Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Warnings: Yaoi. Ita/Naru. Characters may be OOC because they are older and wiser than canon.
Summary: A contract signed eighteen years ago has turned Naruto's life upside down. How will he cope with this new, troubling development in his life that he cannot escape?
AN: It has been a long time. The entire year had been a busy one that ended disastrously. It has taken me sometime to get the time as well as the mindset to write. Slowly, I have started writing again. I don't know how much my writing style and my outlook as changed. All I know is I think now I am on the right track. Please be warned, this will be a long AN.
People who glanced at my profile probably know that I was supposed to update sooner. Even though I promised, something unexpected happened and I needed time to get my head straight.
Now, onto the story. Hyakumensou was started in 2007. Since then, a lot of changes have taken place in Naruto. So many things have been revealed now that it is impossible for me to write Hyakumensou and keep it true to the Naruto cannon-verse. Therefore, I have decided to ask you for your opinion on a few key issues.
1. Uchiha Madara: In Hyakumensou, he is a mere historical figure. I think I can incorporate him but I don't know is he would smoothly fit into the plot. The only place I can include him is as the mysterious Kage who tried to assassinate Naruto with poisoned darts. In that case, Itachi wouldn't be aware of his existence
2. Jiraiya is alive. There's nothing I can do to change that. Whether he survives or not, that's another question and will be revealed in the next chapter.
3. Naruto has never learned the Sage-mode. To my biggest regret, I cannot include his new powers into the story. If you think I should add it as something Jiraiya taught Naruto in secret, then let me know.
4. Kyuubi is going to die. There is no dark Naruto, no opening of the seal, no training with Killer bee... or anything else. I don't think I can include any of these developments without rewriting the entire story.
5. Pein vs Naruto: I loved the battle between Pein and Naruto because Naruto was utterly brilliant in it. The sheer level of planning and power that Naruto used in that fight was unbelievable. Finally, there seems to be progress in his strength and Kishi has stopped holding Naruto back. However, much to my regret, I cannot use that fight in Hyakumensou and I am unsure if I can live up to its standard in this story. That fight was magnificent. I am only borrowing partially from the manga and rest all is my doing and I don't know if that would be up to the mark.
One of the reason why I am having so much trouble about writing this story is because the manga has now revealed so many crucial plot details. I plan on ending Hyakumensou after Pein's attack on Konoha and tying up a few loose ends. I can't fathom this story going beyond that. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to voice them and let me know. Keep in mind that I am asking your help to complete my story without disappointing you. Your suggestions are welcome.
Before going on with the story, I have a small announcement to make. I am starting a small contest for Hyakumensou and Unspoken Bonds art. Those amongst you who are artistically inclined and are willing to draw out scenes or characters from these two stories, please inform me via PM. The prize is modest and this is just a whim of mine. If you are interested and win, you get a oneshot or a twoshot, with a pairing of your choice, in the fandom of your choice from amongst the list given on my profile.
Thanks for waiting for so long and I apologize for the delay.
If their wedding day was any indication of how their married life would be then Naruto was sure that they were doomed.
After all, wasn't it some sort of omen that instead of a grand, traditional wedding with many dignitaries, they were having a hasty, patched up ceremony where neither of the grooms appeared happy?
The priest must be thinking the same thing, looking at Naruto's pallid face, Itachi's menacing scowl and Sasuke's skittish behavior. He probably thought that they were doing something illegal.
Naruto's body felt like a big bruise. Never in his life had he been subjected to nearly a week of continuous, intense pain and tiredness. All he wanted to do now was curl up in a warm bed and sleep. Itachi, marriage, Konoha, Kazuhiko… all those issues were relegated to an after-thought as his body screamed for rest.
Their wedding ceremony passed in a haze of pain. All he remembered was the soothing burn sake and Itachi's hand on his back, firm and supportive.
He was half-dazed and blood-soaked at his own wedding. How pathetic was that? The injustice of it made his heart clench painfully. The occasion was supposed to be sacred and solemn. It was supposed to be a special day when, in front of all his precious people, he took a step forward and joined his life with Itachi's life.
The blood-loss had drained most of his energy away, the fight for his life and the struggle to reach the Uchiha hideout had been a living nightmare. The danger that Konoha faced was prominent in his mind, the knowledge was like a raw, stinging wound, constantly calling for his attention.
He let out a soft sound of protest when someone lifted him up gently, carrying him out of the shrine.
"Not being a good wife, are you?" Sasuke's voice was gentle as it landed on his ear, "Nearly falling asleep on your own wedding," the younger Uchiha teased, trying to put Naruto at ease, "For shame, Naruto."
"Shuddap, I'm not a wife." Naruto murmured, "'suke bastard. Where's Itachi?" He asked when he realized that Sasuke was carrying him about. He frowned, suddenly concerned, "Sasuke, where's Itachi?"
"Right here, Naruto." Itachi assured him, "Stay with Sasuke for a while. I need to draw the seal and he doesn't know how. Naruto, you need to stay awake for this."
"I know." He replied, closing his eyes as he gathered his remaining strength. "This has to be the crappiest wedding ever." He complained hoarsely. "Hell, it doesn't even feel like I'm married."
Sasuke chuckled, "You'll feel that you are married and shackled later. Forever stuck with your zombie husband. The only advantage I see now is that you are my brother in the eyes of the law." He smirked, "I guess it becomes my duty to see to i-"
"Sasuke, stop blabbering and bring him here." Itachi commanded, impatience lining his voice. "We have no time to waste."
