Naruto Hiden / Naruto Hiden Vol 2 Chapter 2
Addressed to the Sixth Hokage,
There is not much time, so I must write briefly.
Our investigation into the matter of your concern has been completed up to the degree you specified.However none of my 10 comrades have returned, and I have been left on my own.
I do not know if they are dead or alive. However, I think that there’s no mistake the enemy has sensed us.
I will get straight to the point.
The internal affairs of this country are far, far worse than you had feared them to be. If we leave it be, then the Shinobi Union is going to end up in a predicament. No, in fact, I believe that the very framework of the world could end up changing.
There is a man who is shaping this country.
His name is Gengo.
This country is here because Gengo is, and Gengo is here because of the country.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say this entire country only exists for the sake of Gengo.
‘Enchantment.’ That is the word that describes Gengo the most suitably.
Gengo may end up becoming an existence that will change the world.
I’m not sure if I don’t want it to change.
The living things called Shinobi don’t really have a saving grace to them, do they?
Because we endure, we are shinobi.
But is that really a good thing?
I don’t know who I am anymore…
Lifting his head from reading Sai’s letter, Shikamaru let out one small exhale
Kakashi was seated at his desk in front of him, his elbows leaning against the surface. He was wearing the hat that all Hokage’s must wear during official business or otherwise. It weighed down on his hair that had grown out in the last few years. Every part of his face that lay below his nose was hidden behind a mask as always.
Cradling his jaw with both hands, he was quietly watching Shikamaru’s reaction.
“What are you thinking?” He asked, with a very clear voice.
There was no one other than them inside the Hokage’s Office.
“I’m thinking…why would Sai send back a Beast Imitation, instead of returning himself?”
“That is indeed a thing to wonder.”
Letting go of his chin, Kakashi leaned back thoughtfully. Tilting his jaw to look up at the ceiling, he let out a louder and bigger sigh than Shikamaru had.
“And I’m thinking that, looking at the letter, it seems that all except Sai have fallen into the enemy’s hands and been killed, doesn’t it?”
“It does look like that.”
“Sai was leading a team made up of ten of Anbu’s most skilled members. I don’t think any of them could have made a foolish move that would expose themselves to the enemy. So it seems that the enemy is very skilled as well.”
“Yes…” Saying so, Kakashi began to slowly spin around in his chair. He spun around once, so Shikamaru was faced with the back of his chair, before slowly turning around again. Kakashi was the kind of man who kept his shoulders slouched in even the most serious of circumstances.
Normally, when a person was faced with this kind of a situation, their body would freeze up along with their thoughts. Kakashi was purposely making such seemingly carefree movement to stop his thoughts from freezing up. He had learned to always keep his body moving from his years as a capable Shinobi who saw so much shocking, bloody carnage.
Shikamaru was looking at Kakashi with an anxious expression on his face. He opened his mouth to speak.
“At the moment Sai realised he had lost all of his comrades, there’s only one course of action he could have picked.”
“Escape, right?” Kakashi said, still watching the ceiling.
Kakashi gave a nod to Shikamaru’s immediate reply. Although he should have been directing his face to look at Shikamaru, he was still staring up at the ceiling.
“And yet he sent this kind of letter, instead of coming back to the village and reporting directly to you, Hokage-“
“How many times have I told you that just Kakashi-san is fine?” Kakashi said, finally turning to look at Shikamaru. “Since when have you gotten so stiff? It was nice when you used to have your shoulders slouched all the time.”
“I wasn’t going to stay a kid forever.”
“Even now, Naruto still acts ‘like a kid’.”
“Oh, I see…”
Somewhat of a sad look entered Kakashi’s eyes. He spread out Sai’s scroll on his desk, eyes going over it again.
Sai could transform his handwriting into an ink beast and send it to far away locations, where the ink beast would turn into handwriting again when it come into contact with a blank scroll. The hawk that Shikamaru had seen on the roof was the ink beast form of Sai’s handwriting he saw now.
“The situation is ‘far worse than I’d thought,’ huh…”
“It sounds like it’d be reasonable to say that the shinobi who went missing in action during the war, as well as those who’ve been disappearing lately, are all in that country.”
