" How many thousand of my poorest subjects
Are at this hour asleep! O sleep, O gentle sleep,[..]
Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude,
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down!
Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears a Crown,"
William Shakespeare, Henry the Fourth
It was quiet in Konoha. The air was still; almost as though the world itself was holding its breath in anticipation. Not even the leaves rustled.
The man put one boot on the roof's banister and breathed in deeply. The cool air felt pleasant in his throat and he closed his eyes briefly. His heart beat steadily in his chest and his muscles felt ready.
Ah, yes. It was a fine morning to embark on an S-rank mission.
He overlooked the village with a proud glint in his eyes, observing the intact roofs and empty streets. There hadn't been an attack in over a year. Most of the villagers were still fast asleep, but here and there he could spot movement; young families preparing their children for school.
Peace looks good on Konoha, the man thought. It's as if we were never at war at all.
Nowadays, all the fighting was contained to defeating bandits or remnant white Zetsu's, of which there were precious few left. With Uchiha Obito dead, Akatsuki had no members left. A few radicals had popped up here and there claiming Akatsuki had the right idea, but none of them had ever been of the level of the original organization. They had been easy to take out- or talk out of it, on two occasions.
No, the man thought, the world had gotten rather boring lately. But quite frankly, he didn't care at all.
The sun rose steadily on the horizon. Not long now before the population at large would wake up. Time to leave. This was something he had to do alone, a risk he did not want to subject his subor-
The man jumped on the spot, shock etched on his features as he almost fell over the banister. Already? How had they found out so quickly? He leapt off the banister and bent his knees in preparation for a rough landing.
Or it would have been, if not for the huge beam of wood that had suddenly curled itself around his waist like an overgrown tentacle. The man groaned, not in pain but annoyance. "Tenzou, I keep telling you-"
"Hokage-sama, you have no business sneaking off like a common burglar when you know very well you have an important meeting today," The second voice said. As the wooden tentacle pulled the first man back onto the roof, he was faced with an irate looking man in his late twenties with short brown hair and large dark eyes.
Tenzou, also known as Yamato or to some, Kinoe, looked decidedly annoyed. His eyebrows were drawn together and his mouth a thin line. He was a man of many names, but very little patience. "I keep telling you: you should delegate, Rokudaime-sama,"
"Mahh, no need to be so formal-"
"-It's as if you don't trust us with the important missions! Honestly-"
"You'd think we're all incompetent! But I won't stand for it, not anymore- you should stay safe inside the village-"
"-Or Kakashi-sempai, I suppose-"
"-And not risk your life unnecessarily! That's not what Tsunade-sama promoted you for!"
It occurred to Hatake Kakashi that if he hadn't stopped to admire the view, he'd have been a lot better off. He did a quick mental count. This was, oh, at least the second time this week Tenzou was giving him this speech. It wasn't that he was wrong, per se, but it was a simple fact that Kakashi was not built for sitting behind a desk 24/7. No doubt that had contributed to his restless feet lately; he wanted to get out and move. This S-rank mission to Kusagakure had seemed the perfect opportunity, but of course trivial matters such as meetings had to come first.
"This meeting is with the Daimyo, Kakashi-sama!"
Okay, perhaps not trivial. But boring. Oh, infinitely so.
"Mahh, Tenzou, take a deep breath. Your face is going red, and that's not your colour at all-"
"Please listen! I am not at all joking- the consequences of you not going would be disastrous!"
Tenzou was starting to look genuinely distraught by now, so Kakashi took pity on him. He raised his hands in what he hoped was a calming gesture. "Of course I would have gone. I simply would have arrived a bit.. well, just slightly-"
Tenzou's eyebrow ticked dangerously. "Late?" He finished.
"Well. Yes." Kakashi hated being so predictable. He rubbed a hand over the back of his head, putting his already unruly hair even more on end. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned casually on the wood, waiting for Tenzou to release him.
Tenzou shook his head angrily. "You're unbelievable, you know that?"
"Ah- you're unbelievable, Hokage-sama,"
Tenzou glared at him. Then he turned on his heels and walked towards the staircase. His mokuton technique loosened around Kakashi's waist, but Kakashi still had to wriggle his hips in what he feared was a rather undignified manoeuvre to free himself properly. He sighed as he watched Tenzou go. He'd taken it one step too far, hadn't he?
