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Corpse Demon

Chapter Text

As soon as she came back to the land of the living, she groaned loudly at the brightness of it all. She, obviously, was not at all a morning person, preferring to sleep and laze about all day. Seeing that she wouldn't be able to fall back into slumber anytime soon, she cussed like a sailor on steroids. 

Today was finally an off day after working for ten consecutive shifts. So why did she forget the importance of closing the curtains? What an idiot past-her had been! An utter moron. With a grumble about how stupid everything was in general, she forced herself off her (too comfortable) bed and zombie-shuffle to the bathroom. She lived in a modest three-room apartment, so the walk was short and sweet; just the way she liked it. 

Due to her occupation as a forensic medical examiner, she was definitely able to afford a better living place. But alas, due to the location of her workplace, there were not many private houses nearby, only towering apartment buildings. Also, she didn't have a license, so she picked the best next option - which was an apartment unit two blocks away from the police HQ.

After a quick shower, she stumbled her way to her game room (or what she liked to call it; her Batcave), only breathing a sigh of relief when she sat her arse on her totally awesome purple DXRacer gaming chair. On habit, she lit up a cigarette whilst switching on her PC. The computer booted up without delay and she was quick to log into her favorite MMORPG.

... What?

You think a middle-aged woman can't enjoy PC games? Bullshite. She has online friends that were over fifty and were still energetically playing online games with her.

Now then...

She cracked her fingers in satisfaction before she moved her mouse pointer, letting it hover over her masculine game character. And yes, she preferred playing as a man. She disliked how sexists and desperate the gaming community was to women, and ever since that one nasty incident during her teenagehood, she has always customized her characters to be male.

... And if she ever missed playing as the fairer sex, she could always force her character to crossdress. Thus the reason why they always have soft features. 

Her current character was quite the good looking guy - what with the long black hair, narrowed black eyes, pale skin, and a slightly feminine face that all Uchiha main house members seemed to possess. In fact, she took it upon herself to make her character's features appear similar (if not identical) to Uchiha Indra, but with black hair.

'He' was wearing a pair of standard Shinobi open-toed sandals that reached up to 'his' shins, the latest version of the Konoha green flak jacket, a long-sleeve black shirt with the Uchiha fan sewed on a red armband beside the Uzushiogakure symbol, and a pair of black pants - basically, the standard Konoha nin attire. Though she can't forget the pair of somewhat adorable Christmas mittens that she won in a special event. Don't underestimate them, though, the stats were insane after she upgraded them to their limits!

She was, after all, an upgrade whore and a hoarder of limited edition items! 

For those who wondered why her character wasn't wearing the typical high collared shirts that other Uchiha players tend to favor, the reason was simple; she simply hated them. They were beyond boring and she didn't want her darling character to blend in with the rest of the Uchiha population; both players and NPCs alike. So she preferred 'him' to be equipped with the Konoha standard wear since she was still somewhat loyal to her village.

Although she was fond of her village, she didn't bother to equip 'his' Konohagakure headband due to 'him' having the unfortunate status of a nukenin...

Player nukenin, however, were rare in itself. Nobody (and she meant literally NOBODY) wanted to be a nukenin due to the many disadvantages the title brought for them. Having a bounty over your head sucked. To be hunted by both players and NPCs alike was fucking bothersome. And the lack of any important quests (missions) from any major villages? A bloody letdown.

In fact, players would rather re-create their character from scratch than become a nukenin since it wasn't something one could simply stop being. For her, it was accidental, but she didn't have the heart to delete 'him'.

Well, enough of her blabbering.

Mhm. It is as many suspected...! This is a Naruto MMORPG called Naruto Online, inspired by the anime/manga Naruto. It is currently the most popular game on the market - created by the one and only Masashi Kishimoto-sama.

Players were able to create their own customized character, choose whichever village they want to start at, create a complex or simple background for said character, create their own clan or be 'born' into an existing one, team up with two other genin players to co-create an NPC jounin teacher, and many other features (easter eggs) that attracted the fascination of gamers.

Currently, her character - Uchiha Shiki - was the top ranker in the whole game. She even achieved THE legendary Title 'God of Shinobi'. The Title was completely overpowered and one of a kind, but if her rank were to ever drop, the Title would go to the one who overtook her.

There were also (unreliable) rumors about the Title changing to accommodate the player.

For instances, if the first ranking player was a Shinobi that has never failed a single mission before, the Title would change to fit them better - along the lines of "Jack of all Trades, and Master of All" or something equally embarrassing. Geh... chuunibyou syndrome.

The reason why Uchiha Shiki was given the Title God of Shinobi was simple. 'He' evolved 'his' skill tree so high up due to the endless amounts of grinding and real life money spent that 'he' managed to master the Yin Release, Yang Release, Yin-Yang Release, as well as other overpowered Kinjutsu. Those first three Nature Types were attained in three separate (almost impossible to complete) chain quests. And only a player who manages to trigger all of them within the same day would be able to activate said quests, thus allowing her to have an unfair advantage over the other rankers.

Not forgetting how 'he' was personally 'trained' and given quests and skill books by Uzumaki Naruto, the Nanadaime Hokage himself, due to 'his' Title. Truthfully, she suspected that if Shiki had not been a nukenin, Naruto-sama would've made 'him' his official apprentice and candidate for that ugly hat.

But enough of that. It was time for her to play.

Her usual half-lidded eyes were now narrowed in attention as her grin stretched from ear to ear. Her love for this game and her character was genuine. As she controlled Shiki to jump from tree to tree towards the direction of the 'final' dungeon, she changed the settings for PMs and alerts to be blocked, not wanting to be disturbed when facing the final boss.

The moment Shiki landed just in front of the dungeon, the crowd started to flock to 'him'. She heard some players turning on their voice chat to try and gain her attention, whilst others flooded the chatbox with 'pt plx' (party please). There were even a few idiots who had armed themselves as if they were strong enough to behead her for her bounty.

It was annoying. It was bothersome. 

With her usual aloofness and antisocial personality, she ignored them all with practiced ease and entered the dungeon on her lonesome. Usually, for normal players, a full squad of 20 was required. For professional rankers, a team of three would do. But for Shiki... He alone was enough.

With a demented grin in place, she pushed her character to butcher each and every one of the NPC nukenin that blocked her path, not forgetting to behead them for their bounties after each slaughter. Their reactions, as always, amazed her. These NPCs all have different personalities. Some stood their ground, whilst others flee upon sight. They were all her prey, however, and she cared not about destroying an opponent that had no will to fight. Call her a coward or a bully, but she loved the feeling of overpowering these almost sentient NPCs.

It thrilled her. She giggled as she clamped her thighs together when she heard the very realistic death screams of the nukenin she hunted down. Ah, their cries always manage to turn her on.

There has been a new update during the early morning just before she woke up, so everything looked twice as realistic. In fact, she just knew that killjoy parents would start to make a fuss about the overly violent graphics and content. For now, however, she would push all of those bothersome thoughts aside. She doubted that this update would last for long, so she needed to enjoy this for as long as possible.

Ahn... she even felt like she was going to cum at seeing the few nukenin express their fear and horror in the face of death.

... Calling her creepy? No skin off her nose. Her colleagues already do. She was a person who cut dead bodies open, remember? 

When she finally reached the final boss, she had to pause at what she saw. It was odd. Wasn't the final boss supposed to be Uchiha Madara until the next expansion? Why was there now an NPC with the Rinnegan and Rinne Sharingan standing there instead of Madara?

"... Ōtsutsuki Hagoromo?" She murmured to herself in bafflement.

What happened next completely left her jaw sweeping the floor.

"The future and peace of my world," The elderly NPC spoke with a grave tone, forcing her to pay attention to his words. "Can I entrust them to you, God of Shinobi, Uchiha Shiki?"

... The fuck? They added a bloody cutscene and/or a chain quest before the final battle?! Did she trigger something by accident? 

That... That is bloody brilliant!

She immediately typed a 'Yes', even making her character do a thumbs up Gai pose with shiny teeth and all. Heh.

The NPC seemed to sag in relief, his smile making him look quite handsome (for an old dude) and adorable at the same time. But, to be frank, equally as disturbing with those purple Rinnegan eyes and forehead Rinne Sharingan.

"I thank you, Uchiha Shiki. Now that I know that my world will be taken care of - I can finally rest in peace..." His eyes shone as he spoke his gratitude. 

Before she could type out any questions in relating to this utterly fascinating quest, her vision suddenly swam with a kaleidoscope of color. It made her eyes burn, her head pound with vengeance, and her body screaming bloody murder at the feeling of lava coursing through her veins.

With a weak whine, she slumped into her seat and blacked out, not at all hearing the final words of the 'final boss'.

Chapter Text

When she woke up this time around, she didn't even have the energy to cuss out loud. Her poor head, unfortunately, felt like someone had just finished playing smash the watermelon with it. Not to mention her eyes. Oh, how they teared up at the sheer brightness of everything even behind closed lids. With what little strength she could find, she threw an arm over her eyes, exhaling in relief when her headache softened ever so slightly.

She didn't know what kind of shite she had drank to deserve such an intense hangover, but she swore up and down she had not touched any liquor for close to a fortnight. Work had taken up most of her days, and she would rather watch anime or play games then go out and get drunk on her lonesome. That would be just too sad, even for her low standards.

With a rather unladylike snort, she kept her eyes closed whilst trying to push herself up. Trying was the keyword. Her body was trembling with the effort to even move an arm. It was as if all her energy had been sapped out of her; which was very worrying... She feared having been drugged. When she finally managed to plant her hands on either side of her, she faltered. Her palms came into direct contact with grass rather than her soft mattress. She disregarded the warning bells in her head and pried her eyelids open, only to close them immediately after with a pained hiss. 

Ever had the experience of watching a movie in 8K ultra HD for an extended period of time when you're only used to 480p graphics? Multiply that by ten. Then you'll get the gist of what she was experiencing right now.

Everything was too sharp and focused, causing big fat tears to continuously roll down her cheeks. It strained her eyes so badly that she couldn't help but let loose a whimper. Her trembling hands continued to feel around her, her breathing getting more and more erratic as she felt nothing but grass and pebbles underneath her fingertips.

She didn't know how she came to be sleeping outdoors. And she doubted that she had been kidnapped since she was neither rich nor attractive. As for this being a dream? She has never had such a realistically painful dream before.

With a hand on her chest, she took a deep, calming breath... only to falter when her palm brushed against nothing but a very FLAT and HARD chest. She bit her lower lip as she tried to think of a plausible cause as to why (and how) her boobs were missing. She needed them! Those two soft lumps of fat allowed her to lay flat on her stomach and use them as pillows to steady herself whilst watching movies on her laptop.

Before she could fall into massive hysteria, she heard something akin to a switch being flipped in her mind. She felt her rising emotions get cut off, a whisper of something telling her to calm down and think logically. Shinobi shouldn't allow emotions to cloud their judgment. They needed to be rational.

... But when did she ever become a shinobi?

And as if she had stepped on some sort of forbidden landmine, memories of a life not her own came to the forefront of her mind. They were sparse, but she was getting to a terrible theory of what has happened to her.

This body she took over was named Uchiha Shiki - her game character. And what little of the memories she had unknowingly triggered gave her nothing but chills. Especially when she 'experienced' them as if she were him. And that wasn't all. She found out that the half-arsed backstory she created for him warped him into something... different. Disturbed. The obvious plotholes she left due to her 'whatever' attitude were filled by him with something even a terrorist would shy away from.

Shiki was a downright cold-hearted killer. He has never once felt remorse, only sick pleasure. He was broken and ugly on the inside. He enjoys challenges; especially near-impossible and outright suicidal S Rank missions that could (would) potentially turn into a bloodbath. He was also obsessed with mirrors, having been vain since childhood. Not to mention his... perverted taste in bedmates (and she uses that term loosely).

To sum it up in a few short words; Shiki was a bloody narcissistic necrophilic psychopath.

She and he, however, have a few common traits that disturbed her more than they reassured her. What could be said about her when she and he were so alike in their characteristics? She did, after all, create him with the very intentions of putting herself in his shoes since he was supposed to be her roleplaying character.

The most recent memory was of Shiki having an exhilarating (nausea-inducing) trip through the 'final dungeon', slaughtering any person he encounters, before meeting the Rikudō Sennin. And after humoring the old man, a black hole opened up and sucked Shiki inside as the final boss said words that made her want to curse him to hell and back.

"You are destined for great things, my successor and descendant from another world. Once again, I can not thank you enough for accepting the role of being my world's peacekeeper - and protecting it from the hands of my mother."

She couldn't help but curl into herself.

It can't be...

Had she...



Coming to terms with the (revolting) memories almost gave her one hell of a mental trauma. Or maybe it already did and she lost one too many screws to give a fuck.

For now, she should ground herself to 'reality'. Talking out loud might help. She wasn't able to do anything else, anyway, what with her body feeling like jello.

"Oi oi oi... Did that geezer really 'entrust' me with the future of 'this world', as well as allowing Shiki - a deranged psychopath - to be a peacekeeper, of all things?" She - he - deadpanned as sh- he lay on her- his back and stared gloomily at the clouds floating freely in the sky.

How sh- he envies those inanimate objects. So fluffy and free from bothersome things...

"As much of a Naruto fan I am, I don't feel like saving the world at all. I mean, I'd rather go back to playing with corpses- no, I meant, I'd rather go back to helping the police solve homicides by performing autopsies. Or, rather, I'm not a hero. I'm more of a 'watch the world burn' type of girl- uh, guy." S- He groaned.

This gender thing was going to be such a pain in the arse. She paused. Not in a literal sense, of course. Just figuratively. She has never had anal sex before and wasn't too eager to try it... As for sticking her... Uhh...

Ok, stop. She didn't want to think about the change of genitalia right now. It was time to switch topics. It would be better if HE made a list to go through. Just to bind himself to the present and not lose any more of his sanity. He seriously couldn't afford to.

1. Name? Yan- No. Shiki. Uchiha Shiki.

2. Age? 35. Uh, 21. Shiki's 21.

3. Gender? ... Male. HeHimHis.

4. Location? In a forest somewhere.

5. Game? There's no such thing as virtual reality nerve gears just yet.

6. Occupation? Forensic medic-... uh, shinobi.

7. Hungry? Famished.

Once again, he groaned in despair. This was definitely a stupid 'isekai' scenario. Shouldn't a teenager be the one who took his place? Why a middle-aged oba-chan of all people? This makes no bloody sense! And that old man...! He called Shiki his successor and descendant. He was 100% sure that that was the result of his Title; God of Shinobi, and his character's Indra design.

Wow. Ok. Take a deep breath... and out. In... and out...

For now, he should check to see if any of the gaming mechanics had followed him here. And then he needed to see if he could defend himself in this 'kill or be killed' world.

"Status." He said out loud.


Uh... Ok.

That was severely disappointing.

He should try other words just in case, though.

"Menu. Settings. Commands. Options. Friends. Contact GM. Message. Skills. Equip... Inventory?"

He mentally ticked out gaming mechanics from his list whilst grumbling out loud.

"Bugger. What kind of incompetent isekai shite is this? At least give me something... It's stupid that I don't even have an item box- hn?!" His half-lidded eyes widened comically as a memory suddenly popped to the forefront of his mind.

Who would've guessed that the game inventory was actually a tattoo-ed storage seal?! It was no wonder he had to spend months of none stop grinding for his Fūinjutsu Skill to advance into Master level in order to upgrade his inventory space! He almost shed tears of happiness when he learned that useful fact.

He was quick to roll up his left sleeve (haha it took him about 10 minutes), his right palm hovering unsteadily over the huge arse QR code tattoo that covered the entirety of his inner wrist to his elbow. It prompted a list of items and equipment to appear in his mind's eye. He couldn't help but sigh in relief when he saw that everything from the game had traveled along with him. He chose a box filled with a few military ration packs and a bottled water.

This body was unfamiliar, but instinctively, he knew that he was out of chakra (depleted, no wonder he was so weak). Perhaps even due to the weird black hole thingy. So the first on his to-do list was to eat and rest. Then he would practice his chakra control and familiarise himself with this body. Afterward, he would find out where and when he had been dropped off... and play it by the ear.

He wasn't getting involved if he could help it.


Like hell he would 'save the world' or whatever peace crap the old dude wanted him to accomplish. Leave it to the main characters, yeah? If Naruto and co could defeat Madara and the Rabbit Goddess without any interference from nosy outsiders for the first time around, why should he bother with changing anything? He knew that his shishou[?] (a small memory of an older looking Naruto ruffling Shiki's hair flashed by) was a monster in his own right.

It would be wise to let the events play out without changing a single shite. Besides, 'Shiki' was a psychopath, anyway. 'Shiki' wouldn't care about anything but his own power and looks... the narcissistic bastard.

Nodding sagely to himself, he tore a pack open... only to grimace at what was inside. It looked like minced meat that was jellified - or cat food, to simplify it. Never before has he smelt such a horrid stench before. And he has no choice but to consume it, too!

... He pinches his nose and ate it like a traumatized POW victim.

It took him a whole month to (somewhat) familiarize himself with this new body of his.

The first time he walked, he tripped over his own two feet and face planted onto the ground, eating grass and dirt in the process.

The first time he practiced hand seals, he almost dislocated a few fingers.

The first time he molded chakra, he spat out mouthful after mouthful of blood due to almost shutting off all his organs.

The first time he tree walked, he was blasted almost a hundred meters away due to his poor chakra control.

The first time he water walked, he realized that this body couldn't swim and almost drowned.

The first time he did a Taijutsu kata that Shiki had long since mastered alongside his clan members, he smacked himself in the face and gave himself a black eye.

The first time he did a Kenjutsu kata that Shiki had learned since childhood, he almost sliced his own arm off when the katana flung out of his grip.

The first time he performed Genjutsu, he (somehow) trapped himself in a 72 hours nightmare(?) which he later learned was the fucking Tsukuyomi.

The first time he performed Ninjutsu, which was the Great Fireball Technique, he almost burnt his vocal cords and made himself mute for a whole week.

The first time he activated his clan's Dōjutsu, his world became 12K ultra HD and almost blinded himself when he panicked and scratched his eyelids.

Well, let's just say that even now, he often than not misjudges the distance due to the longer limbs and became somewhat clumsy even though Shiki in his memories has never once flailed like a penguin before even back when he had been a toddler. He would, eventually, grow out of his clumsiness (he hopes), though.

With an emotionless face, (s)he... has finally accepted being Shiki. Although he was into all that self-acceptance (and the occasional self-denial) crap, he still didn't know if he would feel guilty after a kill. A small part of him didn't want to find out, afraid of the result of the discovery, whilst a bigger part of him only felt excitement at the thought of spilling blood.

That deadlier part of him was the one he tried his very best to control. He named it Shi-chan. And yes, he knew that giving it a name would encourage a split personality to form, but it got confusing after a while, ya know? So he named his dark passenger - his primaral instincts - Shi-chan to make it sound cuter and less deadly. And no, he wasn't giving it a gender because he didn't want to humanize it.

... Moving on.

He was currently bathing in a river nearby and decided that it was high time he explored this world. And hey, maybe he could work as an autopsy doctor again? The Uchiha clan was supposedly the 'police' of this world, weren't they? Hopefully, they hadn't been massacred yet. It would be inconsiderate of them to die whilst he was searching for a job.

After dressing himself in his usual set of clothing and mittens (he found out that his equipment still gave him an extra boost in stats, even though he couldn't quite open his stats window), he wrapped his forehead protector around his left bicep and shrugged on a black trench coat.

Back when Shiki was merely a game character, the forehead protector could only be equipped on the head slot, but now that this was the reality, he could wear it anywhere and still have the boost in stats. Nukenin head protectors gave a lot of benefits, but the cons truly outweigh the pros... So he was lucky that he could hide it underneath his coat.

Using Shi-chan's 15 years worth of ninja intuition, he navigated his way out of the forest and onto a dusty road path. He wasn't sure of which way led to Konoha, or if this road was even connected to the hidden village, but he knew that the Fire Country was filled with a never-ending amount of trees. So the hidden village must be around, ya? For now, he walked the path like a normal civilian, his gaze not once leaving the sky as he cloud watched.

He realized, after a whole month, that cloud watching soothed him and Shi-chan. The bloodthirsty urges disappear when this mundane activity was in play. This was something he got from her, he supposed - her relaxed nature. Shiki wasn't one to idle, after all...

The other reason why he didn't travel via trees was simply due to his (clumsiness) uncoordinated limbs. He wouldn't be able to keep his balance whilst cloud watching. And he suspects that Shi-chan was silently crying rivers of blood at how awkward this body was now - thank god he didn't know where Shi-chan's consciousness has gone to. Maybe character-Shiki has already disappeared entirely, or maybe they merged. Thus why he was having a hard time distinguishing between Shi-chan and himself.

He hoped it was the former. Merging with a psycho wasn't something he wanted. But it explained so many things...

"Look, boys. A lone traveler. And no forehead protector - ain't a shinobi!" A shrilly male's voice spoke as a group of bandits moved to surround Shiki in a circle, far enough to keep out of reach, but close enough to intimidate.

Oh great. Just as he was about to have an epiphany, he gets interrupted. He reluctantly tore his sights away from the fluffy clouds and stared impassively at the man who spoke. He waited with bated breath, expecting to feel some sort of denial and/or distress since, on the inside, he was still a civilian woman who only has experience with cutting dead bodies open.

Nothing of that sort happened, even as his eyes took in all the crude looking men.

He felt no fear.

Only anticipation.


Shi-chan was yelling for their blood.

He bowed his head and worried his bottom lip, trying desperately to contain his dark passenger. It was difficult. His facial muscles fought to keep a neutral expression, to prevent a demented grin from splitting it in half. That ugly thing wanted to be let out.

"What's this? Scared? Hahahaha! Let's teach this pretty boy a lesson, eh?! I'm sure some pervert would pay a great price for him." The same person crooned as the men laughed and leered.

... Slave traders. Filth, the whole lot of them.

As he wasn't in the right mind to pay attention to his surroundings, he didn't realize that one of them had gotten close. As soon as he felt a hand touch his forearm, he lashed out.

He didn't realize that his soft features had twisted into an ugly smile with too many teeth.

He didn't realize that his half-lidded eyes were now wide and full of bloodlust - his pupils blown to hell and back.

He didn't realize that Shi-chan's urges had overwritten him.

His body moved with muscle memory alone, reaching into his inventory seal and smoothly sliding out a katana that was known to be the best in the game (a present from shishou). It danced through the air and beheaded the bandits within seconds. There was no epic Ninjutsu or fancy moves. Just pure and lethal Kenjutsu.

The 'fight' (if it could be called that) ended within moments of him pulling out his blade. Blood painted the ground almost beautifully. His crimson red eyes (when did he activate them?) were wild as they took in all the bodies in with a perverted sense of detachment; as if wanting to burn this carnage into his memory permanently.

And then his breath started to hitch, lust coursing through his veins and stirring his lower region. His left hand still held his katana loosely, but his right had already started to palm his crotch. He dropped to his knees and moaned lewdly, his half-lidded eyes not once straying from the bodies littering the floor.

Nimble fingers freed his dick from its confines, already rock hard and slick with pre-cum. He didn't hesitate to crawl over to the nearest corpse. And like an animal, he licked and nibbled at the body's neck, his teeth grazing the jugular vein in an overly teasing but dangerous manner if the person had still been alive - especially with how sharp his fangs were.

This was his ritual. A way of claiming what he considered to be his.

His hands, which were now free of mittens, roamed the unmoving body as if a lover's caress. He enjoyed the feeling of skin that was slowly but surely losing its warmth due to the cold embrace of death. It was all so intoxicating.

He all but tore the clothing off the corpse. He wanted to feel more skin. He needed to.

More more more more!


"Mmnnh..." His spine arched as he released another groan of pleasure, his hips doubling its speed to gain more (sweet, sweet) friction, rubbing aggressively against the cooling body's thigh. He was close. Oh very close. The pressure building in his lower abdomen was maddening. His head, full of nothing but desire, was then recklessly tossed back, neck bared and pupils dilated as he came with a euphoric expression on his face. He didn't mind the drool that dribbled down his chin, too caught up with riding out his orgasm.

It was only a few minutes later did he come down from his high to realize what the fuck he had done.

His pupils were still blown from pleasure, but his expression was twisted into something unidentifiable. This was a frightening eye-opening experience for him. To see first hand how disturbed Shi-chan's mind truly was. To be at the mercy of this body's lustful needs was too scary. His throat released a strangled sound. And without further delay, he scrambled off of the (sullied) corpse to tuck himself in before he all but ran from the scene of the crime, his mittens, coat, and face all splashed with the blood of the bandits.

And he felt no guilt.

This was now his reality.

Chapter Text

 It has been three weeks since his 'first kill'.  

Three. Long. Weeks. And he has yet to hear a peep from his ethical side.

It was maddening, to be honest. He wanted to wallow in self-pity or something along those lines, but those types of emotions were all but destroyed by this body's lack of moral understanding.

If he wanted to put what he had been experiencing into an easier to understand manner; he felt that taking a human's life was similar to stepping on ants. So why bother feeling remorse? Was what his dark passenger kept telling him in childlike ignorance.

Obviously, that in itself made him want to tear his hair in frustration. He felt revolted by his (mostly Shi-chan's) lack of morality. He knows he should be feeling guilt, self-hatred, regret, remorse, and whatever else after an act of murder. He didn't. Which was why he was so frustrated.

Before the merge, what he learned growing up was simple; you do something wrong, you get punished. So he, in a fit of masochistic delight, was expecting his previous self's subconscious to whip out the big guns in the form of night terrors and insomnia.

It, unfortunately, did not happen. In fact, it was the total opposite.

He slept like a baby after establishing a perimeter every night. And that truly scared him. He was afraid that sooner or later, he would not know the difference between right and wrong. The only thing stopping him from committing mass genocide was the knowledge that that would be heavily frowned upon on.

And the (blood)lust. Fuck... That insane urge to own someone's death was intense, overbearing, and uncontrollable. Shiki was one messed up son of a bitch and he can't believe he actually created someone like this. Sure, it wasn't on purpose since he thought Shiki a game character, but fuck did he regret it. So very much.

But since he couldn't do anything to change the past, he would prepare himself for the future. And that meant self-control exercises and meditation (lots of it). He would also have to pretend that this body was normal. In order to do just that, he resolved to solve all conflicts with words and not violence (Rikudō Sennin-sama would be so proud he was taking the mantle of peacekeeper seriously). But because he was socially retarded... It has been a challenge.

That was why he now traveled the ninja way - to get away from the civilian roads where bandits crowded for their next unsuspecting victims. He had to drop cloud watching entirely due to his clumsiness, having fallen from the trees one too many times when he got distracted and tripped over his own ankles, so Shi-chan hated him for it. But what other option did he have?

He did not once succeed in keeping Shi-chan's rather disturbing ritualistic habit at bay. No matter what he did, he would still end up being a servant to this body's needs. He cruelly toyed with the dead, sometimes even dancing with their corpses. He even defiled them at one point when the urge got too strong. And the even scarier part? His latest one-sided massacre ended up with him coming back from his high to only realize that his deranged dark passenger had ended up sticking his meatstick into a dead nukenin.

Gods, that had been beyond traumatizing to his female side.

With a quick shake of his head, he rid himself of that thought. He preferred to not remember any of that, thank you very much.

It was just past sundown when he spotted a rural village just a hundred or so meters from him, and judging by the size, the population could not be more than a thousand or two. He almost cheered at the first sign of civilization. So what if this wasn't Konohagakure? He wanted to sleep in a bed for fuck's sake! The ground has been slowly killing his back.

As soon as he was at the edge of the forest, just a couple of meters away from the entrance of the small village, he halted in his steps and crouched on top of a branch with cat-like balance, his whole body stilling as he blended in with the foliage. He then closed his eyes in concentration. It was, truthfully, another futile effort to sense the chakra signatures of the villagers.

He found out pretty early during his first month in this world that he was inept in the chakra detecting department. And not for the lack of trying, too. He suspected that this was due to this body only having basic chakra sensing capabilities... Or in gaming terms; he didn't 'up' the skill and left it at level 1. After all, why would he ever require a skill like sensing when the game already provided an enemy radar for the player? It was the most useless skill in the game.

He sighed ruefully. It was truly regrettable.

He should've Mastered all of his skills... regardless of their lack of usage (he had enough skill points for it too). And if he were to be completely honest, it was rather embarrassing that he did not Master the many basic ninja skills. Oh, sure, it was quite common for the majority of the players to leave out Shurikenjutsu and the likes due to their lack of offensive capabilities, but really... What kind of ninja in the Narutoverse could not even sense someone standing right in front of them? Or you, know, have the decency to throw a kunai properly. 

Yeah... It was a wonder how Shiki was allowed to graduate at all from the academy. Or how Shiki managed to survive this long without mastering the basics.

This made him worry his bottom lip.

What if he was only strong in the game? He relied far too much on his in-game knowledge, and most of them were unreliable in this world. All of the basic skills required for a ninja to build their foundations on, he simply did not have. But thank fucking god did he Master all of the passive skills required for stealth and advanced chakra manipulation - he created Shiki to be a highly dangerous infiltration, information gathering, and deception specialist, after all... Though that was somehow twisted after turning into a nukenin...

Knowing that it was useless for him to think about the 'what ifs', he focused more on what he could do to improve himself. It would be better for him to cover up his weak spots before they could be exploited by an enemy. This body was too imbalanced; and not in a good way. 

Now then, enough planning and sad thoughts... It was time to explore the village!

With a grunt, he dropped from the branch and landed on the ground with the grace of a feline; silent and deadly.

As he walked through the village, the villagers, much to his ever-growing irritation, glared at him with piercing eyes full of fear and unwelcomed body language. There weren't many people present, and for those that were out in the open, they appeared wary and constantly on guard.

Seeing that most (if not all) of the shops were in the process of closing for the day, he decided to search for a place to stay after a quick look around. When he entered the only tavern he saw, the majority of the people turned to him, some even outright glaring. Wow, seriously. These guys truly despise outsiders.

He remained stoic on the outside but was inwardly keeping all of his senses open for any unexpected attacks. He then sauntered to where a barmaid was wiping a mug and asked for a room. She scowled at him with suspicion, her squinty eyes lingering on the Uchiha crest sewn on his armband longer than strictly necessary.

As if deciding that it wasn't worth delaying him with her silent treatment, she extended her hand, palm up. He placed the exact amount required for a three days' stay, thankful that she at least had the decency to put up the price tags on the wall behind of her.

Nodding casually once he received a key with the number 107 on it, he left the dining area and climbed the stairs at her prompting. As soon as he entered his assigned room, he took out two pieces of papyrus paper, an inkpot, and a fountain pen. Thanks to his Mastery over Fūinjutsu, it only took a couple of moments for him to create a simple proximity seal. One for the window and one for the door.

If anybody were to trespass, bells would ring inside his head and kick him into awareness. He then installed a few nasty traps that would (brutally) skewer a person should they have the balls to barge into a shinobi's room. Having decided that that was enough security, he took a quick shower, changed into a plain grey jinbei, and slept like the dead. 

The first thing he did when he woke up was to work out.

If his previous-self had been told that he would be exercising every day for at least three hours before the sun even rose, he would've flipped the person off and cussed their whole eighteen generations for ever spouting such exhausting bullshite.

Yeah... He wasn't an active person back then. At all. The most he did was walk to work. Now though, he simply couldn't stay lazy. It would be a complete crime - a sin - to not keep such a hot body in tip-top condition. These abs were able to substitute cheese grinders, dudes.

After a thorough workout session (created by younger-Shiki), he showered quickly and changed into a more civilian-friendly attire consisting of a dark blue yukata held together by a white sash, geta sandals, and mittens. He, however, couldn't help but grimace at what was sown on the back of it (luckily small enough to be covered easily by his hair). Uchiha and their clan pride meant that all of his clothing and equipment had the clan's crest on them. Even underwear. 

Seeing that there weren't any mirrors anywhere, he tied his hair into a low ponytail with the ends reaching just below his arse, whilst styling his front with muscle memory alone. His two eartails were tied using a string of bandages, whilst the top part of his hair that was spiked up like a bird's nest was left untamed.

He left the room just as the sun began to rise, feeling refreshed and without a single complaint from his back. And if his traps were still active... Well, tough luck on whoever got skewered. He was kinda looking forward to seeing a human shish kebab... Er, no. He wasn't being sadistic. Just call it curiosity. Besides, he needed dead bodies to practice his self-restraint on, anyway.

Killing two birds with one stone, as they say.

Anyway, he left the establishment without anyone the wiser, already looking around in search of a place to eat. He was inwardly quite pleased to see that the villagers that work with pushcarts and food stands were already in the midst of prepping.

He soon wandered onto a bench near the food stands with a plate full of takoyaki and ebiyaki, trying to fight back the drool that was threatening to leak from his lips. Ah, the smell of real food was beyond divine.

Whilst he slowly ate, relishing in the flavors, he learned plenty from the other customers. Especially about the ongoing shinobi war that was getting close to the land of Fire's borders; meaning that this village would be one of the firsts to be attacked. He pretended to pay no attention to their gossiping as he continued nibbling on his takoyaki. Now, he finally knew when in the timeline he had been thrown in. Not exact, per se, but he estimated that they were a few years into the Third Shinobi War.

Just by hearing how fearful they were of the prospect of Iwa invading them, it was no wonder they felt frightened when they saw an unknown shinobi walking down their streets just the day before. It was only due to the Uchiha flag on his armband as well as Konoha's Uzu spiral that his arrival did not result in an evacuation.

As soon as he finished his meal, he went for desserts, which was a few sticks of dango and a couple of matcha daifuku. It wasn't long before his sharp ears caught the suspicious sound of feet scurrying the rooftops.

Yeah, he may be shite at sensing chakra, but this body's awareness was monstrous enough for him to instinctively know that there was a group of shinobi sneaking about. Hell, they didn't even bother restraining their (less than impressive) KI. It was so obvious that it was pathetic. 

The sitting area that was originally filled with voices bargaining for lower prices, gossips, and whatnot, soon turned eerily silent. A shinobi with an Iwa forehead protector appeared right in the middle of the streets. It took a few moments longer for the civilians to process that there was an enemy shinobi amidst them.

Those precious seconds costed more than a few lives. Screams of terror and pain were heard as more and more Iwa shinobi appeared, slaughtering anyone close enough with a kunai in hand. Some were even squashed like bugs underneath all the heavy Earth Style Jutsu.

He swallowed the dango he had been chewing, yet his mouth remained dry as he stared blankly at all the blood and bodies splattered all over the floor.

Well... Shite. This was taking self-restraint exercises to a whole new level. 

With a mournful side glance thrown towards his leftover desserts, he flicked the dango sticks aside and stood without an ounce of panic, his hand already pulling out his favored katana from his inventory. Inwardly, however, he was pouting at the fact that he wasn't skilled enough to use the dango sticks as weapons (it would've made him look so badarse). Sure, he could use them for stabbing, but what he wanted more was to use them as if they were senbon.

It truly was sad that this body didn't even have the skills and accuracy required for throwing weapons to hit home. In fact, he knew from a certain memory provided by a snickering Shi-chan, that his aim was as sad as a civilian kid playing ninja.

Having said that... He leisurely tilted his head slightly to the side when a shuriken went sailing at him at a speed civilians would never be able to react to. The Iwa kunoichi made a mistake of underestimating her target, thinking him dead soon, she turned away, already throwing her next batch of shuriken aimed at whoever was in her sights. 

One might wonder why she couldn't sense that his chakra coils were matured and his reserves massive. Well, the answer was simple. Majority of his passive skills were more focused on hiding his chakra signature and presence. This made the majority (if not all) of the high-level NPCs think of him as nothing but a random inanimate object if he so willed it. The only one able to catch him when he sneaked was his shishou... Which always made young-Shiki petulant and murderous throughout the day. 

So without further ado, he rushed towards the kunoichi with his blade drawn in his right hand and the sheath held in his left. She didn't even realize she had been beheaded as her eyes widened with shock and her head airborne.

Shi-chan cackled in his head, cooing at the fountain of blood that bathed him from head to toe. He didn't even bother taking a step back, the warm and sticky liquid causing him to shudder in euphoria rather than repulsion.

He activated his Sharingan, his eyes bleeding crimson as three tomoes swirled to life, allowing for the world around him to turn sharp. He released a breathy chuckle as his crimson eyes took in all of the Iwa ninjas' positions, their body language, their muscle twitches, their Jutsu formations. Everything.

It took all but a second for him to deactivate all of his passive skills, in turn causing his KI to turn practically tangible. It made heads swirl to him, faces pale and knees wobbly. The foreign ninjas all charged at him due to their fight instincts deeming him a threat they could not take on alone.


Come to him. Because he felt it too bothersome to go to them.

He licked his lips, undisturbed by the metallic taste as his tongue lapped the blood splatters on his face.

This was going to be fun... Just like those times when he went nukenin hunting in the 'dungeons'.


When Namikaze Minato arrived at Mori Village for his S-rank mission; to intercept an unknown number of Iwa nin and prevent them from crossing their borders, he did not expect the streets to be littered with corpses, blood splatters, wastes, and crying civilians.

His fists clenched as he remained crouched on a random rooftop overlooking the main street. He fought the bile that threatened to leave his stomach at the heavy scent of death. Having failed all these people, he couldn't help but feel a stab of guilt. If he had been faster, he would've been able to prevent this cruel massacre from happening. Many lives could have been saved. 

Slapping his cheeks with the intention of not losing himself to those feelings, he pushed all of those thoughts to the back of his mind, knowing that he couldn't allow emotions to cloud his judgment during a mission. Shinobi needed to be clinical and rational.

As he made his way through the small village via the rooftops, he felt it suspicious for there to still be survivors. Not to sound cold and ungrateful, but if he had been sent to destroy a village close to Iwa's borders, he would've annihilated them - and even then, he would've razed the village to the ground in a show of strength, warning, and threat. Meaning no survivors. No matter how much nightmares he would obtain afterward.

It was at this moment of time did he came across a lone figure standing in the middle of the many Iwa nin corpses. Minato crouched lower on the rooftop and curled his chakra tighter around himself, not allowing any slips in case this was an enemy shinobi. 

The way the figure stood caused the hidden Konoha nin to think them male. Even with his back turned to Minato, it was obvious that his yukata was thoroughly soaked in blood, along with the beautiful katana in his right hand. When the unknown shinobi swung the dangerous weapon in an arc to rid the blade of blood, Minato couldn't help but loosen his muscles to prepare himself for a fight. The man's movements were precise, elegant, and deadly.

