Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 4 Chapter 5 ( Chapter 65 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 4
Chapter 5
Tsunade's announcement had not been well recieved, but she had been prepared for that. As the crowd muttered against her angrilly, Gaara and the other village leaders stepped forward to present their testimony as to Naruto's fitness for leadership. Gaara on how he became a leader because of Naruto, Kakashi on how well Naruto ran Blossom in his absence, the Raikage on how much loyalty he witnessed displayed to him, and the leaders of Rainbow and Grass... on how he fought for his allies, and how he treated his enemies. The case for making Naruto the Sixth was put before the people, and it was only a matter of time until their considerations started getting taken into account.
And then, Tsunade retreated to her office. It would take the public some time to get over her announcement, but she intended to ram the issue through the council with every resource she had available. She already had Shikamaru and Jiraiya out, working together in order to get as accurate a poll as possible to determine just where it was she would need to push, and she had been pulling out the files of everyone who owed her a favor since she heard Naruto was coming back. Truth be told, she had been planning on doing this for some time, after all, and a lot of the preparation had already been done... but because of Naruto's injury, he had arrived back a little sooner then expected -- not much sooner, though. The orders recalling them had already been written out in draft form, and she probably would have sent them out shortly anyway. Kakashi's mission had been winding down, after all, and the reports she'd been given lead her to believe it was only a matter of months before it was complete... but, it seemed, things ended sooner then expected. And so, she had most of the work done, already... and she had a pretty good idea as to how things were going to turn out.
It was no surprise to her, then, that Naruto burst into her office -- Sakura trailing behind him -- as soon as he possibly could have gotten past her guards without killing them. It was a bit of a surprise, however, that he looked... slightly angry, and not the confused happiness she expected.
"What the fuck are you thinking, you old hag?" he snapped without preamble, startling her.
Her eye twitched slightly at the way he addressed him, but she supposed it didn't matter that he was several years older then the last time they had talked together -- he would always be the same Naruto. And Naruto always, always, always called her an 'old hag,' regardless of whether the conversation was serious or silly. It was, in a sense, a pet name for her... much as he still called Jiraiya 'Ero-sennin' and likely would still call Lee 'Fuzzy Eyebrows.' Still, as angry as he was, it sounded a lot more vicious then usual. And she had no idea why he could possibly be angry for this.
"I'm thinking," she replied cautiously, trying both to soothe him and rein in her own temper. "That we needed a second hokage for just the reasons I said during the assembly. And I'm thinking I promised you the job of hokage a few years ago, and should probably make good on that promise."
"I want to be better then the hokage," Naruto replied evenly. "Which means I don't want to hurt Konoha in the process of getting the job! You're right, you do need a new hokage... but it shouldn't be me. It should be Kakashi-sensei, and I would move into his slot in Blossom. What we need is a hokage who people would get behind and respect, and not someone who will just provoke a fight... and I'm still not exactly the most favorite person of most people here. My becoming hokage could very well start that civil war you've been trying to avoid, regardless of what I do or how I act."
Tsunade smirked half-heartedly. "Yeah, I know. It's a bit of a gamble, isn't it? And, well, my track record for gambling isn't very good. Hasn't been since, well...." She glanced at the necklace he still wore that she had given him all those years before. "Since a certain family member of mine died. But I think it'll pan out."
"A gamble?" Naruto snapped heatedly. "The odds are so long that this won't result in a civil war that it isn't a gamble at all!"
"I thought the same thing when I bet you that you couldn't learn the rasengan in a week," Tsunade replied calmly, not allowing his emotional outbursts to visibly phase her. "But I learned then that you can beat impossible odds."
Naruto flushed for a moment, embarrassed at the praise and thrown by example. "But--"
"The thing you don't understand," Tsunade continued, "Is that I don't think there's really anything that can be done right now. The situation with the Hyuuga is impossible -- I can sit and do nothing while the Hyuuga tear themselves and Konoha apart, or I can confront them and start a clan war the likes of which haven't been seen since Konoha's founding. Either way, it seems, civil war seems inevitable. So, I figured I'd bring in someone who I knew had already done one impossible thing in his lifetime, and see if he can't repeat the experience."
