Kabuto hadn't even attempted to flee when it dawned on him that Naruto's lurking shadow was finally upon him. Even if he wanted to, it was impractical. After all, the blond has always been lurking for the past two years. It has always felt like the eye of god was watching his every move. There was no where he went that he didn't feel as if he was being watched.
He sat down, on the throne that Orochimaru once cherished as the Emperor of his hideout.
Reviving his old master had been an option. But he dared not. It would have been cruel for him to bring his master back to life. While he was confident in his master's power, he had come to learn, Naruto was extra ordinarily gifted. It was just not in raw strength but in genius to make even someone like his master wish he had remained dead.
The years have revealed this much to him. Not everything was hopeless though. There were options he could explore. But that all depended on the whims of Naruto. Given their historical interactions, it was doubtful such hopes would bear much fruit.
"I was wondering when you would approach me."
Naruto was walking toward Kabuto, hands folded across his chest. This dark place brought so many unpleasant memories. He felt sickened inside. The weak spot in him that he has been trying to wrestle. It was a slow burn, but he was climbing the mountain. Sooner rather than later, he would push the demons at the edge if a cliff, where they would fall into the bottom of an inferno.
He did not stop but continued to walk toward Kabuto. "I was waiting for you to revive Orochimaru. He seemed certain that you would revive him."
"The cursed seals contain parts of Orochimaru-sama's soul. That is one way he can be brought back," Kabuto said. "I had contemplated on reviving him. But when it became apparent that only a cruel fate awaited, I chose not to."
Honestly, Kabuto was afraid. Naruto's eyes were just deathly cold. His footsteps may seem slow but they were gigantic leaps that echoed into his heart, leaving it in a heap of quick beats. But he didn't let it show.
"Oh, so that is one way to bring him back to life…" Naruto said with a slight nod. "Get out." He said such words with simplicity.
To Kabuto, they were compulsion. An order from the Emperor he could not refuse. He knew what was needed from him. He immediately stepped out of the throne and permitted the blond to sit. The blond was looking down on him. As if he was some insignificant creature that could be squashed like a bug.
He held himself from laughing.
Never had he felt so powerless and without hope. Orochimaru had always been in power. Twisting things and people like a genius dark wizard. A dance of his own. Small villages destroyed. A truly fine dance on the palm of a master. Yet, he was here.
"Kabuto," Naruto started in a measured tone. "Is this the first time I come before you in the past two years?"
Kabuto blinked. There was no way he could have met the blond and not remember. Unless someone tricked his mind. But that was improbable. Not since Sasori has anyone fiddled with his mind.
"What are you saying?" He asked cautiously.
"What do you think I'm saying?"
"Are you suggesting that you saw me before but I don't remember it?"
"Yes. I'm suggesting that much."
Even while in this place that brought so much cruel memories, Naruto afforded himself a smile. Power was a drug that addicted many. Being able to control people without them even realizing it was addictive. A part of him enjoyed this thrill. It pushed him to the edges of a character the Kyubi would proudly call his container even if it felt nothing but pure, unadulterated hatred for the Sharingan.
"How?" Kabuto was racking his brain, looking for hints, but there was complete silence from his thoughts. It was too deafening. He tried once more. He had met Karin. Not so long ago. She had come here looking for some papers but that was all.
"Shisui's eyes are truly a blessing. It must be said that Genjutsu remains unmatched. I was told that as the original caster, Shisui couldn't cast Kotoamatsukami regularly. But Danzo bypassed that with Hashirama's cells. Of course, his using of the Genjutsu was offensive to its full extent of abilities. I have wielded those eyes and seen with my mind what they can do. Its incredible. If I so wished, I could control the Five Kage and the Feudal Lords of the Great Nations."
Kabuto didn't know much about the effects of that Genjutsu. But he knew Sharingan Genjutsu was powerful. However, Kotoamatsukami was something else. You didn't know you were being controlled. And it seemed that unlike other Genjutsu, it couldn't be detected. Even now, he could be under control and he wouldn't know.
He became nervous at the thought. Was Naruto saying he was under the Genjutsu? It wasn't unthinkable. Could it be why he didn't revive Orochimaru? Could it be why he didn't try by all means to get away? He was a master spy, sneaking around was his specialty. But his actions so far were reasonable. Perhaps what was a little farfetched was that he was walking around the palm of Naruto's hand.
"If the power is so great, why didn't you keep it?"
"I like my eyes better. Besides, because of you and Orochimaru, I can't trust people easily. Having those eyes would have tempted me to ensure everyone around obeys the rules of friendship."
Power was truly intoxicating. Naruto applauded Danzo for showing restraint. But that power was too tempting. It worked Miracles. It ensured loyalty. Worst part, people still remained to themselves and didn't just become like mindless creatures.
Itachi would have liked to give an order to Sasuke. "Protect Konoha." It would negate all thoughts to the contrary. And for the rest of his life, Sasuke would have lived to protect the Leaf without even realizing if was a suggestion from the outside.
He smiled. And he had that power.
"Am I under the Genjutsu?"
"Yes." Naruto replied flatly. "I wasn't going to let you continue to move freely. Besides, the secrets my body holds need to be safeguarded."
Those words slammed hard brakes to Kabuto's racing thoughts. Had it been a physical race, he would have caused a deadly accident.
It was true. He had gathered every shred of paper that referenced Naruto from every hideout of Orochimaru. The reason was that he wanted to see where they had gone wrong with Orochimaru. At least with other tests subjects.
"Don't freeze. I could snap your neck now or could have done long time ago. But certain things must be protected. I will die one day. I don't want people digging up my body just to do what Orochimaru tried to do… and I wanted to see if you could be of use to me."
"I can be of use."
"Indeed. You are a very useful person. Your knowledge, even expertise in medical Ninjutsu is something. But anger and hatred trump reason."
He had tried to deal with it. But each time he thought of Kabuto, he just remembered those miserable days. Kabuto's annoying voice telling him to just relax and that struggling was going to make things worse, with Orochimaru's perverted giggles from the shadows. That was a nightmare for him.
