The Howl of the Kitsune
Chapter 1: The Death of Legend.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, nor any scenarios or characters affiliated with it. I do, however, own the story and any original characters I introduce.
AN: Inuzuka Naruto… It's got a nice ring to it, eh?
The dark smoke drifted slowly through the night sky, blotting out the stars. The moon, bright and full, pierced the smog and shone down on the broken and ravaged field, showing great rents that marred the earth's surface. Broken and fallen trees were scattered far and wide, their remaining branches reaching out like dead arms, grasping at the sky in final desperation. But worst of all, surpassing the other terrible sights, were the bodies. Broken and maimed, they littered the destroyed field, soaking the ground with their red blood. And, everywhere, were the sounds of the grieving survivors, mourning the loss of their dead comrades.
There, on the far side of the field, was a small gathering of men and women, those who had found the strength of will to control their emotions, to save their grief for a later date. For now, their only thought was for their gallant leader, the man who had stood against a demon and won. They clustered at the feet of the great toad chieftain, who had aided their general in his fight. Every head was craned upwards in a mixture of dread and hope, and all were anxiously silent, each of them pondering the same question: Was their leader still among them? Or was the gallant commander that had won them the victory suffering from terrible wounds, or even...?
But then a shout broke out from the midst of the crowd, a note of hope echoing among the people. With renewed hope, they watched the toad shoot out its tongue, laying it gently on top of its head. Then there was silence again, and the gathered ninja watched in a reverential silence as the tongue was slowly brought down to earth.
The toad's tongue touched the ground gently, and the gathered shinobi felt a shudder of relief. There, standing on the tongue, was their leader, the one and only Fourth Hokage. As one, they began to rush forward, to congratulate him on his victory.
But… there was something about him that stopped him, some aura that hung about him that warned them away, silenced their questions. Their run broke into staggered walking, and then they stopped altogether. Instead, they gazed at their leader with uncertainty, their trained eyes noting the slump of his shoulders and the small bundle he held gently in his arms. A sense of horror and awful dread fell over them once more.
Then, slowly, the Fourth's head began to rise, and they saw his face. They gasped in horror as they saw unspeakable pain written in his eyes, even as his face remained ever in its characteristic grin. The blonde shinobi seemed to look past them, his eyes glazed and unfocused as he wrestled with the agony that tore at him.
Then there was a motion in the crowd, and a lone figure burst through the assembled ranks, sprinting to the Yondaime's side. The ninjas muttered amongst themselves anxiously as they saw the former Hokage stop next to the Fourth, noting that the battle armor that he had worn in his prime was gracing his person once again.
Then, there was a hushed silence. The Sandaime reached out to touch the Yondaime, but suddenly the Fourth snapped out of his trance, warning Sarutobi away with a quick bark. But, even as his moment of anger vanished, his face softened, and the pain began to fade from his eyes. He held out the bundle to the Third, grinning widely. The Sandaime took it reverently, his eyes focused on the glazed eyes of his successor. Then, slowly, the Fourth spoke, his voice so hushed that none save the Sandaime could understand his words. Then, slowly, so slowly, the Fourth toppled forward, his face frozen into his trademark grin. His body fell to the ground, and with it fell the single greatest shinobi to ever walk the earth.
The Yondaime Hokage was dead.
Again, there was a long silence, except that this time it was one of horror and disbelief. Then, a cry of anguish tore through the crowd, and the massed shinobi surged forward, intent on reaching the body of their leader, hoping that somehow, someway, they could save him yet. But, before they got within ten feet, the Sandaime's head turned towards them with a snap, his eyes filled with a fire that they had not seen in over a decade. The veterans, those who knew those eyes and had served under the warrior to whom they belonged, flashed to the front of the crowd and pulled out their kunai, intent on stopping the flood of shinobi from going any further. After a moment of confusion, the Third took charge of the situation, his powerful voice ringing out above the noise of the crowd.
"SILENCE!" Immediately, all motion ceased, and silence reigned in the field. The Sandaime, his strong spirit shining through his mild persona, turned away and knelt next to the body of his successor, resting a hand on his back in silent reverence. Then, carefully, he rolled the corpse of the Yondaime Hokage over, so that his eyes gazed unseeing into the smoky night sky. The Third smiled despite his grief as he saw the grin that the Yondaime wore, cheerful even in death. Then, in a final act of farewell, he brushed his wrinkled hands across the Fourth's unseeing eyes, closing his eyelids. As those azure orbs were locked away forever, he heaved a sigh of unimaginable sorrow and stood up, the small bundle still held in the crook of his left arm. He turned and faced the crowd of ninja that stood in despair, not wanting to believe that this had just happened.
