Naruto: Tetsuden - 084
Alright, I’m really starting to get into this part of the story (can’t believe I finished this chapter so quickly ). Some more insight into the post-timeskip crew and some pretty big developments leading into later on, so I hope you enjoy
Here’s my previous chapters, for those who missed any:
Chapter 084: A Dose of Reality
Towards the outskirts of the Leaf Village, a team of over twenty medical-nin struggled to treat the injured residents of a large church-like building, while other shinobi searched through the rubble for others who had yet to be recovered. Standing by overseeing the entire operation was Konohamaru, who appeared frantic at the idea of this particular location being targeted by the earlier bombing. One of the younger ninja in the recovery team, bearing the aura of an inexperienced assistant, ran up to give his report of the situation, the apparent irrelevance of his information causing the Hokage reach his already low boiling point.
Konohamaru: I don’t care about the condition of the building!! Just make sure everyone who was inside at the time is okay! God, how is that so difficult to understand!?
????: Uhh, yes sir!! Sorry, sir!
He rubbed his eyes in annoyance at himself as the young ninja ran off again, turning to rest his hand on the shoulder of the building’s main proprietor moments later, who was sitting on the trunk of a nearby fallen tree with a crying boy under either arm.
Konohamaru: I’m sorry, Kabuto. …This is my fault.
Kabuto: (He raised his head up slightly so his spectacles could be seen from beneath his black hood.) If they got past the borders of this village, they surely could’ve evaded your senses, as well. You have nothing to apologize for, Lord Hokage.
Konohamaru appeared less than content with this reasoning, but had little time to dwell on it as another warden of the orphanage came running up to them, dressed in one of their typical black kimonos.
Kabuto: Please give us good news, Shinji.
The middle-aged shinobi lowered his head as he gave the somber news. His light-blue hair was grown out and brushed to all sides to differentiate himself from his numerous brethren, but if he were to wear it slicked back, coupled with his pale complexion and Sharingan eyes, it would be hard to tell him apart from any of the other doppelgangers once known by the same collective name – Shin Uchiha.
Shinji: Father…we’ve just finished searching the building. And we have only one casualty. …He apparently threw himself over a seven year-old girl to protect her from the rubble…and he himself wasn’t even ten…
Kabuto: (Though saddened by the news himself, he managed a smile upon seeing Shinji on the verge of tears, rubbing the heads of the two boys sitting beside him before standing up and placing his hands on his shoulders.) To have only one death in the aftermath of such a violent blast is nothing short of a miracle. Praise the boy’s sacrifice, Shinji, don’t mourn it.
As Shinji lifted his head and nodded in agreement, yet another clone of Shin Uchiha came running from the direction of the village’s main infrastructure. Donning a white kimono with loose sleeves and lavender blue pants, as well as the village’s standard flak jacket and forehead protector, he was chubbier than most of his brethren, for which reason the run cost him a fair amount of energy and prompted him to bend over to catch his breath when he reached Shinji and their adoptive father.
????: Huhhh…huhh, sorry, Kabuto…huhh, I came as soon as I heard the orphanage was one of the targets.
Kabuto: (He smiled at his arrival before turning towards the ruined building.) I’m glad you did, Yuuta. The building is almost completely destroyed, but only one body was found amidst the rubble.
Yuuta: (He heaved a sigh of relief after viewing at the scope of the destruction for the first time.) Phew, that’s good to hear. I wish I could say the same thing about the Standby Station and the hospital.
Konohamaru: (He turned to face him after hearing this from a short distance away.) What are the numbers?
Yuuta: (He looked up in thought for a moment before turning in the direction he came from.) Uhhh, not sure. You’d have to ask-
As he spoke, the blonde-haired man who accompanied him to the orphanage walked up hurriedly beside him, talking angrily on his phone as he did.
Naruto: Look, don’t give me none of that crap, alright!? Just get your dumbass back to the village now!!
Konohamaru: (He stared at him as he hung up the phone and put it away, putting together who was on the other end of the line from some context clues.) Sasuke?
