Chapter 22 – Mouse Moving On.
A/N: VERY IMPORTANT A/N AT BOTTOM OF CHAPTER – IT WILL EXPLAIN WHAT IS CHANGING WITH TMOK!
A/N: Okay, now the important stuff is out the way, just a quick note to say sorry it's been so long and hope you enjoy this offering. I won't keep you any longer; please enjoy the show!
The silence around the small room was finally broken by a small, long-suffering sigh,
"Anko-chan, have you ever considered that there may be a reason we can't give you the special jounin vest your skills deserve?"
It's not my fault; the chunin whined in the privacy of her own head, looking around the hastily-contrived courtroom and seeing what she'd expected from every quarter. The hokage knew she was taking a dive, the rest of the jury knew she was taking it in the neck – hell the only one who might have been even slightly in the dark about the whole thing was stood in the dock next to her. But she was a ninja and she obeyed the commands of those higher in the food chain; due to these ingrained orders she swallowed her pride and indignation, resisted the urge to petulantly kick the small witness box she was sharing with her 'compliant accomplice' and faced the old man squarely,
"Can't say I thought too deeply about it hokage-sama". There were a few hastily-stifled snorts from the assembled council, even Sarutobi having to hold down a smile as he made to pass sentence,
"Well I can't fault you for highlighting another issue with our internal security and aside from the odd bump or scrape there were no severe injuries, though I'd wager this was more by luck than judgement. However you both set back one of the inaugural celebrations of this year and, as a consequence, wasted the time of several members of this council as the damned thing has to be rescheduled. This I can't overlook – yes Uzumaki-san?"
"Uh, why does it have to be rescheduled Hokage-sama?" Either he's in character as a clueless dupe or he really is a clueless dupe; despite her normally low opinion of her one-time pupil, having gone along with his scheme this far she decided he was owed a little leeway as the elderly village leader sighed,
"Because success in the inaugural contest helps set a students' class position and settles matters of clan pride, and apart from that I'd never hear the end of it if I let your result stand. Now, assuming no other interruptions", the look on the Sandaimes' face quelled even the jinchuuriki's rebellious expression though a few of the council in attendance seemed somewhat sympathetic, "I'll pass judgement".
Here we go then; she'd had an idea what was coming ever since she'd been hastily dragged aside and briefed by the old man himself just before this charade began the Snake Mistress braced herself as the Hokage stood and faced them gravely,
"For your actions in use of irritant chemicals on those who are still in training", as Academy students were no longer considered full civilians but rather shinobi in training, they forfeited some of the legal rights their non-shinobi counterparts enjoyed, "and the relevant time-wasting such chemicals caused I am adding a minor reprimand to your resume Mitarashi"; another one for the pile then; that wasn't particularly worrying, over the years she'd had enough of them to tile her bathroom several times over, "and you will act as organisational overseer to the replacement contest next week without pay. Uzumaki, as you were technically following the orders of a superior and, technically", Sarutobi had a sinking feeling this was going to become a very familiar word when dealing with the jinchuuriki over the rest of his Academy career, "your actions were within the letter of the rules, you will escape punishment this time. However", he leant forwards slightly and his adoptive grandson shrank back, recognising the old man was either in no mood for games or doing a good impression that he wasn't, "your senseis and many others will be keeping a close eye on you from now on – too many more toes over the line you might not get them back. Understood, the pair of you?"
"Hai hokage-sama", the special jounin and student chorused and, satisfied, the elderly veteran sat back in his seat,
"Good, don't let it happen again; I want a nice clean fight next Friday", no-one missed Narutos' disbelieving look, nor Ankos' shaking shoulders; was Naruto finding out some shinobi truths so early a good thing? Sometimes I wonder; "any questions?"
And that's done; relieved to get away with a light slap on the wrist Anko shook her head fractionally, looking forwards to getting out of this place and into the nearest bar. She waited a second for the dismissal, then waited a second longer before realising several of the assembled council were definitely holding back smirks and feeling a flood of cold panic claw through her. She didn't even need to look; in the eye of her mind she could just picture the small figure to the side of her, the look of confused, clueless determination on his face as his arm rose slowly into the air...