When the figure took a step forward, he noted that the person's muscles were tensed, his neck veins bulging as if holding himself back from moving too much. As if restraining himself from doing... something.

It was peculiar. Had he been injured, perhaps?

It was when the unknown threat took a hold of his ponytail to wring the blood from it did he spot a familiar red and white fan sewed on the yukata he wore. It was a miracle in itself that that particular section was unblemished and untouched from any bodily fluids. 

An Uchiha...

He sucked in a breath at that. Minato knew that the clan was dangerous, but to have killed so many Iwa nin on his own... The man was definitely a high jounin - maybe even an unmasked ANBU captain. It was, however, strange that the shinobi wore a yukata rather than durable ninja clothes, which offered better protection. Perhaps the Uchiha was in the middle of an infiltration mission when he saw this village in trouble and decided to help?

Minato shook his head. It would not do to make random assumptions. The Uchiha might not even be an Uchiha. Perhaps someone who stole the clothes of an Uchiha. That theory, however, was proven wrong when the person's head turned slightly to Minato's direction. His eyes were crimson with three tomoes.

Minato couldn't help but shudder. Definitely an Uchiha, then. Those eyes were creepy. Beautiful but extremely blood-curdling. 

With that, he flared his chakra in designed ANBU Morse code, wanting to alert the other before he approached. He knew that shinobi were jumpy, and after such a bloodbath, anybody would react negatively to being startled. He knew of many such cases where allies accidentally attacked the other due to still being in 'battle mode'.

After waiting for a few moments without a response, Minato raised a confused brow. The Uchiha seemed to be oblivious to his Morse question. Or he was blatantly choosing to ignore Minato. Eh, probably the latter. All Uchiha were prideful, after all. Perhaps he didn't want others to approach him in such a... state.

Knowing that his mission has been (somewhat) completed by an ally, he decided to back off slightly. He would give the Uchiha a semblance of privacy for a bit before he all but grill the man for details. He made sure to inform the Uchiha via chakra Morse. 

Namikaze Minato, the youngest to have been promoted to an ANBU captain (now an ex-ANBU due to taking an apprentice), was pouting.


It was because of the unknown Uchiha, of course. 

The ass had actually taken his chance to leave whilst Minato was busy with other important matters. Damn the arrogant nature of all Uchiha! And the man didn't even have the decency to clean after himself! Minato had grumbled petulantly as he sealed all of the Iwa nin's bodies for the autopsy branch within the T&I division, and as he worked, he cursed the Uchiha to hell and back.

It took him a few days before he felt it safe enough to leave the village, knowing that no other enemy shinobi would be coming anytime soon. As he rushed to return from his mission, already having traveled for a number of days, he blinked when he spotted a familiar figure running lackadaisically ahead of him.

Hm? Wasn't that the Uchiha?! It took him a while to realize due to the change of clothes and the lack of chakra signature. He was a sensor, yet the person in front of him felt like air. There, yet not there at the same time. 

... Wait... He was distracted from his thoughts when the clothing fully registered in his mind. Was the Uchiha wearing the T&I black coat? How strange. Never before has he seen an Uchiha in the T&I division. They tend to stick with the Police Force or the ANBU.

When Minato parted his lips, ready to call out to the Uchiha with sarcasm at the tip of his tongue, he saw something that he never imagined he would ever see from a person belonging to such a stuffy and condescending graceful clan.

The Uchiha tripped.

Over his own ankle.


It was so unbelievable he had to pinch himself to check if he was in a Genjutsu. And when he found out that this was real, he decided that it was simply too glorious.

The Uchiha's arms even flailed around as he tried to regain his balance on the tree branch. And Minato fought hard - he truly did - to not burst into mad cackles when the Uchiha actually tumbled into the river below of them. Actually, scratch that. He did let loose a hyena-worthy laughter, unable to contain his mirth any longer as he heard a big splash.

He peered into the water's depths, his eyes filled with unshed tears as he snickered once in a while. The memory kept replaying in his head and he couldn't help but cherish it. It was such a mundane thing. But he was thankful for actually being able to laugh during such a violent time. War has made all of them too wary to enjoy the silly things in life. 

However funny this may be, he would never dare speak of this to anyone. The Uchiha would flay him. But this did make excellent blackmail material.

When a whole minute passed by with the Uchiha not resurfacing, Minato began to worry. The Uchiha could not possibly be ditzy enough to not learn how to swim, right? They couldn't possibly be drowning right now, right?


Minato didn't think twice before he dived into the river, his blue eyes widening when he saw the Uchiha sinking like a hammer, the man's eyes shut as he clawed around to find leverage.


The Uchiha couldn't swim.


Even during such a dire situation, Minato couldn't help but snort. This was utterly ridiculous. The damn Uchiha was like an accident waiting to happen. From now on, he would be calling this particular Uchiha 'Klutz' in his head. And maybe have a few words with Fugaku about allowing such a clumsy person out in the field without a partner.

He made sure to flare his chakra slightly to alert the man of his presence. As he wrapped his arm around the slender waist, he almost earned a black eye for his efforts. Not at all impressed by the defiance (and he was still somewhat pissed at the man for leaving him behind), he blocked Klutz's mean hook and kicked him in the stomach, making sure that it was in the direction above.

Hopefully, that would clear the idiot's head. Who the hell attacks their savior?! 


Chapter Text

Shiki cussed like a sailor under his breath as he leaped from tree to tree. He knew he was the definition of lost and was going round in circles; the proof being that tree he just so happens to pass by. It was the familiar one with some scratches that appeared similar to a cat being strangled. How it was possible for one to be so inept at directions left him speechless. Even Shi-chan, his Id, went silent at his lack of aptitude for being a survivalist. Yes, he was so useless that even it had given up on him.

Some may wonder why he referred to his dark passenger as his Id when he normally introduced it as his instincts and call it a day. It was an odd thing, really; but he was reminded of Sigmund Freud's theory when he stole a cold drink before leaving that rural village. Psychology was something he liked to read about during his free time, so it wouldn't be all that surprising that certain things trigger that side of him.

He knew that Shi-chan was this body's deepest urges, its natural tendency - instinct; thus it was fit to call it his Id. Female-him, as emotionally constipated as she was, was his Superego. And Shiki, being the merged version of them both, was the Ego.

It would be confusing to those who don't read the basic of psychology, but to put it in simple layman terms; think devil-angel shoulders. The Id was considered the devil, the Superego was considered the angel, and the Ego was considered the human who compromises for the two.

This body was all Shi-chan, the brain, the hormones, the feelings and emotions (or lack thereof), everything that made Shiki him. The mind, however, was all Female-him - the habits, the personality, and everything in between. However, it was difficult to separate them and put certain things into boxes. He can't categorize and label them. Just like how he thought he would be getting her morality... he got Shi-chan's. And just like how he thought he would be getting Shi-chan's survival habits... he got hers.

Anyway, all of that wasn't important (they were). What was urgently needed to be fixed was his sense of direction. He knew that he was in the Land of Fire, but somehow, Konoha kept slipping through his fingers.

Well, believe it or not, but at least being lost became a good distraction... His dark passenger had (finally) halted those tempting whispers for him to turn back and ravage those Iwa nin corpses. In fact, he hasn't even heard a peep from it after the third time he circled this area(?) whilst trying to run in a straight line. It was probably hiding deep inside of him in order to be away from his uselessness - to avoid the humiliation of sharing this body with him. 

He truly couldn't blame it. He wanted to dig up a hole and die from mortification, too. 

With a sigh, he tilted his head back and watched the clouds that were partially covered by the forests' leaves. He, however, should've known better than to become distracted when traveling the ninja way.

His right foot overextended slightly and when he tried to fix that partial mistake, his left foot came down at a weird angle. The result was plain obvious; he tripped all over himself. As he swung his arms around for balance, trying to somehow save his dignity, he ended up toppling down faster than a boulder dropping from an airplane. He wouldn't have minded crying about the unfairness of it all, but what he saw below of him made his onyx eyes widen in horror.

There was a river just under him. And it appeared deep enough; meaning he could die if he was not careful.

Thankfully, Shi-chan abruptly took over at the sight of mother nature (his clumsiness, really) trying to kill him. Instincts forced his hands to flash through a set of seals required for a Kawarimi, his target being a block of wood he saw by the riverside.

Now, before he left the small village, he should have at least washed off his bad karma after slaughtering a few dozen shinobi just a few days ago. Or even sprinkle salt or something to keep the bad spirits away. Bad luck, after all, came in spades. He (of course) formed the snake seal wrongly, having placed his right thumb outside rather than his left, causing his jutsu to become ineffective.

Before a cuss could even escape his lips, he hit the water.


If one wanted to look at the silver lining... at least Shi-chan was so shocked at his incompetence that it retreated to the back of his mind to sleep this shame away, if he survived, anyway... ahahaha... bollocks. He was going to die. All because of his carelessness and his inability to swim. What a complete and utterly pathetic way to go. Why didn't he water walk, anyway? His chakra control was at Master skill level, for fuck's sake - unlike his hand seals!

Fucking Basic skill levels came to bite him in the arse again. Once more, he has to question how the fuck Shiki was able to graduate from the academy with such shaky foundations.

With his eyes firmly shut, not wanting to see the end result of his stupidity, he continued to sink deeper into its depths, his hands clawing around as if searching for some sort of lifeline. A wayward vine right now would be magnificent, please, Kami-sama!

His prayer, of course, wasn't answered (he wasn't expecting it, anyway), but something else did - or someone. Just in time, too.

At the moment of strange apathy when he was all about to say 'fuck it' and sleep the experience away, feeling it too bothersome to be dealt with; he felt an arm snake around his waist. Not having expected it, he lashed out with a right hook - much to his ever-growing horror.

His detachment to his own life abruptly disappeared, and in its place was a growing desperation to live.  

No, no! He was so sorry! Please, continue to save him! He didn't mean to act like an ungrateful son of a bitch! Don't leave him to die...!

His savior, thankfully, must've been a jounin or at least someone strong enough for them to deflect his attack. The person even acted like a total shite and knocked the breath out of him when they countered with a kick to his gut. Ok, he agreed he kinda deserved that. And wow. The blow was strong enough that he broke through the water's surface.

He twisted his body whilst in the air and landed elegantly (much to his surprise) atop the water's surface, his knees bent slightly as he fell into a familiar and comfortable battle stance. His graceful landing, however, was completely destroyed as he kept coughing out mouthful after mouthful of water. He didn't even notice he had breathed in so much... or the fact that his savior was standing right there and was looking at him like it pained them to not roll on the water laughing like a mad hyena. His state was quite pitiful, after all.

When he finally managed to get all of the water out of his lungs, he rubbed his face before peeking at his savior, irritatingly pushing his hair away from his bloodshot eyes. The ninja, for he was obviously a ninja, was scrutinizing Shiki up and down, having stopped for a split second when they landed on the Uchiha crest sewn on the red armband he wore on his left bicep.

As he was being examined, he took this chance to study the other man in return.

The equally soaked shinobi looked to be around seventeen or eighteen in age, standing at about 5'9 in height (an inch or two taller than him), with slightly spiky blonde hair and bright blue eyes. Namikaze Minato, for it was obvious who this was, wore a standard navy blue Konoha uniform with two bands tied on both sides of his sleeves, an outdated (to Shiki, anyway) green flak jacket, a blue hitai-ate, and a pair of open-toed blue ninja sandals.

Overall, Namikaze Minato made his dark passenger uncomfortable. He was confused at first, but thanks to a fleeting flashback, he understood. It was due to the apparent similarity to an older man with the exact shade of blue eyes and blonde hair. Basically, Minato reminded Shi-chan of an older Uzumaki Naruto... Younger-Shiki's shishou.

He shook his head slightly to rid his thoughts on the hows and whatthefucks. He needed to focus on the present. 

Now then... How should he proceed from here? The original Shiki was a tight-lipped psychopath and Female-him has always been an anti-social recluse. Not to mention how embarrassed he was currently feeling at having someone fish him out. And For the love of all that was holy, he seriously hoped that Minato did not see how he came to be drowning in a river.

"... Did you have a nice trip through the waters, Uchiha-san?" Minato broke the silence whilst giving him a shite eating grin, much to his budding dread.

Son of a-! W-was Minato mocking him? And was that a pun?! Oh, don't get him wrong. He loves puns. But now? Whilst he was soaking wet and miserable? No. Just... No.

Untimely jokes aside, he couldn't help but flush at the teen's implications, his pale cheeks gaining a pinkish hue as he fought to keep his facial expression as impassive as any other Uchiha. That settles it then. The future Yondaime Hokage saw him trip over his own ankle and fall into a river. Shiki's Uchiha ancestors must be rolling in their graves back at the game world right now.

When uncomfortable, show that their words affect you not; Female-him whispered (for the first time) from its hiding spot behind a mortified Shi-chan.

"Swimmingly." He replied as dry as the Sahara desert as he wrung his ponytail, fiercely imagining that he was squeezing the blood out of this bastard instead.

The Konoha nin's grin widened a fraction at his response. The words he spoke next, however, had thorns that were sweetly covered by an innocent tone of voice, "Are you shore? Dear me... perhaps it is your version of swimming that confused me. I could've sworn you had been wave-ing for help?"

He narrowed his eyes at the jerk.

They've just met, yet he was being completely unreasonable; fishing for reactions and trying to bait him into doing something he would definitely regret at a later date.

What did he ever do to deserve such disrespect from a stranger, anyway? Seeing that Minato was an orphan, he doubted that he had accidentally killed the teen's parents or something equally as boring. On the other hand, he swore he would undoubtedly be making orphan quips if he ever encountered this brat again in the future. 

"Hn. As if I would require help from the likes of you." He made sure to tilt his chin up higher, channeling his inner arsehole (AKA Uchiha Sasuke).

"Reel-ly?" The blonde tilted his head childishly to the side, his expression showing only guilelessness (as if). "Alright. No need to be a beach about it."

Breathe in... And out... In... and out... Now count back from twenty... There, there. No need to snap at such immature taunting. He was mentally 35. He shouldn't be easily provoked by someone who has not even entered their adulthood. Be mature about it, Shiki. Don't kill the father of the main character.

"Ah? Have I already stolen the breath out of you? I have an ocean more of words. Enough to drown you in them, Uchiha-san." The teen eye-smiled similarly to a certain masked jounin in the anime.

He glowered at the punk, tempted to show the blonde that drowning was the least of his concerns.

Water off a duck's back, Shiki; Female-him interrupted his murderous thoughts, its arms wrapped around Shi-chan's bodiless waist.

"Whale, I can sea your lack of humor, Uchiha-san. I suppose I'll stop for now. My name's Namikaze Minato. It's a pleasure to meet you." The bastard beamed at Shiki as if he had not just built a raft in their relationship(?).

... Oh, great. He was beginning to unintentionally pun in his thoughts, now that he looked back at their conversation.

"Hn." He walked towards the river's edge, making sure to keep his eyes on the blonde at all times.

"Usually, when somebody introduces themselves, you should return the favor. I have always thought the Uchiha clan bred only well-mannered members." Minato followed after him, the future Yondaime showing nothing but an open body language and a friendly smile.

Too bad his words were dripping with poison. 

Shiki would've believed the teenager's friendliness if not for the git's passive-aggressiveness. And, seriously? Bred? What did Minato think the Uchiha clan was? A breeding ground that pops out pompous puppies? Talk about back-handed compliments... Or rather, what was with this brat's hostile attitude?! Wasn't the Yellow Flash reputed to be 'cool and collected' as well as 'respectful to opponents' throughout the anime series?!

If this little shite couldn't even have the decency to be polite to a fellow Konoha nin, how in the hell was he respectful to an enemy?! Fucking narutowikia only spouts bullshite.

"Uchiha Shiki." His eyes narrowed unpleasantly at the not-yet-adult walking alongside him. "Why are you following me."

"Hm? Ah. I reckon we should head to Konoha together. Since you botched my mission, I need to add in your side of the story for my report." He saw the blonde give him an irritated look from the corner of his eyes, much to his confusion. His skepticism must've shown on his face because Minato elaborated, "At Mori Village. You took out all of the Iwa Nin... Not even leaving behind one for me to interrogate. I even announced my presence and signaled via chakra for you to remain where you are so that I could write you into the report - and you bailed on me!"

"... Hn."

He skillfully ignored the shame he felt for not being able to sense the chakra the blonde must've flared back then. He didn't need to announce his disability to the world. Especially to this rather vengeful brat. Just because he 'bailed' (was oblivious), didn't mean the blonde had the right to continuously serve him cold dishes one after the other. Once was enough, for fuck's sake.

Suddenly he stopped, causing Minato to turn to him with one eyebrow raised.

"... Are you stalking me?" He took a step back as he glared at the teen warily.

Minato sputtered, "Of course not! It was only coincidence that I spotted you. No idea why you are still in the area when you had a head start." This time, it was Minato who stared warily at Shiki, though there was mirth not-so-hidden in those blue eyes of his, "Maybe... Were you, perhaps, waiting for me? D'aw...! So you're just a tsundere! Or maybe a kuudere? No, wait, let me guess... a hinedere?"

"Excuse me?!" He squawked rather un-Uchiha-like, "I am not a tsundere!" Or any other type of dere! In fact, it should be Minato who should be sicked with a certain dere... a sadodere! Hmph!  

"Does that mean you admit to being the other two? No need to be shy~" Minato leaned in closer so that their noses were only centimeters apart, his grin showing far too many teeth for Shiki to be comfortable, "You can be honest with me, Shiki-chan~"

He blanched at the suffix.

He didn't know whether to feel disturbed that Minato had deemed them friendly enough to put such an 'endearing' honorific behind his name, or relieved that he had not been called 'Shi-chan'. 

"Have you not heard of the concept of personal space, Namikaze-san?" He took another step back as he tried to gain distance from the overly friendly passive-aggressive teen.

"There you go again - being coy with me. It's so very tempting to bite, ya know?" The blonde's grin took on a rather dangerous edge before a friendly smile replaced it, "Hm, that's fine. We have time to get to know each other back at the village. For now, I need your sitrep concerning the Iwa nins."

As soon as Minato turned on his heels and started walking towards a direction that may lead them to Konoha, Shiki couldn't help but shudder - both at the teen's words and expression. The guy was definitely (bipolar) dangerous. Despite his soft features, it was no wonder Minato has a 'flee-on-sight' order... or would have, anyway. It was confusing since the anime never specified when the order was given, or even most of Minato's backstory other than the obvious 'fastest and strongest shinobi of his generation'.

When the blonde looked over his shoulder, Shiki took that as a warning to keep up. He didn't need another indicator as he quickly slipped beside of Minato, his posture tensed as he stared straight ahead. Shi-chan was hovering along the edges of his consciousness, ready to take over at the first sign of danger.


Shiki scowled at Minato's prompt but nevertheless obeyed, knowing that the faster he got this over with, the faster he could get rid of the pain in the arse.

"At around 0730 hours, a total of 60 Iwa nin - I would say that most, if not all of them, were low chuunin as none were exactly noteworthy - arrive at the village. Before I could have acted, they have already started cleaning the streets of civilians. The only way for me to prevent further casualties were to attract their attention by releasing my chakra mixed with Killing Intent. They took the bait. I soon disposed of them all with Kenjutsu. That is all." He drawled.

"What were you doing in Mori Village?"

"I was on my way to Konoha when I decided to take a short rest there. It was only by chance that I was in the village."

"Were you injured during the... skirmish?" The last word sounded weird when Minato said it. Shiki dutifully didn't correct the teen that it was more of a one-sided massacre than a fight. The wounds on the Iwa nins' bodies should be evident enough. 

"No. They were weak." He stated with disinterest. 

"I see..." Again, the blonde sounded off. He wasn't sure why. "That's good, then. What did you do afterward, Uchiha-san?"

"I was a little... enthusiastic with my dispatch. I had to change my clothes lest I be mistaken for a savage."

"Hm. Yes, I did see the state you were in. Quite... messy." Minato confirmed, his eyes turning a shade darker, "Why is it that you are still in the area, Uchiha-san?"

He couldn't help but look away without another word, earning him a rather confused expression from the blonde. And then the teen just had to prove to Shiki that he was, indeed, a genius. The git connected the dots... somehow.

Minato's eyes were dancing with mirth as he covered his lips with a fist, his cheeks flushing slightly as he strained to not laugh. Despite his struggles, his voice quivered when he asked, or more like stated; "You were lost, weren't you, Shiki-chan?"

The blushed to the tips of his ears, not knowing how to respond to that other than a strangled 'hn'. 

"Maa, no need to be embarrassed, Shiki-chan. I'm sure everyone has gotten lost once or twice before. Despite being an Uchiha, I understand that you are an idiot- I mean, major klutz. But don't worry, not everybody can be bodily coordinated and graceful; some tend to be clumsier than others. Although I've never seen a shinobi with your grace and balance before - oh, pardon me, or lack thereof."

With every word Minato uttered, the poison seeped deeper into Shiki's mind, causing Shi-chan to howl in denial and Female-him to hide in a dark corner, beyond mortified. 

Shiki gritted his teeth and forced the blush away, scowling at nothing in particular as Minato chuckled at his misery. The fucking sadist. Alright. He didn't want to do this, but Minato left him no choice. 

He bit his bottom lip, hesitating slightly before he spoke, trying to hold back the pain of saying such words, "I apologize for disrupting your mission, Namikaze-san. It was wholly unintentional."

Minato was silent for a few moments before he smiled, this time, it was genuine, "You're fine, Shiki-chan. I'll need to add you to the report, but other than that, I must commend you for a job well done."

He ducked his head, both Female-him and younger-Shiki unused to praise. So it was completely expected that he replied the same way as any other Uchiha when it became too hard to find the proper words to express himself, "Hn."

It made the teen beside of him laugh freely, the expression on Minato's face quite youthful and breathtaking. Shiki, however, wouldn't be tricked. The blonde might look and act harmless, but one does not simply achieve the rank of Hokage by being gentle and soft.

He was wary of this guy (too fucking bipolar) but made sure to keep his expression blank - which wasn't all that hard to maintain since it seems that the majority of the Uchiha were born with sticks up their collective arses, unlike those few likable ones such as Shinsui and young-Obito who shite nothing but rainbows and sparkles.

As they ran in (surprisingly) companionable silence, inner Shiki shooed Shi-chan away, thinking that he would not be encountering any attacks from the blonde anytime soon, be they physically or verbally. After all, Minato seems to have forgiven him for ruining the teen's opportunity of killing Iwa nins. 

He doubted he would receive further cold dishes from the soon-to-be adult. 

"Hm, before I forget; worry not, Shiki-chan. Your secrets are safe with me. I'll be sure to not announce to the whole of Konoha that an Uchiha had been wondering the forest like a lost child, and then fallen - rather pathetically - into a river and almost drowned due to the lack of proper swimming techniques." Minato beamed.

... Scratch that, he spoke too soon.

It seems verbal attacks were Minato's specialty. And here he thought the brat was going to be likable. Not at all cute. Never ever trust a smiley-guy. They're all sadists on the inside.

"Hn." Whatever.

"Great!" And then the brat continued innocently, "Those mittens suit you, by the way. They compliment you, Shiki-chan."

Younger-Shiki would've been unfazed by the random compliment. Current-Shiki, on the other hand, felt his cheeks burn (again!) at those words. Just because he was using male pronouns didn't mean he has fully accepted his change of gender. It was less bothersome this way. He was still a woman inside... Kind of?

Not knowing how to respond to that, he stared ahead impassively.

Ignore. Ignore. Follow Female-him's advice and act as if nothing could phase him. 

The Yellow Flash only chuckled at the indignant Uchiha. Ah, damn all good looking men. It was such a sin for someone so handsome to be such a bully. 

... Hm? Wait a second. Wasn't Shiki considered good looking as well? Or a better question yet, was he into men or women now? He knew that Female-him wasn't into relationships in general, whilst Shi-chan was only into corpses...

Having been thoroughly distracted by that random stray thought, he did his best to remain stoic on the outside whilst he freaked over his sexuality on the inside. This time, both of them didn't speak, only enjoying the silence as they ran towards Konoha.

 Eventually, after a few hours of travel (and the few times Minato had to save him from face planting onto the ground), he, of course, grew relaxed enough to continue his daily activity of cloud watching. It was soothing to his body and mind, after all. Shi-chan and Female-him crooned in agreement.

As his mind wandered, he tugged at his mittens and stuffed them into his coat's pockets. Then he started to play with his chakra, shaping them into strings around his fingers - weaving them into random figures; one of them being the Eiffel tower and the running dog.

Ah, look. That cloud was shaped similar to a snail. How lovely... And fluffy... And poofy...

"Do you like cloud watching, Shiki-chan?" Minato's voice was quiet and soft as if the other did not want to startle him.

Shiki nodded slightly as his lips twitched upwards, half-lidded eyes not straying far from the snail-shaped fluff, "It's calming, yes."

"What have you seen so far?" The jounin asked with a soft look in those baby blue eyes. They were so similar to shishou...

Shiki flicked his eyes away from Minato's to continue with his activity.

"Animals, mostly. Do you see that snail...?" He tilted his head slightly so that he was pointing at a particular cloud with his chin.

"Mhm." The blonde hummed, "It's pretty big. Ah, and if you squint hard enough, the one beside it looks like a paw print. Do you see it, Shiki-chan?"

Surprisingly, there was another brief memory; of a younger-Shiki petting a brown furred pug and squishing their paws, expression completely relaxed and unlike the usual bloodthirsty smirk he often saw on the psycho's face during a mini flashback. There was also an older looking Kakashi standing slightly to younger-Shiki's side, the eye-smile prominent.

It was unexpected to see younger-Shiki interact with the main cast of Naruto other than, well, Naruto. He knew that he often brought character-Shiki to accept personal quests from the Hokage, but he didn't know that during his offline moments, character-Shiki was brimming with life.

"Hn. Paws are soft." He ended up saying, completely distracted by that realization.

"Hahaha! I should introduce you to my student's ninken. The small pug would always 'allow' someone to touch his paws as a reward." The blonde snorted.

"Sounds acceptable." He turned slightly to Minato, a small, barely there smile playing on his lips.

As they continued to run leisurely, the jounin kept staring at him, a bizarre expression plastered on his face that Shiki can't quite identify, "... You're different from the other Uchiha I've met."

That completely bothersome comment snapped him out of his peaceful state, his chakra strings spiking into thorns before he forcefully dispersed them. He was quick to tug his mittens back on, feeling more guarded with something covering his hands. Those words seemed to have rattled Shi-chan, giving him an odd sensation in his chest.

"... Right." He murmured, "Of course. Different..." Just like the backstory he had created for character-Shiki. An odd one out, even by shinobi standards. Character-Shiki would undoubtedly fit in with ROOT well enough. He was, after all, Danzo's wet dream come true. A child soldier who doesn't let emotions cloud their judgment, killing anybody that was assigned, no questions asked... 

Minato's brows furrowed, confusion evident on his face, "Yeah. Different. You just seem... kinder... softer - less harsh than your fellow clansmen. It's a good kind of different..." Minato trailed off, which only made Shiki doubt his words all the more. Of all the hours he has known Minato, backhanded compliments and passive aggressive comments were Minato's thing.

Kind and soft weren't even words one could put in the same sentence with Shiki. He decided to push everything to the back of his mind. The teen seemed to take the hint of him not wanting to continue the subject. And from the corner of his eyes, he spotted a penetrative gaze that was soon smoothened into nothingness.


How could he have forgotten? Or better yet, how could he have allowed his guard to drop?

Namikaze Minato was a prodigy, known to be as shrewd as he was loyal. A deadly combination to any nukenin. So he couldn't help but feel jittery now, gnawing on his lower lip whilst trying to keep his calm. There should be nothing for him to be worried about. Minato has mistaken him for a fellow Konoha nin, not a nukenin.

Afterall, before Itachi, not one Uchiha has defected from Konoha... apart from Madara and Obito (kind of?).

It was another few moments of tensed silence did he spot three faces carved into a huge arse mountain. Even though they were quite a distance away, they were highly noticeable. How was this considered a HIDDEN village, again?

When the two ninjas finally arrived near the towering walls and gates of Konohagakure, he silently sucked in a deep breath, a little tensed when he saw how crowded the place was. He wished for nothing more than a cigarette right now... Which was weird, considering he has not been craving for them ever since his arrival to this world.

Perhaps this was a side effect of them merging? He was slowly gaining some of his habits from before, triggered by some form of stimuli. This made him form a mental list of what he has found during his duration in this body.

Female-him's social retardedness, smoking habits, love for relaxation, dislike for people, and attachment to life.

Shi-chan's psychopathic tendencies, necrophilic habits, love for animals, dislike for bothersome things, and detachment to life.

Some were contradicting, whilst others connected well enough. He knew that there were more to be discovered - some he suspects would not be entirely pleasant. But, eh, whatever (and here it is; Shi-chan's dislike for bothersome things). He preferred not to confuse himself over such shenanigans from old man Ōtsutsuki, anyway. 

As they moved nearer to the village, he saw a long line of merchants queueing to enter and leave, their eyes showing envy at how easily Minato and Shiki passed them without any interference. He knew that they were in the warring era, so it was a no-brainer that Konoha was stocking up on consumables and supplies. 

When they proceeded to the guard station, Minato and he only needed to nod at the four chuunin guarding the gates, which they returned in kind. To him, it seems careless of the guards to not check their identifications. Perhaps it was due to his Uchiha looks and clan crest, and Minato's reputation amongst the ranks. Whatever. He won't look a gift horse in the mouth.

They split up after they entered the village, with Minato having to drop his report to the mission desk and Shiki seeing him off without hiding his glee. The words the blonde left behind sounded ominous, however.

"I'll find you in a week, Shiki-chan~ Oh, and don't worry, I already tagged you."

With an indignant huff, he pushed those words into the corner of his mind that was labeled 'junk'. This wasn't the time or place to get disturbed by petty words. He needed a plan. A foolproof one.

For now, he should get off the main street. It was far too crowded with children running around playing 'ninja' like undisciplined hooligans. The adults, however, all had wary eyes; too much surveillance even from civilians. They stared at every stranger (merchant or otherwise) that wasn't a Konoha shinobi or resident.

He was paranoid enough without needing any more eyes on him, thank you very much.

Luckily for him, however, the Uchiha fan made him blend in easier. Like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. He instinctively pulled in his chakra, his misdirection seal already activated as he walked through the streets, avoiding any bodily contact as he stuck close to the buildings.

Time for Shiki to show off why he was considered the best infiltration specialist in the game... 

Chapter Text

His first destination was an empty Training Ground. Why? To change out of his current set equipment, of course. Others might not seem to care about his fashion style, but he would rather not chance it. The equipment he wore, after all, were all from Boruto's generation. The flak jacket and standard jounin attire were far too conspicuous when compared to those at this point in time. 

In order to truly blend in with the other shinobi of this age, he needed to sadly seal away his current ensemble... until forty or so years later... Very depressing when he thought about it since he would be an old man by then.

As soon as he finished with checking the perimeter, he shrugged off his black trench coat and bunched up his left sleeve. Whilst Shi-chan kept its senses open for any signs of life, he took out the most inconspicuous outfit in his inventory.

With a forlorn expression, he stripped out of his modernized equipment and shoved them into his inventory seal, left forever to collect dust. Now, standing there surrounded by giant trees and clad only in his boxers, he openly sneered at the high collared black shirt in his hands, clearly not pleased with the selection. He had, unfortunately, no other equipment that boosted his stealth stats other than this. He would've ignored them as per usual if he was back in the game, but alas, he didn't want to take any risks whilst testing the waters. 

As soon as he donned it, he felt that as if he had betrayed himself. He looked too much like any other Uchiha shinobi. Which he hated. The first thing he would do after finishing this self-appointed quest, uh, mission, was to change and never look back. He'd rather stick with flowy Japanese clothing such as yukatas and the likes if he couldn't wear his main equipment.

After checking that he had not left anything behind, he wiped all traces of him ever being here and exited the training ground. Making sure to not be spotted, he jumped onto the nearest rooftop and ran swiftly in the direction of the Hokage mountain. 

Completely on instinct, he tightly suppressed his chakra to its limits, knowing full well from this body's past experiences that even a speck would allow for him to be identified. Chakra signature, after all, was similar to DNA. No one had the same print, not even twins.

Thankfully, his inability to figure out directions didn't apply when in Konoha. Even though the game was in Boruto's generation (meaning modernized Konoha), the basic layout remained somewhat the same. Furthermore, he knew where they kept all of the confidential documents from the game. Obviously, the place would be heavily guarded. But luckily for him, he had quite the number of quests involving stealing a document or two back in the game. The storage room should still be in the same location with the same seals and traps. And if they were different, he should be capable enough to dismantle any traps and seal due to having Mastered them.

Tilting his head slightly back, he mentally calculated the time. The sun, much to his satisfaction, was slowly beginning to set. Darkness was an old ally of his, making it harder for anybody below Kage level to even realize he was creeping about. Shi-chan, the paranoid bugger, was hovering close to his consciousness. His dark passenger knew the risks involve in infiltrations, what with being a specialist in that department, so it knew that mistakes would cost Shiki his life - or a nice trip to T&I - so it was acting as his hyper intuition.

But before he went to the purple admin building (he didn't know what the building was officially called), he took a detour.

With dextrous fingers, he retrieved two small paper seals from his ninja pouch on his left hip. A trickle of chakra later and they activated, sticking innocently on his right forearm. They were a misdirection seal and a scentless seal personally drawn by him using his own blood, and would last up to ten hours without him having to actively supply chakra to them. 

They worked so beautifully together with his lack of presence and godly chakra suppression skills that many players would often mistake him for a cheat character (hacker). Also, these seals were younger-Shiki's favorite, no matter how basic. The uses were plentiful for an infiltration specialist like him - especially assassination quests... uh, he meant missions (he seriously needed to get his mind out of using gaming terms).

He landed on the Hokage's office roof with the grace of a feline, his face devoid of emotion as he crouched close to the edge. Shi-chan whispered that there were only three ANBU in total - one inside the office itself and two by the door. Although he wasn't able to detect their chakra, he simply knew by relying on his other senses. No idea how, but he trusted Shi-chan, his instincts, to keep him well informed and safe.

He activated his Sharingan, peeped into the office for only a split second, and deactivated it soon after. His mind provided him with a crystal clear picture of the interior thanks to the Sharingan's imprinting properties. The medium sized office was sans Hokage and messy with paperwork. Hm. How very curious. He idly wondered why they kept two ANBU outside whilst only one remained inside.

Oh, well, easier for him to complete the first part of his mission.

With a bloodthirsty grin, he crawled into the office via the huge arse windows and sneaked behind the lone ANBU. Without the man realizing, he danced into the shinobi's sight, his left eye closed and his right eye colored purple with nine tomoe surrounding the pupil.

The ANBU didn't even have time to react, instantly falling into an impossible to break (unless the ANBU was secretly a Bijuu or the owner of a pair of Rinnegan) and well-crafted illusion of him guarding the office without any disturbance.

And yeah... He felt that using the Rinne Sharingan was beyond overkill; the Mangekyō would've worked well enough... but, uh, Shi-chan was a paranoid bastard. It kept whispering to him that it was a prudent course of action - to be safe than sorry. And, well, who was he to deny his instincts? Other than the needy desire to defile corpses, Shi-chan has never failed him before.

He wasn't a bloke who would hate someone - something - just because of a few imperfections.

Whilst the dazed shinobi remained hidden in the shadows, Shiki swept through the office until he found the ninja registration form. He swiped it into his inventory not a second later.

The next few minutes were spent with him searching for anything that could potentially help him in the future - stuffing them into his inventory whenever he decided that they were useful enough. He even nosed through some of the confidential paperwork the Hokage needed to sign, conveniently copying the military leader's handwriting and signature whilst at it. Unexpectedly, when he was shuffling through the desk, he found a drawer full of forehead protectors. With much glee, he took one and pushed it into his inventory.

Soon enough, Shi-chan whispered that it was vital that he leave. Now. Knowing the urgency of that request (demand), he slipped out from the window and dispelled the illusion. Not a second later, the two ANBU situated to guard the door had entered the office with another squad in tow.

Since part one of his mission was complete, he jumped off the office's rooftop and ran towards the shopping district, proceeding to part two. Easy enough, he found a photography shop, sneaked inside, took a photo of himself, and glued it onto his ninja registration form.

The third and final part of his mission would be the hardest, he deduced.

When he landed on a rooftop near the familiar purple building with spotlights and chunin guards roaming about, he kept his body low and hidden as he silently spread his senses. His dark passenger alerted him that there were even ANBU hidden nearby, out of sight and prepared to kill at a moment's notice. How underhanded of them to only show that there were only chunin around. Thankfully, shishou has departed a great deal of knowledge to younger-Shiki; one of them being to always look underneath the underneath. 

He patiently waited for the sun to disappear from the sky, his heavy-lidded eyes scanning the area with diligence. With the limited time and vision he has, he slowly memorized the patterns and routes of the guards. The ANBU were harder to locate, but as soon as they shifted - even the slightest of movements - he would be able to figure out where they are. Shi-chan was absolutely scary in its observation. Almost like Kenbunshoku Haki[1], to be honest.

Even though he knew only shishou would be able to sense his chakra, he didn't want to take any unnecessary risks by being overconfident in his Skills. Real life was different from the game, after all. There may be someone, a wildcard, that would be able to detect him just as easily as shishou. So he held his position, his body eerily similar to a statue, and remained that way until the moon came out to play. As stealthily as he could manage, he went closer until he was near the blind spot he found and sneaked into the building, sticking close to the shadows, his footsteps and breathing inaudible.

It didn't take long for him to realize that he had underestimated real life, again. The sheer number of locks and seals they placed outside each storage room were disgustingly plentiful. The rooms and hallways, as he also discerned painfully, were all similar in layout and design. This meant he has no choice but to check all of them since there weren't any labels or indicators in sight. He couldn't, however, find fault with that. Signs, after all, would make it too easy for enemy spies to find their way around.

With a resigned look in his eyes, he was left with no choice but to try his luck. First time's a charm, right? 

He went to the centermost storage room on the top floor, dodging any patrols and only managing to stumble once on his way up. The moment he found it, he melded into the shadows and waited with his Sharingan activated, needing to know the pattern of the guards on this floor before he even attempts at the locks and seals on the room of his choice.