Naruto: (He shrugged as he answered.) Yeah. I dunno how the hell he always ends up on the other side of the world when these kinda things come up. …I just got back from the hospital myself. Half of the building was completely wiped out, along with everyone inside of it. …So far, they’ve counted about forty bodies.
Konohamaru: (Acknowledging that most of the patients were civilians, he lowered his head in grief.) I can’t believe it…this was all supposed to be under my watch.
Naruto: (He set his hand on his shoulder, staring at the orphanage as he replied.) We’re all at fault for this, Konohamaru. You can’t possibly just blame yourself when absolutely no one saw this coming.
Konohamaru: I’ll be to blame in the end, though.
Naruto: Then I’ll be there to defend you when that time comes.
Konohamaru: (Looking up to meet his smile, he stared at him briefly in admiration before returning the gesture.) Thanks, Naruto. …And the archives?
Naruto: I wouldn’t worry about it. Records are recoverable. Lives aren’t. …Speaking of which, I’ve also gotten word about the cemetery bombing.
Konohamaru: (He looked over at the orphanage with a frown.) I don’t wanna hear about that right now.
Naruto: You probably should. Just cause it wasn’t populated or a very important spot doesn’t mean it can be overlooked.
Seeing his point, Konohamaru heaved a sigh and looked up at him to await his report, appearing confusing when he saw how serious his expression was.
Naruto: That explosion occurred right in the center of the cemetery…where their graves are.
Konohamaru: (Thinking for a moment, his eyes expanded as he realized whose graves were located at the middle of the village cemetery.) …You’re not saying-
Naruto: I’m not saying anything just yet. …It’s something that could be worth looking into, though…maybe as a possible motive.
As he said this, the idea of capturing the culprit began to take precedence in Konohamaru’s mind, prompting him to address the leader of the recovery team to ensure they had matters at the orphanage handled before returning to his office with Naruto in tow, intent on bringing to justice whomever had the nerve to attack the village on his watch.
The unrest brought about by the attack continued well into the next day, as many of the residents that typically filled the streets remained home out of fear of a follow-up. With Kurama’s power making him the most qualified sensor in the village, it fell upon Naruto and his clones to locate Masurao, the only suspect they had at the given time, leaving behind the rest of the shinobi populace to determine what to do about the situation in the meantime. Many of them were either too young to remember the Fourth Shinobi World War or were not born during it at all, so most of them were clueless about what to do during a crisis situation such as this. The same could definitely be said for the most recent generation to join their ranks, among whom was Kei, who leapt over buildings and rooftops on his way to the Yakiniku Q restaurant. In the years that followed the Chūnin Exams, he began wearing his red hair shorter in a style reminiscent of Naruto’s older years, having dropped his overcoat entirely in favor of only long-sleeved mesh armour and dark-blue pants, his forehead protector and flak jacket left at home in light of the informal gathering he was attending. As he arrived outside the restaurant, he spotted Kūrogane outside the door, leaning against the doorway with her leg propped up and a cigarette dangling between two fingers – a habit she had unfortunately picked back up since she turned eighteen. Like Kei, she had also begun wearing her hair shorter, in an untamed style similar to her mother Mirai’s, having dropped her bandages and skirt in favor of red pants that matched her short-sleeved shirt, fingerless gloves of a slightly darker color, and a cream-colored flak jacket with a more official aura about it than the one she previously wore. She smiled in amusement as Kei walked up to her, the amusement coming from his noticeable lateness.
Kūrogane: It’s about time you showed up, Kei.
Kei: (He playfully scoffed at her remark.) Well, jeez, what do they expect? I got crap to do now, too, y’know…you just get here?
Kūrogane: (She smiled and shook her head as she took another puff on her cigarette.) I was one of the first ones here. I just stepped out for a second.
Kei: (He watched as the smoke poured from her mouth, a feeling of intense concern washing over him as he watched it rise through the air.) You know, that’s pretty bad for you. It could come back to bite you later on.
Kūrogane: (She stopped and looked at him as her fingers came just short of placing the cigarette back between her lips, eventually grinning in amusement before taking another puff.) …Well, look at you being all responsible and caring.
