Snap Back To Reality 60?
Nara Shikaku Part 1
He was the youngest Nara Clan head in history. The youngest Jounin Commander too. In his 25 years of life, Nara Shikaku had accomplished quite a lot that people would find hard pressed to do in their entire career. Accepting his position as Jounin Commander during the start of the Third Shinobi War had been an honour but also the hardest decision he had ever made. Normally Jounin Commanders got to ease in a few years before kicking straight into organising and deploying a war effort. Not to mention getting married in that mess had been rather stressful if not rewarding too.
If only he'd known how intrinsically linked the position of Jounin commander was to Village politics… then he might have reconsidered and saved himself the troublesome nightmare of having to manage political officials. He shivered at the very word. Shinobi thought they delt in subterfuge and secrets, but they paled in comparison to politicians. Normally he would spit on the ground and curse their very titles, but as he'd very quickly found out a Jounin Commander really was just a politician. He'd joined the devils unwittingly. Maybe the only thing in his life he hadn't planned for.
He'd spent the better half of the supposed best years of his life without a vacation and he was still denied one. It was all very troublesome. Once in a while though even he was expected to just shut down and turn the power off lest he went insane… or that should have been what happened, but one pesky little girl ruined all his plans of relaxation.
Ah Suzuki Hina, the sudden bane of his life.
Don't get him wrong, he did like her. For the better half of 5 years he had watched the curiosity of a child grow, gaining an understanding of the world he hadn't seen so quickly develop until he met Uchiha Itachi. In a way he was kind of like a pseudo uncle, so to have found out his pseudo niece was branded with a cursed seal, tortured, made part to take in illegal fights to the death with fellow Shinobi, and worst of all—forced to kill her own parents, was a metaphorical kick to the balls. Really, he was Nara Shikaku, youngest Jounin Commander, and Nara Clan head in history, and he hadn't even noticed the plight of one child under his care until it was too late.
As he'd learnt soon enough, there were things he had to do that would haunt him for the rest of his life. Every man, woman, and child he sent out on those missions would be on his head. And there had been many an occasion where he knew he was sending out good people to die a losing battle all for the greater good. And after 6 years of continuous war, Shikaku could say with absolute clarity that he had the highest kill count of any Shinobi in Konoha, and it weighed heavy on his conscience because it was his people that he had killed.
He didn't think he'd ever be able to live down the horror of the decisions he'd made, or that he'd ever sleep a night without waking up wondering if he could have done things differently. In the sea of horrifying things he'd done, Suzuki Hina had only been a small part, but her actions brought him to where he was now, cleaning a bigger mess even after a war. He supposed he deserved it. Not that he was keen to take in anymore children under his care after what he'd done.
"How is their progress going?" he asked Hanami.
The limping Iryo-nin now fully retired from the hospital life pulled out her cane and looked pleased. The two Kaguya boys were play fighting with kunai but for their ages they were extremely nimble and quick. They were no doubt going to be great assets in the future.
"You know you could ask how it is they're doing. They're not just assets," Hanami said lightly, although she was still chiding.
She'd lost all her reverence for him after the war. Shikaku had no doubt it was because of the lives she'd lost working in the hospital, all the limbs she couldn't save, all the scorn and adoration melding together for the lives of the people she had under her thumb. In some ways they were incredibly similar… hence why the irreverence. It was hard to hold awe for someone so like yourself.
"I know. I know, which is why I'm going to push for the graduation age to be twelve minimum. They'll have a few more years to be children, but that doesn't mean we can let them slack," he said smiling.
Contrary to what people believed Shikaku didn't consider the children he took into his Clan to be 'assets'. Sure the practical side of him knew that they were that in title, but he liked to think the defining difference between him and Danzo was that people were never just assets to him. They partially were when the situation called for it, but he knew that they were people regardless of their role. Because of the nature of the help he was allowed to give, they would inevitably become Shinobi, even if they didn't truly want it, but he'd rather they be a living Shinobi than a dead one. So if he pushed for excellence, it was because of worry, but most importantly because he didn't want any more deaths on his conscience than was necessary.
He made sacrifices. Chose who to live and who to die. That was something he couldn't run away from, and so he chose to be logical about it. But despite all his efforts, it was always personal in the end, even if it hurt him more that way… a part of him whispered he deserved it.