He found out that the chunin guards would walk through this corridor at an interval of ten minutes, whilst an ANBU patrol would do so every half an hour. They would also subtly signal to confirm their identities by rotating their right shoulder twice whenever they pass each other by - which was every half an hour.

As soon as the latest chunin guard turned the next corner, he poked his Female-side and received something of a confirmation to keep track of time for him. Within a minute, he managed to pick all of the locks. It took, however, seven minutes and fifty-three seconds for him to disable the seals.

With a dissatisfied scowl, he locked everything back in place and enabled the seals before quickly returning to the shadows. Soon enough, a timely chunin guard passed by, oblivious to any of his tampering. Again, as soon as the guard disappeared around the corner, he crouched in front of the door and picked the locks as well as the bothersome seals. For the second round, he succeeded in cutting the time short by a full minute - give or take a few seconds. 

This cycle repeated for another few hours until he was able to confidently enter the storage room in under a minute. That left him with seven minutes and thirty seconds to look through the room and get out with a minute and a half left to spare... just in case the chunin guard walked a little faster. Fucking humans were so bothersome - unlike NPCs who were predictable and never late or early.

With extreme caution, he took his time to scan the room, his crimson eyes with three tomoe taking note of every nook and cranny, checking for any chakra traps. When he saw none, he hurriedly ran to the nearest shelf, his nimble fingers swiping a random manila folder and scanning its contents.

Bingo! Female-him cheered as Shi-chan smirked. Lady Luck must have finally taken pity on his poor soul.

He allowed his lips to be pulled into a predatory grin. With the help of his Sharingan, he returned the manila folder without a millimeter out of place. The Uchiha section was easy enough to find, all of the paperwork neatly arranged into the U aisle. He scanned as many files as he could before Female-him nudged for him to leave.

He was out of the room within seconds, the seals having reactivated and the doors locked. Whilst he waited for the guard to make their round, he took out his registration form and filled in the blanks using his 'relatives' as a reference. He hesitate slightly when it came to his age, gnawing his bottom lip as he stared at the blank.

Should he write his true age; 35, or this body's age; 21?

He was seriously tempted to put his mental age, but alas, it would be too suspicious. Not because of his appearance, mind you. He was vain enough to actually do such a shameless thing. The compliments he would receive when someone praises him for looking young whilst in his mid-thirties... The looks of awe he would be showered in... hehehehe...


No, it wasn't because of his appearance. It was actually due to the Second Shinobi World War. His mental age was much too close to the Sannin, and that meant he would be considered a war veteran. The expectations for him, who had participated and survived, would be too bothersome. He didn't want to get selected for important missions. Unlike younger-Shiki, he preferred to cloud watch whilst drinking tea and eating mochi.

He ended up writing rather reluctantly that he was born in the month of December, 21 years old.

After having filled up the ninja registration form, he took out a stack of blank report forms and was quick to jot down random and unimportant missions that were easily overlooked, pausing every time a guard rounded the corner just to be on the safe side. He also made sure that his missions were always espionage and solo-ed, with the latest being a long-termed infiltration in Kusagakure - this made him have an excuse of not knowing his fellow jounin and vice versa. Again, he used his relatives' as a reference.

To sum it all up, he appeared to be an average jounin specialized in intelligence. He was pretty much a loner; dead teammates, family, and the likes due to the high mortality rate of being a shinobi, and also due to the war.

When he was done, he waited for the next guard to pass by before disabling the seals and locks. His papers, all already approved and stamped by the 'Hokage', were stuffed into a manila folder that he borrowed permanently from one of the shinobi on A aisles. The random shinobi's paperwork was then carelessly shoved into his inventory to be burnt at a later date.

He was now, officially, a Konoha nin.

Mission accomplished.

He, in a show of good mood, bobbed his head to the beat at Female-him's humming of the 007 theme. Shi-chan, on the other hand, was somehow facepalming even though it didn't have a face or hand to actually perform such an action. 

Shiki munched on a cardboard-tasting high-calorie ration bar as he sat on a tree branch at Training Ground 22, his dangling feet swinging idly in the air as his heavy-lidded eyes gazed into the distance, watching as the sun slowly rose to bask the village in its warmth.

Whilst he was peacefully enjoying the view, a calloused hand was mechanically scrubbing the metallic part of his forehead protector to dull the shine, needing it to appear well worn and lustreless. He has been here since the completion of his private mission, patiently waiting for office hour to arrive.

Sleeping was something that he would have done to pass the time, but sadly, Shi-chan was adamant about being awake until he secured a roof over his head. Of course, he was already used to sleeping outdoors. In this village, however, there were too many trained shinobi for his dark passenger to truly relax its guard; too many factors in play even though he was already considered one of them. With a heavy sigh, he crumpled the wrapper in his hand and traded it with a canteen from his inventory.

How he hated his shinobi instincts right now. He was utterly drained and wanted nothing more than to fall into the arms of Morpheus. Or, you know, browse the internet. Damn, he misses technology. Seeing that he would not be getting what he dearly wished for, he pushed away from the branch and landed soundlessly onto the ground, his forehead protector already in the midst of being tied loosely around his neck as he walked towards the centremost part of the Training Ground.

Again, he couldn't help but sigh as he dropped the canteen and moved into a comfortable stance to begin his morning exercises and katas.

Female-him was quick to disappear with a scoff whilst Shi-chan made a small sound of approval at his actions.

It was, frankly, very concerning that both his dark passenger and lazy freeloader were appearing more as time passed by. In fact, one day, he wouldn't be all too surprised if he heard their voices clear enough to put a gender to identify them by. For now, he would do his very best to not put a name to Female-him since he didn't want to encourage this schizophrenic behavior of his... any more than he already has, anyway.

If he ever had to complete a psych evaluation, he doubted that he would be able to ace the test. Oh, sure, he would somewhat pass due to younger-Shiki being a master spy and previous-him being a normal(?) human being. But, he knew he would rather not chance it. When (not if) something came up amiss and a Yamanaka was required to dive into his mind, he just knew that the person (and himself) would be thoroughly fucked.

If Inner Sakura was able to beat Ino out of her mind quite easily, he didn't want to imagine what Shi-chan (and Female-him) would do to the unlucky bastard that took a trip into his head. Probably kill off the person's conscious, leaving behind a braindead Yamanaka and a free ticket to T&I.

Hours passed by in a flash, muscle memory alone allowing him to train his body without him actively putting thought into his movements. When he finally realized that the sun was already out and about, he cooled down and headed to the administration building at the Academy, but not before changing into a plain black yukata with the Uchiha crest on the back, a pair of wooden geta similar to Jiraiya's, and his newly (ahemstolenahem) attained leaf forehead protector tied loosely around his neck.

"Uchiha Shiki-san?" He looked up from his reading material (a book he had borrowed permanently from the Hokage's office) to see a chunin clerk standing politely in front of him. "My name is Sato Takeshi and I'll be the one attending to you today. This way, please."

He returned the book into his inventory, making it look like he was slipping it into his yukata sleeve, and stood up from the couch in the waiting area to follow the brunet into an office. It was small, with many shelves, lockers, and cabinets lining the walls. Sato rounded his desk whilst gesturing for Shiki to take a seat. When the both of them were seated, Sato parted his lips, the chunin preparing to speak. He did not, however, manage that.

Shiki had instantly activated his Dōjutsu the second the man had made eye contact with him. Unlike the other Mangekyō users in the anime/manga, his sclera turned black whilst a flowery pinwheel in red appeared directly in the middle, immediately capturing his victim and making him into Shiki's mindless puppet. Idly, he wondered how others would react to his Mangekyō. The game allowed the players to customize their own eyes if they were an Uchiha and completed the Sharingan chain quest, so he might have been a little too eager when making character-Shiki's eyes as creepy as possible.

Now, he (again) regretted his hasty decision.

The chunin stood up, grabbed a few papers from one of the lockers, and returned to his seat. Without a word being exchanged, Sato started jotting down all the aspects required for Shiki to be an official Konoha citizen, opening a bank account, leasing a room at an apartment complex nowhere near the busy areas, and putting him into the shinobi active duty roster.

Whilst the chunin was busy with that, Shiki went around the small office and nosily looked through some of the confidential files and whatnot to keep him from falling asleep.

It took roughly an hour for everything to be done. After confirming that all was well, he walked out of the office with a manilla folder containing his identification papers, bank details, certificates, and other important documentation safely tucked inside his inventory. The only item in hand was a piece of paper that approved of him getting three pairs of the jounin standard uniform and a flak jacket - due to them having been destroyed in a fight during his last mission, of course.

Sato, from behind of him, voiced out a farewell, oblivious to having his mind tempered.

Mission accomplished. 

When Female-him hummed the Mission Impossible theme, Shi-chan made to kick the lazy freeloader, earning it an indignant squawk from the former. He chuckled quietly under his breath, amused by their childish antics. 

After leaving the admin building, he took his time to stroll around Konoha to get a good feel of the village. He needed to, after all, familiarize himself so that he would not appear similar to a tourist. Or be teased about being lost. Again. He didn't need that at all.

When his stomach grumbled for food, he ducked into the nearest food stand; which was coincidentally Ichiraku Ramen. He took a sweeping glance, relieved that he was the only customer around, and sat on the middlemost barstool with as much dignity as an Uchiha could muster when at a ramen stand. The scent of broth wafted into his nose, propelling his stomach to groan almost eagerly. He discreetly swallowed his saliva as he made himself known by tapping on the wooden counter.

A younger looking Teuchi jumped at the sound, having not seen him enter. The chef quickly pushed away his cleaning rag and walked closer, looking awfully sheepish. Shiki didn't blame him, of course. It was hard enough for a ninja to notice his presence, let alone a civilian.

"Welcome!" The young chef grinned as he rested his elbows on the countertop, his eyes flicking to Shiki's forehead protector for a split second before returning to hold eye contact. "What can I get you, shinobi-san?"

"Shio ramen." Was said distractingly as he took his time to observe the small ramen stand with hidden interest. Idly, he wondered if this place was truly as good as how the anime portrays it. If it was indeed true, he was sure he would become a regular. He can't cook to save his life, after all.

"Coming right up!" The chef got to cooking his order immediately, not at all bothered by his behavior. 

When the man started to boil the noodles, the aroma that drifted over was simply divine. If he didn't have the Uchiha fan sewed onto his back, he would've allowed the drool to leak out from his mouth... Well, not really. He controlled himself only due to Shi-chan's warning growl.

He inwardly pouted at his dark passenger. It should understand that he hasn't had a decent meal in ages, only eating military crap that even animals would turn their noses away from. He wasn't counting the takoyaki as a meal, by the way. And dango and mochi were desserts.

"Is this your first time here, shinobi-san?"

Shiki blinked at the sudden question. The ramen cook threw him a blinding smile even as he was preparing the noodles. 

"Yes." He nodded.

"Do you like ramen?" Teuchi asked politely.

He paused to nudge the two in his mind. Had he ever eaten authentic ramen before? Shi-chan wrinkled its nose whilst Female-him shook its head.

"I've had cup noodles."

"Cup noodles...?!" The chef looked angst at his answer, "Does that mean you've never had ramen before? That won't do at all, shinobi-san! Ramen is very different from cup noodles, especially when the noodles are handmade! You can't find any better quality ramen than Ichiraku's! You should come here more often - a strong shinobi such as yourself should only eat the best of meals. Furthermore, if you order more than five bowls in one sitting, you can have an extra one for free!"

"Hn..." Shiki raised a disbelieving brow at the 20 something-year-old chef. The promotional advertising was as obvious as a kunai sticking out from a pouch of paper. 

Before his silence could get any awkward (what with him not knowing how to respond to that), Teuchi placed his order in front of him, the bowl steaming alluringly.

"Here's your shio ramen. Enjoy!"

It took everything for Shiki to not attack his bowl upon sight. The scent of broth was like a playboy bunny; teasing his tastebuds sultrily with its seductiveness. After giving the chef a nod of thanks, he whispered a soft 'ittadakimasu' before he dug in with the mannerism befitting of an Uchiha. His eyelids fluttered slightly when the salty flavor hit his tongue.

Inwardly, he sang praises to the chef, but outwardly, he remained stoic after the initial bite.

"Is it to your liking, shinobi-san?" Was asked with curiosity.

"Tolerable." He stated monotonously.

The chef didn't seem to mind his tone or his short responses, only beaming brighter at his 'compliment'. It was as if Teuchi was able to see through his stoic demeanor. 

"I'm Teuchi, by the way. Ichiraku Teuchi. It's nice to meet you."

"Uchiha Shiki. A pleasure to meet your acquaintance."

The conversation(?) lulled as he looked away to concentrate on his food, blissfully unaware that the young cook was grinning smugly at having converted yet another uneducated heathen into a 'believer' of the food of gods that was ramen.

Hn. A regular he shall be. 

Chapter Text

Shiki sat cross-legged on the floor of his bachelor apartment with a single brush held loosely in between his slack fingers, mittens on his lap, and empty inkpots surrounding him haphazardly. He was completely exhausted from the lack of sleep, his skin looking far too pale to be healthy and his Dōjutsu not as bright as they should be.

Despite how shitty his appearance was, his expression screamed arrant satisfaction.

He has finally finished step one of securing his new home to Shi-chan's (exaggerated) standards. All of the surfaces were now painted from top to bottom using a mixture of different colored inks and his own blood; cursive writing, swirls, and mismatched patterns forming an elaborate work of art that was extravagant as it was deadly.

There were many layers drawn, only able to be distinguished by the intentionally chaotic mishmash of ink. The majority of these seals, however, acted more as fail-safes, insurances, and triggering wards rather than security ones. They would help in preventing any nosy seal enthusiasts from figuring out the central focus too quickly; unless, of course, they wish to risk blowing this whole building (and more) to smithereens. Even those of his caliber might take years to peel away all the false coatings in order to determine the core of such a complex work.

The order of how he stacked these seals, too, played a crucial part. All of the seals had to be beyond meticulous. That was the reason why it took him a tiring three (and a half) days to completely solidify his home's security. One wrong placement; a shaky hand stroke, a hesitant flick, or an impaired shape and bam... The detonation of such an intricated seal would completely atomize him (no joke).

Of course, all seals, in general, were dangerous in nature. Especially to seal masters of his level. After all, the more elaborate the work, the higher the chance of failure. Not to copy a certain blonde Iwa nukenin, but yes, he agrees that true art was revolutionary and incendiary; an explosion, to put it simply. Although he'd rather not be the one to blow-up.

With a grunt, he pushed himself to his feet, staggering comically when his world whirled out of balance. His body was howling at him to just lay down and sleep, but he pushed himself to ignore that demand and grabbed a ration bar instead. Not even caring about Uchiha grace (Female-him approved whilst Shi-chan scoffed), he threw the wrapper over his shoulder and shoved the whole brick into his mouth, fiercely chewing the cardboard-tasting consumable like a demented hamster.

No need for finesse; he would rather replenish his chakra reserves and kill away the fatigue ASAP since this was his first meal in days. Regardless of his taste buds that were shriveling in agony.

One of the many disadvantages of being a workaholic was his blatant disregard for his own health in favor of completing his tasks without rest. And on off days, he was twice as unproductive, preferring to game or sleep the day away. Hopefully, he would be able to get an easy job as an autopsy doctor for the Konoha Military Police Force and break the habit. He didn't want to wither away this (sinful) lean body with unhealthy eating habits, after all.

As soon as he felt balanced and strong enough to move, he walked around his home with all the grace of a newborn lamb, heavy-lidded Sharingan eyes working overtime as they paid close attention to the delicate details on his walls, floor, and ceiling.

He would rather not chance anything before he activates the array of seals. The moment he pumps chakra into them, there would be no turning back. He would either end up as nothing but atoms in the wind, or he would achieve the desired result of an apartment stronghold.

With a confident nod, he raised a hand to his chest; his pinky, ring finger, and thumb curled whilst his index and middle finger straightened. A one-handed Ram seal to help with chakra concentration and jutsu activation, basically.

Just as his lips parted, the word 'activate' on the tip of his tongue... Shi-chan twitched from its half-slumbering state and whispered about signatures and keying.

He paused and closed his eyes, mentally replaying the recent images that his Sharingan captured. When he realized what Shi-chan meant, couldn't help but facepalm with a groan of despair, Uchiha pride be damned.

He had, much to his carelessness, forgotten to add in a recognition ward. If he had activated the seals before adding that, it would be similar to putting a security keypad without installing a password - leaving him stranded with no way in or out unless he reconstructed the whole thing from scratch.

Whilst the damn freeloader was being a misbegotten bitch by laughing at his almost wasted effort, his dark passenger was smirking arrogantly, having purposely played ignorance until the very last minute. The bastard was as sadistic as shishou on a bad day.

He exhaled, feeling quite frustrated at the two mental parasites. With a defeated slump of his shoulder, he hovered a palm over his inventory seal, his mind-eye searching swiftly for another bottle of ink. He furrowed his brows when the results came out empty.

Ah, damn it.

With muttered cusses, he strode grumpily into the bathroom and took a quick shower, not at all bothering to dry or style his bushy mane. He swiftly donned the standard issued attire, flak jacket, and forehead protector (at its rightful place). Soon, he was out of the apartment complex with his mitten-clad hands shoved deep inside his pockets.

Since he was planning on replenishing his ink supply, it would be a good opportunity to settle his shopping needs as well. Killing two nukenin with one Katon, as other Uchiha NPCs would say. The closest was a weapon's shop, so that would be his first destination.

He, unlike other shinobi (and Academy students), did not possess any standard ninja weapons. Apart from the ones he used in games, kunai, shuriken, senbon, and whatnot were not in his inventory. He would, of course, buy them just for show, but if someone expects him to use them as throwing weapons... Aa, let's just say he would activate his selective hearing jutsu.

The moment he entered Kissmai Axe, he hid a wince when the bell overhead chimed and announced his presence. He took notice that all of the customers had fixed their attention at him with the peripherals of their eyes, before returning to their shopping when they saw that he was just another Konoha nin. The shopkeeper didn't even bother to look up from their counter, too engrossed with their paperwork.

He moved around the interior, pretending to browse the wares whilst he imitate what the other shoppers were doing and buying. In the end, he bought many small weapons that could be hidden on his person. He was, however, adamant in not purchasing tashibishi no matter how pushy Shi-chan was acting (that little shite was like a kid in a candy store). He didn't need something he would undoubtedly step on whilst in a fight, thank you very much.

As soon as he left the shop, he discreetly strapped a newly purchased kunai pouch around his right thigh. There, he mentally quipped, he was beginning to look more and more like a legit shinobi.

The next on his to-buy-list was instant and frozen foods. Preferably the ones that only require a microwave to 'cook'. Just as he was about to pass by a small and quaint shop, he halted in his steps, causing the person behind him to cuss out loud. He paid them no mind, more entrapped by what he just spotted.

It wasn't the name of the shop that made him pause (though it did make Female-him giggle about it being a novel idea for a bookshop to be named The Open Book). Rather, it was the kill-me-orange book displayed at the frontmost shelf near the entrance. 

On impulse, he entered and headed straight for the display rack. Lo and behold; it was the novel that many Naruto nerds would kill to own. Fucking Icha Icha Paradise.

With practiced ease, he turned a deaf ear to the judgemental whispers from the browsing female civilians when he deftly picked up one of the orange books and read the summary on the back. The synopsis didn't appear to be too cringe-worthy, so he cracked it open in a seemingly random page and began skimming.

Just after the first few lines, however, the contents made him blink twice, because clearly, once simply wasn't enough.

The explicit wording of the protagonists doing the deed wasn't what made him re-read the page careful. No, what made his lips curl in evident amusement were the words hidden in between the lines. He couldn't help but chuckle (not giggle) at the author's sense of humor. And here he thought Icha Icha was just another silly love-sick erotica. He should've known better than to judge a book by its cover.

Rather unexpectedly, he couldn't quite put the erotica down after he realized that there was an actual god to honest plot - and it was an interesting one to boot! He was never one to read romance, but the comedic aspects and overall storyline made it bearable for him to ignore the more diabetic-inducing romantic parts. So without further ado, Jiraiya-sama (respect must be given when its due) has officially become his favorite person in this fantasy world.

He would do everything in his power to keep the pervert from dying - the toad sage needed to complete all of his Icha Icha series before daring to croak! His previous words about not interfering be damned in the face of an incomplete Icha Icha series.

Snapping the book close, he gathered a few more interesting looking reading materials that were mostly written by Jiraiya-sama and sauntered to the counter, careful to not overreach his steps or trip over his ankles and make a fool of himself in public. The civilian woman minding the register looked at his purchases with utter disgust as she rang them with a grimace on her face.

When he turned to exit, eager to continue with his reading, she must have spotted his clan's crest (the genin that had been minding the uniform room had taken one look at him and given him the standard issued ones that replaced the Uzumaki swirl with the Uchiha fan) because he heard her strangled meep, "An Uchiha pervert...?!"

[Well, that was awfully rude of her.]

He huffed inaudibly, distractedly agreeing with the freeloader, although not caring enough to correct the stranger that he was not a pervert. He reads for the plot and humor, not due to his... libido. Although the descriptive porn wasn't that bad. Anything beats Fifty Shades of Grey, honestly.

[It wasn't that bad, Shiki! Don't you remember the good ol' times we laughed at the authoress's description of a penis?]

[How  implicitly  obscene that I share a mind palace with such  salacious  varmint- - not the face, woman! ]

His steps faltered for a split second before he resumed as if he had not heard the feminine and masculine voices within his mind. He would not acknowledge them. Impressions and mental images were easy enough to work with... but clear words? He refused.

As soon as he was out of the shop, he buried his nose in the pages of his newly purchased Icha Icha and navigated the streets of Konoha. He wasn't in a hurry to do his grocery shopping, so he leisurely walked as he read, mindful of any obstacles he may bump into.

He couldn't, however, bury the voices that were gradually growing louder as they bickered like an old married couple.

By the time he finished shopping, the sun was close to setting. There weren't any more unplanned detours, yet it still took him three whole hours to complete his errands.

His stomach grumbled petulantly at the neglect, having long digested the brick of a ration bar. So he made good work of his words and visited Ichiraku Ramen for a quick meal, his items already secured inside his inventory seal.

The young chef looked happy that he returned, having added an extra slice of pork to show his delight. Shiki nodded in gratitude and dug in, though almost faceplanting into his bowl halfway through the meal. The lack of sleep was truly catching up to him.

And by the glances he kept receiving from the ramen cook, he probably looked dead on his feet. Teuchi, however, did not pry; probably assuming he had just returned from a mission. Which wasn't wrong, per se. His self-appointed mission was to set up a safe zone he could call his home, after all.

After his meal, he said his thanks and made walked languidly to Akasen, the red light district.

Please, don't misunderstand. It wasn't to play. He couldn't get it up, anyway, as evident by the lack of bodily reaction to the barely clothed curvy ladies and handsome blokes. If they have a heartbeat, they, apparently, weren't his type.


He went to Akasen using the Henge no Jutsu to gather intelligence.

It was only due to Shi-chan's annoying insistence that he cared to do such a bothersome thing when he was already fighting his body's urges to sleep. It whispered that street rats, prostitutes, and the homeless people were hidden goldmines; fat with 24-carat gold nuggets.

Information was the key to surviving in this world. An oblivious shinobi was a dead shinobi.

One visit wouldn't be enough, of course. So he would gradually, over time, win over the loyalty of the people who lived in this district with bribes here and there alongside with a few well-phrased sentences. They were the best sources of information (no matter how insignificant it might seem) apart from the pubs.

Shi-chan supplied that this was, evidently, one of better methods of gathering intelligence at the shortest amount of time, yet still be able to remain somewhat anonymous. By setting up a permanent, low-maintenance information network using an already established net, it would prevent any underground bosses from knowing that he was in the loop (for now).

The red-light campers were the eyes and ears of the village, eavesdropping unknowingly from the drunk or rich arseholes who gossip shamelessly without a care. They were highly (gullible) uneducated and only have the 'survival of the fittest' mindset, which in turn allows for him to take easy advantage of them.

They hear, but they do not listen.

Most of these people overlooked the words they hear on a daily basis, thinking them useless, only caring for food, water, and money for clothing. Obviously, they were very, very wrong. The rich often overlook them due to inane haughtiness, looking down on those they deemed unworthy. It was too bad that it was those exact rats that know all the dirty little secrets.

Especially to those they paid to sleep with. Sex was ostensibly an activity that loosens the lips. Often used and enforced by the honeytrap subdivision.

It was, however, pretty disgusting when he found out that some men (a majority being merchants) have a nasty hobby of fucking pre-teens and/or underaged virgins. And not all of them consented, which made the act all the more revolting. Pedophiles were scum.

... But he was being a hypocrite, huh?

Desecrating the dead was putting what Shiki did too lightly. After all, raping an uncountable number of men and women after having slaughtered them was a horrible thing to do (the memories were painfully clear due to the Sharingan, as the previous owner of this body tended to record all of his misdeeds). And this body craved for it, much to his ever-growing self-disgust.

When it was close to midnight, he stopped by The Usual Place, one of the upscale shinobi-owned bars to listen to any news pertaining to the ongoing war.

He learned that they were three years into the war (Hatake Sakumo's name came up quite frequently as many continued to blame the man with vehemence) and they were currently in a stalemate. Both Konoha and Iwa were not gaining any ground, the skirmishes only ending with pointless deaths as neither side wanted to admit defeat. Kumo was also gradually aligning themselves with Iwa to take out Konoha.

It was to his great relief that it matched with the knowledge he knew from before his transmigration. He knew that the longer he was here, the bigger the butterfly effect, no matter how much he avoids human interaction. It would be best to be kept in the loop whilst fading into the background.

He didn't want to somehow cause the destruction of the world if any of the main characters' parents were KIA due to him actively nosing about - no matter how curious he was about the chaos theory. Besides, he did accept the role as... the peacekeeper (haha).

He also overheard a group of desk-chuunin and paper-genin complaining about how the Hokage was accepting foreign civilians and nukenins into their village too easily. They continued to drunkenly rant about how easy it would be for a spy to slither into their homes.

He suspects that there was more in play than being an accepting and friendly village. This was, unmistakably, a village run by the military, after all. Look underneath the underneath, as what a wise man once said. Desertion might be looked down on, and trust would be hard gained, but there were many benefits if those nukenins passed the standard evaluation; as they would undoubtedly bring with them valuable secrets as well as adding numbers into the military. And maybe, the higher-ups planned to capture spies for the T&I division to extract information.

Assumptions and ideas were thrown around in his head, but as expected, there were too many unknown factors to account for. When it became crystal clear that he would not be gaining any more intel, he decided to head back home, exhausted yet strangely satisfied. He discreetly exited the building and jumped onto the nearest rooftop.

As soon as he entered his apartment unit, he, with a fierce determination to sleep his fatigue away, quickly yet meticulously drew on his front door and windows after having mixed his blood into one of the inkpots.

Before he activated them, however, he once more confirmed that all of his seals were drawn correctly. Once he received a confident nod from Shi-chan, he activated his vast array of seals with a strong "Activate", his chakra seeping into the surfaces of his home. The seals glowed brightly for a couple of seconds before the ink all but vanished from sight. His whole unit was brimming with his chakra; which meant that the seals were in working condition.

He breathed out a sigh of relief.

Anybody who would dare to enter his humble adobe with malicious intent would be in a piteous (not really) position. They would be zapped, numbed, chakra-drained, Genjutsu-ed, and many other warning measures that may or may not be a tad overkill. But that was hardly a surprise since this was a standard thing for his overly paranoid dark passenger.

He crooned happily as he jumped into his bed and buried himself under the covers, wearing his newly bought shuriken printed pajamas. It felt wonderful to not worry about the potential dangers or threats whilst he wasn't awake to defend himself. The part of him that was a social recluse wanted nothing more than to stay safe indoors and avoid society, but that would be a tad too boring without electronic devices to distract him.

He snuggled deeper into his covers and closed his eyes, falling immediately into Morpheus' embrace and dreaming about future missions. 

Chapter Text

He woke up to the commotion of a squabbling couple.

Having only slept for (at most) a couple of hours after pulling so many all-nighters, he shoved a pillow over his head and tried to dive back into the realm of blood rain and dagger-wielding vultures. He was, unsurprisingly enough, unsuccessful when a high-pitched voice all but screeched, followed by a crash and a thumping sound.

Unable to help himself, he cussed out loud, loathing how his silencing wards were purposely made to work one-way. As much as he desired absolute silence, the shinobi handbook stated that that was forbidden. Alarms might sound at any given moment, especially during wartime, and all active shinobi that was chunin and above were expected to show come day or night.

But he couldn't lay the blame solely on the bothersome protocols. His walls were thick enough to allow a normal shinobi some peace - he had chosen this apartment complex for a reason - and his unit was located at the corner most top floor. If not for his sensitive hearing, he would be blissfully asleep right now. At times like these, enhanced senses were maddening. Just why had he upgraded that particular Skill Tree again?

And whoever it was that deemed it a good idea to have a lover's spat so early in the morning should be flogged, skinned, and skewered. Slowly and painfully. He has yet to meet his neighbor and he was already thinking of the numerous ways he could secretly put them out of their misery.

Fucking bothersome...

With a tired moan, he sluggishly pushed himself out of bed and zombie-shuffled to the bathroom. Just as he entered, he froze, slightly startled at seeing his own reflection in his bathroom mirror... and he simply could not look away.

Yes, he has seen his character's face many times over the past month or so, but never has he seen it with such clarity before. His fingers hovered hesitantly over his features, taking in the smooth, milk-white skin, the refined nose, those sharp cheekbones, the feminine curve of the jawline, those thin and pinkish lips, the elegant arc of the eyebrows, the blue markings that outlined the underside of his eyes, and just... couldn't help but stare dumbly at the familiar yet unfamiliar face.

He studied the way the facial muscles twitch when he grimaced, studied the way the lips curled when he tried to smile (he failed), studied the way the eyebrows furrowed when he scowled. He closed his almond-shaped eyes - black, he idly noted - and took a deep breath in, held it for a couple of seconds, and exhaled.

It would take some time to adjust to his new face, but he has already started to think of this body as his. Another additional detail would not change anything.

This brain - a psychopath's brain - helped dull any feeling of wrongness, making them appear as if such changes were not worthy of taking note of (when had he accepted his change of gender, anyway? His change of world? His change in personality? Had he gotten over them so fast? Were that not important enough to hold tightly onto?). He was grateful, yet, at the same time, hateful for such an occurrence.

(Could he still feel lasting hate, however? He could already sense it fading away; as if it wasn't important enough to hold onto - as if such pointless things should be discarded... and it made him afraid. The fear of being an unfeeling monster was almost overpowering, but not at the same time. He was human, though, was he not?)

With a sigh, he opened his eyes and ran a hand through his dark, tangled hair. It was long - reaching his butt - thick, wild, and spiky. Just like Madara's. Or perhaps Indra's to be more precise. He was, after all, the mirror image (excuse the pun) of Ōtsutsuki Indra.

He didn't know for how long he simply stood there, but his muddled thoughts were broken by Shi-chan's intense (and imaginary[?]) gaze. He faltered ever so slightly. Right, he had forgotten that he made his character to be a narcissistic little psycho. Of course, Shi-chan would admire the face staring right back at him (was his dark passenger able to see out of his eyes?).

As he leaned closer to the mirror, he rested his hands on the sink's edge, needing something to anchor himself to reality as he felt the heavy weight of his mental and physical problems settle on his shoulders.

Sage, he was a psychiatrist's wet dream.

Not only was he a psychopathic, narcissistic, necrophilic (delusional?) dimensional traveler, he also has two defined personalities loitering inside his head, both too strong for him to simply ignore, yet too slipper for him to get a proper hold of. It was no wonder the previous Shiki preferred being a nuke-nin (even though it had been a mistake on her part). Nobody to judge him and no mental evaluations to worry about.

He buried his face into his palms, tired of everything. Already, he could hear the imaginary switch going off in his head, allowing only for his clinical mindset to take root. He desperately tried to hold onto the emotion called despair that kept floating out of reach at the back of his mind and surface dammit. Anything but apathy would be a blessing right now.

With a resigned sigh, he went back to his bedroom to get one of his orange novels. He needed a distraction whilst he ran the bath. And maybe he could use the rest of his day to cloud watch afterward.

He stood at the doorway of his apartment, dressed in the standard issued shinobi attire, flak jacket, Christmas mittens, forehead protector (at its rightful place), and a pair of knee-high combat boots. This was the outfit he decided to wear whenever he left his home. It allowed him to blend well with the other Konoha jounin - nondistinctive and boring.

The only notable equipment on his person was the elegant nodachi sheathed in a black scabbard decorated by white crosses. There was a moderate amount of red rope tied just below the opening of the scabbard, connected to an omamori in the shape of the Uchiha crest. Its handle was a beautiful shade of purple with a small roll of (anti-slip) grip tape at its middle, and the guard was covered by a layer of red fur. The entire length was 5'6", and due to it being almost as tall as he was (once again, he regretted his past self's half-heartedness when designing his game character), he carried it by simply resting it on his right collarbone, the rope providing excellent padding for his skin.

The nodachi - which he lovingly named Cross Marian - was custom-made (inspired by Trafalgar Law's Kikoku) and gifted to him by an online friend who had dedicated her entire Skillset to Blacksmithing and Crafting. It was the second-most durable out of all his swords, and despite its intimidating length, it was the plainest when compared to the other weapons in his inventory. He was now a Konoha nin in the middle of a world war, and as much as he wanted to use his favored katana, it was too flashy with its passive ice status effect.

He wasn't suicidal, so it was a no-brainer he would choose Cross Marian to be his primary weapon (unless the situation calls for a more extreme switch). He'd rather not risk his life with an average blade just to remain nameless.

After hooking his ninja pouch at his hip and a kunai holster around his right thigh, he exited his flat and made his way out of the apartment complex. He was almost tempted to leave a nasty trap outside his neighbor's door but resisted with much difficulty. As he passed their unit, they, much to his disgust, were now in a heated argument over how many children they should have.


His nights would be disturbed by their baby making from now on. How lovely. Female-him duly noted his sarcasm with a sleepy grunt, which only made him all the more disgruntled. It wasn't fair how his inner passengers could burrow deeper into their shared mind palace and block off all outside noises.

With a huff, he jumped onto the rooftops and sped away, disliking how the sun was only now making itself known. It was too early to be out of bed. He was, however, not the only one using the rooftops as a road. There were several other sleep-deprived ninjas hopping to and fro, some even had dried blood and hastily patched wounds on their person.

Landing nimbly in the middle of a random Training Ground, he scanned his immediate surroundings for a few moments, acknowledging all the potential dangers, before he carefully leaned his Cross Marian against a nearby tree and hooked his mittens on its handle. He performed his daily workout routine before proceeding with his morning chakra meditation.

The next thing he knew, he wasn't seated in a lotus position at the Training Ground any longer but standing at the middle of a golden corridor with stained glass windows that told a story of the Uchiha clan. The tow-colored sun rays that illuminated the corridor through the windows made everything appear undefiled, and when combined with the thorny rose vines that twined the magnificent ancient pillars, this place looked downright ethereal.

He didn't know what had prompted him to move, but he strode forward with confidence he didn't feel. When he reached the end of the corridor, it was to a nondescriptive giant door that reached the high ceiling. It opened without fanfare, revealing a domed-shaped three-story library with towering brown shelves filled with an unknown number of books - all of them in various colors and sizes.

There were two spiral staircases at either end of the library, the right twirling to the second floor, whilst the left led to the third. There was a metal door at the end of the respective staircases, making it rather clear that the passageway was locked and the access to the floors barred.

In the middle of the lushed carpeted ground floor were three comfortable looking couches (that could fit perhaps four people each) in red, blue, and black separately. They surrounded a circular matte black table at a respectable distance; not too far that the occupants would have to shout to communicate, yet not too close to give them a semblance of seclusion.

There were three sections marked by an intersectional white line that gave the roundtable the appearance of a jigsaw. On the side nearest to the blue couch, there were anime zippo lighters, various anime figurines, and a chibi Gedō Mazō figure ashtray filled with cigarette buds. On the side closest to the red couch, there was nothing but a Japanese tea ceremony set on it, the scent of matcha wafting from one of the steaming cups. The side closest to the black couch, however, laid empty.

Lounging on the baby blue couch was a woman with chestnut brown hair that was tied in a messy bun and half-lidded (dull and sleepy) black eyes. She wore an oversized beige sweater, satin pink shorts, and a pair of mismatched woolen socks that reached to her mid-thighs. She was on her stomach with a lit cigarette dangling in between her lips and a pink laptop (it had Team Minato and Team Kakashi stickers on it) in front of her. She looked to be in her late twenties (sleep-deprived and otaku-ish) but her disposition made her appear younger and laidback.

Sitting straight-back on the crimson red couch was a familiar looking man with black, spiky long hair that was tied in a high ponytail with sweeping bangs covering his forehead. He has a pair of equally dark, black eyes that have a frosty quality to them. He wore something similar to what the Uchiha wear during the Warring States Era; a navy blue high collared mantle with long, wide sleeves that extended past his fingertips, dark pants with bandages wrapped around the ankles, and standard shinobi sandals. There was also a beautiful pure white katana propped against the back of the couch at his side, not really within easy reach but close enough. He held a book in hand, elegant fingers splayed across its spine and long legs crossed at the ankles, giving him a sophisticated appearance. He looked to be in his early twenties, though his dour demeanor gave him an air of maturity that the woman seemed to lack.

The two appeared to be at peace with each other's company, comfortable despite the fact that their temperant seemed entirely dissimilar - outright opposites by the looks of it; where one was lax and lackadaisical, the other sombre and surly. Even their side of the room (mainly their respective couches) smelt completely different, as if there was an invisible barrier that allowed them to live in an entirely different plane of existence, yet in the same room nonetheless.

The first who took note of his entrance was the man, who had looked up from his book without an ounce of emotion on his (admittingly) pretty face. When the woman noticed the man's shift in attention, she followed his example and peered from behind her laptop, blinking twice when she spotted him.

"Oh, finally. What took you so long, Shiki? We've been waiting for your arrival here forever! Any longer and we would all have white hair and smell like cabbage!" She gave a lazy grin, pushed the laptop onto her corner of the roundtable, and shifted so that she was sitting Indian-style whilst hugging a Kakashi plush that had appeared somewhen.

"You overexaggerate. It has merely been a month or so." The man stated drily as he snapped his book close, the sharp sound startling Shiki and causing him to flinch involuntarily. He was so very out of his element right now. "Don't just stand there like a simpleton. Sit."

