The Secret Origins of the Bell Test
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Tobirama stared at his brother uncomprehendingly. "I'm sorry, I think I misheard you. What?"
"I want you to take on a team of apprentices," Hashirama repeated dutifully.
"I'm sorry, I think I misheard you. What?"
"What?" Tobirama asked. "You honestly want me to be responsible for training children?"
"I'll admit that the situation isn't idea," Hashirama conceded. "But-"
"I'd ask if you'd ever met me if you weren't my brother, so I'll settle for a 'did you suffer a head injury recently'?" Tobirama cut him off.
"I don't remember," Hashirama deadpanned.
Tobirama sent him a withering glare. "Cute. Did you let an Uchiha anywhere near anything you might have consumed recently?"
Hashirama shook his head. "No. And I'm not crazy, either. I may not know whether or not I'll be Hokage yet, but one way or another I will be a village leader, so I need to train a replacement."
"Does this mean you're not going to make me be your replacement anymore?" Tobirama asked hopefully.
"No, you still have to," Hashirama said flatly.
"Then why do you need some kid?" Tobirama demanded.
"Because you're only a few years younger than me and so we'll need to train up the next generation. Unless you want to worry about training when you're in charge?"
"No, that's quite alright," Tobirama said quickly. "Why can't you just train them?"
"I'm founding a village practically single-handedly," Hashirama pointed out.
"I'm helping," Tobirama protested.
"But you're more than happy to let me handle most of the work," Hashirama replied.
"You're the leader. And once you have a stress-induced heart attack, it will be my job," Tobirama defended himself.
"I mean, Izuna's doing what he can, but Madara's clan head and he's dragging his feet every step of the way," Hashirama continued, ignoring him.
"Are you really surprised?" Tobirama asked rhetorically. "He looks roughly three more civil conversations with you away from summoning a Bijuu and wiping out the village."
"I'll have to avoid him then," Hashirama said innocently. "For the sake of the village."
"You're a martyr."
"Seriously, we need to train up successors," Hashirama said firmly, his mind back on business. "You have to do it."
"I'll corrupt them," Tobirama pointed out.
Hashirama closed his eyes. "It's a risk I'm willing to take."
"Do you have any soon-to-be-corrupted future leaders in mind?" Tobirama inquired politely.
Hashirama thought about it for a minute. "Not really, no. Madara will be sure to pitch a fit if you choose any Uchiha; he'll probably claim you're trying to turn whoever against him."
"And he wouldn't even be entirely wrong," Tobirama noted.
"Just pick three of the non-Uchiha who are being trained at the makeshift Academy," Hashirama ordered.
"I think I'll steer away from picking any Senju as well," Tobirama decided.
"We wouldn't want any accusations of nepotism, now would we?" Tobirama paused. "Not that Madara would ever dream of training a non-Uchiha."
"So how are you going to pick them?" Hashirama was genuinely curious. "The sensible thing to do would be to go over the students' records but-"
"That sounds boring," Tobirama interrupted. "I'll just choose three random people and then test them to see if they'll be qualified."
"So you can't be bothered to read their files but you're okay with testing them?" Hashirama asked incredulously.
"Yep," Tobirama said nodding.
Hashirama hesitated. "…Do I even want to know?"
"You'll probably find out at some point," Tobirama pointed out.
"Fine. Tell me." Hashirama sounded resigned. "One of them will be my and then your successor and the other two can serve as advisors if nothing else."
"Since I'll be training three at once, their teamwork will be important, right?" Tobirama asked.
"Right…" Hashirama agree slowly.
"Therefore, I will test their teamwork!" Tobirama declared.
"But they won't be a team yet," Hashirama felt obliged to say. "They'll just be three random people who may not even know each other."
"Village leaders need to learn fast and be adaptable," Tobirama insisted.
"Okay, I'll bite," Hashirama gave in. "How are you going to test this?"
"Simple," Tobirama said. "I'll tell them not to eat the next day and to meet me at dawn. I'll show up at around eleven-"
"Wait…you're planning on leaving them to wait for five hours?" Hashirama wondered if he was hearing this correctly. "Why?!?!"