"The Yondaime Hokage… has passed away." His voice was solemn and low, but it carried across the crowd, bringing tears to their eyes. Some of them were sad that he had died, while others were ashamed that they had not done more to help him. But, no matter their reasons, there was not a one of them whose eyes were not brimming with tears, war-hardened shinobi or not. Even in the determination-filled eyes of the Sandaime, a single tear could be seen slowly inching down his cheek. But, despite his sorrow, he forced himself to continue, determined to fulfill the Fourth's final wish.
"He sacrificed himself to defeat the Kyuubi no Yoko, to end its reign of terror. But, my friends, there is something that you do not know." A startled murmur began to spread through the crowd, and they gazed with shock at their Hokage, their bloodshot eyes open wide in wonder. "The Kyuubi is not dead." This time, there was horrified silence, then an explosion of words. No two words could be made out, but it was obvious that there was rage and denial in their minds and hearts. Had their Hokage died for nothing? How could the demon still live? These questions, and so many more, were shouted at the Third Hokage, the shinobi who spoke them stunned and horrified.
The Sandaime allowed them a moment to express their emotions, then raised his hand in a silent demand for silence. That tiny gesture was enough to silence the entire crowd, and instantly their words died away into nothing. After a long pause, the Third began to speak once more, his voice filled with quiet strength.
"As I said, it is not dead. But it is no longer quite alive, either. It has been sealed away, locked inside the most powerful container possible." Stunned silence blanketed the area, with the shinobi unable to understand the words of their Hokage. The Sandaime looked down at the small bundle in his arms and sighed deeply before presenting it to the crowd of ninja. "Here, my friends! This is your savior! That which keeps the Kyuubi imprisoned, that which allows us to once more live our normal lives, free from fear. Here is your hero, the living sacrifice that has saved our village!" With a dramatic flair, he unwrapped the bundle partially, showing to the crowd the face of their savior.
The ninjas leaned forward, their eyes skeptical and surprised. There, held aloft in the Third's arms, was a small child, obviously new born. Even though he was only recently arrived in this world, he bore a mop of unruly blonde hair, and his blue eyes stared at the gathered shinobi with childlike curiosity. Then, and only then, was there a reaction. From the back of the crowd, there was a loud shout of protest.
"WHAT?" And there, storming his way through the crowd to stand in front of the Hokage, was Hyuuga Hiashi, with his brother, Hizashi, in tow. These two men stood side by side, glaring at the Hokage with a strange animosity. "You say that this child contains the Kyuubi? You say that our Hokage sacrificed himself, so he could spare a demon?" Sarutobi's eyes widened, and he pulled the child towards him protectively.
"What are you talking about, Hiashi? This child is our savior! He's keeping the fox impris-"
"WRONG!" Hiashi broke into the Sandaime's sentence with practiced ease. "The Yondaime may have thought he was sealing it away, but I know better! Sarutobi-sama, you, of all people, know that these eyes of mine can see all. And, right now, I see nothing more or less than a demon, weak and frail, which will bide its time and wait patiently until an opportunity to kill us presents itself!"
The Sandaime stared in shock at Hiashi, nonplussed by the force of his anger. "You… You lie! I know the seal that the Fourth used, and I know its strength and purpose! This is not the demon, it's just a boy!"
"Oh? And how can we know that?" Here, Hiashi turned away from the older ninja, turning towards the crowd that stood near. "Is there any way to prove that this is but a child, and not the demon guising itself as such? Or, even if the child be truly what it is, can anyone prove to us that the demon has not infested its mind like a parasite? No, there is no one, not a single man that can step forward and speak with certainty. All we have is the word of a dead man." Here, Hiashi had made his first mistake. The Fourth was loved by all who had served with him, and most Konoha ninja, especially those of his generation, worshiped him with a near fanatic devotion. For Hiashi to slur the name of their dearly beloved leader by stating that he could have been mistaken was a crime that bordered on sacrilege. However, with his customary quick thinking, the Hyuuga official realized his slip of the tongue, and quickly worked to remedy his position.
"No, my friends, I did not mean any dishonor to the Fourth. No doubt he did everything within his power to rid us of this beast, and he deserves the highest praise for his heroic actions and deeds. But, after all is said and done, he was, like us, only human. To be human is to err, and, in this case, a single error could mean the destruction of our entire village. Can we risk our lives, the lives of our loved ones, the fate of our entire way of life, on the judgment of a single man, even if it was someone as great as the Yondaime?" His words had done the trick, causing the gathered shinobi to whisper among themselves questioningly, and a smile of triumph flashed across his face.
But Sarutobi was not about to let him go unchallenged. "Yes! We can trust the fate to our village to one man! That is the fate and purpose of a Hokage: to lead his people down the road he deems best. Are you inferring, Hyuuga Hiashi, that the Hokage's decisions were incorrect?" For a moment, the pale-eyed noble looked taken aback, not expecting such a clever riposte. However, his brother Hizashi stepped forward, lending his brother his skill with words.
