Prologue: Danzō-sama wants you!
Disclaimer: Not mine and I make no profit.
Sandaime Hokage Sarutobi Hiruzen looked out of his office window at the village below him. The village was alight in orange, golden and red lights, silk paper lanterns, bonfires and fireworks. The Memorial Festival of Yellow Flash was well underway. It had been thirteen years already and he was sure that Minato would have been proud of them. Of how quickly they had recovered and of their newly found acceptance of one Uzumaki Naruto.
Naruto's daring rescue attempt that had ultimately saved him from having to summon Shinigami to force Orochimaru to retreat, defeat of Sabaku no Gaara, part in bringing Tsunade of the Sannin back to the village to heal him (and everyone else still in the hospital) and dragging back one recalcitrant Uchiha Sasuke had earned the boy a lot of goodwill. The scars were still there, but thanks to Naruto's perseverance and patience, as amused as some might have been by the thought of the loud boy possessing any, they were healing. All in all, this had had the potential to be the first enjoyable Memorial Festival of Yellow Flash Naruto had ever attended.
If only Hiruzen didn't need to do what he was about to do. He had a sinking feeling in his stomach that his student's student wouldn't have been proud of him at all.
Turning his back to his window, the aged Hokage glared sadly the offending piece of paperwork to complete before he also could join the crowds below in their celebration. He didn't feel like celebrating, but one of his duties as the Sandaime was to make at least a token appearance. The last document on his desk was the registration request for a new ninja into the Root program run by his onetime rival Danzō. It didn't say Root, of course. Admitting the existence of the illegal ANBU branch would have sent the old man into prison quicker than he could say busted. Danzō was requesting Uzumaki Naruto, the jinchūriki of Kyūbi no Yōko, as his apprentice.
Some people, entirely too many people, thought that the ninja were to be mere tools to their respective villages. That by being emotionless, obedient, ruthless and completely screwed in the head was no reason to call for a therapist, administer happy pills and confiscate every sharp, pointy thing they had, but to promote the nin in question so they could be even more efficient tools. Until they broke and a new one took their place, of course, because all tools break sooner or later.
As inhumane as it was, nine times out of ten those that survived the training turned out superb nin. Of course, one time out of ten Uchiha Itachi happened. For some people this wasn't big enough setback to give up and let humans be humans, and so Sarutobi had to deal with members of his own council hiding Root in their closets among the other skeletons. This was about to change.
"Forgive me, Minato-kun. Please forgive me, Naruto-kun," he whispered as he dipped his pen into the ink in the small jade inkwell and swirled the ink slowly, reluctantly. The desktop under the piece of paper was slightly charred, a memento of one afternoon when Naruto had been eating take-out ramen in his office and decided to warm it with a fireball because it was lukewarm.
At least technically Danzō had to go through the Hokage to bring in new Root members, but that didn't stop him from playing Behind Hokage's Back at the most inconvenient time. The previous year Danzō had tried to recruit half of the graduating class into his "new apprentice program for ninja showing early ANBU potential". Apparently he had hoped that in his rush to get out of the office to buy the new Icha Icha Classics Collection, hardback version with author's autograph, Sarutobi would sign the papers on his desk without looking at all of them. Luckily for the genin-to-be, Jiraiya always sent his old teacher his every publication and Sarutobi had concentrated on his work that afternoon.
He'd had it with the Root. The Root had to go. And so Uzumaki Naruto had to go to the Root.
As they spoke Jiraiya was tattooing a surveillance seal into Naruto's back. It would record every conversation Naruto had during the next two months. Sixty one days. And during those sixty one days Naruto couldn't be allowed to realize one of his precious people hadn't really handed him over to the monster puppetmaster. Naruto was a dreadfully bad liar, for all that shinobi were supposed to be masters of deceit, and this was in all likelihood the best chance Sarutobi had to take care of Danzō machinations once and for all. Naruto believed that the tattoo that was inked to his back that very moment was to help keep Kyūbi in check. He also believed he had been betrayed.
"Sixty one days. I pray your endurance will carry you through one more time. I'm so sorry," Sarutobi sighed aloud. And with a hand that trembled slightly he signed the document.
In his office Sarutobi Hiruzen wallowed in guilt as magnificent fireworks dyed it golden and red, again and again, and cheerful music played outside. He wallowed in vain. Despite his inability to tell a convincing lie Naruto was a good shinobi, but he was to make a horrible weapon. Not terrifying-horrible, just plain lousy-horrible.
Danzō's reign over his troops, any of whom could have had him killed simply by exposing their existence, was based on five things. One, choosing the candidates either when they were very young or choosing someone already dysfunctional. Two, the presence of a perceived threat to their well-being and the knowledge that the he would carry out the threat. Three, the presence of a perceived small kindness, but never enough to make them emotional of course. Four, isolation from perspectives other than those of his own, and five, their perceived inability to escape the situation.
This was Naruto: stubborn, fearless, extremely independent, due to being emancipated at the tender age of ten when the orphanage felt they couldn't handle him anymore, and sufficiently irreverent to cover the Hokage monument with graffiti. His ability to reach out to people any other would have judged as hopeless cases was already well-known in Konoha.
Also, he thought that being selected for ANBU training program was the coolest thing ever. Danzō really should have known better.
Naruto was fairly vibrating with eagerness, shifting his weight from one leg to another. The man with ferret mask had led him into a huge underground training room, under the ANBU headquarters. It was high and spacious, one of the walls was covered with all kinds of weapons, maintained with care and put on display: long naginata and elegant katana, shorter wakizashi and daishō more fitting for a nin who had to keep his weapons concealed. Simple bō made of bamboo and hardwood, war fans from Suna, sai, tonfa, nunchaku, mundane kunai, senbon and shuriken next to beautiful bows of all sizes.
