October 10, Yondaime Year 5
On the morning of Naruto’s fourth birthday, everybody went to a funeral.
Dad and Ogata-san both tried to be really nice and careful about explaining, but that was silly. Ogata-san was new so she didn’t know, but Dad should remember last year. Naruto did! They dressed up in black clothes with everybody else in the village, and Naruto sat in Kakashi-niisan’s lap and drew pictures on Rin-neesan’s notebook while Dad gave a speech in front of the Heroes’ Stone, and then all four of them went to the cemetery and visited Mom privately, and then they had a picnic.
This year was different only because Naruto’d had a party already, with his friends from preschool. He got bunches of presents, and Kiba got sick from eating too much cake, and Ino sat on Shikamaru and made him cry. It was all very exciting. Naruto ate too much cake too, but he didn’t get sick.
He had bad dreams, though. The scary kind, the kind that woke him up in the middle of the night when the room was still dark and all the shadows hid monsters. He woke up yelling for Dad. Then he remembered Kakashi-niisan said ninja had to wake up silently, even if they had bad dreams, because someday they might be sleeping somewhere it wasn’t safe to yell. He froze, huddled beneath his blankets, but it was too late: Dad came running in.
If Dad was here, it was safe to cry. He felt better afterwards. He didn’t even remember the bad dreams, but he didn’t want to go back to sleep alone.
“Well, I’m not sleeping here,” Dad said. “This bed isn’t big enough for an octopus and me.” He scooped Naruto up and carried him off, giggling, to the big bed with two pillows and Mom’s picture on the nightstand. They fell asleep curled together there.
Ogata-san arrived early that morning. She was already bustling around in the kitchen when Naruto came in, rubbing his eyes and scuffing his footie pajamas on the floor. “A late night for you, Naruto-chan?” she asked. “Help me put these on the table.”
Naruto carried the tray of juice glasses carefully. “Dad doesn’t like eating breakfast before he gives a big speech,” he observed. “He says it makes the frogs in his stomach all hoppy.”
“Even Hokage-sama needs something to get him through the morning,” Ogata-san said firmly, ladling soup into bowls. “A light meal is enough. He can make up for it at lunchtime.” She put the bowls on the table and helped Naruto scoot his chair in. “You haven’t invited anyone else to your birthday lunch, have you?”
“Um…” Naruto counted off on his fingers. “Dad and you and Kakashi-niisan and Rin-neesan. And me. And Turtle and Lynx. And Niisan’s team, that’s Tousaki-san and Shiranui-san and Namiashi-taichou. I told all my friends about it yesterday but they’re not invited. Just me and the grown-ups who know how to behave.” He rolled these words around his tongue. “But Jiraiya-ojiisan went away so he’s not invited.”
“Jiraiya-sensei isn’t a grown-up who knows how to behave,” Dad said, coming into the kitchen from the bathroom, with a towel around his neck and his hair still damp. “Good morning, Ogata-san. Thank you.”
He pulled his chair out but didn’t sit down. He stood with his hands curled over the back of it, looking across the table at Naruto. The skin around his eyes pinched tight. “I’m sorry it’s not more of a celebration, Naruto-chan,” he said. “Lots of people in the village are very sad today, and they all want to spend time with their families. But some of the people you asked to lunch, like Lynx, don’t have many people left in their families anymore. He told me yesterday how much he’s looking forward to doing something happy on this day instead of something sad.”
Naruto wiggled in his chair, pleased. Lynx was usually very quiet, following Dad everywhere around the Palace with his clipboards and his schedules — not chatty and laughing like Turtle, who would wave from the nearby rooftop if Naruto looked up from the playground at preschool. But Lynx was always nice when Naruto came to visit Dad in his office, and usually he had crayons and drawing paper hidden within his clipboard compartments. It was good to hear he’d made Lynx happy.
There were lots of other ANBU guards who watched over Dad and Naruto, the Palace and the residence, and the village as a whole. But Lynx and Turtle were the ones Naruto liked best. And Kakashi-niisan’s team, of course. They always had exciting stories to tell. And they were back in the village now — Tousaki-san had to take some kind of test, so they couldn’t take missions at all this week. Niisan had promised they’d come.
“Did young Lynx lose his family to the Fox, then?” Ogata-san asked Dad, setting the last dishes down.
“Those who didn’t fall in the war, yes,” Dad said. He looked tired. “His wife and little son, and his mother. They lived on Willow Street.”
