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Face Like Thunder

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He heard footsteps coming up the cliffside where he sat, looking out at the rolling waves surrounding Uzushio. He glanced back to see his mother, with her long red hair and deep green eyes, looking at him curiously. Tsubaki Uzumaki wore no hair ornaments like the other women of prestigious clans, not even her shinobi headband holding them back as she let it hang around her neck. It shifted in the wind like a hurricane; he wanted his hair to be that long someday, perhaps. Shima kept his long as well, though he used bells and ribbons to hold it back.

She took a seat beside him, nudging him in the side with her elbow, "Something cought your interest on the horizon, Hiko?"

"No. Just watching." He shrugged slightly, looking at the water sway and shift below him, "The seagulls were fighting over a sandwich earlier."

"How fascinating." She rolled her eyes, "Tenma is asking for you at the tower. I told him I'd come to find you."

"Oji-san?" He finally turned to look at her, eyebrows furrowing, "What's he want?"

She shrugged, "Who knows. Better go find out, though."

He sighed, nodding, and began to stand up. A gentle hand on his arm stopped him.

"Amahiko Uzumaki, I'm you're mother and I know when something is wrong." She smiled mirthfully, "Sit and tell me."

"It's nothing." He insisted, "I was just...thinking."

"About?" She prompted, raising an eyebrow.

"I'm the youngest of eight." 

"Trust me, I'm well aware." She huffed, "What does that have to do with anything?"

"What am I going to do? When I get older?" He asked, frowning, "Am I just a...backup? Not even Plan B but Plan H!"

She looked at him, startled slightly, before laughing, "And where'd you get that foolish idea? Did you come up with it yourself?"

"Everyone always talks about the line of succession and...I'm essentially useless."

"Was my brother useless? Or my sisters?" She questioned, "Tenma is the Uzukage. Kaiyo has revolutionized medical practices, saving countless lives. Hikaru...well...let's just say she's the best at what she does."

Torture and interrogation, that is, Amahiko thought with a shiver. Hikaru was a very kind woman off the clock, but she was legendary in her department.

"I guess. I'm just a chūnin, though." He sighed, "It feels like it's taking forever!"

"You're eight years old." She snorted, "Hells, you're just like your father. You realize you nearly beat Nanami and her promotion age of seven, right? Besides, we're all chūnin at some point. Even Tenma, and he's the Uzukage now."

"Hard to believe he was a chūnin, I guess." Amahiko shrugged, "Or you."

"Yeah, well, you want to know something about my dearest brother? His first mission after his promotion, an enemy nin startled him so badly in an ambush that, while he was trying to protect their very rich client, he shoved her into a pond."

He shot her a skeptical look, "You're joking."

She crossed her heart, "By the Sage. He jumped in after her and came out with a koi in his pants."

He burst into laughter, giggling even more as she tickled his neck, "Kaa-san, I'm a chūnin! I'm not a kid anymore, you can't do that!"

"Ah, but you're still laughing." She said in a faux wise voice, "So I think I can. Now, hightail it to my brother before he comes looking for you himself."

"Okay." He nodded, still smiling, "I'll see you later!"

He made to run off before halting and turning back. He grinned broadly, "Maybe I'll become the Uzukage!"

"Where'd you get all that ambition?" She rolled her eyes, "You know what, do it. Tenma's getting tired of the paperwork and I'm scared he'll ask me to take the hat."

"Of course, kaa-san." Amahiko shook his head, "Only for you."

"Uh-huh." She stood, brushing the dirt off her purple kimono, "Bring home some eggs on your way back, by the way. We're nearly out."

"Got it!" He said as he took off, running for the gates of the Uzumaki estate. 

