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Time Waits for No Man

Chapter Text

Jounin exams were much quieter than the chuunin exams. The Chuunin exams, historically, acted as political posturing with other villages. The villages in attendance often sent their best to the foreign exams with orders to kill off other attendees. If they could dominate the exams with their genin, it gave them a better standing in negotiations and client favor. 


The Jounin Exams were always in-house and kept quiet. By the time a chuunin is ready to become a jounin, they have techniques you don't want to be shown off internationally. A village also wants to keep their number of jounins private.


The demands on jounins are high, and most shinobi never make it to that rank. They test operation management, locating and retrieval, resource management, leadership, communication, strategy, rescue operations, and team conflict resolution, to name a few of the skills they look at.


After the fourth shinobi war, Konoha took a break from all exams. It was a bold decision with their forces whittled down as they were, but Kakashi opted to treat the treaties in good faith. Instead, he focused his attention on rebuilding their infrastructure. Since the 4th shinobi war was fought on their doorstep, the other villages had sent Konoha aid as an act of goodwill. Konoha received supplies and workers. In turn, Kakashi focused on making sure these foreign shinobis felt Konoha’s appreciation. Treaties were delicate, and insults would not be taken lightly. 


It had been a gamble to keep Konoha in its weakened state. However, Kakashi maintained a state of emergency during the three years so that field promotions could still occur. Suna was also taking an overly friendly stance towards Konoha. So, if anyone messed with Konoha, they would feel the wrath of Suna. It was likely Gaara’s why to show his off to the other villages his friendship with Naruto via bullying. Despite his position, Gaara was still a teenager and took pride in unusual things. Kakashi wouldn’t complain. It kept the other villages from trying to subdue Konoha. Hell, things with Kumo were going so well was likely due to B's and Naruto's friendship. Kakashi’s student really was something else. 


"Hokage-sama, as a proctor for the exam, you really should be paying more attention," Shizune scolded Kakashi. 


"Maa, sorry, Shizune-san," Kakashi said politely and offered her a quick smile. Shizune was on loan to him. Shikamaru had received a field promotion to tokubetsu jounin. Still, Kakashi wanted him to be a full jounin, so he could step into the roles he had planned for him. So, Shikamaru was currently taking the exam. It was his first chance since the 4th war. Shizune had graciously stayed on after Tsunade-sama's retirement to help with the transition. 


Shizune pursed her lips but turned her attention back to the screens. The screens flipped through various cameras, but the largest one remained steady on Shikamaru and his team.


Every jounin exam was different, but this element was of Kakashi's own design. The testing chuunin would lead two other jounins in a mission simulation. Their goal was to extract an informant to prevent valuable information from being leaked. They were to go unmarked. If caught, Konoha would not claim knowledge of them and would abandon them to their captures. According to sources, the informant is currently in an old tower, now being used as an outpost. 


Upon arrival, the team would discover their cover was blown, and the enemy was ready for them. A trap would be sprung the moment they arrived. There was no chance for mission success. He wanted to see how the chuunins would respond in such a dire situation. Could they keep their wits about them and command their team while faced with certain death? Would they work towards completing the mission, or would the chuunin abandon the mission in favor of bringing their team home alive? 


Shikamaru was just now approaching the tower in the middle of training ground 44. In there, the informant was supposed to be held. 


"Do you sense anything, Tofu?" Shikamaru asked. They could hear him over the mics they planted and the cameras stationed in the trees.  


"Nobody. It's really quiet. Too quiet," Tofu whispered. She was crouched down beside Shikamaru. The second jounin, Haburashi, was scouting from the trees. 


"Genjutsu." Shikamaru quickly broke it and immediately swore. He was finally able to see the legion of shinobis in front of him. Kakashi had called in most of the jounin task force for this. It was a little funny seeing the poor chuunin’s face when they realized how outmatched they truly were.


Kakashi leaned forward, curious to see what Shikamaru's next course of action would be. The shadows grew from every direction like a curtain closing to hide their retreat. The trio sped away at an impressive speed. Kakashi was reasonably sure he has never seen a Nara run that fast. They stopped behind a thicket. The thorny bush would likely offer some form of cover but not for long. 


"He's going to call it," Kakashi said, leaning back. "He won't even try."


Shizune clicked her tongue. "The other two might convince him. It's more than just his judgment being tested. How Shikamaru responds to others on the team is just as important," she pointed out and lifted a cup of tea to her lips. 


Shikamaru was staring out over the thicket. "I'm calling the mission."


"What? We haven't even tried," Tofu argued.


Shikamaru glanced at Haburashi then back at Tofu. "This mission has no chance of success."


"We still have to try. Hokage-sama told us how important this informant is. How can we go back without even trying?" Tofu demanded incredulously with a glare.


Shikamaru shook his head, "The informant is either dead or has given up the information. Proceeding further would be an unnecessary risk of lives and a waste of resources-" 


"Incoming," Haburashi interrupted. The whole of Konoha's jounin-might descended upon the poor 3-man-team. Considering this was not a real mission, it would likely be reduced to hazing of some kind. ANBU was notorious for hazing. It didn’t surprise him that jounins would do the same given a chance. He mentally wished Shikamaru luck. 


