Chapter 29: Rescue
Naruto and Itachi stared at the six beings in front of them in horror. Pain had noticed their escape, and was now pulling all of his force to stop them.
Being in the Akatsuki for a long time, Itachi had known that the Rinnegan possessed by Pain had incredible abilities which could even be considered godly. But he had never seen the full power of the Akatsuki leader before. Every time the organization gathered, Pain only used one single body: the body with orange messy hair. Never before had he seen him utilizing all six bodies like this.
"It seems I was right when I decided to keep an eye on you, Itachi," said Pain in a cold voice. "Just as I thought, you Uchiha can't be trusted with anything."
Sweat rolled on Itachi's forehead down to his cheek. His own body still hadn't completely recovered from the battle with the Naruto. There was no way he could take on six enemies at once like this, even if the enemies didn't possess the legendary Rinnegan.
And Naruto, being disabled like this, couldn't help anything. It meant he would have to fight this battle all alone.
There was no other choice…
He unsheathed his weapon and got into his battle stance. What he needed to do right now was to make an opening for Naruto to escape first.
Pain didn't waste any second. His Animal Path immediately slammed his hands on the ground, and in a burst of smoke, a huge rhinoceros appeared and charged Naruto and Itachi with the speed of a train. But Itachi didn't even flinch. He kicked the ground and leapt up, and to the creature's surprise, he landed on its head between its horn and forehead. A flick of his wrist send a kunai into his hand, and with both weapons on hand, he mercilessly stabbed the summoned animal in both of its Rinnegan eyes. Blood poured out of the destroyed eye sockets, and the creature howled and thrashed around in pain, before disappearing in another puff of smoke.
The Deva Path narrowed his eyes. From both his sides, the Asura Path and Human Path rushed out towards Itachi, with the former sprouting two additional arms from his back and the latter pulling out its black rods from its sleeves. Itachi grimaced; they're going to fight him in close combat…!
"Shadow Clone Jutsu!"
Another Itachi appeared in a puff of smoke, who immediately started to engage the two Paths of Pain together with the original in a deadly dance of blades. While the Paths of Pain had brute strength, Itachi also had his skills which had been honed during his days in ANBU, which allowed him to keep up, and even push the two Pain back a little.
Then Itachi's eyes widened when he saw a giant bird with the Rinnegan descending down his head, its beak spinning like a drill with the velocity of rockets from above. The Animal Path must have summoned it while he was distracted by the two other Paths.
He didn't have anything in his arsenal to deflect something that big, that fast. And there was no way he could dodge when it had already been this close…
Suddenly, something hit the bird at the stomach and flung it away like a ragdoll. It flew over the walls of Amegakure and disappeared behind it. The ground rumbled when it landed. The two Paths of Pain looked up in surprise, only to take two giant fists made of chakra to the face. They flew backward, confused.
Itachi blinked. Standing next to him now was Naruto, coated in his chakra shroud. At the places which were supposed to be his arms were two arm-like appendages made of pure, solid chakra, with functionable hands and fingers connecting to the shroud.
'Are you really trying to fight Pain?' Naruto heard Kurama asking skeptically. 'The last time you fought him, you were in your full power, 16 year old body. And you also have Sage Mode to boot. Without it, there is no way you can get past that freak who can absorb jutsu.'
'I know, but,' he said confidently, 'now I have you guys with me, I know I can do anything. If we use that strategy, there is a chance we can get past him. We have practiced it before, right?'
'Yeah, but that's just not enough! Naruto, remember that we cannot take control of your body for too long; if we force it too much it will eventually break down and you will die!'
'I know, but it's not like we have anything else to lose, right? We will get through it, believe it!'
Naruto immediately slipped into his battle stance when two other Paths of Pain, this time the Preta and Deva Path himself, launched toward him. Naruto knew that this screamed trouble to him; this meant all of his jutsu which utilized chakra by now were going to be nullified.
That only left him with one choice…
The two Pains came down on Naruto's head, their black weapons ready on their hands, but Naruto easily caught the two black rods by his chakra hands.
Of course, those chakra arms are stronger than his original arms… But it's easy; if I can take away that chakra…
Then the Preta Path suddenly found itself losing balance.
Before Pain could even realize what was happening, a foot had separated the head of the Preta Path from its body. The Path was sent flying into the border wall, making a cracking crater on it. The force and speed from the kick was much, much greater than something a boy in a 12-year-old body like Naruto could have done. And how it was performed… no teenage boy could have done it. It was the move only a taijutsu master could perform…
…or a Tailed Beast with the skill of a taijutsu master.
Not even stopping a second, the golden bullet which was Naruto shot towards the fallen Preta Path with the speed of a rocket. It was clear that he was intending to completely eliminate the troublesome Path once and for all…!
Right before he could reach the Path, however, he was pulled back forcefully by an invisible force. He flew back as if he was punched at the stomach, towards where the Deva Path was standing with his right arm forward and a black rod on his left.
Three meters… two… one… Pain's hand rose, lifting the black rod up…
And Naruto's irises morphed into the shape of a coin.
"Wind Style: Spiral Strike Burst!"
A vortex of wind suddenly exploded from Naruto's mouth without any hand seals and shot toward the Deva Path with the velocity and power of an artillery shell. With such a close distance, there was no way Pain could dodge this sudden move…!
"Shinra Tensei!" Pain hastily cast his other jutsu, dispel the deadly jutsu before it could land on its target. The force of the technique was so great Naruto was once again thrown away, but he backflipped on the air and landed on the ground gracefully.
'Shukaku, the time limit's up!' From inside Naruto's head, the voice of the mission control – Kokuoh – rose urgently. 'Tag out immediately!'
'Crap, we're out of time already?!'
The Naruto body controlled by Shukaku immediately backtracked, making a distance from him and Deva Path before, with a blink, giving back control to Naruto. At the same time, the chakra shroud covering his body faded away.
And Naruto nearly screamed when he felt a sharp pain coursing through his body.
'What the fuck!? What did you do to my body, Shukaku? Why does it hurt so much?'
'Well, blame your body for being so weak to handle my jutsu!'
'Ugh… I really didn't think of this…'
The problem with jinchuriki was that, while a very strong-willed one could extract the chakra from the Tailed Beast by force to use, just like Naruto had done before, if they wanted to use all the power of their Beast, they would need to have synchronization with the Beast, not only in body strength, but also in their souls. The better their synchronization was, the more power they could gain from the Beast. That's why "perfect jinchuriki" like Killer B was so powerful; years of friendship with their Tailed Beasts had forged them a bond many people could only dream about.
Without such a bond, the Tailed Beasts could only exert their full power by completely taking over the hosts' body. However, doing so would require them to separate the connection between the jinchuriki's soul and their body to connect theirs into it. And if the takeover last too long, the host's spirit wouldn't be able to reconnect to their own body… meaning death. Not to mention the damage the Beasts' very potent chakra could do to the jinchuriki's body… And naturally, Naruto didn't have either of them at the moment. His 12 year old body was too weak to handle the Tailed Beasts' chakra for long, and the only one he could even consider having a decent synchronization with was Kurama. And while her chakra could give him incredible strength on its own, she didn't possess any skill which could help him against a powerful, skilled enemy.
That's the reason why Naruto and the Beasts were resorting to what they're doing right now. While Kurama didn't have any special skill except for her very potent and powerful chakra, the other Tailed Beasts had. And despite having imperfect bonds with them, if he just allowed them to take over for a short amount of time, just like the time when Kurama completely possessed him to fight Orochimaru, he would be fine… he guessed.
Before, in his mature, trained body, he had lasted about fifteen minutes when the kitsune had completely taken over him. He didn't know how long this younger, weaker body could take it, but he could not risk it for too long. That's why he decided to play safe with this tagging strategy; with the immense skills in taijutsu of Goku, the very advanced genjutsu of Matatabi which Naruto knew he could never use on his own, and the powerful ninjutsu in Shukaku's arsenal, Naruto knew he would be able to hold his own even when he was disabled like this. Being able to think of such strategy in such a short time was a very considerable achievement.