“My mom killed the Fox,” Naruto announced. “She saved the village. She’s a hero.”
“She is,” Ogata-san agreed. Her hand rested briefly in Naruto’s hair. “Everyone knows Uzumaki Kushina’s name and what she did for us.”
Satisfied, Naruto ate his breakfast.
Afterward, he washed his face, cleaned his teeth, and got dressed in his funeral clothes. They were new, just delivered from the tailor’s, and looked exactly like Dad’s: the same high collar with a cut-out in front, the same straight black pants that didn’t need leg-bindings. When Dad held him up to see the mirror, with their black clothes and yellow hair, they looked almost exactly the same.
Then Dad tied on his forehead protector, and shrugged on his white-and-red coat, and was the Hokage.
They went out of the residence holding hands. Four years old was too grown up now to be carried. Otter and Panther waited outside the door. Another set of ANBU guards, Squirrel and Rook, were on the landing. They fell in neatly behind Dad and Naruto. Even with their big boots, all four of them walked so quietly that sometimes Naruto wasn’t sure they were there. He tried turning around once, to look at them, but a gentle squeeze of Dad’s hand reminded him to walk facing ahead.
People lined the village streets. Everybody wore black, or at least dark colors. Only the ninja wore the funeral uniform, but there were plenty of people in faded old uniforms who had been ninja once, a long time ago. People with their empty sleeves pinned up or their empty trousers folded back. People holding children. People with hair as grey as Ogata-san’s.
She had stayed behind, in the residence. “Too many funerals in my life already,” she’d said. “Let me prepare for this birthday instead.” Naruto was excited for the birthday lunch but now he wished she’d come anyway. His other hand felt empty.
They walked the long dusty way through the streets. Ahead, the crowds were so quiet that he could hear people crying, or trying not to cry. Behind, he could hear footsteps of more people following. Many, many people. He didn’t try to look back anymore.
They crossed the bridge over the river and went through the training fields. Sometimes these fields were all torn up and muddy but now the ground was smooth. More people waited here. Naruto started to recognize faces of ninja he’d seen working in the Hokage’s Palace or at the hospital. He saw Sasuke and his big brother standing in the tight ranks of their family, and Ino with her father, and Kiba with his sister and all their uncles and aunts and cousins.
Then the crowd parted, and he saw the Heroes’ Stone.
It looked very dark and stern in the sunshine. There were no flowers or sake bottles or piles of fruit at its foot. Naruto’s footsteps slowed. The Heroes’ Stone wasn’t scary, he visited it all the time, but—
Dad squeezed his hand. “Look,” he said very quietly. “There’s your niisan. Can you see if he’s got Rin-chan with him?”
Naruto looked. Kakashi-niisan’s hair was easy to spot, in the front row near the Stone. He was the best to see in crowds. Rin-neesan was much smaller next to him, but then she moved, holding out her hand, and he saw her.
Dad squeezed once more. “Go ahead.”
Naruto ran to them, and they held both his hands.
Afterwards, while people were still heaping white chrysanthemums around the Heroes’ Stone, and everybody else was lining up to talk to Dad, Kakashi-niisan and Rin-neesan took Naruto off to a shady spot under the trees.
He was tired from standing so long. Rin-neesan found a nice flat rock to sit on. “You can snuggle in my lap and take a nap, Naruto-chan,” she offered.
“ ‘m not sleepy.” He rubbed his eyes but leaned against Rin-neesan’s shoulder anyway. “Not gonna fall asleep, neesan…”
Something waited. Something on the other side of a cage, but the door was open.
He jerked upright so fast that the top of his head hit Rin-neesan’s chin. “Ouch, Naruto-chan!” She adjusted him in her arms, checking him over: “Did a bug bite you?”
“No bug — it was bigger —”
He looked around wildly, but there were no bars, no broken locks. The sun shone down brightly. Most of the people had moved away from the Heroes’ Stone, leaving it half-buried in a mound of white flowers. Kakashi-niisan stood nearby, talking to the three tall members of his team, but they had all swung around to look at Naruto. He shriveled under their gazes, and burst into tears.
Kakashi-niisan was there immediately. He crouched down in front of Rin-neesan and Naruto, his shoulders blocking off the view of everything else. “Naruto-kun?”
“I didn’t yell,” Naruto sobbed. “I woke up quiet! But they noticed anyway.”
