Umino Iruka was apprehensive.
He stood near the tall staffroom window, along with his colleagues, Uchiha Isamu and Mizuki-kun, observing this year's new student recruits playing on the ground.
Many of them looked as if they just passed their toddler phase.
And he had no idea how he was supposed to teach them anything.
Iruka wasn't certain why he had been selected for this job. And by whom.
But he was glad they did it, because by the time he had made chunin, Iruka was very sure he was not meant for the battlefield. His last mission had all but confirmed his suspicions.
His attention returned to his new charges.
Most of the kids were civilian, who were joined by their parents to learn basic self defense. Life was hard as it is, and the ninja academy was free and open to all.
Still, Iruka was hopeful.
Some of the greatest shinobi Konoha produced sprung from the civilian society after all.
The kids were moving towards each other, rather shyly, tentatively making friends, forming groups. Their movements were clumsy and many of them had no spark of chakra yet.
They were just children.
Normal happy kids, who have probably never seen a kunai in their lives before.
Iruka observed all this and approved of them immediately. For a few moments, he allowed himself to indulge in the warm feelings of happiness one experiences when they see innocent children doing something for the first time.
Then he took a breath and swept his eyes over to his real charges.
The precious progeny of Konoha, which included the Heirs to the Nara clan, the Yamanaka clan, the noble clans of Akimichi and Aburame, the Inuzuka clan, and last but not the least the heirs to the most noble clans of Uchiha and Hyuuga.
For the past several weeks, the entire jounin council of the village was intrigued by this development and the Hokage-sama had been bombarded by the volunteer's applications to the teaching posts at the academy this year.
And adding to the already volatile stress at the tower, for the first time in history, the heads of the clans had insisted on personally being involved in every decision made at the academy.
All in all, the situation was fast turning into the security nightmare of the century.
So much so, that the Hokage-sama had to step in and declare it to be a top priority project, which effectively put him directly in charge of everything, and making everyone back off cautiously.
Iruka smiled now as he watched Nara Shikamaru and Akimichi Choji form a protective wall around little Yamanaka Ino, without seeming to do so. No surprises there, given the legend of their fathers.
All the other kids, however, were standing apart, throwing about wary looks at each other.
Iruka was not surprised. These children were raised in almost isolation; their only contact had been with their own clansmen. People who looked like them, talked like them and lived like them.
Iruka examined their chakra pathways and was delighted when all of them showed already established patterns. If he looked closely, Iruka was sure he would find their little hands full of calluses from all the practice they have been doing.
Typically, it was the Uchiha child who broke the silence, as he greeted his peers with a tiny smile. Their arrogant hospitality was legendary after all.
Sasuke leaned back on a tree trunk with folded his hands as he spoke rather confidently, gazing out unto the world with absolute assurance and a faint smirk, looking the splitting image of his famous brother.
The children turned his way, listening, but made no move to reach him.
Silence fell again and little Sasuke's was frowning now.
Suddenly, there was a small hand on Sasuke's left shoulder and a boy stepped up beside him from the shadows. Iruka strained his eyes and froze in shock when he realized who it was.
It's the Kyubi-no-gaki!
Iruka felt the hairs on his neck stand and fought the impulse to reach for his kunai. He calmed himself with effort and tried observing the boy without any emotion.
The boy was smaller and thinner than the others. His bright hair and blue eyes were practically shining as he spoke, waving his hands all over the place. The child's chakra was bright too…and with something else Iruka couldn't pin down, one moment slippery and the next moment turning into solid stone.
Very gradually, the other kids began closing in around him.
Iruka felt the faint prickles of apprehension and wondered whether he should step in… and do what?
Stop them? Separate them?
As if sensing the attention on him, the boy lifted his head and looked directly at Iruka.
Iruka's face showed disgust on impulse. The boy went rigid in response.
(The child was young but not innocent by any stretch of imagination.)