"To be honest," Naruto smiled. "I'm actually afraid that I may go back to that position again. Even with my power, I'm afraid. That is why, Kabuto, you need to die."
It was Kabuto's turn to laugh. "Irrational fear…" but it was nothing strange. Even Orochimaru did have his own fears.
"Yes. Powerful that. When ever I think of you, I have those flashes. I tried to work around it but I really cannot accept your existence."
"You're not saying that with hatred."
Naruto shrugged. "I don't really hate a lot of things. I love. I'm happy with my life. But you're a nuisance." He then stood up. "The mind is a beautiful thing. It can be triggered to act or bring up certain hidden commands by certain movements."
Kabuto felt gusts of winds and Naruto was in front of him. He didn't know how the blond did it. But it was like he teleported in front of him. It was by no means a normal speed.
Naruto grabbed Kabuto by his throat. There was no resistance because there wasn't supposed to be any. He lifted him up in the air, and then started to slowly crush his throat.
There was something wrong here, Kabuto thought mildly. Why was he not trying to escape or even fight? Was he really under control? He was just presenting himself to be killed and he didn't think that was wrong?
"You could say I teleported but not really. In fact, It isn't that fast. The fact is that I disappear and then appear somewhere. What do you, think? My natural affinity is wind. You felt the wind, didn't you? Maybe it depends on the degree of Elemental control. An Ice user can completely turn their body into ice. For a brief second, I can disperse by body into wind. Only for a brief second. I can't do it continuously. But I can," Naruto stared into Kabuto's eyes. "I apologize but I must make you suffer this way. You must die slowly, and I can see it so that I have the peace of mind."
"You really are pathetic."
This dark voice within, talking to him mockingly. But Naruto found no offense. In fact, he was amused.
"Says the proud Bijuu that once got sealed by a ghost."
Kurama sneered at the memory. There had been times he was close breaking out. But not as close as when Orochimaru had pushed too far and the blond gave him the keys. Those were memories. These days, he didn't think about escaping.
"But you're indeed correct. I'm pathetic. I know this much." Naruto glanced at the entrance of the underground hideout. A thick black smoke was coming out. He looked away and then started walking. "We all have our weaknesses. Some embarrassing than others. But that is what it means to be a mere mortal."
"When you were in front of the Raikage, you weren't thinking about that."
"That is because I was at my strength. Here, I'm at my weakness. It is one of those moments that make you realize that no man is supreme and eventually, we will all end…" Naruto replied with a shake of his head. "Still, Kotoamatsukami is amazing, aint it?"
"Do I care?"
Naruto laughed. "Still bitter, I see… but Kyubi, what makes you think I haven't used it on you?"
Kurama didn't need to think that deeply about it. He knew the blond inside and out. Of course, he'd never admit this much, not this human. Different, yes, but Kurama had no desire to be friends with Naruto. Not that the blond had made such a proposition.
"If you used it, you'd know what I know and you'd also know my name."
"You have a name, huh? Well, it is not unthinkable. you're a being with a conscious. You would surely have a name. Now that you say it, Shukaku seemed pretty angry and was mocking toward you. It means you Bijuu know each other. But where you come from, that is the issue. Perhaps tied with the statue and the Sage." Naruto sighed. "We, humans have missed a great deal of information about history of this world by dismissing your kind as merely weapons…" he shook his head. "So, tell me, Hagoromo is indeed the Sage of Six Paths?"
"Ashura is his son, the one the Senju originated from. And then there is Indra, the ancestor of the Uchiha. Well, it partly explains the animosity that existed between the two clans but not quite why. The Sage is said to have been a peace-loving monk. What would drive his ancestors to kill each other for no other reason other than generational hatred?"
"I have no interest in having that conversation with you. I'm willing to work with you to ensure that we don't get captured by the Akatsuki and I get sealed into that husk."
"Husk? A husk of what?"
"A powerful beast that even I cannot even come close in power. Even all Nine Bijuu combined cannot even stop it. But we cannot exist if it does."
"Oh, is this the thing the Sage is said to have saved the world from? Then the Sage must have truly been a monster. Orochimaru and Kabuto called him a God. And I can understand that somewhat," Naruto reasoned. "But if he was a god, what of his parents?"
The Kyubi did not say anything.
"In any case, there is a lot that we don't know. And the Akatsuki probably knows…" Naruto stopped walking, held up his hands. "Can I reach those heights? Can I become a god? If surely, I can, then I would have no fears and would bend this world to my will."
"There is a little bit of your thoughts revealed…"
"Hahaha," Naruto laughed. "It is only that you cannot do anything without power. And the good thing is that I am built to wield power beyond the imaginations of many. After all, before I am Uzumaki, I am a reincarnation of the Sage, through corrupt means. Either way, the Akatsuki must be stopped. And Sasuke must know about that shadow figure to investigate. And maybe the location of that statue."
Two days Later
"I wasn't expecting you to return so soon," Ino said, staring at Naruto while sitting at the stairs of the little hut, holding a book.
This was all she did when he wasn't around- just read. And there were many books to read. She had even found herself reading some Fuinjutsu scrolls. What else could she do? This wasn't the kind of life she'd wanted. When he departed – she almost begged for a clone to stay behind. It depended on where they were. In some locations, he left a clone.
"I have to hurry to the Land of Water."
Ino frowned deeply. They were within the Land of Fire. But this just meant that he was going to be gone for a little while longer.
"Why are you here then?" She asked, hands folded across her chest.
"Don't look at me like that. You make me feel like an absent boyfriend."
"I think not. I'm a loving soul who cares for you," Naruto stopped in front of the girl and held her right, getting her to stand up. He hugged her. "I didn't send a clone. I came here myself."
Ino smiled warmly. That he did do often. She pulled away. "Still doesn't explain why you are here?"
"I'm taking you back to Konoha."
"I thought we were all returning to Konoha."
"I will follow but I can't risk leaving you here alone," Naruto said in a firm tone.
"When has that been a problem for you?"
Naruto sighed. "Just pack your things."
Something must have surely happened. Within this barrier, Naruto said she was safe. There was nothing that could come in. Even if someone managed to destroy the barrier, she could hide within an underground bunker that was within a pocket dimension.