He reached into his pocket and pulled out the small, bright red scroll. The white 'S' marking its difficulty and payment level looked back innocently. Kakashi sighed again, shoulders sagging, and returned it to his pocket. Another time, then.
He trudged down the stairs leading directly down to his office. The previous one that Tsunade had used had been levelled to the ground by Pain, but through the combined efforts of Tenzou and the Land of Waves builders a near identical replacement now stood at the foot of the mountain.
Tenzou had taken position opposite the desk, a clipboard already in his hands. He wasn't Kakashi's official assistant (as Konoha's brand-new ANBU high commander he was decidedly over-qualified) but for this particular mission he was in charge.
He tapped a pen against the clipboard as Kakashi sat down. The ticking sped up when Kakashi lifted his legs and put them on the desk. "To recap, in half an hour you and your assigned team of bodyguards-" Kakashi rolled his eyes- "will be leaving for the Land of Fire's capital, where you will instantly go to the Daimyo's palace. There you will have a political meeting followed by an official dinner with the Daimyo, his wife and his advisors. After that, there will be a ball to celebrate the fruitful cooperation between the capital and Konohagakure and the Daimyo's recent marriage. You and your party will return here in two days' time."
"The party in question will consist of Nara Shikamaru, Haruno Sakura, Sai, Shiranui Genma, Uzuki Yuugao, Akimichi Chouji and myself."
No surprise there, Kakashi thought. Genma had been part of Tsunade and Sandaime's security detail, so it only made sense that the duty should carry over to the sixth Hokage. After that Kakashi had personally requested for Yuugao's presence, as he knew her to be reliable and decidedly normal for an ANBU member from their days as teammates, and finally Tenzou, bless his soul, had volunteered. The others made sense as well; Shikamaru could keep an eye out during the meeting in the admittedly unlikely situation that Kakashi should miss anything important, Sakura would serve as the team's medic and brawn, and Sai could provide subterfuge and espionage like no other. It would make for a good team, if a bit large for such a simple mission.
Still, one element didn't quite add up.
"Why Chouji?" Kakashi asked.
Tenzou's expression grew a bit uncertain. "Ah.. Apparently the Daimyo has heard of Chouji's cooking skills and.. wishes to experience it for himself. I figured it would be a fitting present,"
"You're going to give Chouji away as a present? I imagine the Akimichi clan will have something to say about that,"
"Not Chouji, his cooking!" Tenzou protested, clearly frustrated- but he paused when he saw the amused expression in Kakashi's eyes. "Oh, haha, very funny. Either way, I've chosen these people to create the most efficient team possible for this kind of situation."
Well, admittedly that hadn't been his best joke. Kakashi nodded, absently studying his nails for a moment. "Naruto will be angry to be excluded, I imagine. He might try to smuggle himself in."
Tenzou closed his eyes and tried to look as dignified as possible. "Then he shall just have to grow up and realize that for some missions tact is required, rather than earth shattering ninjutsu,"
"So you thought bringing Sai would be a good idea."
"I- well- of course we would keep him in the back room during the meeting,"
Kakashi chuckled and leaned back into his chair. "I trust your judgement, Tenzou. You do know that, don't you?"
Tenzou's face flushed. "Ah-I-well-yes, of course, Hokage-sama,"
"Then trust mine as well; please stop calling me 'Hokage-sama'. Anyway, would you mind refreshing my memory? What, exactly, are we having a meeting for..?"
There was a brief silence as Tenzou gaped at him. "I- this could have been a truly important meeting and you would have gone without knowing what it's about?" He threw his arms into the air and stormed out of the room, though not before tossing his clipboard onto Kakashi's table. "Unbelievable!"
Kakashi chuckled and picked the clipboard up. Time to get to work.
They left about an hour later; the team had in fact assembled perfectly on time, but had discovered a few minutes away from the village that Kakashi had quite 'forgotten' to bring any of the official garments required for an important meeting. Many annoyed groans and a quick trip to the Hokage castle later, they were once again on the road.
Well, technically, in the trees.
Kakashi landed on a thick branch and pushed off with a minimum of chakra, launching himself at the next tree. He would have preferred to wear only his normal uniform- the new, dark one, with the ANBU-like dark grey vest and the boots that were so much more comfortable than the white wrappings had been- but Tenzou had managed to convince him to at least wear the white Hokage coat over it. He also had to bring the blasted hat along, but rather than wearing it on his head he wore it on his back. It snapped against his shoulder blades with every landing, an uncomfortable reminder of his position.
