Hatake Kakashi was at some point a genius unmatched in the Konoha Village, holding the titles of youngest Genin, Chunin, Jonin, ANBU and ANBU Commander.
Back then, he had the drive to be the best. At first, as a way to distance himself from shame of his father. Who committed suicide, unable to handle backlash from failing very important mission in favor of saving lives of his teammates.
Later, Kakashi had similar experience, but he chose mission over his teammates, and that cost his team dearly. He lost an eye and his Uchiha teammate died, leaving him one of his Sharingan eyes as something to remember him by.
That event made him realize, that his father was correct all those years ago. He resumed training like never before. Never again he would allow his friends to die... It was not enough. Soon thereafter he lost his other teammate, and then, not much later, his Sensei – The Fourth Hokage, who was like father to him.
Now, he just felt empty, old. Food lost its taste, few friends he has left could barely make him feel anything. Often, he would find himself just staring into space for hours to an end, remembering past mistakes and wondering when his time will finally come to be reunited with his loved ones.
His father ensured, that he would never take his own life. It didn't stop him from taking on all of the hardest missions. While he lost many teammates during those missions, the death never claimed him. After a while, he just got tired, and resigned from the ANBU. These days, he went to the barest minimum of missions and simply existed, as this could be hardly called life.
Today was no different from yesterday, or day before, or day before then, until he got a summon to Hokage office. This was not that unusual on itself, but generally Hokage refrained from calling on him more than once a month, and his last summon was just over a week ago.
As soon as he laid his eyes on the scroll with his Sharingan he felt a shiver travel down his spine. It took him some time to realize, that he felt something that he hadn't felt in years – real fear. There were only two remaining Uchiha's.
One who came close of besting Kakashi's own rank achievements. The one who single handedly eliminated one of the biggest and strongest clans in Konoha of some 300 ninjas' plus 200 civilians. All of that without anyone in Konoha realizing that anything happened until he already left – Uchiha Itachi.
The other one, the only survivor of the Uchiha massacre, – 8 years old younger brother of the clan murderer. He just entered the ninja Academy a couple of months previously. If rumors to be believed, he was a genius too, however, clearly, nowhere near Itachi's level.
It was pretty clear in Kakashi's mind which of the two Uchihas was more likely to be a Seal Master. Damn! He wasn't sure if he could win against Itachi in a straight fight, but with seals, even Hokage may find his match in a fight. He still could clearly remember what his sensei could do with those.
This didn't even account for all potential collateral. As far as he was concerned, Konoha may be looking into another Kyuubi level incident. He wasn't sure if Konoha can survive another incident of such magnitude so soon after the last.
As soon as Hokage dismissed them, he took the team Seer to the closest hidden ANBU training undergrounds. They had no time to waste, and the training ground would provide excellent base of operation, as well as minimize damage if he were to accidentally trigger the scroll.
"Masks off" he told them as soon as barrier was up and the grounds secure. Others ANBU will now know that the grounds were occupied and look for another one.
He took a moment to examine each members of the team Seer, perhaps the best Hunter Nin team in Konoha. Recalling any information, he has on them from previous missions together. Another moment was spend deciding on best strategy of completing the mission with minimal danger.
Biting his trump, he summoned Pakkun who has best sense of smell of all of his ninken. He gave the ninken the quick overview of the mission before addressing everyone present.
"The situation is quite dangerous, so use discretion. No one to act on their own, ensure that you always have at least one other person as a backup."
"Ryou, Hikari and Pakkun, you will be trying to track the scroll's creator. Take your time to examine the scroll before heading to the Academy. Start from classroom 10-A and work your way from there."
"Kaori and Takumi will be working on trying to learn more about the scroll's origin and history. Make a decoy and start from the Kumiko's Bookstore. How it is made, who produces them, where you can buy one, you know the drill."
"I will stay here coordinating the efforts and will try to decipher the seal itself. This situation can easily escalate to something ugly. Use caution at all times, and report any discrepancies and irregularities, independent how insignificant you think those are."