After finishing packing, Naruto sealed her things and they started departing.
She was heading back to the Leaf. Her beloved home. She was going to see her mother. Her father, the flower shop and that big headed Sakura. And her teammates. Two long years she'd missed those friendships.
"You can dance if you like," Naruto said to the girl with an amused tone.
"Forgive me for being happy to finally see home!" She huffed and puffed. "Are you going to greet everyone?"
Naruto shook his head. "No. I'm just escorting you. If the world was safe, I'd let you leave alone."
"If it wasn't safe, you'd let your girlfriend walk miles alone!"
Naruto smiled, held up his hands. "A wrong choice of words," he said before shifting behind her.
"Oof!" Ino squeaked when Naruto suddenly picked her up, holding her bridal symbol while looking at her lovingly.
"Focus ahead. You want to hit a tree!"
Naruto kissed her on the forehead. "We'd fall together. And that would be lovely," he said quietly. "There is a bit of a serious problem that has arisen and I need you to be safe."
"I can take care of myself!" Ino folded her hands after Naruto put her down. "You going to be doing more than just hunting down members of the Akatsuki. I did think something like this would happen because Sasuke kept coming in and going over the past year."
Naruto did wish she was a little stronger. This world devoured those weak. Those in power dictated the terms.
"Yeah. If you were stronger, you'd join us." He smiled.
"Yeah right. I don't think anyone will reach that height. It would only be suicidal." She frowned thinking about Sakura. From the do nothing, complain a lot girl, she'd become dependable. But whether she could be of use to the two was another issue. Naruto didn't require a medical shinobi with him.
"You don't need to be able to bridge the gap to partner us. Karin could join us. We wouldn't even have to worry about watching her back because she could defend herself."
"You tortured her to be able to get to that point. I feel a little jealous that you took that effort with her but didn't do anything with me."
Naruto chuckled lightly. "Maybe I was a little careless with you. But the reality is I love you as you are. Strong or weak. It makes no difference. The only glaring part is that I must worry about you."
"Even I worry about you when I should be worried about those you engage in battle."
"That is only natural. We are people. We will always worry for those we love." Even if he was God, someone who cared for him would worry. "Already thinking about how you're going to rub it in Sakura's eye how it was nice being with Sasuke?"
"I wish. I can only sympathize with her. Only you get to make that kind of claim."
Once more, Naruto laughed. "Sasuke does need to loosen up…"
"I don't think its possible at this time. He has grown into his character and personality. Loosening up would fundamentally change who he is."
Naruto glance at Ino at the corner of his eyes. "I thought I was the mind reader," he said with a grin.
"You're not all-seeing."
"We have lost another member," Obito said to Nagato in a tone devoid of any emotion.
Nagato already knew of this. But Obito was merely stating the state of their organization. But they still had two other teams available. Admittedly, they had lost two useful members. A pity, but the mission had to be carried out for peace. For the sake of his peace.
"I did not think Kisame would go down so easily. Out of everyone else, he was the one who had more chakra." Nagato said. That was just going to make things difficult when sealing the Bijuu.
"Sasuke and the Kyubi's Jinchuriki are a lot more powerful."
Of course, he could have saved Kisame but Obito had been curious about their power. A pity, they chose to make a quick work of his recruit. There were ways to make them sweat nonetheless.
"Kakuzu and Hidan have successfully captured the Four-Tails. And thanks to Kisame, we have discovered the location of the Eight-tails. He will be too much for Sasori and Deidara. I will go capture him and let them capture the Five Tails. If they fail, the other team will do it."
"That leaves the Kyubi's Jinchuriki."
He didn't care much about Naruto. But he wanted to see what would happen to Sasuke if Naruto was captured. Unlike the blond, his fellow Uchiha was highly emotional. Perhaps as all Uchiha were.
"That is your mission. I will deal with Sasuke. But capturing the Kyubi is your job as the leader of the Akatsuki," Obito said as he started disappearing from the presence of Nagato.
Through the eyes of Tendou, Nagato stared down at the raining streets. Peace would soon be within reach. His life long dream. Yahiko's dream. He would finally achieve it.
"Is he gone?" Konan asked coming into the view.
Nagato simply nodded and continued to stare down at the streets. It had become apparent that he was no more than just a figure head of the Akatsuki. Madara called the shots. And to think that things would come to this point. Yahiko had warned them to stay away from this person. But Yahiko had not seen just how truly the world was.
Konan has suggested that they do things themselves. But by nature, Nagato didn't think he would go as far as to betray Madara by doing things behind his back. If he was going to cut off the man, he would tell him on his face and then proceed to do as his pleases. Yahiko founded the Akatsuki. And the Rinnegan was his.
"What are we going to do about the information Itachi left for us?"
Before dying Itachi had come to them. He stated that he was being used. They were being used but really wanted to know more about the goal of the organization. It was a response that Nagato couldn't give. The Uchiha had nonetheless given his view on things. About the nature of Madara.
"Nothing as now. We are going to seal the three and four tails before going to hunt down the Kyubi. We are within reach of Peace, Konan. Our efforts will not have been for nothing."
It was within grasp. They had collected almost all the Bijuu and by the time the Great Nations thought to take action, it would be too late. They would be faced with power they couldn't fathom.
The world would come to know pain.
"I expected the afterlife to be a little different." Kabuto said, looking around the place. A dark room. Only one figure present.
He wasn't dead. Kabuto was sure he had died. Naruto had suffocated him. He had felt the oxygen leave his chest; his lungs grinding against his rib cage while squeezing his heart toward death. Perhaps he had merely lost consciousness.
"I was sure I was dead."
"My irrational fears aside, you are more useful to me alive than dead. Besides, you said it, you can be useful." Naruto paused, staring at Kabuto. "You will obey me. Without question and do things for my benefit. I don't wish to regret letting you leave."
"You'll not regret anything."
"Good. Now help me answer some questions. There is something that came to me and suggested that without the powers of both Senju and Uchiha, it was impossible to awaken the Rinnegan."
"As far as our research goes, it seems only possible that way."