If there was one thing Kakashi hated about being Hokage, it was the sheer overprotectiveness of people who had happily smacked him on the head before his big promotion. Now he found himself flanked by Sakura on the left and Genma on the right. Yuugao was behind him along with Chouji, the young man's back heavily laden with backpacks and even a few visible pans; he insisted on bringing his own supplies. Yuugao was dressed in a normal jounin uniform rather than her customary ANBU uniform to seem more inconspicuous. Tenzou had taken the front with Shikamaru, occasionally exchanging quiet words with the younger man as they adjusted the group's course. Kakashi had predictably been directed to the middle of the group. They were officially his bodyguards, after all, and it seemed they planned to act on it. His mouth twisted in annoyance.
Even after a year of being Hokage, he still hadn't gotten used to it.
After all, the whole idea of the Hokage was that it was the strongest person in the village. Truthfully that wasn't quite the case here; strong as Kakashi was there was still a certain blond idiot in the village who could beat him in a fight. But he knew for a fact he could take each of his bodyguards in a one-on-one fight. Well, probably; Sakura would be tricky. Even so, their insistence in treating him as though he were little more than an accident prone child was aggravating. He knew he had a bit of a reputation of being hospitalized, but he hadn't known it was quite as bad as this.
"It's kind of nice to be on a mission together again, isn't it Kakashi-sensei? It's been almost two years," Sakura's voice cut through his thoughts and he looked up.
"Hmm, it sure is," He said absently. Their last 'mission' had involved saving the world, the Moon Goddess herself and something he could really only describe as very convenient impromptu Susano'o skills. It wasn't necessarily a good memory, yet Sakura managed to make it sound like a walk in the park.
"And good to get out of the village, right?" She continued. "It must feel rather confining,"
Ah, perceptive. He'd never given her enough credit for that. "I was all for leaving the village earlier today, but Ten-" Yamato. He was Yamato now. "Yamato wouldn't let me,"
"You were planning to leave this morning," Yamato said from the front. His voice sounded indignant but there was a hint of gratitude in his large dark eyes. "And you would have missed this meeting,"
"I thought we decided I would have been late, not altogether absent," Kakashi retorted mildly.
To his surprise, Sakura actually giggled. He gave her a look. "Sakura? It's not like you to laugh at my tardi- my habits."
She smiled again. "Just remembering the old days. There was that one time where you were so late we'd already left, and afterwards you came to find us. You had such a perplexed expression on your face that we were too busy laughing to blame you,"
Genma snorted but did not comment. Kakashi could understand. He wouldn't brave speaking while jumping through the air with a lethal senbon in his mouth either, though he suspected that was not part of Genma's reasoning.
"Is the delay the reason why we are rushing?" Sai asked. "I was under the impression the meeting was not of great importance; was I mistaken?"
"No, you're not mistaken," Shikamaru piped up from the front. "The meeting is more of a formality than anything; The Daimyo's previous wife died two years ago, but he remarried two weeks ago. As fellow head of state Kakashi-sensei has been invited to the festivities as per proper protocol. However, since Kakashi-sensei has only been Hokage for little over a year he has more to prove,"
Kakashi's face fell a little. That much he knew. He'd only been to the Daimyo once before, shortly after his inauguration. It had been a fairly uneventful affair that had left him thoroughly unimpressed with the Daimyo.
"Though rumour has it Tsunade-sama never had to try very hard to impress the Daimyo, because he had a hard time looking away from her," Genma offered with a sheepish smile, gesturing at his chest. Sakura made a small scandalized noise and Yuugao shook her head in disapproval.
Get distracted by Tsunade's looks and you will miss the cunning mind underneath, Kakashi thought. "Well, it's true; the Daimyo is definitely an idiot," He said dryly.
Genma almost choked on his laughter, an unfortunate consequence of having a senbon in his mouth.
"I have a feeling this diplomacy thing is going to be troublesome," Shikamaru muttered.
Kakashi only smiled, too happy to be outside and moving with a team around him- the way life should be- to worry about what was to come.