Kei: (He gritted his teeth in annoyance and marched past her.) Rrgh, just get inside! Jeez, just trying to help you not get cancer and I get laughed at like…
She giggled softly as he walked inside, taking one last puff on her cigarette before slipping it into the bin standing by the doorway and going in after him. Towards the back of the restaurant, two long tables had been placed side by side to account for the twenty-one young chūnin and jōnin – and honorary shinobi – who were gathered there, the two hosts of the occasion sat beside one another at the very back. Towards Airon’s right was Inase who, like Nakama, had also begun wearing robes in favor of traditional shinobi attire, though hers were purple and were worn over a yellow shirt with a matching belt around her waist, her blue hair having grown down to the center of her back and fashioned into a long and skinny braid. She was the first to acknowledge Kei’s arrival, in her usual teasing attitude.
Inase: Why am I not surprised?
Kei: (He angrily waved her off as he took the seat beside Minto.) Ah, can it, sis! I’ve already heard it once!
Inase: (She smiled up at Kūrogane as she sat down between her and Kei.) (I was actually referring to something else.)
Kūrogane returned her smile, her face turning slightly pink, as Manako became the first to speak up now that all of them were assembled at the table.
Manako: Thanks a lot, guys. …We didn’t think all of you would be able to show up when we sent out the request.
He and Airon both had their elbows rested on the table with their hands clasped in front of his face, emphasizing how great their doubts were and their relief that they proved to be unfounded. Many of their peers smiled to assure them of their ever-present support, among whom was Ide, who had retained her long brown hair and habit of wearing pink robes even during her duties as a kunoichi.
Ide: Hey, all of us are friends, remember? Why wouldn’t we stop by when one of us is in need?
Kemono: Yeah, it’s not every day both Manako AND Airon get their asses handed-
Kemono was sat towards the far right corner of the joint table, grinning in amusement as he chimed in. His fur coat had been replaced by a leather jacket, worn over mesh armour with matching pants, while his hair had grown out considerably, becoming spiked in a style similar to that of his late great-grandmother, Tsume. His partner Mukinu had also changed drastically over the past four years, having grown larger than any ninken on the village’s past or present records. The intimidation his size brought with it was diminished slightly, however, by how soft and puffy his black fur had become, particularly around young children, who would frequently walk up to him and begin petting and playing on top of him. Mukinu seemed to enjoy this greatly, though Kemono was much less enthusiastic, prompting him to cut off his snide remark midway and whip around when one such instance caught the attention of his highly sensitive ears.
Kemono: Hey now, beat it! All of ya! That’s not some giant teddy bear you’re huggin’ on!
The three children in question immediately took off and ran back to their respective parents, much to their disgust at his rudeness and Mukinu’s disappointment, though both reactions served only to further solidify his frustration.
Kemono: And you, quit encouraging ‘em by sprawling out like a damn ragdoll! You’re a ninken, not a pet!
Mukinu only sank further against the ground in response, prompting Kemono to heave a sigh and turn back around as the others looked on in amusement.
Kemono: Huhhh, why do I even…
Taigen: You should teach him how to transform, Kemono. It might help when you’re out in public.
Kemono: (He glanced over at him, noting that he himself was currently in his human form before rolling his eyes.) Pssh, yeah, like EVERY ninken can do that.
Chōzen: Hehehe, just leave him be, Kemono. Who says shinobi and ninken shouldn’t be able to entertain and protect?
Chōzen patted his large hand against Kemono’s back as he spoke. Having grown considerably in weight over the years – his openness towards it having taken the opposite route – his red hair was now shorter and combed back like his grandfather’s. His skin had also grown slightly darker, his attire matching that worn by most members of his clan. A few others sitting around the table laughed along with him, but the lighthearted moment quickly passed as two others spoke up, both of them having fully recovered from the injuries they received from Masurao the previous day.
Hitomi: We never did thank you, Airon…for coming to our aid.
Minto: Yeah. …All three of us would probably be dead right now if you hadn’t gone out to help us.
Airon: (He smiled gently in appreciation, grinning and holding out his hand as an idea arose in his mind.) It’s what I could do, Minto. …You owe me a mint for that, by the way.
