Konoha: At His Fingertips by MegaB
Chapter 1: Fire Shadow Shun
"Team 15, reporting for duty, Godaime-Sama!"
Danzou preened internally; oh how he loved it when Shinobi deferred before him! He was the leader of the most powerful hidden Village on the continent. You couldn't get much better than that.
"At ease, my soldiers. I have a mission for you!" He replied with gusto. The lead Jounin gave him a strange look but Danzou only revelled within it. He was obviously awed by his magnanimous presence!
"It is an S-Rank mission I feel only you four may pull off. Such is my opinion of your skill. Now where has that scroll gotten to…"
Danzou proceeded to search around the room hurriedly. His ninja tried to hide their impatience but it wasn't as if their esteemed leader would notice anyway. A solitary pop announced the presence of one of Danzou's elite group.
'Neé', or 'Root' had been merged with the Village ninja. The first thing Danzou had done upon his election to the post of Godaime Hokage was to dissolve the ANBU into the mainstream Shinobi forces, and replace their old position with his own loyal troops. This had had two far reaching effects; one, the success rate of E-A Rank missions had sky-rocketed and two, the failure rate of S-Ranks had done the same.
Which became a cause for concern. So Danzou, being who he was, decided that the only way to rectify the situation was to give the normal Shinobi more S-Rank missions and his elite Root more E-As. This effectively, totally destroyed the equilibrium that had been painstakingly established by the previous Hokages, yet with the Sannin living their own lives and the most influential of the Jounin practically melted into the shadows, Danzou did what he wanted.
Leaving an unstable, psychotic, elderly man to make decisions for a military force must have been the worst idea anyone could have thought up. Then again, the village council was mainly made up of unstable, psychotic, elderly people so there really was nobody to stop him. Evidence for this was in the very room Danzou was addressing after finally finding the missing mission scroll.
"Aha! Here it is! You! Jounin-san, are to lead your team to Yusata bridge and rout one of Oto's rebel forces led by a red-haired woman known only as "Karin". I order you to attack from the bridge surface, is that clear?"
Danzou smirked smugly; how he loved being Hokage!
"But sir," the Jounin replied, "wouldn't it be better to approach from a more…hidden direction, like under the bridge? We need the element of surprise against these numbers."
It was a statement of how stupid Konoha's forces regarded their leader as being that they didn't even question an S-Rank mission being given to a team of three Chuunin and a Jounin.
Danzou tried to look as wise as possible.
"Nagumo-San, I have survived two Great Shinobi Wars. I have been Hokage for two years now. Are you claiming that you understand strategy more than I?"
"My name is Nayako," he gritted his teeth when he replied; how many times did he have to say it to get this nutcase to remember his name? "No, I'm not claiming anything of the sort Hokage-Sama. It's just I don't want any of my team mates to die. Going straight in where there might be an ambush is not the best idea."
"Thank you for your concern Naiko-"
"As I was saying Nayakamakamano-San-"
"THAT'S NOT EVEN A NAME!"
"Be that as it may, those are my orders, I fully expect them to be carried out to the dot. Now, Root Soldier, what have you to say?"
The Neé operative who had been standing quietly by, glanced around the room surreptitiously. There were 'Leaves' in the room, it wouldn't do to give out potentially classified information to them.
"What are you waiting for man? Speak!"
The operative straightened his back and Nayako almost saw the look of complete obedience behind the agent's mask.
"Danzou-Sama, as per your orders this morning, I have been trailing Uchiha Shisui all day."
Danzou began to sweat; what had he ordered that morning? Something to do with this Shisui person. Uchiha! That was it! He needed another Sharingan to add to his collection. The red and black eyes were so pretty!
"I see, and what have you to report?"
The operative stole another sceptical glance at the four-man cell beside him before continuing.
"I can confirm that he does not have a blue teddy bear on his person. There was no sign of a rebellion led by Brolly the Blue Teddy Bear."