There was something fierce and fox-like already in his face. Iruka knew with deep conviction that the boy was going to be trouble and vowed to keep a close eye on him.
The boy turned dismissing Iruka and went back to talking animatedly.
"Is that the child then?" Mizuki-sensei enquired, "..Uzumaki Naruto?"
Uchiha Isamu nodded, "Hai."
The bell rang loudly interrupting everything. The children screamed and ran for their classes.
Iruka turned and gathered his books and notes mechanically. Anxiety had curled up in his stomach like a snake in its pit. He was to be the home-room sensei to this year's new class.
(The Hokage-sama had told him the decision was made after thorough consultations. Iruka wondered with whom exactly.)
"Hey, Iruka-sensei," Uchiha Isamu said softly, "Relax. You are going to be a good teacher. Trust me."
"Hai."Iruka responded, smiling gratefully for this vote of confidence and walked briskly to his classroom.
The futures of this generation depend on him and Iruka tried not to feel too overwhelmed.
He took a deep breath and entered his class, closing the door firmly behind him.
Uchiha Shisui felt trapped.
Surrounded, damn it!
He tried to contemplate his words, explain his situation, but words fled his brain and nothing was making much sense.
The suspicious razor sharp gazes of the Yamanakas pinpointed at him froze him on the spot, disgustingly dangerous.
But he had no choice, so he held firm.
Like many problems originating in Shisui's life, this was all Hatake's fault.
It began more than four weeks ago, after his first official request to meet Hatake Kakashi had been denied and his second one misplaced and third one burnt to ashes by a rogue jutsu.
Shisui had never particularly shown any interest in following the official rules of the village
So being a genius who was a complete idiot most of the time, he sharinganed and bullied his way through the chunins in charge of the mission logs and concluded that the commander was in fact in the village.
From there it was a small matter to manipulate Inuzuka Hana to track down the Scare-crow to this particular room in the Yamanaka-clan district, where apparently Kakashi had been out cold for a while.
Like all clans that resided in Konoha, the Yamanaka clan too, had its own share of secrets.
Their entire domestic arrangement was as devious as the Hyugas and was divided into eight different sects, depending upon their ability to penetrate minds of other humans, animals, birds or insects and as well as plants and trees.
Only three of these sects were useful in combat situations however, as only they could change the thoughts of other minds or shred it into bits if they so desire.
Shisui knew and was wary of this, because he had been training with the Yamanaka combat ninja since his tenth birthday, when it was exposed that he was somewhat mildly talented in the mind-bending jutsus.
Inoichi-sensei had made a harsh teacher, but he was good.
It hadn't taken long for him to admire and be humbled firsthand, by the incredible power of the Yamanakas
(As long as Shisui lived, he would never forget the feeling of being ten and helpless, faced with so much power he couldn't handle, and a bloodline limit he wasn't sure how to deal with either.)
And now, because of the scare-crow, Shisui was once again placed in the presence of certain mortal death, by the way the hundreds of icy blue stares were fixed on him.
"Shisui." Inochi-sensei said softly, his face frank with charming insincerity that Shisui had always admired, "you broke into my district. Like a common thief."
Shisui took an automatic step back, long drilled instincts screaming at him to at least stay the fuck away from sensei's immediate reach!
"Gomenasai Sensei, Sensei's family and clan," Shisui said apologetically, trying a charming smile of his own, "but I'm here for Hatake Kakashi. Real important stuff."
He wanted to bite his tongue the moment the words are out.
"How do you know Hatake Kakashi is here, Uchiha-san?" enquired Inoichi's uncle.
The Yamanakas collectively blinked in the dark and took a step forward.
Shisui took a cautious glace around and straighten his back confidently, "The Hokage-sama's tower confirmed it." He lied smoothly.
"You did not think to obtain my permission?" sensei asked mildly still, "before breaking and entering."
"Sir," Shisui explained in official tones, "Hatake's life may be in danger."
"Still you did not ask me?"sensei murmured, voice entirely distant and stony.