"If someone didn't wipe their ass or didn't wash their hands in a toilet, I want to know about it. Report back in 2 hours, we will exchange notes and form next plan of action before I have to report to the Hokage."
It was nearly three hours later that tired and close to having chakra exhaustion Kakashi found himself in front of Hokage once again. He had to use his Sharingan quite a lot in the last three hours to speed up the scroll deciphering.
Looking at the Hokage, it was clear that the last three hours were not kind on the old man either, if his exhausted look was anything to go by.
Kakashi of course didn't know, that the last three hours were some of the most productive hours the Hokage had in this office. Afraid of possible problems due to the mysterious scroll, he had cleared his schedule for the nearest future by doing several weeks' worth of paperwork in the last three hours.
He had to go as far as to use couple of Shadow Clones to help him, which were dispelled just moments ago, and he was feeling the backlash very strongly right now.
Meanwhile ANBU stationed around the office looked at the Hokage with wide open eyes. The amount of information he just jammed into his brain and processed would give anyone else aneurism. For the first time they saw why he got the title of Professor, as none of them were old enough to see the Hokage in action previously.
The ferocity with which he attacked the stacks of paperwork. Speed with which the clones moved. The pure teamwork they demonstrated. It was obvious why he got the title of God of Shinobi at the battlefield.
"Kakashi, report" the Hokage said after taking a couple of deep breaths.
"Creator of the scroll is neither identified nor tracked down yet. The scroll function is not yet clear" he gave quick summary of the mission, before proceeding with details.
"No solid leads have been identified. The scroll retained no usable sample of the creator's smell, the chakra of the seals is too faint for identifiable signature. This type of scroll is made of common paper, is mass produced in significant quantities, and being sold all across Elementary Nations" taking a breath, he continued the report.
"None of the teachers spotted anyone unknown or suspicious on the Academy grounds that day or any other day recently. No related reports of suspicious people or activities were filled by ANBU patrols for area around The Academy."
"The seal have characteristics of being migrating, multi-layer, adjustable and unstable" this made Hokage visibly wince, those were signs of work of Seal Master. Even then, generally not used to describe single seal, and most definitely not a collapsed seal with factor 100.
Migrating seals were the ones that were not intended to be used by the medium they were written on, meaning that the seal was not meant to be used from the scroll, but need to be transferred to another medium.
Multi-layer designs have multiple layers of seals stacked one on top of another without actually interacting. It allowed to condense more seals onto smaller area, as well as making the seal harder to identify or reproduce. However, it was quite tricky to draw without destabilizing the whole seal array or compromising the underlaying seals function.
Adjustable seals could be applied to multiple mediums. Allowing more flexible usage of the seal, as it could be applied to variety of mediums of different size, proportion or material.
Unstable seals were tricky, as they usually mean big explosion if not treated properly. This was often used as a way to protect seals from being tinkered with. Such attempts often ended with a sizeable crater and a bloody mist.
After giving Hokage a moment to process the information Kakashi continued.
"So far, I was able to distinguish 72 seals, of those 52 were identified, and another 20 are unknown to me. Of the identified seals 40 are array stabilizing seals, 3 migrating seals, 2 array adjustment seals, 2 weights seals, 1 mapping seal, 1 blood seal, 1 chakra draw seal, 1 storage seal and 1 barrier seal".
"This is the list of seals that I couldn't identify" he finished while handling the Hokage a scroll.
"Dear Kami, 40 stabilizing seals from just 3-hour assessment, how unstable is that thing?" the Hokage asked rhetorically, as both of them knew that Explosive Tag, for example, have just 2 stabilizing seals that were disabled by a simple chakra pulse to trigger explosion.
"I will have those seals looked up in the library and get back to you when done" the Hokage responded.
Despite his high rank, Kakashi and even most ANBU had no access to the most secure part of the library, where the most sensitive and secret information was stored, including many of the higher-level books on seals. Kakashi's team would check the avenues they had access to, and Hokage would ensure that the seals would be checked in more secure facilities.