Although it had once gone by a different name, the capital of Fire Country was eponymously called Okibi city by its inhabitants. Okibi city was located near one of the inactive volcanoes Fire Country had been named for. The snow-topped mountain dominated the landscape in the way only volcanoes could, casting its shadow over the lands. Yet Okibi City had earned its wealth through the volcano's most treasured ability: the highly fertile grounds surrounding it. Okibi's rice fields and forests always flourished and lent an almost magical quality to the city.
Where Konohagakure was Fire Country's military stronghold, Okibi was its centre of trade and business. With its excellent farming grounds it was also highly popular amongst farmers and grocers, which in turn made trading a lot easier.
There were no walls or gates surrounding the city, but there was always a platoon of Konoha shinobi stationed within the city to patrol its streets and perimeter. It was part of the deal between Konoha and the Fire Country: We protect you and in turn, you provide us with money and food. Simple, yet highly effective.
When Kakashi and his team arrived, a pair of Konoha guards appeared out of the guard tower and saluted proudly.
"It's an honour, Hokage-sama," Their leader said, offering a neat salute. She was a woman in her early forties with an eye patch and steel grey hair pulled back into a strict bun, dressed impeccably in the new Konoha uniform. At her side, a young red haired man squeaked out a nervous greeting.
Kakashi vaguely recognized her as a fellow Third Shinobi War veteran, though the woman was at least a decade older than he was and they hadn't interacted much at the time. "Tomoe-san, isn't it?" Kakashi said, nodding at her and her much younger colleague. "It's good to be here. I hope they're not expecting a parade, though,"
Tomoe shook her head, a hint of amusement in her dark eye. "I'm sorry sir, I'm afraid the streets are already packed, but my men will keep them away from you. Everyone is eager to see the Hokage,"
Kakashi scowled a little. "I suppose sneaking around them would be impolite..?"
"It would be, sir, but your predecessor found sending a clone through the masses solved the problem neatly," One corner of her mouth twitched.
Kakashi chortled, his appreciation for Tsunade growing even stronger. "She would, wouldn't she? Thank you, Tomoe-san, I will certainly keep that in mind,"
"Meaning he'll disappear at the first chance he gets," Sakura said under her breath.
"Mahh, I think that'll be an effective way to go about this," Kakashi said, ignoring her remark. He raised his hands up in a familiar T-shape. "Kage Bunshin no jutsu!"
Half a second later, he smiled at his mirror image. "There we go. You get to do the parade while I'm off to the palace. Genma, Chouji, Sai and this young man will accompany you," He said, pointing at the young redhead, who blushed furiously in response. The clone grimaced.
"Tomoe-san, you are more familiar with this city than me or my team; would you lead us to the palace?"
Tomoe gave a small bow. "Of course, sir. You're expected any moment now."
Kakashi nodded. "Very well. Let's go,"
Tomoe led them down a narrow alley to their left, away from prying eyes. Tenzou immediately made his way to the front of the group to walk next to Kakashi, his eyes wary.
"No disapproving remarks, Te-Yamato?" Kakashi asked. "I was rather expecting them."
Tenzou shook his head. "No. This course of action makes sense; in fact," He smirked a little. "I was there when Tsunade-sama first used it. It's effective and ultimately safer."
"Safe?" Sakura piped up from just behind them. "What risks could civilians pose?"
Shikamaru nodded in agreement. "The worst they could do is throw rocks, but you're hardly unpopular enough for that."
Kakashi's shoulders drooped. Was he unpopular at all?
Sakura giggled at his expression. "Don't look so glum, sensei, or we might start thinking you take it as a compliment when people throw rocks at you."
The others laughed. Kakashi gave Sakura a disgruntled look, but when Tomoe shot him a curious look over her shoulder, he winked. He could take a joke.
All remnants of insecurity disappeared from Tomoe's face and she grinned back. "A new wind's blowing, huh?" She remarked. "If we'd tried that with Tsunade-sama, she'd have punched us for the trouble."
"I could punch you all if you really want me to," Kakashi replied drily. "You do seem to be asking for it."
There were more chuckles and Sakura amiably elbowed Kakashi in the side (with enough force that he almost crashed into the wall).
The rest of the trip was rather uneventful. Their trick had worked; they could still hear the crowds in the distance, thousands of voices murmuring and chatting and screaming, but not one civilian was there to see the real Hokage and his party walk through the city's alleys.
