Rippling Future @airheaded_dude
Resonating

Rippling Future

Chapter Five: Resonating


To Naruto, names meant everything. It is a big part of a person's individuality. To him, it gave a person an identity, not just someone who could easily be discarded as a faceless drone. He learned that names meant something, something really important. After all, when you grow up and all you have is your own name, then it meant that in some form, you exist in the world.

When he was younger, the old Hokage mentioned to him once that the first word that came out of his mouth was his own name. Not mama, not papa, but his own. He learned at a much later date compared to kids his age and gradually, spoke on his own, learned how to communicate on his own. Naruto grew up from the streets, surviving in his own way and lived in it.

From day one that he could remember, nobody called him by his name. People always mentioned him in passing as 'it'. Not exactly a very humane term given to him. To be called like an object shook him terribly in fury. He hated it.

And so he valued his name. He valued a person's name too if he liked them enough, because he liked being treated like anybody else, like he's human. And he loved giving nicknames even more, because to him, those nicknames meant that he was close and the person grew on him. He liked stuff like that.

So when Naruto learned of Kurama's name, he couldn't stop mentioning it once he and the fox had a conversation once again.

"Hey, Kurama."

"Don't call me that. I never gave you permission to call me by that name."

The fox said irritably but Naruto simply scoffed at it.

"How long have I been out, Kurama?"

And promptly ignored what the fox had said earlier.

"Don't ask me, whatever you see, I see. Your perception is connected to mine. Now stop bothering me."

"Hey Kurama…"

For the umpteenth time, the bijuu just growled at the blond in hostility.

The fox tried, several times in fact, to ignore Naruto when he called him by his real name. Now Naruto simply wouldn't stop pestering him ever since! Even when he knew he pulled his ears down and closed, Naruto still pestered him to no end. It got to a point that he just gave up and let the brat did the talking between them even if he knew it wouldn't stop.

Once he gets out of this prison, the first thing he was going to do was wail on Shukaku for being an idiot.

"What?"

The fox asked. Naruto noted that Kurama was getting pretty annoyed at his constant pestering. Not that he could have stopped, but he'd been stuck here for a while with nothing to do. Training was out of the question because whatever the hell he gains here, wouldn't necessarily carry over to his own body.

"Who gave you your name?"

Now that was a question that slightly caught Kurama off guard. It took him back, back when he was just a young kit. A sense of longing, a feeling thought long gone, came to him all of a sudden. He looked down at the brat before him that was eyeing him curiously.

"My father gave me that name."

Naruto looked surprised at that, the fox had a parent? That was something.

His surprise turned to a smile as he asked the fox.

"What was your father like?"

For that matter, what was it like to have a parent?

The fox could only growl at his container as he said, "Don't you have other things to do? Why don't you just try to get out of here?"

The boy answered him, "If I could get out, I could have done that ages ago, Kurama."

There was him using his name again. It irritated the fox to no end.

Naruto was about to ask Kurama another question when he felt himself being pulled out by something.

"Well, looks like I'll be going out sooner than I thought."

"Good riddance."

"Come on, you don't mean that, Kurama."

"I TOLD YOU TO STOP USING MY NAME!"

And then, the blond was out. Kurama huffed in his cage as he began to slumber. All the while, he thought to himself.

'It's gotten too quiet all of a sudden.'

Naruto slowly opened his eyes and he could see the ceiling above his head was completely white. He could immediately smell the antiseptic as it wafted through his nose. He scowled. He was in the hospital again. Feeling that he could sit up, Naruto did so and noticed his sensei, Kakashi, sitting beside the door and reading his favourite book. He decided to call his sensei's attention.

"Kakashi-sensei…" Naruto answered, holding his head with his right hand. He could feel a slight headache escaping him at the moment.

"Ah, Naruto, you're awake. It was strange that you could have slept so long. Usually it only takes you several hours to get back on your feet. Your chakra must have been pretty low for you to have been knocked out like that."

"How long was I out?" Naruto asked.

Kakashi closed his book as he looked at the blonde and said, "You've been out for three days. Sakura is with Sasuke, both of them are training as of now. I'm just a shadow clone. I'll be disappearing shortly to let the original know you're awake. I wouldn't advise you to move though. The medic nin here had to make sure you didn't have any bone fragments circulating your body. That would have caused problems."

Naruto flinched when he heard that, remembering he had his ribs crushed from his battle with Gaara. Though there was no lingering pain, Naruto's body could recall of being subjected to such that's why he flinched.

"What happened after I was out?" The boy asked. The clone of Kakashi looked at the boy and answered with a question too.

"What do you want to hear first, the good news or the bad news?"

Naruto looked at the man and thought about it. After a few seconds, he answered his teacher.

"The bad news first, Kakashi-sensei, if that's okay."

Kakashi looked down, a look of sadness in his eyes as he was about to break it to his student.

"The SandaimeHokage died during the invasion of Suna and Oto. A memorial service will be offered to him in two days along with the rest of the shinobi who died in the attack."

A chord struck to him when his sensei mentioned of the old man's death. Something that brought his spirits down just as he was recovering as his hands slowly clenched to a fist.

Kakashi could imagine how hard it was for Naruto to take in the news. Hiruzen was like a grandfather to him. When no one else would take notice of the boy, the Hokage was the one who guided him. Compared to many others in the village, Hiruzen was the first to listen to Naruto and actually acknowledge him as a member of Konoha. Naruto owed Hiruzen many things, including the chance to learn how to read and write. It was a miracle that the old man could spend time with him even if it was limited when compared to running a village.

A pained expression escaped his face, he closed his eyes to stop the overwhelming grief from taking over even if barely.

"What happened?"

Kakashi soon explained what happened during the time that they were pursuing Gaara to the time he was brought to the hospital along with the rest of the injured genin during that mission. Naruto wanted to get out, he wanted to take a walk. At least to have some time and sorted himself out.

"I… I want to take some time for myself, sensei."

The clone nodded, but before he vanished, he told Naruto.

"I heard from one of the judges of the exam, Naruto, you did an excellent job during your match with Neji, and as of now while we still don't have a new Hokage, they are naming you an unofficial Chuunin until your rank has been certified by the new Hokage."

Even with that news, Naruto's mood never seemed to let up as Kakashi vanished in a cloud of smoke.

He knew for a fact that if anyone can pull through from anything, then it would be his student.


With Shikamaru:

Shikamaru knew something was up when he saw Naruto confined to a different room compared to Ino and Chouji who were hospitalized and confined to the same room.

