Prologue: How to tilt an unfavorable political situation your way
Sarutobi Hiruzen was a good leader, he knew. He cared honestly for his village, which was most probably what made him so good an Hokage, but on days like these – when the people of Konoha felt more like 'a people' than 'his people', he felt the difference between 'good' and 'great' so acutely it pained him.
Minato had been great – and perhaps Hiruzen had been as well, in his youth – but he had admittedly been far too unprepared to come out of retirement than what was arguably proper for a shinobi of his caliber.
The root of his newly reiterated self-doubts stemmed from where it always seemed to stem these days: the Council. The Council was only supposed to be a check on the Hokage's power, to ensure they didn't fall into corruption or lose sight of what was important for the village, rather than personal ambitions. And this was precisely what they had been under Minato's reign; the blond Hokage had used whirlwind tactics and basically stomped all over the self-important 'honorable' Council members haughty and ill-fitting propositions, and gotten away with it.
Sarutobi, in his youth, had done rather similarly, though perhaps with a touch more diplomacy. In any case, the Council had never openly defied his authority… and maybe they would never have, even in his reinstated reign, if not for one particular person.
Naruto. The young demon-carrier – whom he could honestly say that he loved like a grandson – had always been a sore point for the individual members of the Council. It was rather ironic how they seemed to have succumbed to the very thing they had been amassed to protect Konoha from: selfish ambitions.
Or perhaps they were simply blinded with hatred – it was a rather obvious possibility, considering the near rabid states of some Council members during the first few years after Kyuubi's imprisonment, whenever Naruto's name was mentioned.
Sarutobi sighed. He had had to fight for Naruto's right to an education, to a life outside a prison cell, and finally to allow him to enter into the academy. It had gone as well as could have been expected, Sarutobi supposed, which meant that though there hadn't been any obvious sabotage, there had been several questionable incidents in the beginning of Naruto's enrollment. They had since ceased, but the subtle, non-vocal shunning had continued… and there wasn't anything Sarutobi could do about it – not without enticing accusations of favoritism, something he couldn't afford if he wanted to keep Naruto alive and at least somewhat happy.
That the son of Minato had to live in a rundown apartment on the very edge of the village made his heart clench, even more so since he had been the one to sign off on the arrangement, since opposing it would merely elicit statements in the likes of 'but other people are inhabiting that apartment complex, so why would you be against this – boy – taking up residence there? Surely, if the apartment is inhabitable you would have had everyone move out, yes?' – Oh, he could hear their smug voices as they did what little they could to make Naruto's life miserable.
He did still have a grip on them though, and knew when compromises had to be made and when to forge ahead despite protests – he wasn't incompetent, just not as competent as he had once been.
Now though, the heart of his current troubles: Naruto's upcoming third graduation exam. Naruto had been a good – not the best, but not the worst, either - student when he first started the Academy, but as the teachers openly disparaged and discouraged him whenever he succeeded, he had started to skip classes and ignore his homework, and when Sarutobi finally received word on the verbal abuse Naruto went through in the Academy – surprisingly by the newly minted Chuunin and Kyuubi orphan Iruka, who had apparently warmed up enough to the then-six year old Naruto to pass the word to the Hokage.
Sarutobi had been very proud of his subordinate and very displeased with the Academy teachers – and had immediately made his displeasure felt. Some had seemingly taken his word to heart and began treating the young Vessel neutrally, while others had taken to treating him like air except when handing out assignments and such. It hadn't been ideal, but he hadn't been able to do more. Sadly, the damage had already been done, and young Naruto had gained a lackluster attitude towards the Academy – and the education it offered – and his grades had slipped to last place. Despite this he had tried graduating earlier – probably to get away from the Academy – but had, obviously, failed.
Now, a part of the Council were pushing – unjustly, of course – for the termination of Naruto's shinobi career. They 'reasoned' that since he had failed so spectacularly the first two times he had attempted the exam he obviously wasn't suited for shinobi life. A contorted excuse – because since when was someone dismissed because they had failed early exams? The notion was ridiculous, but alas, it had gained unexpected support – and now he was stuck between rock and a hard place.
