Chapter Sixty Six ~ Departure

535 68 16

I stared at the broken Claw mask before me.

My apartment building was mostly destroyed, but enough was still standing for me to sift through the rubble in search of my belongings. My twin blades had been returned to me by Kakashi, and I still had the clothes on my body, but that was it.

And now the Claw mask.

Kakashi had broken it when I had fought him as the Claw. I had repaired it to train my genin. Now it lay broken once more upon the previous fault.

My missing fingers gave a vicious phantom throb and I curled and uncurled my hand into a fist several times, flexing sore and shortened tendons. The measures I had taken to strengthen my ninjutsu training had been a waste: I would no longer be able to perform ninjutsu with my lack of ability to make hand signs. Some ninja were capable of performing jutsus with one hand; it might take hours upon hours of practice, but I should be capable of learning how to do jutsus with a missing and incomplete finger.

I gathered what little I had, picking up the larger piece of the Claw mask and sliding it into my backpack. Pausing, I glanced over a partially broken frame, tipped over on the cracked floor. After a hesitant moment, I picked it up, brushing off the bits of glass that had chipped off in fragments, removing the picture it had held. The picture had been taken as an official team photo; an identical copy of the picture I held in my hand had been given to each genin. In the picture, I had my arms crossed and held a frown of disapproval on my face. That was when I had just been given a team, despite my many protests. Despite their less than enthusiastic sensei, Aisa, Michiko, and Kento smiled brightly. A look of playful rivalry could be detected from the boys, and a sense of snarky innocence exhumed from Michiko.

I allowed one of my fingers to glaze over the three of them, and then crumpled up the picture, intending to throw it away. But my body, my fingers, unconsciously refused to take action. A broken sigh of pain and frustration escaped my mouth as I buried my face into my hands.

"Dammit Ibiki," I muttered bitterly. "Damn you, damn me." Had Ibiki just done what I'd asked of him, I would have been able to make the cold, logical decisions that needed to be made without any hesitation, any second-guessing, any regret. Now, the same decisions would have to be made; nothing would change except the pain I would be in. I glanced once more at the picture before crumpling it up again.

Instead of dropping it in the rubble, though, I shoved it into my pocket and walked away.

***

Tsunade was out of commission.

I frowned at Shikamaru, who had just informed me that Tsunade was in a coma when I'd asked where the Hokage was. He frowned back, scanning my body, eyes lingering on exposed bandages and my missing fingers.

"Why do you want to see the Hokage?" he asked instead of commenting on my injuries.

I ignored his question. "If Tsunade isn't Hokage, who is right now?"

He grimaced. "My old man suggested Kakashi," he replied. "But it was shot down. Danzo recommended himself, instead, and the council agreed."

My frown deepened. "Danzo, huh?" He did owe me from when I had broken the blue-eyed Claw for him, but...he had finally gained the position of power he had always craved. It wasn't likely that he would listen to any requests, and certainly not mine.

Shikamaru leaned back, his injured leg propped up. "Why do you want to see the Hokage?" he questioned again.

"I..." I began, then broke off. "I know that I'll probably be busy with repairing the village and that ninja will be stretched thin, right now. I just wanted to make sure that if I was sent on any missions, long term or otherwise, my genin wouldn't be forgotten. They'd get a mission of their own that they could handle or another chunin or jonin would take over their training for a bit. But he's probably busy, right now, and doesn't have time for small requests like that. So." Shikamaru was still frowning. "Anyhow. Hope you heal quickly; we'll need the extra help."

The Strength of Humanity (A Naruto Fan Fiction)Read this story for FREE!