But… practicing before or not, he just hadn't expected that it would hurt so much when trying in real battle. And would it work against someone like Pain, with the gamebreaking power which was the legendary Rinnegan?
'Well, at least we managed to stop one of his bodies,' he heard Isobu talking in his head.
'But that's not enough,' Naruto thought. 'That body with the power to revive it is still there; if we can't find a way to destroy it first…'
'At least now we can use ninjutsu without fear of being absorbed,' Shukaku said with a nasty grin. 'Now we can totally kick his ass!'
'The problem is, how we're gonna get past them.'
Standing between Naruto and the fallen Preta Path were now the Deva Path and the recently joined Animal Path. And he grimaced when he saw the other Paths disengaging Itachi, ready to come for him. It seems they already decided who the more dangerous one was between Itachi and Naruto.
Itachi narrowed his eyes when the two Paths of Pain left him to go against Naruto.
No, what he was worrying about wasn't that Pain was focusing all his force on Naruto or anything. What he was wary of was how Naruto was fighting.
Itachi himself was a veteran shinobi, everyone knew that fact. And his Sharingan allowed him to memorize the fighting pattern of every enemy he had ever faced. Therefore, in just one single move Naruto had just performed, he could immediately see that there was something wrong. That taijutsu move was completely different from what he had used against him during their fight in Otogakure. No, that move definitely wasn't something a 12-year-old shinobi could do. He doubted even the most powerful taijutsu master of Konoha, Might Gai, could perform that move without a very long time of training.
If that's the case... it could only mean that either his Tailed Beast, or someone with taijutsu skills surpassing all the taijutsu masters in the world had possessed him in just that instance to perform the extremely complex and powerful move, or Naruto was still holding back a whole lot during their battle, and his true skill might even surpass the Hokage himself.
Itachi shuddered. Both ideas were so absurd he could swear that he's going crazy even thinking about them. Seriously, how could those ideas even be possible?
But if that's the case… there might be a way for them to get out of this situation and escape alive. But in order to do that… he would need Naruto.
Naruto growled when he realized Itachi had arrived next to him. "What now?"
"We cannot escape from them by fighting separately like this," Itachi said. "We need to work together if we want to have a chance against them."
"By following another crazy plan of yours?" Naruto snarled. "There is no way I'm going to obey anything coming from you!"
"I know. That's the reason why I'm following your lead."
What Itachi had just said almost made Naruto lose his balance. "What?"
"That's right," Itachi answered calmly. "During our fight, you have already understood my skills and power; now I trust you to figure out a plan using our power together to create an escape route for us."
It's not like Itachi didn't believe in his own abilities, or that he thought Naruto was a brilliant strategist or something. It's just that, during the fight between him and Naruto, he had shown nearly all of his most powerful techniques, and of course during his time in the Akatsuki, Pain had also noticed a majority of them. And yet he still couldn't figure out just how strong Naruto really was. That's why he decided to put everything on a big bet; if Naruto could somehow figure out a way to save both of them, it would be a boon; otherwise… well, he believed at least with his unpredictable mind, they would still be able to hold Pain back for a while before reinforcement came; they're supposed to come today…
Hokage-sama… please come here quickly!
Unfortunately, Naruto was not Shikamaru. He could think of tactics during battle, but only if the partner was someone he understood very well, such as his teammates. No matter how strong Itachi was, he's still a stranger whom Naruto didn't have too much interaction before.
'I can help, Naruto, if I know the full extent of his power,' Kokuoh inside Naruto offered.
'Even I'd be damned if I say I know for sure what that Itachi can do,' Kurama muttered. 'Each time we face them, those accursed Sharingan users always shit out a new game breaking skill they aren't even supposed to have. Fire which can burn even chakra, genjutsu which creates a whole illusory world, dimensional wormholes… what next? Reality warping? Changing destiny at will? Ugh!'
'Maybe we can just go and have him ignite Naruto's Rasenshuriken with that black flame, like Sasuke did during our time,' Goku suggested.
'That would burn away half of Amegakure, you know,' Isobu pointed out. 'There are innocent people in there too; if we let them be caught in this battle, we will just be no different than what Pain said.'
'Then we will need to get them out of the village first… somehow…'
"All of them are not the real Pain."
Itachi turned towards the blonde jinchuriki. "How do you know that?"
Naruto nodded. The reason he was going to say wasn't how he knew about that at all, but it was still a very legit one, and he silently thanked the gods Kokuoh was here to give him that answer.
"With the power of the Kyuubi, I can sense the emotion of people around me. The things in front of us right now don't have any sign of emotion at all, even though their faces could show some expressions. It's just like they're corpses controlled by someone else from afar."
Itachi grimaced. A boy of that age had managed to figure out something himself, who was considered an experienced ANBU level shinobi, couldn't.
But to be fair, this was the first time the Uchiha had ever seen Pain utilizing all of his six bodies. Before, whenever Itachi and the other members of the Akatsuki had to meet him, the only body he used to show them was the Deva Path, his symbolic one. There was no way the Uchiha could know about the other bodies, or whatever they could do.
"So what are you going to do?"
Naruto bit his lips. "Honestly? I don't know. That one over there," he looked at the body utilizing the Animal Path, "seems to be able to summon monstrous animals with the Rinnegan, and that one," his eyes moved to the Deva Path, "when I went against him, it seemed he could pull me in and push me out with a flick of his hand."
"So he can control gravity, huh," Itachi mused. "That would be a problem… And it seems that one over there can revive the killed ones…"
Indeed, the killed Preta Path had been brought back to life by the Naraka Path. Naruto grimaced; the effort they had put out to try to get rid of that troublesome Path was for nothing…
"I guess… that revived body has something to do with disabling ninjutsu."
Naruto turned to Itachi in surprise. "How do you know that?"
"Pain sent that one together with the main body specifically for you," Itachi answered, his eyes still hadn't left the six bodies in front of him. "And you are a ninjutsu-specializing shinobi, with your chakra cloak… naturally, he will have to send in something with the ability to neutralize ninjutsu."
'He's perceptive, eh,' Gyuuki remarked.
"That leaves two of them we still haven't known abilities yet," the Uchiha concluded. "If only we could figure out what they could do first…"
Naruto gritted his teeth. Even he couldn't do anything about that; the last time he fought Pain, the bodies of the Asura and Human Path had both been destroyed in one hit. He had heard about their abilities, but hadn't even had the time to witness what they could really do. And even if he knew it, he still couldn't reveal it to Itachi; all the secrets he was trying to keep would be blown to kingdom come if he did that.
He closed his eyes. What had he done during the time he had had to fight Pain in his timeline?
Asura Path? One hit with a Rasengan had blasted it to smithereens.
Human Path? Rasenshuriken had evaporated it in one strike. It hadn't even had the chance to do anything during the battle.
Animal Path? With the help of the Toad summons, he had been able to fend off the summons of the Path and killed it with a double Rasengan to the chest. And so had been the Naraka Path, albeit to the head instead.
Preta Path… it actually was the most troublesome Path he had to face. Both times he had managed to kill it, he had had to realize on the abilities Sage Mode gave him. The first time, it was because of Frog Kata, which utilized nature chakra to deliver undodgeable hits, and the second time was due to the ability to turn everything incompatible to stone. He didn't have Sage Mode now, so he would have to find another way to do it, or else…
And Deva Path… to be honest, having the other Paths or not wasn't important at all. There was nothing else Naruto could say about that last Path but one word: overpowered. According to what Kakashi and other people had told him, it had faced two whole teams of Konoha shinobi including Choza and Choji Akimichi, together with Kakashi himself, by itself and won. It had also been the only Path of Pain who could go toe to toe with Naruto during the battle in Konoha, and would have captured him if it hadn't been for Hinata jumping in and nearly getting killed. He had only been able to overcome it by going all out with everything he had: shadow clones, Rasenshuriken, utilizing the battlefield for camouflage, transformation jutsu, not to mention a humongous amount of chakra from Kurama. And that was even after Pain had exhausted himself with Chibaku Tensei.
