Less than a month after the war ended, Sarutobi stepped down, and Minato was inaugurated as Hokage. The majority of the village was overjoyed at the news; Minato had made a name for himself during the war, and was as beloved by the people as he was feared by their enemies. The day of his inauguration quickly turned into a festival, with travelers from around the Land of Fire coming to take part.
As the village celebrated, Narumi gathered in a bar with the group of people who had come to be his friends in this time. Jiraiya, back in the village for Minato’s appointment, was the first to arrive, with Tsunade and Dan not far behind. The four of them snagged a table before the bar got too crowded, and Sakumo arrived shortly after.
“Shots for everyone!” Jiraiya declared, flagging down a waitress.
“Shots, really, Jiraiya?” Sakumo groaned.
“My student just became Hokage. If that doesn’t call for shots, I don’t know what does!”
“None for me,” Tsunade said.
Jiraiya gaped at her. Tsunade and Dan beamed back. “Another one?” Jiraiya exclaimed. “One wasn’t enough?”
“It’s long past time Kogane had a sibling,” Dan said. He put a hand over Tsunade’s and gave her a small smile.
Jiraiya made a disgusted noise. “Dan has to drink for both of you, then.”
The waitress placed shots in front of each of them. Sakumo grimaced, but downed his as quickly as possible. Narumi followed his example; after so much time with Jiraiya, he was easily able to ignore the burn of the alcohol. Jiraiya went for his next, only for it to be promptly snatched out of his hand.
“Hey!” Jiraiya protested, only to be promptly silenced by Orochimaru’s glower.
Orochimaru downed both of Dan’s shots in quick succession, and then took a seat next to Jiraiya.
“What crawled up your ass and died? Your kids giving you trouble?” Jiraiya said, as he waved down the waitress again.
“They are not,” Orochimaru hissed, “my kids.”
Jiraiya, showing a remarkable lack of self-preservation, slung an arm around Orochimaru’s shoulder. Narumi glanced at Orochimaru’s darkening expression and tried to figure out how quickly he would need to run when Orochimaru snapped.
“He’s just pissed Hiruzen didn’t make him Hokage,” Tsunade said.
The shot glass in Orochimaru’s hand shattered.
Sakumo only laughed. Apparently Jiraiya’s lack of self-preservation was catching. “Come on, you didn’t really think he was going to make you Hokage. If he was going to pick one of us, he’d pick . . . Tsunade. She’s a Senju. Or Dan, he’s wanted the hat forever.”
“I would have to refuse,” Dan said, and sipped at his shot. Narumi had no idea how he could stand drinking them like that, and he didn’t want to know. “The hospital won’t run itself.”
“The medical school would fall apart in three days without me,” Tsunade said.
“Well, Jiraiya wouldn’t make a good Hokage, for obvious reasons,” Sakumo said, ignoring Jiraiya’s protests. “So that means even out of us, you’d be . . . third choice. And come on. Ever since that flee on sight order, we knew what was coming. So what’s really got you bothered?”
“Namikaze,” Orochimaru snapped, “is going to cut my funding.”
The table burst into laughter. “Your funding?” Jiraiya howled. “You’re worried about funding?”
“I am working on several delicate projects at the moment,” Orochimaru said.
“I don’t think Minato gives a shit about your funding,” Jiraiya said.
“Which is exactly why he is going to cut it. To improve the academy, or build new apartment buildings.” Orochimaru’s sneer said exactly what he thought of that venture.
“The academy could do with an overhaul,” Sakumo mused. “You know they don’t even teach kids how to walk on water anymore? They only teach them how to walk up trees.”
“More civilians have been entering the academy,” Dan said. “Most children from shinobi families arrive knowing the basics of channeling chakra. Civilian children don’t have that advantage. But I do agree; the academy curriculum is laughably out of date. Kogane’s textbook still said that Tsubasa Uzumaki was the Uzukage. Their teacher had to supplement the textbook with his own lectures and extra material.”
“The academy has always been a waste of time,” Orochimaru said. “There is nothing there that can’t be taught to oneself.”
Jiraiya rolled his eyes and elbowed him. “We can’t all be geniuses.”
“Even you only spent a year in the academy,” Orochimaru said. “Four years is unnecessary.”
“We also spent a lot more time learning from Sensei,” Jiraiya said. “Kids these days, they spend, what, a couple years with their genin team?”
“Kakashi had his team for three,” Sakumo said.
Jiraiya waved a hand. “They were all chuunin after a year or two. At that point, it’s a chuunin squad, not a genin team. Doesn’t count.”
“Four years is still unnecessary. They waste time teaching them how to arrange flowers and about the history of the nations, when they could easily learn those things on their own,” Orochimaru said.
“The kunoichi classes are bullshit, I’ll give you that,” Tsunade said.
“Didn’t you get out of them after the first week?” Dan said.
“Yep. Punched the teacher in the gut,” Tsunade said fondly.
Jiraiya rolled his eyes. “They’re kids, Orochimaru.”
“They are shinobi,” Orochimaru said. “I have never once needed to know how to arrange flowers.”
“Sakumo has!” Jiraiya declared triumphantly.
“Oh, please, no,” Sakumo groaned. “Let’s not relive that.”