If they had weapons like that, Naruto thought, their jutsu library had to be wicked. Much better than what the lazy-ass Kakashi would teach Sasuke; Naruto only rued the fact that he wasn't allowed to tell his teammates, or anyone else, where he was and doing what. His glee was interrupted when a door opened at the opposite end of the room and a red-haired woman in her mid-twenties, dressed in hakama, walked in, steps echoing in the bare room.
She was rather beautiful though nowhere near Sakura-chan's or Tsunade-baachan's class. Her hair was cut so it barely reached her chin and her dark eyes were hard and stern. She was looking Naruto over, apparently not impressed, but Naruto had ages ago ceased to be intimidated by anything so subtle.
"I'm Uzumaki Naruto, nice to meet you! Are you my new sensei?" he asked and gave the woman his best, brightest smile. He wanted to make a good first impression and it wouldn't do to appear lazy or uninterested. She seemed taken aback for a fraction of a second, but recovered like nothing ever shifted on her face.
"I am Okubo Hibari. When speaking to people outside ANBU you will refer to me as Crane-sensei. I have understood that the education you received at the academy was lacking in many respects. This will be corrected. I will work you to the ground so you can be of some use to Danzō-sama." Her voice was even and without any trace of emotion.
"That's great!" Naruto exclaimed. This time Hibari-sensei's face didn't even twitch, but Naruto had a feeling that she wasn't used to so much enthusiasm. He was careful to maintain his blinding smile.
Her eyes really bothered him. They reminded him of Gaara's, of Sasuke's, of Haku's; so much to prove it was painful, and desperation, fear that she just might not manage. He had a feeling that his own had looked like that too, before Iruka-sensei had proved once and for all that he at least saw Naruto and not what the rest of the village saw, a rabid biju in a decaying leash. Naruto wasn't the most perceiving person in many respects, but he could tell when someone thirsted acknowledgment. She was obviously in need of a good friend and Naruto resolved to be extra nice to her and not torture her like he had Kakashi-sensei and Jiraiya-sensei. He knew what it was like, when there was no one to talk to, no one who asked if you were okay after a crappy day or congratulated you on your birthday.
"When is your birthday?" he asked. Now Hibari-sensei's face did the twitch again. It was a really tiny twitch, but after learning to decipher the difference between Sasuke's Frown #1 (broody) and Frown #2 (homicidal), not to be confused with Annoyed Narrowing of Eyes and Arrogant Twitch of Eyebrow, he was expert at observing the little muscles around eyes.
"Twenty third of August, not that I see what benefit this information is to you. I will now take you to the Root HQ. You will share a room with another young shinobi, Sai, who will show you around and give you your training schedule. I will have my way with you seven am tomorrow, don't be late. Also, be aware that if you disclose to any outside Root its existence, the way to the HQ or any secrets you will learn there, even to superior officers not in Root, your life will be forfeit."
As she spoke, Hibari-sensei turned around and led Naruto through the door to yet another staircase that led down. Luckily this spared him from his new sensei from witnessing the blush that rose to his face. Naruto, being a teenager only getting acquainted with his hormones, couldn't not blush at Hibari-sensei's innuendo, as little as she surely meant with it. But he was totally loyal to Sakura-chan and he wasn't perverted like Jiraiya-sensei, or Kakashi-sensei, or Ebisu who had almost been his sensei for a short while. What was it with him getting all the perverted sensei anyway? But he bravely kicked the interest his hormones were taking into submission, in the process completely ignoring the death threat, and gave Hibari-sensei a suddenly suspicious look. He hadn't known women could be perverts, had always believed that the second x-chromosome prevented it somehow, but with the way his luck run when it came to teachers he could never be too sure.
"You aren't gonna read perverted books while I train or do anything other perverted, are you?" he asked just to make sure. Hibari-sensei, who had reached a small cleaning closet and knelt down to lift heavy metal cover that seemed to lead to sewers, paused her effort and turned her head to look into Naruto's eyes. For the first time there was a clear expression on her face and it was highly offended.
"Of course not." Her words were prim and clipped and she directed a small amount of killing intent into Naruto. He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
"Sorry, but Kakashi-sensei and Jiraiya-sensei did that all the time," he explained. "You aren't gonna be three hours late from training or wander off and leave me alone either, right?"
"No." Hibari-sensei lifted the cover, but her eyes were still riveted to Naruto's face, again devoid of all emotion. The air from the sewers smelled damp and musty, but still a lot cleaner than sewers should.
"This is gonna be so great!" Naruto exclaimed and pumped his fist into the air. Then he jumped into the dimly lit sewer, shouting with joy.
It should be noted that Naruto, having slept through most of Konoha's history, had never heard of Root before Jiraiya had informed that he was to become Danzō's apprentice. Being Naruto he hadn't thought to check what information there was of the man either. Thus far this Root promised to be the coolest place ever! Hibari-sensei was going to teach him kick-ass jutsu and actually spar with him and they even had a secret underground entrance! The only thing that would have made it better would have been if he had been able to impress Sakura-chan with it. Secret handshake would also have been nice. He looked up where Hibari-sensei was climbing down the ladder.
"Do we have a secret handshake?"
Day 1, suborn count 0.
Recorded by the surveillance seal: confirmation of the existence of the Root and Danzō's involvement, order to lie to superior officers under threat of death.
AN: This will not be Naruto/Hibari. In fact, there will be no romance at all.
The little line over a letter means that it should be pronounced long. For example: Kyūbi = Kyuubi. It just looks better with the line in my opinion.