I: Era of Peace


Kakashi sat in front of the campfire reading reading a book in the early morning light. The fire was dying, its last few embers fading away. Arrayed around the campfire were three tents, one for each of the people that were on this trip. Behind Kakashi was his own tent while to his right was that of his oldest friend and rival, Might Guy. The one on his left belonged to his bodyguard Mirai Sarutobi. They were north of the Hidden Leaf Village, in the forest that surrounded the area.

Kakashi's attention was distracted from his book when he heard a sound coming from Mirai's tent. A rustling of a tent flap opening signaled the kunoichi's emergence from within, fully dressed and ready. She likely had been up for about 15 minutes.

Mirai stretched as she stepped out into the cool morning air. "Why do you always insist on taking it so slowly when we go on these trips, Lord Hokage? We could have been at the Final Valley in less than a day if we really moved."

"We could, in fact," Kakashi replied. "But I've spent enough of my life going as fast as I can. It's time to let a new generation take the reigns. Right now I'm perfectly content to just relax and take things slowly."

"But, Lord Hokageā€¦"

Kakashi raised a hand to stop Mirai. "I've told you before, you don't need to call me that. I retired from that position, Naruto is the Hokage now."

Mirai crossed her arms. "And I've told you before, the Hokage are Hokage for life. You and Lady Tsunade must be shown the respect that your title is due."

Kakashi sighed and chose not to continue this conversation, one that had taken place on many occasions. Mirai, for her part, sat down next to the fire and began to throw more wood on it, beginning the process of making breakfast.

"Why are we going to the Final Valley anyway?" Mirai asked.

Kakashi looked up from his book. "I've told you this before. That place has personal significance to me. Its where Sasuke and Naruto's bond broke and where it was reforged, where my team fall apart and then was put back together."

"Yes, but why do we keep going back there?" Mirai pressed. "There are so many places to go and see, but we keep going back to the same spots."

Before Kakashi had a chance to address Mirai's question, Guy came out of his tent walking on his hands with his legs held out in front of him. Since losing the use of his right leg Guy had mellowed out considerably. Before the Fourth Great Ninja War he would have been the first one up, doing some ridiculous training regimen and attempting to corral Kakashi into another of their matches. The change of pace was, admittedly, nice. But the price, the loss of one of the world's finest shinobi and perhaps the greatest taijutsu user in history, was high.

"Morning, Guy," Kakashi said without looking up from his book.

"Morning, Kakashi," Guy said as he settled himself down next to the fire.

Mirai stood up from her work. "I'm just going to let that sit for now. I think I'll take a little walk."

After she had left the campsite Guy turned to Kakashi. "I know I say this often, but it is amazing how much she looks like her mother."

"Yes, and I think she realizes that too," Kakashi replied. "She tries so hard to be like Asuna was. She styles her hair to be like his, uses his trench knives and jutsu. She even joined the Hokage Guard Squad to mirror Asuma joining the Guardian Shinobi Twelve. She is talented though, if precocious."

Guy nodded. "That she is. Though I rather agree with her that you shouldn't be so dismissive of the Hokage title."

Kakashi stopped reading, though he didn't close the book. "I am the least of the Hokage. My achievements pale in comparison to those of my peers, I was never able to surpass my teacher and my students surpassed me. I think ultimately I was a placeholder between the previous generation and the next."

Guy flashed one of those iconic smiles of his. "Kakashi, my eternal rival, you are a great ninja. You are the only non-Uchiha to ever master the Mangekyo Sharingan. You were the youngest Genin, Chunnin, and Jonin in the history of the Hidden Leaf. You were a unanimous choice for the Sixth Hokage. Most importantly, I choose you to be my rival. Seriously, get back to being the cool customer that always irked me so much!"

Kakashi smiled at that, his trademark mask hiding that smile but also doing nothing to hide the fact that he was smiling. "Thanks, Guy," he said as he resumed reading.

After several minutes during which Guy and Kakashi retrieved the cooked food from the fire and began to eat, Mirai returned, carrying a small scroll in her hand. "Lord Hokage, a message came with a missive from the village."

Kakashi looked up from his meal, his mask yet to be removed. "Oh? What does it say?"

Mirai drew herself to attention. "Sir, the Village Hidden in the Stones has sent out a message. Onoki, the Third Tsuchikage, is dead. He died of natural causes in his sleep. The Lord Seventh has requested that we return to the village."

"I see," Kakashi said, getting up onto his feet. "In that case we should get going. We'll eat on the road."

Mirai nodded and wordlessly moved to help Guy pack and prepare his wheelchair. Kakashi himself very quickly had his own items stowed away, dowsed the fire, and began eating as Mirai and Guy finished getting ready.

He found himself reflecting on the news that he had just received. Onoki was dead. There was something surprising about that fact. The death itself was expected. Onoki had been very old, so old in fact that he had fought Madara Uchiha before his defection from the Hidden Leaf. Bedridden and over 90 years of age, it was only a matter of time before he passed away. But there was something deeper about this that puzzled him at some level. Kage, for all their power, was a profession with a near 100% mortality rate. They would always be assassinated or killed in the defense of their village. However, they now lived in an era of unprecedented peace, no conflicts to die in, no enemies to send assassins. So perhaps this would be the first in a long line of Kage who die peacefully in their sleep in this era of peace.