This story idea hit me like a sledge hammer. All reviews/criticism is welcomed. Without further ado, I give you chapter one of Naruto: The Reckoning
This will be AU (obviously) and Naruto will be two years older than Canon. Which means that the Kyuubi attack will be two years earlier. Also, certain things won't be so common in this fic. Two examples being Medic-nin and Sensor-nin. For the former, while every Hidden Village will have some version of it, Konoha's will be the best, because the program will have been built by Tsunade, who is both the greatest Medic-nin that we know of, and the inventor of many Medical techniques, most of which remained in the sole custody of Konoha. Some Hidden Villages will have pretty decent Medic-nin programs, and others will still be using just herbs and such, while others will be anywhere in between.
For the latter, Chakra sensing will actually be something fairly unique, rather than being so common that most ninja can do it. People like Tobirama and Karin will be very rare. For Tobirama, being able to sense and identify twenty members of Kumo's elite shinobi unit from a distance is the kind of thing that adds to his notoriety/legend, while Karin being able to identify and track individual shinobi through her sensing abilities makes her a highly sought after asset. It's uncommon, but other ninja can sense chakra in the way that people can feel a sudden change in air pressure. They recognize that something has happened, but don't know what. People who are better than that but no where near as good as Tobirama and Karin are rare. The exception to this being the Bijuu. When a Jinchuuriki uses their Bijuu's chakra, every ninja for miles can feel it, to the point that they could hone in and converge on the source with little effort.
Summary: A single moment's hesitation during the Kyuubi attack changed everything. Now as the world rushes towards war, a new order begins its rise.
LINEBREAKS=CHANGE OF SCENE/POV
The air was split with screams and the sound of explosions as the shinobi of Konoha fought desperately to defend their home.
Danzo Shimura cursed as he watched more of Konoha's shinobi being slaughtered by the great demon that seemed determined to wipe Konohagakure off the face of the earth. Even as he dashed forward and unleashed a powerful Fuuton jutsu, he could feel the despair rising in the men and women around him.
The jutsu, like everything else, proved useless against the Kyuubi no Kitsune. The beast just shrugged it off and scooped up another two shinobi in its massive jaws before crunching down, reducing the two to chunks of flesh.
He cursed again as he glanced around, looking for that blond fool. Minato had tasked them with holding back the Kyuubi until he could come up with a way to counter it. That had been nearly two hours ago. 'Surely the fool has come to his senses by now,' Danzo thought with a grimace.
For all of his genius and skill, Danzo couldn't help but think of Minato Namikaze as a sentimental fool. For one so crucial to Konoha's victory over Iwa, Minato was unacceptably weak-hearted. The man had killed hundreds and single-handedly brought the war to a close. Yet instead of finishing off their enemy once and for all, Minato had sided with the Sandaime and had accepted a peace deal that accomplished nothing.
Oh, it ensured Konoha's place as the strongest Hidden Village, but the borders didn't change, and no amount of "restitution" from Tsuchi no Kuni and Kaze no Kuni could bring back the lost shinobi of Konoha. Not even the newly forged alliance with Suna was worth the blood that had been shed.
In the end, nothing had changed, and all because the Sandaime and Namikaze didn't have the stomachs to do what needed to be done. And now, even more of Konoha's shinobi had been lost because the newly instated Yondaime couldn't accept the fact that their only hope was to create a Jinchuuriki. Instead, the Yondaime allowed his sentimentality to blind him to what needed to be done.
Snarling, Danzo threw himself into the fray once more, rallying others to him as he did so. That's the interesting thing about Kage level ninja. When they charge into battle, it grants courage to those around them, urging them to move forward rather than seeking cover.
Dashing through the debris that surrounded the great beast, he hurled kunai and explosive notes towards the Kyuubi. They did little if any damage, but served to distract the monstrous demon, which turned its attention towards him, following his darting form with its malicious eyes.
'Good…just keep your eyes on me you damned demon!' he thought as he dashed in for another strike, only to retreat a short distance when the fox tried to lash out at him.
Scowling when the fox turned away from him to kill another group of shinobi, Danzo barely acknowledged the shinobi and kunoichi who grouped around him looking for guidance.
"Danzo-sama, what should we do?" One shinobi gasped as he tried to steady his breathing.
Another kunoichi landed next to him to report, "Danzo-sama, my squad is almost out of weapons and chakra. Some of the men have almost nothing at all."
"Sir, maybe we should pull back," a young Jounin panted while trying to stem the blood that poured from his arm where a bone protruded from the skin.
Still studying the battle, Danzo absently replied, "No, we can't do that." The situation was getting worse. 'Where are you, Namikaze?'
"We can't hold it Sir, you know that," the same Jounin tiredly exclaimed with a hint of disbelief.
Shaking his head Danzo replied, "If we don't then that demon will go on through the forests and destroy the village." Growling under his breath, he continued. "We can't leave, and if we stay here we can't stop it, so let's draw it away." Seeing the disbelieving looks around him, he explained. "If we make it angry enough, it'll chase us to the ends of the earth. So we draw it away from Konoha. We'll have the advantage of numbers, so we should be able to keep distracting it."
Making sure to meet the eyes of those around him, Danzo ordered "Move," sending them into action as they spread out to pass his orders on to others.
Just before he threw himself into the fight again, Danzo felt a shudder run through his body. In a different time, he would have ignored it and charged into battle to protect his beloved village. As a result, he would have lost not only his right arm, but also any chance of becoming Hokage. But something happened. Something that would change the course of the history of the Elemental Nations.
And that changed everything.
That brief moment of hesitation was what stopped him from joining a nearby group of Jounin in a combo jutsu and being caught in a blast of demonic chakra that incinerated the group. He would have been able to dodge, but it would have cost him his arm.
Instead of being horrible mangled and removed by one of the medic-nin who scoured the battlefield, Danzo joined another group and succeeded in drawing the Kyuubi a mile or so away from Konoha before a great cloud of smoke erupted and the ground shook, signaling the arrival of the Yondaime, standing atop the great Toad Boss, Gamabunta.
'It's about time.' Danzo growled angrily. If he knew how, he would have created the Jinchuuriki himself hours ago. Unfortunately, he lacked the sheer genius needed to seal one himself, forcing him to wait on Minato to do what needed to be done.
