Author's Corner: Arg, I'm finally getting to updating this after leaving everyone hanging for the last couple months. Things have been a little busy. I'm really sorry I took that bet since I also have to do that second story. I've also finally got something that resembles a working outline for a novel, so maybe one day, I'll be making some kind of shameless advertizing about something I wrote.

Maybe. If I'm lucky.

So, here really begins my next arc, and the last part of Part 2. It also ends Hakumei as a story. That's right people, the final part is going to be it's own story. If only because it's way too big for me to stick onto this on anymore. I think that it's going to start looking slightly...intimidating. If it doesn't already, so after this part, you'll have to add me to author alerts if you want to get the story when it's hot off the press.

Thoughts on the manga: You know...Kishi...you've really...ruined something kind of interesting. It would have been so much more fun if the Kyuubi was simply a force of evil. This feels like some kind of fanfic. I refuse to do it! I completely refuse! Too bad! I'm going to do it MY WAY! I have the right of fandom! I am independent! I am capable! I am...abusing the exclamation mark. Though, I must admit, at least you're doing it well enough. Ohh...Sasuke Itachi confrontation...and alliance...Kabuto...great, now I kind of feel sorry for you...

I still hate you, Sasuke.

Thanks to the Epitome of Eccentricity for being my Beta now that MegaB has had to leave us. I'm really grateful.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
-Confucius


It was a sign of just how desperate Jiraiya was that he didn't even bother to ask what Uchiha Itachi was doing helping them. He just kind of accepted that he was there, and that he was very useful. Jiraiya supposed that he'd ask questions later. If they survived long enough to ask questions later.

The fact was, with the unconscious Orochimaru as something of a handicap, the arrival of Itachi, Zabuza and that...cat girl (hm...cat girl romance. slightly cliche, but still...if done right...) was a blessing as far as he was concerned.

"Alright, we just need to hold them off for little while. Long enough for everyone to get out. Then we need to get out ourselves," Jiraiya ordered when the three were close enough to hear him.

"That sounds so easy," the cat girl said, rolling her eyes before dodging a barrage of senbon heading her way.

Zabuza hadn't bothered to wait for orders, he'd just jumped to the attack, slashing happily anything that so much as moved in his general direction.

Itachi, nodded once, much like the ANBU captain that he had once been and proceeded to attack, summoning a Honsenka and using the pause to come closer and attack with a katana. Was it just him, or was Itachi saving his energy? Not that Jiraiya had ever ordered the guy around, he just seemed to be holding back for some reason.

There was a small explosion and Jiraiya caught the kunai that had flown towards him between two fingers and sent his hair on the attack as two high ranking ROOT nin ran towards him. The hair struck one of them, and he disappeared. Great. Bunshin.

There was a pop above him, and Jiraiya saw the third nin falling down towards him. Jiraiya jumped back, his hair forming a shield around him prepared the hand signs for an all out assault on the three of them.

At least Tsunade wasn't there to laugh at him.


The boy looked at his two fighting teammates, wondering if they would manage to live through the test to be a Genin team, let alone a real misson...

Noise. Shouting.

He sat in his apartment room, brushing some black hair out of his face and listening to the silence of the empty house. Surely, if it wasn't for the war...he would have been with his parents. It wasn't fair. It wasn't right... they hadn't even been killed by an enemy nin. Just a stray mine. It had been such a simple, silly way to die...

It wasn't fair...

A battle? What had happened?

They had poisoned him. It was kind of ironic since he had taken the 'Hebi' jokes and turn them into his personal style. It just was too perfect that he'd die of poison. Snakes weren't immune to their own poison after all.

"Don't fall asleep! Stay with me!" the girl's voice was desperate, "I've almost got it."

There was a scream from somewhere nearby, and the boy gritted his teeth.

"Just go, that idiot needs your help," he muttered. It wasn't like she was going to make it in time anyways.

The girl glared at him, and for the first time he noticed that she actually was quite determined. Not just the privileged girl that he'd always seen and treated her as. Maybe...maybe he'd misjudged her.

"He'll be fine," the girl said, her voice certain, and it gave him hope, "We both know that he's pretty much invulnerable. You've beaten him up enough times to prove that. Some Grass nin isn't going to be able to get through that thick skull."

He laughed weakly. He could see the flashes of his teammate's white hair as he fought, yelling unnecessarily as he attacked. Idiot...didn't he know that he was just giving away his position? If he lived...he'd have to tell him off...maybe show him how to do that attack without killing himself...

Something was wrong.

That had been the first time that he'd looked at his teammates as more than just a necessary evil. When he'd seen the reason why they divide them all into cells. Because...you have to have something...or else you lose touch with reality. It was the first time he'd noticed that other people are struggling too. That he wasn't the only person who had suffered...that he couldn't say that he'd suffered more than someone else.

That...he wasn't alone.

His head hurt.

