"It smelled unnatural?" the Hokage repeated, again, and looked incredulously at the Inuzukas and their dogs. Junko crossed her arms defiantly and her dog gave the revered Hokage a look which suggested that he better believe them, or the dog would forever place him the category of dimwits.
"The dogs didn't like it there, and the air was… I don't know, it wasn't right," Akio supplied with a shrug. The Sandaime Hokage nodded and had an impossible expression on his face. If Minato would have to describe it, he would have said it was a mixture of bewilderment, annoyance and a small dash of anger. Having to deal with the information that the village which had attacked them was destroyed (wiped out) and no information on what had happened would do that to a Kage he supposed. Especially when the village wasn't just destroyed, but buried beneath lava, of all things, and for all they knew it shouldn't be possible.
"Tell me again, what wasn't right about it," the Hokage asked and the trio of Inuzukas exchanged hopeless looks. How do you explain what would best be described as a sixth sense to someone who doesn't have it? Sakumo was standing off to the side, looking bored and, if Minato had learned anything about the man the past weeks, he was daydreaming about his son. The Hyuga had taken up his all purpose hobby of staring holes at nothing, which left the poor Inuzukas to explain themselves to the Hokage with no help whatsoever. Minato knew better than to try to get involved in the ongoing questioning.
"It just was wrong, it wasn't right, it… oh, okay, it made my skin crawl! I wanted away! I wanted to get as far away as quickly as possible! It's the same feeling as if a giant predator was lurking behind the stones and observed me! I felt as if it was waiting to pounce on me and eat me!"
Akio sounded agitated. He looked flushed as well, and Minato didn't blame him. Among the Inuzukas it was frowned upon to show fear or admit weaknesses. He never did get a proper understanding of the structure of the clan. Kiba had admitted that the title of clan leader wasn't inherited, rather won during fights. Only the strongest in the clan could hold the title, like in a pack of wolves.
"I see," the Hokage said and finally turned from his interrogation of the Inuzuka clan members to the rest of the team he had sent out.
"Did you feel the same way?" he asked them.
"No… I just found the place eerie," Minato admitted. The Hyuga agreed with him and Sakumo hummed from his place by the window.
"The ground had cooled off," he said and not for the first time did Minato wonder why he deemed it necessary to come with seemingly random thoughts.
"That's…" Minato felt sorry for the Hokage. He looked lost for words.
"If the village had been placed above a… well, above something which made lava the ground would still be warm. We would have felt it, but it was normal. There wasn't anything odd about it at all. For all it is worth, the lava might as well have dropped from the sky," Sakumo continued, much to the worsening of the Hokage's headache.
"Which means it had to be some sort of attack," Sarutobi agreed and sharp dark eyes focused on the team captain.
"What about the bodies you found? They were all killed around the same time?"
"Within days of each other. I don't think we found all of them either. If it was an attack I guess that some must have escaped and the attackers were hunting them down. I don't know what Haze might have done to warrant something like that, or why they would attack us, but it isn't coincidental," Sakumo said.
"What about the team of Rock ninja you caught?"
Sakumo gave an uncaring shrug.
"I don't know. They didn't talk. I… Honestly, I see no connection there either. They were only chunin and there are a thousand and one reasons why they might have been there. They were certainly not the ones who sacked Hidden Haze," he said with certainty. The Hokage looked the slightly ragged team over and shook his head. As if his troubles weren't many enough already…. At least he didn't have to order the undoing of a village while he was at it. Someone had mercifully done it for him, and given him more headaches while they did. No good deed ever went unpunished.
"I will want a written report in a day's time. For now you can go home and get some rest."
Minato wasn't sure what to think when he entered his apartment. It was dusty, which he had expected, and his plants were still alive, which was a small miracle. It meant Kushina had remembered to water them. Maybe Kaero had reminded her. He tended to have a better memory for details than his cousin.
He let his fingers trace over a few knickknacks and wondered why he felt so distracted. It wasn't as if he war was over them already. He shouldn't feel so… demoralized, he supposed, but he knew the war would come, for there was nothing he could do to stop it. He couldn't think of anything he had done during his years as Minato which could possibly affect something like that and for some reason it made him feel good. For all his knowledge of the future he was still only a person. Only one human and he was oddly satisfied with that.
He couldn't save the world from itself, and that, more than anything, made him human.
Resting by the kitchen table after a shower he stared into his cup of tea and thought of his friends.
Kushina and Inoichi were his closest friends, definitely. Shikaku was funny in his own way, but not as close as Inoichi was. Kushina was his more or less hyper female friend which would drag him along when he was down and brighten his mood when she was around. Inoichi would listen and part with some profound wisdom and proverbs he most likely had from his father. He was being trained in human psychology so it wouldn't be too strange if he had some standard answers ready for when he needed them. Minato had a feeling his pretty friend sometimes listened with only half an ear because he had heard it all before.
