CHAPTER 4: THE FIFTH HOKAGE
Naruto wakes up in the hospital - and in a new world.
"First," Jiraiya says grimly, from a wheelchair, "Sandaime is dead. Orochimaru killed him. Second, the mastermind behind this plot, Orochimaru, was disguised as the Kazekage. He's also dead - I killed him. This is why I'm in a wheelchair. Third, Sunagakure has fallen. Danzo sent ANBU there the moment we found out the Kazekage, his son, and their One-Tails were dead. They're ready for a coup."
"Gaara," Naruto says, his brain caught on that thread. There was so much blood. The rest of Jiraiya's explanations fade away.
"A battle against tailed beasts, huh," he says, and Naruto is brought back to the present.
"He was destroying the village - I couldn't let him harm the villagers."
"I understand," Jiraya says, placing a hand on his shoulder, but his expression looks troubled.
"When's the funeral? Can I attend it?"
"It was a few days ago. You were out for a week."
No wonder he feels perfectly well-rested.
"What happens now?" His voice is small.
"Us adults will sort it out. You did well, Naruto."
There's a knock on the door, and they both turn to Sakura, who's dressed in her new uniform: a black cloak that hides her hair. She has a basket in hand. "I don't mean to interrupt," she says. "I brought some fruit for Naruto."
"He's all yours," Jiraiya says, standing. Jiraiya gives his shoulder another quick squeeze, and he's gone, wheeling himself deftly out the door. Naruto doesn't miss the final glance back he takes before disappearing.
"I'm glad you're okay," Sakura says, taking a pear out from her basket before settling down onto the chair by his bed. She begins to peel the fruit, knife is steady in her hand. She still holds the knife the ninja way, Naruto notices.
His eyes snap shut. "I couldn't save those in that building that Gaara destroyed-"
"You did better than anyone else out there. I don't know what I would have done if you got hurt."
"How many people?"
Sakura begins to shake her head, but she stops and sighs instead. "Three civilian families. Konoha library was also damaged. But Sunagakure is basically gone, because the Kazekage and his most powerful weapon are dead. Many of their high ranking personnel were here, which means that those who survived are our prisoners now." At Naruto's wide-eyed look, Sakura explains. "Your fellow shinobi don't seem to think that us civilians have ears. I hear a lot of things on the streets."
"Their civilians...what will happen to them?"
Sakura shrugs unhappily, arranging the pear on a plain plate. "What do you think would happen to us, if Suna won?"
"It's not fair! Those people in Suna are innocent."
"It's not fair," she replies evenly. "Here, have a pear."
"Don't change the subject, Sakura-chan!"
"What's the use in talking about things we cannot change? Until the time comes when we can, we should focus on taking care of ourselves. Eat up."
"...WIll you feed me?"
Sakura scoffs, and it's almost like the old days. Naruto is dragged back to reality when she acquiesces.
"All this will change when I'm Hokage," he says, crunching on the fruit. It's mild, almost tasteless. It makes him think about the idea of a greater good - fighting between nations, for nothing but ideals. Is anything truly gained as long as there is human suffering?
"I want change, too. I believe you," she says simply, and it's enough.
Her sanctuary, destroyed.
The day Naruto is discharged from the hospital is the first time she makes her way back to the library. Luckily, only half of it was ruined by Suna's monster. This is the half that is surrounded by red and white tape. The other half is, thankfully, open.
"Sakura-chan," the elderly librarian greets her as she steps into the dark, quiet building.
"Hello, Mizo-san. Is everything okay here?" Sakura unpacks the scrolls she wants to return from her backpack and slides them onto the desk, over to Mizo.
"Everything is fine," she says, slightly flustered. "The only thing that isn't fine is the mess. Scrolls out of place, dust everywhere."
Inside, everything looks messier than she expects. There are scrolls on the floor and holes in the walls. The lingering ash and dust in the air makes her sensitive throat itch.
She heads to a section she doesn't frequent often, where scrolls and documents about Konohagakure and other hidden villages are kept: geopolitics.
Many of the scrolls in this section are on the floor, and Sakura drops to her knees to sort through what's left. The title on the third scroll makes her gasp, the sound echoing around in the empty place.
The paper is heavy and thick in her hands. It's an important scroll, government issue, not one that is usually left out for ordinary civilians to stumble across.
The Uchiha Clan Massacre.
She slides it into her bag, and leaves as fast as she can without breaking out into a run. Moving around without the use of chakra takes getting used to. Sakura doesn't even hear Mizo say goodbye to her as she rushes out of the library, and into the startling sun-drenched afternoon.
Home is quiet, and Sakura locks herself breathlessly in her room.
Her hands tremble so much it takes her two clumsy tries before she can untie the scroll.
