WHAT'S THIS? I LIVE! Holy crap after god knows how long I'm finally here with an update. See I told you I won't let this story go XD Plus I've finally managed to get back into the Naruto fandom… now that's it's sort of calmed down that is…¬_¬
I'm so sorry that it's taken me this long to sort myself out, and to everyone who has taken the time to read my story, favourite, alert and even comment I owe you guys a big thank you. So as a terrible attempt at grovelling for your forgiveness this chapter is quite a long one. Although after this one, they will be a bit little bit shorter, but will be updated more frequently.
So at last I present you with chapter 4 of Promises! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't Naruto or any of the characters.
"Tsunade! You can't be serious? The case was closed, this is preposterous!" Koharu cried from her seat. She had been the first to say anything after Tsunade's shock announcement. "What evidence do you have to support this accusation?"
Kakashi let out the breath that he didn't know he had been holding in. 'Tsunade better have pretty strong evidence for this, if she didn't it would kill them.' Wordlessly he glanced over the younger ninja, Naruto's friends. If this turned out to be a complete mistake, then he didn't know if they would be able to take it, especially the ones like Sakura and Hinata, and Sasuke, Sasuke most of all. It would tear him apart. None of them had said a word; emotions raced across their faces, shock couldn't describe what they were feeling now. Turning to look at the man next to him, Kakashi wasn't in the least bit surprised to see the same emotion on his face. Iruka wouldn't be able to take it either. Finally some of the others began to come to their senses.
"Tsunade-sama, are you sure this is the right thing to do?" asked Hiashi. "Think about how this could affect some of those here." He shot his daughter and nephew a glance out the corner of his eye, noticing they still hadn't moved he sighed. "Please Tsunade-sama, think about this."
"Tsunade-sama, we all know what the boy meant to you, but what makes you think that things will change this time around?" spoke Shikaku.
Instead of answering him, Tsunade threw the file, watching as it slid to a halt in front of him. Shikaku looked at her questioningly. "Read." Was all he got.
Opening the file that he had read many times before, he began scanning the pages. Silence descended on the room, everyone's eyes on Shikaku as he read through the file held in his hands, finally his eyes came to rest upon the newly added page. Suddenly his eyes went wide and his breath stopped. The tension in the room grew; the atmosphere was suffocating as they waited for the jounin to give react, to show at least something.
"…T-Tsunade-sama…how is this possible. I was part of the initial investigation myself! Half this stuff I've never even seen, none of these discoveries were ever made!"
"What are you talking about Shikaku!" growled Tsume in agitation from across the table. Said jounin glanced up at the Hokage who was leaning back in her chair a hard look on her face, she nodded.
Nodding in return, Shikaku returned to the file in his shaking hands. "Mission Profile: Naruto Uzumaki, Anbu status, Leader of a 5 man squad carrying out a B-rank mission. Died in actio…"
"Yes we know all that! Why is this time any different!"
Ignoring Tsume's outburst Shikaku carried on. "Previous cause of death- Killed by enemy Nin. New evidence discovered. New cause of death murder… Information of enemy relied to Uzumaki was false, information stated enemy was of B-rank status, upon interviewing surviving squad members the Nin was said to have been most defiantly of A-rank status."
"Thank you Shikaku". Nodding he placed the no closed file gently on the table.
"Tsunade-sama, this is an unjust waste of time. I see no reason how something that insignificant could be used to open out a long closed investigation." Came Danzo's slimy voice, he was getting annoyed.
"Danzo, you will be silent." Was Tsunade's response. It shut him up pretty quick. (AN: Sorry but while writing this line I had a vivid image of Tsunade hitting Danzo with a frying pan….)
"The difference in power level is too high to be a mistake. All our recon teams are of the highest quality, especially those sent to investigate those which are a threat to our village. For the teams to make a mistake such as that is nearly impossible. Furthermore, the original mission report states that Naruto's squad saw him killed by a kunai to the base of the head, killing him instantly."