Why? Why hadn't he been chosen? Why had a man half his age been named in his place? What did Minato have that he, one of the Sannin, didn't? How could Saratobi-sensei just destroy the dream that he had had since he could walk so easily.?'Minato carries the Will of Fire' ...hadn't he? Hadn't he always defended Konoha? How could he!

The man needed a walk. It was a bitter thing to watch the man who you had seen as your father crush your dreams. He would stop by to see his teammates soon. Even now that the Genin team had been disbanded for years and they all had taken teams of their own, they still were teamed together in missions.

It wouldn't be easy for any of them. Particularly when Minato was...Jiraiya's student. He was going to be torn between wanting to celebrate with his student and wanting to do something to help his old friend. The man sighed.

It was nearly splitting. He had to take...protect...destroy...Konoha...find the others...kill them...warn them...

There wasn't much left of the western part of the city after the Kyuubi attack. It had all but destroyed the wall on it's way, and there were still bits and pieces of the Chakra floating about. And now there was the issue with the child. Minato have left them with a Jinchuuriki and the city wasn't sure if they should celebrate, hale the child as a hero or kill it.

This wasn't Kushina or someone who they knew. This was an unknown child who might turn on them. At least so they thought. Many believed that the boy would be driven mad by the voice of the monster, others thought that it would be able to devour the soul of the child, since it was nothing but an infant, and only a few were in favor of keeping the child alive.

It was understandable, but it didn't change what it was.

Also...some very sadistic part of him just thought that it would be interesting. The boy would...change things, and he was always interested in that. He was so busy with his own thoughts that the figure came on him out of nowhere. Really...it had seemed to appear out of the dark like a ghost. He only had time to turn and jump back when-

Jiraiya's voice? An attack?

Like a snake that had been woken, he lashed out violently, his tongue slashing through the thing that was making the sound, but trying to avoid Jiraira. He stood up, his vision still blurry and the taste of blood in his mouth. Nin in black. Threat.

He wasn't sure who he was, or what he was doing, but the motions somehow came naturally to him. Almost on sixth sense alone, he dodged the kunai and kicked. It was fluid, natural feeling. Something moved behind him. White. Jiraiya. His...friend...enemy...teammate. Not a threat. He was attacking from the other side. Back to back on a strange surface.


Orochimaru was either not quite conscious or not quite sane. Jiraiya wasn't sure which. Still, he was moving, and standing back to back with him was at least better than having to defend the idiot. Hopefully, he would be able to tell the difference between friend and foe.

"Rasengan!" Jiraiya called as he summoned his student's weapon and pushed it into the stomach of the man who'd just managed to jump on Gamabunta's back. The ball of swirling energy caused the fabric of the ROOT uniform to come apart as the man fell. If he had survived the fall, he didn't survive Gamabunta jumping on him in his attack on the army.

Gamaken was also cutting through, but one of Orochimaru's stray snakes seemed was attacking the toad, probably more out of the traditional rivalry than anything else.

"Oi, Hebi-kun, call off your summon!" Jiraiya said to Orochimaru.

Orochimaru turned and blinked at him once but didn't say anything.

Yeah.

There was an explosion and Jiraiya's mind went other places. They just needed to hold out a little longer.


As a Jinchuuriki, Yugito was used to some pretty bad situations, but facing down an army with nothing but one of the Sannin, some psycho with a sword who probably would have happily charged the whole army alone, and some guy from an organization that was supposed to be tracking her kind down for some unknown reason was pretty ridiculous.

Still, she supposed that she could still be in that cage.

It was clear that they were acting as a buffer, so that the rest of the...whatever they were...could get out with their lives. Honestly, Yugito didn't expect to live to see the next morning. ROOT just kept coming. When one was killed, three more seemed to appear out of nowhere, and the Hokage himself hadn't even bothered to come. Then again, Danzou rarely actually fought. From what Yugito remembered from various scraps of information that she had found, Danzou more or less only appeared in battle when necessary. It was unusual, since a ninja leader usually was at the head of a battle, but it had been done during the time before villages.

At least, that was what Bee said.

And Bee was usually someone who should be counted as being right. After all, he learned a lot of things from his brother.

The Akatsuki guy suddenly appeared next to her. He was holding a katana and looked strangely tired.

"Yugito-san, are you able to summon your tailed beast again?" he asked.

Yugito tested her levels of Chakra, while throwing a kunai with a chain for three exploding tags attached to it towards a cluster. They dodged, but the thing exploded before they'd gone too far.

"I'm not sure. Nibi's not the easiest thing to summon up at the best of times. I can keep her out for about five minutes, tops."

Itachi sighed, "If we are not called on to retreat, both of us will need to unleash our strongest techniques."

Somehow, she noticed for the first time that they'd been moving closer and they were suddenly back to back, almost surrounded. As they both prepared to spring apart from one another and attack, ignoring the fact that the sword guy was running around, slaughtering everything that moved without even thinking about getting too deep into the army, a signal flare erupted. It looked like a fireball.

"Sasuke?" the Akatsuki guy breathed.

Yugito didn't care who it came from, obviously that was a signal, and they were going to get out.