“So here we were,” Jiraiya said, quickly adapting the air of a story-teller. “Myself, Tsubame-chan, and Sakumo.”
Sakumo stared into his glass in despair. Narumi patted his shoulder. “It’ll be over soon.”
“Now, the three of us had been tasked with infiltrating some illegal drug operation, killing the leader, and taking off with the merchandise,” Jiraiya said. “Tsubame, as the prettiest and most distracting, was tasked with finding a way to get to the leader . . . only to end up fighting with a bunch of nobles who were harassing some girl and getting arrested by civilian cops.”
“And he let them arrest him?” Tsunade said.
“He was kind of preoccupied making sure the girl was okay, and then it turned out she was a cop in disguise, and she slapped handcuffs on him for fighting in the streets before he could think to get away!” Jiraiya chortled. “Anyways, that left just Sakumo and I to find a way to get in. Sakumo decided to just sneak inside and see what he could find. And so Sakumo had just gotten over the fence and landed in the garden when a whole host of servants appeared. And so they look at him, and he looks at them, and then one of them goes, ‘Oh, you must be the master flower arranger!’ See, turns out this crime lord was getting married, and he’d hired a guy to do all the flowers.”
“Please, let’s stop here,” Sakumo said, and was ignored.
“So Sakumo is like, oh, yeah, I am absolutely a master flower arranger, so they take him into the mansion, but they don’t take him to the crime lord—they take him to the crime lord’s mother . This tiny, wrinkled old lady about a hundred years old. So Sakumo ends up sitting there for hours, arranging flowers in front of this horrible old woman who would smack his hands with her cane whenever she didn’t like the flower arrangement. Anyways, he ends up managing to make some arrangement that insults her horribly, and she accuses him of planning to ruin the wedding—and the door opens, and the crime lord walks in. And you know who the crime lord was?”
“No,” Sakumo groaned.
“The crime lord was none less than a target on a previous mission who Sakumo had seduced for information!” Jiraiya howled. All of them, bar Sakumo, burst into laughter. “So Sakumo’s sitting there, surrounded by flowers, staring down this crime lord, who’s just staring back at him. Before Sakumo could high-tail it out of there, the man throws himself at Sakumo’s feet and wraps his arms around his waist and declares, ‘My love! You have returned to me at last!’ You see—” He broke off laughing for a moment before recovering. “See, it turns out Sakumo was a little too good at this whole seduction thing, and the guy had fallen madly in love with him only to be absolutely heartbroken when Sakumo departed in the dead of night.”
“Sakumo, you heartbreaker,” Tsunade cackled.
Sakumo made a noise like a dying animal.
“So this crime lord sweeps Sakumo off his feet—literally, it was pretty impressive actually—and declares to his mother, ‘Mother, this is the man I love! This wedding is cancelled!’ And the mother—you know what the mother says? She says that she has put way too much work into this wedding for it to be canceled, and that he’ll just have to marry Sakumo instead! So now the whole household is in a fuss because clearly Sakumo needs a whole new wardrobe for the wedding, and they still need the flowers, and in all the chaos I was able to sneak through the house and get the information I needed about the merchandise. So I left the mansion, and went to get the merchandise. No idea what happened next, Sakumo was too pissed that I was there and didn’t do anything to help him to tell me.”
“You were spying on me through the window!”
Jiraiya waved a hand dismissively. “You had it handled. Anyways, I got the merchandise and bailed Tsubame out of jail, and then the two of us went back to the mansion to see if Sakumo needed any help. We slipped in and had a look around, only to find Sakumo having the time of his life!”
“It was horrible,” Sakumo said.
“You were lying in his lap eating tiny cakes and drinking champagne!”
“I was acting!”
“You were lounging around drinking and eating and getting pampered while poor Tsubame was sitting in a cell with a bunch of thugs who looked like they could have squished his head like an overripe peach,” Jiraiya said. “Anyways, Sakumo looked like he had the crime lord well in hand, so we decided to investigate a little more, make sure we got everything we needed.”
“That was, without a doubt, the worst support on a mission I have ever received,” Sakumo said.
“Anyways, Tsubame and I did some digging, got some really juicy information on the guy and his associates, and by that point it was getting late so we decided it was about time we got a move on. So we went back to look for Sakumo, but he was nowhere to be found. Tsubame could still sense him, though, so we got to tracking, and eventually found him having a romantic moonlit picnic on the outskirts of town!”
Jiraiya spread his arms wide. “Picture it. A hilltop dotted with a few trees and a whole lot of flowers. The stars overhead. I think even a couple shooting stars, it was that perfect. A blanket spread on the ground, some really expensive champagne, a whole basket full of little goodies. This massive, muscular crime lord giving Sakumo the sappiest look I’ve seen outside of Tsunade and Dan. And then, as we watched, he started to choke and wheeze, and a few seconds later, he was dead!”
“Poison in the champagne,” Sakumo said. “Very tragic.”
“With that, the mission was over, so we took the picnic and made our way home,” Jiraiya concluded.
“Your example is irrelevant,” Orochimaru said. “Sakumo didn’t really need to know flower arranging, he just had to pretend he did.”