"But that is understandable, a hit from a kunai in a place like would kill nearly everyone, even as someone as powerful as Naruto." He wasn't trying to prove Tsunade wrong, but Hirashi felt that he needed to make sure that this was not just another false lead before a proper investigation began. For everyone's sake. Tsunade nodded, understanding the reasons behind his statement.
"I understand, but there are two things wrong with that report. One, as you said, Naruto was powerful, therefore he was too skilled to be kill by a simplistic attack like that."
"Satoshi Inoue was a strong follower of the distant Niwa clans fighting style. Their style demands only the use of body in battle, with the exception of the nunchucks. They do not carry any other weapons…including kunai. This makes it impossible for Naruto to have been killed by a kunai that the enemy wouldn't have been carrying." Tsunade finished with a smirk as Danzo growled lowly in defeat.
"And for anyone else here who still needs convincing, then just take a look at who was leading the investigation."
All eyes turned to Shikaku who was sitting subdued as he stared at the folder in front of him. Abruptly Chouza leapt to his feet.
"Tsunade-sama just what are you implying here? That Shikaku fixed this! He is one of our greatest minds! How can you think to suggest that he is involved in this!"
A small smile graced Tsunade's lips. "But that's just it Chouza, he is one of our greatest minds, and that's what makes this ever so much more important."
"W-what?" Confusion blew over Chouza's face as he slowly fell back into his seat.
"Let me explain. Shikaku just himself said that he never saw any of this evidence. Don't you find that odd? Someone of his higher intelligence missing things like this. In other situations there would be no way he could have missed something as simple as things like that. Therefore it points towards inside interference. A person or persons in this village rearranging evidence and leads, and quite cleverly might I add to be able to fool Shikaku. These are the reasons and evidence I have to reopen this case.
Koharu rose to her feet. "Tsunade, you cannot just re…."
Determination gleaming in her eyes, Tsunade swiftly cut her off. "I propose a vote. All those in favour of the re-opening of this case, raise your hands."
With a satisfied smirk, she cocked her head in the direction of three, whose hands remained firmly in their laps. "It seems you're outnumbered. As of now, the mission case of Uzumaki Naruto has been re-opened!"
Sasuke leaned against the cool wood of the window frame, the pale moonlight ghosting the relaxed curves of his face. After the Hokages announcement, the news was official announced to the village, as expected there were a few mixed views on the subject. However it appeared that glares from Sakura were just as terrifying as her masters. The rest of the afternoon had been a flurry of movement. Tsunade had been dividing people up into teams and assigned them separate tasks, anything and everything that was related to Naruto was being investigated in hope that it could lead them to the truth, the truth that they had been denied for so many years.
Sasuke sighed as he clutched the cold object in his hand, the metal digging into his palm. He stared at the silver light reflecting off of the smooth metal of his headband, of the headband that Naruto had returned to him long ago. Without Naruto he wouldn't be where he was. Without Naruto he wouldn't have had the complete and utter shit beat out of him (By the way he was still pissed at Naruto for that….Naruto's kicks hurt…) Twitching, his lips formed a small smile. Naruto didn't give up on him, no matter what happened. So Sasuke wouldn't give up on him either. He would find out the truth, the reality behind what happened to his best friend, the one who had saved him from the darkness. His grip tightened. No. He wouldn't stop. Not until he knew the truth.
Birds flittered across the pale blue sky that rested over Konoha. Beneath it the Hokage tower was bustling with activity. The past two days had been nothing but teams coming and going, bringing in more and more new information everyday. Of course not all of it was helpful; in fact some of it was down right pointless. But none the less it was just as important as the stuff that was of use, it proved that they were one step closer.