And that was when he had a grown up, not-disabled body. Hand seals, to shinobi, were like a type of self-hypnosis to flip a switch inside the shinobi's mind, allowing them to activate the process of performing jutsu inside their body and bring the ninjutsu to the outside world. Without his hands, Naruto could not use hand seals, as the arms he made from the Tailed Beasts' chakra weren't his own. It meant that no Shadow Clone, no Transformation, no summoning, nothing with hand seals was available to him. He could only rely on Rasengan and its variants, and his Projection jutsu, the jutsu which only needed chakra and the power of his imagination.
Luckily for him, they were all the most powerful skills he had available in his arsenal. But unfortunately for him also, without Shadow Clone Jutsu, the element of surprise and innovation in his fighting style would be reduced drastically.
And judging by the situation they were in right now, they were being outnumbered one by three. At least it was still better than the time Naruto had had to handle all six of them, but still...
'Heh, I know this is not rational, but I think this is not the time for you to think too much, Naruto.'
Naruto blinked when he realized what Isobu had just said. 'What do you mean, Isobu?'
'If you think about it, it might be better if you don't waste your head on sophisticated strategies and just go with what you have,' the turtle said. 'Don't you remember? You have survived until this day with your unpredictability. Besides, isn't it true that thinking too much about complex plans makes you lose your concentration on the battle in front of you?'
'But that's very dangerous!' Matatabi protested. 'And this is the Akatsuki leader we're facing, and he also possesses the same eyes as Father! If we just charge at him without a plan…'
'No, I think that's the best Naruto can do at the moment.'
All the Tailed Beasts inside Naruto turned toward Gyuuki, who had just said those words.
'I might not be the best strategist, but beside Kurama, I am the one who understands how Naruto usually fights among us the best,' the ox said. 'And he is the one who tends to think of a tactic in the heat of the battle. And usually, those tactics work like a charm. So why don't we just believe in Naruto in this and leave it to him?'
'So you mean we should just go along with it and let Naruto go with the flow?' Kokuoh asked. 'That is very risky, you understand that, right?'
Gyuuki nodded grimly. 'I know, but it's not like we have any other choice, right? I'd rather gamble with this chance than sit here and do nothing. We can still provide Naruto with chakra and other powers in here, right?'
A moment of silence. Then, Naruto nodded.
'I understand. Pain won't even know what hit him, believe it!'
"Itachi, which direction is the way out of the village?"
Itachi blinked at the sudden question from Naruto. "Uh, it's this way, but…"
"All right. Brace yourself!"
The Uchiha could only scream out like a little girl when Naruto suddenly grabbed him with a giant chakra arm and threw him toward the direction he had just pointed at.
Well, that's just humiliating, he thought when flying through the air like a rocket to the border of the village, passing the tall buildings below. He wondered what people down there would have thought if they had managed to see him like this.
"You dare risking yourself sending your ally away like that?" Deva Path of Pain looked at Naruto with an emotionless gaze. Naruto just grinned back cheekily.
"Yes, because like this I can use all my speed without holding back."
Then he activated his chakra cloak, and bolted.
'I really don't like to say this, but good thinking using our chakra to run away.'
Those were the words Goku had said on their way.
Right now, they were following the direction Itachi was flying toward, at full speed boosted with the chakra cloak.
Fighting in the village was a severe disadvantage for both Naruto and Itachi. Not only did Pain outnumber them, Amegakure was also his homebase; staying within the village was no different from trapping themselves. They needed a new battlefield, somewhere they could fight without the obstacles inside the village, somewhere Pain couldn't utilize to gain an upper hand against them…
The wall at the border of the village was in front of him. A few jumps, and Naruto had gotten past the wall, arriving outside of the village.
There was Itachi, standing just a few steps from him, and…
All the six Paths of Pain were standing right in front of the Uchiha.
'How the hell did they get here so fast?!' Shukaku exclaimed in disbelief.
(A few seconds ago…)
"He's still trying to escape? No matter, he will not be able to escape the hand of God."
Next to Deva Path, the Animal Path jumped up and with a backflip, it landed on the former's two hands, which were already raised up over his head in waiting.
And Animal Path was shot up into the sky like a cannonball. It flew toward the direction Itachi and Naruto had gone with a speed much, much greater than the both of them had moved. It flew past Itachi, who was startled by the sudden appearance of the former and landed on the ground with a "thud", right before Itachi could make his own landing.
Before Itachi could even do anything, Animal Path had slammed his hands down on the ground. And the other five Paths of Pain appeared in a burst of smoke as Naruto arrived from behind the wall with only two words uttered.
"I knew everything about you, Nine-Tails," said Pain in a deathly cold voice. "I know you can never leave someone who helped you, even if they were your enemies at first. You could have run away if you had gone the other way, but instead… you followed Itachi, giving me the chance to get both of you at the same time without having to split up. You like to think of yourself as some kind of hero, but you are not. You are just a fool who has immersed himself into the darkness of this world."
"What do you mean by that?" Naruto demanded, pointing at Pain. "Is helping people such a bad thing to do?"
"If there exists a hero, there must be someone who is in need of a hero's service, and thus is suffering from pain and despair," Pain answered, his eyes didn't leave Naruto's face. "If someone wishes to become a hero, naturally he will wish for someone to save. And that is why humans cause wars, not only to sate their greed, but also to fulfill their stupid dream of being heroes. Even your Fourth Hokage only became a hero after slaughtering hundreds of Iwa shinobi. He's no different from—"
"You can shut your mouth now, Pain."
Every eye turned toward Itachi, who had just said those words. And Naruto was startled when he saw the Uchiha's face.
Naruto had seen Itachi's face many times. But every time, his face had always held a calm expression. Even their battle in Orochimaru's base couldn't even shake his stoic face. But now, looking at the utterly furious expression on the Uchiha's face, it felt like the man in front of him was a completely different person from whom he had known before.
"A true hero doesn't need to wish to be a hero," he continued, his voice suddenly lowering to the point it became nearly a whisper. "They become heroes for the sake of the people they love; they only take up the mantle because they have to, and they do the job well, and people consider them heroes. The Fourth Hokage is someone like that, and if you dare say a word to slander his name…"
His voice rose again, and the temperature suddenly dropped at least ten degrees.
"…then just wash your neck and wait."
Then he flipped through a series of hand seals so fast Naruto could only see his hands blurring around.
"Fire Style: Grand Dragon Flame Jutsu!"
A huge dragon head made of fire erupted from his mouth and rushed the Six Paths of Pain with pure rage and vengeance. It scorched the used to be lush grass field, threatening to consume everything, the ground, the air, the forest, and of course the six human figures standing before it…
But Pain didn't even flinch a bit.
From behind the Deva Path, the Preta Path jumped forward and extended its arms. The menacing fire dragon, upon reaching the Path, was immediately absorbed into the body without being able to cause any harm. In just two seconds, the technique completely disappeared…
…revealing a torrent of blades of all kinds descending down the Paths' heads. Not the kind made of chakra like Naruto's creations, they were real, very sharp blades unsealed from the three scrolls on Itachi's hands not unlike the type of jutsu Tenten usually used. There's no way Pain can absorb this…
From behind, the Deva Path sprang into action. It leapt onto the sky, on the way of the descending blades.
All the weapons coming towards the Paths were thrown back by an invisible force. They fell onto the ground around the Paths of Pain harmlessly in loud "thud"s.
"Now you see how useless you are?" Pain's voice rose mockingly. "No matter how strong you are, what kind of jutsu you have, they're all useless against the might of God. You don't have any chance; why not just surrender peacefully and save yourself a hopeless battle?"
Itachi gritted his teeth. That was only two Paths in action, and his techniques were already disabled easily like that. If all the Paths had acted at the same time…
Naruto blinked when he heard Kokuoh's voice.
'What's wrong, Kokuoh?'
'He might have said that, but actually, Pain is not invincible. His powers, while very strong and seemingly impossible to stop, are actually also his weaknesses.'
The declaration of the wise horse made Naruto startled. 'How?'