He watched as the Yondaime performed a series of seals, before a great burst of light blocked out the scene. When the light faded the Kyuubi was gone, and Gamabunta was carefully placing his cargo on the ground. Once done, the great toad disappeared in another cloud of smoke.
Danzo was quick to Shunshin to the Yondaime's body, surprised to find that the man was actually dead rather than unconscious like he expected. And there, cradled in his arms, was a tiny male new born, with a small mop of blond hair, and a burning red seal on his stomach. The Jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi no Kitsune. Scooping the wailing child into his arms, Danzo coldly studied the boy's seal before it hit him.
"My God…" he muttered in horror. Looking down at the deceased Hokage he said, "What were you thinking, Minato?" Danzo could tell just by looking at the boy who his parents were. He scowled angrily at the fallen Namikaze. Once again, the fool had let his sentimentality get the better of him. Now not only had they lost Minato himself, but on top of everything else, they had lost the man's only heir as well.
"You fool…" he growled angrily as he secretly made his way back to Konoha with the boy.
The Yondaime should have chosen to sacrifice an orphan or some civilian child, yet for some reason, the man had actually chosen his own son.
Danzo sighed tiredly. It was a shame; if the boy was anything like his father, he would have made quite the shinobi. Instead, he would be a Jinchuuriki, and the Namikaze line would likely end him. Oh, Danzo knew that the boy wasn't the demon sealed inside him, but that hardly mattered. Jinchuuriki were weapons, and little else. No Namikaze clan would be born from the boy now.
Shaking his head at the man's foolishness, Danzo began planning his next move. First off, he'd have to put a Juin Jutsu on the boy, to ensure his unwavering loyalty. Then he'd have to attend the council meetings to assess the damage to his beloved home, and help reorganize their forces to maintain their military strength. Strength that Sarutobi would no doubt squander if he was allowed to resume power.
Scowling in anger, he arrived at his hidden base under the catacombs of Konoha. Once inside, he was approached by a number of his Root operatives. "Report," he ordered over the child's wailing cries.
A Taka masked shinobi spoke up first, "The Yondaime's body has been recovered, and the Sandaime and the advisors have assumed temporary control." Danzo nodded his head. 'As expected.'
Another one of his operatives, this one wearing a Hebi mask, approached to deliver his own message. "The Sandaime has discovered that the child is missing. He's ordered a search for the boy and that he be returned alive so that he and Jiraiya can check the seal."
Frowning thoughtfully, a plan slowly forming in his head, Danzo asked, "And the boy's mother?"
Taka answered, "She is resting comfortably in the hospital, her apprentice has been watching over her."
"Does she know?" Danzo asked as his plan slowly came together.
"I can't imagine how she could not know what the Yondaime intended, though I don't think she knows the boy is missing yet."
Narrowing his eyes, Danzo ordered, "Find out." before turning to Hebi as Taka disappeared via Shunshin. "Bring me my sealing kit, and then inform me when the council meets."
"Hai, Danzo-sama." Hebi saluted before leaving to follow his orders.
Alone once again, save for the still wailing infant, Danzo made his way to his office, where he laid the boy on his desk and unrolled a blank scroll while contemplating the Juin Jutsu he'd use. Perhaps he could take a leaf from the Hyuuga's book and use something similar to the Caged Bird seal? Only he'd have to replace the bloodline aspect with something else, perhaps immobilization factors to not only inflict pain, but to bring a halt to the boy's movements. After all, it had happened before when a Hyuuga Branch member managed to push through the pain to lash out at those around them, so this Juin Jutsu would have to affect more than just the head, especially with the power the boy would have at his disposal.
He continued designing the Juin Jutsu in his mind, even when Hebi appeared with his sealing equipment before departing again. Finally, after several hours of planning, Danzo began drawing his Juin Jutsu onto the blank scroll. Once finished with that, Danzo carefully looked over his work for any mistakes. Satisfied, Danzo rolled the scroll up and checked on the boy.
At some point, the child had fallen asleep, allowing Danzo to position him just the way he wanted, before running through a series of hand seals and pressing the scroll onto the boy's forehead. It took only a few seconds for the Juin Jutsu to transfer from the scroll and onto the boy's body, eliciting a new round of screaming from the boy. Once the entirety of the Juin Jutsu had been transferred, the seals that covered the boy began twisting and compressing, until it formed what appeared to be tattoos that framed his face, before traveling down his neck and dividing to journey across the length of his arms, torso and legs. And there, in the center of the boys forehead was the main seal. It was a strange form, one that could not easily be identified. Perhaps it could be said to be shaped like sharp claws breaking through a heavily stylized rib cage. Or perhaps as clawed wings that were barely held together by a pair of curling shackles. The tattoo-like appearance would hopefully keep anyone from realizing too quickly that the boy had a Juin Jutsu on him.
Now he just had to test it. Forming a seal, Danzo triggered the seal, drawing an agonizing scream from the infant. Quickly releasing the seal, he allowed the boy to continue wailing. For now, the ability to activate the seal was his alone, and so long as he was careful, the ability would remain that way.
Glancing up when Hebi entered the room, Danzo realized the council was finally meeting. "Stay here and watch the boy," he ordered as he made his way out the door and continued through the complex and up into the village proper.
The Village itself had taken very little damage during the attack, so he made good time on his way to the Hokage tower and the room where such meetings were held. Once there, he took his seat while waiting for the meeting to get under way. Other than himself and the shinobi clan heads, only Sarutobi and his two teammates, Koharu and Homura were there.
Danzo was pleased to see that Sarutobi wasn't wearing the traditional robes and hat of the Hokage, signaling that he hadn't actively pursued a return to power. 'Excellent,' he thought to himself as the meeting slowly came to order.
For the most part, the meeting just reiterated what he already knew from the reports of his agents. He spent the majority of it listening with half an ear while he considered his own plans and responses to the current crisis. Danzo was finally snapped from his musings when one of the clan heads – Inoichi - asked, "What of the Jinchuuriki, Sandaime-sama? Have we recovered it yet?"
Danzo watched his old rival carefully. It was this that allowed him to see the anger that passed through his eyes. "We haven't found him yet unfortunately."
"What will we do when we find him? Can we risk killing him?" the Kurama head asked.
"We will not kill him," Sarutobi said angrily. "It was the Yondaime's last wish that the boy be honored as a hero for his sacrifice, and that's what we'll do."
There were more than a few mutters after that comment, before Fugaku Uchiha asked, "Who is he anyway? What clan does he come from?"
