"And that was how Konoha established its trading routes with the Ichioka settlement," Iruka finally ended his lecture. "Now let's see if you paid attention. Ino." The addressed girl startled and tore her gaze from Sasuke.
"When was the trading route established? " Iruka asked her with a raised eyebrow.
"After the Third War, sensei," the girl answered.
"And when after the Third war?", her teacher probed further because the time frame was rather vast.
Iruka threw her a disappointed look. "Pay more attention next time," he admonished her. "Anyone else who can answer the question? Naruto?"
There were a couple of amused scoffs around the room.
"Two years after," Nagato answered calmly, not even pausing to think.
Iruka blinked in surprise. "Correct,", he smiled at the child. "Well done, Naruto."
Several heads turned to stare incredulously at the boy. Naruto usually never got questions right.
Shikamaru raised his head from his arms and glanced shortly at him in tired curiosity before going back to dozing again.
Nagato saw the Hyuuga heiress smiling shyly at him, apparently happy that he got the answer right.
"Noriko." The girl next to her looked up from her notes and Nagato watched in interest as her gaze settled on the teacher. "Yes, Umino-sensei?"
"How far away is the settlement from Konoha?"
"About three days' average speed, sir," Noriko answered. She was using formal speech again, Nagato noted absently.
"Correct," Iruka turned towards the blackboard and picked up the chalk. "I want all of you to answer the following questions. First…"
Nagato sighed mentally and picked his pen up. This was really starting to get tedious.
The Akatsuki leader was beyond relieved when they finally reached recess. The lessons were trivial and entirely uninteresting. Anything that had been explained to them up till now he could have read up in less than thirty-minutes.
But then he was stuck in a six, almost seven-year-old body. He had to endure a bit longer.
Intent on furthering his image as a studious child, he settled down under a tree and pretended to immerse himself in his borrowed history book, making sure to throw a confused glance into the direction he could feel his ANBU guard hiding in.
His guard's chakra flickered in surprise and immediately withdrew further from him. Amused at the ANBU's futile attempt to escape his notice, Nagato turned the page, allowing his mind to wander to his former friends.
If they could see him now. Sitting here, pretending to be a child. They would have laughed themselves silly at his predicament.
A deep sadness fell over him when he remembered yet again that they were no longer his friends now, but his other self's.
They had survived so many hardships and betrayals together– and now they were separated.
His hands tightened around the book when he suddenly realized that one of those people responsible for Yahiko's death was inside this very village.
There was no way he would let him go unpunished. The man would be dealt with – and if he planned things correctly, Uchiha Itachi would be more than happy to help him with that.
The sudden ringing of the bell signaling the end of the break yanked him out of his musings. Reluctantly, he put the book away and readied himself for throwing practice.
Iruka nearly dropped his clipboard when Naruto hit the center of the target for the third time.
"Good job," he finally managed to get out once he had gotten over his surprise. "You have improved. Three out of five."
"Thank you, sensei," Nagato answered, ignoring the shellshocked faces of his classmates. "I trained four hours yesterday."
"It certainly paid off," the man told him, shaking his head in bemusement as he wrote the result down. "Keep up the good work."
Nagato nodded and returned to the others, unobtrusively moving to the stand next to a black-haired girl.
She glanced quickly at him as he appeared next to her, fixing him with an almost searching look and returned to watching Sakura's practice, apparently satisfied with whatever she had just seen.
They shared a moment of comfortable silence as both of them observed their sensei correcting the child's grip.
"She's holding it too tightly," Nagato commented casually. "There is no way she can hit it."
"She is," the girl agreed easily. "At this rate she will miss by at least one foot."
"One-and-a-half if she doesn't stop glancing at Sasuke," Nagato added, trying to probe her reaction.
The girl next to him laughed in startled surprise but did not deny his words.
"I am Uzumaki Naruto, by the way," he introduced himself offhandedly. "But I suppose you knew that already."
"Chino Noriko," she answered, something like mirth sparkling in her dark eyes. "And yes, I do know. We are in the same class."
"Noriko!" Iruka's voice interrupted their conversation. "It's your turn."
"Yes, Umino-sensei," she answered obediently, the laughter immediately leaving her eyes.
