought that Minato was not fucked with enough and went hey, let's go fuck with him more! And while we're at it, let's go and snap his just-hanging-in-there-by-a -thread sanity too!
Oh yes, mock him with a chibi devil Minato dancing around his head, why don't you.
As his emotion clashed and overrode his logical thinking, he, the Yellow Flash of Konoha, the village's hero, and future Yondaime Hokage, did something nobody expected him to.
Minato could count the number of times he had lost his marbles and fainted on one hand. It once involved his wife's clever pranks when she was in the mood to make fun of him ('No that never happened' Minato's subconscious tried to appeal to him, 'It was just a small traumatizing incident. It did not involve Kushina and glitter and— IT NEVER HAPPENED'), and Jiraiya-sensei's perverted self and liquor the other time, but he was still a teenager then and didn't know any better.
Never in his life had Minato thought he would add another finger to those rare incidents: when he became a grandfather. Because no sane person would expect to meet their grandchildren at age twenty-three, right?
Even though he most certainly hadn't expected to have them at this age—or in the next ten years, he was still the Hero of the Third Shinobi War. So the moment his consciousness returned and his ears registered the enthusiastic conversations going on around him, he instantly recalled what had happened and debated whether pretending to be unconscious was worth it.
Three seconds of indecision dictated that it wasn't worth prolonging the same kind of embarrassment and Minato opened his eyes to observe the people around him.
'Huh, so there are more people who time-traveled with them after all?'
Minato slowly rose and gaped at the number of people around the cave.
'Tsunade-sama and Sasuke-san aren't here,' He noted.
He saw his students talking animatedly with his son and grandchildren. Well, Obito and Rin were, Kakashi was practicing his mono-syllable Uchiha-speak that he had learned somewhere with a girl wearing glasses who looked very... Uchiha.
Minato was looking at them with mild amusement when his...uh.. granddaughter turned towards him and beamed when she saw he was awake. He reluctantly smiled back at the little girl, enthralled by her cuteness. Kami, she's so adorable!
"Ji-chan's awake!" the girl exclaimed as she jumped off her father's lap.
With speed that made Minato mighty proud of her, the little girl launched herself at him, engulfing Minato in one of the warmest hugs he had ever been subjected to. Some sort of parental instinct kicked in and before he knew it, he had already wrapped his arms around the little girl's figure.
All too soon, the warm embrace was over and the blunette grinned up at him. It was all teeth and reminded him an awful lot of Kushina when she was about to start off on a randomly long tangent about ramen.
"I'm Uzumaki Himawari and I'm your only granddaughter! I saw your picture in the photo album, Ji-chan! You looked so cool standing beside Kushina-baachan! I always dreamt of meeting you, and now you're actually here!" the girl rambled in one breath, bouncing on her feet, and Minato was surprised he was able to follow after the first sentence.
He opened his mouth to reply however, he was interrupted by his son. His son from the future who was two decades older than him now. No, he was still not over that.
"You're finally awake, uh, dad," Naruto said, scratching his head awkwardly.
Minato smiled at him in an uncertain manner. Being called 'dad' felt weird. But nobody could blame him, really. How does one come to terms with the fact that their son was actually older than them?
"A-hem." Minato glanced at the scowling blond boy staring reluctantly–yet expectantly–at him, the tips of his ears turning red. The boy's gaze darted from Minato's arm around Himawari to his eyes.
Eyebrow twitching, Minato extended his left arm towards the boy since his right was still wrapped around the little girl-Himawari-chan. The blonde beamed at him and for a brief moment, Minato wondered if the boy was going to wrap himself around his side like a koala. Thankfully, he didn't.
"I'm Uzumaki Boruto, dattebasa! Your only grandson," the boy proclaimed proudly, but Minato's mind was elsewhere.
'Dattebasa? Oh dear, Kushina's going to flip once she finds out her verbal tick is going to be passed down for generations to come.'
Minato grinned at his grandchildren. "Hello to you too. I'm sorry about my… umm, fainting. I was just—"
"Don't worry, Ji-chan! We understand!" Himawari said, beaming wide at her grandpa.
Minato felt his heart go all warm and fuzzy and wondered if it just turned into a melted puddle of goo. And if so, how was he still alive and why didn't he particularly mind that his heart was defeated by such an adorable angel.
'Is this how it feels to have grandchildren?'
It was surprisingly fulfilling – like he had just attained a lifetime of his aspirations. He was an orphan and all his life he longed for a family. For someone to miss him while he was away on missions. For someone to greet him when he came back home.
When he married Kushina, he felt this deep sense of contentment, every moment he spent with her was filled with joy and serenity. But now, standing in front of his son and grandchildren, he realized he just found pieces of himself he didn't even know existed. He felt joy and love for these people he had met not an hour ago and just knew that yes, they were his dream.
Minato, heart brimming with love and still reeling from meeting his future family, did take note that talking to his grandchildren felt somewhat different from his conversation with his son. Maybe it's the age gap.
"As much as I would like for you all to continue chatting, we have more pressing matters to attend to," Naruto said, giving an apologetic smile to his children at their disappointed whining.
"Ah, right," Minato nodded, remembering all the unanswered questions about their sudden time travel.
"Now, now. Let go of your grandpa, Hima-chan. Boruto."
The woman who was standing beside the children earlier walked beside Naruto and called the children towards her. She looks like the adult version of little Himawari.
Giving Minato one last hug that he returned without hesitation, his grandchildren ran towards the woman. Minato stood up, facing the couple.
"Ah, this is my wife, dad. Uzumaki Hinata. She's Hyuuga Hiashi's firstborn."
Minato blanched at his son's words. "H-Hyuuga Hiashi's firstborn?! How did you even–then she's—"
Minato didn't know how to confirm if the poor girl was forced out of the Hyuuga clan or not. He knew it was forbidden for them to marry outside the clan, especially Hyuuga Hiashi's firstborn.
"Isn't she supposed to be the heiress?" Minato heard Obito stage whisper to his teammates.
'Ah, the introductions must have been done while I was unconscious.' Minato's mind vaguely registered.
The woman in front of him gave a breezy laugh. "It's alright Minato-sama. We already abolished that seal in the future and father happily gave his consent to our marriage. He even shed a few tears," Hinata said, placing a hand on her mouth to cover her giggles.
"Hehe, ji-chan is very dramatic sometimes," Himawari giggled. "And he loves to spoil us whenever we go to visit him, but he looks so sad whenever we leave though."
The little girl merrily bounced on her feet, looking as innocent as an angel as if she hadn't just implied that she and her brother had the Hiashi Hyuuga wrapped around their little fingers.
