Legal Stuff - I don't own Naruto, blah, blah blah. Don't sue me, it really wouldn't be worth your while.

Chapter 20 - At War

Naruto dodged as a fist of sand nearly as large as himself crashed into the ground, losing cohesion for a moment and spreading out before pulling back together and lifting into the air for another attack. He was trying to transform but he needed to stay still to concentrate and it didn't look like he was going to have the chance.

"WE WILL CRUSH YOU!" The sand beast screamed in that strange dual tonal voice.

"Oh shit! Oh Shit! Oh SHIT!" Naruto said over and over as he dodged and weaved through the attacks, using a seal and making Shadow Clones, but they were quickly annihilated and only provided minor distractions.

"He said WE!" The sudden shout in his head distracted him and nearly got him impaled on a tree that was hurled in his direction. "Ichibi has surfaced enough! Do it NOW!" Kyuubi shouted in his mind, reminding him of the advice the demon had given him before the battle. Naruto jumped back and ran up the wall until he was nearly at eye level with Gaara/Ichibi.

"In-the-name-of-the-Ninth-Beast-I-challenge-Ichibi-to-battle-for-Approval-of-Heir!" It came out as a rush, shouted at the top of his lungs. Few ninja heard what he shouted, but those that did would remember. Among them were two Sound and Leaf shinobi who would report it to their respective leaders in time.

The claws of the sand beast stopped just before swatting Naruto off the wall, a look of confusion on its face as the two minds came to grips with what had been shouted. Naruto took the moment to catch his breath as he stood on the wall, waiting to see what would happen. The massive sand form seemed to writhe within its self and the face contorted further but the arm did not descend, which Naruto took as a good sign.

"Their minds are in turmoil," a voice spoke from above Naruto. He looked up and saw a monk in white robes standing on the ledge above him and watched as the monk took a swig from a sake jug. "The host doesn't know our ways and our brother was never such a fan of them." He spoke with wry humor. "However the challenge has been issued and he must answer. And since you challenged Ichibi himself and not his host there is an easy way to settle this." He made no seals but as he lifted a hand from the ledge a staff rose out of the wall. A white wax wood chime staff appeared, a large crystal suspended in the center of the chime ring without anything appearing to hold it there.

"Hachibi?" Naruto looked up at the monk. "Where are the others? What are you do-?" But he didn't get to finish his question as the staff started to spin.

Gaara/Ichibi recoiled at the sight of the monk's staff but it was too late. The monk swung the staff once and as the rings chimed off each other the crystal caught the light of the sun and a ray shot out from the staff and struck the sand beast in the middle of the forehead, connecting them. For a moment nothing seemed to move. But it only lasted a moment and then the beam faded and the staff was lowered.

"The host will sleep now and Ichibi shall be fully aware. Your challenge cannot be denied." He gave a meaningful look at the sand demon which was growing in size once more until it filled the entire arena. Naruto ran up the wall to get out of the way and stood next to Hachibi. He looked around briefly but didn't see any of the other Great Beasts. In any case the boy was thankful for the Beast of the Sun's interference, however seeing the growing form of Ichibi that was short lived.

"Huh, so you're the whelp who my sands whisper about," the sand form stopped growing but that wasn't much comfort as its teeth now were nearly as large as Naruto himself. He glanced at the Hachibi and growled. "Coming out only now? Lazy bastard."

"Much has changed Brother, but we will talk of it later. You have been challenged." Hachibi motioned towards Naruto with his staff which jingled lightly at the movement. He turned to Naruto and sighed softly. "As the challenger you get to pick the time and place." His look implored Naruto to think about his decision. However Naruto knew he didn't have the luxury of time when he heard the sounds of battle coming from all around the village now.

"In the empty forest outside the Village." He pointed towards the outer wall and the forest beyond. "And there is no better time than now."

"So be it," Hachibi nodded and raised his staff into the air, and brought the end down onto the ledge. The rings did not so much chime as boom when they rang, this coupled with the flash of light from the staff and Naruto and the sand demon were gone, only Hachibi remained.

A Leaf ninja appeared behind him in a fighting position and scowled at him. The eight tailed beast in human form turned and looked at the ninja.