Danzou panicked internally. Were his Shinobi going mad? A blue teddy bear? What did that have to do with ANYTHING?
"Root-San. Why were you looking for a blue teddy bear?"
Anger began to rise in him as Yukata-San looked like he was laughing. The Root Agent looked like he didn't want to say what was going on. This was making him look stupid in front of his own men!
"Hurry up! I asked you a question soldier!" What was it with these imbeciles and insubordination today?
"Err, those were your orders this morning Danzou-Sama. Investigate Uchiha Shisui and a possible uprising by Brolly the Blue Teddy Bear which should be stored, hidden somewhere on his person."
If Danzou was surprised before, he was freaking out now. He couldn't fathom giving out any such orders. Outwardly, however, he stroked his chin, remembering just in time to avoid the bandages covering his left eye. It wouldn't do to show them that.
"I see. You have done well today Root-san. You are dismissed." The Root operative popped out immediately.
The Jounin looked at him funny again. This was annoying him.
"What did I just say? YOU ARE DISMISSED!"
"I thought you were talking to the Root guy, Hokage-Sama."
"I was referring to all of you!"
The Jounin looked hesitant.
"But you addressed him directly- never mind, we'll just be leaving Godaime-Dono."
Danzou nodded imperiously as the four-man team walked out the door. Now what was this business with the Uchiha and Brolly the Blue Teddy Bear? He hoped it wasn't another attempt at a coup d'état. Hadn't they learned their lesson last time they tried to overthrow Konoha?
Danzou had somehow totally forgotten that there were a grand total of three Uchiha left in Konoha anyway. Not that he cared, however.
Konoha, was truly suffering in the grip of the Senile old Warhawk.
Mitarashi Anko was quite possibly the most eccentric female Jounin to ever grace the laurels of Konoha's Shinobi force. She technically wasn't even a Jounin for a reason nobody could really understand. She had more successfully completed missions under her belt than almost every other Ninja in the Village; very few could even claim such an achievement.
Now just because her enemies tended to die gruesome and absurd deaths didn't mean anything.
The years had not been kind to her however. She reflected on the state of her life as she slouched down the middle of a busy merchant district at the heart of the Village, hands shoved deep into the pockets of her cream-coloured trench coat, purple irises lazily tracking anything that so much as twitched in her vicinity. Her best friends of a few years ago had drifted away leaving her stranded between wanting them back and fulfilling her job. The situation, she decided, had taken a turn for the worst.
Something needed to be done, and she'd had enough of sitting on her figurative backside and moaning about it. She was an action-woman damn it! Not some silly damsel in distress. If something didn't do what she wanted, she'd damn well kick it in the nuts.
Hatake Kakashi was her main grievance. The silver-haired Jounin had thrown himself back into his career even though he'd practically denounced it only three years ago. Hadn't he been the one to remove his blood-stained mask because he couldn't take it anymore?
She snorted derisively, eye-balling the pedestrians who turned to stare at her quizzically. He was suicidal, that guy, taking S-Rank after S-Rank and coming back looking more haunted than a ghost.
You couldn't get much more haunted than that, she pondered, it was a ghost after all and they were the ones doing the haunting!
And why was that random dude looking at her like she's crazy or something?
Ignoring the rude bystander, she continued lethargically on her way to her destination. So Kakashi was a nutcase, what else was new? Naruto had all but disappeared; her heart twanged painfully at the thought of the blond. She had many regrets over that little kid…
Jiraiya had kept them posted, and by "them" she meant her and Shisui. The perverted Sannin had searched high and low for the last of their group, only to almost give up through a lack of clues. That Gama-no-Jiraiya, spymaster extraordinaire, couldn't even manage a whisper on a person's whereabouts…
Shisui had woken up two years ago, lacking energy, a slightly suspicious outlook of the world in general, but mainly the same guy as he was before he'd decided to go to sleep and not wake up for a almost a whole year. Anko had slapped him before hugging him. She'd then realised that he'd fallen unconscious again to her great mortification. Tsunade had thrown her out after that; it was still the butt of a good many jokes between them.
