The Art of the Fear

Minato is consumed with the quiet ambition to excel and everything that comes with it. It was her bright personality, beautiful smile and vibrant hair that kept his mind devolving into the dark. Tiny MinaKush.

Note: Even though this is Minato/Kushina story, it is not a story of their romance in the most traditional respect. They are already together, but that's when the real story start, right? Keeping together is the hardest part. This is also a story about Minato, and my recent observation that he is powerful, confident, and ruthless, yet he is still able to be a hero, even for himself, while others like him degenerate into selfish cruel man who isolates themselves from the realm of general goodness.

Plus, I just need to write other stuff.

Chapter 0: Perfection

Minato's glazed eyes passed over the 20-something dead Iwa shinobi he had taken just several minutes before. As he does this, he realized, very calmly, that he didn't care. The thought of their grief-stricken loved ones—wives, mothers, children, lover, etc—didn't make his heart waver and his stomach unsettled. He didn't frown disappointedly at this fact either. Instead, he cocked his head slightly to the side, observing this odd apathy with a gentle curiosity.

A few feet from him, his awe-stricken team handled the body for clues and foraged for usable weapons. Their eyes would often go to him, their yellow-haired leader, with an expression of caution and admiration. They mumbled amongst each themselves, speaking of this carnage with morbid respect.

Unperturbed by what they may be saying, Minato knelt down by one of his victim and looked straight into his face. Young, perhaps younger than him. His blue eyes travelled down to Iwa shinobi's hand and noticed the young man was clutching something in his right. Minato pried it open with some difficulty and was surprised to find a lock of brown hair tied with a blood-stained pink ribbon. Minato gingerly picked up the piece of hair, wondering how the original owner would react to the news of this young man's death. However, he didn't linger on this question for long: his mind immediately went to Kushina and her beautiful hair. This dead young man had given him a good idea—he thought of Kushina and wondered if he could have a lock of her hair.

"Minato-san," one his man addressed him with his head lowered, eyes averted to the ground, "We are done."

"Good job," Minato said, dropping the lock of hair, "If we hurry, we can get back to camp before nightfall."

"Sir!" With a nod, the man turned to the others and relayed the order. Minato gave one cursory glance at the youth, an inkling of sympathy in his mind perhaps, before turning towards camp.

"Oi, brat!"

"Sensei," mumbled said 'brat' without looking at his visitor, "I just got back from a mission, and I would like some rest." Minato lay on a cot, with a hand on his forehead, nursing a minor headache. He had been a little dehydrated, it seems.

His sensei, with big white hair and his manic smile tinged with bitterness, merely continued, "Heard you took out 27 men by yourself." He dropped onto Minato's cot with a purposefully big bounce.

"The team helped," Minato replied with a sigh, turning away from his sensei.

"Hm, yes they did didn't they?" said the sensei, "They threw some kunai and watched you massacre 27 men. They did quite a lot there."

Minato sat up suddenly and turned to him, "Jiraiya-sensei, are you criticizing the way I did my job?"

"No, how could I?" asked Jiraiya with a shrug, "No casualties or injury for Konoha. You got the job done. All enemies taken down. In fact, I'll go as far to say it was a perfect performance." He paused. "A bit high strung today, hm?"

"Sorry, I..." Minato stopped and shrugged away the thought. "Sorry, sensei. I need some rest. Headache"

Jiraiya ignored him. "You know you are my best pupil. Awfully skilled, and nice. You were nice kid."

"Thanks," Minato replied, lying back on the cot.

"And I—alright, alright, I'm going!" Jiraiya chuckled as his former student clamped his eyes closed, "Get an aspirin for that headache."

"Hmm…yeah," Minato said with a grim smile, "It'll be fine. I just need some peace."

Jiraiya stood up and went to the tent's entrance flap. Before he exited, he turned around and said with a meaningful look at his student, "I think...well could be just lazy old underachieving me…but I found your performance…too perfect."

Minato remained unmoving on the cot, and Jiraiya left. Minutes passed after his sensei's departure, and he hadn't move a bit. Finally, he let out a sigh and wondered about the lock of brown hair. He felt regretful then, remembering that he had carelessly dropped the hair instead of putting it back into the boy's hands.

"27 men," Kushina repeated, biting her lips, "Dead."

"Yes," Biwako confirmed, pushing a cup of tea towards her young charge, "27."

"Impressive," the red head mumbled.

"You don't sound it," Biwako said, with an odd look at Kushina.

"Well, I mean…" Kushina mumbled, twiddling her thumb on the mouth of the cup, "It's…27, and…there's something…I dunno…a multiple of nine…"

Biwako quirked an eyebrow at her as she set the tea pot down.

"They're dead," murmured Kushina thoughtfully.

"Yes, dear," Biwako said with an exasperated sigh, "Dead."

"Biwako-sama," said Kushina with a crooked smile, "Could you kill that many people in one go like that?"

"No," the old woman answered, "Most people can't. That's why it is so impressive."

Kushina puffed out her cheeks as she thought about it and frowned. She deflated then, and said, quite brightly, "You're right! It is impressive! I guess you can't expect any less from the yellow flash after all."

"Hm, is that what they call him these days?"

"Yup!" She popped her 'p'. "I guess he's that much closer to the Hokage title. Is Saru-ji-san stepping down soon?"

"He is talking about it. He needs to find a replacement."

"Is Minato a candidate?"

"I believe so, though Orochimaru is also on his mind."

Kushina made a disgusted face. "I'll move if he chooses that snake-bastard."

"And I will join you," Biwako agreed, "If my husband has any sense, he'll investigate Orochimaru as soon as possible."

Kushina giggled. "You know, I would be an excellent Hokage."

"Kushina…even without your current obligation, you would still make horrible Hokage."

"I'm strong enough!"

"If strength was the only factor, you would get a vote, but being Hokage is more than just being strong, you know. You have a lot of diplomatic obligations and-."

"Which I can handle!"

"You can't even get your mission paperwork done. By the way, you are late on two different missions, get it done or I'll make your sealing appointments longer."

Kushina pouted and finally drank her tea. She put it down immediately, making a face at the woman. "Biwako-sama, you forgot to put in the tea bag!"

A/N: Special request: discussion. Please. I appreciate reviews, but I also would like some talking, some deliberating. Perhaps not for this chapter, as I gave little to review, but, please remember!

Thank you for reading, and please stick with and help me see through this story!