Chapter 28- Please Don't Ever Leave Me
"But why did you call her kitten?" He looked at Genma.
Genma shifted in his seat but Kiyoko spoke up. "When Raido found me I was covered in mud and skunk smell from my efforts to hide. He brought me back here like that. I was terribly frightened. I had only ever known Iwa ninja and on top of that I had just escaped from two men who had bought me. I'm afraid I clung to Raido a bit like a kitten. Genma nicknamed me that to tease Raido at first but it stuck, and I kind of like it now."
Katsuro smiled "She always was a nuisance, like a kitten anyway."
Kiyoko gave him an exasperated look.
Kunio looked at his daughter. Not even three weeks ago he had hugged her goodbye as he left to sell goods in the Land of Snow. In that time she'd been betrayed, abused, sold and rescued and she was now sitting between two men, ninja, who dwarfed her laughing with them and proclaiming her love for one of them. "I am very proud of your strength, Kiyoko. Your mother would be too."
"Thank you father." She turned to her brothers, "So how have you two enjoyed your trip? Jiro, this was the furthest you've been from Iwa, isn't it?"
"It is. The Land of Snow is so different." He looked at Genma and Raido, "Have either of you ever been there?"
Genma nodded, "I have been there, on missions. It is beautiful, but a little cold for my taste."
They all laughed and agreed that they preferred the warmth of the southern regions.
"I did hear a rumor about an old school friend there." Jiro said. "Remember that summer that my friend from school spent working on the farm with us?"
"You mean Deidara? The blonde one?" Kiyoko asked.
"Yeah. I ran into someone who knew him, strange isn't it? They said he had joined some group called the Akatsuki. Whatever that is. I know he went on to become a ninja after I left school. We lost touch, I was busy with farming and he was busy with training. I wonder how he's doing and what this group he's in is all about."
"That's so strange!" Kiyoko agreed. She looked at Raido and Genma, noting that they were looking a little uncomfortable. "Do you know anything about it?"
Genma got up, "I need to be at the Hokage's office in a minute. It was nice meeting you Takenaka-sama, Katsuro, Jiro." He waved as he exited the restaurant.
Kiyoko looked up at Raido, "that's strange."
Raido looked at her with a sadness in his eyes. "The Akatsuki are a terrorist organization. Genma left because he didn't want to be the one to tell you. We don't know much about them but we do know they have been seen in various places and trouble always comes with them."
Kiyoko's face fell. "I see." She looked up at her brother.
"It doesn't surprise me really." Jiro shrugged. "Don't you remember what a troublemaker he was and how mother always said he was headed for trouble?"
"I know. But he was your friend Jiro." Kiyoko felt sad for her brother.
"I have plenty of friends who aren't terrorists. And I haven't seen him in almost ten years."
Raido cleared his throat. "In reality we don't know much about them. I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention what we've talked about to anyone."
Kiyoko's father nodded his head "I understand and so do my sons." They both nodded their agreement.
Kiyoko spoke up, "So when will you leave for Iwa? Tomorrow? I know you must want to get home and check on the farm very badly."
"To be honest I have my concerns. I had hoped you would be there to oversee it. Minori's daughters know little about farming and Minori even less. At least Arata is there taking care of things."
Kiyoko looked at Raido, "Arata is the farmhand my father hired to help me care for the farm in his absence."
"I think that we'll have to leave in the morning. It is about a two day trip if we move quickly and I am anxious to be home. I have a lot of business to see to when I get there."
Kiyoko reached across the table resting her hand on her fathers, "I know. You must be very anxious."
"I have decided that I will ask Minori to leave. I will give her some money to get a start but she will never be welcome in my home again. I will however offer her daughters the option to stay. I know Katsuro has had his eye on the older one for a few months. She would make a good wife for him. Of course he'll have to decide if he can accept what her mother did to you or not and overlook it."
"I have been thinking about that also. I'll have to talk to Aki first and hear her side. It is reasonable to think that she wasn't involved at all."
"I don't think they were." Kiyoko said. "They were both surprised and saddened that Minori was talking me out alone. Neither of them seemed to realize that I wouldn't be coming back." She looked back at her father. "Thank you for everything father. It was you who helped me be strong enough to survive those experiences and without them I might not ever have met Raido." She looked up at Raido, her face beaming with love for him and leaned into him.
"You're welcome child. But you're the one who made the choice to be strong." Kunio looked at her with pride. "Now I think your brothers and I need a good nights rest before we head out."
Raido and Kiyoko walked them back to her apartment where she hugged them and left them to rest.
Raido put his arm around her. "You have a nice father and nice brothers."
They got up early the next morning and got ready so that they could meet her father and brothers and walk them to the village gate.
Kiyoko was in the kitchen preparing breakfast. "I thought I'd pack up a bit of food for my family, for their trip. Do you mind?"
"Of course not. I also slipped your father a small amount of money to purchase supplies last night. I didn't want them to be hungry. I could arrange an escort for them? If you wanted me to."
"I guess you'd have to ask them. I think they'll be ok from here."
When they arrived at the gate Kunio, Katsuro and Jiro were waiting for them. Kiyoko handed them the bundle she had prepared. "Here is some food for your trip father. Do you have everything you need?"
"I do. Thank you Raido, for the help you have given me. I am once more in your debt. If you ever find yourself in Iwagakure be sure to find me and allow me to return the favor."
"I will, Takenaka-sama."
"Please, call me Kunio. After all, we love the same sweet girl." He looked at Kiyoko with such affection that tears gathered in his eyes. "This is not goodbye child. We'll see each other again."
Kiyoko hugged and kissed her father. And then she turned to each of her brothers to do the same. When she was done she stood at Raido's side and waved goodbye to them as they started off towards their home.
"Are you sure you want to stay, kitten?"
She wrapped her arms around him, "I am sure."
"I love you. Please don't ever leave me."
"I love you too."