Snap Back To Reality 68
Uchiha Fugaku Part I
The task of being Hokage wasn't something lightly taken. Every hour of every day was considered work. Those precious few hours of sleep was just that—precious and a very lite reprieve from work. For someone who had been used to working quite hard and quite often, it wasn't a big leap, but it was a noticeable one. Those precious two or three hours a day of spare time had vanished entirely. Fugaku didn't mind though. Very little men who wanted to mean anything in this world would complain about such an opportunity, especially if it meant the survival of a Clan on the brink of mutiny. What that child had set into motion then, had to be a blessing form the heavens itself.
Fugaku had begun a task of systematically and logistically cleaning up Konoha's bureaucracy. Not that he would touch the format in which Konoha exported with nobles, but everything else was up for grabs. It started with getting rid of Koharu and Homura, although getting rid off was a loose term, especially since during their tenure as advisors they had overstepped their boundaries and enforced laws and protections upon their position. But as it stood the Hokage had considerable power over everyone in Konoha. He could legally order the murder of an innocent civilian and it would be within his rights. It was a mildly frightening thought in the early days, but the more he got involved in this position, the more he realised how Konoha ran itself on this idealistic idea of leadership and comradery. Fugaku was never one to scoff on the 'Will of Fire' but he was beginning to see the cracks in the system.
One bad Hokage and that was all it took to ruin the entire system. Maybe there was some credit to the nepotism displayed by the previous Hokages. To allow someone into the position even slightly lacking in morale character, and suddenly the system would fail. A Hokage was expected to uphold the values of the Will of Fire because it was a set of beliefs that ruled the core of the majority of Konoha, and those beliefs were not at all backed by law or legislation. Fugaku had the power to go against everything Konoha stood for. He wasn't going to do it.
Itachi broke him out of his thoughts, having thrown three perfect consecutive shuriken's at the dummies centre. Fugaku watched silently from the veranda. His son was a prodigy, a fine Shinobi in the making, and someone Fugaku was proud of, though he rarely showed it. When Itachi turned to him, he bowed. It was a respectful sign towards his Hokage and Clan leader, not a gesture a son would often take when seeing their father. Fugaku wondered if it was a loss that his son saw him as nothing more than a figure head.
"Father," he greeted.
"Your shurikenjutsu is improving, but if you want more effective and faster throws, do not twist your wrist, let go at the turn of your arm. You can release multiple shuriken towards different targets at once, using this method," Fugaku explained.
He took out three shuriken and swung his arm, and in one swoop the three shuriken hit the bullseye on three different dummies. Itachi watched on with a critical eye and nodded, taking out three shuriken and following his father's advice. To Fugaku's astonishment, two of the three shuriken hit the target dead centre… although he shouldn't have been surprised. This was Itachi after all.
"Keep training," he settled on saying.
Fugaku was sure Itachi could do better. He couldn't make his boy complacent. Itachi was the future of his clan. The boy was destined for greatness and Fugaku would be dammed if he didn't push him for the best. It wasn't often that natural talent like Itachi was found, let alone allowed to cultivate in a demanding environment where his skills wouldn't blunt and wean.
"Father—Minato-san came by today," Itachi said, catching him in his step.
Fugaku turned back to his son and looked at where the boy was pointing. He knew Itachi wasn't one for pointing out irrelevant things. Minato and Kushina came by often because they were dear friends of his wife. Fugaku didn't pay it any mind. He respected Minato, and that respect was paid back to him in return, but there was no friendship between them. Itachi must have thought it important enough to point out to him, and Fugaku wasn't ignorant enough to ignore his son's subtle advice of joining his wife in pleasantries for once.
Fugaku walked into the kitchen where he saw his wife holding his newborn son in a sling while talking to a heavily pregnant Kushina. Meanwhile the two women had left Minato to cook while they chatted.
"Fugaku-san, it's good to see you too!" Kushina said, as she waved him towards them.
Fugaku sighed as he reluctantly made his way towards the kitchen. Mikoto promptly dumped Sasuke onto her husband making the man wonder why he came in the first place. His wife gave him a knowing look before gesturing for Kushina to take a walk with her, leaving Minato with him alone… cooking.
"What are you making?"
"We don't need to make small talk," Minato said with an exasperated smile.
"I still want to know," Fugaku replied.
"Chilli pork," Minato said.
It did smell good. They fell into silence after that, as Fugaku watched the glistening brown pork, sizzle on the wok. He allowed himself a moment to just savour the smell before he let Minato take control of the conversation.
"Kushina is getting worse," Minato finally said.
That caught Fugaku's attention almost instantly. The well being of a Jinchuriki was no small business. He had been keeping tabs on Kushina from the start of her pregnancy of course, but the woman had not shown any odd behaviour, or pain of any sort. He of course had respected her privacy and not ordered any form of surveillance in private parts of her house.
"She's been moody… well moodier than the usual, and the kind of moody that's not normal for a pregnant woman. She growls, and I can sense aspects of Kyuubi's chakra leaking through for the briefest of moments before she comes to herself. I can tell it will be a hard birth."
