Tithe: chapter one
Many years ago, in a war remembered only by graying old men, Kaisui Village of Wave Country was saved from utter destruction by the powerful force that was Konoha, the hidden village of Fire Country. As a result a treaty was made; one deemed fair by all peoples that began a pleasant history of peace and protection between the two countries. Wave was now a valuable ally and sea port for the land bound country of Fire. In remembrance of their actions and their continuing protection, a tithe was made to Fire Country every five years. This tithe usually came in the form of manpower, under the idea of replacing the lives that Konoha lost protecting Kaisui.
"But I'm not nearly the best teacher we have," argued Umino Iruka to the governor in front of him. "Wouldn't it be better to send Nagano-san or even Ika-kun; he's young, but already the students adore him. Konoha always asks only for our best, and that can't possibly be me."
The governor shook his head sadly. "You think so little of yourself, Iruka-sensei. You were unknowingly chosen as Nagano-san's successor upon his retirement. Your training was to begin at the start of the school year." He watched the skeptical look on Iruka's face turn towards the window. "You are an up and coming teacher, known for your boundless patience and goodwill towards your students no matter their problems. A young man of your talents will easily be able to adapt to a new village, whereas an older man like your mentor would experience stress at such a change." Iruka's face turned slightly guilty.
"Konoha has asked for a teacher with enough expertise to immediately handle a graduating class of pre-genin mages, which Ika-sensei has not been allowed to experience as of yet. You, Iruka-sensei, will be our tithe to Konoha." The governor stood and walked over to the young man, who was now staring morosely out the window. "Wave will always be your home, but we wish you the best as you make a second home in Konoha. You have a position of respect waiting for you. To be asked to train their young students is a privilege."
Iruka sighed loudly as he faced the governor, his brown eyes carefully concealing his true thoughts as he gave his final argument. "I've not even been able to call a familiar and you would send me as your best." He shook his head. "I can only see this ending badly."
"It is true that our village has been on shaky ties with Konoha recently because of the betrayal, but we cannot be held at fault for what a former villager does after they leave this place. Maybe they wish to discern our loyalty to their country by taking what we hold dear, and we do hold you dear, Iruka-sensei. It was not with an easy heart that I came to this decision. Go to Konoha and show them that we are not all like Mizuki. This village is still worthy of their continued protection."
Iruka's shoulders tensed as he heard the name of his former friend spoken aloud, something that was rarely done. His thoughts turned back to the day almost four years ago that they had been informed of Mizuki's incarceration and subsequent execution for his betrayal of Konoha. Iruka's long time friend had been part of Kaisui's tithe five years ago; Konoha had requested two chuunin level mages with the ability to perform shinobi jutsus. Iruka silently wondered how he'd be able to happily live in the same village that had put his friend to death. With a sigh he released his tension and nodded. "I will go."
The old governor gave a small chuckle. "Such a large sigh to set out on your adventure with…" He paused and moved to grasp Iruka's shoulder reassuringly. "There is only one thing you must do to prepare yourself for the position you will be taking, and you actually mentioned it yourself earlier. I have scrolls for you to study on your way to Konoha. The path is through a forest populated with many magical creatures, much more than we have here. By the time you arrive in Konoha you should make sure you have a proper familiar following you. This will showcase your abilities as a mage, proving to them without a doubt that you are readily capable of teaching their children."
Iruka blinked, coughed and blinked again. "A familiar? Sir, I've tried to summon one before and failed. The only creatures I've successfully called were a school of tuna and that flock of seagulls that almost destroyed the town."
It was hard to keep himself from laughing at those memorable events, but the old man persevered as he caught Iruka's eyes again. "Your call was so strong that it pulled in more than your fair share of potential familiars. I've found a scroll that describes a calling process that may be better suited to your skills, but it is a call for woodland creatures only, not the seaside animals you're used to." The governor walked over to grab a large scroll from his desk. "Within is the jutsu. It is surprisingly simple to perform, but hard to fill with the appropriate amounts of power. Your fine abilities at detailed chakra manipulation should make this an easy spell for you." He handed the scroll over to the teacher and smiled wide. "They are expecting you within two weeks, plenty of time to enjoy the trip and call yourself a nice cat, or a wolf even."
Iruka accepted the offered scroll silently. Once more he looked out the thin window, easily viewing the sea beyond the village. The calm waves continued to roll in without thought of the beach they broke on; it was a favorite sight of Iruka's that would soon be nothing more than a memory to keep him awake at night. Their constant and soft sound that normally lulled him to sleep would be replaced by the silence of a village full of people. He could feel the frown growing on his face when the governor pulled his attention back once more.