"How long do you think it'll take before that becomes a law?" Hanami replied in amusement, snatching him from his thoughts.
Shikaku smiled back tiredly. "Years I know. They say all good things take time, but I say it's just that the systems a drag and needs to be changed."
He turned back to the children and decided to help them with their Shurikenjutsu for a little while. The joys of being a caregiver.
Yawning loudly in the middle of a Council meeting earnt him several glares. Shikaku was so unfazed by the looks of disapproval he just patted his mouth and gestured for everyone to continue. It seemed only the Hokage had a sense of humour in this drab place.
"As you can see syphoning our direct combat forces towards our other departments is strengthening Konoha, not hindering it. For too long our Shinobi have gone out to fight and die when they've had other more useful abilities," Hiruzen continued on.
Shikaku had a feeling Hiruzen was really only doing this to ease the guilt he felt for putting his people through hell for 6 years. As a man who'd gone through nearly all the Shinobi Wars, Shikaku thought it was a miracle he hadn't turned into a blubbering, incoherent tortured mess. One war was enough to mess him up for life.
"It takes away from the strength of the forces we're deploying out for missions work however," Homura interjected.
"Yes, but at the most we need an average of 3 Jounin to accomplish those tasks," Hiruzen countered.
Council meetings seemed to go on and on and on like this until he was on the verge of sleeping. It didn't matter anyway. Most of the time he was the one tasked with carrying out the orders and he'd just let it 'slip' and do what he thought best anyway—which to be honest was almost always the right choice. The Council didn't like him very much, and it had mostly been Danzo making an effort to oppose him, and now it seemed Homura was taking up the free position of most annoying dumbass in the role.
He'd barely noticed that the meeting had ended until the Sandaime woke him up with a flick to the forehead. Shikaku grumbled his distaste as he held the offended spot and got up from his seat to pick up his files. He pretended that the Hokage wasn't laughing at his plight.
"You've been overworking yourself again? What did I tell you about letting your Clansmen take care of Clan matters for a while? You can't be all things at once," Hiruzen said, chiding lightly.
"They are a troublesome lot. They'd probably fall asleep on the job or get side-tracked by some idiot playing a riddle game," Shikaku grumbled.
Yes, his Clansmen had the unfortunate curse of being smart but far too easily distracted or unmotivated. Him on the other hand… well he thought he might be crazy for putting all this work on himself. Certainly no sane man would take on as much as he did.
"Before you go Shikaku, there's a matter I wanted to discuss with you."
"If it's something troublesome can we do it tomorrow?" he groaned.
"No, it's about Suzuki Hina."
"So then tomorrow—" he snorted in amusement.
Hiruzen shook his head with a smile, but it didn't reach his eyes. Recently the Sandaime had become more introspective, taking a long time to think before he came to a conclusion. Before he had been steadfast and quick. Shikaku wondered if his age was finally getting to him—although the man was only in his late 40's.
"She's been discreet about it, but her dealings with the Uchiha haven't gone past my notice. I know you've contacted her before. What is it that she wants?"
"If you're asking whether or not she's a threat to the Village—then in my opinion she's not. She's too loyal to her family and friends to ever think of betrayal. As for the Uchiha, she has it in her head that Fugaku should be your successor."
Hiruzen looked onward in a sort of reflective thought at that. He took a long drag of his pipe before his ruminations finally seemed to take hold.
"I can see the potential within that choice, but the Uchiha have always had a shaky relationship with the Village. An Uchiha Hokage right after such a turbulent period would not be wise. Why would she not endorse Namikaze Minato instead? She worked under the man, hadn't she?"
"She did, but she surprisingly made some good points on the state of leadership. She is convinced that power isn't what dictates a good leader, nor the will to sacrifice. She feels that Fugaku would be better served to make good decisions out of shrewdness," Shikaku explained.
"Then why wouldn't she ask for Orochimaru?"
"Really Hokage-sama," Shikaku asked in exasperation.
"I had thought she would feel more connection to her sensei. Knowing that he gave her the mark of a child of his Clan had given me hope that he'd begun to reconnect to the people here." Hiruzen lamented some vague ideal of his student, but Shikaku was far too emotionally removed to understand.
