Life was surprisingly monotonous for something as exciting as being a ninja.
Their missions kept being largely the same; courier mission after courier mission with the occasional escort thrown in for fun.
Though, those weren't actually fun.
Bandits were a real problem, and there was only one standard response in these times: instant execution.
If she stopped to think about it, it threatened to make her sick.
So! She tried not to think about it too much.
It was much nicer to focus on the smaller, happier things. Like Genma learning to call her 'nee-san'. He was such an adorable brother.
Or the birthday dinner her team took her on when she turned eight. It was very nice; Katsurou-sensei was even there and everything! He'd celebrated Taku's birthday with them, too.
The big softie.
Kyo was smiling before she turned around, “Hey, Taku. Kisaki. What are you up to?” She asked, taking in the pair of them.
Quite different from when they'd graduated.
Kisaki was huge for one. Bigger than even the dogs she'd had in her Before life; bigger than a calf.
Actually, she might just be a little bigger than Akamaru had been made to look in the Naruto manga, thinking about it, because Taku could've definitely ridden her into battle if he'd been so inclined.
Kisaki didn't have hanging ears, though, and looked more like a wolf. Almost.
Taku was a bit too fond and respectful of his ninken to do that, she was fairly sure.
“Sensei came by the compound; we've got a mission.”
“Again? We just got back the other day!” Kyo sighed. “Genma's gonna cry again, because I promised I'd go with him to the park tomorrow.”
“He'll get over it.” Taku shrugged. “At least you were there for his birthday,” he added after a second, probably realising Genma wasn't the only one who would be disappointed by the change of plans.
“Yeah.” Kyo couldn't help but smile. “He's getting so big.”
It was weird to see him grow up like this, because her first little brother had been just two and a half years younger than her, and it'd felt -at the time- like they weren't all that different in age. They'd both been about equally small.
Not so much now, what with six years between them.
“When are we leaving?” She asked, snapping out of her thoughts.
“As soon as possible.” Taku shrugged again. “We have to go find Maki now, so see ya in a bit!” He tossed over his shoulder, already running down the street to hunt down their third member with Kisaki at his side.
“Better go pack, then,” Kyo muttered to herself and sighed.
At least the courier missions didn't take all that long. Two, three days unless there were complications.
Kyo absently rubbed at her right hip; she'd gotten hit with a kunai about five months ago. Grazed more than anything, really, but nevertheless, that had been an interesting experience.
Eh, she'd gotten away with a pretty cool scar, so that was... nice. Or something.
“Tou-san?” Kyo called into the apartment when she had stepped through the door. “Are you still here?”
“Yeah, in the kitchen,” tou-san replied a beat later. “Trying to get Genma-chan to eat his lunch,” he added wryly.
Kyo smiled and entered the room. “He doesn't like carrots,” she remarked after a look at what Kou was trying to feed the obstinate toddler.
“Nee-cha!” Genma exclaimed at the sight of her, waving his arms in her direction with a happy grin.
Kyo walked over to give him a quick kiss on a sticky cheek.
“I knew I forgot something,” tou-san sighed, giving her a dryly amused look. Kyo could understand; being a picky eater wasn't exactly something shinobi could afford to be. “I didn't think you'd be back quite yet. What's up?”
“Apparently got a mission,” Kyo said, her smile fading. “I have to leave as soon as possible.”
“Then you should be packing, kitten.” Tou-san smiled sadly. “Come here; you're not too old for hugs yet, right?”
“I'll never be too old for hugs,” Kyo promised.
“Ah, you say that now,” Kou mused theatrically, pressing a kiss to her temple. “You be careful out there, okay? I don't know how I'll cope here alone with Genma when I have to worry about both you and Isshun,” he wondered, squeezing her tight before releasing her with a sigh.
“Don't worry; I'll hug you even when I'm an awkward teenager, tou-san,” she swore with slightly exaggerated care, even though it was perfectly true.