Shisui's aunt had decided that since old Sarutobi was no longer there to prevent her, she'd regained her status as an elite Jounin and began to take missions once again. The Uchihas were happy, Shisui was happy, all was right with the world!
….except everything else.
She sighed tiredly, breaching the entrance to a random cafeteria she and Shisui had picked as today's meeting spot. She made a beeline for the table with the messy black bed head sticking over the brim of a crumpled newspaper in the far corner. She slid into a chair in front of him and retrieved the scroll that was the reason for their rendezvous from the folds of her jacket. Twirling over her right hand expertly, she smirked before speaking.
"And the Snake-mistress does it again. You're losing quite badly Shisui-kun."
Sharingan eyes flashed dangerously as the morning's paper lowered ever so slightly.
"Ohohoho, going for deadly this time huh?"
"Oh shut up Anko. Don't get so stuck-up just because nobody cares enough about you to think you're a threat!"
Anko squawked indignantly.
"I'll have you know that it's my amazing stealth skills that grant me success thank you very much!"
"Like painting the Raikage's face with Omni-Paint?"
Anko glared. That was a low blow. Shisui chuckled as he placed the newspaper atop the rickety café table. He extended his fist and the two tapped knuckles.
"What you got?" He leaned forward expectantly. Anko unrolled the scroll and peered at its contents.
"Says here that they 'believe' he's been spotted at some random town near the border to Kumo. It was a civ-sighting though, so we can't be sure."
Shisui groaned. And here he'd thought they had something substantial at last.
"Where the heck did you find that? I told you to grab it from Danzou's office, not the rumour mill's bin!"
Anko waved a hand airily.
"That's not the point Shisui."
Shisui glanced at her nervously. "Where…did you really pick that up from?"
Anko blanched and hid her face behind the unfurled parchment.
"Ok, so it was the bin! The HOKAGE'S bin! Who cares where Danzou sticks his classified information? I don't mind as long as we end up getting it!"
"I thought you were about to say he stuck it up his-"
The pair were garnering many funny looks at this point, not that they paid it any heed.
"No, but seriously, Danzou stores classified scrolls in the bin?"
Anko groaned audibly.
"Tell me about it," she muttered, "at least he could make an effort to be an actual leader now that he has the post. Instead we're being whittled away little by little."
Shisui laughed. It was a depressing situation indeed that he could find mirth in it.
"Let me see that," he reached over and plucked the Classified from his friend's hands. Studying it intensely for a few minutes, he gave a start before looking up at Anko who had been peering at him inquisitively.
"Wait a minute. Anko, didn't Jiraiya last say that he thought he'd gone to Kumo and that it was the only explanation what with their media blackout?"
Anko grumbled under her breath before answering.
"That's just speculation and you know it. Even Suna have been ignoring us ever since that Tanuki brat became Kazekage! Is it just me or does Naruto have too many friends in high places?"
Shisui laughed uproariously.
"That's supposed to be a good thing! Hahaha!"
Anko gave in and chuckled with him for a moment before they fell into an uncomfortable silence. After a couple of minutes, Shisui raised his courage to break it.
"So we're following it then?"
His companion shrugged.
"It's the only thing we have to go on. We might find him and then- and then…"
"And then we can go save 'Kashi from himself." Anko finished his sentence for him. Shisui looked down desperately. Anko stood abruptly. She took a deep breath.
"I'm in. Forever and always."
"Let's bring 'em back home."
In a modest-sized store, complete with full-length glass-pane windows, spectacular lights and weapons everywhere, a doorbell chimed pleasantly.
Higurashi TenTen, formerly 'just TenTen' perked up as the front door to Higurashi's Weapons Store flew open. It was her very own store now, hers and hers alone. She'd had to give up her Chuunin status, that was true, but she still trained every day. In the end, Naoto-san's bestowing of Higurashi inheritance upon her was so incredibly touching and meaningful that she'd decided to honour it over her own dreams.
