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Hear the Silence

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There was so much to learn.

The manga hadn't ever gone into enough detail to really cover all of this, instead giving the reader a general overview, a simplified, dumbed-down version of what was without a doubt a highly complex situation.

The base of it all was; the Elemental Nations were a mess.

Politically speaking. And Kyo felt it was mainly due to the fact that the system was so new; the high tensions between the countries and the constant power-plays were all symptoms.

Admittedly, most of that was based on the knowledge she'd gotten from reading the story, and not from what she'd learned in the Academy so far, but she felt like it was true enough.

For now, her class was busy covering the more basic stuff. Like simple katas in taijutsu class -a different style from the one tou-san had taught her- and how to hold a kunai properly.

And she knew it was to make sure all of them had learned correctly, or, in the civilian-born cases, learned at all. That didn't change the fact that it threatened to bore Kyo to tears.

Thinking about it; it'd been the same in the Before when she'd started school. Only instead of weapons handling and martial arts, it'd been reading and writing.

In the theoretical lessons, they'd started on the history of Fire Country and Konoha in particular, though Kyo was relatively certain they were given an abbreviated and censored version.

It may or may not have something to do with the fact that Kyo associated the word 'ninja' with 'sneaky'.

All in all, it wasn't so bad; she rather liked her new sensei, too.

Kouki-sensei was stern and expected them to behave, but was otherwise pretty laid-back and almost kind. So long as no one crossed him.

The Naruto manga had always portrayed the Nara Clan to be made up of nothing more than lazy bums. Admittedly, they'd seen hardly anyone -of any of the Clans- other than the heirs, their parents and potentially someone more, so it wasn't like that was a necessarily accurate summary.

Kyo was no more than four here, but even she knew that you couldn't survive as a shinobi for long if you were truly lazy.

If it was a front you showed outsiders, however, that was a different matter entirely. Being underestimated was sometimes a great advantage.

So all in all, the Academy wasn't horrible.

Most of what they learned was interesting, the added guidance was appreciated and she was really looking forward to the sparring they would no doubt eventually get to in taijutsu class.

Ninjutsu sounded exciting, too, though Kouki-sensei had told them quite sternly, in no uncertain terms, that he wasn't teaching anyone anything related to chakra before he was satisfied they could handle it.

And Kyo was pretty certain he hadn't meant physically.

Which, speaking of.

Most of her classmates were six years old, a few Clan kids were five, but Kyo was most definitely the youngest one at four.

Not that that was bothering her; no, there were far mote important issues on Kyo's mind. Which her dad found out quite abruptly a little over two weeks into her Academy career.

“Have you made any friends?” Kou asked curiously, giving her a proud smile as he rubbed a towel over his hair. She'd just finished telling him about the things Kouki-sensei had started teaching them so far.

He'd gotten back from his latest mission -with minimal injuries- and had moved directly from the front door to the shower.

Kyo blinked at him and then, with no prior warning, burst into tears, her small frame racked with heavy, painful sobs.

Her tou-san dropped the damp towel in alarm, at her side in an instant.

“Kyo? What's the matter?” He asked, hands moving gently but urgently over her form, as if searching for injuries.

“I don't know how-” she sobbed, wiping a forearm angrily over her eyes, “how to be like the other children!”

And it was so stupid!

Stupid, stupid.

“Oh, Kyo,” tou-san sighed and scooped her into his arms, sitting down on the floor where he'd been crouched in front of her.

His strong, familiar arms were enough to calm her a little, but nowhere near enough to stop her tears.

Curling up and burying her face in the side of his throat, Kyo felt like she was doing nothing but cry whenever her parents were home.

What was wrong with her? She was a grown-ass woman! She hadn't cried this much in ages and she was frankly starting to feel like it was enough.

“It's okay, kitten,” Kou murmured, smoothing a hand over her hair before rubbing her back in an attempt to calm her further. “It's not your fault.”

Kyo pressed her face a bit firmer against her tou-san's damp skin. “Can't make any friends,” she muttered, and she was a bit embarrassed by her own words.

Though it wasn't necessarily that she couldn't make any friends so much as the fact that, well... all her classmates were immature little brats that tended to grate on her nerves on the best of days.

No matter how much she was a real child, she was also an adult trapped in a child's body, and there wasn't any changing that.

She hadn't noticed quite as much before, because she'd been spending virtually all her time with adults who -mostly- treated her according to her own behaviour. Kyo hadn't quite realised how blatantly different she was.

She was mostly okay with it, but she had wanted at least one friend.

Was that too much to ask?

One friend?

There'd been friends in the Before. Few and far between, and somewhat scattered, but they'd been there. She'd had especially one friend she'd talked to practically every day, and she missed it. Missed her.

Someone who was on the same wavelength, someone who understood her, had the same interests and just... was there for her.

Someone to listen to her when she was whiny, tired and did nothing other than complain. Or someone to discuss her dreams for the future with.

Never mind how useless those old dreams were now, the issue still stood.

Kyo had wanted someone that was hers; someone that wouldn't go away for weeks at a time and leave her behind, someone she could train with. Play with. Have fun with.

She loved her parents and she had loads of fun with them, but it wasn't the same.

“You're a special girl, Kyo,” her dad murmured soothingly, voice soft and almost tender, despite the rather helpless cast to it. “You're so, so smart and mature and it's not your fault your peers can't quite keep up.”

And that made Kyo feel even worse.

Because it wasn't true.

She wasn't particularly smarter than the average person; she just had an unfair advantage over her fellow children. She was cheating.