The more vocal Council members argued against Naruto's placement on a team, if he wasn't completely dismissed. They argued that he would drag any team he was a member of down. It was absolutely ridiculous – every year's Academy graduating class had 'dead lasts' and the Council had never attempted to stop them from learning teamwork!
He could go against their wishes – he had all the right to, since their arguments were flimsy and pathetic at best - everyone could see that - no matter the how some of them might pretend otherwise.
However… ignoring and bypassing them completely would only gain him enemies, and that wasn't something he wished to deal with at the moment. He wasn't afraid to wield the power he held over the village, but he didn't want to crush the free speech and force people act behind his back instead of to his face, like they did currently.
He wasn't the one who decided on the team sensei, but considering Naruto's class ranking, he was bound to be paired with Uchiha Sasuke – and with the Uchiha on the team, Hatake Kakashi would be the inevitable sensei. In all fairness, Uchiha Sasuke would need the one – available – Sharingan user alive to teach him how to use his doujutsu when he finally did activate it, but in Sarutobi's opinion he was not the best teacher for a team.
Especially not for a team that would consist of the Uchiha and his sensei's son. Sarutobi knew about Kakashi and Uchiha Obito, and suspected that Kakashi would probably focus on Sasuke more than anyone else in whatever team he was given, to honor his memory – not to disrespect his sensei, but because the old pains never faded, and whereas Uchiha Obito and Sasuke weren't similar in the least, Naruto looked a lot like his father.
Sarutobi knew Kakashi wasn't ready to face that on a daily basis.
And that was why he was currently staring at the letter laying innocuously on his desk. It was yellowed and slightly crimped at the edges, testament to its many re-readings since it was received. This letter was usually kept in one of the hidden drawers in his desk, locked behind powerful seals and the sender's own wards.
The sender of the letter was the only proof of contact Sarutobi had to Mahoutsukai no seken – or the Wizarding world, as it was called in English, the language of the Outer country known as England.
The Outer countries and the Hidden Countries had been separated by a barrier powered by both chakra and magic for several centuries. Four English wizards, known to the Mahoutsukai as the four Founders had, together with the Sage of Six Paths, erected the barrier after the Last Great Demon War and separated the two worlds forever.
The story diverged largely beyond the point of 'there is a great barrier that protects us from another dimension, which was created after the Demon War'- this, both sides agreed on, but since the wizards knew nothing of chakra, and shinobi knew nothing of magic, the rest of the story had been lost to both sides… until the arrival of one Potter Harry.
The wizard's arrival had been very abrupt, and both Sarutobi and Harry-san had been suspicious of the other, which had led to a rather violent confrontation. It had been a wake-up call for both of them; the other had used techniques they had never thought possible!
It had been a rather quick fight, because of the mutual surprise but mostly because they had soon realized that the other wasn't an enemy. Thing had snowballed from there, until they had found that Harry had actually crossed the barrier. They had cross-referenced their versions of the creation of the barrier, and had come up with something like this:
Around a thousand years ago, before the Last Great Demon War, the now-Hidden Countries ninja (the English word for a people that by their description, sounded somewhat similar to what the modern shinobi were) and the Outer countries wizards had been a semi-united people. They had all been as hidden from the muggles as the modern wizards were, and had lived in the same general areas.
But then, after the Demon War, there had been some kind of great conflict between the Mahutsukai and the ninja – there was no information on what had actually happened – and they had mutually decided to split their societies, feeling that their differences were inconsolable. The Sage and the Founders had done the deed, and it was decreed to never speak of the time Before. The truthful account on how the barrier came to be, and under whose power, was forgotten.
Sarutobi had spoken to Harry about how the Sage was said to have created the first ninjutsu and become the first shinobi, and how the shinobi world and later the Hidden Villages had sprouted up around his teachings. In turn Harry had told him about the Mahoutsukai and how their culture had evolved, and what had happened with the muggles.