"Why are you always so demanding? You need to learn to not be so brusque all the time. A simple please and thank you could come a long way. Hell, maybe an apology or ten will make you seem more human." The woman flicked the ashes of her cigarette into the Gedō Mazō ashtray whilst she rolled her eyes in an overly exasperated manner.

"Is that so? Then, I apologize for finding pleasantries to be tedious. I ask that you please tolerate my atrocious mannerism for I will continue to ignore them. I can't thank you enough for wasting my time with your hogwash." Then he turned to Shiki, blatantly ignoring the woman's offended squawk at the 'unwarranted sarcasm', "Well? We do not have all day. Just sit already."

He pursed his lips at the curt order but complied to it nonetheless. He carefully passed the two (whose eyes trailed his form with eerie intensity), rounded the table, and seated himself on the black couch, wiggling slightly before settling.

"Who are you?" He asked when they made no move to speak, his eyes flittering from the woman to the man and back again.

The man raised a condescending brow at him. Despite this being their very first meeting, he felt like he knew the man all his life, which made it harder for him to stop the burning desire to throttle the living daylights out of the pompous arse. The woman snorted, waving a hand about as if to swat away the building tension in the room. Funny enough, it worked. The dark haired man clicked his tongue at the woman in disapproval before gesturing to himself.

"I am Shinkichi. You have been referring to me as... Shi-chan, which, I might add, is quite a demeaning nickname. Ah, yes, also, you've mistaken some parts of me with your body's habitual desires quite often than not. Learn to differentiate us, you imbecile." There was a hint of exasperation and resignation in his eyes for a split second before they returned to their usual icy impassiveness.

Ah... It was no wonder the man felt and appeared familiar.

He was Shiki's dark passenger.

They do look alike; the only difference between them being their hairstyles and the lack of under-eye marking. As for her, however, he could form a good guess of who she was. It was like staring into a distorted mirror. Her bearing was similar to how he had behaved (amongst online friends) before becoming Shiki.

No matter. He had other things to worry about. Like those offhanded comments stated by Shi-chan.

"What do you mean?" He asked defensively, not quite managing to keep his tone even.

"It means, you dullard; I have been the one to actively guide you with the instincts to survive. Your shinobi drive. Your sixth sense. Your intuition. Call it what you wish. Simply do not blame me for your lack of self-control. This body, your body, has a proclivity for marking its kill. Think of it as one of the many, many unfortunate muscle memories you've retained from the previous host."

"Muscle memory." He dully repeated, not knowing what else to say.

"Yes. Even an unintelligent ingrate like you will soon enough learn to suppress those automatic responses one way or another."

"Oh... Does that mean you're not a necrophiliac? That I'm not a necrophiliac?" He ignored the man's insult in favor of asking hopefully, wishing to have a confirmation that he was normal. That it was this body's fault and he could expunge the whole 'I'm attracted to corpses' persona in due time.

"I am." Shi-chan's dark eyes suddenly bled red with three tomoe spinning around the pupils. He was staring off into the distance, a sadistic, childish, and spine-chilling smile playing on those pinkish lips of his, "The sensation of when my fingertips touch the cooling skin of the corpses have never felt so satisfying. Ah, how I long to bury myself into the unwilling bodies, tasting them as they crumble underneath my misdeed. The byproduct of lax muscles and blood-"

He shuddered as he whispered 'is that so...?' under his breath.

That had not been within his expectations. He had (naively) believed that the other would be offended and angrily demand that Shiki stop accusing him of being a necrophiliac. Not... this... euphoric recollection.

It was highly plausible that Shi-chan, the admirer of corpses, simply did not notice (a huge oversight or denial?) how his desire for dead flesh had bled into Shiki's instincts, causing him to act upon those cravings and satisfy his dark passenger's want. He has a feeling that that was the truth; the sudden and growing desire to kill and mark as Shi-chan continues to blabber being enough proof as it was.

The man continued with a blissful sigh, talking about how good it felt to rape a dead body as if that was a common thing to do. As if there was nothing wrong about it. As if they were talking about the weather, of all things.

The woman, thankfully, inserted herself into the conversation before Shi-chan could go into further gruesome details.

"Alright, alright. We get it, geez. It's my turn now, Shinkichi." She spoke loudly, fearlessly cutting the man off. There was an embarrassed impression about him despite his icy exterior as he snapped his mouth shut with a click. It was plain as day that they balanced each other out.

"I'm Shizuka~ Can we change my nickname? I don't want to be called Female-me anymore. Though I wouldn't mind having an endearment too being added to my name like Shinkichi's (he saw the man mouthed "endearment" with a queer expression on his face), but -chan's already been taken..." She huffed and tightened her arms, the Kakashi plush further squashed against her bosom, "I guess you can call me Shi-sōrō to even the playing field."

Can't say I expected this, he thought drily, his mind purposely going off at a tangent.

He knew that their presence and voices were gaining in strength and getting louder with every passing day, but he didn't realize they already have a solid form, gender, and identity. And judging by what Shi-chan had said whilst rebuking Fema- uh, Shi-sōrō, they have been coherent and aware after a month or so of being in this world.

He gave them both a cautious look. He was wary, and with good reason to be, too. There were three very contradicting personalities in this body (judging by the way they carry themselves and the difference in speech pattern), and that meant he could be the next Jekyll and Hyde.

As if hearing his thoughts, Shi-chan was already shaking his head as if disappointed, "You are the Ego. I am your Id. She is your Superego. We are born purely from you who had been merged with the previous host. I live only to serve you - never to hinder you. It is insulting you would think me barbaric enough to override you."

Shi-sōrō exhaled a puff of smoke, frowning all the while, "It is as he says, Shiki. Shinkichi may sometimes have an influence over you, especially when he's in one of his craving moods, but he can't control your actions. Remember the moments you are somehow aware of where the ANBU are even though we can't sense chakra? That's all his doing. He compiled all the experiences your body has accumulated throughout the years of being a shinobi and assists you in missions - self-appointed or otherwise. Think of him as a combination of JARVIS and FRIDAY. Me, on the other hand, you can think of me as a freeloader. I don't do much when compared to him."

"I... see..." He tapped his fingers against his thigh as he absorbed what she said, his brain detachedly analyzing the words spoken and unspoken, searching for hidden meanings. Shi-sōrō has just confirmed one of his theories about his necrophilic needs, but he needed more data before he could further contemplate.

"Then, how about a brief introduction? You know; your likes, dislikes, hobbies, dreams for the future... the standard drill." This way, he could he could get a good read of their personalities and how different the three of them were. Maybe even find a weakness he could exploit.

Shi-chan and Shi-sōrō blinked cluelessly at him, which made him blink back at them in return. What? he thought with slight embarrassment coloring his cheeks, why do they both look me like I'm asking something stupid?

Shi-sōrō snubbed out her cigarette before pulling a new one, this time a different brand. After a deep inhale, she drawled whilst puffing out smoke, "Well, it's to be expected that you haven't yet connected to us on an emotional and instinctive level just yet. Aa, whatever. I'll be patient. Can't rush those types of things. I guess I'll start. You already know my name. I like violent anime and games. I dislike social interactions outside the three of us. My hobbies are writing fanfics, reading erotica, and creating ships. My dream for the future is to have an undisrupted sleep so I can continue dreaming."

He deadpanned.

She was the stereotypical, lazy, anti-social otaku. He should've expected it, just by the way she acts and dress, he supposed. But his instincts told him that she wasn't all that she seemed. If he looked underneath the underneath, he could somehow (instinctively) read between the lines.

'I like watching people in pain. I dislike everyone that's not us. My hobbies are lazying about. I dream for us to remain as we are; in stasis.'

To sum it all up into a few words; she was a sociopath with the tendency to observe than to act. If she was one of the deadly sins, she would be Sloth. Even if she could differentiate between right and wrong, she would remain idle, simply staying her hand. Guilty of passivity.

When he and she turned to face the stoic one of the trio, Shi-chan sighed in a put-off manner before he began narrating drily, "Uchiha Shinkichi. I like killing and dead things. I dislike bothersome people. My hobby is to patrol. I have no need for dreams as I am already satisfied with my position."

'I like all things associated with murder. I dislike people who are alive. My hobby is to remain vigilant (if that could be considered a hobby). My dream (resolution) is to keep us from dying a pathetic death.'

Hn. He expected as much. Shi-chan was the psychopath of their trinity. His need for survival was to the extreme side, but it was beneficial nonetheless. He was a combination of Lust and Pride. Guilty of often falling to his primal desires but too prideful to admit it.

He had a feeling there was more to it than just those basic things they had said, but he remained silent. From what little he could gather, the both of them were loyal to him. Or, well, mutual cohabitation.

He decided to put away his wariness and scepticism and looked - really looked - at the both of them. Not just their appearance or superficial demeanor. But the qualities that were skillfully hidden underneath the layers of indifference and murderous contempt.

He chose to trust them. And suddenly, everything just... clicked into place.

He saw how the other man's eyes would soften ever so slightly whenever he glanced at either of them, how his body language was relaxed despite the way he sat, and how comfortable he was in their presence - confident that they would not hurt him without his weapon in reach. He then turned to Shi-sōrō, observing how her eyes were focused solely on them, giving the two men her undivided attention even when her heavy eyelids suggested otherwise.

He suddenly knew why they had reacted negatively to his Jekyll and Hyde speculation and why they replied to all of his queries without much fuss. They wanted him to trust them. They wanted him to see them. And he had hurt his inner passengers when he allowed fear to cloud his judgment, when he allowed paranoia to block his rationale side, to allowed unjustified suspicions to think them body snatchers and parasites. They were connected to him on a level that he could not yet fathom; physically, mentally, emotionally, instinctively. They were him, in a way, so how could they possibly wish him harm?

He couldn't help but let loose a self-deprecating chuckle.

Without even a conscious thought, he gave them both an apologetic smile. Shi-sōrō gave him a lazy grin in return, her shoulders lifting as if relieved, whilst Shi-chan looked away with crossed arms, but not quick enough that Shiki caught sight of the man's flushed cheeks.

He grinned, feeling himself grow soft at the man's tsundere-like behavior and the woman's easy acceptance.

His easy acceptance and racing thoughts suddenly came to a crashing stop.

... Feelings. Emotions. He was able to feel.

It was not as clear as Before the merge, still muted and dim, but compared to the constant apathy, this was a huge leap. Before he could go in depth and try to figure out the cause, he was pulled out of his head (figuratively) by Shi-sōrō. He decided to store those thoughts for now; it would be analyzed thoroughly at another date.

"Now that that's out of the way," Shi-sōrō clapped her hands together with a smirk, "Welcome to Booktique~! Hahaha... Uwaaa, what a nasty glare. Don't be a stick in the mud, Shinkichi. Puns are the joys of life! Maybe we should invest in a fun and relaxing hobby for you? You like death and blood, right? I don't understand how you can find such things soothing but to each their own... Oh, I know! Let's try removing the massive pole from your arse! Maybe if you're lucky, there'll be blood on its way out?"

"... A pleasurable hobby, you say? I shouldn't disappoint then. Allow me to penetrate my katana up your posterior? I assure you there will be blood." Shi-chan fingered his katana's handle with hunger in his eyes. Shiki didn't know if he should be disturbed or gleeful when he felt his body warming up at the bloodthirst and KI he could practically taste in the air.

He decided on the latter a second later.

It was somewhat better than corpses, right? This discovery of could be considered a blessing, right? He just needed to find the most dangerous shinobi so that he could rid his status as a necrophiliac, right? Shouldn't be too hard. Maybe. Who was it again...? The one that was regarded as the strongest in this generation. Was it Madara? No, wait. That man was from the Warring States Era, that meant he was as old as dust (a pity. Madara was one hot specimen in his prime)... and the Edo Tensei version would still label Shiki a necrophiliac.

"What I meant was; Welcome to your Mind Palace, Shiki!" Shi-sōrō was quick to drop her attempts at riling him in the face of pain. Shiki swore he heard Shi-chan murmur a despondent 'shame, maybe next time'.

"The furniture and layout are kinda permanent, so we can't do anything about them. They're pretty comfortable nonetheless, right?" She winked, "The books on this floor contains your knowledge of the ninja arts. The second and third floor is strictly forbidden to outsiders since it holds the memories of the previous host and the past you respectively. The doors can only be opened by the three of us due to the fingerprints and retina scanners."

There was a pause before Shi-chan continued after her, "We've also devised and written a backstory as a provision against any fumbling and prying outsiders - mainly the Yamanaka and those who are well educated in the mind arts. I'll provide you with the general outline."

He waited for the man to elaborate, but when his dark passenger did not, only staring impassively at Shiki, he turned to Shi-sōrō in askance, not knowing what the other man was waiting for. She rolled her eyes in exasperation (though he could read fondness in her body language) and mouthed 'he's asking for your permission to continue, idjit'.

Ah... Really?

That did not sound like a question. It sounded like a statement.

But, it did relieve him to know that despite how minacious, unreadable, and supercilious Shi-chan was, he still looked at Shiki as the 'leader' of their unique trio.

At Shiki's hesitant nod, Shi-chan continued as if he had not paused, face still reticent, "You graduated from the Academy with average scores at the age of ten. The Uchiha are plentiful, so Shizuka created an imaginary set of neglectful parents for you. They do not live at the Uchiha district and were often not home, so you built your independence from an early age. You will have to sneak into the Archive room yet again to add them, as well as your grandparents, into the dusty pile of dead shinobi records."

Shi-chan suddenly stood from his seat, the book he had been holding onto promptly splitting into two. One of it morphed into a tome as thick as his palm and as long as his forearm. It was then handed to him, who accepted without a word. Shi-chan then moved towards the only tar-black bookcase situated directly across the entrance of the library and a few meters away from their seating place, behind his black couch.

"Due to your maturity, you did not get along with your peers and preferred to isolate yourself, making you an emotionally deprived and socially inept shinobi. This will provide an acceptable enough cover story for our lack of empathy and allow for us to continue our duty as a Konoha nin.

"It is with great importance that you tell no one of our abundances of mental disorders - they will remove us from the active-duty roster otherwise, from what I know from the previous host's past. Apparently, even high-functioning psychopaths aren't taken kindly to the field. I reckon it has something to do with impulse control; which you currently lack at the moment. We cannot have you acting like a beast in the face of corpses when you are with your future... comrades."

The jab at his self-restraint (or lack thereof) made Shiki bite his bottom lip. Yeah, he admits he really needed to control this body's apparent need to fuck and mark its kills. It would be humiliating if he were to be sent out on a mission with a team (as unlikely as it was) and they got an eyeful of his... oddities.

But... wasn't it as much as Shi-chan's fault as it was Shiki's? The hypocrite...

"Your parents were KIA after you graduated and due to them having zilch siblings, you did not connect with any other Uchiha and decided to stay in your parents' apartment outside of the district, accumulating your wealth in order to buy your own home; which is your current bachelor apartment. Your genin team participated in the chunin exams after two years of field experience, making you a chunin at twelve, a respectable and standard age during that time period. They were KIA, along with your jounin-sensei, at a C-Rank turn A-Rank mission."

The raven-haired man deposited his copy of the book onto the shelf and took a step back. Shiki couldn't help but stare at Shi-chan's broad back. The oversized Uchiha fan sewed on the mantle wasn't what drew him in, no, it was what outlined it. The realistic-looking pinwheel designs of all known Mangekyō Sharingan in the series, as well as the stages of the Sharingan, made the menacing factor of the man increase tenfold.

Shi-sōrō, not at all bothered by the information dump, stretched in her seat, a yawn splitting her face into two. He threw her a look, which she returned with a lazy grin and a smooth exhale of the cancer-inducing smoke. How the fragrant didn't drift over was still a mystery he cared not solve.

He returned his attention back to Shi-chan when his dark passenger sauntered over, his face a perfectly constructed mask of apathy as he spoke in a flat voice.

"Again, you will need to browse through the records to find two average chunin and a jounin-sensei to link them back to us. This must be done ASAP, Shiki. We must not delay it lest we risk our identity. Shizuka will follow-up afterward with false memories of them.

"As for being a jounin, you have already written it onto the records, so the 'memories' will match without issues. Every 'memory' up until your meeting with the passive-aggressive blonde has been crafted - and once you've added them into the official records, I doubt anybody would be bright enough to find a loophole. Shizuka will further add any memories of your intelligence gathering and forgery to the second floor on the assumption that a Yamanaka would pay us a visit; though I highly suspect that that would be soon enough."

As his dark passenger returned to his own crimson red couch next to his katana and crossed a leg over the other, Shiki skimmed through the tome that gave a detailed picture his 'past' in Konoha, idly taking note of how manga-ish the format was, before placing it onto his corner of the roundtable to be studied at a later time.

"I will answer any of your questions now." Shi-chan stated rather than ask 'do you have any questions for me?' like any other person would. If he kept this up, Shiki would probably mistake statements to be questions in the future... And that would be horrible for his (already lacking) social skills.

When he looked up after a few long minutes of staring blankly at the tome's cover, it was to the intense gazes of Shi-chan and Shi-sōrō. With a huff, he turned away from the woman's somnolent gaze and the man's judgemental one.

Truthfully, there were far too many questions he wanted to ask them. He even made a mental list during the summary of his 'past'; prioritizing them in a descending order. However, the two weren't going anywhere anytime soon. It would be wiser of him to allow everything to sink in (starting from his 'past') before he starts to overload his brain.

"Just one for now. Then I'll get back to sorting through the false past."

Despite the man's poker face being impenetrable, he had a feeling that Shi-chan was pleased by his decision. Just as his dark passenger's lips parted, he was interrupted by a lazy drawl, which invoked a heated glare from the man.

If looks could kill, he thought in amusement, which, in the Narutoverse, it could. And wasn't that a chilling aspect?

"Ask away, Shiki," The otaku threw a smirk at Shi-chan, her fingers flying across her laptop's keyboard, the Kakashi plush having disappeared somewhere somewhen. He idly wondered what the function of the laptop was in this mind palace, but shook his head to rid himself of such inane thoughts. He needed to stop getting distracted so easily.

"You said that Shi-chan-" the person in question twitched slightly, cheeks coloring at the nickname much to his and Shi-sōrō's obvious amusement, which only made Shi-chan glower at them menacingly. The intimidating effect was lost due to how red his face was, "acts as my somewhat personal assistant. Is that his designed task? And if so, what about yours? Don't tell me you're really just an isōrō (freeloader)."

She hummed slightly, trading a few glances with Shi-chan. When it was clear he wouldn't be the one to talk (probably still sulking despite the fact that his expression was like a statue's), she sighed a 'bothersome man' and answered obediently, "If you want to ask what our specific roles are; that'll be... Aa, he's the Overseer and Guardian of your mind palace, whilst I'm the Organizer and Keeper of your books."

"What do those titles mean, exactly?"

"Technically, Shinkichi is my senpai, so he's kind of my boss. The overseer. But he's also the muscle. Uh, and the brain, actually. Huh, I'm really very much a freeloader when compared to him... Anyway! Whenever an intruder enters, Shinkichi will 'welcome' them. He's the front door guy whilst I'm the backroom girl. If he deems them a threat, he will probably maim them. Aa, not probably probably. He will definitely maim them. He has this 3 S thingy; skin, stab, and skewer. Most of his personality comes from the previous host, whilst mine comes from the host's creator. Mash the both of us up and we'll get a weird mixture of, well, you."

She squinted at him like he was the oddball of the three - which he wasn't, thank you very much.

"As for me, I keep your books - memories - safe. I can't alter, seal, or destroy them without your permission, but I can make a pretty realistic forgery of them. Like how I created the books that contain your 'past'." She gestured at the tar-black bookshelf, "You will be able to distinguish them from the real ones, of course, so no harm done. I also help organize them. So if you need a particular memory, hell, or even a particular jutsu you've already learned but forgotten, just ask me. I'm similar to a Google search. See?"

The lazy woman blew smoke out of her nostrils before she turned her laptop to face him. The screen displayed a file full of cat pictures. He recognized some of them as the strays he fed whenever he walked to his previous workplace at the police HQ.

"The laptop is an extension of me. That means only I can use it... and it hurts when anything is done to it." She suddenly glowered at Shi-chan, who has, somewhen during the woman's explanation, began whetting his blade, "Bastard didn't even say sorry when he spilled his matcha tea all over my precious laptop. The nerve of some people-"

"We'll have to cut this short," Shi-chan suddenly stated, his voice colder than Antarctica, "I hear three distinct sets of graceless and lumbering footsteps coming our way. If imitating an elephant is their idea of stealthy footwork, I pity their future as shinobi." He then turned to Shiki, a small yet very mocking smile playing on his lips, "Theirs sounded just like yours. Were you their teacher, perchance?"

Shi-sōrō seemed to have forgotten her grievance over Shi-chan's lack of care and cackled, having thrown her head back as she guffawed in a very un-ladylike manner. She tried to keep her mirth in check but ended up rolling on the carpeted floor anyway, pointing at him and howling with an agreement that yes, he was as graceful as a fish on land.

Before he could throw the heavy tome at the two complete arseholes, he was back at the Training Ground, the sun's position showing him that he had been in his mind palace for close to an hour.

"Sorry, do you mind sharing this Training Ground with us?" A masculine voice asked rather sleepily from the right of him.

"Sensei...!" A childlike and feminine voice whined, "You can't let your laziness interfere with proper etiquette. Ninjas prefer training alone for a reason. I apologize for my sensei's lack of common sense! We'll go to another Training Ground. Sorry to disturb your meditation!"

"What a drag..." The sensei mumbled.


Shiki turned to face them, blinking slightly to get the lethargy out of his gaze. He had planned to take a short nap before breakfast and after meditating, but of course, his plans were always being interrupted one way or another. This time, it was by a genin team and their jounin-sensei. Joy.

It made Shiki huff quietly under his breath as he set his nodachi on his lap and stuffed his mittens into his pockets.

 A/N: Just a little something to help with visualizing. I'm not really creative so I shamelessly copied Undertale's The Last Corridor.

Chapter Text

Shiki ran an idle hand along the spine of his sheathed sword as he tilted his head back to get a better look at the newcomers.

The feminine voice that was still reprimanding the 'lazy sensei' belonged to the only female in the group of four; a long-haired brunette with big, blue, innocent eyes.

She appeared to be a newly graduated genin, the shortest of their group and probably about nine or ten in age going by the baby fats still clinging stubbornly to her cheeks and body. She was wearing a baby blue dress that ended mid-thigh with slits at the sides, short tights underneath, ninja sandals, the leaf forehead protector around her neck, and the standard ninja sandals, pouch, and kunai holster.

Her two fellow genin looked to be the same age, both boys, and identical twins. Their dark hair was cropped short, with their forehead protector at its rightful place, preventing their bangs from covering their chocolate brown eyes that were both wide and without the taint of darkness that all shinobi wore like a second skin.

They also wore identical outfits; hoodies, dark pants, and ninja sandals with bandages wrapped around their ankles. The only difference between them was the color of their hoodie - one being black whilst the other navy blue and the placement of their kunai holster (left and right thigh respectively).

Just by the three's unsullied disposition, it was clear as day that they were all from civilian backgrounds, knowing no prior or first-hand knowledge that was ultimately passed to children by shinobi parents or clans. Likely (most definitely) to be cannon fodder when sent out of the village as soon as proper genin standards were met.

Then there was the jounin-sensei.

He looked somewhat familiar if Shiki squinted (a Nara?), leaning heavily against the nearest training post with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. The young adult, about twenty years old, has black hair that was tied up in a spiky ponytail, and a pair of equally dark and intelligent eyes. He was taller than Shiki by maybe five or so centimeters and has a lackadaisical air about him.

The sensei wore a meshed shirt underneath his flak jacket, dark pants with bandages wrapped around the ankles, a sleeveless deerskin coat, handguards, and the usual ninja sandals, pouches, and kunai holster. His forehead protector was wrapped around his left bicep, scratched and dented, signifying the man's long services as a shinobi.

With an inaudible sigh, Shiki stood up, balanced Cross Marian on his right clavicle, and belatedly answered the sensei's question, "Be my guest. I'm done for the day."

He was just about to walk away when his left sleeve was boldly grabbed by tiny digits. He couldn't stop his whole body from jolting, his entire being focused onto the girl's fingers with dangerous precision.

The girl didn't notice, her cheeks flushed as she stared at anywhere but his face whilst she spoke in a stutter, "Y-you can stay! I, I mean. You don't need to leave just because of us, U-Uchiha-san."

He tightened the hand that was holding Cross Marian to withhold the urge to cut her in half. She should be damn grateful he had not allowed this body's honed instincts to react. Not wanting to draw attention to himself by killing a fellow Konoha nin, he quite frankly shook his wrist in a blatant gesture that screamed 'let go, peasant!'.

Honestly, how could genin be this foolhardy and naive whilst in the midst of an ongoing war? Did she not know how twitchy shinobi were in general? Grabbing one so suddenly was a dangerous stunt that even the bravest of comrades would dare not try.

After a whole minute of silence, with him staring openly at the fingers that were still latched onto his sleeve, his eyes grew colder with each passing second at her obliviousness. Despite her status as cannon fodder, he must. Not. Maim. Fellow. Konoha Nin.

Shiki has enough trouble as it was with suppressing his primal urges, add in sleep deprivation and it became all that much harder to control the temptation to grab the girl by her neck and wring. Especially so when a two-thirds of him loathed human contact and interaction. He doubted he would be able to hold back if she were to brush against his skin - accidental or otherwise.

He settled for curling his hand into a fist, the veins on his dorsum bulging in a show of restraint. At the very least, the neutral poker face all Uchiha seemed to be born with didn't allow for a single murderous thought to appear in his otherwise stoic demeanor.

"Yukari." The sensei's voice, which had previously been thick with sleep, was now as sharp as Cross Marian.

The girl was startled enough to (thankfully) release her hold on Shiki's sleeve in favor of facing her sensei. He swiftly shoved the newly freed hand into his pocket, not wanting a repeat performance.

The slight tension that was in the air was soon enough broken by childish jeering.

"Hahahaha! Yuka-chan got scolded~ What an idiot." The twins spoke in synchronicity, their friendly smiles not matching their words.

Their female teammate flushed an unhealthy shade of crimson as she glared at them, a fist shaking in their direction as she screeched out words no ten-year-old girl should ever speak out loud.

Their jounin-sensei has a hand on his face, a murmured 'what a pain' leaving his lips before he slapped the three genins on their heads. The children yelped, cradling their cranium whilst whining about child abuse.

Ah, the wondrous life of a jounin-sensei. Note the sarcasm.

Shiki was glad he wouldn't have to experience such a beautiful thing.

"How 'bout this," The jounin-sensei pulled out a 30x30cm four-layered bento box and waved it lazily about, "We can have breakfast together while the brats train. As an apology for intruding." and my female student's behavior, was left unsaid.

On cue, his stomach betrayed him. Then three other growls were heard, the chibi ninjas have blushes on their cheeks as they hugged their midsection.

"No fair, sensei!" The girl whined, her own stomach giving yet another despairing groan.

"Sensei..." The twins blinked crocodile tears and mixed them with puppy dog eyes.

Shiki raised a sceptic brow at the three.

They were genin - legally adults in the eyes of the system - yet they were still so... immature. Whining about fairness (of all things) when they were lucky enough to still be protected inside the village walls whilst others their age (some younger) were out on the field, either killing or dying - sustained only on ration bars.

Maybe it was unfair of him to judge them based on their occupation, but, well, they were schooled to be child soldiers - highly trained killers... Not... remain as children.

Although, he supposed, not everyone could be considered a child prodigy by the standards of Uchiha Itachi, Uchiha Shisui, Hatake Kakashi, Namikaze Minato, or hell, even Orochimaru and Sasori. He didn't even bother adding the two founders of Konoha - they were at an entirely different league; monsters in human skin. The three, however, were technically still children, after all, and had not experienced the harshness of reality.

He gave their sensei a (hidden) look; as if judging the lazy man's teaching abilities to make them into proper assets. If they wanted to survive outside the village, they would have to drop all childish mentality and become frigid child soldiers (who would grow up with severe PTSD and nightmares or would die before reaching the age of twenty).

Maybe, just maybe, being an unfeeling psychopath with moral issues has its own merits when living in this violent world of Naruto. He didn't have to worry about the guilt and burden the previous him would have undoubtedly felt when taking a life of a living, breathing human.

Hell, his mind was even dehumanizing the children and thinking them mere tools to be used and discarded without a care. The only downside to residing in this body was his attraction to corpses. Other than that, he gave it a 10/10. Or, perhaps an 8/10 would be more suitable due to the faulty and unbalanced skillset.

"Hm? Why are you brats still here? Go stretch then run ten laps." The three showed their reluctance but obediently went to the center of the Training Ground to start their stretches. "Now, what do you say? Food?"

With a "Hn", he agreed.

He was hungry, anyway. Besides, why shouldn't he coincide to free food?

[For the reason it might be, oh, I don't know, poisoned?]

[The ponytail dude doesn't even know Shiki. Stop being an overly paranoid freak and let our man eat in peace, Shinkichi.]

[I'd rather not be called a freak by such an uncouth woman.]

[U-uncouth?! How rude! I'm a refined and elegant piece of meat! All anime men bow before me!]


[... Did- did you just give me a pitying look? You did, didn't you?! Why I oughta-...!]

He blocked out his two passengers' bickering whilst inwardly shaking his head at their childish barbs. He then sat by the jounin-sensei's side after the man placed a picnic blanket on the grassy ground. Shiki wasn't surprised by how prepared the man was. If this person was really a Nara, the sensei would probably have some pillows locked in one or two storage scrolls as well.

Since the blanket was modest in size, they were both seated near enough that their shoulders would brush with their every movement. As expected, Shiki was stiff and uncomfortable at the proximity.

However, by the manner the jounin blatantly scooted aside, shifting to a respectable distance that some of him was partially out of the blanket, Shiki knew that the other shinobi was perceptive; aware and alert beneath all that unassuming exterior.

It made Shiki all the more apprehensive about his impulsive agreement (damn his easily bribed stomach). Observant people, in general, were a pain to deal with. He needed to remain vigilant lest he gave something away.

Within moments, the bento boxes were unpacked, revealing the first container to be filled with various flavors of onigiri, another with meat, the next were assorted vegetables with sliced hard boiled eggs, and the last containing diced fruits.

"Nara Shikaku." The other shinobi introduced himself as he passed a pair of chopsticks to Shiki.

Ah. It was no wonder the sensei looked familiar. Due to the lack of distinct facial scars and a goatee, they made him blend in with the crowd of other Nara.

Nara Shikaku, the future Jounin Commander and Chief Strategist of the Allied Shinobi Forces. He was also one of the main character's father; which meant Shiki needed to stay the fuck away from the guy (due to his previous words to not mess with canon characters... but mainly because this man was too intelligent for his own good, with an IQ of over 200 along with a decently high EQ to match. He was an unneeded risk to Shiki's identity). After he was done with breakfast, he would disappear like the wind, never to be seen again by the Nara heir (or has he become the clan head?).

It was, however, curious as to why the higher-ups would appoint someone of such calibre to become the jounin sensei of a group of expendable pawns. Shouldn't they have provided clan children, better assets, to be the genii's genin team?

[I doubt it would make much of a  distinction . The military currently lacks manpower. They cannot afford to be picky with their tools lest the other hidden villages think Konoha spent. ]

Point. He mentally gave his dark passenger a nod at his reasoning whilst accepting the chopsticks from the Nara heir.

"Uchiha Shiki. Itadakimasu."

It took Shiki a few seconds of contemplation for him to boldly skewer an onigiri into a lollipop whilst at the same time pretending to not hear Shi-chan's scoff, Shi-sōrō's guffaw, and Nara's startled and soft exclamation.

Any other Uchiha (or Japanese person, honestly) would be appalled by what he did, but he seriously cared not in the face of germs. He wasn't about to touch anything with his unwashed hands, especially when he has just finished training. That would be wholly unhygienic and beyond disgusting. Furthermore, who knew what he had come into contact with whilst doing push-ups?

Once again, he thanked the rigid Uchiha genes that kept him (mostly) unreadable and bit into the onigiri whilst watching the three genin flail about - much unlike a proper shinobi and more like children playing ninja. Their antics somewhat amused all three of the Shi-family.

The Nara murmured a 'troublesome' under his breath but left Shiki alone. It would be highly hypocritical of him if he criticized Shiki's (lack of) table manners when he himself was eating rather sloppily, yawning once in a while as he too watched his genin team run about like headless chickens.

They both couldn't help but chuckle under their breaths when the girl overbalanced on one of her stretches and fell face first, her teammates laughing their arses off rather than helping her.

"Cute, aren't they?" Nara suddenly spoke, a lazy smile playing on his lips.

Shiki watched the sensei from the peripheral of his eyes for a few moments before deciding that it wouldn't hurt to socialize for a bit.

He would have to be cautious of his words, of course, but if there was even the slightest of chances of building a good rapport with someone fated for success, it would benefit him greatly in the future - even if he would never actively seek out any canon characters.

Everyone needed friends in high places, after all.

"They are bearable."

"Hoh? Then what do you find cute?" Shiki raised a brow, his expression guarded, which made Nara smile disarmingly, "I'm just curious is all. You don't have to answer if you don't want to."

Shiki slowly chewed the sliced egg in his mouth as he regarded that question seriously. In the past, he would've undoubtedly answered with 'moe characters are the cutest', but now that he has transmigrated into this body, the only thoughts that constantly pop into his mind were corpses, skewering, seals, and daifuku.

He decided to be tactful and replied with something others would not find offensive, aka; animals.

"I find the Komondor to be especially cute." He answered sombrely, "May I inquire why you find the genin cute, Nara-san?"

"Just Shikaku. Let's not be so formal, Shiki-san." The Nara rested his cheek against a fist whilst his half-lidded eyes looked fixedly at Shiki, "And to answer your question; their behavior amuses me. Although I've just found someone else who is equally as adorable, if not more."

"Is that so." Was his distracted reply as Shiki stabbed another onigiri with his chopsticks and brought it to his lips. Whoever it was that made this bento deserved a gold star.

"Mhm. He's very intriguing."

"Hn." Shiki skillfully mixed some meat and wrapped them inside a big piece of cabbage. He then added a sliced egg on the top and carefully ate it with zeal.

"And I've always been a fan of puzzles."

"Hn." Another bite and the whole wrapped meat entered his mouth, his cheeks bulging as his eyes narrowed in satisfaction.

"Are you enjoying yourself?"

"Delicious." The last of the onigiri went into his stomach, much to his sorrow. He stared ruefully at the empty box for a few moments before moving onto what was left of the meat.

"Why thank you. You're quite the interesting one, aren't you? Hmm... You know, as troublesome as it is, I prepare a different menu each day. But it's better than eating the same food all the time, don't you agree?"

"Hn." He threw the last of the meat into his mouth and moved his chopsticks towards the fruits container.

"And because I often make too much - how about you join my team's training session to help me finish my bento boxes?"

"Hn." Wow. How could a mango taste this good? Did whoever it was who made this bento add some kind of secret ingredient?

"Great! I'll be expecting you here every morning, Shiki-san. You'll be in charge of bringing the blanket, alright?"

"Hn... Eh?" The tips of his chopsticks became frozen inside his mouth as his eyes widened, his brain in the middle of catching up to Nara's words.

"Good, good."

With a blank look, he watched dazedly as Nara expertly boxed away the containers and called for his genin to stop. The three chibi shinobi collapsed onto the ground in a heap whilst their jounin-sensei walked off, a slouch in his shoulders, a lazy smile playing on his lips, and a smug look in his eyes.

The ducklings squeaked and called for their sensei to wait for them, hurriedly getting to their feet and running off after the departing silhouette, but not before they waved goodbye with fervor at Shiki.

It was only five minutes after the group left did he realize what he had agreed on.

"...Gochisosama deshita...?" He said bewilderedly to nobody in particular.

Shi-chan snorted whilst Shi-sōrō muttered about food being a deadly tool for diversion. Shiki mutedly agreed as he swiped Cross Marian from its resting spot and walked off after storing the blanket and chopsticks into his inventory seal.

[Should we not finalize Shiki's identity first before we do anything else?]

[In broad daylight? Haha... No. We'll patiently wait for night to fall.]

[Why not? With our skills, it'll be child's play to infiltrate that purple building.]

[Do not let overconfidence cloud your common sense, fool. Take no unnecessary risk. That will only lead to our downfall.]

Shiki silently agreed with Shi-chan, making Shi-sōrō pout. The two Shi-family men chose to ignore the sulking freeloader, which only caused said freeloader to go on a chainsmoking spree as a show of frustration. He soon felt Shi-chan's presence dim until almost nonexistence, sparking his curious, but he was not nosy enough to butt into another person's business.

As he sat on his lonesome at the Jounin Standby Station, his eyes moving discreetly about, his mind was busy taking note of the other shinobi and their behavior. After a few minutes of boredom, he decided that he should do something productive such as meditating in order to train his chakra senses whilst on the side, gain some gossip and info from other resting jounin.

Not even half an hour into his meditation, someone bursts into the Standby Station and yelled out, "I need 3 rapid responders that are at their full condition to back up Team 8! C Rank turn A Rank - 9 missing-nins; 3 jounin and 6 chunin. Team leader mildly injured, 2 genins incapacitated, and the last dead."

Two jounin stood up, their faces serious, and swiftly strode forward to report for duty. When they saw how the others were mostly injured and won't be of much help, the shinobi that yelled was quick to scan the room. Soon enough, those sharp eyes landed on Shiki - the only uninjured jounin present.

"You there. How is your speed?"

"I work for intelligence."

"Good enough! You go and accompany them." The shinobi then passed a scroll to the taller of the two who had first volunteered, "You're the temporary leader. Description's inside. Godspeed."

And the shinobi rushed out to attend to other matters.

Seeing that he didn't have any other choice lest he be reputed as someone who disregards his comrades, he stiffly stood from his seat and strode over to join the duo, the leader's eyes skimming through the scroll with much expertise.

"Pack for a week. Meet at the main gate in 5 minutes!" The assigned leader stated rigidly before his so-called teammates Shunshin-ed away.

Ah... He just wanted to wait until night to fall. How bothersome...!

Well, he supposed, the silver lining was that, at the very least, he has a legit excuse to not meet up with Nara Shikaku tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Shiki sharpened his nails idly with a kunai, utterly bored as he waited for his impromptu teammates to arrive.

Due to this unexpected situation, he was left with no choice but to rely on a shadow clone to infiltrate the purple building and perfect his cover to the utmost of realism - all without bursting itself from tripping all over the place.

