Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Naruto Shippuden. All characters in this story, excluding those that are created by me, are the intellectual property of Masashi Kishimoto. Please show support by reading or watching the original source material.
~Naruto, the Second Coming: Chapter Twelve~
"Izumi Gaiden: Anbu Adventures Part One"
After meeting her squad for the first time, Izumi was wondering how she would fit in with them. Even before the initial meeting she was skeptical of whether or not she'd be able to relate to them due to the inevitable gap in age. Despite this, she honestly felt that such issues would be quelled due to the fact that the Konoha Anbu Black Ops was a bastion of discipline and professionalism, and she assumed that her squad would reflect all of these characteristics.
She was wrong. In fact, her squad was just about the opposite of what she had expected it to be.
Now, as she was traveling along with her new comrades to a team meeting, she couldn't help recall how things had begun.
(A Few Minutes Prior)
The first thing Izumi noticed upon entering the locker room was that everyone in her squad was already wearing their masks, leaving her as the only one with her face and identify unconcealed. It didn't really bother her, frankly, since she pretty much assumed that they would all know who she was anyway. Not that she was arrogant, but there weren't many eleven-year-old prodigies in the Uchiha clan.
"I've been assigned to the Anbu as of today," Izumi stated after hearing the door close behind her back. "My name is Izumi Uchiha. I'd appreciate your guidance."
For the most part, her entrance didn't receive much attention from her new comrades. She counted four in total, outside of herself, and for the most part, they all appeared to be males (based on what she could see). While much of their appearances were concealed due to their masks, it was quite evident that they were all somewhere in the age range of late-twenties to mid-thirties.
She absentmindedly observed one of her new comrades, who appeared as though he was approaching seven feet (2.1336 meters) tall, when she was approached by another, far more average-looking man. Oddly enough, he removed his mask, so Izumi was able to take in his short brown hair, black, almond-shaped eyes and his unique happuri-style forehead protector that framed his face.
"Ah, so you must be the new one. I'm Tenzō," he greeted friendlily enough with a slight smile. "You can use the locker furthest to the back. We have you positioned so you won't have to worry about any wandering eyes while changing."
Izumi noticed a definite narrowing of the Tenzō's eyes as he glanced over at a particular Anbu operative, who she assumed was more than likely the person with the 'wandering eyes' to which he had referred. The apparent pervert seemed about average in terms of stature, which only made him appear rather comical standing in the same vicinity as the hulking giant she had noticed earlier. Though in reality, she was hardly one to talk, considering the fact that she was now by far and away the shortest member of the squad, and perhaps in the entirety of the Anbu Black Ops.
"You know, one of our members was pretty excited to learn that you'd be joining our squad," Tenzō continued as he directed her to where her locker would be. "She's the only other woman in the squad, so you two have lockers next to each other."
After turning the corner of the divided section of the locker, Izumi was greeted with the sight of a female Anbu, just as Tenzō had promised. She actually appeared to be quite young, with a lithe five and a half foot (1.6764 meters) build and waist-length straight purple hair. Her features were hidden behind her mask, so as she turned to face them, Izumi wasn't quite sure what her reaction was.
Tenzō patted her lightly on the shoulder before turning to head to his own locker, "Alright then, I'll leave you ladies to it then. The Captain will be here in about five minutes to gather us all for a meeting, so try to be ready by then."
As he left, Izumi was left awkwardly alone with the purple-haired woman, who seemed intent on staring at her without saying a single word. Then, she stood to her feet and removed her mask, revealing a beautiful face with warm, brown eyes. She then smiled and extended a hand, and Izumi was quick to place the tray of Anbu attire she had been given on the bench so she could reciprocate the gesture.
"Hi, I'm Cat," the girl greeted, revealing her codename. "But you can call me Yūgao when we aren't on missions."
Izumi nodded in understanding, "I'm Izumi. I haven't been assigned a codename yet."
Yūgao's smile widened a bit, and she gestured toward what Izumi assumed was her new locker. Accepting the verbal cue, Izumi put on her armor, opting to simply put it over her regularly shinobi attire. This left her with a standard Uchiha high-colored black shirt underneath her gray Anbu vest, straying from the standard sleeveless shirt that most Anbu, including Yūgao, tended to wear. Furthermore, she retained her shinobi sandals and white ankle wraps in place of the shin-high sandals that the Anbu had provided for her.