That particular morning found Shikamaru slouched behind a desk, in a stuffy, dusty room, going through all the old recon reports. They were pretty much having a hard time tracking down the members of the recon teams that had been involved in Naruto's last mission. Groaning, the strategist threw his head back. They really needed to get an organiser in here…this place was a complete and utter mess, it was unbelievable. Huffing he glared at the papers in his hands. Where the files for that particular month should have been was instead an aging file for the team that was collecting information on some old man who was under suspicion of dumping grass clipping…from 40 years ago!
"Laying back on the job, why am I not surprised?"
Pulling himself back into a normal sitting position, Shikamaru looked up to see Temari leaning against the door frame, the trace of a smile gracing her lips.
"What? Nothing wrong with a bit of spontaneity every now and again. Unlike you, who even in a situation such as this is still lazing around."
"I take it you know about the re-opening of Naruto's case file?"
With a sigh the sand shinobi nodded, walking forwards she settled on his desk. "Just got out of a meeting with the Hokage, Gaara's still up there."
"How'd he take it?"
"He's upset. I know he is. Even if he doesn't show it, Gaara's always been hard to read. Naruto's death hit him hard, and I don't think that he ever really got over it, that kid did so much for him, something that Gaara will never forget. Now to know that Naruto could have been mur-" Stopping she sighed unable to finish her sentence.
Shikamaru watched as her gaze flickered over to the window, muttering something that sounded suspiciously like 'So troublesome' he hauled himself out of the chair and pulled Temari into a loose hug.
"It hit us all hard, especially now there's the possibility that he was murdered." Temari laid her head against his chest. "But now we will finally know the truth, because I for one am not going to stop searching for it."
Eyes widening, Temari glanced up at the shadow user. When had his resolve gotten that strong? She smiled; even in death Naruto's influence was still going strong. In one swift movement she'd slipped from Shikamaru's grasp and off the desk. "Right then! I've been here 3 hours and I have yet to see your mum, and you know how much I love your mum, so let's go!" With that she grabbed his hand and dragged him out the door.
"I will I help in any way that I can."
Tsunade nodded at the redhead sitting opposite her. Since the Kazekage's arrival a good few hours ago, Tsunade had informed Gaara of the new turn of events that had swept through the village. Not only as an act of duty to the still precarious alliance between the two villages but also out of personal compassion. The two Jinjuriki had been close, the only ones that could understand the pain that the other felt. Gaara had offered his help as soon as she had finished. "You need not have even had to ask". Sipping her sake, Tsunade smiled.
"I know. That response has been rather commonplace over the last few days. Just goes to show how important the brat was to so many people over the years. If anything I don't think I've seen some people so fired up in a long time." Aqua eyes studied her.
"I assume that you are referring to Sasuke Uchiha."
"Yes. He was the one that instigated this. He's refusing to let this go. A trait that months ago I would have pitied him for, but now, I'm so glad that he's a stubborn bastard. If not for him, then maybe we would never have known that there was a greater truth behind Naruto's death."
A comfortable silence fell over the two Kages. Allowing time for each to mull over the thoughts in their heads. Shifting his gaze Gaara broke the silence. "I have another reason for my visit Tsunade."
"Two days ago one of our perimeter patrols reported a sighting along part of the Land of Wind's eastern boarder. They claimed that they saw two figures, both wearing black cloaks emblazoned with red clouds."
Gaara nodded. "The patrol attempted to follow, but lost them. They just vanished." He fixed his gaze on Tsunade. "This is the first sighting in over 6 years; no one knows where they've been, or what even happened to them. Now suddenly they've shown up, miles away from any kind of settlement and avoiding all human contact."
Tsunade digested this information. After 6 years they've suddenly appeared out of the woodwork. Not only was this mysterious in its own right, but combined with the information given to her by Jiraiya not more than 2 nights before only furthered her confusion. Turning her attention back to the young man sat in front of her she realised that Gaara would be an invaluable asset with this information.
