Chapter 23

Chapter 23

Fugaku didn't expect to witness this side of the shinobi world. Seeing the Third Hokage handle the nobles and even the Daimyo so effortlessly made Fugaku realize how much he didn't know. He would never be able to smile so genuinely and then destroy any arguments others had against him. And the Third Hokage did it without any mercy, leaving no grounds for others to stand against him.

It was his first time in the capital. He had visited the city a few times under missions as a shinobi, but it was the first time he was in this part of the city. The rules there were different, and decisions made here were on a different scale than anything Fugaku had seen before. It made him realize how small part of the world he was familiar with. And he suspected that it was why the Third had taken him with him.

Not only did the Third predict that there would be an assassination attempt on him, but he also knew that Fugaku had to see this side of the world. It made him wonder how many steps ahead was the third. It was quite terrifying but also reassuring knowing that the Third was on his and the village's side. Fugaku would dread having such an enemy.

"We are leaving tomorrow," The Third Hokage informed Fugaku. "After having breakfast with the Daimyo, we will leave immediately."

After the first meeting, Fugaku thought that the Daimyo and his many councilors wouldn't want to see the Third, at least for a while. But he might have been mistaken. After spending the whole evening among the nobles of the Land of Fire, Fugaku realized how thick-skinned everyone was. To accomplish their goals, many will take insults straight to their faces and smile in return.

They possessed a different kind of pride than shinobi. Their pride in their names and families was similar to that of the shinobi clans, but it extended further. These nobles held their history above everything else. If a noble family wasn't as old as others, it had less prestige. But Fugaku didn't want to delve deeper into those kinds of politics, as he might find himself staring at the abyss.

Fugaku never left the Third's side, and he had seen enough things as it is. And even the Third seemed to be glad to be left alone finally and able to take some rest and alone time. Fugaku knew when to stay quiet and let the Third enjoy the solace. Kakashi was no different, apart from checking the area for safety, he stood still by the Third's side and said not a word.

The Third seemed happy with the silence, staring at the space and thinking deeply about something. Whatever the Third was contemplating, Fugaku knew better than to interrupt him. Even after a day full of work, not only convincing the Daimyo and the rest of the nobles of the village's stability but also gathering more support for the upcoming years, the Third was probably tired, but he still worked to better the village.

Name: Hiruzen Sarutobi

Age: 55/82

HP: 100%

Chakra: 100%

Strenght: 8/11

Speed: 8/11

Stamina: 8/11

Intelligence: 9/11

Charisma: 7/11

Ninjutsu: 8/11

Taijutsu: 8/11

Genjutsu: 8/11

Fuinjutsu: 8/11

The stats had not changed even a bit, except for age. After Hiruzen's shadow clone encountered Kakuzu, he was rewarded with more vitality; this time, it only increased by a year, but he was more than happy with it. So, his theory was correct that only hidden quests gave him more vitality. Hiruzen only wondered how many he had to complete until his vitality reached one hundred, and hopefully, it wouldn't be the limit.

Ninjutsu skills: Shadow Clone, Fireball, Body Flicker, Body Substitution, Transformation, Mud Slide.

Taijutsu skills: Shurikenjutsu (Advanced level), Drunken fist (Advanced level), Bo-staff mastery (Advanced level), Basic taijutsu (Master level).

Genjutsu skills: Bringer of Darkness.

Fuinjutsu skills: Negative Emotion-sensing, Explosive Tag,

Seeing his skills increase made him smile in satisfaction. Although the new addition of Mud Slide might not have been very impressive after he completed a quest to reassure the Daimyo and the rest of the nobles, it complimented his Fireball jutsu. Hiruzen was most proud of Fireball jutsu as it was the jutsu he learned by himself without the system's aid, and he didn't want to take pride in learning Academy Three.

There were also quite a few quests waiting for Hiruzen, and the list seemed to get bigger with time. He still had the quests of saving the shinobi world, breaking the cycle of hatred, and defeating Akatsuki. Hiruzen shelved those quests in the back of his mind and preferred not to think about them. Each quest is more difficult than the latter. And now he also had a quest to bring Orochimaru to his side.

Sadly, it wasn't a game, and the system didn't seem to want to give Hiruzen any hints or direction on how to accomplish any of these and many other quests. So far, Hiruzen had gone at his own pace, and it worked quite well, so he had no intention of changing his tactics. He was slowly but surely increasing his skills, and he was sure that by the time something really bad hit him, he would be prepared for it.

He might never have the experience of the real Hiruzen, but he thought that he would somehow be fine even without it. As long as he followed everything that Hiruzen had taught the Sannin, his basics would be solid enough. It was better not to think about everything else and focus on things in front of him and what he can do.

After a long night and an even longer morning, Hiruzen was finally free from the clutches of necessities and false pretenses. If he wasn't so good at hiding his emotions and reactions, Hiruzen would have been chewed and spat out from the mouths of certain nobles. Too bad for them, his life depended on bullshitting. Nobody can win against him in that.

The way back to the village was peaceful. Even though Hiruzen didn't expect anyone to attack them, especially not Kakuzu, he was still careful. He let Fugaku lead the way and quickly returned to Konoha. Waiting by the gates was Tsunade, with a very concerning expression to Hiruzen. It was something between anger and murder.

"I leave since we have returned safely," Fugaku wisely and annoyingly decided to leave.

"Let's go, Yamato," Kakashi took Yamato with him and left Hiruzen behind, too.

"I think my shift is over, and someone should be replacing me," Anko said, following the example and doing the same.

"It was a long day; I think I will go and rest," Hiruzen tried the same but didn't even get a few steps into the village before Tsunade's foot blocked his path. "Was it Danzo?"