Sasuke nodded sharply and carried Naruto towards the seal with a slight grunt. Placing his best friend on his feet, he steadied Naruto before looking down at the seal structure. At first glance, it was hardly anything worth mentioning but Sasuke's keen eyes soon saw the real complexity of the design.
The seal contained two circles intertwined with each other, both them drawn intricately with characters that he couldn't even begun to understand.
The younger Uchiha simply shook his head and stepped away, watching in concern as Naruto stumbled a little before regaining his balance.
"This is good work, Itachi." Naruto said softly, his expert gaze analyzing the design quickly.
Suddenly, he paled, his eyes fixed on one particular character, "Itach-"
"That's the risk we will have to take." The Uchiha Lord stated bluntly, knowing what Naruto was about to say. He glanced at his younger brother and frowned, "Sasuke, there is a chance that the seal will take more power from me than I can afford, seeing that Naruto has very little chakra to spare at the moment. You know what to do incase both of us exhaust too much chakra."
Sasuke looked worried but nodded in agreement nonetheless.
Itachi and Naruto glanced at each other, both seeming exhausted but determined. The younger of the two nodded, closing his eyes in concentration.
Itachi gave the seal a final glance before activating it.
All that followed was white-hot pain.
Itachi woke up to a whole spectrum of unfamiliar sensations. Instinctively, he responded, sitting up quickly as fetching the kunai that was always present on his being.
A careful scan of his surrounds led to no results but one.
The surge of protectiveness and affection that he felt for his injured beloved was intense, bordering on overwhelming. The bond between them had an almost physical presence to it and if Itachi hadn't known better, he would have tempted to check whether chakra strings were tying them together.
He had known everything there was to know about the seal but it still stunned him to feel a slight presence of Naruto within his mind. A hint of pain came through the bond, probably a sliver of what Naruto was actually feeling. There was also a slight presence of bone-deep exhaustion, again, just a portion of it was exposed to him.
It gave him some idea of what Naruto had been going through ever since he left Konoha.
He sighed and leaned against the head-broad. He never imagined he would spend his wedding night concerned over Naruto's injuries and the uncertain fate of his village. It seemed as though one tragic event or another shadowed all his milestones in life.
Itachi wondered briefly if they would ever have peace. Both of them were deeply involved with Konoha and its problems, they were willing to sacrifice much for the welfare of their friends and family. The hope of leading a completely peaceful life was nothing but a fool's fantasy in their profession.
However, the Uchiha still hoped that within their marriage, they'd b able to find both sanctuary and comfort. He hoped that their loyalty and affection for each other would tide them through trying times.
"I thought that brooding was more up Sasuke's alley?" Naruto's soft voice interrupted his musings.
Itachi turned his head to look at his husband and was graced with a tentative but rather beautiful smile.
"Regretting already?" The blond asked in jest, knowing full and well that Itachi didn't regret their marriage at all.
Nevertheless, Itachi sought to appease him. Leaning forward, he ran his index finger down Naruto's cheek. The tender caress was soft but it contained confidence. The Uchiha knew that his touch was anything but unwelcome.
Onyx eyes warmed with gentle passion as he traced those supple lips, remembering distinctly, the first time he had kissed them. "If I regret anything, it is the circumstances." Itachi said softly, "I would not have wished to carry out our wedding in such a manner, Naruto."
"Of course not." Naruto smiled, "You wanted a grand ceremony with all delegates and friends present." He cupped Itachi's cheek, his thumb caressing the smooth skin, "I am sorry that you were deprived of that pleasure, Itachi."
"Tradition is important." Itachi answered automatically, closing his eyes at Naruto's tender touches, "It is our responsibility to ensure that the traditions and skills of the Uchiha and the Namikaze clans endure this hurdle."
Naruto chuckled, "As you say." He replied. He had never known his family and therefore had never learned to take pride in its customs and traditions. He wouldn't deny Itachi that if it afforded him some pleasure.
He wouldn't deny Itachi anything if it afforded his dear Uchiha some happiness.
Those deep black eyes opened slightly, watching him with a content expression that hinted a little of smug possessiveness.
Naruto laughed softly and pulled Itachi down, brushing his lips against the Uchiha's. "You're really happy to be married to me, aren't you? You've the cat-got-the-cream look on your face."
Itachi smirked before dipping his head to press light kisses against Naruto's neck, "Well, this cat has yet to taste his cream…"
The blond simply arched his neck, closing his eyes to savor the sensation as the slow building warmth of passion settled over them.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door, breaking the tender moment.
Itachi let out a slight groan and buried his face into Naruto's shoulder as Sasuke opened the door. He wanted to experience that state of wedded bliss for some time longer before reality came knocking.
"Sorry to interrupt." The younger Uchiha said seriously and he really did look sorry. "I have news."
It was so unlike Sasuke to let go of an opportunity to tease that both Itachi and Naruto instantly knew that something was wrong.
"Pein has just attacked Konoha."
Instantly, their wedded bliss turned into a nightmare.
It was a spectacular mess. Pein was attacking Konoha, Tsunade and Kakashi were missing, Naruto, Itachi and Sasuke were away and Danzo had somehow managed to become the Rokudaime.
Sakura didn't know what to do. The strongest of shinobi of Konoha were absent and Pein was cutting through their forces with disgusting ease. Experienced Konoha shinobi were dropping like flies and they were helpless.
She never realized how much she relied on Naruto and Sasuke for their comforting strength. Naruto, more so than the Uchiha. He just had a way of striving against impossible odds and emerging victorious. That was exactly what they needed now.