"Our team is based at the Hidden Grounds 4, Hokage-sama" he replied
"Very well, what is your team's next steps?"
"In absence of solid leads team Seer are currently doing a detailed survey of the Academy building, looking for any hidden seals, traps or Genjutsus. They are also collecting all unique smells and chakra signatures in the building, and will start identifying them once students return, perhaps we can identify creator by exclusion."
"There was an anomaly in Kumiko's Bookstore, as it appears that the Hyuga Clan been buying out this sort of scrolls as well as other writing equipment for years now, and the store experiences periodical shortages."
"Tomorrow Haru Hyuga is coming back from his weeklong mission, and I will see what I can find out about the reason for such intense shopping. It may be related to the mission, but since that behavior persisted for years, it is unlikely. Meanwhile, I will continue attempts to decipher the seal."
"Hyuga's are known to teach their children calligraphy, and Hiashi's eldest should have reached the right age couple years ago. However, it should not have caused store shortages" the Hokage mussed with his fingers intertwined in front of him.
"If we are lucky, perhaps the Hyugas have a new Seal Master, that will explain such big demand for writing equipment. Kakashi, see what you can find out from your friend. I will see if I can get anything out of Hiashi during council meeting tomorrow. Is there anything else Kakashi?" he asked, narrowing his eyes when Kakashi looked uncomfortable.
"Well, you see, when the team Seer were looking for any anomalies in the Academy, they spotted numerous things, that do not look related to the mission, but may be of interest" he finished uncomfortably before taking a small scroll for his inner pocket and handling it to Hokage.
The Hokage opened the scroll and started reading, as he read, his eye started to twitch, before he focused his angry eyes on him.
"No guards around the Academy, training grounds are all empty, only single teacher still in the building, what looks like unmarked assignments in garbage bin, and so forth. Is this some sort of joke Kakashi? Because if it is, it is not funny" it was clear the Hokage was very unimpressed with the findings.
Kakashi didn't blame him, he himself was quite disturbed. He may not have attended the Academy for very long, but he remembered how it was full of activity nearly around the clock back in the day. How frustrating it was when you couldn't find empty training ground as all were taken even during night or early mornings.
"No Hokage-sama" he responded, making the village leader rub his forehead.
"This is unacceptable! Finding the scroll creator is your teams' primary mission, however identifying those anomalies is now secondary goal. Keep me notified of any new findings. Dismissed."
Obvious to the hornet nest her kind gesture disturbed, Hinata continued her days as if nothing happened. The majority of subjects in the Academy were no challenge to her, much she learned as part of her clan training, rest just came easy to her.
Reluctant to waste time, she used her classes to train. One of the ways to do that was to use her Byakugan. It allowed her to see through walls and in all directions at once. She used her eyes to observe her follow classmates, teachers, other classes and even outside into the village.
Sometimes she followed ANBU patrolling the village, other times she watched kids play tug, but her favorite was watching ninja train. The training grounds were quite far from the Academy, but if she concentrated, she could watch couple of the closest.
It was hard to decipher chakra at such range. However, it was an excellent way to improve range and sensitivity of her Byakugan. This was also a nice way to expand her jutsus collection outside of her father's control, even if it took significant amount of time and efforts.
The jutsus she observer were random, and it took multiple sessions of observing same jutsu before she could start making progress in recreating it. She has sketches of tens of different jutsus, but only the most common and low level she ever tried to replicate.
Her clan would frown at her blatant use of their bloodline limit to, essentially, steal techniques, "like a common Uchiha" they will say. In her eyes, if this allowed her to become stronger to protect her little sister and the village, then it was well worth it.
Despite her chakra reserves growing nicely, and use of the chakra storage seal, the Byakugan was still eating a lot of her chakra. When it was pushed to its limits, she could only keep it active for small amounts of time, usually only for 5-10 minutes at a time.
When her chakra would run out, she would spend her time making notes in her small notebook. Sometimes she would write down anything of note she saw with her eyes. Other times, she would record some new ideas that came to her. Sometimes, she would just do some drawings, which was one of her hobbies. Most often, she would try to solve some problems with a sealing array she was working on at the time.