'You have already faced Pain in battle, right? Now tell me, what weakness does the Deva Path of Pain have?'
Naruto tried to remember his battle with Pain in his past. 'Ah! He has a 5-second gap between each use of his pushing jutsu!'
'That's only one of them,' Kurama quipped in. 'I still remember when I nearly took over Naruto's body at that time, I managed to push back his jutsu with sheer power alone. That technique actually isn't that invincible, eh?'
'That's right,' Kokuoh agreed. 'But as far as I see, that technique is a gravity-based one. And gravity, no matter what kind, needs a center. I think… the basis of the techniques he possesses is that he uses the body of the Deva Path as the center of gravity.'
'Uhh… but isn't gravity the concept of something with great mass pulling everything toward its core? What does that have to do with his ability to push everything away?' Isobu pondered.
'I was going to that,' Kokuoh answered. 'It seems… that Pain's power is not only limited to merely gravity; it extends to the concept of gravity itself. It means it can do things like reverse the law of gravity.'
'Sounds so overpowered,' Goku whistled.
'True,' the Five-Tails agreed. 'But that doesn't mean it can rewrite reality. If it is really gravity, the most basic rules forming what's called gravity must still be followed… which means…'
'I see!' Matatabi suddenly exclaimed. 'It means the power cannot be controlled in directory; it always covers everything around him! He cannot protect the other bodies if we bombard all of them at once!'
'But what about the pulling technique? He seems to be able to pull only something he wants toward him.'
Kokuoh didn't answer. Instead, he asked.
'Naruto, what do you feel when he used that jutsu on you?'
'Huh?' Naruto blinked. 'I feel that my body seemingly lost all the weight in just an instance… and then somehow I was forcefully pulled toward him, and couldn't even control my body…'
'Then it's possible that Pain can also manipulate the gravity of other objects. When he uses that pulling technique, he steals all the weight from the target and at the same time, makes himself a center of gravity. Someone with the weight of a normal person might not feel it, but someone with zero weight will be pulled toward him without any chance to retaliate.'
'Those science things make my head hurt so much, really,' Goku commented.
'In short, that Deva Path is very powerful on itself, but it might actually be a nuisance in a team battle,' Kokuoh concluded. 'It has the power to protect, but that power is mainly used for itself only. And furthermore, the protecting power lies basically only on pushing things away and pulling things towards it. If we can somehow exploit that, we might have a chance to turn everything around.'
The voice of Kokuoh turned serious. 'We have to hit him with something he cannot push away.'
Naruto whispered into the Uchiha's ear, and his eyes widened.
What the hell is that jutsu…?
Pain narrowed his eyes when he saw the Rasenshuriken raging on Naruto's hand. He had heard about the jutsu from the words of Zetsu about the battle of Kakuzu with Team 7, but he could never expect it to be this… powerful. It was more powerful than any wind jutsu he had ever heard about. And that wasn't even the strongest form of the jutsu, if Zetsu's words were to believe.
But no matter… as long as this was a ninjutsu, Preta Path would be able to absorb it. Preta Path can absorb any ninjutsu. Period. No matter how powerful and destructive the jutsu is. There's nothing he should worry about…
Suddenly three of something small and round flew at him from Itachi's hand. By reflex, he blocked the three incoming projectile with a Shinra Tensei, but his eyes narrowed when the three grenades exploded upon connecting with the jutsu and filled the whole clearing with smoke.
What the hell… Smokescreen? What do they think they can do with…
The original Nagato's eyes suddenly widened. They're trying to block my shared vision! But why…?
His question was answered almost immediately. From inside the smokescreen, the Rasenshuriken flew out, aiming straight at the Paths of Pain who were gathering up closely due to the fact they couldn't see each other. Immediately, the Preta Path jumped into the jutsu's path, clearly intending to absorb the technique…
And right at that moment, he realized that something was wrong.
The incoming Rasenshuriken suddenly turned into Itachi, whose trusted tanto was raising high, ready to come down on the head of the Preta Path, who was standing so close to the Uchiha that it couldn't have any hope to dodge its incoming demise.
"You're going down!"
Together with the declaration, the tanto on Itachi's hands was brought down with all of his strength. The absurdly sharp blade of the weapon buried itself into the flesh of the Preta Path's shoulder and didn't stop there; with the power of the Uchiha's arms, the blade continued going down and down… until it split the Path in half completely. The two halves of the Path fell onto the ground, lifeless and useless.
Not even stopping a second, Itachi flicked his hands. Shuriken flew out from his sleeves, flying around the Deva Path and tied it up with the ninja wires tying on them. Immediately, the Uchiha flipped through his hand seals for another jutsu.
"Fire Style: Dragon Flame Jutsu!"
So this is the reason they blocked my view with the smokescreen… to hide the fact that Itachi has transformed into the jutsu…
With a roar from the Deva Path, the fire jutsu was dispersed easily. All the wires binding it were also snapped as if they were made of straw.
…but if that's the case… where is the real one?!
"I'm over here!"
The Deva Path snapped his head backward so fast his neck let out a loud noise which sounded suspiciously like a "crack". There was Naruto, having snuck behind them Heaven could know when, with the real Rasenshuriken spinning like a tornado on his hand, ready to be thrown.
"You're going down… and this time, STAY DOWN! BELIEVE IT!"
With a decisive battle cry, Naruto threw the Rasenshuriken with all of the strength coming from the chakra arm. The deadly shuriken tore through the air with utmost vengeance, screeching as if thousands of bells were ringing at the same time.
The cooldown for his jutsu still had 3 seconds left. And the jutsu was coming so fast… there's no way it could dodge it… by itself…
The Animal and Human Path immediately jumped away from their positions, avoiding the deadly projectile. At the same time, from behind, the Asura Path grabbed the collars of the Deva Path and Naraka Path nearby and tossed them upward, over the range of the Rasenshuriken. But the cost of that action was that it was caught in the violent vortex when the shuriken exploded into a giant sphere of wind. The Path was cut into millions of tiny pieces; there was no hope in recovering it.
That was so dangerous… Since when has that jinchuriki received such power?
Then Pain caught a glimpse at Itachi's face below, and from his hiding place, Nagato's eyes widened.
His eyes had morphed into the pinwheel shape of the Mangekyo Sharingan.
In just a fraction of a second, Nagato understood what the Uchiha was going to do. The Deva Path, without even a glimpse of hesitation, immediately pushed the Naraka Path next to it forward as a meatshield right when Itachi finished the name of his jutsu.
The Naraka Path was promptly consumed in the black flame. It fell to the ground with a "thud", and without the Preta Path, nothing else could be done except waiting until it burned into nothingness.
"Yosh! Our tactic worked!" Naruto, who had just arrived next to Itachi after launching his jutsu, cheered.
"You really surprised me, Naruto-kun," Itachi, stoic as he always was, still let out a small grin. "Had you used that technique during our fight, I would have been killed. But why didn't you…"
But before Itachi could finish his question…
"I have to admit, you are very strong."
The smoke and dust cleared out, revealing the three remaining Paths of Pain. Their faces still didn't have any expression, but the rage and surprise coming from the real Nagato was so obvious Naruto didn't even need to use his emotion detector to know.
"…No one could even land a hit on the Six Paths of Pain before, not to mention defeating one, and yet you managed to destroy three of my Paths…"
Pain's voice went even colder and more eerie with each word coming out of his mouth.
"…but no matter… my pain…"
He raised his hands, and immediately, Itachi and Naruto couldn't control their bodies anymore. It's as if all the weight had left their bodies at once. They tried to struggle, but all their efforts were useless; the only thing they could do was flailing their limbs helplessly in the air.
"…IS GREATER THAN YOURS! BANSHOU TEN'IN!"
Immediately, Itachi and Naruto felt their bodies jerk forward. They tried to struggle in vain, but couldn't even slow down; they flew into the hands of the Human Path, which grabbed both their heads with each of its arms.
