Caught in the Whirlpool
Kushina never imagined that she would feel so relieved to be in Professor Utatane's lab. Dinner the previous evening had been an utter nightmare. The tension in the room had made her want to puke and she'd had little time to choke down her food while fending off countless questions. They wanted to know everything about Naruto, Naruto's father, and the man that she was going to marry.
She tried to just tell them about Naruto, since the man in her life seemed a much more inflammatory subject. It bothered her a little bit to learn that only one of her brothers was also a parent, and that Naruto only had one cousin. It didn't seem quite right that the oldest and the youngest of the family were the only ones that had become parents while the middle siblings just sort of
languished as eternal childless bachelors.
But less than halfway through the meal, one thing became abundantly clear to Kushina. Aunt Asuka hadn't so much read the letters as skimmed over them, picking up a few key points that she used to invent an even more scandalous story than had actually happened. Her aunt seemed convinced that Kushina had slept around instead of sticking with only one man, and she also believed that Naruto's father had abandoned her upon learning that she was pregnant when it was the other way around. When Kushina tried to correct these misconceptions, her aunt had responded with skepticism.
I hate her so much! Why the heck would I lie about what happened? If I was going to lie, I would've just told her that I got married before I got knocked up, and that I'm still married right now!
She shook her head angrily, tossed her damp braid over her shoulder, and settled back in her chair as she waited for Koharu to bring her a cup of tea.
After dinner, she'd spent the rest of the evening sitting outside and avoiding everyone while she tried to relax. She only came back inside when everyone was getting into bed, and she forced herself up early to get out of the house as soon as possible. Her father and Kenshin were natural early risers so she didn't beat them, but she was able to get a shower in and eat a quick breakfast just before her aunt had gotten up to make a big meal for everyone else.
"So how was your evening?" the old woman professor asked as she entered the little conference room with two steaming cups of sweet tea.
"Awful," Kushina moaned and gratefully accepted the warm drink. "I'm so mad that none of the good hotels or motels had any rooms for rent."
"I figured that it would be," Koharu sniffed. "I don't know all the reasons that your family has to be displeased with you, and I'd rather not know, but there is one that directly involves me. Do you realize that I would've probably lost my job if your father hadn't turned a blind eye to the signatures of his that you forged on your license application?"
Kushina cringed into her seat and gulped nervously. As a child she'd felt so clever that she'd gotten one over on her father and gotten her license after she'd overheard him talking with her aunt about shipping her off to some girl's school to break her of her tomboy ways. But not long after she'd moved into the house on Lake End it had slowly occurred to her that if her father hadn't allowed her get away with it he could've had her license voided and gotten the police to drag her kicking and screaming back to Uzu up until her eighteenth birthday.
"I'm sorry," the red-head mumbled sheepishly. "I was a stupid child."
"Well, it's all in the past now, I suppose," Professor Utatane sighed and sipped at her tea. "And the work you'll be doing for me should make us even."
"Thank you," Kushina swallowed. She swirled her tea in her cup and thought for a minute. "
Do you know why all the good rooms are reserved? The nicer hotels and motels are never more than half-full at best."
"I've heard some rumors that a bunch of foreigners will be in town in a few days for some sort of special event." The woman professor shook her head slightly. "I haven't caught any details. I'm more interested in rumors about unusual pokémon."
"Right." Kushina drained most of her tea in one gulp. "So is there any place in particular that you want me to search first?"
"I have a few places in mind," Koharu nodded.
The older woman stood with her cup of tea and beckoned for Kushina to follow. The professor brought her a few doors down the hall to another room that contained several large maps of Uzu no Kuni tacked to the walls. Koharu showed her one map in particular which featured Central Uzu Island and indicated a selection of colored pins stuck into various locations.
"This is the beach where I found the broken crate, eggshells, and the mystery egg," she said as she tapped a black pin. "And these," she brushed her fingertips over a swath of yellow pins that dotted a section of ocean between Central Uzu and East Uzu, "are the approximate locations where fishermen and sailors have claimed to see pokémon that they can't identify. So these two areas should be checked first, and after that you should spiral out from them until you've checked the whole coastline of Central Uzu."
"Looks like I'll need some camping gear," Kushina mused as she started planning out possible routes based on the highlighted areas.
"You don't have to search continuously; you can break your time out in the field up however you choose
so long as you are thorough," Koharu instructed. "Depending on what you decide to do, you can still be in town when whatever this special event is happens and you can avoid camping out until you get to the far side of the island."
"Okay," the red-head nodded and tossed back the last of her tea. "So if I find any unusual pokémon, I should catch them?"
