From the Shadows we serve

"What the hell are you talking about?"- Person talking.

What the hell are you thinking?- Person thinking.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any of its characters. Neither am I making money by writing this fanfiction.

Last time on From the Shadows we serve

Sitting behind his desk Hiruzen Sarutobi the third Fire Shadow, did the thing he hated the most, paperwork. Curse you, Minato, for leaving me with this nightmare. He thought, looking at the large pile of paperwork he still had to work on. Knock, knock. "Come in," said the aged Hokage more than welcoming the distraction from his paperwork.

Opening the door, an ANBU (Special Assassination and Tactical Squad) captain who goes by the name Tiger walked in. The Hokage sighed. It seemed that the following conversation would be anything but a distraction from his paperwork. In fact, this conversation would be the most important thing of the day. Walking forward, the Anbu Captain stopped in front of the Hokage's desk and kneeled in front of Konoha's leader. "Hokage-sama, I am here to report about the new village forming in Rice Country." The Hokage stood up and walked towards the window. Looking outside of Konoha, he could see all of Konoha. Usually, he just did it to remind himself what he was fighting for. Hiruzen Sarutobi held the office of Hokage for almost 40 years. Suffice to say, the job and time took their toll on the Hokage. He had many failures in his office as Hokage. Itachi Uchiha, who was forced to kill the entire Uchiha clan, his former pupil, Orochimaru, and not to forget, Naruto Uzumaki, only son of the Fourth Hokage, the container of the Kyubi and somehow an Uchiha. What happened to Minato's son, he still didn't know. Maybe Itachi took him after his mission to massacre the entire Uchiha clan. They seemed rather close, after all, so the Hokage couldn't rule out the possibility. He had Anbu search for Naruto, but all searches came up empty. Everything he could do was hope that he was somewhere out there and leading a happy life.

The day after the Uchiha Massacre, he had gone missing. He still remembered how angry a certain white-haired Sannin became when he told him the news. Jiraiya had nearly killed him that day. Jiraiya treated him with nothing but professionalism since that day. The Hokage thought that that was the worst. Jiraiya did not openly despise his failure to keep Naruto safe; he just treated him (Hiruzen) professionally. No sign of affection, no sign that Hiruzen had once been his sensei. Jiraiya didn't even act like a pervert or like a goofball in his presence anymore. But when he looked Jiraiya in the eyes, he saw how disappointed he (Jiraiya) was in him (Hiruzen).

"What do you have to report, Tiger-san?" the Hokage eventually asked.

Chapter 6: Things getting in motion

Hokage's office

"It seems that the intel you received from Tatsu-san has indeed been correct. There is a new village forming in Rice Country. Otogakure or the village Hidden in the Sound, they call it." The Anbu captain spoke.

The Hokage frowned. So far, there was nothing the Anbu captain reported that would mean anything dangerous for Konoha, but if Tatsu had been right about Orochimaru being the leader of the village, Konoha and Otogakure would clash at one point or another.

That was the worrying notion, Orochimaru forming a village, building and commanding forces to orchestrate Konoha's destruction. "I will have to be on guard regarding the new village, treating it with the uttermost caution." the Hokage thought. He tried to contact Jiraiya to order him to gather intel on the new village, but the Anbu agents sent out to find the pervert reported that they never found him. Of course, this was nothing new as Hiruzen knew that sometimes Jiraiya did not want to be found by anyone when he spied on an organization. Still, the Hokage frowned in thought; I need him right now. Jiraiya was invualable as a shinobi. But it seemed he would have to suffice without him for the moment.

"What information do you have regarding the village leader, Tiger?" the Hokage asked, still looking outside the window. The sun was slowly setting, the children going home, the shops closing.

The Anbu sighed. "Nothing," he admitted. "The team I sent to accumulate information about Otogakure barely returned with their life. According to them, Otogakure is more of an underground network of hideouts than a real village."

"Making it incredibly hard to infiltrate the village without being discovered. Did the team gain any information on what was done in the hideouts? Were they detected?" the Hokage questioned.

"Experiments. Civilians and ninjas from all villages alike were being imprisoned there, used for some kind of sick experiments. Cat-san believed that they tried to create Kekai Genkai's (Bloodline Limits) in these laboratories. However, she thinks that the imprisoned people are just experimental rats used for research." The Anbu agent paused, "Hokage-sama, there is no easy way to say this, so I'll be blunt, yes, the Anbu were detected. One Anbu died, while the rest had to fight their way out of the village. Cat got away relatively uninjured, but the other Anbu is in the Intensive Care Unit. The doctors were not sure if he would make it."