"Yet, why is there someone else who has those eyes?"
"He could have what you have. We are not sure." Kabuto replied. "Who is this thing?"
"A problem, it seems." Naruto said. "Gather all information you can about the Akatsuki leaders."
"Sasuke-kun is busy with that. I thought you would have me busy with your other duties."
"What do you know about my other duties?"
Kabuto laughed. "Nothing."
"You have your job. Do it and get back to me."
Naruto glanced at Sasuke and then at their surroundings. They were surrounded by a thick mist. You'd get lost easily in this place. Then again, this was indeed the village Hidden in Mist. Still, it was no wonder the Mist has been out of touch with other villages lately. It was far too remote compared to the other Great Five. And to think Haku and Zabuza came from this village.
"I apologize, your majesty." Naruto said, glancing back at Sasuke. "I had to stop back and send Ino to Konoha."
"You went to Konoha?"
"I stopped closer to the village. I didn't go." Naruto shrugged.
"What made you do that?"
"Things are more troubling than I thought they'd be," Naruto replied. "How are we getting inside. Stealth or we are walking through the gates?"
"If we were walking through the gates, I wouldn't have sitting here."
"Not need to be nasty because I madr you waited for a couple of hours," Naruto said with a stare. "How secure is this village?"
"Secure enough. It isn't much easier than Iwa and Kumo." Sasuke stood up and led the way. "Did it have anything to do with that Uchiha?"
"Yes, but to a less extent. I had a visitor who knew me very well. A visitor that was not human. He spoke about the Sage of Six Paths and other things with unnerved me. Like that he was the one who manipulated Orochimaru into taking me," Naruto said in a serious tone. "What do you know about the Uchiha ancestor?"
"I can't be talking about Madara. He is still fresh to be called an Ancestor. There might be some people who saw him in his glory who are still alive today. I am talking about Indra, the very son of the Riduko Sennin."
Sasuke shrugged. "I don't bother myself with that kind of history. I don't think there is anything about him in our history books."
"You need to go check things. And see if the Stone table doesn't have anything about it."
"How do you know about it?"
Naruto laughed at the look Sasuke just gave him. "I have known about that since I was younger. It is something Kabuto knows. I believe this thing I came across may have been the one to lead him into it."
"No one can decipher it. The Mangekyo Sharingan can decipher it to some extent but it is said another doujutsu can decipher it."
"The Rinnegan. Then Kabuto didn't decipher it. But it begs the question of how he came to know about it. I don't know if he knows its contents, but he knew about it." Naruto paused, gathering his thoughts. "This thing knows about the Sage. And it said it wanted me to awaken the Rinnegan. For what reason, I do not know. The Statue, or the Gedo Mazo, as the Kyubi calls it, is related to the Sage. The people who run the Akatsuki surely know something. What is concerning is that we might be dealing with powers we cannot even imagine."
Sasuke was a little sceptical. But he was not going to dismiss the idea when Naruto was saying it. "What do you mean by that the thing was not human?"
"Exactly what I said. Not human. It is not a beast or some creature. But it isn't human. There are many things that we do not know. And many things we must know. Judging by its reaction, the Kyubi also doesn't know… it also said something that was concerning. For some reason, it can control my body. I don't know how, but it tried to get the jump on me. I believe it requires contact and it seemed certain it could control my body."
One thing after the other. It looked like whatever the Akatsuki was planning was something rather complicated than it looked. And what was the purpose of the Rinnegan? Admittedly, the eyes were special. It hurt his pride saying they were the ultimate Doujutsu. But simply saying the Sharingan was superior was being stupidly arrogant.
"I'll look into." Sasuke said. "Jiraiya took Karin back to Konoha."
"Inconsequential," Naruto shrugged.
"She is your only Uzumaki family and not to mention, she has a loudmouth. And holds a grudge against you for forcing her into training. Are you not afraid she will not say things just to spite you?"
"She is not petty and will not say anything unnecessary." He was confident of this much. He came to a halt as he could see the village coming into the view, even despite the mist that clothed it. "Lead the way. Surely, you know how to sneak in."
Ino flinched while looking at the Godaime Hokage. An Anbu had collected her from her home. There were no questions asked. Just that she was needed by the Hokage. Before she left, this woman hadn't been made Leader yet. So, who could blame her not coming to report? Besides, why would she report back when she hadn't said she was leaving the village. That wasn't an argument she was going to made to the Hokage.
"All Kunoichi report to the Hokage. You don't get to leave this village without my permission. And you dared to and then have the audacity to return and then go home without telling?!"
If she got into trouble with this, Ino was going to blame Naruto. He was the one who made her go with him. And why was the Hokage angry? Her father should've passed on the message. It wasn't like he just woke up one day to find out she had disappeared. Ino would never to that to the parents who loved her. Not to her dearest mother.
"I'm sorry, Lady Tsunade." Ino was quick to apologize. "I meant no offense."
Tsunade snorted and pushed her chair slightly. "Who did you return with?"
"Where is he?"
'He said he was going to Kiri. He didn't want to come here but left me at a safe distance and said he would watch until I was through the gates." Ino replied fondly.
"Do I look like I'm smiling?"
"So, he was close enough and yet chose not to come here." Tsunade frowned.
There was no way he wasn't doing this on purpose. For what reason he felt it necessary to torment her like this, she didn't know. Either way, there was nothing she could do about it at the moment. What was certain was that he was fine. The fact that he brought this girl back home meant he was indeed planning to come back, as Karin had said.
"Did he say why?"
"I didn't ask."
Ino shrugged. "I don't ask everything he does."
"What is he going to do in Kiri. Is Sasuke even with him?"
Ino shook her head. "I don't know. But yes, Sasuke will be with him in Kiri. They had left together for something, but he came alone."
"Hunting members of the Akatsuki," Tsunade shook her head. The organization was busy doing the damage. But none of the Great Nations seemed to have the appetite to do anything against it. Perhaps it was because they didn't see the danger. But again, even Konoha didn't know the motives of the organization. Maybe Naruto and Sasuke did know something. "If he came close, and is on his way to Kiri, it must mean they were successful. But I don't like that they are doing this alone. It is just the two of them."
