Naruto Hiden / Naruto Hiden Vol 2 Chapter 12

The Hokage’s office back home couldn’t even be compared to the enormous size of this hall.

Shikamaru was crouched down in the middle of a deep crimson carpet rolled out from the extravagant double doors at the entrance towards the interior of the room. 

Both of his hands were in manacles behind his back. Two of the Enlightened Ones stood by his sides so he wouldn’t get any ideas about standing up and causing trouble. Well, they were originally shinobi, so they’d notice the moment Shikamaru did anything suspicious.

Rou and Soku were behind him. They, too, had their hands in manacles behind their backs, and guards by their sides. The only difference was that both their faces were covered in dark bruises and gashes, clear evidence of the torture they’d been suffering.

Going by the number of meals and the state of his stomach, it had already been 10 days since they were captured.

In all that time, Shikamaru hadn’t been tortured even once. Gengo had visited him countless times, staying a bit to make some meaningless small talk, and then leaving. He would always say things like ‘should I make a speech today I wonder’ or ‘what should be eaten for lunch?’ useless, stupid stuff like that.

“Lower your head.” the Enlightened on Shikamaru’s right side ordered, and slammed his forehead onto the carpet.

“These are important guests. You mustn’t handle them roughly.” Gengo’s voice came from some distance ahead of Shikamaru.

The moment he said that, the EO let go of Shikamaru’s head in a hurry, straightening up as if deeply embarrassed at being scolded.

“My subordinate has been rude.” Gengo said. “Please, raise your head.”

Shikamaru had already been lifting his face even before he was given permission. A marble staircase started where the crimson carpet ended ahead of him. At the very top of the staircase, there was a wide floor with a long, extravagant statue of a dragon with a throne carved into it.

Gengo sat there, one leg thrown over the other. His left elbow was leaning on the armrest, and he casually cradled his cheek in his left palm. The cool, composed gaze with which he looked down at Shikamaru was exactly that of the ruler of a country.

“Bring them closer.” Gengo commanded.

The EO’s at Shikamaru’s sides put their arms through his, dragging him to his feet. They hurried him across the carpet, until he was at the bottom of the great staircase. Rou and Soku were dragged along in the same manner.

“Have you gotten a little bit curious about my words now?” Gengo asked.

“Sorry but, I have no idea what you’re trying to say.” Shikamaru said.

Gengo let out a small laugh at the immediate and resolute reply.

There were several EO’s lined up along each side of his throne. All of them were  looking down at Shikamaru with the kind of haughty eyes that made him suppose they were Gengo’s advisors or close aides. Shikamaru saw Sai’s figure among their ranks, already adorned with the black cloak that all Enlightened Ones wore. Although they were supposed to be comrades, Sai’s eyes looked down at Shikamaru without any uneasiness or hesitation. Sai’s eyes had never been very expressive to begin with, but they’d never looked as blank and empty as they did now.

“Someone as intelligent and well-known as yourself…” Gengo said, “I think you’ve long figured out what I want from you.”

Of course Shikamaru had noticed what Gengo wanted. He’d sensed it ages ago, but it was a ridiculous notion. It wasn’t ever going to happen. So he kept his mouth shut, and didn’t even waste his breath on it.

“Become my right hand man, Shikamaru. If it’s you, then you will be able to bring a new world into existence alongside me. I can see that you are a man capable of that.”

“I’ll pass.”

Shikamaru immediately spat out his reply. His eyes seethed with murderous rage as he glared up at Gengo.

But the country’s ruler didn’t seem the least bit affected. He calmly met Shikamaru’s bloodthirsty gaze as if it was nothing more than a passing wind.

“Someone who reacted to my sudden proposition with immediate joy and acceptance would not have been someone I would want. You’re doing very well, Shikamaru.”

“You’ve been pissing me off more and more with that all-knowing tone of yours, acting like you can see through everyone. What could you possibly understand about me?”