Rin-neesan hugged him tighter. But Kakashi-niisan put a hand on Naruto’s knee, just above Rin-neesan’s arm, and said, “They’re nosy assholes.”
Naruto stopped crying in astonishment.
“Hey!” somebody said. “No swearing in front of a kid!”
Niisan’s eye crinkled at the corner. “And Rin yelled, not you.”
“I wasn’t expecting an under-chin attack,” Rin-neesan said, snuggling Naruto and rubbing her chin into his hair. “Though I probably should have been. If it wasn’t a bug bite, was it bad dreams, Naruto-chan?”
“Mmhm.” He sniffled a little more, but the tears were over. So was the dream, vanishing from his memory like shadows hiding under the bed after the lights came on. “It was scary,” he tried to explain. “But I tried not to yell.”
“Hey, it’s okay,” one of Niisan’s teammates said, coming up behind him. It was Tousaki-san, the tall one, looking even taller than usual in his stark black funeral uniform. “Most ninja have bad dreams all the time. Half of us still attack our friends when we get woken up too soon. If you’re just headbutting Nohara-sensei and nothing else, you’re doing better than lots of ANBU.”
“You should ask your niisan to tell you about the time he almost broke my arm when I woke him up.” That was Shiranui-san, with the sun glowing in his yellowy hair. “Or the time he tried to strangle me.”
“There was that one time he electrocuted Katsuko, too,” Namiashi-taichou added thoughtfully.
“You are all proving my point,” Kakashi-niisan said.
Naruto struggled to sit up properly. This was interesting. “Sometimes Niisan lightnings me and my hair all stands up straight.” He grabbed fistfuls of his short hair and pulled them to demonstrate.
Kakashi scooped Naruto out of Rin’s arms and stood, swinging Naruto up onto his shoulders. From here Naruto was taller than everybody else, even Tousaki-san. He whooped triumphantly.
“Should we lightning more people?” Kakashi-niisan asked. “I can think of three.”
“Perhaps not here,” Rin-neesan said, standing up too, and dusting off the back of her skirt. “Are all three of you coming for lunch at the residence? Let’s head back now. Minato-sensei will return when he’s finished.”
“He’s telling everybody about my mom,” Naruto said, wriggling on Kakashi’s shoulders until he was seated a little more comfortably. Kakashi grabbed his ankles to hold him still. Naruto took a handful of Kakashi’s hair, which was much longer and more grabbable than his own. In case they didn’t know, he explained: “Lots of people died today. My mom died too, after she saved everybody else. But I was born first, before she died, so today is my birthday too. I’m four. That’s almost a ninja. Are your moms dead too?”
Shiranui-san and Namiashi-taichou looked at each other, like they didn’t know what to say. After a moment Shiranui-san said carefully, “My mom died when I was really little, too. She was a ninja. Her name is on the Heroes’ Stone. I can show you if you want.”
Naruto thought about it as they walked past the tall Stone with its heaps of white flowers. He knew his mom’s name was there, with all the other names he couldn’t read. He liked the idea, suddenly, of knowing one of them. He pulled at Kakashi’s hair. “I want to see.”
Kakashi stopped. There weren’t many people around the Stone now — Dad and all the people talking to him had moved off to the shade beneath the trees, leaving the white flowers wilting sweetly in the sun. One old man stood with a hand on the Stone, his eyes closed and his lips moving in a silent whisper, but he didn’t even look around when Kakashi knelt beside the pile of flowers and leaned forward so Naruto could see.
Shiranui-san leaned in past them, pushed a spray of flowers away, and pointed to a name midway up the Stone. It was very tiny, like all the others, and a little worn down. “Shiranui Etsuko. My dad says I look like her.”
“Shiranui Etsuko,” Naruto repeated, trying to remember. “My mom’s name is Uzumaki Kushina. Now they can be friends.”
Everyone was quiet for a moment. Then a long arm reached over Naruto’s shoulder and pointed at a spot a little further down the Stone. “Tousaki Miyako,” Tousaki-san said, his voice scratchy. “That’s my mom’s name.” His finger moved a bit further up. “Kondo Ryuu. That’s my dad.”
Naruto repeated those names, too. Then he twisted around, almost kneeing Kakashi-niisan in the ear, to look at Namiashi-taichou. “What about you?”
“I have two moms. They’re both still alive,” Namiashi-taichou said simply. He leaned in, too, and tapped a name near where Shiranui-san had pointed. “That’s my dad. Namiashi Kenta.”