"Not at all, Sandaime-sama. However, my brother and I love this village, and we are always on the lookout for threats to its well-being, just as you and all those gathered here do. In this case, we are not questioning the judgment of Yondaime-sama, rather, we are merely trying to ensure the safety of Konoha." For a moment, he paused, carefully considering his next words. Then, with a finger extended towards the sleeping boy, he spoke again, his voice low and earnest. "If that boy holds within him the demon fox, which has done so much damage to so many people, is it not good… nay, is it not just to rid this earth of him once and for all, so that the souls of those it has slain may be put to rest?"
Sarutobi was taken aback once more, and he heard the whispers of his shinobi. He knew then that the tide had turned, and that the mob had turned against him. He cursed silently, angered that Hizashi had thought to play on the bereavement of the shinobi, each of which had lost family or friends to the Kyuubi's rampage. He wondered for a moment whether Hiashi was truly interested in the welfare of the village, or if this was just the beginnings of some kind of power play. But, even as he opened his mouth to reply as best as he could, he received unexpected help.
"You are wrong, Hizashi-san." A tall man stalked out from the depths of the crowd, his face concealed behind a high collar. But Sarutobi knew the voice, and so did the Hyuuga twins. Crossing the empty area to stand beside the Sandaime, Aburame Shibi raised his head, his eyes concealed by the tinted shades he constantly wore. His voice was deep and quiet, yet it carried well, so that all could hear plainly what he had to say. "By your logic, it would, indeed, be just. However, by that same logic, each of us here tonight should die as well. There is not a one of us who has not spilled innocent blood, who has not assassinated simply because they were paid to do so. No, Hizashi. If we kill this child, and the demon he holds, we must die as well." Hizashi bowed his head in defeat, knowing that his words had been turned against him by one whose life revolved around logic. But, though he was content to lose this argument, there were others who remained unconvinced.
"Shibi, you're a fool!" His loud voice echoed strangely as Uchiha Fugaku shoved his way through the crowd, standing near, but not too close, to the Hyuuga twins. As he stared at Shibi, his eyes blazed with the power of his Sharingan, and the three tomoe seemed to turn slowly. "I don't know about what's 'just' or 'unjust', but the fact still remains that this demon is still alive! As a simple shinobi, I fail to see the purpose of leaving your enemies alive, so that they can slit your throat while you're sleeping! As much as I hate it, I have to side with the Hyuuga on this. The boy has to be killed, and the demon destroyed." He finished with a glance at Hiashi, who was glaring at him. There was no love lost between the two Noble clans, but sometimes it was wise to join forces.
After Fugaku had finished his little speech, there was a bark of outrage from the back of the crowd. "Shut the fuck up, you little shit!" The Uchiha patriarch turned about, looking for the source of the insult. He didn't have to look long, since it was coming straight at him. Bursting out of the crowd, and baring her teeth in a feral fashion, was Inuzuka Tsume, striding directly towards Fugaku. Close behind her, padding along with raised hackles, came Kuromaru, her familiar and faithful partner.
She came to a dead stop just in front of Fugaku, her clawed hands twitching out of a desire to strike. She settled for a verbal assault, her words filled with outrage. "You little bastard! Don't you dare try to act against the Hokage, or else I'll have those eyes of yours roasted on a spit! And you, you white-eyed freak, you're just as bad! What, you think you can just say whatever the fuck you want, just because your clan is the biggest bunch of brown noses I've ever seen? You people make me sick!" She spat on the ground in front of the three 'noble' shinobi, then shoved her way past them and took up a fighting stance next to the Hokage.
Hiashi and Fugaku stared at her with rage written plainly on their features, while Hizashi bowed his head in shame, knowing full well the truth of her words. But the other two were unwilling to admit it, and Hiashi drew himself up, staring at her with every ounce of aristocratic superiority he could muster. "You little bitch! How dare you speak that way to me? I am Hyuuga Hiashi, Clan Head of the mighty and noble Hyuuga family!" Tsume merely scoffed at him, and Kuromaru gave a gruff laugh.
"Whatever, you goddamn prick! I'll say what I want, to whoever I want, and as much as I want! Got a problem with that, shithead?" Hiashi growled, crouching down into a fighting stance and preparing to annihilate the smart-mouthed bitch that had dared to insult him. But before he could press the assault, he felt his body stiffen uncontrollably, unable to move a muscle. Then, from the shadows around him, a voice made itself heard.
"Kage Shibari no Jutsu… Success…" Hiashi gasped and activated his Byakugan, using his 355° vision to find his attacker. There, in the shadows off to his left, stood Nara Shikaku, his hands still in the Rat seal that had activated his specialty technique. But Hiashi was not alone. As soon as Hizashi realized the predicament that his brother was in, he leapt at Shikaku, intent on disabling the jutsu that bound Hiashi by knocking the shadow-user out cold. But, before he could go far, a giant hand plucked him out of the air and gripped him tightly, holding him firmly despite his thrashing. From beside Shikaku, another voice rang out, deep and loud.