Shaking her head, she exchanged grim looks with Ino. It stung to know that the strength that they had tirelessly developed all their lives still paled against the sheer power of someone like Pein.
Moreover, there was no word on Naruto. The Daimyo's heir was missing but Sakura hoped that Naruto had managed to keep him safe. It was rare for her friend to fail when someone else's life was at risk.
"What do we do?" Ino asked, her eyes narrowed, "This Pein guy is not going to let up until he has Naruto-kun. Tsunade-sama and Kakashi-san are still missing." The blonde glanced at the injured Shikamaru worriedly, "I don't think we can last any longer, Sakura. Do you think Naruto-kun is okay? He should've been here by now."
Sakura sighed, "I know. That's what worries me. Itachi-san wouldn't let anything happen to Naruto under his watch but I doubt that he had been able to find Naruto at all. Who knows what Naruto must have done to keep Kazuhiko-sama safe."
"As long as Kazuhiko-sama and Naruto are safe, Konoha will be able to recover." Shikamaru said. "At this point, if we lose either the Hokage's heir or the Daimyo's heir, we'll be in very serious trouble." The Nara winced and sat up, looking at the devastation wreaked by Pein. "Let us hope that the Uchiha are doing their job."
"Sasuke-kun will never let anything happen to Naruto-kun!" Ino said instantly in defense.
"Neither will Itachi-san." Sakura stated with calm conviction.
"Regardless." Neji interrupted their conversation with characteristic smoothness. "We cannot sit here and do nothing. We must come up with a plan… at least try to find Tsunade-sama and Kakashi-san."
Kiba cursed, "Don't you think that it's best to keep Tsunade-sama wherever she is? I don't think that even she can last against that monster. We need someone who has freaky strong and weird skills to counter this bastard."
"I agree." Hinata said softly as she watched Jiraiya battle against Pein. The sanin was steadily losing and they feared for his life but interfering would only hamper Jiraiya instead of helping him. She ducked her head demurely, offering them a gentle smile of consolation. "I believe we should stick to Naruto-kun's orders. He is our leader whether he officially holds the title or not. Besides…" she turned a head a little, looking at something with her Byakugan activated, "I believe that Sasuke-kun has arrived." She narrowed her eyes and nodded, as though acknowledging some silent message. "They have a plan."
Neji looked at Sakura, "What were Naruto's instructions?"
The rose-haired medic frowned, "Hinata-san is responsible for the assassination of Mitokado Homura and Utatane Koharu. Itachi-san will be going after Danzo alone while Sasuke-kun, with his Oinin, will be dealing with the Root. Naruto and his ANBU were supposed to be a part of Sasuke's mission but I'm assuming that he must have changed the plan."
Sakura and Ino started at the interruption, while the others turned towards the voice, ready to defend if necessary.
"It's Uchiha-san." Neji informed softly as Itachi stepped into view. "He is disguised as Hiashi-sama."
Sakura quickly moved to her feet, "Where's Naruto? Is he okay?"
The Uchiha nodded, "Yes. I have new instructions from him." Itachi informed, "You'll be splitting up into teams. Hinata-san, Haruno-san, Nara-san and Nakamura-sama," he gestured towards the Head of the ANBU forces, "Will be dealing with the two elders. Nakamura-sama will be accompanying you incase you face any difficulties. Sasuke and his subordinates have already started moving on the Root forces. Neji-san, you will be coming with me as back up. We will be dealing with Danzo."
"Yamanaka-san, you, along with the rest, will be taking care of evacuation. There are medical teams on Stand-by in the Namikaze Compound. Please give me your hand." Itachi moved forward when Ino offered her hand to him. With characteristic efficiency, he traced a seal on her wrist. "This will allow you temporary entry into the Namikaze compound. Only you and a few select others have this seal on them so be careful and don't allow any of our enemies to trick or force you into gaining access to the estate."
"Kakashi-san has been located." Nakamura said, seeking to put them at ease, "And Tsunade-sama is safe in the Namikaze compound. Uzumaki ensured that she wouldn't be captured under any circumstances by giving her direct access to his home. She is safe there, ready with a team of ANBU to heal as many as she can."
The effect of his words was instant. All of them collectively breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that their Hokage was safe and sound did wonders to their morale.
"What about Kakashi-sensei?" Sakura asked tentatively, "Is he alright?"
Itachi frowned, "He is in a critical condition. Apparently, he was the first to encounter Pein."
Sakura bit her lip in worry, feeling helpless and lost without the reassuring strength of her mentor and her former team.
"We have to work together." Nakamura whispered, looking at every young ninja in front of him. "I don't know you personally but Naruto has a lot to say about his friends." The experienced ninja smiled encouragingly, "He has a plan and he has complete faith that you'd help him accomplish his goal."
Itachi nodded and narrowed his eyes in warning, "None of you must deviate from you missions. We must accomplish all our goals. While Naruto takes care of our major external threat, we must deal with this internal threat. The Daimyo's heir is safe but he is unprotected at an undisclosed location. The enemy might still be able to find him. We must deal with this mess as soon as possible."
"You have spent time observing the Akatsuki," Shikamaru began, looking at Itachi keenly, "Do you think that Naruto would be able to defeat Pein?"
Itachi glanced away for a moment, pondering over the question. Sakura and Ino exchanged nervous glances. They knew of Naruto strengths and weaknesses, having worked with him on field during numerous missions. However, they knew next to nothing about Pein. Looking at the devastation that the enemy had wreaked, they wondered whether Naruto could stand up against such an otherworldly being.