"I doubt he did. She's shown a healthy amount of fear when she is with him. I suspect his 'training' wasn't anything kind, but she is loyal to him in a way. She won't betray him, but she won't follow him either. She made it clear she has her own agenda," Shikaku continued on tiredly.
"So an independent soul," the Sandaime mused.
"A troublesome soul is what she is," he snorted.
"Yes, I see she's brought two more under your care. How are the Kaguya children doing?"
"They miss their mother, and they fight rough, but after a bit of adjusting it seems they've taken to the Konoha life and get along with the other Clan children. I've started them on basic foot work and katas as well as hand seals."
Hiruzen frowned at that and Shikaku knew why. For someone who was trying to push forward the age of graduation to 12 indefinitely, it was hypocritical of him to start them on the Shinobi path so early. But their mother had departed her pacifist ideology into them and Shikaku didn't think that was a safe way of thinking in this world. It had killed her, and it would kill them. Violence was a necessary evil.
"Soon there will be more Kekkai Genkai bloodlines to add to our stronghold. The Yuki Clan has asked for aid after hearing what we did for the Kaguya Clan members, and word of two more Clan's seeking to leave has reached our ear," Hiruzen explained.
"That's going to pose a troublesome security risk," Shikaku groaned.
He knew very well who all that irritating work was going to fall on. He would soon be drowning coming up with a system to manage such an influx of foreign Shinobi. They were always at the highest risk of turning traitor or causing issues within the Village's subtle balance. More kekkai genkai was always appreciated, but only if it could be controlled and regulated so as to not pose an internal risk. Konoha couldn't afford something like that right now. Ah the joys of managing domestic terrorist risks…
"We should begin preparations now. Inform the civil engineers of a new district. We could clear out training field 32 since no one apparently uses it. At least 5 blocks of land can be afforded there, enough for a small residence."
"No need to jump the horse Shikaku," Sarutobi said stopping him. "Let your overworked brain rest for today. In a week you will have your time to plan and think. I will be expecting your opinion within the Council for the seat of the next Hokage."
"You already know my opinion. I had a very persuasive campaigner convince me," he snorted wryly.
"Yes, but things may change, or they may not. Time will only tell, but for now I wish to speak to the little campaigner. I want to see for myself what drives her thinking."
"Have fun with that. I'm going to go to bed and rid myself of this mess for the day," Shikaku groaned, rubbing his forehead.
"Of course. Take a day off."
Shikaku never thought he'd hear that in his life. Without word he escaped for his bed. His sweet, sweet bed.
Sure enough rest wasn't something he was afforded. Shikaku woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of his sleeping wife and frowned as he looked up at the drab ceiling restlessly. After trying for another hour to sleep, he accepted defeat and silently got out to go grab himself a drink, and then he took that drink out to his garden porch and sat down on his rock garden. His wife liked cloud watching. Shikaku preferred losing himself to the rockscape he had painstakingly made and maintained every day. When he looked at the curved lines of the sand formation, how it led effortlessly to the pond where the sōzu caught the water, and the bamboo then weighted dropped the water before perking up again, he felt almost at peace. That was life after all. He was the sōzu, fated to take too much, to drop, and get up again only to continue the endless process.
He sighed as he drank the rest of his sake. His thoughts turned to work once more, but to something specifically. He tried to think about the situation entirely. Something was amiss. It irked him to not know exactly what it was, but it struck out in his head as something important. While the war had ended, he felt like it was simply the precursor to something bigger… something worse, and that ominous feeling had him going through everything he could think of.
For some reason tonight his thoughts turned to one green haired brat. He shut his eyes and tried to think. It was her mission… there was something off about it. This war had been waged of the coattails of the last one, but the way both Iwa and Kumo seemed to combine together so perfectly had been unnatural. While they no doubt resented Konoha, it made no sense for those opposing forces to rally together without fighting each other eventually. Then there was the little fact that he knew someone was exacerbating tensions between other smaller villages and Konoha. Some outside force was inciting unrest and creating wars. What other reason would Mist have to see Konoha as an aggressor.