Ino held herself from laughing. The Godaime Hokage clearly didn't understand just how powerful those two were. She would understand eventually. One thing was certain, neither wanted to be constrained by rules of the village. They couldn't do as they please while in the village. Perhaps that was why they didn't want to return, just yet.
"No…" Ino put her hands on her mouth. "Those two are far more powerful than how Lady-"
"I know just how powerful Naruto is." Tsunade cut off Ino. She had been close to him after all. No experienced eye could look at the blond an underestimate him even if it defied logic. "What are they specifically going to do in Kirigakure?"
"Something to do with their Jinchuriki and the Yondaime Mizukage," Ino shook her head. "I really don't know."
"What do you know?" Tsunade snapped with a stare. "Sorry," she apologized for snapping. "You're excused. But I want a report before the day ends. What you were doing and where you went. Karin isn't forthcoming with the details and only says things she isn't asked."
"Karin is here?"
"Why are you surprised?"
"She didn't have any intention of returning."
"She is going to leave… that is if she hasn't already," Tsunade replied with a shake of her head and then waved her right, hand, dismissing the blonde.
After Ino left the office, Tsunade heaved a long sigh. At least there were signs that Naruto was going to return. But the fact that he came close and didn't bother to come was alarming. It said many things. One being that there was nothing for him in this village. But it couldn't be helped. This village has not done anything for him. He has come to its rescue and has said that he would always be there if it was humanly possible. She couldn't question his loyalties. Not after everything he has done.
"Are you going to just sit there?" Tsunade departed from her thoughts and glanced toward the window with a look of annoyance.
"You know I enjoy watching you, hime," Jiraiya said with a grin on his lips.
"Yeah, while butt naked."
"I don't want to court death by doing something like that," Jiraiya said with a wince, remembering a young Tsunade beating him to an inch of his life. "So that is the girl that chose Naruto."
At least, some blondes replied to the love of others. His would remain unrequited until he kicked the bucket. A poor end to the legendary tales of the galactic Sage of Mount Myoboku.
"Yeah." Tsunade nodded. "She is either a good liar or Naruto does keep her from his activities."
"Most likely kept her out of it for this reason." Jiraiya said. "But I am more concerned about the Akatsuki and that has always been Naruto's concern. Even when the old man was still bedridden, his main concern was the organization than Danzo."
"The organization poses a threat to his life." Tsunade pointed out the obvious danger.
"That may be true at first glance but there is more to it. We will find out eventually," The Sage said. "I'm going to camp at the harbor and check the ships coming from the Water. But you need to warn the other Kage about this. We don't want to take action when it is already too late."
"But what could be their motive?"
"Maybe those two know."
That was a possibility but Jiraiya wasn't going to bet on it. "I have also received information that the Leader of the Akatsuki might be located in Amegakure. I want to go there. But I first need to speak to those two."
"Don't even think of going to that village alone. It has been closed off since the civil war and I've heard that any spy who goes there doesn't return. Obviously, if the leader of the Akatsuki is there, he is someone very powerful. Mind you, even Orochimaru of all people joined that organization. The worst and most powerful find haven there," Tsunade shook her head. "It is too dangerous for you to go alone."
"Despite the circumstances?"
"Despite the circumstances." Tsunade lowered her voice. "I don't want to lose you, Jiraiya."
The Sannin grinned. But then quickly wiped it off, looking outside as he spoke. "We will all eventually meet our end. There are many failures. But I want to be able to leave something behind. That is why I don't want to die yet. But in this world, you never know. Tomorrow might be the last day."
"Don't talk like that."
"Hahaha!" Jiraiya barked. "I will speak to those two and see if they know something. If I get them at least. By what I got from Karin, they have been tracking the movements of the organization and finding out what they can."
"Mei-sama!" Ao exclaimed as he rushed into the office.
The Mizukage glanced up at the man. No matter how many times she told him never to just budge into her office, he never listened. What if a potential husband had been on his way to propose when Ao walked in?
"It better be something important." She said in a threatening tone.
Ao paused for a moment before getting rid of his thoughts. "Two shinobi from Konoha have infiltrated the village."
Mei frowned. She didn't have any relationship with the Leaf. The last she heard something about the village was that a civil war nearly occurred when there was a gamble for the seat of Hokage. Then again, that was a powerful seat. You gained command of the most powerful army in the shinobi world and she wasn't joking around. If the Leaf had mad leaders, it would certainly redraw borders as it pleased.
But the current Hokage was one of the Sannin. She was a medic and as far as she knew, a good person.
So why would Konoha shinobi infiltrate Kiri?
"What are they doing?"
"Well, that's the thing," Ao scratched his head. "They sneaked in and had something to eat. Now they are just walking about the streets."
Mei felt like hitting the man for making her worry for a moment. If they didn't bother to hide themselves, then they obviously didn't infiltrate. Then again, you never knew with shinobi.
"Who are they?"
"Naruto and Sasuke."
"The two who forced Sunagakure to subdue."
Now that was concerning. They had obviously sneaked into the village for some reason. And just because they were not hiding didn't mean they didn't have bad intentions.
"Bring them to me. Immediately. If they refuse, I will come."
"You cannot even think that this is the same village that was once called the bloody mist." Naruto said, looking around the peaceful village. He remembered the grim story Zabuza had narrated to them in an attempt to scare them.
"Things change over time. But it has recovered well. Though, I doubt they have the many bloodlines they once boasted," Sasuke replied.
"A casualty of war," Naruto shook his head. "It is nice and remote. Away from other troublemakers. It is a good place. Do you really think the former Mizukage was being controlled?"
"We came here to confirm this much."
"I don't like the odds. If indeed he was, then we can narrow the suspect lists. But that worries me because if that Uchiha is behind this, then we have him in two tragedies within Konoha and Kiri. For what reason?"
"Does it matter? It just confirms that we need to deal with him quickly," Sasuke stopped, sensing movement. "They are finally making a move on us."
"A henge should be been done. We would have had more time to see the village with our own eyes."
Sasuke shrugged. "That would have made them come to us sooner. Besides, you're not the kind of person to hide. Your chakra would have given us away. We also have our history."