"What did you do with them?" The ninja demanded. Sasuke's sharingan flared to life as he looked at the monk. The medics that had treated him had been called away for more important things and left him in a hospital bed, which did not suit him at all. Sasuke's arms hurt but less so than when his shoulders had been put back into their sockets. A medication that was supposed to keep him from moving merely numbing the pain as he forced himself out to find out what was going on.

"They are in the forest. Do not interfere with their battle. It is a… family matter." The monk raised his jug of sake and took a sip from it, his head tilting back slightly and the jug blocking his view of Sasuke for a moment.

"YOU WILL TELL ME WHERE THEY ARE!" Sasuke shouted and charged forward. But when he struck the monk was no longer there.

"No, I will not." The monk spoke from behind him. "As we like to say, 'Don't poke sleeping demons'." Sasuke turned just in time to see the man disappear in a glitter of light.

Naruto appeared in a large clearing in forest a river running along the far edge, disoriented by the sudden teleportation. He blinked and looked around at the scene. Thankfully he hadn't been teleported up on a branch when it happened or he probably would have fallen. Unfortunately he wasn't alone as the Sand demon had also appeared a hundred meters away.

"Transform now!" Kyuubi's voice from inside his head made him blink. "Once the battle starts I can no longer give you advice." Naruto had already been told this but he nodded in any case. He brought his hands together and took a deep breath.

The transformation was faster and easier than before. His skin barely itched as the fur sprouted along his body and his ears shifted higher on his head, growing longer, his muzzle grew out and his teeth elongated some as well. His hands grew claws and the fingers became more padded as they found a midway that he could still use. However the last part is what startled him. He felt a jolt fun from the nape of his neck down his spine and he knew his tail was growing. But when he turned to look he saw not one but two fully formed tails twisting out behind him. He felt more energized then he ever had before and all his senses were crystal clear.

"I'm not the only one with tricks. Kyuubi has changed you more than you realize human." The looming form of Ichibi looked down at the small human boy. "In any case. You chose the time and place, now I choose the method, battle, of course it will be a contest of strength. I must give you a chance. So I offer you this. Damage my container who is still here in my body and you will win. The stakes are your approval as Heir if you win. If you lose you will never get that approval and remain my servant for one hundred years."

"Agreed," Naruto growled. He knew that he had little choice in the mater, and that it would be hard, but he had to find a way. With unspoken agreement they waited for a sign to start the battle. The transformed Naruto was still quite small compared to the monstrously large sand body of Ichibi. But he had much more power now then he had before, and many tricks to use. He only hoped that they would be enough.

Across the village battles were going on. The Sand and Sound shinobi had been briefed on the capabilities of many of the Leaf ninja clans as well as knowing the terrain nearly as well. The combined forces were strong, but the Leaf ninja were holding their own, defending their village with all their strength. All in all it was fairly even with the massive summons on the side of the invaders. Until, that is, the strangers intervened.

"TITAN FIST!" Skirmishing Leaf and Sound ninja both jumped back when they heard the shout from above. A girl jumped off the roof of a building and came down in the middle of the street, her back to the Leaf ninja. Her hands locked together came down hard on the cobblestones in front of her. There was a mighty crack and the road split, massive chunks of stone and debris flew up at the sound ninja, injuring him and causing him to flee. The girl rose and shook her hands out, some rock shards falling off.

"Where is your insignia? What group are you fighting for?" Iruka said as he looked at the girl. She was young, maybe a genin, but he knew all of them. He got into a defensive stance as she turned to him.

"I don't have one, at least, not one you would recognize," she smirked and was nearly impaled by a spear thrown from much further down the street by a Sand Ninja who had witnessed her attack on his ally. And she would have been had not the lady in white appeared. With a flick of her wrist a thin bladed sword lashed out and struck the spear causing it to not only miss the girl in black but fly past Iruka as well and strike a sand ninja who was rising from under debris, killing him instantly.

"Be careful, young one. I believe that the Eldest Sister has plans for you, and it would not do to have you expire so soon." She was a beauty to behold in Iruka's eye, but her tone made him shiver. She turned to him and spoke coolly. "You may be rest assured that my siblings and I are no threat to the Leaf Village so long as we are not attacked." She didn't explain further as she clasped a hand to the younger girl's shoulder and they disappeared leaving Iruka very bewildered.