“They'll catch up eventually,” Kou promised her weakly, caressing her cheek and smearing a few tears over her skin.

“But I wanted a friend now,” Kyo sobbed helplessly, feeling ridiculous.

“Are the other kids mean to you because you're younger?” Kou asked suddenly, as if grasping for something he could actually deal with. Something he could fix.

Kyo shook her head. “They think I'm a baby, tou-san,” she told him disdainfully, the word all but searing her tongue on the way out. “But no one's been mean.”

And they hadn't. The other kids just weren't particularly interested in making friends with someone a couple of years younger than they were.

The few she'd interacted with so far had been amicable enough, but that wasn't the same as friendship, or even companionship.

Kou gave a deep, frustrated sigh, leaning his cheek against the crown of her head, his arms tightening around her.

Kyo tried to burrow even deeper into his embrace.

“Sorry,” she eventually muttered.

“What for?”

“You're tired and I wanted us to have a nice evening,” she admitted. Kyo hadn't seen him for so long and the first thing she did was cry on him? Over something she had already sort-of-accepted? “I didn't mean to be difficult.”

Kou stilled. “Did someone tell you you're being difficult, Kyo?” He asked softly, voice even and calm.

No,” Kyo clenched her eyes shut, because why was she just making everything worse? Writing had never been an issue, but talking? She always made a mess of it.

“Kyo,” Kou pressed firmly.

“Grown-ups don't like it when children cry!” She huffed angrily, though it was mostly directed at herself. “I'm being difficult and ruining the little time we get together, and I hate it!”

Kou didn't move for a long moment, merely holding her quietly and seemingly listening to her pant with anger and half-formed sobs.

“It's not your fault your mother and I have been away so much the last few years,” he finally said quietly. “You know that, right?”

“It's because of the stupid war,” Kyo cried. “You're both so tired all the time and what if you don't get to rest enough when you're home because of me and you die the next time you go away?” She asked wetly, voice trembling and shaking with pent up emotions and worries.

Kou didn't say anything for the longest time, and it felt like Kyo's chest might actually seize up and freeze solid.

“When I'm away,” Kou eventually said, voice quiet and barely audible over her harsh breathing. “And things are at their worst, you're one of the few things that always manage to keep me going, Kyo.” He carefully pulled her a little ways away from his chest to look at her. “You're just four years old and you're dealing with this much better than someone many years older. You're allowed to feel these things, and no one should ever tell you differently, okay?”

Kyo stared up at her dad's serious face, new tears dripping from her eyes every time she blinked. “I don't want you to die, tou-san,” she whispered weakly.

“I know,” Kou pulled her back into a hug. “I don't want that either, but sometimes it just can't be avoided. All we can do is our best, but you should know that kaa-san and I will do everything in our power to come back to you, every time.”

Kyo curled up into a small, miserable ball, wrapping her arms around her knees. “What if that isn't enough?”

Kou sighed heavily. “You're too mature for your own good, kitten,” he joked half-heartedly, sounding like he didn't know what else to say.

There wasn't anything he could say, really, because in that scenario, there was only death waiting at the end.

However much she'd loved to read Naruto, writing for the fandom and making up her own intricate stories about the amazing characters... this wasn't a story. This was her life.

Her family's life.

And life was unfair; she'd learned that lesson beyond any reason of a doubt in her last life. Not quite in the same way, but it had stuck.

She'd actually rather take permanent illness and obstinate doctors who refused to listen to her over this. At least her loved ones hadn't been in danger Before.

“What do you say about skipping school today to hang out with me instead?” He suggested after a long pause.

Kyo laughed wearily, wiping tears from her face. “It's Saturday, tou-san.”

“Ah.” Kou blinked. “All the better. This way, your sensei won't hunt me down to demand an explanation.”

“Kouki-sensei would probably go through official channels instead,” Kyo admitted wetly, smiling and wiping at her nose.

“Even worse,” Kou muttered with a dramatic shudder. “Those paper-pushing ninjas are terrifying, and don't let anyone ever try to tell you otherwise.”

“Got it.” Kyo finally looked up to smile weakly at her dad, who smiled sadly back.

“Come on, kitten; let's get something to eat and then spend some time on your favourite activity.”

“My what?” Kyo asked, blinking a little. She hadn't thought she'd developed a favourite anything here, though there were definitely plenty of things she loved doing.

“We never told you about when you were a baby?” Kou asked, actually pausing on his way into the kitchen. “Huh. Well, you tended to cry a lot, and the only way to make you stop was to hold you,” he said giving her a warm, affectionate squeeze. “Just so, firm but not suffocating and Isshun swore it was to make sure you knew you weren't alone.”

“Does that mean we'll get to cuddle?” Kyo asked hopefully.

It sounded silly, but she didn't give a single fuck. Her classmates could call her a baby all they wanted; they were clearly the ones missing out.

Kou and Isshun were away a lot and Kyo was determined to enjoy her time with them as much as she could. Because she had no guarantees that their time wouldn't be cut short.

“Of course it means cuddles.” Kou winked at her. “We could even go bother Ryota so that you can laugh at his constipated face when you hug him,” he offered magnanimously.

“What about Yuuta?” Kyo piped.

“We'll make a cuddle pile,” Kou decided easily, hefting her a bit higher and then opening the fridge to see what they had.

Kyo knew her parents tended to stock-pile non-perishables, because they got called away on missions with little notice too often to do otherwise, but she was fairly sure her kaa-san had bought a bunch of groceries before she got called out a few days ago.

“The broccoli probably needs to be eaten before it goes bad,” she offered, leaning forward to peer into the vegetable box.