"I wouldn't worry too much about your codename," Yūgao continued. "The Captain is the one who gets to decide what yours will be, and for the most part, his choices are agreeable enough. Though, I imagine Tenzō would disagree."
Izumi blinked in confusion, instantly remembering Tenzō as the nice man who was the first to speak with her, "What do you mean? What's wrong with his codename?"
An amused look passed over Yūgao's face, and she shook her head mirthfully, "It's better that you don't know," she responded in a low voice. "Everyone just calls him Tenzō during missions anyway. He claims he prefers it since the name apparently has some sentimental value, but honestly, I'd wager it's because the Captain gave him pretty much the most ridiculous codename possible."
It would appear that her new Captain was a man with a sense of humor; either that or a mean streak. Either way, Izumi would do her best to stay on his good side, which she was planning to do anyway since she didn't accept subpar performance as a shinobi, and her tenure in the Anbu would be no exception. Hopefully, she'd be able to meet all of his expectations.
"You know, everyone here's going to try and act all cool, like they haven't heard of you, but we've all heard the rumors," Yūgao continued, in what Izumi assumed as a compliment. "I mean, we're Anbu, so we've all been considered exceptional youths when compared to our peers, but not to the same degree as you; at least not from what I've heard."
"Thank you, but I still have a lot to learn," Izumi responded. "You've been very helpful so far."
Yūgao's back was to her, but Izumi was still able to see the flattered smile that passed over her face. It was evident that up until now, she had been the little girl of the squad that everyone needed to help out, but now she was getting to learn what it felt like to be a mentor to someone. It had to have felt good, Izumi thought to herself. Maybe she'd get to feel that someday?
It was then that the locker room door opened once again, and everyone gathered to the middle of the room to stand before the visitor. Izumi felt Yūgao guide her along, and she knew pretty quickly that she was likely about to meet her new Captain.
When she saw him, she noted that he was anything if not unique. He had spiky silver hair which seemed oriented to his left-side, along with an Anbu mask that she instantly felt was much more interesting looking than her own, which was very dull in comparison. For a moment, she felt like she saw something odd through the left eye-hole of his mask, but it was too dark for her to see anything clearly.
"Captain," Tenzō greeted, being the first to speak. "The new recruit arrived on schedule."
"Ah, that's good," the Captain remarked, his voice sounded far more laidback than she had anticipated. "At least we know she can arrive on time."
The other members of the squad moved to the side so that the Captain could stand before her directly, and Izumi could only stand awkwardly as he seemed to observe her silently. His eyes were completely hidden from view, so the only cues she could get of what he was thinking were from unintentional physical movements, like posture. She was surprised when even the way that he was standing gave away anything about what he was thinking.
Izumi blinked back twice, and it took all of her self control to stop herself from merely replying with an undignified 'huh.' After a second of composing herself, she straightened her posture and spoke, "Pardon me, sir?"
Her Captain tilted his head and responded, "Sir?" he seemed to ponder out loud. "How do you know that I'm a sir? I could very well be a woman."
"Are you a woman?"
The first thing that came to Izumi's mind was that this man reminded her of Shisui.
"You said Weasel, Captain," she elaborated, deciding to use a gender-neutral title when addressing him to avoid any more of his blatant teasing.
It took the man a moment before he spoke once more, "Ah, yes. That's your codename. Weasel. We all have one."
Her Captain then pointed to himself, "I'm Dog, but you can just call me Captain," he explained before gesturing toward each of her new squadmates one by one.
"That over there is Cat," he said as he pointed to Yūgao. "Don't let her cute little demeanor fool you; she's pretty much death on legs."
Izumi could practically see the blush from behind Yūgao's mask at the compliment, and she was quickly beginning to realize that he new teammate wasn't very good at handling compliments or praise. It was rather amusing, actually, and it was clear that the Captain knew this too, which was probably why he complimented her in the first place.
The Captain then pointed to the giant man she had seen earlier, "This here is Bull," he explained. "Fitting, right? I wanted to call him Mouse as a joke, but who would risk angering that giant? He's a real softie when you get to know him though."