The Hokage paled. This had Orochimaru written all over it. If he were allowed to build a village, it would only be a matter of how long it would take until Konoha and Otogakure clashed.

"Due to the village consisting mainly of hideouts, the Anbu team could not gain any strategic information. We know nothing of the leader of the village, how many shinobi it has, how large it is, and such things." the Anbu rattled the things that frustrated him off to the Hokage one by one.

The Hokage stared out of the window. "Is that everything you have to report?"

"Yes, Hokage-sama." Hiruzen raised his hand, a sign showing the Anbu that he was being dismissed. Tiger nodded, vanishing with the use of the Shunshin.

The Hokage sighed. He was really getting too old for this job. But there was no one else to do it. There were only four people that had a realistic chance of becoming Hokage. Jiraiya. Kakashi. Tsunade. Danzo. Those were the four. Jiraiya and Kakashi were nowhere near the mental state to lead the village. The two-plus Tsunade were rotting in misery. The only difference between them is that Tsunade has run off, drinking away the Senju fortunes. Danzo was well... Danzo. He could not be trusted with the office of a Hokage.

But now, he needed to decide what to do with the information that he received.

The Hokage was not worried about the consequences of the Anbu being detected during their infiltration mission. It would have no real repercussions for Konoha. Therefore, Otogakure would not risk war with Konoha. They had no chance of winning against one of the Great Five Nations. War with the Leaf would just mean death for Otogakure. However, the Anbu being detected just did one thing Hiruzen wanted to mind under all circumstances. Alert the leader of Otogakure that they knew about his village. Whether it was Orochimaru or someone else entirely did not matter; they now knew that Konoha knew of its existence and that it was suspicious of them.

If Orochimaru leads the village, we will not know how he will react to this information. You never know how Orochimaru will react. Jiraiya was not in the village, and sending in another Anbu team would just be begging for their death. What to do? What to do? The Hokage mused in thought. Ordinarily, for such cases, the Hokage would need Jiraiya for this. He excelled at S-Rank infiltration missions.

On top of that, he had numerous contacts that he could tap into for information. Something he both needed right now but didn't have. But he needed information regarding the new village? It sounded like a village Orochimaru would create. Hiruzen didn't like that thought one bit. Well, he would send out more Anbu's, hopefully making the process of finding Jiraiya quicker.

Additionally, he would need to acquire new information regarding Otogakure. Of course, the most important question would probably be: Is Orochimaru the leader of the Sound? But how would he acquire said information? That is the question, isn't it? Well, the Hokage didn't know how he was going to pull that feat off, but he would have to find a way. For the good of Konoha, he always did, after all.

Worst things worst, I would have to ask Tatsu. However, all things considered, Tatsu has proven himself to be a powerful informant. He regularly supplies information concerning Orochimaru to me, after all. So undoubtedly, he has a spy network, hates Orochimaru with a burning passion, though I do not know why.

That part of the Sandaime's shinobi brain stopped him from allying himself with Tatsu completely. Fear of the unknown. Like with the Hidden Sound, you could never predict where Tatsu's true loyalties lay and what his objectives were. Three Shinobi Wars taught the Sarutobi not to trust the unknown. Yet with Orochimaru maybe leading a village, could he afford not to work with Tatsu, taking the risk?

"I have to think about that." said the Hokage, thinking out loud. But before he would work with Tatsu, he would first exhaust any resources he had at its disposal to get the intel about Otogakure he needed.

With Orochimaru

Orochimaru was not in a good mood. Sitting on a throne in a base, he scowled at his subordinate, "Report," The Sannin ordered.

"We were infiltrated." Said a scared Kabuto. Kabuto knew that his master would not react well to the information he was about to give him. Worst thing was he really couldn't blame him.

"I already know that," stated Orochimaru. "I want to know by whom and what intel they could have possibly gathered about Otogakure."

"We are acting under the assumption that Konoha's Anbu agents infiltrated us. Of course, they could not have gathered much intel, but they probably know what we are trying to achieve here with our experiments."

Orochimaru leaned back into his chair and frowned. "Unfortunate, this is," he admitted, "we need to run damage control."

Kabuto nodded; it made sense after all. They couldn't afford Konoha to gain too much information on them.

