Well, here's another one-shot that I'm not sure where it came from…Maybe my muse is back. I should test it on my ongoing story, shouldn't I?
Anyways, this is just a little something about Sakumo and his reasons for raising Kakashi the way he did. Comments are always welcome! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own "Naruto"
"The tragedy of war is that it uses man's best to do man's worst."
- Henry Fosdick
Rule for Children
Hatake Sakumo knew that his son was a genius from the time the little toddler threw a kunai – which was almost the length of his own chubby arm – with all the strength his tiny body could muster, and hit the target circle frighteningly close to the centre. It was only after this incident that Sakumo could congratulate his son for his first walking steps, which had the legendary White Fang suspecting that Kakashi had unconsciously used a bout of chakra to make up for the muscles he had yet to acquire in order to throw the kunai with such precision.
Sakumo mourned for his beloved son. Because there was war just outside the Gates of Konoha, and he knew how desperately the Village needed more soldiers to keep the war at bay. Sakumo had been in the frontlines more times than he could count, and he had experienced the sheer horrors of it. And he knew that they would send for Kakashi, as soon as he was old enough to use several ninjutsu, to fight on those frontlines.
Sakumo loved his son; could not bear to think that he would have to look at his charred, distorted flesh in the bloody mud and watch helplessly as he died, just like he had done with so many other dying shinobi. He knew that it was mostly luck that kept you alive in that chaotic rain of bombs; even the most skilled ninja could die if he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. But he also learned that instinct could guide you to the right places at the right time. As a prodigy of the Hatake Clan, Sakumo could only hope that Kakashi had the necessary instincts that would keep him alive.
So Sakumo decided to train Kakashi and teach him everything he knew. The boy was truly a genius, as he seemed to absorb all the techniques, the movements, the theoretical strategies and lessons like a sponge.
On warm spring days, Sakumo would often find his son sitting on a bench in the park reading about the human anatomy and the functions and locations of the main organs – so that he could learn where to strike in order to deliver a fatal blow to the enemy. Passing mothers would glance in the boy's direction with curiosity, but also a little apprehension. The other children ignored Kakashi, knowing that they wouldn't be able to get him to join their games. Older shinobi would take a quick look at the book and smile grimly. Sakumo could only watch with sadness in his heart.
At the age of four, Kakashi entered the Academy, and Sakumo was immediately summoned by the teachers not even a week since classes began. The Chuunin teacher in charge expressed his surprise at how talented and knowledgeable Kakashi was, miles ahead of any child his age. Sakumo was informed that at this rate, the boy could graduate within a single year or even less. This was not really news to the Jounin, as he had already anticipated this. He suddenly regretted teaching his son so much. Maybe if he hadn't have known so much, he could have spent at least a few years in the Academy to stall for time – years he wouldn't have to spend on the battlefield. But Sakumo knew that he was just being optimistic. With or without his pre-Academy training, Kakashi was still a genius.
As he left the Academy after the meeting, Sakumo glimpsed a taijutsu class. It was easy to pick out the diamond in the sand. The movements of most of the children were still clumsy and contained too much excess bravado. But Kakashi moved with controlled precision, swiftness and strength. That boy could instinctively envision and simulate a fight against an enemy ninja, while the others were likely imagining themselves fighting heroically against giant snakes and spiders.
Sakumo could feel the Village's eyes on his son.
By the time he graduated the Academy at the age of five, Kakashi was thoroughly used to the praises he received from the adults. They called him a genius and a prodigy and he knew that those people were expecting something from him. The others students became jealous and distant towards him, but they never dared to tease him. The social rankings of shinobi came from skill and not class or age.
But Kakashi wasn't interested in the compliments that came from Academy teachers and other parents. He only ever wanted his father's praise. As far back as he could remember, he was always holding a kunai, always training. He didn't mind; in fact, he enjoyed it. But Sakumo would only very rarely give him praise. So Kakashi worked on improving his skills and learning complicated texts.
Upon mastering technique after technique, Kakashi would always turn to his father and wait for something, anything. Usually, he would receive an acknowledging nod and on those rare occasions, perhaps a smile. The reaction he sometimes found, however, was a sincerely sad and guilty look in his father's face. Kakashi never really knew the reason behind that expression; not until he was much older.
When Kakashi became a Chuunin, he did not receive any reaction at all. He was told from his sensei that Sakumo had been through a tough mission. A few weeks later, Kakashi walked into his father's room in the morning only to find a cold body.
The news of Hatake Sakumo's death had already reached the shinobi – who would later be called the Fourth Hokage – by the time his student came to find him. The little boy asked to know the reason behind his father's suicide in a voice that sounded too calm – too inhumane. Knowing that nothing good would come from lies, he told his student the truth.
From that day on, Kakashi changed. He no longer looked for someone's praise or showed his newly learned techniques to anyone. He lived up to and abided by all the Shinobi Rules.
Half a year later, Kakashi sat alone by the river in the darkness, just outside one of the reserve bases, distanced from the frontline. They would be heading out to battle again once the sun rose. The Yellow Flash sighed as he stepped out of a meeting where they had discussed possible strategies and formations, and caught sight of his student. His small figure brutally reminded him of how young Kakashi still was. The blond man approached the boy, making just enough noise not to startle the Chuunin – which in truth, was close to silent. He sat down beside his student without a word and for a few long minutes, they shared a comfortable silence.
It was broken sometime later when Kakashi spoke in a quiet voice. "Why do you think my father taught me to fight when the other children were still learning how to run?"
The Jounin glanced at his student and thought over the childhood that this boy had been deprived of. He heard no bitterness or regret in Kakashi's voice, which made it sound even worse. He knew that Kakashi wasn't upset that his father had chose to train him – that he had no experience of 'childhood'. To him, the term 'childhood' meant training and learning how to fight and eventually kill. To Kakashi, that was normal, because he had never gotten a taste of anything else.
"He probably thought you had enough talent to learn it." The Jounin tried to avoid the question, but knew fully well that his student would not fall for it. And he was right.
"It has nothing to do with talent," Kakashi said with a slight edge on his voice now. "He taught me the exact places on the body to stab a kunai in order to kill someone, sensei. Even an idiot could learn that."
His teacher looked at him, and for the first time, realised that the boy hadn't cleaned off properly after the battle. His right arm was still splattered with foreign blood and it was shaking, just a little, no matter how hard the boy clenched his fist.
"You are a born genius, Kakashi, and your father knew it," he began, staring now at the gentle current of the river. "He knew that the Village would send you to battle very soon, once they found out how talented you were. He tried to save you by teaching you how to fight. In his eyes, he was probably teaching you how to survive. In war, Kakashi, the only way to survive is to kill. Sakumo-san knew that better than anyone else. He did his best to try and keep you alive."
There was a pause while the boy analysed what he had heard, and then asked, "Is that a rule?"
"No," the Jounin replied, reaching out to rest his hand on his student's silver hair. "No, it's a painful exception. One day when the War is over, there will be a rule that children are allowed to grow up as children."
Kakashi finally understood what his teacher had meant when he met those three.
Now, he sat comfortably under a tree with his special orange book slightly lowered as he watched his three students bicker and scream at each other. They had hopes, dreams and ambitions; at twelve years old they had yet to learn how best to kill an enemy, much less put that into practice; they could spend their days without a care of the risks of ambushes or the next life threatening missions. They were children, and the only thing expected of them was for them to be children. In this new era that so many had died and sacrificed to bring about, there was no need for anymore eight year old prodigy assassins.
Knowing this is enough to make Hatake Kakashi's eye crinkle in a sincere smile.