High above, standing on the spire of one of the highest building in the area Rokubi looked down on the fighting below. A bow longer then her own body in one hand, it was white as bone though no one could tell what the material was that it was made from. Her other hand reached into a quiver that she had looped around an antenna coming out of the spire. Drawing out a half dozen long arrows and putting them one at a time against the bow string.

Fighting below came to a stop in several areas where Sound and Sand shinobi dies in their tracks with arrows through their heads. In one case the arrow penetrated though a metal shield to reach its target. None of the arrows would later be found by any who searched for them in some effort to identify the mystery group which assisted the Leaf Village.

In another section of town battle was raging fiercely. No one noticed the old lady or the girl who was walking with her until it was too late. A leaf Ninja tried to shout warning as a Sound ninja dropped next to her, wire in hand ready to use the old woman as a living shield against the defending ninja. However as he drew the wire taught it was suddenly snapped as the small girl in white who walked with the old woman sliced through it with a kunai from within her long sleeves. Before the Sound Ninja could ready his own kunai he was dead, one of the long slender blades hidden within the old woman's staff stuck through his heart.

And with that they were off, the new duo seeming to dance as they battled. The girl in white darting around with sweeping motions, kunai, daggers and shuriken flying from her sleeves effortlessly wounding many though few strikes actually killed. The old woman took care of that. Her versatile blades seemed to elongate as she shifted her grip or dance through the air as the weight shifted. The tip darted expertly between ribs to strike at vital organs or slashing tendons or arteries. Any long range weapon strike disappeared into the sleeves of the girl only to be thrown back a moment later.

A quick jutsu sent a bolt of lightning at the duo but to no avail. The old woman swept the younger behind her and reached out with one of her weapons. It struck the blade of it raced down its length but not into the woman holding it but arched to the other blade and was shot harmlessly into the sky. The ninja who had tried the attack found himself dead a moment later with a dagger in his throat. That ended the battle with few injured Leaf Nin.

The old woman looked around and flicked her blades clean before she sheathed them within one another and turned it back into what appeared to be a harmless staff. She turned to the girl and looked her in the eye. Not a word was spoken but the girl nodded and bowed formally to her. The old woman in black turned to the ninja who were watching her cautiously.

"She is a medic. She will tend to your wounds." Without further explanation she turned and darted off faster than those there could follow. The girl approached them, her sleeves draped over her hands, hiding them from view but they were glowing softly with a basic medical healing technique.

"We can't trust her captain," one ninja spoke up from a crouched position holding a bleeding arm with one hand. The scarred captain looked over the girl who had stopped moving waiting for their ascent.

"Shut up and take your medicine," their captain barked. "Those of you injured get healed to battle ready. Those of you who can fight are moving with me NOW! We don't have time to be picky!" He nodded to the girl and she stepped forward, putting her hands on the wounded man's arm, guiding the healing with her technique. He watched her for a moment before gathering his unwounded troops and heading off.

Ibiki was at the front gate and dealing with the main spear of the invasion force and their massive summons. While there were a few of Leaf Ninja who could call on their own summons, none could compete with the size of the massive three headed snake that had taken out the front gate. The Leaf ninja were having trouble getting close enough to do enough damage to the snake to force it to retreat or kill it. With the Sound and Sand also coming through the hole that the snake had made his job was all the more difficult.

"GET THOSE WOUNDED OUT OF HERE!" he shouted at some medics who were trying to keep heal the wounded near the battle field. "I WANT LONG RANGE NINJA AT POSITIONS 4, 6, AND 8 CENTERED ON THE SNAKE!" He shouted at subordinates who quickly sent out to relay his orders. "I WANT SOMEONE TO GET RID OF THAT DAMN BASTARD!" That he shouted at no one in particular, but he got a reply none the less.

"Alright," a calm voice spoke from just a few feet behind him. He whirled with kunai drawn. How had anyone managed to sneak up on him when he was on alert like this? A man in a brown formal kimono stood there, and despite looking at him he still could barely sense the man. The larger shock came from the man behind him who was nearly twice as tall in a green kimono, a massive war hammer over his shoulder. If Ibiki had to guess the hammer was four feet long with an iron head that had to weigh over a hundred pounds, and the man was wielding it single handed. And he still couldn't sense either of them, they were very accomplished ninja to pull that off.