"What do you want me to do precisely, Orochimaru-sama?"

"I want you to start an anti-intelligence program. Spread false information about Otogakure. This will make it harder for Konoha to gain any factual information about us. Sensei will not act against this village when he knows nothing about it. I want you to spread so much misinformation about the upcoming chunin exams that they don't know any accurate information."

Kabuto nodded, curious he asked, "What do you think made Konoha aware of this village. How did they even learn of its location? They knew where the main hideout was. And why would they investigate this village in the first place?"

Orochimaru shrugged. "I can't say for sure, but if I had to guess, it would have either been Tatsu that supplied them information about this village, Jiraiya through his spy network, or Konoha's Anbu division found out about it. Or a combination of two or all three even. Regardless, they found out about it. But, fortunately for us, they gained little information about the workings of this village. We must now deal with the fact that they know of our existence sooner than we planned. Sarutobi-sensei's curiousness will see him desperate to get information about my village."

Seeing as the conversation was effectively over, Kabuto left the room.

Konoha's suspicion of Otogakure will lead them to investigate. I can't allow them to get any real information. My sources tell me that Jiraiya is currently investigating TOCA(Transnational Organized Crime Organization) and the Akatsuki. So it can't have been him to supply the Hokage information, though you never know with Jiraiya. I can't rule out the option even if it's unlikely. The Anbu and Tatsu are the far more reasonable options to inform the Hokage about my village. But does the Hokage know that I am leading this village? That would be most concerning. No, he may suspect, but he does not know for definite. Orochimaru ruled out the possibility in his head. Regardless, after I have perfected that Jutsu, Konoha will fall once I attack it.

Root base underground- location unknown

Sitting on his throne, Danzo looked thoroughly stoic. But, of course, this was nothing unusual for Danzo. Especially for someone who thinks that emotions make shinobi weak.

But what one of his Root's agents just reported to him would have surprised anyone.

"Are you certain about this?" the infamous Shinobi no Yami (Darkness of the Shinobi) asked.

"Hai, Danzo-sama. We believe Orochimaru plans to attack the Hidden Leaf Village with the help of the Hidden Sand. Our spies amid his newly created village all but verified it."

Interesting. I never thought Orochimaru had the guts to do it. Well, I can certainly use this to my advantage; he contemplated in thought, If he attacks Konoha, he will likely aim for the ones who stand in his way in his search of immortality the most. Hiruzen. Tatsu. The Commander of the Anbu. Yūgao. Jiraiya. Danzo counted the people off in his head. Even with Tatsu alerting Hiruzen of the existence of Otogakure, I believe Sarutobi won't find out about the coming invasion. Tatsu may pose a problem, though.

Danzo wanted all of the people listed above dead. If that were the case, no one would stand in his way of becoming Hokage.

An invasion from Otogakure with the help of the Sand would weaken Konoha but nothing more. Konoha wouldn't fall, but it would open up the chance to capture the One-Tails Jinchuriki and declare war on the Sand. From there, the Fourth Great Shinobi World War would break out. Danzo would ensure that Konoha would win it, bringing the world under the banner of Konoha. With Hiruzen out of the way, Konoha would regain its former glory and reign supreme over all the other nations.

But to do so, they needed more military power. But as said, an invasion would weaken Konoha.

The fact that their Jinchuriki, who would have undoubtedly become a powerful tool to Konoha, vanished mysteriously years ago did not help with that either.

Danzo searched for the Jinchuriki endlessly. Finally, he saw his chance to train him- a chance to abduct him into the ranks of Root. A Jinchuriki, son of the Yondaime, Uzumaki, and somehow Uchiha was destined to become a phonemical shinobi. Under his guidance, he would have helped Konoha on its way to the top.

If a war were to break out suddenly, Konoha would be disadvantaged because they lacked their military deterrent.

Plus, with the possession of Shisui Uchiha's Mangekyou Sharingan, he'd manipulate the clan heads into giving him the needed support to become the Hokage.

Konoha was a dictatorship with the Hokage at its top. He and he alone was in command of every ninja in Konoha- except Root.

Root shinobi only listened to Danzo, raised by the Root Anbu and indoctrinated to follow Danzo's orders. As a result, Root's mission sometimes went against the direct orders of the Hokage or Konoha's interests.

Danzo knew that Hiruzen probably knew that he hadn't disbanded Root like he was supposed to. But he also knew that Hiruzen had no evidence.