"In this case, I suppose, I have more knowledge of Pein's skills than Naruto's." He shrugged, "But we must take comfort in the fact that Naruto won't be dealing with Pein alone. He is currently briefing an entire squadron of ANBU… there are close to twenty skilled and powerful ninja helping him with everything he needs." He looked at Neji, "I know that most of us aren't comfortable with trusting Naruto's well-being in the hands of strangers… even if they are Konoha shinobi, but we have no other choice."
The young members of the former Rookies exchanged dubious looks but nodded in understanding.
"Very well." Nakamura said, "Let's do a final confirmation. Team Hinata?"
"Assassinating Utatane Koharu and Mitokado Homura." Hinata answered with a small grimace. It went against her nature to kill in such a dishonorable manner after all.
"Danzo and his guards." Neji answered, knowing that the question was directed at him instead of Itachi.
"Good." Nakamura nodded, "Team Ino?"
"Gather as many injured citizens as possible and escort them to the Namikaze compound without drawing the enemy's attention."
"Yes." Itachi nodded, "You can get help from as many loyal shinobi as you wish. Your task would require assistance."
"Understood." Ino nodded curtly.
"Alright." Nakamura said finally, "Dism-" The ANBU leader paused, spotting something in the sky at a distance. He squinted a little, trying to understand what it but Itachi responded before anyone could.
"Down!" Itachi commanded, pushing Hinata, who was closest to him, to the ground as two different voices rang out.
For a single moment, they experienced a vacuum. It was as though everything was standing still… as though time itself had come to a halt.
Too stunned to react, they froze, allowing Tsunade's summon, Katsuyu, to absorb them into her body.
What followed was a spectacle of mindless, malicious destruction. Their village, their homes, everything annihilated by a single attack. The moment of deafening silence led to a roar of sound as a wave of power carelessly swept across the village, leaving nary a structure intact.
Konoha's great gates burst open by heaps of debris and a cloud of dust rose in the air. Even Kyuubi's wrath paled in comparison to the sheer devastation that Pein's jutsu left behind.
The roar left behind a hollow, unnatural stillness. In front of the enemy's careless eyes, Konoha lay in ruins.
For a long moment, it seemed as though Pein had decimated the entire population of Konoha. A few, unmoving bodies could be found amongst the rubble but almost the entire citizenry appeared to be buried under debris.
Soon, however, the stillness was disturbed. Slowly, more and more people emerged from under the rubble, some protected by an extension of Katsuyu and some saved by luck.
The destruction rendered everyone speechless. Even Itachi, who had given up so much to keep his village and precious people safe, could only look at the carnage with wide eyes.
Sakura fell to her knees, her entire body trembling with shock and fear. "What… what is this?" She asked in a whisper, "What happened?"
Hinata placed her hand over her mouth, unable to believe what lay before her eyes.
"Naruto…" Sakura sobbed, making Itachi look at her sharply, "Hurry…" she whispered, "Please…"
"Now is not the time!" A blessedly familiar voice caught their attention. They all turned as a serious looking Naruto surveyed the situation from his vantage point.
With a graceful leap, he landed behind them, "Tsunade is not in the Namikaze compound. The Slug summon was her doing. I can't sense Jiraiya-sensei. I am assuming that he didn't survive." Naruto informed them bluntly, his voice tight with suppressed emotions.
Naruto didn't even pause to look at them, moving towards Pein swiftly. "You have your orders, move it!"
His friends scrambled to their feet, trying to follow him but Neji and Ino stopped them. "No!" the Yamanaka heiress insisted, "Naruto-kun expects us to follow the plan! We should let him deal with Pein!"
"Are you mad?" Kiba cried out, "Look at this!" he gestured wildly at the large crater that stood at the center of Konoha. "You can't expect him to face that monster alone! Uchiha, tell them!"
Itachi was barely paying any attention to them, his narrowed Sharingan eyes fixed on Naruto. His heart was screaming at him to follow his partner but he knew they had a mission to accomplish.
"No." Itachi said firmly, "Tsunade-sama has exposed herself. I don't believe that Danzo will emerge from hiding while Pein is attacking but the moment Naruto is done with him, Danzo will try to harm Tsunade-sama. We have to move." He turned to Ino and nodded, "Find Tsunade-sama as soon as possible and head in the direction of Naruto's home."
Shikamaru jumped on a large slab on concrete and looked about. "Fortunately, both the Uchiha and the Namikaze compounds are at the very outskirts of the village. It doesn't seem like Pein's attack has reached that far."
"We have a problem." Neji said with a frown, his Byakugan eyes focused on something at a distance, "I think all the Root forces have gathered with Danzo at some underground location. The attack must have disabled the wards around Danzo's hideout, I can clearly see through them now. Uchi-Sasuke is already approaching their location with his Hunters… how should we proceed?"
Itachi turned to look at Nakamura, who was frowning in thought. "Sasuke-kun will not be able to deal with the entire mess alone. With Pein concentrating solely on Naruto-kun, I think Itachi-kun, Neji-kun and I should head for Danzo's location. Hinata-san, I think we should leave the elders be, for now." The older man suggested, drawing a nod from Itachi.
"No." Shikamaru protested, "We must deal with the elders now. This is an ideal situation. Amidst this chaos, if a couple of old people pass away due to shock, no one would notice it."
"Nara-san is correct." Hinata agreed, "It wouldn't be wise for me to go alone but perhaps Gai-san, Kiba-kun and Shino-kun will accompany me."