"A-are we talking about that same Hiashi Hyuuga here?" Minato felt a headache coming. He just couldn't imagine the Hiashi he knew – the one with a big pole shoved up his ass would…
For the sake of his sanity, Minato refused to acknowledge that he heard anything about this fictitious Hyuuga clan head. (And the fact that he would be in-laws with Hiashi was also left unaddressed. Nope, he would feign ignorance on that.)
"H-Hiashi-sama? Shedding happy tears at his daughter's wedding? Wow, what did the world come to?" Obito gaped.
Young Kakashi rolled his single visible eye, crossing his arms, he said. "After hearing about things like time travel, you shouldn't be surprised about these little things."
Obito scratched his head. "Right."
Minato decided not to comment on that, not wanting his student to criticize him too.
He cleared his throat. "It's nice to meet you, thank you for taking care of my son all this time."
Hinata bowed politely and Minato inclined his head back. He could clearly see what a fine woman his son had married.
'Kushina will definitely like her.'
Minato was slowly getting used to the fact that he had a son, though the age difference was still dizzying.
His eyes flickered to the other occupants of the room who were simply watching their interactions. He couldn't help but notice that the rest of the children were staring at him in awe.
Minato shifted awkwardly.
'What kind of Hokage will I be, for them to stare at me like I'm some sort of God?'
"Before we jump to the important matters, let me introduce you to the rest of my comrades. The only survivors of the future timeline," Naruto stated, gesturing his hand towards the others. "This is Nara Shikamaru. He is– was the head of the Nara clan..." he frowned, looking a bit conflicted about the past-future difference, "...my assistant, and our war strategist. He's also Nara Shikaku-san and Yoshino-san's only son."
"Shikaku?" Minato blinked, scanning the man that his son had waved towards.
'Ah, I can see the resemblance. He's definitely Shikaku's son.' Minato couldn't help but wonder what kind of expression Shikaku would be wearing if he met his son who was twice his age.
… and now he was contemplating pranking his friend. Better focus on the important things going on in front of him first. His eyes landed on the boy standing next to the adult Nara.
'So Shikaku managed to pass on his looks to the next generation too.' Minato smiled. Meeting his grandchildren and friend's grandson made him feel old even though he was still only 23.
The Nara strolled forward with the blonde woman and the boy, scratching the back of his head. "It's nice to meet you again, Yondaime-sama. This is my wife, Nara Temari," the woman bowed down politely, "She's originally from Suna, The Yondaime Kazekage's firstborn and the elder sister of the future Godaime Kazekage. And this is my son, Nara Shikadai," he introduced, putting a hand on top of the boy who murmured his greetings.
"Greetings, Yondaime-sama," Temari greeted.
Minato smiled. "So I take it we finally formed a strong alliance with Suna."
"Well, actually, we formed a strong alliance with all the Hidden Villages," Naruto corrected.
Team Minato gaped in shock and Minato's eyes widened. "A-Alliance with all the Hidden Villages?" he parroted, wanting to know if he misheard. "Even Iwa?"
"We know it must be hard for you to believe, especially since the Third War has just ended. However, in the future, all the Villages have– had," Naruto corrected himself before mummering. "This needs some getting used to," he cleared his throat. "Right, so we formed a strong alliance with all the villages. Even Iwa. We all became friends," he finished with a bitter-sweet yet proud smile.
Minato and his students stayed silent, the blanket of grief hanging heavy over the group was almost tangible. He had almost forgotten that all of these people were the only survivors of the future timeline. Everyone was dead aside from them. All of their friends and comrades were gone.
Minato didn't know what to say because he understood how painful it was to lose a comrade. They didn't lose just a few comrades, but their entire world was lost.
"Anyway," Naruto gestured towards another blonde woman. "Ino."
The woman smiled and nodded in deference. "I'm Yamanaka Ino, leader of Konoha Sensory Division and the Intelligence Division's analysis team. And...Yamanaka Inoichi's only daughter."
Minato's eyes widened. "So Inoichi actually finds someone to settle with in the future?!"
Ino laughed. "I guess my father really was–is a playboy."
Minato couldn't help but chuckle, "You don't know the half of it."
Ino smiled, nostalgia flashing in her eyes as she took the hand of a man beside her. "This is my husband, Yamanaka Sai, although he wasn't really a Yamanaka from the start."
The man named Sai inclined his head. "It's nice to meet you, Yondaime-sama."
Minato greeted him back. "Likewise."
"This is our son, Inojin," Ino introduced a nervous-looking blond kid who bowed respectfully.
"I-It's nice to meet you, Y-Yondaime-sama."
"Nice to meet you too," Minato replied, smiling reassuringly at the boy.
He looked around and his eyes landed on the raven-haired girl with glasses from earlier standing beside the adult-Kakashi. The girl blushed when she noticed him observing her and poked at Kakashi's vest.
"Oh, this is Sarada Uchiha. She's Sasuke and Sakura's daughter," Adult-Kakashi spoke, putting a hand on top of the girl's head.
"It's an honor to meet you, Y-Yondaime-sama," the girl said, bowing low.
"So she's Fugaku and Mikoto's granddaughter?" Minato said, astonished. Adult-Kakashi nodded with an eye-smile. "Where are her parents then, and Tsunade-sama?"
"They're on an important errand. Well, actually, what we're about to discuss is related to that," Naruto replied.
Minato looked at his son curiously as his students walked up to him.
"There's something important you need to know. It's a side effect of the time travel jutsu the Sage of the Sixth Paths used on us." Naruto started, looking a bit hesitant and uncomfortable.
"A side effect?" Rin tilted her head in question.
"Time travel defies the laws of nature. Of course there are repercussions. Not anyone can just time travel from the future. There ought to be a cost," Minato theorized, already invested in the topic.
"That's right," Naruto nodded, "Let's all sit down, this is going to take a while."
Once everyone was seated, Minato asked, "How bad are the repercussions?"
Naruto gave a half-shrug. "Depends on how badly you take it," he laced his fingers in front of him, "We couldn't really do anything about it. If we didn't time travel, there wouldn't be any future left in the first place. We have to save the world."
Minato's eyes hardened, understanding what kind of sacrifice these people were willing to make— had already made. They meant to save everyone, not just their loved ones. Without them, there would be no future.
Minato took a deep breath and stated, "Okay, tell us."
Naruto seemed to mull over how to start. "Two same souls can't exist in the same timeline together," he paused before he let out a defeated sigh. "Which means that... if a person lands somewhere in time wherein their past-future selves are still alive, the souls don't have a choice but to become one."