Kaero, Kaero was like a little brother. Not as close as a brother, but almost. The cousins did have each other, and they considered themselves more like siblings than cousins and Minato became their cousin by default.
Kinuto and Kaero… none of them had lived in the future he knew. Kushina had died after giving birth. He wondered when her cousins had died. If it was during the war, or during the Kyubi attack. Minato had finally come to the understanding that he couldn't hover over them and protect them at all times. He couldn't do that with any of his friends. He could help them when he was around them, train with them and encourage them to become stronger, but they needed to become strong in their own right and he needed to trust them to do that. It didn't stop him from wishing it turned out different this time around, though. At least it would for Kushina, for he was not going to have any babies with her, so for her to die from that she would have to find another guy to have children with.
Minato snickered a little. If she liked blondes he would try to set her up with Inoichi, or maybe one of his cousins. Unfortunately the Yamanaka clan was the only blondes he knew of in the village. A scant few others had blonde hair, but it wasn't exactly common. Setting her up with his friend would at the very least prove to be entertaining. For some reason his thoughts drifted to Ino and he couldn't help but think they would have gotten along splendidly. Yeah, Kushina, if she ever got that mother instinct thingy, would probably have been the perfect mother for Ino…
He frowned. He didn't remember Ino's mother. He wasn't sure what had happened to her, if she was alive or not while they were children. Someone had to run the flower shop, but nothing said it couldn't be someone hired. He couldn't remember ever seeing Ino with a mother either. He felt a little guilty about never thinking of it before, and never asking. Well, he would see if he could… help it along a little this time.
Leaving the half empty cup on the table and the thoughts to swirl in his mind he spent the night dreaming of a future clouded by what ifs and maybes.
Sleeping in proved to be an impossible task, despite it being close to a month since last time he'd slept in a bed and not on the ground. He would have thought he would be able to sleep longer, considering he was sure the earth itself had conspired against him and made sure there was a rock gnawing at his back or side every single place he laid down during their mission. As soon as the sun rose, though, he was impossibly awake and staring balefully at the roof of his room.
The village was silent and sleepy outside his window. Not yet engulfed by the stark sunlight of the day and instead bathed in the soft glow of the first morning light. He smirked to himself. If he couldn't sleep, he could either wake up his dear friends or he could take a trip around the village with an ear out for the gossip.
Konoha, being a Hidden Village, was remarkably friendly. What he had seen of Mist hadn't been nearly as inviting as the colors and wooden structures of Konoha. That might have to be with the politics of the villages though. While the Sandaime Hokage was a people friendly person, Minato couldn't quite imagine the Mizukage he had met in Mist as a very friendly person in any regards. Creepy fit better, lurking around in the damp cave as he had and said disturbing things.
Locking his door on the way out and carefully avoiding the creaking step in the stairs outside he made his way to the small lake close to his apartment. He liked spending time there, usually observing the people passing by in their everyday life.
People were… fascinating. He knew they could be harsh, unforgiving and vengeful, even the civilians if they thought they had due cause. He had, after all, experienced that first hand. Sometimes they were also hypocritical, blind to the truth or just not reasonable. People could also be kind, forgiving, loving, helpful and plain nice. He had enough experience with the darker side to human nature as Naruto, and as Minato he had grown up as the, among ninja, child prodigy, while civilians often saw him as a child among others. Well, not while he wore his forehead protector and vest, but otherwise they would treat him like they would the other children. It was a novel experience.
He was in half a thought of seeing if Fugaku was up for a sparring match before he remembered how early it was and settled for a walk around the lake. The Uchiha heir was an odd one. Sometimes he was a jerk, no doubt about it, but other times he was almost friendly. Minato had toyed with the idea of him being bipolar, but trashed the idea as quickly as it had come. Fugaku was too steadily in the mood Minato called 'huffy' to be bipolar. He wouldn't exactly call the heir a friend, but he wasn't a rival or an acquaintance either. He wasn't interested enough in Minato to be a rival, and he wasn't unknown enough to just be acquainted. If he had to call him anything, he would call him a well acquainted comrade. The kind of friend which ticks you off to no end but you put up with it because in the end he'll have your back after all.
The most annoying thing with him, however, was his eyes. Minato couldn't put him under an illusion, which actually was why he searched him out for matched even if he didn't want to admit to it. He was sure, given a strong enough illusion, it could fool the sharingan. The normal sharingan, not the cursed one. He knew his friend didn't have that one, and if he could help it no one in that stupid clan of his would ever gain it. If he had to whisk away Itachi and Sasuke from their cribs so be it, he had no desire to ever face that particular ability again. Even so, that was years in the future and many things could change before that time.