Konoha's hierarchy was composed of the Hokage, the shinobi council, and the ever-annoying civilian counsel. The shinobi council contains:

The three village elders.

The clan heads.

The Commander of the Anbu.

The Jounin commander.

None of those four agree with his idealogy, with the notable exception of his fellow elders. At the moment, his live-long rival had the support of most of the clan heads. Only the Hyuga clan did not agree with the Hokage on most matters.

After the second Shinobi War, Hiruzen became a father figure for most in the village, including some current clan heads. However, that would not be the case after he leaked that Hiruzen let Orochimaru go through some dark connections after the invasion. That maneuver would ensure that Hiruzen would lose quite a bit of support from the Clan Heads. That would, of course, require that Sarutobi would survive the invasion in the first place. No, no, he couldn't survive. Danzo couldn't have that.

"Sai, contact Orochimaru, tell him I would like to have a word with him."

Danzo smiled. Soon he'd be a Kage, but first, he would have to ensure that Hiruzen Sarutobi died in the invasion.

Tatsu, of course, needed to die too. He had already supplied the Hokage with information. What if he informed Hiruzen about the coming invasion? Hiruzen and Tatsu would die, and he would take the throne for himself, leading Konoha to reign supreme over all other nations.

Council room- Nighttime

The third Hokage sighed. That seemed to be something he did a lot in recent times. The Hokage could swear that Danzo had called this meeting. First, to tell the Council what Tatsu told him. Then, undermine him in some way. The Clan Heads would throw a fit, demanding to know why the Hokage didn't inform them about the information he acquired.

The Hokage's job was to calm down the Clan Heads who would want answers? Were they going to war with Otogakure? Should they prepare for it? The truth is, the Hokage knew nothing to answer these questions. They were only aware of a new village forming, consisting of Hideouts who kidnapped people to experiment on them to create Kekai Genkai's (Bloodline Limits).

"Good evening, everyone. May I know why the Council has been gathered? Who called this meeting?"

The council room was inside the Hokage tower. It consisted only of a long table. The Hokage is sitting on the front, his advisors left and right to him.

The other chairs all had symbols on them. Those were the clan symbols. Only the Clan representatives- the Clan Heads- sat in the chair with their respective clan symbol. Behind the Clan Heads sat the Commander of the Anbu and Shimura Danzo.

"I have," Danzo said, standing up. Of course, you have. Thought the Hokage in annoyance, staring coldly at Danzo.

"It recently came to my intention that Orochimaru- the Snake Sannin- has founded its village. Otogakure or the Hidden Sound, they call it."

Silence followed, then all hell broke loose. "Why weren't we informed of such a development," demanded Tsume furiously. The Hokage glared at the Clan Head, making her flinch back. "So you can do what, undermine the whole operation by spreading the information?" The Hokage furiously replied. "What dear Danzo forgot to tell you is that we know nothing for certain. Otogakure does indeed exist, but whoever the leader of the village is, we do not know. We have reason to believe that Orochimaru is the leader, but we don't know for sure. I will continue my investigation into Otogakure, but a team of Anbu was already detected when they tried and failed to infiltrate the village. For now, I will try to acquire intel about the village. But I will not inform the Shinobi Council about anything I discover until I deem it necessary."

Danzo wanted to argue, but Hiashi beat him to it. Slamming his fist on the table, he stood up, his face red with anger. "We are the Council. Without us, you will not be able to lead this village. We have a right to be informed such matters,"

"You are right." came the words from the Hokage's mouth. Hiashi smirked, thinking he had won. "If you were trustworthy, I would trust you with the information, but the cold truth is you aren't. Need I remind you of Uzumaki Naruto and his team. You have failed them spectacularly. What about his Jinchriku status. Information I only shared with you, the Shinobi Council, yet the public seemed to know about it not hours later after I disclosed the information."

Shock was a word that not nearly described the state most of the Clan Heads were in. They just realized something: The Hokage doesn't trust them. The Hokage stared at the Hyuga Clan Head. "I am getting old. I have led this village through the Great Shinobi Wars. But only your generation does not understand the need for secrecy. Some of you go home and report to your elders, who you protect when they break my laws. If this Council wants a new Hokage, then I wish you good luck. Who are you going to choose? Danzo?" the Hokage asked sarcastically. He stared at his opposition, Danzo, Homaru, Koharu, Tsume, Hiashi, in the shinobi council. "Jiraiya? Tsunade? Kakashi? The Commander of the Anbu? The Jounin Commander?" Hiruzen asked rhetorically, clasping his hands together over the table.