“That does seem to be what Sai’s confirmed.”
“The Country of Silence…”
The whole matter had been snowballing since two years ago.
Many lives had been claimed during the Fourth Shinobi World War started by Uchiha Madara and Uchiha Obito. Faced with the power of abominations outside the category of people, the shinobi of the Five Great Countries had gathered all their power and stood together. Finally, the person manipulating Madara, Ootsutsuki Kaguya, had been defeated and the war ended.
As every village entered into a period of peaceful recovery from the war, the details of figuring out who had been killed in battle and who was missing in action had turned into an urgent matter. The war had been a fierce battle that even ripped apart the continent’s terrain. If someone’s corpse could be found, it was considered a stroke of luck.
Compared to the number of shinobi that were concluded to have died in battle, the number of shinobi that were unaccounted for was far larger.
The Five Great Shinobi Countries had lost roughly 10,000 shinobi…
10,000 shinobi were the victims of the Fourth Shinobi World War.
Their enemies in the war could have wiped out the whole world. Many said it was a great stroke of fortune for them to have ended the war with ‘only this many lost’.
But that wasn’t how Shikamaru saw the matter.
Even one victim was one victim too many.
In the last war, he had his lost his friend Hyuuga Neji. Shikamaru didn’t think the pain of Neji’s loss was the only case out of ten thousand. A similar pain to losing Hyuuga Neji must have been felt for every other one of those victims.
In the death of only one person, there were emotions you couldn’t separate yourself from by simply by saying they were “just one sacrifice”.
It was for that reason…
It was for that reason that war couldn’t ever be allowed to break out again.
“I wonder just how many of those missing shinobi could’ve gone to the Country of Silence…” Kakashi muttered the same thoughts that were going through Shikamaru’s mind.
It was exactly as Kakashi said. Within all the shinobi who had been lost during the last war, there must have been a small amount who had survived but stayed out of reach.
The Shinobi Union’s Headquarters had been the first one to notice that.
Since it was Headquarters who handled all forms of requests for help and such, they were the first to notice any patterns. One such pattern had started to emerge about a year ago.
The requests for Shinobi dispatches had sharply decreased.
Since the Five Great Shinobi Coutries had decided to from a union, the Daimyo had had remarkably less fighting in the outer lands they ruled as well. Thus, it was a very natural thing for dangerous A-rank or B-rank mission requests to decrease.
However, the matter didn’t end there.
Even the relatively easy C-rank and D-rank mission requests had decreased in exactly the same way.
Shikamaru had heard of this matter relatively quickly, since he had a place at the Shinobi Union’s Headquarters as well. But it wasn’t like there was something they could do to solve the sudden decrease of missions. The Union had said it was a brief change brought along by the times, and closed the matter.
However, there was a man who said he could put an end to the problem of the declining missions, as well as one other problem that had popped up since the end of the war.
That man was Kakashi.
The other problem Kakashi was intent on solving: the cases of missing nin within the Five Great Shinobi Countries that had been going on for a year.
Since about a year ago, every village had been losing one Shinobi per month. That made 12 missing-nin for every village up to now. The Five Hidden Villages had had 60 shinobi disappear in total. Furthermore, they were all young, single, male Shinobi.
Abandoning your village was a grave crime. Of course, each village had sent people in pursuit of the deserters, but somehow, not a single one had been found.
“I probably did the wrong thing asking Sai to continue the investigation when he asked for back-up.” Kakashi said. “I should’ve pulled him out of the situation and gotten him mentally prepared before sending him to the Country of Silence.”
“Regretting it now isn’t going to change anything.”
Sai, who had been sent to investigate the cases of the missing-nin, had sent them notice of finding a lead about a month ago. Kakashi, who believed the increased missing-nin and the decrease of mission dispatches were related, had told Sai to continue the investigation with the anbu as back up.
The lead Sai had found was the Country of Silence.
The Country of Silence could be found in the far west of a continent that rivalled the Five Great Shinobi Countries as well as the countries surrounding them.