Shikaku crossed his arms and wondered if maybe Danzo was a contributor. Over the weeks he'd been uncovering more and more of the old war monger's plans, but mostly it delt in sabotaging surrounding nations economies to keep them down and not a threat. The Land of Rice had been absolutely ravaged by Danzo and ROOT mostly, although people seemed to blame Kumo and Iwa in their part in the matter. Shikaku however knew it was mostly Danzo's work. Konoha had rich fertile land whereas Kumo and Iwa did not. Destroying their biggest source of grain had been what kept them from truly winning the war. It made sense that the Shinobi in Rice had sided with Iwa in the war.
He tried to look past the fact that Konoha had illegally tried to take control of the Land of Rice's leadership body. It seemed to have been a failed endeavour, but he didn't put it past ROOT to dig a hole in that land to expand their base somewhere ideal. A middle ground to infiltrate both Iwa and Kumo, as ridiculously impossible as that sounded. But he was sure there were spies lying in wait in both countries who were of ROOT origin now. He just needed to find a way to contact them, have them look into any potential correspondence between Iwa and Kumo to Kiri.
"You're thinking too hard."
Shikaku kept still as Yoshino ran her fingers over his shoulder to massage the tense muscles into relaxation. It was in times like this that his demon of a wife was actually an angle. Shikaku smiled as he kissed her lips in silent thanks.
"Are you thinking about the vote?" Yoshino asked.
"Hmm… maybe. It has been on my mind. I wonder if she's right…"
"Hina-chan?" Yoshino asked.
Shikaku nodded and sighed. "She asked for more than an endorsement from me. She wants me to actively push for Fugaku."
"Will you?" Yoshino asked, raising a brow.
Shikaku paused and wondered if he would. He trusted Minato. That man had more than proved himself as the next Hokage. If it wasn't for his age, everyone in the entirety of Konoha would demand it. But the matter of the fact was, that Hina was right, strength wasn't enough for what was to come. Minato was a smart man, and Shikaku wouldn't tone down the blonde's ability to strategize in battle, or to think outside of the box, but the matter of the fact remained that it took about a year and a half of political study before a Jounin could understand the varying degree of work that came with the position. Being Hokage was more than just being the strongest. It required a keen mind, and a knowledge of governmental process.
If things were done properly then Hiruzen would have elected Minato, given him a year to prepare himself for the duty, and then remained on as advisor. As of now Shikaku was sure Hiruzen was backing down from any official duty as a kind of self-exile for his mistakes. Shikaku had a feeling they didn't have a year to prepare Minato, or in this case, let him prepare himself while also doing his duties. Shikaku was also more than certain he would invoke a thorough investigation into Orochimaru should he be voted in. The only remaining candidate he could see working now was the Uchiha Clan Head.
"He's the logical decision," Shikaku replied finally.
"Come on dear, you know I'm not stupid. The civilians have changed their minds, but everyone's golden boy is Namikaze Minato right now. It will take a miracle to break through years of prejudice against the Uchiha enough to vote Fugaku in," Yoshino challenged.
His wife was, as usual, right. Shikaku couldn't see Fugaku being voted in, not really. He had no idea what political repercussions they would have if an Uchiha was voted in. Public opinion did matter despite the public not really getting a say. The leadership role of Hokage only really worked if everyone respected him without questioning his character, and Fugaku wasn't the easiest of people to talk to. In that vein of things he was often seen more akin to a sterner Kage like the ones often found in Suna and Kumo.
But his gut was telling him to somehow make it happen. Hina, while being a pain in the ass normally, was right about this. She had a vested interest in not repeating the same mistakes of the past, having experienced it herself, and Shikaku wasn't so eager to let someone into the Hokage position he wasn't sure would be fit for the job. Maybe in a more peaceful time Minato would have been the perfect Hokage but having someone so green to Konoha's political landscape enter during such a tumult time was unwise. Shikaku had a feeling he needed someone in power who could uncover this invisible threat that eluded them.
"I've been too passive," Shikaku decided. "I think it's about time I sent a letter to the Daimyo and invited Inoichi over for dinner."
"I understand convincing the Daimyo, but why Inoichi?" Yoshino asked.
"I can't speak with such flowery words," Shikaku snorted in amusement, "but Inoichi can. He will get all the Clan Head approvals for me… if I manage to convince him that is."
"You have too much faith in him," Yoshino rolled her eyes.
