“Three kids, huh?” Minto asked as he poured a cup of tea for his son. Naruto smiled. “You didn’t find them, I’m guessing.”
“No,” Naruto grumbled, stirring his cup slowly. “I looked everywhere.”
Minato smiled. “Well, not everywhere,” he teased, seating himself across the small table. Naruto frowned in a very child-like pout. “Oh, stop it.” The frown on Naruto’s face turned into a soft smile. “I’m sure they’re fine, Naruto. We’ll talk to Obito in the morning. How’s Tai?” he asked, trying to keep his son’s mind from wandering.
Naruto’s frown returned, without the pout. “Still being bullied,” he admitted. “I’ll have to talk to Neji again about Ansho. Apparently she’s been fighting Tai a lot.”
“Maybe you should let Konohamaru handle it,” Minato suggested.
Naruto shook his head and sipped the cup of tea. “I don’t think so. Konohamaru is a great sensei, but I’d rather be the one to talk to Neji… Or Lady Hanabi.”
“I wouldn’t go to the Hyuuga Elders or the head branch about this… You know how they can get, especially with lower branch members.”
“Yeah,” Naruto grumbled. “Mind if I stay here tonight?”
“You know you don’t have to ask,” Minato said. “But why don’t you go home? It’s not late.” Naruto sighed and turned away. Minato’s gaze softened. “What happened?”
“Nothing,” Naruto lied. Minato could always tell when his son was lying to him.
“You and Sakura get in an argument?”
“N-no! It’s nothing like that!” Naruto quickly assured his father. “It’s just… I don’t know how to talk to her about what happened at that village. My students are still shaken up about it.” He closed his eyes. “And it’s also about those kids. That little girl… She called me dad.”
Minato lifted an eyebrow. “Well, do you have any children I need to know about?” he asked. Naruto felt like throwing the cup of tea at his father’s head. “Naruto-kun, something is wrong. If it’s not Sakura, and it’s not Tai, then what is it?”
“This is the fourth attack on a civilian village in the past six months,” Naruto said quietly. “Obito-sama has my team investigating them all. This was the first one where there were no survivors except for one. We all thought this one would match this pattern, but it didn’t. Whatever attacked this village… it wasn’t human; at least I don’t think it was. The attacks were animalistic.”
“Jinchuuriki?” Minato suggested. Naruto shook his head.
“We know where all the Jinchuuriki are. No one has reported any of them missing. I spoke to Kabuto this morning. The girl still hasn’t woken up, but she also isn’t regaining any chakra. Hinata-san can’t even find a signal on her anymore.” Naruto clenched his fists. “And now I have to travel to the Mist village and talk to their Kage. Apparently they’ve been having a similar pattern.”
“Oh… How long will you and your team be gone?” Minato asked, finally understanding. Even if his son wasn’t Hokage, he was still one of Obito’s advisors, having grown up around the position of Hokage his entire life. It was the obvious choice. The job was demanding, and was becoming increasingly more so as the world fell deeper into chaos. Naruto had, in recent years, been away from the village more than he had actually been in the village.
“A month, maybe more,” Naruto grumbled. Minato’s shoulders dropped.
“Maybe you can take Tai and Sakura with you, hm?”
Naruto smiled softly. “Probably not a good idea. Sakura has to stay here. She has classes to teach, and Tai’s never been out of the village that long. Besides, he might not be so eager to be stuck with Ansho’s cousin.”
“I would imagine Hinata’s son would be nicer than Neji’s daughter.”
“You would think,” Naruto grumbled. Ansei was a mystery. Even Naruto, who had been the child’s sensei for a year, had yet to get the boy to open up to him. While he was usually calm and quiet, Naruto knew there was a sleeping dragon in that child, waiting to be released. The only reason he was here and not living at the orphanage with his parents was because he was still a member of the main branch, and with Hanabi’s own son sickly and weak, Ansei was chosen to be the younger boy’s official bodyguard and advisor. He had been torn from his parents and his home at a very young age to begin his training with the Hyuuga clan.