"You and I both know that there is no other option for Hokage right now that would be good as me for the village. Otherwise, I would have resigned years ago. However, seeing as some of the Clan Heads can't be trusted, I will not report it to you until I deem it necessary."

A tense silence followed. The Hokage stood up. "This meeting is over. Go home! If you can uphold secrecy, I may trust you with information again. Oh, and if you don't like my leadership and decisions, you can always move for a vote of no confidence. I am sure many people inside Konoha's gates would be able to replace me." The amount of sarcasm Hiruzen spoke with in the last sentence reached catatonic levels.

With Yūgao -Uzuki residence

Yūgao sat in the training dojo, meditating. The only light in the room was coming from the candles fastened on the wall. All of a sudden, she smirked. "How long were you going to keep standing there, Itachi?"

"However long it would have taken you to finish your meditation." He answered. "From your lack of hostility, I presume Naruto has revealed himself to you."

She nodded. "You presume correctly, Itachi. I would never guess that I would one day lead a civil conversation with you again."

Itachi gave a half-hearted shrug. "Such is the life of a shinobi." He stated. "Full of surprises, treachery, and turns you would have never imagined."

"What do you want?" the Anbu asked. The Uchiha looked a bit uncomfortable. "I want you to look after Sasuke. In the coming weeks, he is going to need it."

"Why should I? And what will you give me in return?"

Itachi looked down crestfallen. "I see Naruto wasn't incorrect when he said that you had not forgiven me."

"What did you expect. Naruto was seven at the time, I was ten, you were thirteen, and Shisui was just of age (18). So I can understand Naruto following your lead, not to reveal the truth about the Uchiha Massacre to me. I can understand that. He may be more mature than most children his age, but nowhere near enough to remain calm after the whole mess that was the Uchiha Massacre, so I can understand him listening to you after the whole mess. But you deliberately tried to deceive me, made me believe you to be a traitor, the murderer of sensei." Although Yūgao 's voice never raised in volume, the whispering of the words came out quite deadly.

"Yūgao, please." Itachi pleaded. "Sasuke must be protected from the likes of Danzo and Orochimaru."

"Itachi," Yūgao sighed. "I am going to be completely honest with you. And I assure you the truth will hurt you." She paused. "But before that, answer me a question. Was it worth it? To slaughter the entire Clan just to save your younger brother."

"Yes," Itachi whispered. "Yes, it was. There doesn't go a day by where I don't regret my decision, where I don't have nightmares about me slaughtering my kin, but if it came down to it, I would do it again if it meant protecting Sasuke."

"Just one more question, if you had to choose between the Leaf and your brother, who would you choose?"

Itachi fumbled with his answer, "I hope the day will never come." Itachi said, effectively not answering the question.

"Well, here's my point of view: Sasuke Uchiha is obsessed with power. He isn't you, Naruto, Shisui, or me. He doesn't care how he obtains power to achieve his goal, who he has to hurt to do so. He has no moral compass. At the moment, he poses a flight risk to the village. Then, there is Danzo and Orochimaru lurking around in the Shadows. I do not doubt that he will join them when given the opportunity."

Itachi looks stoic on the outside, but Yūgao can tell that his mind is running a 100-meters per second. "Danzo will never think about recruiting Sasuke. I made sure of that."

"Because Danzo is known for keeping his word." Yūgao regarded sarcastically. "Even if Danzo doesn't, then there is still Orochimaru."

"The Sandaime will protect him." Argued the S-Rank missing-nin.

"Sandaime-sama has been comprised, but you and Naruto-kun knew that for years, didn't you?" The female Anbu shouted right back. "For me, there is only one way how you can resolve the situation with Sasuke. One, you tell him the truth about the Uchiha Massacre."

Itachi went red, losing his composure; he yelled, "And take away the illusion of his family being great people. No, I killed them so that he would think of me as the villain. I will not allow him to lose that. If he ever found out the truth, he'd want revenge against the leaf. He'd follow in their footsteps, seeking to destroy Konoha."