He grimmaced. "Is it really that bad?"
"I'm afraid so," Tsunade sighed. "The reports I've been sending to Blossom -- which I know you've read -- were intentionally vague on a lot of this stuff, and left out much more, but the result is that the situation has become entirely untenable. It has also been stagnating for the past couple of years, but everyone knew it was only a matter of time before something sparked it off... and your return has been that spark."
"So... what really is the situation, then?" Naruto asked.
"Pretty bad," Tsunade explained. "The three factions have no route of communication with each other. The matriarch's faction is taking a position with no room for compromise, and Hinata's faction is branding the patriarch's positions as if they were hers. Just about every major clan except for the Aburame have allied themselves to some extent with one side or another... although even the Aburame are sympathetic to the matriarch's position, and were it not for Shino taking a decidedly pro-Hinata stance would probably declare for it. And, as you have already seen, at least one faction is willing to start open fighting on the street over this conflict.
"Furthermore, there are other things going on outside of these internal struggles. There is the Sound, which appears to be on the move again... although we have no idea what it is, precisely, they are doing. Then there is the Rock, which has been concentrating power for years, now, with no known goal in mind. They have grown faster in the past five years then all the other major ninja powers combined, and their leader is rumored to be one of the most powerful ninja ever born... if not the most powerful.
"Finally... there are other things going -- more personal than that, I suppose, but important nonetheless. You might have noticed a significant decline in Jiraiya's performance over the past few years. There's a pretty big reason for that, and that has to do with me. I won't go into details -- like I said, it is somewhat personal -- but he has been helping me deal with a certain problem for years, now, and unless things change he'll be rendered utterly useless as a ninja. By delegating some of the stresses of being Hokage into your lap, I will be able to release him of this burden, which should -- in time -- restore him to a functional level, at least."
Naruto nodded. "And picking me over Kakashi-sensei?"
"You, Naruto-kun, depending on how you decide to play your new role, will be able to help by becoming one of two things," Tsunade explained. "The first is, you could become a lightning rod. People hate you because of the kyuubi -- not the youth, for the most part, but the clan leadership. By nominating you to become hokage, I am giving each clan leader a common enemy to target. The other is, while the adult leadership is against you, pretty much the entire youth of this country has learned to -- at the very least -- respect you. If the youth splits from the adults, then the adults lose their power... and without powerful 'adult' leadership, most of the troubles caused by 'traditionalists' in various clans will... disappear. I leave it in your hands how to proceed."
Naruto nodded slowly. "I guess I can see that," he said. "I guess I understand why you would name me hokage, if that is your plan. But... but I don't want to become hokage by being a fraud!"
Tsunade looked flabbergasted at that comment. "A fraud? What are you talking about, a fraud?"
"What's all that crap about me being the son of the Fourth?" Naruto sputtered. "Who do you expect to believe that!?"
Tsunade glanced over his shoulder at Sakura, who looked just as nonplussed as she felt. "Um, Naruto-kun... that's the truth."
His eyes widened before he sputtered in denial, "But... but that's not possible! It's not! I... I would know! Someone would have said something! There'd be clues!"
"There are clues," Tsunade snorted. "Just look in the mirror, and then look at a picture of the Fourth. Trust me, it's pretty obvious to anyone who is willing to see it."
"He wasn't married," Naruto continued desperately. "So... so he couldn't have been my father."
"Naruto-kun," Sakura began, laughing slightly. "We aren't married, yet... and if I wanted to I'd have been able to make you a father several times over, already. And while the Fourth wasn't married, I happen to know that's only because the Council disliked his choice of bride."
He spun on her. "So... so you know who my mother is, too? Who is it!? I... I have to know...."
Sakura's eyes widened as she realized her admission. "Oh... Naruto-kun. I... I'm sorry, but I can't tell you."
"You can't tell me?" he snapped, almost enraged. "But... but why not?"
Sakura looked down, pained. She didn't want to keep this secret from him, but she had no choice. She hated what Anko was making her do to him. "Remember how you couldn't tell me about Kakashi for all those years?"
