"Don't even try to swim against a whirlpool's current, you're just going to be pulled in."
Hakurei to Sandaime

13th Legacy: Kyougaku (consternation)

Sarutobi Hiruzen sometimes wished that he could have arrived to the battle between the Yondaime and Kyuubi just an hour, a minute, or even a second earlier… he wished he made it in time and asked Minato to let him seal the Kyuubi in his place. He was old and tired, and frankly he couldn't deal with this political shit anymore. He might be the Hokage, and yet left and right people are plotting and he would have to either follow or crush their schemes for the good of Konoha.

Hakurei once again came bearing another politic issue that gave him headache the size of Hi no Kuni. An issue from seventeen hours ago, when Shibi and Inoichi kicked out of twenty Shinobi in total out of their clan and officially released them to Danzou's care.

He was aware that there were a number of Aburame and Yamanaka residing in Danzou's forces, but he did not know that the clan heads were also aware and were itching to kick Danzou's goons out of their clans since they found out about it. Hakurei just gave them exactly what they wanted and Danzou was allowed to keep his soldiers, a win-win situation. The downside was that the Aburame and Yamanaka of Ne were stripped of their family name and heritage, and labeled as disgraces to their clans forever.

The Sandaime had questioned both Shibi and Inoichi about it, both of whom gave him the same answer. Ne might be part of Konoha, but at the same time, they weren't Konoha. It pained them to banish their own clan members but it was a necessity, since there's no telling what would become of their children if they keep Ne's Shinobi in their clan. To them Ne was like a plague, something they had to keep their clan away from.

They didn't say anything, but he knew. Shibi and Inoichi were disappointed that he allowed Ne to flourish in Konoha, gnawing on their clan members. However at the same time, Shibi and Inoichi knew he didn't have what it takes to completely disband Ne and cut off Danzou's limbs. It was not for lack of his capability as a Shinobi no, it was never about that. In a one on one fight he was certain he could beat Danzou even at their sixties. However he needed Danzou to handle Konoha's darkness, to do what he couldn't.

So when Hakurei asked what he would do now that Danzou had dared to order his puppets to attack Naruto, all he could do was reply with a feeble: "What do you think I can do?"

Hakurei snorted, "Let's see… officially disband his Ne again?" The old seal master suggested cynically, "A reprimand perhaps?" He added with a raised eyebrow.

Sarutobi snarled, he was not in the mood for Hakurei's sarcasm. "Do you have any idea what will happen if I rat him out?!" He asked in incredulous tone, "Inoichi and Shibi agreed to solve this peacefully, but I would be a fool to think the rest of Konoha would do the same! I admit I am unaware of many things he has done, but I am sure the moment all those crimes he had done for Konoha surfaces… people from left and right would swear vengeance on Konoha! That's assuming a civil war won't break out first!"

Hakurei's smile turned borderline psychotic at that, "Congrats! Here I thought you have no idea that Danzou has become raving mad with his ideals! Yes! He is a fucking bomb detonator, if not the bomb itself! "Hakurei clapped in mocking fashion." I won't put it past him if to ensure that one day you kicked the bucket first..."

Hiruzen cringed knowing that even Hakurei thought he would die before Danzou did. "He would declare: He is the man who can pull us back from the brink of destruction and bring order and law to Shinobi world to our Daimyou and make him Godaime. Ha ha ha ha ha!" Hakurei laughed out loud, "What order? What law? I'd bet my whole fortune by the first week of his rule as kage someone would try to assassinate him!"

The Sandaime sighed, "You love to slight him a bit too much Hakurei…"

"He makes it easy." Hakurei agreed, "At any rate… you should be thankful that once again I am wiling to let you off scot-free." He said with thinly veiled sarcasm. "No boycott, no demands…" He listed on.

No, but I will owe you a lot and I will feel guilty for it. The Sandaime thought with a sigh, rolling his eyes inwardly. "Are you sure you don't want to demand anything?"