Naruto almost forgot to repeat this name. “Two moms! How did you get that? Neesan has one and Niisan has one, but she doesn’t like it here. And Shiranui-san and Tousaki-san don’t have any. You should share.”
“I should, huh?” Namiashi-taichou smiled crookedly. “I’ll have to tell them that. My mom married a woman. That’s why I have two.”
“If my dad married a man, I’d have two dads. But he’s not marrying anybody again.” Naruto rocked, keeping his balance, as Kakashi-niisan rose to his feet and started walking toward the bridge going out of the training fields. “So I have Ogata-san instead. I like her. She’s making lunch now. We’re having lunch first and then Dad and me will go to the cemetery to visit Mom afterwards. Let me tell you what we’re having for lunch.”
He waited until they were all looking at him, even Kakashi-niisan craning his head up enough for the glint of an eye beneath the shiny hitai-ate. And then he announced, gleefully: “We’re having you!”
Nobody looked scared at all. Namiashi-san snickered like he’d heard Dad say that joke before. Shiranui-san looked like he wanted to laugh, too, but was too polite. Only Tousaki-san said, perfectly serious, “You should’ve started yesterday if you really wanted to have us for lunch. We’re all lean meat. Really chewy. You’d have to stew it for a long time to be any good.”
This wasn’t what people usually said when Dad made this joke. Naruto stared at him.
Tousaki-san looked a little uncertain. But he pushed up his sleeve and flexed his arm, poking at the hard lumpy muscle that jumped out there. “You wouldn’t have any fun chomping on that. And if you tried Taichou, you’d break your teeth.”
Naruto looked at Namiashi-taichou. He flexed too. Even beneath his shirt sleeve the muscle was bigger.
“I’ll get Niisan to help,” Naruto decided. “His teeth are pointy.”
Shiranui-san finally laughed out loud. “Even if you marinated us for three days in papaya and pineapple we probably wouldn’t be that tasty. No, if you want to eat people, what you want is someone young and plump and tender.” He looked up right at Naruto’s tummy.
“Nooo you can’t eat me!” Naruto clutched Kakashi-niisan’s hair and smooshed his tummy into it so no one could see. “Because… because… I’d turn into a dragon and fly around and blow you all away. And then eat you up. With my big dragon teeth.” He gnashed them loudly.
“Maybe,” Rin-neesan suggested, as they reached the bridge that led into Konoha, “we should all eat Ogata-san’s birthday lunch instead.”
Rin-neesan always said smart things. Everybody agreed.
By the time they got home, Dad still hadn’t caught up. Ogata-san had the table all set and most of the food made, but she agreed to let Shiranui-san help. The rest of the boys, she said, could do dishes afterward.
Turtle was already there, looking like a normal person without her mask. She was brown-skinned and sturdy, with black hair cut short and a grin that sneaked out when she saw Naruto looking. She waved her fingers at him. “I came over early to help Auntie,” she said. “Happy birthday, Naruto-chan. You can call me Chie-neesan for today.”
Nobody else got to use Turtle’s name. This was the best. Naruto demanded to be let down and to help Chie-neesan carry glasses of chilled barley tea to the dining room. Then he had Chie-neesan, Rin-neesan, and all the rest of Kakashi’s team come into his bedroom to see his new birthday presents: the holster of wooden kunai sized just right for his hand, the stuffed Samurai Dolphin plushie, the Captain Seaweed action figure with arms that really moved, the suction-cup darts that were almost as good as real shuriken, the modeling clay and spinning tops, the teeshirt with First Mate saying “Keelhaul the landlubbers!”
Chie-neesan challenged Naruto to a contest with the darts. Namiashi-taichou and Rin-neesan scrunched up on the floor to play with the spinning top. Kakashi-niisan and Tousaki-san sat on the bed, making funny voices for Captain Seaweed and Samurai Dolphin. Tousaki-san didn’t really know how pirates talked, but Kakashi-niisan was teaching him.
Shiranui-san came to the door with his sleeves rolled up and his hair pulled back. His smile went soft when he saw all of them. He leaned against the doorframe and asked, “Who’s hungry? Ogata-san said anyone with even a speck of dirt under their nails gets nothing but raw radishes to eat. Yondaime-sama said he’d inspect everyone’s hands and tell her if anyone fails, so I’d go wash up now if I were you.”