Minato's eyes slowly widened, lips parting as he knotted his hands in the fabric of his shinobi pants. It was at times like these that he hated his brilliance, when he immediately understood everything and knew just how the endgame would play out. 'So that's how it is, huh.'
"Become one? What do you mean?" Obito questioned, looking lost.
"Obito, that only means that… the same person cannot coexist in the same timeline," young Kakashi spoke up, his eye and the slated hitai-ate hidden behind his bangs. "Like me and...my older counterpart. Only one of us can stay, and it's obvious who it needs to be."
Rin gasped. "N-No way…" Tears gathered at the corner of her eyes as she looked at her teammate, holding on to his hand.
"What!? What do you mean by that, is our Kakashi going to disappear?" Obito asked hysterically.
Silence reigned on for what felt like an eternity.
"I understand how difficult this will be for you guys, especially for you Kakashi." Naruto gave them a sad smile. "We'll give you time to talk. Sensei, you should also talk with your… ah, younger self."
Adult Kakashi stared at his younger self and the teen stared right back. "Alright, give us some time."
The Hatake stood up and gave Minato a nod.
"Kakashi, go with your… adult self. We'll talk with you later." Minato put a hand on top of his student's head, trying his best not to show how difficult the situation was even for him.
Kakashi only nodded wordlessly, eyes slowly going blank as if to protect himself from the reality. The reality he was forced to face.
Minato's eyes trailed after the two Hatake's before he moved to settle down beside his two quiet students. He sighed. He was their sensei, what was he supposed to say to them? Especially when he himself felt like shit?
If someone told Kakashi ten years ago that he would be given a chance to have a heart-to-heart talk with his younger self, he would give them an eye-smile and a chirp of 'That's nice!' with a pat on the shoulder before continuing on his way with his precious Icha-Icha in hand and forgetting it ever happened ten seconds later.
Now that he was standing in front of his twelve-year-old self though– against whom he might or might not harbor a teeny tiny bit of pitiful resentment– he felt– no, he knew the world was fucking with him.
Kakashi glanced at Naruto who gave him an encouraging smile, which failed to convince him when the blond quickly averted his eyes away with a nervous laugh and started making conversation with his wife instead.
He sat down on the cold ground and slumped against the cave wall, his younger self sitting in front of him. Kakashi didn't know what to say. What did anyone expect him to say anyway? "Yo, you're going to disappear for good so I can take over your tiny little body. Great, right?" Nope, that would be begging to get a Rasengan in the ass by an enraged sensei.
The silence between him and his younger self stretched and Kakashi started sweating bullets when he felt his sensei glaring daggers at him. 'Okay, I can do this. I have years of practice dealing with kids. This is a piece of cake.'
Kakashi opened and closed his mouth twice like a gaping fish before a small voice cut him off.
"Am I going to die?"
Kakashi winced at the bluntness of the question. How was he supposed to answer that!? This conversation shouldn't be happening sober. He needed a fucking drink for this! Kakashi looked up at the dark ceiling, before he decided to screw with it and just be honest. He never claimed to be good with words anyway, he wasn't Naruto.
"Hey, little me," he tried for the cheerful approach, "Do you want the truth or the sugar coated truth?"
Little Kakashi grimaced. "You shouldn't call yourself little," he grumbled. "And you know what I prefer."
"Alright," Kakashi hummed. "Maa, to answer you honestly—I don't know."
His twelve-year-old self jolted and stared at him with a single disbelieving eye. Kakashi gave the teen an eye-smile.
"It's not a lie. We don't know the technicalities of this merging. We're not sure whether the other soul disintegrates or literally fuses together," Kakashi's eyes bore through his counterpart's, finally noticing how small this version of himself was and how utterly scared he was at the moment.
'Now why do I feel like an asshole? This is not even my fault. Terrorizing children is not my hobby.' He urgently repressed the sudden memory of him giggling like a lunatic when twelve year-old versions of his team were trying their best to find out what was underneath his mask and failing spectacularly. 'Hm, of course that never happened!'
"Then… you really don't know whether I'm going to die or not?" his younger counterpart said with a solemn expression. "But if the Sage of the Six Paths said that the two souls are merging," He hesitated. "Doesn't that sound like… combining?"
Kakashi blinked at his teenage self. "Posible, but then again, there's also a possibility that my soul would just take over your body. That's the nearest conclusion that we came up with."
"Then I will likely disappear."
Kakashi didn't give him a direct answer. "What will you do if that's really what's going to happen?" he carefully asked.
His younger self looked down at his lap. "There's nothing I can do," he whispered. "It's not like I can complain to anyone. Even you don't have control over it."
Kakashi paused, mulling over his next words. "Maa, knowing it's inevitable doesn't make it less frightening."
The twelve-year-old peered at him. "Are you...scared?"
"Hm," Kakashi placed a hand on his chin and propped his elbow on his knee. "No. There's zero possibility that my soul would disappear. My soul is much stronger along with my chakra and I have more memories than you because I've existed longer." He was brutally honest, he knew that. But Kakashi also knew that his younger self wouldn't have it any other way.
All emotions suddenly disappeared from the teen's eye as his small body sagged in defeat. "Then, there's nothing else to do, is there?" His voice was hollow, as if his whole existence was already starting to die away even though the merge hadn't even started yet.
All of a sudden, Kakashi felt a spark of irritation. "You're good at that."
The boy blinked at him in confusion, his blank visible eye staring at him in question. "Huh?"
An anger buried for many years resurfaced, and Kakashi's tongue lashed out. "You, and your pity party." He eye-smiled.
The boy's single visible eye widened, "W-What?" then narrowed. "What do you mean?"
Emotionless, Kakashi let out his hidden resentment. All his regrets, his failures in the past. "When your father died, you pitied yourself. You're hurt because you did nothing wrong, yet, just because your father failed his mission, you also received everyone's scorn."
Anger sparked in the twelve-year-old's eye. "How dare you—"
"You blamed your father, because you didn't deserve the same hate. You also blamed him for dying. For being weak, for being a pitiful excuse of a shinobi. You justified that he deserves to die. He deserves your hate. Your pain was brought upon by him. Even when Obito died, it's always been you isn't it? You blamed yourself and wallowed in your own pity party that's why Rin was kidnapped. That's why you failed to protect her and failed Obito again."
The whole cave turned silent. Everyone seemed to drop their pitiful act of minding their own business and not eavesdropping, still, Kakashi paid them no mind. "Then it's all coming back to you again. Am I wrong?"