Itachi arched a brow, slightly impressed. "Two long ranged and two mid-ranged to close ranged fighters, one of them being a Byakugan user. Interesting formation, Hinata-san… and effective in this case." He looked at Nakamura, "I think we should go ahead with this plan."
The elder ANBU looked at the assembled group thoughtfully before nodding.
They dispersed the moment permission was given. They knew that they had very little time to spare.
Hinata was an honest person. Her gentle spirit and kindness caused many to speculate over her ability as a ninja but no one in Konoha could ever think ill of her. They might sometimes pity her, wondering why such a kind person was in such a ruthless occupation. They might underestimate her. They might even disrespect her for being such a gentle, lady-like kunoichi. However, if it came down to a popularity contest between the distant, untouchable elders and the beautiful Hyuuga heiress, she would win hands down.
Naruto knew that very well. He also knew Hinata very well. The Uzumaki's unusual status in the Hyuuga household had allowed the two to develop a close, intimate friendship. He therefore knew just how capable a ninja Hinata was. Her meekness was because of a genuine desire to avoid violence and not due to a lack in skills. Naruto had chosen her specifically and as a testament of his wisdom that he had chosen her without hesitation and doubt.
She wasn't about to let him down.
As the leader of the mission, she directed Shino to send a couple of his insects ahead for scouting. They had already located the two elders but they needed to know what kind of protections were on their targets. They had to be careful; the Elders were warriors of the old. It was too easy to underestimate them based on their age. It was too easy to forget that they stood by Sandaime's side and fought many wars.
Hinata knew that the elders weren't necessarily evil. They were just more militaristic and believed that one could be sacrificed for the welfare of many. However, what they had done was unforgivable.
Shaking her head, she refocused completely on the mission.
"Hinata-san." Shino softly called for her attention. She could easily recognize the hint of confusion in his voice, "There are no guards."
Kiba and Gai turned to look at Shino in confusion. "The Elders are left without guards in such a dangerous situation?" the Jounin question, "But who would be so careless?"
"We have to be careful." Hinata whispered as she glanced around with her Byakugan activated, "This could be a trap."
Gai nodded, stepping back to let Hinata take the lead role. He knew that she was a capable ninja who just lacked a little bit of confidence. Gai was a great teacher and was well aware that sometimes it was best to let the students step up and face a challenge on their own.
Hinata turned towards the Jounin with a determined frown, "Gai-san, if you would stay behind and keep watch, we can go in. I have a plan but it is a little delicate in nature. It would be best if there were no interferences."
Gai nodded, "I understand."
Hinata leaned forward and whispered her plan to Kiba and Shino causing the Aburame to nod in approval while Kiba grinned proudly. "That's great, Hinata-chan!" the Inuzuka exclaimed, "In fact, that's a prank worthy of Naruto!"
Hinata blushed and ducked her head demurely, "Please Kiba-kun!" she murmured, "It is a rather simple little plan."
"But ingenious in its simplicity." Shino added, "Naruto-san's style is similar to this. Simple and efficient. That is the key to his success and it shall be a key to yours as well, Hinata-san. I should think that you have done your mentor proud."
She smiled tentatively but nodded. Turning towards the building, she cleared her face of all emotions, "Let's go!"
'Silence.' The young Uchiha gestured, looking at his subordinates as he calculated the situation. Itachi's target and his targets were gathered at one location. That made their mission difficult. As noiselessly as possible, Sasuke coordinated the Hunter Nin teams under his command, asking them to recheck their equipments.
All of them were carrying a special toxin that Tsunade had developed, a variation of the poison that was used to harm Naruto. If the slightest portion of it entered the bloodstream, no one but Tsunade could save the victim.
Death was slow, silent and inevitable.
He nodded with all of them confirmed their readiness before making a swift circling motion with his hand, commanding them to scramble.
The Hunters moved with characteristic swiftness and ease. Sasuke blended in with them, keeping his Sharingan inactive. He didn't want anyone, especially Danzo, to recognize him.
The very first set of guards on Danzo's hideout fell like flies. Sasuke's Hunter's expertly weaved through them, stabbing every opponent with a small, almost invisible needle.
"Done?" Sasuke asked softly through his communications unit.
After a unanimous positive answer, he took a deep breath, "Too easy." He whispered cautiously. "Four stay behind and cover. Itachi and his team would arrive soon. The rest-" he looked at the darkened stairway that led down into the underground Root facility. "Into the lion's den."
"Hai, Taichou." Was the answer and they stepped forth.
Into the lion's den indeed.
"Tsunade-sama!" Sakura cried out, coming to a halt beside her mentor. "What happened? Are you alright?"
"To protect the villagers from Pein's technique, she released her rapid regeneration technique and gave all her chakra to Katsuyu-sama before the blast." The ANBU who had been guarding Tsunade answered. "And now she is…"
Ino cursed under her breath before placing her hand on Sakura's shoulder. "We need to take Tsunade-sama to Naruto-kun's home. Itachi-san insists that even Pein won't be able to penetrate the protections… not unless Naruto assists him."
The ANBU nodded, "I am aware of Uzumaki-sama's instructions."
"No!" Tsunade protested, "I need to be here! Naruto can't handl-"
"Tsunade-sama, with all due respect, you will only hinder us in our mission. Please remember that your safety is paramount and let us handle the rest." Shikamaru said seriously. "Itachi-san, Hinata, Sasuke and Naruto are counting on us to do our part, ma'am."