He noticed the difference too, when most of the staff that were assigned to Naruto's care were always the same faces around the clock. To note, he noticed three people wearing the same hospital uniform entering and leaving Naruto's room. What surprised him was that no one was allowed entry into the room, even the most prestigious clan heirs such as Sasuke and Hinata to visit. Only Team Seven's jounin sensei was allowed to even enter the room and even then, his hours were extremely limited.

"Shikamaru, how long are you going to look like something's up? Are the results for the chuunin exams already in?" His female teammate had cut his thoughts short when she asked those questions.

Not one to remain thinking of this conundrum for long, he answered.

"No, the results were not given. I heard from Asuma-sensei that if they were going to base the scores on the fights for the third exam alone, then only two made it as chuunin. That doesn't include the peer recommendations though, so I'm inclined to believe that they'll only promote those two people to chuunin."

Ino then asked him, "Do you know who they are?"

Shikamaru shrugged, "Can't say. Everyone's tight lipped about the whole thing. They never even explained to us the criterion needed to pass during the exam. So I'm guessing that Naruto and Sasuke will be the ones to get the promotion."

If it were an earlier statement, Ino would have laughed at the possibility of Naruto being chuunin before her. But based on what she'd seen in his fight against Neji, the one rumoured to be the strongest genin in the current batch of examinees in Konoha, thenIno was inclined to believe that Naruto would have the possibility to be promoted.

'Beaten by the class deadlast… I guess Naruto isn't joking around when he said he'd be Hokage.' A state of melancholy overwhelmed her as Shikamaru raised a lone eyebrow at this before he decided to cut off Ino's depressing train of thought early.

"Anyway, I just came to inform you guys about the memorial service two days from now. Chouji is already going to be discharged by tomorrow while you wait for yours today. Asuma-sensei and our dads can't be here because of an emergency meeting with the jounin forces."

Ino nodded at that with a sad face. Their Hokage died from the invasion. It stood as a testament that even the strongest men perish in battle given the chance. It made Ino realize how fleeting their lives were and how important gaining strength is.

"Naruto-kun, you're not supposed to be out of bed right now! Get back here this instant!"

"Ack!"

Well, at least there was a ray of sunshine in these dark clouds. Maybe the blonde was available for visiting today, finally.

When he arrived at Naruto's room, he heard one of the nurses shouting vehemently at the blond while he was groaning.

"You get out of bed again and I'll nail your hands and feet with stakes, you hear me!?" She said in an exclamation point, when Shikamaru entered the door, he saw Naruto quivering in fear as the nurse looked back at him.

"Yes, Junko-san, I won't sneak out of bed again."

The nurse simply clicked her tongue, "As if you'd do that anyway. You're in bed for a reason, Naruto-kun. You're injured. We can't have you moving around until we know you're perfectly fine."

"But I am now!"

The nurse named Junko lightly bopped him on the head at least it didn't hurt compared to Sakura's. Naruto rubbed that part of his head.

"Until you're cleared, we'll presume as you're still injured. It's part of the job."

Naruto sighed as he slumped in his bed and then asked Shikamaru, "What are you doing here, Shikamaru?"

The nurse left after that saying that Naruto could now take visitors just in time.

"Just wanted to check what the noise was all about. Still stirring up trouble, I see?" He asked with a smile, Naruto huffed at that and crossed his arms while looking at another direction.

"I just wanted to go upstairs, it's not like I'm sneaking out of the hospital!"

Shikamaru grinned at that, "If it makes you feel better, Junko-san, was it? She was only looking out for you."

Naruto mumbled something about monster nurses and their sadistic streak in not allowing him any ramen.

"Anyway Naruto, I came here because I wanted to ask you something." Shikamarumentioned, this was it; This was the moment of truth that he wanted. He didn't want to be kept in the dark any more than Naruto did. But he felt this was a sensitive topic to Naruto so he added as an assurance.

"If you're not up to it, then its fine if you don't answer, I just want to learn the truth."

By this time, Naruto had stopped his grumbling and turned serious as to what Shikamaru had said now. What was it that made him so edgy today?

"Now smack me one if I'm wrong here, Naruto, because what I'm about to ask is a bit accusatory. I'm sorry of you think it's wrong of me…"

"Shikamaru." Naruto stopped Shikamaru's statements dead in his tracks.

"What?" He asked.

"I get it. You don't need to ramble on." Naruto answered resting his head on a pillow and stared up at the ceiling once more.

"I saw what happened during your fight with Gaara. I want to ask, are you really the container of the Kyuubi no Yoko?"

That question threw Naruto off guard, his eyebrows immediately raised and he immediately sat up.

"What?" Naruto asked. It was the only thing he could think of at this situation. However, much as he tried to deny it, Shikamaru could already tell that he was right on the money with that question.

"I was just asking. I saw the fight, I felt the chakra and I read the books. Bijuu are huge quantities of chakra. I remember Iruka-sensei saying once that chakra can never truly disappear, only changed in nature, much like energy as a whole. With that thought alone, I've read the books about bijuu and they confirm that these beasts are actually really just a massive collection of chakra given sentient form."

Naruto sighed and fell back on his bed. That fight with the Shukaku really was a damn giveaway.

"What are you going to do if I am the container?" Naruto asked, Shikamaru never once looked away and answered truthfully. It told Naruto that he wasn't lying.

"I'm not going to lie to you, Naruto. There are people that are after you. Rather, they are after the thing that's inside you within the village. I need to know what I'm up against and what I'm expected to have in order to stop the guy who's going to turn you into a mindless weapon or treat you like an expendable tool."

Fuck, this was like Jiraiya telling him about those creeps that were after him about a month ago. Naruto, in exasperation, buried his head under his pillow and cursed multiple expletives that would make a sailor weep.

Naruto then sat up again and said to his visitor, "Do you have a name on the person who is hell bent in making me their lapdog?"

Shikamaru nodded, "The man's name is Danzo, Shino's dad said that this person would stop at nothing to gain control over you and have enough pieces to have the village. To him, you're probably a significantly bigger piece than most. I talked to my dad about this and he says that if Danzo gets a hold of you, he gets a hold on Konoha. I'm inclined to agree with him at this point."

"So what do you want me to do about it?" Naruto asked, looking serious. Just a few hours awake and already he's facing problems left and right.

"For now? Nothing, we still have time. The jounin force can hold him off with my dad being the strategic commander and two of the senior council are not considering Danzo as Hokage for the moment. But it won't be long until we can find a suitable candidate for Godaime." Shikamaru replied.

