Naruto Hiden - Volume 2 - Chapter 10
They were so many people gathered at the plaza in front of the castle that Shikamaru wouldn't have been surprised if it was the city's whole population.
It wasn't just the Enlightened Ones with their long, black cloaks. Men and women, boys and girls, people of all ages and classes had all gathered in one large, muddled crowd, waiting for their leader to appear.
All of them wore the same enthused, feverish expressions on their faces, their eyes fiercely blazing with devotion. Their voices mixed together, murmuring in praise and exaltation as they waited. All in all, Shikamaru found them loud and annoying.
Stuck in the middle of the crazed crowd, and in a cloak on top of that, Shikamaru could feel his skin getting slick with sweat.
Rou was next to him. Soku was lurking around the roof of a concrete building across the castle.
Rou's jutsu had disguised Shikamaru's chakra to look like the chakra of the cloak's original owner. From the quality to the quantity, everything was an exact copy of the EO. Rou had of course, done the same for his own chakra and the EO who had worn his cloak.
Naturally, they'd disguised their faces too. That had been Rou's skills at work again. No matter how well they hid their chakra, if the enemy ranks held someone with sharp eyes and a good memory for faces, they'd be discovered in an instant. Rou's skills had ensured they were hidden more than enough, both on a chakra and visible level. Even if their faces were examined, it'd be almost impossible to tell the difference between them and the original EO's.
And on top of that, Shikamaru and Rou were hidden in the midst of a large crowd.
Everything had been arranged so the enemy would have no possible way of spotting them out.
’’For now, let's head towards that place.’’ Rou murmured in a low voice. He barely moved his mouth as he spoke, eyes never moving from the platform placed in front of the crowd. It was raised quite a bit off the ground, with its own wooden staircase to the side. There was nothing on the platform, not a single microphone or bodyguard. The crowd was jostling forward close enough for them to touch the wood.
’’I say, I wonder if Gengo will really appear?’’ Rou doubtfully murmured.
He was right to feel unsure. For the leader of a country to stand on such a completely defenceless platform was beyond dangerous. If Gengo did appear, it would be the same as saying that he didn't have the feel the slightest suspicion that anyone could aim for his life.
’’For now, let's just get closer and wait. If Gengo doesn't appear, then we'll just silently draw back for now.’’
They just had to get within a distance that Shikamaru's kagemane could reach the man on the platform. If Shikamaru could stop Gengo's movement, then Soku's Chakra Needle would do the rest.
’’If he would just make an appeara-’’
Rou's murmuring was cut off by a sudden roar of joy from the front of the crowd closest to the platform. The elated shouting rose and spread like a tidal wave across the plaza. As Shikamaru tried to push his way to the front, all the people around him were screaming so loud he felt like his eardrums were going to burst.
A single man had appeared on the platform.
He wore a long, black coat similar to the design the Enlightened Ones wore, but his was covered in countless colourful ornaments as well as the large silver buckles. On top of that, his sleeves were embroidered with silver snakes running down his forearms.
His hair was a dark indigo blue. He had a strong jaw, a masculine physique, and his features were clear and well-defined. He calmly looked down at the cheering crowd with clear and intelligent eyes. There were slight traces of stubble around his jaw. He looked about 30 years old.
’’That man is most likely Gengo, isn't he?’’ Rou murmured, and stopped walking for just a moment.
Shikamaru kept walking without giving an answer. He felt a firm conviction that the man in front of their eyes was definitely Gengo.
Slowly, the man raised his right arm into the air. Instantly, all the wild cheers fell silent. Gengo closed his eyes as if he felt satisfied by that reaction, a small smile pulling at his mouth. He took in one deep breath, then opened his eyes and began to speak.
’’First of all, I would like to express my thanks to all of you who have gathered here.’’
His voice was deep and heavy, soothing to listen to. It had a mysterious quality to it that made you feel like you weren't listening to him with just your ears, but your whole body. Shikamaru felt a bothersome, itchy feeling inside his chest, as if the man's voice was brushing against his heart.
Rou's eyes met Shikamaru's as they silently moved closer to the platform. It was clear that he seemed to feel that same, uncomfortable sensation. The two shinobi's steps became in sync, keeping their movements slow, subtle and silent.
Gengo gave a small bow towards the crowd to convey his gratitude, and then started to speak again.
’’It has been ten years since I came to stand at this podium. We have gained many who share our ways of thinking, and our country has begun to prosper. However, not a single one of our desires have been realised.’’
Everyone had been listening in utter silence. As the man's words stopped, a strange atmosphere sifted into the quiet of the crowd, as if every inch of the plaza was under the man's control.
’’I have a question for the citizens of our country of silence!’’
Gengo's voice which had been so calm and composed now rang out with a tempestuous fury. His shouted words seemed to come from his very soul.
’’The country that was ruled by a Daimyou, and this country now...Which world do you think is better? Who is that better world ruled by?’’
The citizens shouted their approval as one, their voice roaring across the plaza like a tidal wave.
’’There is definitely no mistake, that man is Gengo.’’ Rou murmured.