Jiraiya threw his hands in the air. “That’s what you got out of this story?”
Narumi laughed and looked at Sakumo, who had downed his glass of alcohol and looked slightly more cheerful for it. “Now I’m curious about the first mission with the crime lord.”
“That’s for me to know, and none of you to ever find out,” Sakumo said.
Narumi looked at Jiraiya. Jiraiya shrugged. “That one was a solo mission. I already told you everything I know. I have one about Orochimaru, though—”
“You are not telling them that,” Orochimaru said.
As the other side of the table descended into chaos, Narumi watched Sakumo as he stared wistfully into his glass. He caught Narumi looking, after a moment, and smiled slightly. “I told Kaede about that solo mission,” he said quietly. “She used to tease me mercilessly about it. She always said that on our wedding day, my crime lord lover would put a stop to the wedding and sweep me off my feet, and then she’d have to fight him for me. When I told her about the second mission she was so disappointed she wouldn’t get to duel anyone at the wedding.”
“Wait, is that why she kept challenging people to spar at the afterparty?”
Sakumo laughed. “Yeah, it was. I think everyone thought she was joking, though.”
A peanut sailed between them. “No private conversations!” Jiraiya declared. “Drink up, boys.”
“Yeah, if private conversations were allowed, Jiraiya would be stuck talking to Orochimaru, and then we’d end up getting kicked out,” Tsunade said.
A waitress came around and delivered another round of drinks, which they all dutifully sipped as Jiraiya urged them on. Narumi had no idea what Jiraiya had ordered them, but it was definitely strong.
“I’m going to regret this in the morning,” Sakumo sighed as he took another gulp. “At least Obito is always late. I don’t envy you, Orochimaru.”
“Hangovers are inefficient. I concocted my own cure long ago,” Orochimaru said.
Noise from the street resounded through the bar as the door opened to admit a gang of teenagers. Kakashi, Obito, Rin, and Kogane, each of them dressed in yukata and bearing festival masks, walked through the doors. Anko was with them, as was a dark-haired girl who eventually Narumi recognized as a young Shizune. The group made a beeline for their table, not sparing a glance at the tables of drunken ninja around them.
“Dad,” Kakashi called over the din of the bar. “Give me more money.”
“Ask Narumi-ji-san,” Sakumo said. “Dad’s all out.”
“Ji-san, can I have some money for the festival?” Kakashi said.
Narumi had to admit it—his heart melted a little. It was amazing how cute Kakashi could make puppy-eyes look when he was wearing a mask and had his headband covering one eye. “Yeah, okay,” he said, opening his wallet and pulling out a handful of bills. “How’s this?”
Kakashi’s eye crinkled in a smile. “Thanks, ji-san!”
Sakumo leaned in to whisper in his ear. “How much did you give him?”
“Shishou! Shishou!” Obito yelled. “Can I have some pocket money?”
“You too?” Sakumo grumbled. Obito grinned at him unrepentantly. Sakumo sighed, opened his wallet, and pulled out a few bills. “Don’t spend it all at once.”
“I knew you had money,” Kakashi said.
“Me too!” Anko declared. “Sensei, I need money too! Are gonna let Obito’s shishou make you look like a bad sensei?”
“Your attempts at manipulation are childish and clumsy. Work on them.” Nevertheless, Orochimaru handed money to Anko and Kakashi both. Anko whooped with glee and Kakashi grinned behind his mask.
“You need money too?” Tsunade asked Kogane, already pulling out her wallet.
“I have enough,” Kogane said.
“It’s not like I’m buying anything,” she said. “Can’t drink with the pregnancy.”
“Of course,” Kogane said. He took a moment to absorb what she had said, and then his eyes widened. “Pregnancy?”
“Yep. You’ll have a little sibling in a few months. Here, go have fun.” Tsunade pressed a stack of bills into his hands. Kogane stared blankly at the money.
“Here, Shizune,” Dan said, handing his niece some money as well. “Are you having fun at the festival?”
Shizune smiled at him. “Lots of fun, Ji-san.”
“Keep an eye on these knuckleheads,” Tsunade said. “They need it.”
“Ah, let the kids have some fun, Tsunade!” Jiraiya declared. “Here, let Ji-san give you all some money. There you go, there you go. Now scram.”
Once Jiraiya had given money to each of them, even Rin, the children dashed out the door, already loudly discussing what games to play and what food stalls to visit next. Narumi watched them go fondly; it was a little strange, being on this end of the equation, but he kind of liked it.
“Time flies too quickly,” Sakumo said mournfully. “Kakashi, Dad wants to go to the festival too!”
He slumped over, resting his head on the table. “You’re drunk,” Jiraiya said as he slid over another drink.
Narumi slid it back across the table and poured a cup of water instead. Across the bar, someone made a joking toast to “Kushina, the real Fourth Hokage!” Jiraiya turned around to throw peanuts at them. Orochimaru poured something in Jiraiya’s drink while his back was turned. The small skirmish between Jiraiya and the other table spread when they hit Tsunade with peanuts, and somehow Narumi ended up under the table with Sakumo, sipping at glasses of water while peanuts and dango sticks flew overhead.