"There is one other thing I would reassure you of before you leave, young Iruka. Maybe you don't care to voice your complaint, but I'll have your mind at ease about it anyway." The old man motioned towards a corner shelf in his office. Three levels of finished wood held a number of personal memorial tablets each inscribed with the name of a departed loved one. "It…" the governor swallowed loudly. "It is just as easy for me to light a candle for my own son on the Day of Remembrance as it is for me to light two more for your parents. If this action would help you to feel better, I would be proud to safeguard their souls the same way I do those of my own family."
This time Iruka did not blink or even breathe until he knew what to say in answer. He schooled his face into a calm expression before speaking. "It's never been an easy thing to light any candle, sir. I accept your offer, even though I will still light my own for them on the anniversary. It will ease my mind to know that the sea will still see their remembrance lit by one who held them as closely as he did his own child."
The governor sniffed. "Ah, even so many years after it still seems a fresh wound, and today I lose yet another son of the village. You will go and pack now. Carry-boxes should already be placed within your rooms. I'll see you for dinner tomorrow; your last one here at the village, and what a celebration it will be!" He sat back down at his desk and nodded to himself.
Iruka bowed and left without another word. As he traveled the hallways out of the village's offices he couldn't help but feel the weight of his new scroll in his arms. It seemed an almost evil thing as he glanced down at it. The wrappings around the aged paper were faded and stained; obviously it had not been well cared for. As he walked and contemplated the object he was unaware that a pair of dark eyes and pattering feet began to follow. It was only once he arrived at his own apartment within the small bachelor house of the village that he sensed the short presence behind him. He glanced back and smiled while unlocking his door.
"Inari, what can I help you with?"
The young boy stared up at him, his eyes glaring from underneath the brim of a striped fisherman's hat. "You're leaving, aren't you?" He quickly looked down to avoid seeing Iruka's answering nod, but the silence was enough for him to understand.
The young teacher sighed and opened his door. "Why don't you come in? I'll make us some tea and tell you how much more Ika-sensei knows about building with sand than I do. None of my sand castles ever stayed past high tide, but he had this trick that kept them perfect for at least two days." Iruka couldn't help but chuckle at the bright light in Inari's eyes. The young boy was almost useless as a mage, but his understanding of architecture was amazing for one so young. Most people attributed it to the boy's uncle, a renowned bridge builder, but Iruka saw a big difference between that crotchety old man and his young student.
Inari quickly entered the small apartment and settled on the old couch. He watched as Iruka puttered into the kitchen and grabbed cups and a teapot. With even greater interest, the boy watched as his teacher performed two small jutsus on the teapot, one to fill it with fresh water, the other to heat it to the perfect boiling point. Within seconds the spicy aroma of the favored Wave blend was wafting through the room, aided by the breeze entering through windows that were only ever closed during a storm.
The two males sat beside each other with their cups in silence. Iruka was still reeling from the idea of leaving his home, and Inari was too nervous to speak about his teacher leaving forever. In the end they only spoke about Inari's future in the seaside town. Iruka enjoyed chatting with his young but very mature student until he noticed that the light from outside was getting dimmer.
"It's almost dark now, Inari," he mentioned. "You should get home before your mother worries too much. I understand that they've planned a going away party for me tomorrow."
Inari nodded as he stood and followed Iruka to the door. "My mom started cooking stuff today." He slid on his sandals and looked back up at his tall teacher. "I'll say goodbye tomorrow." He turned without another word and left.
Iruka closed the door softly and sighed. A quick glance to his left reminded him what he should have been doing that evening. He quietly lit the lamps around his apartment and began packing his personal belongings. Thankfully, the bachelor apartments came furnished, so he didn't need to worry about selling furniture or dishes. As he began removing pictures from frames he was able to remember how happy he was just seven years ago, when he'd been allowed his own apartment after graduation. He could barely remember watching these same pictures being packed away after his parents death in a great tsunami when he was twelve. The shock he and the entire town experienced had run its course only after two neighboring villages and Konoha had come to help clean up.
Two crates were easily filled with mementos and clothes before Iruka sealed them shut and laid down with a large sigh. There was too little preparation to tire him out for a good night's rest, so he wound up forcing himself to read an old textbook he had chosen not to take. What few dreams he experienced that night were full of the Konoha leaf mark and the tremendously powerful mages who had gained the abilities of a shinobi that wore it proudly.
Author's note: My first post of yaoi, hopefully the first of many. Let's see how it goes. :D