Shi-chan, the ever perfect and stoic shinobi, took this time to lecture him - of all things - about proper mission etiquette, rules, and protocols; which made the two remaining Shi-trio cringe (discreetly, of course, since they weren't suicidal).

The first to appear (and thankfully put a stop to Shi-chan's boring monologue) was the leader of their little team; the tall bloke with an average face and fierce eyes.

The jounin, as if startled by something, landed somewhat off balance and far too close to Shiki for his liking. The man gave a stiff nod as a sign of greeting, his expression looking pretty much constipated. Shiki, not one for socializing, took a blunt step away and went back to sharpening his nails, his diva attitude pretty much telling of his Uchiha heredity.

Their final member landed next to them a minute later, silent as a cat. Sharing a quick glance, all three of them signed their papers at the guard station, pumped chakra to their legs and disappeared from the village gates to traverse through the forest via tree branches.

They introduced themselves whilst on the move - the leader's family name was Nakamura and their third member was Miki - and it was only after the village was well out of view did Nakamura finally brief them about this rescue mission of theirs.

To sum it up; an infestation of rats had been uncovered a few days prior to the SOS message.

After a thorough interrogation, it was found that the infiltrators' group were all along aiming for the Sharingan/Byakugan eyes/bloodline. And because they had somehow (the Shi-trio smelled a conspiracy) managed to place two newly graduated Uchiha and Hyuuga in a team composed of a dead-last kid from a civilian background and an average no-name jounin-sensei... Just by that Intel alone, it was inevitable that team 8 would be targeted as soon as they were out of the village.

Normally, for these types of sensitive clan cases, a black ops team would be sent out. However, due to the strain of resources caused by the ongoing war, the lack of manpower was atrocious. Furthermore, coincidentally (or not, Shi-chan murmured), there actually were no available ANBU team in Konoha right now; all of them having already been sent to high profile missions that would hopefully cripple their enemies one way or another, or were on important patrol/guard duties.

For this impromptu mission, as per the two clans' request, their retrieval was to prioritize the Uchiha and Hyuuga genin over the rest of the team - and if unable to risk bringing their body scrolls back home lest they fall into the wrong hands, to burn their corpse until not even their ashes remained.

[Uwaa. How should I say this...? Brutal?]

[E fficient is the word you're looking for. I'd rather we not spare the effort of keeping them around and just burn them.]

[I feel bad for dismissing human lives, but I concur. It'll be too troublesome otherwise. Would you like a cuppa?]

[Indeed. It is a rather pointless endeavor - and yes, a cuppa would be nice. ]

Shiki did his best to ignore Shi-sōrō and Shi-chan's completely unnecessary commentaries. More concerned about his footwork than their idle teatime chatter. He has already humiliated himself one too many times in front of Minato - and a repeat performance would utterly annihilate the fearsome reputation he was planning on building amongst the Konoha nins.

After an estimated three hours run, Miki raised a hand for them to stop.

"What is it?" Nakamura demanded as he scanned their immediate surroundings for danger. Shiki did the same, his dark eyes roaming the forest as he placed a hand on Cross Marian's hilt.

"Chakra signals. My 2 o'clock. By the looks of things, a fight had broken out."

"... We're taking a detour." At the leader's decision, Miki nodded and took point.

With their leader falling to the rear, Shiki said nothing as he situated himself in the middle of their three-man formation, not wanting to cause any unnecessary drama by refusing - although Shiki felt more vulnerable than a sense of security in this position.

Due to his lack of chakra sensing abilities, he could only depend on his dark passenger to warn him of any incoming backstabs. Hence why Shiki set his shinobi identity as a solo player rather than a team player (figuratively and literally).

When Shiki's sensitive hearing picked up the sounds of a scuffle, Miki started to form hand signs that left Shiki clueless. Thankfully, Shi-chan was an expert in all shinobi aspects and helped translate the Konoha sign language.

[ETA 10 seconds. ]

Shi-chan sounded bloodthirsty and eager, his tone almost sultry.

Well, Shiki mused, his dark passenger couldn't be blamed. They hadn't had any fun since quite some time ago. Although hopefully, they would not lose control of their lustful urges. That would be mortifying on so many levels.

[We could always eliminate all  witnesses .]

'No', Shiki responded instantly to the almost-plea, 'we agreed that Konoha nins are our allies'.

The inner-Uchiha scowled darkly at the reminder but, thankfully, the freeloading passenger distracted Shi-chan with dinner (beef sliders and chips), which allowed those sinful desires to take a backseat.

Shiki breathed out an inaudible sigh of relief and unsheathed Cross Marian upon nearing the battlefield.

As soon as his other two temporary teammates entered the skirmish, quite trigger happy with their ninjutsu, Shiki dived headfirst into the busiest parts of the battlefield. The Iwa nin that got her heart pierced by his blade died immediately, spraying blood all over the face of the Konoha nin that had been fighting her just a second ago.

Shiki's village comrade looked shocked at his unexpected entrance, but after taking note of Shiki's hitai-ate and his pair of Sharingan eyes, nodded in gratitude before rushing off to assist a fellow comrade. Shiki ignored the teenager he had just saved, too busy with swallowed the lump in his throat and tearing his eyes away from the gradually cooling corpse by his feet.

Taking a deep breath in - ignoring how the heavy scent of blood was pretty much intoxicating to him - he stalked off to assassinate another Iwa nin, his muted chakra presence causing him to practically become a phantom on the battlefield.

As the last Iwa nin to fell to his blade, the battlefield became silent as everyone worked to carry their wounded ally and pack up the dead.

"Miki, Uchiha" Nakamura strode towards them, his eyes assessing, "status?"

"A couple of scratches and bruising. Other than that, I'm good to go," Miki responded whilst massaging his right shoulder.

"Same," Shiki drawled despite escaping the skirmish scot-free.

Nakamura nodded, taking their words at face value. Not a second later, a worn-out looking man walked over to their trio, his expression tired and undereye bags heavy. Nakamura had a hint of recognition appear on his face when his gaze landed on the sleep-deprived man.

"Thanks for the timely backup, Nakamura. Do you and your team want to rest up at the tower?" The man's voice was also laden with lethargy. It was clear to see that the jounin was exhausted from the constant skirmishes at the border.

"We'll have to decline. How are things looking here?"

"It's getting worse."

The two fell into a heavy silence, one filled with unspoken dread.

"Go treat the injured, Momoshiro." Nakamura finally said, his lips pursed, "And get as much rest as you can. You look dead on your feet."

The shinobi released a laugh filled with wariness, "I feel dead. Take care of yourself, Nakamura. I'll see you around."

Not long after that short exchange, the three continued on their journey.

When Shiki felt hunger creep up at him due to the (imaginary) whiff of chicken coming from his mind palace, he cursed his passengers darkly in his head, loathing how they were (unfairly) enjoying their warm meal without a care in the world.

He sulkily pulled out a ration bar and munched on it robotically, the cardboard-tasting consumable not at all helping his cravings for meat.

Ah, he would kill for his previous life's ration pack right about now.

He had, once upon a time before this isekai scenario happened, been on a camping trip with his colleagues and they had prepared a few military ration packs to try. The packs were pretty mushy and disgusting, but compared to eating hard cardboard? He preferred something full of flavor and easier to swallow, thank you very much.

With a rueful sigh, he pulled out yet another ration bar and ate with lassitude.

Kazuo shuddered as he huddled against Shun-sensei's side, not caring enough about his dignity and Uchiha pride as he wrapped his mud-caked arms around his unconscious and equally dirty teammate, Hyuuga Hikari. His other civilian teammate, Takai (9 years old, the same age as them), has already been sealed into a body scroll, kept on Shun-sensei's person.

"Persevere, Kazuo," Shun-sensei whispered whilst hugging them both against his chest, "Backup will come soon. We'll be back home in no time. For now, just hide your chakra signature to the best of your abilities."

Kazuo, with tears running down his cheeks, nodded weakly at his sensei.

Currently, the three of them were hidden inside a civilian's home, concealing themselves to the best of their abilities. Sensei was heavily injured, but he still tries his hardest to protect them.

... But Takai still died, despite their best efforts.

And Kazuo was filled with so much sorrowanguish, and fear that his Sharingan had increased to 2 tomoe during this experience - which would normally make him happy, but Kazuo felt only dread on the inside.

And he knew.

He knew that those group of Ame nins wanted his and Hikari's dojutsu (it was their fault Takai died. It was their fault Shun-sensei is gravely hurt). And never has Kazuo feared dojutsu thieves this much before. There have always been horror stories told to warn the newly graduated shinobi/kunoichi about the dangers, and as a precaution against those thieves, there were unwritten rules, passed down from generation to generation since before Konohagakure came into existence.

One of those rules was to gouge out his own eyeballs as soon as shit hits the fan. Yet, he felt ill at the mere idea of it. He would rather die intact and betray his clan's expectations than mutilate himself. Also, he held onto that small and pathetic hope that he and what was left of his genin team would make it back alive - and being a blind Uchiha wouldn't bring prestige to his clan.

When they heard two sets of cat-like landings on the roof, Kazuo's breath hitch, his Sharingan activating on instinct - causing the dark room to glow with a slight reddish hue. A palm swiftly covered the top half of his face, causing the reddish glow on the walls to die down.

"Deactivate your eyes, Kazuo!" Shun-sensei ordered, his tone firm despite the soft volume.

"I... I c-can't! I'm s-scared, sensei," he sobbed, "I don't want to d-die."

Sensei said nothing and only held him tighter.

It felt like an eternity for those people on the roof to move. But their relief was short lived. They soon heard the house being turned inside out, furniture and walls breaking as a few of their pursuers searched through the house.

"Yer sure they're here?" A man's voice grunted, impatient and grumpy. Kazuo's trembling increased as he tightened his hold on Hikari. That sounded like one of the men that had been hunting them down for the past few days.

"Tsk. The smell of blood 's strong here - so yes, am fuckin' sure," another man answered, equally waspish as the other. His voice was also recognizable to Kazou. Due to his almost perfect memory whenever he turned his Sharingan on, those kinds of (traumatizing) things were impossible to forget.

"Maybe 'cause we killed the bitch that lived here yesterday," There was a solid thump; as if someone had kicked something (the house owner's corpse, Kazuo's mind supplied disjointedly) to the wall.

"Smell's fresh. They must be here somewhere."

The second person must be a tracker who relies heavily on his sense of smell. Despite team 8 having already dressed their wounds, changed their clothing, and covered whatever tracks they could whilst on the run, they were still found.

Of course, we would! Kazuo cried in his head, one of us is still unconscious and our best fighter has a hole in his gut! Not to mention we are a genin team, fresh out of the academy, against a group of chunin and jounin!

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Ya go check the rooms. I'll guard the exit."

There was a scoff, but there wasn't any other response that could be heard. The only indication that he had obeyed his partner was the rough slamming of a door as he entered the bedroom close to their hiding spot in the attic.

Shun-sensei released the hold on Kazuo's face in favor of wielding a kunai in hand. Kazuo stared at his jounin-sensei with wide and panicked eyes, one of his hands clutching the man's forearm in a silent and desperate plea to not be left alone with his collapsed teammate.

His sensei only smiled as he prised Kazuo's fingers off of his forearm, mouthed out a few choice words that caused Kazuo's tears to double in its amount, and turned his back on his student. Just as Shun-sensei was reaching for the trap door, the muffled sound of someone choking was heard.

"Kaito?!" At the second man's shout, Shun-sensei's hand retreated as he adopted a wait and see approach, much to Kazuo's relief. Team 8 won't be losing one more of its members soon (but not for long, a small and brooding part of his mind sneered). 

And then the clang of kunai being deflected was heard, followed by the wet sound of water (blood) splashing onto the ground.


Kazuo's heart was beating a mile a minute, his face pale of color as he continues to listen to the sound of agonized screaming.

"Quiet," An unfamiliar voice sounded, detached and devoid of emotions.

The voice brought a chilling sensation down Kazuo's spine, cold sweat causing his clothes to stick uncomfortably to his skin. Never has he feared someone's voice to this extent before - like a rabbit in the face of a snake. 

"Mmph!" The screams stopped shortly after, leaving behind muffled noises; as if someone had forced an object into their victim's mouth.

"I am looking for three Konoha genin and their jounin-sensei. Tell me where they are or I'll skewer you alive."

Shun-sensei placed an assuring hand on Kazuo's shoulder, but his muscles were pulled taut as he held his kunai tightly, ready for a fight.

Kazuo, on the other hand, did not feel assured at all. He felt like bawling his eyes out and begging for his parents to save him. Just how many groups were pursuing them? Was Iwa joining the hunt as well?

"Fuck ya. I ain't tellin' ya shit-"


"W-what are you doing?! S-s-s-stop! Nnngh!"

"Tell me whenever you feel like talking."

"Hah. Like hell I will-"


"W-wait, please, I- Ahh, I'll speaaahnnggk-"

"I wonder if there are any beef sliders here..."

The unfamiliar man wondered out loud, not at all caring that there was another person screaming bloody murder at being skewered.

The pursuer coughed and gagged as he responded, his voice full of fear, "I don'- no, no, no, stop... P-please wAIT- AAAAHHHHHH!"

"Or matcha tea. That would add a little bit more flavor to the ration bar, I reckon."


"S-sensei..." Kazuo whispered, feeling sick as the torture continued. He wanted so badly to puke his guts out.

This was less of an interrogation and more of someone enjoying themselves. The actions of the torturer conveyed that he didn't care about the answers at all, seemingly bored and killing time.

"Hm?" All noise and activity suddenly stopped, causing Shun-sensei's grip to be borderline painful on his shoulder.

Kazuo was also tensed. He didn't know why the man had stopped 'playing' - whether he had killed the Ame nin or knocked him out - but Kazuo dared not even breath loudly in fear of being found.

The shinobi could not have possibly heard his soft whisper, right? The loud screams should have covered any sounds they made perfectly well.

Before he could think more on the subject, the trap door slammed open, causing what little hope Kazuo was holding onto to be lost.

And then Shun-sensei moved. But sensei's kunai was easily blocked by a slender and long blade. His fear intensified when a man, his figure partially hidden by the attic's darkness, jumped through the trap door and positioning himself in a relaxed stance; arrogant and lofty.

Before they could react, however, the man suddenly sheathed his blade, much to their confusion. But then it cleared up immediately after Kazuo met the man's eyes.

Crimson. 3 tomoe.

The darkened room's walls were lit a shade of red by 2 pairs of Sharingan eyes.

The sadistic killer was from his clan

Chapter Text

Shiki exhaled inaudibly as he resheathed Cross Marian and rested it on his right shoulder, not at all caring how the blood was seeping into his flak jacket, pants, and mittens (he had been so bored just slicing and dicing his way through, hence he had spiced things up by getting creative with his sheath).

Thankfully, whilst he had been playing 'pin the pinata' with those two Ame shinobi he had by chance stumbled upon, a whisper was picked up by Shi-chan. Whoever it was that spoke whilst in the presence of an unknown shinobi was pretty daft, however. If Shiki had been an enemy, team 8 would've been wiped.

Well, whatever. At least part one of the mission has been completed.

His face was impassive as he assessed the jounin-sensei and the two genins; his paranoia not allowing for him to deactivate his Sharingan just yet. Not before he was assured of his own safety.

After confirming that the three were far too injured to be of any danger to him, he allowed his eyes to return to their normal shade of black. The Uchiha boy who was carrying the Hyuuga girl, however, kept his activated. Shiki raised an unimpressed and condescending brow before he turned to the jounin-sensei.

"Team 8. My name is Uchiha Shiki and I was sent with two other jounin to escort your team back to Konoha. Our camp is an hour's journey away. Are you in good condition to travel?" he drawled, the lack of action was waning his interest by the second.

"... If we proceed at a moderate speed," The jounin-sensei replied after a beat of silence. Shiki inwardly thought it bothersome to move at a snail's speed but nodded nonetheless.

After confirming with Shi-chan that there were no enemies near him, Shiki walked to the nearest wall and used his Master level chakra manipulation skill to guide the flow of chakra solely to one foot. When he kicked, the chakra was expelled, allowing him to shatter the concrete without any physical exertion.

Shiki has also already sealed the two shinobi corpses inside body scrolls, so there was no reason to backtrack to the front door and waste precious time.

"I'll carry that."

When the two males from team 8 only stared stupidly at him, Shiki resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He settled for waving a mitten-covered hand at the unconscious Hyuuga.

The Uchiha boy squeaked (Shi-sōrō guffawed unladylike at the hamster-like sound), looking far too anxious for someone who had just been offered to have his burden carried for him. The boy meekly took a couple of steps back whilst turning to his jounin-sensei for instruction.

Shiki idly wondered if the Uchiha clan was currently on a declining scale. The genin's attitude was so pathetically meek that it was causing the Shi-family to turn their noses in disgust (completely forgetting that the boy has yet to reach double-digits in his age and was beyond traumatized by this experience of being hunted like some kind of exotic animal).

Were Obito, Shisui, Itachi, and Sasuke just flukes and the rest of the Uchiha pretty much a meh? Or perhaps it was because those warmongers had experienced peace after the formation of Konoha and had relaxed their descendants' training? Or maybe they had modified the training menu after Madara's absconding?

He would have to visit the Uchiha district and let his dark passenger observe the clan's training regime for some sound theory.

"You don't have to trouble yourself, Uchiha-san. I can carry her."

At the jounin-sensei's response, Shiki truly wanted to roll his eyes skyward. So bothersome.

"Denied. Your injuries are already slowing us down enough without the added burden," Without waiting for them to protest or whatever, he snatched the Hyuuga and threw her over one shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He made sure to get a good grip on Cross Marian's hilt as he secured the sword over the small of the kunoichi's back, "Try and keep up - and genin, I advise that you deactivate your Sharingan. You're burning chakra unnecessarily."

With that said and done, he leaped onto the neighbor's roof and ran at a pace that bored him to death. All the whilst, he kept his eyes and ears peeled for any ambushes. The heavy footsteps of the Uchiha brat were loud, but at least he was able to keep up without apparent issues.

The jounin-sensei, on the other hand, was holding his abdomen as he ran, blood oozing from the wound and leaving an obvious trail for the trackers to find them. If Shiki was being brutally honest, he didn't really care if the enemy discovers them or not - rather, he was itching to release some pent-up energy.

But now, with the added burden of keeping three people well and alive, he needed to keep things simple. Shi-chan's tempting words to just kill them and bring their body scrolls back to their families was becoming more and more tempting with each passing second, however.

Frowning slightly, he stopped in his tracks and turned to the sensei.

"Strip," he commanded sharply as he tossed the unconscious Hyuuga to her Uchiha teammate; who caught her with a yelp. He then placed Cross Marian gently atop the roof - one needed to treat a lady with delicacy, after all - and removed his mittens, pocketing them shortly.

The jounin-sensei hesitated for a second but obeyed nonetheless. He obediently shrugged off his torn flak jacket, mud-stained shirt, and bloodied mesh armor. Shiki shoved those items into a storage paper (that was one tracking component eliminated) and returned it to his hip pouch, all without turning his eyes away from the man's upper body.

There were a lot of cuts and bruises littering his skin, but Shiki ignored them in favor of squinting at the blood-soaked makeshift bandages wrapped around his abdominal region.

Shiki left the dressing in place (not wanting to tear the clots open and have even more blood gushing out from the wound) and retrieved a roll of pressure bandages (a game item that stops the debuff Bleed). Stepping into the jounin-sensei's space, he wrapped the item over the bloody bandages, making sure that they were as tight as they could possibly be without constricting the man's breathing.

He didn't notice the pained grimace on the sensei's face at his rough treatment, however. But even if he did, Shiki wouldn't care, anyway. Having a narcissistic personality disorder has its merits sometimes.

After he was done, he pulled out three paper seals, stamped it on the Konoha nins' forearm, and sent a trickle of chakra to activate them. This would temporarily remove their scent. Nodding to himself, he retrieved the Hyuuga from the Uchiha boy and picked up Cross Marian.

Hopefully, they would be able to reach the campsite before nightfall. Shiki loathed the very idea of traveling at night - it was hard to not lose his footing whilst jumping from tree to tree.

After an estimated half an hour of traveling, his sensitive hearing picked up the change of breathing pattern from the Hyuuga girl. Just as he was about to call for a stop so that the Uchiha boy could support his teammate for the remaining distance, the kunoichi's knee jerked quite unexpectedly towards his unguarded throat.

If this was any other time, Shiki would've praised the girl. Any good shinobi/kunoichi would've done the same - aim at their kidnapper's weakness at a good opportunity when their guard was down. However, in this situation, she truly needed to think before doing anything that could potentially put her life at risk (or rather, weren't Hyuugas known for their environmental awareness? Shouldn't she have sensed or seen her teammates near Shiki to know that he was an ally? Or even have the decency to notice she was unbound, hence something was amiss in this kidnapping?).

But no. She acted recklessly and without thought. Which in turn nearly cost the girl her whole kunoichi career.

Shiki, or Shi-chan, rather, reacted completely on self-preservation. The resounding crunch that followed not a second after the girl's attempt at crushing his throat made his scalp turn numb.


Whilst Shi-sōrō chortled at Shi-chan's utterly unapologetic deadpan, Shiki resisted the urge to skewer his dark passenger to hell and back.

However, with an outwardly impassive face, he stopped moving, crouched on a sturdy tree branch, and placed the kunoichi down. He winced when the girl started to shriek in pain - which would undoubtedly attract unwanted attention - so he covered the lower half of her face with his palm and turned to the jounin-sensei who landed next to him.

Just as he was about to request the other jounin do something about his brat's noise level, the sensei growled.

"Just what in Kami's name do you think you're-"

Before the jounin-sensei could misunderstand his actions any further, Shiki quickly interrupted the man whose face was speedily turning a putrid shade of prune. For once, he had unintentionally hurt someone without meaning to. If he could, he would feel bad. But since he couldn't even if he wanted to - he was physiologically incapable of doing so - he could only try to rationalize his actions and apologize.

"Your genin startled me," he explained whilst apologetically lowered his eyes towards the ground, "I reacted... negatively." Was the best he could say without revealing anything weird about him.

The sensei took a deep, shuddering breath, held it in for a couple of seconds, and exhaled. This was repeated two more times (much to the Shi-family's amusement) before he responded.

"I... saw - and I do not blame you for defending yourself. However, I am angry... because it was completely unnecessary for you to completely shatter her knee! You could have simply stopped her attack, Uchiha-san! She is a genin - and let her go already!" By the end of his words, he was practically yelling into Shiki's ear.

Shiki's eyebrows furrowed but nevertheless released the girl upon her teacher's insistence. Their surroundings, however, was soon filled with the sound of the Hyuuga's ghastly sobbing, much to Shiki's displeasure.

Just as he was about to speak (rather scathingly) about the cons of crying over spilled milk and to focus more on keeping their silence lest they attract unwanted attention, he was nudged (rudely) to the side by the jounin-sensei.

Seeing that team 8's sensei was now shushing and pampering the Hyuuga (the Shi-trio all sneered at the man's mollycoddling) whilst also giving Shiki the death glares, Shiki made himself scarce by hopping onto another tree branch and preparing himself for any surprise attacks.

Since they were now delayed due to his... carelessness... (though truthfully, he was disgruntled. He was just protecting himself, yet he was the one to take the blame. He was the victim, for fuck's sake!) he would make it up by keeping them safe during the inevitable battle that would soon erupt.

Any half-decent tracker should have already been alerted by the Hyuuga's noisiness.

"Why did you do that?"

At the question asked by a trembling voice, Shiki turned to face his fellow clansman, feeling pleasantly surprised at being spoken to.

Despite his scathing remarks and dislike of genin's kicked-puppy behavior (the boy was supposed to be a trained shinobi, dammit! Act like it!... And that was Shiki's Uchiha pride talking if anyone was wondering), Shiki did want to converse with another Uchiha - to get the general (and political) gist of the clan's current situation in this timeline.

But due to his rather inept social abilities, he did not know how exactly to start a conversation with a nine-year-old boy without unconsciously channeling his inner-arsehole.

"Instinct," he chirped whilst forcing his lips into a friendly smile (or he tried anyway. He didn't quite realize he looked patronizing and arrogant).

To be truthful, Shiki felt that the Hyuuga got off rather lightly for that dangerous stunt she pulled. If he had been carrying his sword in his other hand, she would've turned into an amputee rather than just having a shattered joint.

"Instinct...?" The boy's face was full of disbelief and anger.

Shiki, on the other hand, was taken aback. Why was the genin so angry at him?

"Yes," he said slowly, his brain running a mile a minute as he tried to come up with a valid reason for this undeserved attitude he was receiving from his fellow clansman. When he just couldn't figure it out, he decided to try and explain his actions in hopes that the boy would respond in kind.

"The Hyuuga attempted an attack on me. I simply defended myself."

At his justification, the other Uchiha, however, snarled. Seemingly oblivious to Shiki's rising confusion and attempts at extending an olive branch (Shi-sōrō's hand tightening on Shi-chan's bicep in a show of restraint at Shi-chan's gradually mounting fury), the genin clenched his fists and took a threatening(?) step forward.

"The Hyuuga is my teammate - her name is Hikari, use it! And what you said about defending yourself? I call it an excuse for harming a fellow comrade! She's only 9 years old! And her taijutsu's crap! You... You're a jounin... You could've just... I don't know, blocked?!"

"A success sneak attack from a genin can topple even a kage," Shiki finally lost all temptation at maintaining his cool facade and rolled his eyes at the kid's naivety.

Was the Sandaime so desperate for cannon fodder that he skipped out on all the important aspects during their time at the Academy?

"Bullshit!" The kid screeched with his teeth bared. It almost made Shiki reel back from shock at the blatant animosity shown. Almost.

Shiki did the opposite; his expression blanked as he held Cross Marian in a white-knuckle grip. His fingers were itching for his mittens - but they were already crusted from the blood, and hence, would not bring the usual comfort of having something soft and warm hugging his hands.

"Believe what you will." Shiki, even to his own ears, sounded indifferent and condescending. But he couldn't help it. He didn't know what he did wrong and yet, he was being treated like an enemy without any explanations as to why.

Shiki mentally told himself that in the future, he would avoid anything social at all costs. He knew now that after this experience, society was unfit for a person like him; who had one too many mental health issues to count on both hands. He had already tried to behave like a normal person - yet this attempt proved that the only people he could rely on were Shi-chan and Shi-sōrō.

(Unknowingly, Uchiha Kazuo had just made it a lot harder for Minato and Shikaku to become friends with Shiki.)

"Aren't... Aren't you an Uchiha...?" When Shiki only raised an 'isn't that obvious?' eyebrow at the boy's words, the other Uchiha gritted his teeth and spat, "Is this how you represent your - our - clan? By hurting someone defenseless?! You don't even look sorry... Do you even have a conscious? How can you find excuses to reason your faults?! I know you don't care about us - but you should at least make the effort to push your horrible personality to Konoha's enemies and not her allies! You only have the drive to make others around you suffer! Why are you the one who found us?!"

At the boy's furious roar, the jounin-sensei's head snapped towards them in panic. The Hyuuga had also stopped crying, now gazing at her teammate with shocked, pale-lavender eyes, as if she had never seen him before. But Shiki didn't notice. His entire focus was on the boy who had dared accuse him unjustly.

Hurting someone defenseless? If the Hyuuga had succeeded with her sneak attack, her knee would've undoubtedly collapsed his airway.

Do not have a conscious? Yes, Shiki would not lie about his lack of morals. But to accuse him of not understanding that what he did was wrong? No. He knew he was in the wrong, even if he was a victim, hence he had shown he was sorry to their jounin-sensei.

Find excuses? When has he ever made any excuses? What he had said previously were all facts.

Make others around him suffer? So what? This may sound self-centered and defensive, but people with NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) find it hard to empathize with other people. Not only NPD, but younger-Shiki also suffered from many other mental disorders that would make any other shinobi in his shoes too much of a wildcard to allow a chance at life.

The only reason why younger-Shiki was still alive and allowed to become a shinobi was because he was, technically, a game character.

So he knew. He knew he was broken and different from others (younger-Shiki's memories of constantly being told by his clansmen that he was different, and not in a good way, hurt. It was dull and almost non-existent, but it was there. And there was no shishou here to pat him on the head and tell him that being different was okay. There was no pack of dogs snuggling up to him in comfort as their shinobi partner watched from a distance).

But the blatant disrespect really struck Shiki's nerve. Even Shi-sōrō, who was the more relaxed personality of their trio, was spitting insults at the brat. He didn't even need to mention Shi-chan. Shi-chan's Mangekyou had flared to life - his dark passenger's fingers twitching as if wanting to pull the brat into their inner world to teach him a lesson.

When Shiki's eyes clashed with the genin's, the other Uchiha couldn't stop trembling, fear clearly drawn all over his features.

"Uchiha-san!" The sensei was quick to place himself in front of the Uchiha boy, sweat trickling down his forehead, "Please, calm down. Your killing intent is-"

"Silence," Shiki hissed, eyes not once leaving the boy's frightened ones.

When the younger Uchiha blinked, lashes trembling and wet with tears, the two tomoe symbols increased by a number - and if this was any other setting, Shiki would've been highly tickled at the idea of triggering someone's flight and fight instincts so badly that their Sharingan evolved.

But he was too enraged (hurt) right now to feel any sort of amusement.

"Foolish. You are utterly foolish for clinging onto your ignorance so desperately. Let me provide your insignificant little mind with some standard common sense: out in the battlefield, what family you hail from plays little part in your survival. Representing the Uchiha? When I die, I die, regardless of how I act with the uchiwa sewed on my back.

"I did not, and I repeat, did not, do anything wrong when I defended myself from your teammate. Instincts formed by ceaseless battles cannot be suppressed that easily - do you truly believe that someone can distinguish between ally or foe when their life is hanging by a thread? A second of hesitation will cause you your death, imbecilic genin.

"And if I had not arrived just in time to deal with the two shinobi hunting your team, you would already be dead, eyes plucked and ready to be implemented into a non-Uchiha. Your sensei would and the Hyuuga would be captured alive, one for information and the other for breeding purposes. To have questioned why I was the one who found you when you should have actually thanked me? You repulse me with such impudence.

"And you-" He turned his dark eyes at the sensei, Shi-chan's tempting whispers of pulling the idiot into Tsukuyomi was getting harder and harder to dissuade, "Control your genin! Either you introduce them to the expectations that war has to offer, or your team perishes in their next mission. Stop, fucking, babying them. Genins are tools - Konoha's weapons. If you don't want them to die a pathetic death, accept that and move on. You are training soldiers, not children. "

The jounin-sensei's eyes were wide with disbelief and some other emotion Shiki could not recognize, "What happened to make you so cynical? We may be shinobi, but we are also human. Yes, we do send them out to the battlefield... but only after we deem them ready. I would never wish death upon my comrades."

"You must be blind, deaf, and retarded to have considered your team ready. Your lack of judgment has already caused a death. What more verifies my point?"

"This was supposed to be a C Rank courier mission! I prepared them for what was expected of a genin, not... this. It is impossible for a newly graduated team to fight against an undetermined number of jounins and chuunins specialized in tracking, locating, and restraining! Takai's death... is indeed tragic and unjust. But regardless, he died for his village - and that itself is honorable. I will not let you say otherwise!"

"Your priorities are skewed, sensei. The objective of war is not to die for our village; it is to make the other bastards die for theirs. I, for one, will push others in front of me just so I can live another day! Continue north until you and your team encounter a jounin by the surname of Miki. I have no time for your naive idealism and martyrdom mentality."

"Martyrdom? N-Naive idealism?! Konoha's shinobi are all about teamwork and camaraderie-"


With a snarl, he swung Cross Marian and batted a volley of kunai and shuriken that had almost skewered the unmoving team 8. The two genins flinched whilst the jounin-sensei looked as if he wanted to say more words. At Shiki's hostile glare, however, he held his tongue, grabbed the two genins and carried them away from where the kunai and shuriken were thrown from.

Shiki, on the other hand, pumped chakra into his legs and threw himself towards their enemies. Before any of the five Ame nin could react, Shiki was already right above of them. He didn't bother to draw his sword, his eyes full of bloodlust and the desire to hurt.

Shiki only managed to grab one of their shinobi and shocked the person so badly with a Lightning Jutsu that he was convulsing even after he had been knocked out. The rest of the Ame nin, however, scattered and circled him, intending to balance the odds with their superior numbers. They, no doubt, were more wary of him; team 8 was too injured to get too far or fight back. It would benefit them more to take him out of the picture before going after the other Konoha nins.

Furthermore, they couldn't exactly hide their gleeful expression when they noticed his crimson, three tomoe eyes. They were, after all, a squad of dojutsu thieves.

"Don't look directly into his eyes, everyone!" Barked one of the Ame nins.

The enemy group didn't respond verbally to his order, but they did avoid looking at Shiki's face in general.

There was a moment of absolute stillness. Everyone stood in their own respective stances, muscles pulled taut as they waited for some kind of unsaid signal. When a gust of wind swept through the area, the lot immediately performed coordinated hand seals. Shiki's Sharingan predicted their jutsu before they even completed the third seal.

"Suiton: Water Bullet Technique!"

"Doton: Earth-Style Wall."

The four water Jutsu clashed against Shiki's earth wall, but none of them were able to penetrate his defenses. With the help of his phantom-like presence, he substitutes himself with a branch and slammed the spine of his sword - sheathe and all - against one of the Ame shinobi's ribs.

The feeling of bones breaking under the force of his swing was incredibly satisfying.

The shinobi grunted in pain as he was slammed into one of the many trees around them. Before the dazed nin could react any further, Shiki tackled the man to the ground and raised Cross Marian above his head. Not waiting for the other shinobi to pull himself together, Shiki rammed the tip of his sheathed sword against the Ame nin's nose.

The crunch that echoed - announcing the man's broken nose - was loud and pleasing to Shiki's ears. But Shiki didn't stop just there. He continued to bash and bash and bash until he was forced to move when his victim's comrades pounced on him with murder in their eyes.

"Bastard!" One of them shouted as they engaged Shiki in a 2v1 Taijutsu fight.

Whilst the leftover Ame kunoichi, a medic by the looks of it, was checking on the two other downed men, Shiki ignored the woman (for now) to focus more on the two jounins currently trying to murder the living shite out of him.

Seeing that his sword was too long to be of any use in Taijutsu, he mentally apologized to Cross Marian, threw it into a bush, and jabbed one of the two nins under their chin with his chakra-enhanced (Tsunade-powered) elbow. The impact alone was enough for the bloke's eyes to roll heavenward as he fainted not a second later.

As he was blocking another Ame jounin's punch, Shi-chan growled a warning for him to watch his back. Shiki, putting his complete faith in his dark passenger's caution, swerved to one side, causing the Ame jounin to stumble a few steps forward due to the sudden loss of force.

Just as an explosion tagged kunai sailed past his head, Shiki twisted his body, moving with the momentum of the projectile, and plucked the tag out from the air. Without stopping his movements nor lessening his speed, he slapped the explosion tag onto the face of the Ame shinobi and planted his foot into the sucker's stomach, causing the poor sod to go flying at his powerful kick.

The jounin clawed futilely at the chakra-glued tag whilst airborne, "FUCk-", but he ran out of time.

The explosion caused bits of bone pieces, brain matter, viscera, and blood to rain down the area. Shiki was completely drenched in gore.

Knowing that there was only one left - the medic - Shiki used his sleeve to wipe the blood from his forehead and turned to her direction... only to see a small silhouette fleeing fearfully into the distance. With a snarl, Shiki jumped onto a thick tree branch and chased after her - like hell she would be getting away from him!

Or, well, that had been his intention, anyway.

Unexpectedly, he missed the next jump and fell back first onto the ground, completely dazed as he blinked at the setting sun.

"... That was on purpose," he murmured consolingly, "I totally allowed that kunoichi to escape on purpose."

The awkward silence that greeted him after his words made even his ears turn a pretty shade of red.

Thankfully, it was soon broken by Shi-sōrō's squealing. Shi-chan, however, could be heard muttering about incompetent shinobi and their lack of bodily coordination. Shiki felt beyond humiliated and was glad that nobody was physically around to witness that spectacular fall.

[You just did a Madara! Omigewdness I can't - that was so cool, Shiki...!]

Shiki, with blushing cheeks (that were thankfully covered by blood and brain matter), pushed himself sheepishly off the ground and retrieved Cross Marian from the shrubbery.

Leave it to an otaku like Shi-sōrō to notice his rather embarrassing imitation of Madara's explosion tag party trick during his fight against the Allied Forces (before Shiki fucked up his coolness rating by falling down).

"Alright, enough fangirling. Do you guys remember which direction team 8 fled off to?"

[Ehh... Straight ahead?]

[Before that, let me remind you that we  have three very  unconscious enemies waiting for us to play with them. Might I suggest waking them first, followed by torture, and then lastly, dance with one of their corpses once you're done? I'm suddenly in the mood for tango. Shizuka, the music, if you will.]

[Yes, yes~]

Shiki facepalmed at Shi-sōrō's uncaring words (as she continued to fangirl over Shiki's fight scene on her laptop) and Shi-chan's gleeful suggestion. Without another word, he pulled out a copy of Icha Icha Paradise (his bad mood had all but vanished, replaced by the need to do something less bothersome), and made his way towards the unconscious shinobis.

Sometimes, Shiki has to wonder if he should add bipolar disorder into his already long list of mental illnesses. His two passengers seemed to already possess that unfortunate condition.

Chapter Text

"Hurry up, slowpoke!"

Minato withheld a wince as his right arm was violently tugged by his best friend, Uzumaki Kushina, towards her friend's home for a relaxing lunch. The redhead was grinning ear to ear, her violet eyes shining in a way that made her entire face lit up, attracting numerous stares from the crowd around them.

Kushina, as always, was entirely oblivious to the admiration and appreciation her beauty garnered.

As a result of that, whenever Minato was out and about with her, many would glare at him, invisible arrows of envy and jealousy piercing through the back of his head. Even now, the crowd's heated gazes only intensify whenever they saw how the two jounins had their arms linked together.

It was tiring at times to endure such hostility from his fellow men, especially when they were minding their own business, enjoying their day off.

But looking at Kushina, joyful at the prospect of having a meal together with her closest friends, he shrugged off all discomfort (somehow even after all these years, still not accustomed to it). The lives of kunoichi and shinobi were short, after all. It was ideal for them to enjoy whatever spare time they have whenever inside their village - what with the war raging outside their walls, they could be called on duty at any given time.