Naruto nodded, that seemed reasonable at least. He could always count on Shikamaru for these long term goals.

"Do the others know that I'm the container?" Naruto asked, this time he looks outside the window and saw the scenery of his own village behind a glass wall, a familiar sight that he remembered; when he first saw the village from the window of his apartment, completely alone.

"So far, Only Hinata and I know this. I figured you were the container when Asuma-sensei blurted out the word, 'jinchuuriki'. What my mistake was letting Hinata hear what I had deduced at the time."

"How did she react?" Naruto was more concerned about what his friends thought about his situation. Shikamaru simply shrugged.

"It was vague, but I could hear crying when she heard about it. She didn't look like she was going to have a panic attack over it, as if she had more or less an idea, but didn't quite add up for her."

It was the same for him too, but he figured it out after that horrible fiasco between the Sand and Sound.

Naruto could only reply to his friend, "You know, for someone like me whose been made fun of and looked down on in life, I always wondered how I could make friends, I'm bad at it. Hell, parents had their kids shooed me out just at the mere sight of me. I got lucky, though. If Iruka-sensei hadn't noticed me, I… I could have been like Gaara. He was angry, angry at the world, he had nothing and he was looking forward at nothing. Then I've made friends, the closest that I've got to a connection with people. I worked hard, trying to get here."

His left hand held a tussle of his blond hair at the top of his forehead as he slowly pulled down.

"But the thought of yanking that away from me… I can't bear the thought of it!"

His eyes closed in frustration as Shikamaru remained silent, he knew his friend was frustrated.

"Old man Hokage died… It's painful enough but the thought of being left behind… That's even worse."

"So, I'm happy, that you would stick your neck out for me, Shikamaru, I'm happy that Hinata could relate to me."

Shikamaru stood up, nodded at Naruto as he left. Now, more than ever Shikamaru was decided. He would try to make things less hard for his friend.

A tear escaped his left eye as he closed his door.

'Damn that antiseptic.'

Team Seven:

Everything changed since that last mission. At least that's what Kakashi could tell. He saw Sakura and Sasuke that day, demanding answers as to what Naruto had done; the army of clones, the red chakra, the summoning and the change of the giant toad to a giant nine tailed fox.

Of course Kakashi had to stop them then and there. State secrets like that were to remain a secret for a good reason. Then again, from what they described, it was hard to find ways to cover up Naruto's actions. Even so, that deserved commendable praise besides the fact that Naruto's status as the jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi no Yoko was slowly being compromised. He knew he couldn't answer any of the questions that Sakura and Sasuke had thrown his way, but he can at least provide a better solution.

"If you want answers, then you have to be the ones to ask Naruto. Those questions are rather personal, and I can't pry into any more personal life choices or I'll be considered a meddler." With that last statement, Kakashi glared at Sasuke. He was glad he was only a shadow clone right now in the training grounds or else he wouldn't stand the continuous barrage of questions.

By the second hour of their training, they had already shut up about the whole thing. Of course that didn't mean that one of them had approached and asked.

"I want to take a leave and go out of the village for a while."

Kakashi raised an eyebrow at this, "Why exactly?"

"To retrieve a summoning contract."

Ah, that made sense. Sasuke saw the particular results of a summoning contract in his hands.

"And why would you look for a summoning contract?"

Sasuke turned his back to his teacher and corrected the man, "Not look, get. The Uchiha clan had multiple hideouts and warehouses in Fire Country some of them are still operational. My father took me once on a trip to one of the warehouses. The stockpile of weapons, armory, and sometimes jutsu scrolls are in there. I can get that summoning contract if I so wish it to."

"I doubt you can find summoning contracts that are on that level of scale though, Sasuke. Those things are a rare kind. If you want, I can have Anko share her summoning contract with you."

Kakashi was pertaining to the giant battle that occurred a few days ago.

Sasuke was looking to the general area where Naruto and Gaara had their bout.

"I want to grow stronger, Kakashi. I don't want to fall behind." The Uchiha continued.

"I'll see what I can do, in the meantime, I suggest you read the scroll I've given you. Come back here tomorrow and we'll see how we can improve your Sharingan."

With that, Sasuke simply left as Sakura looked on to her only teammate right now as she was about to perform the water walking exercise. Once Sasuke was gone from earshot distance, Sakura had approached their teacher with concern in her voice.

"Sensei, I think Sasuke-kun is upset over to what happened earlier."

Kakashi raised an eyebrow at this, "Honestly, I expected worse. What's with his demeanour all of a sudden?"

"I think Shikamaru talked to him about Naruto having problems on his own. He never said specifically what it was but I'm assuming that it involves the village. The way Shikamaru kept telling that he couldn't trust the adults after what happened."

Kakashi couldn't blame the boy. Asuma had told him what happened a day after the invasion and alarm bells rang in Kakashi's head. Thankfully, Shikamaru wasn't spreading the word, instead he been thinking objectively at it. He was glad that Asuma's student understood to say the least, of the situation. That didn't mean that the boy liked it.

"Sasuke will figure it out eventually. I just hope that when he does, he does so with an open mind."

Kakashi then let Sakura resume her training and gave her two scrolls to study.

He had hastily crafted a team in pursuit of the SunaJinchuriki. He was wrong on that part, but more importantly, he was further inclined to train his students after those events, hearing that they almost died brought chills to his spine. He didn't want a mistake like that ever happening again. He didn't want these children experience what he had and hoped that in the near future, he could forgive himself for such a mistake.

As it stood, even if they were already exposed to the harsh realities of the ninja world, they were still wet behind the ears and have very little chance of surviving if they want to continue down this path.

'It's time I stop slacking off.'


The Daimyo's palace, Fire Counttry:

Shikaku had been fidgety for the last few hours. He's been told that the restoration efforts were being held off for a few more days and Shinobi were being deployed from every possible corner of Fire Country for surveillance.

'At least Ibiki and the rest of the clan heads had begun doing their work back home.' He thought. He was left to deal with the current situation at hand.

To his left, he saw Utatane Koharu, an old teammate of Hiruzen and MitokadoHomura, another teammate of the late Sandaime. These two were the senior members of Hiruzen's council. Perhaps Hiruzen's most trusted members. Though the three had differing views on how to run the village, both of them respected Hiruzen's decisions in ruling. The furthest to his right though, was the man he wasn't willing to put his trust into considering his shady dealings even if it were as he would have said, 'for the good of the village.'