He had been given to Naruto as a genin to assist in his fighting skills. The Guard of the Head of the Hyuuga Clan had to be able to defend himself, after all.
Minato offered his son a reassuring smile. “Sakura will understand, Naruto. She always does.”
Naruto sighed. “I know. I just wish the world would give me five minutes to be a dad for once.” Minato reached his hand out, but Naruto rejected the touch. Minato remembered having the same feelings when he was Hokage and didn’t have all the time he wanted to play or train with Naruto. “I’m going to bed.”
“Good night, then.” Minato whispered as he watched his son move out of the kitchen. He looked up at the ceiling and sighed. “You were always better with him than I was,” he prayed. “Watch over him, Kushina-chan…”
Sarada wanted to go home, but she didn’t say as much as she followed Boruto through the streets of the village. Himawari gripped the Uchiha’s hand tightly and Sarada made sure the little girl wasn’t scared. They had gone over the plan many times the night before and even more times that morning. They would speak to the Hokage, they would tell him their story, and then they would request information on Sasuke. From there, they would hopefully get home.
They stopped in front of the Hokage mansion. Boruto sighed. It looked nothing like the home that they were used to. “It’ll be okay,” she said quietly to the two Uzumaki children.
“I know,” Boruto said. She sighed. It was typical of her teammate to not show any sort of weakness, even though she knew he was just as terrified as Himawari was. The encounter with Naruto yesterday hadn’t gone as well as they would have liked, and even though Boruto would never admit it, Sarada had seen how shaken up he had been.
“Hey, you kids!” Sarada jumped and turned around. A young man stood behind them. “Can I help you?” he asked. He had dark grey hair, styled to look a lot like Kakashi’s. He did look a lot like Kakashi. The man sighed and removed his dog ANBU mask. “You need to talk to the Hokage?”
“Y-yeah!” Sarada said with a quick nod.
“Well, I’ll take you to him. Come on.” He pushed passed the three kids. “Who are you three anyway? I’ve never seen you before.”
“I’m Boruto, and this is my sister, Himawari,” Boruto introduced.
“Boruto? That’s an odd name,” the man said with a shrug.
“My name’s Sarada!” Sarada interjected quickly.
“Name’s Meigetsu,” the man greeted. He turned and grinned at them. Sarada turned away shyly. He wasn’t bad looking at all.
“Meigetsu! Who are your friends?” The grey-haired boy jumped as Kakashi himself rounded the corner. Sarada blinked. The man didn’t look as worn and tired here; like his life had been easier somehow.
“Dunno, dad. I found them outside.”
“You found them?” Kakashi asked.
“Yeah. They seemed lost… Said they wanted to talk to Obito-sama.”
“Obito…?” Boruto repeated. Sarada’s fist clenched. She had heard the stories of what Obito had done in their world. While Naruto had always tried to talk about him like he was some great hero or something. Sakura made sure to tell Sarada that Naruto liked to see things as idealistically as possible. Obito may had been misguided, but he still almost brought about the end of the world.
“What’s he doing as Hokage?” Sarada snapped before she could stop herself. Both Kakashi and his son turned to look at the girl, confused.
“You know him?” Meigetsu asked.
Sarada felt heat ride to her cheeks and she turned away quickly to hide the blush.
“Don’t listen to her! She’s crazy,” Boruto tried to defend quickly. Kakashi turned to the blonde kid with a skeptical look.
“Who are you three?” he asked.
“Just some orphans,” Sarada said, trying to patch up the situation. The four ninja glared at each other. Sarada could feel the tension she had caused. Her eyes watched as Boruto reached for his weapon’s pouch. She opened her mouth to stop him, but was cut off.