Hakurei grinned, "Why… I thought you'd never ask! I am just going to ask a small favor."

With how long the Sandaime had known Hakurei (over four freaking decades!), this would be anything but small "Then what is this small favor?"

Hakurei pulled out two files from his storage scroll and presented it to the old kage. The Sandaime opened both files, frowning at the photo of a pale skinned black haired child and another boy with a darker skin tone and grey hair. "I want you to put Sanseki Sai and Sanseki Shin under my clan's protection." Which automatically makes them also under Uzumaki protection, but Hiruzen didn't need to know or he'd make a fuss about it. "And… then induct them to Konoha's regular forces… a genin rank would be fine!"

His eyes went wide at the name of the long dead clan, "Sanseki? Where did you find them?!"

"You know about kids investing in Konoha's sewers? We got lucky finding them…" Hakurei said vaguely but it was enough for Sandaime to get an idea.

The professor groaned, "Danzou again? How?"

"If I answered that how of yours, could you do something about it?" At his silence Hakurei sighed tiredly, "Thought so, being a kage is not so great after all… your hands are tied." He shook his head exasperatedly, "However I sincerely admit you're not to blame… in case of Danzou, at this point I don't have the slightest idea of how to do better than you in your position in handling him."

He nodded in agreement at that, "I don't have the heart to allow a big enough scandal that could legalize eliminating him. Not with Koharu and Homura backing him…" Of course his teammates were loyal to him and Konoha, but sometimes they agreed more with Danzou's methods than his and would no doubt see the war hawk as an indispensable asset for Konoha.

Hakurei narrowed his eyes at the wrinkled face of his old friend, they were relatively of the same age but he could now see how the job made Hiruzen look much older. The man Hakurei saw sitting in front of him was not the Hokage or the professor, but an old and tired Sarutobi Hiruzen. Someone who was perched on top but was helpless in watching his old rival plunge deeper and deeper to darkness for Konoha's sake, his wife was killed at the night of Kyuubi's attack, and his youngest son ran off to serve the daimyou. How Hiruzen was still sane enough to run a village with all that emotional baggage, he didn't know.

After the last document needed was signed, Hiruzen handed the files back to Hakurei. "Here… I just hope we won't regret this."

Hakurei snorted at that, "We won't" He turned to leave but stopped as his hand hovered over the handle of the door, "Oh... and since I gave Danzou a warning, it won't be fair if I don't give you any."

"Hakurei..." The Sandaime warned.

The old seal master quirked his lips, "Don't even try to swim against a whirlpool's current, you're just going to be pulled in."

Since his promotion Hiruzen had done his best to hold his young master back, whether it was due fear for Naruto's safety or his growing power, Hakurei could care less. His young master knew this and he won't stay idle for so long. He was an Uzumaki after all, an Uzumaki would never accept being held back by anyone. This recent move Danzou made would just spur his master more and more.

A few days later in Fuuintou (The Tower of Seals)

"The fire's shadow illuminates the village... this is my nindo as Hokage of Konohagakure" Said the deep voice he had heard many times in his previous dream, the voice of his father.

And there's a familiar giggle in response, his mother's that sounds so soothing like wind bells in summer. "Well... considering your bright yellow hair, I think you'll illuminate our village just fine!"

He could see his father's reflection in his mother's grey eyes, a slight quirk on his eyes whenever his mother was teasing. "Ha ha ha... I am Konoha no Kiiroi Senkou (Yellow Flash) after all."

On the corner of his eyes he saw a much younger Sandaime smiling at his successor, "Whether or not you illuminate us literally, the crowd is bursting with excitement when they found out you're our new Hokage... Minato-kun."

He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, eyes closed as he shot the recently former kage a bright smile. "Well... I didn't know I am that popular!" He titled his head to the side, "Then again... my reputation as Konoha no Kiiroi Senkou strikes fear in our enemies, a reputation I built with power and bloodshed in war..."