"Pull your ninja back, we'll take care of the snake summon." The smaller of the two reached out his hands and flexed slowly, cracking his joints from fingers up to his shoulders. Ibiki could see weighted rings on his fingers.

"Who are you? Are you our allies?" Ibiki still had his blade drawn but watching them he had little doubt that if they wanted to hurt him he wouldn't be talking with them.

"For now," the large man said with a shrug.

"Indeed," said the smaller. "In any case, this will use up the power we are allowed to use." Ibiki was about to speak when the small man held up a hand stopping him. "We've given you enough hints, I'm sure. It is up to you to figure out the rest."

With that they strode past him and towards the gates.

"Long range ninja are ready. Orders sir?" A subordinate appeared kneeling by Ibiki's side. When he didn't receive an immediate reply he looked up at the scarred man. "Sir?"

"Damn it! Tell them to hold for One Minute, if those two can't get rid of the snake then have them unleash everything they can! If they can then order them to collapse the wall and seal it!" He shouted at the messenger. The messenger didn't hesitate but relayed the information, wondering what two Ibiki could have been talking about.

Nibi and Sanbi strode forward into the battle. Without a word Sanbi lowered his hammer behind him and got into a low stance as he gathered power for his attack. Nibi jumped onto the head of the hammer and gathered his own power. Restricting themselves to a single tail was difficult when one takes into account the massive amounts of power they could naturally draw from their environment.

With a mighty roar of effort Sanbi swung his hammer high from behind him. At its apex Nibi was launched off, high into the air. But the hammer didn't stop there. It crashed down heavily into the main road aimed directly at the gate where the snake was. The shockwave it caused ripped down the street causing two of previously damaged buildings to collapse. When the shockwave hit the snake it screamed as the road tore up under it, jutting spikes into its body, not enough to kill it, but slowing it down for the finishing blow from Nibi.

After reaching his own apex Nibi started to fall towards the snake. His own technique increasing his mass, doubling it every second of the fall until he hit the snake. Several tons of force was directed straight down on the central head of the snake and shattering its spine so forcefully that it killed both the other heads when their connection to the body was broken. Nibi released the technique before he did further damage to the village and walked back to Sanbi, covered in snake blood no one stopped him.

"Lets get cleaned up, then we can watch the rest of this from up there," he pointed to the top of the Hokage monument. The large man nodded in agreement and they both disappeared.

When the two appeared on the carved head of the shodime they saw that Rokubi was already there, an arrow knocked at her bow.

"Last one, hold on a second," she muttered when she sensed them. She blew on the feathers drawn back by her cheek and released. The arrow flew at ungodly speeds going through two ninja before finally stopping in the heart of a third. By the time Rokubi looked up they were joined by two more. Nanabi had appeared with Kurohyou by her side. The girl in black did not look pleased.

"I had them right where I wanted them," she was muttering. Her kimono was cut and torn and even burned in a few places and the girl wearing it didn't look much better. But her apparent wounds were minor.

"I'm sure you did," her tone indicated otherwise. She reached out and tried to smooth the girl's unruly hair. "If you want to impress anyone you've got to show finesse with that strength of yours not just breaking things." The girl grumbled but didn't say anything. "Who are we waiting on?"

"Fourth, fifth and Eighth," Rokubi said as she unstrung her bow and then with the quiver sealed them into a small scroll.

"I saw our lazy brother send the captured two into the forest. Probably to hash out their little quarrel." Shibi sauntered up, sliding the coral handle of her infamous water whip between her impressive cleavage. "Some tried to attack the school. That would not do." Questions would be asked later about the drowned corpses in the fountain outside the school, and besides the frightened report of a few children, a woman with a whip that fit no known ninja description, which could not be found later.

Gobi returned shortly after with Hato. Gobi's kimono immaculate as ever, she refused to speak of her own involvement. The frozen and shattered corpses would not be missed by the investigations later. However, given that the Snow Delegation had chosen not to come this year the bodies raised some interesting questions as well.