“Go. Pack,” Kou ordered her with a snort, going back to his attempts to feed the contrary two year old in the room. “Mission,” he reminded.
Kyo rolled her eyes and went to her room. Her and Genma's room. She rather liked it, though it meant she had to be careful with where she stored her weapons.
“Taku had to find Maki, so it's not like I'm in a hurry here!” She yelled in the direction of the kitchen. “We can't leave until all of us are there, anyway.”
“Pack your things, sweetheart!” Kou called back, sounding thoroughly amused. “Take extra needles!” He added after a brief pause.
“You worry too much,” Kyo commented lightly when she was done and walked back into the kitchen.
“I don't think I worry enough,” her tou-san countered distractedly, trying to make Genma accept the spoon with mashed carrots and beans. “Now, got everything? Nothing forgotten?”
“I've been a Genin for two years, tou-san,” Kyo replied exasperatedly. “You weren't like this in the beginning.”
“Yeah, well,” Kou huffed, taking a pause in the silent competition of stubbornness with the toddler to lean back and cross his arms over his chest, giving her an amused once-over. “Fatherhood does things to you, kitten. Ryota seems to be afraid it's contagious.”
“Ryota thinks emotions are contagious.”
“You've got a fair point.” Kou nodded sagely. “Just take care of yourself, okay? Look out for that team of yours, too.”
“I always try to, tou-san,” Kyo said, giving the man one last hug, pressing a quick kiss to his stubbly cheek. “You need to shave!” She told him cheerfully before she dashed off.
She could hear Kou snort and say something commiserating to Genma before she closed the door behind her.
With a small smile, she took off running towards the village gates.
Konoha was familiar now, like nowhere else had ever been. It felt like she knew every nook and cranny and she could navigate both the streets and the rooftops even when she was dead-tired and injured.
“Hey, sensei,” she greeted Katsurou when she jumped down to the ground in the open space in front of the gates.
“And here I was, hoping I wouldn't have to see your face quite yet,” Katsurou sighed dramatically, making Kyo grin.
“Aw, you know you've missed me since yesterday,” she piped back at him.
“Lies,” Katsurou deadpanned. “It's like an infection that's never cured. I've been ruined for life.”
“He's what now?” Maki asked, landing next to her.
At twelve, Maki was currently the tallest of him and Taku. Something which bugged the other -slightly older boy- to no end.
“Sensei's just telling me how much he cares about us,” Kyo said cheerfully.
“Ah.” Maki blinked at Katsurou, who stared evenly back. “Still the best poker-face in the village,” the boy mused. “It's sad how no one will ever know how much he loves us,” he sighed morosely, giving Katsurou-sensei a long, miserable look that would make most people fold like wet paper.
Kyo, Kisaki and Taku had helped him develop it during one of their sleepovers. Too bad it never worked on sensei.
“Rats are easier to get rid of than you,” was all Katsurou said. “Cockroaches, even.”
“I'm here!” Taku shouted as he came skidding to a halt next to them, Kisaki joining him a second later with far more dignity and poise.
“How can you be the last one here when sensei told you first?” Maki immediately asked, crossing his arms and giving Taku a pointed look.
“Oi! Because I had to track your stupid ass down, idiot!” Taku shot back, instantly in Maki's face.
They really loved each other. Honestly.
“Why didn't you pack first, moron?” Maki asked, and that was actually a pretty good question.
“I could always sedate them,” Kyo offered.
“If I wouldn't have to carry them, I'd accept,” Katsurou mused idly, before he clapped his hands together. “Alright, my loveable little monsters; playtime's over!”
Taku and Maki both fell silent and turned to watch Katsurou-sensei expectantly.
“Beautiful. You've trained them so well, sensei,” Kyo praised with an amused smile.
“You, watch it.” Katsurou sent her a look. “Don't try and act like I don't know you three far better than I ever wanted or cared to,” he grumbled and made his way over to the guard desk.
“He loves us so much,” Kyo said to her teammates.
“Oh, he's completely gone. It's almost sad,” Maki agreed easily.