For the last couple of days, she observed her cousin class, trying to judge the reaction of Lee and Tenten. The first time she tried to gift some of her work, it went disastrous, and she spend couple of hours crying over it.
This time at least it looked like both of them were quite happy over the gift. She read their lips and knew, that both managed to open their scrolls, however neither seem to have activated the inner seal yet. It looked like they were wary to activate a seal they didn't understand, as warned by the people they knew.
She wondered if she should have included instructions. Oh well, watching them going about guessing was very entertaining. It was also giving her lots of new ideas.
Those two were specifically picked from the whole Academy. Both were nice, from underprivileged background and worked very hard to become ninja. Lee was getting some instructions from one of the villages Jonins, and Tenten already had some knowledge in seals. Confident that they will be able to use the scrolls soon enough, she turned to other things of interest.
She noticed increased ANBU activities in the school building, especially after classes. They seem to be looking for someone or something. Even saw them going over the rooms and teacher's things at night from her bedroom.
For her, it was not the first time she followed ANBU on an in-village mission. Those were quite interesting to watch. There was much to learn about how high-level ninja operated. Unfortunately, the higher ranked ninja never discussed missions while performing them. Rare exception being use of codded hand language to coordinate efforts.
This mean that she never knew what was their objectives, and had to guess it from their actions. Still, it gave her unique insight into how ANBU operated. When you can literally see through the walls at great distance, you tend to see a lot that is hidden from normal people. For example, she didn't think any of the teachers even knew about the increased ANBU activities in the school.
The Hokage just got into the office from restless sleep, expecting to be woken up due to the current Seal Master crisis at any moment, when he got his first unpleasant surprise of the day.
"Danzo" he greeted his old rival, "what can I do for you?"
"Hiruzen, you failed to notify the council of a S-rank thread" he started without preamble.
"Oh, so how exactly did you find out about the thread?" Hokage asked back with narrowed eyes.
"Surely you didn't expect for three squads of ANBU on high alert to go unnoticed?"
"No, I did not. You cannot hide operation of that size within the village, but I hoped to keep it quite a bit longer. I am surprised you reacted this fast, considering your competency problems I was made aware off recently" he admitted, adding a jab at Danzo in the end, to derail the discussion into area he wanted.
"You have a lot of nerve Hiruzen bringing my competency into question, if not for my ROOT, the Konoha would not be standing today" he responded hotly. Big contrast to what he preached as a way to train shinobi as nothing more than emotionless husks.
"I am yet to see proof of your claims Danzo. If your ROOT operations are managed as well as Ninja Academy, then you are either incompetent, or a traitor who sabotages this village's future" he said with stern look while throwing the scroll Kakashi delivered to him last night.
"You know as well as I that ROOT are outside of your influence Hiruzen by design. Without knowledge of their operations you have clear deniability, and therefore Konoha cannot be kept accountable for any possible fallouts."
"That is bullshit, and you know it Danzo. It may fool Civilian Council, but any shinobi will tell you than any fallout can be resolved by declaring the shinobi who failed a mission as a missing-nin. This tactic was used since before Hidden Villages were founded" the Hokage said, taking a breath to calm himself, he continued bitterly.
"You just got what you always wanted, to have your own private army, that is not kept accountable by anyone but yourself. I am the Hokage, absolute leader of this village, and yet you keep any information about your ROOT or their missions from me" he finished.
"You lost your touch Hiruzen, you are no longer willing to get your hands dirty for the benefit of Konoha. Someone had to step in and ensure that what needed to be done is done. You may not agree to my methods, but they get things done. Unlike your methods, that fail time and time again, but you are too weak to accept it. Should I remind you about the recent Hyuga and Uchiha incidents" he pushed back, making Hokage see red.
"How dare you!" He said with forced calmness in his voice. "You went behind my back and weakened this village like never before."
"I saved this village. I did what you were too weak to do. Your soft methods would have seen this Village destroyed, just because you were too weak to do what was necessary!" The Danzo shot back hotly.