"Yugito-san, help me take Zabuza-san. We might need him."

"Why are we going to need that psycho?" Yugito asked, watching Zabuza running the wrong way.

"He's high ranking in his abilities, and knows a great deal about how Kiri's political structure is formed. And, unlike my late partner, he will most likely say something about it."

"Alright, fine," Yugito muttered. She supposed if she was going to be changing allegiances, she might as well be in a well informed and powerful group. The bit about insanity wasn't all that important. After all, they all seemed to be slightly insane. A Jinchuuriki who believed in friendship, a blood thirsty swordsmen, a guy who used to be on the side of side of some creepy group and a bored Jinchuuriki who was thought to be dead.

It kind of worked she supposed.


Hyuuga Hiashi had recognized his daughter and his nephew from the moment the he saw them. It had been a few days after the break while people waited for the official exams to start. They had been walking together and passed by him. Had it been anyone else, he would have thought that the stiffening of their bodies would have been due to the fact that they recognized him and were nervous, but they're faces were too obvious.

Hinata did not look just like her mother, and she didn't even look all that much like him, and Neji looked more like his female cousin Hikari than he did either of his parents. Still, Hiashi knew them. Everything in the way that they held themselves, and the way that they moved. Everything spoke of training to use the Juuken.

So, he was able to guess that the six children who had disappeared and who had started the war had returned.

So, at some level, he had been mentally prepared for the attack that was coming. Hiashi couldn't conceive of any reason for them to be here for anything that wasn't a full, all out attack on the city. They hadn't revealed themselves, and, while Hiashi didn't know why they were going to attack, he couldn't bare to face his daughter that way again. So, he would be silent.

He hadn't planed on dying.

Still, there were worse things, he supposed then dying for the sake of his family. Particularly when Hanabi, who idolized Hinata, had suddenly disappeared just when the small rebellion was starting to die down.

The Uchiha clan must have finally realized that one of their attackers was actually one of their own clan members, since they had all come to collect him. Well, if keeping them busy would allow Hinata, Hanabi and Neji to escape...

Hiashi attacked, forcing Uchiha Hiro to his knees, coughing blood, and managed to graze Uchiha Takashi, who jumped back, but started to look like he was in pain. It would hurt more the more he moved, even a light touch was enough to cause tremendous pain if not to close a Chakra point.

The whip appeared to Hiashi's side and he spun, trying to capture it in the sudden vortex of Chakra.

"Hakkesho Kaiten," he said softly.

No matter how good Yumi was at controlling the metal, she couldn't hold on to it, if the sudden sharp intake of breath was any indication. It also forced those members of the Uchiha Military Police who hadn't been hit by the attack and tossed against a building to hang back.

"Get out of the way, Hiashi," Mikoto snarled, "That is not your child anymore. She's simply an enemy of your own home."

For one moment the mother and the father stared at one another.

"Kushina would be ashamed of you, Mikoto, to see you become the worst things about the clan you grew up in. Then again, she wasn't always the best judge of character, so I suppose that nothing to be surprised about."

"How dare you!" Mikoto hissed. "Kushina died as a hero to this village, sealing away a monster into her own son. You are more than willing to let an enemy who attempted to destroy this village go free because one of them happens to be your child. Don't you dare preach to me about how Kushina would feel!"

"I suppose that has always been the only difference between us. When all is said and done, I can never sacrifice my family...no matter what. Hakke Kusho."

Mikoto was blasted off her feet, hitting the side of a small dango shop with a thud. He spun around to deflect the second whip before Yumi could reach him. The young woman narrowed her eyes at him, but Hiashi could see that she was breathing too hard to be normal. She had already been through an attack that had overwhelmed her, and Hiashi had been saving his strength.

"You know that you're simply delaying the inevitable," Yumi said. "They will be found."

"Konoha is no longer in any position to chase after a small team. This attack has drained the city of several good ninja, and shown that we can be attacked. What's more, many people saw Uchiha Sasuke. They knew that another of the Uchiha, one who supposedly was killed by Iwa years ago, is alive. And why is that and what happened to Sasuke? The village is going to have to focus on rebuilding its defenses before it even dreams of chasing its new missing nin."

It would be a harsh blow in a way. Konoha's fighting force would be weakened and people would question if they had fully investigated when they had attacked Iwa. If they could just get away...

The stare off continued, quiet and controlled, between those of the Uchiha clan that remained standing and the head of the Hyuuga main house. The Sharingan was powerful, but Hiashi wasn't going to attack until they were, rendering it's ability to see five seconds into the future meaningless and the copying ability was completely useless if they didn't have the Byakugan.

It was a complete stand off.

At least...it had been.

There was almost a ripple as Danzou appeared, he was limping slightly, and his bandages were still on, and he seemed to be alone.

The two stood in silence for a moment, gaging one another. Danzou hadn't been in the battle. He would have claimed to have been too weak for that. But he had come here personally, probably after being messaged that Hiashi had gone insane.

"Danzou," Hiashi said calmly.