Shikamaru wasn’t actually pissed off. He wasn’t the sort of person who let things like this anger him enough to make him lose his cool. He was just acting like he was itching for a fight because he wanted to see his opponent’s reaction. That was all that it was.

“It’s impossible for one person to completely understand another.” Gengo said, “Isn’t that why I’m holding a conversation with you? I’m not seeing through you. I’ve simply lived a little longer than you have, so I can perceive your emotions a little. If that somehow seemed to manifest into an arrogant tone, then I apologise.”

“It’s exactly that kind of tone that pisses me off.”

“I see…” Gengo closed his eyes and laughed in a self-deprecating way.

For a while, there was silence. Gengo’s gaze wondered around the room as if he was thinking.

He had deliberately created a chance for Shikamaru’s ‘anger’ to cool down…

If you looked at the situation from afar, you’d think Gengo was simply pausing to gather his own thoughts and prepare for another conversation.

However, the reality was that if Gengo had continued the conversation with its current atmosphere, then Shikamaru’s ‘anger’ would have continued to brim over until he was so incensed he would obstinately refuse to listen to anything. Gengo had deliberately created a lull in conversation to avoid that outcome.

Creating a pause for both parties to breathe and calm down would effectively change the strained atmosphere between them. Even if Shikamaru had insisted on spitting out vitriol, with the absence of Gengo’s reply it would’ve been nothing more than empty howling that would release more anger than increase it.

Gengo was pushing the conversation down the path that he wanted it to go.

This man had a lot of practice with negotiating…

Finally, after a long pause, Gengo’s eyes returned to look at Shikamaru.

“There’s just one thing question I have for you, but would you be willing to give me an answer?”

“What?”

Shikamaru regretted the word the moment he let it pass his mouth. But it was too late to take it back.

“Why are shinobi so oppressed and downtrodden?”

Oppressed? Shinobi?

Shikamaru didn’t understand what the man was getting at.

His silence encouraged Gengo to continue speaking, reinforcing his question with more talk.

“The villages that shinobi live in are always, without exception, described as ‘hidden villages’. Why must shinobi stay hidden? In all the countries in this continent, how much land do shinobi really get to call their own? You’ll find that it’s a very small portion. And why is that? Because there are others who rule the majority of this continent. The daimyous.”

Well, he wasn’t wrong. Shinobi villages did have the title of a ‘hidden village’ added to their name. The majority of the continent was indeed governed by Daimyous.

So what?

So the Daimyous governed the countries, so the shinobi stayed in villages that were called ‘hidden villlages’. That didn’t make shinobi oppressed.

Shikamaru held a job in the very backbone of the Shinobi Union, so he knew a little bit more about the state of the world than others. The Daimyous, and the citizens who lived within the countries that they ruled, they all co-existed alongside shinobi in a satisfactory, mutually beneficial relationship.

“Think about it, Shikamaru. Why are shinobi oppressed by the daimyous?”

“When have shinobi ever been oppressed by the Daimyous?”

“It’s not just the daimyous. We’re oppressed by every single person who isn’t a shinobi.” Gengo’s eyes looked like they were spitting flames as he looked at Shikamaru. “I will ask you one more question.”

“You said you were just going to ask one…”

“I’m asking another.” Gengo sharply cut him off. “Shinobi hold a power different from all other humans in this world. Do you agree?”

Chakra and ninjutsu…

Well, you couldn’t deny that they were abilities that clearly separated shinobi from normal people.

Shikamaru silently nodded.

Gengo seemed satisfied by that, and continued speaking.

“And the power that shinobi hold is one that far surpasses the limits of a human’s abilities.”

Again, Shikamaru nodded.

The Great War that took place two years ago had been a battle that would decide the fight of the whole world. If the shinobi alliance back then had been defeated, then neither Shikamaru nor Gengo would be here talking now.