The giant in question didn't appear to react at all to the comment, which led her to believe that he wasn't, in fact, a softie. From underneath his armor, which like all standard Anbu attire was very form-fitting, only really covering the chest, back, and forearms, she was able to see that he was absolutely jacked. He also appeared to be bald, which was visible from behind his mask.
"Next on the list is Badger," the Captain continued, gesturing toward the man that she earlier identified as the squad pervert. "Overall, a pretty good guy with some great taste in literature. He's been on this squad longer than anyone else here, including myself, so be sure to speak with him if you have any questions about how things work here in the Anbu."
Badger gave the Captain a thumbs up while at the same time appearing to be reading from a copy of what appeared to be one of those erotic novels that Naruto's godfather Jiraiya was known to write. That right there confirmed his perverted nature, while also hinting at the possibility that her Captain also considered himself a fan of Make-Out Paradise. Overall, Badger looked pretty average compared to Bull, with brown hair that seemed to be swept back, along with a slightly tan complexion.
"And who could forget Bird," the Captain said, still not sounding all that enthusiastic at all, tilting his head to another member of the squad. "He's our resident infiltration specialist, so make sure to ask him for advice if you ever feel as though your stealth skills are inadequate."
The comment made Bird cross his arms, and Izumi swore that she heard the man scoff. This didn't go unnoticed by the Captain, whose gaze seemed to linger on him for a few moments before moving on. It made Izumi wonder if Bird had an issue with the Captain, or with her, but she wasn't able to dwell on it for long as the Captain seemed to finally be wrapping up his little introduction as he finally got to Tenzō. Either way, the man had spiky straw-colored hair and a mask that was shaped with a bird beak.
"And last but certainly not least-"
"Tenzō," the man in question hurriedly interrupted before the Captain could finish. "As I said earlier, you can call me Tenzō. It's nice to have you on the team."
The Captain appeared to sigh behind his mask, "Ah, Tenzō, we talked about this, didn't we?" he said in what appeared to be his best rendition of a lecturing tone. "You can't keep shying away from your codename. I spent quite a while choosing it for you, and it isn't fair of you to just toss it to the side."
"I appreciate the thought, Captain, but I'm fine with Tenzō. Thank you."
The last thing that crossed Izumi's mind as and her new team funneled out of the locker room for an apparent meeting at a local training ground was that they were all a lot more...eccentric...than she had anticipated.
(Back in the Present)
They all arrived at the training ground at about the same time. Izumi marveled at how Bull managed to land without any sound whatsoever despite his massive frame, and the rest of the group formed a makeshift circle as they seemed to prepare for the Captain to speak first.
"Alright, the topic of today's meeting will be explaining to Weasel here how Squad Ro works," he began. "As you may know, we're Lord Hokage's personal squad, so we're held to an even higher standard than the rest of the Corp. Don't allow that to go to your head though."
Izumi merely nodded. So far it was all stuff that she already knew.
"Rarely does the entire squad get assigned to a single mission," Tenzō spoke up, and Izumi realized that anyone in the squad could speak up during meetings if they felt they had anything relevant to say. "Most of the time we're assigned to do missions as pairs or as individuals. Only during times of war or emergencies do we all need to assemble together."
In all honesty, Izumi expected otherwise, but she wasn't surprised. It was more efficient having a single Anbu squad taking on several missions at once, in place on having them all only complete one together. Still, it meant that she would at least need to form amicable relationships with all of her new squadmates since it was possible she could be paired with any of them for missions. On the one hand, it didn't seem all that bad, since she already felt comfortable around Tenzō and Yūgao. However, even now, she could practically feel Bird giving her the stink eye, which led her to believe that things may not be completely peachy.
"Well put, Tenzō. You're a gentleman and a scholar," the Captain complimented in his laidback, almost lazy way. "Anyone else have any input for our new comrade?"
"Never use anyone's real name in the field," Badger said, his perverted novel now nowhere to be seen. "It seems obvious, but over the years, I've seen plenty of people slip up and call someone by their real name in the heat of the moment. Worst case scenario, it'll put your comrade and their loved ones in danger, so try to be careful."
Izumi nodded once more, "Thank you. I'll be sure to be mindful of what I say."
She could see why it would be easy to slip up and call someone their name by mistake. In fact, she already noticed that she was thinking of Yūgao by her actual name and not by Cat, her codename. If they were to go on a mission together right now, she'd need to make a conscious effort to not accidentally reveal her identity to the enemy.
