In a small valley in the Rain Country, there was a cave. A large, but otherwise unassuming-looking cave, with no stand-out features, unusual wildlife, or anything else that would mark it as anything other than an entirely ordinary cave.

It was for this reason that the most powerful organisation of missing-ninja in the world chose it as a meeting point for their spectral projections.

Well, that and the fact that it wasn't far for Pain and Konan to travel.

"Why did you gather us here?" Hidan demanded, "I was in the middle of a sacrifice to Jashin!"

"You were plucking the wings off a fly," Kakuzu said bluntly.

"It was a blaspheming fly," Hidan shot back defensively.

"Enough," Pein's booming voice shook the cave, "I gathered you here today because a former member has contacted us requesting re-admittance to the group."

This caught everyone present by surprise. "You don't mean Orochimaru?" Kisame said with a raised eyebrow.

"Indeed I do, Kisame," Pein confirmed, "He made contact with us yesterday requesting what I believe he said to be an 'audition'. This would be the first time this has happened in the history of the group, so I wanted to ensure everyone is on the same page if what he shows us is impressive enough for me to agree to his request."

"True enough," Sasori mused, "Normally when someone leaves this group it's because they're dead."

The projections stared in shock. One stared in horror.

"Observe," Orochimaru said grandly, "With my new-and-improved Edo Tensei, I can even resurrect such great and powerful beings as the legendary Uchiha Madara!"

He had Madara's body step forward and take a bow.

"Now, given that Edo Tensei only works on dead people, it certainly was a good job that he was really, really dead," Orochimaru continued with a wide smile, "Observe his Edo-Tensei eyes, a strong indicator of how extremely dead he is supposed to be. Why, if I had to say how dead he was before I did this, I'd say he was even deader than Itachi's extended family. Which he technically was part of, I suppose."

The man in question didn't rise to the jab, so focused was he on the revived body and it's implications.

"Now, observe as I make this very dead individual perform incredible feats of corpse-ism that will astound you all and – oh," Orochimaru looked at his risk, "Is that the time already? Where does it go?" he sighed theatrically, "Oh well. Gentlemen, and Lady, I'm sorry to leave you like this, but I have an experiment running and if I don't get back to it right this instant then unspeakable crimes against humanity may occur," he paused, "Well, slightly more unspeakable than they would have been in the first place. We'll have to pick this up another time, yes? Goodbye!"

With that, he disappeared into the ground. The revived body of Uchiha Madara faded away into dust.

Kisame, Itachi, Pein and Konan turned, almost robotic-ally, to stare at Tobi.

Meanwhile, the man in question couldn't help but gape at the possible destruction of all his hopes and dreams. "Well, fuck."

Orochimaru whistled a happy tune as he strolled away from the cave. If he'd known that being a good guy was going to be this much fun, he'd have done it years ago.

Really, he'd practically solved the whole thing by himself, despite his words to Jiraiya when he first introduced himself after coming back. All he had left to do was to catch Zetsu and do Science to it until it died and he could happily retire from the ninja life. Maybe he'd even ask Sarutobi-sensei for a retirement fund. A hero of his ability and stature certainly deserved it, after all.

Team Seven had been put on the road to ultimate glory (and collateral damage), the Akatsuki were well in hand with Obito having an extraordinarily deadly mutiny to deal with (and he could always just revive Madara again to clean up if the need arose), and there was absolutely nothing else left for him to be concerned with.

Except the fist that collided with his face and sent him hurtling for several hundred meters.

When the world stopped spinning and he had the presence of mind to look up again, all dreams of a peaceful retirement died as he stared at the woman who was currently cracking her knuckles and giving him a look that promised murder, revivification and murder again. Oh. He hadn't been expecting her to track him down this quickly. Or, well, at all, actually.

"I believe this is the part where I say," Tsunade grinned. It was not a nice grin. "Shock therapy, bitch."

Orochimaru smiled nervously, and frantically scanned his memories for the instructions to the Teeth Regrow no Jutsu. He had a feeling he was about to desperately need it.

Such were the trials of a hero.