"Minato..." Kushina murmured.

"We are Shinobi, so I think it's inevitable..." He admitted sheepishly, "Everyone acknowledges my power as a Shinobi, but I am not sure someone as young as me has the wisdom required to be a good leader our people would acknowledge."

His mother narrowed her eyes, "Just because you're young doesn't mean Orochimaru-san is a much better choice because he is old!"

Sandaime sweat-dropped at Kushina's statement, "Kushina, while I agree Orochimaru is not a better candidate than Minato because he is older... my student is in his thirties, if he is old, what am I?"

Kushina averted her eyes, adorably sticking her tongue out. "Ancient?"

Minato face-palmed, "Kushina..."

"Te he!"

The Sandaime cleared his throat, "At any rate Minato-kun." He began, "I didn't choose you over Orochimaru just because of your reputation, you have something my student doesn't have... strong determination and benevolent heart who believe in our people." The Sandaime looked sad as he spoke. "That's why I trusted you... and passed my hat to you, I am not the only one who has faith in you... everyone in our village acknowledges you as someone who will bring prosperity to Konoha... that's what being a kage means. We are to answer... our people's hopes."

"Naruto, wake up!"

Naruto blinked owlishly, he had fallen asleep after Hakurei went to the Hokage Tower. "What time is it now?" The couch in his living room was a bit uncomfortable but he was simply too tired to drag himself to his bed so he settled for the couch.

Shisui chuckled softly, "It's three in the afternoon... I heard from Tokusa you're still under the weather this morning so you went back to sleep after lunch."

Naruto groaned as he sat up, "I woke up as usual today... but the headache made me sluggish... I shouldn't wake up so early..."He winced, "And a nap is not helping... an afternoon nap lasting more than a few hours makes me feel even more horrible."

"You're always a morning person so it can't be helped if your biological clock woke you up in spite of that..." Itachi added.

He sighed at that, "Never mind..."

"So how is it? Did Hakurei get them good?" Shisui asked curiously.

Naruto nodded, "Aburame and Yamanaka... two of the six major clans of Konoha owe us a favor now, an alliance with them is more or less secured." He narrowed his eyes, "If we got the Yamanaka... then we can pretty much secure the Nara and Akimichi, and since Aburame have good history with Hyuuga and Inuzuka since they often been partnered for tracking teams. We can expect the Inuzuka clan to follow... with their pack mentality it will be easy to form a good relationship with them. They have already contacted us for medical seals... since they wanted us to develop one for their canine companions."

The use of fuuinjutsu in for the medical field was already a standard practice in Konoha, after all one of Konoha's foremost medical pioneers was the granddaughter of Uzumaki Mito. However it seemed that the standard seals used for restoring chakra coils, cell regeneration, and other medical procedures sometimes won't work as well for the Inuzuka's dogs. Naruto had decent knowledge in medic fuuinjutsu and even though he was not an expert, even he could tell that the reason it didn't work as well on dogs was undoubtedly because of the differences in anatomy, though he was uncertain whether it is genetic or something else along that line.

"So the Hyuuga too?" Shisui asked curiously, not that he was fond of clan who was so fond in declaring themselves as the strongest in Konoha.

Naruto shrugged, "I don't expect the Hyuuga would deign to step down from their high throne anytime soon..."

Especially since the white eyed clan had been peeved by their recent alliance with the Uchiha, increasing their rival's reputation in public eyes. So the Hyuuga was pretty much under the impression that their relationship with the tower would be strictly for business. The rivalry between the doujutsu bearer clans was actually non-existent in Uchiha's part since Uchiha hardly acknowledges the Hyuuga's superiority over them in terms of doujutsu. Then again, the Uchiha was more concerned with their political standing now, especially since Itachi and Shisui could wipe the floor with any Hyuuga their age.