Minto: (The corners of his mouth sank, the mint in his mouth sliding beneath his tongue to hide its presence.) I’m out.
Minto: Not bullshit.
Airon: It’s always bullshit.
Minto: Well, this time, it’s not-
Taigen: Minto, just give him the damn mint. He saved our lives for God’s sake.
Those sitting around the table quickly turned to face Taigen as he made this remark, finding him staring up at Minto with an unusually stern expression. Realizing how serious he was, Minto feebly reached into his back pocket for a roll of mints, popping off the end and into Airon’s outstretched hand before putting it back in his pocket. Everyone turned back to Manako and Airon as they returned to the discussion being held before Kei’s arrival, Raiden being the one to instigate it. Unlike his brother, he had cut his hair shorter in the time since his first Exams, tying what remained back into a small ponytail while his lime-yellow jacket had been traded out for a long-sleeved shirt of the same color, which he wore with light-brown pants and a flak jacket.
Raiden: So who was we?
Manako: His name was Masurao. He’s a missing-nin from the Mist Village. One of the worst.
Akame: Then why was he here? What’s he have to gain by attacking the Leaf when he doesn’t have any lingering loyalties to his own village?
Katsuto: Exactly. And why’d he leave before he even reached the village? You said he retreated once he got done fighting you guys, right?
Katsuto’s spiked red hair had grown slightly longer since his first Exams, his black shirt and shorts having been traded in for a tracksuit similar to what Naruto wore when he himself was sixteen, except red where his had orange. His sister had also changed attire in the years since, her hair now flowing freely rather than in a braid and reaching down to the center of her back, pushed back to reveal her forehead and ears by the headband resting atop her head. A flak jacket now worn over her tan, sleeveless top and fishnet stockings covering most of her arms, her apron skirt was replaced by black pants and a large piece of dark-gray cloth, held in place by a purple rope braid.
Airon: He said he came here just to fight Manako and I…to judge our swordsmanship from what I can tell.
This piece of news had failed to reach the others’ ears until now, prompting many of them to look either at them or at one another in surprise, the unspoken question eventually being asked by Kenji. His light-blonde hair had grown out slightly over the past few years and he had done away with his raincoat, replacing it with a short-sleeved, cream-colored shirt and black pants, his red sash still tied around his neck while his forehead protector was tied around his arm, a precaution to keep it from falling over his eyes as he sculpted.
Manako: (Recalling his embarrassing one-on-one with Masurao, he shook his head to avoid the question.) It doesn’t matter. The question lingering in our minds, though, is what connection he has to the attack if all he wanted was to fight us.
Chan: Was there one if that is the case? It could have merely been a coincidence that he appeared shortly before the village was attacked.
Chan’s overall appearance had changed considerably less than his peers, his hair having grown straighter and more reminiscent of his predecessors’ bowl cut, but retaining his green jumpsuit with the added presence of a flak jacket. His intelligence had apparently followed suit in this regard, as many of them shook their heads in response to his inquiry. Among them was Miyuki, whose one large bun had been replaced by two smaller ones and whose short-sleeved shirt and skirt and been traded in for a dark-blue shirt with loose sleeves and black pants, worn beneath a grayish-green flak jacket.
Miyuki: It’d be a hell of a coincidence, Chan. Besides, he warned them ahead of time that something was going to happen to the village, so he obviously knew about the attack.
Hitomi: (He rubbed his fingers against his chin as he thought more on the situation.) Even that, though…his only likely position in the whole scheme could’ve been as a diversion, but only Airon, Manako, and our team were lured out by his presence. It’s hardly a diversion.
Irezumi: You said you couldn’t spot him with your Byakugan, though, right? Who’s to say whoever infiltrated the village didn’t have similar methods of hiding their presence crossing in?
This notion having never crossed their minds, Hitomi and several others looked at Irezumi in surprise by sitting back to consider this possibility. His ANBU attire having been discarded for now, he wore only a gray overcoat and black pants in public, keeping his bald head and hands exposed now that his tattoos were essentially public knowledge. The group meditation ended moments later when Nakama, having found an inconsistency in these overlapping opinions.