This was serious. Anything to do with the Bijuu were of the highest possible importance to the Village. Kushina's pregnancy was not something he had the luxury of staying out of any longer. Of course he and Kushina had sat down to discuss preparations for her birth. There would be guards and it would take place away from the village in a secure location. Now he wondered if he should have more security measures in place.
"I will send through a messenger Hawk to your location once I have summoned Jiraiya. Bring Kushina and do not tell anyone about this. This is now officially an S Rank secret," Fugaku ordered.
"Hai Hokage," Minato replied.
"And… do not worry. I will make sure to consult with your wife on any members present for the birth. I will of course oversee it, but she will choose the ANBU guards who will be there."
Minato looked both surprised and relieved. Fugaku figured that the man thought him heartless enough to take the entire situation into control on his own. Fugaku had a wife of his own and watched her give birth to two of his sons— so he understood the anxiety that came with pregnancy. There was always a chance the woman wouldn't make it, or that there would be a complication with the baby during the process. No parent, no matter how brave they were in their day-to-day life, went into the labour room without a great deal of fear and excitement. Knowing at least some of the process was in your control, eased that fear, and Fugaku knew such a high-risk pregnancy as Kushina's required a great deal of reassurance.
"Thank you," Minato said earnestly, a smile taking his face.
"It's in our best interest that this pregnancy goes smoothly," Fugaku dismissed.
He ignored the smile on Minato's face that let him know the man had sniffed out that tiny bit of fondness he felt for them. Fugaku had no time to dwell on sentimentality. He had work to do. But it was with some regret that he walked away from the delicious smell of chilli pork curry.
Somehow the Shinobi nations had found themselves in the middle of an arms race. In this case the arms were living breathing people. The kekkai genkai clans of the Mist to be precise. Of course the person to kick of this whole fiasco was one Suzuki Hina. She seemed to somehow be the root cause of most of his work these days. If it wasn't Shikaku obsessing over the shadow organisation, then it was Shikaku slaving away at the logistical process of integrating whole new Clans into Konoha's already precarious political scape. Fugaku did not envy the man.
"They aren't happy about the integration process. If we could even just let them join the ranks as Genin. It's not the best solution, but at least they wouldn't riot," Shikaku sighed.
"And let previous enemy combatants into our ranks?" Fugaku countered, raising a brow. "The answer is still no, unless you and the Yamanaka can work a strategy for intensive psychological screening."
Shikaku leaned back on his seat and sighed. Fugaku could forgive the man's brazenly discourteous manner only because of his genius intellect. Unlike Hiruzen, he wasn't in the business of letting his orders be side-stepped, even by the Jounin Commander as Shikaku had quickly come to learn. Fugaku ran a tight ship, and there was no way around it. It was just in his character. It was who he was.
"The Yamanaka Clan would help, but even they can't account for all the possibilities a Shinobi might take, especially one raised under a completely different ideological approach. But we can't discount that there will be loyalty if trust would be afforded. We've saved their lives, but we aren't letting them live it."
Fugaku finally looked up from his paperwork and raised a brow. Shikaku sighed.
"And of course we're wasting resources by sidelining what could become prominent Shinobi in our ranks," he finished.
That did strike Fugaku a little more than the needless emotional play from earlier. For a genius Shikaku sure was realising late into the game that Fugaku would always prioritise Konoha's true citizens first. The refugees from Mist had yet to prove themselves a part of the Village. It was something they'd have to fight to earn, not demand. If they hadn't realised that yet, then Fugaku would have to get rid of some internal threats.
"I'll hold a meeting with the Clan Heads for open discourse. I'm not in the business of keeping unnecessary secrets," Fugaku said. "If they can convince me and the council of Jounin, then we will contemplate involving them in Shinobi business. Until then only their children are free to join our Academy and on a probationary period."
Shikaku nodded before getting up to do his tiresome work. Fugaku saw the weariness in the man's eyes. He decided he needed to go a little less hard on the Jounin Commander, so he stopped the man before he left at the door.
"Yes?" he asked, turning around.
"I will trust your judgement on the screening process."
The Jounin Commander paused for a second before nodding and closing the door. Fugaku gestured for the ANBU outside to come in. ANBU Dog appeared in a quick body flicker into the middle of the room on his knees, holding a scroll.
"You have news?"
Kakashi handed him the scroll. Fugaku unfurled it and began reading before he sighed. Of course more bad news came with this one. He should have known. He by all means should have destroyed Orochimaru already, but he was going of the word of both Hina and Shikaku to hold back for now. But every day that went by made the Snake Sannin that much worse of a threat.
"Suzuki has reported a movement of his forces to Iwa's borders. The base in rice has expanded, but it still remains illegitimate as of now," ANBU Dog reported.