"Much as I don't dispense free advice brat", looking up from his sticky treat Naruto paid close attention as the woman sat opposite addressed him through a mouthful of dumplings, "as you're likely to be in those sorts of standing-rooms a lot in the future here's a tip. When the man in the big hat says 'any questions' what he's really saying is 'shut up and get out my sight, I'm sick of the sight of you'; because of that the standard answer is 'no hokage-sama' or 'thank you for your mercy hokage-sama'", glancing at the child paying her rapt attention it was a harder struggle than she'd expected to avoid smiling as she recalled the scene that had made even the old crusties flanking the hokage swiftly smother smiles, "it is not 'does that mean we can keep the loot?'"
"It was an honest question", Naruto defended himself before indicating the spread before them, "and look on the bright side, he didn't say no".
"True", Anko conceded, helping herself to another sticky dango skewer, "still, neat trick you pulled off there, it'll go down in the unofficial records I'm sure".
"Shame about the others; I know", his raised hand held off her suddenly sharp look, "can't have a first-year win the shield without raising serious questions and tipping off the other villages. Still, be one to tell the grandkids one day".
"You'd have to find a wife first".
"I was talking about you", Anko almost swallowed the skewer she was eating stick and all as Naruto raised an eyebrow towards her, "you helped train me after all, one day you'll be able to point to that mountain and say 'I helped put one of the faces on there, and it started on his first day at school'".
"You might not get to your second day if you come out with too many ideas like that", the Snake Mistress warned him, though it lacked some of her usual harshness; though she wouldn't admit it what he'd actually done was damned impressive, a potential death-knell for a minor village and a serious blow to one of Konoha's rivals should the Sandaime ever stamp such an order in wartime, "apart from that though pay attention, there was a reason I let you sit in on this feast".
"Because you're still trying to force me to convert to your blasphemous dango gods?" Naruto suggested before falling quiet under her piercing gaze, saying nothing as the Snake Mistress went on,
"Fact of the matter is Hokage-sama pulled me aside a while ago and dangled a carrot in front of my nose; there's a special jounin vest with my name on it a few years down the line if I don't screw this up and you're going to help me".
"Okay, I'm afraid".
"Too right you are – listen Naruto, here it is", recognising her sincerity the jinchuuriki paid close attention as she sighed and came clean, "basically, since what happened with you being out of town, Sarutobi had me in his office and pointed out he only reason that worked at all was because of me – not boasting, it's the truth. Because of your success he's roped me into the Academy, teaching your year for a month-long block per class some time over the Academy term".
"Right", Naruto said slowly, "I think his medication may need tweaking again".
"I'm serious, and so was he", the chunin snapped, "I don't like it any more than... actually I don't care what you think, for me it's going to suck worse than a five-ryo alley girls' first time on her knees. I'm giving you a heads-up because when I get to your class I one, expect you to be on your best behaviour", there was enough venom in her glare to kill even his risk-taking spirit stone dead as he nodded frantically, "and two, I'll probably be using you as a living show-pony for most of the time I'm there".
"Oh Kami no", Naruto hugged himself as though afraid his arms might fall off, "no more flexibility, I like shrugging occasionally". Anko rolled her eyes,
"It's not for that you wimp; I'll be teaching them what I taught you about masking up", Naruto's relieved exhalation blew the scent of the dango over to her and she breathing it in gratefully; something I needed to get over explaining things to this well-disguised idiot; "I'll be using you as a demonstration most of the time when I get to your class. You've no issues with that I assume?"
"How much would it hurt if I said yes?"
"Cobra or mamba, your choice".
"That's what I thought", the jinchuuriki shuddered, "not much you can say to that really; the senseis have already got their eye on me, least of all Uzashi-sensei". Anko snickered,
"I heard about that – needless to say try that sort of prank on me and you'll be getting your hand back through the post a finger at a time. She's not a bad one Uzashi, run with her a few times on the patrols, stared down a few Iwa in her time but not a front-liner, not really – I can see her as a special given time but her first run for jounin was just stupid".
"Most of them are if you listen to Flea-jisan", Naruto chipped in reasonably, swirling a dumpling in the spicy red bean sauce he'd become rather partial to; though it's still not ramen; "first time always knocks you back – only those who really want it go back a second time and those he can work with, that's what he tells me anyway".