“Sucker's just too cut off from his own emotions. He needs therapy,” Taku declared firmly, a wicked grin playing around his mouth. “It's a real tragedy.”
“I'm gonna end up 'accidentally' murdering you three one day,” Katsurou threatened casually when he came back. “The Hokage won't even be able to hold it against me.”
“But you'd be so sad, sensei,” Kyo told him solemnly. “You'd be lonely.”
“And bored,” Taku added gleefully. “Who else would keep you on your toes?”
“You're the reason I suffer from insomnia.” Katsurou sighed. “Let's go.”
They all took off into the trees, and after a few minutes' running, stopped to talk and for Katsurou-sensei to hand the scrolls over to Kyo.
“Border to Yu this time,” he said as she was stuffing the scrolls into her poison pack.
“But Kumo ninja are so high-strung,” Kyo complained lightly. “And they never take me seriously.”
“That's hilarious, Kyo,” Maki deadpanned. “You're hilarious.”
“I like to think of myself as punny,” she returned with an easy grin. “Do you think any of them will try to fry us this time?” Kuma being located in the Land of Lightning and all.
“There's always hope,” Katsurou muttered under his breath. “Come on, Taku, Kisaki, you take point. I'll bring up the rear.”
“Yes, sensei,” they all chorused and then set off in a north-east direction, arranged in their most well-used formation.
It was a pretty straightforward mission.
They came across a Kumo team close to their destination, but managed to shake them off and reach their goal. They reported the enemy activity, a Konoha team was sent off after the Kumo shinobi, and then early the next morning, they set back out for Konoha with a different set of scrolls.
Most people probably didn't realise it, but doing courier runs was hard work. Short but intense missions that just stacked up until it felt like you hardly got any time off at all.
It was stressful, because the odds of coming across enemy shinobi to or from the border stations were quite high, and for most of it, the opportunities for backup were slim.
If there was one thing Kyo definitely didn't enjoy, it was feeling like a hunted animal.
“I feel like we're doing this too often, sensei,” Taku muttered as they jumped down to walk through the Konoha main gates at a civilian pace.
Katsurou rubbed a hand at his chin, giving an acknowledging hum. “Our success rate it pretty high by now, so,” he shrugged, “we're popular.”
“We're so lucky,” Kyo mused, bumping her shoulder into Maki's arm, who snorted.
“The luckiest,” the boy agreed wryly.
“I love how we define 'success' the same as not dying,” Taku huffed, shaking his head.
“Don't forget not losing the messages,” Kyo added with a small grin. “Or getting lost in general.”
“That would just be pathetic,” Taku returned, appalled and positively scandalized.
“Let's go make our delivery before you manage to actually live up to those oh so ridiculous claims of potential mess-ups,” Katsurou said with a smirk at Kyo, who gave an offended squawk.
“As if I'd actually- Sensei!” She objected, pointing accusingly at the man. “You wound me!”
“He's just being realistic, Kyo,” Maki said sympathetically, aiming for a concerned and mournful look and Maki was definitely their best actor. The loveable ass.
“Betrayal!” Kyo gasped theatrically, staggering with only slightly exaggerated fatigue, aiming to make it look like emotional distress instead. “By my own teammate. Taku!” She turned to the Inuzuka, who snorted in advance. “You're with me, right? Don't join those idiots!”
“I'm on your side,” Kisaki said casually, sidling closer to Kyo and rubbing her head against her side.
Seriously, the dog was huge. Kyo loved it.
“Of course you are,” Kyo told her with a grin, raising her voice to talk over Taku's offended splutter. “Us females have to stick together, Kisaki.”
The ninken gave a solemn nod, though the glint of wicked amusement in her eyes was clear to all of them.
“Office faces on,” Katsurou-sensei ordered before they stepped into the Hokage tower, and all four of them instantly adopted serious, professional airs.
It was fun to make it into a game; see if anyone broke the mask.
Loser paid for dinner during their next outing.