Nagato closed his notebook with quiet relief. He had finally managed to get through his first school day. He had not imagined it to be so taxing. Not physically, but mentally.
He constantly had to watch himself, trying to downplay his intellect and making sure to walk the very fine line between being seen as a bright, prodigal child and raising people's suspicions.
Pain was many things. A leader, a planner, a warrior but definitely not a good actor and why should he be? He used to stand at the top of the world. Gods did not need to act. They were personifications of their very beings.
They ordered. They guided. They judged. Pain had been one of them. A god. A servant of peace. He still was. Rinnegan or not.
Nagato sighed inaudibly and grabbed his bag. It was only afternoon, and he still had quite a lot of things to do.
Sarutobi Hiruzen had found himself checking in on Naruto more than once today. He still had an ANBU tailing the child, but he still preferred to see things for himself.
Naruto was not only the only legacy of the Fourth but also a very important part of their military strength. An attack on him was equal to a strike against Konoha's forces. The T&I Department was still actively investigating the incident, trying to make absolutely sure that no outside powers were involved. So far, their search had come up empty and the Third strongly doubted that they would find anything.
Luckily, the child himself seemed to be doing well enough. Or as well as he could expected to be. The attack had certainly left a deep impression on him, effectively robbing him of his cheerful personality.
The Hokage watched as the child went through his first lesson, looking way more attentive and focused than he had ever seen him before.
Sighing deeply at yet another failure, he turned off the orb and returned to his paperwork, only to get interrupted shortly after by a very angry ANBU inquiring after his sensei's son.
Kakashi really could be rather persistent.
It seemed like a week-long mission had not been long enough to get him to calm down.
While Kakashi was busy yelling at the Hokage for keeping him away from the investigation, Nagato implemented the second part of today's plans.
It was easy to throw his trail off just long enough to make a clone. Once he was sure that the ANBU was no longer following him, he quickly made his way towards his final destination.
The Senju compounds were a historical monument of Konohagakure and had been long since sealed up to prevent people without Senju blood from trespassing upon the clan's lands.
Wards like these were rather tricky to set up and had a very distinct weakness. They differentiated by blood, not by name. Nagato might not have been carrying the Senju name, but he was definitely sharing their blood.
The Uzumaki and Senju clans had always been close, considering each other family. Not only because of friendship, but because they actually shared a common ancestor.
They had blood ties.
And these blood ties would allow Nagato to pass the barrier.
Confirming once again that he was alone, Nagato stepped past the gates.
The wards welcomed him eagerly.
It was eerie to walk past all these abandoned buildings, perfectly preserved houses surrounded by lush green grass and trees.
Everything seemed so alive and normal that Nagato almost expected people to step out of their doors and go about their daily lives.
But the air remained silent. No footsteps sounded; no voices were heard.
Nagato was alone in the ethereal silence.
He kept walking through the dreamlike picture and vaguely mused that this place seemed indeed like the residence of a god.
Resisting the gnawing tooth of time.
He allowed himself a few moments to appreciate the sheer calmness the place emitted before he made his way to the center of the compound where the main house was located.
He stepped through the entrance and found himself in a fully furnished reception hall. A banner was hanging at the opposite wall, showing Konoha's symbol and proclaiming the Will of Fire.
Nagato stepped closer and could see the village's clans' signs lining the edges of the banner.
He smiled wryly and opened the door to his right.
It was an office. The ornate wooden desk was still in top condition, too, and Nagato's gaze wandered over the portraits lining the shelves.
He recognized Senju Hashirama and Tobirama during different stages of their lives. Drawings of two smaller children were strewn between them, too. Nagato supposed he was looking at the youngest Senju boys, who had both lost their lives during the Warring States Era.
Nagato slowly sunk into the chair behind the desk.
Yes, this would be a good base to start his operations.
So much plotting to be done! Thanks for your support. =)
TysonG Thanks! :D Um, no, not really. I don't write wellon schedules. I have the tendency to get bored with things when I try to schedule it.^^"
lil Thank you! Yup, I'll continue. :D
sayaka uzumaaki Ah...not exactly. More like the girl next to her, because Nagato doesn't want to get involved with too many clans so soon. As for the "new"
Yahiko, well I can't say too much on it yet or I'll spoil it. ^^" Glad you like it so far, though.
Rain Sennin Thank you! =)