Danzo leaned in a little closer, curious as to what Sarutobi would say. When he saw that Sarutobi was about to tell them the truth, he was quick to interrupt. "I believe we have more pressing issues to address rather than a Jinchuuriki's heritage." Seeing that he had everyone's attention, he continued. "We are currently leaderless, and soon the entire Elemental nations will be watching us. We need a Hokage, and before we can try to choose one, we need to find out who is still alive that could qualify for the position. I move that we adjourn this meeting and look into the matter, and then we can reconvene to choose a Hokage."
When no one objected, the meeting quickly came to an end, with each member heading off to see to one of the many issues that needed resolving. Danzo was no different, as he now saw a way to accomplish the first step of his goals for peace. He'd have to move quickly, but if all went well, the Godaime Hokage would be instated before the end of the week.
Sarutobi scowled as Danzo made his way from the chambers. The man was planning something; of that much he was sure.
Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Sarutobi made his way back to the hospital to deliver some bad news. He hadn't yet told Minato's wife that her son was missing, hoping that they would be able to find little Naruto before it became necessary. But already, she was beginning to suspect something was wrong, and Sarutobi didn't know how much longer he could keep it from her.
'Where are you, little Naruto?' he thought tiredly to himself as he slowly made his way to a private room in the hospital. Just as he reached the room, he heard a young woman's voice from inside the room. And she sounded angry.
"Damn it Jiraiya, how much longer is this going to take? Where's Naruto-chan?" there was brief pause during which Sarutobi assumed Jiraiya was speaking until the woman continued "No, don't you tell me to calm down! I know something's wrong, and if you don't tell me where my son is, then so help me I'll break every bone in your body!" Hearing a young girl's voice protesting, Sarutobi quickly entered the room.
He was greeted by his nervous male student a good six feet from the bed and a girl in her early teens trying to keep the room's occupant from rising from her bed and making good on her threat.
The blond woman in the bed turned towards the door with a hopeful/excited look on her face before scowling when she saw that he was alone.
She wore a hospital gown and her long hair was out of its' usual pony tails and was rather bedraggled at the moment, partially covering a small blue diamond on her forehead. She wasn't exactly in tip top shape considering that she had just given birth less than half a day ago, yet she still seemed to…glow? Radiate happiness?
He couldn't really tell, though she was obviously still very, very angry by the look in her eyes and her grinding teeth.
"Sensei," she slowly ground out. "Where. Is. My. Son?"
For a brief moment, Sarutobi considered lying, or trying to change the subject, but one look at Tsunade and her apprentice dissuaded him. Tsunade looked ready to go tearing through the hospital until she found her son, despite her weakened condition. Shizune, despite being more than a little intimidated by the three power houses in the room, looked more than a little upset herself.
They had requested that she keep Tsunade calm while he and Jiraiya "checked the seal" to make sure everything had gone well.
Outside of Minato, no one in this room had approved of using little Naruto for the sealing. Tsunade and Shizune had opposed it for obvious reasons, and Jiraiya hadn't made it back to the Village until the decision was already made -though in the man's defense, Naruto hadn't been due for another three or four days, and Jiraiya had still rushed back as fast as he could once the Kyuubi appeared- and Minato had left with Naruto. Sarutobi himself hadn't wanted his student's first child to be used either, since she was like a daughter to him, and that made little Naruto his grandson. Despite such overwhelming opposition, Minato had somehow managed to gain their assent through sheer force of will.
He was shaken from his thoughts when he heard Shizune's cry of dismay just before Tsunade grabbed him by the throat and lifted him into the air.
"Where is he!" she all but screamed in rage and more than a little fear.
Feeling a wave of guilt crash through him at her state, Sarutobi looked away from her beseeching eyes and said just three words. "We don't know."
"Wh-what did you say?" Tsunade stammered as she tried to maintain her anger. At least she knew how to deal with anger. Fear was another thing entirely. When her hands started shaking so hard she couldn't hold Sarutobi up anymore for fear of snapping his neck, she tried to tell herself it was just her rage. When her vision began to blur, she struggled to convince herself that it was only her anger and nothing more.
"What do you mean "you don't know"? Where is my son!" she vaguely took notice of the shrieking quality her voice was starting to take. "What have you done with him!" she tried to shake Sarutobi by his collar, but found that she was the one to move as her legs buckled under her. Sarutobi was quick to grab her and she clung to his arms as the tears slowly began to run down her face.
Less than a second later, she felt Jiraiya and Shizune gently grab her and help her back into the bed. Looking up at them, Tsunade was greeted by a wide-eyed Shizune and a grim/concerned Jiraiya. Distantly, she wanted to crush his skull for keeping this from her, but her mind was far too occupied to see it through.
Her son, her baby was missing. Was he alright? Was he safe? What if he had been hurt? What if he was out there, cold and alone, crying out for his mother? What if he had been taken? What if…what if he was dead? All these thoughts and more tore through her mind as her breathing became shallow and her heart raced.
She had already lost so much. Her clan, her brother, her lover, and now her husband. Surely God couldn't hate her so much that she'd have to lose her son too… right?
She was drawn from her thoughts when she felt a slightly wrinkled hand grasp hers in a grip so tight that it nearly hurt her of all people. Looking up, she was greeted by the sight of her old sensei, kneeling by her bed and gazing at her with the fiercest look of determination she had ever seen. Sarutobi placed his other hand on top of hers and said, "I will find him, I swear it. I will not rest until I've brought Naruto back to you safe and sound. I promise, even if I have to tear this Village apart, I'll find him."
Tsunade could tell that Sarutobi meant every word. Especially since, if there was anyone more excited than her and Minato about her pregnancy, it was him.
Indeed, when they had found out she was pregnant just a few short months after she and Minato married, Sarutobi had been ecstatic. Within the first month, not only had he bought them everything he thought they could possibly need -ranging from a crib to diapers, to absurdly large plastic chains for their cabinets- but he had also done the same to his own house, in addition to an unreal amount of baby toys. When asked why he had "baby proofed" his own home and stocked up on toys, his response had been…interesting. He had just blinked a few times and said "So I can spoil my grandchild rotten of course."
Feeling at least a little reassured by her sensei's words, Tsunade turned to her own student. "Shizune, go get me something to wear. I'm going to go find my son," she said as she made to get out of bed again.