"Yes," the professor nodded. "I'll provide you with some ball capsules to use and I'll add a little programming to your pokédex so that it will alert you when a non-local species turns up, just in case you've forgotten what's common around here."
Kushina raised an eyebrow. "I can't use my own pokéballs?"
"The pokémon that you'll be catching for me will be specimens for study," Koharu said. "If you get me more specimens than I need, or if I finish studying them while you're still here, I might allow you to take one or two of them with you."
"Got it," Kushina nodded sharply.
"Good," Koharu smiled faintly. "Now let's get you properly equipped
Naruto scrubbed sleep from his eyes and poured a little milk carton into his bowl of cereal as he sat in the little cafeteria in the Pokémon Center outside of the Safari Zone. He didn't feel quite awake yet and would've preferred to still be in bed. But Ken-Ichi had woken him up and sent him to get breakfast.
"If you want to come to Whirlpool Country with me, get up now so that we can leave."
The blond boy yawned and spooned cereal into his mouth on autopilot. His chin was still a bit sore and the scab pulled at his lip but he figured that it would be mostly healed by the time he caught up with his mother. He didn't want her to get distracted from answering his questions by fussing over his minor injury.
He was about halfway through his bowl when someone joined him at his little table. Hinata nervously slipped into the seat across from him with a large blueberry muffin and a juice box. She plucked at the wax paper wrapper of the muffin, but didn't say anything to him.
"Good morning, Hinata," Naruto greeted sleepily. "What's up?"
"G-good m-morning," Hinata stammered. "I-I just
I w-wanted to ask
I know it's n-none of my b-business, but
"What do you want to know?" he asked wearily.
I-was-just-wondering-why-you-were-so-upset-back-in-Konoha-Town," she gasped out in a rush, running her words together into something barely comprehensible.
It took a few moments for Naruto's fuzzy brain to break down what exactly she'd said. Hinata took his silence as a sign of offense and immediately started babbling apologies, saying that he didn't have to answer and repeating that it was none of her business. Naruto was a little amazed since this was the most she'd ever said to him at one time, but eventually she stopped herself with an embarrassed flush.
" Naruto traced his index finger along the swirls in the wood grain of the table. "
Didn't Sakura tell you?"
The Hyuuga girl shook her head mutely.
" Crap. "Well
Shadow died," he muttered and stirred at the soggy dregs of his cereal.
Hinata paled and brought her hands to her mouth in shock. Naruto shoved his bowl away as what was left of his appetite abandoned him. They sat trapped in an uncomfortable silence until Naruto tried to move on to a new subject.
"Thanks for the card," he mumbled. "I meant to say that earlier, but you'd already left town, so
"You're welcome," Hinata responded automatically. She chewed on her lower lip before hazarding another question. "Who
who w-was that that answered the door at your house?"
"My dad," Naruto answered, running his fingertips over the whisker-like scars on his right cheek.
your father?" Hinata gazed at him with wide eyes.
"Yeah," he nodded.
It seemed to take a moment for her to process this information. "
So, your mother is marrying your father?"
"Yep," Naruto said after a moment's hesitation. Hinata's not Ino; she won't pester me with a million questions and then run around and tell everybody about it.
Hinata took a bite of her muffin and fiddled with the straw of her juice box while she chewed. "Are
are you happy that y-your mother is m-marrying your father?"
"It's fine," Naruto said with a shrug. "Mom's real happy about it."
" Hinata trailed off, looking concerned.
"Are you done talking with your girlfriend?"
Hinata made a choking squeaking sound and turned an impressive shade of red.
Naruto blinked and turned around to find Ken-Ichi watching him. "Huh?" Girlfriend? What girlfriend?
"Well?" Ken-Ichi asked, raising an eyebrow.
"My girlfriend?" Naruto repeated stupidly. "Hinata?"
The Hyuuga girl squeaked again and sank lower in her chair.
Ken-Ichi nodded. "Yeah, you done talking to her, or can we get going?"
"Yeah, I guess I'm done," Naruto replied slowly. "But Hinata's not my"
"Let's get going then!" his cousin said, slapping him on the shoulder. "We've got a long way to go."
"Um, bye," he waved to Hinata and stumbled away from the table, almost tripping over his bag in his haste to sling it over his shoulder and throw away the remains of his breakfast.
"Bye," Hinata replied softly.
"What's the rush?" Naruto complained as Ken-Ichi strode towards the main doors of the Pokémon Center.
"Katsuro and Hayato left yesterday, and if they get home way before I do my mom will freak out," Ken-Ichi sighed.