Both tables ended up getting kicked out of the bar; the fight dissolved once the door shut behind them, and the other group wandered off, presumably to another bar. Orochimaru vanished pretty much immediately, and Jiraiya wandered off in the direction of the red light district. Dan and Tsunade went off together, either to have a romantic dinner or have sex, leaving Sakumo and Narumi alone.
“Well, I’m starved,” Sakumo said. “Man cannot live on peanuts and alcohol alone.”
Narumi peered down the streets. “The food stalls are this way,” he said. “Want to check them out?”
“Your words are music to my ears.”
The two of them wandered the streets, chuckling at the young genin and chuunin trying their hand at the festival games. Narumi was pretty sure he caught sight of Kakashi trying to fish up a yo-yo. Eventually, they found their way to the area where all the food stalls had set up shop and wandered between them, accepting the occasional free sample when it was offered.
They settled on a stall that was crowded enough to show that it was good, but not so crowded they would be waiting hours for their food. The menu included a variety of foods, from yakisoba to yakitori, and they discussed what looked best while waiting for their turn.
“Next!” the man running the stall called, and the two of them stepped up to order.
Sakumo pulled out his wallet and reached in for his money. “I’ll have . . .” He blinked at his empty hand, and then looked at his wallet, also empty, and gave a startled laugh. “I forgot, I gave all my money to the kids.”
“Shit, me too,” Narumi realized, and quickly opened his wallet to check how much he had. He squinted at his money, and then at the menu. “I have enough for . . . a yakisoba. How large is that?”
The yakisoba came in fairly large servings, as it turned out. “One yakisoba and two pairs of chopsticks. We can split it,” he told Sakumo.
Once their food was ready, the two of them found a seat on a nearby bench and held the yakisoba between them as they ate.
“I haven’t done this since I was a kid,” Sakumo chuckled.
Narumi took a bite and thought back. “I don’t think I’ve ever done this.” As a kid, he hadn’t had any friends to share food with, and oftentimes at festivals the stall owners would run him off. By the time he had people he could actually call friends, they were all old enough that they had a steady supply of money from their missions.
“You grew up in the country, right?” Sakumo asked. “Did you go to festivals in the city as a kid?”
“Oh, yeah. When I was traveling with my teacher, a lot of the time we’d end up in a town or a city that was having a festival. He’d give me some money and let me run around while he visited the bars,” Narumi said. Jiraiya, in that regard, hadn’t really changed much.
“I used to do the same thing with my genin team,” Sakumo said. “We liked to beat the festival games until they wouldn’t let us play anymore. They used to only have games for civilians—recently they’ve added an area full of games more geared towards shinobi. Nets and strings that break more easily, bottles that are harder to knock over, things like that. I remember the first time I lost a carnival game I was so shocked I had to sit down.”
Narumi had fond memories of accusing various stall owners of rigging their games. “I used to prank them if I thought they’d cheated,” he said, and ended up regaling Sakumo with tales of his pranks that had the man laughing so hard he almost upended their yakisoba.
Between the two of them, they polished off the yakisoba quickly. Narumi went to throw the empty container away, and returned to find Sakumo gazing up at the night sky. At Narumi’s approach, Sakumo looked over and smiled at him. “Should we go find the kids? It’s getting late.”
“Sounds good,” Narumi said. “Any idea where they are?”
“Probably a park or a training ground,” Sakumo said.
They wandered through the village, not in too much of a rush, and ended up finding Kakashi and Obito lying fast asleep in an empty playground. A paper bag half-full of clementines and half-full of clementine peels sat between them, and their spoils of war lay scattered around them.
Sakumo hoisted Kakashi onto his back, while Narumi did the same with Obito, and together they made their way back to Sakumo’s house.
An explosion resounded through the village, and both of them jerked in surprise, instantly ready for an attack. Lights lit up the sky, and Sakumo’s serious expression melted into joy. He turned to Narumi with a grin, the bright lights in the sky reflected in his eyes. “Fireworks!”
A flower exploded in the sky above them, followed by a pinwheel and then an Uchiha fan. Narumi laughed at that. “I think we know who’s in charge of the fireworks now.”
They kept their faces turned towards the sky as they continued walking. “The kids must be tired to sleep through this,” Sakumo said.
Narumi adjusted his grip on Obito, who had started to snore softly. “Tired and full of clementines.”
“Did I ever tell you about the time Kakashi ate so many clementines he made himself sick?”
“No, you didn’t.”
“He was, oh, about four or five, and I bought a big bag of them from a farm. He ate so many he threw up, and then went right back to eating them again.”
“I did the same thing with cup ramen when I was about six,” Narumi said.
“Did they have those when we were kids?” Sakumo wondered. “I thought they were pretty recent.”
Narumi chuckled sheepishly, too used to making small slips like that to feel too worried about it. “You got me. I did that just recently.”
“They are pretty good. Just don’t tell Kushina I said that. She thinks they’re a blight on the earth,” Sakumo said.
“Well, compared to Ichiraku,” Narumi said.
“Kushina makes a pretty killer bowl of ramen herself. You should ask her to make you some while you’re in town.” Sakumo glanced over at him. “When are you heading back?”