True, many of his operations have been a benefit to the village, but at the same time, this man was suspected of covering up many of Orochimaru's experiments. It was just one out of the multitude of backdoor dealings that were associated to him. Shikaku didn't need to be a genius to figure out that Danzo was hungry for the position of Hokage.

A position that neither the elders nor he would simply just allow.

Soon the daimyo of the country had entered the room, waving a fan and looking rather distraught at what just happened in the events that led up to now.

To both of his sides were his advisers, the keeper of the chest and the scribe. The urgent looks on their faces told all.

Once the meeting had begun, Shikaku knew now that there was no backing down from these talks.

"I'm saddened by the fact that Hiruzen perished in this attack, one could not foresee this event happening at all." The daimyo had mentioned.

A staunch critic of Hiruzen, Danzo was first to speak, "It should have been, though, daimyo-sama. Hiruzen has a weak conviction when he didn't end his student's life then and there."

'After you had cleared all evidence of your involvement, I don't think you'd be one to talk.' Shikaku thought, but baseless arguments and rumours have no place in this meeting hall. It was better reserved at the wet market were all people, men and women alike like to tell tall tales

"And he had high hopes for that student of his too, a shame indeed." The Daimyo said shaking his head.

"I would suggest that we get to the point of this meeting, daimyo-sama. We are not here to criticize on what has occurred, but rather on what to do to prevent these kinds of scenarios in the near future." Shikaku had suggested Danzo had coughed a little subtly showing his disdain.

The daimyo nodded as he folded his fan and pointed to his two advisors, "Yes, quite. Adachi, Masaichi, if you would please?"

"As of now, the country is willing to give an extra boost in restoration for any damaged part of the village. The budget has already been filled out and the damage has been estimated, we just need an authentication to get started." The keeper of the chest said as he looked at his clipboard.

"As it stands, the proper documents have been signed and we are awaiting the go signal coming from the village, itself. Though I'm sure the two senior councilmen from Konoha would suffice in filling out the forms. What concerns me is the future transaction that will likely happen after the initial action. We cannot have Homura-dono or Koharu-dono alternate between approvals for aid, that would be problematic for our logistics division. We'll need a constant if you will."

To what the scribe was pertaining, that meant a new Hokage.

"Which brings us to the next part; who are our candidates to take the seat of Hokage?" The daimyo had cut off.

The people from Konoha managed to look at each other except for Danzo who remained silent at it.

"As of now, we are coaxing one of Hiruzen's students, the Toad Sage Jiraiya, to take the mantle. But he is still rather busy in maintaining our information network across the globe and we need his skills there. If we are to fail in convincing, perhaps we will…"Koharu answered first but was stopped by Danzo.

"Are you all so blind as to accept such a man who also studied under Hiruzen to take charge?" Danzo had decided to speak now. Shikaku raised a brow at this.

"Jiraiya of the Sannin has proven that he is a very capable candidate. His information network is vital for the village, and his display of skill is no laughing matter. Do not forget that he taught the Yondaime Hokage." Shikaku replied, Danzo huffed and continued.

"I do not trust such a man to make good as Hokage. He is not fit. He will only continue the same path as what Hiruzen has done all those years ago. Besides, as you said his information network is vital to the village. He is better suited at the field than at the seat giving orders."

"Then I suggest a continuation of this meeting at a later time to decide." Homura had cut in. Danzo did not seem pleased at all.

"Do you not have a candidate in mind to take over as Hokage other than Jiraiya of the Sannin?" Asked the Daimyo

"That we do, Daimyo-sama, but like Danzo-dono has stated, we are having second thoughts because of the importance of Jiraiya's network. We will discuss matters accordingly after and see the viable candidates for the position of Hokage." Koharu had added in. She looked at Danzo who had looked away in displeasure.

"Konoha needs to react and appear strong as immediately as possible! A leaderless village will undoubtedly…"

Danzo was cut off when Shikaku had butted in, "The candidates that are to be chosen should not be done in haste, Danzo-san. The matter of selecting a kage is a very serious one. We cannot just place one out of a knee-jerk reaction just to keep the other countries at bay. We need to be cautious on who we select."

The Daimyo nodded at this and inquired a vote.

"All in favour of continuing this meeting at a later date?"

Many of the hands in the room were raised. Few had their hands down, including Danzo's.

"Then this meeting for now is adjourned. Elders of Konoha, please begin looking for appropriate candidates. I would not mind if it takes a month, but more than that, then Jiraiya shall become Hokage by default of inquiry."

Shikaku sighed in relief when Danzo left the meeting hall, no doubt scheming further and further behind their backs. He knew he just had to be ready. When the old war hawk left, the daimyo and his advisors soon followed and went their own ways.

"Well, you heard him, Shikaku, we have a month to settle this matter. It pains me to say this butDanzo is right on one thing. But we cannot select him as Hokage, not with all the suspicions being held against him." Homura mentions as he stands from his seat as does Koharu. Both of them were about to leave the room when Shikaku followed.

The elders were advising Shikaku to keep the jounin as of now in high alert and told him to keep Danzo at bay for as long as necessary.

The commander of jounin forces didn't seem all too thrilled at the prospect of such a daunting task.

'Troublesome.'


Konoha:

Dark clouds gathered throughout Fire country. Rain was slowly pouring down as people slowly gathered around the memorial service for the fallen shinobi who died from the invasion a few days ago. A sombre feeling escaped within the village. The sense of mourning lingered in the air. All the shinobi were carrying flowers for the dead as well as wearing all black for the occasion.

Two days had passed and the civilians noticed many of the familiar shinobi faces that were still living that day all were wearing black. Some of them still had bandages or gauze plastering their faces as they began to line up for the memorial service being held towards the SandaimeHokage and the shinobi that were killed in action for the past few days.

Naruto had looked to his side as Iruka was holding Konohamaru who was sobbing as hard as he could. Many of the shinobi had blank faces. He saw Sasuke staring at the memorial with glazed eyes. He could tell that he was reliving something. Sakura was at his side noticing Sasuke's expression until it turned back to being the same as that of any other shinobi.

When it was finally time to offer flowers to the dead, the shinobi began to form a single file and one by one, they offered flowers to the dearly departed. When Naruto had stopped by theSandaimeHokage's picture and offered his flower, a memory had brought him back to a time when he was nothing more than a child with the wildest of dreams and looking at the sunset above the monument of the Hokages.

'Surely, a boy like you has dreams for the future, right?'