Minato narrowed his eyes thoughtfully at the water. The Third Great Ninja War… wasn't that peachy. He got to live through what his sensei in the future had called 'disturbing'. He wished they would have elaborated a little on that.
As he heard soft footsteps he turned around and was faced with the third Hokage, who gave him a humorous look.
"You are out early, Minato – kun. How are you doing?"
Minato swallowed his surprise at seeing the Hokage there and greeted him politely, like he had seen others do before. He wondered again how on Earth the man knew all the names of his subordinates. There had to be hundreds of them. The man chuckled at his standardized answer.
"If I had a dime for every time I heard that answer…" the Hokage said wistfully. Minato smirked at him.
"Truthfully I was thinking. I was wondering if a close could be put under an illusion. Technically they are chakra constructs, so if you disturbed the chakra in them they should dissolve, but if you did it carefully the chakra wouldn't really be disturbed enough. I was thinking of experimenting with it… even if I can't really see a use for it," he explained and the man called the 'Professor' had a sudden keen look in his eyes.
"You know, I never thought of that. An interesting dilemma," he said and looked at the water.
"I suppose if you managed to find a genjutsu subtle enough to use on a clone, it would almost be impossible to detect. Was that what you are after?" he asked and Minato nodded slowly. He gave a small grimace.
"I don't think it would be very useful, sir. It can't be very strong after all, or it will have to be very strong and work over a large area or a long time period to draw out the chakra in thin enough layers."
The Hokage laughed.
"You never know. Maybe it would be, maybe it wouldn't. You don't know until you try."
"I guess that is true. Thanks, sir."
The Hokage remained with him for a while, watching the still waters of the lake before he spoke again.
"My sensei created this lake," he said as an afterthought. Minato blinked at him, then turned to study the lake a little more, and true enough, the lines of the shore was strangely 'clean' if it had been a natural lake.
"The Nidaime Hokage?" he asked and the man chuckled.
"Why is it everyone presumes it was him when it comes to the water? No, it was the Shodaime Hokage. Senju Hashirama. He had a water affinity too, though weaker than his brother's."
He smiled indulgently when Minato looked curiously at him.
"Toirama – sensei was gifted when it came to water techniques. He is so far the only one I know of who could draw enough moisture from the air to drench entire battlefields. It was impressive to watch, and very dangerous."
Minato blinked at that. He had always known the old man had lived during the time of the Shodaime and the Nidaime Hokages, but he had never given it any thought aside from that. Of course he would have seen them fight. They were his teachers, and he was their protégé, so of course.
"That's probably why everyone assumes he created the lakes around here, then," Minato said in answer to the Hokage's previous question. The man laughed good humored.
"Oh, I have no doubt about that. The history books only mentioned that he did create lakes around Konoha, not which ones. I think Uchiha Madara was responsible for some as well, after they had been out drinking one night and couldn't agree on who could create the best lake. Hashirama sensei was supposed to be the judge, but in the end my team and I had to drag all three of them home, soaking wet and still arguing about the lakes. It is one of the reasons there are so many small lakes around Konoha. They claimed it was tactical reasons, of course. Water reservoirs in case of a siege. Never let it be said they ever did anything irresponsible," he said with a laugh.
The Hokage shook his head, as if he couldn't believe an excuse like that actually had worked.
"Oh… That's right… They were friends," Minato muttered, more to himself than to the Hokage. He heard him anyway.
"They were," he agreed solemnly. Not for the first time did Minato wonder what had happened to destroy that friendship. If it had been anything like the friendship between him and Sasuke, and one had been forced to fight the other to the death only with them it really did end with death. A depressing thought.
The rumors were that Madara had lost it. Gone off on the deep end and round the bender and every other term for crazy there was. As a ninja Minato did understand how that happened and could feel some pity for him. He didn't think anyone started out evil, and the victor writes the books, as they say.
"Sir, could you tell me about them please? Not what they did, we learn that at the Academy, but more like who they were," he asked suddenly and the Hokage hummed.
"I didn't have all that much to do with the Uchiha. He was… well, he was a clan leader for one thing, but so was Hashirama sensei and later Tobirama sensei… Tobirama – sensei was a tactician, always observing and thinking. Planning ahead and wondering just how he could turn something into a favorable situation for either himself or Konoha, depending on what he was pondering. He was good at it too, but I suppose you don't grow up in the environment they grew up in without getting good at what they do. He was the one to plan how to convince the clans to join together."
"I thought the Shodaime Hokage was the one to do that?" Minato asked and Sarutobi gave him an amused look and shook his head.