An Uzumaki spiral exploded in the air. “Not sure. Tsubame hasn’t gotten back to me yet; he knows things have been crazy over here, with Rin’s seal and all. Konoha wants me on hand in case anything goes wrong.”
“Makes sense,” Sakumo said. “That’s good. I’m sure Kakashi will be happy to spend some time with his ji-san.”
“Just Kakashi?” Narumi teased.
Sakumo laughed and bumped into Narumi playfully. “He likes having more than one adult to ask for pocket money.”
They made it to Sakumo’s house at long last. Sakumo tucked Kakashi into his bed, then set up the spare futon on the floor so Narumi could put Obito down, and then the two of them retreated and left the boys to sleep.
“Want some tea before you go?” Sakumo asked, as he put away the stash of festival prizes and snacks the boys had gathered. “We can eat the rest of Kakashi’s clementines.”
“Sure, thanks,” Narumi said.
He hadn’t had much of a taste for tea when he was younger, but he had grown to like it as he had gotten older, particularly because Sakumo was so fond of it. The two of them gathered at the table, leaving the door open to let in the summer breeze, and Sakumo poured them both cups of tea that they sipped at while chatting and peeling clementines. By the time they ran out of tea and all the clementines had been peeled, the first rays of sun were just starting to peek over the horizon.
“You’re welcome to stay instead of going back to wherever you’re staying,” Sakumo said. “I have another spare futon. Kakashi makes a mean breakfast.”
“By the time I’m ready to wake up, I think it’ll be more like lunch,” Narumi laughed.
The two of them stood, cleaned off the table, and made their way to Sakumo’s room to set up the futon. “You say that like he’ll give you a chance to sleep in when we could be training,” Sakumo said. “And with Obito here we’ll be lucky if they don’t burn the house down before eight.”
“Still more sleep than we ever got in Kiri,” Narumi said.
“Ugh, don’t remind me. My back aches just thinking about those trees,” Sakumo said.
“Or you’re getting old,” Narumi teased.
“You’re not that much younger than me. If I’m old, you’re old.”
A yawn interrupted Narumi before he could retort. “Well, I dunno about you, but this old man is going to sleep,” he said. Narumi crawled under into the futon, as next to him Sakumo did the same, and fell asleep in a heartbeat.
Obito’s tongue poked out of the corner of his mouth as he very, very carefully ran the brush over his chosen canvas, drawing swirls and lines in sweeps of dark paint. Beside him, Kakashi did the same. Obito surveyed Kakashi’s work critically. “You should add some spirals.”
“Spirals? Why?” Kakashi said.
“ You know .” Obito waggled his eyebrows.
Kakashi made a disgusted face. “I still think you’re wrong,” he said, but Obito noted he drew the spirals.
“I’m totally right,” Obito said.
“We had a sleepover and it didn’t mean anything,” Kakashi said.
Obito fumbled his brush, accidentally drawing a stripe of paint right through some of his other designs. His canvas flinched and blinked. “Whoops,” Obito said, and quickly scrambled back. “Mission compromised! Run, Bakashi!”
Kakashi jumped up and followed him to the door, leaving Narumi and Sakumo blinking sleepily after them, paint all over their faces. Obito and Kakashi left the evidence of their crime where they had found it, in Sakumo’s office, and raced off to the training ground before the adults could figure out what they had done.
They kept running even when they left Kakashi’s house, less to get away from any potential retribution and more to see who would reach their training ground first. Obito won, but only by a few seconds—Kakashi was still getting used to his new limbs, and Obito had no doubt that within the next few months Kakashi would be beating him handily.
He was already getting faster in their spars. Before, Obito had been able to counter him easily, but now they were more evenly matched. He’d be struggling to keep up again in no time; Kakashi trained like a demon and was determined not to be held back by the artificial limbs grafted to his body.
He was already using little Mokuton tricks to trip up Obito, sending little vines to snag at his ankles at just the right moment. Every time he ate dirt made him hate the Hashirama trees a little more.
“You can use your Sharingan, you know. I don’t mind,” Kakashi said.
Obito hesitated. He actually didn’t use his Sharingan all that much. He’d played around with it a little, before Kakashi had returned, training with Sakumo as the man pushed him until his Sharingan was fully mature. He’d had a bit of fun looking at chakra patterns, at least until he realized it freaked people out when he stared at them with the Sharingan. Since the incident with Rin, when they’d found Kakashi, he hadn’t really used it. He’d been in the village, for one, and hadn’t been in any battles that required him to use the Sharingan. And the last time that he had used it, with Rin—he’d been able to see what would happen, and still knew he wouldn’t be able to stop. He still saw Rin’s death in his nightmares. He knew it hadn’t actually happened, but sometimes it still felt like it had.
He had to get over it some time, though. “Yeah. If you’re sure you can handle it, Bakashi,” Obito said, with an arrogance he didn’t really feel.
Kakashi rolled his eye and darted back into the fight without another word.
Obito activated his sharingan as he countered Kakashi’s first punch. He could see Kakashi’s movements coming before they happened, although he wasn’t always fast enough to counter them perfectly. He could see as Kakashi’s chakra shifted and surged as he manipulated the trees around them, and was able to dodge the plants before they even burst through the ground.