Naruto almost yelled at her for bringing up something irrelevant, but then reconsidered. Maybe there was a point she had to make. "What about it?"
"I told you then, I had secrets I hated keeping from you," Sakura reminded him. "It was a secret that wasn't mine to tell, and in the wrong hands it could be very dangerous to you. The person whose secret it is believes that you would be in danger of losing the ability to fulfill your dreams if anyone knew, and so I had to promise to keep it a secret even from you without their permission. I... I think you should know, but I'm not allowed to say."
Naruto nodded slowly, then turned towards the hokage. "Do... do you know who this is?"
Tsunade nodded. "I do, although I found out about it myself less then a month ago. I agree with Sakura -- you should know, but we shouldn't be the ones to tell you."
Naruto sighed, his face down so that niether person could see his expression. "I... see. Can I at least know... is she still alive?"
Sakura winced, but felt obliged to give him some sort of answer. "Who do you think is making us keep this secret from you, love? Who do you think is the only person whose word could restrain me from telling you?"
"So, yes, she is alive. Well, I suppose I can't really blame you for keeping this secret from me, considering she is the one making you keep it," Naruto sighed. He glanced over at Sakura, then grinned slightly. "She isn't your mother, is she? Because that would put a whole new twist on our relationship, you know...."
Sakura laughed slightly, glad to see that he wasn't going to hold a grudge over this secret... at least, not one he'd allow to slip passed his mask. "Trust me, Naruto-kun, there are certain things we do together I'd never allow if that were the case."
He grinned back, winking to let her know she was forgiven, before turning to the hokage once more. "Well, I'll still need to be voted in by the council. I suppose this means I'll need to do a little campaigning, huh?"
Tsunade was almost as pleased as Sakura to see that he was taking their secret so well. She was also glad he seemed to be coming around to the idea of being hokage... something she never thought she'd have to convince him to become. "At this point, there is no way the council will refuse your induction. The announcement was too public, and they know there is no way they could get away with voting you down. Especially after the Raikage, the Kazekage, and the heads of several other ninja villages stood up and endorsed you. To defy me is one thing, but to defy three kage and a number of jounin-oyabun would ruin them, and they know it."
Naruto grinned darkly. "Hm. Maybe. But I think I'll go and talk to the voting members of the council, anyway. Starting with, say, Hyuuga Hiashi."
Both women looked rather alarmed at that. "Naruto-kun, I'm not sure that you should do that," Sakura exclaimed. "It's not safe!"
"I don't know what he thinks of you, Naruto," Tsunade said at the same time, talking over Sakura. "But I'm pretty sure there would be a lot of people who would take that as you picking a side -- which isn't a good idea!"
"Oh, I'll probably visit Hinata-chan, too," Naruto replied, shrugging. "But I've already had a chat with Hyuuga-sama, so it's only fair I look in on the other faction heads. Don't worry -- I won't go alone."
Sakura relaxed slightly. "Good. We could take Moegi and Ko--"
"I think I'll take Hanabi-chan, Inari, Adaha, and Umiko with me," Naruto continued. "That'd be enough protection."
The volume of the complaints Tsunade and Sakura sent flying his way after that damaged his hearing enough to require kyuubi to spend some time healing his ears.
* * * * *
Tenten didn't even bother to settle into her new home before setting out after Lee. Neji's suggestion that he was becoming a lush had certainly sparked things off for her, and she suddenly felt a desperate need to talk with him about his drinking problem. She found her wayward teammate over at his new apartment, unpacking his things with his front door wide open. He had chosen to take one of the rent-free single bed apartments Blossom allowed its ninja, but even so the few things he owned weren't enough to keep the place from seeming bare. Much to her chagrin, however, the one part of Lee's belongings which were easily visible were the three giant crates full of sake bottles. Cheap sake -- rotgut, really -- but sake nonetheless. From what Tenten could tell, much of Lee's salary went into buying liquor nowadays, and she wasn't too happy about it.
"Lee-kun," she called from his doorway. "Can I come in?"
He seemed startled at first, but then nodded. "Come on in, Tenten," he replied familiarly, though he seemed a bit distracted.
