Unnumbered thoughts of unnumbered people came and went through Kazuo. Once, he could sense hostile intent in others through Mind Release if he tried really hard. Then, it came as second nature. Then his reception widened as the Release was perfected. Soon, he could read much more than hostile intent. Inner thoughts broadcasted straight into his mind simply by being. He didn't have to probe for it actively; the technique developed into a mental radio. A disciplined heart could still its thoughts and thus block itself from the radio's reach, but it was for naught if you don't expect to be listened to. Soon, it was second nature. As he grew up, the radio played not only the thoughts of others but the thoughts of many others. At once. As he grew up, intent on training the Mind Release, intent on learning, he unlearned instead.
Unlearned how to turn off the radio.
An unending river of thoughts and feelings rendered him unable to sleep properly. He was eighteen years old at that time. He'd have to exert himself to shut down the chatter actively. His mind was not handling it for the first time in his life. Kazuo felt like a genin again, learning the ropes of coping with overwhelming input. Try as he might, few things worked. As the experts on Mind Release weren't growing on trees, Kazuo was a pioneer with few recourses on how to climb out of his hole. That was the scariest. Being unable to be a student. Being forced to be a scientist on the run, to pioneer a solution.
The answered lied in his Eel, bound by blood contract, to which he came for comfort, company... experiments. He found the Eels less susceptible to Mind Release than most: Perhaps by virtue of not being human beings, perhaps by their natural resistances. But as the eel trusted Kazuo, it found itself to be able to open its mind to him. As far as possible. They'd come together in meetings under the verdant green valleys, and limestone mountains shrouded in clouds. Sit down together. They'd think together... as one. Kazuo sought to investigate the Eel's mind for solutions by mental communion with his eel. But Mind Release with animals, especially ones bonded with you, was truly fickle. The solution came to him, and soon through the process he understood poorly, he was capable of silencing the river of thoughts that once incessantly flooded his mind.
The coming years were uneventful and busy and saw him stabilize his mind. Even his inner voices, once so argumentative, politely fused into one. No one questioned why Kazuo's prowess with Lightning and Water releases improved inexplicably. "You swim like an eel," - Mizuki Chinoke once told him at a lake. He thought nothing of how he did that and how much stronger his desire to swim was. It could be chalked to his contract with the eels, not the way he communed with them.
He was too busy studying. Just like the eel tendencies, the increased intake of statecraft for his studies came trickling down unnoticed. He had too much on his mind, as he'd listen inward to his own subconscious, outward to everything touched by chakra, all to bring secrets of attuning oneself with chakra better. So caught up he was, he overlooked his power and even wisdom grow.
And so when he announced Mizukage, that came as a thunderstrike to him, like many others. He knew the Council's thoughts: That he will be good at it. The expression on will
He still saw their faces and heard their thoughts. He had to. His mind does it when anxious about what others think; it tunes the mental radio toward them. Thanks to his discipline, it doesn't probe them outright. But he didn't have to hear their thoughts to know what were they thinking.
Anxiety. Fear. Worry. Confusion. Yes, his mental radio conveyed emotions to him, colors, and direct meanings. Having once received an entire torrent of thoughts, it learned quickly to parse them... efficiently. And so it did not catch words, only meanings and emotions. The chakra bandwidth was strong enough for unpackaged meanings, whereas the resources to unpackage words were too scarce on a certain scale of listening.
In a round sanctum, a dome above him, the Council around him, Sensei Isamu before him, he knew they thought what he did: That all this was too early. Isamu was the only one in this chamber who believed in him to that extent and found him ready.
But he did not complain. Eyes shining indigo and imperial violet, he believed in Isamu, who believed in him. Thus the only way to go was to defy himself and do what he had done a thousand times over Trust in Isamu over everything else, defer to his judgment, and, most importantly, make him proud. This made his swearing-in as confident and harmonious as ever: Isamu sanctioned this, and his place was to follow.
The realization that this would be the last time he'd feel like this hit when he made his way to his new office, a fair and spacious room that he had yet to make his own. Oak wooden desk, dark walls, pretty blue carpet. Tiny canals of water ended up in a fountain opposite his desk. He realized that this room was his to bend to his will, no longer bound by Sensei's word. Then he realized that the entire Land of Water was his to govern according to the wisdom Isamu believed in. He stood there transfixed in his ninja pants and tight sweater, accenting his gaunt torso. To govern the country well, he had to know it. He knew so much about it already, but he still took to rehearse what he found most important: His people's hearts and minds. He listened, and the torrent of thoughts entered. Everyday worries. Everyday decisions on what to buy, where, who's getting who, and who's getting fat. Feuds, so petty that they affirmed his belief that man makes conflict just for the sake of it.
And Mizuki? She was his student and the daughter of Isamu. That combination demands utmost care and the finest possible servicing as a master. But there was no anxiety in dealing with her: They had known each other for years. Mizuki was a dear friend. He signaled her thoughts out, and every other one faded. Then his eyes would shine again as he reached out with Mind Release to poke her with telepathy straight to her heart: I have a backpack for you in my office. Go straight there; I await you
- he spoke with a reassuring voice.