Nakama: So, it was a coincidence, after all?
Irezumi: (Realizing Masurao’s involvement would’ve indeed been unnecessary if the ones behind the bombing could hide their presence, he held his hand up to his chin again as he reconsidered his theory.) I’m not saying that, but…maybe…a scapegoat, perhaps?
Over the next few minutes, several of the young shinobi bowed out of the discussion, finding the entire matter too complex and contradictory to decipher all on their own. Among the first to do so was Inoka, who pressed her hands against her forehead in frustration, her long hair now tied back into a ponytail and her purple top cut just short of her abs, her apron skirt traded out for one with an open front. Among the last was Shikaru, who rubbed his baggy eyes in annoyance, his attire now matching that of his father and grandfather, though he kept his hair closely shaven to avoid having to tend to it every morning and night.
Inoka: Rrgh, this is all so weird. And why’s it all happening now?
Shikaru: Yeah, no kidding. …Guess those years of pretty much slacking off are about to vanish, huh?
Although mainly a throwaway line, his remark helped several of those sitting around the table comprehend easier exactly what was going on – and just how unfamiliar and unprepared all of them were for a situation like this.
Kūrogane: I suppose this is what they’d call a dose of reality.
Airon: (He joined the others in nodding in agreement, though he kept his real thoughts inward.) (I never thought the reality would be that we still such have a long ways to go.)
Manako: (He frowned at him in irritation.) (We’re descendants of war heroes, Airon. We’ve always had tall orders to fill…and quit hiding everything you say. We called them here so we could vent to them, for God’s sake.)
Airon: (He looked around the table as he said this, rolling his eyes when he found most of their peers looking their way.) (Yeah…right.)
Having grown tired of this gathering, he stood up to leave, prompting the others to look up at him in either surprise or aggravation, the latter in his sister’s case.
Inase: Where are you going now?
Airon: (He replied with a frown as he adjusted the bottom of his overcoat.) Just for a walk.
Nakama: Is there something wrong with being here with us?
Airon: (He stopped walking upon seeing the intense concern in her eyes, heaving a sigh after standing there for several seconds.) …I’m fine, alright? I’m just going to get some air. (You’re more than welcome to come along.)
Nakama: (She replied with a small smile after seeing the corner of his mouth move up slightly, though he could still see the worry in her expression.) …Okay. (Maybe next time.)
Every set of eyes followed him as he walked past them and towards the front door of the restaurant, eventually turning back to Manako when the moment finally died down.
Kei: So just how powerful was this freakin’ guy-
Manako: Hold that thought, Kei.
Having not taken his eyes off Airon since he left, Manako stood up and ran after him, grabbing the katana he left by the entrance door as he walked out. In the back, everyone who wasn’t worried or angered by their behavior continued to look at one another in confusion, due in main part to the two of them having asked them all to meet them there.
Katsuto: What was the point of us coming here again?
Akame: Shut up, Katsuto.
By the time Manako burst through the doorway, Airon had already walked a fair distance away, seemingly keeping a fast pace in case someone tried to follow him.
Realizing his intent, Manako quickly used his Body Flicker to appear directly behind Airon, grabbing his shoulder just before he used the Flying Raijin to warp away. Reappearing atop the center of the three wooden posts at the Third Training Ground, where Airon had previously left a marked kunai, he immediately grabbed Manako’s hand and threw him off his shoulder.
Airon: Goddamn it, get off me!!
Manako: (Landing on his feet, he glared up at Airon with fury building in his eyes.) What the hell is your problem!?
Airon: (Enraged, he dropped back to the ground and began walking towards him.) Excuse me!? No, what the hell is YOUR problem, Manako!? Why are you just sitting in there, acting like you’re not pissed off right now!?
Manako: I AM pissed off! That’s why I invited them over to chat with us, so we can NOT feel so pissed off!
Airon: And that’s REALLY helping you?
Manako: (Noting the seriousness in his voice, he paused for a moment to stare at him in disbelief that he would say such a thing.) …As a matter of fact, it is. Cause I’m not so caught up on the fact that I’ve never outright lost a fight before. You, on the other hand-
Airon: Manako, don’t you dare go in that direction.