It was a country that had never made contact with any of the Shinobi Villages – or any other foreign country, for that matter. It was thus called ‘the Country of Silence’ by outsiders. The only details known about it was that it was a country with samurai who kept its citizens in line, and a Daimyou who ruled over the samurai. However, anything further than that was a complete mystery.
According to what Sai had relayed, it seemed that somehow Konoha’s missing-nin had run towards this country.
And those weren’t the least of their concerns. There was also the matter of the Konoha Shinobi who had gone missing in action during the war.
The Country of Silence was collecting shinobi who had gone missing in action as well as shinobi who had deserted the village…
For what reason?
Kakashi could see the reason as clearly as he could see the answer to the decrease of dispatches coming into the Shinobi Union.
“What do you think happened to Sai?” Kakashi asked.
“Well, I agree with that.” The bottom of Kakashi’s mask moved as if he was smiling. “When you look at his obsessive sounding praise of this ‘Gengo’ he mentions in his letter…” Kakashi touched the fine, delicate handwriting on Sai’s message.
Seeing what he was thinking, Shikamaru kept speaking.
“It’s not something I want to believe, but we can’t discount the possibility that Sai’s been taken in by this man called Gengo.”
“Sai’s so pure, after all…”
“If Sai’s alive, we can’t just not save him.”
“That’s true…” Kakashi’s left scarred eye seemed to darken with despair.
Shikamaru could tell precisely what he was going to say without needing to hear it out loud.
This situation had a greater and more important matter than that of saving a comrade.
Shikamaru himself forced out the words.
“If the internal affairs of the Country of Silence are really as Sai’s reported, if the goings-on within are as you’ve guessed, then we have to take action immediately.”
“I know that.”
Shikamaru didn’t stop talking.
“It’s been two years since the war. All the villages have finally regained their stability, but the status of the country as a whole is still less than half as strong as it used to be.”
“We couldn’t possibly withstand another war.”
Letting out another huge sigh, Kakashi stood up from his chair. He stepped around his desk covered with scrolls and books and came to stand next to Shikamaru.
“It seems like you’ve come to the same conclusion that I have.” Kakashi said.
“Then do you understand what I think of it?”
“You want to go and do it yourself, don’t you?”
Kakashi had a lot of experience from his youth spent in the anbu. He stood out amongst the anbu, whose specialty were shady missions, as a very capable soldier.
Shikamaru could see those thoughts on his face, and let out a sigh.
“Hokage-sama. I understand your feelings more than enough, but you must already know that what you want isn’t going to happen.”
“Heh. Your thoughts flash through your mind almost at the same speed as Minato-sensei’s jutsu, do you know that?”
Shikamaru simply gave Kakashi a long stare as an answer. Kakashi continued speaking in the face of Shikamaru’s silence.
“Anyway, going on what Sai said, the leading force behind that country is this man called Gengo.”
“As long as we do something about him, then there won’t be any further problems.”
“That’s what I’m thinking as well.”
Putting his hand at the middle of his back and giving a great stretch like an old man, Kakashi said, “Who do you think should be sent?”
“Huh?” Kakashi’s eyes widened. “You’re Konoha’s representative. You have a lot of duties to the Union as well. There’s no need for you to go on an assassination mission at this time.”
Kakashi had finally put it into words. The thought that had been going through both of their heads was now out in the open.
If the Shinobi Union and the Country of Silence went to war, then the Union they’d spent so long maintaining would be disrupted, and possibly even rupture. Each nation was still exhausted despite all their recovery so far – there wasn’t a single person who wished for a war.
If Sai’s letter was to be trusted, then assassinating this ‘Gengo’ would be quickest and most effective way of stopping the Country of Silence from disrupting the world’s hard-attained peace.
“We have to keep the circle of people who know about this matter as small as possible.” Shikamaru said.
“But I’m telling you, for you to go is…”
“One of my comrades has been taken. Please allow me to go.”
Kakashi stopped talking when he saw Shikamaru’s determination.
As Kakashi said, there was no real need for Shikamaru to go. It would’ve been more proper to find another capable person and entrust the matter to them.
And yet, Shikamaru himself volunteered.
He himself didn’t understand why he did it.
But he just couldn’t stay still.