Shizune of course, objected. "But Tsunade-sama! You're still weak, and you need to rest more before you try to move around-"
"Don't you quote medical procedure at me!" Tsunade growled, "I'm not going to sit in here while my baby is out there somewhere!"
Shizune tried to object again, but was interrupted by a new, gravelly voice. "That won't be necessary, Tsunade-hime."
Everyone turned to look at the source of the voice as he walked through the door.
"What do you want, Danzo?" Sarutobi asked in a level voice that was betrayed by the anger in his eyes.
If Danzo noticed his anger, he didn't show it as he answered. "Want? Why, I'm just here to let Tsunade-hime know that her son was safe, that's all. But if you don't want to hear what I have to say…" he trailed off as Tsunade slowly stood to her feet and cracked her knuckles while Jiraiya put a hand on her shoulder.
Hopefully, he wouldn't be able to tell that she stood slowly because of her current weakness, and that Jiraiya grabbed her shoulder to help steady her, not stop her from tearing the old gizzard's spine out.
"Careful now. I'm only a Kage Bunshin, so if you attack me, you'll only be hurting yourself…and your child." Danzo warned as he slowly moved away from the door.
Tsunade felt her breath -and her rage- hitch at the not so subtle threat to her baby. "What have you done to Naruto?" Jiraiya demanded with a dangerous look in his eyes.
Instead of answering, Danzo looked contemplative as he said "So, Naruto is his name? Maelstrom…yes, it's a good name, a strong name. You chose well, Tsunade-hime."
"Err…right…Maelstrom…" Shizune muttered in embarrassment, since she didn't know who this Danzo person was and as such didn't want to point out the rather embarrassing source of Naruto's name.
"As for what I've done to Naruto…well, I did put a Juin Jutsu on him of course."
"I'll kill you." Sarutobi said calmly, as if he were talking about the weather. "Where ever you try to run, where ever you try to hide, I'll find you, and I will kill you Danzo."
"Come now, Sarutobi." Danzo chided. "You know you should hear all that I have to say before you try to antagonize me."
"W-why? Why would you put a Juin Jutsu on Naruto-chan? He's just a baby!" Shizune asked in horror.
Danzo just glanced at her with his single good eye before sighing. "Unfortunately, he's not just a baby. Not anymore. He's a Jinchuuriki now and as such, he must be properly prepared and controlled." Turning his gaze back to Sarutobi, he continued. "I knew you wouldn't have the stomach to do what needed to be done, so I had to step in. My only regret is that Minato was such a fool."
"What did you say?" Jiraiya growled dangerously.
Tsunade would have been angry too at the slander of her husband, but her mind was far too occupied on other matters. Danzo had her baby, and he put a Juin Jutsu on him. She knew full well how painful a sealing was to a human, and Naruto had been through it not once, but twice! And he wasn't even a day old yet!
"You heard me." Danzo answered. "First he dithered for hours when he knew that a Jinchuuriki was our only hope at stopping the Kyuubi, and then he used his own son for the vessel. It would have been much better had he chosen an orphan. Even a civilian child would have been better! But I'm getting off topic."
"What do you want?" Tsunade asked in a voice barely above a whisper. She knew that he wouldn't be here unless he wanted something from them.
"It's nothing so horrible, Tsunade-hime. I just want to protect Konoha, and create a lasting peace. We're just going to take the first steps today, that's all."
Seeing that he had their attention, he turned first to Sarutobi. "You will step out of the consideration for Hokage and support me when I'm nominated tomorrow." Turning back to her and Jiraiya, he finished. "And you two will continue to serve Konoha loyally. So you see, I'm not asking for much. But before you decide, I'd like you to listen to something." Reaching into his robes, Danzo's Kage Bunshin pulled out a short range radio, which he switched to on and transmitted a simple "Go ahead."
When the reply came, it was Danzo's voice once again. "I take it you heard my…requests. So I'll let you know just what kind of Juin Jutsu I placed on your son."
Tsunade's eyes widened in horror just before she heard a baby screaming in agony. And somehow, she just knew, that was her Naruto-chan screaming. "Stop it! Please, stop I beg you!" she sobbed painfully. She didn't care about appearances or her own comfort zone anymore, all she cared about was that her son was in pain.
The Kage Bunshin clicked off the radio and sighed. "I am sorry that was necessary. But if you agree to my requests, then I'll have another offer for you." Tsunade quickly agreed through her tears as she collapsed back onto her bed. Shizune was at her side in an instant, trying to comfort her despite her own tears.
Jiraiya clenched his hands and asked "And what if we refuse? Do you really expect us to believe you'll kill Naruto after all the effort you've put into this?"
Danzo just snorted. "Despite his potential, Naruto will be useless for at least another five years. And if you turn down my offer, then you and Sarutobi will try to make good on his threat. At which point, the child would be of no use to me anyway," he shrugged before continuing. "It's a gamble to be sure. But it's a gamble that I'll win."
There was silence for minute, save for Tsunade's quiet sobs, before Jiraiya clenched his fists and hissed, "Fine!"
Looking up at her sensei, Tsunade saw something she had never seen before. Sarutobi was angry. No, angry didn't come close to justifying the way he looked. It was if the fires of the sun itself were compressed into his eyes as he stared at Danzo with a hate that she had never seen before. Slowly reaching out, she grabbed Sarutobi's sleeve and whispered. "Please, Sensei…"
He didn't look at her for a terrifying second, and then he sighed almost inaudibly and asked. "If we agree, will you return Naruto to us?"
Danzo resolutely shook his head. "I can't allow that. Konoha has been dangerously weakened by this attack. Naruto will be crucial to our survival should one of our enemies attack us. In a way, you are responsible for this. The threat from Iwa and Suna could have been dealt with permanently during the war. Now, we can't take any chances that they might attack us."
Tsunade looked up at the Bunshin with pleading eyes, but Danzo continued before she could say anything. "This does bring us to my offer. As I said, Naruto will be useless until he is old enough to begin his training. During that time, he'll have to be looked after by someone." Tsunade felt her heart begin to swell with hope as the Bunshin gave his offer. "I'm willing to allow you to care for him, Tsunade, until his third birthday. Then, I will personally examine him to see if he is ready to begin the training. If he isn't, he'll be returned to you for another six months, and then examined again, and so forth."
"I accept." Tsunade said without hesitation. She didn't care what the conditions were, so long as she got her son back. And once that happened, she'd get Jiraiya to work on removing that monstrous seal from Naruto. Then…she'd kill Danzo. Slowly.