"So they'll be starving and tired. And they'll have a few hours together so I don't have to waste time with introductions," Tobirama explained.
"I'll tell them they'll have an hour to take two bells that I'll attach to my belt. I'll tell them that whoever does not have a bell doesn't get to become my apprentice," Tobirama continued.
"But you need to take three," Hashirama was quite adamant on that point. "And how will telling them otherwise prove their teamwork? If anything, it will just turn them against each other."
"Exactly!" Tobirama beamed.
"And we don't want that," Hashirama reminded his brother.
"No, we don't," Tobirama agreed.
"Then how is that a good idea?" Hashirama wasn't sure he wanted to know.
"There's no chance in hell they'll be able to get a bell alone and very little chance of them getting one by working together. That said, they'll do better by teaming up. If they do this, they'll pass. If not, I'll look for another group," Tobirama elaborated.
"What's the point of making them starve?" Hashirama wondered.
"I'll set out lunches in plain sight and tell them they can't eat until they get a bell. I'm sure someone will crack and try and steal food before too long," Tobirama sounded positively gleeful at the prospect.
"Why is that a good thing?"
"Because if they fail to work together then this is their third and final chance," responded Tobirama.
"What's the second?" Hashirama asked.
"If one of them is self-sacrificing and volunteers to go back to the Academy for their teammates' sake ."
"That sounds highly unlikely," Hashirama told him.
"That's why I didn't mention it," Tobirama explained. "But should they do it, they'll pass."
"And the final one?"
"I plan to tie the would-be thief to the pole I plan on having set up just for that purpose-" Tobirama began.
"You just want to tie one of the kids up?" Hashirama interrupted.
Tobirama shrugged. "Children are obnoxious at that age. It's for their own good if I get it out of my system now. Then, I'll give the other two lunch and tell them not to share it with the person tied to the pole and then 'leave' while masking my presence. If they listen to me, they fail. If they don't, they pass."
Hashirama raised an eyebrow. "So you want to start off your teaching career by encouraging insubordination?"
"Well, mindless obedience is arguably worse. ESPECIALLY in future village leaders," Tobirama shot back.
Hashirama sighed heavily. "I guess I'll just have to trust you. I hope you know what you're doing."
"Don't I always?" Tobirama smirked.
"Honestly, I have no idea," Hashirama confessed.
"These are them, then?" Tobirama asked, eyeing the kids assembled in front of him in a single-file line speculatively.
The Academy Instructor nodded. "Yes, this is the lot. Are you sure you don't need to see their records?" The future of the village is very important, after all."
"I'm positive," Tobirama said firmly. "So…let's go with the first person in line, the last, and the exact middle."
Obediently, the three – two boys and a girl – came forward.
"Names please," Tobirama said.
"Utatane Koharu," the girl said.
"Mitokado Homura," the first boy introduced.
"Sarutobi Hiruzen," the second boy said. "So what did you want us for?"
"You're going to be my apprentices," Tobirama announced brightly, acting for all the world as if he hadn't dead-set against the idea.
"Just like that?" Koharu asked skeptically.
"Just like that," Tobirama confirmed. "Unless you suck, of course, in which case I'll return you."
"Works for me," Homura said with a shrug.
"So… hungry…I think I'm dying," Hiruzen was complaining when Tobirama finally got around to arriving the next morning.
"Oh don't be such a baby," Tobirama chided.
"YOU'RE LATE!" his three prospective students shouted as one.
"Am I?" Tobirama asked idly. "It's only 10:57. That makes me early."
"You were supposed to be here five hours ago," Homura pointed out.
Tobirama blinked. "Was I really?"
"How like a Senju to keep people waiting for hours on end," Madara sniffed as he walked by.
"Have one of us ever kept you waiting for hours on end?"
"Well, no," Madara admitted. "But don't think I'm not onto you!"
"Who was that?" Koharu asked curiously.
"Uchiha Madara," replied Tobirama flatly.
"Uchiha Madara?" Homura repeated. "I hear he was really nice!"
"W-what?" Tobirama was shocked and not a little horrified.
"Yeah, he's a little stuck-up but he seems alright," Koharu agreed.