Just like his newest victi-cough- friend, he meant.

Minato had planned on surprising the adorably tsundere-ish Uchiha via the Hiraishin seal he had sneakily placed on the raven-haired man's nape a few days ago (although how the Uchiha had not sensed his chakra flaring when he activated said seal made Minato question the shinobi's sensing capabilities). The marker's range was too far, however, indicating that Shiki was out of Konoha.

It disappointed him, but he understood their duty to their village was more important than his personal entertainment. He could only hope that Shiki would return without too many injuries to his person.

Minato was suddenly pulled out from his head quite literally when Kushina almost dislocated his shoulder with how hard she was tugging.

"There's still three minutes till our designed meeting time, Kushina. There's no need to rush."

Minato threw out an awkward smile while attempting to placate the overly eager kunoichi. His fingers were already numb from the excessively strong grip his best friend had on them, and although a dislocated bone was considered a minor injury to the likes of them, he would rather avoid such things if possible.

She suddenly swirled on her heels, a finger pushed against his chest and a hand on her hip, "We're almost late... and completely empty-handed because someone forgot their promise of coming over and baking dessert with me! Do you know how many paper-chuunin I had to go through to obtain access to the library's restricted section?! Light reading my ass!"

"And I already said I was sorry."

"Sorry ain't gonna miraculously get us some goddamn cake!"

"... But that bakery could?"

Minato sheepishly pointed to the toasty smelling bakery just next to them while discreetly pocketing his numb hand, away from the clutches of the Red Hot-Blooded Habanero. When Kushina's lips parted, no doubt to sass him, Minato quickly grabbed ahold of her wrist and pulled her inside, his intentions of getting out of a scolding quite obvious.

While he softly murmured about the choices of baked goods on display, Kushina was oddly silent. It made Minato throw a glance over his shoulder, blinking twice when he saw how red her cheeks were. Worried that she might be falling ill, he released her wrist in favor of placing the back of his hand on her forehead.

"Are you alright, Kushina? You're a bit warm."

"W-w-what do you- I'm not- You- That one!"

Minato could only watch in a daze as Kushina all but rushed to the other side of the bakery, chose a chocolate sponge cake, paid for it, and ran out onto the streets like her bum was on fire. Or rather, her face was on fire.

Minato shook himself out of a stupor and quickly made to catch up. He just knew that he would be the on to get blamed if he arrived even a second later than the redhead.

Thanks to his speed, Minato caught up just as Kushina came to a stop in front of their mutual friend's home. He sheepishly rubbed the back of his head when the Konoha kunoichi harrumphed, before ringing the doorbell.

A few seconds later, the door opened, revealing a twenty-year-old woman with delicate and beautiful features. Her dark, long hair was for once tied into a neat bun, her equally dark eyes lighting up at the sight of them.


Uchiha Mikoto, wearing a dark purple dress underneath an overly frilly pink apron (a joke-gift from Kushina), initiated a hug with the redhead, the latter giving as good as she got. Unlike her many Uchiha kin, she was not one to shy away from outward displays of affection.

"Mikoto! It's so good to see you too, dattebane!"

"Minato," The Uchiha clan head's wife greeted him as soon as the two kunoichis separated, giving him a welcoming smile, "Come in, you two. Fugaku will be slightly late, but we can start with the finger foods while we wait for him."

"Thank you for inviting us over, Mikoto," He politely told her on behalf of Kushina as well, the redhead already bulldozing inside like a rampaging bull. At least one of them had to have manners despite having been granted carte blanche in the Uchiha head's home a long time ago

"Not at all. I'm glad to have you both here; safe and in one piece."

While Mikoto went ahead to put the cake they brought into the fridge, Minato removed his sandals, slipped into a pair of guest slippers, and walked to where he could hear Kushina's loud squealing. When he entered the traditional house's kitchen, it was to the sight of the Uzumaki twirling a dizzy-looking one-year-old in the air, much to his mirth.

Mikoto didn't even bother with keeping her amusement to herself, outright giggling next to the fridge as she watched her son be manhandled by her energetically boyish best friend.

"Try not to break my son, Kushina," She finally said after calming herself down, albeit her smile did not fade, only growing larger when her son toddled unsteadily away from the Uzumaki after he was released.

"Why would I break my godson, dattebane?!"

The redhead placed her hands on her hips in mock-anger, though it only lasted for about five seconds before she broke down in a belly-deep laughter, startling the poor toddler into almost faceplanting if not for Minato's quick save.

He idly placed the wide-eyed Itachi onto his hip and smiled kindly at the boy. It felt amazing to see two of his closest friends settle down and start a family. Minato longed to do the same, but only after the war. He would never wish a child of his to go through what they have been and was going through at this point in time.

"Hello there, Itachi-kun," He whispered, the corner of his eyes crinkling when the child only continued to stare at his hair in utter fascination.

Indeed, his bright blonde hair would be considered something of a mystery for a boy who has only been amongst dark-haired Uchiha. Itachi was still too young to have remembered Kushina's and Minato's visits a few months back.

The toddler then innocently reached out a pudgy fist and grasped one of his eartails, bunching and tugging at them with a smile that showed more gum than teeth. Uchiha Itachi was adorable, and if Minato was a lesser man, would've melted into mush at having that expression directed at him.

"Only twelve months old and already has you wrapped around his finger, eh, blondie?"

Minato stuck his tongue out rather childishly at Kushina, who was leering at him while wiggling her eyebrows. It only made her sly grin broaden.

With a mock-huff, he settled himself on one of the zaisu chairs in front of the low dining table and settled Itachi on his lap. The toddler not once releasing his hold on Minato's hair. Mikoto and Kushina soon followed his action, the former seated herself on the opposite of Kushina while the latter settled next to him.

They made small talk while they worked on the appetizers, the three of them patiently (or impatiently in Kushina's case) waiting for Fugaku to arrive first before touching any of the main dishes. Kushina, always one to wear her emotions on her sleeves, moaned loudly when the first homemade steamed gyoza entered her mouth.

"Good gods, Mikoto. If you weren't married to Fugaku, I would be asking your hand in marriage right now."

"If I was still single, I would have still rejected your proposal in a flash."

"Ehh?! Why? You're so mean to me!" Kushina whined. Mikoto only hid her giggles behind a hand.

"Your bottomless pit of a stomach would empty my wallet, Kushina. No offense to you, but I'd rather not date anyone who eats twelve bowls of ramen in one sitting. If I'm not wrong, Minato, I've heard you are quite the chef."

Minato shrugged his shoulders as he continued to feed Itachi small servings of his mother's handmade steamed gyoza.

"I get by. I'm no match for your prowess in the kitchen, though."

"My, you don't need to be so modest. Maybe you can use your cooking to attract a nice young lady? Someone who would no doubt appreciate your home cook meals?"

Raising his head to look at the Uchiha, he popped a gyoza into his mouth and chewed slowly, eyes narrowed in a suspicious manner at the sly-looking Mikoto. He didn't notice how red Kushina had turned, too busy with making eye contact with the ravenhead.

"If this is another one of your ploys to push me into dating, I'm ignoring you for the rest of the meal."

It was not as if Minato planned to remain single all his life, of course. He has been feeling lonely as of late, but currently, there was no need to distract himself with finding that special someone while a war was looming over their heads. Besides, he prefers a long, serious relationship over a short, roll in the sheets.

Although admittingly, within the safety of his consciousness, one such person did pop into mind. That did not, however, sidetrack him into losing control over his emotions (he was a shinobi, a good one, too). Minato was not a man who would recklessly enter a relationship without stealthily observing his potential partners from afar.

"Yes, yes. As you wish," Mikoto, the nosy fox, thankfully switched her target to Kushina next, "And when are you, my dear spitfire of a friend, will grow some balls and ask that man of yours out on a real date?"

Kushina all but choked on her gyoza, her cheeks almost matching in color with her hair. Minato turned to her in blatant shock, not once having noticed that his best friend was crushing on someone. After a few moments of Kushina chugging down a glass of water, Minato decided he needed to tease the redhead.

"Wow... Who's the pitiful guy to have attracted your interest?"

Getting his hair drenched by her spit-take was almost worth it. Almost. Inwardly, he cackled, outwardly, however, Minato made a sound of disgust as he took a few tissues and dabbed it over his hair and Itachi's wet face. The poor boy looked traumatized.

"I-I-I-it's none of your business, dattebane! Idiot! Girly-boy! Nerd! Bookworm! Beansprout!"

Minato could only wince as his childhood 'nicknames' were thrown his way by the red-faced kunoichi. Kushina, at least, refrained from beating him up since little Itachi was still on his lap (thank god). Mikoto, the traitor, only continued to munch on her finger food as she enjoyed the show.

In their moment of inattentiveness, Fugaku, in his KMPF uniform and flak jacket, entered the kitchen, an unimpressed brow raised as he watches his two guests make a fool of themselves.

"Okaeri, dear," Mikoto's greeting finally made Kushina's verbal abuse stop, much to Minato's relief.


The Uchiha head walked gracefully towards his wife and pecked her on the cheek, before washing his hands and taking a seat next to her. Minato awkwardly waved his hand at his lap, where Itachi was seated, as if to offer the man his son, but not really as well.

He didn't actually want his shield to be taken away when Kushina was this close to punching the living daylights out of him.

"Keep him," Fugaku stated drily, obviously noting the way Minato had slumped in relief, "I apologize for making you all wait."

"What kept you?" Kushina, ever the tactless person, asked as she gave one final glare at Minato.



"Confidential matters, I'm afraid."

"Eh, whatever. Let's start already. I'm hungry!"

While Fugaku rolled his eyes at Kushina's demand, Mikoto scooped rice into their rice bowls and poured tea into their cups - always the perfect hostess. Minato murmured a small thank you, prioritizing in feeding Itachi first before he slowly devoured his own portion.

Compliments were being said to the chef, as per usual, and everyone chattered about mundane matters. Minato smiled as he wiped the toddler's cheeks, utterly relaxed as he enjoyed this small moment of peace, surrounded by his loved ones.

Having long sensed his mark on Shiki approaching nearer and nearer to Konoha, Minato stood at the top of the gate, arms crossed over his chest as he waited for the Uchiha's arrival. It still bothered Minato that he, as one of the top sensors, could not detect even an ounce of Shiki's chakra no matter how hard he focused (although he has yet tried to do so in Sage Mode).

The only way he could keep track of the man's movements was due to his Hiraishin's mark. If not for the seal, Uchiha Shiki would be like a ghost to him. It made Minato wonder if the Uchiha was currently an ANBU nin or a hunter-nin. With such talent, Sandaime-sama would no doubt pull him into such covert operations.

However, for such theory to be true, why had Minato not once seen him at the HQ before? Not one to drop a mystery (too stubborn to, actually), Minato swore that he would one day uncover the truth behind Uchiha Shiki and his phantom-like presence.

Minato pulled himself out of his head when he saw a group of six approaching the wide gates of Konohagakure. The one leading the group was familiar to Minato, a strick and no-nonsense ANBU operative that went by the name of Tori, if he was not wrong. Minato's blue eyes skipped over to the rest of the shinobi, only stopping when he saw Shiki positioned to guard their rear.

He quickly looked the man over, observing his movements for any odd stiffness that would indicate an injury - the Uchiha's attire was bloody enough for it, anyway. It was as if he had been caught in an explosion of gore, if Minato had to guess.

Thankfully, Minato could see that Shiki was unharmed, or if he was indeed wounded, it was at most superficial or non-life threatening enough to ignore.

As soon as the group of six stopped at the gates to sign in at the guardhouse, Minato dived forward, a manic grin in place as he landed on his startled target, bear hugging the Uchiha and spinning the man around just as Kushina did to Itachi.

"N-Namikaze?!" The Uchiha sputtered, wiggling futilely as he tried to escape the blonde's hold, "Let go of me, you imbecile!"

"Why are you being so cold~ Call me Minato. Mi-na-to."

"As if I have any desire to familiarize myself with you, Namikaze!"

"You're so mean to me... Even though I missed you so much~" Minato pretended to whine while hiding a grin, enjoying the way the Uchiha glared furiously (in embarrassment, he assumes) at Minato, ears tinged slightly in pink.

What a tsundere!

"Well, I don't!" Said tsundere snapped. The other jounin had already stopped trying to escape, reluctantly allowing Minato to manhandle him like a ragdoll. Minato found such docileness adorable as he rested his chin atop Shiki's fluffy head.

"Namikaze," At having his name called, Minato turned to the Tori, an innocent expression on his face. The unmasked ANBU looked unimpressed as he gestured at the man trapped in Minato's arms, "Release Uchiha. We need to debrief Hokage-sama on our mission. Stat."

Pouting, he did as he told, albeit with much reluctance.

Shiki all but leaped from his hold, putting as much distance between them with such obviousness that it made Minato want to cackle. Who knew unnerving and teasing someone would be this much fun? It was no wonder Mikoto loved to troll Kushina.

"Alright. I'll see you soon, Shi-chan~!"

Just as Minato made to jump onto the nearest rooftop, the Uchiha suddenly stumbled, knees buckling slightly. He immediately Shunshin to the Uchiha's side, hands hovering as his eyes worriedly gave yet another body check. He would have done a physical one, but he knew that that would be pushing boundaries too soon into their friendship.

No shinobi liked to be physically assessed - even if it was strictly professional - without prior permission.

Tori and another jounin was next to him the next instance, both of them scanning the Uchiha from head to toe, equally worried about potential delayed injuries such as poisons and the likes.

"Uchiha? Status report," Tori all but demanded.

It took a few moments, with Minato getting more and more anxious, before Shiki answered. However, Minato felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand. He didn't know why, but he felt as if something was amiss.

"Nothing of importance," The Uchiha's voice, although the same, had a different quality to the tone, his sharp eyes flicking over to Minato before returning their gaze to Tori, "We should not keep Sandaime-sama waiting."

Without waiting for any of their responses, Shiki disappeared, leaving a pile of leaves in his place. His Shunshin was perfectly executed without hand seals or chakra leakage, which made a few shinobi near them exclaim their admiration.

Minato could not help but stare at the empty air of where Shiki once stood, the cogs in his head turning a mile a minute, half-heartedly replying to the words being spoken to him as Tori and his team departed. It seems that his puzzle has more missing pieces than he had previously assumed.

Chapter Text

Shiki woke up in a daze with Shi-sōrō's concernful face hovering just centimeters away, their noses almost touching whilst her warm, moist breath could be felt on his lips.

Completely without conscious thought, his hand moved and slapped the woman off of him. He and his female counterpart both shrieked in surprise; and whilst she clumsily fell to her bum, he was scrambling to sit up.

"What was that for?!" Shi-sōrō clambered off the green-carpeted floor and places her hands on her hips, her usual sleepy gaze now replaced by anger. Unfortunately, with one of her cheeks bigger than the other thanks to the inflammation, she looked more like a gluttonous chipmunk than something fierce.

Shiki laughed sheepishly, "My apologies, Shi-sōrō. That wasn't on purpose."

"Grrr... Damn that Shinkichi for influencing Shiki's knee-jerk reaction so much. Why I oughta strangle that bastard and-"

Whilst his freeloading passenger muttered darkly to herself, Shiki purposely turned his gaze to study his surroundings. He was currently seated on his couch - the black one - and was inside his Mind Palace. Noticing the lack of Shi-chan, he furrowed his brow.

"Where's Shi-chan?" He asked, snapping Shi-sōrō out of her rambling.

"Oh, right. It seems we have an unexpected problem, Shiki," His female counterpart sighed loudly, her slouch more prominent as she dragged her feet to her own couch - the blue one - and slumped onto it.

"What is it?"

"Shinkichi is currently in control of your body."

At her words, Shiki felt himself straighten. Countless of pessimistic thoughts made a crease materialize between his brows, lips pursed and arms crossed.

"How did that happen?" What he actually wanted to ask was 'was that voluntary?'. Shi-sōrō seems to have received his unspoken question, however, judging by the pained grimace on her face. It made his chest throb in something akin to guilt (which amazed him. He had thought that feeling lost to him after the transmigration).

"I... I don't know. But I think it wasn't on purpose. Shinkichi would never do anything against your wishes, Shiki. Please believe me. I saw him startle when you guys switched places after Pretty-boy called you Shi-chan. You suddenly materialized on your couch and I couldn't get you to wake up no matter how hard I shook you. I was beginning to worry... But thankfully, you are alright now."

At her relieved sigh, Shiki softened considerably.

"Sorry to worry you. For now, what should we do? How do we get in touch with Shi-chan?"

"Hold on. Let me..."

She paused momentarily to dig through her short's pockets. After a short moment, she triumphantly pulled out a remote control and pressed a button. There was a rumble nearby, and when Shiki turned to look at the cause of the noise, a 72-inch flat screen TV was surfacing from the floor, blocking the library's entrance from view.


"This screen shows what your eyes see and your ears hear, Shiki. It connects us to the outside world," Shi-sōrō explains in simple words as she pressed another button, switching the TV on.

Apparently, Shi-chan, who was currently in control his body, was at the Hokage's office, standing next to the Uchiha boy Shiki had saved a few days ago and was keeping silent whilst the team leader reported to the Sandaime about their retrieval mission.

"That's impressive. But how do you guys communicate with me whilst I am 'outside'?" He wondered out loud, eyes not straying from the TV screen in amazement.

"With this."

At those words, Shiki turned to her in curiosity. In Shi-sōrō's hand was a palm-sized, triangular, conference microphone speaker. She placed it gently on the middle of the circular table - where the lines connected - and switched it on. Immediately, Shi-chan's voice came from the device.

"Shiki. Shizuka," His bloodthirsty persona greeted, sounding aggravated and troubled. Shiki blinked at that, unused to hearing Shi-chan sound anything but haughty and indifferent.

"Shinkichi!" His lazy persona leaned forward whilst hugging a Kakashi plush against her bosom, "What happened?"

"Loathe as I am to admit; I haven't the slightest idea," Shi-chan sounded frustrated at his own lack of answer, "However, I do believe that this is the result of Namikaze's name calling. It seems that the fool is courting death. To think he would dare refer Shiki so intimately in my presence - I will sear his tongue and cut him into a human stick for such impudence-"

"Okay, I think that's enough from you," Shi-sōrō interrupted Shi-chan's murderous whinging and threw an apologetic look at Shiki, who was currently gaping at the intercom, "First and foremost, Shinkichi, you'll need to figure out how to switch back - and I'll try to think of preventive measures so that this does not happen again."

"... Fair enough. I will attempt to meditate and enter the Palace promptly after handing a verbal report to Sarutobi. If that does not work, I will search for Namikaze and endeavour him to call me 'Shiki'. Perhaps that might call forth this body's main personality."

"Right. You do so. Whilst Shinkichi is busy with the boring stuff, would you like a cuppa, Shiki? I also have cake," The freeloader drawled whilst pulling out a tea set, two plates, a set of forks, and a three-layer cake stand from her short's pockets.

Shiki idly wondered if her pockets were similar to Doraemon's 4D Pocket. It wouldn't be that much of a surprise since Shiki himself owns an 'inventory' in the form of a QR tattoo.

With a murmured thanks, he was handed a cup of matcha tea and a slice of cake. The duo then chattered about anime and manga to pass the time.

"So... Meditation doesn't work. Should've known it wouldn't be that easy. How bothersome," Shi-sōrō drawled matter-of-factly, not once looking up from her laptop as her fingers flew across the keyboard without a sign of stopping.

Shi-chan grunted, sounding grumpy and vexed in the face of failure.

The view on the screen changed abruptly from the plain walls of Shiki's bedroom to the rooftops after a swift Shunsui was performed. Shi-chan had perched himself on the roof of the tallest apartment complex from the looks of things, with his arms folded as he scouts the streets for Minato.

"I concur," Shiki sighed. He shifted into a more comfortable position on the couch before reaching for a smoke situated on Shi-sōrō's part of the table. Whilst taking a long drag, his eyes turned towards his female-self, "And what're you busy with over there, Shi-sōrō?"

"I'm trying to create, well, a firewall, or something along those lines, anyway. But I lack sufficient and accurate data," She ruffled her hair in irritation, looking tired and equally as grumpy as Shi-chan, "I need to know the exact reason for this occurrence so that I can prevent this from happening again. If Shinkichi switches with you every time someone says 'Shi-chan' within earshot, that'll be extremely bothersome!"

"Hn. I see. This will take time, then?"

"Possibly. However," Her lips suddenly curled into a smug grin, "For now, I can instill a command for specific people to access this function - voice activation is simple, but I would also prefer chakra signature input just in case - which would be a challenge due to our lack of ability to sense it."

"In human speak?" Shiki raises a brow whilst flipping through a random manga he took from the shelves.

"For now, until I finish investigating our motherboard - Mind Palace - about this phenomenon, I can make it so that if anyone other than Pretty-boy says 'Shi-chan', you guys won't switch. Though we'll need to test it beforehand since there's always a possibility of it being buggy. Oh, and we'll need to make sure Pretty-boy doesn't accidentally activate the switch function. Somehow. I'll leave the 'hows' to you, Shiki."

Before Shiki could respond to that, Shi-chan spoke, his voice that was coming from the intercom sounded bloodthirsty and lustful.

"I vote that we dispose of such a brazen fellow. His remains would make a beautiful trophy - I even know of a seal to prevent it from rotting."

"We are not killing shishou's father," Shiki said sternly, "He is important to the plotline. Without him, there'll be no Naruto. This whole world was created for Naruto. Hence, I vote that we avoid Minato."

"Why should we concern ourselves about such trivial things? With you in the picture, this has already become an alternate universe, our timeline completely separated from canon," Shi-chan rebuked.

"It's true that our presence may have already caused a butterfly effect. However, I do not plan on involving myself further. Minato is too much of a bothersome existence to not avoid."

Shi-chan huffed in dissatisfaction whilst Shi-sōrō chortled.

"Now, now, Shinkichi. How about I put it this way," His otaku persona drawled, a cigarette dangling lazily between her lips, "Apart from Pretty-boy and the other main casts, you can kill whoever the hell you want and make them your disturbing, zombie sex toy! That means; more than 90% of the population is out for picking! Look at the big picture, my murderous brother!"

"..." Shiki was speechless. He didn't want anyone to be Shi-chan's (and by connection, Shiki's) zombie sex toy! Or rather, he was trying to make his dark passenger quit being a necrophiliac, for fuck's sake!

"Hn. You have a point. Very well. I shan't make a move on Namikaze," The view on TV screen dipped; as if Shiki had just physically nodded to her words, "However, I would appreciate it if you'd prevent that impudent fellow from speaking my name in the future, Shiki. I'd rather drink tea and whet my blade than do the driving. How bothersome. I quite dislike the physical body."

Shiki chuckled as he agreed to the condition.

It was somewhat funny that all three of them would have the verbal tic of saying 'bothersome'. Shi-chan, with such an aloof and distant demeanor, sounded oddly humane when he says it. But, frankly, it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise, seeing that they were supposed to be a single person in the first place.

Just as he was planning to take a short nap, the screen tunneled onto a handsome, blonde man. The Shi-trio all straightened their spines when their target came into view.

Both Shi-sōrō and Shiki sat at the edges of their respective couches, tensed as they watch Shi-chan walk into the ramen restaurant, Ichiraku Ramen, and stood behind Minato. There were two other people currently next to the blonde, a woman with long, red hair, and a child with spiky, silver hair.

Unfortunately, Shiki should've taken into the account that one, Shi-chan was already extremely impatient with their current situation, and two, his dark passenger was indifferent to the social norms. So when the two inner-Shi saw him place an unsheathe Cross Marian against the side of Minato's neck, Shiki flailed whilst Shi-sōrō choked on her cigarette butt.

"Shi-chan?!" Shiki's eyes were wide with nervousness.

"W-w-wait a second, Shinkichi! What the fuck are you doing?!" Shi-sōrō shrieked after she manages to dislodge the butt from her throat, "Didn't we agree to not kill Namikaze Minato?!"

"Hush, slob. I am a man of my word."

Shi-sōrō and Shiki exchanged dubious looks at Shi-chan's response. But they kept quiet to see how things would progress.

During their mental exchange, only half a second had passed outside their Mind Palace.

Whereas Minato went completely still at the feeling of a sharp weapon being pressed lightly against his carotid artery, the redhead latched onto Shi-chan's wrist in an unyielding grip. The child next to them reacted a second slower, wielding a kunai in hand and looking ready to cut off Shi-chan's hand.

Before any of the shinobi and kunoichi could 'retaliate' at the unexpected 'attack', the ramen cook turned around and saw the commotion. Immediately, his expression turned confused.

"A-ano... Uchiha-san...?" Teuchi cautiously raised a hand, as if wanting to wave a greeting, but unsure if it would be a welcome gesture with how tensed everyone was, "Would you like a bowl of ramen?"

As if he was a deflated balloon, Minato sighed heavily and - without caring for the sword on his neck - turned to face Shi-chan with a half-amused and half-exasperated expression on his face.


And that was all they heard before the TV screen turned grey with static and both Shiki and Shi-chan blacked out, causing a flustered Shi-sōrō to flail worriedly over the two Uchiha men who were unconscious in the Mind Palace - though thankfully lying on their respective couches.

Chapter Text

The frown on Shizuka's face was thunderous when she angles her head away from her laptop to massage the ache in her neck, the screen's light causing a shadow of exhaustion to appear apparent on her delicate features. The two troublemakers responsible for her deepened eyebags and pale complexion, on the other hand, slept peacefully on their couches, both covered with blankets, black and red respectively.

It has been three hours since their body shut down on them, and despite her best efforts, she was still unable to find a solution to bring them back to the land of the living. Ammonia salts didn't work, pouring ice-cold water on them didn't work, even bitch slapping them didn't work! And this frustrates her to hell and back.

This probably meant that the problem lay within the new firewall she had erected. If her protection produced counterproductive results, she should firmly take it down lest she harms them more than she already has. However, she didn't know if their body simply needed some time to adjust to the new program she had installed, or if it wasn't working altogether in the first place. With that in mind, she dived back into her work, keyboard sounds disrupting the silence of their Mind Palace once again.

After performing a system check that lasted for at least another two hours, she knows for a fact that her program was working as she had intended; it wasn't wonky or buggy at all. Rather, it seems that her protection was perhaps too concrete, so much that it gave no room for the two other Shi-family members to maneuver around when they switched, causing them to hit some kind of rebound, hard enough to knock them unconscious - and remain that way.

She had been quick to notice the problem during her system check and has already made changes to soften the barrier, so theoretically, there should be no further repeats of this incident in the future. However, she remains clueless about why her family was still out cold, not even twitching when she pokes them with a fire poker.

Shizuka was beyond anxious, the nicotine she continually inhales not helping as the effect does not actually transfer to their actual physical body.

Rising from her crouched position in front of Shinkichi's couch, her eyes flicker towards the flat-screen TV; the display showed nothing but the color black due to their physical body's eyes being shut, but its speaker remained in working condition, allowing for her to hear what was being said outside their Mind Palace.

Apparently, Pretty-boy had been surprised and concerned by the sudden fainting spell and had taken their body to the hospital after failing to get a response. She was immensely glad that Shiki had already foolproofed their citizenship and hospital records before this unexpected phenomenon had happened. If Shinkichi hadn't persuaded Shiki to disregard sleep and food to prioritize creating a false identity, they would have long been transported to T&I upon admission.

For once, Shizuka has to praise Shinkichi's unhealthy streak of paranoia.

But enough of that. Right now, Shizuka has to ponder why the blonde persistently refuses to leave Shiki's side, and with his presence came another two. For the past five hours, the future Yondaime Hokage continued to converse with who she assumes to be Uzumaki Kushina (from how often the feminine voice ends her sentences with 'dattebane') and Hatake Kakashi (a child's voice that sounded far too stand-offish to be anyone else).

At this moment, Kushina and chibi-Kakashi were saying their farewells, thank the Sage. Now, only Pretty-boy remained by their bedside. Still one too many but better than three. Shizuka continues to wear their library's carpet down with her nervous pacing whilst chewing anxiously on the butt of her cigarette stick, now and then turning to peer at the two unconscious incarnated personalities.

She knows that she was stressing too much. But, even though Shiki has already taken care of all the legal documentations and was a 'legit' Konoha-nin, she remains anxious and worries that something could go wrong. None of the Shi-family could be considered to have good luck.

With Shiki having no immediate family still alive, the Uchiha clan would be informed about his condition if they remain in the hospital any longer than this. She couldn't have that. Shiki has already had a bad experience following an encounter with another Uchiha, which made Shinkichi and Shizuka silently agree that after that dreadful meeting with Uchiha Kazuo, it was better to stay away from anybody from the Uchiha clan. They were protective like that.

With one last look at the two unmoving Shi-men, Shizuka sets aside the fire poker, made her way towards the TV, and presses a palm flat against it. She didn't fight the sensation of something invisible tugging at her hand and allows it to suck her into the screen.

For now, the plan would be: reassure Pretty-boy that Shiki was alright, discharge them from the hospital, and stay home until Shiki and Shinkichi leave the land of dreams.

It took a couple of minutes for Shizuka to adjust to having a physical body, and to be honest, she has to agree with Shinkichi; she didn't like it, not one bit. Her limbs felt heavy as if they were made of lead, her head was pounding due to the sudden switching between personalities, her stomach felt as if it was eating itself from the inside out, and her throat was parched as if she had just swallowed a bucket load of sand.

Right. She just remembered.

Although the Shi-family shares a body, their tolerance to pain differs. Shinkichi had the highest, whilst Shizuka the lowest. Just this much was enough for her to want to throw in the towel and raise a white flag. The condition of Shiki's body at the moment was not something a pampered person like Shizuka could deal with. Unfortunately, she didn't have a choice right now.

When her heavy eyelids, weighed down by fatigue, flutter open, she was assaulted by lights too bright, causing her to tear up and quickly scrunch her eyes shut again.


Shizuka flinched, groaning miserably when the pounding inside her head doubled, the sensation of something tugging at her entire being making her want to gag.

'Nooooooo, don't call me Shiki right now, you damn Pretty-boy! What if I get booted from our body's main control, replaced by a comatose Shiki?! What then?! Will you take responsibility? HUH?! WILL YOU?!'

Bringing a hand to pinch the bridge of her nose, she quickly used her mind's eye to picture her laptop, her beautiful, beautiful laptop. Without further ado, inner-Shizuka repeatedly mashes down the 'up arrow key' button for her firewall program. It eased the headache enough for her to realize that Pretty-boy had been talking all the while, voice full of concern.

"-o you need me to dim the lights?"

'Fucking A, mate, don't bother asking! Just dim the bloody lights already!' Was what she wanted to screech out, but that would be too OOC for Shiki. She ended up simplifying her answer.

"Yes." At hearing herself croak like some kind of toad on the verge of demonization, she tries to clear her throat, only to end up in a coughing fit. 'What the fuck is this? Why does it feel like there are a dozen fishbones stuck in my throat?! It hurts!' She wanted to complain, yet she couldn't stop coughing enough to verbalize her inner woes.

"Here, let me help." Shizuka soon felt the top part of the bed dip before it lifted her into a fowler's position, and before she could start whinging about how useless Pretty-boy's help was, she felt a cool and smooth surface press lightly against her bottom lip. Pretty-boy coaxes, "Drink. It's water. It'll help make you feel better."

She was immediately distracted and focused solely on reaching for the wrist that was tipping the water into her slightly parted lips, more concerned about making sure he would not spill all over her than to actually take the glass from him. Shinkichi would often handfeed her back in their Mind Palace whenever she gets too busy to take care of herself, so she didn't feel that her action was out of place.

Peeling her eyelids open, she blinks a couple of times to clear the tears and sees Pretty-boy staring at her with an expression similar to Shinkichi's, one of fondness. It was kinda jarring to make that comparison. Shinkichi, after all, was her family. Pretty-boy was not. It made her feel somewhat timid, so she distracts herself by studying her surroundings.

They were, as expected, surrounded by white walls in a minimalistic layout of a hospital room. Although she did not expect it to be a private room, she unknowingly relaxed after knowing that there weren't strangers in a place where she couldn't defend herself. Once again, despite them sharing a body, she has to emphasize that she wasn't able to fight; she was gifted towards the theoretical aspects of their body than practical application.

When she felt that she has had enough, she pushes the hand away (although if she judged the disapproval visible in those baby blue eyes, he didn't seem happy about Shizuka only drinking a quarter of the contents). Pretty-boy acquiesces and places the glass on the cardiac table at the foot of her bed.

"How are you feeling?" Pretty-boy suddenly asks with his head tilted to one side, causing blonde strands to brush lightly against his cheekbones, contrasting greatly with his smooth, tanned skin. It was pretty eye-catching if she was being honest. Just like those 'capture characters' in otome games she used to play during her teenage years.

Pursing her lips, she reluctantly answers, "Better." Although Shizuka was quite the chatterbox when inside the Mind Palace, she was the personality that hated human interactions the most. A socially inept misanthrope, if you would, preferring to be in the company of her family or 2D characters.

Namikaze Minato might have been an anime character once upon a time - and she didn't have any problem with giving helpful advice and colorful commentaries when Shiki was the one in control of their body and interacting with the blonde - but Pretty-boy right now was a 3D person, a living breathing human. Shizuka was breaking out in hives just by being near him. That was how bad her allergic reaction to humans was.

Shizuka mentally curses the two other personalities for still being asleep at a time like this. She wasn't dependable at all in this kind of situation, preferring to remain in the Mind Palace and watch anime.

Pretty-boy didn't seem to be upset about her one-worded responses or notice how awkward she was behaving, scratching at the persistent itch on her inner elbow. Thank goodness. She wouldn't be able to handle it if he asks her why 'Shiki' was acting so OOC.

... On the topic of staying in character, Shiki, at this point, would have probably started to throw death glares, yeah? Should she do that? But she wasn't good at giving out nasty, 'serial killer' glares. Shinkichi tends to jeer at her whenever she tries to glare him into obedience.

After a moment of (awkward) silence, Pretty-boy starts to scold her, informing her of things she already knows, "The doctor said that you're malnourished and have overtaxed your body. You shouldn't be skipping meals or pushing yourself this much, Shiki. I know that the war is taking a toll on all of us. However, you'll end up dead in a ditch somewhere if you suddenly faint outside the village. For now, the doctor has advised that you stay in observation for a day. The nurse has already inserted an IV to help with your malnourishment, but if you continue to remain this way, your body will ultimately fail you when you need it the most. So make sure to have three meals a day and rest appropriately from now on, alright?"

When Pretty-boy looks at her as if expecting an answer, she nods hesitatingly. It seems to be the correct response as he continues, "Good to know that you're still able to be saved and not set in your ways. I was afraid that there's nothing but air in between your ears. Now that that's settled, I want to ask; have I provoked you in any shape or form as of late?"

Shizuka, at first, was puffing like an angry bull when Pretty-boy dared to poke fun at Shiki's intelligence, but when he indirectly asked why Shinkichi had almost beheaded him, Shizuka was at a lost for words. She couldn't just outright say that Shinkichi had been furious that Pretty-boy had unsuspectingly summoned him out from their Mind Palace, which in turn caused Shiki to, then, secretly accuse him of snatching control, right?

Despite how supercilious and stand-offish Shinkichi appeared to be on the outside (underlie with a volcanic temper that was inherently Uchiha), he was a rather sensitive individual when regards to Shiki's feelings towards him.

When Shiki began to doubt him, Shinkichi lost his wonted cool-headedness and desired Pretty-boy's immediate death. Shiki wasn't quite that attuned to their innermost feelings just yet, so only she had realized that Shinkichi was hurting, and directed all that hurt into a volcanic sort of rage, all aimed at Pretty-boy. The blonde had unwittingly made one of the three Shi-personalities detest him. Profoundly.

So, how was she supposed to explain all of that without pissing Shinkichi further (that man would never admit to having any sort of soft feelings) or being shipped to T&I for declaring mental instability?

"Was it something I did? Something I said? I can't give you a sincere apology if I'm clueless about my fault. Please, Shiki, can you tell me what I did to make you angry at me?"

"I'm not. Angry at you, that is." Which was true. Shizuka wasn't the one cultivating a grudge against Pretty-boy, Shinkichi was. Thoughtfully, she decides to advise Pretty-boy on Shinkichi's behalf, lest the blonde accidentally aggravates Shinkichi more than he already has, "Save your apologies for the one you actually wronged. Do us- me a favor will you, Pretty-boy, and don't ever call me Shi-chan unless I give you the permission to, capiche?"

Whilst Pretty-boy remains blinking incomprehensively like the doofus he was, Shizuka retrieved a cigarette stick from Shiki's inventory seal and lit it up, simultaneously pressing the call bell. She needed her dose of nicotine before she looses all calm (chain-smoking personality here). She would also pretend that she was blind to that No Smoking sign bolted next to the window.

Unlike other shinobi who lacked nous, she intends to go through the proper channels of getting discharged. Better to obediently sign a 'discharge against medical advice' form than to flee and then be forced back by Pretty-boy's mother-henning. The image of her being manhandled back made the itchiness in her inner elbows double.

Much to her surprise, only a few seconds have gone passed, not even long enough for Pretty-boy to regain his bearings enough to scold her for smoking in a hospital, before the door to her room slides open. Rather than a nurse, however, a nin in an ANBU standard uniform and a mask she couldn't figure out which animal it tried to become, was the one who entered.

Pretty-boy was instantly on his feet, moving to stand at the other side of her bed to give the ANBU more room to maneuver closer. With deft fingers, he also threw away her cigarette. Shizuka wasn't pleased.

The ANBU spoke in a complete monotone, their voice androgynous enough for Shizuka to be unable to figure out their gender, "Uchiha Shiki-san, Sandaime Hokage-sama requests your presence." It was a summons, not a request despite the polite wording.

"... Now?" She asks unsurely, hands balled into fists underneath the cover of her blanket. She didn't want to comply with that order, seeing how defenseless she was right now without her two family members to back her up. The incapable-of-fighting Shizuka being their body's last line of defense wasn't exactly reassuring.

"Affirmative. If you are ready to go, I will Shunshin us there directly." Read: get ready, we're leaving this instant.

Seeing that there was no way out of this, Shizuka has no choice but to school her features into Shinkichi's mask of indifference and gave the ANBU a nod. It was only when she got off the bed did she realize that she wasn't wearing Shiki's flak jacket and ninja pouch nor could she see where Cross Marian was. Not to mention that there was an IV cannula still attached to her forearm.