When they finally stopped, both of them were out of breath, covered in sweat, and halfway to chakra exhaustion. They made their way through cool-down exercises slowly.
“I didn’t know the Sharingan had another level,” Kakashi said.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, the final form has three tomoe,” Obito said.
“I know that. I meant the form yours has now. It looks different from the other Sharingan,” Kakashi said.
“No, it doesn’t,” Obito said. “It has three tomoe, that’s all.”
“Yes, it does,” Kakashi insisted. “It doesn’t have three tomoe. It looks different. Don’t you ever look in a mirror?”
“Not with my Sharingan,” Obito said irritably, even as he pulled out his tanto to look at his reflection in the blade. He activated his Sharingan and nearly jerked back in surprise—Kakashi was right. It really was different.
“There’s not supposed to be another form of the Sharingan,” Obito said hesitantly. There wasn’t, not officially, but there were always . . . rumors. Things that the clan elders mentioned when they thought no one was listening, or that the adults talked about when they met up late at night.
“So ask your elders,” Kakashi said.
Obito snorted. First of all, the elders didn’t like to tell anyone anything—especially not him. Second, “I, uh, never actually told them. That I awakened the Sharingan.”
“And they never figured it out?” Kakashi said skeptically.
“I never use it around other Uchiha!” Obito flailed his arms in some vain attempt to illustrate his point. “I don’t spend that much time with them, I think they’ve pretty much given up on me. And it’s not like you have to tell them, it’s just that most people brag about awakening it when they do. And I . . . even if I had someone to brag to in the clan, I wasn’t really in the mood after what happened.”
“And you can’t just tell them now?” Kakashi said.
Obito grimaced. On the list of things he wanted to do, talking to the elders listed just below visiting the dentist. Still, there were ways around these things. “I guess I could take a look in the compound. They have records there. Things that can tell me what this is.”
He had his suspicions. But he didn’t want them to be true.
“Meet me here,” Obito said, already walking away from the training grounds. “If I don’t come, assume I’m getting lectured by the elders or something.”
“Should I come find you?”
“Not unless you can think of a way it wouldn’t be suspicious,” Obito said. “Like get us a mission or something, that way they’ll have to let me go!”
“I’ll make a plan,” Kakashi said, determination clear in his eyes.
Kakashi was kind of stuck-up sometimes, but Obito liked that about him—that Kakashi would do anything for a friend. “Cool. I’ll see you later!”
Most people might think that the best time to sneak into a place you weren’t supposed to be was the middle of the night, but at least in the Uchiha clan, that was rarely the case. At night, the police were on high alert, especially because most of the clan was asleep, not to mention that the clan elders and adults sometimes had secret meetings late at night. Sneaking around late at night was a surefire way to look suspicious. On the other hand, during the day most people were busy enough that they wouldn’t pay another Uchiha a second glance, especially not Obito. Even if he was caught, he could just pretend he was lost.
If this was the Mangekyo, there had to be records on it somewhere—and he had a feeling he knew where to look.
Naka Shrine was deserted at this time of day—even the people who usually tended to it were off eating lunch. Obito slipped inside unnoticed, and made his way into the secret room beneath the shrine, where the clan kept secret records.
Obito skimmed through them as quickly as possible, looking over them with his sharingan to memorize the contents and then putting them back exactly where he had found them. Even someone with another Sharingan wouldn’t be able to tell he had been looking through them.
Obito started, of course, with the oldest records, and quickly struck gold—Madara Uchiha had possessed the Mangekyo, which he had awakened after the death of his father, as had his brother. Obito skimmed the history sections, more focused on looking for the abilities of the Mangekyo. He didn’t find much, other than a few oblique references to things that Uchiha with the Mangekyo had done in battle.
As he skimmed through one of the few records that kind of talked about the techniques, Obito glanced at his watch and swore. It was just past one, which meant that people might be coming to tend to the shrine soon. He hopped off the stone tablet he had been perched on—probably offending several deities while he was at it—and quickly replaced the papers and scrolls as he had found them before slipping out of the shrine.
No one was inside the shrine, thankfully, and he breathed a sigh of relief as he stepped outside.
“And what are you doing, Obito?”
Obito yelped and whipped around, meeting the eyes of Mikoto Uchiha. “Mikoto-ba-san! Uh, I was playing hide and seek?” he said.
He could have smacked himself. There was no way she was going to believe that.
Mikoto’s eyebrows rose, and he braced himself for a scolding. “So you’re the ringleader of this little enterprise.”
Obito blinked at her, and then slid his eyes down towards the two small forms beside her. Itachi blinked up at him solemnly, while Shisui grinned unrepentantly. “Uh, yeah, sorry, Ba-san,” he said, sheepishly ruffling his hair. “We got a little carried away.”
“This isn’t a place for playing. You should know better, Obito,” she scolded, and then nudged the two boys towards him. “If you’re so eager to play, you can take them to the park and watch them for me.”
Obito sighed. So much for his meeting with Kakashi. “Okay, Ba-san. Come on, let’s go.”
The two boys hurried to catch up to him. Obito slowed his steps slightly; Shisui was seven and faster than Obito when he wanted to be, but Itachi was still only four.
“You weren’t really playing hide and seek, were you?” Shisui asked.
