Chapter 4: Responsibility No Thanks
Though there were significantly fewer trees than he was used to, Wus first impression of Konoha was that it was peaceful and incredibly lively. According to Hiruzen, there were more than 80,000 people residing within the village, encircled by a perimeter wall more than 45km in diameter.
Situated at the northernmost point of the village was a series of small mountains that had been leveled out over time, resembling cliffs with flat tops. The most prominent of these rock structures had four faces carved into it, each depicting one of theHokage that had ruled the village since its inception, approximately 52 years prior.
After learning what theHokage Monument represented, Wu asked the most obvious question, “What happened to the man on the far right Did he die…”
Though there was a flicker of melancholy in Hiruzens eyes, the elderly man managed to maintain his smile as he replied, “Indeed. Minato gave his life to protect the village from a dangerous beast known as the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox. Since then, I have safeguarded the village in his stead, patiently awaiting the day a suitable replacement can be found.”
With Hiruzen directing ahopeful look his way, Wu couldnt help raising his brows and asking, “What You want me to become the next Hokage”
Exhaling a chuckle, Hiruzen replied, “That depends on you. The person who wears this hat isnt just the strongest in the village, they also carry the burden of the peoples beliefs. You have a promising future ahead of you, Wu, but youll need to work tirelessly if you wish to gain the trust of others.”
Furrowing his brows, Wu appeared to be in deep thought, eliciting another soft chuckle from Hirzuen. He, at least for the time being, had no intention of pressuring Wu into becoming the next Hokage. His primary goal was to ensure Wu felt at home within the village. So long as he could accomplish that, he could guide Wu onto one of many paths…
Catching Hiruzen a little off guard, Wu raised his head and asked, “What are the benefits of becoming Hokage If it takes power and influence to be qualified for the position, does it really matter if you accept the hat I doubt your influence would just dry up if you refused…”
Surprised by Wus words, Hiruzen found himself at a momentary loss. He was initially intending to say that the Hokage had the final say in matters concerning the village, but that wasnt entirely true. If he didnt adhere to the recommendations of the Civilian and Shinobi Councils, the stability of the village and his position as Hokage would both be jeopardized.
Interpreting Hiruzens reaction through his subjective lens, Wu snorted through his nose and asserted, “Sounds like a thankless role that forces everyones burdens onto a single person. I prefer freedom and peace of mind, so you can keep that hat or find someone else to wear it.”
Exhaling an embarrassed chuckle, Hiruzen decided to swiftly change the topic, asking, “Are you hungry” with a bit of a twinkle in his eye.
Nodding his head in affirmation, Wu admitted, “Im pretty much always hungry. Nuts arent very satisfying, and eating too many fruits gives me diarrhea.”
Adopting a somewhat mischievous smile, Hiruzen replied, “I see…” before gesturing to a food stall a few meters away. He had noticed Wu staring at the kebabs on display when they initially passed it, and he had heard from Enma about the youths inordinateobsession with trying meat.
Realizing Hiruzens intentions, Wus eyes widened as his salivary glands kicked into overdrive. He had hoped he would be able to eat meat upon leaving the valley, but he dared not assume. Expectations were the pitfall of satisfaction. The fewer you had, the less you were disappointed.
Placing his hand on Wus shoulder, Hiruzen mused, “Fret not, my boy. So long as you remain in this village, you are free to eat as much meat as you can afford. Now, come along. Ill explain the significance of currency while you fill your belly. Afterward, Ill show you to the Academy, and then well walk the route youll be taking to travel to and from it.”
No longer listening after Hiruzen said he could eat meat, Wu was nodding his head to imply understanding. Hiruzen noticed this, an amused chuckle emanating from his throat as he gave Wu a light push, gently shepherding him in the direction of the stall…
With significantly more pep in his step, Wu was all smiles as he followed Hiruzen to the location of the Academy. He couldnt even remember the last time he had felt such satisfaction, so even though he still had a few misgivings about the move to Konoha, he already regarded it as his new home.
Breaking Wu from his reverie, Hiruzen gestured toward a large, multi-story building with white walls accented with red timber, revealing, “This is the Konoha Primary Ninja Academy. Once classes begin, youll be spending much of your weekdays within. However, before that, there is something I want you to keep in mind…”
Placing his hand on Wus shoulder, Hiruzens expression softened despite the severity in his eyes as he stated, “You are much stronger than most other children your age, Wu. When youre attending the Academy, youll need to be careful not to injure your fellow students. The Academy isnt just a place to rear future Shinobi; its a place where children are allowed to socialize and form friendships that last a lifetime. In many ways, that is the most important function of the Academy. Yourreal training will begin once you graduate…”
Furrowing his brows, Wu asked, “Didnt you say graduation takes place at twelve You cant seriously expect me to slack off for four years…”
Shaking his head, Hiruzen asserted, “Im not asking you to slack off. Im asking you to focus on making friends and forming close bonds with your classmates. You might not understand the importance of such acts, but I can assure you that everything will make sense once you mature. Please, trust me on this matter…”
As he didnt really have any other options, Wu didnt hesitate to nod his head and state, “I understand.” in a firm tone. He didnt, not really, but he would at least try and adhere to Hiruzens request. The elderly man was his caretaker and, more importantly, the person who would be paying for all his food, clothing, and anything else he might need during his stay in the village. So long as that dynamic remained, Wu would at least consider what the man had to say.