"I don't have anything else to say to you, Naruto Uzumaki," Pain said, and Naruto felt a chill on his spine when he realized what his enemy was going to do. "It seems I cannot allow you to live in this world anymore. The Nine-Tails can be recaptured when it revives after being killed, but you… you, not anyone else, are the most prominent obstacle in our way to achieve peace."
'No!' All the Tailed Beasts inside Naruto screamed at the same time, but there was nothing else they could do; Naruto was not Hashirama, and the grip of the Human Path on his head was so strong. His soul was going to be pulled out …
Then suddenly Naruto and Itachi felt the Human Path's hands releasing them. At the same time, a giant staff landed between them and the Path as it was retreating hastily back.
"You are… Hokage…" Pain breathed out, and Hiruzen Sarutobi, who had just landed in front of Itachi and Naruto, answered with a pleasant smile.
"It's an honor to meet you, leader of the Akatsuki."
'Jiji's here! We're saved!' Naruto cheered in his mind. Never before had he felt so relieved when his grandfather figure appeared.
'Good! With him here, we will have a chance to reverse the situation!' Kurama agreed. 'We can even finish Pain off here and spare us the trouble of killing him later!'
'Wait a second,' Isobu's voice cut them off. 'I think there is some problem.'
Even when facing Pain, the Hokage still didn't show even a slight tension of battle. On his face, there was only the usual calm, kind smile. If there was anything to say, Naruto would say that Hiruzen was going to drink tea with Pain, not fight him.
'I don't get it. How can he be so calm? It's Pain he's facing, surely he must know…'
"You come here to rescue the jinchuriki, aren't you?" Pain said, his eyes not leaving the Hokage. Hiruzen just smiled pleasantly.
"Ah, I have to admit that was one of my intentions. But actually, the main reason I come here tonight was to talk to you."
No one in the clearing, including Naruto, could expect what the Hokage had just said.
Pain didn't say anything for a few seconds. Then suddenly, from behind the Deva Path, where the Animal Path was standing, something big appeared in a burst of smoke and charged the Konoha shinobi in a raging rampage. It was a giant dog with three heads, each of which was snarling and having saliva drool from their mouth as if it had rabies. Hiruzen narrowed his eyes, but before he could do anything…
"NOT SO FAST!"
The ground shook when Gamaken descended from the sky and landed on the dog, pinning it to the ground. The monstrous hound struggled, but the toad wedged the middle head between the two prongs of his sasumata, effectively locking the hound in place and preventing it from throwing him away.
On top of the toad stood Jiraiya, whose face bore a grim expression. Next to him was Sasuke, who seemed to be a little dazed after flying on top of a giant toad for the first time.
Let's just say there was no need to say how freaked out Itachi was when he saw his brother on top of Gamaken.
"Sasuke?! What the hell are you doing here?" he shouted in panic.
"Well, I'm not allowed to go rescue my friend after you kidnapped him?" his brother retorted, and Itachi winced.
"This is not the time for you to play hero! Go hide immediately, or else…"
'Kinda rare to see that normally stoic Itachi Uchiha freaking out like this, eh,' Kurama commented.
Meanwhile, Jiraiya jumped down from the head of the giant toad and landed on the ground with a "thud".
"You are… Yahiko…" the Toad Sage muttered, his eyes fixing at the Deva Path. "But why do you have Nagato's eyes? Those eyes are definitely the Rinnegan…"
"Jiraiya-sensei," Pain stared at Jiraiya and said, still with the same monotone voice. "It seems you still remember me, after abandoning us."
Jiraiya grimaced. The jab in his former student's voice was too obvious to everyone to not notice. But he refused to be gullible. This was not the time.
"So… who are you? Are you Yahiko… or Nagato?"
Pain narrowed his eyes. "There used to be people with those names. Now, there is only Pain, God of the world, and the one who will bring forth peace."
Jiraiya gritted his teeth.
"Even if you are Yahiko or Nagato… I didn't teach you to be like this. What happened to you? Why did you become like this?"
Hiruzen shot a glance at Jiraiya. Either he was faking his emotion so well no one could even find out, or he was truly in pain seeing his ex-student become… this, a delusional jerkass with a gigantic god complex.
"You don't have the right to say that after abandoning us to go back to your precious Konoha, Jiraiya-sensei," Pain said in a soft tone, but everyone could hear the venom in his voice. "And if you want to know what happened… you can go back to Konoha and ask your Danzo about it. After all, it's his fault that Pain… no, the Akatsuki was born with its present purpose…"
"I should have known… that bastard again… did he kill Yahiko? And Konan too… is she still alive? Where is she?" Jiraiya growled.
"…but that's not something you should bother with right now."
Every eye snapped towards Pain. "So you intend to take on Itachi, Naruto, Sasuke, me and Jiraiya single-handedly, do you?" Hiruzen asked warily.
"Oh, I don't even need to," Pain answered, his voice still soft, "because you are going to stay here, forever."
Then with a sudden movement, he clapped his hands together. Realizing what Pain was going to do, Naruto, abandoning all of his vigilance, shouted, but before he could even let out a sound, Pain had opened his hands, and between them lay a black orb which looked like it had absorbed all the light coming to it.
The ground shook. Large pieces of debris started to tear up from the surface and flew towards the floating black orb on the sky, which was exuding such a powerful gravity that even the five Konoha shinobi would be pulled into it if they didn't do anything soon.
"What… what the hell is that?!" Sasuke screamed, clutching onto Gamaken for dear life, while the toad was also doing his best to stay on the ground.
"It is sucking everything into it!" Naruto yelled.
"Well thank you, captain obvious!" Sasuke yelled back, annoyed as hell.
"We have to destroy that orb! It is the source of the gravitational pull!" Itachi roared, and stomped his feet on the ground. And to everyone's amazement, his Susanoo burst into life, not in the usual skeleton form, but immediately in its complete form. Each of its three hands wielded a holy regalia: the Sword of Totsuka, the ethereal blade of the god of wind Susanoo with the power to seal anything into eternal bliss; the Yasaka Magatama, the symbolic jewels of the holy kingdom and the ultimate projectile weapon; and the Yata Mirror, the mirror of the goddess Amaterasu herself in legend, which was said to be able to stop even the most powerful jutsu in the world…
At that moment…
Something suddenly clicked on Naruto's head, as if there was a switch turning on upon a glimpse of the ethereal mirror.
Yata Mirror, assimilation at 52 percent. Warning: data encrypted. Passcode: Cr$ ti#* of ! l Th&^gs. Unzipping. Unzip failed. Attempting to recover corrupted data. ERROR: fatal fragmentation of base processes. Recovering. Recreation process starting…
He shook his head to clear his thought. What the hell was that? It sounded like some kind of code... but…
"YASAKA MAGATAMA!" Itachi roared, and on the third arm of his Susanoo, the bracelet with the magatama started to unravel and spin around its hand. And with a loud rumble, the stringed magatama were launched at the black orb which was gathering dirt and debris above their heads like a giant shuriken. Not wasting a second, Hiruzen and Jiraiya also aimed their most powerful ranged jutsu at it. The three jutsu mixed up together, turning into a giant wheel made of scorching hot flame. The wheel of fire collided with the black sphere, and a deafening explosion shook the ground, raining debris down on the Konoha shinobi's heads.
Recreation: 50 percent completed… Basic structure, analyzed… Attempting to remake the blueprint…
"All right! We're safe!" Naruto cheered.
Then his eyes widened when he noticed the one standing right in the middle of the circle formed by the five Konoha shinobi. It was the Deva Path, and paying too much attention to the Chibaku Tensei forming overhead, no one noticed it moving at all.
And the Rinnegan on its eye sockets gleamed dangerously.
It was just like they had stood next to an exploding bomb. The five Konoha shinobi were thrown away, their backs hit the trees nearby or the ground painfully. Naruto himself was flung backward into the wall of Amegakure, his body crashed into it so hard it left a web of cracks on the stone wall. A gasp of pain choked out of his mouth; it felt like all of his bones were smashed into bits at the same time.