It had been the talk of a lifetime. Harry had been 15 years old and with eyes as old as any shinobi – despite the fact that wizards were mostly civilians, the secrecy they kept notwithstanding – he had spoken of the recently ended Mahoutsukai war - and managed to horrify Sarutobi with his tales of Dark Creature and Inferi armies and of the leader of the Death Eaters, Voldemort. It had sounded a lot like how he had imagined the Demon War must have been, and Voldemort's ambitions and the tactics he employed to reach them hit a little too close to home.
Sarutobi had invited Harry to stay in Konoha, but the latter had declined, stating that he wanted to help England rebuild itself before he even considered moving anywhere. Sarutobi understood that thought completely and gave Harry a standing invitation to Konoha, should he ever need it. From what he had seen of the teen's fighting skills, Konoha would benefit greatly from it. Harry had, in turn, given him a letter stating that should he ever return to the Hidden Countires, he wouldn't ally himself with any other village, provided Konoha did nothing to force his hand.
That had been three years ago.
Harry had taken up Sarutobi's offer four months ago and had moved to the edge of one of Konoha's civilian sectors. Sarutobi had been surprised by how quickly the repairs – both physical and social - in England had been completed until Harry explained the different spells the Mahoutsukai used, that had nothing to do with fighting - it had been very fascinating to the Professor, and he knew that he was still only scraping the surface.
He had been disappointed that Harry hadn't wanted to become a shinobi, but hadn't been willing to try and persuade him otherwise. Not when the young man was still so torn up about his losses. He had started setting up a shop, though, which – though as of yet unopened – was truly one of its kind.
The shop was connected to what Harry called the Floo network – some kind of fire travelling system that Sarutobi was trying to convince Harry to set up around Konoha. He hadn't agreed yet, saying that fire travel was risky for those without magic, and that he would have to experiment with the Rune formula before he even made an attempt. The fire network of Konoha would also have to be separate from the one that the wizards used, since neither Harry nor Sarutobi wanted shinobi falling into the Wizarding world.
The shop was also heavily warded – at least Harry said it was; Sarutobi couldn't feel the wards, but he had no reason to doubt the young wizard. According to Harry, those with bloodline doujutsus might be able to see either lines or a vague shimmer over the shops walls, though he wasn't sure.
The shop's interior was simple; around the walls were bookcases with different objects on display. None were overtly magical, but Sarutobi had seen examples of what some of them could do. He had already been gifted with Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder and a bezoar. Several of the other objects Harry had spoken of had also piqued his interest.
Sarutobi wanted to order a multitude of things to the hospital, but since it was illegal for Harry to export a mass of magical objects to one place, and the objects he could permissibly export were very expensive, only a few bezoars would be available to the higher-ups at the hospital. It might not have been as much as he wished for, but it was still more than he could have hoped.
Harry also had several interesting weapons on display. Though most of the larger weapons were packed into the boxes that were strewn across the floor – the shop being in a state of 'half-unpacked', since new items kept arriving constantly – there were several jewel-adorned differently sized knives in the back of the shop. The weapons were seated behind a warded display window, since they were all very particular weapons and shouldn't be lying out in the open.
Sarutobi wasn't sure when Harry was going to open the shop, or if he wanted Sarutobi to recommend it to anyone. He had been entertaining an idea about making a deal with Harry, though he was unsure if the young man would accept it; Since he didn't want magical weapons in the hands of Danzo's people, perhaps Harry would agree to sell them only with the Hokage's recommendation?
'Either way,' Sarutobi mused as he retrieved his hat and stepped out of the office for the day, 'I might as well ask.'
Since he was on his way to ask the young man for a favor, he could bring up the subject as an inroad to other things.
A/N: Eh, I started working on this quite some time ago, and I figured I could post the prologue to see if it would interest anyone. Tell me what you thought?
Reviews are motivation!