'I… I don't know old man. I don't have one.'

'Then what do you wish?'

'Someone who cares, old man. That's all I wish in my life.'

'That we do all, my boy, that we do all. Why not become a ninja, Naruto-kun? I'm sure you'll have the talent to become one.'

'You really think so, old man? Most of the time, people call me an idiot when I couldn't read the more complex words.'

'Then why don't I teach you? I'm sure this old man can have time to be himself once in a while.'

Naruto was clenching his teeth now as he closed his eyes in pure mortification. His fists were closed tight as he looked down, trying to supress those memories for a moment. He didn't want to cry in front of so many people. He wasn't like that.

"Iruka-sensei, what does it mean for a shinobi to die?"

The scar faced chuunin could only look at the memorial in a frown as he answered the boy, "Shinobi die in rather simple ways. They carry with them, the hopes and dreams of loved ones. When shinobi die, all that is left with the people left behind is anguish and sorrow. But Sandaime-sama thought me something. He thought me that in death a shinobi can pass on their will. That the greatest hour of a ninja lies in his death and through that, he can fan the flames of those willing to continue his will. Sandaime-sama died knowing his will is passed on to the next generation, someone to continue what he had started."

Naruto was clenching his fists still, trying to contain himself, "But it still hurts in losing those people that you care for the most."

To his side, Sasuke heard what Naruto had said and he was the one to continue, "That's the pain of losing someone. When the people that you love die, you are left with nothing but holes in your heart. It can never truly be filled again, because they've touched our lives. Things that we can never truly replace, only remembered."

Sasuke knew that all too well. He wondered why, but he felt compelled just to say those words to his teammate.

"It never gets better, does it?" The blonde asks and the Uchiha could only give a solemn shake of his head.

"No. No, it doesn't."

Candid as it was, it felt appropriate for the occasion.

At the back of the crowd, on a tall building, Jiraiya leaned against the wall and recalled a conversation with his former teacher as the flowers were being offered one by one.


Flashback:

Jiraiya sat on a stone in the middle of a creek as he watched his sensei teaching them how to walk on water. It was one of these moments that SarutobiHiruzen liked to be technical about many aspects on chakra while Tsunade and Orochimaru took down notes. Jiraiya never took those notes to heart though, believing that he wasn't cut out for such highly technical and abstract in his lectures about chakra.

"Jiraiya, what have I told you about the importance of these lectures?" Hiruzenasked, voice stern and full of exasperation from his wayward student.

"That every concept is important to understand." Jiraiya repeated with a drone like voice.

Hiruzen sighed and called over his student to sit beside his teammates. Jiraiya felt like protesting.

"No way am I going to sit next to gloomy Orochimaru or flat chested Tsunade!"

That earned a few rocks flying at his way courtesy of his short tempered teammate, "What did you call me you perverted sleazebag!?"

"Flat as an ironing board, pettankoTsunade!"

It didn't help that Orochimaru was finding the whole conversation amusing with that creepy laugh of his.

More rocks flew at his way as Jiraiya casually dodged them like he had been doing for most of his life which was, in fact, true considering his tendencies to peep on the women's side of the bath at the hot springs.

Hiruzen had to put a stop to them before things got out of hand. Tsunade looked like she was about to hurl a boulder.

When things quieted down, Hiruzen had all three of them demonstrate the water walking exercise which Tsunade and Orochimaru had done flawlessly, leaving behind a Jiraiya completely soaking wet.

Now it was Tsunade's turn to make fun of her teammate who was glaring at her while Hiruzen looked at his student with an amused look.

"Not so easy and simple now, is it?" He asked, Jiraiya huffed and turned his head sideways.

"Small things like this shouldn't bother me in becoming a great ninja." He rationalized. Hiruzen shook his head and dismissed his two students,Jiraiya was once more left with Hiruzen for further training.

"Jiraiya, what am I going to do with you?" He asked rhetorically, Jiraiya didn't speak after that, knowing full well of his sensei's disappointment.

Hiruzen then leaned down and grabbed a small pebble and with dextrous hands, threw it on to the shallow water of the creek and to the deeper parts of the river. He had an idea to help Jiraiyaagain, he just hoped that the boy took it to heart.

"Lectures are there for you to know, Jiraiya. I am not teaching things that are useless. These are things that should matter because one small decision can impact a huge outcome."

The teacher grabbed one more pebble and threw it once more. The stone skipped again, this time, ending at a much further distance.

"Take that pebble for example. The stone creates ripples, ripples that start small and gradually surge, becoming larger and larger until it becomes a wave."

Jiraiya by now, frustrated and soaked to his bone, just sat beside his teacher and watched as the man threw another stone and it skipped over the water. Whenever his sensei talks like this, he felt the urge to listen and be compelled.

"Much like how life is, things are always uncertain. It's those decisions, the little piece of detail that creates ripples and impacts the future. Soon, everything changes."

The teacher looked at his student and then gave him a pebble, he was asking Jiraiya to join him.

The boy complied and took the pebble with a grin.

"We can't get by in our lives when we don't encounter these small ripples. Because if we don't, then we stop growing, we stop being what we aim to accomplish. You can always get away with that boast of yours that you are strong. But boasting about your strength and actually backing up your words are different matters altogether."

When Jiraiya threw the pebble, it only bounced three times before it completely sunk. He dropped his head in shame at just how good Hiruzen was at this game of his. The teacher laughed and the student sulked.

"For every ripple that we create, we create more challenges, more tests to prove our worth, and more decisions to be made. It's what makes humans so dynamic. It's what makes us unique as we are."

"Do you know that old saying, Jiraiya? We are who we choose to be."

The man smiled as Hiruzen put a hand on his student's shoulder.

"And you are who you will choose to be. So what should you choose?"

Jiraiya smirked as he said to his teacher, "Become a great ninja and right super erotic novels!"

Sarutobi was taken aback at this and then added, "There you go again, Jiraiya, you should be serious about this."

"I AM serious, sensei! And don't talk to me about old habits! You come with me from time to time to peep on the women's side of the bath too! You even said my concealment jutsu was the greatest!"

Sarutobi had promptly silenced his student at that all the while hiding the blush on his face.

Hiruzen was as much of a pervert as Jiraiya was, that much was certain the keyword being, WAS.

Flashback end:


Jiraiya had a smirk on his face as he recalled those memories of his. It was probably one of his most enlightening moments with his former teacher and damn it to hell if Sarutobi didn't like his novels. Those books were always hidden under the old man's desk, for crying out loud!