"You still help him out with the pre-selection?"
"Only if invited", Naruto said with feeling, "no chance I'm getting into that warzone without everyone knowing exactly what I'm doing there; too likely to bite a stray kunai otherwise. Still, apart from that", one of her earlier comments rankled in the back of his mind, "what did you mean when you said I'd be up before jiji in the future? I'm not that bad".
Despite herself Anko laughed, shaking her head as she looked over the table at her sometime student, his expression a curious but effective blend of defiance and endearing innocence that surely even he couldn't truly believe,
"Really kid? Face the facts, you just do not fit in to the standard shinobi mould, you likely never will and don't tell anyone I said this but Konoha's much the better for it. Your mind doesn't work like people would expect it to and that's a strength, oh Kami is that a strength as", she glanced around and lowered her voice, Naruto nodding as he realised what she saying, "the Dragon discovered, but it also means that you'll often run into beaurocratic condemnation – trust me, I've been banging my head off that brick wall for years now. Ad-nin hate people who don't play by their rules and, to their credit, they do give leeway where they can like Hokage-sama did today but don't expect it too often. When they start chasing you for doing things your way and eventually pin something on you; and they will, they're good at what they do; just grin, take your licks and if you can get revenge later without getting caught, take it with a smile; I always found sending risqué lingerie to their girlfriends in their name works". Naruto snickered at the thought before shaking his head, remembering a few of his previous games and how they'd impacted on the inner workings of his village,
"Think I might have already had my pre-venge; I know the Nara clan are out to get me and if the postal and med-nin could make me disappear without too many questions they'd probably do it". The snake summoner cocked her head, curious despite the cautious part of her mind screaming she was better off not knowing,
"The latter two I can understand; nice work with the fake-death scene into the morgue by the way, I'll be borrowing that one if I get the chance; but what did you do to earn the sleepy clans' antlers?"
"Let's just say bagpipes are involved"; yep, really shouldn't have asked;
"Good plan; still, times a-wasting and there's delicious dango to be eaten. Not too much for you though, this is off my coin".
"Which I helped – no, forget help, I won for you".
"Details; anyway the rest of it's paying off my rent for the next six months; you wouldn't begrudge your beloved sensei a place to rest her head would you?" As Naruto considered this she delivered the killing stroke,
"Bearing in mind where I'd be staying if I did kicked out – your sofa was pretty comfortable from what I remember..."
Brrrr;the threat was so terrifying and so typical of something Anko would do he was still shivering after the slammed his front door shut after bidding the chunin farewell following their celebratory dango binge ending; and she'll be teaching us at some stage? I'd better warn the others – exposure to Anko-san without pre-warning is just cruel and jiji is really losing his marbles if he's setting her loose on the Academy;
"You look like you've seen a ghost", said a now-familiar voice from the kitchen as he walked past,
"I'd have preferred that to the snake I just saw", the jinchuuriki riposted, raising a hand to his henged clone as he stepped past the kitchen doorway, "how'd it go at the bank?"
"Pretty good, learning how the computer and printer work", the clone replied, scribbling his jotted notes into a neater form so his creator could peruse them later at leisure, "useful that I can take a bit of a buffeting though; that rule of 'ouch' if a real life-saver when some of the staff don't notice I'm there".
"Too right, I wonder if that's because I've got you-know-who feeding me so much chakra", though he couldn't prove it Naruto was beginning to suspect his shadow clones may have been a little more durable than the average, probably because halving his chakra reserves would give the resultant clone more chakra than most of the ninja in the village. As long as he stuck to only a single clone the bunshin wouldn't disperse until it was hit with an attack or event that would make its creator say 'ouch' – for example dropping a cup of dry ramen on its foot wouldn't break the chakra construct but a dropped brick would. Slouching into the kitchen and flicking on the kettle the original turned to his creation and shrugged,
"Got long left?"
"Only a few more notes", the henged bunshin assured him, scribing his observations carefully to avoid mistakes, "just as well our writing got better since Ten-chan started letting us help with her assignments. We should really do something to say thanks for that".