As if noticing her dilemma, Pretty-boy crouches down next to the bed and retrieves Shiki's beloved sword from under it, much to her relief. If she had lost his sword, she would be filled with an endless amount of guilt! Distracted with caressing Cross Marian's sheath, Shizuka was unaware when exactly Pretty-boy got behind her, but when she became aware, he had already helped her into the flak jacket, secured the ninja pouch around her hips, and had the IV line detached and cannula removed.

"Come find me after you've fully rested," Pretty-boy murmured, a small smile playing on his lips as he pats her on the arm, his hand lingering longer than necessary.

He caused the itchiness in her elbows to intensify, her patience of human contact having almost reached maxed levels, but she endured, somehow feeling light despite her elbows' discomfort.

With a sunny grin that placed his pearly whites on full display, he hops out of the window, leaving her behind with an unknown shinobi that has the capabilities to kill this defenseless quasi-Uchiha in less than a second. Shizuka gives the departing figure an irked look for that, all those previous 'light' feelings replaced by displeasure.

Turning to the ANBU, her lips part. However, she wasn't even given some time to mentally prepare herself for the ANBU to grab her by the arm. It was too sudden. She wanted to gag, but also rip them to pieces.

Within moments, the ANBU transported them to the Hokage's office via Shunshin.

The second they had reached their intended destination, she couldn't help it; she took a big step away and wrenched her arm from the ANBU's grip, violently rubbing and scratching her forearm whilst shuddering, as if that would be enough to make the feeling of ants crawling underneath her skin to disappear. She didn't even notice that Cross Marian had clattered to the floor in her haste to claw her skin open.

She had thought that she could handle another person's touch because although she broke into hives after being touched by Pretty-boy, she was still able to reluctantly endure it. But this, this felt too different - she didn't feel comfortable at all. At the sound of feet shuffling hesitatingly near her, she snaps her head up and forces herself to return her hands to her sides. Within the split second of raising her head, her spinning Sharingan eyes caught all movements in the room.

The ANBU had moved further away as if to give her space. (Good riddance)

The Hokage was studying her as if she was some kind of interesting new specimen under a microscope. (Not good)

The man wearing the KMPF uniform, Uchiha Fugaku, was frowning at her as if he had just bitten something sour. (Double yikes)

Another man who was, obviously, a Hyuuga in his early 40s had his arms crossed as he leveled her with a hard stare. (Bloody pillock)

The jounin she recognizes as Team 8's sensei had a pinched look on his face. (Wretched bastard)

A man who looked to be the more grown-up version of the current Nara Shikaku. (Just great)

And lastly, a blonde man who was probably a Yamanaka was giving her an assessing once-over. (Uh, oh)

Upon catching the Uchiha man's dojutsu switch on and off, she took the hint and swiftly deactivated her own.

Acting as if she hadn't just had a freak-out session the size of Mt Fuji in front of all these important people, she snatches Cross Marian from the floor, imitates the way Shinkichi had saluted the Hokage before, and greets cooly (or as cool as she could be in her current state), "Uchiha Shiki answers your summons, Hokage-sama."

The Sandaime Hokage studied her for a moment longer, smoking his pipe as if he has all the time in the world. How annoying. It took a while before he deemed she has sweated enough under his gaze to finally move on.

"At ease, soldier," Sarutobi Hiruzen stated authoritatively. "Are you fit enough to continue? I believe you've just recently been discharged from the hospital."

Shizuka relaxes her shoulders minutely but still stood with her spine ramrod straight. This was Shiki's usual posture. She shouldn't slouch like how she usually did in their Mind Palace. That would be OOC. With a dip of her head, she answers clinically, "Yes, Hokage-sama, it was only a mild case of exhaustion, nothing serious."

"Very well. Gentlemen, I've requested all your presence this evening on the insistence of the Hyuuga clan head, Haruto-sama. Concerns have been brought up regarding one Uchiha Shiki and his misconduct towards one Hyuuga Hikari during his recent rescue mission. What say you, Shiki-jounin?"

Shizuka faced the Hokage with a serious expression on her face and queries.

"... May I light a cigarette, please?"

Chapter Text

All eyes had immediately fallen upon her as soon as she returned the Hokage's question with a question of her own, the Uchiha's, Fugaku's, felt especially heavy.

Well, that was highly inappropriate and downright embarrassing.

She hadn't meant to verbalize her innermost desire.

The palpable and oppressive silence was, unexpectedly, soon destroyed by Nara's abrupt snort. "By all means, go ahead, Uchiha-kun. If I may, Hokage-same, I believe that everyone would not be opposed to granting that simple request."

The Hokage huffs, but the corners of his lips were curled in apparent amusement. He gestures a 'go-ahead' and Shizuka didn't need to be told twice. With skilled fingers, she pretends to retrieve a cigarette stick from a hidden pocket in her right sleeve rather than the seal on her arm.

After the first deep whiff, some tension lifted from her shoulders. She decides that this would be a good time as any to answer the Hokage's previous question.

"I admit that I am rather apologetic that my actions have brought harm to Hyuuga Hikari-san. However, I refuse to become a scapegoat. I did not, in any way or form, intentionally shatter her femur in two - or had it been three? I wasn't paying attention - different places. It was all for self-defense."

Though Shizuka wanted to venomously deny all accusations against her person because clearlyshe wasn't the one who broke that Hyuuga genin's femur, she could only endure and hold it in. Damn Shinkichi, always causing trouble. She shouldn't be the one standing in on some kind of unofficial trial on his behalf!

Having no other choice but to carry this black pot, she throws a not-so-discreet irritated look at the damn Hyuuga clan head before returning her gaze to the Hokage, her voice monotonous as she defended, "I believe that it is within my rights to defend myself against all form of assault, Hokage-sama. If Hyuuga-sama still holds me accountable for my justifiable actions, then I'd have to wonder if he has an animosity against me, be it personally or... perfunctory."

Shizuka's eyes flicker to the KMPF officer, then to Hyuuga, back to her clan head, before resuming eye contact with the Hokage. Her gaze had held meaning behind them. It was a gaze that said; 'you fucking Hyuuga scum! You got a feud with the Uchiha clan?! Gonna stir shit up just because you hate us?! Like hell will my clan head take this lying down!... or will you let him, Uchiha-sama?'

There. All done.

Her words and non-verbal actions communicated nothing too antagonizing, but still informative, casually pointing out that Shiki wasn't guilty of any misconduct that Hyuuga Haruto was accusing them of whilst simultaneously tossing the metaphorical hot potato at the Uchiha clan head to deal with.

Very suave of her, if she does say so herself! Shinkichi better bloody become her slave for a day. He owes her that much, at least, damn it.

"Impudent!" The Hyuuga suddenly barked, the vein on his temple bulging from anger. "Is this how you act in front of your superiors?! To build internal discord and denying your wrongdoing, against my daughter no less?! You should be stripped of your rank and be shipped to T&I for an evaluation of your mental capabilities as well as your loyalty!"

All calm left her in the face of this Hyuuga's unreasonable personality. This old man, who was supposedly the Hyuuga-genin's father, was trying to exile Shiki from Konoha and/or ship him into a loony bin! The nerve! Shizuka's protective instincts flared up in challenge as she snarls, all teeth on display as if she was this close to ripping his throat out.

Just as she brought a leg up to take a step forward, her lips parting with a cuss on the tip of her tongue, a broad-shouldered back slid smoothly in front of her, causing her to abort mid-action by biting the inside of her cheek and returning her foot to the ground, lest she knocks them both forward. Uchiha Fugaku stood back-straight and confident, his posture unbending and his aura domineering. He may be the youngest clan head in the room, but only a foolish person would take his age as a means to belittle him.

Shizuka couldn't help but feel safe from where she stood behind him. This was the first time a superior had stood up for her, and despite her faulty social personality and dislike of humans, she felt touched by his grace.

"With all due respect, Hyuuga-sama, while I agree that a mental evaluation could benefit my clansman, I disapprove of the two other suggestions. Uchiha Shiki is a devoted Konoha-nin. By no means should we reward his loyalty with a trip to T & I. My clansman is no criminal. Furthermore, stripping a capable jounin of his rank while we are in the midst of war is unwise. Hokage-sama would never permit it."

... Give her back her delicate feelings of being touched, damn it! What benefit could an evaluation of her mental health bring?! All three of the Shi-family were crazy in the head. Crazy, oi!

Her face puckered unsightly as she inwardly scolded her clan head for spouting shit.

"Just because we are in dire need of numbers does not mean we must sacrifice our morality to maintain it!" Hyuuga Haruto refuted, arms crossed and eyes narrowed menacingly.

"No morality need be sacrificed, Hyuuga-sama," Fugaku returned cooly without a beat. "Allow us to hear the full story. It is the least we could do before jumping to conclusions. This might have all been a giant misunderstanding."

"Misunderstanding?" Hyuuga Haruto sneered. "Your clansman attacked my daughter! He admitted to breaking her bone in three different places not even five minutes ago! That is a fact!"

Shizuka ducks her head, feeling rather sheepish when Fugaku looked at her with a deadpan from over his shoulder. He raises a brow as if to tell her how stupid she had been, his gaze unwavering before he resumes eye contact with the Hyuuga head. She pouts. It wasn't as if she did anything wrong. Sure, Shinkichi had broken the genin's bone, but it was purely on self-defense! She could at least give the Hyuuga some face and admit to that... Though the next time she ends up in this kind of situation, she wouldn't be polite to her frenemies! Hmph!

"Whether he admits it or not, it had been for self-defense purposes."

"Bah! Self-defense? I don't trust a word he says!"

"You believed the word of him attacking your daughter, yet you do not trust his reason for it? Hyuuga-sama, I implore you to cease your biases."

Killing Intent crashed heavily down upon the shoulders of the people in the office. Although technically directed at the Uchiha clan head, everyone could feel it. Hyuuga Haruto was glaring murderously at the two Uchiha, the veins on the right side of his neck bulging with suppressed rage.

Idly, Shizuka wonders if the Hyuuga has issues with his blood pressure. It couldn't be healthy to have such protuberant veins. After all, an elevated jugular vein distention (JVT) was one of the signs for right-sided heart failure and other debilitating illnesses. Not that she cares enough to tell him to get that checked out. She'd rather he die faster to rid the world of arrogant arseholes.

"Enough!" At the Hokage's frosty order, Hyuuga sheathed his murderous attitude and replaced it with a façade of nonchalance. The eldest in the office waves a hand and an ANBU appeared instantaneously. "Retrieve genins Hyuuga Hikari and Uchiha Kazuo."

"Yes, sir!" The ANBU saluted and left in a swirl of leaves.

"Now we wait."

And wait they did.

Unfortunately for Shizuka, Fugaku decides to take this window of opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with her. He gestures with his chin for her to follow him to a corner and they reluctantly turned their backs to the rest of the shinobi in the office, knowing that the others could read their lips. So bothersome.

"Tell me everything - and leave nothing out," Uchiha Fugaku, the head of the Uchiha, demanded. His tone carried a no-nonsense vibe that made her want to cower.

Ah, he was so intimidating hey! She hated being in the driver's seat. She'd rather Shiki (or if push comes to shove, Shinkichi) have this conversation with Fugaku. And they were too close, within breathing distance, in fact. It was giving her semi-hives.

"... You haven't heard?" She murmurs her question tentatively whilst simultaneously trying to scoot further away. She got a glare for her behavior and a harsh tug to keep her still. Hence, she could only swallow the discomfort she feels at their proximity and whispers the story. "I and two others were sent on an impromptu mission to retrieve-"

"I know. Tell me what happened perioperatively," Fugaku said, looking far too exasperated than wholly necessary.

"... Upon locating the targets, I noticed that Hyuuga Hikari was unconscious. Her team leader and teammate were both injured so it was up to me to carry her. Whilst on the move, she regained awareness, but not enough. I'd reckon she'd assumed I was an enemy and proceeded to try and knee me in the throat. The nerve of some people, tsk. If it were me, I would have activated my dōjutsu to assess the situation first! Argh, so bothersome. This is why they're nothing more than cannon fodder. Anyway. I retalia- uh, I mean, I reacted upon instinct and redirected the blow. Unfortunately, I wasn't controlling my strength and I kinda accidentally fractured her femur. The only reason I know the bone had broken in three different places is only because I heard it! It wasn't intentional!"

Fugaku heaved a sizeable sigh.

"Alright. I believe you. For now, try not to aggravate Hyuuga-sama too much. Do I make myself clear?"


And just in time.

The two genins entered not a second later. The Uchiha boy perked up at the sight of his clan head but shrunk into his jounin-sensei's side when he spotted her. Tsk. Way to show clan unity, brat. The Hyuuga girl, on the other hand, regally ignored her to walk to her father. Despite how odd she looks trying to appear graceful whilst walking on crutches.

The Hokage puts his hands on the table and spoke, "Shall we begin?"

Nobody answered, but it was undoubtedly a 'yes'.

As soon as Shizuka left the Hokage tower, she tiredly slumps onto the nearest bench and throws an arm over her eyes.

That trial(?) had gone... alright, to put it mildly.

The majority had, ultimately, after many hours, agreed that Shiki wasn't guilty of any crimes (thank fucking Jashin for that). At the time of the announcement, the look on both the Hyuugas' faces had been absolutely priceless. She even made sure to record it with the Sharingan for Shiki and Shinkichi to laugh at during dour times.

However, with the arrival of good news, there would be bad ones to balance it out.

The Hokage had temporarily pulled Shiki out of the active-duty roster until he was cleared by a Yamanaka. Meaning, a mental evaluation was a requirement to be put back onto the jounin roster. Shiki's appointment was in a week. Shizuka just hopes that the issue in their body would be fixed before then. She couldn't handle any more stressful situations. She was an introvert who hates social interactions, damn it.

With a huff, she pushes herself off of the bench and grudgingly lumbers her way back to the apartment. Better to take her pity party somewhere private. Better yet, she could smoke on the balcony whilst cloud watching! That would no doubt improve her mood.

Having planned for her entire evening, she almost cried when she saw Pretty-boy leaning contentedly against her apartment's door. Before she could escape unnoticed, the blonde turned to give her a megawatt smile. Fuck. So much for a quiet and relaxing evening.

Chapter Text

Minato, with but a glance, could tell that there was something off about Shiki during their hospital visit. At that time, he had pushed his doubts aside with the assumption that he was probably overthinking things. Yet, as Shiki continued to walk down the corridor towards him, he was once again reminded of that time as he was cued to the wrongness he felt before.

Shiki tended to have a distinctive gait, with his spine impeccably straight and shoulders forever tensed in hypervigilance. This Shiki, however, was dragging his feet whilst slouching, a behaviour that could not possibly be any more un-Shiki-like even if he tried. He could understand if Shiki were to trip on air or something equally humiliating since the Uchiha was indeed a clumsy idiot. Yet, this kind of gait change was too contrasting to not take notice. Shiki, the ever-paranoid serious guy, slouching? Too suspicious.

Not only that, but Shiki was also balancing his overly lengthy katana in a way that screamed awkward. If not for the Hiraishin seal he could still sense on Shiki's nape, Minato would've accused Shiki of being an imposter. 

With all these bright red flags waving at his face, Minato couldn't help but desire an investigation. Call it a scab that he desperately wanted to pick despite knowing that he shouldn't. He knew it was wrong to inquire into a friend's personal matter behind their back... But if no harm was done, he didn't see the problem in it. Minato has always lived by the rule that it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission. And in this case, it very much so applied!

Satisfied with his reasoning, he began to think back to all their past interactions. There were three moments that stood out the most; the hospital visit, the one when Minato welcomed Shiki back from his mission at Konoha's gate, and that time when Shiki held a sword to his ceratoid artery before fainting.

After much pondering, Minato believed that he might need to consult a Yamanaka friend of his to confirm his theory. However, right now, he decided on a wait-and-see approach. With a soft exhale, more so to relax his shoulders than anything else, Minato revealed an expected smile that showed nothing of his deep scrutiny.

Shizuka almost cried tears of frustration upon spotting Pretty-boy standing just outside Shiki's apartment door with a ridiculously goofy smile plastered on his pretty face. Ah, she really, really, really wanted to retreat into their mind palace and fix the damn bug without any more outside interferences. Unfortunately, her luck has been appalling as of late.

Knowing that she would have to somehow shoo this blue-eyed trained killer away despite her lack of persuasion and social skills, she slowed her steps to buy more time to muster a plan. Rather than wait for her to reach him as any other decent human being would, Pretty-boy decided to spare her the effort and walked over. Shizuka couldn't quite control her disgruntled expression at that. Bloody humans and their need for social interactions - how vexing. 

"Hey there. How'd the meeting go?" Pretty-boy asked, appearing politely concerned. "Have you had dinner yet? You were gone the whole day."

"Just wonderful. And yes, I've eaten," She lied through her teeth. On cue, her stomach groaned with displeasure. Pretty-boy's smile got wider whilst Shizuka cursed the author of her life for being an absolute cunt. She decided to pretend that the last few seconds did not happen and changed her words to suit her needs, "No I've not, but I'm too tired to eat out."

"Oh, what a coincidence!" Pretty-boy's smile turned extra bright, which made her squint in discomfort before a plastic bag (that was previously left unnoticed) was raised to eye level. "I prefer homecooked meals to eating out."

"... I don't know how to cook."

"Don't worry, I do."

"... I don't have the energy to play host."

"You can sleep while I prepare dinner."

"... Not that I'd care, but that's rude to the guest."

"Friends shouldn't be so distant with each other! I'll treat your home like mine, and you can treat my home like yours."

Shizuka resisted the urge to massage her temples to ward off the incoming headache. Pretty-boy simply wasn't giving her the option to refuse. "So damn bothersome," Shizuka murmured under her breath.

With a deep exhale, she spoke at an audible level, "Yeah, sure, fine. Come in. Use the kitchen as you please." And if her tone was a little bit more sarcastic than intended, that must've all been in the mind.

Rather than avoid human contact as she would have normally done, Shizuka was too frustrated and decided to shoulder her way past Pretty-boy to unluck the apartment door, and if the latter hadn't been a ninja with a rock-hard body with perfect balance, he would've undoubtedly fallen flat on his ass with how hard she had shoved. With one last glare aimed at him over her shoulders, she kicked off her shoes and made a beeline to Shiki's bedroom. Pretty-boy was lucky he was crucial to the plot. If he had been dispensable, she would have handed him to Shinkichi on a silver platter.

Shizuka didn't even try to entertain her uninvited guest, as her top priority was to solve the Shi-family's current most problematic predicament. After respectfully propping Cross Marian next to the bed, Shizuka collapsed face-first onto the mattress and plunged deep into their mind palace.

Oddly enough, she spawned at the golden corridor rather than on her couch inside the library. Shizuka couldn't help the double-take she performed at the murals painted onto the stained-glass windows of the corridor, showcasing the true history of the Uchiha clan... and then more. The murals, especially the ones nearest to the library's ginormous double doors, gave her a feeling of unease. A week from now, a Yamanaka would enter their mind palace. If said Yamanaka spawned in the golden corridor, how was Shiki going to explain these pictures of Uchiha clansmen past, present, and future?

Shizuka tore her eyes away from a mural that showcased a youthful Uchiha Sarada attending the inauguration of the Seventh Hokage and quietly entered the library, making a beeline for her blue couch. Shiki and Shinkichi were still where she had left them, dead to the world on their respective couches.

She sighed.

There was no rest for the wicked, it seemed.

Shiki woke disoriented and confused, eyelids laden and heavy with sleep. Fortunately, he recognized the ceiling and bedroom to not panic amidst his quickening heartbeat that pounded loudly in his ears.

Groaning pathetically, he pushed himself into an upright position on the bed and placed a hand on his throbbing forehead. It was clammy and flushed, with greasy clumps of hair that clung uncomfortably to his skin. Shiki dreaded the idea of being sick; everything felt heavy and unbearable, and his brain always malfunctioned whenever he was ill.

He raised his other hand to rub the sleep off his lids before pressing his palms against his closed eyes. The room was too bright, and his eyeballs were overly warm, giving him a splitting migraine the size of Jupiter. His knees automatically curled into his chest and he rested his burning forehead against his knees in an unconscious gesture of self-comfort.

"Shiki?" He heard someone (Minato?) murmur his name, voice muffled and almost a whisper at best. Unwilling to move, lest he agitated his migraine further, Shiki made a noise that sounded like a response. "Hey there, sleeping beauty. You have good timing; I was just about to wake you. Do you think your stomach can handle some congee?"

What felt like calloused fingers soon began to comb through his clumpy and knotted hair, nails raking pleasantly against his scalp. The hand rested on his nape for a couple of seconds, before returning to their previously soothing action. Shiki could feel the tense lines of his shoulders unwind as his migraine began dropping to more bearable levels.

Despite his intense desire to doze off under such relaxing ministrations, he fought to clear the fog from his dazed mind and slapped the offending limb away. There was an intruder in his territory, and he'd rather get rid of him before going back to sleep. Whilst he trusted the seals (hidden underneath a layer of light grey wallpaper) to protect him in his own home, he didn't trust Minato.

"Namikaze? You're trespassing, you dolt – get out!" Shiki clicked his tongue, voice raspy and words slurred due to lethargy, but despite his not-so-stellar condition, he didn't forget to show his annoyance both verbally and in body language.

When he heard no response from the blonde, he lifted his heavy, aching head from his knees to glare at the intruder in his sanctuary. His vision swam and it took a while for him to stop seeing double. When it did, he saw an unpleasant sight. Minato had an eyebrow raised; lips curled in apparent amusement. Shiki bristled.

"You seem energetic enough to eat, that's good. I'll come back with dinner," Minato beamed before he slipped out of Shiki's bedroom. The latter could only grit his teeth in annoyance as the former went to fetch him dinner. 

It didn't take the blonde long to return.

Shiki couldn't help but mutter, almost petulantly even (not that he'd admit it), "Why are you here, anyway? I don't remember letting you in." Without his invitation, the wards should've punted Minato out before he could even take a step inside. That meant he'd need to check his seal work again for any tempering, which was tedious work.

Minato handed him a bowl of congee – politely ignoring how his hands trembled when he reached for it – and seated himself on the foot of the bed with his own bowl in hand. Minato acted as if he owned the place, much to his irritation. "Is that so?" Minato hummed idly, much to Shiki's confusion, before a sly grin slipped into his expression, causing Shiki to be wary. "I'm here to take care of my sick friend, of course! If I left you alone, who knows how much abuse your poor body can take from your clumsiness? I worry that you'll cause an unnecessary death by tripping on air while trying to get out of bed. I'd be so sad at having to announce the dumb way you died to your clan head."

"I'm not clumsy," Shiki hissed, offended. "And I won't trip on air like some wet behind the ears genin."

"I distinctly remembered someone doing just that before falling into a river – had to fish him up too because the clumsy idiot couldn't swim," Minato smirked, clearly far too amused.

Shiki could feel his cheeks heat up in mortification. "Tch! It's not like I needed your help anyway."

"Aww, are you flustered? How cute!" Minato cooed teasingly.

"Wha-?! Don't call me cute!" Shiki would imitate a tomato at this rate. Glaring, he snarled, "Eat your dinner, Namikaze," and promptly went to ignoring the laughing blonde's entire existence to concentrate on his own meal. It was tasteless due to his cold, but at least the texture was nice. He wouldn't throw away a free meal just to be petty, anyway. Idly, as he ate, he wondered which stall Minato had bought their dinner from. His kitchen was empty of ingredients and cooking utensil, so there was no way Minato could've cooked this.

Hn. He'd ask next time. 

For the past few days, Shiki had been too ill and out of it to notice, but after he had finally recovered enough to physically boot Minato from his apartment, he soon realized that he hadn't heard a peep from either of his two alter egos. The silence in his head was concerning (and a little lonely).

Seated on a floor pouffe in a meditative posture, he closed his eyes and dived straight into his mind palace. Rather than on his couch, he appeared standing on the tiled floors of the golden corridor. Just as he was about to take a step forward, he saw Shi-sōrō and Shi-chan balanced on their respective extension ladders with a bunch of newspapers tucked under an arm and a roller brush in hand.

Shiki stared, completely baffled, by the strange sight they made.

Shi-sōrō, rather than her usual apparel, was garbed in a paint-splattered blue industrial coverall, gumboots, heavy-duty gloves, and a neon yellow safety helmet with a lot of chibi-Madara & chibi-Tobirama stickers on it. If he squinted, he could even make out the word #MadaTobi scrawled on the side with what was probably a sharpie. She had her tongue stuck out in concentration and was busy slapping newspapers on the stained-glass windows whilst using the roller as a makeshift glueing tool.

Shi-chan, on the other hand, was clad in a reddish samue, white tabi, and black fingerless gloves. His hair was pulled back into a braided top knot, which surprisingly suited him well. He was frowning as he did the same as Shi-sōrō; repeatedly rolling the roller brush before slapping newspapers on the stained-glass windows.

"... What are you guys doing?" Shiki finally asked after a moment of bemused silence. 

Shi-sōrō was physically the laziest out of all of them, so to see her do anything that didn't remotely involve sitting down was unexpected. Whereas Shi-chan, supercilious and overbearing in his ways, would've deemed this kind of work beneath him.

The two startled at his voice. Shi-sōrō even dropped both the roller and the newspapers when she twisted her body around, half-lidded eyes focused solely on him. "S-Shiki!" There was undisguised relief in her tone and expression. Shi-chan, whilst his face remained impassive, had the same relief in his eyes. Soon enough, they were down the ladder and practically teleported to either side of him.

"So, what were you guys doing?" He repeated. They began conversing whilst walking down the golden corridor.

"Huh? Oh, that. We're covering up the murals." Shi-sōrō shrugged helplessly. "By the way, it's been three days; were there any issues when you tried to drop by?" There was no accusation in Shi-sōrō's tone, only curiosity, but her question made Shiki fidget, nonetheless.

"No, there isn't. I apologize for that. I was down with a fever and only just recovered, it was never my intention to leave you hanging. On the same note, I haven't heard from either you or Shi-chan. Is there an issue with the conference microphone speaker?"

Shi-sōrō frowned. "I'll have to have a look at it, but if you haven't been hearing us, then yeah, we might have a problem with it. Fortunately, you came when you did. We have a lot to talk about, Shiki."

They split as soon as they entered the library, making themselves comfy on their respective couches. Like any other time, Shi-chan served them each a cup of hot matcha tea.

"Thanks, Shi-chan." Shiki swallowed a mouthful, his muscles relaxing as the heat began to warm him from the inside out. "Now that we're all here, shall we proceed with the debrief? What happened?"

Shi-sōrō set her cup down and lit a cigarette, leaving it to dangle in between her slightly chapped lips. Without moving even an inch from her seat, she stretched for the remote laying innocent on the middle of the round coffee table. It didn't take long for Shi-chan to grow annoyed at her failed attempts and got up to violently throw the remote at her. There was a lazy, almost smug smile on her face as she watched it land next to her. Shi-chan's aim was... well, horrid, just like Shiki's.

Before Shi-chan could lose his temper at her mocking expression, Shi-sōrō quickly turned the telly on. The screen showed an ANBU in a hospital room on pause.

Whilst suffocating a Tsunade plush against her bosom, Shi-sōrō began to narrate her side of the story, "My stupid firewall happened. After that damn blondie called Shi-chan Shiki, thus initializing the code word for the swap, the firewall malfunctioned. It shouldn't have happened, but it did. After running through some diagnostics, I found out that a multi-layered firewall hadn't been a great idea after all. It pushed Shi-chan out from the driver's seat whilst simultaneously pulling Shiki into the seat. But because it was done at the same time, the two of you kinda collided. Hard. The firewall got damaged, and you guys wouldn't wake up. So, I ended up being the driver.

"After five or so hours, I deemed it necessary to wake up. Blondie dropped us off at the hospital after Shiki's body shut down. But I can handle that. This bastard ANBU, on the other hand? No manners whatsoever!" Shi-sōrō pointed rudely at the ANBU on the screen. Before she continued her account, she hit the play button on the remote.

"They dragged me to a bloody trial, Shiki, a trial! They dragged a sick patient to stand on trial! You so owe me for that one, Shi-chan... But, anyway, long story short: remember the Hyuuga genin Shi-chan had injured? Yeah, daddy dearest hadn't been too pleased with us and called all the higher-ups to demand justice. Basically, he wanted us punished and off the payroll. I somehow managed to convince Uchiha Fugaku to defend us. The Hokage ended up letting us go, but with the condition that a Yamanaka will do an evaluation on us. In four days' time. Talk about bothersome." 

Shiki took another sip of matcha tea as he watched the video (memory) clip come to an end. "Will this be an ongoing issue?" He asked, concerned.

"It shouldn't. I removed the firewall and made a new system as a replacement. Theoretically, once the codeword(s) have been initialized, it'll only work to pull the driver into the mind palace. Whoever's name is called must replace the driver by manually moving to take over the position. If the driver's seat is left untouched after the initialization of the code word, Shiki won't be able to become the driver until that's resolved, which will leave his body to automatically shut down as a safety precaution... which is counterproductive at best. Think of the body as a car, the code words as its ignition keys, and us as the drivers that own said keys. Mix and match. It's bothersome but that's life for you. Until I figure out how to cancel the swapping entirely, we'll have to play by the system's rules."

"Hn, we'll keep that in mind," Shi-chan grunted. "You've done well... for an indolent couch potato. Now, onto the most pressing concern: the Yamanaka evaluation."

Shi-sōrō rolled her eyes whilst Shiki hid his smirk behind his cup of tea. Trust Shi-chan to give only backhanded compliments.

"What're your thoughts on it?" Shiki asked, curious. "Technically, with Shi-sōrō's modern world memory, we can impersonate the average, normal person."

"We'll fail," Shi-sōrō responded bluntly, not one to mince her words. At the same time, "I highly doubt we'll pass," Shi-chan answered impassively, equally direct.

Shiki pinched the bridge of his nose to ward off an incoming headache. "... I somehow can't deny that. Any ideas how we can pass?"

"The first step is to make our mind palace appear mundane. We must cover the murals, redecorate the library, and secure more normal books on the fake memory shelf. Shall we begin to delegate our tasks?" When Shi-chan's eyes landed on Shiki, he knew to nod this time around. "Excellent. Shi-sōrō, first of all, get the microphone back to working condition. We need the device to communicate with Shiki. After, you will work on the books. Add in filler chapters such as disgustingly sweet puppy love and first dates."

"Okay~ Consider them done! I'll make our fake childhood seem like we're in a shoujo manga rather than a shounen manga."

Shi-chan seemed to grimace at Shi-sōrō's eagerness to filter Uchiha Shiki's life with flowery bubbles and unicorn puke. "Don't go overboard," the necrophiliac warned. "Shiki, you will work on the library itself. Get this floor to appear like there's only room for a sole occupant. We must not allow Yamanaka to diagnose us with multiple personality disorder. I cannot stress the importance of this matter enough."

"I understand. Where do I put your couches?"

"The second floor."

"What 'bout you, what're you gonna do?" Shi-sōrō questioned curiously. Already, she has moved to sit next to Shiki, a drawing tablet (with Obito stickers on the back) on her lap and a drawing tablet pen (with a Hashirama pencil topper on it) in hand.

"I will be inspecting the reliability of the second floor's security system. After, I will continue to cover the golden corridor's murals. Any other questions before we can commence on our tasks?

"Alright, everyone, let's mosey!" Shi-sōrō grinned, fist stretched outward.

Shiki chuckled, amused by her FF7 reference. It made him feel old to have understood it (despite them being the same person once), but whatever. Without much thought, he stretched his fist to meet hers. Shi-chan, although with an irritated eye roll, stood to do the same. Their fists met in silent camaraderie before they separated to complete their respective tasks.

It was going to be some long four days.

Chapter Text

Collectively, the trio heaved a sigh of exhausted relief.

They were drained after having gone through three and a half days' worth of non-stop manual labour; having rushed through the final touches of their whitewashing. Shi-sōrō was sprawled on the carpet, looking very much like death warmed over. Shi-chan too, despite how regal he tried to portray his body language to be whilst seated on the black couch, looked equally exhausted as he hid his expression behind a cup of hot tea.

Shiki wasn't doing much better. He had his head flopped over the back of the couch as he slouched limply against Shi-chan's side. Although he was tempted to sleep right there and then, he needed to get moving or he would be late, which would be a bad idea. Grudgingly, he forced himself to his feet using the necrophiliac's shoulder as support.

"I need to get ready for the appointment," Shiki announced reluctantly. Shi-chan grunted his assent whilst Shi-sōrō waved lethargically.

Coming to a stop in front of the TV, he placed a hand on the screen and pushed. His limb sunk into the screen, followed by his body, and Shiki smoothly exited his mind palace, making himself comfortable in the driver's seat. He stretched his physical body with a groan and strolled into the bathroom for a relaxing hot shower.

Cleaned and dressed in the standard Konoha-nin uniform with the hitai-ate tied around his neck, Shiki, sans Cross Marian, headed straight to the T&I building for his mental evaluation. He loathed to leave his primary weapon behind, but he didn't want his first impression to appear aggressive or defensive; he needed to look calm within the village, amidst those who were supposedly his allies. Besides, he wasn't actually unarmed; his storage seal tattoo made sure of it.

Shiki kept his paranoid twitching and distrust gazes to himself as he stood in front of the front desk, looking for all purposes bored. Better uninterested than impassive.

"Can I help you with something?" The chunin who was manning the reception asked monotonously, sounding very much done with the world at large. Shiki could relate.

"I'm here to see Yamanaka Tsubaki-san," Shiki responded, equally monotonous.

The chunin was already reaching for the filing cabinet to his left. "Name? And do you have an appointment?"

Shiki nodded, "Uchiha Shiki, and yes, at ten."

"Hmm..." The chunin mumbled to himself as he pulled out a manila folder and skimmed through it. After a moment, he returned eye contact with Shiki and smiled professionally, or tried to, anyway. It only appeared forced. "10:00 hour with Yamanaka Tsubaki-sensei for an evaluation, was it? Right, here's a visitor's pass. Always make sure it's on you. Go down that corridor – his office will be at the far end on level two."

"Thank you." After being handed the pass, Shiki compliantly pinned it to his chest and sauntered towards the corridor previously pointed by the chunin attendant.

It didn't take long for Shiki to arrive in front of Yamanaka Tsubaki's office after climbing up a set of stairs.

Shiki hesitated, very much unwilling to reach for the doorknob. He was wary of meeting a professional psychologist after knowing how bad his mental state has become after having transmigrated into the Narutoverse. Fortunately, even though his two inner companions have already relocated to the second floor of his mind palace, their steady presence calmed him enough to knock on the door and entered when a masculine voiced called for him to do so.

After shutting the door behind him, Shiki instinctively took in his surroundings, noting all the entry points first, potential weapons second, and room layout and decorations last.

The four walls were in muted beige, and the modest room glowed with adequate natural lighting from the gigantic, blinded window near two yellow armchairs situated at the left side of the room. Between the chairs was a coffee table with a small potted succulent on it, giving a sense of safety and serenity despite the close proximity. On the other side of the room, away from the window, was a desk and a leather chair, with the owner of the office seated on it. Behind Yamanaka was a large bookshelf and landscape paintings were decorating the walls. All in all, the office has a home-y, warm atmosphere rather than a detached, clinical air.

The man who would soon evaluate his mental state, Yamanaka Tsubaki, was a middle-aged man with short blonde hair and downturned blue eyes. His facial features were soft and friendly with laugh lines in all the right places. He was clad in the standard shinobi uniform, and his hitai-ate was tied around the forehead. To sum it up; Yamanaka Tsubaki has a gentle vibe about him. If Shiki wasn't a narcissistic psychopath, he would've been instantly compelled to trust the blonde.

"Uchiha Shiki-san, yes? Please, take a seat," the blonde gestured towards the seat nearest to Shiki whilst making his way to the other armchair.

Shiki complied, back impeccably straight but shoulders relaxed. He showed an open body language as if he has the insight and willingness to subject himself to this madness that was a mental evaluation. Shiki inwardly grumbled as he hid his dissatisfaction behind secured doors.

"Now that we are comfortably seated, let me introduce myself. My name is Yamanaka Tsubaki, and I will be your counsellor for the duration of your evaluation." Yamanaka bowed, which Shiki politely returned. "Before we begin, I'd like to inform you that our session, or sessions, are all confidential. Unless you pose a threat to yourself to others, then I am legally obligated to share your private information with the appropriate authorities. Otherwise, anything said in this room will remain strictly between us.

"By the end of your evaluation, I will have the final say to whether you are to be given clearance or be discharged from your duties. Would you like me to clarify anything, or do you have any questions and/or concerns you'd like me to answer before we begin today's session?" At Shiki's continual silence, Yamanaka smiled encouragingly but spoke with authority. "During our time together in this room, I insist that you respond verbally if able. It will help prevent misunderstandings and allow us to communicate efficiently. Will that be alright, or do you have any other communication preferences?"

Slowly, Shiki nodded. "I am fine with responding verbally."

"Thank you for your cooperation and understanding. I've read your files and noticed that there was no indication of how you'd like to be called or what your preference is; may I know how you'd like to be announced for future reference?"

"Uchiha," he stated after a second. It was safer for Yamanaka to call him by his family name right now, just in case his other inners were triggered into the driver's seat. Although he trusted Shizuka with her new system, he'd rather not take any chances with an untested program. Shinkichi's paranoia was contagious. "What should I call you?"

"You may refer to me as Yamanaka-sensei or Tsubaki-sensei during the period of your evaluation. If you're comfortable with proceeding, shall we now begin, Uchiha-san?" Yamanaka queried, tone soothingly soft and non-confrontational.

Shiki purposefully reclined against the armchair and made himself comfortable by crossing his left leg over the right. His hands – a body part that anxious people often fiddled with to lessen their agitation – were placed delicately atop his lap in a relaxed manner. "Hn, I'm comfortable to start."

"Excellent, can I ask why you were recommended to get an evaluation? Please, start from the beginning if you will. I'd like to hear your part of the story, Uchiha-san."

"Very well. During my previous mission–"

Their conversation continued smoothly in that fashion, with Yamanaka asking questions that pertained mostly to his current situation and Shiki's responses to hypothetical scenarios. His body language remained open throughout the session, showing no indication of aggression or defensiveness.

The interview went about as expected. That was to say; with Shiki trying to answer in ways that did not deem him an unstable shinobi that lacked this world's moral compass. He was eighty percent sure he succeeded in fooling Yamanaka, but it was had to determine when the latter merely smiled through most of his bullshitting.