"Now, now, Hizashi-san… If you beat up Shikaku, who's gonna pay for my supper?" The shadow-user grinned for a moment and then groaned loudly, directing a despairing glance at his long-time friend, Akimichi Chouza.
"I never said I'd pay for you! Tch, how troublesome this is…" Chouza grinned at his lazy friend's retort and enlarged his other arm, grabbing the bound Hiashi in his immense grip.
Uchiha Fugaku watched in consternation as his temporary allies were quickly and easily confined, and began to settle into an attack stance of his own, Sharingan spinning as he prepared for combat. Then, he felt his body begin to move on its own, and soon found himself mooning the collected shinobi. As his mind revolted at the thought of his body doing such a thing, a mischievous laugh could be heard from in front of him, the treble laugh of Yamanaka Inoichi.
"Shinranshin no Jutsu… such a handy thing to have. Whether you're turning an enemy against his friends, or embarrassing everyone's least favorite Uchiha, it comes through every time!" Another laugh at the Uchiha's plight echoed across the clearing, and was picked up by a few of the ninja in the crowd, the one's who bore a particular dislike for the Uchiha clan for one reason or another. Chouza, Inoichi, and Shikaku all exchanged glances, each of them pleased with the success of their formation.
But, the carefree attitude of the three friends was soon shattered. With a burst of chakra from their tenketsu, Hiashi and Hizashi forced Chouza to drop them, and they prepared themselves for battle. Fugaku, concentrating hard, managed to throw off the influence that Inoichi had cast upon him, breaking himself free of the psychic technique. After once more covering the prominent Uchiha ass with his pants, he turned and began to flash through hand seals, preparing to roast the Ino-Shika-Cho trio with all the strength he could muster.
"STOP!" Everyone froze as the Sandaime Hokage roared out his command, his voice echoing far and wide. Once he had everyone's attention, he turned furious eyes to towards the two Hyuugas and the lone Uchiha. "There will be no fighting amongst ourselves. Anyone who so much as touches another shinobi out of violence will have his career, and his life, come to an untimely end. Am I perfectly, one-hundred percent, crystal clear?" Under his ferocious gaze, the combatants let go of their anger, and the Ino-Shika-Cho triad gathered by the Sandaime Hokage, exchanging high-fives with a snickering Tsume.
Hiashi bowed solemnly to the Sandaime Hokage, despite his considerable anger at being manhandled by the Akimichi clan head. "As you say, Hokage-sama." Hizashi bowed as well, mumbling an apology, while Fugaku merely turned away and nodded briefly, his fury still obvious.
Sarutobi sighed a little, unable to understand why grown shinobi could still act like prepubescent children. "Good. Now, Hizashi, I understand what you say, but Shibi-kun has an excellent point. Hiashi, I have every confidence in the ability of the Yondaime as a seal master, and I am positive that the seal cannot be broken or tampered with. And you, Fugaku, must understand that this boy is not an enemy. If anything, he is a protector, someone with the power to defend this village. Therefore, I have decided that the child will not be killed, and will remain in Konoha until I or my successor decree otherwise. That is final, Hiashi. I will brook no argument." The Hyuuga nobleman had started at the Hokage's decree, but had subsided again, knowing that the Hokage would not relent on this point. But, that was not the only way to accomplish his goal…
"Very well, Hokage-sama. However, there is one thing that I wish to know. Will the civilians be told about the Kyuubi's fate?" Sarutobi winced, hearing the question that he had hoped wouldn't be asked.
"I would like to keep this matter confidential. Therefore, this information will only be known by those who where at this battle, and the passing on of this knowledge will be punishable by death. Understood?" Hiashi raised his head, his eyes gleaming as he saw an opening. He let out a sound of protest, catching the Hokage's attention.
"Hokage-sama! I'm afraid I must protest! For the villagers to be left in the dark, for the future generation of Konoha to not know that the Kyuubi walks among them? Is that right, Hokage-sama? People must know that the… child… is the vessel for the Kyuubi, and they need to know exactly what happened on this tragic battlefield." Inuzuka Tsume growled again, baring her teeth at Hiashi.
"Bastard! Are you trying to argue with Hokage-sama? I'll rip you a new asshole, you stuck-up pri-" Sarutobi cut her off with a raised hand, and she subsided angrily, glaring at the uptight Hyuuga with murder in her eyes.
"Hiashi… As much as I don't like it, I know that you are right. The villagers must be told the truth." The Hyuuga nobleman smiled, knowing that the Kyuubi would soon be killed by rioting villagers. The Hokage couldn't be everywhere in a village, and, one day, that demon would walk into an alley and not come back out… But the Sandaime wasn't done talking yet. "However, I will not allow the coming generation knowledge of his burden. Only those who are currently old enough to comprehend the magnitude of the situation shall be told, which means an age of ten or higher or of Chuunin rank. That includes the child as well!" There was a murmur of shock at this comment, as the shinobi were surprised that the Sandaime wouldn't even tell the boy what he carried within him. "Furthermore, if someone reveals this information to him or anyone younger than the age specified from this time on, that person will be executed with extreme prejudice and without right to a trial of any sort. That is my decree."