The Daimyo's palace appeared at the horizon quickly enough. It was a large building, built more to intimidate than inspire awe. It was blocky and square, with small portals that arrows could be shot through if necessary. There were guards too, of the civilian kind. Well-trained but no match for a shinobi, even with their spears. "We thought you were in main street…?" One of them said, clearly confused, but Tomoe ignored the remark and asked for entrance instead. They quickly bowed in return and let Kakashi and his team pass through.
Where the palace's outside had resembled a fortress, the inside was more reminiscent of an old, traditional dwelling. The walls were either thick, red stone or delicate panelling with rice paper. The furniture was all made of wood, but beautifully lacquered and clearly the work of a true craftsman. As they passed through the hallways, a few servants stopped here and there to give them deep bows.
The group stopped in front of a set of large doors. "This is where I leave you," Tomoe said with a half-bow. "Daimyo-sama is already waiting on the other side. There will be servants to show you to your rooms afterwards, or aid you in any way you may wish. If you require my services, you only have to say the word."
Kakashi nodded absently, eyes still fixed on the doors. They had been engraved with what appeared to be a legendary battle; a large golden fox, a great purple samurai, another great samurai in white, and a faintly pink Samurai with a purple diamond on her forehead. There was no doubt in Kakashi's mind who they were supposed to be, but the discovery still left him slightly light-headed. He'd never been the subject of legendary battles before.
Next to him, Sakura smiled nervously and they exchanged a look. She gave him an encouraging nod and they pushed the doors open together.
The Daimyo was already waiting inside. He had not changed much over the years; a man with a rather weak chin, small beady eyes and a permanent smile playing around his toad-like lips. He did not make for a pretty sight, even in official regalia.
The woman next to him, however, proved to be quite the opposite. She was much younger than her husband, perhaps a year or five older than Kakashi, with shining black hair that fell over her shoulders and dark, intelligent eyes that she quickly averted as she caught him looking; a custom he had never quite understood but seemed quite common amongst high-born women. Her lips had been painted red, and her white Kimono was covered in matching red print. She looked positively regal.
Trusting in the professionalism of his team, Kakashi knew none of them would comment on the huge contrast between husband and wife. He strode over to the slight podium they had positioned themselves on, stopped and gave a slight bow.
"It is an honour to be here, Daimyo-sama," He said, rising with as much elegance as he could muster. He kept his shoulders straight for a change; he was here to make an impression.
The Daimyo's smile widened. "Welcome, welcome!" He said, rising clumsily from his pillow. "Rokudaime-sama, I welcome you to my palace,"
Three welcomes. At least Kakashi wouldn't have to doubt the Daimyo was glad to see him, though frankly the carving of team 7 on the man's front doors had already made that clear.
"I would like to introduce you to my new wife, Miho-Hime," He gestured towards the woman. She had not moved at all, but now she finally raised her eyes. She scanned the group of shinobi quickly, before she offered them all a slight nod.
Kakashi nodded. "My name is Hatake Kakashi-"
"Oh, there is no need!" The Daimyo interrupted him cheerfully, hand waving from a limp wrist. "A man such as yourself never truly has to introduce himself; everyone knows who you are, including my darling Miho-hime,"
"Mahh, may I introduce my team, then..?"
"Of course, of course!"
Kakashi stepped to the side and his team bowed simultaneously. "Please meet Yamato, Haruno Sakura, Nara Shikamaru and Uzuki Yuugao. They are here as my bodyguards, though I'm sure such a measure will prove to be unnecessary,"
"Oh, quite, quite," The Daimyo said, moving forward to stand within the group. He stopped in front of Sakura, eyes narrowing a little. "Haruno Sakura..? The Haruno Sakura? Surely not."
A faint blush appeared on Sakura's cheeks. Kakashi smiled. "The one and only," He said, not without pride.
"Oh!" The daimyo laughed and clapped his hands together. "Marvellous! One of the four who saved the world! Did you hear that, Miho-chan? We're in the presence of two world-savers,"
"Technically, every shinobi in this room was involved," Kakashi argued. "But without Sakura's brilliant medical ninjutsu things might have ended very differently, indeed,"
Sakura smiled at him briefly, gratitude shining in her eyes. "Ah, thank you Daimyo-sama. The pleasure is all mine, I'm sure," She said diplomatically.