The tower pretty much had a nonexistent relationship with the Hyuuga, and the clan had forbidden their branch members from enrolling in the Tower's fuuinjutsu course in fear that they will somehow figure out a way to get rid of the Kagonotori no Fuuin-Caged Bird Seal. A concept which was pretty ridiculous, since while the Tower had never bothered to study the Hyuuga's seal, they had a pretty good idea of the seal's construction. It was in the same category with the Iwazaru no Fuuin, a branch of seal studies called 'Juuinjutsu. It was also Aizen's clan's specialty. Removing this kind of seal was a pain in the ass and some, and while newly applied seals could be broken easily with the right chakra burst, one that is years old could kill the victim if removed recklessly. Unlike Danzou, the Hyuuga know their seals well, so the chance of the failure removal is much higher. Even if a 9th Dan seal master like Hakurei attempted it, they were still looking at a good 50%-60% chance of failing.

"It's not like I have anything against the Hyuuga, even though I don't like the way they treat their own family..." Naruto murmured with a sigh, "I just can't see it being easy to extend a hand no matter what... they're a very proud clan and competitive to boot." He sighed again, "Tradition and history wise... our clans have a higher standing, being descendants of Rikudo Sennin as well as being founding clans..."

Shisui titled his head to the side, "They never struck me to be the jealous type... that seems to be more of an Uchiha thing!"

Itachi and Naruto stared at Shisui incredulously, "Sometimes... I wonder if you ever forget that your surname is Uchiha." Itachi said in amused tone.

The younger Shinobi shrugged, "I started to think that having a Doujutsu makes arrogance genetic, but well... if they're comfortable in their high place and have no intention to join us, let them be... as long as we leave each other alone."

"I see..." Itachi murmured, "How about Danzou?"

Shisui nodded at that, "Hakurei sent him a message from you, but do you think he gets it at all?" Shisui asked curiously.

"You mean if Danzou would ever understand what I tried to convey in my message?" Naruto echoed Shisui's question, he looked thoughtful for a while then gave the shunshin expert a nonchalant shrug.

Shisu's left eyebrow twitched at the response, when it comes to Naruto that was an equivalent of 'Fuck if I know' reply. "Then why bother to get Hakurei-dono to forward it?"

Itachi titled his head to the side, glancing at his blond friend. "We agreed that Danzou is a man so devoted to his own ideals, he lost sight of everything else…"

"Probably because I just want him to hear it…" The blond confessed, "He thinks that the Sandaime's teachings are weakening our village… "Shisui frowned, "Even I can see that it's not entirely baseless, since after Kumo's blatant assault on the Hyuuga, they got scot-free. I can understand that… we just recovered from third war and… that traitor's attack. We can't afford a war, it's a suicide." They agreed to not call the event as the Kyuubi's attack, because in a sense Kurama didn't even give a flying fuck about attacking Konoha as long as he could be free. "But there's Orochimaru's defection. Hakurei said the Sandaime barely lifted a hand about Orochimaru… no matter how low Orochimaru has fallen, the Sandaime is still…"

Shisui narrowed his eyes at Naruto, "I hope you're not implying Sandaime is weak or anything along that line…"

Naruto sighed, Shisui was fond of Sandaime since his father was a good friend with the Hokage. He couldn't blame Shisui for defending Sandaime though; he was pretty blunt about Sandaime's failures. "Shisui… all leaders in history have their shortcomings, I acknowledge him as a good leader who believe in his shinobi and strives for Konoha's sake. Regardless of everything I still see the Sandaime as my grandfather figure, for so long he had been someone who treated me as a human being first before I noticed anyone else." He sighed wearily, "I can say I didn't lost hope in humanity because of him."

"Naruto…"Shisui couldn't help but touched.

"He is also the first person I lost trust in though." Naruto added impassively, rolling his eyes.

Shisui fell from his chair out of shock, glaring at Naruto who returned it with dispassionate stare. "Seriously! Naruto… only you could say you trust someone and distrust him in one breath."