Hiashi frowned as he digested the words of the Sandaime. It wasn't as good as a deal as he had been fishing for, but it was better than he had expected. So, everyone but the newest generation would be told, eh? With the animosity the news was sure to cause, it would be easy to destroy the Kyuubi. Yes, Hiashi would rid the world of a demon, and save his village from impending doom. He swore to himself that he would not rest until the Kyuubi was safely destroyed, and his village at peace once more.
The Sandaime looked from face to face, noting the discontent that showed on nearly every expression. He sighed and looked down at the little bundle in his hands, noting the mop of yellow hair. He thought to himself, 'You are so young to have so many enemies, child. One day, they will understand. One day, they will see you for who you are, not for what you carry. You are not the Kyuubi; you are the savior of the village!"
"No! I will not allow it! The boy must not be allowed to run free!" Hyuuga Hiashi's fist smacked into the hard wood of the table, splintering its once smooth surface. Next to him, Uchiha Fugaku looked absolutely livid, and was nodding in agreement to his fellow clan head's words.
"The Hyuuga is right, Sandaime! We need to keep him careful surveillance, for the sake of the village!" Brushing his raven locks out of his face, he crossed his arms and stared at the old man across the table.
Sarutobi sat quietly, slouching in his chair with a look of depression on his face. After the death of his successor, his spirit had taken a powerful blow, one from which it may never completely recover. But, even now, the leaders of the two so-called 'noble clans' of Konoha were bothering him. Couldn't they just leave him alone? It was bad enough he had to deal with the paperwork now…
He leaned forward and rested his elbows on the low table, intertwining his fingers to help himself think. "Why do you question my decision? I told you once, and I'll tell you again: the boy is no danger. He will be in an orphanage until he is old enough to take care of himself, and become a shinobi in his own right." Hiashi's face colored, taking on a near-purple hue.
"WHAT! Unacceptable! I have a child on the way, and I will not have my heir in the same class as that… thing!" Sarutobi felt a bit of anger rise in him at Hiashi's choice of words, but he did not have a chance to speak. Fugaku took the floor, his Sharingan blazing.
"I agree! My youngest son, Sasuke, would be forced to take classes with someone like that? No! We cannot allow it to become a shinobi, and we must never let it corrupt our children!"
The Sandaime looked at them both with tired eyes, feeling old and weak. He didn't want to deal with these men, so full of their own agendas and their 'righteous fury'. Heh, it was more fear than anything.
"I will not revoke the boy's right to become a ninja, whatever you say. Every citizen of this village has the right to join our military, and all who show potential are permitted shinobi training. Not most, all. And that is the law passed down by the Shodaime Hokage. Besides, your children are in no danger."
Hiashi stood from his seat at the table and leaned forward, closing the distance between the Third and himself. In a low voice that dripped anger, he said "Our children will be in danger, and so will our women, and so will our brothers, and our sisters, and our fathers, and our mothers! As long as the Kyuubi remains alive and well in this village, we are all in danger! By allowing it to become a ninja, you only increase its strength, which could lead to another massacre!"
Sarutobi leaned forward and pressed his head against his upturned hands, staring sightlessly at the table. So, that was how it was. No matter how many times he explained it, no matter how many times he told them, they wouldn't believe him. As far as the people of his village were concerned, that blonde child was simply the demon fox, weakened but looking for a chance to slay them all. Would they ever think differently? Would they ever see the boy for who he was? Only time would tell… But he had no more time to think. Hiashi was making his next move, his tone haughty and commanding.
"Very well. We will get no further like this, I see. Therefore, by the power vested in my clan by the Shodaime Hokage himself, I propose a full council." The Hokage started and stared with wide eyes at the Hyuuga clan head, unable to fully believe this sudden turn of events. As the Sandaime processed this new development, Uchiha Fugaku nodded slowly in agreement, a smirk spreading over his lips.
"I agree. The Uchiha side with the Hyuuga, this time. The council must be summoned. Only then can there be a satisfactory decision."
Sarutobi leaned back, keeping his silence for the moment. A council, eh? Clever of Hiashi to think of that. The council was compromised of three main bodies: the Noble clans, the Council of Elders, and the Jounin of the village. The only way to decide something on the council was to take a vote, and the child was not very popular right now. If it came to a full counsel, than Sarutobi would need both the Council of Elders and the Jounin to agree with him. If either one of those two groups sided with the Noble Clans, then they would gain jurisdiction over Naruto's case, and that was unacceptable. But, then again… What were they really after? Control over the Kyuubi? The death of the boy? Or perhaps they merely wanted to brainwash the kid, make him into one of their loyal followers. No matter what their reason was, Sarutobi swore to never let them get their hands on the lad, no matter what it took. Right now, he could see only two paths: either find some way to sway the vote of the council, or… bargain.