As he enters the village, he sees the golden rooftops shining in the morning sun, casting a brilliant orange glow around the village. He tastes the salt in the air and can feel the sun-bleached stone of the buildings he weaves between. His feet pound on the intricate tile and stone floors as the wind blows red strands of hair this way and that. The streets are alive with vendors selling their wares, civilians going to work for the day, shinobi waking up to start their usual routine of missions. Many waved as he passed, recognizing the son of Tsubaki Uzumaki. He could see many of his fellow clansmen around, which was unsurprising. He couldn't go anywhere without seeing at least one distant relative. They were the largest clan in Uzushio after all, not to mention the founding clan, and only the Mizushima came close to beating them in sheer numbers. 

The early Uzumaki had risen the cliffs from which their village was built from the seafloor, creating a strong foundation for one of the strongest villages in the Elemental Nations. Located just off the coast of the Land of Whirlpools, their homeland was known for seals and longevity and a carefree lifestyle that had civilians and shinobi alike flocking to their beaches. The Uzumaki had always remained the strongest clan on the island, though. Their sheer numbers and long lifespans meant they just stuck around longer; there was the main branch, which Amahiko himself was the youngest child of so far, and then multiple branch families. He didn't pity Nanami, the heiress of the Uzumaki Clan, with her having to memorize the delegates that represented each one.  

He entered Uzukage Tower with a spring in his step, bypassing the secretary who greeted him with a wave and a smile. He rushed up the spiral staircases and reached the top floor, bursting into his uncle's office with a large smile on his face. Tenma, a man of thirty-nine, sat behind his desk with the traditional white and orange garb on, nearly hidden behind the mountain of paperwork he was slowly drilling through. The office was large and spacious, windows lining the walls so it was just a three hundred and sixty-degree view of Uzushio beside the doors to enter and exit the office. Bookcases obscured some of the view, scrolls and tomes packing them with Tenma's own research. 

"Hiko-hime, why such a grand entrance?" He raised an eyebrow, having observed his nephew's boisterous behavior.

"I decided I'm going to be the Uzukage after you." Amahiko smiled, "I'll be the Yondaime!"

"Gee, thanks for letting me know, that solves so many problems." His uncle chuckled, "Well, it's hard work, but if you think you're up to the challenge..."

"Of course I am!" The boy seemed insulted, "I have to work harder than ever. I'm the eighth child, I'll be totally forgotten otherwise!"

"Well, then, I guess it's good timing." Tenma laughed, "Kid, all your brothers' and sisters' had a sensei or two. I know you had your jōnin sensei, Tatsu Yoshida, correct?"

At his nephew's nod he continued, "Well, I think you're ready for more than that. She's an excellent shinobi, don't get me wrong, but you and your team advanced before she could teach you anything besides the basics. Now she's out gathering intelligence, and you have no one to teach you. So, today's your lucky day because you're getting a new sensei."

Amahiko perked up instantly, "Who?"

"Me." Tenma smiled, "Your mom wants you trained with someone who's a high caliber ninja, and she was going to ask Hikaru, but I swooped in and saved you. You can thank me later, but I couldn't subject my own nephew to that. I love my little sister but...well."

The chūnin shivered, "Thanks, oji-san."

"So, lemme tell you something upfront. I've been watching you, and I think you have some potential. I'm helping you because you're my nephew, it's true, and you're good for a chūnin. The question is can you be better than just good. If you are worthy of the title Uzukage by the time I'm ready to step down...I'll turn the damn hat over to you."

"Yeah!" Amahiko smiled widely, "Let's start training now! I wanna work some on my chakra chains!"

"Eh, later today." Tenma frowned, "I got mountains of paperwork to do at the moment, and if your aunt drops by and she finds out I haven't done any of it, she'll take the hat and become the Sandaime herself before you even have a shot."

He laughed, "Okay, Tenma-sensei! I'm gonna go get some grocery shopping done for kaa-san, find me when you're done!"

Joy coursed through his veins. His uncle was going to teach him, and he'd become what he'd always wanted. He'd become more than average, he'd be more than just the eighth child. He'd be the Uzukage. Feeling the wind on his cheeks and the energy coursing through his veins, everything was okay at that moment. Everything was at peace.

And then Naruto woke up.