"You know I sometimes watch him when on Anbu guard duty, right? Do you know what I see? All I see is an angry child who will become what the villagers you accuse you of becoming. Whether you tell him the truth or not is irrelevant, in my opinion. I believe he will one day turn on the leaf. Either when he chooses power to kill you over the village, becoming a traitor, or when he finds out the truth of the Uchiha Massacre." Yūgao said mercilessly.

"Yūgao, please, protect him. He is my brother. I love him. Sasuke can be shown not to follow the path of revenge and power. Sasuke still has the potential to be a loyal shinobi of Konoha."

"You know that that is unlikely going to happen." said a new voice.

Yūgao and Itachi looked to where the new voice came from, only to find Naruto sitting cross-legged next to Yūgao, eating ramen. Yūgao 's lips twitched. "You know I hate it when you do that."

"I know that is why I do it." came Naruto's reply, making Yūgao's lips twitch more violently. "Anyway, why won't you protect Sasuke? What legitimate reason do you have? Isn't your duty to bring Sasuke back to Konoha as Shinobi of the Leaf?"

Naruto activated his three tomoe Sharingan. "You know damn well why I won't. Disregarding the fact that Sasuke is a sociopath in the making, I have other things to do. You know, watch over my goddaughter, make sure Danzo doesn't discover her, keep her safe in the coming months, and so on. As for why I won't, Sasuke is power-hungry, arrogant, greedy, prideful. Should I continue with the list of bad character attributes Sasuke possesses?"

Itachi grit his teeth, but Naruto keeps going. "Besides, looking after him would mean watching him and training him. You and I both know I won't be there all the time to keep him safe from the likes of Orochimaru and Danzo. Furthermore, my loyalty is to people, not the village. In other words, to you, Yugoa, Tsuki, and her mother. Other than that, don't you think I know how you plan to die at Sasuke's hand."

"Wait, he plans to what?" shrieked Yūgao, fixing Itachi with a gaze that translated into 'explain yourself.'

When Itachi glared at him for revealing that bit of information, Naruto turned his head to the side, avoiding eye contact. He smirked at getting Itachi in trouble with Yūgao. "Well," Yūgao said impatiently, waiting for an explanation.

"This doesn't" Before Itachi could finish, Yūgao interrupted him. "If you are going to say this doesn't concern me, I'll swear to Kami (God) it will be my hand you will die at, not your brothers. Now tell me what Naruto talks about."

Itachi scowled at them. When it became apparent that he wasn't going to answer Yūgao, Naruto rolled his eyes. "Itachi is dying. He has a disease that will see to it that he won't live much longer. Maybe another three years, five is he fortunate. Itachi plans to die at the hand of Sasuke so that he will be celebrated as a hero in Konoha."

Itachi glared at Naruto for revealing information; he did not want to be revealed. "Can't you just keep your mouth shut for once?" Naruto just ignored him. Itachi was usually a very level-headed person, but he lost his cool quicker than any shinobi in the five elemental nations when it came to the Uchiha Massacre and his brother.

Yūgao's face went red with rage at hearing what Itachi had planned. "You dumb, dumb fool." She roared. "You may not be able to be an official Konoha shinobi, but you sure as hell won't need to die at your brother's hands just to make him a hero with your final breath. After everything you have done, you deserve a quiet, peaceful life. It would be best if you asked the Sandaime to recall Tsunade to the village. She could take a look at your case, finding out if there is a cure to your disease."

Itachi looked at Yugao- a sad smile on his face. "No, I really don't, Yūgao. I really don't deserve a peaceful life."

Yūgao snorted, as did Naruto, unconsciously doing the act at the same time.

Hokage's office

Hiruzen Sarutobi sighed again. Otogakure, Tatsu's information, and the following council meeting didn't go well enough. As if the mystery of Otogakure wasn't enough, he now had to look out for the Clan Heads. Well, only the Hyuga and Inuzuka Clan Heads, but you get the idea.

The biggest threat, though, was Danzo. The scheming, traitorous old bastard. Thought the Sandaime. If luck were on the Sandaime's side, Tsume (Inuzuka Clan Head, Kiba's mother), Hiashi(Hyuga Clan Head, Hinata's mother), and Danzo wouldn't team up with each other. That would cause internal trouble inside of Konoha on a larger scale.

Hiashi one time even had the gall to try to gain partnership over Dai Uchiha. Dai was one of the few child survivors of the Uchiha Massacre.

The Hokage had to restrain himself that day or risk murdering Hiashi. Hiashi was, without a doubt, the representative of the most powerful and well-numbered Clan.