“Were you?” Obito retorted. Shisui shrugged, which was as good as a confirmation. “You don’t tell on me, and I don’t tell on you. How’s that?”
“Only if you let us go right now,” Shisui said.
“Are you crazy? I’m not crossing Mikoto-san. Come on, you can come train with Kakashi and I,” Obito said.
Even Itachi looked intrigued at that; no doubt he had heard of the other genius. Probably by being endlessly compared to him. At Itachi’s age, Kakashi had been almost ready to graduate from the academy; Itachi wasn’t even enrolled yet, although his father had him training endlessly to make up for it.
“Yeah, okay,” Shisui said, after a glance at Itachi. “But you have to buy us dinner afterwards!”
“Dinner? How long do you think I’m putting up with you squirts? Mikoto-san will feed you,” Obito said. “Besides, I’m probably having dinner with Kakashi’s family.”
“Then we’ll come too!” Shisui declared.
Obito knocked him upside the head. “Don’t just invite yourself to other people’s gatherings!”
Shisui laughed and raced ahead; Obito wondered if this was what it had been like to spend time with him when he was younger. Kakashi’s constant irritation was beginning to make sense.
Kakashi was at the training ground when they finally arrived. Obito suspected he had never even left. He wasn’t training, at least not physically—he was instead reading a book, something about tactics by the look of it. Trust Kakashi to study even when he was already a jounin; it was like he enjoyed making Obito look bad or something.
“Hey, Bakashi!” he called. “Quit studying, we all know it’s hopeless.”
“Clearly,” Kakashi replied as he slipped the book away. “I suppose I will be forced to remain a genin all my life.”
Obito couldn’t help but laugh, even though the joke wasn’t even that funny. There was just something about Kakashi making jokes that got to him—he was so straight-laced all the time. “Imagine being stuck doing D-ranks your whole life.”
Kakashi’s eye slid over to the two kids. For a moment, Obito feared he would say something about the Sharingan, but he just said, “Your family?”
Obito grimaced. “Yeah, I got stuck with babysitting duty.”
“I’m not a baby,” Shisui said.
Obito grabbed him and gave him a noogie, ignoring his squealed protests. “You’ll stop being a baby when you stop getting caught causing trouble!”
“You got caught too!” Shisui protested.
“Did not! That was on purpose,” Obito said. “How else was I supposed to save your sorry butt?”
“If you’re just going to play, take them to the park,” Kakashi said.
Obito released Shisui in favor of elbowing Kakashi. “Quit being a jerk, Bakashi. They came to train.”
Kakashi eyed them skeptically. Obito couldn’t really blame him; Itachi wasn’t even in the academy yet, for all that his dad made him train pretty much every day. He was probably hoping for another Kakashi Hatake. Obito could have told him the world didn’t want or need another Kakashi. One was plenty.
Eventually, Kakashi shrugged one shoulder. “Great! So, how should we do this? Two on two?” Obito suggested.
Kakashi looked at Itachi again, and then at Shisui. “How about all three of you against me?” he said.
Obito wasn’t sure if he wanted to punch him, or agree and kick his ass with Itachi and Shisui. Just when he thought Kakashi was starting to loosen up, he had to be an ass.
“Kakashi-senpai, may I spar with you?” Itachi asked.
Kakashi looked at Obito, although Obito couldn’t have said why. Kakashi’s expression was as inscrutable as always. “Sure,” Kakashi said.
“Guess that leaves you and me together, shrimp,” Obito said to Shisui. “Taijutsu?”
He was not about to use his tanto and have to explain the results of that to Mikoto. With his luck, he’d end up stabbing Shisui and having to drag him to the hospital.
Shisui shifted into a taijutsu stance, and in an instant they were exchanging blows. Shisui was good for a genin, Obito had to admit. He was almost too fast for Obito to see without his Sharingan, and his taijutsu was almost flawless. It was a stark reminder that Shisui, for all that he was six years younger than Obito, had also fought in the war. They tried to keep genin away from the worst of the fighting, but that rarely worked out in practice.
Eventually, they shifted from pure taijutsu to using their tanto as well, although they didn’t draw the weapons from their sheaths. Here, Obito had the advantage, both because of his superior reach and because he’d been spending his days training with the White Fang, Konoha’s resident expert in swordplay.
They ended their spar with Shisui pinned to the ground, his sword arm trapped underneath him, Obito’s tanto held to his throat. “Nice one,” Obito said, between gasps for breath. “But you’ll have to work a lot harder than that if you want to beat this senpai!”
Obito looked over to find Kakashi and Itachi watching, having finished their ever-so-diligent progress through their stretches. “Yeah.”
Kakashi stood and turned to go. “Come on. Dad will be waiting.”
Obito fell into step beside him. Shisui and Itachi followed, but didn’t take the turn towards the Uchiha compound. Obito scowled at Shisui, who grinned unrepentantly as he tugged Itachi along by the hand. Itachi, for his part, looked rather embarrassed—it struck Obito as rather comical that of the two, the four-year-old was more dignified. “What do you think you’re doing?” he asked Shisui.
“Coming for dinner,” Shisui said.