"My idea of a henge was based on this reality. People become scared when overwhelming power just shows up at the door. But it does seem that the general population don't know anything. Which is good for us."
Four shinobi flashed in front of them, causing them to halt in their movements. Their seriousness made Naruto want to fool around. Sasuke would disagree with it but who cared what the Uchiha thought?
"Please come with us." Ao stated firmly.
"Ah," Naruto tilted his head slightly. "I thought you wanted to get down to it here in the streets. I was ready to go…" the blond said, raising his chakra a bit.
Ao became nervous. It was just slight but already; this was so much chakra than he had ever come across. "We don't want any trouble."
Naruto laughed. "Neither do we," he said. "Your reaction was not quite as expected. Then again, you wouldn't want to cause danger in a place where there are civilians…" he paused, smiling. "I apologize. I was just fooling around."
"You'll come with us?"
"Of course. We were already on our way to speak to the Mizukage."
"Before we go there; can you tell us your intentions?" Ao asked in a serious tone. He didn't want to take people to the office when they had evil intentions. It was his job to protect Mei, and do it, he would. Even if it meant going against such people.
"It appears that our reputation precedes us," Sasuke remarked, his Sharingan blazing into life.
"Indeed, Sasuke. But I never thought I would have such a reputation," Naruto said with a shake of his head.
"You could have refused to carry out those orders."
"Orders from the Hokage are law. You don't choose to follow them."
Sasuke scoffed. "As if you cared what that man thought. If you really wanted, you wouldn't have indulged him."
Ao cleared his throat. "Are you still coming? And you didn't answer my question?"
"We come in peace."
"That isn't answering my question."
"We came to speak to the Mizukage. Are you going to refuse that?" Sasuke asked.
"Don't be like that," Naruto said to Sasuke. "We have no ill intentions toward your village or leader. We just wanted to be able to see the village with our own eyes."
As they walked into the office, Naruto smiled seeing the Godaime Mizukage. She was a beautiful woman. A woman who has led this village through its lowest point to the top of the mountains.
Once Yagura was dead, those who once enjoyed the fruits of his reign must have tried to take control. They must have fought her. But here she was. Having whipped Kiri into a modern village.
It was something to appreciate. Who said this was a man's world? Perhaps it was leaders such as her that were needed to redraw the borders and alter the spine of the shinobi world.
"Mizukage-sama," Naruto started in a respectful tone, bowing slightly. "We apologize for our choice of entry to your village."
The blond seemed earnest but Ao was suspicious of this behaviour. He had been anything but respectful when talking to them earlier. The Uchiha didn't seem to agree. Ao turned his eyes to his leader and then back at the two. He would not back away. He needed to watch the two in case they tried to do something.
Mei waved her right hand, dismissing Naruto's apology. "I will let it slide because you two are handsome young men," she said with a smile. Her eyes lingered on the Uchiha for a moment.
"You just thought this one looks better than the other," Naruto said with a frown. "Everywhere I go, it is like that. Everyone always prefers the Uchiha. Well, until they know his personality, then they are repulsed."
Mei continued smiled. The Uchiha didn't seem like he wanted to talk. From this alone, she could tell the blond was the lively one and the Uchiha, the quiet one. Yet very observant. It wasn't to say the blond wasn't either.
"Why did you choose to sneak in my village? We don't treat people who do so very kindly."
"I can imagine. There are many worms hiding in this world and even when you did not provoke them, they attack you. But to answer your question; I find that to know and understand a village, you need to see it in your eyes and make a decision yourself. If we came here and said we wanted to see this village, we may have only been allowed to see what you wanted us to see."
'He is lying. He just wanted to see how you'd react once you caught us.' Sasuke thought of saying but just rolled his eyes and kept quiet.
Mei had a raised brow. She noted the Uchiha's reaction to Naruto's explanation. There was obviously an exaggeration in his words and maybe something he left out.
"Why did you want to see Kiri?"
"Research. We have travelled and seen all Great Nations. It is better to understand how something is run before you interact with it. We seek to understand how things work and if all Great Nations fundamentally function the same way."
That was something someone his age shouldn't be saying. They were usually trying to find themselves and trying to gain power not seek go see the world their own eyes. Already, it felt like the blond was someone she could have a conversation with.
Still, that couldn't be the reason they came to this village. There was also a reason they sought this understanding.
"For what reason?"
Naruto did not reply but faced Ao. "Sasuke, that man is the one who holds the Byakugan, isn't he?"
"Then he should would have been the one to make the discovery. Still, I wonder why the Hyuga are silent given how protective they are of their Doujutsu."
"Do they know?"
"I doubt it." Naruto answered. "In terms of politics, without the Uchiha, the Hyuga is the most powerful clan in Konoha. Do you think we'd gain their favour if we gouged out his eyes and presented them to the Hyuga?"
"You care about such things?"
"Of course. As should you. Future Kage need others to support them to do their jobs."
"But you'd earn enemies of Kiri."
"Who fears Kiri? If it threatened us, we'd simply respond in kind. Besides, the Byakugan is a property of Konoha. No one can deny this much."
Naruto would always be Naruto. Sasuke wondered why he even played along sometimes. That the room was starting to become tense didn't even seem to bother the blond. It would be fair to say he even seemed oblivious to it. But it was Naruto. He wasn't that ignorant.
"You would openly talk about such things in front of me?" Mei asked with amusement. She didn't think he was serious. But maybe he was.
"I like to see how people react to certain things. You know someone when they are outside of the comfort zone," Naruto shrugged. "We came here for two reasons."
Mei didn't appreciate the fact that he had chosen to ignore her earlier question when he had been willing to share things earlier. He made her curious and then shut the door. She wasn't going to try to force if open. It was better to indulge these two and them send them away from her village before they caused unnecessary troubles.
"I'll ignore that you avoided my question. Let me indulge you. What are the reasons?"
It was only them that Sasuke spoke to her. His tone stern, just fitting his expression. "We have been searching information about the Akatsuki and trying to track down Jinchuriki. We know Kiri's other Jinchuriki was captured by the Akatsuki. We want to warn you that the organization is dangerous and is planning to do something dangerous.