"Sir. I came to warn him personally." Said Shisui neutrally, looking into sensei's eyes and fighting the instinct to turn on his sharingan, while the others growled in outrage that they were more than ready to deal with any threat and would he like to see how?
After a few seconds of utter chaos, Inoichi closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"Everybody, return to your duties." He gave Shisui a mild glare, "and you, come with me."
The silent crowd parted as Shisui followed his master through the criss-cross of the mansion house. After several detours, they arrived outside a small cottage in the gardens.
Incredibly, the ANBU guards didn't stop them from entering, almost as if they expected him to show up.
Shisui was not pleased.
They knocked and entered the bedroom. Inside was dimly lit.
"Wait here, Shisui," Inoichi commanded him.
Kakashi's hounds regarded him balefully while he walked across the room.
Shisui scowled spectacularly at them in return, his hand on the hilt of his katana, just in case.
He wasn't taking any chances, not since the disastrous patrolling mission.
"Kakashi-kun has suffered severe chakra exhaustion, and is banned from using even the merest of it," Inoichi-sensei explained warningly, "so watch your bloody mouth, brat."
Shisui nodded curiously.
On the other side, Kakashi must've nodded because the screen separating the room was pushed aside.
Hatake Kakashi looked conscious, but Shisui was doubtful. His thin body was slouching and resting against the headbed, and his white hair looked as if it hadn't been brushed in days. His mask was pulled down to just below his nose. His torso and left arm were heavily bandaged and he looked as if he had just survived a war.
Battered and bruised…. Aching.
But that was not why Shisui was chilled to the bone.
Sharingan-no-Kakashi's both eyes were heavily bandaged.
Shisui was panting suddenly, heart beating so loudly from the shock rendering him speechless.
Had there been another attack on Hatake? Mother of god! Is that why Itachi had been ignoring him?
Kakashi seemed to sense his distress, for he tilted his head in a snake like manner, making the red stained bandages around his eyes prominent and addressed him.
His name was imbued with an effortless and almost undetectable mockery.
Shisui nodded though the shock and then realized that Kakashi cannot see him.
Several Yamanaka healers entered the room suddenly, and in the next instant Hyuuga Hizashi materialized beside Kakashi's bed.
Everybody ignored him.
Shisui backed up slowly and took the only empty chair in the room.
He observed his surroundings and noted with interest that Hizashi looked the same as always, but also entirely different. Something about his chakra signatures was peculiar and his left arm was also almost completely bandaged.
Shisui turned his head and narrowed his eyes at the ANBU guards stationed at the door and at the window still.
He couldn't read their chakra signatures, but that's nothing new. What caught his attention was that the ANBU guards too had their left arms bandaged.
Precisely where Itachi's own left arm had also been bandaged.
A chill ran over Shisui's limbs.
Whatever had injured Hatake so, had to be something to do with this.
Something was underfoot in the ANBU department.
He stilled when he noticed that several invisible ANBU masks had been watching him while he watched their commander calmly.
Shisui straightened in his chair and stared back with haughty distain.
After the healers left, Hizashi stood in front of Kakashi's bed and reported results of various missions and many orders were passed out, back and forth, all in code of course, but still Shisui listened and watched intently.
At last, Kakashi nodded warm with approval and turned to Inoichi-sensei.
Inoichi-sensei secured the room with a few seals and gestured Shisui to approach the bed.
"Shisui." Inoichi said briskly, "I will be in attendance while you present your report in the interest of security and…keeping things in line."
Shisui nodded. Inoichi-sensei was ANBU after all. He had expected that much, "sure. Whatever."
"That means," Hizashi said curtly, "there are some things that you can say and others you cannot. And certain things only Kakashi-kun can say and you cannot."
Shisui scowled understanding. It was going to be difficult to converse with Hatake without insulting him and asking about his injuries.