"I see you've weighed the life of a traitor daughter to be worth more than your own home and everyone in it," Danzou said, leaning on his cane.

Hiashi would have dearly loved to tell him to stop acting and just attack.

"I wished protect something that I have always been unable to keep," Hiashi said calmly, "I suppose that I can buy them a little more time."

"Perhaps,Danzou said.

He moved forwards, and using his good hand began.

"Futon: Shinku Renpa," Danzou said, and the blades of wind began to form.

"Hakkesho Kaiten," Hiashi said. He could deflect the attack all day. At least until exhaustion set in.

"Doton: Shinju Zanshu," a voice said under him, and Hiashi had enough time to look down and see the white mask looking up at him as he was dragged into the ground, just in time to see another slice of wind coming straight for him.

Hiashi didn't look away. He didn't flinch, but somehow, the thing passed through him and the earth lightened it's hold. Climbing out, Hiashi prepared to continue, not sure what was going on until he saw that something had changed. The streets were empty other than the man facing him.

It was himself...only maybe a little younger.

"Hiazashi," Hiashi said, looking at his long dead twin brother.

Hiazashi smiled.

"Are you surprised that I would be the one waiting for you?" he asked.

"Hinata-Hanabi-" Hiashi said, looking back for a moment. There was a gate there...maybe...

Hiazashi shook his head.

"It doesn't quite work that way. They'll be fine. You saved them. Besides, there's still things to do on this side. You'd been surprised at the work that the Sandaime has me going through to see if we can finally convince the Shinigami to cough up the Yondaimie..."

And so, Hiashi stepped forwards and, side by side with his brother, walked towards home.


Tsunade watched the mass exodus carefully. She had sent up the signal, so now all she had to do was wait for Jiraiya to come, and she wasn't going to leave without him. She'd even send Shizune ahead with the mix of prisoners and actual rebels. Though the oddest member of the group was the Suna elder Chiyo, who had quietly marched along in a way that said that either she'd gotten senile since they last met (which was highly unlikely) or she had been here for something different and got interested in something (which was likely).

Tsunade would have to worry about that later.

Now she had Jiraiya to wait for.

There was an explosion from somewhere, and Tsunade saw the figure of Gamabunta coming closer before disappearing, Jiraiya dashed up to her, followed by...Orochimaru...some Uchiha kid...Zabuza...and...some blond.

"Don't ask," Jiraiya said with a shrug, "They're helping."

At the moment, that was about all the recommendation they needed.

"Tsunade-hime..." Orochimaru muttered.

"Orochumaru..." Tsunade said softly, then almost jumped back as he collapsed, falling into her. She and Jiraiya caught him and looked at one another.

"I think the sounds of the battle kind of woke him up, but there's some damage done. Hopefully, he'll wake up again soon so we can see," Jiriaya said.

"Tsunade-sama!" Isaribi called, running up to them, "There's no sign of Hakumei."

Tsunade looked back, then she squared her shoulders.

"They know where to go. We don't have time to see where they are...they'll be fine," she said, taking a breath. Oh, please let them be fine. Please don't like the curse of that necklace claim someone else...

The Uchiha suddenly looked up, and Tsunade recognized the robe.

"Akatsuki?" she said, but in an instant, he had vanished.


No one so much as dared too look back as they jumped through the forest. No one talked either. They were all straining to hear if someone had followed them. Naruto had a good idea that Hinata's father could probably handle a lot, but eventually... he'd only bought them so much time, and they had to move as fast as they could and make as few marks as possible as they went.

What was harder that, because they were likely being followed, they had to make the trail as erratic as they could, meaning that they had to jump from tree to tree in random direction and occasionally have one of them just break off and going in a different direction.

So, it wasn't until almost midnight that they sat down and allowed themselves the luxury of conversation. Sasuke started a small fire in a cave and Sakura did a genjutsu over the thing so that anyone passing by would think that it was just a normal, empty cave.

"That was...bad," Naruto said after a while of everyone staring at the fire in complete and total silence, "That was...really...bad."

Hinata nodded mutely and then, softly at first, but louder and louder she started to cry. Naruto tried to pat her on the back, but she recoiled from him.

"It was my fault...it was all my fault," she sobbed, "If it wasn't for me..."

"It wasn't your fault, Hinata," Naruto muttered.

"Hiashi-sama made his decision, and it wasn't something that was split second," Neji said quietly, "It wasn't a mistake that he was there and he saved us. Maybe he was following us."

He had been mostly staring at the fire, not responding to anyone. Lost in his own thoughts.

"B-but why did he wait so long," Hinata whispered, "Why didn't he talk to us? I spent all this time thinking that he hated me..."

"I guess we'll never know," Haku said.

"But...he was the bravest man I've ever seen," Kimimaro added.

The others nodded, and were silent. It seemed that the only way that they could show any kind of thanks, respect or honor to a man who they hadn't even gotten to see die, but knew had done so to save them, was not to speak and to let Hinata sob and Neji think.