"Two breaths to be exact." Itachi corrected.

Shisui groaned, these two! "No one likes a nitpicker! Itachi! Naruto!"

Naruto sighed again, hugging his knees and propping his chin on top of it. "It's not like I blame him for my pariah status as a jinchuuriki, there's five kages in the continent but I have not heard any of them helping their jinchuuriki from their pariah status..." He heard that some had decent lives but people were still afraid of them. Yagura was not helping their reputation, though going mad was not that uncommon for jinchuuriki.

Itachi and Shisui flinched at that, "Naruto…"

Even for those who managed to pull through and be acknowledged, they still had to earn it on their own like the Kumo jinchuuriki. Naruto didn't mind that, he didn't even think to demand that much from the Sandaime. "However… what pains me the most is… my trust is not returned at all." He clenched his fist, "Everything I gained until today is because he had no choice but allow it… I graduated early because Tori brought up that being in the academy just stunted my growth, my promotion to genin is because of Aizen's recommendation… and I heard from Hakurei that even then he put up an argument over it, and that any chance of promotion to chuunin is the same… it took me going through Hakurei and his teammates, that I cornered him to agree or else…"

Shisui sighed at that, he couldn't blame Naruto for being distrustful of the Sandaime then. He had seen it too, no matter how much Naruto showed the Sandaime of his growth, the kage still sees Naruto as a child he has to shelter from the cruel world of Shinobi. The irony was… the moment his status as a jinchuuriki was leaked to public and he became Konoha's pariah, the Sandaime and Konoha had already failed to give Naruto a childhood.

"I still love him as a family but to trust him…" He trailed off, recalling the distant memory of dismissal he was given whenever he asked of his parents. "I don't think… I can trust him ever again." He confessed sadly.

Itachi sighed at that, "I guess I can relate to that… " A long ago he trusted his clan to stay loyal to Konoha no matter what, but now he could see them wrapped in their own arrogance and have lost sight of what is most important.

Naruto glanced at Itachi and Shisui; all of them had seen their world at its darkest. Shisui and Itachi saw it through war, while Naruto saw it through the eyes of a jinchuuriki. "Danzou has started to move... both sides have managed to get out of this conflict with Konoha intact, but from this event we can see..."

"How frail Konoha's political balance is..." Itachi finished grimly, "We have to eliminate Danzou sooner or later, he is too dangerous." He said as he skimmed through the document Shisui forced one of Ne's operative to write.

Apparently Danzou put a number of his operatives to be record keepers, and would periodically rotate his subordinates for this duty. Which was why even if someone managed to get a hand on one of them and get around the Iwazaru no Fuuin, they won't be able to get complete information of Danzou's operation. However Danzou had too much shit to hide that his method was not that effective. There was a reason why Danzou periodically replaced his spies and killed those who worked too long for him to prevent his spies from knowing too much. What Shisui managed to discover while not much, was enough to send shivers to their spines, Swamp Country's invasion, the tragedy in Land of Wood, connections with Orochimaru's experiments, and so on. If this was just the tip of the iceberg, they couldn't imagine the rest.

"I don't want to know." Naruto confessed in regard to Danzou's horrible deeds. "But we need to know."

Shisui nodded at that, "No wonder Sandaime-sama protects and keep an eye on him in the same time, his downfall is going to open a can of worms and his grubby hands are everywhere..."

Itachi cringed at that, "Which means we have to make sure he is dead while bringing his secrets to the grave with him." He concluded.

"How? People who would swear vengeance on him are everywhere!" Shisui asked incredulously. "Oh I know... we make a shrine on his grave and tell the people to curse it forever or something? Or sell his clones as punching bag?"

Naruto face-palmed, "I can't believe I am actually considering that... at any rate how long do you think we will fare in this stalemate."

"No idea." Shisui shrugged.

