Chapter 16: Internal Affairs
Though Hiruzen periodically checked in on Wu using his Crystal Ball, an Artifact that allowed him to view anything within the confines of Konohas barrier, most of the information he had on the boy came from the team of Anbu he had assigned to observe him. There were still a lot of unknowns surrounding Wus origin, capabilities, and, most importantly, his bloodline, so Hiruzen had teams monitoring the boy 24/7.
Reading the report detailing Wus interaction with Tenten and the fact Ino had also approached him for training, a thoughtful glimmer flashed across Hiruzens eyes. Wu was an exceptionally astute boy, and though he made an effort to befriend each of his classmates, it was evident he recognized whose friendship mattered the most.
“What do you think, Shikaku I know Ive asked you many times before, but Im interested to hear your opinion about these recent developments.”
Sitting across from Hiruzen, silently observing the Shogi board between them, was a scar-faced man with sharp, intelligent eyes, black hair, and a neatly manicured goatee. He looked a bit like a rogue, but his unwavering gaze alluded to his fierce intellect.
Without removing his eyes from the board, Shikaku replied, “He has the potential, thats for sure. His intellect is unmistakable, and hes exhibited an almost intrinsic ability to influence others. With careful grooming, he could easily be a candidate for the position and title of Hokage. The only problem is…”
Completing Shikakus sentence, Hiruzen mused, “He lacks ambition…most of his efforts are to ensure he wont have responsibility thrust upon him…”
Nodding his head, Shikaku mused, “He reminds me of my son. Both have incredible potential, but they would rather do their own thing. Wu-kun is a bit better, as he at least attempts to fit in, but I can see him justgiving up if things become too stressful. Right now, hes just being prudent because he feels he hasnt fully integrated into our society.”
Returning a nod of his own, Hiruzen took a moment to move one of his pieces before replying, “Then it appears were in agreement…in order to tie Wu to the village, we need to give him areason to stay, something to motivate him. Any thoughts…”
Moving one of his pieces, Shikakus expression became serious as he suggested, “I would recommend the girl from the Inuzuka Clan, but she doesnt appear to have a lot ofvalue in Wu-kuns mind. The heiress of the Hyuga Clan would have been a good option, but her infatuation with Naruto-kun complicates things. Shedoes have a younger sister, but the Elders and Lord Hiashi are currently evaluating her as a substitute for her sister…”
Continuing the line of discussion, Hiruzen added, “There is also the matter of her age…four years isnt a considerable gap, but Wu-kuns growth has been exponential thus far. By the time young Hanabi comes of age, it may be too late. If Wu-kun believes he can excel outside of the village, he will venture beyond. Im certain of it.”
Nodding his head, Shikaku appended, “I get the same impression.” before asking, “The problem is, even Ino-chan—I mean, even the heiress of the Yamanaka Clan has someone she likes. Inoichi-san also dotes on her, so I cant imagine him agreeing to an arranged marriage…”
Exhaling a sigh, Hiruzen muttered, “Then it really does just come down to those two, doesnt it The Hyuga Clan is the only Clan whose values have yet to catch up with the times. If its to strengthen themselves financially or politically, they will readily approve of such an arrangement…”
Asking the obvious question, Shikaku inquired, “And what of the girl from the Inuzuka Clan Im not sure she comprehends her own emotions, but she is clearly attached to Wu-kun. If were aiming to tie him to the village, it might be good to cover every base…”
Though he agreed with what Shikaku was suggesting, Hiruzen shook his head, stating, “While that is certainly an option, there is a chance it would have the opposite of the intended effect. Wu-kun exudes a strong, underlying desire for autonomy. If we force him into a corner, he might run away.”
Exhaling a sigh of his own, Shikaku muttered, “How troublesome…and to think were discussing an eight-year-old kid…”
Adopting a faint smile, Hiruzen mused, “Wu isnt just any child. According to the Grand Elder of the Monkey Clan, Venerable Yama, his fate is tied to the Shinobi World as a whole. Seeing his progress thus far, there is a very real possibility that Wu will become the next God of Shinobi.”
Exhaling a markedly more exasperated sigh, Shikaku remained silent for several seconds before meeting Hiruzens gaze and saying, “If he really is going to be the next God of Shinobi, we should slowly begin preparations for war. The other villages will not be able to remain silent once his power begins to blossom…”
As much as he hated to admit it, Hiruzen knew Shikaku was correct. The Land of Fire had been at peace for too long, and the surrounding nations had taken notice. The Land of Wind had even started sending requests to Konoha for aid, so tensions with Suuna were on the rise. The only reason a conflict hadnt already started was because their Jinchuriki should only be around 6-10 years old.