"Speaking of watching what you say. Keep your mouth shut about any classified information that comes to your attention," Bird said–no spat. "Especially when you're back in your little clan compound."
The comment was quick to earn a response from the Captain, "Ishido, that's enough."
Bird, whose real name was apparently Ishido, was fast to reply, "We're all thinking it, Captain. Having someone from that clan on our squad-"
"The Captain said enough, Ishido," Yūgao interrupted, her hands on her hips in a clear showing of irritation. "Keep your prejudices in your head where they won't get you into any trouble."
"Prejudices?" Bird repeated, sounding both surprised and annoyed. "I'd better describe it as logic. You're in the Anbu. You should know the Uchiha better than most at this point. I don't know what Lord Hokage was thinking putting-"
Bird was interrupted once more, but this time it was by a hand being placed on his shoulder. The hand, which would be better described as a paw due to the sheer size of it, belonged to Bull, who was looming behind Bird like an intimidating shadow.
"Obey...the Captain," Bull instructed, speaking in a slow and methodical voice, which was every bit as deep as Izumi expected it to be.
To his credit, Bird hardly seemed intimidated, and he simply crossed his arms and shifted his attention elsewhere. Meanwhile, Izumi simply watched the whole debacle with an impassive gaze, though it was all hidden behind her mask. She was no stranger to the tensions between her clan and the rest of the village, so she wasn't surprised that one of her new squadmates didn't seem to trust her all that much.
Silence then reigned, an awkward silence that left the majority of the squad looking to one another in order to figure out what to do. It was finally the Captain who spoke, ending the meeting and letting everyone know that they would be taking missions starting tomorrow. Bird was the first to leave, vanishing in a body flicker. He was quickly followed by Badger and then Bull, who departed in a similar manner. It was just her, the Captain, Yūgao, and Tenzō now.
"Izumi," the Captain then said, his voice oddly serious. "I wasn't aware that Bird's ability to control himself would be compromised with you on the squad. If you wish, I can speak with Lord Hokage on your behalf."
Izumi was quick to dismiss the severity of the altercation, "It's fine, Captain. I'm not bothered by it," she explained. "I'm aware that there are tensions between my clan and the rest of the village. It isn't something that I intend to shy away from or ignore. This is simply what I will have to deal with."
Though his face remained hidden behind his mask, it was clear to Izumi that the Captain still remained slightly unconvinced. Regardless, her assurance seemed to ease his worries enough, and he told the remainder of the squad to relax and prepare for missions the following day. He then gave them all a casual thumbs up before vanishing into thin air.
For her first day of active duty, Izumi was unsurprised to discover that she would be working with Yūgao–or Cat in this particular case. Today would be simple patrol duty as they'd monitor for any suspicious activity and just overall take measures to keep the peace within the village. It wasn't precisely the special ops, covert kind of mission that she had been expecting, but not all missions could be like that, she supposed.
The two teenage girls hopped from rooftop to rooftop with practiced ease as their eyes scanned the surrounding area. Meanwhile, Izumi subtly took mental notes of Yūgao's behavior so that she could learn as much as possible from her new senior comrade. At the moment, however, things were kind of slow, so there wasn't really all that much to learn or observe.
After a while, they came across something that warranted their attention as they noticed what appeared to be a crowd forming in the middle of what was usually a busy marketplace. At the center, and evidently, the cause of the commotion, was a fight taking place between two men. They both appeared bruised up, and at this point were wrestling with each other on the ground.
"Well, here's our first task for the day," Yūgao remarked as she casually observed the dispute.
Izumi was admittedly a bit perplexed, "Doesn't this seem like a task for suited to the Police Force?"
"Yeah, but we're here, and they aren't," Yūgao retorted with a simple shrug. "There's no point in us just ignoring it and waiting for them to show up. So go ahead and take care of it."
While it was impossible to see, Izumi could easily imagine Yūgao rolling her eyes underneath her mask.
"Of course. The whole reason we're out here is for you to gain some experience," she explained. "Now, just go down there and push your weight around a little. That usually gets the job done."