Shikamaru silently nodded to him, turning to the platform. They were almost there, several meters left to the distance which would allow his kagemane to reach and bind the target.
The whole mission would be decided in one moment...
Gengo raised his right hand, and the crowd quietened again.
’’I have received your answer. The days we were ruled by Daimyou who saw power, wisdom and us, the shinobi, as unimportant- those dark days are long past! Citizens, you may now find peace of mind. We enlightened ones shall forever protect you, with our power and our lives. All you need to worry about is comfortably living your lives. Because that is all that we enlightened wish for.’’
Everyone around them seemed to get drunk on those words. They were strangely overwhelmed with emotion. Some were even crying.
Shikamaru honestly didn't think Gengo had said anything all that important. No matter how he turned over the words in his head, it didn't even seem like a relatively good speech. However, he did acknowledge the fact that Gengo's voice had a mysterious power to it. The man possessed a power that made you listen to his voice no matter what he was saying.
’’Our country of silence is at the very outskirts of the continent. Our history is that of foreigners, oppressed and downtrodden. Our ancestors did not cut off contact with the outside to sever our exchanges with others. It was to protect our own. As long as we stayed out of contact with the outside, we stayed weak. But now, that is over.’’
Gengo's voice increased, incensed.
’’The ones who rule this world should not be the Daimyou, but we who carry the power of shinobi! That is true justice. It is because of shinobi's struggles that the citizens are protected. The existence of shinobi who carry powers beyond a normal human's have always been found throughout the world. And yet, we were ruled by Daimyou, who live selfishly, only for themselves, while crushing shinobi and citizen alike beneath their feet! Look at this country. It has been 10 years since I exterminated the daimyou. Look at the prosperity this country has gained!’’ Gengo's chest expanded with pride.
’’Almost there.’’ Shikamaru murmured.
Only a few steps more, and Gengo would be within range of his kagemane.
’’I will exterminate the Daimyou from this world, and create a new world for us. Why aren't shinobi recognised and distinguished? We hold a greater power than any daimyou. We hold a greater power than any human! Why are we who transcend others constantly downtrodden? Aren't our merits far greater than other peoples? It is because the daimyou fear the age of shinobi that they discriminate against us, isolate us, and keep us under their influence! Citizens and shinobi alike, we are all victims to the selfishness of the daimyous!’’
They were getting closer to Gengo. From this distance, it almost looked like blue sparks were coming out of the man's fiercely glaring eyes.
Just a little more until they were in range. Just a little more.
The man standing in front of their eyes was almost certainly Gengo, and yet they'd been able to easily approach him unnoticed- so easily that Shikamaru felt weary.
He thought about the possibility of this being a trap.
But there was no way the enemy could have noticed them, and they couldn't just let this chance pass them by.
’’The Akatsuki had once stood with the intention of changing this world. But they were destroyed. They were destroyed by the world of shinobi that remains unchanged with time, no better today than it was yesterday, with shinobi still overruled and discriminated against. But the Akatsuki lived up to their name...they were the dawn. They were the sign of a dazzling morning to come. Listen, you people who hold the morning sun that will rise from the Silence's darkness.’’
Gengo slowly raised both his arms, as if he was welcoming a god from heaven.
’’The first rays of sunlight to dawn in this new age, they will shine from our Country of Silence!’’
The citizens cheered, the noise of their yells covering everything else.
This was their chance.
Shikamaru let his shadow free. A tendril crawled smoothly through the crowd like a black snake, creeping up the platform and stopping at Gengo's feet.
As soon as that shadowy snake caught hold of hold of Gengo, his movements would be stopped, and Soku's chakra needle would end the business.
It would've been fine if everything had turned out the way he'd planned it.
Only the kagemane...
Couldn't seize Gengo.
He should've been in range. He was in range! Why couldn't his shadow reach-
’’The mouse creeping over there.’’ Gengo's gaze slowly turned to look Shikamaru right in the eyes.
’’He's sensing us, Lord-!’’ Rou shrieked.
Several shadows leaped out from behind Gengo and came flying towards Rou, restraining him.
Shikamaru frantically tried to reach Gengo with his shadow one more time.
’’It's useless.’’ Gengo callously called.
Shikamaru's shadow, once as familiar to him as his own hands and feet, suddenly turned into a kite with cut strings. Its tendril missed the target completely, turning round and round in circles, writing uselessly on the ground.
Shikamaru leaped onto the platform, slipping out a kunai from his cloak. If the plan had been ripped apart, then he would fight and do the deed himself.
Gengo didn't move to run from Shikamaru. There was a faint smile on his face.
Shikamaru ran towards him, swinging his kunai towards the man's throat with expert precision.
Someone came at Shikamaru from the side of the platform, kicking him sharply in the stomach. He rolled to the side of the wooden construct from the impact, and quickly sat up on one knee, his kunai at the ready.
’’You- what're you...?’’
A single man stood between Gengo and Shikamaru. He had an ashen grey complexion. Vague eyes, with depths of unreadable emotion. A straight, honest mouth.
’’What're you doing...?’’
There was no mistake as to who it was.
Shikamaru called the man by his name.