"Importantly, we have come across information that suggests that your predecessor was being controlled by a Genjutsu. We came here to confirm this much." Sasuke turned to Ao. "If there was foreign chakra, the Byakugan should have seen it."
Ao glanced at Mei looking for permission. Once granted, he responded. "Yagura was indeed being manipulated. I know Genjutsu mind tricks. I have faced Uchiha in battle after all."
"Any guess who and why?"
"No. but Yagura didn't need manipulation to be crazy. He had been crazy even before…" Mei said with a shake of her head. "For what reason do you ask these questions?"
Naruto didn't have any intentions of answering that question. But maybe it would be disrespectful to the Mizukage to state so.
"We have been investigating activities of the Akatsuki and those within the top of the organization. This question came up," Naruto explained in a measured tone. "As you might already know, I am a Jinchuriki. So, the movements of the organization concern me."
"But not only that. The organizations' goal could destabilize the foundations of the shinobi world. We still don't know what their end goal is but collecting all Nine Bijuu can't be anything good. We always have to think of the worst possible outcome," Sasuke added
Konoha shinobi acting on the Akatsuki and these two didn't seem like they were acting on orders of the Hokage. Given the way the were doing things, it was likely they were doing things on their own. They didn't even wear Konoha headbands. She could write to the Godaime Hokage about this.
Mei leaned back to her chair. It wasn't that they too had been ignorant of what was happening outside. Her shinobi were killed trying to retrieve Utakaka.
But what could anyone be trying to gain by all these movements? Obviously the balance of power was going to be affected. What was concerning was that some Great Nations appeared to be dismissive of these threats.
"How many do you believe they have collected?"
"Five Iwa is still safe. Kumo has lost one and you have lost both."
Mei shook her head. "We received word that Iwa lost one of their Jinchuriki. The Tsuchikage and Raikage are fighting over it."
Naruto was surprised. This must be something that occurred recently. Did it happen while they were dealing with Kisame? Or moving to this nation? It was concerning. It was only a matter of time before they made a move toward him now.
"You didn't know about this?"
Sasuke shook his head.
"They are moving far quicker. We have to act with speed as well. In fact, lingering around here won't do us any good," Naruto said to Sasuke before taking out a small scroll. "We came with gifts. We were thinking that we could talk more about it but it appears there is no time for that."
Naruto glanced at Sasuke. And then created a clone. The clone took the scroll. "We apologize but we must depart. We have to make a report to Konoha. Obviously, this has gotten bigger and the village needs to be appraised. No doubt you will receive a word from the Hokage. Please excuse us. My clone will chat with you for a moment."
Mei glanced at Ao, who nodded, seeing no threats.
"You may leave."
"Thank you and a pleasure meeting you, Mizukage-sama." Naruto bowed slightly and then turned away along with Sasuke.
Once they were gone, the clone spoke. "Mind if I sit?"
"Please remain standing. Safety issues."
The clone sighed. "It is sad not being trusted. But then again, I could be here for nasty intentions. Either way, I would think the Byakugan being around would make you a little comfortable."
"I have learned that the all-seeing eyes do not see everything."
"Indeed. Nothing of humans is absolute. There will always be a surprise. A weakness to be exploited. But that is how life is," the clone stated before throwing the scroll toward Ao. "We killed Kisame and want the bounty you have placed on his head."
"Are you bounty hunters?"
The clone laughed at this. "Money is important. We are shinobi but we still need money. Some matters cannot be resolved with fancy words and raw power. You need to eat and care of other things. If you don't have money, you end up just taking such things. Thus turning into criminality. This is merely taking advantage of a system that has been created. Besides, my original did say he brought gifts, didn't he?"
"Within that scroll, the Sword that Kisame stole is sealed. And the Sword that belonged to Zabuza. We have returned them believing that they rightfully belong to this village."
"You are not going to sell them to me but give them and yet want to collect the bounty."
"Now, that would just be greedy. Even in a world that is not defined by good morals, we must always make a good distinction about what is right and wrong. Besides, there is nothing wrong with earning a good standing with you," the clone smiled. "It is not exactly goodwill, but we cannot be too naïve."
Mei laughed. "You're extracting a good measure of your efforts. You get the bounty for it… it is the money you need and nothing more. If it was just about money, you'd sell them somewhere. Surely, you'd get a good share of money. What kind of favour are you buying?"
"If I said I'm not buying anything from you, you would not really believe it. After all, the word of a shinobi means nothing. But just know that I merely wish for you to remember that I once did good."
That was a little amusing. But Mei was fascinated by Naruto's words. He understood the nature of the shinobi world. And didn't shy away from stating it out.
"What kind of a clone is this?"
"You may as well be speaking to the original."
"I see…" Mei was silent for a moment before turning to Ao. "Confirm the contents of the scroll. I'm going to take a walk with him."
"Do as I say. If he tries something, I will melt him."
"I'm kind of unnerved by the simple way in which you said those words."
Mei smiled. "You need not worry if you're not going to try something."
"Well, I'm just a clone," the clone shrugged.
The clone followed the Mizukage out of the office. The loud streets of happy people minding their own business. Respects being paid to their leader. A world that didn't know Naruto Uzumaki. He was always at peace in such surroundings. But you couldn't get too comfortable living in a world that did not know you.
"You are the son of Konoha's former Hokage. You use Mokuton. And when the real you was standing before me, I could tell that you are a powerful shinobi," Mei said in a serious tone. "And that is when excluding the power of the Kyubi."
"Most Jinchuriki make the mistake of not training their own skills and simply depend on the power of their Bijuu. But looking at it, it is reasonable from where they stand. I leave that power for when I have no other options," the clone explained. "You're curious… with all that power, what does Naruto wish to do with it?"
"Yes… I am curious."
"That is something the original can answer. But there are many options available. With power, you can do whatever you want. The Great Nations have symbolized this much."
"Why don't I like the sound of that?"
"I'm sure the other Kage won't either."