Then from afar, in his blurry vision, he saw a burst of smoke exploding from where the Animal Path was standing. And he saw the giant bird with long neck from before taking off and launching itself towards him again, and he didn't know how, but this time its long beak was also spinning wildly like the tip of a drill. If that hit him, there was no way he could survive, no matter how powerful his regeneration could be, as there wouldn't be any heart or internal organ inside him staying intact after all.
The other ones were too far away. There was absolutely no one who could save Naruto now…
Recreation: 80 percent completed… Blueprint completed… Decoding the mystery …
…This was bullshit.
There was no way he could accept this. He couldn't just die here meaninglessly like this.
He had been saved once, by mere random chance, or by the will of the Heaven he couldn't know. He had been saved, so there was no way he could die so easily.
He had to live to fulfill his obligations. He had to live to protect the world from the mad ambition of Madara. If he was dead, he couldn't do that.
Recreation: 99 percent completed… Mystery decoded and recreated… Finalizing the creation… Please enter the name of the Regalia.
But there was nothing to deny that he was going to be pierced and ripped apart by the giant drill bird which was flying toward him. That drill beak would cut into his flesh, even through his chakra shroud, and rip his heart to shreds.
No. He would never let that happen. He needed something powerful… something which could stop even the unstoppable… something which could protect not only himself, but also everyone he cared about… a holy shield of a god.
Recovery completed. New name registered. Regalia of the Soul: 9th Tail: Yata Mirror: Blessing of Amaterasu.
And it appeared like magic.
In a blinding light, it appeared. The gold mirror, with nine tail-like prongs gathering around the edge, floated in front of Naruto while glowing brightly, just like the sun itself.
The bird projectile coming at Naruto was repelled… no, it was stopped before it could even reach the mirror. The bird stopped right in front of the mirror, and it gradually faded away into the light coming from the object.
The sacred mirror of Amaterasu, the true symbol of the sun, the shield which could stop any kind of technique thrown at the wielder, Itachi's perfect defense… but…
No, comparing to this holy regalia, the Yata Mirror Itachi's Susanoo possessed was just an imitation, a fake, no more, no less. Itachi's mirror could only stop the attacks from harming the possessor. This one, the blinding light coming from it seemed to have the power to completely erase all kinds of harm aimed at the holder. As long as it was out, anything with the intention to harm Naruto would never be able to even come close to him.
And for some reason, when Naruto looked at the mirror, a feeling suddenly arose inside Naruto. A feeling of complete safety… just like a very close, very powerful friend was standing in front of him, not allowing anything to touch him…
"What… what the hell is that?" He heard Itachi exclaiming from afar. "I feel like I got all of my spent chakra back again! How could it be…?"
It's not only Itachi. Even Naruto himself felt that his chakra suddenly surged back to him when he bathed in the light coming from the mirror. Somehow, it felt like when the warm, powerful chakra of Kurama recharging him…
…Now that when he thought of it, it was actually the same. The very same feeling of being recharged by his trusted Tailed Beast, although much, much more powerful and abundant than normal…
The mirror faded away into a rain of glittering dust, bringing the sunlight together with it. Soon, darkness returned to the clearing.
'Wha…! What the… What the hell just happened?' The surprised voice of Kurama suddenly rose inside Naruto's head. 'For a moment I felt myself outside of Naruto's body… but how…?!'
'It's finally the time,' he felt Kokuoh inside him smile proudly. But before he could ask about it, a movement from someone in front of him cut him off their communication.
Snapping out of their stupors, the Paths of Pain once again rushed Naruto, but before they could even reach the blonde, someone had already appeared in the way. It was the Hokage, whose smile had disappeared from his face. The Paths stopped dead on their way, their Rinnegan bore into the man's face warily.
"You are not going to touch Naruto again," said Hiruzen with a calm tone while brandishing his weapon.
"This is the final warning for you, Hokage," Pain said threateningly. "If you don't back down, you will suffer the wrath of God."
The sudden surge of power coming from Hiruzen was so immense it made even the three Paths of Pain, which weren't his real body at all, backtrack a few steps.
"You are still going to defy me?" Finally, after recovering himself, Pain scoffed. "Then you will die here, Hokage."
Then the two Paths started charging the Hokage again. But before they could even take their first steps, Hiruzen had done something no one could expect. In a very quick movement, he threw his Adamantine Staff upward and disappeared from view.
What the… So fast!
And when Nagato's brain was still processing what the hell had just happened, the Hokage appeared right in front of the two Paths and buried his fist into the Human Path's solar plexus. His movement was so precise and quick Pain couldn't even react. Even though the Paths couldn't feel pain, the force of the punch was so great the Human Path was launched away. Obviously Hiruzen had applied chakra into the punch, just like what Tsunade tended to do.
But he couldn't even finish the name of the jutsu. Right after Hiruzen finished the punch, the Adamantine Staff which had been thrown into the sky fell back to him, and right upon touching his hand, it stretched out and hit the Deva Path square in the face. The Path was pushed back forcefully pretty far before the staff retracted, leaving a smashed, bloody face.
Looking at Hiruzen right now, Naruto fully understood for the first time why people named the man the Third God of Shinobi. His face didn't even show any hostile expression, but the pressure from his mere presence was more than enough to make everyone in the clearing choke on their breaths. Even though he didn't flare up his chakra, a sense of power still radiated from the Hokage as if he was giving off burning heat. Even Nagato, controlling the bodies from afar, could still feel the immense pressure coming off the man. It wasn't even killing intent, but for some reason, it still made him, for a brief instance, feel an emotion he hadn't felt for a long time: fear. But the feeling disappeared as fast as it had arrived; he quickly got back his calm.
"You…" Nagato snarled through the Deva Path. "That's enough. I was thinking of giving you some mercy, but no more. Today all of you will die here."
Hearing those words, Itachi jumped back on his feet. His Mangekyo Sharingan started spinning wildly. "You are not going to…"
The command coming from the Hokage was so abrupted and strange even Pain was surprised. "What?"
Then, to the shock and horror of the four other Konoha shinobi, he dispelled his own weapon.
"Are you trying to surrender?" Pain narrowed his eyes.
The Hokage didn't answer the question. Instead, he suddenly did something no one could ever expect. He kneeled before Pain and bowed.
"Sensei! What are you doing?" Jiraiya exclaimed in shock.
"Jiraiya has told me about what happened to you. And I know that Konoha is at fault for all of that. And I, as the Hokage, have to hold responsibility for it."
Those words really had an effect on Pain. He snorted through the Deva Path.
"Those are just empty words. There is nothing you can do which can change the truth."
A few seconds of silence.
"Then kill me."
It was just like a bomb had just been detonated in the middle of the clearing. Sasuke exclaimed.
"What?! What are you talking about, Hokage-sama?!"
"Danzo, as you have just said, as a citizen of Konohagakure, had done such a terrible action to you and your friends. And yes, it's true that there is no way I can bring your friend back to life," Hiruzen closed his eyes. "But if killing me, or doing anything you want to me, can help you relieve your grief and pain, then I'm ready to take it. Jiraiya," he turned to the Toad Sage. "If today I die here, tell Tsunade to keep the hat. And do not bring our force to Amegakure to get revenge for me, and if anyone tries to, you will stop them in any way you can, even if you have to disable them forever. Understood?"
Those words, surprisingly, came from Pain. The Deva Path's face was donning an expression of utter shock and surprise.
"Why are you going so far for this?" He asked with a tone of disbelief. "You are the Kage of a Great Shinobi Village. Why do you stoop as low as offering yourself to save a… a demon?"
"Because sometimes, leading means we have to do that," Hiruzen answered. "I also don't like war, and will definitely do anything within my ability to prevent it from happening. And I don't want another war to happen just because of my fault to not be able to stop my subordinates from doing bad deeds to others. After all…" the Hokage looked into the sky, "…the lives of people I cherish are more important than that of mine."
For a while, no one could even say anything. Then from behind the Deva Path, the Human Path walked up. It reached out its hand, and Hiruzen closed his eyes, ready to accept the consequence…
No one could even expect what Pain had just said. "What?" Naruto himself could only exclaim dumbly.