"Fantastic!" The Daimyo exclaimed again, eagerly taking one of Sakura's gloved hands into his own shaking it vigorously. "Quite fascinating! I shall not have to worry about heart attacks or assassins in your presence, ahaha!"
Sakura carefully managed to slip her hand free of the Daimyo's grasp. The Daimyo didn't seem to mind; he'd already focused on the only other female of the group, Yuugao, and was now shaking her hand as well. Misplaced courtesy? Or were there other reasons this man had been so eager to see Jiraiya become Hokage, back in the day? Icha Icha fans were everywhere.
Kakashi blinked to shake off the thoughts. Business first, amusing theories later.
"Mahh, my team should probably go to their quarters. We've had a rather long journey," Kakashi drawled, glancing at Tenzou. "I'm sure we'll be able to conduct our business with just the three of us,"
Tenzou's brow furrowed immediately and he started shaking his head.
Kakashi shrugged in return.
"Oh, certainly," The Daimyo snapped his fingers together. "Daisuke-kun, please escort our guests to their quarters, while the Hokage and I have a drink,"
A young, pale-haired man appeared out of nowhere. He was bowing so profusely to Kakashi, the Daimyo, and his wife, that the only impression Kakashi got of his face were pale, sweaty features. Then the young man beckoned Kakashi's team and scurried off quickly. He never turned his back on the Daimyo and didn't stop bowing either, which made him look rather like a crab.
The Shinobi exchanged glances and made to follow the servant. Only Yuugao, Shikamaru and Tenzou paused, questioning looks on their faces. It was unusual for the bodyguards to leave their charge, so they were probably worried.
Kakashi smiled cheerfully and lifted one hand just far enough to raise attention to it. When he was sure they were looking, he quickly signed through three ANBU hand signs. All is well. Shikamaru wouldn't get it, but the other two would brief him.
Yuugao gave him a last worried look and left. Tenzou looked dismayed but followed her as well, and Shikamaru shrugged, stuffed his hands in his pockets, and strolled after them with his customary slouch. A man after Kakashi's own heart.
The real reason he had sent them away was simple: firstly, there wasn't really any reason to think they would be necessary on a mission like this. Secondly, the Daimyo and his wife were far more likely to be honest if there was only one person to listen in.
If there was only one, that is. Kakashi carefully spread thin tendrils of his chakra through the room to sense whether there were any other signs of life, but aside from himself and the couple in front of him he couldn't feel anyone. No more surprise appearances from servants, then. That was the one trouble with civilians; they were almost impossible to sense.
He smiled at the Daimyo, who had moved back to his own seat on the small podium. There was a small table placed before them, with a pillow before it. The Daimyo gestured at it, and Kakashi obliged by stepping up and kneeling down on the pillow. Miho made another half-bow, which he returned awkwardly. All this formality was starting to get to him.
The hour that followed was relatively uneventful. Kakashi occasionally attempted to steer the subject back to politics, but the Daimyo was startlingly successful at avoiding the topic. Every time Kakashi tried, he'd handily (Or, Kakashi suspected, absently) remark on the colour of the curtains and how they really had to get new ones. Miho would occasionally remark on it as well, with a surprisingly deep, melodious voice.
All in all, Kakashi thought, the Daimyo had done nothing to change Kakashi's mind: the man really was an idiot.
He managed to get away after a few hours of talking to the Daimyo, bored out of his mind and desperate for a change of pace. Ahh, the good old days where missions had consisted of beating up bandits and killing would-be assassins… He scratched absently at the raised scar-tissue on his chest. Diplomacy. Guh.
The shower's water beat down hard on his shoulders. He had been offered a luxury suite for the night, one that was big enough for an entire team to fit into; and indeed, his teammates were currently setting up their own beds a few feet away. He could hear them rummaging on the other side of the bathroom door, their voices a calming murmur in the distance.
As pleasant as it was to be in their company, they'd also seen fit to remind him of tonight's events. Events that would necessitate formal clothing. Formal clothing, of the kimono and yukata kind. He suppressed a shudder and ran his hands through his hair. He'd already washed it twice; a clear sign that he'd spent far too long under the shower already. He wasn't even washing himself anymore, just procrastinating. With another deep sigh he turned off the water and towelled himself dry.