Nodding his head in approval, Hiruzen gave Wu a firm pat on the shoulder before saying, “We should return to the estate. Truth be told, I dont have a lot of free time. As you have suspected, the obligations of those who bear the title of Hokage are endless. However, for the sake of the village and its people, we do our best to carry their burdens with a smile.”
Resisting the urge to furrow his brows and snort, Wu returned a smile of his own and said, “How commendable.” in the most sincere tone he could manage. He personally believed it was ridiculous for those with power to submit themselves to the wills of others, but he wasnt going to condemn Hiruzens actions. After all, thatkindness is what would allow Wu to live in the Sarutobi/Hokage Estate and spend the mans money, tiny pieces of metal that were apparently integral to human society.
Unaware of Wus thoughts, Hiruzen gave the remarkablypragmatic youth another pat on the shoulder before leading him along the route to his new home…
After experiencing what could best be described as a crushing defeat at the hands of a literal child, Kurenai learned the important lesson of never underestimating Wu. During the weeks leading up to his attendance at the Academy, she defaulted to the mentality she had during the Third Shinobi World War. She even started reaching out to some of her friends who had become Jonin, asking them to spar with her so that she wouldnt lose heredge when sparring against Wu.
To her credit, Kurenais efforts allowed her to avoid a second defeat at Wus hands. There were times when the inordinately agile youth would pressure her, but his distinct lack of Jutsu gave Kurenai a near-absolute advantage. She could never lower her guard, but once she became used to his fighting style, their spars became a game of cat and mouse where Wu had to go all out just to graze her.
If there was one thing Kurenai could complain about, it was the fact that Wu never seemed to tire. This was a good thing, objectively speaking, but it meant Kurenai was the one breathing heavily after their spars. If not for the time limit she set in advance, Wus stamina would outlast hers, and he would eventually be able to turn things around. Thus, no matter how often shewon against him, Kurenai never took satisfaction in her victory…
With the 15-minute timer sounding nearby, Wu immediately ceased his tireless pursuit of Kurenai, smiling broadly as he shouldered his bo staff and playfully remarked, “I failed to strike you yet again. It appears your rank of Chunin isnt just for show.”
Resisting the urge to exhale in relief, Kurenai removed her headband to wipe away the sweat from her brow as she replied, “That smart mouth of yours is going to get you in a lot of trouble one of these days…”
Undaunted by Kurenais words, Wu snickered mischievously and said, “Thats why I carry around this stick. Even if I invite trouble onto myself, I can just smack it away~!”
Rolling her eyes, Kurenai decided to letlife teach Wu the true meaning behind her words. Some girls preferred brash and wild men, butwomen chose men who were dependable and understanding. The red markings around Wus golden eyes and the confidence he portrayed were likely to make himvery popular at the Academy, but it wouldnt be long before his brash nature deterred even his moreadventurous admirers.
Resetting her headband, Kurenais expression became serious as she met Wus gaze and declared, “This marks the end of our training, Wu. Though it was only for a short while, it was a privilege to be able to help with your training. Your…tenacity has reminded me of the conviction and mentality necessary to excel as a Shinobi. I look forward to seeing what youre able to accomplish once you graduate.”
Feeling uncomfortable in the face of Kurenais sincerity, Wu scratched the back of his head and asked, “Is there any need to be so sentimental Its not like this is the last time well be seeing each other. As members of the same village, were basically family. I wont complain if you decide to stop by every once and a while.”
Restraining a chuckle, Kurenais eyes narrowed into an amused smile as she replied, “Ill consider it.” in a teasing tone. Then, as she really wanted to take a nice long bath, she used Shunshin to make her exit, leaving Wu to fill the many potholes he had created on his own.
With his left brow twitching ever so slightly, Wu returned his staff to his Storage Pouch before pulling out a shovel. He knew the holes could be repaired with a simple Earth Jutsu, but, as he had yet to be taught any, he was forced to fill each of the holes manually…
(A/N: Since a few people have been asking, no, this story does not follow the canon of Naruto. I believe that actions should have consequences, so everything from the characters to the plot is bound to change.)