"You have too little faith in me," Shikaku countered with a playful smile.
"Can you blame an unsatisfied woman like me?" she countered with an evil look.
Shikaku shot his head in her direction in genuine shock. "Unsatisfied?! My performance is more than satisfactory!"
"Oh you mean when you tied to me to bedpost and rocked your hips a little?" she snorted. "Yes, oh so creative and unsatisfying."
Shikaku jumped his wife, and she dodged his hand, but he countered, sweeping her leg, and throwing her off balance, then he twisted her into a grapple on the ground. Yoshino laughed as she easily reversed the grip and pulled her legs around Shikaku's neck before holding his arms behind him.
"Maybe I should tie you up next?" she said, voice almost too sultry to mean anything else.
"Only if you can," Shikaku countered as his clone disappeared and Yoshino fell to the ground looking up in shock to see her real husband having been idle behind her. Before she could blink an eye, he had her form locked under his, and he ripped off the rope holding the blinds before tying her hands to her feet. Shikaku grinned in victory, but he should have known he wasn't the one winning in this situation because his wife looked up at him with lustful knowing eyes and he realised she'd just goaded him into fulfilling her desires.
"Oh, you clever troublesome woman," he chuckled.
"Well, it's good to know you can get creative with these rope positions," she smiled slyly. "Want to see what other ways my body can bend? Hmm?"
Shikaku licked his lips. Did he ever.
Yoshino had infinite stamina, and Shikaku honestly just wanted to rest, but he'd been played like a fiddle, and he had to admit his wife knew how to get what she wanted from him. It was honestly as respectable as it was scary. He was more than certain that if he had married any other woman, they would have had a hard time getting him to please them at all. Yoshino was smart though, and he appreciated that more than anything. He also appreciated that she wrote him the most flowery letter possible to send to the Daimyo that morning, kissing him passionately before she told him she'd write more if they continued. Unfortunately for Shikaku he had work, and he needed to remind his wife that she had Clan duties as well as work to do in the Intelligence department. She reluctantly let him go, but not without letting him know they were going to continue this later.
He decided to take a trip to the Kaguya boys. He walked over to their little house, where once Hina had run around worked to the bone. Instead there were two little boys now, white hair in a frazzle as they laughed and played. They turned to him, and their smiled widened considerably, eyes lighting up in joy as they laughed and bounded into his arms. Shikaku laughed freely too. Children had a way of overpowering you with their innocence and good nature. He hadn't remembered feeling this way about Hina, although she had been odd even back then.
"Shi-san! Look I learnt how to trip Kim-chan!" Kota shouted excitedly.
Shikaku watched as the boy tripped his quieter twin who landed on his butt. Shikaku paused for a second as Kimimaro looked up wide eyed in disbelief before the pain set in and he cried. Hearing the sound, Hanami limped her way out and hit Kota over his head with her walking stick before picking up his crying brother. Shikaku shook his head in amusement as Kota just grumbled. Most other children would be crying too, but the little brat had a hard head, literally and metaphorically. He was also the natural troublemaker of the two.
"You know you shouldn't do that unless you're both on mats!" Hanami scolded.
Kota ran away and Hanami puffed up her cheeks irritated before letting it all out in a breathy grumble of her own. She looked beyond stressed. Kimimaro seemed to pick it up and held her cheeks with his stubby hands placatingly and the woman visibly deflated.
"Having trouble with the kids?" Shikaku asked sympathetically.
"Kota really tests my patience. Hina was such an obedient child… I shouldn't have taken her for granted," Hanami said, before she turned to Kimimaro and smiled. "And this little gaki is rather well behaved too. Now if only your brother could have some sense knocked into him."
"I'll take him off your hands for a bit," Shikaku said, angling his arms out prematurely.
"Really?" Hanami asked, jerking forward a little startled, before hastily passing the child over before he changed his mind.
"I'm sure Kota-kun is off somewhere crying. I'll leave you to the messy work while I still have the chance," Shikaku said, his mouth betraying at it pulled upward in amusement.
Shikaku reconsidered having a child when Hanami's expression turned irritated again the moment, she hobbled off to finding the boy. He was half certain that his own child would be just as troublesome… but when he looked down at Kimimaro's big red eyes he reconsidered again.