“I want to go home!” Himawari shrieked suddenly, making everyone in the hallway jump. Boruto turned to his sister. She was crying softly. Sympathy took over Sarada’s fear. The poor child had less of a clue as to what was happening that she and Boruto did. “I want mommy and daddy!”
That’ll help us, Sarada thought, though she felt bad about it. She had already said they were orphans, now one of them was crying for her parents. Boruto hugged his sister tightly and lifted her up in his arms. He rubbed her back slowly to calm her down. “We can’t go home right now, Hima-chan,” he whispered.
“Dad, I think they’re just scared.” Meigetsu assured his father. Kakashi shook his head.
“You’re right. Come on, you three, let’s get you to the Hokage.” Boruto nodded, letting Sarada take the lead. He followed behind them, whispering calming words to his sister. Sarada clenched her fists. She felt so useless in this situation. How could they hope to get home? But, if Obito is Hokage, she thought, does that mean the Uchiha are alive…?
As they neared the office, the door opened up revealing a young woman with long dark brown hair. She too wore an ANBU uniform. Her smile faded the moment her dark eyes landed on Meigetsu and Kakashi. “H-hello, Kakashi-san, Meigetsu-kun,” she stammered shyly.
“Tobimasu,” Meigetsu greeted. It wasn’t cold, but it wasn’t exactly familiar.
“Good morning, Tobi-chan,” Kakashi said with a wide smile. “How are you?”
“G-good, Kakashi-san!” the woman answered. “If you’ll excuse me…!” She ducked between the two grey-haired men and practically darted down the hall.
Kakashi sighed and looked at his son. “What?” Meigetsu asked.
“Nothing, nothing. You wouldn’t get it anyway, you dense fool.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?!”
“If I have to explain it to you son, you will never get it,” Kakashi teased.
Meigetsu glared playfully at his father, but the conversation ended there. Kakashi opened the door to the office. “Hello, Obito-sama,” he said with the most over the top bow he could muster.
The man sitting behind the Hokage desk looked at Kakashi with a mix of pure annoyance and utter endearment. The dark haired man pulled his hat over his face to hide what was obviously a chuckle at his friend’s antics. “Lord Hokage,” Meigetsu greeted with a real bow.
“Hello, Mei.” Obito returned the greeting with a nod, but still hid his face.
“So, what’s Tobi doing visiting her daddy?” Kakashi asked. Obito lifted his hat to reveal one eye to glare at Kakashi.
“She brought me my lunch,” he grumbled.
Kakashi smirked. “Aw, little Uchiha forgot his lunch,” he teased.
“I oughda have you arrested,” Obito grumbled.
“You wouldn’t do that to me.”
Sarada coughed slightly to alert them of their presence. Obito became almost instantly serious once he finally noticed the three strangers in his office. “I see you brought guests, Kakashi.” Sarada was surprised how quickly the man switched personalities.
“Actually, Mei found them,” Kakashi admitted. “I just decided to come up with them.”
Meigetsu nodded. “I found them outside,” he explained. “They said they wanted to speak with you.”
Boruto and Sarada looked at each other. They had agreed that she would do all the talking. She was better at lying than he was, after all.
She stepped forward and bowed to the Hokage. “Hello, Lord Hokage,” she said quietly. “We three are orphans. When we returned to our village, everyone was dead.” She allowed her voice to quiver. It wasn’t hard. The experience she was describing wasn’t unlike their actual situation. “My name is Sarada, he is Boruto and the little girl is Himawari. We… we request an audience with Uchiha Sasuke.”
The entire room suddenly became deathly silent. Even the two proctors that were discussing something in the corner froze at the name. Sarada felt her hands becoming clammy. She resisted the urge to look at Boruto. What had she said wrong? Was Sasuke not alive? Was he not in the village?
Obito seemed very serious when he spoke his next words, slowly and carefully he asked “How do you know that name?”
Sarada clenched her fists and swallowed.
“We heard it!” Boruto said quickly. “We heard he might be able to help us.”