Giving him the right to adopt Dai would mean permitting him to re-create the Uchiha Clan inside the Hyuga. Without a doubt, Dai would be branded with the Cage-Bird Seal, just as the tradition of the Hyuga demanded. The tradition is that anyone who carries the name Hyuga and is not of the Main Branch must be branded with the Cage-Bird Seal or accept being hunted down as a traitor to the Hidden Leaf.

The Cage-Bird Seal was invented to protect the Hyuga's visual powers-the Byakugan. At least, that is what the Main Branch of the family claims. The Hyuga Clan is divided into two fractions. The Main House and the Branch House.

This subdivision has existed in the Hyuga Clan for 900 years. The Seal was introduced to the Clan after a fraction of the Clan lost a civil war 900 years ago. The Seal was branded on the foreheads of the losers of the civil wars and their descendants to keep them in check. The fraction who won the civil war was the Main Branch.

Today the Main Branch says that the Cage-Bird Seal protects the Byakugan from falling into enemy hands. That is not the truth, however. If it were true, then every member of the Hyuga Clan would have been branded with the Seal.

Plus, the Cage-Bird Seal falls under the category of a group of Seals classified as 'curse Seals.' As the name suggests being branded with it is viewed as a curse you can't get rid of. The fact that the Seal has parts of a submission Seal and slavery Seal integrated into it strengthens the conjecture that the Seal is a curse.

With a single hand seal, a member of the Main House can make a branch member feel immense pain. This makes the members of the Branch House effectively slaves to the Main House. Not that the Main House would ever admit it.

With the meeting just over, Hiruzen felt cornered. His political support from the Shinobi Council was wavering. He, the Hyuga Clan Head, Inuzuka Clan Head, and the three Shinobi elders agreed on nothing. Over the years, his former teammates had developed a more militaristic mindset than the Sandaime liked. The Hyuga Clan Head had an ego, same as the Inuzuka Clan Head. They, like Danzo, were also fanatics and populists when it came to Konoha.

The rest of the Clan Heads usually agreed with the Hokage's opinion, even though they had their fair share of disagreements as well. But that was to be expected in something as difficult as politics. The two Clan Heads, as well as the elders, always had their own agenda at heart. Therefore they shouldn't be trusted.

His relationship with Jiraiya had gone down the drain after he informed him of Naruto's disappearance. His toad summons sent him a weekly report, filled with information he discovered via his spy network. But still, he hadn't seen Jiraiya in over six long years. They only communicated through his toad summons in letters, never face to face.

At this point, he even had doubts if Jiraiya would ever return to Konoha at all. Now, of all the times he needed him to investigate Otogakure, he wasn't there.

He couldn't trust the Clan Heads because the Inuzuka and Hyuga Clan Head would share the information with their untrustable Clan elders. Maybe they would share this information with the general populace or use it for their own agenda, whatever that may be. Either way, the Hokage couldn't risk it. He would not make the same mistake he made with Naruto and his team.

The elders couldn't be trusted with the information as well. At this point, the Sandaime was depressed and desperate.

But he needed support. Without the support of the Shinobi Council, he had no power. The Hokage laughed. It was unlikely that the Shinobi Council would push him out of office simply because no one was nearly good enough to replace him. Nonetheless, every leader needed the support of their people. It was the people that gave leaders their power. But he needed support, people he could trust, share the information with, investigate, and investigate if Orochimaru led the village to plot against Konohagakure. If that were true, he needed to plan a preemptive strike against Otogakure. Then, it would be war. For that war which was the worst-case scenario, he would need the trust of the Clan Heads. He would need their shinobi to attack Otogakure.

The Hokage was depressed. Many Clan Heads on the Council represented only their Clan's own agenda. They didn't have the welfare of the entire village at heart. In short, the Council was corrupt and did not work in the village's best interest. It was depressing for the Hokage to realize that the people you were supposed to work with as Hokage could not be trusted.

But who can I trust? Thought the Hokage. Right now, his focus needed to be on Otogakure. He would deal with the Council at a later date. The answer to the Hokage's question came quickly. Kakashi, Gai, Kurenai, a few other jounin, and nearly the entirety of the Anbu. But even the Anbu the Hokage suspected were infiltrated by Root agents of Danzo who were only loyal to him.

"What about Tatsu?" asked a new voice.