He looked down once again to the gathering of shinobi and noticed that people were already starting to leave. He looked down and saw Naruto that was heading for his team. He didn't run, it was a solemn walk as he walked towards them, perhaps to help around for the coming restoration effort on the village.

A few more days passed and life was slowly turning back to normal for Konoha. People were going out again, this time repairing the damages dealt during the invasion. Stalls were set up for commercial establishments destroyed by the giant snakes that ran amok on the village. Shinobi were helping out with many of the tasks that the civilians could not do. Team Seven wasn't an exception to this rule, either.

Naruto and Sasuke were carrying planks of wood as Kakashi was nailing a board on top of a tall building while upside down. Sakura was smoothening some of the lumber with her kunai and some sand paper as both boys dropped what they were carrying next to Sakura.

Somehow, Naruto got a new set of clothes a few days ago. The blonde said in reason that most of his outfits were already ruined so he tried to go for a simple long sleeve shirt. Sakura still couldn't believe the amount of orange plastered on the blonde from neck to torso. At least the sleeves were black. She noticed too that her teammate still had that weird spiral accessory on his shoulders. She couldn't help but shrug. She noticed that the neck area of the suit was a v-neck rather than a round neck effectively making the mesh undershirt visible. Naruto's headband was damaged so he had to get a new one, now comfortably placed on his neck.

All orange aside, Sakura couldn't help but notice that Naruto looked good in it. But it wasn't her concern now, she had other things in mind.

"What I wouldn't give for a mission outside the village…" Sakura muttered while Naruto sighed.

"Yeah, we need a break." Naruto added glumly as he sat down by the nodded to both of their wishes.

"N-Naruto-kun?" A shy voice had interrupted their train of thoughts when the blond turned around and saw Hinata. Naruto had a questioning look on his face as Hinata spoke, "C-Can we talk?"

The blonde raised an eyebrow at this before looking up at Kakashi who only gave him a thumbs-up. Naruto then looked at his teammates, Sasuke bolted to get more wood while Sakura gave shooing gesture to Naruto telling him to go along with the girl.

Still unsure, Naruto left rather reluctantly but seemed to go along with it when he turned to Hinata.

"So, what do you want to talk about, Hinata?"

The Hyuuga heiress merely answered him with a stutter, "N-Not here, too many people might listen to what we're going to talk about."

Moving to a secluded alley, Hinata lead her crush there and then she turned to him.

"N-Naruto-kun, I just wanted you to know that despite of everything I've learned, I-I still want to be friends with you." Hinata looked serious at this, a blush on her face as she pushed her fingers together.

'Maybe even more.'Hinata had to at least let Naruto know that she was there for him. From all of the bad things happening to him and the stuff thrown in his way, she wanted to let Naruto know that she wasn't going to stop getting close to him.

"Hinata, what are you…"

"Shikamaru-san told you, didn't he? T-That we knew your secret and… And that I'm not afraid of you. I-In fact I find you more a-admirable after all everything that has happened to you."

She said the last sentence with a blush as she looked away, trying so hard not to faint in front of him. She knew now that Naruto needed people to support him, to lift him up even after falling down many times.

A smile, a small one escaped his lips, turning larger and his eyes seemed to have a hint of shine in them. Naruto was happy for what Hinata had said, something that made Hinata speechless for a second and her thoughts drifted. It was not to be however when Naruto spoke. And the way he started speaking to her, told volumes of his appreciation.

"Thank you, Hinata. Your words made me feel happy. I feel so happy right now that someone like you would do that for me. You don't know how much it really does mean to me. I mean, I'm so happy right now I…" A sliver of a tear escaped his eyes for a moment. What was that, exactly?

"Huh?" He asked and Hinata couldn't help but feel captured by that moment.

"Why am I crying all of a sudden?" Naruto asked and another tear drop escapes his eyes.

"All this time, I've been scared; scared that people would walk away when they find out that I'm the container to the monster that killed countless people yet…" More tears kept appearing cascading his cheeks as he rubbed them with his arm.

"You and Shikamaru keep telling me that it wouldn't change what you thought about me."

Hinata found something in herself that made her feel more confident all of a sudden and spoke to Naruto without even a stutter.

"Because you are important to me, Naruto-kun, that's why. Without you, I wouldn't have the inspiration to change and get better."

Naruto then looked at Hinata straight at the face, she had stated it before to him and she felt repeating what she just said to him before his fight with Neji. She was smiling, a blush kept appearing on her cheeks but she seemed to dazzle out more. Naruto had never realized before that Hinata smiling like what she was doing now, it made her seem pretty in his eyes.

It dazzled him.

"People may not see you for who you are, but I do. I see you as Naruto-kun." She said.

Sure, Naruto had flaws, Hinata knew that everyone has them but she accepted that in him. Whatever faults she sees in him, to her it didn't matter. To her, Naruto was a wonderful person and now having full knowledge of his past, despite his right to hate his village, he had set out to prove them wrong, to let them see him as he was.

Hinata held Naruto with both her hands on his cheeks and then in a manner outside of Hinata's own character, she embraced him. All form of embarrassment leaving her behind as she did so. Naruto was surprised by the sudden gesture as Hinata did so.

"Naruto-kun, a person like you deserves more. This person who is hugging you now, she believes in you."

Naruto's astonishment slowly vanished and he grinned even though Hinata couldn't see, she could feel Naruto smiling behind her, he gently pushed her away and his smile infected her to do the same.

"Hinata, you're the best!"

To Hinata, this was another small victory for her.

When Naruto came back from his talk with Hinata, he didn't notice the spring he had on his footsteps. Sasuke had noticed that he was picking a lot more lumber than usual effectively cutting the time it needed for them to finish. The repairs were done much earlier than anyone had really thought and making their teacher dismiss them early. Sakura then turned to Sasuke who was already walking away.

"Say, Sasuke-kun…"

As if Sasuke had already figured what Sakura was going to say, he shot it down faster than a rabbit scurrying to its hole.

"No."

"But…" Another answer from Sasuke was heard.

"No."

Sakura sighed as he her shoulders slumped, she then noticed that Naruto had suddenly left their team as he went back to his apartment.

Sakura had raised an eyebrow at this.

'Usually, this is the moment where he asks me on a date but…' She eyed the blond curiously. Since when did Naruto started to lose interest in her?

'It wouldn't have anything to do with Hinata, would it?' Either way, Sakura was somewhat glad for her teammate. At least now she wouldn't have to keep rejecting his offer. He was slowly getting over her.