"Hashirama – sensei was charismatic enough to go through with it, but Tobirama – sensei planned it. The difference between them was just that… Tobriama – sensei planned and Hashirama – sensei got it done. Don't misunderstand me, he could nicely use strategy during a battle, but he wasn't a long term planner like Tobirama – sensei and he wasn't… manipulative enough, I'd say, to do it either. He liked honestly and appreciated it, while Tobirama sensei… well, he wouldn't lie, exactly, but he wouldn't tell you everything either if it suited him not to. If Hashirama – sensei couldn't convince them, there was always Madara. He had a different way of going about it, but it worked. The Senju brothers tried to point out the advantages of joining up, and if that didn't work the Uchiha would informed them what would happen to the clan if they didn't agree to the deal. He didn't gain any allies that way, and I think that might be why he wasn't elected as the Shodaime Hokage. Sometimes I wonder why he agreed to take on that role in the first place. He must have known he wouldn't gain friends by it. "
"They sound like interesting people… Though, I thought brothers were supposed to be similar," Minato said incredulously. Sarutobi chuckled at his observation.
"They were alike in many ways, like how they were kind to their people, looked after them and would do anything for their dream to come through. They also had the same manners of speaking and acting. Strangely, they shared a fascination with the Uchiha they never explained to me. I asked only once why they had decided to join forces after decades of fighting, but they never said. I think it had to do with Madara and his younger brother, Izuna I believe his name was. I never did meet him. He died young, I was told."
"Maybe they became friends? If they respected each other on the battlefield, it isn't so strange that they became friends in the end," Minato theorized and glanced at the Hokage to see what he thought of that, or if he could glean something from his facial expression. The Hokage only looked lost in his childhood memories. The man suddenly chuckled.
"I'll tell you this, though. Madara always riled Tobirama – sensei as much as he could. I think he found him overly amusing and baited him consciously to annoy him. He used to ruffle his hair and call him 'littlest Senju' and for some reason he found that hysterically funny. Hashirama – sensei once said they were like a couple of little children arguing and ending up having temper tantrums."
Minato tried to imagine the revered legendary figures having temper tantrums and stomping their feet like two – year olds but couldn't entirely justify it with what he knew of them from his history lessons. It was sad, though, that even close friendships like that could end with betrayal. Perhaps Madara had lost his mind. Minato knew he wouldn't turn his back on a friendship like that without having some serious mental issues.
He was about to ask more about the founders of the Hidden Leaf Village when a woman came running towards them waving some papers.
"Hokage – sama! Sir! You are late! Your guard is asking for you! You have a meeting in ten minutes! Your schedule is here, oh, darn it all!" she exclaimed as she stumbled in her high heels. She was one of the civilian secretaries, or at least, they were disguise as such. He didn't think anyone working in the Hokage Tower truly was a civilian. The Third Hokage made a face.
"There are days I think my teachers landed me with this duty out of pure vindictiveness just to make sure I suffered for all the times I caught them doing something stupid," he said and winked at Minato as he left.
"Have a good day, Hokage – sama," Minato responded somewhat distractedly. People would be people, and how they were remembered weren't up to them. It was up to how everyone else thought of them. Which was unfair but realistic in a morbid sort of way. You weren't around to correct their impression and would you honestly care after having past on? Probably not.
Remembering what the conversation had started with he created a water clone and studies it for a while. It stood on the water and couldn't walk too far from him as its creator. Tentatively layering a simple Demonic Illusion: Hell Viewing Technique on the clone he watched as the clone seemed to stiffen before it erupted into water. At least he knew that one was too disruptive to be used.
It didn't come as a surprise. Not really, since almost anyone above genin level would be able to detect this illusion, and even many genins could and would realize they were under the influence of it. Not fresh ones, but some with a little experience would notice.
He tried it again with less chakra, but that resulted in the illusion not being strong enough to uphold itself. The chakra in the new clone wasn't affected at all. Trying with another brand of illusions, this time the Sly Mind Affect Technique in case it was the brand of illusions which did it, he watched closely as the clone for a moment remained still before it tried to take a step and then crumbled in on itself.
It was definitely odd. He had fought with clones while under the influence of illusions. He had done so in the Forest of Death during their chunin exam as Naruto when encountering the team from Rain. Though… those clones hadn't been around when the illusion was layered. He created them when he was in the illusion. It meant a clone, which was a chakra construct, could be created while the creator was being manipulated by chakra, and the clone would be as affected by the illusion as the creator but not dispel itself, but if he tried to put the illusion directly on the clone it would dispel itself because he messed with the chakra keeping the clone together.
He created yet another clone and tried with the Demonic Illusion: False Surrounding Technique and layered it around the clone instead of on it. He didn't touch the clone at all and watched closely as the clone started to move around. He made it until the chakra in the illusion started to work its magic, metamorphic speaking, and the subtle intrusion of the illusion worked its way to start messing with the senses of the clone. At that point the chakra in the clone got too messed up to keep it together and it once again dissolved into water.