"How old are you?" Naruto frowned.
"Seventeen," Ken-Ichi said almost bitterly. "But my mom seems convinced that I'm still seven. She practically threw a fit when told her my plans to visit this place and she insisted that I travel with a group. That's the only reason that I was here with those two at all. Those two jerks were the only ones that I could persuade to come with me."
Naruto wrinkled his nose. "Oh."
They left the Pokémon Center and followed the main dirt road out of the clump of small businesses and into the grasslands beyond. But just as they reached the start of the tall grass, Naruto noticed that they were being followed. Sasuke and Sakura hurried along behind them, all packed and ready to go.
"What are you guys doing?" Naruto wondered.
"Going with you," Sasuke replied sourly. "What does it look like?"
Naruto furrowed his brow in confusion. "But
"I've never heard of Uzu no Kuni before so I figured that I'd check it out," Sasuke grumbled.
"Really?" Naruto frowned. I don't think that I believe you.
Sakura hesitated before leaning close to the blond boy and whispered in his ear. "I think Obito black-mailed him."
"Ah," Naruto nodded. Now that makes more sense.
"You're coming, too?" Ken-Ichi asked. When they nodded, he grimaced slightly. "Alright then, follow me
Kushina strolled back to her father's house to get a few things from her bag before striking out on her first search. Because she'd mostly be traveling by water on pokémon-back she would need a dry change of clothes, towels, and her bathing suit inside a waterproof bag in case she fell in or needed to swim on her own. And while she was there she could ask her brothers if they'd seen any pokémon that they were unfamiliar with around.
I should probably visit the shrine with some food before I put out to sea, she thought as she followed the familiar path to the front door. Hopefully Kyuumaru won't mistake me for some vandal or thief. It's been so long since he's seen me
Just as Kushina reached the front door it swung open to reveal a woman that she was unfamiliar with. She wore a more modern style of dress instead of a kimono or a yukata and there was no belt, bag, or any place designed to hold pokéballs, indicating that she was no trainer. The strange woman had ink-black hair pulled back in a severe braid, blue-gray eyes, and a face that was probably very pretty when she smiled. Right now her face was tight with anger and her eyes flashed dangerously when she saw Kushina standing in her way.
"And who the hell are you?" the strange woman demanded.
"You took the words right out of my mouth," Kushina frowned.
The stranger narrowed her eyes and almost snarled. "Are you Kenshin's new girlfriend?"
"What?" Kushina choked. "Ew, no! He's my brother!"
The unknown woman didn't seem to know how to react to that answer or if she should believe, so she just slipped past Kushina and stormed down the path back to Uzu Town. Kushina watched her go, utterly confused, before stepping inside and closing the door behind her. Kenshin was sitting on the living room couch (which had been folded back up after she'd slept on it) and she almost asked him about the visitor, but the look of restrained fury on his face stopped her short.
Kenshin was the calmest and most level-headed of her brothers. It took a lot to get him angry. If she asked him what was wrong, he'd probably lose his hold on his rage, so she bypassed him and found the Tora-Tora twins in the kitchen drinking coffee.
"Who was that that just left?" Kushina asked them.
"Suzume," they answered simultaneously in hushed voices.
"The bitch," one added.
"Kenshin's ex-wife," the other said.
"Oh," Kushina nodded in sudden understanding. It all makes sense now
"How'd she get to be his wife in the first place?"
"It was an accident," the first one said. "They were dating"
"And he forgot to use
well, you know
and knocked her up," the other continued.
"Suzume and her mother and Aunt Asuka all got on Kenshin's back about marrying her so the baby wasn't born a bastard," the first continued.
"So he went along with it," the other one sighed. "But he shouldn't have
The identical twins shook their heads in perfect sorrowful unison and started passing the narrative back and forth without missing a beat.
"She had all these crazy ideas about how much money he made"
"She thought that she should come first before any of the rest of us"
"She fought with him all of the time and pulled all kinds of manipulative tricks on him"
"And after about five years he couldn't take it anymore and he divorced her"
"Even though Aunt Asuka was totally against it and kept trying to get them back together"
"And it really messed Ken-Ichi up for a while, poor kid"
"It was all just a huge mess!" they finished together with another sad headshake.
"I hate it when you play verbal ping-pong," Kushina grumbled. "So if they got divorced a while ago, why was she just here?"
"They have a kid together," one shrugged.
"And because she hasn't remarried, Kenshin has to pay her alimony," the other grimaced.
"Ugh." Kushina made a face. "Hopefully I won't see too much of her." She half-sat on the kitchen table and gave the pair of them a firm look. "Now, I've got a little job for you two."