He threw an anxious look at the garments laid out on the chair in the bathroom's corner. White and red, like the Hokage robes. Sakura had also left out his mask ("Whoops, I must have forgotten it! So sorry, I suppose you'll have to go without!") but Kakashi had come prepared. He grinned and fished the one he'd worn earlier today from the floor, quickly putting it and the attached sleeveless shirt over his head.
The kimono was admittedly rather elegant, with faint silver print on the white fabric and red lining in the sleeves. The kanji for 'Rokudaime' was on the back. He looked at it for a moment and couldn't help but think it was not unlike walking around with a bull's eye on his back. Wonderful.
He dressed himself reluctantly and exited the bathroom.
Shikamaru was already there, dressed in a similar forest green outfit with the Nara clan symbol on his back. He looked startlingly mature in this new outfit, and it took Kakashi a moment to remember that he had officially been the Nara Clan Leader for almost two years now. He and Tenzou were the only ones who would be accompanying Kakashi to the Hokage's dinner; Shikamaru as clan leader and Tenzou as ANBU commander. He'd wanted Sakura to be there as well, but despite her fame she had no official ranking or position that would require the Daimyo to invite her.
Kakashi smiled at Shikamaru and ran a hand through his still wet hair. Almost immediately Sakura popped up from the adjoining room, a brush in her hand and a determined look on her face. She pointed at the bed. "Sit, Sensei!"
"Your hair. It looks like a bird's nest."
"It always looks like that."
"Exactly my point! Now sit down and let me try to brush it. I bet it's filled with tangles."
Knowing Kakashi's luck, it probably was. He looked at his student's determined green eyes and knew better than to refuse. He sighed once more and sat on the bed. Sakura clambered onto the bed to sit on her knees behind him, and began to pull the brush through his hair.
"Agh," There were indeed a lot of tangles. The brush pulled painfully at his roots and Kakashi's eyes watered.
"Have you ever brushed it..?" Sakura's voice sounded rather astonished. "And- what did you do with it, anyway? Even when it's wet it's still standing up,"
"..Good genes?" Kakashi tried.
"Messy ones, you mean." Sakura tutted. "I suppose it's a lost cause to make it look neat, but I'll at least get the gnarls out for you. It wouldn't do for you to look like a tramp,"
"..Thanks. Yamato, stop laughing."
Dinner proved to be about as useless as the earlier meeting with the Daimyo. They were seated at a long table, Kakashi at one of the heads and the Daimyo at the other. The sides were occupied by Shikamaru and Tenzou, who was seated directly to Kakashi's right, Miho-hime, and a number of other nobles who had been introduced but whose names Kakashi had immediately forgotten.
The Daimyo was still staunchly avoiding all topics related to politics which, Kakashi mused, rather reflected his style of government. He hoped the Daimyo had an advisor of sorts, or perhaps even a general. Someone who knew what was actually going on and could actually get the Daimyo to do some work for once.
To be fair, this dinner hadn't actually been meant for political discussions. He'd just been hoping for more exciting conversations than the newest fashion or whatever kind of architectural form was up and coming. At least Tenzou seemed to be entertaining himself, but Shikamaru looked every bit as frustrated as Kakashi felt.
The door opened and a few servants came through, carrying some kind of exquisite wine. Kakashi wasn't particularly interested in it, but at least he'd thought of another way to entertain himself. His plate was still filled with food, after all, and he'd caught several of the nobles throwing curious glances in his direction. Clearly they were part of the increasingly desperate group of people who wanted to see his face.
He smiled as everyone's heads turned towards the door; perfect. With practiced movements, he lifted his bowl with one hand, tugged his mask down with the other and poured the contents of the bowl down as quickly as he could. With a quick burst of chakra the food went down faster than it had any right to go. It felt slightly uncomfortable to have one's oesophagus widen forcefully, but years of practice had prepared him for it. Besides, it was more than worth the astonished looks when the others finally turned around. With another tug on his mask to cover himself up again, he placed the bowl back on the table. The soft 'tap' of the ceramic hitting wood drew his table mates' attention.
He had been right; aside from Tenzou and Shikamaru's slightly exasperated and disappointed looks, the others looked positively shocked.
The Daimyo pointed a faintly shaking finger at him. "You've.. you've already finished?"