They delivered their scrolls without issue and then left, all of them with their share of the paperwork.
“See you guys day after tomorrow!” Kyo said with a smile before she took off for home, feeling content and happy after a completed mission.
No one had been hurt, nothing had gone wrong and other than that brush with the Kumo team, things had gone without a hitch.
“I'm home!” Kyo called out softly when she stepped into the dark apartment.
Tou-san should be home, but he might be out with Genma, either at the park, his parents' or just the training grounds.
Well, Kyo could get started on dinner. Provided her dad had managed to grab groceries while she'd been gone.
But first; shower.
She'd just been gone two days, but wow did she smell!
Nothing like being back home to make you realise, she mused wryly, picking at her t-shirt and pulling it up to her face for a cautious sniff.
Yep, stale sweat, forest, a hint of wet dog and whatever else she'd managed to pick up. At least there wasn't any blood this time, she thought cheerfully, trudging into her room for a fresh change of clothes. Buck naked, because she'd forgotten to get some before hitting the bathroom.
Dressed and ready for food, Kyo grabbed her gathered weapons and stashed them on the top shelf of her wardrobe, where small, curious fingers couldn't reach them.
It wasn't until she was on her way to the kitchen that Kyo realised something might not be as it seemed.
She wasn't sure what made her notice, but she found her feet swerving from the short path to the kitchen to the door to kaa-san and tou-san's room, instead.
Feeling foolish, Kyo still pushed the door open it a bit more and stuck her head into the room to take a look around.
As always, the light was muted in her parents' room, their window facing east. They got the morning sun but not much else.
Tou-san's side of the bed was closest to the door, kaa-san's closest to the window.
Kou was sitting on the side of the bed furthest from the door, elbows on his knees and head cradled in his hands. His back towards the door, so she couldn't see his face.
“Tou-san?” Kyo asked, instantly feeling her good mood evaporate. “I didn't think you were home; where's Genma?”
“...with kaa-chan,” he answered quietly after a beat of pressing silence.
Kyo felt like she should walk into the room, approach him to check on him and make sure he was okay. She couldn't make her feet move, though.
“Do you want me to get him?” She asked after a beat, forcing her voice out of a suddenly dry throat. “I mean, I was planning to cook something, but I don't mind getting him after-”
“Kyo,” tou-san said, interrupting her nervous chatter.
Kyo bit her tongue to keep herself silent.
Kou still hadn't looked at her, or raised his head from his hands at all and it was making her uneasy.
Something was wrong.
“I was notified that Isshun's-” he cut himself off for a deep breath. “She's not-”
Kyo stared at her dad. Her face felt cold and her mind was blank.
Her eyes had fully adjusted to the gloom now, and Kyo noticed the unopened, official scroll lying on the bed next to where her dad was sitting.
Kyo turned on her heel and ran for the door.
Tou-san didn't so much as flinch when she slammed the door closed behind her.
Let's see, sensei was no doubt not home yet; having to take care of the post-mission stuff Kyo was glad she didn't have to deal with yet. Maki was out; she didn't want to spook his parents and she didn't want to deal with civilians right now anyway.
The Inuzuka compound it was.
Kyo ran as fast as she could across the village, ignoring the curious looks it attracted from the few other shinobi out and about. Her fatigue from an hour ago was gone, making it easy to run and jump as if she hadn't just returned from a run that had taken her halfway across Fire Country and back.
The guard at the gates to the Inuzuka compound didn't even try to stop her when she raced passed, far too used to her and Maki traipsing in and out of the place at all hours of the day by now. Pretty much all of them knew who she was, if only so far as that she was Taku's Genin teammate.
Kyo was distantly grateful.
She found him outside.
Kisaki spotted her first and she had no idea what the expression on her face looked like, but the alarmed noise she made had Taku on his feet in a second, spinning around and- getting an armful of Kyo instead of whatever threat he had imagined.