Not needing to be prompted any further, Izumi nodded in confirmation before leaping from the rooftop and landing directly next to the altercation in question. Much of the crowd that had been surrounding the scuffle took a cautious step back when they took note of her mask and armor, but the two that were fighting hardly even seemed to notice that she was there.
Then, a gust of chilly air seemed to blow over the two men, and the froze in place as if they had been approached by a ghost. Slowly, they turned to face the figure in question, and their eyes nearly popped out of their skulls when they saw a masked child with demonic-red eyes gazing down at them.
"Return to your homes."
The voice, augmented and terrifying was enough to make them comply, and they and the rest of the crowd ran away with their tails tucked between their legs. Finally, the street was empty, and for a few moments, there was complete silence before Izumi heard uproarious laughter directly behind her. She turned and saw Yūgao casually perched on the edge of a nearby rooftop, apparently having found the display to be amusing.
"I'm certain those two won't be causing more trouble anytime soon," Yūgao complimented. "Well done."
Izumi was pleased by the praise.
"Now, this may seem tedious, but it's a part of the job that you'll need to get used to," Tenzō explained, as he and Izumi navigated the thick forests that made up the outside of Konoha's walls.
Izumi was beginning to notice that much of her job would involve patrolling. During times of peace such as these, there was little need for her and her comrades to be sent on assassination and espionage missions, so now it appeared that their primary duty was protecting the village from outside threats.
"I don't mind it," Izumi responded as they took a moment to rest on a particularly large tree branch. "I enjoy the forest."
Tenzō hummed behind his mask, "You truly are a strange youth," he remarked, causing Izumi to tilt her head in confusion.
"I mean it as a compliment, of course," Tenzō quickly continued. "Most your age are eager to leap headfirst into action. Yūgao was like that when she was first recruited into the squad. Taking her out on missions like this was like pulling teeth."
The thought of a younger Yūgao pestering her superiors from a chance at some actual action brought a small smile to Izumi's face. That sort of eagerness to prove yourself reminded her a bit of Sasuke and Mito, and she wondered if she could ever recall a time in which she had ever been that way. From what her parents told her though, she had always acted well above her age.
"How often do you encounter suspicious activity out here?" Izumi questioned, changing the subject.
Tenzō shrugged, "Somedays are slow like today, but most of the people that we apprehend out here are smugglers attempting to import and export illegal goods in and out of the village. They're easy enough to handle though."
"And then there are the spies attempting to disguise themselves as migrants and merchants, those are a lot harder to fish out," he continued. "Normally they're the people that you'd least expect, kids, the elderly, and women posing as mothers."
"Are people ever falsely detained under suspicion of espionage?"
The question seemed to make Tenzō pause for a moment before responding, "I'm sure that it happens all the time, but people like that are usually cleared during the vetting process," he explained, leading Izumi to nod in understanding. "It's tough, though. A lot of them are sleeper agents with falsely implanted memories, so sometimes they don't even know that they're spies."
With the growing tensions between the village and Kumogakure, it was very likely that there would be even more such people attempting the flood the village every day. Historically speaking, Iwagakure was the biggest offender when it came to espionage, but after the last war, they had been weakened significantly, in particular by the Yellow Flash, and since had adopted a more isolationist and defensive approach while they recovered. Now, Kumo was the global aggressor.
"So. Tomorrow I hear that you have your first mission with the Captain," Tenzō continued, keeping the conversation going as they continued to have nothing to do.
Izumi nodded, "Yes. The Captain told me that we've been assigned with guarding Lord Hokage."
"Ah. That's arguably the most important mission that we have, you know? It says a lot that the Captain would already trust you in doing so at such an early point in your career."
Izumi was about to thank her new comrade for the praise, but was forced to stop when he tensed up and raised a hand that immediately signaled to her that something was going on. Perceptive as she was, it took very little time for Izumi to notice it as well, a fairly sizable wagon that had been stopped by what appeared to be a squad of Konoha Police.
"The police stopping people all the way out here is unusual," Tenzō whispered before turning to Izumi. "Wait here and listen in on them. I'm going to get in closer."
After getting a nod of approval from his comrade, Tenzō silently went through a string of hand seals before he astonishingly began to meld with the tree branch that they had been perched on. Her Sharingan had been active as she observed him, so she was able to tell that the jutsu was not the same as the 'Hiding in the Surface Jutsu' that she regularly witnessed Toneri using. It was different, and unlike anything she had ever seen before.