Hato merely smiled and signed that she had helped the wounded and found all her shuriken and kunai, an impressive feat for someone who had used so many hundreds. She went to Kurohyou and tended to her abrasions.

"Well, we're all done here," Hachibi drank from his sake jug as he appeared. "Shall we go watch our brothers?" He looked over and spotted a few ninja jumping up along the Hokage monument coming their way. "I think it would be best if we didn't stick around." The others agreed and gathered around him as he lifted his staff into the air. When he brought it down there was a flash of light and the soft sound of chimes.

They had seen the nine figures, seven adults, four women, and three men, along with two girls, that fit some suspicious descriptions, but only traces of them could be felt by the sensor in the squad and they were unable to make sense of them before they faded completely.

They appeared at the edge of the clearing under the trees just as the battle got under way.

"An interesting battle ground choice," Nanabi gave the monkish brother a long look after she looked over the grounds, but he ignored it.

"Oh man, now we get to see him really cut lose! This is going to be awesome!" Kurohyou scampered up a tree and sat on a high branch so she could get a better look at the fight.

"He doesn't seem to be doing all that well…" Rokubi appeared on the branch next to her, frowning as she watched Naruto bring down a powerful strike on the Ichibi's arm that had failed to squash him yet again, however the blow just splashed against the sand causing it to scatter but quickly reform.

"Perhaps, but First Brother hasn't landed a hit either." Gobi stepped up onto a boulder and Hato took a position next to her to watch. And it was true, the Ichibi was large and could control vast amounts of sand, however he was large and Naruto wasn't having too much difficulty dodging those massive arms or the occasional wave of sand. Even the sand shuriken were hardly slowing him down.

"I think he's getting angry," Sanbi said as he watched Ichibi's growing frustration. The others couldn't help but agree as they heard him roar. Wind chakra gathering and a sudden high density ball of air shot out and nearly hit Naruto who only just managed to get under a boulder before the chakra ball tore through the upper half of the rock leaving a gap that Naruto could have easily fit inside.

"Whoa, hold on. I thought this was a contest of strength." He glared at the Ichibi. "That means no techniques right?"

"Foolish boy, my entire body is one of those techniques. We are chakra given bodies, our strength is the elements themselves! You thought you could defeat me with strength of arms alone?" Ichibi roared and fired off several more chakra balls, trying to hit the agile fox.

"Well that changes things then," Naruto grinned and with a few seals fire whips extended from his hands and he rushed along Ichibi's body where the shots couldn't hit him. Lashing out and carving swaths of sand off, making ugly distorted and discolored glass. However the body was still massive and any sand that wasn't converted to glass merely flowed back onto the body.

"He still doesn't get why here," Nibi shook his head, not so much watching the fight but feeling the battle through his connection with the ground.

"He will," Nanabi smiled softly. "If he doesn't he is clearly unworthy."

Ichibi howled in rage and pain as the heat from the whips cut into him, but it was hardly enough to slow him down. One long arm swept along his body striking naruto roughly and sending him flying to the other side of the clearing. Indeed when he struck the river he skipped twice across the surface before landing on the far bank, clearly disoriented by the blow.

He rose and stumbled twice, falling to his knees on the bank of the river, his eyes slowly focusing on his own rippling fox-like reflection. "Oh… hey." He looked up at Ichibi and grinned. "Ok, I was going about this the wrong way." He got up and his tails lashed out as he shook himself, shaking off some of the water in his fur from when he skipped across. He made a seal and grinned. "I'm going to win this now and you aren't going to land another hit."

"Took him long enough," Shibi shook her head. "At least we know that Kyuubi isn't helping him." Hato and Kurohyou looked at her but she just pointed. "Just watch, this is going to be awesome."

Well I'm back, somewhat. Things have been hectic for me, moving into my own place, work, classes and my own social life to juggle. A lot of authors really do update tons and I respect the hell out of them. I really can't do it like that. Maybe I could years ago, but it is difficult now for me. The story isn't dead and I do plan on writing it through to its conclusion, however long that may take.

I know I'm probably going to regret this. But I feel the need to do it anyway. Hopefully the author in question will get it and get a kick out of it. If not, oh well.


Bite me, Kenchi.

That is all.

- Quote the Speechless