Tsunade frowned then shook her head stubbornly, darting off quickly.
Sakura scrambled to her feet in alarm as Shikamaru and Ino turned to follow the Hokage.
"I'll go after her." The ANBU captain assured before giving his team curt orders to stay.
"ANBU-san," Lee began respectfully, "If you would offer us aid in gathering all the injured and vulnerable, we would be most grateful."
The captain nodded, gesturing his comrades to do as Lee had requested before hurriedly following the Hokage.
"About time!" Utatane Koharu said curtly as Hinata, Kiba and Shino entered the room that housed the Council members. "You boy, tell me what's happening out there!" She demanded from Shino.
"We have no time for that, Utatane-sama." Hinata interrupted gently, looking about worriedly, "This place isn't secure. Nakamura-sama has ordered a full-scale evacuation!" The ANBU commander was the only neutral authority she could think of.
Mitokado Homura scowled and stepped forward, "Nakamura? Where's Tsunade? and Danzo?" he asked heatedly, "Tell us what's happening, now!"
Before Kiba and Hinata could protest, Shino stepped forward calmly. "Pein, the leader of Akatsuki has just attacked Konoha." He stated bluntly, "He used a jutsu of unknown origin and powers to nearly destroy us. Tsunade-sama stepped in a saved as many as she could by using Katsuyu-sama but she is know grievously weakened."
The councilors scowled, "So Danzo is dealing with the enemy?"
Shino shook his head. "No, Danzo-sama is in hiding as well."
Koharu's eyes widened in alarm, "Are you saying that all our shinobi are fighting without a leader?"
"Impossible!" Homura said sharply, "That would only lead to chaos! Koharu, we must go and deal with the situation ourselves or more lives will be lost."
Hinata, Shino and Kiba exchanged glances before the Aburame spoke up once again. "Uzumaki-sama is dealing with the situation personally." He informed, deliberately adding the respectful suffix to show them just who was in-charge of the village at the moment.
Who would remain in-charge until the crisis was solved.
"Uzumaki!" Koharu hissed, her eyes wide, "He's but a child! Hardly capable of leading such a large force against this attack!"
"Nonetheless," Homura said grudgingly, "He is powerful, absurdly so. Moreover, he has learned to control the biju within him." He looked at his fellow councilor piercingly, "You mustn't forget that he is the sharpest and most dangerous weapon of Kono-"
Suddenly, before anyone had anytime to react, Homura clawed at his chest and collapsed. Hinata was standing behind him with a truly fearsome scowl. "Never refer to Naruto-kun in such a manner." She said, her soft yet icy voice freezing them all in place.
Koharu quickly took a stance and charged at Hinata at rather impressive speeds.
Still, Hinata was a scalpel to Koharu's hammer. She gracefully dodged the wild strikes, her body moving between the old woman's strikes as she utilized her family's TaiJutsu with expert ease.
Shino and Kiba walked over to Homura to check if he had somehow escaped death, knowing that Hinata would be able to handle herself. Their plan had been a simple one. Lure Koharu and Homura into a false sense of security before attacking them. While Shino had been talking to the councilors, Kiba and Akamaru had conducted a thorough search of the premises under the pretense of looking for threats.
"Don't liken me to your ilk, madam." Hinata said icily, smoothly disabling Koharu's left arm. "All your dirty, filthy secrets are out in the open for us to see." She informed, her hand barely whispering against the old woman's knee but shattering the kneecap on the slightest touch.
Koharu grunted in pain as she fell, looking at Hinata, "We have never done anything that would be of harm to Konoha!"
Hinata looked down at her, disgust written plainly on her delicate features. "Delusion is not an excuse." She said softly, "You reacted without mercy and care against an imagined threat simply because you were paranoid and Danzo was power-hungry." She kneeled in front of the old woman and narrowed her eyes, "Whatever may be your intentions, your actions were wrong and you must be punished. Utatane Koharu, by the order of the late Daimyo, the Godaime Hokage and with the consent of all senior ninja, you are sentenced to death at my hands for your crimes."
"You have no right to do that!" The old woman hissed, "Tsunade is incapacitated and the Daimyo dead. Their orders are now invalid unless the council approves them!"
"You are grasping for straws, Utatane-sama." Shino said calmly before nodding to Hinata. "Homura is dead."
"You'll be punished for this! Danzo will definitely not let this go."
Hinata gazed down at her calmly. "We are aware that Danzo has somehow managed to gain the status of a temporary Hokage." She smiled, "However, that is only because the person who can act as the replacement to Tsunade-sama in times of emergency was absent. He was on a mission to protect Kazuhiko-sama from our enemies."
"Yeah." Kiba said, scowling at the woman. "If it were up to me, I'd drag you to the village square and reveal all of your sins to Konoha. You elders got so arrogant that you actually had the audacity to kill our Lord, the Daimyo?"
"Accept your punishment with grace, Utatane-sama." Shino said mildly, "Your time has passed. There is no place in Konoha for your warmongering tendencies."
"Yes." Koharu sneered, "You're all soft-hearted, following the leadership of that foolish Jinchuriki. That same brat who'd show mercy to all sorts of enemies. He'll bring Konoha to its knees and then you'll regret ever following his orders! We should have kil-" She choked in mid-word, feeling the icy bite of Shino's kunai on her neck.
The Aburame's insects buzzed he glared at her. "You are not worthy of even the soil that Naruto-san walks on." He said, his voice calm but his chakra anything but. "Danzo has tarnished the name of the Hokage by hiding like a coward instead of standing and facing the threat. He will never be acknowledged as the Rokudaime."