So here she stood, facing her old team mates, who had for some unexplained reason, decided to drop by.
"TenTen! How Youthfully spiffing it is to see you once again!"
TenTen's eyebrows rose gracefully. "Gai-Sensei, what have you been teaching him now?"
The ever-boisterous Rock Lee strode into the store's interior, bowl-cut shining, leg-weights clinking and a huge smile stretching his face. Behind him came an almost identical copy, yet much taller Maito Gai, and following up the rear was the stoic Hyuuga Neji, who, amazingly, actually smiled as he stared around the shop of blessedly pointy things.
Her old team, she breathed mentally.
"Nonsense TenTen! You have no need to call me Sensei any longer! I have been telling you this for years now!"
TenTen smiled contentedly as she hopped down from her seat behind the counter at the back of the store, chocolate hair swinging, eyes alight with warmth. She was a changed girl, she'd accepted what she was, where she'd come from and how much of a brat she'd been. She'd wondered for a couple of years now how Naruto had even put up with her…
"You'll always be a Sensei to me Gai-Sensei."
The man positively beamed. Bad idea girl.
"How's the store coming along?"
"He TALKS!" TenTen placed a hand over her chest and used the other to fan herself at Neji's question. The Hyuuga rolled his eyes, Gai and Lee laughing wholeheartedly as they moved down the aisles to the body weights section.
"Yes, you'd find I do."
"Miracles do happen, huh?" She grinned.
"Indeed, by the name of Uzumaki Naruto."
They shifted uneasily at that. Too many depressing memories attached to a name. She scrabbled for something else to talk about, alighting on the first topic that came to mind.
"How's Hinata?" She enquired hurriedly. It was as if life was suddenly poured into the Hyuuga's body; his head rose, his eyes began to sparkle, which was a tad disturbing in the presence of the two very sparkly people.
"Fine. Better even. She responds to her name now, but we can't get her to stop sucking her thumbs. Hiashi-Sama is getting mildly impatient."
TenTen glared. "Make sure he remembers who's the cause of the situation in the first place then."
Neji nodded happily, not allowing TenTen's ire to affect his good mood in the slightest.
"As I do. Every day in fact."
They fell into a companionable silence, each left to their own thoughts. TenTen began to reminisce over Hinata's status these past few years. Tsunade had rescued her and an Uchiha from the infamous Ward 18 of Konoha's Central Hospital two years prior. Both had been kept on some kind of anaesthetic that induced unconsciousness for large periods of time. To what end, no-one actually knew, but Tsunade-Sama and Jiraiya-Sama believed it was something to do with their incompetent leader. Hinata had woken up to find her family staring at her, lost and having no idea how to handle a relative they'd all thought dead actually regaining her senses and waking up before them.
Of course, it would have been a difficult scenario if she could recognise it as such. Instead, her more than six years of sleep had meant her psyche had not only stopped maturing, but had also regressed. It was almost as if a two-year-old was inhabiting a fourteen-year-old's body. She'd slowly regained limb coordination and she had begun to speak, no sign of her mental stimuli that had led her to attempt suicide at the age of six beyond not allowing anyone to touch her without crying for a night and day.
Neji had been overjoyed to have his cousin back. Finding strength in Naruto's words from their fight, he too had begun to change, as had the Hyuuga as a whole.
It was disconcerting to see a family who prided themselves in austerity, actually acting like a family for once.
TenTen slipped past Neji and decided to see what Lee and Gai-Sensei were doing. It had been awkward when she'd turned in her Hitai-ite. There'd been a few months where they hadn't known what to say to each other, any of them, but that had broken when TenTen had sent them presents from the store for all the years they'd been with her.
Lee and Gai-Sensei had gone nuts over the Chakra weights…
She turned the corner to find the teacher and student staring at the rack of Knuckle-Dusters with stars in their eyes. She groaned internally; this would not end well. At least she'd make a lot of money today.
Lee rounded on her.