"I've had a few ideas Nez", the bunshin, named after the shinobi or shinobi team who had co-opted some of Naruto's pranking ideas, glanced over,
"Needs a bit of honing but, well, you know Chime-san was kind enough to take us on?"
"Yeah but we're pretty useless with the blade, doesn't feel right".
"Not in our hands but we're pretty good at looking after one; anyway, beside the point, how do you think she'd feel having someone who really did want to be a samurai under her wing?" Nez inhaled sharply, wrapping up his observations as he turned the idea over in his mind before nodding,
"She'd been happy as an Akimichi at an all-you-can-eat if you pull it off, might need to pull a few strings to ask Chime-san though. When's the next session?"
"Tuesday", Naruto answered after checking the calendar hanging on the kitchen wall, now pretty full due to his social diary, "I can at least raise the idea if nothing else, and it might let the air clear a bit given what happened at the Academy". The bunshin, towering over him in his henged form, snorted,
"Did you hear they had to use fuutons to blow that gas out of there; I heard over the counter", he said conversationally, his grey eyes narrowing in mirth, "they're going to hate us when we go back – what did jiji say?"
"Keep your nose clean for the time being more or less, nothing permanent though we're going to have to do some brawling next Friday", Naruto shrugged before gesturing to the two jotters his clone had on the table, "got down what you needed?"
"Yeah, you can read them later; I'm getting out of here and we need an early night, Academy starts tomorrow".
"Great, though you'll be banking for the foreseeable right – how long do you reckon it'll take to properly master the paper trails and such-like?"
"Easy to learn, hellish to master, especially since they; the staff this is, really don't like talking about how to break the system – fair enough", Nez raised his hands, "I'm a ninja, can't be trusted regardless what symbol I use. Still there's no point us really going for the qualifications I don't think; they look really in-depth and as a mask we'd only need to be a clerk or teller; anyone who can count and shuffle paper can do that, managers and safe-keepers need a lot of bits of paper".
"Put that one on the side for a bit then?"
"Maybe not; Pal told me this", the clone smiled as Naruto listened intrigued, "he can't teach me the bad side of the banking world but he knows for a fact there are a few who can in Konoha's jail. I left the names in Mausu no michi; something to look into later?"
"A lot later, probably after I've buttered jiji up a lot", Naruto replied after a pause for thought, "I doubt he'd want me associated with criminal elements quite this soon. Better keep it reasonably fluffy for now; its theatre season soon, might get a few bit-parts out of that and I've got a leg-up anyway given what happened before. Good to brush up on it too, Anko-sensei's going to be teaching us some time this year". Nez shuddered,
"Too right; anyway take a seat; I'll let you know what else I found out".
"No problem; I'll call you again tomorrow – I'll handle school, you handle the job".
Nez saluted and, as the original sat at his table and closed his eyes, dispersed into smoke, Naruto gritting his teeth as the memories of a full day through someone elses' eyes filtered back to him. Slowly breathing in and out as he let the sights sink in slowly, Naruto was still for a good few minutes before he opened his eyes again and looked to the two books his working-mask had been jotting in, pulling the closest of them towards him and reading through the notes Nez had left him detailing how computers truly worked. Useful to know, especially if they become more popular in industries such as banking, and how the tellers usually arrange finances can be a big boon as well. So from here, what goes into you?
Pulling over the second book, this novel actually a hard-back and a lot weightier, Naruto flicked to the inside front cover, one of only two pages not blank apart from the front cover, which he'd illustrated with a doodle from his calling cards and the title Mausu no michi – Way of the Mouse. It was an idea that had come to him while he'd bene flush with success following his successful scheme at the Academy; while jotting down notes to detail the prank he'd suddenly kicked himself he hadn't made other notes before – how was he supposed to remember everything he'd done, and worse how was he supposed to carry on his teachings if he ever got that far? That evening Nez had come into being, his first task being to buy the blank books Naruto needed in bulk as the jinchuuriki sat down and began to plan things out.