He was one seal away from the Daimyo to becoming an established political figure in Rice. Once he received that legal status, bringing harm to him was waging war against Rice and its officials. It didn't matter how small rice was, tensions were high and both Iwa and Kumo were jumping at the chance to push further conflict after their loss in the last war. Fugaku was finding himself conflicted on how exactly to go forward with this issue.
"And Suzuki's mental and physical state?" Fugaku asked.
He noticed the boy stiffen and once again he questioned Shikaku's earlier decision to place Kakashi on this mission. He was too close to Suzuki.
"She didn't display any outward signs of any behavioural change, other than fatigue. Her physical state however… she is taller."
Fugaku raised a brow in confusion.
"She's proportionally at the physical age of a late teenage adolescent," Kakashi amended.
Ok that was unusual, but nothing quite out of the ordinary when it came to Orochimaru. But there were several worrying aspects to her body modifications that placed her as a high-risk agent.
"Complete vessel transference or accelerated growth?" Fugaku asked.
"Both," Kakashi said. "She notified me that she was given a new body, physically stronger, but made using her and Orochimaru's DNA."
If Fugaku were anyone else, he would have ordered her termination as of now. She was too much of a risk. There was no way Orochimaru hadn't put a part of his body into hers as a failsafe should she go rogue on him. But he couldn't terminate Suzuki, because as much as he threatened her that he would, he was still reluctant to do so. There was something earnest about the girl that had him halt his normal line of thinking. There were seldom few people who he treated differently. There was his wife, then there was one young Jounin, Might Guy, and finally Suzuki Hina. For some reason, normal rules didn't apply to them.
"She mentioned spending extensive amount of time placing seals onto that body before she transferred her conscience," Kakashi added in.
Fugaku didn't miss that minor change in his tone, as if he was trying his best to mitigate the damage of his report.
"I won't mark her a traitor yet, not until she does something against Konoha," he reassured Kakashi. "But on our next contact advise her that we will need more extensive medical reports of her new body before we can renew the mission contract. If she wishes to remain a Konoha citizen this cannot be declined."
Fugaku wanted nothing more than to take that girl back before she dug herself into an even deeper hole. Sure she would find herself under a Yamanaka's care for the next few months, but that would be preferrable to indefinite holding, or getting marked as a traitor. Only Shikaku's insistence of this Shadow Organisation stopped him from making a move.
"Ensure that she hears of this by the next six months," Fugaku ordered before he dismissed the boy.
He turned back to Hatake's report and was surprised to see some of the writing change to Hina's script.
'Greetings from Suzuki Hina,
Proceedings in Rice have exceeded my initial estimation. Orochimaru has amassed more than 200 followers already, mostly farmers and peasants, but also a small Shinobi class. Our work on the cursed seal has almost been perfected, but it remains corruptive and corrosive to the individual's body. I unfortunately have not been able to deconstruct this seal. Orochimaru is growing more secretive, and whatever information I'm given is filtered through Kabuto. They know my loyalty isn't entirely with them, and I've gone to great lengths to ensure any and all tampering with my current body has been nullified, but as it stands there's no certain guarantee I'm fully in control.
I have very little time now. I'm requesting you allow me to leave Orochimaru's side for now. I do not advise taking me back into Konoha's walls as of yet. I'm still heavily compromised, but it would be detrimental to keep me undercover continuing forward. My presence here is met with suspicion, and it was foolish to think I could correspond with you for an extended period of time. I suspect Orochimaru already knows I've turned traitor. There's someone here who has emotionally compromised me. She is a child I've been experimenting on. I cannot continue the work I've been doing on her.
I've catalogued all the changes to my body, but I have not taken into writing any of the counter seals I have created to safeguard my mind. Those I will send through to you when I am away from Orochimaru. Give me an answer within the next six weeks. I cannot stay here for much longer as I fear it will compromise me indefinitely.'
It was marked by their code for immediate extraction. Fugaku sighed. Of course the girl would throw a wrench into his plans again. Shikaku would not be happy about this. Hina was their best lead to getting into contact with this shadow group the Jounin Commander was obsessing over. The fact that there were several reports of S and A Ranked Missing Nin completely disappearing of grid and reappearing in groups wasn't something that escaped his attention. Shikaku had logical reasoning to conclude a forming organisation was at play here and that Orochimaru would be the next big target. Loosing Hina would mean losing their only contact within Orochimaru's ranks.
Fugaku wasn't entirely displeased with these proceedings. He'd wanted an extraction long ago. Hina was not a trained infiltration agent. She was only allowed to go because she had close connections with their target. She barely had the training one should receive on missions like these, only receiving the bare minimum of what would take years of psychological preparation.
He couldn't have her leave by herself. He knew just who to contact regarding that matter.
It's been a while. This is just Uchiha Fugaku Part 1 at this stage. I'm dropping this and Part 2 together since this story had been on a major hiatus while I plotted future chapters. Sorry it took such a long time. I just had no idea where to take this story for a long time and I needed time to just sit and think before actually writing anything. Too much has changed from the canon plot for most canon events to take place now. Anyway leave your thoughts so I can know if you like where it's going.