Slowly, tears rolled down the boy's cheeks as he glared in anger at his future self. "Why?! Is it wrong to get scared? Is it wrong to feel pain? Is it wrong to feel wronged!?" The boy stood up, face contorted in a nasty snarl. "My father… he's a legendary shinobi. He's a hero in everyone's eyes!" his fist clenched as he gritted his teeth. "He's my father…" whispered a small voice, as if someone unlocked his emotions confined deep in his heart. "He wa- he was my hero." He tightly closed his only visible eye and Kakashi watched as the boy's buried grief, longing, regrets, and denials finally resurfaced. "Is it wrong to feel disappointed because my hero is no longer seen as a hero? My role model, the person who I look up to and wish to become someday suddenly being rejected! Who am I supposed to blame!? Who am I supposed to get angry at?"
The boy's cries echoed in the cave. No one said anything and no one approached him—except Kakashi himself. He put a hand on the boy's head. "Then why are you acting like everything's how it's supposed to be?"
The twelve-year-old's eye snapped open in shock, and slowly, he looked up at his older counterpart. "It's scary right? It's maddening. So why do you need to play pretend in front of me who can see through you? After all, we have the same soul."
As if a dam had been broken, young Kakashi clutched his future self in a desperate embrace. "I'm scared! I don't want to die! I don't want to disappear as if my existence doesn't matter!" his face buried on his older self's vest. "Why do I always have to suffer? Why is it always me? Why did dad have to die and leave me alone? Why didn't I embrace him instead of hating him, maybe then, he wouldn't have killed himself! I needed him, I needed him so much!" Kakashi slowly tapped the boy's back as his other hand remained on top of the boy, his hold on him tightening as he felt himself swallowed by despair. "Why do I just keep accepting things, why am I not allowed to complain? I'm scared, I'm so scared, I don't know what to do!" The twelve-year-old's sobs echoed around the cave. Never in Kakashi's life was he allowed to grieve. Never in his life was he allowed to break down, to show weakness. So he wanted to give his younger self a chance to voice out his regrets, his pain, and complaints. He wanted him to finally mourn the childhood that he was forced to abandon.
"All your fears, pain and suffering… your regrets, frustrations, happiness and love. I'll carry it with me…" the boy's sobs quieted a little while his grip remained strong. "I'll have your burdens as long as I live. I'll continue moving forward without denying anything I want. Your desires and my desires, I promise to fulfill them without a second thought. I'll protect the people you and I cherish with my life. I'll fight for the world, for our future and live the life that we have always been deprived of." Kakashi slowly released the boy and kneeled down in front of him. "I'll live for the both of us." His gaze pierced through his younger self and then slowly, he engulfed him in a tight hug. "That's the only thing I can offer you right now."
It was eerily silent for the next seconds as twelve-year-old Kakashi's sobs slowly turned into quiet whimpers until they completely stopped. The boy's grip loosened and both Kakashi let go of each other.
The teen looked at him with a strong gaze, shoulders' set and eyes filled with acceptance and determination. "Protect our family and this world's future," he paused before closing his eyes. "Eat a lot of eggplants, buy a comfortable bed, bond with our team, visit our father's grave and clean it everyday, have sleepovers at Minato-sensei's new home with Kushina-san." There was a choking sound that clearly came from Minato but no one paid it any mind. The teen opened his eyes. "When they finally have a baby, be an excellent big brother, learn pranks from Kushina-san to get back to all the mean villagers who scorned our father, don't let anyone hurt you and our precious people, make sure to acquire retribution if it happens, and… the Hatake estate," Kakashi's eyes widened but didn't say anything, he let his past self continue, "...it's ours so do whatever you want with it. Lastly… don't forget about me." The last words were said in a whisper but Kakashi heard them loud and clear.
48-year-old Kakashi nodded. "I promise to do everything you said."
The boy sighed before nodding in satisfaction. "That's… good. May I have my final moment with my team?"
Kakashi gave him a small smile and a pat on the head. "Of course."
With one final stare, the two Kakashi parted and the younger one approached his team to enjoy his last conversation with them.
Senju Tsunade knew that she didn't have an ounce of luck when it came to gambling. She had lost count of how many times she swore to never do it again only to find herself inside a very familiar place surrounded by drunk people with cards in her hands.
If gambling was a magnet, she was anything and everything that was attracted by said magnet. Good thing she had long since given up on restraining herself the pleasure of gambling — screw losing money!
Tsunade squinted at the cards in her hands and eyed her opponents. No matter what angle she looked at it from, there was no way she was going to win. Her perfectly curved eyebrow twitched.
"Alright," a middle-aged man spoke, a smug smirk on his lips. "I'll go first."
Then the man dropped his cards. "Hah! Ace!"
There were groans of disappointment before the rest followed suit.
"Haha, get rid of that cocky look, I got a flash!"
There were more complaints and money being thrown here and there, and laughter from people who had gotten good cards. Tsunade grit her teeth and slammed down her pitiful cards the same time the cloaked person beside her did.
She blinked, seeing how awful the person's cards were. There was not a single pair, the same as hers. Although the person's face was hidden by a cloak, her feminine curves gave away her gender.
'Well, at least I'm not the only one.' Determined, Tsunade demanded for another round, and another, and another until Shizune was practically begging her to stop.
"Tsunade-sama! We're going to be buried in debt if you continue this!"
With a vein popping out of her forehead, Tsunade stood up. "Tch. At least I'm not the only one who sucks at gambling."
"Hah, are you talking about me?" the cloaked person asked, standing up from her chair. It was then that Tsunade noticed the person was wearing a Konoha ANBU mask.
Slug. Her eyes narrowed.
"T-Tsunade-sama, let's go." Shizune tried to yank her arm.
Tsunade raised an eyebrow at the cloaked person with arms crossed. "Is there any other person who lost as much as I did?" she taunted, seemingly completely relaxed but ready to flee at a moment's notice. 'Tch, how did sensei find me here? I can barely even feel this one's chakra.'
"Tch. As idiotic as ever–Senju," the cloaked person replied, putting a hand on her hips.
Tsunade hauled Shizune and Tonton in her arms and practically flew out of the Casino. She was leaping atop the roofs in a flash, thinking of a place to hide. She entered the forest to travel to the next town — only to nearly break the branch she jumped at the sudden arrival of the ANBU in front of her.
"Hasty as ever, eh." The person casually leaned against the tree as if she wasn't antagonizing a sannin.
The wind whistled and trees and bushes danced to its rhythm, the moon shone in the dark twinkling sky as it set up a perfect stage for what was about to transpire.