Finally, when Hinata had cried herself out, and she was only hiccuping a little Naruto put a hand on her shoulder. She smiled at him a little, a watery, forced smile.

"When...I was four...my father would train me everyday. No one else would be there. Just us. It was before my mother died. Before everything... He was always gentle with me. But then, he just stopped. I thought I resented him...I thought...I thought..."

Naruto nodded, and Hinata started to sob again.


Hinata finally had lain back and fallen asleep. Chakra exhaustion, physical exhaustion and mental exhaustion all had taken their toll on her, and Neji had gone off. He would talk if he wanted to, but at the moment, Sasuke thought he was more sorting through his own mixed and confused feelings.

In the end, he was the only one awake.

"You holding up, Sasuke?"

Sasuke jerked his head up to see Naruto looking at him.

"Wha-I thought you were looking after Hinata," Sasuke said, getting control of himself quickly.

"Haku gave her some tea. She's out like a light," Sakura shrugged coming up and sitting down.

Sasuke gave a wary look around them, but Gaara wasn't there (he was on guard duty) and the others looked like they'd fallen asleep. At least he didn't have to worry about everyone seeing him. And seeing his weakness.

"It's nothing. I'm fine," he grumbled.

He wasn't going to start whining. Particularly not after Hinata had lost her father. Yes, he'd just lost his, and the sudden realization make him feel sick simply because he really didn't feel anything.

"Yeah, fine," Sakura rolled her eyes, "You know...you've been through a lot too..."

"I haven't," Sasuke muttered, "I'm just weak. Why did I even pause. I knew better. I'd said I was going to rebel...I..."

"Was facing your mom," Naruto said, hitting Sasuke over the head lightly. "I'm not really the guy to talk about moms, but...I don't think I'd have run away easily. If it were mine. Besides, it didn't change anything. They would have been right behind us. You're not to blaim for Hiashi's death."

"I...if I'd attacked...if..." Sasuke muttered again, and found himself being hugged by Sakura.

"Dummy," she muttered, "As if that would have helped. Yes, you hesitated, because you're not a monster. She's still your mom."

And somehow, even though they never said the things he wanted to hear, it was enough. Even if it didn't make the problem go away, and it didn't promise that the next time that he was faced with something like that that he wouldn't freeze...it was at least something.

Sasuke didn't want to freeze up. He wanted to get revenge on Yumi for Sakura, and he wanted to make good his feud.

When he was younger, Sasuke had told Jiraiya that he'd wanted to show his family that he was just as special as his older brother was. Now, he had to chose something else. That goal was gone. His father was dead, his brother was in Akatsuki and his mother would probably attack him if they saw her again. Sasuke had failed his first goal, but he had made new ones.

"I promise, you guys," Sasuke said, "I'm going to get stronger, and I'm going to beat Yumi, and I'm going to crush that clan. I won't falter again."

For a moment, he thought he saw concern on the others' faces, but he assumed that it was only a shadow cast by the dying embers.


Anyone who knew Sound knew that the Fuuma clan had been the blood, sweat and tears of it. They had built this country, even when Orochimaru hadn't been there, and at some level, they had always believed that they would take it back. It wasn't surprising then that when news came of the disaster in Konoha that the rebellion followed so quickly.

Karin hadn't really thought that it was going to go that far thought.

It wasn't surprising that they'd lost. Not really, Karin had to admit that. The best fighters had gone with Orochimaru, so when the rebellion had come, there really hadn't been much of anyone to fight. That crystal user who Karin despised with all the hatred a twelve year old girl could muster had taken a lot of the experiments off and run. Presumably in hopes that Orochimaru would come back.

That had left all the rest of them to the mercy of the victorious Fuuma clan.

She'd never believed that Oto could fall. Well, she'd been proven wrong. Now, as a prisoner, she had to wait to see what they were going to do with her and with the experiments. Karin wasn't a kind girl, but at some level, she wasn't overly thrilled with people like Juugo, who really was more of a danger to himself, getting killed. Still, what else was there to do with him? Orochimaru had wanted him for some kind of experiment that had failed, but he was simply dangerous...

She wouldn't be killed, she was sure. Her abilities as a sensor were unmatched by any ninja.

Though, she had to admit, she had been pretty lucky not to have been selected to accompany Orochumaru-sama to Konoha.

"Oh, it's not fair!" she whined at the Fuuma guard, who'd long gotten annoyed with her and was still ignoring her, "Why did I have to get stuck here?"

Most of the prisoners also ignored her, though a few of them glared at her, and one them them, a white haired kid with very sharp looking teeth, chucked a fish bone at her.

"Oh, shut up, Karin!" Hozuki Suigetsu, an experiment who'd only been there for about two months and was therefore too mouthy for his own good, yelled. "You were loyal to Orochimaru, what are you whining about!"

She hated the feel of his Chakra. It was wet and slippery. Just like him.

Some girl with orange hair scowled at Karin, and Karin flipped her hair.

"You're confident," she said.

Karin smirked and arranged her glasses, "Of course! How could I die!"