“Dad’s home!” Naruto jumped up and ran out.
Dad was in the living room talking with Lynx. Without his mask and clipboard, Lynx was a tired-looking man, older than Dad, with lines around his mouth and eyes. Sometimes he walked with a limp when he thought no one was watching. He smiled when he saw Naruto though. “Here’s the birthday boy. We won’t be calling you Naruto-chan much longer, will we?”
“Nooo.” Naruto wriggled happily. “What do I call you when your mask is off?”
Lynx looked at Dad. He said after a moment, “Matsuo-san is okay.”
“Turtle let me call her Chie-neesan,” Naruto said craftily.
“Turtle,” Dad said, scooping Naruto up and tossing him like a sack of rice over one shoulder, “has many little brothers already. What’s one more or less? You met her next-youngest brother on Training Field Sixteen the other day, when I went out with that group of jounin,” he said to Matsuo-san as they went into the hall. “Maito Gai. He was the one pummeling me with nunchaku.”
“I know about nunchaku!” Naruto tried pummeling Dad’s back with his fists.
“Yes, they’re very effective,” Dad grunted. He loosened his hold on Naruto’s knees.
Naruto plummeted down his back, screeching. Matsuo-san jumped for him. But Dad caught Naruto’s ankles and then swung him around to hang upside-down over the kitchen sink. “Everyone else is washing their hands. You wash those nunchaku too.”
Washing upside down was very hard. Naruto kept dropping the soap and laughing and then dropping the soap again. Finally Ogata-san said, behind Dad, “Are the two of you planning to stay here and wash the dishes too?”
“Whoops,” Dad said. “No, here we go, out of your way.” He swung Naruto again and set him on the floor right-side-up.
Naruto wobbled. Everything was dizzy. All the grown-ups were looking at him, from the other side of the kitchen where Shiranui-san and Chie-neesan were helping plate dishes, or from the doorway where Kakashi-niisan and the rest of his team were clustered. He tried striking a cool ninja pose and almost fell over.
Dad grabbed him. “Okay, a little too much time upside down! I’m saying it so you don’t have to, Rin-chan.”
“So long as you know,” Rin-neesan said. She came over to Naruto and put a cool hand on the side of his cheek. “How does your stomach feel, Naruto-chan?”
She made them both sit down quietly in the dining room while everybody else helped carry in dishes. That was okay; Naruto got to cuddle on Dad’s lap, which they didn’t usually do at the dinner table. He liked to snuggle with his head beneath Dad’s chin and listen to the steady, comforting beat of Dad’s heart.
By the time everything was on the table, and even Ogata-san was sitting down between Chie-neesan and Matsuo-san, he felt better. But he pretended he didn’t, so that he could keep snuggling and only eat the best things off Dad’s plate when Dad wasn’t looking. Dad didn’t say anything. He just kept an arm around Naruto’s back, and Naruto’s favorite foods piled on the plate.
They were almost ready for dessert when they heard the front door open out in the hall.
Chie-neesan was out of her seat so fast Naruto didn’t even see her move. She vanished into the hall. Matsuo-san put his chopsticks down, one hand resting lightly on the table, the other hand disappearing below. Kakashi-niisan and all his teammates pushed their chairs back, ready to move. Only Rin-neesan, Ogata-san, and Dad kept eating as calmly as before.
Low voices murmured. Then Chie-neesan came back. Squirrel, who had been guarding the door, was behind her. He had one of the thick, sealed diplomatic pouches in his hand.
“Hokage-sama,” he said. “This just arrived from Sunagakure no Sato. Marked urgent.”
Matsuo-san got out of his chair and came to take the pouch from Squirrel. Squirrel saluted and went back into the hall. A moment later the door closed behind him.
Chie-neesan sat down and went back to her lunch. So did most of Kakashi-niisan’s teammates. But though Kakashi-niisan slouched back against his chair again, his chopsticks stayed on their little ceramic rest, and his eye fixed on the packet that Matsuo-san was unfolding.
“It’s from Ambassador Hatake, sir,” Matsuo-san said quietly, laying an opened letter in front of Dad’s hand. “She encloses the usual communications for Intel, which I’ll see delivered once you’ve reviewed. And there’s this. Addressed for Hatake-san.” He set the second, sealed letter down by Dad’s plate too.
“I don’t need to read Kakashi’s mail,” Dad said dryly. He picked the letter up and passed it to Rin, who handed it on to Kakashi. “You’re welcome to read in the living room, if you’d like… Hmm.”