Well, at least it didn't dissipate at once. He wasn't sure what it meant for the illusions, but hoped it meant he could find one which would be possible to use without anyone but a full out expert or at least very well trained and experienced ninja would notice. He tried with a few more variations of the False Surrounding Technique before he decided to leave it until he had an idea as to how to solve the problem with the illusions and their tendency to be detected.
It was still quite early, not yet midday, when Minato found himself searching out Inoichi. His mother had informed him he was out with his team and while the village had been repaired after the attack there was enough for the genins to do. It wasn't long until the chunin exams were coming around again, and this year both Kushina's team and Inoichi's team would participate. That meant Shikaku had to attend as well and Minato couldn't help to wonder what Inoichi would bribe him with to make him come along. The Nara didn't do strenuous stuff free, that much was for sure.
He found the team on one of the training grounds, doing their everyday exercises. He landed softly at the outskirts of the area they used and watched them before he picked up a small stone and intently eyed Inoichi. As soon as he slipped up in his stances he threw the stone and smirked when the blonde yelped in surprise at the sudden sharp sting. He turned abruptly to glare at Minato before his expression melted into one of recognition and a happy smile.
"Minato! You're back!" he called as Minato strolled over to him.
"I came back yesterday," he responded merrily. Shikaku looked curiously at him as well and pushed his hands into his pockets while doing his best at looking uninterested.
"All we heard was that you were on a mission," he said and Minato hesitated a little. They hadn't been explicitly told not to reveal any of the strangeness they had found in their mission, but he didn't think he should talk too much about it.
"Mmm… We went scouting," he allowed carefully. Shikaku tilted his head and Minato just knew he knew he was weighing his words carefully. He couldn't do anything with that, but still. He didn't want to say anything more about it and Inoichi was sensitive enough to realize that. They were also both smart enough to know that whatever 'scouting' they'd done hadn't turned out the way they expected when Minato wasn't saying anything. Another good reason not to ask more. They would have to do the same when they became chunin and started to take missions above the C – rank limit they had now.
"Are you looking forwards to the exams?" Minato asked them curiously. He was a little curious as to where this year's exams were being held. Mist hadn't had them since the blatant disaster their first one had been. Inoichi grimaced at the question.
"Sort of. We are training for it and… yeah, it's just two more months so we should be ready. I mean, we've been genin for two years already. You didn't take that long, did you?"
He smiled sheepishly at them while throwing around for something to say. It wasn't as if he would like to explain that mess to them. The truth about that had never come forth to anyone but those who strictly needed to know, and his friends were not among them.
"Yeah, well, sensei only had one student so he could pay a lot more attention to me than what's normal," he explained with a laugh. Inoichi's eyes lit up in remembrance as he remembered that detail.
"That's true. How were your exams? All you ever said about them was that they were hard."
Minato pursed his lips in thought and huffed a little.
"Rotten. You'll probably get through them fine. Trust each other and work together, and if you can't be together than be ready to kill. We were separated and pitted against each other in all out battles. We could choose if we killed our opponent or not, but not everyone would be as merciful as we are thought to be, so sometime we just had to kill to survive the night. I don't know if you'll have to face something like that, though. Those exams were held in Mist, and they didn't get their nickname for nothing."
Shikaku nodded gravely at him.
"My uncle said something like that about them as well. Bloody Mist, he called them. I guess he wasn't swearing then," he said with a slight smirk.
"No, no, he wasn't, but I didn't come here to discuss this with you. I was wondering about something and thought you might know."
Inoichi's smile widened into a grin and he threw his hands in the air.
"I give! They day has come when we know something you don't! I can't believe it!"
"Don't get used to it," Minato bantered back, but he smiled all the same.
"I was wondering how your clans came to join Konoha. Well, if that is something you can talk about, obviously. I don't want you to give away clan secrets or something like that."
That surprised them. Inoichi shrugged.
"Nah, it's not really a secret, not for the Yamanaka anyway. We were a branch off of the Senju clan and obviously joined our more distant cousins when the Senju clan leader asked us. You'll find that a good few of the people in Konoha originated from the Senju clan, as it dissolved after the founding of the village and only the main branch remained. They weren't as strict on it as the Uchiha clan was, and some others, like the Aburame. They keep tight control on any child borne to their clan members. It has to do with the bloodline of the Uchiha, of course, and the Hyuga are the same I think, while for the Aburame it is because they have to go through the whole matter of getting their hives. Most just became families though, and not clans like mine."
Shikaku agreed with a nod.
