Disclaimer: As the Manga might as well be "Sasuke" I guess it comes down to me to write "Naruto"- Even if I don't own it.
Summary: The Yondaime survived sealing the Kyuubi, and he sent Naruto out of Konoha under the protection of an Erotic Novelist, Chronic Gambler and aspiring Godaime Hokage. Now at the age of twelve, Naruto and his foster family return.
Previously in Diminishing Soul: In an unexpected twist, Shizune somehow unearthed an alliance between two of Konoha's enemy villages: Iwa and Kumo. However Shizune was knocked into a coma by Iwa's Chinsa Surapneru after an assault from a surveillance team. Tsunade and Jiraiya brought about revenge with the Iwa Ninja's death, which in turn caused the Chinsa Surapneru's parent: the Tsuchikage to pull away from the Alliance with Kumo. In a blind rage, the Raikage attacked the Tsuchikage.
Tsunade dabbed at Shizune's head with a wet cloth while sorrow in rested in her eyes. She had yet to recover her chakra after her latest treatment, which meant that she would need to spend time waiting for her body to rejuvenate. But she couldn't wait for ever. The longer she left Shizune, the more chance there was that she would never be able to wake up.
'Please wake up Shizune.'
Tsunade held her student's hand in her own, and brushed the brunette's hair out of her eyes. She made a split second decision.
"Jiraiya, call Konoha. We're bringing Shizune in to the hospital." She said reluctantly.
Jiraiya looked upon her, his features hard. "Tsunade you're sure about this?"
"I'm completely sure."
The toad-summoner stood up from his chair, and progressed to the desk. He quickly brushed out a message to the Hokage regarding Shizune's condition and their course of action before summoning a messenger toad with blood from his thumb and a single hand seal.
The fallen Kage held his face in his hands, blood gushing from his eye socket.
Above him, the other Kage brought back his kunai ready to strike. "Have you any last words… Raikage?" He asked with malice.
"How? Iwa's a weak village. How could you beat me?" The Raikage moaned, with pain etched in every one of his face's creases.
The Raikage was a well built man with dirty blond hair and dark eyes. His skin was steadily growing paler as blood spurted through his fingers which cradled his wound.
"Iwa is statistically a weak village because of its' low numbers. But our individual skills are strong. You won't be making that mistake again, will you Raikage?" The Tsuchikage said with mirth, before slashing the Raikage's throat.
He slashed air.
The Tsuchikage's amber eyes darted around the room. "You're clever. I never knew you were proficient in Genjutsu, Raikage."
The Raikage's voice echoed back, "there's a lot you don't know."
"Indeed there is. I understand that you cast a Genjutsu to affect both my hearing and my vision? Clever." The Tsuchikage said with genuine praise in his voice. "But I will end you now." His voice was lilted and it held a rhythmic quality which matched his seemingly sunny personality.
"Doton: Kibo Kujo no Jutsu. (Earth Technique: Structure Destruction.)" The Tsuchikage muttered, before his hands were encased with rock. He slammed his fists against the wall to his right, causing it to crumble inwards. Hairline cracks climbed along the other walls like a spider's web as the Tsuchikage escaped from the collapsing room through his newly-created door.
"Bastard!" The Tsuchikage heard the Raikage roar behind him, as the bloodied leader of Kumo fell into a pile of debris. The Tsuchikage eyed the damage he had caused and he considered Gatou's dead body. He would have to retrieve both corpses. He approached the rubble with a reluctant sigh. He had just killed the Raikage. Trouble was quickly approaching Iwa, and he had no idea how he could stop it.
His wisened and aged eyes closed slowly in realisation- he would have to ally with another village if he would be able to repel Kumo's forces. But who to pick? Konoha wasn't an option. Suna was already in an alliance with Konoha. That left him with Kiri (Mist), Kusa (Grass), Taki (Waterfall) and Ame (Rain). Taki and Konoha already had an alliance of sorts. Kusa and Ame were close by, but also had a peace agreement with Taki.
That left the Village Hidden in the mists. 'I'll need to set up a meeting with the Mizukage.'
A summoned toad, red in colour and as tall as a house appeared next to the Hokage's office. It was a surreal setting. Civilians that had been passing by pointed and waved at the toad, which waved gently back with its webbed hands. The street had been fully eclipsed by the toad's bulbous, warted head, and a retired Ninja who had been on a stroll muttered about 'irresponsible whippersnappers.'