Manako: Why, is there a fork in the road!? Cause that’s the only direction! You’re only caught up on this whole deal with Masurao because you’re never lost a fight!
Airon: And I didn’t lose THAT one!! He retreated before we had time to finish what we started! If it’d kept going, I would’ve eventually laid him out and that’s a FACT!!
Manako: …Then why are you so anxious to go start training for your rematch?
He held out his arms as he spoke, acknowledging the fact that they teleported to a training ground as clear proof of his intentions. With nothing to say, Airon turned his head angrily to avoid eye contact, prompting Manako to rest his hand on his shoulder as his worry built up in his own eyes.
Manako: Airon, you’re not only my cousin, you’re my best friend. You pulled me out of a depression I’d been in since I was three and I haven’t looked back on it since. …If you’re gonna open up to anyone about this, open up to me. I owe you that much.
He cracked a smile as he spoke, hoping it would entice Airon to at least return it in kind. To his disappointment, though, no sooner after he finally turned back to face him, he looked away again, the same stark look in his eyes.
Airon: I’m not opening up to anyone, Manako. Cause there’s nothing more to it. …He challenged me. It’s no different than when we challenge each other-
Manako: But you’re not treating it like when you challenge me, Airon. You’re not enjoying the idea of fighting him at all. You’re getting angry about it. …Why?
He tightened his grip on Airon’s shoulders, still intent on breaking through to him. He eventually got a response out of him, but the disgust in Airon’s face, not to mention the words he spoke, made it clear his resolve hadn’t wavered, and that anything he told him was said to keep him from antagonizing him any further.
Airon: He insulted my abilities, Manako. No one’s ever done that to me before. …And look at you, standing here acting like he didn’t do the same to you when he said YOUR abilities didn’t even impress him. …Why AREN’T you getting angry about it?
He gripped his hand and threw it off him before teleporting away again, presumably to another previously marked location in the village. Manako just stood there, though, unable to follow him, but perfectly able to comprehend the reason Masurao troubled him so greatly. His intended answer to his question echoed through his mind as images of Airon’s two year-old self flashed before his somber eyes – showing off his chakra as he often would in those early days.
Manako: (Because unlike you, I knew at one point what it was like to feel inferior to someone.)
When his fit had ended, he hurried back to the restaurant as quickly as he could, only to find Nakama waiting by the doorway to inform him the others had already left. This message remained implied, though, as she seemed more interested in the answer to another unspoken question entirely. Manako simply shook his head and walked away, silently apologizing for not having the answer she wanted to hear.
By the middle of the afternoon, most of the anxiety felt around the Leaf Village disappeared, allowing people to begin leaving their homes and roaming the streets as normal once again. This did little to curb the agendas of the shinobi watching over them, though, as they continued to piece together the events leading up to the attack and any existing theories regarding the culprit and their motive, albeit with little success. The only truly good news the Hokage had received since the day before was that of the survival of Baiko, who had previously been presumed dead following his run-in with Masurao. Konohamaru immediately had him summoned to his temporary office – which appeared to have been borrowed from an Academy instructor – to assert this for himself, finding to his relief when he arrived that a cast on his left arm was all that was required of him to fully recover.
Konohamaru: Glad to see you’ve come out okay, Baiko.
Baiko: (He smiled in appreciation before adopting a more melancholic expression, having previously been filled in on the details of the attack.) Yeah…but I’d prefer it had been that boy at the orphanage or one of those poor souls in the hospital who survived instead.
Konohamaru: (He stood up and walked around his desk, smiling gently as he placed his hand on his arm.) Don’t say that. Your life’s no less important than any of theirs, and just cause you’re a shinobi doesn’t mean you should be so quick to throw it away either.
Baiko opened his mouth to express his thanks once more, only to be cut off midway by the arrival of Shikadai and his father, the Jōnin Commander, each of them arriving to give their own separate reports regarding the aftermath of the bombing.
Konohamaru: I’m really hoping for some good news right about now.