The girl glared and stormed off, running towards a man a good deal older than her, who she obviously had a crush on.

How cute.

The man was talking to her in a low voice, and Karin could see the carrot top glance over her way. She smirked at the annoyed expression on the girl's face.

"Arashi-sama says that we're going to let you live," the girl said in an irritated voice, "But you're under my supervision, so if you set one toe out of line..."

Karin's glasses flashed.

Oh, this was going to be fun.

Suigestu snicked, "So, it's you, me and Juugo all together. Oh, this is going to be fun!"

"Juugo?" Karin blinked. Suigestu?

Maybe execution wouldn't have been so bad after all...


Camping wasn't easy. Even though most of the defectors had been young and there hadn't been many young children, it was still hard for Tsunade and Jiraiya to set up a genjustu big enough for everyone to fit in and not have someone accidentally walk out. That wasn't to mention the amount of Tsunade's time was taken treating the wounded.

She wished that Hakumei were there. Even the ones who weren't good at medical jutsu were at least able to work quickly. As it was, she only had Shizune, Isarabi, a girl named Ino, another girl named Tenten (who'd apparently decided that this was a good time to run away from home or something), and the few medics who'd fled with them to help.

Oh, and Jiraiya, but he was more trouble that he was worth.

The prisoners were at least being quiet. Well, the Sand siblings were being cooperative, and their teammate seemed to understand that if she didn't go along with things, the other two would cause her trouble. The sound prisoners that Hakumei had rounded up were all surly, but there wasn't much they could do about things.

The other Jinchuuriki, Yugito, had volunteered to patrol to make sure they weren't followed. Tsunade didn't trust her, so she'd sent Shikamaru and Chouji with her. If she tried anything, the Nara could easily capture her before she got too far. Even better, Yugito didn't know it. And it kept them from standing around worrying about their parents and getting in people's way.

Because of the amount of wounded, Tsunade had had to separate everyone who needed a medic into groups: those were were hurt, but only needed a little bit of treatment, those who were badly hurt and needed attention, those who would die without medical attention at that very moment. Most of the work involved her having to oversee Shizune or hold her breath and close her eyes as she used medical jutsu. It wasn't a surprise that everyone was so injured. Not really.

What was a surprise was when Chiyo, had started to help out. As she had to make poisons like any puppeteer, she was good at making drugs, and she making painkillers and disinfectants and both applying and giving them to the others.

"What are you doing here, Chiyo?" Tsunade hissed to her as they passed.

"Blunt and rude as ever, Slug girl," Chiyo cackled, "I was here to see how things were going to turn out, but now I've found something else more interesting."

"You realize that you're helping a group that attacked Suna's nin, don't you?" Tsunade asked. What was this woman up to?

Chiyo was dangerous. Even now when she was old and got tired easily. She was smart, and she hated Konoha with a passion.

"No, I'm helping a group who attacked the village that I hate the most, and they just happen to contain some old enemies that changed sides. Suna was stupid to make the attack, and I advised against it, but that fool of a Kage wouldn't listen. Besides, I speak on behalf of his children and make sure that they live. I do have some loyalties."

And she knew that no fool in their right minds would try to capture her. From what Tsunade had heard through Jiraiya's almost all knowing spy network that she wasn't that much weaker than she used to be. She'd been a monster when she was younger.

It was odd how circumstances brought together old enemies.

"And you're only interested in the children of a man who you rejected as leader?" Tsunade scoffed, "At least give me that credit. I'm not senile yet."

Chiyo cackled a little, "So, I suppose both of us have held on to our wits haven't we? Alright, I'll tell you. You're not going to leave me alone until I do anyways. I got interested in a little girl with pink hair who cared enough about a bystander to cut her chances of winning in half. Maybe it reminded me of me..."

She walked off, cackling again, and Tsunade blinked. Sakura? Chiyo had taken an interest in Sakura of all people. She should probably be proud. Her little girl was going around getting allies. Or whatever Chiyo was going to be.

Tsunade supposed that beggars really couldn't be choosers, and Chiyo hadn't used poison on the subjects, and she wasn't in the position to afford distrust.

This was truly the worst place to be in.

To be trusting Chiyo of all people...


It was late that night when Tsunade finally got to see Jiraiya, sitting in his tent, writing something down with Orochimaru laying there unconscious on the cot by him.

"Oto's had a rebellion," Jiraiya said as she came in.

"Who cares?" Tsunade asked, scowling at him. She wasn't in the mood for political games. She'd just nearly thrown up all over one of her patients because he'd been bleeding badly. Hemophobia was a really stupid thing for a medic nin to have.

"Well, aside from the people there, it's going to change things. Ibiki wrote to say that Konoha's been pretty harshly hit. It can't afford to sent any of its troops in pursuit of us because if they do, they'll be open for an attack by someone else. Oto and Suna are both busy with problems, it appears that no one knows where the Kazekage is, and people are starting to be afraid that he was dead before he even talked about the invasion. We should be able to make a clean get away."

There was a moan from the cot.