He cleared his throat and spoke thoughtfully, asking "So, a council… Tell me, Hiashi-dono, Fugaku-dono, just what do the two of you want?"
The two clan leaders exchanged brief glances, then Hiashi addresses the elderly Hokage. "As I said before, Hokage-dono, we seek only to protect the village from the demon fox."
"Oh?" Sarutobi raised a questioning eyebrow. "So that is your reason for preventing him from taking shinobi training. Well, I have a suggestion that may interest you." Hiashi's eyes gleamed with apprehension and hope, praying that the Hokage was indeed saying what the Hyuuga thought he was. Sarutobi continued, purposely looking away from the two noble clansmen. "Earlier, you told me that the boy must be watched carefully and continuously. What if one of the Noble Clans undertook that task?"
Fugaku frowned slightly, glaring questioningly at the Hokage. "And just what do you mean by that?"
The Third Hokage shrugged, then turned away from them, hiding his expression. "What if the boy was formally inducted into a Noble Clan?"
At first, all was silent. Despite his iron control, Hiashi found himself smirking with triumph. This was what he had been pressing for all along! With the Kyuubi under his control, the Hyuuga would once more be acknowledged as the strongest clan in Konoha, and rightfully so! No more would the damned Uchiha parade their prodigies before him, no longer would the Sharingan be considered greater than the Byakugan! He would make the demon a Hyuuga through and through, and then the Hyuuga would be feared and admired for their strength and ability. After all, what other clan in Konoha was able to subdue a Bijuu?
Uchiha Fugaku found himself thinking along similar lines, despite his surprise. Unlike Hiashi, he had not been expecting this, and an offer like this was staggering. The chance to obtain a tailed demon, to control its power, was… A smile spread slowly on his lips as he imagined the kind of power the demon would bring his clan. And there was also the old legend to consider, he thought to himself. Yes, that old tale about how Uchiha Madara had stolen power from the demons and forced it into his eyes, thus creating the Sharingan. If there was some way to steal the Kyuubi's power, and he was the one who discovered it… Even the infamous name of Uchiha Madara would be swept aside, replaced by the name of Uchiha Fugaku! He would be held in greater esteem than the founder of the clan! Come what may, he would, nay, he must get his hands on this demon!
The Uchiha clan head stepped forward, his eyes bright with ambition. "I agree with your suggestion, Hokage-dono."
Sarutobi smiled softly. "Yes, I thought you might. And you, Hiashi-dono?"
The white-eyed man was far more cautious and politically savvy than his counterpart, and he spent a long moment examining the offer from multiple angles. Once inducted formally into a Noble Clan, the Hokage would no longer have any say as to what the demon may or may not do. Oh, he still decides what missions the boy can take and such things, but he could not interfere directly with the clan's decisions. He would have total control over the demon.
The more he looked at it, the sweeter the deal seemed to be. But, from all his experience with Sarutobi, he knew that there must be a catch somewhere, somehow. The old monkey was slippery, and he had a way of finding loopholes through things. Yes, it was best to get this agreement in writing and make it public, so Sarutobi couldn't try to pull a fast one on them.
"Before I agree to anything, Hokage-dono, might I request that a formal contract be drawn up, to show that there is no duplicity or misunderstandings?" Sarutobi chuckled lightly, making sure that he would not be heard. That was the Hyuuga for you! Their family motto must be 'Always get it in writing'. Hiashi was obviously expecting a trick of some sort, and wanted to make sure he could examine the agreement from every angle.
"Of course, Hiashi-dono. I will have my clerks draw it up immediately. However, it will take a little time. How about you meet me in the Jounin meeting room in… what, three hours?" Hiashi nodded, making a half-bow to the Hokage.
"Very well. It is agreed, then." Fugaku bowed and voiced his approval as well, and then both clan heads turned and left the room, confident in their victory.
In the now empty room, Sarutobi felt his grin growing and growing. Those arrogant fools had no idea what he had in store! But then a sobering thought came to him, and he felt his good mood leave him. He'd have to convince her of his plan, and that would take some doing. As he snapped his fingers to summon one of his clerks, he reached under his desk for a small flask of sake he had concealed there. If he was meeting with her, he'd prefer to do it with a bit of alcohol in his system. She was hard enough to talk to without it, and he'd take any support he could get right now.
"WHAT?! WHAT DID YOU SAY, YOU MANGY OLD APE?!"
Sarutobi cringed slightly and cupped one of his ringing ears, praying that the woman hadn't ruined his hearing. She certainly had quite a loud voice. Her shout was still echoing off the walls of her clan's compound. With a wistful thought of that sake bottle under his desk, he turned his attention back to the discussion at hand. Squaring his shoulders and gathering his courage, he stared Inuzuka Tsume directly in the eyes; a feat that many men did not have the bravery to do.