“Kyo?” He asked, bewildered, even as his arms came up around her back, pulling her protectively closer. “What's going on? Shouldn't you be resting?” He paused. “Where are your shoes?”
And yeah, that was no doubt why her feet sort of hurt.
She took a deep, unsteady breath, taking in Taku's earthy scent, not even mildly annoyed by the fact that he had clearly not showered yet and still smelled like old sweat.
She pressed her face more firmly into his chest, tightening her arms around his middle, refusing to let go.
“Kyo, seriously,” Taku tried again, and she could tell he was starting to get really worried. “What the hell happened? I saw you just an hour ago!”
Kyo opened her mouth, to explain, to tell him, but- the only thing that came out was a small, harsh breath.
“I'll go get Maki,” Kisaki declared next to them, and Kyo just knew she was looking between them with worried eyes, ears flicking indecisively.
“No, it's okay. I'm okay,” Kyo said before the ninken could take off. “I just- can I stay like this for a while?” She asked, voice small and strained.
“...yeah. Of course,” Taku muttered, squeezing her gently. “Let's sit down, 'cause your stamina still sorta sucks an ya need ta rest.”
Kyo couldn't help but huff out a small laugh, because trust Taku to be kind of insulting when trying to comfort someone.
She still followed when Taku shuffled off to the side of the small... training ground? And sat down in the shade of a solitary tree.
For once, they'd reached the village in the afternoon, rather than late evening. It might have had something to do with the fact that they'd left the border station hours before sunrise this morning, but... it was nice.
After just a few minutes, Taku sighed and let himself fall backwards so that he was lying on his back, Kyo propped up mostly on his stomach.
The sun and dappled shadows from the leaves of the tree felt nice on her back, and the sound of the gentle breeze was calming.
Kyo focused on taking deep, slow breaths.
Kisaki settled next to them, her head a heavy weight on the back of Kyo's legs.
She might have dozed off for a few minutes, but when she roused again, she felt marginally better.
“Sorry, Taku. Thank you,” she said as she slowly shifted herself into a sitting position, blinking at the boy, who peered back.
“No problem,” he said idly, looking quite comfortable where he lay. “Wanna tell me what's up now?”
Kyo mutely shook her head. “I'm fine,” she said again, hoping that if she repeated the lie often enough, it would eventually come true. “I need to go pick up Genma,” she muttered, rubbing a hand over her face.
It felt naked without her hitai-ate, but she'd forgotten to put it on and it wasn't like she had planned to leave the apartment today.
Her mind shied away from the reason behind her actions, and she bounced back to her feet with a forced smile.
“Thank you, Taku,” she told him again. “You're a good teammate and an awesome friend.”
“Uh-huh,” Taku grunted, watching her sceptically for a long second before he exchanged a quick look with Kisaki. “See you at training, then, I guess?”
“Yeah,” Kyo agreed, gave him a wave and then took off.
She didn't stop until she was outside her grandparents' house. Pausing, Kyo hesitated but then went through the hand-signs for a henge, using a small amount of chakra to make it look like she was actually wearing shoes.
She wasn't particularly fond of the idea of probing questions right now.
Kyo knocked on the door.
“Oh, Kyo-chan,” Haname-obaa-san greeted her with an affectionate smile. “Here to pick up Genma-chan? I take it Kou-kun is back from his mission?”
“Oh, yeah,” Kyo said easily, having no idea what sort of lie her dad had given. “It was just one of the inter-village ones.” She shrugged.
That was a likely excuse if tou-san needed a few hours to himself, right? Right.
“Well, Genma-chan's in the garden,” obaa-san said. “Would you like me to get him?”
“Yes, please.” Kyo smiled, hoping her grandmother wouldn't pick up on anything off about the expression.
She watched her grandmother retreat into the house, and a few seconds later, there was an excited squeal.
“Nee-san!” Gemna screamed, running as fast as his little legs could manage towards her, practically slamming into her knees.