The girl noticed him hiding something underneath the cushions of his couch as she walked in and was mildly surprised. She had no idea what it was the boy was hiding, but had a funny feeling it was some sort of pornographic material. She once caught her father with a copy of Icha Icha Paradise one evening, and he acted exactly the same way Lee was now. Didn't think the boy was into skin magazines, though, or anything else like that, for that matter, Tenten mused. How odd. Maybe it's something else, after all... but what could it be?
"Do you need any help unpacking?" she offered.
"I'm pretty much done," Lee answered evasively, moving with his lightning speed to sit over what Tenten suspected was his stash of porn. "Is that the only reason you stopped by?"
She shook her head. "Actually, I wanted to talk with you about something. Care to go out to dinner with me?"
"Not tonight," Lee replied, shaking his head regretfully. "I've, um, got something I have to do."
Tenten smiled. Oh, she thought, 'something you have to do,' huh? I can just imagine, with you having had that stuff out! So, what kind of porn turns you on, Lee-kun? Suddenly, a rather devious plan to embarrass him (in a friendly way, of course) came to mind. Embarrassing Lee was usually a very fun thing to do, especially since he took after Gai as his role-model. The over-reactions they had were very amusing -- and sometimes resulted in some rather silly training technique being developed.
"And just what is it you have to do, Lee-kun?" she asked.
"Uh, well, I have to unpack, and--"
"I thought you said you were done unpacking," Tenten protested. It was funny -- she couldn't remember Lee ever lying to her before, even about something silly like that, and it bothered her that he did.
"Um, well, I'm, uh," Lee fumbled, glancing around the room before inspiration struck. "I am, but my sake needs to be put away, still. I have to go buy a wine rack for it, first, though."
That reminded Tenten about why she was here, but she shunted that away -- embarrassing him was more important right now. "Oh, I would love some sake. Could you get me a bottle? I'll buy you a new one to replace it tomorrow."
Lee was on his feet like lightning. "Of course, Tenten! I'll get you a bottle right away!"
Tenten surreptitiously shown a mirror right in his eyes, blinding him as he stood up and causing him to pitch forward. Expecting that, she was able to rush over to him before he recovered. "Are you alright?" she asked, feigning concern.
He winced in pain, rubbing his forarm where he had fallen, but pasted a smile on his face regardless. "Oh, I'm okay, Tenten! You know me, I do worse to myself training every day!"
Tenten sat on the particular cushion Lee had been using to hide whatever it was he was hiding from her. "Well, if you're sure you're okay, I could really use that sake."
"Coming right up!" Lee crowed enthusiastically.
The moment he turned his back, Tenten reached under the cushion and pulled the papers he had been looking at out. "Hey, is this what I think it is?" Tenten asked luridly. Lee glanced over at her, and paled as soon as he saw what it was she was looking at. Tenten paled, herself, as she read through them. "I... I don't think it is."
"Probably not," Lee admitted, slowly taking a seat on the ground to prevent falling in shame. He didn't want anyone to know about that, not even his teammates.... Especially not Gai. Not until he knew what he was going to do about it.
"Your injuries are coming back?" Tenten snapped, referring to the medical report she had in her hand -- a medical report done by civilian doctors in a town well outside of Konoha or any of its affiliated villages. "'Degenerating bones along wrist and ankle.' 'Severe muscular atrophy.' 'Breakdown of nervous system in fingers and toes.' Lee-kun... why haven't you mentioned this to anyone?"
"Promise me you won't say anything," Lee said softly. "I... I don't want to go back to what I feared I would become when I had those injuries the first time. I want to remain a ninja as long as I can. I would die to remain a ninja. Please...."
"You're afraid of being forced to retire?" Tenten whispered, understanding. "But, Lee-kun, if this report is right, it is only a matter of time--"
"The report is right about my current status," Lee answered. "Except that's just an old preliminary report. After careful studies and tests, I found that my old injuries only return when I use my Lotus techniques. As long as I avoid using them, well, I'll be okay. I'll probably have arthritis as an old man, but I'll be okay."