"We'll get something sweet to eat. That always helps the pain," Shikaku said, smiling.
"Chocolate?" Kimimaro asked, eyes widening.
The boy cutely kept still and silent, only ever making small comments on things he didn't understand, like 'what was that man smoking' or 'why is the sky blue'… you know just general questions. Shikaku was glad for once to have been asked questions he could actually answer… although he wasn't too sure about the science of why the sky was blue. It didn't matter anyway, not when Kimimaro just took his words for things.
"Here we are," Shikaku mumbled as he put the boy down on a highchair by the table held up his hand. The store owner grinned his way, not really needing to come his way before he served up his favourite triple decker rainbow ice-cream blitz.
"And what would the young man like?"
"What Shi-san got!"
"Are you sure?" Shikaku asked, giving the boy a curious look. "Ok just get him a one serving chocolate ice-cream. In a cone."
Shikaku was certain that he made the right decision in taking Kimimaro with him, because the boy was incredibly silent as he ate his ice-cream, but the silence was calming more than it was awkward and tense. It was perfect… until a strike of green caught his eye in the corner, and he sighed.
"Why are you hiding Hina?" he asked.
Said girl poked her head out of the indoor plant, the dirt falling from her head as the fern lolled over her head like it was just an extension of her body. A lopsided smile took her face before her eyes widened in shock as the door behind him burst open. Like a plant creature about to hibernate, she shot back into the pot leaving her invisible again. Shikaku turned around to see Might Guy stumble into the store, face red, armed head to toe in weighted belts. He looked like a Genin's nightmare imitation of a wrapped present. The oddity of the situation made his brain go blank, and Shikaku took to eating a spoon full of ice-cream and ignoring it to maintain his sanity.
"Sorry to interrupt your fine establishment! But an EXTREMELY YOUTHFUL, VERY B-B-BEAUTIFUL friend of mine was said to have come this way! I was told she had something to show me!"
The store owner gave the little Shinobi an irritated expression, as did the rest of the customers who glowered his way for ruining their peace, but Guy simply didn't seem to notice. Instead he looked expectantly at the store owner who was trying his best, and failing, not to look at the potted plant. Shikaku turned to see Hina shaking her head vigorously at the man, who turned back to the boy, sighed, and shook his head.
"No one's here kid. Now scram and don't ruin the peace!"
With that Guy ran out of the store and Hina emerged from the pot, picking up the plant on her head as she lopped her legs over the pot and placed it back in there, with a nervous look to the store owner. He pointed to the most expensive item on the menu with a searing glower and she chuckled tightly before handing over the money quickly. Shikaku gestured her over and she nodded, dusting the dirt of her head before making her way over to him.
"Hey Shikaku-san," she greeted sheepishly.
Her smile was quickly wiped away when she saw the boy sitting to the other side of him. Shikaku turned to see Kimimaro looking wide-eyed at Hina and the girl seemed stuck into place.
"This is Hina-san. She's the one who helped you escape Kiri," Shikaku introduced.
"I know," the boy said, his voice barely carrying over a whisper as he went back to eat his chocolate ice-cream silently.
"Want to tell me what all that was about?" Shikaku asked, hoping to drive the conversation to somewhere a little less awkward for everyone, although it seemed Hina found this particular conversation just as mortifying if her red cheeks were anything to go by.
"G-Guy um… he… he admires me," she squeaked, eyes looking anywhere but at him. "But yeah, Anko thought it would be funny to tell him I'd prepared the most epic present for him… and I think he thinks it's training. But you know Guy—if it's that epic, it'll probably mean my limbs won't work for another two weeks."
"You're rambling," Shikaku snorted, holding back his amusement. "But that's never stopped you before."
"I have things to do," Hina grumbled as she took a seat next to him, and turned to give the store owner a sheepish smile as he handed her an ice-cream with a glare.
"What things exactly? I seem to recall signing you up for R&D for a month. It isn't that busy of a job," Shikaku asked, narrowing his eyes at her.
Hina seemed to pause, looking up like a deer caught in headlights. She licked her ice-cream and muttered something under her breath.