Danzo shook his head. "Listen to the whole thing before you agree. You will both be watched around the clock. Understand, you cannot publically be his mother. Naruto can never be a Namikaze, or a Senju. He must remain apart. He'll be… an Uzumaki. It fits well enough with his name and since the clan is extinct, no one will be able to prove otherwise. Also, the Juin Jutsu can be activated from a great distance, and I've already spread the activation seal to others under my command. If you try to remove the Juin Jutsu, we'll kill him. If you try to kill me, my men will kill him." Danzo stared her down, trying to ensure that she understood everything that he was saying.
For her part, Tsunade felt her rage grow once again. This…this thing would dare deny her son his heritage? His mother! But under her rage, she felt a sense of hopelessness take hold of her. It seemed that Danzo had planned this very carefully.
"So that's it then? I get my son back for three years and then you take him from me again? You're going to take away my son's family? And you expect me to just go along with this?" her voice grew angrier and louder the more she talked, until she was screaming in rage.
Danzo frowned thoughtfully before asking, "You weren't listening at the end, were you?" Shaking his head he said "Once he begins training, and throughout his shinobi career, he'll need a doctor. Preferably, one of the best. I'm willing to let you be his personal physician. I'll even promise to take everything you have to say about his health into consideration in all things, training and missions included." Tsunade blinked in shock as he continued. "If you say his body can't handle the training regime we give him, I'll scale it back. If you say that he needs rest before a mission, I'll grant him as much time as possible. I'm willing to take your advice on anything that pertains to his health," he offered before frowning. "Within reason," he added.
Tsunade couldn't believe what she was hearing. After all his talk about keeping them from being a family, he offered to let her be her baby's personal doctor? Granting her unlimited access to Naruto, whenever she wants? Why?
"What are you hoping to achieve from this, Danzo? Why stress that I can't be Naruto-chan's mother, and then give me such unlimited interaction with him?"
Danzo sighed once again. "This entire situation is unfortunate. As for why I'm allowing you to be with Naruto, well it's simple. I want you. I want your skills and techniques to be put to use for the good of Konoha. It will be far easier to keep Konoha safe if I have you three at my disposal. And granting you access to Naruto Uzumaki will accomplish that."
Tsunade chewed her lip in thought. On the one hand, she loathed to agree with anything this man asked of her. On the other, this deal would grant her access to her son and time. Time for her, Jiraiya, and Sarutobi to find a solution.
Slowly, she nodded her head in agreement. Once Jiraiya and Sarutobi agreed as well, Danzo said, "Very good. I'm glad we could come to an agreement. I'll see you in the morning, Sarutobi."
When Danzo's Kage Bunshin made to dismiss himself, Tsunade quickly called out. "Wait! What about Naruto-chan?"
"Don't worry, Tsunade-hime." Danzo replied. "He'll be brought to you as soon as I dismiss myself." With that, the Bunshin dispersed, leaving them alone once again.
It was the longest, most agonizing twenty minutes of her life as she waited for her son. The silence was broken only by Shizune's shifting, or Jiraiya's teeth grinding. Finally, just as she thought she would go insane, there came a knocking at the door.
She fixed her eyes on the door and waited for an eternity as Sarutobi walked over and answered it. Standing there was a dazed nurse, holding a crying infant in her arms.
"Excuse me Sandaime-sama, but a man came in off the streets and said he found this baby and that you were looking for him," she said as she carefully handed the little bundle in her arms to Sarutobi.
"I see, thank you. Did you recognize the man by any chance?" Sarutobi asked kindly, much to Tsunade's dismay.
The nurse opened her mouth, paused, tried again, and then blushed. "I'm sorry Sandaime-sama, I can't seem to remember."
"Genjutsu," Jiraiya muttered, unaware of just how little she cared at this point. The only thing keeping her from going over to Sarutobi and tearing her son from his arms was that she didn't think her legs could carry her that far. So she just glared at her old sensei and restrained herself from shouting "Close the damn door and give me my son!"
It was a struggle, but she managed to keep from exploding long enough for Sarutobi to dismiss the nurse and finally bring her son to her.
Whatever biting comments she might have had for her sensei faded away as she finally took her son into her arms once again. She had intended to run a diagnostic scan on him as soon as she got him back, but she found herself too busy as she simply held him close and stared at him.
She had only held him for few brief minutes before Minato had taken him off to the battle, but she would recognize him anywhere. "It's alright, Naruto-chan. Kaa-chan's got you, and she's never going to let you go," she soothed her crying son as her eyes drank in his features. She slowly took in his physical changes from the sealing. Other than a trio of thin lines on his cheeks, he appeared the same.
Only after she realized that Shizune had moved closer and begun running the same Diagnostic jutsu Tsunade had intended to, did she finally turn her attention to the abomination that sat on his forehead.
It appeared to be a strange design, somewhat like claws breaking through a heavily stylized rib cage. From there, a number of thorn-like markings traveled down the sides of his head, cheeks, and neck. Presumably, the markings continued under his swaddling and across his body. If she didn't know any better, she might have assumed they were a result of the Kyuubi's sealing, much like his "whisker" marks.
In a distant part of her mind, she registered her rage growing once again at Danzo and what he had done to her son. "How is he?" she asked her apprentice as she finished her scan.
"I think he's fine, Tsunade-sama. He doesn't seem to have any physical ailments or deficiencies." Shizune reported as she stepped back from the bed. For a brief moment, her apprentice was the model Medic-nin, completely professional. Then she suddenly broke into a wide smile. "He's sooo cuuute! Can I hold him, Tsunade-sama? I promise I'll be careful!" Shizune asked in a typical thirteen-year-old girl fashion.
"Maybe later," Tsunade answered absentmindedly as she continued to stare at her now sleeping child.
She glanced up as Sarutobi and Jiraiya got closer to get a better look at Naruto. They all looked on in silence for a moment, before Jiraiya placed a hand on Tsunade's shoulder. "Hime," Jiraiya spoke softly but firmly, "we need to check the seals."
She didn't even look at him, just slowly and gently unwrapped Naruto's swaddling to expose the seals that covered his body. "Make it quick." Tsunade said softly, "He can't hold in his body warmth yet."
Jiraiya nodded as he and Sarutobi leaned in to get a better look at the seals. After a minute, they stepped back and let Tsunade rewrap Naruto.