"The Nara clan came from the northern borders of Fire Country. I'm not sure exactly why the clan decided to join the village. Perhaps they saw the benefits of it… I am pretty sure that was part of it, and I think they might have been somewhat intimidated into it by the Senju clan and the Uchiha clan breathing down their necks. Everyone claims their clan joined willingly, but even if the Shodaime Hokage was borne to talk people around to his side, no one is good enough to convince that many clans without something to… well, when you make deals like that you have something to sweeten it with and something to ensure they see it your way with. You just need to know when to apply the carrot and when to apply the stick."
"My clan willingly joined after moving all the way from Rain Country," Chouza supplied proudly from the sideline. That was news to Minato, who didn't know any clans outside of Fire Country had joined Konoha. Shikaku caught his surprised look and shrugged.
"The borders were more fleeting back then, and the five major villages were founded first. Clans in other nations saw this and some decided to try their hand on their own village while others decided the best course of action for their clan was to join one of the Elemental villages. It was survival instinct, really. They didn't have to think of a whole village, just what was best for their clan."
Minato nodded a little taken back with this. The books only said that the clans joined, not how or why. That wasn't important information after all, but he wanted to know something else entirely. He wanted to know what made the clans agree. If it was like Shikaku said, that the right amount of advantages and threats worked, than the politics behind it was incredibly simple. He hoped there was more to it, but he had seen how easy a village could erupt into civil war if the interests of the clans and families became too diverting. Of course, he knew they had developed a loyalty for their home after so many years, but still wished he knew exactly what had made them signed up in the first place. Especially between the two founding clans, Senju and Uchiha. What had made them put aside decades of fighting just to become all chummy and create a village? He doubted they had woken up one day and thought 'well this is a waste of time. Why don't we get along and do something constructive?'
"Why the sudden interest? It's a boring topic," Inoichi said with a frown but Minato just shook his head.
"Not really. I was curious about something I heard earlier today. It would also explain why some clans work together while others don't, and why some clans are close while others have completely different views on things. Like the Hyuga and the Uchiha," he said slowly and was awarded with a half choked snort form the Nara.
"That's easily explained. Everyone knows about that one, at least, everyone in a clan does. The Uchiha blackmailed the Hyuga into joining Konoha. No one knows how they did it, or what they have on them, but the story has been around since the founding and the Uchiha supposedly didn't make a secret of it. It is why the Hyuga disagrees with the Uchiha on principle."
Minato could actually see that happen and chuckled. He would have to ask Shion about it later. He was pretty sure she wouldn't say what they had on the white eyed clan, but perhaps how they had done it. No wonder they had such an odd relationship. Respect mingled with a never ending competition complex and enough arrogance to last for the rest of the village. Well, that and they were bickering like an old married couple.
"As fascinating as that is, we'd better get back to training. Sensei's looking at us with that look," Inoichi reminded his teammates and glanced warily at their sensei, who indeed had a look which qualified to the term 'that look'. Minato bid them goodbye before he went to get groceries. He didn't have much of that left, after a mission lasting almost a month.
It was two days later when a flustered Sakumo showed up on his doorstep with a silver haired toddler and a bag of diapers. Minato had been napping and wasn't entirely awake when the man quickly took advantage of this and stuffed the child in his arms and told him to look after him for the day. He was gone before Minato could protest.
Holding mini – Kakashi out on arms length he stared at the toddler. Two wide, dark eyes stared back. Silence ensued.
Minato's first thought was that a the toddler might have been damaged by the environment he grew up in, because he didn't make any undue noise and kept observing him as if he was the most interesting thing to walk the earth.
"Hello there. I'm Minato," he told Kakashi, who blinked back.
"Right, so what am I going to do with you? Geez, your father just dropped you off like a litter of kittens," he grumbled annoyed and placed the boy on the floor. He had to steady him at first, but afterwards the silver haired boy walked perfectly on his own, if not a little wobbly thanks to the diaper. The boy turned and pointed at the bag.
"Mine," he told Minato empirically.
"…Uh… sure," Minato agreed, unsure of what the little boy wanted with that statement. The boy quickly went over to the bag and started to undo the zipper with quick, small fingers and pulled out a blanket, diapers, toys and found what he was looking for almost at the bottom. Minato stared in disbelief at the miniature shuriken. Sure, it wasn't a live blade, but a two year old with a shuriken? What the hell were they planning for the kid? Oh, he'd heard his former teacher was a genius alright, but he couldn't help but be if they started him out before he could speak complete sentences.
The toddler threw it rather haphazardly at the wall and frowned when it didn't stick. He looked at Minato.
"Not like daddy's," he informed him and trotted over to pick it up and examine it. Unperturbed he tried again, and again and again until Minato decided it had to be a favorite pastime and let the child to it. It wasn't as if Kakashi knew how to throw the shuriken, he just threw it like any child with throw a stone.