"I will let you go this time. But mark my words…" Pain turned around and walked away, but not before leaving an eerie threat. "…the next time I come for you will be the time I get the jinchuriki. You are not going to escape again."
And with that, the three remaining bodies of Pain flickered away in a "whoosh".
"What the hell just happened?" Sasuke asked, still baffled.
"That boy…" Jiraiya muttered with a defeated smile. "No matter what he has become, he is still Nagato. There is no way he could fathom attacking another person when they have already given up…"
"Yeah…" Naruto mumbled. "We might have a chance to help him… yet…"
Then suddenly, the jinchuriki fell flat on his face.
"What the?! What's wrong with Naruto?" Sasuke exclaimed in panic. "Was he injured during the battle?"
"No…" Hiruzen crouched down to examine Naruto. "There doesn't seem to be any injury except for his arms…" His eyes suddenly widened. "Itachi! How long hasn't Naruto eaten?"
The Uchiha's eyes widened. "He hasn't accepted any food for four days… that means… a dangerously low blood sugar level… He might die for real if we don't do anything fast!"
"Hey, may I need to remind you all that the Ame shinobi will come here very soon?"
Everyone snapped their heads up. They really didn't realize the incoming problem until the Toad Sage reminded them. The sun was starting to rise at the horizon, and if they didn't get out of here soon, shinobi of Amegakure would definitely notice and come for them.
Hiruzen looked at Jiraiya, who glanced at Gamaken still standing next to them.
Sasuke paled. "Oh, no, not that again…"
When Pain opened the door to his chamber, facing him were the worried eyes of Konan and the judging glares from Zetsu and Tobi.
"What happened to the jinchuriki?" Tobi jumped to the question, not bothering to hide his anger.
"Itachi Uchiha broke him out and ran away with him," Pain answered, his eyes didn't leave the Sharingan inside the hole of his mask.
"But Leader has the Rinnegan," White Zetsu asked. "And yet he couldn't stop them from running away?"
There wasn't anything clearer than the insulting tone in the plant man's voice. Pain's eyes narrowed.
"Are you mocking me?"
'With the eyes of God, you should have been able to at least stop them on their way until backup arrived,' Black Zetsu answered. 'And yet you let them get away without even being able to do anything to them. What does that suppose to mean?'
Then Zetsu (both of them) was slammed into the wall by the invisible force field coming from the Deva Path.
"Don't. You. Dare. Mocking. Me. Like. That. Understand?"
Choked on his breath, Zetsu could only nod in silence. Pain let him go, and the plant man slumped down on the ground painfully.
"The only reason Naruto Uzumaki was able to escape today was because he had the support of Itachi, and the interference of the Hokage and Jiraiya of the Sannin." Konan's eyes widened when she heard the name. "But the next time I meet them, there won't be any mercy. Every one of them will be crushed under my hands, and there won't be anything else they can do about it."
Tobi's eye narrowed under his mask, but he didn't ask further. He grabbed Zetsu and disappeared in a vortex. There were only the Deva Path and Konan alone in the room now.
"So…" the blue-haired girl asked tentatively, "…you met Jiraiya-sensei?"
Pain's eyes turned toward her. "Indeed. What of it?"
"How was he? Did he remember us?"
"And what is that supposed to do?"
Konan faltered before the glare of Yahiko's body. "Well, I thought if Jiraiya-sensei understands what we're going to do…"
"Whether he remembers us or not is not important," Pain cut her short. "He's opposing us now, and that means he has to be killed, just like anyone who gets in our way of achieving peace. Now get out of my chamber."
The words from Pain definitely hurt Konan, but she just nodded and walked out of the room without asking anything.
Alone in his room, Pain couldn't help letting out a snort. As if someone like the Hokage could understand anything about peace. No way, considering it was all the Kage who forced wars upon innocent people anyway.
But he couldn't deny the fact that what the Hokage had said and done definitely shook him. Never before had he seen a leader of a village bowing before someone. Nor offering his own life for the sake of other people. They just… weren't supposed to do something like that.
And during that battle, he hadn't even broken a sweat. Even against two Paths at the same time, he had managed to stomp both of them down to the ground without much effort. He could have destroyed all three Paths if he had tried. And yet he didn't. He had even given himself up, even when he had possessed the definite advantage. It didn't make any sense at all.
For a split second, he wondered if what the man said was the truth. That he actually wanted peace for the whole world…
You know that wasn't the truth. He was just trying to trick you. No Hokage can ever want peace; it is them who start wars. It was the Leaf Village who killed your parents, and your friend.
Yes. That must be it. They must have tricked him. There's no way that could be true. This time he was so gullible that he was fooled by Konoha. But the next time, he won't let them get away. When he captures the jinchuriki… Konoha will be the first village to be erased from the map for the sake of peace.
But the important thing is, from the battle today, he had realized a crucial thing. Even with the eyes of God, he was still too weak compared to the Hokage and his old sensei. But there's no need to worry; now that he had already knew his weakness, he had more than enough time to improve himself. He is not going to let anyone stop him again. Even if that was the Hokage… or his old sensei.
There is no need to be hasty…
'What do you think?'
"I don't know, but there is definitely something changing in Nagato. We will have to watch him more closely."
The room was covered in a dim light. And standing in the middle of the room, talking, were Tobi and Zetsu.
'Should we push the plan forward? I'm starting to worry about this… It seems the battle with the Konoha shinobi has affected him somehow,' Zetsu asked. 'Maybe we should revive Madara early…'
"No," Tobi shook his head. "Nagato still has some value. He is still the best pawn we have in our hand to wield the power of the Rinnegan, and he is our trump card in gathering the Tailed Beasts. We will only revive Madara when I say so. And this is not the time."
'Well, that's your choice. But don't blame me when it backfires on your face.'
And with those words, Zetsu sank into the ground and disappeared. The room was empty again except for the figure of Obito Uchiha standing in it.
Madara… I'll let you know; I'm not simply a pawn for you. The dream world I will achieve has no place for you in it.
Tsunade lifted her head up when she heard someone knocking on her door.
It's time, she smirked.
Danzo opened the door and walked into the room. "What do you summon me for, Tsunade?"
Tsunade raised an eyebrow. "Is that the way to speak to your Hokage, Danzo?"
"I don't remember you ever being elected Hokage," Danzo scoffed.
Tsunade chuckled. "Ah, true. But you see here, Hiruzen-sensei actually left an official note saying that he would leave the position of Hokage for me to hold until he comes back. And I think together with the agreement of the advisors, that is more than enough for me to be Hokage at least for now, ne?"
Against this simple argument, Danzo couldn't find any excuse to retort. He grumbled. "All right, how can I help you then, Hokage-sama?"
"Ah," Tsunade smiled, ignoring the mocking tone in Danzo's voice. "Today I call you here to ask you some questions about some rumors I've heard about you, Danzo."
Danzo's single visible eye narrowed. "What do you mean?"
To answer him, Tsunade placed a document file on her desk. "See for yourself."
Danzo opened the file, and his eyes narrowed.
"What the hell is this?"
"This is the list of the students who enrolled into the Academy during the last ten years. It also shows the number of students who successfully graduated, and the ones who couldn't. Basically, this is one of the ways to keep track of the number of shinobi in the village."
"So? What does that have to do with me?" Danzo scoffed.
"Just calm down; I haven't even finished yet," Tsunade smiled pleasantly. She opened the file to a page which had a lot of highlights.
"These are the students which had disappeared from the village right after graduating from the Academy. Most of them are children from orphanages, so not many people would miss them, but in these cases," she pointed at three of the highlights, "their families, right after they couldn't pass the final test of their jonin senseis, suddenly left Konoha for unknown reasons, or in this case," she pointed at the last one, "perished suddenly in a very suspicious accident."
"I don't even know what you're talking about," Danzo snorted. "Are you implying that I'm kidnapping those kids?"
"It was you who said that, not me," Tsunade blinked innocently.
"You…" Danzo snarled. "How dare you accuse me of something so slanderous? Do you have any proof?"