"He only yelled at me a little that one time I accidentally kicked a ball and hit his brother in the face," Hiruzen added.
"I don't believe this…" Tobirama muttered. "Madara? NICE?!?! What is the world coming to?"
"You don't like him?" Koharu asked innocently.
"He and my brother have an epic rivalry," Tobirama explained. "If someone tried to kill your brother as often as Madara tries to kill mine, you'd understand."
"Is there anything else?" Hiruzen inquired.
Tobirama snorted. "Is there ever. The Senju and Uchiha clans have been…opposed, I guess you could say, for quite some time. Suffice to say, the Sharingan is evil."
"What makes you say that?" Homura inquired. "It seems pretty useful actually, even if it does kind of make them look possessed."
"Think of it this way: even the regular Sharingan can take virtually any non-Kekkei genkai move you've months mastering or years developing and, with one flash of red, be able to use it adequately whenever they want," Tobirama informed them.
"Only adequately?" Koharu asked.
"They may not have the physical or chakra abilities to utilize it properly and they won't really understand it. PLUS it's cheating," Tobirama said sternly.
"Cheating?" Hiruzen repeated. "But…we're ninja. Isn't that the point?"
To their surprise, Tobirama nodded. "Exactly. If a ninja thinks you're cheating, you're being far too blatant about it and it's almost insulting."
" 'Even the regular Sharingan'?" Homura said. "What do the other forms do? ARE there other forms?"
"I don't know much about the Sharingan as the Uchiha are very proud of their Kekkei genkai and don't want anyone finding a weakness in it, but there are two other forms that I've seen: The Mangekyou Sharingan and the Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan. Madara and his brother Izuna were the first two I ever saw with the first and so I don't really know exactly how they get it – though I have my suspicions – but as for the second…well, there's a reason Izuna doesn't have eyes anymore."
"Uchiha Madara TOOK them?" Koharu asked, horrified.
Tobirama nodded grimly. "Pure. Evil." He brightened, "Now here's what I want you guys to do. I have two bells…"
Just as he predicted, the three refused to work together. No one offered themselves up a sacrifice. Hiruzen had given up halfway through and tried to have lunch so he was currently tied to the brand new pole in the middle of the training ground and Koharu and Homura sat beside him on the ground listening to Tobirama's speech about how they should never be ninja because they didn't understand teamwork OR putting the mission above their own interests.
As he was winding down, he said, "I'm going to give you one more chance after lunch. Koharu, Homura, don't you dare give Hiruzen anything. Stealing will not be tolerated, much less rewarded." With that, he disappeared in a swirl of leaves and settled down to watch the three from the trees.
"I'm SO hungry…" Hiruzen complained again.
"Are you seriously going to complain the entire time we're eating?" Koharu asked, annoyed.
"Yes I am," Hiruzen confirmed.
"Better a peaceful meal than a filling one," Koharu decided, holding the food out to her teammate.
"…Thanks for the offer, but I'm kind of tied up," Hiruzen pointed out.
"What are you doing?" Homura hissed. "Tobirama-sama said not to give him anything!"
"With the way he's been moaning all mourning about his stomach, if we don't feed him he'll probably try and eat one of us later, "Koharu replied rolling her eyes.
Homura considered this for a moment. "Eat up."
Having seen enough, Tobirama made haste towards his brand new team looking thunderous. "YOU…" he hid a smile as they all jumped and looked terrified. "Pass!"
"We did?" Hiruzen asked. "But how?"
Tobirama rolled his eyes. "You guys are a team now. I needed to see if you could work together or if the whole thing was pointless. You two can leave and I'll see you back here tomorrow at around nine."
"Will you be showing up on time?" Koharu demanded.
Tobirama shrugged. "I would bring something to do."
"What about me?" Hiruzen asked, still tied up.
Tobirama grinned. "YOU, my friend, are coming with me to meet my brother…"
"I've found you an apprentice," Tobirama said cheerfully as he dragged Hiruzen into his brother's office.
"Indeed?" Hashirama asked, giving him a once-over. "Already?"
"He really stood out to me," Tobirama managed to say with a straight face.
Hashirama shook his head. "I don't want to know, do I?"