Obito surveyed the three children carefully. “Uchiha Sasuke has not stepped foot in this village in over twenty years,” he said. Sarada felt a pain in her chest. Even here, her dad wasn’t in the village. She tried to get rid of the lump in her throat. Boruto seemed to catch her inability to speak.
“Do you know where we can find him?” he asked.
“I do not,” Obito admitted. “Sasuke left the village and hasn’t been seen since. Why do you need his help?”
Sarada turned to Boruto. How would they explain this? “Sarada is an Uchiha,” Boruto explained without skipping a beat. “Sasuke’s name was mentioned to us and we were told he could help train her. They said the last time they heard of Sasuke, he was here. I guess the information is old.” He added with a nervous chuckle.
Obito sighed deeply and stood, walking to the children. Sarada resisted the urge to run. What would the unstable Hokage do to them? “You three are orphans?” he asked.
“Yessir,” Boruto whispered. Sarada wanted to hug him for taking over. Obito rubbed the bridge of his nose. He seemed ready to speak, but stopped when there was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” he called. Sarada turned to see Naruto step into the office.
“Oh! It’s you three!” Naruto exclaimed. It was now Boruto’s turn to be stunned into silence. Himawari whimpered longingly for her father, but Boruto was quick to silence her.
“You know these kids?” Obito asked.
“They’re the ones I told you about last night.” Naruto smiled and squatted down to get at their level. “Are you three okay?” he asked.
“We are,” Sarada said. Himawari wiggled out of her brother’s arms and ran to Naruto, who accepted her embrace with a soft smile. Sarada’s gaze softened at the sight. Even if they weren’t his kids in this twisted reality, he was still the kind-hearted man he had been in their world.
“Well, Naruto, what is it, then?” Obito asked.
“I was just saying that we are going to leave in the morning,” Naruto reported.
“Oh? Well, if that’s the case, do you think you can accompany these children to the orphanage?” Obito asked.
“What?” Sarada, Boruto and Naruto all said in unison.
“We will do what we can to find Sasuke for you three, if that is who you truly believe will help you,” Obito explained, “but that will not be a simple, or a short process. It is best that you have a place to stay until then. I’m sure Naruto won’t mind traveling with you to the orphanage… right, Naruto?” Obito added with a slight glare that sent a shiver down Sarada’s spine. This man had a personality for any occasion, it seemed.
Naruto grinned sheepishly. “Sure, Lord Hokage. I will gladly bring these children to the orphanage.” He said, almost nervously.
“Good!” Obito said, smiling widely.
How many masks does he have? Sarada wondered.
“So, you are leaving in the morning, then?” Obito asked. Naruto nodded. “Then these three can remain here until you leave.”
“Of course,” Naruto said. He placed the girl in his arms on the ground. She frowned and looked at her brother. Boruto merely shrugged at their youngest.
“See you tomorrow,” Himawari said, almost sadly.
Naruto nodded. “Meigetsu, can you take them to the guest rooms?” Obito asked. The young grey-haired man nodded and ushered the three children towards the door.
“Actually, Obito-sama, I have another request as well…” Naruto started as the door shut behind the group.
Kabuto never liked being away from his orphanage for long, so the journey to the desolate village that had been attacked was hard for the Father. He trusted Hinata to take care of things while he was gone, and his brother was more than capable of running the place, since he had been there longer, after all, but Kabuto still liked to be there. Hinata may have learned medical jutsu from him, but he still saw himself as superior to her skills. He had two ANBU with him as he stared down at the village from the hill that over looked it. It was a depressing sight. Other ANBU teams were combing the wreckage for any evidence that might have been left by the attackers.
“Is there a reason we couldn’t do this over phone?” Kabuto asked the ANBU chief as he ran up the hill to greet the black and white clad medic and his two escorts.
The chief bowed to the medic. Even if, technically, the ANBU leader held a higher rank in the Land of Fire than Kabuto did, there was a certain respect held for the medic and what he had done with the run down and small orphanage. “My deepest apologies, but my team and I have discovered something disturbing about this attack.”