"Ahh… It would seem so," Kakashi smiled, but regretted his actions a little as the food landed in his stomach; the portion had been big and felt heavy and uncomfortable. All that effort for an old joke.
To his pleasant surprise, the Daimyo burst into laughter. Great heaving wheezes escaped from him, his shoulders shaking violently. Kakashi raised an eyebrow. He hadn't thought his habit was funny to anyone but him.
The Daimyo wiped at his beady eyes with a finger to get the tears out of them and started to clap. "Quite marvellous, Kakashi-dono," He tittered. "Very amusing,"
And that was that, it seemed. The Daimyo's pretty wife blinked a few times in confusion, and her raised eyebrows made it clear her own opinion on the matter was quite different from her husband's; it occurred to Kakashi that slurping one's dinner down in one go when the Daimyo is host hardly seems like proper conduct, let alone simple manners. With one prank he'd just convinced the Daimyo's wife that he was an utter barbarian. Perfect.
A trickle of sweat went down his temple, but he wiped it away. The room felt a lot warmer than it had a moment ago. What a woman's disapproving stare could do to you, it was quite unbelievable.
He listened as Tenzou cleared his throat and started a slightly forced conversation on the topic of growing bonsai trees. Miho was surprisingly interested in the topic, leaning forward a little to ask Tenzou questions. Shikamaru was rolling his eyes; clearly he thought the topic should return to politics.
Kakashi couldn't help but agree. He opened his mouth to address the Daimyo once more when a sharp, stabbing pain went through his stomach, forcing his mouth closed. One hand grabbed for his stomach instinctively- but there was no kunai embedded in his gut, or a senbon. His eyes scanned the room and his free hand reached for his kunai. The pain ebbed away slowly.
There were no presences in the room other than the people he could see, and not one of them had gotten up. Or, in fact, noticed what had just happened. They were still eating and chatting.
He cleared his throat, successfully this time. "Mahh, Daimyo-sama-" Another stab of pain, and this time it didn't disappear, though it did weaken a little. This wasn't normal.
The Daimyo looked at him expectantly, a dumb little smile playing around his weak mouth. "Hmm? Do you have another trick to show us, Hokage-sama?"
"I-" Another stab, more severe than the first. It was becoming difficult to keep his face straight. "I would like to be excused for a moment," He managed. Tenzou frowned at him, dark eyes flitting over Kakashi's face. The food. It had to have been the food. But Chouji had made it- the saké, then? No- he'd barely had any.
Kakashi rose as fluidly as he could manage and immediately placed a hand on the table to steady himself. "Too much saké," He smiled, but the room swam around him and there were black splotches at the edge of his vision.
The Daimyo laughed, of course. "Even a man such as yourself must answer the call of nature!" He waved a dismissive hand and started a conversation with his wife, who was still eyeing Kakashi curiously.
Kakashi looked across the table at Tenzou and raised one hand, flashing a quick ANBU sign. Tenzou paled considerably, but to his credit he did not instantly jump up. Instead, he cleared his own throat calmly. "Shikamaru-kun, would you accompany the Hokage? He looks like he could use a bit of fresh air,"
Good. Tenzou could stay here and keep the Daimyo busy. Shikamaru could- The next spasm of pain cut off his thoughts. Yes, it was definitely getting worse. His knees were starting to feel weak.
Shikamaru opened his mouth as if to protest, but a quick shake from Tenzou's head silenced him. He nodded and stood up, making his way across the room towards Kakashi.
Kakashi smiled pleasantly as the pain slowly began to spread through his torso- his lower back was starting to feel like it was on fire and his hands and feet began to tingle. Still, he managed a nonchalant wave at the Daimyo before turning and leaving the room.
Once in the hallway, Kakashi quickly looked around- sensing chakra was becoming difficult and his breathing was too unfocused for him to still smell for other presences, but he had to take the risk. "Shikamaru," He began, trying to stay calm. "I'd like for you to get Sakura,"
Shikamaru's brown eyes were narrowed in worry; he'd always been a clever boy. "What's wrong? Why did we have to leave this suddenly?"
Kakashi swallowed thickly and swayed on his feet. The wall suddenly seemed a lot more accommodating than it had before. He leaned against it heavily. "Because I've just been poisoned,"
Thank you for reading! Please let me know if you enjoy it:)