Hail To The Queen: Or, Some Ways Shikako Never Became The Hokage, 3/? (2016-06-20)

(three: she who seizes the throne)

“This is not a story.”

She thinks of her brother, missing one arm. She thinks of her best friend, eyes split through with a pupil like cracked glass.

She looks at her own scars, the skin thick and unfeeling, marking out her just-barely-made-it survival.

Sasuke, she has kept in Konoha, sure. But for how long?

How long until reality exerts itself once more on this fragile fairy tale existence?

Cloud is threatening war. Dawn is on the horizon. The moon waxes fuller.

There are things lurking in Konoha’s shadows, things Tsunade will not be able to heal. Nor Kakashi fend off. Nor Naruto redeem.

They don’t know what they’re up against. They won’t know how to handle it.

“This is reality.”

Once, when they were young men in their prime, Hiruzen Sarutobi was given the title “God of Shinobi.”

A lofty reputation, to be sure, but one that he would live up to.

In contrast, Danzo received the monicker “Shinobi of Darkness” and no one ever knew how fully he embodied it until someone rips it from his hands.

It takes a Nara to properly control the shadows.

The world doesn’t stop just because Naruto leaves for three years. It keeps going: training and missions and injuries and kills.

Shikabane-hime. The Corpse Princess.

Not something her sunny-eyed idealist absentee teammate would appreciate, but Shikako has always been a pragmatist.

There is power in names.

The last Sealing Master Konoha had was a bright-eyed orphan prodigy who damn near wore his skills and his heart on his sleeve. The Yellow Flash, flee-on-sight, who burned out like a firework far before his time.

Danzo would never be threatened by someone like that.

But she is one of many Nara–intelligent, yes, but sleepy-eyed and lazy. Unambitious. A silly girl who holds meetings with other kunoichi to discuss healing techniques and who plays games with children.

No, Danzo sees no threat there either.

In his arrogance, he’s forgotten the first rule of shinobi: to look underneath the underneath.

She doesn’t start with Sai.

No, that would be dangerous; too obvious.

In this game he is one of her silver generals, though he doesn’t know it yet. She cannot afford to play him too early on.

But she knows what his seal feels like, has been trained to spot the smallest anomalies in chakra.

She can find pawns easily enough.

Ones that are more… expendable.

No matter how many games she played against Naruto–no matter how quick his learning curve–he has never won a game of shogi against Shikako.

Oh, the clones are eager enough to suggest moves, willing to sacrifice themselves to the cause. They are Naruto, and he will always try to throw himself in front of a killing blow meant for someone else. But as a player–as the King–he never could give the orders.

She’s seen it before, he doesn’t have what it takes. Wants to save everyone, but doesn’t know how to go about it. An impractical, impossible dream.

He is a strong shinobi–will undoubtedly become the strongest–and charming in his own way.

But leadership requires more than that.

It is one thing to offer an already hesitating child alternate options, then convince him to choose one that benefits you both. It’s another thing entirely to tell a brainwashed soldier to turn on his master and obey you instead.

Some matters require a gentler touch. The Yamanaka would know all about that.

Fu has always been a bit of a conundrum to her–unlike the Nara, the Yamanaka clan’s abilities are a blood limit. To extend their consciousness beyond their bodies and control someone else with it? It’s not something that just anyone can do. But it’s also a skill that needs to be honed, techniques that need to be taught.

Fu knows Yamanaka clan techniques, understands it enough to develop variants.

Danzo let Fu Yamanaka keep his name for a reason.

There is power in names.

Power she will gladly take for herself.

Ironically, ANBU is the safest place Sasuke can be right now. He’s too busy training to stumble upon certain secrets better left in the dark. Secrets that soon will be hers to handle.

Which is just as well. Sasuke is not her king, but he is a very important piece and she can’t risk losing him quite yet.

Just in case, though, she makes sure she has frequent training sessions with him. If he ends up with another seal on him, she’ll know immediately, and adapt accordingly.

She has to trust that Jiraiya is taking good care of her other gold general.

If Fu Yamanaka is one of Danzo’s gold generals, then Torune Aburame is the other.

And as soon as she gets the former, the latter is halfway hers.

Kakashi-sensei catches on surprisingly quickly, considering he’s not often around to witness her side project. But, then again, he’s always been unfairly perceptive when it comes to secrets not his own.

He doesn’t stop her–not that he could; not without putting her in danger. And if there’s one fear the legendary jounin Sharingan no Kakashi has, it’s this: being the cause of one of his precious people’s downfall.

Which, in other words, means failing to protect one of his precious people.

No, Kakashi-sensei won’t stop her. Which means he can be of use.

The drop rule is unique to shogi, something which had originally tripped her up; mind more familiar with Western chess before she learned the ways of the Nara clan.

It goes as thus: a captured piece can be brought back into play under the capturing player’s control on any turn in any empty square.

In this game, all of the pieces started off as Danzo’s.

But that is not to say some of them haven’t already been captured and dropped before she even began playing.

Yamato or Tenzo or Kinoe, no matter: he makes a decent knight.

This is not the kind of undertaking that one can rush, nor would she want to.

When Naruto returns, she is still in play. Still enacting moves even as she helps deal with the more obvious threats to Konoha.

But this was always going to be a long game, and while she’s not naturally patient, she’s always been pretty talented at seeing three steps ahead of her opponents.

Let Danzo think he stands alone in the dark, the only wielder of light in his underground kingdom. He’ll ruin his vision, and fail to see her before it’s too late.

And anyway, a real shinobi of darkness wouldn’t need a light.

Wouldn’t want it, either.

Tsunade steps down, never really wanting the position in the first place. Eager to pass the responsibilities and memories on to someone else.

Kakashi, too, is a placeholder–keeping it safe for his student. Ostensibly, the choice is obvious; though within the privacy of his own mind he’s never quite sure which one.

When it comes time for Konoha’s Nanadaime to be chosen, he hesitates. Not for long, not noticeable for anyone to see, but just enough.

Enough for Shikako to nod her head and smile.

A hat and robes. Everyone knowing your name and face. Watching every action, no secrets or shadows allowed. Who would want that?

Look underneath the underneath.

Let Naruto play at being king. Shikamaru is Jounin Commander. Sasuke, Head of ANBU. Her friends and allies all fall into place: chiefs and department heads and commanders. Generals, knights, lances, bishops, and rooks.

Why be the king–a mere piece on the board–when she can be the queen playing instead?


A/N: This one’s for @tenderwenders who wanted the line “All shadows bow to my will.” And… well, even though I didn’t manage to fit the exact words, this was highly inspired by it so…

I guess, technically, this isn’t Hokage!Shikako, but the spirit of it still counts? Yeah?

I wanted to emphasize more on the parallels between Sandaime vs Danzo and Naruto vs Shikako as the “God of Shinobi” vs “Shinobi of Darkness” but then it all became this giant shogi metaphor and then I couldn’t pull myself back on track. So it’s this weird mash up of both…

God, I felt so devious when writing this! Like, Shikako’s cunning and ruthlessness cranked up to the max is just so frightening.

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