Both Jiraiya and Tsunade turned around, both of them ready to attack, as Orochimaru opened his eyes.

For a while he stared at the ceiling, but then he looked around, and his yellow eyes fell on them.

"Jiraiya...Tsunade...where are we..? What are we doing camped out?" He muttered.

Tsunade jerked her head at Jiraiya how came a little closer to him. Tsunade noticed that his hair was a little more spiky than it usually was.

"What's the last thing you remember?" Jiraiya asked, trying and failing to keep a light tone.

"The Kyuubi's attack was over...the Yondaime is dead...his son is now a Jinchuuriki," the shrug was clear even though he sounded tired, "I went for a walk...and that's it... were we attacked?"

He looked angry, but it was a familiar look of irritation that Tsunade remembered. The anger of a man who thought that he was too good to have fallen for such a basic attack.

Had it been...before, she would have reminded him how the basic attacks were sometimes the most effective, and that would have started out some debate or other with Jiraiya chipping in when he wasn't busy with something. But it wasn't before, and Tsunade was sure anymore.

How could she just...let go? After all this time, all this anger, she was supposed to just forget it? What if he was acting? What if this was a trick?

What if-

Orochimaru looked between the two of them, taking in the mixed emotions on both of their faces.

"Something happened didn't it?" he asked, "Tell me. What happened when I was unconscious. Did Iwa go after the boy or something."

It was so logical. So like him.

Jiraiya finally moved, he leaned against the wall, still slightly out of striking distance, and grinned at him. Orochimaru gave him a suspicious look.

"You've got so much to catch up on!" Jiraiya said brightly, "You were kinda evil then, so maybe you don't remember anything, but don't worry, Tsunade and me are behind you!"

"Don't just decide things on your own!" Tsunade yelled before she could even help herself.

And then, just for one second, it was old times.

As much as it ever would be.


Kiba felt like he'd just been used as Yumi's whipping boy and then had Sora practice with that freaky claw of his on him.

And his mom hadn't even gotten to him yet.

He'd been found unconscious but beaten up by reinforcements, and his mother was trying to convince Danzou that the fact that Kiba had been spared meant that the children weren't completely lost to Konoha, and if they sent out a team after them, they might be able to reclaim them. Once she was done with that, she'd get to him.

Shino was gone, either captured or...defected...his clan was, as usual not telling anyone anything. They were a pretty secretive bunch at the best of times, but now, they weren't even talking to Danzou. Kiba had seen a small group talking together, so he had to suppose that they were debating on where they were going to stand on the issue of Shino before doing anything.

Uchiha Mikoto was talking to Danzou as well. Apparently, Masaru was Uchiha Sasuke. He should have recognized that stupid smirk...

Than again...he should have recognized a lot of things...

Naruto had to think that what he was doing was right. He couldn't have really turned against Konoha. He hadn't been saying how they needed to be crushed or whatever. Just that...he didn't understand something.

Kiba growled. He'd hated it when Naruto tried to be mysterious when they were kids. It was the most annoying thing. With this injuries there wasn't much that he could really think about other than that either.

Akamaru was still recovering, and he had no one to talk to. The only thing he could do was eavesdrop on people's conversations. At least he'd gotten to hear a kind of funny thing between some guy and his wife about the guy's habit of putting things into one container. She was saying how the last time someone had asked for an asprin, she hadn't been she if the pill would cure the head, dry up their cold, make them regular again or sedate them.

"Yumi? Are you alright?" Kiba almost sat up in bed as he heard his sister's voice.

"Of course," Yumi's voice was calm.

How did Hana know Yumi?

"I don't know, you've been through a lot, what with Itachi appearing again and all..."

"Don't talk about him," Yumi's voice had a definite edge to it, "Filthy coward. Now his brother's going down his path... Poor Mikoto-sama is distraught and to add Fugaku's death."

"You'll find them. You'll find both of them. You're the best, Yumi," Hana's voice was strained. Kiba knew that sound. It was the one when she was lying, but trying to comfort someone, "But...Yumi...why would Sasuke turn on you...Itachi was Akasuki, and Sasuke..."

"Who cares?" Yumi asked.

"Well, it's odd. We always thought that Sasuke and the others were taken by Iwa, but we never found any trace of them, not even in S-class records. Nothing. Maybe they really weren't lying and it wasn't even a branch. Why would the Sannin of all people betray us. If we could find out, maybe we could tell Danzou-sama and-"

"And what?" Yumi's voice wasn't sharp, it was more...bored.

"I don't know. Repair Konoha's reputation."

"Hana...you're a good friend."

"Heh," could hear the shrug.

"No, you're my best friend. You always have been. You've always been the closest person to me since Shishi died. I am grateful you know. You've...always done what you can for me, but now...I'm going to have to ask you one last favor."

"What's that?"

Kiba heard the sudden snap, but he didn't really know what he was.

"Give me the power to destroy Itachi. Thank you, Hana. I will never forget what you did for me. You'll be remembered as a hero. I promise that your name will grace the memorial stone."