During their short break where he was offered tea and biscuits, Shiki was asked to complete three pages worth of SAQs, all of which were filled with questions that examined his morality and psyche. Yamanaka didn't show any reaction to the answers he filled, only accepting the papers and putting them on his desk, to be marked at a later date. It made Shiki paranoid, but he held his tongue and made sure his eyes never strayed to the sheets of paper.

After almost two hours of gruelling Q&As, Yamanaka finally asked permission to enter his mindscape. Shiki, whilst inwardly dreading the mind walk, had already prepared for this with the two other Shi-family, so he managed to appear nonchalant when he agreed.

Soon, Shiki signed a legal document stating that he had permitted one Yamanaka Tsubaki to enter his mindscape for the sole purpose of evaluating his mental state. Any personal information retrieved from his mind would be redacted on legal documents to retain his privacy and confidentiality. Furthermore, his case on paper would be known only by serial numbers, and there would be no identification markers to identify him as even an Uchiha.

"Are you ready, Uchiha-san? Good, relax and open your mind to me. I admit that it is a little intrusive, but I assure you that no harm will befall your mind whilst I am inside. This will only take a moment. Now, close your eyes and try to match your breathing with mine. That's it. You're doing well."

Yamanaka's soft encouragements soon turned into background noises as the psychologist pressed a palm over Shiki's forehead and dived into his mind palace. There was a slight pressure, akin to being mentally shoved, but not at the same time. The sensation was odd, and Yamanaka's presence increased exponentially until Shiki had no choice but to retreat further into his mind, all but abandoning his physical body so that he would not lose track of Yamanaka.

It took Yamanaka a moment or two to appear in the golden corridor next to inner Shiki. The former seemed slightly surprised at his appearance but controlled his expression within a split second. He smiled benignly at Shiki, "Will you guide me to your memories, Uchiha-san?"

Nodding, Shiki spun on his heels and strode confidently towards the library in his mind palace. If his pace was slightly faster than normal, well, only he knew. Whilst a visitor wouldn't exactly question the newspapers plastered onto the stained-glass windows; Yamanaka was a professional mind walker. It was better to get him out of the golden corridor ASAP, even if a first-time visitor might presume that this was the normal state of his corridor. One can never be too suspicious if the whole world was out to get him. And in this case, who knows if Yamanaka Tsubaki has been bought by that Hyuuga bastard.

The gigantic, double mahogany doors automatically closed behind them with an eerie creak and thud. Shiki withheld a wince; they sounded ominous, threatening, and in severe need of a good oiling. Stepping away from Yamanaka, Shiki sauntered to the only available couch and took a seat, for all purposes seemingly relaxed. Discreetly, he observed the blonde from the corner of his eyes.

The evaluator was surveying everything and anything in his sight; from the weirdly patterned carpet to the dimly lit chandelier hanging in the middle of the library. The blonde was motionless as he stood at the centre, and only his head moved as he surveyed the place. Whilst the smile remained on his lips, Shiki could see the calculative glint in those bluish eyes of his; noting down every little detail and observations, as if he was looking for something out of place that could be used against Shiki's evaluation.

After a few minutes of pure observation, Yamanaka began to make his rounds. He touched the circular table and the back of the couch, fingered the books on the shelves, and politely skimmed through some of them with professional interest.

It didn't take long for the Yamanaka to finish evaluating the first floor and took heed of the second floor. Shiki, as readily scripted by Shi-chan, stepped between the staircase and his counsellor. "The second floor contains confidential knowledge such as clan techniques and memories of missions. It is restricted to even Yamanaka-sensei, I'm afraid."

"I apologize, Uchiha-san, but there seem to be more book memories above than below," Yamanaka, though did not outright call him a liar, hinted at it. Shiki knew that it was disproportionate, but fortunately, he was in the body of an Uchiha, and the blonde had failed to take his heritage into account.

Shiki's lips curled into a polite smile. The Yamanaka seemed to be under the impression that he, as an evaluator, was exempted from any restrictions regarding the confidential parts of his clan's secrets. Thankfully, Shinkichi knew clan laws by heart and had planned for this very scenario.

"As a member of the Yamanaka clan and the T&I Department, I believe you are familiar with the sharingan's characteristics, yes? Most of the books on the second floor contain stolen techniques and my own repertoire of shinobi arts, whilst others are split between classified information about my clan and missions. Even if you are my auditor, Yamanaka-sensei, you must gain clearance from my clan head before you are allowed access to such information."

Yamanaka seemed to pause at that. It took a few moments of pregnant silence before the blonde nodded, albeit in slight reluctance, and apologized. "You are right, Uchiha-san. It was my mistake. Shall we continue our conversation outside?"

"Certainly," Shiki nodded. When Yamanaka faded, presence gone from his mind palace, Shiki slumped against the rail of the staircase and sighed, exhausted.

There was a noisy creak that came from above, indicating the presence of his two other personalities, but Shiki didn't stick long enough to chat. It would be too suspicious if he remained inside any longer. Swiftly, he dashed to the flat screen that appeared upon his command and placed a palm upon it. Gradually, his consciousness reappeared and he was back in the driver's seat.

Shiki blinked back in his physical body and forcefully pushed out the tension in his shoulders with an audible exhale. He turned to focus on Yamanaka, who was equally regaining his bearings from the mind walk.

"Do you feel any lingering effects from the experience?" At Shiki's negative answer, Yamanaka smiled. "That's good. Please, do not hesitate to seek any of my clan's medic-nin if symptoms appear. I will send a summons for our next appointment after I've talked things out with your clan head." Yamanaka stood with a flourish and ushered him to the door. "Thank you for coming, Uchiha-san. Have a good afternoon."

"You as well, Yamanaka-sensei."

Shiki left the building without looking back, but not before dropping off his resume and cover letter on the recruitment desk at the front. Shiki hadn't forgotten his desire to work as either a medical examiner or an interrogator. He would still be on the jounin roster, of course, since the war was still ongoing, and they would never allow an able body to remain in the village forever. However, Shiki would not be thrown into the front lines if his work behind the scenes was deemed more important. An Uchiha in T&I was rare, and Shiki believed that he would be more of an asset there than in the field (also, this way, he wouldn't lose control of Shinkichi's carnal desires to fuck cold bodies).

As Shiki made his way towards Ichiraku Ramen, intending to get some lunch, he was stopped in front of the small restaurant by a familiar jounin and his three ducklings.

[Hey, look who it is; what a coincidence.] Shi-sōrō sounded startled, followed by what seemed to be a crunching noise akin to popcorn being chewed, which irritated Shiki and his empty stomach.

[Coincidence? There's no such thing, you should know better, damn freeloader. What does he want?] Shi-chan sounded suspicious, which wasn't unusual.

"Oh, Shiki-san. Fancy meeting you here," Nara Shikaku drawled. He had his hands in his pockets and a picnic basket looped under an arm. "Are you getting lunch? Perfect, you can join me and the brats at the training ground. We can catch up while watching the brats make a fool out of themselves."

"Sensei!" The three genins whined, completely offended by their jounin-sensei's careless remark.

Before Shiki could refuse, Nara has already fallen in step next to him and was subtly nudging him towards Training Ground 22. So much for a peaceful afternoon.

Chapter Text

At their jounin-sensei's perfunctory dismissal, the three genins huffily reallocated to the centre of the training ground to begin their routine stretches. Shiki took this as an indication to retrieve a modest-sized picnic rug from his QR code storage seal tattoo. It did not take long for him to arrange the rug and settle on it, crossed legged and straight back, mittens set aside for the time being. 

Because the picnic rug was newly bought and bigger than Nara's previous one, it had enough room for two fully grown adults to sit comfortably at a distance without bumping elbows. There was no real reason behind the purchase, but Shi-sōrō had been insistent. Fortunately, he listened. Now he did not have to worry about accidental shoulder brushings.

Nara raised a brow, half-lidded eyes sharp as they noted the patterned red and white Uchiwa embroidered on the rug. He chuckled as he took a seat next to the aloof Uchiha, obviously amused from whatever thoughts were currently racing through that genius brain of his.

[This is such a weird flex but ok. Not gonna lie, I'm kinda getting secondhand embarrassment here.]

Shiki hid a grimace, wholly agreeing with Shi-sōrō's unnecessary commentary. It honestly was not his intention to flex his clan's insignia around; the rug just happened to be the right size and textile texture for him to ignore the distinctive pattern on it. This was what he got for shopping at the Uchiha district, he inwardly bemoaned.

[There is nothing wrong with the pattern. Do not listen to this yapping fool, Shiki. She knows no bloodline pride.]

[Clan pride, I get it. But it's so bloody weird hey! Just because you guys are Uchiha, it doesn't mean you have to show your pedigree at every single clothing item you own.]

[I abhor your usage of the word pedigree in this context.]

[Do I look like I care?]

[Obviously, an uncouth wench like you pay no heed to our cultural heritage– not the hair, woman!]

"- Shiki-san?"

Hearing his name be called by Nara's somewhat muted voice, Shiki blocked out the bickering pair in his head and glanced to his right, where Nara was seated comfortably in a lackadaisical manner. One knee was propped, and an arm rested upon it. In his hand was a half-eaten onigiri, pickled plum from the looks of it.

"What?" When had Nara started eating, and why wasn't Shiki informed? Rude.

Nara's lips curved into a lazy, indulgent smile, akin to Shi-sōrō's if he was to compare. "I asked if the food is not to your liking. You seem distracted," he repeated, mirth clear in his tone.

"Hn, do I?" Shiki idly murmured; eyes now focused solely on the food somewhen set in front of him on the picnic rug. He was unaware that Nara had unpacked, too distracted by his dark passenger and freeloader's squabbling. He quickly settled the bento box on his lap and prepared his chopsticks, already salivating at the mouth-watering aroma. Food has always been a weakness of his.

"You were making weird faces while staring at nothing," Nara pointed out, smirking.

Embarrassed that he was caught, Shiki glared. "You saw wrong," he insisted. "Uchiha do not make weird faces."

"But you-"


"You definitely-"


"It was-"


Nara raised his hands in a placating gesture of surrender, but Shiki was not fooled, the amusement persisted in those smirking thin lips and half-lidded sharp eyes. "Alright, you weren't. My bad, I saw wrong. Try the jellyfish salad, Shiki-san, it's a speciality of mine. Careful if you can't handle spicy food, though. My friend, Inoichi, cried really loudly when I fed him that during our genin years once." 

Shiki's eyes narrowed before he shrugged. The act of diversion was apparent, yet Shiki allowed himself to get distracted since it was harmless. He returned his attention to the food, eyes zeroing on the jellyfish salad Nara had spoken of.

Using his chopsticks, he scooped a mouthful. As Nara described; the spiciness was no joke. If both Shi-chan and Shi-sōrō were not lovers of spice, Shiki would have teared up. Fortunately, the tingle on his lips and tongue only enhanced the flavour. The texture even helped smoothened the journey down his stomach.

"I've prepared milk-" Nara was already reaching for the picnic basket before Shiki stopped him with a glare. "Or sencha tea, if that's your preference?"

Shiki licked the bottom of his lip to lap up the remaining spicy sauce before he answered, unaware of the interest Shikaku had taken on the dart of pink on his lips. "The latter."

The rest of lunch continued in that fashion; filled with small talk about Konoha's messy grapevine.

Shiki learned quite a bit about his fellow Konoha jounins in this one sitting, all irrelevant in the grand schemes of things of course, but information was information and Shi-chan was pleased that their time had not gone to waste due to the impromptu outing. 

Those trivialities were necessary to blend in better if he were to ever get invited for drinks in the future, especially with the other jounins. Knowing which colleague was wooing who was apparently common knowledge, from what Shi-sōrō says. Boring for a psychopath though the betting pools kept him entertained. He even joined a few when Nara told him he and a friend were the overseers.

Time trickled by and not before long, the genins returned for more instruction from their jounin-sensei. Shiki took this chance to leave.

"Lunch has been tolerable," Shiki voiced apathetically as he stood up. He smoothed the wrinkles of his garment, gained from being seated for so long, and gestured to the picnic rug. "Get off so I can retrieve that."

Whilst the three genins seemed disheartened by his frosty attitude, Nara, on the other hand, merely grunted when he stood, patting his bum. The man waved at the rug and smiled lazily, nonchalant. "Of course. Will I see you tomorrow, Shiki-san?"

Shiki harrumphed, "No. I am a busy man, Nara."

Nara placed one elbow atop the nearest genin's head and slouched, ignoring his student's complaints. "But you have to eat, don't you?" he persisted, one eyebrow raised.


Shiki tucked the folded picnic rug under his arm – to be sealed back into his storage tattoo once out of sight – and left without another word. Before he managed to fully leave the training ground, however, he heard Nara raise his voice, though the tone remained lazy, "We're here every day if you ever change your mind. Don't be a stranger, Shiki-san. I'll see you around!"

"See you, Uchiha-san!" The three genins shouted, probably waving, but Shiki had no intention of finding out.

[Honestly? I don't mind the free food. But to eat with another person? Blegh. He should've invited us to cloud watch instead.]

[Which will be denied all the same. His motives are suspicious.]

[You're always suspicious.]

[Call it pragmatic.]

[It's paranoia telling you that.]

[It is not.]

[It is. You're just in denial.]

[Denial is a tool for fools. I am merely being reasonably cautious with that one.]

[Hah! I'll believe that only when hell freezes- HEY! Get your tea away from my laptop, Uchiha Shinkichi!]

Shiki tripped unceremoniously on air, arms waving in circles for stability, at the completely unexpected sound of a table being violently flipped when he landed on the nearest roof. After he somehow managed to regain his balance and not plummet to his death, he pinched the bridge of his nose whilst mentally shouting at the two Shis to mute the microphone if they wanted to roughhouse, which they did without another word.

Shaking his head at their petty rivalry, Shiki could not help but compare them to an old married couple, minus the attraction part (one being aroace and the other a necrophiliac). Their contradicting personalities tend to be funny when they argue or went on weird tangents, but when they begin to roughhouse, it was a headache in the making, enough to make him lose focus of his surroundings and trip on his own ankles. Which he just did.

"Uhm, are you alright, mister? Do you need help?"

Shiki bodily flinched, having not expected someone behind him on the roof. Why did Shi-chan not warn him? Oh, right. His dark passenger was otherwise occupied right now. Muscles pulled taut from the unpleasant surprise, he turned... and had to lower his sights to hip-level.

A child?

Shiki guestimates the kid to be five, maybe six years old if he pushed it. Although why a six-year-old was on the roof in the first place... Never mind, he almost forgot that Narutoverse destroyed all of Earth's logic and common sense.

His eyes were drawn to the tousled curls on the boy's head before his brain even registered the Uchiha-esque physical characteristics. He was wearing the standard Uchiha blues, high collared top and shorts. Although young, Shiki concluded the boy to be an Academy student since Konoha was currently under martial law, and only a baby-ninja would be daring enough to use the roofs as a road.

"That does not concern you," he belatedly responded to the boy's unnecessary concern, cold.

Shiki vividly recalled his disastrous encounter with an Uchiha boy of similar age, and that had ended poorly for him. If he had to guess, his standing within the clan was precarious at best, especially when their clan head seemed so displeased during Shiki's (Shi-sōrō's) unofficial trial. Shiki had been on edge after that incident, restless as he waited for Fugaku's impending summons.

It was hard to be welcoming to any Uchiha when he knows he was an imposter who they could never identify or understand, someone who was not one of them, not in this dimension, at least. Nobody knew him, and that was enough to make him want to stay clear of any Uchiha regardless of age, status, and military rank. It was not paranoia when the world was truly out to get him.

As the saying goes back on Earth: once burned, twice shy.

Rather than be chased off or intimidated by his unwelcoming attitude and frosty gaze, the boy blinked, once, twice. Then he snorted with his arms crossed, pouty lips turned downwards into an unimpressed glower. The boy even sassily cocked a hip, which took Shiki aback.

"Well, excuse you, mister. You are the one standing on top of my roof. Anything you do here is a concern of mine, especially if you are injured enough to trip. I don't want blood on my tiles, mister, and if you bleed on them, I expect you to clean up after yourself. But since I don't want to grow up to be a mean person like grumpy old Tanaka-ojiisan who lives two houses down from me, I'll repeat myself: Do. You. Need. Help?"

[Oh, wow. I was not expecting that. What a feisty little thing he is.]

[... I concur.]

Shiki's facial muscles spasmed, unsure of what expression to make in this situation. The background commentary from his two inners not helping the slightest. In the end, he smoothened his expression and impassively mirrored the boy's posture. He had not noticed he was in the Uchiha part of the village.

"Hn, I see," he acknowledged after a moment of silence, head tilted to one side as he scrutinized the younger Uchiha. "You are right; I suppose it is a pain to clean up another person's blood on your property, akin to picking up another person's pet dog's excrement on your lawn, I reckon." Shiki nodded in understanding, suddenly more sympathetic with the boy.

There was a time back on Earth when his previous self was on her way to work and had accidentally stepped on dog poo, with the owner literally walking away without a care in the world a few steps ahead. It had irritated her so much she prayed to Jashin that the dog owner would end up on her examination table one day, brutally murdered and ready for an autopsy. People like that were the cause of her disdain for humans. 

"Uh, I guess...?" The boy sounded unsure, aggressive stance faltering at Shiki's unexpected response. He was probably expected an outburst or reprimand rather than cool understanding.

"Indeed. I assure you I am unwounded and there is none of my blood on your roof tiles. Now that that has been cleared up, I shall take my leave."

Just as Shiki was about to do as he said, the boy blurted, "I'm Shisui, by the way. Uhm, I'm sorry for my rude words earlier. I had a bad day at the Academy and... yeah. Sorry." He even sheepishly scratched his cheek, eyes averted shyly.

Shiki chuckled and, without realizing it, softened his stance towards the boy. "Although it must have been an awful day, I do not blame you for reacting as such. My behaviour was quite unbecoming, I must admit." For a narcissistic psychopath, apologies did not come easily to him. That was the best he could offer with all his sincerity. "My name is Shiki. I truly must take my leave now, Shisui, but it has been a pleasure to meet your acquaintance."

The boy, Shisui, grinned, hands behind his back as he childishly rocked back and forth with the balls of his feet. "Yes! It's nice to meet you too, Shiki-san! Will I see you around the compound?"

"It depends," Shiki admitted truthfully, shrugging. It would not harm him to reveal such trivial information. "I do not live here, and I rarely visit."

"Oh." Shisui tone was disheartened, and even those tousled curls seemed to droop. A fake smile, obvious enough that an emotionally constipated person like Shiki could recognize, slipped onto the boy's cherubic face. "Okay."

Shiki hesitated. Shi-chan? Shi-sōrō?

[I suppose we can use him to integrate ourselves into the clan. He is young enough to succumb to our manipulations. If memory proves true, his parents are either dead or disabled, yes? No adult supervision, easily moldable into our pawn.

[Pretty much. Not sure what happened to his mom, but Shisui's dad injured his legs due to the war and, well, fan theories are that he killed himself afterwards. But canon timeline is all over the place, so I don't really know if that has happened yet. Even then, I also don't see the harm in interacting with him since it won't change the plot. He'll die pretty young, anyway.]

Nodding at their unanimous agreement, he crouched to be at eye level with the child. "If you consent to it, I may visit you when my schedule clears up."

"Really?!" Shisui beamed, the fake smile replaced by real excitement. "You'll do that?"

"I do not tell lies," Shiki stated solemnly. Which was a lie.

Shisui extended a fist, pinky raised. "Promise you'll come to visit?"

Removing his mitten, Shiki hooked his own pinky with Shisui's. "Of course."

"You can't be like Tanaka-ojiisan, okay? He likes to say things he doesn't mean. And if you break your pinky promise, I'll make you clean my roof the next time another shinobi bleeds on it." Shisui's expression was firm, but Shiki could not take him seriously when he uttered such sincere words with a child's innocent logic.

With lips that stretched to resemble a smile, Shiki nodded. He slipped on his mittens and, on impulse, ruffled the boy's curly short hair. They bounced back as if to defy gravity, much to the Shi-trio's amusement. After a spontaneous forehead poke that made the boy crosseyed, Shiki took a step back.   

"I will see you when I see you, Shisui."

With Shi-sōrō's egging, Shiki departed with style. He risked using the shunshin no jutsu sans hand seals, and when he succeeded, leaving a pile of leaves as the only evidence of his presence, he grinned smugly at the reluctantly impressed Shi-chan.

Unknown to the Shi-trio, Shisui was in complete awe at Shiki's seal-less technique and impressive speed, mesmerized, and it inspired him to achieve such heights one day. In the future, the little boy would turn into a monster on the battlefield, his achievements and speed aeons away from the one in canon, with his shunshin no jutsu rivalling even Minato's hiraishin.

Slowly, as the butterfly flapped its wings, ripples began to appear, even if it was unintentional. Change was happening, and Shiki remained oblivious to it. 

Chapter Text

Shiki stirred, raising heavy eyelids as he pondered what had woken him from his nap on the couch. A few more knocks on his front door made it apparent. Yawning, Shiki stretched like a cat, moaning at the satisfying pops of his bones, and shuffled sleepily towards the door. His uninvited visitor sure had shit timing; Shiki has only just returned from a night of intel collection and was hoping to sleep the day away.  

When Shiki drowsily peeked into the peephole, his body went from lax to rigid vigilance within a second, the remaining thrall of sleep instantly washed away as if someone had upheaved an ice bucket over his head. Inside his mind palace, both Shi-chan and Shi-sōrō were alerted to his plight and was quick to raise their live feed's volume to the maximum, microphone unmuted to establish a line of communication.

Shiki slipped on his mask of languid nonchalance as he went through the motions of unlocking and opening his front door for his esteemed guests. Although it was concerning to have Uchiha Mikoto and Uchiha Fugaku on his doorstep with what looked to be a bag of takeaway in hand, their presence has been predicted and thus prepared for.

Just… not this early into the day and not with a toddler seated on the patriarch's hip. It was not even seven o'clock, for Jashin's sake.

"Good morning, Fugaku-sama, Mikoto-sama, and… Itachi…-sama?" Shiki greeted courteously, if not slightly hesitant when his onyx eyes landed minutely on the one-year-old. Had attaching -sama to a toddler's name been excessive, even if the mentioned toddler was his clan's heir?

Shi-chan's exasperated sigh was evident enough of his blunder, but Shiki tried not to be abashed. It was too late to take back his words, anyway, and it had honestly slipped his mind that the Uchiha clan was a close-knitted group, what with his avoidance of them.

"May I know what brings you to this part of the neighbourhood?" His apartment was located in the north part of the village for a reason, he inwardly complained, grumpy.

Uchiha Mikoto stood silently by her husband's side, relaxed and friendly as Fugaku responded to their host's enquiry. All the while, she continued to smile disarmingly, her airy expression and seemingly transparent body language showed none of her cunning wit and observative nature.

The previous night, Fugaku had, surprisingly, asked if she could accompany him on an official visit to one of their clansmen's home, who lived outside their clan's district and was on thin ice with the Hyuuga clan head himself. Something to do with deliberately harming his youngest daughter during a mission, from what she gathered whilst reading the unredacted portion of his file. The Uchiha in question had not followed up after his evaluation (which was normal, shinobi behaviour), so Fugaku had to prepare for a home visit (again, common for them). 

As one of their top KMPF interrogation specialist, Fugaku wanted her professional opinion on Uchiha Shiki. That name rang no bells in her head, and his appearance equally unfamiliar, which was peculiar. As the Uchiha patriarch and matriarch, their responsibilities to their clan involved knowing every member born within the walls of Konoha, especially one who was in their age group.

Either Shiki had been sent to infiltrate another hidden village at a really young age, or he had deliberately distanced himself from the Uchiha clan. Neither was good to them. The former meant that the Hokage or his advisors had stolen one of their children and sent him on a risky mission without the consent and knowledge of the previous Uchiha clan head. The latter meant trauma or outside influence. 

It was quite disconcerting and worrying that they both did not recognize Uchiha Shiki by name or face, hence why Fugaku wanted her here with him. They even agreed to bring Itachi along to make their official visit appear more informal and casual. There was little risk involved since they were all members hailing from the same clan, and they believed Shiki would never intentionally harm Itachi. Uchiha loved and cared for their young. 

Mikoto discreetly scrutinized their host from head to toe.

Shiki was quite the handsome young man, slightly shorter than her husband by perhaps an inch. Despite his stoic countenance, his aristocratic features were pleasant to the eye, a lady-killer no doubt. She was not surprised by his stony exterior, as most Uchiha men tend to resemble ice blocks even on good days, her husband including.

His rich, ebony hair was left untied, long enough to reach his lower back, and tousled in all directions. They framed his face almost delicately, and if Shiki had not tilted his head in a minuscule manner, she would have missed his rather adorable fawn eyebrows, mostly hidden behind that thick mane.

Those upturned onyx eyes appeared drowsy, and his purplish undereye liner was slightly smudged, revealing dark circles that pointed to sleep deprivation and exhaustion. His clothes: the standard shinobi attire sans flak jacket, was rumpled and wrinkled. The way he stood, though battle-ready like any other shinobi during war times would be, was almost vulnerable, hinted at lethargy, as if their visit had wakened him from his much-needed slumber.

Although it was common for shinobi to get woken up at random times due to their occupational demands, Mikoto still felt a pang of guilt for disturbing his rest. From what she had gathered from his file, Shiki had undergone a Yamanaka mind-walk, a taxing experience for even the most formidable of shinobis. Fugaku was here because of that, too, to ensure no side effects were gained from that experience. 

Overall, Shiki did not look guarded at their unexpected visit, only fatigued (which was a good sign). Whilst it was expected from their clansmen to be incautious towards their clan head and family by default, she would reserve her bias judgement and professionally continue her observations.

One could never be too sure with those in their line of work; first impressions were hardly enough to gauge their character – and the file did point out that Shiki worked as an infiltration specialist. She has only ever had acquaintances in those circles since they were tricky people to befriend, hard to know if what they showed was truly genuine or just a ruse to loosen her guard. They lived by deceiving and swindling others, more so than the average shinobi and kunoichi.

After a quick exchange of pleasantries, Shiki allowed them entry into his home. Her onyx eyes habitually scanned the interior, making mental notes along the way to the living room.

It was bare and impersonal. The apartment seemed more like a place to sleep rather than a home. There were no pictures, no plants, no decorations – nothing that hinted to a family or a close familial bond with anyone. Not even a friendship bond. She knew from reading his file (if they were not forged) that he has been alone for most of his life; his parents, grandparents, genin team, all had had tragic endings. But to not have even one photo of them to remember by… It was quite strange, she had to admit.

This was the house of a militant infiltrator on a mission; nothing was put on display that could even hint at his personality traits and the likes (the bane of existence to every intelligence officer). It saddened her, especially because Shiki was inside their village and currently not on one of his infiltration missions. Mikoto knew the hardships the people in their career faced; the paranoia, the nightmares, the mistrust for strangers, but it was another matter to witness it happen to a clansman. 

Uchiha Shiki, unlike the usual Uchiha, seemed devoid of bonds – a necessary aspect for them. Their clan was passionate, full of love that no other could compare; and when they were left with nothing, insanity tended to consume them. Mikoto did not like the signs she was seeing in Shiki; he had the potential to be consumed by the fiery fires of hatred.

This was worrying. Fugaku was right; Shiki's mental state needed to be evaluated, and possibly referred to one of their trusted psychiatrists who specializes in Uchiha traumas. They did not need another Uchiha Madara on their hands; the village was already distrustful of their clan (councilman Danzo, especially), there was no need to prove their paranoia right.

"Please, have a sit whilst I prepare tea." Shiki gestured towards the couch. As they passed by a rumpled flak jacket on the floor, he flippantly grabbed the article of clothing and tossed it uncaringly into what seemed to be his bedroom, from the short glimpse she was presented with. 

Her husband and she complied and took a seat on the couch, with Itachi planted between them. It was comfortable and spacious enough for two adults and a kid to fit without feeling pressed for space.

Whilst they waited, they kept their eyes trained on Shiki, the open kitchen floorplan a great help to their observations. Mikoto discreetly exchanged intel with Fugaku via their KMPF sign language, theories and concerns traded within the time Shiki took to prepare tea for them. Their son remained oblivious to their movements, busy as he was with gnawing on the silicone toy shuriken.

Poor Itachi; teething made the toddler cranky.

When Shiki returned with a tray in hand, Mikoto was already fussing over her son in the pretence that they were busy with keeping their son entertained, rather than talk behind his back when it was turned. She wiped the saliva on her son's chin, cooing softly when he sneezed.

"I apologize for the wait," their host announced, monotone. "I hope sencha is to your liking… and orange juice."

Shiki looked more awake now, the sleepiness in his eyes having dissipated during his time in the kitchen. He deposited the tea set on the coffee table, along with orange juice (in a teacup, oddly enough) for Itachi, before pouring a respectable amount and blatantly taking a sip from his own cup after making himself comfortable on the armchair.

Mikoto added another point to Shiki's paranoid mentality. To have blatantly tested for poison insinuated that they would have done the same if they were the hosts. Whether it was intentional or not, Mikoto wanted to shake him by the shoulders and make him see sense, make him see that they were not his enemies. That he was safe in the village, safe with them.

When an infiltration specialist was stuck in their mission mentality, it was instinct for them to feel unsafe wherever they were. Mikoto, the motherly person she was, has this insane urge to move him into the Uchiha distract to be surrounded by kin. Maybe even remove him from the village's mission roster permanently and register him for the KMPF. Just to show Uchiha camaraderie at its finest.

"Sencha is fine," Fugaku answered stoically whilst reaching for a cup, handing it to her first before retrieving his own.

Mikoto smiled bashfully at her husband's gentlemanly behaviour, a pinkish hue spread subtly across her cheeks and took a tentative sip. Her eyes widened slightly at the taste. It was, surprisingly, well made. From her experiences of dealing with frequent home visits, tea made by shinobi tended to taste watery at best. She was quick to cover up her thoughts, however, and smiled softly at Shiki.

"This is wonderful, Shiki-san. I would love to drink more of your teas if an opportunity presents itself. And Itachi-chan likes orange juice, don't you, sweetie?" Mikoto turned to her son, who nodded innocently. He was still gnawing on his teething toy shuriken.

"Thank you for your high praise, Mikoto-sama." If Mikoto has not grown up surrounded by stoic, grumpy Uchihas everywhere, she would have taken offence by how bland he sounded. Fortunately, she was more amused than affronted.

"Forgive us for coming without prior notice. As an apology, would you accept our offering of breakfast?"

Shiki gave a slow nod and stood up. "Of course. Shall we move to the dining table? Let me fetch the tableware-"

"Allow me to help," Mikoto swiftly offered, her smile disarmingly charming. "Please, it's the least I could do," she added when he looked ready to deny her offer.

"Uh, yes, of course. Much appreciated, Mikoto-sama."

After patting her son on the head, Mikoto stood up to follow Shiki into the open kitchen with the bag of takeaway in hand. However, they only managed a few steps before she had to retract her foot when Shiki suddenly froze, lest she bumped her nose against his back.

Fugaku, too, paused, Itachi on a hip in preparation to relocate to the dining area. He raised his left eyebrow, his own version of expressive surprise. "Is something the matter, Shiki-san?" Mikoto asked, concern laced in her voice. She was not even acting; Uchiha Shiki, strangely enough, pulled at all her maternal heartstrings.

"… Apologies," Shiki spoke slowly as he turned. His expression pinched as he reluctantly admitted, "I do not own tableware."

The silence that followed his statement was full of scepticism. Never before has she made a house visit where the host was eccentric enough to deny even owning a set of tableware to avoid eating with them. "… Not even chopsticks?" She enquired, hesitant to call him out on his misplaced paranoia.

"Only the tea set."

"Do you not cook?"

Shiki seemed to visibly ponder on his options before he sighed in what seemed to be resignation and waved at her to follow. Apprehensive, she did. Fugaku, curious, tagged along.

They entered their host's kitchen and without a word, Shiki opened the first cupboard, and then the second, followed by the third. By the fifth cupboard, Mikoto was aghast, her husband equally shell-shocked. The drawers were not any better. There were no cutlery or kitchenware, and even his pantry…

Every of his kitchen storage amenity was filled with nothing but containers of tea leaves, ration bars, ration pills, and ration packs, enough to feed their entire village for at least a year if a famine hit. Mikoto had a hand on her forehead as she leaned heavily against the counter, feeling faint.

This was worst than she thought.

Uchiha Shiki most definitely could not be left to his own devices.

Shiki felt humiliated by the end of his little show-and-tell, Shi-chan and Shi-sōrō not far behind. It was not their fault none of them could cook.

Before they became Shiki, Shi-sōrō lived off food deliveries and Shi-chan found meals too tedious and time-consuming. And whilst all three of them did not mind flavorful and spicy food, one-third of them preferred efficiency over opalescence, the other third favoured fast food over long meals, and that made Shiki's preference for food weird. Having three personalities in one body did that, he found.

Most of the time, Shiki liked to eat delicious, savoury meals. Other times, he found it too tedious and just popped a ration pill to stave off the hunger. It depends on the day (or if food was offered to him), he supposed.

Because of that, during their previous shopping trip, they did not think about buying ingredients or kitchenware. Shi-chan only cared for tea and Shi-sōrō liked miscellaneous crap that was better off left inside his inventory to never see the light of day again.

Besides, since the game inventory kept the same item in a bundle of x999 per slot, they already had plenty of consumables inside his storage seal QR tattoo, no need to waste money buying more. That meant they completely forgot to buy any kitchen stuff. And since the kitchen felt too empty, Shiki and his dark passenger had the brilliant idea of decorating their cupboards with military rations from mentioned inventory.

The line between genius and insanity (stupidity) tended to fade when one of them was... otherwise occupied.

Shiki snapped out of his musings when Fugaku cleared his throat.

"I must admit; this is… surprising," Shiki swore the clan head's voice sounded strained even if his expression remained carefully blank.

"I tend to eat out," he acknowledged, rather reluctant to divulge more information about himself.


[… Was that sarcasm I hear? Damn, I'm shocketh! Who knew young Fugaku has only half a stick up his ass, huh.]

[I cannot even bring myself to be appalled by your crude words any longer.] 

[Oh? So even the almighty Shinkichi can feel embarrassed. See, I knew stocking our kitchen with military rations had been a bad idea!]

[… Do not remind me.]

Amused as he was by Shi-sōrō's mocking commentaries and Shi-chan's weariness, he kept a blank face for his guests. No need to announce his insanity to the whole world, even if he was a functional member of society and that was all that mattered to the Shi-trio. He did not want to go through another round of mind-walk with Yamanaka. 

Fugaku soon turned on his heels and sat himself down at the dining table, Itachi on his lap. "Never mind that. Come, let us eat. Mikoto, please prepare the table to the best of your abilities, if you would." 

Mikoto inhaled deeply, as if she was finding the strength to proceed, and smiled upon exhaling. "Of course, dear. Let me handle this, Shiki-san. Take a seat."

Their roles as host and guest seemed to have reversed as Shiki was the one ushered to sit. He sat stiffly facing Fugaku and Itachi, allowing Mikoto to prepare the table uninterrupted. The toddler waved shyly at him, which made the Shi-trio turn their full attention towards him. Not knowing what else to do, Shiki continued to stare at Itachi, who was gnawing on a… toy shuriken?

[I think… he's teething? How old is he, anyway? One?]

[Astute observation.]

[Oh, shut up.]

No, rather than that, they should be questioning why Fugaku and Mikoto deemed it necessary to bring Itachi here. There did not seem to be any purpose behind the toddler's presence. It was making him paranoid and twitchy. The other two Shis shrugged, equally unsure.

[Maybe there aren't enough genin teams available for babysitting missions.]


Inwardly shrugging, he decided to pay Itachi no mind.

Within moments, the table was set by Mikoto, and they dug into their meal. Shiki must admit to the ingeniousness of using their dango boxes as plates and the sticks as chopsticks. Fortunately, breakfast was all solid; there was onigiri, grilled fish, and tamagoyaki. Delicious. 

Halfway through their meal, Fugaku passed Itachi to Mikoto and turned to look Shiki in the eye. He knew it was all business from here onwards, so he set his DIY chopsticks aside. 

"How are you faring with the evaluation?" The Uchiha patriarch enquired, voicing equal amounts of polite interest and apathy. An attempt at feigning disinterest; Shi-chan whispered.

"Fine." Shiki was suddenly reminded of something. "Fugaku-sama, has Yamanaka…-sensei contacted you recently?"

He received a raised eyebrow as his answer. "No, I have not heard from your evaluator. Any reason why you are expecting him to establish contact with me?"

Hn, that was odd. Shiki's eyebrows furrowed. "During the mind walk, I refused him access to a portion of my memories for appropriate reasons; they all contained clan secrets, techniques, and obscure missions I've taken over the years. Yamanaka…-sensei seemed displeased at my refusal and warned me that he will eventually be allowed into that portion of my mind. After gaining permission from you, of course. He was quite adamant and sure that you would allow it. It is strange; it has been a week since the evaluation, and you should have received word of his request."

Fugaku hummed, contemplating. Mikoto continued to distract Itachi with food, though Shiki was not oblivious to her attentiveness of their conversation. "I shall follow up with your evaluator on that matter. Though rest assured that I will not be giving him my permission. Clan matters must remain in the clan; he should already know that. You did well. Anyhow, I advise you to stop by T&I and ask for the result of your evaluation; a week is too long; they should have contacted you by now."

"Yes, Fugaku-sama. Thank you." Shiki bowed politely. 

"It's fine. Have you experienced any side effects from the mind-walk? Dizziness, migraines, fevers, blurred vision, the likes?"

"No, none of that." 

"Good. Do you have any other concerns about the evaluation?"

"Hn, no."

"Very well. You are welcome to drop by my house if you do have any concerns in the future. Now let us move onto our incident debrief." Shiki stared blankly at Fugaku, confused. What debrief? Wasn't the purpose of their visit just to talk about his evaluation, and maybe to warn him to keep his head down around the Hyuuga clan? "Regarding Hyuuga Hikari, the genin you accidentally injured during your previous mission. We shall discuss the factors and cause to understand why it happened and how to prevent it from reoccurring. Do not look so glum, Shiki-san, this is for your own good."

Shiki and Shi-sōrō synchronously made faces to show how disgruntled they were by that.  

Why did this remind them so much about the 'safety event investigation tool' protocol after an incident occurred at their workplace back on Earth? Oh, right. Fugaku was the police boss and Shi-sōrō used to work for the police. Great.