“Oof,” Kyo huffed, but gladly wrapped her arms around Genma and picked him up. The little boy instantly wrapped both arms and legs around her in an octopus hug. “Nice to see you too,” she laughed faintly, hugging him tight.
“Missed you, nee-san,” Genma mumbled into her shoulder.
“I was gone for two days,” Kyo returned with a smile, patting his back gently.
“No,” Genma returned stubbornly.
“No?” Kyo echoed amusedly.
“No,” Genma confirmed, tightening his hold on her.
“Ready to go home?” She asked instead of pressing the issue.
Genma peered up at her, his large brown eyes all but shining with hopeful joy at the prospect. Kyo's heart hurt looking at him.
“Here's his bag, sweetie,” obaa-san said, wandering over with Gemna's little backpack in her hands. “Tell your tou-san that he should pop by for a proper visit, soon. Have a nice evening, Kyo-chan.”
“You too, obaa-san,” Kyo returned, took Genma's bag and then turned and walked calmly down the path back to the street.
Part of her wanted to run back home as quickly as she could. The rest of her, though, wanted to take her time, and not just because she wasn't entirely sure it was safe for her to go roof hopping with Genma when he was so little.
For the first time in her life, this life, she didn't particularly want to see her dad.
“So what did you do with obaa-san today?” She asked Genma, who finally lifted his head from her shoulder to beam at her.
“Played, and 'baa-san made snacks!” He gushed, emotions doing a u-turn from his rather gloomy mood from a second ago.
“Did you have fun?” She asked, setting Genma down when he began to squirm.
“Yup!” Her little brother chirped, grabbing her hand and walking next to her. “Can we go to the park?”
“Tomorrow,” Kyo promised. “We can spend all day,” she told him. She could make a picnic out of it, too.
“Yay!” Genma threw his arms in the air, which included the hand in hers'.
Kyo smiled and brought Genma home.
She got up early the next day, got dressed properly, deciding to go for full shinobi gear. Partly because it made her more comfortable, and partly because it made the civilians respect her, rather than just treat her like an eight year old little girl who needed her mo- parents. Who needed her parents.
After making sure Genma was still sleeping comfortably, Kyo moved out into the kitchen to start cooking.
She made two lunch boxes, one for her, one for Genma, and then wrapped them up and got started on breakfast.
That done, it was eight in the morning, and she washed her hands and walked back into her and Genma's room to wake her little brother.
“Morning, Genma,” Kyo whispered, putting her hand on the toddler's shoulder. “Time to get up if you still want to go to the park,” she fairly sing-songed when her little brother tried to burrow deeper into his pillow.
Genma stilled. “The park?” A small voice asked, sleepy brown eyes peering up at her.
“Yep.” Kyo smiled. “I've made bentos and everything.”
“Really?” Genma asked, managing to push himself somewhat upright, squinting at her. “I wanna go,” he mumbled, voice bordering on a whine.
“Okay, then let's start by getting up,” Kyo said, carefully lifting the boy from his bed. She carried him into the bathroom and all but parked his little butt on the toilet. “Wait here while I get your clothes, okay?”
“Okay,” Genma muttered, rubbing tiredly at his eyes with one small fist, face scrunched up in defence against the bright lights in the bathroom.
“You done?” She asked when she came back, a pile of folded clothes in her arms.
Kyo helped him wash up and get dressed for the day, and then carried him into the kitchen, settling him -with some difficulty- into the high-seat she herself had used once.
She couldn't wait for that growth spurt that was bound to set in any time now.
She was certainly eating enough for it, so Kyo was hopeful.
“Let's eat, Genma-chan, so we can go afterwards, okay?” She smiled pushing the simple but perfectly acceptable meal closer to the toddler.
She'd liked to cook in her past life, but she hadn't had all that much time to practise here. Never mind that there hadn't been all that much need for it.
It took some time, but two years after Genma had been born, Kyo had anticipated it.
It was after nine by the time Kyo was helping Genma with his sandals and then finally left for the park.
She hadn't checked their parents' bedroom.