"TenTen! My beautiful team mate! Are these new?" The gangly Taijutsu Chuunin pointed at the shiny Chakra-repellent Knuckle-duster's taking up centre-piece on the aisle behind him. She nodded.
"Yes Lee, they are. I haven't tested them, but it said on the box that they are Chakraphobic."
Their eyes practically glowed.
"Chakraphobic you say?" Gai began to stroke his chin animatedly. "As in, I could punch through a Jutsu and not be hurt?"
"That's the idea," TenTen confirmed, "but I wouldn't go trusting them all the way Sensei. Remember, there's a lot more of your body that needs protection than just your fists in that sort of situation."
Gai shook his head as he turned to glance at his mini-me of a student.
"Lee! What do you think?"
Rock Lee wasn't called Rock Lee for nothing.
"I'LL BUY THE WHOLE SHELF!"
"LEE THAT IS AN EXCELLENT IDEA!"
"YOSH! LET US BRING OUR TAIJUTSU TO NEW HEIGHTS WITH THESE WEAPONS!"
TenTen couldn't help but grin. Next time, she'd be sure to stock up on extra of the latest Taijutsu goods. It was good for business.
Wind, Rain and Leaves. That was all he could see. Then again, travelling at the speed he was, it was a surprise he could see anything at all.
Travelling in a circle, he corrected himself. Spinning round-and-round actually.
The tap to his person came as he knew it would, signalling that it was time to stop. How does one stop spinning at almost five rotations a second?
Ferocious winds picked up around his body, his Chakra spiking along his limbs, forcing his body to a stop. The ground began to tear, buckle and smoke as he almost drilled right into it. He eventually came to a halt, sweat pouring from his forehead and plastering his shirt to his back. He was a sight to see, sitting in a small crater of earth with smoke curling over his limbs, almost caressing him in its tainted, stinking embrace.
His head rose to acknowledge his Sensei of two years. The man was hopping from foot-to-foot with a manic look in his eyes. He breathed out slowly.
Looks like he'd finally done it then. He reached up to brush his blond hair from his eyes. Fourteen years and still cracking. That was him, the one and only Uzumaki Naruto!
His exhilarating thoughts ground to an abrupt halt as a stick smashed his head into the ground. He moaned; the damn man was mute, but so aggressive!
He leapt to his feet in consternation.
"Jiji! I've had enough of you hitting me around like some ping-pong ball! You're gonna pay for that!"
What ensued, was the most comical chase known to mankind. The citizens of the beach town Mori turned to stare as a teenager chased after a shrunken old man with a bent back and yet could not catch him. Jutsu after Jutsu tore after the man, but the old guy simply avoided them as if they were petals he didn't quite like falling upon him.
The chase, suddenly turned race, took to the rooftops, the passers-by simply chuckling at the familiar scene. Sensei stopped on a certain house and flopped bonelessly to the ground, his stick clattering next to him. Naruto reached the surface a few moments later, only to find the man patting the roof beside him. He smiled and sat beside him, turning his eyes to gaze up at the stars.
It had been two years, two years since he had awoken in an unfamiliar room, bandaged so meticulously from head-to-toe that he couldn't see through his eyes.
They'd been bandaged too.
Of course, he could have rectified that problem if his arms hadn't been practically stuck to his sides with the very same restriction aid. After a few days of someone, he had no idea who, feeding him some weird tasting glob of stuff, he finally glimpsed his mysterious saviour.
It was an old man. An old, withered man, who was slightly insane. And that was putting it mildly.
He lived alone in a cottage a good ways away from the Village of Mori. Mori was a town situated very close to the border of Kumo and Hi, decked with beautiful beaches nobody seemed to use, green pastures smothered with stinky manure and houses that reminded him that builders should be the one to build houses.
Not crazy people like Sensei.