Tenten hesitated. She wasn't quite sure how to put what she wanted to say delicately. "Lee-kun... without your Lotus techniques, what can you do as a ninja? I mean, that's pretty important, wouldn't you think?"
"I've got one thing I can still do," Lee sighed. "Although I know you, and Gai-sensei, and Neji all think it's just as self-destructive as using the Lotus...."
"Your drunken fist," Tenten realized. "That's why you've been, to quote Neji, 'becoming a lush,' isn't it? You can't fight without it, any more...."
"I can fight without it," Lee replied, determination filling his voice before reality tempered it. "But... not against someone with the skills of your average ninja. I can still throw shuriken with the best of them, and my normal speed and strength isn't bad. I can still train my genin in taijutsu and expect them to improve. I can still make plans -- although I admit you and Neji are both better at it then I am. And, when the situation gets bad, I can fall back on that. It isn't as effective as my Lotus techniques would be, but it's enough." He paused. "So, please, Tenten... don't tell anyone."
Tenten sighed. "Lee-kun... we've really got to deal with this. Shizune might be able to recommend a treatment that--"
"No! Please, Shizune-sama couldn't do anything. Tsunade-sama might be able to, but she's already tried to make me leave behind being a ninja once -- I don't trust her to let me go a second time." He paused. "I was hoping that Sakura-chan would be able to help, but she's not here right now, and it sounds as if she's got problems of her own...."
Tenten hesitated. "If you promise that you'll see Sakura-chan as soon as possible, I suppose... I suppose I can keep your secret. For a little while, at least -- but if I notice this getting worse, I'm going to have to mention it to someone."
"If you say so," Lee replied, looking down. He always felt a little depressed when Tenten scolded him.
"And I'm going to be stopping by every day we're not on a mission to check on you," she continued. "I am not going to let you pretend you're better then you are, Lee-kun. I'm going to be checking on you every day!"
Lee flinched. An angry Tenten was a formidible person to deal with, and she sounded borderline angry right there. "Ah, right, Tenten."
"Now, to start with... I want to see the injuries."
His eyes widened. "Tenten?" he replied.
"Show them to me," she snapped. "I want to know what they're like now, so I can see if they're getting worse later. I may not be a medical ninja, but these injuries sound like there'll be some visible bruising, at least. Let me see it."
"Ah, okay, Tenten..."
"And quit acting like such a wimp!" she ordered. "Stop flinching when I'm talking to you, got it?"
"Yes, Tenten."
"I said stop flinching, not to flinch some more!"
"What did I just say!"
Lee sighed and gave up. Well, at least now he could share his secret with someone... even if that person was getting a bit scary about it.
* * * * *
"Haruno-san," Neji said, greeting the woman at the gates to Blossom. She was on her way out, much to his surprise, without her husband... but with her husband's very large merchant cart. "You seem to be going off for an extended journey, judging by how many supplies you're taking."
"Me?" she laughed. "No, this is for my daughter and Naruto. I packed up their apartment for them."
That bit of news took Neji by surprise. "You packed their apartment? Why?"
"Haven't you heard?" Haruno asked, leading the mule-drawn cart through the gates. "Naruto's been designated the Sixth Hokage. He'll be taking office as a Junior Hokage shortly, assuming the council approves him. My husband and I have decided to stay here, however -- we've built a good life here."
Neji just gaped, watching her leave. So that was Tsunade's plan, he mused. Then he recalled his words to Naruto all those years ago, during their chuunin exam match. Well, I guess he proved me wrong. I guess you don't have to be 'born' to be a hokage, after all.
* * * * *
Notes: Obviously, I'm back. Don't expect super-rapid updates, however, as I'm simultaneously working on several other projects in addition to this one. For all those asking where I was, well, I warned you I'd be taking a break. It was longer then I initially planned, but I'm able to work on this fanfic again, albeit not as much as before. I'm not going to bother going through and answering questions of the backload of replies -- I have given a few private review replies to some of those who left any sort of contact information, but general replies would take much too long. Yeah, I know this isn't the longest chapter I've ever written, it's still within the average. Next Chapter: Naruto and his team meets with Hiashi.