Two heads, even if they in effect contained the same brain, were better than one; with Nez he worked out his plan of attack. The clone in his mask would work while he was at the Academy, learning other crafts and trades as he could without risking dispersement and hand his notes to the original, in effect allowing Naruto to learn two things at the same time. They had come up with a list of jobs to study that would be either effective for a mask, allow access to important targets or preferably both and banking had come high on the list; having a dedicated military was important but Lightning had taught him the importance of economics to a healthy village or country. Having a mask make havoc in the bank of an enemy village, especially if it could gain access to clan finances and plant false trails of corruption or embezzlement, would rot the enemy from within, potentially ending a war without a drop of blood being spilt, one of the guiding lights of the new philosophy Naruto was slowly drafting with his research as he collated it.
Though I haven't gotten far yet; writing Way of the Mouse was even more difficult than writing a deep-cover mask; so far I've just got a few lines and some ideas what jobs to study next. Safe-cracker, nice one Nez, might have to put that one back a bit though – so after banking construction seems like a good idea, though that will take ages. After all, knowing how something goes up makes it a lot easier to bring down, and I have got to get in on that forestry team that keeps the training areas clear – thanks Pal, I really owe you a good bottle of sake when I'm done with your bank. I reckon a fortnight, no three weeks, do it properly, behind the bank counters then I'll put some whiskers out to see if I can find an in onto that team. Ah, one for the Way; seized by a sudden inspiration, he grabbed the pencil his mask had been using and thought for a moment before annotating his first principles of his way,
"Be mindful of all you know", he decided, after several erasings, "listen to their woes, offer them your shoulder and bear their worries as your own for in their suffering they may shed a golden tear, and for your aid they may provide information the value of which they do not know. Yeah, that'll do; now, ramen and exercise, and try to get up that damned wall on hands and knees!"
Early next morning, after breakfast and re-reading what he'd written the previous night, Naruto closed the book detailing his nascent ninja way and summoned his new kage bunshin mask with a puff of smoke, bidding Nez farewell as the henged clone left for work. Once this was completed, the young jinchuuriki cast a last look at the title of his self-written book, gathered his weapons, scrolls and school supplies, left and locked his house and headed towards the Shinobi Academy of Konoha, taking the next few steps along his road to becoming Hokage and learning his way of the ninja.
A/N: As mentioned in the above AN, this is the original version of The Mouse of Konoha; I planned to end the story just as Naruto entered the Academy with his winning/cheating the first spar and its aftermath as the grand finale. However as I was writing it, other scenes from both within the Academy and beyond, the canon Naruto-verse began bombarding my mind and I began to think how cool it would be to have my version of Naruto tackle these new challenges head-on. I thought I could go on from my original idea and expand further, keep the story going to the end…
…I was wrong.
The scenes I have in my mind e.g. for the Chunin exams, land of Waves, Sasuke retrieval etc are still there but the problem is they're disjointed and, as you've probably gathered from this story, I just can't do time-skips – Naruto is such a rich and diverse word even within Konoha and Naruto (or at least Naruto as I see/write him) is such a central character that what he does will have ripple effects that may be important in the future – even something as simple as going to the library in his henge may have a knock-on effect later that simply can't be explained without breaking immersion if it's just skipped over. To write the scenes I have in my mind would result in too much 'filler' which, while amusing, detracts from the thrust of the story – therefore rather than string it out too long I have reluctantly decided to go back to my original plan and end the Mouse's tale just as he makes it into the Academy full-time.
I am ending TMOK here – it's been a great ride and I hope you've all enjoyed it; however, you don't have to let this be the end. As with my other Naruto series Win Some, Lose Some, where TMOK was born, use this alternate universe as a starting point for your own stories if you want to – if you want to explain how Naruto was trained into a sneaky little sod for your stories into the canon-verse or even the Academy, just reference this tale – we've already got SI-Naruto, Rin'negan/Mokuton/Sharingan-Naruto, fem-Naruto, OOC-Naruto – let's see if we can add another version to the lexicon – Mouse-Naruto!
When I can I may add my ideas for parts of the TMOK-canon into Win Some, Lose Some as one-shot stories, so keep an eye out for these. I know and sympathise that this might not be the ending a lot of people were hoping for but I'd rather finish a story on a high note than run the risk of it degrading, as I could tell it was through the chapters that have since been deleted. I would like to thank all my readers and supporters and wish you all luck in your writing endeavours and will get back onto my other projects, including Win Some, Lose Some, in the near future when I am able to.