Sasuke never talked about the massacre, or what happened with his parents and clan. Naruto tried asking once, right at the beginning of the formation as Team 7, and Sasuke punched him so hard they all thought he broke Naruto's shoulder. You're crazy! Naruto had screamed, trying to aim a kick at Sasuke's head, and it was the only time Sakura heard Sasuke lose control and yell back, You'd go crazy if everyone you ever loved disappeared overnight!
Sakura started crying, Kakashi walked Sasuke home, and the two of them stopped by the hospital. The next morning, Naruto and Sasuke were back sparring at the training ground together, which was probably Sasuke's apology.
Her parents never told her anything about the Uchihas either. Not about their legacy, nothing about their tragedy. Neither of them have any illustrious clan background, or links to Konoha's upper echelons. They are first generation shinobi, and proud Chuunins. Maybe they didn't even know any more than she does now.
At the Academy, she heard people like Ino and Choji talk about Sasuke with wonder in their voices, and thought nothing of it. Once, Kiba called him a prince. Prince Uchiha.
And now the truth, or at least one side of the story, is here in her hands.
Thankfully, there are no protective seals or charms over the scroll. The paper is rich and creamy beneath her fingertips as she traces the letters and the indents they leave behind. Taking a deep breath, she begins to read.
Hours later, when the world is steeped in darkness, this is what she learns:
Six years ago. A warm, cloudless night. The first bodies were found on the street, hours after the incident. The entire Uchiha clan, one of the village's oldest and most noble clans, slaughtered in cold blood. The head of the clan, Uchiha Fugaku, and his wife, Uchiha Mikoto, were found stabbed to death in their home. Their sons are the only known survivors of the massacre.
Their youngest son, Uchiha Sasuke, was found on the street, along with the first few bodies. He was breathing, just barely, due to the extreme stress his body was subjected to due to an advanced genjutsu. Their eldest son, the prodigious Uchiha Itachi, is the perpetrator. After the massacre, he fled the village, joining the notorious mercenary group, Akatsuki.
Uchiha Sasuke was the only survivor, and the last Uchiha in Konohagakure. Uchiha Itachi is an S-Class missing nin, wanted for the deaths of his clan and numerous other atrocities committed under the Akatsuki.
Her eyes burn, and she presses the heels of her palms to them, massaging gently.
What I have is not a dream, because I will make it a reality. I'm going to restore my clan, and kill a certain someone.
He was talking about his brother...about how he wouldn't die until he killed him.
Now, Uchiha Sasuke is dead. Uchiha Itachi is the only survivor left of the accursed Uchiha clan.
I will find out everything about the Uchiha clan, she vows. Outside, the moon glows in the sky, ethereal and full, filled to its brim with secrets.
Three weeks after the death of Sandaime Hokage, the new Hokage is installed.
Naruto finds himself watching the ceremony from the front, Jiraiya and his wheelchair next to him. They are part of the village's guests of honour as important shinobi personnel. Konoha's living weapon and his master, the legendary Sannin.
It's a bright, sunny day, and it appears as though every single shinobi and civilian is gathered here, in front of the Hokage mansion. He wonders where Sakura is.
"Pay attention," Jiraiya chides him as Naruto fidgets around, trying to scan for her in the crowd. The inauguration is long, painfully boring, and centred around the creepy man he hadn't liked from first glance. "He has eyes everywhere; don't give him an opportunity to single you out."
"Of all the people, why is he Hokage?"
"Because he has the political support of the Fire country. The Wind has agreed to Fire's terms in setting up an outpost of Konoha in what used to be Suna. Wind country will have stable protection by Konoha forces in Suna, without needing to worry about feeding its citizens or supporting its shinobi."
"What does Konoha get?"
"Power and influence," Jiraiya replies grimly. "Many of us don't think it's a good idea to tip the balance of power between countries. We tried to get Tsunade to come back to contest for the role of Hokage, but she refused."
Naruto doesn't know who Tsunade is, and he's not interested in someone who could turn down such an important role. "Why don't you be Hokage?"
Jiraiya gestures to the lower half of his body. "I can't walk. Orochimaru cursed my legs before I killed him, and the council doesn't think it's intimidating enough to have a shinobi leader who can't walk."
"You would make a better Hokage than this dude. Even I would make a better Hokage than him."
Jiraiya chuckles. "Keep up that confidence."
A figure in a white cloak finally emerges, and the cheers build to crescendo. ANBU kneel by his side, and Naruto doesn't want to look at their masks. When Jiraiya nudges him, Naruto claps along, albeit halfheartedly. Even with just one visible eye, the man looks calm and menacing, unlike the gentle warmth of Sandaime.
"Shimura Danzo, Godaime Hokage!"
The wind picks up around them, howling.