Perhaps it was for the best.

When Naruto had arrived home, he opened the door to find Jiraiya sitting on his chair and reading the labels on one of his cup ramen noodles.

"You're really crazy for this stuff, aren't you?" The old man asks with a smirk on his face.

Naruto merely grabbed the ramen pack from Jiraiya's pack and placed it on his counter.

"What are you doing here, Ero-sennin?" He asked, the old man merely kept his grin as he began examining the little house around him.

"Good question. What am I, the master, am doing in my apprentice's home?"

'Yeah, he's a guy alright. No decorations on the wall, and the floor is a complete mess, too bad I never saw any magazines in here. It would have been nice to egg him on from there.'

"But in all honesty kid, I came here because I want to look for someone. And the people high up want someone to accompany me. I agreed on one condition that I take you with me."

Naruto had raised an eyebrow at this, "Why me?"

Jiraiya rolled his eyes, "You're my apprentice, you dimwit. What else is my reason?"

Naruto put up a hand beneath his chin and stared up at the old man with scrutinizing eyes.

"I don't know, this sounds too suspicious if you ask me." Naruto replied while Jiraiya smirked.

"Don't you want to meet that person? I hear she's a hot babe." Jiraiya elbowed Naruto with that smile of his while the young boy's face turned to a scowl.

"I knew it. Listen here, Ero-sennin, I've got better things to do like training and doing some repairs left by that stupid invasion than to go around the country to search for some hot woman just so you could perv on her."

Jiraiya sighed at this as his shoulders slumped in defeat.

"Fine, I was going to teach you a new jutsu too…" The old man stood up from Naruto's chair and began to walk at the door.

"I guess I'm just going to have to ask Sasuke for this one."

A fire erupted in Naruto's eyes as Jiraiya was about to leave. Naruto immediately pushed door and stared up at the old man.

"Let's talk business here…"


Two hours later:

Naruto had a grin on his face as he was walking besides his new master. The old man was looking awfully thoughtful on his notes as the blonde kept walking out front. Behind him, the gates of Konoha were looking awfully small now. He was pretty sure they were far away.

"Ah, I almost forgot. The councillors didn't want to me to give this to you so soon without the Hokage's approval. But time was short and we need all the help we could get from our ninja. So…" Jiraiya then rummaged through his backpack, pulled out a scroll and finally unsealed an object inside it.

A poof of smoke erupted from the scroll and out came a green Chuunin vest. Naruto's eyes were sparkling with wonder as he was looking at it.

"The judges deemed that you were worthy enough of the title of chuunin. So congratulations, you earned it."

Naruto held the vest before him with both hands and then proceeded to wear it. When he closed the vest at their locks, Jiraiya had thought that he was looking at Minato when Naruto wore the vest properly.

"How do I look ero-sennin?"

"Like a million ryo, kid. If my eyes were deceiving me, I'd say you were the YondaimeHokage."

And he wasn't lying when he saw the blond in that green vest. Minus the whisker marks and then add a little more hair on the side of his face and Naruto could pass off as Yondaime's younger self. He was surprised people wouldn't notice the resemblance.

Naruto meanwhile, grinned proudly at himself from his current master's words.

"So what's my new jutsu going to be like, ero-sennin?"

Jiraiya turned his attention back to his notes as he said, "We'll get to that after I've gathered enough information in the nearest town with a bustling gambling business. The lady we're searching for happens to be a casino freak although she's horrible at making bets and loves sake more than any other person I know."

"Huh? Why are we searching for someone like her?" Naruto asked, baffled at the notion of looking for some deadbeat.

"Hey now, she may be a money spending alcoholic, but believe it or not she's my teammate once under the SandaimeHokage. She's pretty strong too. That swinging arm of hers can flip castles like they were okonomiyaki. She's a damn good medic to boot."

Monstrous and frightening strength aside, Naruto couldn't help but admire the person in Jiraiya's description for her power.

Jiraiya then continued, "Problem is, she has a jutsu that can alter her age from her teen years to her late twenties to early thirties to escape her debt collectors. She's also vain, short tempered and more violent than a prison's torture chamber."

"She's your teammate right? I guess she's pretty old then."

Jiraiya flinched at his apprentice's conclusion and reprimanded his student by giving him one piece of advice.

"Don't let her hear that or you're as good as fish paste."

The toad sage's nerves began to wrack as he described his teammate. Tsunade had been known to him as having the sort of love taps that would punch holes through you. Especially to him, particularly to him as he almost died from Tsunade's punch when she saw him peeping at her once back when they were younger. They had to reset his jaw and his team had to be on leave for two months!

"You know, ero-sennin, the way you're describing her makes me think that you're not too sure about meeting her yourself." Naruto pointed out in an oblivious manner. Jiraiya on the other hand, shivered from the thought alone.

"Nah, what are you talking about kid? I'm her teammate, she'll be glad to see me!" Jiraiya stated proudly as he puffed his chest out and thumped it with his right hand.

'I hope.'

"So how are we going to look for her aside from the casinos?" Naruto asked. Jiraiya looked up and then back to Naruto as he replied.

"Well, usually, she's renowned as the legendary sucker. We should start with that at least."

Naruto raised an eyebrow at this, "Why legendary sucker?"

By now Jiraiya was giving off one of those grins as he scribbled on his notepad giggling like a little school girl before he gave an answer to his current student.

"It depends on who you ask."

Naruto's curious look turned into a frown as he pointed out to the Toad sage, "You're not above any kind of perversion are you?"

"I'm not a super pervert for nothing, Naruto."

He said that as if he was proud of it. Naruto simply sighed and shook his head, "Let's just get this over with so that I can learn that new jutsu you promised me."

'So impatient, yet so eager to learn.'

A hybrid of Kushina and Minato, Jiraiya noted that Naruto displayed Kushina's impatience and Minato's eagerness to learn any jutsu.

"Sheesh, kid, learn to live a little!" Jiraiya then turned back to his notes as he said to the blonde.

"You'll get your chance when I buy some balls and balloons at a nearby store. Trust me, you'll need that."

Naruto then had a thought running in his head when he remembered something.

"That's right I forgot to ask, what happened to the three Suna Ninja that were captured?"