"Right."Shisui began, "as I said, I did probe more into the attack on you and your ward-"
"Anosa…Shisui-kun," Kakashi interrupted lazily, head tilted slightly. "I understand your clan's been treating you as a hero ever since the attack…?"
"You hear too much." snapped Shisui, before he could stop himself.
Dammit he had showed too much anger there.
While it was true that more than half the police force has been treating him like a bloody hero, there was no need for the ANBU to know about it, on top of everything else.
"Shisui!" Inoichi-sensei chastised him in dismay, "How many times must I tell you to be careful with your big mouth! Your opponent hears only what you yourself disclose."
"Hai." Shisui stared shamefaced and angry at the ground.
"Right." he drew a breath and began again, "the weapon you found…during the attack..you told me to find out who it belongs to if I want to assist you in this. You were right. The blade was made on special request by the user…to enhance his chakra precision."
Kakashi didn't move, but his bandaged face remained tilted in an expression of utmost curiosity.
"It belonged to Sumi Uchiha."Shisui ground out, calming his heart which was trying to pound its way out from his chest. "jounin rank. My cousin and a respectable ninja of the clan. He has been reported missing since two months. His family has not given up hope."
He could tell by Hatake's expression that the scare-crow already knew of this information and had been waiting for Shisui to attempt to conceal it.
Shisui felt a clench of fear in his stomach.
(No matter how hard he tried to justify it, what he was about to do was treason to his clan. No matter what he did after this, there was no going back. But but…there was simply no other way.)
"That's not all." He managed to say against the white haze, "the police assigned to patrol under you were all hit by a high level mind altering jutsu. There are several gaps in their memories."
"A tear in the mind fabric?" Inoichi sounded astonished, "That is high level indeed."
"Not a tear precisely. The mind is not harmed, just superficially wiped a bit and replaced with an alter memory. the alter memory of me ordering them to leave Hatake alone at the borders and not to offer any back-up in case of need. Sensei…, I think the technique is possibly Kekkei Genkai."
There was a tension that crackled in the room and Shisui was amazed at the change in the pressure
"I mean no offence, Shisui-kun, "Hizashi murmured in a voice like ice, "but only the Sharingan is capable of this."
Kakashi's white eyebrows drew resignedly together in a way that meant this is trouble. Even sensei's face was carefully blank.
Shisui wasn't livid, precisely, at this utterance – he just felt cold. Instinctively, with a tingle like sound, his Sharingan snapped into action.
The room stilled for a long second. A strange paralyzing intent began spreading around, its aim clear as sunlight, making it hard to think, hard to breath.
Shisui was ready to set things on fire.
ANBU masks surrounded him in the next instant, katanas held against the back of his head, chest and eyes, making it clear that one more wrong move and he'd be paralyzed for the rest of his life. His own shadow was manipulated and used to hold him in place, unable to even blink his own eyes.
Kakashi bent his head and smiled.
"Uchiha-san," the commander murmured softly, "your death will not serve any purpose to me now."
This was a fact and it was spoken without any pride.
"Everyone, please leave us," Kakashi continued and when there was no movement he said a firmer voice, "Now."
The invisible pressure vanished along with the ANBU masks, and the air slowly returned to their lungs.
Though obviously unable to see, Kakashi bluntly registered something is still wrong. He raised his hand again in the universal gesture to stand down. Hizashi and Inoichi exchanged hard looks and nodded once before vanishing soundlessly.
It was only then Shisui blinked and noticed he was encircled by the hounds.
With effort, he closed the sharingan with a tingle like sound and the dogs backed away slowly giving him mean looks and growling.
"Shisui-kun." Kakashi stated smoothly, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, "The Sharingan is capable of such precise genjutsu. I would know."
Shisui nodded curtly, feeling the silent scream of betrayal his bloodline had imparted on him and realized that Hatake cannot see him.
"Hai." He answered and hurried to explain, "But I do not think it is an Uchiha from our village. Or any Uchiha for that matter."
He felt better, but still not right.