Itachi sighed, "We're lucky if by the end of this year the suggestion of a coup isn't going to resurface."

Naruto scowled at that, "Your father must be pretty tired trying to fend off angry members of his clan..."

Shisui nodded, "Fugaku-jiisan is trying his best to assure the clan that we're heading to a better future now, or something along that line..." To be fair he, Itachi and the clan head themselves were not sure of that, so it was hard to make their clansmen believe it. "The elders are still skeptical though." Sometimes Shisui wondered why they needed advice from old coots like their elders, but of course, wisdom and experience came with age and whatnot.

"We are backing my father's claim to the best of our ability but we can't tell how long it will last..." He murmured wearily, "Not to mention they started breathing down our necks again lately."

The older Uchiha nodded, "It's mostly the elders... the older generation in general, and most Uchihas our age who remembered the end of third war when they're young."

Naruto face-palmed, it seemed that a majority of the Uchiha was still unsatisfied with their current status. He couldn't blame them, for a proud clan like the Uchiha to accept disrespect from Konoha is unfathomable. They were one of the founding clans, and yet they were monitored like prisoners. Itachi might be their heir and pride, a prodigy of the highest caliber who cemented their reputation as the strongest, on the other hand however, Itachi was not that well liked among his clansmen, because he turned his back on a lot of traditional Uchiha beliefs. While Shisui was in the same page as Itachi, he was not the heir and was not watched as closely. However at this rate even Shisui would be put on the spot.

They also couldn't forget the rogue Uchiha they had to hunt, the man who tore their families apart. Konoha is at risk of falling to civil war, while that traitor didn't even need to lift a finger as Konoha annihilated itself. Naruto was not thirsting for revenge, but he would be damned if that traitor gets what he wants! No!

"So... we can't progress in our own leisure, because the rest of the world is not going to wait..." He murmured. "There's nothing you can do to change your political standing now... both of you have done well to reach ANBU rank, but in the end you're still part of a clan that Konoha's government is suspicious of... even if eventually, either you or Itachi reach the rank of ANBU captain, it will hardly change the situation... if anything..."

"Our clan would be upset that in spite of my rank their standing is not getting better..." Itachi continued gravely, "I know as much but I still wish my part in this won't hit a dead end yet..."

Shisui groaned, "It sucks... but any shinobi rank below a kage, a division leader, or the head jounin could only get you that far in politics..."

Naruto nodded at that, "In my case however..."

"You're untouchable by anyone but the Hokage..." Itachi murmured, "However..."

"My status as jinchuuriki makes me important to Konoha as a weapon, well... hardly any difference compared to the forbidden scroll Hokage-sama keeps in the Hokage Tower's archives..." Naruto rolled his eyes when he saw Shisui flinch. "of those who care of my political standing... Hokage-sama, Hakurei and The Tower..."

"You have my father's support." Itachi added without hesitation. "Well... not openly, unfortunately..."

Naruto smiled at that, "I would be worried if he'd give it openly." Naruto assured the younger Uchiha, "It's going to cause unrest... but still... at this rate... Hokage-sama is in our way."

The Uchiha cousins froze, "What did you say?!" Shisui asked in disbelief.

"He is in our way." Naruto repeated without remorse, "I have no intention of being indulged in the bliss of ignorance... it's not helping me or anyone as far as I'm concerned."

Itachi swallowed, "You're talking about your heritage?"

Naruto sighed, "No, I will let the status of my heritage be as it is for now... "

The Uchiha's scion frowned, it seemed even Naruto was reaching his line of patience. Naruto was very possessive of his legacy, which was no wonder as he spent most of his life thinking he was unwanted and had nothing of his root to hold onto. Naruto loathed to be kept away from his legacy more than anything, and he had no intention to let those legacies left by his parents out of his reach forever.

"Then what do you want? In spite of everything he cares about you..." Shisui murmured.