He had managed to clean up the mess Kakashi had made on the floor, had a cup of tea and some sweets and plan dinner before the toddler got tired of his game and flung the shuriken at the floor in a fit.
"B'oken, b'oken, b'oken!" he wailed angrily. Minato was sure he had jumped several feet in the air upon hearing the wail and felt certain they had heard it on the other side of Konoha.
"Ah, it's not broken, it's just..." really, it was broken since it wasn't sharp, but he couldn't exactly tell the upset child that.
"B'oken!" Kakashi insisted stubbornly. Minato caved.
"Yes, it's not working, and we're not going to try with any of mine. They are dirty. I bet you are hungry right? We can make… eh…"
What did he give a two year old? Soup? Nah, they ate solid foods long before two years. His earlier dinner plan went out the window when the child had his attention diverted to food instead of the 'broken' toy. What Minato found more disturbing was the fact that he knew how the shuriken was supposed to work in the first place.
"Bento, bento," the child chimed. Minato wondered if the toddler knew that was supposed to be a lunch and not a dinner, but accepted the request either way. It was the path of least resistance after all. They spent three hours trying to make bento 'like mummy' and even if he didn't get it right, according to the self announced expert in the form of a two year old, it was eatable and he managed to feed the various foodstuff to the child as long as he made it look something like a lunch package. He shook his head. Even as a two year old Kakashi had issues though they were more innocent than those he had in his later years.
He had to admit, in the privacy of his own mind and after Sakumo had picked up the then sleeping child, that Kakashi made an adorable toddler. He smirked. This time he could even be around to tease the man about it when he grew up a little. He planned on taking full advantage of that.
He had yet to meet up with his neighbors, and wondered if the cousins were all out until he remembered that Kaero had just graduated from the Academy. Kushina would be participating in the upcoming chunin exams. He was pretty sure of that, since her team had been around for two years already and the village was subtly starting to take certain measures. The other day he had seen chunin and genin teams around the civilian part of the village recruiting for the Academy. They said they wanted to encourage more people from civilian families to attend, since it would mean a broader scope of talents. The clans were more or less set in their ways and that could be a hindrance. Minato knew they were recruiting to fight a war. It wasn't said, or even mentioned, but underneath the calm surface the nations were gritting against each other, pushing, testing and growling. Figuratively flexing muscles.
He glanced up at he felt someone sit down beside him on the branch he was residing on. He was in a the tree overlooking the Memorial Stone and while he wasn't one to spend a lot of time in front of it, it happened he felt the need to see it. To remind himself of how many names which weren't on it yet.
"We've got a mission," the other spoke quietly but slouched forwards to rest his elbows on his knees. Minato glanced at him.
"Really… what kind?" he asked and the Uchiha gave him a dark look. Not that any of his 'looks' weren't dark. They all came under the range of 'scowl', 'frown', 'glower' and the likes of those.
"My dad came back from a Council meeting last night," he said instead. He sounded… bland. Minato couldn't tell what he was thinking so he waited for him to elaborate on his own.
"They aren't happy with what happened a month ago," he said and Minato couldn't resist snorting. He had a feeling Fugaku had put that mildly.
"They've not gotten over it already?" he asked idly. His older comrade shrugged.
"You don't get over something like that. You get even after something like that. The problem, as far as the council sees it, is that there isn't a village to get even on anymore. You were on that mission, weren't you?"
"Hmm. It was boring. All we did was running around Stone Country."
The Uchiha smirked briefly.
"I can imagine. I've been up there as well. Not much of a scenery."
"No. Rocks, rocks, and oh my, more rocks, but Stone's lack of natural beauty aside, what did the Council want this time?"
"I told you. To get even. Revenge, leveling the playing field… it's all the same."
"What did the Hokage say?"
Fugaku stayed silent for a while staring at the Memorial and then shook his head reluctantly.
"I wasn't there, you know," he said dryly after having weighed his options. This time Minato smirked.
"You always say that when you don't want to admit your father disagrees with the Hokage. What is it this time?"
The Uchiha pursed his lips momentarily and then sighed before he ran a hand through his hair.
"According to my father the Hokage didn't say much at all. He said this was likely planned by some third party, but he also agreed that it will reflect badly on Konoha if there aren't any repercussions. Some other clans are worried about what others will think if we do anything to Stone since their hidden village is already gone, but it is also clear that Konoha didn't do that. If anything, it will just create an even tenser situation."
"What did your father think?" Minato asked absently. He had learned that the Uchiha was, actually, a rather good politician. Not always with the right reasons, but he was good at it.