He did not know his real name, the man couldn't speak, write nor read. At least he could understand speech, at least Naruto thought he did…
After a period of awkwardness, where Naruto couldn't really move, the old guy had helped him for a couple of weeks. Only to catch him in his old habit of twirling things around his hand with Wind-Chakra. Naruto was very surprised to hear a loud squeak from the entrance to the cottage that had become his home. He pictured the scene now, chuckling under his breath at how Sensei had acted. It was as if the man's birthday had come early.
And then it was surprise after surprise. Naruto firmly thought that nothing could shock him anymore. It turned out that the old guy knew a lot about Shinobi, not just a lot, but he knew more about the techniques than most anyone else. The strange thing was, he couldn't actually do anything with that knowledge since he was a civilian.
What progressed from there, was possibly the most absurd relationship formed on the face of the earth.
Sensei would attempt to 'help' with his training. Being mute and illiterate made it only slightly difficult.
He would attempt to give tips and explanations through gestures and guttural sounds accompanied with crude drawings. Naruto would interpret it in a way and eventually work out what the guy was talking about. Most of the time, he ended up learning something so outlandish that he was certain the man had not meant that at all.
But Sensei would be totally over the moon about it. Why? He had absolutely no idea. Did teachers become happy when their students learnt something they weren't even trying to teach?
Sensei would always dance with his stick at that time. The weirdest dance you'd never seen to be sure.
An almost weightless arm settled over his shoulders and he gazed sideways at the old male beside him. It was nice, he decided, to be able to sit here with someone who had no expectations of him, knew little about him and yet able to provide him a home and food and treat him as family would. At least, this was what Naruto thought family would do; he wouldn't know, he was a bit short in the family department.
His life hadn't really changed drastically since leaving Konoha. He was deathly afraid that the homicidal Uchiha scion would eventually catch up to him and kill everyone around. They'd both been injured terribly in that battle, but Naruto had no doubt that if he'd managed to survive, than so had the Uchiha. He shivered unconsciously. He'd been beaten up so bad then, it was a wonder he hadn't died. It'd taken him almost a whole month to recover.
He'd made a lot of friends in Mori, nowhere near the level as his old crew but hey, a guy takes what he can get!
He missed them, missed them so much. He didn't know what was worse, not being able to talk to them, see them, laugh with them like he used to or not knowing whether he would die in the next moment should the psychotic red-eyed guy turn up on Sensei's doorstep. His heart clenched with anguish. Why did he have to run away?
He couldn't face them, not now, not after abandoning them right after a freaking invasion. He'd thrown their trust away. All this time he'd thought he was the one with the short straw, he was the one that had lived an unacceptable life. But that was arrogance. Arrogance and petulance. It wasn't what happened in the past that mattered, it was how you were living the present.
And then he'd gone and done the same thing he'd accused Sarutobi-Jiji of! His throat constricted and a sort of sob leapt from it. The arm tightened around his shoulders imperceptibly. He looked up hesitantly but Sensei was smiling at him, not the stupid, goofy smiles he usually had. This one was a genuine, soft and understanding curve of the lips.
Naruto breathed out slowly. He would just have to handle being apart from them for the rest of his life. They'd never accept his excuses anyway. Madara would kill them.
He wasn't short on friends in Mori. He had his own crew here, and they were all his age. Some people thought them a gang, but Naruto knew differently. They were allies of justice!
So what if they caused the problems in the first place? As long as they fixed it in the end, right?
He gazed up at the heavens, the scatters of silver stars sometimes broken by spots of red and brilliant, semi-translucent nebulae stretching the horizon. He was like one of them, a lone star burning its way out until it blinked from existence; never to be remembered except for the brief moments of blazing glory left in its wake. It was a beautiful metaphor and how apt.
He would keep living in the present, discarding his past no matter where he ended up in the world.
Because that's what he did best.
Sooooooo…The start of another epic. I'm really excited about this people! Let's see it from you too! Let me just say that this was my most favourite chapter for a long, loooooooong while! I hope you all enjoy it more than you did KNP!
Because it's only just the beginning!
Welcome, to KaHF!