Jiraiya's good mood turned sour as he replied, "Konoha is bidding them as bargaining chips to Suna as a result of the invasion especially the jinchuriki of the Ichibi. I saw his seal a few days back and I have to say, it was too awful. I had to make some precautionary measures just in case to stop any more suggestions that might ruin the boy's mental health further. Suna can mass produce Fuinjutsu users, they can't create a master of the craft but that was just god awful. I've never seen a seal so primitive and so inefficient for sealing a bijuu that I couldn't help but turn sour at such an abrasive and flippant way to deal with creatures of mass destruction."

Naruto then answered with his eyes with somewhat no focus in them as he stared straight down the winding path before them, "Is that so? I want to talk to him when I get back."

Jiraiya had raised an eyebrow at this, "Exactly, why are you asking anyway?"

Naruto never answered Jiraiya that day, only that he could tell that Naruto had a fist clenched as they continued to walk.

Jiraiya could tell that his student wanted to confirm something.

Three days later, outside the walls of Konoha:

Two figures stood just before the village itself. Straw hats covered their heads and their clothing of a long coat with red clouds and high collars obscured their faces. One of them stood taller than the one to his right. His only defining feature was his height compared to his companion. He towered over his partner by a few good inches and on his back, was a large and heavily bandaged weapon, a sword from the likes of it. Both walked in a leisurely pace as they closed in on the village.

"Konoha has suffered through an invasion, its ninja weakened and its leader dead. The stench of war still has yet to disappear. Don't you find this quite a sorrowful turn of events, Itachi?" The taller of the two asked.

Two pairs of fully matured Sharingan eyes looked at his partner then back to the village gates.

"No, I hold no attachments nor affection for this village." Came Itachi's quick reply before he added, "It is unwise for you to think of me that way, Kisame."

The larger man now known as Kisame simply chuckled at the thought.

"So heartless, Itachi, whether you have abandoned your village or not, this is the place where you were born and raised, is it not?"

Itachi merely flicked a little of his fingers out of his sleeve as they approached the gate closer and closer. Two guards were already fast asleep.

"I have gained what I can from this village. I would not dare to come back here if it wasn't for our objective."

"The KyuubiJinchuuriki…" A chuckle had escaped Kisame's lips as he sneered and looked back at Itachi, "Don't you wish to take a detour first? Maybe a nice stroll to your old home would be preferable."

Itachi was silent for a few seconds before replying, "There is no need. The YondaimeHokage's legacy is our target. We shouldn't stray from our objective for too long. After all…"

Itachi looked around and saw various ninja at work or at least taking a break in one of their shops.

"… Even though we're S-Ranked criminals, we can't have a whole village breathing down on our necks during our stay."


To be continued…

Akatsuki has now been introduced!

Honestly, I didn't know how to write this chapter without delving on some of the emotions of the characters. That and I couldn't think of concentrating on this while I was at the OR performing surgery with the chief surgeon. Yes, being in the operating room sucks. I used to love doing minor operations (stitching lacerations, debridement and the like) because they were so easy to do. Then I went inside the operating room to help the good doctors perform an open heart surgery. Shit, we were there for HOURS, almost a day with very little sleep because I had to come back to the hospital after three hours. It actually made me reconsider in specializing in that and just do either internal medicine or radiology because I like the principle of their work.

Enough about that let's talk business. Pettanko means flat chested girls who think about it way too much and are conscious about it. Call them flat and they'll swing at you with a bat. Here's a little extra, Kakashi is actually training them equally and it doesn't involve procrastinating and having survivor's guilt after seeing most of his genin almost getting killed off for real. That's something to think about. Sasuke will have his, actually, the series of events starting now will develop Sasuke and Sakura's character. Primarily, it's those two who will be having character development in this new arc. Naruto has had one and will continue as a consequence of events take place alongside Sasuke and Sakura. Let's just hope I get the time to write this as much as I can.

And Danzo appears earlier than what canon has done, as he should have. Though for me, Danzo is a dangerous man. Sure, he likes to paint himself as if he was a noble martyr or an unsung hero doing everything for the sake of his village. But let's be honest here, if you have a leader who will not compromise and find diplomacy to end conflict, you will have a long term problem on your hands, you can argue that the moral code or ethics of the narutoverse is different but I beg to differ on many of his significant doings (he's done more harm than good). Let me site an example with a local leader here in the Philippines. Ramon Magsaysay, before he became president, was the secretary of defence of the nation who was facing communist insurgents back in the 60's. He was tasked by Roxas, the president during this time, to eliminate the threat and gave Magsaysay complete control of this campaign. What Magsaysay did was in fact, he gave negotiated with the rebels by offering them a chance to surrender all the while giving them land, giving them education and skills that will be applicable in modern life. Then these rebels, farmers before guerrilla fighters, took the offer with their leaders willing to be placed in custody as the offer given to them will bring them back into society not in a decade but in just several YEARS with a sustainable income and land ownership. The unfortunate thing however, was that after Magsaysay died as president in a plane crash, the big fuck up of one of his successors brought the communist rebels back into the mountains. So Danzo may try to paint himself as the good guy, doing everything in his power to make Konoha grow, but someone like him does not deserve to be a leader. He is too dangerous, he can cause political disasters left and right without a single thought (Hanzo, Five Kage Summit) and will throw anyone into the pit if it is for his convenience (The Uchiha clan), which turns out to be a complete waste of human resources. Yes, I am also emphasizing the point of the Uchiha massacre. People can argue that it had to be done and the Uchiha were being a bunch of sore losers of not having a Hokage in their line and not being involved in village stewardship was petty at best (I beg to differ on the latter but that form of debate is better left discussed some other time) but in all honesty, it could have been avoided had Hiruzen done something before ordering the purge. Tobirama started the problem and Danzo propagated it. The only thing that Danzo probably got right was that Hiruzen was incompetent in this field. What Hiruzen did was poor leadership and decision making. He already had a double-agent inside the clan, he KNEW that the Uchiha clan were growing discontented and that they MIGHT cause a civil war. So what does Hiruzen do? He fucking does nothing and lets the meetings continue and thus leading to Shisui's death that finally brought forth the nail in the coffin because of fucking Danzo.

So what happens? The situation escalated, the higher ups had no choice but to order the mass slaughter of the Uchiha clan, and Itachi starts fucking with Sasuke's head. When you're a leader, you have to see the best situation for everybody. You make decisions for the good of all if possible. Sacrifices and burning bridges will happen if absolutely necessary or eventually but if it can be avoided, it should. A good leader should, if at all possible, seek out better options when people say that there's no other way, to the leader, there should be a better alternative to consider. People who say that there's no other way simply do not have the mentality of thinking outside the box, something that a leader should have.

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