The Third had to take couple of calming breaths at this, to ensure he didn't lose it in front of Danzo. No doubts Danzo wanted just that to use it against him latter to take even more power for himself. The disappointed look at Danzo's stoic face was all evidence he needed to confirm his theory.
Ever since they were mere Academy students, he and Danzo never agreed on anything. Danzo always preferred a military domination of their opponents as a way to secure Konoha's future. He himself always felt that if Senju and Uchiha were able to find common ground to create Konoha and put decades of bad blood between their clans behind them, then a peace between all villages in Elemental Nations was also possible.
Unfortunately, despite his best efforts he was not able to achieve the peace he so desired. He may have convinced his student - Jiraya that it was possible, and even the Fourth Hokage believed in peace through a compromise. After the Fourth death, there was no one left of younger generation to stir the Village in that direction.
Only now, he fondly realized how naive he was back in his youth. Last ten years were the most peaceful Elemental Nations had in known history, however it was clear the peace was not going to last for very much longer.
Now he understood, that he was too ambitious. It took multiple generations of people working towards peace to achieve it. He understood that road to the peace was never straight. Sometimes great progress can be made in short time, like when Konoha was created. Other times the progress will be reversed and violence will start again with renewed vigor, like the three Great Shinobi Wars that followed creation of Hidden Villages.
"Once again our views differ Danzo. I am curious, what possible excuse you can provide to turning Ninja Academy into nothing better than common civilian school?" He asked with false curiosity. Danzo took a moment to read through the scroll, before nonchalantly dropping it onto his desk.
"Not surprising that standards were allowed to fall that far under your weak rule. Hashirama- and Tobirama-sensei should have known better than to entrust The Village to you, I would have never allowed this to happen" he said with little care.
"You seem to forget in your age that Academy is currently under yours control" the Hokage replied.
"Perhaps it is you that is forgetting that it is controlled by Civilian Council, something you allowed to happen may I add."
"Don't take me for a fool Danzo, we both know that you are the one who makes all important decisions when it comes to Civilian Council. The Academy, you seem to have conveniently forgot, was pushed into hands of Civilian Council before I was reinstalled as Hokage" he responded while focusing on the ceiling to recall those painful memories.
"Koharu, Homura and yourself were the ones to spearhead the notion if I remember, to 'a temporary move, to help unload duties from Hokage, so he can focus on rebuilding and protecting the Village' if I am not mistaken? Isn't that right Danzo?" He asked his rival.
"Hrmm. That was best decision to ensure Konoha's survival at the time. Do not pretend like you were not overwhelmed with organization of Village defenses and rebuilding efforts at the time Hiruzen. Quite a few people were worried that you may overwork yourself to death at the time" he said with false sympathy, as if his death at the time would have been preferred option.
"Excessive workload is something I could handle, as my old teammates and rival should have known better than anyone else. What I could not handle is betrayal by those closest people when I needed their support the most" he replied bitterly, seeing that Danzo was about to reply, he interrupted him, as they were going of topic, something he realized was Danzo's goal.
"Save it Danzo, I say it as I see it. Despite our differences, I never questioned your motives, only your methods. I allowed you much freedom, and overlooked many of your more questionable actions, however this" he pointed at half unrolled scroll on his desk, "this is crossing the line." He fixed his rival with stern gaze, letting silence to stretch for couple of seconds to get his point across, before continuing.
"Seven days Danzo. I give you seven days to see The Ninja Academy start returning to its previous standards" he told him sternly.
"Or you would do what Hiruzen?" He asked back, making Hokage narrow his eyes.
"Or I will start taking actions. Do not mistake inactivity for ignorance Danzo. You have been warned"
"Do not pretend you can give me orders Hiruzen. I am no longer answering to you" after that he turned and went from the office, but not before Hokage had his last word.
"Seven Days Danzo!"
Once Danzo left, old Hokage had to rub his forehead, he could already feel a headache coming, and it was not even 7 am yet.