"Unfortunately what I want and what he thought is the best for me is not the same..." Naruto answered coolly, "It does not matter what I feel for him, but I won't get anywhere with being safe! Like it or not... sooner or later I will make a decision that will greatly disappoint him... I am not a little boy he could keep ignorant of the world!"


Naruto sighed wearily, "Does that count as insubordination? Ha ha ha... am I disappointing you now?"

Itachi shook his head. "Naruto... you know we promised you that no matter what we will always be your ally, your friends... and one day if I have to choose between being loyal to you or Hokage-sama, I will choose you."

The younger boy tensed, "That's... a rather big promise, even for you Itachi... "

"I am serious." Itachi stated.

Shisui nodded eagerly, "What Itachi said..."

Naruto laughed softly at that, they're really serious for choosing him over their lord and in extension Konoha itself. What he had done to deserve them? He was a jinchuuriki and the heir of the Uzumaki clan, but Itachi and Shisui were here by his side for him alone. It won't be fair if he didn't promise the same right?

"Then I will promise you the same... even if your family, clan, this village... and the world itself betrays you, I will be always be on your side no matter what."

Two weeks later

Shisui and Itachi were both sent to a long term ANBU mission that would take at least a few weeks to complete, and by the Sandaime's estimation they would be back in two weeks. So it was left to Naruto to form a team with either the Shiomitsu siblings or the Sanseki siblings, though Hakurei requested the Sanseki siblings to stay in the tower until they were used living their new life, free of Danzou's influence. Apparently like any other children of Ne, both brothers were socially crippled. Hiruzen had asked for a more thorough explanation about the children's mental state, and even offered to assign a Yamanaka for help. Hakurei, however refused and reasoned that both Sai and Shin by Shinobi standards were not really mentally ill, all they needed was time to adjust with their life. The Sandaime could do nothing but give in, and let Hakurei handle his boys.

However it was not the newly introduced Sanseki siblings that concerned him, not as much as the solemn child before him.

"C rank... "Naruto murmured, "A small village in Na no Kuni is in need us to protect their greenhouse for the incoming storms?"

Sarutobi nodded, he didn't know if it was just him or if there was really a tint of disappointment in Naruto's voice lately whenever he requested a mission. "By right it's a D rank, but the sheer workload makes it a C rank." He explained loftily. Of course he didn't miss the clenched fist or a brief spark of chakra Tokusa and Yuzuriha made. The Shiomitsu siblings were displeased he made their young master to do such mundane job.

Naruto nodded, "Well... considering I have kage-bunshin in my repertoire, it's an efficient choice... Hokage-sama."He said, beaming at the old kage.

He had spent too much time around Hakurei lately that even Naruto's statement sounded like there's a tint of sarcasm on it. Or maybe Naruto was indeed subtly being sarcastic with him. Naruto had been a chuunin for almost half a year, and yet his missions were mostly C and D ranks with the exception of one B rank mission. That B rank itself was an escort mission that ranked that high because the client was an important diplomat for Hi no Kuni and was very anal about proper conducts of nobility, and so was prone to be displeased by a Shinobi's crude manners. Naruto was chosen because he was one of few shinobi in his village who knows how to deal with pompous nobles, and what a right choice that was since the diplomat was very pleased by the 'nice shinobi boy' and specifically requested Naruto to be the only shinobi assigned for his escort in the future. While it pleased the Sandaime, he couldn't help but think Naruto was also suited to be one of the Daimyou's guards like his son.

Asuma from what he heard was having a hard time with politics in the capital, and sooner or later Asuma would come back to Konoha, after all he already has a nice bounty on his head as proof that he is not just a kage's son. Anyone wanted acknowledgement, both his son and Naruto. However he couldn't push Naruto more than they already had with promoting him to Chuunin at eight, and the least he could do was to not send him to dangerous battlefields like he did with Kakashi. There already have been too many prodigies this village broke, starting from his own broken team, Hatake Kakashi, and at this rate if he was not careful Naruto, Itachi and Shisui would join the list. He couldn't do much for Itachi and Shisui who were under the Uchiha clan, but he could still do something for Naruto. He would hold Naruto back, he won't let Minato's son be broken like the other prodigies before him.