"That's right!" Kiba agreed, "Especially when the true Rokudaime is out there risking his life for the village by facing that monster!"
"That's enough." Hinata said softly, raising her hand towards Sandaime's last surviving teammate. "There's no reasoning against those who are unwilling to listen. I understand how you feel Kiba-kun… Shino-kun… killing these criminals doesn't satisfy our desire for justice but there's little justice that we can achieve at this point."
She shot forward, her hand connecting with the old woman's chest and killing her in an instantly.
The Hyuuga heiress looked down at the fallen woman with a regretful look on her face. "I am sorry that it had to come to this, Sandaime-sama." She whispered, "And I am sorry that you allowed your friends to fall so far."
She sighed and looked at her teammates, nodding to Gai when he entered the room.
Kiba huffed, ruffling his hair in frustration, "That was too easy. I don't like it when things happen easily… a big mess usually follows."
Suddenly, a group of ANBU, each with their swords pointed at them threateningly, surrounded them.
"Stand down." One of the ANBU warned them, "You've just committed an S-class felony and are under arrest. Be aware that we are authorized by Rokudaime-sama to kill anyone resists arrest."
Kiba looked at the assembled group wide-eyed and cursed, "Me and my big mouth!"
Naruto was calm. The fires of his rage had turned his determination into an unbreakable blade. That strength and those feelings flowed into Itachi, assuring him of his spouse's wellbeing.
As he headed towards his brother's location, he could see three large toad summons battling against the monsters that Pein had called forth. He didn't have time to marvel that the rare sight of so many boss-level summons battling at once, but he was relieved.
Naruto was handling the threat. He couldn't afford to be distracted if he had to fight the Leader of Ne.
Shaking his head, he narrowed his eyes as they entered Danzo's hideout stealthily.
Sasuke and his squad had done a good job finishing off the guards but Itachi knew that Danzo kept his strongest people closest to him. Moreover, Itachi was also aware that Danzo had multiple Sharingan on him…
Including Shisui's Sharingan.
He believed in his brother's strength but Sasuke was too precious to risk so callously.
He looked at Neji and pointed at his eyes, silently asking his temporary subordinate to activate his Byakugan. The Hyuuga complied with the order and looked ahead, keeping an eye out for danger as they infiltrated the hideout.
As they went deeper and deeper into the hideout, Nakamura and Itachi started exchanging troubled glances. They should have encountered someone by now. The fact that they encountered no one was an alarming indication that something wasn't right.
Itachi gestured his teammates to exercise caution and activated his Sharingan. It would be nearly impossible to deceive them when Sharingan and Byakugan were working together.
The three powerful ninja slipped into the shadows and moved swiftly to the very center of the ANBU Root complex. They were alert and cautious, ready for anything and everything.
Despite that, they were absolutely stunned by the scene they had stumbled upon.
Sasuke and his entire force stood in front of Danzo and his Root ANBU, locked in a silent confrontation. Sasuke and Danzo were facing each other in a battle of wills but Itachi could see clearly that his brother was barely reigning in his anger.
Itachi's eyes narrowed in annoyance. The very essence of ninja battle was stealth and surprise attacks. Such blatant confrontations only led to an increase in casualties.
He quickly gestured his comrades to remain hidden. They'd have to wait until the fight started and take out as many people as they could without revealing their presence to Danzo.
"Uchiha Sasuke." Danzo enunciated slowly, his single eye settled confidently on the younger Uchiha. "I should've taken care of you when you were still a weak little brat. If your brother and Sarutobi hadn't interfered, we wouldn't be standing here."
Sasuke sneered, his Sharingan flaring to life, "I know everything, Danzo." He said icily, "We are going to kill you and avenge my clan!"
"Your rebellious clan was sacrificed for the greater good of Konoha." The old warmonger said, "Since it was the Uchiha clan that summoned the Kyuubi to Konoha."
Itachi stilled, his eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"You lie." Sasuke growled, "We know exactly what happened, Danzo. We have a complete record of how you manipulated the council members and slaughtered my family. Don't try to turn this around. Greater good of Konoha!" he scoffed, "You never cared for the welfare of Konoha! It is just a tool for you to get more power!"
Danzo straightened, stabbing his deceptive looking walk-stick on the ground sharply, "Get out of your sandbox boy, before you start pointing accusing fingers at your betters!" he sneered, "The only reason you're alive is because Uzumaki Naruto favors you. Why don't you ask just how much that boy humbled himself in front of myself and the Hokage's council to keep you alive after you defected from Konoha?"
Itachi clenched his fist and willed his brother to keep his calm. He knew just what Danzo was doing. He was trying to psychologically unbalance Sasuke.
"Don't try to change the subject." Sasuke said, "You cannot distract me with your lies."
"Lies?" Danzo asked mockingly, "I'm the only one in this village who hasn't lied to you, boy. The only reason Tsunade allowed you to live was to breed Sharingan using ninja. You have no other purpose." He stepped forward, his lips curling in distaste, "I know that your brother is back in Konoha. For some reason, Uzumaki is protecting him. But Uzumaki is now distracted, isn't he? Who will protect you brother now? Once I and finished with you, I'll finish him as well."
Sasuke smoothly slid into a stance and scoffed, "Assuming that you escape me alive, what makes you think that you have the slightest chance against Uchiha Itachi, of all people?" He asked derisively. "You're just a crippled old man with a foot in his grave, accept you death, old man."