Something changed in his voice. He’d been skimming through the letter, still with one arm wrapped around Naruto, so Naruto felt when the muscles in that arm went a little bit harder too. Dad looked up, across the table at Kakashi. His voice was very quiet and controlled. “Actually, Kakashi, I’d like to hear what Sadayo wrote to you after all. When you’re done.”
The little bit of Kakashi-niisan’s face that Naruto could see had gone completely blank. He pushed his chair back, folding up one knee against the table, and read his letter.
Then he pushed his hitai-ate up, opened his Sharingan eye, and read the letter again.
“Excuse me,” he said. He got up and left the room, taking the letter with him.
Namiashi-taichou and Shiranui-san looked at each other. Tousaki-san looked at Kakashi-niisan’s empty chair. Rin looked at Dad, her brows pinched tight together in worry.
“Help me clear the table, hmm?” Ogata-san said to Chie-neesan. Kakashi-niisan’s team jumped up to help them. They had the dirty dishes mostly cleared away by the time Kakashi-niisan came back.
He had a pen and a pad of paper from Dad’s desk. He sat down again, spread the letter on the table beside him, and began to scribble.
Naruto wriggled out of Dad’s arms and went to see. Rin-neesan made space for him beside Kakashi-niisan. Naruto was tall enough now that he could just see over the edge of the table.
Kakashi-niisan drew a spiral filled with tiny boxes and then filled them with characters. He scratched a lot of lines through the spiral and its boxes. Then he pulled out a new sheet of paper and began writing on it, looking back and forth between his letter and the spiral with boxes. It took a long time. Naruto got bored and went back to Dad.
Ogata-san and her helpers brought out sliced fruit, tea, and fancy little individual cakes. Naruto ate Kakashi-niisan’s cake for him while Kakashi-niisan squinted at the results of his writing, scratched it all out, drew a new spiral with several more lines, and repeated the process.
Finally, Kakashi set down his pen. He took a shallow little breath, bundled up his papers with the new writing on top, and handed everything wordlessly to Dad.
Now Dad’s hands were full, and he had to push the plates of cakes and fruit away. He set the letter that Sadayo-obasan had written to him down first, then the one she’d written to Kakashi-niisan, then Kakashi-niisan’s spiral paper and the rewritten version. He began to look very slowly from one page to the other.
Naruto got down sneakily from his lap, went behind Rin’s back again, and climbed up into Kakashi’s lap. “I ate your cake,” he whispered.
“Brat,” Kakashi said, wrapping his arm around Naruto’s chest. Over the top of Naruto’s head, he asked Dad, “Would the Kyuubi’s binding seal work for this?”
Matsuo-san dropped his spoon. He didn’t pick it up. No one else moved. No one else even breathed. They stared at Kakashi-niisan so intently that Naruto almost wanted to hide.
People had been talking about the Fox all day: how scary it was, how many people had died trying to stop it, how brave and noble and strong Naruto’s mom was for finally sealing it back into her so that they would die together. But this was the first time Naruto had seen anyone look like this when they heard the Fox’s name. They were looking at Kakashi-niisan like he’d just said, It’s back.
Dad put down his papers. “It might. A variant, at least. Kushina’s original seal was designed for an adult with a strong, developed chakra of her own. It always required a measure of active maintenance. Her final seal cut off all possibility of chakra escape beyond the physical confines of her body, but also destroyed the internal safeguards between her soul and the bijuu’s. Of course neither technique would be suitable for a living jinchuuriki sealed as an infant.”
His voice was perfectly calm, perfectly steady. His face hadn’t changed. But his eyes didn’t look like they were seeing anything in the room in front of him.
“There was a technique I considered, when I thought Kushina might not— when I didn’t know if I could survive if she made the choice that she made. But that technique would, I think, not be suitable here. The Kazekage must intend to preserve his youngest son’s life, however recklessly he’s used it. Which means stabilizing, not extraction or extinction or resealing, which means…”
He blinked. The horrible, empty look left his eyes. He glanced down the table at Kakashi and smiled crookedly.
“Which means a goodwill gesture, from one tenuous more-or-less ally to another. Jiraiya-sensei is out of touch again. I haven’t got a Hiraishin kunai in Suna, nor the time to travel there normally. How would you like to put your Fuuinjutsu skills to the test, Kakashi?”