She let them mutter to each other for a minute, before finally asking, "Well?"
The two men exchanged glances, and after a moment, Jiraiya spoke up. "Minato's seal seems to be perfect. He truly was a genius when it came to seals. There shouldn't be any problems at all and even if there were, Sensei and I could deal with it." Jiraiya had a look of saddened pride on his face as he spoke.
Tsunade let out a soft sigh of relief, before asking, "And the other one?" She felt her dread return when Jiraiya winced.
"Hime…" he began slowly. "There's no way to study what Danzo did while the seal is in its compressed state. And I can't uncompress the seal without knowing how. Added to that, I can't even try to uncompress it without running the risk that Danzo's added in safeguards." Jiraiya scowled angrily before continuing. "The bastard is pretty clever. No blatant threats, just our own fears as to what might happen if we try to tamper with it. I can't even say for sure that the seal actually does what Danzo says it doe-."
"It does." Tsunade interrupted, taking her eyes off Naruto for the first time since she got him back. "We heard his screams, and I know it was Naruto-chan," she said as she held Naruto a little closer.
"So…what are we going to do?" Shizune asked quietly.
There was silence for a brief moment before Sarutobi answered quietly. "We have to do what he wants, at least for now."
Jiraiya looked like he wanted to object, but Sarutobi continued. "We have three years before he comes for Naruto. Three years to find a way to stop Danzo, or to remove his Juin Jutsu from Naruto. After that, we'll still have time, but I fear what Danzo will have put into action by then. Our only other option is to call his bluff."
No one bothered to respond to that.
Danzo let out a tired sigh as he sent one of his operatives to deliver Naruto to the hospital. In truth, he hadn't been as sure of his success as he had made it seem. If it were any other child, or if Tsunade had been dead, than he was fairly certain that Sarutobi would have made good on his threat. Even now, he was taking a rather serious risk, betting everything on the one thing he hated most about Sarutobi. His sentimentality.
It was ironic how much the very trait of Sarutobi's that led Danzo to seek the title of Hokage by force would be so key to his possible success.
Sighing, Danzo turned his mind to his next steps. Sarutobi's withdrawal and support wouldn't be enough to achieve his goals.
Ordinarily, a Hokage would nominate their own successor, with the approval of the Daimyo, and then the Jounin of the Village would vote on whether or not to accept that nomination. However, since the Hokages have all been trusted and highly respected when nominating their successors, most of the Jounin accepted without complaint.
Even Danzo had accepted Sarutobi's ascension back during the First Great Shinobi War. Only during the selection of the Yondaime was there any real dissent, and most of that dissent came from Orochimaru and his followers.
This time however, the Hokage would not be chosen by their predecessor, but essentially by the Jounin themselves. Sarutobi giving his support to Danzo would gain him many votes, but it might not be enough. Which was why he had had to prepare meetings with two members of the most prestigious clans in the Village. Fugaku Uchiha and Hizashi Hyuuga.
He scowled at the thought of the Uchiha. He had never been able to trust that clan, even before Madara showed his true colors. And the fact that the Kyuubi could have only been summoned by an Uchiha was more than a little troubling. Still, that clan's support, or at least, so long as they didn't oppose him, could tip the balance in his favor.
Hizashi on the other hand, was well respected among the Hyuuga Branch family, and was seen by many clan members as the "Head" of the Branch Family. Danzo could accomplish the same thing with the support of the Branch family that the support of the Uchiha would.
Either one of these two clans actively opposing him might be enough to ruin his plans. But the support of one, or even both could make things much easier for him.
The problem was what they would ask for in return. Hizashi was simple enough to guess, and while Danzo was by no means an opponent of Juin Jutsu seals, the way the Hyuuga went about it was dangerous and inefficient. All the Main Family had managed to do since the creation of the Caged Bird Seal was to create dissension and mistrust within the clan. Hizashi would no doubt ask for the removal of the seal, and while the previous Hokages had "left clan business to the clans" Danzo had no such qualms.
Besides, if he did abolish the Caged Bird seal, then he would likely gain unwavering loyalty from the Branch Family which could only aid him in the long run.
Fugaku on the other hand, would no doubt ask for the one thing that the Uchiha clan had lacked since the Nidaime's reign. Positions of governance within the Village. Something that Danzo did not want to give to such an untrustworthy clan.
With plans and calculations swirling in his head, he made his way back out into the Village. If everything went well, he could take the first step in ensuring the safety and security of Konoha.
It took several days for the various clan heads to get an accurate count on who was left among the Jounin. Once that was accomplished, they had come together again to make a decision on the Village leadership.
Sarutobi kept a blank face as the various clan heads and Village Elders took their seats and the meeting began. He barely noticed when Homura began the meeting; instead he just stared at Danzo.
The man gave nothing away, sitting calmly and even adding his own input to the reports and conversations going on around them. Almost as if he hadn't threatened and blackmailed three different kage level ninja. Something Sarutobi himself was still shocked by. Not that Danzo would blackmail a kage level ninja, no that was something Danzo had always been capable of.
But Sarutobi would have never believed his old friend would do such a thing to him. Even if they weren't as close as they were in their youth and didn't always agree on the best path for the Village to take -Sarutobi preferring to follow in Hashirama Senju footsteps and attempting to forge strong bonds of friendship and peace whereas Danzo took a more cynical approach- he had always respected Danzo and his advice, and had believed that Danzo returned that respect.
He honestly felt betrayed at the way Danzo had turned on him, and angry that the man would use Tsunade's son against him. Sarutobi was particularly blindsided by the fact that Danzo apparently truly believed that he would lead the Village to its ruin if allowed to resume power. Enough so that Danzo was not only willing to risk his own life to prevent it, but was prepared to go against three different kage level ninja in the process. And while Danzo's abilities had rivaled his own for much of their lives, neither of them would have been capable of going up against both Tsunade, Jiraiya, and a third shinobi of equal or greater skill. But Danzo hadn't even hesitated, which meant the man was either extremely confident, or his conviction was that powerful.
Perhaps the worst thing of all, Sarutobi knew that today would be his last chance to stop Danzo's plans. And all he'd have to do was condemn a newborn infant to death. Oh, and destroy his student's life.
Two sacrifices and he could stop whatever Danzo was planning. Simple right? After all, he had sacrificed hundreds of lives during the wars, so what was two more? Granted, these two were far closer to him than most of the others had been, but he could do it. He was the God of Shinobi after all. He was the Sandaime Hokage. He could do it. He should do it. So why was Danzo, and by extension, Naruto, still breathing?