"You heard what I said quite clearly, Tsume. You must adopt the boy. It is the only way."
Inuzuka Tsume was not of long of limb or broad of shoulder, but what she lacked in physical presence she more than made up in her personality. As she stood facing her leader with clenched fists and gritted teeth, she looked like a hound that was straining at the leash. Anger sparked in her slitted eyes, and the Hokage felt a trace of primal fear flash through him.
After a long moment of glaring, Tsume turned her back on the Hokage and spoke harshly, hissing it through clenched teeth. "How dare you… How dare you ask such a thing of me!?"
Sarutobi was taken aback. Why was she showing such anger? What had he said to set her off? He spoke tentatively, anxious to avoid another outburst. "Because I must, Tsume. Have I done wrong?"
For a long while, nothing was said. Then, slowly, Tsume turned to face the Hokage, her head bowed and her face shadowed. When she spoke, her voice was cold and quiet, as if she belonged among the dead. "You want me to adopt this boy. To be like a mother to him, is that so?"
The Hokage replied softly, his voice gentle, yet firm. "Not like a mother to him, Tsume. I want you to be his mother in the deepest and truest sense of the word."
There was another pause as she digested his words. Then the Inuzuka matriarch slowly lifted her head, revealed bloodshot eyes and tear-streaked cheeks. When she spoke, her voice was hoarse from her efforts to contain her sobs. "What kind of a mother lets her family die?"
Understanding hit Sarutobi like a thunderbolt. Kami, how could he have forgotten?! Her husband, (insert name here), was dead. He had bled to death on the field of battle, the medics unable to heal him in time after the battle was over. A mere week had passed since the battle, and a little less than that since the mass funeral.
A great shame came over the Hokage, and he bowed his head in grief. They had lost many good men that day, but the survivors of that battle were hurt, too. Those who had not lost family had lost friends, and sorrow reigned throughout Konoha. But he had done nothing, too caught up in his own grief over the death of his successor. And now, instead of consoling this woman in her time of grief, he had merely twisted the knife in her metaphorical wound. What kind of leader did not care for his men? What would his sensei's say?
What would the Fourth say?
Blinking away tears of his own, he stepped forward and laid a sympathetic hand on Tsume's shoulder, his heart filled with grief at her loss. For a long moment, he groped for something to say, but could find nothing. There was nothing he could say that would end her grief or heal the wound. Only Time, the great healer, would bring balm to this woman's suffering.
Time passed slowly, and it was not for another ten minutes that Tsume had regained control over her emotions once more and was able to speak once more. She spoke as if nothing had happened, letting anger drive away the sorrow. "When were you going to get around to telling me just what the hell is going on? Why's it so important that the kid gets adopted, anyways?"
Sarutobi sighed and stepped away from the matriarch, casting his gaze around for somewhere to sit. After all, at his age it was wise to rest the legs now and again. But, no matter how hard he looked, the room was just as it always was; a broad expanse of bare wood, without any furniture whatsoever. He cursed silently beneath his breath. Just his luck, blast it.
Tsume had caught his whispered expletive and allowed herself a quick laugh, divining the reason behind his annoyance. With a casual grace, she seated herself on the wooden floor, inviting him to follow suit. With another 'Oh, blast', the aged Hokage was safely ensconced upon the hardwood floor, sighing in relief as he massaged his aching leg muscles. Tsume watched him in mixed amusement and impatience, but was inwardly glad that he had distracted her from her own problems, even if it was only temporary.
Once he had relieved his aches, he began to explain his dilemma. She interjected with questions quite often, but he eventually managed to get the whole story out. As he finished, he noticed that she seemed to be thinking rather deeply; an uncommon exercise for any Inuzuka.
"So, you're saying that the Uchiha and the Hyuuga are trying to get their grubby hands on the brat, and you don't want that. So… Why did you decide that I had to adopt him?"
Sarutobi sighed, leaning back and staring at the ceiling. Typical of an Inuzuka; they listen, but don't really understand. "Like I said, the only reason they aren't calling a full-blown council, which is risky for both sides, is because I offered to have the kid be inducted into one of the Noble clans. Naturally, they think that means it has to be one of them. However… They are not the only Noble families. Isn't that right, Inuzuka-dono?"
Tsume shook her head and looked away from the elderly man, a strange expression on her face. "Huh. Figures. And here I thought that everyone had forgotten about us."
"Oh, most have, I shouldn't wonder. After all, who would believe that the Inuzuka clan is one of the Noble Clans of Konoha? The very idea just sounds wrong, does it not?"
She grinned slightly, exposing those fangs that were so prominent in her family. "You got that right, old geezer. So you want me to come save your sorry ass, huh? Sounds easy enough… But what's the catch?"