“No, you aren’t,” Obito said. “Mikoto-ba-san is waiting for Itachi.”
“No, she isn’t,” Shisui said. “She’s busy .”
Busy, Obito knew, meant that the clan elders were planning a meeting. He couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for Itachi, whose parents were always so busy with clan business. Looking at Shisui, he knew this was exactly what the little brat had intended. “Ugh, fine,” he said. “You can stay if Kakashi agrees.”
Please say no, and I’ll never call you Bakashi ever again, Obito silently promised, staring at Kakashi’s face as if this would somehow communicate his intentions.
Shisui and Itachi looked at each other, a silent conversation passing between them. “Kakashi-senpai, may we come for dinner?” Itachi asked.
Kakashi looked down at the boy for a moment, considering, before nodding. “You can come.”
Nevermind. You’re Bakashi forever.
Resigned to his fate, Obito didn’t protest Shisui’s continued presence. “You’ve gotten good recently,” Shisui remarked.
Obito blinked in surprise. “Oh, thanks—hey, wait, what’s that supposed to mean? I was always good!”
“Last time we sparred, I beat you,” Shisui said.
“That was ages ago! I was a genin.”
“So? I was an academy student.”
“Obito works hard. That’s what matters,” Kakashi interrupted. “Some people are just late bloomers. That’s what my father says, at least.”
“People grow at different rates,” Itachi said, and nodded. “Your father sounds very wise.”
Kakashi shrugged, but Obito thought he looked kind of pleased under the mask and headband.
Sakumo, of course, spoiled this initial good impression by launching two buckets of paint at them the moment Kakashi opened the front door, aided by Narumi with his own buckets. Obito couldn’t help but laugh as Kakashi dripped red, orange, and blue paint all over the floor. “Dad,” Kakashi complained. “The tatami.”
Itachi looked utterly horrified, at least as much as he could. He was frozen stock-still and his eyes were wider than normal; if he was any normal four-year-old, Obito was pretty sure he would have been throwing a tantrum.
Narumi and Sakumo cackled, arms thrown over each other’s shoulders.
“We have guests,” Kakashi said again, in a desperate, doomed attempt to make them behave like normal adults.
Obito grinned and smeared orange paint over Kakashi’s relatively pristine cheek. “Give it a rest, Kakashi. These two troublemakers had it coming anyways.”
Sakumo attempted to look more serious. “Ah, yes, welcome to my house. Please come in. Don’t worry about the tatami, it’s probably time to replace it anyways.” He turned around and immediately dissolved into muffled laughter.
Narumi looked at their faces and snorted. “Heh, sorry. Come on in. I’ll run a bath and get some clean clothes.”
Narumi vanished after Sakumo. Kakashi sighed. “I apologize for my father and godfather, Itachi-kun, Shisui-kun.”
“It will wash off easily,” Itachi said.
“Your dad’s cool,” Shisui said. “Imagine Fugaku doing that!”
Itachi smiled slightly. Obito was certain there wasn’t a more reserved kid on the face of the earth.
The four of them made their way to the bathroom, Itachi and Kakashi doing their best to avoid dripping paint everywhere, and Obito and Shisui doing their best to splatter each other and the other two. Sakumo, thankfully, had scrounged up clothing for everyone, so once they were all clean they had something to wear, although Itachi was kind of swamped by his borrowed clothes.
By the time they were out, Sakumo had made dinner for all of them. “I do apologize,” he said, once they were all served and seated. “I didn’t expect the boys to bring back guests.”
Itachi nodded politely. “Thank you for having me.”
“It’s okay,” Shisui said. “It was fun!”
“Sorry about bringing them by with no warning,” Obito said. “Mikoto-san is making me babysit to keep us all out of trouble. Although they weren’t supposed to stay this long.”
He glared at Shisui. Shisui grinned unrepentantly.
“I’ll bring them home after dinner and smooth things over with Mikoto-san,” Sakumo promised.
Dinner passed relatively smoothly, after that, and before too long Sakumo was escorting Shisui and Itachi out of the house. Narumi went to clean up, while Obito and Kakashi retreated to Kakashi’s bedroom.
Finally, they were alone.
Obito hastily constructed a fort out of spare blankets and strategically placed kunai and ninja wire while Kakashi stared at him blankly. Once he was done, he seized Kakashi by the arm and dragged him under the fort.
“Okay, so I think I know what it is,” he said.
“You realize this does absolutely nothing to prevent people from listening in on our conversation,” Kakashi said.
Obito rolled his eyes. “Yes, I know, Bakashi. That’s not the point. The point is that I think—I think killing Rin gave me the Mangekyo Sharingan.”
“You didn’t kill Rin,” Kakashi said.
“Well, no, but I thought I did.” Obito stared down at his hands. “The moment I realized I couldn’t stop in time it was like—I saw, in an instant, exactly what the world would be like without Rin in it. I thought I really had killed her. That’s what matters.”
“And what is the Mangekyo Sharingan?”
“It’s an evolved form of the Sharingan. You get it by . . . by killing someone important to you, or by watching them die. I mean, that’s what the records say,” Obito said. “It has special abilities, things that the normal Sharingan can’t do. But it differs from person to person.”
“Then, clearly, we have to test them out.”