Sarutobi absentmindedly went through the number of ways he could kill Danzo, from a lighting fast kunai throw, to a Ninjutsu that would level the entire block.
And through it all, that one eyed bastard kept breathing, kept talking, kept answering questions and making suggestions. He felt his rage growing as he watched the meeting progress, yet he kept it suppressed with some difficulty.
Yet he knew the answer to that as well. It wasn't that simple. If he killed Danzo, if he killed Naruto...then Sarutobi would undoubtedly have to kill Tsunade as well. His most passionate student would never accept Naruto's death, not even for the good of the Village. If Sarutobi killed Naruto by his actions, Tsunade wouldn't rest until he was dead as well. And while Sarutobi was willing to except that, he wasn't naive enough to believe that Tsunade would stop there. If he took the last of her family from her, Tsunade would turn all of her rage and hatred on Konoha as a whole. And considering the damage caused not only by the Kyuubi, but the Third Great Shinobi War that had just ended...Konoha was unlikely to survive her rampage. Or at least, not for long.
And one of the other Villages would no doubt be quick to take advantage of the chaos. That didn't even take into account what Jiraiya might do if Sarutobi sacrificed his godson and the son of his beloved student. Perhaps he would understand the necessity of such a sacrifice...but he would never accept Tsunade's death. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Glancing back at his former friend, Sarutobi yet again considered making one more sacrifice. Which would be the better option? Which scenario would allow the best chance for Konoha to survive? How long would it take to remove Danzo from power once his hold on Naruto was broken? How long would it take to undo whatever damage he may or may not do to Konoha? How much damage would there be? Though Sarutobi knew that Danzo would never deliberately harm Konoha unless there was no other option, that didn't mean there wouldn't be unitended effects.
Danzo met his gaze, and stealthily placed one of his hands in a seal that Sarutobi couldn't quite see. He released it a split second later, yet Sarutobi was sure he could hear the agonized wail of little Naruto. And in that moment, Sarutobi made his decision.
"Now that we're all caught up," Homura said, breaking Sarutobi out of his thoughts, "If no one has any objections, I suggest that Sarutobi retake his position as Hokage. We need a strong, and trusted shinobi to lead the Village through these troubled times, and Sarutobi has done a fine job of leading us for over thirty years."
Sarutobi kept his gaze locked on Danzo's. For a brief moment, he pondered what would happen if he accepted. Would Danzo actually carry out his threat, or would admit defeat? But that moment was washed away as he pictured the woman who was like a daughter to him, sitting in a bed with the grandchild he never had in her arms, a content look on her face. And he cursed himself for his weakness, even as he spoke up. "I'm afraid I must decline."
"Sarutobi, you can't be serious!" Koharu exclaimed. "What possible reason could you have to refuse?"
Sarutobi didn't glance at Danzo. He didn't do anything that would give away what was happening. Instead, he put his considerable acting skills to work and put on the air of the tired old man he felt like. "I'm sorry, Koharu, Homura. But I no longer believe myself capable of being Hokage."
"What do you mean, Sandaime-sama?" Hiashi questioned in confusion. "Why would you feel that you were no longer qualified after everything you've done?"
Sarutobi let out a tired sigh, then -ironically- told them the truth. "I find myself no longer able to make the required sacrifices for the good of the Village. I can't even sacrifice my own happiness when necessary. I cannot become Hokage again when I'm such a coward."
"Surely you can't blame yourself for the Yondaime's death?" Homura asked. "We all know how hard you tried to convince him to let you perform the sealing of the Kyuubi. If anything, this just shows the kind of fortitude you and Minato-sama possess."
Sarutobi could only shake his head. "I'm sorry, but I cannot accept."
The room descended into chaos at this unexpected development. After a few minutes, Koharu began trying to regain order. "Please, quiet down! If Sarutobi is unwilling to take up the position, then we must try to find another. We cannot sustain ourselves for long without proper leadership. Does anyone have any suggestions for the position of Godaime?"
There were several moments of low conversing among the various council members before a deep voice called out, "I nominate Danzo-sama."
Sarutobi looked up in surprise as he recognized the voice. 'How could he possibly have gained his support of all people? Danzo despises him.'
Fugaku Uchiha stood tall amongst the various clan heads. "If Sandaime-sama isn't willing to take the position, then it seems obvious that the one other man who was considered for the position of Sandaime would be the best choice."
"Don't be absurd," Inoichi Yamanaka said disdainfully. "He might have been considered, but he was also rejected. Maybe we should consider Jiraiya-sama or Tsunade-hime? After all, not only are they kage level, but they were trained by Sandaime-sama and are still at their peak."
Inoichi's suggestion generated quite a bit of talk, enough to suggest that Danzo would be rejected for the title once again.
It killed him that he had to help that bastard subvert his Village and gain power. "I don't believe that either of my students are prepared for such a responsibility," Sarutobi spoke over the conversing heads.
"But Sandaime-sama-" Chouza began, only to be interrupted.
"While both Jiraiya-kun and Tsunade-chan are powerful enough, neither of them possess the traits needed to be Hokage," Sarutobi explained, careful to keep his true thoughts to himself. "Tsunade-chan is an obsessive gambler and can barely stand Konoha. And Jiraiya-kun despises any paperwork that doesn't have to do with porn. Neither of them would accept the position, even if they were qualified."
Shikaku Nara and Hiashi exchanged glances as others began discussing the Sandaime's words.
'I'm sorry…' Sarutobi thought to himself just before he damned his soul. "I believe our best option is to nominate Danzo as the Godaime."
All talk came to a complete stop as he spoke those damning words.
"Sarutobi…what has gotten into you?" Homura asked in shock. "I understand that you're feeling shaken by the events of the last few days, but to actually support Danzo of all people…" he trailed off, seemingly unable to complete his sentence as he stared wide-eyed at the Sandaime.
"You've often opposed Danzo's policies in the past, so why the change of heart?" Koharu asked in confusion.
Sarutobi looked away from his old teammates before answering. "It's true that Danzo and I haven't always agreed in the past. But I've always respected his abilities and I have no doubt that he loves Konoha as much as I." Gazing around the room, he met the gazes of each person in the room. "If there is anyone capable of protecting our Village, it's him."
His teammates exchanged glances while the other heads began debating the issue, some in support, some in opposition.