Still, as professional as she was, Izumi was able to push her curiosity to the side and follow the order that she had been given. She focused entirely on the conversation that was taking place just a little off into the distance, and after a short while of blocking out any and all other noise, she was finally able to hear what they were saying.
"-as I said before, it's dangerous being a merchant these days," she heard the squad commander remark as the other Police Officers began searching the wagon. "You never know what might happen, so it's always better to be proactive. You know?"
Izumi was immediately able to recognize the officer that was speaking as Yashiro Uchiha, a very respected member of the clan and a high-ranking member of the Konoha Police Force. Among the rest of the squad, she was also able to recognize Inabi Uchiha and Tekka Uchiha, who were a bit on the younger side when compared to their comrade, but were equally admired for their abilities.
"What are you getting on about?" the merchant asked, clearly not satisfied at being stopped. Time was money, after all.
It was Inabi that then spoke, "Among all of the Five Great Shinobi Nations, it is our Land of Fire that is the richest and most powerful, and at the center of that power lies Konohagakure. There is a reason that you come here to sell your goods, after all."
"So we're simply saying that it would be a shame if you were to be turned away before ever reaching the gates," Tekka remarked, continuing where Inabi left off. "The safest and most lucrative market in the world, and you wouldn't be allowed to sell your goods there."
Izumi wasn't liking what she was hearing, not one bit. It was obvious that her fellow clansmen were attempting to leverage their power in order to try and shakedown the merchant for a cut of his earnings. It was a tactic typically used by members of organized crime factions, that would tax all businesses in their territory, and if someone refused to pay, they weren't allowed to do business anymore. That, or they were taught a lesson.
"It's the cost of doing business in this village," Yashiro explained. "9% of whatever money you make selling in this village is bumped up to us, and in exchange, we let you in."
"That's bullshit!" the merchant shouted in justifiable anger, but was stopped when Inabi disappeared in a flash of speed and appeared mere inches away from his face.
"You could just turn back around and go sell elsewhere," he advised with a grin. "But I think we both know that even when giving up 9% of your earnings you'd still make far more money in our village than anywhere else. And if you think that they don't have a similar tax going on in the other villages, then that's just wishful thinking on your part."
The merchant, an older man, likely closer to sixty than fifty, could only stand there hopelessly as he realized that there was honestly nothing he could do. In the end, he could only manage a defeated nod, which appeared satisfactory enough. The other officers, who during the conversation were searching through the contents of the wagon, finally left it alone, and the merchant was finally allowed to leave.
However, before riding off, he offered some parting words, "Back home, people always spoke about how Konoha was different. They welcomed outsiders and promoted just and fair treatment of the innocent. I guess they were wrong. You're no different. Just the same."
The Uchiha officers hardly appeared concerned with his opinion, and ushered the man along. At this point, Izumi had seen quite enough and decided that this offense was clearly one that warranted an immediate arrest. However, before she could do so, something gripped her ankle, stopping her in place. When she looked down, she was surprised to see a hand protruding from the branch. Shortly after, Tenzō emerged from the tree, similarly to how he disappeared.
"What are we waiting for?" Izumi inquired softly. "What more is there to see?"
"This is a sensitive matter, as I'm sure you know," Tenzō explained, and as he did Izumi noted that the Uchiha police were now gone. "This is something that should be brought to Lord Hokage's attention first. We already identified who they of are, and they don't know that they were being watched. There's no rush, so we should be as careful as possible."
Izumi supposed he was right. The last thing that was needed was for relations between the village and the Uchiha clan to degrade even further. Arresting Yashiro, Inabi, and Tekka there and now was undoubtedly the right thing to do, but it would both anger the clan and only further blemish the reputation of the Uchiha clan and the police as a whole. Nevertheless, it left a sour taste in her mouth, watching them getaway.
Nevertheless, as usual, Izumi reigned in her emotions and did as she was told.
It was weird seeing the Hokage looking so serious. Throughout all of her life, Izumi had always viewed the leader of her village as a sort of grandfatherly figure. He was always compassionate and easygoing, even when handing out dangerous missions. Now, however, upon hearing the bad news that Izumi and Tenzō had just brought him, he was almost entirely unreadable as he stared out of the window in thought.