"A few nights ago I was given some very interesting information via Jiraiya. The old pervert disappeared a couple of weeks ago on grounds of 'important work'; turns out he had discovered a previous spy who had gone missing from his network 6 years ago. He showed up out of the blue 2 nights ago with some very important material. Material relating to the Akatsuki."
"What kind of material?" With that, Tsunade proceeded to inform the redhead of her previous conversation with the Toad Sage, from the reanimated members to Obito Uchiha. Gaara sat and listened intently, not once interrupting Tsunade in her account. Upon finishing she looked at Gaara expectantly, trying to gauge his reaction from his seemingly emotionless expression.
"Just how do you value this information? On its own it seems like wild speculation, then combined with the missing man that you sourced this from it doesn't really warrant being completely reliable. Considering in a way you are suggesting the pardoning of a collection of S-ranked criminals that have caused a lot of pain not only in our own respective villages but also throughout a great deal of the shinobi lands and even beyond."
Although slightly shocked by the amount of words that Gaara had spoken in one sentence, she had been prepared for an answer like that, she would have said exactly the same, and thus she had a comeback and wasted no time in answering.
"For all his faults and downsides, he is still a brilliant man. If Jiraiya believes this, then so do I."
Gaara contemplated her answer before nodding. "If your belief lays with him, then so does mine. However, now taking this information into account we must assess what they're possible motives are and why they have finally decided to reveal themselves after all this time."
Sasuke sat nursing a cup of tea that had been all but forced into his hands by an irate Sakura with words of 'If you don't start looking after yourself then so help me I will render you unconscious and you will not be allowed to help at all Sasuke Uchiha!' So now, Sasuke found himself leaning back in his chair on a break under the watchful gaze of the pinkette.
"Holy crap! Shikamaru wasn't kidding when he said that this place was unorganised. This is ridiculous! Somehow I've ended up with D-rank mission reports on chasing some women's cat...whoa that cat has been chased a hell of a lot of times…" Tenten all but threw the papers behind her grumbling incoherently. Kiba laughed.
"Aww come on Tenten, quit your bitching!"
"I'm not bitching! I'm merely making an acute observation on the sloppy filing system we seem to have in place."
"Sorry Kiba, Tenten's right this is awful"
"Quiet forehead, you're just going to encourage him"
"Forehead? Why don't you stay out of this Ino-pig!"
"Well at least my chest isn't as flat as my forehead!"
So at that, the once hard working atmosphere fell into…well chaos. The two kunoichi flung insults at each other that progressively got worse. Kiba was serving as nothing more than an unhelpful spectator that cheered both sides on, oblivious to Hinata who was trying to calm him down and Tenten who was trying, emphasis on the word trying, to calm down both Ino and Sakura. Turning to the two other people in the room Tenten yelled over the fighting girls. "HEY! Do you two fancy, you know, helping me out here!"
Lazily opening one eye, and in what can only be described as a pathetic excuse of a movement, Sasuke lamely raised one hand and sort of waved it in the general direction of the two girls. "No…Sakura… Ino…don't…" he muttered feebly. Tenten just glared at him. He dropped his arm back to his side and closed his eyes once again. "Oh well I tried." At the other end of the table Neji ignored everything and just continued to shuffle through his papers. Huffing angrily to herself, Tenten grabbed hold of Sakura and attempted to pull her down.
The room was a cacophony of noise, everyone seemed to be shouting or making some kind of input into the ever raging fight between Ino and Sakura. So when Chouji walked in not 2 minutes later, he was met with a state of utter bedlam. To be honest he wasn't even fazed, shrugging he plonked himself down next to Sasuke, handing him a bag of crisps. "Well I see we're having a productive afternoon."
Sasuke snorted as he opened the bag. "When don't we."
"You know, I'm not even going to attempt to read anything with that racket going on." At that Chouji began the very satisfying task of munching his way through his first bag of crisps.