Tsunade's eyes narrowed. This wasn't just an ordinary ANBU. 'For her to catch up with me so fast even though I'm running at top speed…'
She jumped down to lay Shizune and Tonton on the grass and stepped in front to shield them.
"I already told Sarutobi-sensei that I'm not going to go back to that pesky village. Ever," she growled.
"As if I'm here to convince you to go back to the village," The ANBU snorted, waving her hand dismissively, "You're going back there whether you like it or not. I'm not going to waste my time persuading you while you throw your stupidity at me."
A vein popped out of Tsunade's forehead. "Did you just… call me stupid?"
The ANBU cocked her head to the side. "Eh, not just stupid but deaf as well?"
Tsunade shifted into her signature battle stance. "I'll shut you up in a second. Come at me with all you got."
The ANBU crossed her arms. "Hah! You'll die if I go all out."
"You…" her bangs hid her eyes as she clenched her fist. "I'll pulverize you!"
Tsunade ran towards the ANBU, her fist cocked back, aiming to smash the stupid mask right into the ANBU's face. But just as her fist was about to make contact, the ANBU shunshin'ed away from her sight. Tsunade turned to look for the ANBU, her eyes flickering around as she tried to sense the ANBU's presence.
"You'll never even touch me with those moves. I mean, that was only the most projected attack ever." The mysterious woman's voice echoed from all around Tsunade.
"Don't hide, you damn coward! Show yourself!" she growled in annoyance.
Then out of nowhere, the ANBU appeared in front of her and, before Tsunade could as much as blink, she flicked her forehead with a single finger and the sannin found herself flying backward barely managing to hold on to the ground with chakra.
Eyes wide in disbelief, Tsunade slowly stood up, unable to comprehend what the hell just happened. Her forehead throbbed and a trickle of blood rolled down the bridge of her nose.
"Oh, did I flick you too hard? My bad. I held back as much as I could," the masked person said with an undertone of mocking lilt as she walked towards her, stopping a few meters away.
"T-Tsunade-sama!" Shizune yelled worriedly.
"You… who are you?" The Senju demanded, gritting her teeth.
"Hm, I wonder…" the ANBU put a hand underneath her chin before her figure flickered. Tsunade's eyes grew, caught off guard. She whipped her head in the direction of Shizune and Tonton's and saw them lying unconscious on the ground.
"Shizune!" Tsunade yelled and made to move towards them but the ANBU appeared in front of her again. 'Her movements are so fast. I… can't follow her. I've gotten too out of practice, dammit!'
"Don't worry, they're just sleeping."
Tsunade glared at the masked person. "What do you want?"
"I want to talk with you," the person answered.
"Hah! Even a child won't believe you. I didn't know sensei had a shinobi like you."
The masked woman shrugged her shoulders.
"You want me to go back to Konoha," Tsunade stated, posture still stiff. Her mind was running wild, thinking of a way to escape with Shizune.
"No. You will come back to Konoha," the ANBU corrected.
Tsunade's forehead creased as her eyebrows twitched. "You can drag in my corpse then!"
She moved at full speed, throwing a punch. The ANBU danced around it neatly. Her fist met the earth and shattered it into pieces, the debris flying around in different directions.
Tsunade dislodged her fist and started kicking and punching the rocks as a distraction but before she could even run back to Shizune, there was a loud BOOM! and all the rocks and debris were cleared away along with the smokescreen her previous attack had created.
Standing in front of a decent-sized crater was the ANBU. "You weren't trying to run again, were you?"
Tsunade opened her mouth to reply but wasn't able to say anything as the ANBU shunnshin'ed in front of her and before she knew it, she was on the defensive, trying her best to evade all the attacks the ANBU was throwing at her.
The woman was fast though.
'She's faster than me,' Tsunade admitted to herself as she received two consecutive blows on her stomach and back.
She used her right hand to cushion herself and flipped to avoid another attack from the ANBU. The earth caved in from the sheer impact of the woman's ankle and Tsunade spat out a mouthful of blood.
She didn't want to admit it, but her years as a shinobi told her that this woman… was much stronger than her.
"You really are good at running away aren't you?" the ANBU taunted.
"Hah! You're a cocky bitch. I wonder where Sarutobi-sensei got you." Tsunade's mind ran a mile, observing her opponent.
'She doesn't have a Sharingan, nor a Byakugan. From what clan does this woman come to?'
The ANBU didn't answer, instead, she just shunshin'ed in front of her and threw a straight punch. Tsunade threw up her arms to block the onslaught as her opponent started speaking.
"You ran away like a coward, leaving the village behind and spitting on the memory of your brother, fiance, and family. Now you're rotting away in this unknown town, flaunting to everyone in the world what a sorry excuse of a woman you've become."
Tsunade's eyes widened before a wave of uncontrollable rage drowned her sense of judgment. "SHUT UP! What do you know?!" She threw a punch and the woman flipped away. "You don't know anything about me!" Tsunade ran towards her with chakra scalpels. "I will kill you, you crazy bitch!"
"Ooh, did I hit a nerve? But isn't that what you're doing? Sullying the memory of your precious people?" the ANBU retorted in a flat voice.
"I said shut up! That village is responsible for Nawaki and Dan's deaths! That sorry excuse of a village—" Before Tsunade could continue her angry tirade, a fist landed on her face and she was launched backward into a tree, her back crushing painfully against the hard bark.
"The village? You're blaming the village? We are Shinobi; the moment we take our Hitai-ate, no, from even before that, we are already aware of the dangers that will follow us. Death is always upon us, it's up to us to fight for and protect our precious people."
Tsunade glared at the ANBU. "Don't patronize me. Someone like you wouldn't understand! You're just like those old crones in that stupid council!"
To Tsunade's surprise, the ANBU started laughing. "Don't act as if you're the only one who's having a hard time." The ANBU pointed her finger at Tsunade. "Don't pretend as if you're the only one who lost their loved ones. You're not the only one who lost a family. Everyone who died was someone's child, someone's sibling, someone's parent, someone's friend, someone's husband," the ANBU spat. "You are not the only one who was left alone! There are many of them back in Konoha."
Tsunade's eyes widened in surprise at the sudden change in her opponent's demeanor.
"Yet, they never abandoned the village. They're still serving as loyal citizens of Konoha. They were doing it for the powerless, for the innocent people living in the village because they knew that their loved ones died protecting their home. Those people who'd lost so many are still there fighting to honor the sacrifices that others made in order for the living to continue being protected."
The ANBU walked towards Tsunade but the sannin's body refused to move. "While here you are, one of the famed sannin, the Princess of the Senju clan, rotting and gambling her ancestor's money away!" The ANBU body flickered and appeared in front of Tsunade, grabbing the collar of her green haori in a firm grip. "You keep talking about being left alone, but didn't you leave behind the remaining people in your life too!?"