"Lord Hokage, for all we know, similar demands are being made of all of the merchants coming in and out of the village," Kakashi explained, having been one of the few people that had been let in the loop.
Tenzō had felt that it was best to bring the information to the Captain first, seeing as circumventing him and going straight to the Hokage would be a violation of the chain of command. When he heard the news, his posture immediately looked even more slumped and tired than it normally did, and it was clear that he fully understood the possible repercussions of this new information.
"I am aware of that possibility, Kakashi," the Hokage remarked, his gaze still fixed outside. Oddly enough, his voice was almost casual, as if none of this was fazing him at all. "I am very much aware."
Silence then reigned. It was an awkward silence, and Izumi began to shuffle her feet despite herself. This conversation–this situation...it all felt so beyond her. The consequences of this new information could reverberate throughout the entire village, affecting anyone and everyone. They'd needed to think carefully about what they were going to do.
The Hokage then finally swiveled his chair back around to face them and sighed, "In truth, I almost wish that this would have never come to my attention," he revealed. "I've had suspicions of such activity for quite some time, but it was always easier to simply ignore the possibility and pray that my gut feeling was wrong. If I never confirmed my suspicions, I'd never have to take action. I suppose that was easier."
No one else in the room spoke as the Hokage spoke. This entire situation was painting the Hokage as more of a vulnerable figure than Izumi had perviously believed him to be. For the first time, she viewed him as the human being that he was, rather than the indomitable pillar that held the entire weight of the village on his shoulders.
"Tell me, young Izumi," he continued as he stood his old and weary body out of his chair. "What do you suppose should be done about all of this?"
To say that Izumi was shocked at being called on would be an understatement. Even Kakashi and Tenzō couldn't help but raise their brows at the Hokage's question. It was quite strange to see the Hokage appearing as though he wasn't entirely sure about what decision he was going to make. Even more peculiar, was that he valued the opinion of someone that had so little experience.
"I suppose we should initiate an investigation of our own before we take any drastic action," Izumi proposed. Outwardly, she appeared unfazed by what was going on, but deep in her chest, her heart was pounding under the pressure of being forced to make such a decision. It only made her wonder if the Hokage had to feel this way every day.
The Hokage merely nodded silently at the proposal before glancing to Kakashi, apparently desiring for him to weigh in and offer his opinion as well. For a moment, Kakashi didn't notice the gaze, but as soon as he did gave a casual thumbs up, apparently approving of Izumi's assessment.
"Right now we'd only have a case against the one squad," he said. "Until we do some digging, we can't be sure of whether or not this is simply a couple of corrupt officers or if it's traceable back all the way to the top."
The top? Upon hearing Kakashi's words, Izumi immediately felt her heart sink down into her stomach. Her father WAS the top of the Uchiha Police Force. The very thought of him being complicit in extortion was something that she was finding very difficult to swallow. For all of his flaws, her father was an honorable man. He valued law and order, and he respected both. He wasn't the kind of man that would sanction this...was he?
"It would seem that I have much to think about," the Hokage remarked tiredly, and with an almost weary smile. "I'm sorry that you three must share in the stress of this matter. Especially you, Izumi. I imagine this must all be incredibly difficult for you."
Izumi immediately shook her head, "I understand my duty, Lord Hokage," she declared calmly. "I'm not one to ignore a problem in order to pretend that it doesn't exist. I'll do whatever it takes to make sure that the village emerges from this predicament unscathed."
Her answer seemed to satisfy the Hokage, whose smile became far more genuine for a brief moment as he was assured of Izumi's loyalty. Personally, he trusted her as much as he did any of his other subordinates, but it was impossible to ignore the fact that she was currently being put in a challenging position. Because, despite the fact that she was wise beyond her years, she was still a member of the Uchiha clan, so asking her to side against them to any degree was something that the Hokage wasn't sure he was comfortable doing.
"Very well," he said after an intake of breath. "You are all dismissed."
Once he was left alone, the Hokage sat back down and turned to stare out of the window once more. This news was coming almost immediately after he'd set another pair of Anbu to infiltrate Kumogakure, so prior to being made aware of this possible corruption in the police force, he'd already had quite a lot on his plate. It was moments like this that he wished Minato was still alive. He had no doubt that his predecessor would be handling all of this much better.