"He didn't say much. I think he doesn't care as long as the security on the village is strengthened. He said all this could've been avoided if the council had listened to his concerns about the security over a year ago. He ranted for over an hour and I had to listen to him. If it wasn't because you say the devil is in the details I wouldn't have bothered."
Minato looked oddly at him.
"I said that?" he asked curiously. He couldn't remember saying that. Fugaku shrugged.
"You said you could do more if you knew the details. It's only a different way of saying it."
The blonde blinked before he let out an amused snigger.
"You refer to me as the devil? That's rich Uchiha."
The older boy didn't change his position but clicked his tongue and nodded sagely.
"I don't know what you are planning or why, but trust me, I know when someone is aiming for something and you are aiming quite high. I wouldn't have helped you if I didn't know you're a genius and probably going to make your goals real too. Just remember it in time."
Minato didn't respond to that, but regarded the future head of the Uchiha clan intensely. He didn't know what he thought of being in his debt for anything, but filed it away to examine later. After all, he wouldn't need to do anything about it, unless Fugaku wanted him to hint at some of the less than loyal thoughts in his clan towards certain aspects of Konoha.
Oh, the clan was loyal to the village of Konoha, of that there was little doubt. They were less pleased with how… well, they didn't like how some things were solved and who actually had a say in those things. For one thing, they detested having to let civilians have a say in anything regarding the ninja. Of course, they didn't have a lot to say, but the mere presence of them and pretending that what they thought actually mattered made the clan see red. Literally. Danzou and his sub – division to ANBU had too many run ins with the police force to make the clan like him in any way and Minato was ready to bet the only way they would like the old spider was six feet under, head separated from the body. It didn't help at all that every time they tried to complain about it they were told they were 'only' the police force and therefore they shouldn't meddle with the ANBU's affairs.
No, 'loyalty' was always a matter of opinion. While the clan was loyal to Konoha as a whole, they were apprehensive to the leadership. Minato knew because he was trusted. He was trained by one of them, and the bond between a sensei and a student, especially a single student, was strong. He also knew better than to think too much into it. It might also be why Fugaku had decided to help him.
"As you say," he said and tilted his head in a show of agreement. The Uchiha didn't seem to notice. He was still leaning on his elbows and looking down at the grass.
"The chunins are being assembled for sabotage. That's what our mission says. Sabotage."
He handed Minato a scroll and as the blonde unrolled it he quietly observed the dark haired boy through the corners of his eyes. The Uchiha didn't seem to think sabotage was the correct term with the way he was glaring balefully at the scroll.
It wasn't much, just orders to take out the targets marked on the map. Wondering why Fugaku found it necessary to show anything resembling bitterness towards the mission he quickly folded the map out and looked it over. It was of the capitol in Stone Country, with five blue marks spread around the eastern area. He could only assume other teams were assigned other targets.
"Ah… they're getting even," he realized. Revenge never did lead to anything good and always left a bitter taste. He glanced over at Fugaku.
"How did they get the Hokage to agree?"
"They didn't need to. He would've had to do something with the way things are. Konoha can't afford to lose face right now. Not with how everyone is scrambling for power… the war left a vacuum of sorts. It ended without a conclusion so everyone's trying to make themselves the winner."
The silence fell over them and Minato rolled the scroll back up and handed it back. He didn't feel like talking right now. He didn't like how this was needed. It shouldn't be needed. Fugaku looked thoughtfully at him.
"We'll have to go… I don't want to be put in court for disobeying a direct order."
"I know. I was thinking how we wouldn't have if we made the orders."
"That's an interesting idea."
"Why do you think I want to become Hokage?" Minato asked him carefully and observed the Uchiha closely. He was surprised at first, his eyes widening before an almost wicked grin spread across his face.
"Sarutobi can't remain in power forever," he agreed and his charcoal colored eyes met Minato's sky blue in a moment of total understanding. Minato smirked back.
"It's all a matter of patience and planning. If planned and done right, I'll be elected Hokage when Sarutobi retires. Misunderstand me correctly, I like him and I think he's a good man, but… I also think he's too attached to his advisors at times, and that sod Danzou."
Especially that sod Danzou, but he couldn't tell Fugaku that. No, but he did nothing to hide his dislike for the man. The sooner he could get rid of that… that… well, that, he could breathe easier and it would be infinitely easier to get rid of him with the help of the Uchiha clan instead of having to sneak around them to do it.
He didn't much care for what had happened to the clan the other time around, in the future he knew, because he knew he could use their help now. They weren't happy with Danzou, and he wanted the man gone for more reasons than he cared to remember. Screw history, this was the village of Konoha they were talking about. He'd do what he had to do to save it, and from the look in Fugaku's eyes he knew the future clan head would cheer him on, never mind his reasons to do so.