Kabuto was the weapon, the biological bomb, so to say.

He knew his duty and he was proud to do it. He took the newest experiment into the center of Konoha's marketplace, and being unable to lace the vegetable stands with this new poison, this new disease, without getting caught in the act by passing shinobi..

He drank it himself. And he spread it himself.

Through the air by hanging out in large groups. Through smatterings of blood by fighting opponents he knew he could not beat. Through the water by drinking from the public well. He was efficient, and he was good.

At first, the contagion started out small. It was a flu, a cough, an unnoticable itch at the back of the skin.

But there was no opposition. There was no notice of the slowly spreading plague until it was far, far too late. Almost too late for an antidote to make any difference at all. By the time the city of Konoha got started on trying to save themselves, there was almost nothing left to save.

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And Tsunade was there.

She came in late, she came in last, barely making it through the gates of the city. For miles around the outskirts of Konoha, the land was ravaged. The once tall and glorious trees burned to the quick so that not even their shattered remains could stand like the dead bones of a hand.

There were no birds, there where no animals at all. The streams were blocked and forciablly dried up. For miles the air was stagnant and dead, and even years and years after all of this, you could still smell the sharp, bitter tang of sulfur and ash.

The bodies were burned just outside the city walls in massive piles, smoldering flesh and rolling fluids bubbling and boiling with such toxicity that people grew sick merely walking pass it on the other side of the wall.

But yes, Tsunade was there. She came late, too. Barely in time to help at all. But she was there, even though she actually had to climb, hands and feet, over the walls of the village, a thing that for the first time in existance was unguarded.

The air was silent and filled with something that left a tanging rot against the back of her throat. The wood the walls of the city were made of had started to fall into disrepair from the constant burnings at their base. They cracked, and turned sickly colors, and filled her hands with splinters.

Tsunade was too late to save the Yondaime, too late to save herself, but she did manage to save Naruto, and what was left of Konoha.

Because she too, like the rest of the Medic-nins working on the cure, caught the disease and died.

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Orchimaru is not interested in Sasuke.

Not so much anymore, atleast. Itachi was an interesting prospect, all that power .. But, even though an insane mind was easier to infiltrate (he thinks), the Uchiha has gone far outside of Orchimaru's reach.

But Naruto .. He is very interested indeed, in Naruto.

The boy has the cure, everyone knows this. It lingers in the backs of Diedara and Sasori's minds as he leads them, but they lay their doubts aside. All the Atasuki lay their doubts aside.

Because Orchimaru is, most of all, confident in himself. He believes that he can remove the disease from Naruto. After all, if the cure can be seperated from him, why not the sickness itself? He wants to possess the boy's body and become a true immortal. Never dying. Never aging. Never falling ill at all.

And even if he can't, well .. Naruto seems to be doing fine enough as it is with both the diease and cure in him at once, does he not? And besides, it would be a very handy natural tool to use against his enemies. Almost as good as the Sharigan, which he still keeps in the back of his mind.

He has heard of Kakashi, who is no natural Uchiha.

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Kyuubi is in Naruto's head.

Naruto was punished for stealing the Forbidden Scroll by being exiled to Konoha. House-bound, so to say. He is not allowed to leave under any circumstances.

Ibiki is given charge of him, to watch him. Not for growths in maturity, or careful monitoring of health and the such. Ibiki has the task of making sure that Naruto is interrogated, throughally, on the second Sunday of every month.

Part of this is to check his uncertain allegiances. Part of this is to try and drill things into the boy's mind.

Don't leave Konoha. Don't bite anyone. And, most of all, Do not leave your room without permission.

It is expected that the boy disobeys. Ibiki isn't quite sure that Naruto really understood any of the rules at all, that he ever heard them in that shifting thing the boy calls a mind.

At first, weary and frightened Chuunin guard the boy, from far across the street and as far away as they can possibly manage. Sometimes they aren't even there at all.

Which makes it all the eaiser for Naruto to disobey his rules. Jounin are graduated to the task of watching Naruto, but they too keep their distance.

And so Naruto wanders off into Wave Country.

When he comes back, just as casually as he left, as though he never even noticed that he left Konoha at all, ANBU are given the task of Naruto.

They are too afraid to keep him in their containment cells. They don't want him anywhere near them. They try to hide this, but it is what everyone feels, so it's not that unexpected.

Naruto is escorted down to the ANBU interrogation cells once a month, where Ibiki watches him and tries to break through to him, to break him of his madness.

It never works though, and Naruto messes with the potions and liquids meant to be tested on him - to try and heal him, to test their fatality - mixing them and drinking from his creations as though these things were something that could be consumed, until Ibiki is left just not knowing quite what to do.

The Kyuubi is in Naruto's head, and Ibiki has no idea how to get it out.

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Sarutobi suffers in quiet manners, not because it is his job to do so, but mostly because he is too old by now to put his actual anguish into true words and actions.

"Why is it that one should die and another live?" He asks in muted whispers to the piles of the dead. "Why should my grandson be striken ill and perish, and yet I survive?"

They give him no answer.

It isn't until much, much later, that he realizes he is glad they are silent. He grows to know Naruto far too well.

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The Fourth was experimented on to find the cure, but in reality, he didn't help them.

Yondaime only died a slow, and very painful death while his body was put under torture by painful torture. Falling so far into himself that the Sandaime, Sarutobi, was left to try and rule Konoha the day after Yondaime was elected.

What little ruling there was to be done..

It was only Naruto's natural healing ablities that gave them the cure. All the Medic-nins had to do was inject it into him.

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The ANBU following Iruka did, in fact, defeat Mizuki.

But Iruka nearly died trying to protect Naruto. He tries to save him, standing in front of him and taking the blows meant for the boy. He dodges arounds words and tactics, and shows himself to be a remarkable shinobi.

Mizuki is stronger than him, but Iruka holds his own until the ANBU arrive.

During the battle, Naruto chews on the forbidden scroll as if he is still a toddler, teething. And then sleeps on it, in the midst of kunari and shurken and raging jutsu.

It is not actually Iruka's limited skill, rusted from teaching, that holds Mizuki back. It is the way he fights around Naruto, walking a circle of the boy, always keeping in hand's reach.

Mizuki is afraid of spilling the Naruto's blood. He believes it will bleed through him like acid, that it will merely touch the surface of the landscape, and spread through it like the plague it is. This makes him angry, and he tells Naruto that he is nothing.

Mizuki tries to rise above his fear, but he runs.

He runs from Iruka, because he is running from Naruto.

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Kakashi is teaching what's left of his team. Or trying to.

He teaches them tactics, he drills them on their stances, their techniques. He finally comes to their personal failings. Sasuke is obvious, Kiba only less glaringly so. He wants them to trust in each other, to trust themselves. He tells them, "If you don't believe in something, it diminishes. If you fail to put your trust in something it ceases to exist."

Naruto has taken to following the Jounin around, for whatever reason he does it. So he replies after this, almost there, almost in their world with them, "I don't believe in Konoha."

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Diedara smiles down at the stolen child. "You are the human sacrifice. You are The Jinchuriki."