Whether it was Uchiha Madara, who had planned to drag every human on earth into a giant genjutsu’s dreams, or Naruto Uzumaki, who had taken all the tailed beasts into his body so he could end the battle, both were prime examples of living beings that simply couldn’t be called ‘human’ anymore. It was possible that with the developments of the last era, shinobi had broken away from the path of ‘humanity’ all together.

“Why must shinobi who surpass the limits of human beings be forced to live in ‘hidden’ villages? Why must we endure living that kind of life? Why must we be forced to work for our daily income as the daimyous’ errand boys? In the Great War two years ago, who was it that saved this world from destruction? It wasn’t the daimyou. It wasn’t the citizens.”

Gengo’s voice increased in power, pushing down on Shikamaru from every direction.

“Wasn’t it we shinobi who saved this world?”

What was this power…?

It was making his heart thump erratically in his chest.

Shikamaru felt something he hadn’t felt at all until this moment: exaltation.

Why did he feel like that?

…Maybe because Gengo had taken the same dangerous feelings that lurked in some repressed corner of Shikamaru’s heart, and clearly put them into words.

He was right…

Two years ago, shinobi had saved the world.

“Countless shinobi fought and sacrificed their lives to protect this world, but just how many citizens actually know about that fact? The name of Uzumaki Naruto, someone adored all across the shinobi world for being the hero that ended the war– it isn’t even known to a handful of citizens! Uchiha Madara, Uchiha Obito, Uchiha Sasuke, Hatake Kakashi, the Five Kage, the Akatsuki, all of them, isn’t it a fact that nobody outside of the shinobi world ever talks about them?”

It was exactly as Gengo said. No matter how much shinobi put their lives on the line to protect the world, none of the citizens living within society would ever hear about it.

“This era of peace was built upon piles of shinobi corpses, and yet the daimyou come and sit atop it without a moment of hesitation, comfortably continuing to rule the citizens without a single thought for us. It’s for the sakes of those bastards that we shinobi went out into the battlefield at the time of the Great War. We became living barriers for the daimyou and citizens. And yet, in return?”

Nothing had changed.

Well, Shikamaru thought that wasn’t an unreasonable outcome.

The antagonists against the shinobi alliance during the war, Uchiha Madara and Ootsutsuki Kaguya, had intended to pull all the people in the continent into a genjutsu so they could use their chakra as a living battery. 

The result had been that in the height of that fierce battle, all the citizens and daimyou had fallen into a deep sleep.

But still…

The fact remained that it wasn’t as if no one knew what happened during the Great War. They simply didn’t speak of it.

“Why are we shinobi who hold the greater power forced to live in ‘hidden villages’, constantly lurking in the shadows as we go about our daily lives?” Gengo stood up from his throne. “Is it really for the best?”

Gengo took one step down the stairs. Then another. He slowly descended, holding Shikamaru’s gaze as he kept speaking.

“Shikamaru. The next question is what I really want to ask you.”

Gengo reached the bottom of the stairs, walking forwards so he stood right in front of Shikamaru’s eyes.

“Wouldn’t it be for the best if shinobi governed this world instead?”

‘You’re wrong.’ 

Shikamaru couldn’t say those words. No, he couldn’t answer the question at all.

He didn’t know what was right anymore.

‘We are shinobi because we endure.’

No matter how great the powers you held were, you served the people unseen and from the shadows. That was what shinobi were defined by.

However.

Endless possibilities stemmed from the chakra and ninjutsu used by shinobi. If shinobi really took control from the daimyous the way Gengo said, and if they governed all the countries, then wouldn’t the world make even more remarkable progress than it has up to now?

What was really the best choice for the people?

He couldn’t give an answer.

“With the power of shinobi, I am slowly going to elevate this country.” Gengo said. “I am going to put a clean end to this this unrelenting era of war lords. With the power of shinobi, it’s possible!”

Killing the man called Gengo…was it really for the best?

Shikamaru wasn’t so sure anymore.

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