Tsunade gasped, as flashes of memories buried deep resurfaced under the heated glare of the ANBU.
'Jiraiya, Orochimaru, Kushina, and...sensei…'
Tears pricked the corners of her eyes.
"Neh, Tsunade-hime, you're the only relative I have, so please, stay by my side, okay?" Kushina said as she stared up at the vast expense of darkness illuminated by the moon and thousands of twinkling stars.
Tsunade snorted. "And where do you think I'll go? Iwa?"
"Pfft… Hahaha that's ridiculous!" Kushina elbowed her, eyes crinkling as she continued laughing.
Another memory rolled in before she could brace herself.
"We're a team Hime-chan. You're not alone," Jiraiya declared, grinning wide enough for Tsunade to be able to see his gums. "You will always have us. We'll all have each other's backs"
Orochimaru rolled his eyes, crossing his arms. "Of course, you're the only two people I'd consider my equal. Who else would I trust to have my back? Don't state the obvious, idiot."
Jiraiya immediately rounded towards the snake summoner. "Shut up, you asshole! I'm not comforting you, I'm comforting Tsunade-hime!"
"Stupid, Tsunade is a sannin, she doesn't need comforting from an idiot like you," Orochimaru retorted.
"Why you—" But before Jiraiya could pounce on his teammate, Sarutobi-sensei stopped them.
"Now, now, both of you, stop acting like children," Sarutobi turned to Tsunade. "What's wrong Tsunade? I'm always here to listen to you."
The memories vanished and Tsunade found herself on the ground, panting as tears streamed down her cheeks. "Wha-Why did I...so suddenly…"
Tsunade looked up at the ANBU, watching as the woman removed the hood of her cloak, revealing a familiar pair of blonde pigtails.
"W-Who are you...why does it feel like you know me? How do you know me so well?" Tsunade's hands trembled and felt her heart rate spike. 'Why does this ANBU suddenly feel so… so familiar?'
"We both have our regrets…" The ANBU placed a hand on her mask and, for some reason, Tsunade held her breath. "We shouldn't have run away, we should've been stronger, we should've been able to protect them. We should've been able to honor their names. We should've been able to make them proud of us...even if they had already passed on to the pure world."
Time seemed to stop as the Slug mask was slowly removed, revealing familiar honey eyes and… Tsunade's breath hitched.
"We shouldn't have wasted so many years to realize their wishes, the conviction that made them who they are," the woman took a deep breath, "We shouldn't have abandoned our precious people who are still alive, waiting for us."
"Y-You…" the strangled words died in Tsunade's throat before they even formed as she looked up at the very same face she saw in the mirror every day.
"They are still watching us, even now." The woman who could pass as Tsunade's twin or a clone smiled down at her.
'Or more correctly...'
The gears in Tsunade's mind suddenly clicked together as a sneaky suspicion dawned on her.
"T-Time travel? No, that's impossible!" the sannin exclaimed, shaking her head in disbelief, but she couldn't think of any other logical explanation. The woman's chakra felt the same, even the strength of a hundred seals was staring mockingly at her at the exact place where hers was located.
Tsunade's lips trembled. "Wha-Wha…"
"It's time to let go of the past and move forward…" the woman put a hand on top of Tsunade's head, "Together."
A blinding light surrounded both women and Tsunade just had time for one last thought.
'Ah...it looks like I didn't really have a choice in the first place…'
Sakura caught the unconscious form of her former shishou before it hit the ground. When the light disappeared, only one figure was left behind.
'So that's how merging looks like,' she thought as she glanced up at her husband.
"The merging happened much faster than Kakashi's," Sasuke commented.
Sakura hummed and nodded, throwing Tsunade's body over her shoulder like she weighed nothing more than a wiping cloth. "My theory is that the younger they are, the slower the merging will happen."
"So since Tsunade's past self is older than Kakashi's, the merging happened much faster?" Sasuke clarified as Sakura picked up Shizune's unconscious body, effortlessly slinging her on her other shoulder.
Sasuke sighed as he reluctantly picked up Tonton. "You should've carried the pig instead," he grumbled.
Sakura chuckled, "Tonton is lighter, anata."
"Are you implying I'm weak," Sasuke raised an eyebrow and Sakura laughed.
"Oh anata, we both know I'm physically stronger," Sakura wiggled her eyebrows, "If you know what I mean," she sent him a mischievous look and caught a telltale sign of redness on the tips of her husband's ears.
"Hn. I don't know what you mean," he looked away and proceeded to march ahead. "Let's not waste time, we have a mission to get back to."
Sakura snickered as she followed behind her husband. 'Oh Sasuke-kun, you're still so shy even though it's been decades since our marriage.'
After Sakura and Sasuke left Shizune and Tonton in a room, Sakura went to the other room to lay the former Godaime on the bed. But as soon as she straightened, Tsunade's eyes snapped open and she slowly sat up on the bed.
"Oh, you're awake already Tsunade-sama. That's quicker than expected," Sakura commented. "Do you feel anything amiss?"
Tsunade rubbed the bridge of her nose. "No, it's just a headache."
"You're awake." Sasuke entered the room, observing Tsunade.
"Hm, it's like I just relieved my past life," Tsunade grumbled. "I'll rest before meeting team Minato on the way back to Konoha."
"That's fine, Tsunade-sama. Your merging happened much faster than Kaka-sensei's. My theory is that it's because your past self is much older and experienced than sensei's current past self." Sakura explained.
Tsunade raised an eyebrow. "That makes sense. Tch, stupid time travel, it just has to be so complicated," she grumbled before she grimaced and massaged her forehead. "Ugh, it's like a shitty hangover. I haven't even had a drink for three weeks now."
Sakura giggled behind her hand. "You can drink all you want back in Konoha."
"Tch. That's not a word, Uchiha," Tsunade said with a scowl.
"Hm? We're both Uchiha here, Tsunade-sama," Sakura teased with a cheeky grin.
Tsunade rolled her eyes. "I need sake. You can go now, I know what to do from here."
Sasuke inclined his head. "We're leaving then," he glanced at his wife. "Sakura."
It was Sakura's turn to roll her eyes at her husband's impatience. "Alright, alright. We're going, Tsunade-sama."
"Yeah yeah, whatever, get your asses going." Tsunade dismissed with a wave of her hand.
Sakura laughed as she followed her husband out of the inn.
She poked his arm. "Why are you in such a hurry, anata?"