"Very well then." Homura said, drawing the attention of the rest of the room. "We'll announce Danzo's nomination and let the Jounin take a vote. If no one has any objections, this meeting is adjourned."
Juin Jutsu=Curse seal
Kage Bunshin=Shadow Clone
AN: Well, there you have it. I know that Danzo didn't really lose his arm in canon, but for the sake of this story, let's say he did. I wrote this around the time Danzo ran into Madara, so let's just pretend we don't know about a Sharingan/Mokuton arm (which has to be one of the most retarded things kishimoto has done).
I recently got an anonymous review for this chapter that I really wanted to reply to. Obviously, I can't because it was anonymous, so I'll be doing it here. If you have any issues with this chapter, specifically how Danzo blackmailed Tsunade and company, please check below and see if I've already addressed it.
Really? Minato was so utterly retarded that he just left a baby, his son, in the middle of the battlefield? And how convenient, Danzo saw it all, was the first one to get there, took the baby for himself. rofl
Not the most retarded plot device ever, but certainly up there with the worst of 'em. Also, I'm pretty sure that old fart couldn't dictate terms to two Sannin and a Kage just because he's got a remote killswitch on a baby they care about. If not Tsunade or Sarutobi, then Jiraiya is certainly bold enough to tell him to fuck off. All three of them are literally the three strongest shinobi Konoha has. If he kills Naruto, he loses the Kyuubi until it reforms, or he rips out the Kyuubi, either way he needs to recreate a Jinchuuriki, something you CLEARLY stated he isn't capable of doing. And afterwards, Jiraiya/Sarutobi/Tsunade would simply kill him. If they wouldn't, they'd just flip off Konoha (at the very least Jiraiya and Tsunade would) and the Village he cares so much about loses two shinobi ICONS who can singlehandedly change the tide of a war. Suppose Konoha's enemies hear of the Kyuubi attack AND Konoha losing ALL the Sannin. What's left to defend the Village against attackers looking to capitalize on their weakness?
Danzo would never get away with his bullshit and you know it.
That's almost exactly what happened in canon you know. The only difference being that Kushina was there with him -which isn't much of a difference since she was already dying at the time- and that Sarutobi was the one who found Naruto instead of Danzo. The irony here being that I wrote this chapter more than three years ago, well before Kishi did the whole "Kushina was a Jinchuuriki etc" storyline.
Next, is it really so unbelievable that Tsunade wouldn't want to sacrifice her newborn son? Or Jiraiya his godson/the son of two of his closest friends? Or that Sarutobi wouldn't want to sacrifice Naruto -which would cause Danzo to either go into hiding, or come out to try and take control through force- when he could go along with what Danzo wants, get Naruto back, and then work on circumventing the seal, then moving to take Danzo out afterwards? What do you think Sarutobi should have done? Called Danzo's bluff and either have a good chunk of his forces defect en masse -Root- or have said forces rise up and try to take over by force? Something that scared Konoha's leadership so much in canon that they ordered/authorized killing off a significant chunk of their military -the Uchiha clan- to prevent? How do you think Tsunade would have reacted to Sarutobi sacrificing her newborn son? Do you think she'd go off on her wandering gambling way like in canon? Or would she hate Sarutobi, and by extension Konoha even more than Orochimaru did? And what does it matter how strong Tsunade and company are? Danzo is on or at least near their level, and I could see him in a one on one fight with any of them -so long as Jiraiya doesn't use sage mode- and have a chance at winning. But again, that doesn't really matter here, since this isn't a contest of strength, but will/cunning.
Same thing with losing the Kyuubi if he kills Naruto. This isn't a struggle for control of the Kyuubi, but for control of Konoha. Konoha got along just fine without using a Jinchuuriki as a weapon before Naruto, and it would survive without him just as well. Worst case scenario, if they really felt they needed a Jinchuuriki and Naruto was dead, they could just steal one from another Village.
What Danzo was doing was gambling on their emotions, specifically, that Tsunade -and maybe Jiraiya- wouldn't be willing to sacrifice Naruto just to kill him, and that the others wouldn't risk Tsunade pulling an Orochimaru if they did anyway. Particularly since they could just go along with it, get Naruto back, figure out how to circumvent the seal, and then kill Danzo.
As for the idea of Tsunade and Jiraiya leaving Konoha...that would be different from what happened in canon how? According to what timelines we have, Tsunade not only left Konoha before the Kyuubi attack, she was actually the first one to do so. By the time the Kyuubi actually attacked, both Tsunade and Orochimaru were basically rogue. The only difference between the two was that Orochimaru was labeled a traitor -and was actively plotting his revenge- while Tsunade was just "wandering" but refusing to have anything to do with Konoha. And after the Kyuubi attack, Jiraiya pretty much left as well. Oh sure, he was supposedly off being a spymaster and such, but how was he going to help protect Konoha if say, Kumo attacked the Village while he was peeping at a bath house on the other side of the continent? So really, in canon Konoha lost all three Sannin in all but name, and on top of that, were attacked and seriously damaged by the Kyuubi shortly after the end of a devastating world war. Did anyone capitalize on their weakness? Other than Kumo with the Hyuuga Incident, not that we know of.
Finally, Danzo not being able to get away with it? Seriously? After all the shit he's been revealed to have pulled in canon? The Uchiha Massacre ringing a bell? How about secretly subverting a number of the Hokage's personal guard/army into his service via Root. Or recruiting all kinds of regular shinobi into his organization? Not to mention all of the black ops missions he's run in the last few decades without permission or authorization and has apparently never been caught. The guy even sent one of his personal soldiers to sabotage a mission to gather info on Sasuke, then provided top secret information to Konoha's greatest traitor, all so Sai could try to assassinate Sasuke. Sai admitted or was caught doing all of this. Was Danzo punished? No. Ever wonder why that is?
Please note, this is not meant to be insulting or in anyway a slight towards this reviewer. I just wished to respond to his claims and this was the only means available.
And for anyone who's mad that Danzo is going to play such a key role in this story, please remember one thing. Very few people are actually evil. Is Danzo ruthless? Incredibly so. Does that make him evil? Not necessarily. Does not being evil make him good? Not at all. One of the things I want to do most with this story is not to justify all of Danzo's actions, but to make them understandable. If you have any reviews, questions, criticisms, suggestions, etc. I'm more than willing to hear them. Let me know what you think.