'Don't even try to swim against a whirlpool's current, you're just going to be pulled in.'

"Naruto-kun." Sarutobi called the boy out when he was about to leave mission office.

Naruto turned to face the old kage, a puzzled expression on his face. "Yes, Hokage-sama?"

I just want you to be safe and happy, that's what he wanted to say but he couldn't. "Have a safe journey... Naruto-kun."

Naruto smiled softly at that, "Yes of course... Hokage-sa..." He shook his head, "Jii-chan."

The old kage smiled at that, how long it has been since the last time Naruto called him like that? Too long... As the door closed the old kage was in a much better mood than he had for the last few months.

On the the other side of the door Naruto sighed, now he really felt guilty deceiving his surrogate grandfather. Then again he had been lied to for most of his short life, and people said ignorance is bliss, to Naruto it was anything but bliss, it was hell. He learned that he was much happier to know he was almost universally hated in Konoha for his jinchuuriki status rather than being clueless and wandering helplessly in that hellhole of solitude. He had friends, family, people who cared of him now, and if what it takes to protect them was lying to the whole world, then so be it!

"Naruto-sama?" Yuzuriha's voice snapped him out of his thought. "Are you alright?"

Naruto blinked owlishly, they had been out of Hokage's tower and his subordinates were worried that he hadn't said a thing since they left the mission room. "Ah yes, I am fine Yuzuriha." He narrowed his eyes as they walked to direction of Konoha's gate. "Don't let your guard down, failure is not an option for this mission." Of course he was not talking about the mission of helping farmers in Komugi no Kuni. But the one Itachi wanted to strangle him for, seriously, they had agreed in the end though.

Hi no Kuni's border

They had set a camp for today, a base of operations as they swept through Hi no Kuni's borders. Takigakure was having one of their annual mass training routines, which focused really close to their border. Actually the Hokage himself believed the chance of Taki plotting against Konoha was non-existent. While the alliance between Konoha and Taki was pretty loose, Takigakure had no reason to attack Konoha. There's too large a gap in military power between Konoha and Taki, and the minor village owed Konoha a lot of debt. The ANBU presence here was just a warning for Taki to not get any ideas, but mostly to get Danzou off the Sandaime's back for letting another hidden village have an annual training very close to their border.

Uchiha Shisui sighed as he looked at his cousin. Said cousin was still as expressionless as ever, if there was one Uchiha's traditional code that Itachi honored, it was keeping one's emotion in control during a mission. They were not in hostile territory, but a shinobi could never let their guard down in a mission. Shisui could tell that Itachi was restless, and he had not stopped poking the campfire with his stick.

"Itachi... you're still worried about him?" The other was out hunting for food so they had the camp all for themselves.

The younger Uchiha sighed, "I am..." After a long while of silence Itachi spoke again. "He shouldn't go ahead with that plan."

"Unfortunately..." Shisui trailed off, "He has to do something, sooner or later, you're not expecting him to stay idle and let Hokage-sama hold him back forever, are you?"

"No." Itachi agreed, "But I still don't like it..."

"Neither I do." Shisui shrugged, "We must trust Naruto though... no matter what."

"Of course..." Itachi murmured, "We promised each other... he promised..."

Shisui laughed softly, "But since when did the world care? Our clan, especially our elders never cared... I wish there are more people like cousin Obito around, maybe our clan could be considered decent sociable individuals then. If not for Uchiha like us and him, I would have thought the Uchiha are born intrinsically with sticks up our asses."

Somewhere in Kirigakure, certain orange masked Uchiha sneezed.

I stop reading Naruto after everyone declare I will be the Hokage... the stupidity... so I care not of canon anymore fuck it!