Namikaze Naruto and Uzumaki Konran meet for the second time in the spring before their twelfth birthday.
It is not an entirely auspicious event.
In the first memory I have of Uzumaki Konran, it is not, as the reader might presume, her hair that I recall best, though such a notion is not unfounded.
Like her mother before her, Konran had worn her hair long and loose then, a red curtain more vibrant than any other hue found in nature. And it is true that to this day her crimson locks are often considered her signature–only to those fortunate enough not to face her in battle, of course, for they would know her better by her chakra chains, fuinjutsu, and stark determination instead.
But her hair, while eye-catching, is not what first comes to mind, for her cousin had accompanied her then, Uzumaki Karin’s own tresses hewing to the familial standard.
No, what I remember most clearly of Konran’s first day in Konoha are the bloom of cherry blossoms all around and the unassailable look of anxiety on her face.
A little over a decade ago, the status quo of international politics changed when the Land of Rain ended their self-imposed isolation; at their head, daimyo and commander in chief both, was an Uzumaki.
This is not his story.
Shizune knows its not her place to decide, but surely in the privacy of her own mind she’s allowed to cultivate her mutinous opinions. Shishou and Kushina are using her and her team as courier, so she deserves this much at least.
But her indignation evaporates quickly enough when she glances over at her team’s young charge. The only thought left afterward is: Poor Ran-chan.
She doesn’t know what they told her, but Konran seems determined to embody some untouchable ideal of an Uzumaki heiress. Normally, when she’s anxious, Ran-chan will edge closer to Juugo as if to borrow some of his calm. Now head raised, shoulders straight, Konran walks firmly in the middle of the diamond formation Shizune’s team has made–protected like a noble princess, and all the more apprehensive for it.
Karin flutters around her cousin, sensing her mood but not knowing how to fix it. She picks at fallen petals instead, as if to maintain Konran’s immaculate appearance, but that seems to be making it worse.
Perhaps out of a heretofore unseen emotional sensitivity, Suigetsu snaps at her, freeing Konran from her attention. Then again, Suigetsu hardly needs an excuse to annoy Karin.
Shizune knows her team well, almost as well as she does Konran, the young girl very near to a sister, so she knows this:
Shizune won’t be the only one who misses Ran-chan during her time in Konoha.
The Uzumaki clan, though highly diminished, are no less storied or prestigious for it. Hosting the Uzumaki heiress would be an honor for any Konoha clan, one highly suffused with political implications.
For that reason, it was decided that she would be hosted at the Hokage’s residence, to maintain neutrality without causing insult.
What other reason could there be?
You are not surprised when the Hokage meets with you and Shizune-nee in person, not really. You are important because the people you are related to are important, and Shizune-nee is Tsunade-oba’s only disciple–the Hokage would be foolish to delegate such a duty to someone else.
You are surprised that he stays with you after Shizune-nee and her team leaves Konoha, that he guides you to the Hokage’s residence and ushers you around the house, describing all the rooms. You’re quite sure this is actually him and not a clone of some sort–his chakra signature deeper than clones tend to be, and that of his bodyguards’ brushing against your senses–and so you’ve begun to grow confused.
Surely the Hokage has better things to do with his time than play tour guide to an unwanted guest?
He pauses in his commentary, expression shuttering to blankness.
Impressive. Less than one day in Konoha and you’ve already insulted their leader.
But his smile returns, if smaller and somewhat pained, a slight wrinkle in his brow.
“You are not unwanted,” he says simply, before resuming his narration after a pause. She keeps her response to herself, taking in as much of the information as she can stand.
After all, this will be her home, too. For the next year, at least.
Minato’s daughter looks at him with familiar eyes that see only a stranger. She doesn’t know better, was never told otherwise, and so she doesn’t know how swiftly and thoroughly it breaks his heart.
That pales entirely in comparison to when he witnesses his children speak to each other, voices filled with polite disinterest.
A/N: I had this weird persistent dream remixing Counterpoise into a “more peaceful but not necessarily kinder world” AU in which both Kushina and Minato live but, for reasons that may or may not eventually be written, they each take a child and don’t see each other for over a decade. Then, in order for Konran to “complete her training” she’s sent to Konoha for a year (what is Naruto/Konoha Twelve’s last year at the Academy.
And it started with weirdly flowery prose–I don’t know who exactly the first person POV is, except for a strange Lemony Snicket-esque narrator–but then it kind of bounced around to different POVs so it didn’t feel right to maintain that.
I might write a little more–I have some thoughts about Zakuro and Ringo in this ‘verse, as well as how Naruto and Konran’s relationship develop, and a lot of miscellaneous details of what Kushina and Minato’s survival would change in the world–but not consistently since the idea is kind of embarrassing and I’m mostly writing this one so it stops plaguing my brain
But hope someone out there enjoys it, at least.