Reaching up to massage his forehead, Hiruzen groaned, “Im getting too old for this…”
Adding insult to injury, Shikaku unabashedly placed Hiruzen into Tsumi, the Shogi version of checkmate. Then, even though he doubted things would go smoothly, he rose to his feet and said, “Ill talk to Inoichi and see if he cant talk some sense into his daughter. As for the matter of your age…well, theres always Lady Tsunade and Jiraiya-san. I cant imagine either volunteering for the position, but its worth reaching out to them to touch base. And, who knows Maybe our little monkey friend has a thing for older women. The Senju Clan could certainly use a successor…”
Recovering from his loss, Hiruzen gained a sly smile as he replied, “Ill reach out to them and see what I can do. Just dont let Tsunade catch you making suggestions like that. I know you want to retire, but Id rather not have to find a replacement for my Jonin Commander during the build-up to a war…”
Returning a smile of his own, Shikaku replied, “Obviously…I dont have a death wish.” Then, as he was technically off the clock, he gave a parting wave to Hiruzen before leaving the elderly man to ruminate over the Shogi board…
With Inos father refusing to let her spend the afternoon at a boys house, even if said boy lived with the Hokage, Wus week passed largely without incident. Hinata and Sakura were making steady progress in their training, and while Kaia had yet to master sticking to the log, she had some minor success emulating Wus weight training. He had her start off with a mere 10kg on each limb, and after discussing it with Hiruzen, he had a weighted vest made to order for her tiny frame.
Though it was strictly to help with her training, Kaia treated the 40kg vest as if it were a treasure Wu had fought through hell to acquire, specifically for her. She wore it everywhere she went, and while Wu considered this a good thing, it became an issue when Kaia collapsed from heat stroke. She had a habit of wearing baggy clothes, so the additional weight pushed the 21kg girl over the edge.
Fortunately, while his name came up in the conversation, Wu wasnt held accountable for Kaias collapse. She had willfully worn the vest and even received permission from her parents to do so. As a result, Wu managed to evade responsibility while Kaia was forced to choose between her vest and her baggy clothes. She unhesitantly chose the former, so while she still had a boyish appearance, Kaia began showing up to class in lighter, marginally more feminine clothes.
Irrespective of the incidents outcome, Wu was just happy to reach the weekend. Having his afternoons occupied by a group of girls was a lot more stressful than he expected, so, while he wasnt particularly looking forward to meeting up with Tenten, he was eager to see if her father was even half the Blacksmith she purported him to be…
Upon reaching his destination, a decently sized shop near the outskirts of the village, Wus first impression was that Tentens story had, at the very least, some merit to it. Land within Konoha was costly, so unless you were a member of the founding clans or possessed outstanding skills, leasing a large plot was impossible.
Interrupting Wus thoughts, Tenten emerged from the interior of the shop wearing a red, sleeveless qipao, maroon pants, and boots that appeared to have a metal cap covering the toe. There were smudges of black soot on her face and clothes, but she had a vibrant smile as she shouted, “Wu-kun, you actually came! Come on in! My parents cant wait to meet you~!”
Adopting an amiable but significantly less enthusiastic smile, Wu replied, “Im also looking forward to meeting them.” before allowing himself to be dragged into the storefront. Unlike Sakura, Tenten was more than happy to bring a boy into her home, exclaiming, “Kaa-chan! Tou-san! Wu-kuns here~!” the moment they entered the shop.
Exhibiting a remarkable resemblance to her daughter, Tentens mom was a fairly attractive woman with almond-shaped eyes, delicate brows, and brown hair fastened into a neat bun. She wore a salmon-pink qipao that gave her an air of elegance, and, despite her thin arms and gentle smile, Wu felt the hair on his neck stand on end when their eyes met.
Noticing Wus body tense, Tentens mother covered her mouth, stifling an amused chuckle before narrowing her eyes and saying, “Its nice to meet you, Wu-chan. As you no doubt have guessed, Im Tentens mother, Liling. I appreciate your coming by to visit our shop. I almost couldnt believe my ears when Tenten informed us she had invited a boy over.”
While still holding onto Wus hand, Tenten puffed out her chest, saying, “I told you he was real. Now you owe us both an ice cream, Kaa-chan.”
Cupping her cheek, Liling smiled affectionately at her daughters antics. However, before she could head off to the kitchen to get the two children some ice cream, her husband entered from the back room with afierce look on his rugged, fire-hardened face.
Standing at 190cm tall and possessing a physique sculpted over two decades of forging, Tentens father was a mountain of a man compared to the average person. His wild brown hair and piercing brown eyes gave him the same kind of untamed aura that Wu possessed. Despite this, the latter was certain he could take the man in a fight. After all, his Chakra reserves were even weaker than most Academy students.
Fortunately for Tentens father, his comparably dainty-looking wife was more than intimidating enough for the both of them. The notion that she could maintain her smile even while covered in the blood of her enemies was firmly imprinted into Wus mind.
Backed by his wifes aura, Tentens father crossed his muscular arms, his voice deep and gruff as he narrowed his eyes and remarked, “So youre the boy my daughters been chattering about all week…”
Exhibiting none of the fear he was secretly enduring, Wu adopted a smile and replied, “If I had to guess, theres a fair chance thats the case. Its nice to meet you, Sir.”
Expecting the man to continue trying to intimidate him, Wu was surprised when Tentens father suddenly beamed, a hearty chuckle emanating from his throat. Then, as if the atmosphere had suddenly changed, he wiped a tear from his eye and whispered, “My little girl is growing up…”
Before Wu could recover from his shock, the atmosphere within the shop changed a third time, a massive grin developing across the mans face as he shouted, “Welcome to the Higurashi Weapon Shop! As Tentens first male friend, you can rely on me, Higurashi Saizo, for all your weapon and maintenance needs…!”