A smooth smirk crossed Danzo's aged features as he disappeared from sight.
"That's the problem with you younglings," The old man whispered, his kunai piercing Sasuke's back before the young Uchiha could even react, "You let your eyes deceive you."
'Don't underestimate Danzo, otouto…'
Tsunade never expected to find herself in such a situation. With barely any chakra left, she was standing in front of a powerful enemy, knowing that it would only lead to her death.
She was doing what all her predecessors had done.
Standing on unsteady feet, she glared at the enemy who had rendered the legacy and hard work of her ancestors to dust.
A corner of her mind recognized that she was being reckless and foolish. In her weakened state, she would be of no use. Moreover, by putting herself in such a dangerous situation, she was jeopardizing the future stability of Konoha. However, Jiraiya was just behind her, barely breathing and on the brink of death.
She couldn't just stay away.
Nothing mattered anymore, if someone didn't stop this monster, there would be no Konoha for her to protect.
She stepped forward shakily, glaring at Pein as she tired to stay steady on her feet, "I am the Godaime Hokage!" She declared, clenching her fist in helpless anger. "I'll never let you get away with trampling on the treasures and dreams of the previous generation!"
"Tsunade-sama!" The ANBU who had landed beside her, stepped forward, knowing that he couldn't interfere and wishing to take his Hokage away from the enemy as soon as possible.
"As the Hokage, I'll end this here!"
Pein scoffed as he gazed at her impassively, "It seems you've come to understand a little of my pain." He said softly, "Regardless, I have no business with you." The apparent leader of Akatsuki gestured one of his bodies, the Asura's path, to move forward towards Tsunade, "The one I want-"
Asura's path swept forward at amazing speeds but he never made it to his intended target.
Pein, with all his eyes, didn't even see anyone move. In an instant, a Konoha ninja appeared above Asura's path and destroyed him with a single jutsu.
"Is I, right?" Naruto questioned calmly, landing his feet and gazing at Pein with icy blue eyes.
"Naruto…" Tsunade whispered as her successor stepped in front of her protectively.
"There's no need for Konoha's Hokage to burden herself with trash." He declared lazily. "Just sit back and have a cup of tea or something, ba-chan." He waved his hand at her. "I'll handle this."
"Uzumaki Naruto." Pein said softly, "So you finally appear."
Naruto only arched a brow, "Pein." Slowly, a smirk crossed Naruto's lips, "Yes, my husband told me about you." He tilted his head to the side, his small smirk widening into a malicious grin, "And I go by the name of Namikaze Uchiha Naruto now."
When the enemy narrowed his eyes in puzzlement, Naruto revealed the Konoha's latest secret with concealed glee. "You know my husband, of course. He was your particular friend and subordinate at one point of time."
Pein's eyes widened, "Uchiha… Itachi."
"Precisely." Naruto affirmed before sliding into a smooth stance, "Gamakichi!"
"Hai!" The toad, now bigger than Naruto in size, landed smoothly behind Naruto. "Take ero-sennin and ba-chan to safety."
"Yes boss." Gamakichi said and gently lifted the exhausted Hokage in his arm before lifting Jiraiya in another.
"I know this isn't the right time to ask, ba-chan…" Naruto asked softly, his eyes focused on the enemy, "I can sense everybody but one."
Tsunade closed her eyes in regret.
"Is Kakashi-sensei alright?"
There was a moment of silence that told Naruto everything he needed to know.
Naruto waved Gamakichi away, inwardly relaxing when he sensed that all his precious people were away from the dangerous situation.
"I suggest you surrender peacefully." Pein said impassively. "I don't think your Hokage is strong enough to protect everyone from another such attack." He declared, his odd eyes focused on Naruto. "And you, no matter how skilled you have become, can't stand against my pain."
Naruto dipped his head elegantly, a single eye peering at the Akatsuki leader, "Now see, this is where you're wrong." He said softly, dangerously. "You act as though you know me." A smirk crawled across his lips as he spoke, "As though you know my strengths and weaknesses. Your sole source of information about me was Itachi and as you see," Blue eyes danced mockingly, "He isn't exactly on your side."
Pein narrowed his eyes. There was something unnatural about Naruto's calm and confidence. The very first lesson he had learned as a ninja was to study a person's body language and Naruto had always been very expressive. Unlike Itachi and other powerful and seasoned ninja, the shinobi in front of him drew his impressive strength from his emotions.
Naruto's smirk widened and Pein felt a warning sound deep in his conscience.
Pein's eyes shifted and suddenly, Pein's Animal Path slammed his hand to the ground. "Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"
Naruto scoffed and altered his stance, watching impassively as a giant rhinoceros rushed at him.
Icy blue eyes sharpened and a hand shot forward, making the animal freeze in mid stride. "Parlor tricks are for the weak." Naruto said softly before he slid his sword out of the sheath on his back. "Hm." He whispered and disappeared, appearing above the beast in an instant.
Before anyone could blink, the summon's head was severed and it vanished in a puff of smoke.
"I don't have time to play with your pets." Naruto told Pein before forming handseals, "Kuchiyose no Jutsu: Gamabunta! Gamaken! Gamahiro!"
There was a large cloud of smoke as three gigantic toads appeared behind Naruto.
Pein's eyes narrowed at the nonchalant execution of the summon jutsu. Calling forth three boss-sized summons with barely a whiff of chakra showed just how powerful the ignored little Jinchuriki had become.
"That will not help you." The leader of Akatsuki warned.
Naruto simply looked at him and raised his hand in a beckoning motion.