Silence fell, while Kakashi thought.
Shisui fought the urge to panic and slam Kakashi with questions and assurances, fought the need to make Kakashi say he trusts the Uchiha as much as he trusts any clan of the village.
Because Shisui was here, and had nowhere else to go, because Itachi was avoiding him and doing his own investigations and the clan was making plans to revolt meeting in dark corners and because the scarecrow hadn't taken any step against the Uchihas, at all, even after coming close to death by a pair of sharingan.
He could have made their lives difficult with the ANBU, or the Hokage-sama, or even with Itachi for fuck's sake.
He chose not to.
How the hell is everything going so wrong?
"The clan doesn't hold your loyalty anymore?." Hatake asked suddenly, "that's not criticism, by the way. I simply want to know why you made the choice to come to me."
Shisui bristled," it's the right thing to do-"
"The truth, Shisui-kun." Interrupted Kakashi lazily.
Shisui's brow furrowed and he said after a pained pause, "…for Itachi. He's not like others. He believes in the good of the world. He believes in Uchiha and in Konoha. I…believe in him."
"Yes, yes," Kakashi sighed sounding bemused, "That is all very romantic, Shisui-kun. But that doesn't answer my curiosity."
"I don't trust you, Hatake Kakashi." Shisui said despairingly, "and I'll never understand why Itachi does. You suck."
Kakashi's attention was sharp against his senses, firmly controlling his temper he continued, "I want people…everyone including the Hokage-sama to stop fucking with us. And to trust us."
"A drop of poison is enough to spoil a pot of nectar, Shisui-kun." Kakashi murmured at once, "you are well aware that there are certain elements inside the clan, trying to prevent that from happening."
"That is why I need the help of someone outside the clan."
Kakashi leaned back into the bed, looking very bored and vaguely menacing.
Shisui swallowed. He had asked for help-he needed it-and he wasn't going to waste this chance, even if it means compromising his well-being. Also, this was when he'd know for sure, weather Kakashi is really capable of trusting Uchiha.
At last, Kakashi said guardedly, "I'll let you collaborate on the investigations…we might learn the coward behind it all sooner."
Shisui was relived and astonished, "You suspect it's the work of one individual?"
Kakashi didn't answer him, instead he said in clipped tones, "You will not be working with Itachi. He's unavailable, right now."
Shisui tensed, sensing a trap, unable to see it, "I see. "He whispered and waited for Kakashi to elaborate.
When the silence lasted for more than a few minutes he pressed his palms against his face in defeat, "Fine."
The legendary sanin, toad sage Jiraiya-sama was in the lush Tea country fields, when reports of the new Commander of the ANBU reached him.
Although, it has been years since Jiraiya had abandoned Konoha to its fate, that didn't stop him from actively gathering information of all the five nations, infiltrate even the most inaccessible of places and do everything he can to generally promote to the health and wealth of his village.
(Because, truth to be told…despite his many loves, Konoha had always ruled his heart.)
Jiraiya smiled at the reporting toad now, something like approval gleaming in his eyes. The news didn't surprise him really…Sarutobi-sensei had written to him discussing it long ago.
He knew Kakashi would do well, cooperating and manipulating the council, and at the same time allowing them to take ruthless advantage of his intellect and abilities without hesitation.
"There is something else about Kakashi you should know as well," said the tiny toad gruffly, "the brat has gone and adopted the child…Uzumaki Naruto."
Jiraiya's brows went up. The toad reporting him the news looked equally baffled at this new tide of things.
That Hatake Kakashi of all people had adopted a child!
And not any child but that child.
A million thoughts raced though Jiraiya's brain.
Kakashi was positively dangerous when it came to mind games. Jiraiya wondered if he had underestimated the brat despite his best intentions.
He nodded at the toad absently, dismissing him, a disapproving noise rolling from deep within his throat.
He sighed as he turned to pack.
Perhaps it was time he paid a visit to the Fire country again.
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