Sarutobi smirked right back at her, pointedly ignoring the insulting remarks. "That obvious, eh? Well, in order to make this happen, I will have to formally recognize you as a noble clan, with yourself as the clan head. It's a mere formality, but… There are certain obligations."
"Oh, the usual thing. Mandatory attendance of all counsels and at the weekly meetings. Appearance at any important celebration or social gathering. Oh, and you'll-" He got no further than that when she cut him off, her lip curled in disgust.
"Oh, no. Nothing doing, gramps. There was a reason my granddad didn't accept the position, y'know. There ain't no way that you'll get me to do any of that shit. Kami, the kind of crap they make you wear!" She gave a theatrical shudder, and slammed a hand on the ground, her eyes hard and determined. "It's not happening, you old fossil. There ain't anything you can say that'll make me."
Sarutobi sighed and leaned forward, a slight grin coming over his features. "Oh, is that so? What if I said that, if you agreed to do this, I'd stop them from building that new forge out here?" Tsume started in surprise and turned towards the Hokage, her eyes wide and horrified.
"What?! A forge! I didn't hear anything about this! Who the hell wants to build a forge out here, on the outskirts of the town?"
Sarutobi grinned even wider. "I do."
"Since three seconds ago. That is, unless you change your mind."
There was a long pause as she stared angrily at him and he twiddled his thumbs innocently. Then, leaning forward slightly, he whispered, "He needs you, Tsume. The Hyuuga would use him and the Uchiha would abuse him. Would you let them dig their claws into an innocent child?"
She hesitated for a moment longer, then gave him an amused stare. "You play dirty, you old bastard."
He shrugged. "I try. Now… Your answer?"
She stared at him for a second or two, then threw her hands in the air with a laugh. "Hell, why not? Damned if I let those pricks get ahold of the kid, and damned if I let them build a fucking forge out here. Ugh, the smell from that place would be awful." She contemplated a future in which her house was filled with pungent and foul-smelling smoke, and gave a long shudder. Rising quickly to her feet, she extended a calloused hand to the old man, a smirk on her face. He accepted it and was soon on his feet again, grinning like a kid of twelve.
"So, you'll do it, then?"
"Yeah, yeah, sure thing. But you owe me one, got it?"
For a long moment, they grinned at each other. But, as his smile changed from joyful to somber, he laid a grateful hand on her shoulder. "Thank you. It must be very hard for you right now."
She lost her smile, but still managed to maintain a cheery voice. "Oh, c'mon, you know me. You won't find a more stubborn bitch this side of hell!" Then, almost in an undertone, she said, "I'll be fine. I just… I miss him."
"You don't need to. He's always with you. As long as you remember him and keep him close in your heart, he will never leave you."
She gave him a stunned look, but then digested his words. Then, she let out a sharp bark of laughter. "Oh, come on! Do you actually believe that kind of sappy crap? Get outta here before you start melting all over the floor, you mushy old monkey!" He grinned and turned away, but not before he saw the unspoken thanks in her eyes. His message had gotten through, and that was all he could do. The rest was up to her.
"Fine, I'm leaving. Oh, and remember, come to the Jounin meeting room in about two hours. Okay?"
"Sure, whatever. Now get lost, Kiba's hungry." Sure enough, a loud wail echoed through the room. Unable to suppress a grin, he turned and walked out of the door, tossing a final comment over his shoulder.
"Looks like the kid got your lungs, Tsume. Good luck dealing with him when he hits puberty." As he shut the door behind him, he heard barking laughter echoing through the house he had just left. He smiled and strode down the rode, his heart lifted. She would be fine. She was strong. After all, there's nothing like a baby to take your mind off your own problems.
And, if everything went well, she'd find herself with two infants on her hands.
He stopped dead on the road, a thought having struck him. He had just given her a second child to raise, one that would no doubt be just as loud and as noisy as the rest of the Inuzuka clan, considering the amount of wailing he had done after the battle. One Inuzuka was bad enough. Could Konoha handle two such troublemakers?... He paled. Ye gods, that was a terrible thought.
Well, if there was one thing that could put it out of his mind, it was that flask of blessed alcoholic goodness. He hastened towards the Hokage tower. He had two hours before the meeting, and he intended to be thoroughly braced by the time it rolled around.
AN: Just thought this up and had to write it. After all, Naruto and Kiba are about the same age and have extremely similar personalities. There's also the fact that Naruto has a kind of pack mentality, like how he protects his teammates and values them above his own life. I've always thought that Kiba was one of the cooler characters in the anime, and this fic is a great excuse to really let him shine. Let me know what you think.
As always, a humongous thanks to JohnnyG, who takes the time to beta my stories. Many thanks, man!
Oh, and the pairing is open right now. It can be a harem for all I care. I just can't wait to go more into the Inuzuka family. And I promise that this story won't slow down my updating speed for Will of Fire. :D
'Til next time,