They tilted their heads in curiosity. "Oh?"
"Professor Utatane's heard stories about unusual pokémon in the area and she wants to know more," Kushina told them. "I'm going to go out looking to see what I can find, and I want you to listen to see if you can hear any fresh rumors on the subject. Okay?"
"But the old lady is always chasing rumors of weird pokémon!" one complained.
"And most of them are wild goose chases!" the other whined.
"Is it really so hard to pass her the one kind of gossip that she cares about?" Kushina sniffed. "My job is much harder, I actually have to go out and do things! You can just go down to town and listen, maybe ask a few questions."
"We'll be busy!" one argued.
"We need to help Dad set up bleachers and stuff," the other agreed.
Kushina frowned. "Bleachers? What bleachers?"
"In the gym," one said. "There will be an exhibition match there soon."
"Dad sold out," the other muttered. "Some foreign trainer is coming to fight him and TV cameras will record it."
"We need the money," the first one explained. "Otherwise Dad would never have done it."
"Who is Daddy going to fight?" Kushina asked. "What country is he from?"
"No idea," they shrugged.
"Does it really matter?" one snorted.
"Dad's getting paid big bucks to do it so we can afford some repairs to the gym," the other said. "Who cares who he's going to fight?"
"Well, I'm curious," Kushina pouted slightly. Hopefully it won't be Minato. That would be awful!
"Ask Kenshin," one of them suggested. "He probably knows."
Kushina edged out of the kitchen and peeked back into the living room. Seeing that Kenshin's demeanor hadn't changed one bit she decided not to bother him. She could always ask her oldest brother later when it didn't look like he wanted to kill someone.
She quietly put together her small travel bag and then filched some leftovers from the fridge. With what she needed in hand she crept out of the house, wary of disturbing her steaming brother or running into her dreaded Aunt Asuka. But once she was safely outside she headed inland instead of out to the coast.
Time to feed Kyuumaru!
Shun Kurohi did some stretches and shook out his limbs before hopping off his uncle's porch and ambling away to the edge of town. He'd been born on South Uzu but had moved to Uzu Town on Central Uzu a few years back to work for his uncle. No longer a roving trainer he ran errands and sometimes tended the bar in his uncle's pub.
So far as he could tell, all of the odd jobs he'd done for his uncle had been legitimate. He was quite sure that his uncle also had his hands in some illegal businesses. Shun wasn't all the comfortable with his family's extra-legal activities, but as long as they didn't force him into joining them he wasn't about to complain.
When he reached the rocky hills outside of town he pulled an ultra-ball from his pocket and released a shark-like gabite to walk alongside him. He wasn't really an active trainer any more, but he still liked to keep his skills sharp and his monsters in shape. And if he kept at it, hopefully his little Sharky would evolve into a garchomp while he was still young enough to appreciate it.
"Dad always complained that I was a fool for traveling all the way to the Land of Earth to catch you," he said to the ground dragon as he stroked her un-notched dorsal fin. "It's too bad that he doesn't see the potential in you that I do."
His clan regarded salamence as the ultimate dragon. It was as powerful as a dragonite and much fiercer. Garchomp was said to be the equals of salamence in terms of aggressiveness, but his family turned up their collective noses at it. It didn't look much like a dragon, it couldn't truly fly, and while it was immune to electricity, they thought that the dragon's ground element made it weak to water and grasstypes that dragons like a salamence laughed at. His relatives either forgot or willfully ignored that garchomp's dragon nature reduced most of the weaknesses that came with its secondary ground-type.
"Someday my baby cousins will be begging me for your eggs," Shun declared. "But until then, let's build up your strength some more
He oriented himself towards his favorite training area
and paused when he caught sight of a figure hiking towards one of the tallest hills in the area.
"Huh, that looks like the pretty woman from the ferry," he said to himself.
She claimed to be engaged, but it was hard for him to believe that any man would let her travel to a foreign country all alone. The woman possessed an almost subtle beauty that was bound to eventually attract the wrong sort of attention from the sort of men that wouldn't care if she was engaged or married. Without her man to look after her, she could get into some serious trouble
With red hair like that, I'd almost say that she's an Uzumaki, he thought. But that's ridiculous. All Uzumakis live on one of the five islands of Whirlpool Country and I know that I saw her arrive on South Uzu Island on a mainland ferry.
"It almost looks like she's headed to the Sealed Shrine," he remarked to his dragon-shark. "I hope that she doesn't stumble over that place. It's not really a tourist spot
and that beast might mistake her for a trespasser."