Tsunade shrugged. "Well, naturally I wouldn't do that, but when I checked this list, there was a name which popped immediately into my mind. I didn't know about it until after I came back to Konoha, from Jiraiya and that Uchiha boy," she opened the list to a specific page and pointed at a highlighted name. "Kabuto Yakushi."
"So?" Danzo scowled.
"My source of information told me that there was a time you showed interest in that boy, saying that with enough training he could be a good spy, even as good as his caretaker in the orphanage, Nono Yakushi," said Tsunade. "And after Nono was assigned a mission to Iwagakure, which I heard was assigned by you, Kabuto also disappeared without a trace… only to reappear after a few years, now a spy for Orochimaru. What do you have to say about that?"
"Hmph," Danzo snorted. "You said you're Hokage, and yet you believe in those stupid speculations based on mere rumors… Do you have any proof?"
"Well, proof of that I don't have, but…"
"If you had wanted to accuse me of doing those things, you should have thought of finding the right evidences first," Danzo snapped angrily, then stood up. "Now if you excuse me…"
"Sit down, Danzo."
Danzo growled. "What now?"
"I never said that I was finished," Tsunade said, but this time, her voice had become deathly cold. "There is another thing I'm having suspicions about, which I know for sure you have something to do with."
Danzo's eyes narrowed. "What?"
"Yeah," Tsunade nodded. "It was about Shisui Uchiha."
"What did I have to do with Shisui Uchiha?" Danzo scoffed. "Everyone knows that Itachi Uchiha was the one who murdered him."
"Indeed," Tsunade nodded. "I've never said you killed him, either. After all, he is one of the registered members of ROOT."
Tsunade cut him short. "After Shisui Uchiha died and the massacre happened, not so many people are allowed to go near his body, or those of other members of the Uchiha clan. According to this autopsy report…" she pulled out an envelope from her drawer, "…when his corpse was found in the Naka River, he was missing both of his eyes. I wonder how that could happen."
"Who knows?" Danzo shrugged. "Maybe Itachi stole them from him after killing him."
"Maybe," Tsunade nodded. "But why was it that Shisui's body disappeared without a trace right after that autopsy was made?"
Danzo's eyes narrowed. "Are you implying that I stole his body?"
"Well, you are one of the only people who have access to such an important body after his death," Tsunade shot a fierce stare at Danzo. "After all, he is an Uchiha, one of the strongest to boot, and as far as we know, the bodies of Uchiha clan members are the fittest for the usage of the Sharingan. I heard that after the Uchiha Massacre, the bodies of the dead members were all destroyed to prevent them from being stolen, am I right?"
"Enough of you and your baseless accusations!" Danzo snarled, but in his single visible eye, there was now a very slight hint of wariness. "If you don't have any other thing to say than slandering me, then don't waste my time, because you will never find any proof of me doing any of them!"
Good… He is starting to lose his calm…
"Sure, sure," Tsunade waved him off. "But what if I say that I have proof that you have done things someone like you has no authorization to do?"
Danzo's stomach made a jump. "What?"
"Sure, I don't have the evidence to blame you for those things I have just mentioned," Tsunade answered calmly, and pulled out another file from below her desk, "but mobilizing the ANBU, no matter which division, into conflict with another village is still the privilege of the Hokage himself, ne? And yet…"
Her mouth twisted into a nasty grin. "…why am I still holding a document from Salamander Hanzo of Amegakure requiring you specifically to send force to assist him?"
Now Danzo felt his stomach twist up. How could Tsunade get a hold on that document? There were only four people who knew about this: Salamander Hanzo, himself, and…
His eyes widened. Those bastards. How dare they betray him?
For some reasons, the two nosy bastards of the shinobi council always managed to know what he was planning or doing, no matter how hard he tried to hide it. He hadn't expected it when they had managed to find out about his plan to assist Hanzo; after all, they were just two normal retired shinobi; they shouldn't have had the ability or force to do that… But after that he had managed to shut them up both with money and intimidation. But why now…?
And how in the world did they even manage to get that letter from his private chamber, after all the protection methods he had used to protect it…?
"And don't even try to get revenge on them in any way, Danzo." As if knowing what he was thinking, Tsunade wagged her finger. "Even if a single hair of them are harmed, no matter who did it, you will be the first one who I know is responsible for it, and you will be treated as a traitor of Konohagakure immediately and… you know what happens to traitors in this village. I'm afraid even those ROOT operatives of yours can't help you escape if that happens."
He shouldn't have thought of keeping that letter as leverage against Amegakure in case something happened…
"What are you going to do now?" he glared at Tsunade with his one visible eye. "Kill me?"
"Ah, no," Tsunade chuckled. "I'm not that heartless; after all, you are one of the most influencing members of the village, and have serviced her for a very long time."
Danzo's eye narrowed. "Then…"
Tsunade's eyes gleamed. "You will relinquish ROOT into the care of the Hokage, effective immediately."
"What?!" Danzo yelled out in outrage. "You cannot do that! You don't have the right to…"
"Ah, actually, I do," Tsunade grinned. "Actually, the Hokage is the one who allowed you to create and maintain ROOT in the first place; now that I'm Hokage, I actually can always take that privilege back, even if I don't have any reason. Considering what you did, it seems I cannot leave it in your hand any further."
"Ah, don't worry, Danzo; actually, I'm not going to cut off every connection of yours with ROOT," the woman chuckled. "In fact, I will still let you hold the place of head trainer for that division; you will provide them trainings in things related to jutsus and battle tactics. However, every one of those trainings will be under supervision of shinobi I appoint, and that is the only thing you can do with them. No more mobilizing them to do your underhanded jobs, and of course, no more wiping their emotion to make them heartless killing machines."
Danzo gritted his teeth. "And what if I don't obey?"
"Well, in that case, I'm afraid I have no choice but to bring you to trial for your actions," Tsunade closed her eyes. "As a citizen of Konohagakure, I'm pretty sure you know how a traitor would be treated in this village, am I right? Oh, I forgot, of course you know; after all, you are one of the people who created those laws at the first place, right?"
Danzo stood straight up. "You do realize there will be consequences for this, don't you?"
Tsunade also stood up and stared straight into Danzo's visible eye.
"Listen up, Danzo," she growled. "You used to be one of my Granduncle's students. I don't know what he taught you, but I'm very sure he didn't teach you to treat shinobi as tools which can be thrown away after used. They are humans, and as such, they have the right to be treated as humans, the right to have emotion, and the right to think for themselves. If you take those rights away from them…"
Tsunade's sentence was cut off abruptly when a loud "BOOM" shook the ground right outside of the Hokage Tower.
I hope this chapter can satisfy you guys after three months of waiting. To be honest, I had to rewrite this chapter three times, due to the fact that a lot of things have happened during the chapter. But fortunately, I was able to finish it, and here it is!
It seems many people hate the fact that Itachi was able to fight on par with Tailed Beast-boosted Naruto. But comparing to what Itachi could do in canon, I think that still couldn't even show the worst he could have done. In canon, Itachi was able to massacre the whole Uchiha clan in one night, and I doubt, even without Mangekyo Sharingan, other members of the clan would stay still to let him do it. And don't even forget that during the battle, Naruto couldn't even go all out with the intent to kill, while Itachi didn't have that restriction. Against someone at Itachi's level, if they didn't go against them with the intent to kill, they wouldn't even be able to touch him. And yet Itachi was still forced to use every power of his Mangekyo Sharingan to the utmost limit, to the point he collapsed after the fight.
And it seems not everyone remembers that in my story, Naruto wasn't given Six Paths Power by the Sage. He was only at the level when he got his full Tailed Beast Mode, and in fact he lost to and was captured by Madara. Only through sheer luck was he sent to the past and got the other Tailed Beasts inside him. And don't forget the nerf he had suffered after being sent to the past. A sudden change from a grown-up body into the body of a child is nothing you can underestimate. And why do many people still think that he could use Sage Mode without retraining himself in Mount Myoboku? He will definitely turn into a toad if he tries that at this moment!
Anyway, thank you all for still following my story until today, and please review!