Kiba listened for Hana's reply, but there was nothing.

Slowly, he began to realize just what he had heard. Bile rose to his throat. He reached to summon the nurse, to summon anyone, but Yumi's voice spoke again effectively cutting off anything that he had been about to do.

"Goodbye, Inuzuka Hana. For your sake, I will not harm your brother, no matter if he is listening. Your death alone is enough to grant what I want."

A scent wafted towards Kiba, something like smoke, but lighter and more metallic smelling. It was only then that he threw up and managed to call the nurse, yelling at them to look for his sister.

Hana's body was discovered with her neck snapped, and Uchiha Yumi was nowhere to be found.


Omake: Penance

"I feel terrible," Orochimaru muttered.

He and Jiraiya were sitting in the tent where Orochimaru was recovering. Tsunade had needed to go and

"You should," Jiraiya said, "It was very creepy. Particularly the pedo thing. I swear you were doing that whole 'I want your body' on purpose."

"At least I didn't finish that body transfer jutsu," Orochimaru sighed. That would have taken years to clean up. Not that he didn't want to figure out some sort of ultimate healing technique, but changing bodies probably wouldn't work very well. Souls were usually tied to a specific vessel. Prolonging the life and vitality of one vessel was one thing...

Jiraiya was looking at him with narrowed eyes.

Orochimaru narrowed his back at him. He could do it better.

"If you want me to prove how sorry I am, we're a little old for me to be walking around in girl's dress," Orochimaru said dryly.

"No, I have something much better while your recovering to show me just how sorry you really, really are," Jiraiya grinned in a way that Orochimaru found worrying and then made a hand sign.

In a puff of smoke a pile of books appeared next to them. All of them were brightly colored, most of them had faintly suggestive names, and all of them were written by the Great Jiraiya. Jiraiya himself had sat down and handed him one of the books. Icha Icha Dreams.

"Tell me what you think!"


FINALLY! HA! I DID IT! I GOT IT OUT! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Ahem.

Right, so sorry and all that, but it's summer, so I hope to me back to my update every three weeks thing that I used to on. Hopefully, there will be no emergencies and I can make good that statement.

Additional Notes:

Orochimaru's point of view: That was the most choppy, difficult thing I've ever had to write. I'm trying to show how damaged he really is mentally, and how his mind is pretty much having to build itself up around the damage. He doesn't remember anything after he got jumped, due to brain damage, and he's not going to remember. Ever. A lot of plots have amnesia as a thing that comes and goes, but, really, it's usually permanent. Did you really expect me to let Orochimaru off easily?

Mikoto: I remain unrepentant. I'm going to keep her characterization. My reasoning is simple: one, people change from when you were a kid to when you were older. Two, just because a person likes you doesn't mean they're a good person. In a good story, morality isn't determined by whether or not you like a main character, therefore, while Mikoto still was good friends with Kushina, I'm going to keep her characterization that I have going on. Though I might explain it somewhat more later.

Hiashi: That was easily the hardest and most emotional scene I've ever written. I simply hope that I did it any kind of justice.

Hinata's breakdown: She just didn't seem to be the type to seek comfort from other people. Judging by the show at least.

The Fuuma Clan: Does anyone remember the Part 1 filler where there was this girl named Sasame from the Fuuma clan that was approached by Orochimaru with a chance to get their power back? This is them. Well, when one powerful figure vanishes, someone's going to fill in, and Oto doesn't seem like the place where a total defeat and capture is going to mean that everything is waiting for you when you come back.

Hana: Yes, I killed her. Yes, I've been planning on this. No, I didn't write her a fight scene. Honestly, I don't know emough about her to make one, and I thought that it would be even worse if she was killed by someone who she had completely trusted. In case you didn't hate Yumi before, now you'll hate her. Why don't you think I've mentioned Hana before this too much? I'll discuss the ramifications of this in the next chapter. I'm really killing people off in this chapter aren't I?

Translations:

Hakke Kusho Eight Trigrams Vacuum Palm: This technique is similar in practice to Eight Trigrams Palms Revolving Heaven, but has a specific target rather than a general area. To perform it, the user precisely pinpoints the enemy's vital points with the Byakugan and releases a high-speed palm thrust. A "vacuum shell" compressed using the Gentle Fist is formed to attack the opponent's vitals from a distance, blowing them off their feet with tremendous force before they even notice they were hit.

Futon: Shinku Renpa Wind Release: Vacuum Serial Waves: The user takes a deep breath and exhales several blades of wind at different angles, by rapidly moving their head in various directions. The power of this technique can be dramatically enhanced when utilised in conjunction with the effects of extreme suction, such as that generated by the Baku, where the augmented attack proved effective enough to even slice through the defences of a complete Susanoo.

Doton: Shinju Zanshu no Jutsu Earth Release: Double Suicide Decapitation Technique: This technique conceals the user underground and drags the object of their attack down into the earth, robbing them of their freedom. In addition, they can start another attack.

Review!

~Pryotra