Sasuke stared at her. "Sarada is waiting."
Sakura smiled. "Of course." She laced her fingers behind her back, bouncing on her feet a little. "Let's go buy something to eat before we head back."
Sasuke seemed to contemplate this for a moment before he answered. "Dango for Sarada."
Sakura nodded her head with a happy grin. "Right," she let out a chuckle. "It's really a mystery how she got Itachi's sweet tooth instead of your love for tomatoes. She hates them."
Her husband grimaced. "Tomatoes are good for your health."
"You told her that a couple of times. She still loves dango better," she pointed out.
Sasuke was silent for a few seconds before he quietly replied with fondness lacing his voice, "I guess she really did get that from Itachi."
Sakura wrapped an arm around her husband's and smiled softly at him. "He is her uncle."
Sasuke allowed himself a small smile. "Hn. You raised her well."
"Of course. She's our daughter. Though she did inherit a bit of your rebellious attitude," she retorted with a teasing smile.
Sasuke's forehead creased, probably remembering the time when Sarada went out of the village unsupervised to look for him. "Hn. That might be my fault, I'll admit."
"No," she shook her head. "It's both our faults. But hey, at least we're way past that phase now."
Sasuke opened his mouth to argue but let out a sigh instead at her stubborn and somewhat amused expression. Sakura raised an eyebrow and he reluctantly nodded in agreement.
She beamed at him and looked around. "Oh look, the stores are over there. Let's go, anata."
Sasuke just hn-ed and let her drag him from store to store. From her peripheral vision, Sakura saw him smiling fondly at her.
Twelve-year-old Kakashi slowly walked towards his team with his only visible eye glued to the ground. He knew that his team had heard his conversation with his future self and at the back of his mind, he was embarrassed to be seen at his lowest point.
However, he didn't know what awaited him in the future so it was a privilege to even just be honest with his thoughts and feelings, and he had to thank his future self for that. And now, Kakashi had to face his team who he just reunited with.
'There's no room for self-pity. It's time I face them as their teammate and as a loyal shinobi of Konoha.'
He stopped in front of them and gave them a reluctant smile underneath his mask. Before he could even say a word though, Rin had already wrapped her arms around his neck and started sobbing. Kakashi winced. He didn't know where to put his hands so he just ended up awkwardly patting her back. He glanced up and saw a scrunched-up expression on Obito's face, trying and failing miserably to contain his tears. So with a defeated yet fond sigh, Kakashi stretched out his other arm for a group hug. Obito sniffled before he launched himself in Kakashi's arms, wailing unabashedly on his shoulders.
"Why do you have to go! We can finally be best friends now! Our team just reunited!" Obito complained.
Kakashi tightened his hold around his team. "I'm not really going. I'll still be Kakashi Hatake… just a little bit different. And mature."
Obito snorted. "Don't be cheeky."
Kakashi chuckled. "Don't make things hard for my future self," he paused, "We've both gone through a lot already, him more than me."
Obito and Rin didn't answer, they just continued crying on his shoulders. Kakashi let out a small smile and he glanced up at his sensei who also wore a similarly defeated expression.
'This must be so hard for Minato-sensei. So many things were dumped onto him recently and yet he has to be an adult and shoulder everything for us.'
Minato gave him a sad smile and Kakashi replied by closing his eyes and tightening his grip around his teammates' shoulders. At least he was given a chance to experience this. One final goodbye while he was still purely himself.
"Hey, Rin. Obito. I have… I have some things I want to say while I still have the chance."
After a couple of sniffles, the two reluctantly let him go.
"I… I also have something to say." Rin said, wiping the tears off her face before looking at him with a determined expression.
Kakashi blinked at her in surprise but didn't say anything, silently waiting for what she was going to say.
Rin took a deep breath. "I'm not doing this to get any response from you, I'm doing this because this is the last time that I could address this to you."
Kakashi could see how Obito's expression tightened, and although Kakashi was dense when it comes to feelings, he still had an inkling of what Rin was trying to say and it took all his shinobi training not to wince.
'I'm sorry, Obito. I'm sure you'll have her all for yourself once the merging is finished.' He exchanged glances with Obito and although Kakashi didn't like seeing the pain in his eyes, he couldn't do anything about Rin's feelings. 'At least this will be the last time.'
"Alright," he finally replied, shoving his hands in his pants' pocket.
"I...I know you know that I like you, and that you already rejected me before…" Rin chewed on her bottom lip before she stared at him with tears gathered in her eyes. "I know I shouldn't, but since the academy days...I've always...I've always liked you, Kakashi," the tears rolled down her cheeks as she smiled at him and Kakashi's fingers twitched, wanting to wipe them away because he didn't like to see a girl crying in front of him, especially not Rin. "I know you can never return it, and now this happened...I...I don't want to lose you too like I thought I lost Obito. It's so painful and I don't think I would be able to bear it a second time."
Kakashi clenched his jaw. He also didn't want to hurt his friends, but there was nothing to be done. He knew his older self would rather kill himself than cause any unnecessary pain for his precious people, however, this situation was also out of his control. And there were lives at stake, much more important than their own feelings.
He took a deep breath. "I can't do anything about your feelings, Rin. But I've always seen you as... one of my precious people," the end of his sentence was practically a whisper, not used to opening himself up to anybody. This is the last time. "I also don't want to cause you pain. But as shinobi, we have to learn how to bear the pain and continue fighting for the people we care about. Don't be like me, I realized too late that I still have people to protect," Kakashi gave her a soft smile hidden beneath his dark mask.
"Be strong, Rin, take care of sensei and Obito. And…" he glanced at his future self who was slouching at the corner of the wall. "My future self...he needs all the comfort and support he can get. Please don't blame him for all this."
Rin nodded her head amidst all the sobbing she was doing. "I-I will...I will."
Kakashi smiled and patted her head before he shifted his attention to his...best friend. A foreign thought, but no one deserved the title as much as he did.
"Obito." The Uchiha straightened, sniffling and trying not to have another meltdown. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to keep my promise." Obito jolted and his eyes widened in disbelief.
"I wasn't able to protect Rin like I promised," Rin gasped and also stared at him in surprise but Kakashi continued as if he hadn't noticed anything, "If it wasn't for the time travelers, she would've been killed… by my own hands."
"Kakashi—" Obito started.
"I know you'll say that it's not my fault now, but if there hadn't been any interference back then, you would've witnessed me killing Rin with my own hands and my own technique," he paused, mulling over the possibilities, of the haunted expression his future self had whenever he looked at Obito and Rin.