Shikadai: (He heaved a sigh of annoyance as he scrolled through the tablet in his hand, scratching his forehead with his other hand as he began reading off statistics.) Huhhh, well, if you count only seventy-eight deaths out of the two hundred or so that were caught in the explosions as good news, I guess I have some. Other than that, we’ve got dozens of injured civilians with nowhere to recuperate because of the hospital bombing and several important documents that are lost forever cause they targeted the archives.
Konohamaru: (Having returned to his seat, he rubbed his eyes as his other hand curled into a fist, turning to Shikamaru when the moment passed.) Damn it…do we have any reports on Masurao? What’s in his activity log since he abandoned the Mist Village?
Shikamaru: (He shook his head in disappointment.) Very little. By pure coincidence, a team of Cloud shinobi in the Land of Hot Water spotted him at a dango shop three years ago, but he’s been very careful not to any similar mistakes since. The only real hint we’ve had to his whereabouts is a string of murders that have occurred in various countries since he left his village. …The victims were all active or retired shinobi and samurai who were renowned for their sword skills in some manner.
Konohamaru: (Images of Airon and Manako passed through his mind as he rested his elbows on his desk and clasped his hands together.) That would explain why he showed up here…but the timing…
He thought over it a moment longer, trying desperately to connect the dots before standing up, pulling out his phone as he turned and walked up to the small window in the corner of the room.
Konohamaru: I’m gonna call the other Kage right now. I don’t know who was responsible for planting the explosives or if it’s a one-time event, but I don’t wanna take the risk of the other villages being attacked, as well. …And, at the very least, they can help us hunt down Masurao.
Baiko: (A hint of concern emerged in his eyes at hearing this.) Is that really the greatest idea, Lord Hokage? Our village was just attacked by someone whose allegiances we still don’t know. Informing the other hidden villages of our current state could coerce one or more of them to take advant-
Shikamaru: Baiko, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep those accusations to yourself. Our generation has worked tirelessly on all fronts to create the peace we have now, and it shows now more than it ever has. The Kage are all former allies and dear friends of one another and none of them would ever consider taking advantage of the others’ plights. …Or are you suggesting that the Shinobi Union was just some farce conjured up to make it look like we were at peace with each other?
Baiko had lowered his head out of guilt long before Shikamaru finished his rant, something Konohamaru and Shikadai couldn’t help but find amusement in. The former smiled over at Baiko to assure him he was guiltless before nodding to Shikamaru in appreciation just as the signal on his phone connected with the first of his colleagues.
Konohamaru: Lord Raikage, this is the…wait, C? Where is Darui? This is urgent. …What? …Hold on, what the hell are you talking about?
The other shinobi in the room all leaned inward to catch a better glimpse of their conversation, understandably intrigued by this initial exchange. Their worries inflated as Konohamaru’s expression slowly shifted from mild confusion to full-blown shock, and he hung the phone before turning to the oldest of the three with horror in his eyes.
Konohamaru: Call Naruto back to the village. He’s gonna want to hear this in person.
Shikamaru: What? What’s going on?
Konohamaru: (He gulped what air was in his mouth before speaking, still in disbelief that things would turn out this way.) …The Cloud Village has also been attacked, just five days ago…and their methods and targets all match up with ours.
Silence filled the room for over a minute as they struggled to think of a viable response. The scale of their attacker’s ambitions was obviously grander than they’d initially anticipated, but just how great continued to be a mystery.
Shikadai: So then, is it a large group behind the attack? Why would they attack the Cloud Village, too?
Shikamaru: (He stroked his goatee as he analyzed everything he knew so far.) I’m not sure…but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear similar news from the other villages. …Damn it, what the hell’s going on? Who in their right mind would attack all the hidden villages?
Konohamaru: It gets worse…
Of the three others standing in the room, only Shikamaru accurately guessed what Konohamaru was about to say, the dread on his face as he awaited the inevitable matched only by the fear in his eyes. …Whatever the Hokage had just learned, it would no doubt spell misfortune in the days to come.
Konohamaru: The Raikage…is dead.
Darui has been assassinated – but by whom!!?