Shizune sighed, "That was anticlimactic and short-lived. Umano Kao was much more interesting." Umano Kao was a sensor and had not been fooled by the genjutsu. He and his team snuck around, trying to evade all the jounins and traps. One teammate was lost to a trap, but the other two did make it into the tower. It had honestly been rather interesting to watch, unlike Shikamaru's performance. Umano-san's team 'died' on the mission. 


"Hmmm, Umano-san did a decent job getting past the guards into the tower. He certainly evaded a lot of traps. But Shikamaru had a better read on the situation as a whole despite not being a sensor. Maybe I should have you run the simulation and see how entertaining you are?" Kakashi teased. 


Shizune scoffed at the idea. She lifted her chin and looked down her nose at the screen, "Doubtful, I would have done the same as Shikamaru. The informant is not worth the lives of the group."


"No? But if the informant is not removed from the situation, it'll put Konoha in a tight spot. Likely start a war if the relationship with other villages is poor."


Shizune frowned, "surely one informant is not that important?"


"The informant is currently being tortured for information. If the team goes and kills the informant, then they would successfully keep Konoha out of a war that would cost many lives," Kakashi explained. 


Shizune's eyes flickered between Kakashi and the television. Shikamaru's team was currently being blown up as they set off a trap. "You seem awful certain the results would be catastrophic. Surely, our ties with the other villages are stronger than that now."


"Currently, yes. But even a situation like this would be precarious for us. Do you save your teammates and damn the village, or do you damn your teammates to save the village?"


"What would you do?" Shizune asked. 


Kakashi was quiet for a moment. Shikamaru rolled out of the way of an attack and sent a shuriken volley to help Haburashi get out of a tight spot. "Maaa, I wonder…"




The simulation was over for the day. There were three more scheduled for tomorrow. Everyone was under strict orders not to discuss the test. Kakashi found himself walking the paths behind the Hatake estate. The estate itself had been torn down. Kakashi had neglected it, and vandalism had destroyed it. The family shrine was still intact and hidden among the trees. He found himself coming to the family shrine more often in his old age. Perhaps 33 wasn't actually old, but he certainly felt old. 


The Hatake clan in Konoha had always been small. The clan did not originate in fire country. In fact, the clan resided in the Howling Wolf Village. It was well known for its medicine, and he heard the Hatake clan grew a lot of the medicinal herbs. They had been shinobi as well until the village had an internal conflict. They gave up their shinobi village status. The bulk of the clan still resided there, and the line that moved to Konoha had dwindled to Kakashi. 


Kakashi made it to the grave marker of his father and cleared it of the usual dead foliage. He traced the groves of the Sakumo's name. Kakashi was more familiar with lines on his father’s tombstone than the lines of his father’s face. 


The morning sun pleated through the leaves, and the birds chattered around Kakashi. It had been a long night, and the day was just beginning for most. Kakashi was ready for it to end, though. "Shikamaru made the same decision you did. He is hailed as a brilliant strategist like his father, and when faced with your final mission, he made the same call. Would he have come home to the same welcome you did?" he murmured. He didn’t want to break the peace around him, but he needed to talk to his Dad.


Kakashi scraped off some of the moss growing on the stone. How funny that tombstones were discolored the same green chuunin and jounin wear. Perhaps he should change the uniform. It couldn’t be healthy for morale. 


"If you had successfully killed the informant, would the third war have been avoided? Would Obito and Rin still be alive? I'm not blaming you. I'm just trying to understand me,” Kakashi let out a heavy sigh, “I thought I had laid this to rest. I thought I had agreed with your decision. Those who leave a comrade behind are worse than trash. But here I am, running my jounin candidates through your final mission. How many others died for the sake of saving your team?" Kakashi winced at his own question.


Sakumo wouldn't have been able to consider the cost of his decision at that moment. But it was a decision that's ramifications were far-reaching and devastating. Sandaime had been extremely upset with his father, and now Kakashi was beginning to understand why. 


As a jounin, your world was small. You worried about the mission and your team. But as Hokage, he was forced to examine the bigger picture. Such as how failed missions affected merchant costs and how incredibly dependent the village was on D ranks. It was interesting and complicated. Kakashi had so many lives to considered. No longer was it just mission and team. He now had to think about how it affected the lives of all those in the village, civilians, shinobi, daimyo, political treaties, children, and so much more. How do you decide which one is more important? 


"I know what I would have done in that mission as a kid, as an ANBU, and as a jounin. But what about now? What would I choose now? The village or the team? I couldn't have sent my teammates away to safety and expected to accomplish that mission. But even now, I send teams out on missions knowing they could die. When crafting missions, I must ask if the mission is worth more than their lives. Dad, I'm ashamed to say it, but I don't know that you made the right decision anymore." The confession thudded to the ground at his feet. Kakashi swallowed thickly and took two steps back away from the grave. 


Perhaps Kakashi had been too honest. Even if no one was currently here and he was talking to a rock. Voicing thoughts like that wasn't acceptable. He was the Hokage. He wasn't supposed to be this lost. 


Kakashi decided he just needed to clear his head. A run would help.