"And if Madara was manipulating you, he would've used that opportunity to completely make you submit to him. You would've hated me, and I would've lived in despair, forgetting about Minato-sensei and Kushina-nee. I would've lived with the guilt of murdering my own teammate and breaking the last promise I made to my best friend. You would have lived for vengeance, wanting to make me suffer the way I made you and Rin suffer."
"But Kakashi, I was the one who willingly jumped on your Jutsu!" Rin broke in. "It was solely my decision to use my own teammate to commit suicide, stupid as it was!"
"And you did it thinking of nothing but the village's safety, Rin. Don't blame yourself," Kakashi rebuked.
"No, It was my fault for being naive and trusting Madara just because he saved me," Obito cut Rin off with a grimace. "I should've known better...I should've—" Kakashi put a hand on his shoulder.
"You couldn't have known. You've always been an optimistic person, Obito. There's no use blaming ourselves and lingering on the what ifs. I just want to apologize for being a shitty comrade and friend. For underestimating you and dismissing your efforts and dreams."
"You should, dumbass…" Obito mumbled as he wiped his eyes with his sleeves again.
"Be stronger, Obito. You have to protect Rin, Minato-sensei, and do everything you can to help the time travelers." Kakashi extended a fist towards Obito and the Uchiha nodded before he bumped fists with him.
"I will. I promise with my life," Obito said firmly, determination glinting his dark onyx eyes.
Kakashi smiled and finally looked at the final member of their team. "Sensei…" his smile turned rueful as he approached the man he had considered his guardian since his father died. Minato returned his smile.
Minato sighed. "So it's my turn now."
"You have the biggest role in the team, Minato-sensei. The team needs you to be strong," Kakashi clenched his fist. "But it doesn't mean you can't be weak sometimes. You're still human after all, and you have so many others who got your back now. I- sensei, thank you for being there with me all this time." He gave the man a watery smile, a tear rolling down his right cheek. "I never told you before but… to me, you're like a second father."
"Kakashi…" Minato closed his eyes, trying his best not to break down in front of his students. However, his eyes glazed over with tears despite his best efforts and threatened to fall.
"You've done so much for us. Thank you for teaching us how to be better shinobi, for sharing your knowledge, wisdom, and skills." Kakashi's smile widened as he tried to convey all his affection to the man who had guided him all this time, to the man who never gave up on him despite his shortcomings and bratty attitude, to the man who was always there for him. "I couldn't have asked for a better sensei. Please continue guiding this team, Minato-sensei."
Minato collapsed on his knees and embraced his student tightly as he buried his face in the crook of his neck. Obito and Rin followed suit, letting tears speak the words they hadn't already conveyed. Kakashi accepted them all. He realized how lucky he was to have this moment, how lucky he was to have precious people like them.
"Thank you so much… everyone," he whispered with a small smile on his lips.
And as if the universe understood that he had said everything he had to say, a white light engulfed his body and a warm feeling surrounded him.
'Ah, it's time…'
Kakashi tightened his hold on his team. He felt them clutching onto him so desperately, practically digging their fingers into him, wishing this wasn't happening. Their eyes begged for him to stay with them.
However, the warm comforting feeling had already surrounded his whole body and slowly, he felt his consciousness easing away, until only the warmth of his precious people lingered.
His eyes snapped open and he found himself staring at his old room back in Konoha. His heart thumped angrily in his chest, beating faster than normal for the first time in a long time as his pale yellow slit eyes flickered around the familiar yet unfamiliar room.
"I never thought I'd see this room again…" he muttered, his voice somewhat raspy.
He slowly sat up in his bed and looked at the child who called out to him.
"How am I alive? And where are we?" the child asked.
"It seems the teleportation jutsu I casted on your hitai-ate activated," he answered as he stood up, checking his arms and body. It was...unusual to be back in his original body after so many years.
"Teleportation jutsu? When did you place it on me?" The child inquired.
He chuckled. "The last time you met me, after you fell unconscious from chakra exhaustion. You can't blame a parent for worrying over his child. The jutsu only activates when you're in a near-death situation, although it's a one-time use only."
"And where are we now?" The child's eyes widened as he remembered something important. "What about Boruto and Sarada!?"
"Mitsuki," the child straightened, "You don't have to worry. I managed to make a breakthrough on a forbidden jutsu I've been studying for a decade just in the nick of time. Although it was not without divine intervention."
"What do you mean, Oya-san?" The child, Mitsuki, asked.
Orochimaru let out a rare small smile and sighed. "Our lives depend on them now. My soul was bound by a contract with the Sage of the Six Paths. We have to change the future and help Naruto-san and the others in their endeavors."
Mitsuki perked up, "Then Boruto and Sarada are alright!"
Orochimaru put a hand on his child's head. "Rest assured, my child, we just have to meet them," he looked out his open window. "It won't be too bad meeting an old friend again either. Isn't that right, Jiraiya?"
He closed his eyes, remembering how the Sage had grabbed onto his soul, binding him forever.
This was where all his ambitions ended. All he could do now was to live for his child and the people he had thrown away in the past. Dying so many times, Orochimaru had lived long enough. It was time to walk a new path.
At least this time around, Jiraiya was alive.
"Let's go to my lab first, Mitsuki," Orochimaru said as he started walking towards his underground laboratory with his child in tow. "We have a few rats to get rid of."
To be Continued…
A/N: Aaaand that's a wrap! Thank you so much for waiting patiently for my update, and I know I didn't give enough justice to my faithful readers in this fic since my updates in this is much slower than the other fics, I hope you forgive me for that. Life is complicated for a while and I caught covid twice. Thank God I'm recovered now, I currently have a job so updates are still not frequent but I can only hope it won't take a whole year again for the next update. I already have a plan for what will happen next. If you guys want to chat, add me on discord and we can chat in the group my beta created, username is SyrinxSilenus#1714. I'll be honest, I reread and reread your comments for inspiration. So if you wanna talk about TFIOH, don't be shy to send a message. discord dot gg slash d8VHxSxy
dragonfox123: Thank you, glad you like it!
AnonymousFambase: Thank you, it's a joy to know that someone is liking my work enough to read it ten times. I hope you like this chapter. And I'm soooooo sorry this chapter took so long to be published and it flatters me that you kept on rereading while waiting for the next chapter patiently.
masofi: Thank you, here's the update, hope it's to your liking!
Whimsyy: Thank you so much! And of course, it will be, I just had a hard time for a while. I won't abandon this if I could help it. Please be patient with me.
BusGrunts: I know right, we need some of those OP fix, a break from too many depressing dark fix and time travel gone wrong. And I'm back now! No worries, this won't be abandon if I could help it!