"Do you have any idea how much bullshit he tried to run through me?" Tsunade asked. "The moment I was forced to step into your office, I was hit with one thing after another. And don't try to blame it on others. It is clearly your fault for leaving so suddenly and telling me to take the reign. You will pay for it. Not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you will pay for it. I promise."

Hiruzen was waiting for the system to pop up and tell him not to screw with Tsunade again. Her eyes were terrifying. Hiruzen couldn't even say a word, and now he will have to look behind his shoulder every day until Tsunade does something. This wasn't a welcome he wanted. And he certainly didn't expect to make her so angry.

Instead of returning home and taking a nice rest, Hiruzen returned to his office with heavy shoulders. But once he got inside, he couldn't help but smile. Whatever Tsunade said, aside from reports Hiruzen should look over, there wasn't even a piece of paper on the table. She did her work well, even better than he did.

Again, he thought how good it would be if Tsunade weren't so stubborn and taken over him. She was more than capable. Hiruzen had no doubt, she would do the job of the Hokage well. But whatever he said or tried, Tsunade would never accept the position. It wasn't her dream, and from what he remembered about Tsunade, she probably would feel guilty for taking something her loved ones dreamed about.

On top of the report stack was one from Jiraiya. He wrote that a woman and baby had taken refuge in Kusagakure just after the Nine-tails attack on Konoha. He couldn't take a better look or find more information, but the woman had characteristics of Uzumaki. He will continue to observe them and the village, as it was going through some hard times of the late.

It seemed that many nobles from their country and the Land of the Fire had recently come to show their dissatisfaction with Kusagakure. There were many complaints and demands to be refunded for the losses they experienced while asking for Kusagakure's services. It would probably soon get even worse since while he was in the capital, he implied to many nobles that shinobi villages should be held to high standards. If a problem arose because of incompetence, they should be compensated for it. 

Now, Hiruzen only needed to wait until they reached out to him for help. And when they will, Hiruzen will swallow them whole and not let them recover so easily. It would be best if he could make Kusagakure fully dependable under Konoha. He didn't know what he would do with it, but he was sure he could think of one or two things Kusagakure could be useful for.

"I heard your trip to the capital was successful, even if you got into a few bumps in the way." Hiruzen was already used to people sneaking up on him, especially Danzo. "The Daimyo seemed to have been impressed, as did most of the nobles."

"It is the nature of my responsibilities," Hiruzen said as he took his seat. "I thought it was concerning how Kakuzu and his partner were able to ambush me. It seems information has been leaked about my departure from Konoha."

"I am sure it was from the capital's side," Danzo replied, revealing nothing. "The village wouldn't be so careless, unlike the nobles that like to talk."

"It is unfortunate how they don't understand the world of shinobi as well as they believe," Hiruzen said. He was ninety percent sure Danzo leaked the information and maybe even hired Kakazu. Hopefully, Pakura will be able to find more information about that. "Where have you been? It seemed that we missed each other, as you returned just after I left."

"Since I don't have enough men under me, I have to do most of the work myself," Danzo replied. "I had a few things to check on. There were some rumors of Kumo shinobi moving around near the borders of the Land of Fire."

"I am sure it is nothing," Hiruzen said, not believing a word coming from Danzo. "Is that why you were bugging Tsunade while I was gone? She wasn't very happy with your actions, but she didn't elaborate on them."

"She is inclined to exaggerate things," Hiruzen wanted to ask if Danzo really didn't see any irony in what he was saying. "I just wanted to test her ability to think and make decisions. As you seemed to throw your responsibility to others so easily, I was concerned."

"Were you envious that I didn't give that responsibility to you?"

"Envious? No, but I could have taken over your responsibilities if you asked," Danzo replied, making Hiruzen's eye twitch. "I was curious why you wouldn't trust me with it. I am confident that I am more than capable of taking over the responsibility of your work."

"You take responsibility?" Hiruzen asked, unable to contain himself at the absurdity. "You don't know what it means to take responsibility for anything! If you were even attempting to carry the weight of it, the absolute burden would break you into pieces. No, you are not capable of it. You can't even confront your responsibilities as you hide from them with your excuses."

"Is that how you think of me?" Hiruzen's fist broke his table under Danzo's question.

"I know. I know what kind of person you are. And you have proven it over and over with your actions of what you are capable of. I know that it was you who worked with Orochimaru, and I know your plans to dispose of me. I know everything. And I gave you plenty of chances, more than you deserved. But if you think just because I don't have any evidence of your doings, I will not be able to do anything to you, you are mistaken."

"I don't know what you are talking about," Danzo still kept his cool under Hiruzen's gaze.

"You are a coward, Danzo," Hiruzen finally managed to calm down. "Hide in your shadows. Scheme as much as you want. Because you will only realize how utterly alone you are when you stand above my dead body. You will realize that the reason you think you are the smartest in the room is because you are the only one in that room. You will isolate yourself with your flawed thinking, and you will never be able to listen to anyone else. That's why you will never be suitable to be a Hokage. And that's why you will never be one."

"Just like you," Danzo finally revealed a bit of his emotions as he walked to Hiruzen. "Everything I do is for my village."

"It isn't your village, Danzo," Hiruzen was right before Danzo. "You don't seem to understand that. This village doesn't belong to you, and you can't just mold it as you like. I will warn you only this time. Put those foolish ambitions to rest. Because if I found even a piece of concrete evidence of what you have done, I will put you to rest."

Danzo still challenged Hiruzen with his eyes before leaving. As the doors to his office were closed, Hiruzen sat down and looked at this broken desk. What was he doing? He should have just kept silent. At a time like this, he should have played dumb. And since he didn't, he now put Danzo on high alert, and who knows what he will do now?

A.N. Well, it is the end for now. As far as I know, I should be able to return home for a few days after the first three weeks, so you will have to wait until then for a new chapter.