Kabuto raised an eyebrow and looked behind the man to the rows of bodies behind him. “Something more disturbing than an entire village of people dying in a matter of minutes?” Kabuto asked.
“Yessir!” the chief said. “There are no child victims here!”
Kabuto’s eyes widened. He pushed passed the man. “Impossible! A village like this… It was thriving last time I checked! They had children living in this village!”
“There is evidence that there were children living in the village, Kabuto-san, but none of the victims in the village seem to be under the age of fifteen.”
Kabuto clenched his fists. That was impossible, unless the kids were taken. “I have to return to the orphanage!” he gasped.
“Not yet. That isn’t the only bit of news, or we could have done this over the phone. We need you to examine a body.”
Kabuto pushed his glasses up his nose and nodded. “Fine,” he grumbled. He followed the man silently. A single body was a distance away from the other bodies. “What’s so special about this one?” Kabuto asked. The man lifted the sheet from the now naked body of a woman. At first, Kabuto saw nothing. It was simply a dead body. He saw nothing special about it.
But then it hit him. There was nothing special about this one. Naruto had mentioned a pattern in the bodies. They all had defensive wounds on them, but none fatal. The girl who they had brought in also followed that pattern, but this woman… she had no marks on her at all. Kabuto knelt beside the body and blinked. Unlike other bodies that had been dead for days and without preservation, this one had not begun to decay. In fact, she didn’t even look dead.
He examined the body slowly, looking for anything that showed how she died, but found no sign. He pulled out his medical kit from his pack and began an autopsy on the woman, but again found nothing that told him how she died. He shook his head. “This doesn’t make any sense,” he whispered. “She should be alive. There’s no poison in her system and there are no telling wounds on her. Is this the only one like this?” he asked. The chief nodded slowly. Kabuto clenched his fists. “I will need to do a thorough examination. I want this body to come back with me, along with a few others that are in good enough shape. The youngest ones you can find!”
Kabuto looked at the sky. Why weren’t they any child victims in the attack? He thought about the other civilian attacks that Naruto had told him. Surely he would remember if those attacks had left no child victims. Naruto would be sure to inform him of that.
And then there was the girl. Why had she been left there? Was she somehow important to all this? Kabuto shook his head and started back for his home. He had to figure this out and he wasn’t about to let anything stump him. The attackers must have taken the children, but why not the girl? The other attacks had left no one alive. Why was she suddenly left alive? Why was any of this happening? Why would someone be so interested in attacking civilian villages? It wasn’t even strategic. While this one had been a farming village, it wasn’t anywhere near the most important to the Land of Fire. It only really provided crops for itself and a few exports to help their small economy. The other villages were the same. A fishing village, a farming village… Why were they killing civilians that wouldn’t strategically weaken the Land of Fire?
All these thoughts and more ran through the man’s mind as he raced back to his home. The bodies would be delivered later where he could get a better look at them. None of this made any sense. The children have to be somewhere, Kabuto thought, and then he stopped as a realization hit him. For a moment, he was frozen, staring blankly ahead. They were harvesting the kids! That was the only logical explanation! The other attacks didn’t leave everyone dead, and some were missing, sure, so it didn’t rouse as much suspicion, but now, the whole village was dead except the children!
“And the girl,” Kabuto said aloud. “But… why…?”
The answer to that question came like a ton of bricks in the pit of his stomach. Whoever they were, they wanted to know where the Land of Fire would take her. The existence of the orphanage was no secret, but the location of it was. Many of the kids they housed had sensitive information. Most were the children of assassination targets and some were even the targets themselves. Only people who needed to know the location of the orphanage knew the location. Kabuto took off at high speeds towards the complex.“We have to evacuate immediately!” he thought out loud as he ran faster. “And we can’t take any more in until we get to the bottom of this!”