"Well you know, just talking to some people." Shikaku raised a brow and she broke, giving him one long scrutinising look before she continued. "Ok, ok, I was just doing some networking. I'll have you know, trying to get a hearing with the Daimyo isn't an easy task."
Shikaku had to hold back his surprise, not that he knew why he should be surprised in the first place. He made an effort to take better note of his surroundings, dropping his wallet, to turn around and get a better view of the place before he sat back in his seat satisfied. No one was watching or listening… but he felt the need to be careful anyway.
"Just some legal advice here, but it's against the law to summon the Daimyo himself unless you're an official in some capacity. He doesn't simply come to the whims of a child."
"Well I wouldn't expect him to," Hina said rolling her eyes in her usual snarky way. "He's coming anyway to help elect the new Hokage. I'm simply… diverting his attention for a little while when he's here."
He put down his spoon and felt her hands inch up defensively to her side when he next turned to her. Shikaku fixed his growing frown into something more neutral.
"You are walking into dangerous waters Hina. It's not a request when I tell you to stop, now it's an order," he said.
She replied with the same defiant frown on her face, slitted eyes narrowing like an agitated wild animal, and hair ruffling slightly with wind chakra as her jaw set firmly on her face. When she realised she had broken the cone in her hand she was holding, she pulled back. She made to speak and held her tongue for a moment, her breathing taking a more even tone as she seemed to gain her bearings again.
"Sit down, listen, and obey. I've been told those things before Shikaku-san. You know where it got me?" she asked, wiping her hand on tissue paper. "It got my parents killed, and a teammate dead. I assure you, I have full understanding of what is and isn't in my rights to do."
"You have someone aiding you? It's the Chinsei family isn't it?" he asked.
"Yes, they have a legal team, and what we're doing is mutually beneficial for the both of us. Purely business," Hina said evenly as she got up and turned to Shikaku. "And this isn't Shinobi business, so I know full well you have no right to tell me what to do here."
"Careful Hina, you don't have as many rights as you seem to think you do," Shikaku said stiffly.
It needed to be said, as a warning if nothing else. She was reckless, bounding forward and meddling into things that could easily find her dead. There were more people involved in electing a Hokage than she knew of. Still, he snapped out of his anger when Kimimaro held his shirt, bright red eyes searching his as if to find out why he had wound himself so tightly. It took a second later for Shikaku to realise he was just as defensive as Hina was right now. There was a sudden edge in her eyes, one he had seen on other Shinobi in the middle of battle. In that moment he was the enemy and that had never been his intention.
"That's been made clear already," she said in sudden bitterness.
And for a girl whose consent had never mattered when it came down to it, his warning may as well have reinforced the way she viewed Konoha. He sighed, wondering why she'd come now when he was on edge, and trying to take a break from this very thing. He didn't want to be the cause for a future traitor.
"Hina—it wasn't meant that way. You know it as well as I do. Not everyone has your best interests at heart. Keep your head down. You've just come out of a mess that will still follow you for a while… if you jump into another, it could end very badly."
"It will eventually either way, but this time I'll be making my own choices, and I won't fail," she said getting out of her chair, and sending him one last withering look before she strode out of the establishment, closing the door loudly behind her.
"She's always angry, just like Kota," Kimimaro said.
"Sometimes people who're scared get angry and they lash out," Shikaku said, turning back to his now mostly melted ice-cream.
"Is that why Kota's always angry at Hanami-chan… because he's scared of her?" Kimimaro asked.
"She is scary," Shikaku chuckled.
But really, it was because on some level Kota knew that they weren't saved, not truly, and not in the way that mattered. He was right to be scared. It was the people who weren't that lived quietly, happily, and ignorantly.
And that's the story of how Shikamaru was conceived :P I don't know why but when I started writing Yoshino, she just came of as playful and bold, and the kind of wife that will force her husband to have some fun once in a while XD God knows Shikaku needs a woman who initiates.
Also this and the next chapter were so incredibly hard for me to write. Don't get me wrong, I love writing politics, but it's just not something I'm very good at. It usually just involves me trying to navigate the minds of a bunch of smart old men, and that makes my brain go smooth. I'm so out of my depth here. But if Brandon Sanderson, a 40-year-old man, can write the most relatable teenage female protagonist I've ever read, then it's only fair that I try my best to nail down old men XD