The Hokage smiled. "I admit I have my doubts about him, but yes, he could…." The Hokage trailed off, only now realizing that there was someone else in the room. Turning around, the Hokage saw the Jounin Commander of Konoha, Shikaku Nara, leaning against a wall.

"What are you doing here?" the Hokage asked in an agitated voice. He wanted to think about how he could deal with the current dilemma alone.

"Isn't it obvious, helping you in your thinking process." Stated the Nara. The Hokage sighed, walking away from the window he was looking outside of and taking his seat at the chair behind the Hokage's desk. He leaned back in the chair and let out a breath. "You know me too well, Shikaku." Declared the Nara.

The Nara shrugged. "It isn't too hard to tell when something troubles. In my experience, every human develops a pattern when something troubles them."

"A pattern, you say?" asked the Hokage, amused and a little bit interested in Shikaku's analysis. They usually were spot on. "Pray tell, what is my pattern?"

"Normally, you stare outside the window in the Hokage's office. I always knock three times on the door. When I know you don't let anyone enter, you are one of two things. Either pissed or so deep in thought that you become completely unaware of your surroundings. The minute you didn't see me enter, I knew it was the second. Seeing that we just came from a particularly Council Meeting, it doesn't take a genius what you are thinking about."

"Earlier, you stated that you wanted to help me in the thinking process; now I realized that I couldn't trust the Clan Heads."

Shikaku sighed sadly. "You are following the right path with that decision." Said Shikaku, shocking the Hokage. "But do you think you have enough Anbu to take on a village who we suspect is run by Orochimaru?"

"The Anbu are the special forces of this village. Many of them value the village above their respective Clan. They will protect the village." Argued the Hokage, not answering the question with a 'yes' or 'no.'

"That won't do it, and you know it. How many of the Anbu value the village more than the clans they came from. Ten percent? Twenty percent? Forty percent? We both know that the Anbu will not win a full-out war if worst comes to worst. If Orochimaru is indeed the leader of Otogakure, the Anbu will not suffice to win the war that will come with Orochimaru as the Otokage." Countered the Nara.

"The leader of Otogakure will not declare war on Konoha. Only one of the five Great Nations would have the forces available to challenge Konoha." The Hokage said sternly.

"Maybe. But if Tatsu is correct in his belief that Orochimaru is leading the village, war would nonetheless happen." Remarked the Jounin Commander.

The Hokage frowned—another war. The Sandaime would do anything to avoid another war, literally anything. War brought out the worst in all parties involved. He had seen children kill their parents, the same happening the other way around. Hiruzen was not sure if he could partake in another war, much less lead it. To top it all of, the next war would probably be led against his former student. He should have just killed him when he had the chance.

But the Hokage had to take one thing into account. The Nara was right. The student of the Nidaime was certain of that. Sometimes it infuriated the Kage. His analytical mind left no room for hope and the best scenario; there was only room for the worst version of events in the mind of the lazy Clan Head. The Nara Clan was known for two things: All people coming from the Clan were incredibly lazy. However, the lazier the Nara was, the more intelligent they usually tended to be.

"We have gone off-topic. What will you do with Tatsu?" asked Shikaku.

The Hokage raised his eyebrows. "What do you want me to do? Distrust the Clan Heads but put my trust in a hunter nin why I know nearly nothing about with a grudge against Orochimaru?" He asked incredulously.

"Yes." Came the reply from the laziest person in the entire room.

"…" The Hokage did not know what to say, so he settled for silence and stared at the Nara with a look of pure disbelief on his face. The Nara, on the other hand, looked amused at the reaction. He chuckled, seeing the look. "You know many Clan Heads, including myself, won't hold it against you. The majority of the Shinobi Council have faith in you to do the right thing. We know what kind of person Danzo is. Don't let him, the elders, Tsume, Hiashi get into your head. While those four are only interested in gathering more power for themselves, you can still trust the rest of us. We may not like it, but we understand why you keep the Clan Heads out of the loop. Plus, as you said, with the disaster that happened years ago with Team 12, we understand why you don't trust the entire Shinobi Council anymore. With Tsume, Hiashi, Danzo, the elders having used vital information to achieve their agendas before, we support your decision to keep the Clan Heads out of the loop."

The Hokage smiled warmly at the support. "Thanks, Shikaku, I needed that." The Nara gave a bow, exiting the office. Things are proceeding as we planned, Naruto, Itachi. Thought the Nara, satisfied, a smile on his face.

End of Chapter 9