Neji focused on the words in front of him, having phased out the ensuing argument. They'd spent the best part of the day endeavouring to discover the details on the other members of Naruto squad that were present on his last mission. However, that was easier said than done. Nothing was in its right place; they were being met with a dead end at everything they had aimed at. It was as though they were inten- He paused. Then it hit him. Throwing himself up out of his seat he slammed a palm against the table. Everything ceased. "Neji?"
Ignoring Hinata he rushed round the table to where Tenten had been working. A quick glance of the papers enforced his theory.
"This isn't disorganised. In fact it's been incredibly well organised. That's why we can't find anything; everything that relates to Naruto isn't where it should be. Every time we look for something we're met with some random mission report or trivial piece of documentation. Don't you see, someone's trying to lead us away from what we're looking for. Look, it's only Naruto's files that are misplaced. One or two maybe, but everything? It is far too much of a coincidence. This had been done deliberately."
Getting down off the table, Ino hurried back to her pile of paperwork, ruffling through them she understood. "He's right! Look the files both before and after this one are in order, it's only this one that's different. It's subtle, but there."
As if some switch had been flicked on, everyone mirrored Ino's actions, with all coming to the same revelation. Chouji threw down his papers. "It's a set up. Someone's taken the time to do this; if they've taken the time to do all this then they must have something to hide."
"Then the files we're after could be anyway, they might have even been removed completely." Sakura looked at Ino. "Or even destroyed."
"No." The others glanced up at Sasuke. "They have to still be here, removing them completely would only enforce suspicion. If they just make it seem like a harmless misplacement of data then no one would feel the need to search for it. Search in unrelated places! Places that we wouldn't have even considered! They still have to be here somewhere!"
At that everyone sprung into action.
He had no idea how long he'd been sat up there, atop the Hokage monument. He couldn't say that he'd lost track of time, as he hadn't really been keeping it in the first place, and as the rays of the dying sun gently caressed his face he sighed. Glancing down at his hands he studied the item that he'd been holding. Carefully he stroked the frame of the battered pair of green goggles, remembering a time when they had been framed with blonde. He let out an empty chuckle. Look at him, holding on to a pair of old goggles all this time, getting all emotional over them. Oh how very shinobi like. But at the end of the day they were one of the only things that he had left to remember him by. Great, his vision was already starting to blur. 'You're an emotional old fool Iruka' he thought to himself. The reopening of Naruto's file had shaken him. Naruto loved this village and just the thought that someone after all these years from within the village could have been responsible for the boy's death. Choking back a sob he clutched the goggles to his chest. The little boy that never let anyone put him down. The little boy that would cling to his legs, whose face would light up at the mere mention of ramen. The little boy that grew up to be a fine young man. The young man that Iruka couldn't have been prouder of. He began to shake. That boy. His little boy.
Kakashi sadly watched the man crumble, hunched over the goggles that he held desperately to his chest, sobbing his heart out. Leaning back into his hiding place in the tree he let the broken man have his moment to himself.
"Guys! I've found something!" Kiba's triumphant cry sounded as he held up a few sheets of paper. "It's one of the member data sheets!"
Everyone crowded round as Kiba cleared a space and smoothed the sheets down on the table. Finally after a day of searching they had finally found something. They looked it over; it was indeed a mission data sheet on one of the squad members. "It's only one, but it's a start" Sakura remarked. The information was set out in the standard. Profile image, name, rank, mission history, age, those sorts of things. Although insignificant it provided them with another far more important link. A person to which they could question.
"We're going to have to let the Hokage know immediately." The others nodded at Chouji declaration. Kiba however hadn't moved. "K-Kiba?" Hinata gently poked her boyfriend.
"Kiba what's wrong?"
Kiba placed his finger next to a word near the bottom of the second page, a word that they all knew. Sasuke narrowed his eyes.
So what did you think? Sorry if it seemed a bit dragged out, but very soon things start to kick off.
So until next time mi amigos!