"Old age has made me weak," he remarked to himself solemnly as he watched the evening sun sink below the trees and the village become enveloped by darkness.
Dinner at the Uchiha household was a standard affair. Lengthy bouts of silence that would occasionally be interrupted by a question or a comment, typically from Mikoto. Now, however, the silence carried even more weight than it usually did, as everyone, couldn't help but notice the empty chair at the table. It had been a couple of days since Naruto left on his mysterious mission, and despite not being one that would be considered the 'life of the party' he was surely missed.
"Mother, when will big brother be back?" Sasuke asked after picking at his food. "He said that he was going to help me with my shurikenjutsu and then he just left."
"I'm not sure, Sasuke," Mikoto confessed, but then a small smile passed over her face. "Why don't you ask your big sister for help?"
Izumi nearly chuckled when Sasuke glanced at her with thinly veiled skepticism. When compared to his idol, Naruto, even his big sister couldn't compare.
"Yeah but...but," Sasuke began before leaning toward his mother and whispering. "But she's a girl."
Mikoto leaned back in her chair and raised her brows, "And girls don't know how to throw shuriken? Is that what you're saying?"
"Well...yeah!" he sputtered in response. "They can't throw shuriken better than big brother can!"
"Nuh-uh!" Mito shouted, inserting herself into the conversation. "You need a big brain to throw shuriken, and girls have bigger brains than boys!"
"Then how come you have some of the worst shurikenjutsu scores in class? You dummy," Sasuke countered before sticking his tongue out tauntingly, sparking Mito's ire.
Izumi took this as her moment to zone out, as she was smart enough to realize that this would mark the beginning of one of Sasuke and Mito's infamous arguments. She subtly shifted her attention to her father, who also seemed to be ignoring the theatrics in favor of enjoying his meal. He sat, unaware of her gaze...unaware of the thoughts that were chaotically raging throughout her head.
Did he know? Was he aware of the illegal tax being enforced on merchants entering the village? If not, his subordinates were betraying his trust and displaying an apparent lack of respect for his authority. If he did know about it, that would make him responsible, and even worse, it raised the possibility that they were doing this under his orders. The very thought set her teeth on edge.
Eventually, her father perked up and looked towards her, finally aware that she had been staring at him for some time. For a moment, the two stared into each other's eyes, with neither blinking or relinquishing any ground. It this moment, Izumi felt as though she was peering into his soul, and yet, even then she was unsure of what she was truly looking at. For the first time in her life, she questioned what kind of man her father truly was.
"Is everything alright, Izumi?" her father then asked, his voice stern and serious, as always. It was clear that he was able to sense that something was amiss. "Did something happen today?"
Izumi's mind was racing at a mile a minute. If her father wasn't involved, then he deserved to know of the corruption brewing within the Police Force. But, if he did know, then telling him anything would only make an investigation of the matter impossible. She felt as if her body was being torn in two as she was forced to choose between her loyalty to the clan and her loyalty to the village. It was an impossible decision, but in the end, she made her choice.
"No, father. Nothing happened."
Hello again, guys! Thanks for tuning into my story again. I hope that you're as excited about this new shift in the story as I am. For the most part, the entire story thus far has been centered around the main protagonist, Naruto, but now, other characters are beginning to get their much-deserved shine. This chapter marks the beginning of a three-chapter arc centered around Izumi and her fellow Anbu attempting to investigate possible corruption in the Konoha Police Force. This arc will start bringing more light to the tensions between the village and the Uchiha clan, highlighting a very real problem that Naruto and Izumi will need to contend with in the future.
Now, I'm aware that I left you all on a cliffhanger the last chapter, and I'd like for you to know that it wasn't always my intention to start this new arc with Chapter 12. Initially, Chapter 12 was going to serve as an immediate follow-up to Chapter 11, but I've decided to take things into a different direction. Don't worry though, this arc is still connected to everything else that is happening in the story, so try not to view it as a divergence from the main plot. This is a major part of the main story and isn't simply a side story like Toneri's mini-chapter.
Anyway, you'll all the get answer to what happened to Naruto and Shisui sometime in Chapter 14. Once again, thank you guys so much for reading. I really appreciate all of your continued support and feedback!