The splashes of water on the boat did nothing to boot Naruto from his thoughts. He held more information that everyone else in the Akatsuki didn't have. And surely, those within the organization sought to maximize their goal without anyone ever knowing the danger that lay ahead. If a Bijuu like the Kyubi that proudly boasted about its power feared what would come out of the Bijuu hunt, then everyone had a reason to be worried.
It wasn't a matter of trying to protect his fragile existence but the dreams he had. Naruto debated if he had any interest in the security of the shinobi world despite actions he has taken. Perhaps he did something on whims and because he could. Or maybe he told himself he didn't care about the world because he was attempting to appease his pain by setting up a mask of detachment. Reality was nonetheless a cruel awakening and he had to face up to it.
He glanced at Sasuke and then back at the water. Rarely, did he have some serious moments. Perhaps there was the glaring and now outmost truth in that the Sanbi had revived and there was nothing stopping the Akatsuki. If they took one from Iwa, they were going to take the other.
"Hunting down members of the organization seemed fun when they were not this active."
"It is pointless to look for them now. Very soon, it will only be you and the Eight Tails. We have to go for the head."
"But we do not know anything about the powers of the leaders. We already know there is word that the leader of the Akatsuki is in Amegakure. But even if that is the case, I wouldn't willingly go there when I do not anything. We may as well be walking into a death-trap."
After all, there was no one who could say they knew what was happening within the Rain. The village was closed off, completely. To say it was in a bubble was false. Bubbles could burst. You even saw what was within a bubble. But Ame was locked in a seemingly impenetrable fortress.
"We wouldn't be in this situation if we had taken action back then. But you were too interested in finding out the goal of the organization."
Errors in judgment. He was not god. He made mistakes, even though he did like to admit he did carefully think some things. But he didn't foresee this future. Maybe prophets would have seen such. But he was a mere mortal, guided by his wisdom and limited knowledge of what was before him. He could only plan as far as the eye could see.
Surely, had they rescued Gaara, things would have been different.
"We didn't know there was this danger." Naruto sighed. "We have to focus on what is ahead of us."
"You don't want to go to Ame."
"I won't deny that but it is only because I know I don't have to go to the leader. He will come after me." He blinked, thinking. Maybe getting rid of the remaining members was not a bad plan. It would make the leader to him in person. "Maybe we should go ahead and do as we were. It will force the leader to come to us."
"And there is still Madara to think about. But that one deserves special treatment."
Naruto smiled. "Indeed, he does. Jiraiya should have some information. I will go back to Konoha and inform them of things and see what they have planned. The Five kage can no longer just fold their hands. But even if they do, it does not mean the end of the shinobi world. They are not the only ones with power to make things happen."
"You really have a low opinion of the Five kage."
"They also have low opinions of everyone below them," Naruto replied with a shrug of his shoulders. "You should take Karin to make things quicker."
"I don't need her."
"Who am I to argue. I have been making mistakes, it seems. You know best," Naruto said. "How do you suppose Madara wants to achieve his dreams. He spoke of a 'peaceful world of perfection.' How does overwhelming power get us that. And he didn't deny that such a pipe dream was not possible in this shinobi world. Yet still persisted with his thought."
"It doesn't matter, we just have to crush those dreams."
If there was an error in Sasuke's programming, it was that he only sought to crush those he viewed as enemies without any attempt to understand things. It was this attitude that made it difficult for him to understand people. He was helped because he was smart and could read situations.
"Don't be impressed with fireworks, Sasuke. Understand what made the fireworks, and you can make fireworks of your own. You don't understand what motivates people to try to change or get to know them better; you do so, to get a frame of their character, and learn what breaks them apart. You should know better than anyone, it can take words to cause a man to lose his composure. There is no denying that these people are evil and must be killed.
"They've murdered hundreds of people. And even now, they treat the Great Five with contempt. It doesn't matter the goal, if the method is wrong, we cannot support it. but fundamentally, when we learn things about these kinds of people, we gain experience and knowledge about where not to go. We don't know, today we are good people, Sasuke. Tomorrow, we change our minds and decide we have the power, we can become rulers of the shinobi world. No more Kage. No more Great Five, just one big country under our rule."
Sasuke thought of laughing at Naruto's words. There was no way the blond wasn't saying this out of whim. He must have thought of something like it. after all, Naruto wasn't as noble as he wanted people to believe.
He was rotten.
"I'm sure that is something you considered doing, but I get your point."
"You do not. By your attitude, you will not have friends. You will have subordinates. You will live a lonely life. Even if you marry, you will have nothing to say to her but undress, I'm hungry; go shut that damn child."
"What do you make of me?"
"I can imagine you being that kind of person. Learn to understand people, and you will have good relationships. To understand people is not to agree with them. It is being to able to get on a level with them and talk to them. If you are going to make the Uchiha great again, you need to be human." Naruto sighed tiredly. "But that only comes after we have climbed this mountain. It is going to a difficult one that will test everything that we are and mental fortitude. Our very lives will be threatened, but we must fight this and bring the Akatsuki to its knees."
"I have a question," Sasuke started in a serious tone. "If the Akatsuki gathers eight Bijuu and it is possible for you extract the Kyubi and continue to live, could we use the power for our end?"
"You want the other Great Nations to turn on us? And the people in Konoha would not agree."
"Kage are not elected by people. Once they step into power, they shape the village on their whim and anyone who disobeys that rule is guilty of an offense. It is the same thing with the Yondaime Mizukage, and Rasa. Even Baki didn't think that Suna had the capacity to fight Konoha, and he was the village's strongest Jonin, and yet when his Kage spoke, he followed."
"But there might those who will disagree, and a civil war occurs."
"That can be handled. I am saying a Kage has all the power. If we are Kage, and decide to keep all that power, then Konoha has decided and others can complain. But we have power, they can be made to toe in line."
"You are hardened and have yet to value human life. You lack experience, and knowledge, hence you say such things. It isn't outrageous. But, Sasuke, learn to love, and you will see the world differently, and you will think of it differently. Dictators don't live long…" he paused for a second. "But neither do good people." Naruto laughed. "My point is moot. Well, when you lack argument, such things happen."
End of chapter
The Omnipresent Sage