The toad's tongue shot straight through the Hokage's open window, plunging a small letter into the already open hand of Namikaze Minato. Konoha's Hokage.
"Thanks! Give my regards to Jiraiya and the others." The Hokage turned and said with a smile dancing on his face.
"You're welcome, honourable Hokage." The toad bowed its head gently, before dissipating in a vast cloud of smoke. Awed surprise from the audience the toad had drawn echoed into the building and the Hokage's grin widened. Naruto's cradle still sat in the office. The regal but comfortable furnishings were sat just as they had been during the conversation Minato had with Naruto's guardians three years ago.
The Hokage flipped through a few lazy hand seals before applying a spec of blood to open the letter. Jiraiya was paranoid as usual. His eyes traced the curve and angle of every letter until the news registered in his head: 'They're coming back.'
Jiraiya and Tsunade led an entourage of toads and slugs, with Shizune lying peacefully on the back of her personal summon: Katsigi, who followed the Sannin carefully. The fire-red Toads carried enormous Wakizashi and Kodachi, and they were covered in thick platinum armour. Jiraiya jokingly named them the royal guard.
Naruto rode alongside them while gripping the antenna of a slug painfully. Said slug was sobbing hysterically. Naruto considered it a game, of course, and pulled all the harder. This resulted in Naruto being whipped off of the slug with a powerful catapult-like effect. After which, said slug collapsed into a puddle of ooze before vanishing with a powdery exit.
The blond child waited happily on top of a large boulder until the group reached him, and then jumped on another slug, which purposefully kept its antenna out of reach.
Luckily for the slug in question, Konoha was in sight. Unluckily for group, Kumo Ninjas just wouldn't stop trying to assassinate Shizune. Jiraiya tossed a dozen Shuriken with a sigh, each one striking its target. They continued on as if nothing happened, with Tsunade hopping lightly over the body of the leader with a spring in her step.
"Mizukage-sama, the Tsuchikage is at our doorstep begging for an audience with you!" The Mizukage's secretary called into his office- which was comprised of a hell of a lot of mahogany furniture, as well as a strange marking on the desk: The marking being that of the Sharingan.
"Oh?" The Mizukage voiced. "Then let his graciousness in." He finished with a simper. The office remained quiet for a moment.
The Tsuchikage appeared behind the Mizukage through the open window. "Thank you for your invitation."
The Mizukage showed no surprise, instead nodding sharply. "I understand that you killed the Raikage?" He said, his face fully blocked from vision due to a face mask. All that was visible was his short black hair. His eyes were hidden in shadow. Seeing the Tsuchikage's surprise, he continued. "You're here either to plead for an alliance, or to kill me as well."
"The Raikage's death was an unfortunate mistake. I am here to ally with you, in order to bring forward a stronger front against Kumo's attacks." The Tsuchikage said calmly, showing no signs of emotion.
"Why, oh why, would you want to ally with the Bloody Mist?" The Mizukage muttered with entertainment obvious in his voice, "I would hope that we are not your only option? I would have hoped that you would pick us due to our reputation as a real Ninja village."
"Both of those qualities led me to this village." The Tsuchikage reasoned, not wanting to offend his only way out of what could prove to be war.
"… I should hope so. But still! All is not lost, as I would be fully willing to ally my village with your own."
"You would?" The Tsuchikage said surprised in the easiness of the task.
"If you will do something for me." The Mizukage replied deviously. The Tsuchikage said nothing, and gestured for the Mizukage to continue. "I will join you in an Alliance against all forces, if you would join an organisation I have been forming. An organisation that is known as the 'Akatsuki.'"
Outside the office, the newly Academy-graduated 'Oni no Mizu' (Demon of the Mist) Momochi Zabuza listened to the proposition intently, albeit with wide eyes.
The Yondaime Hokage sat behind his desk with an internal grimace, and a very strained gin. An elderly Kunoichi sat in front of him, with squinted eyes, grey hair tied in a tight bun and beige overcoat covering her body. A lilac shawl was wrapped around her shoulders, and a dosing Basset hound lay in at her feet with a steady flow of drool pooling around her tasteless cream plimsolls. Crinkles were apparent laughter marks around the sides of her eyes, however judging from her appearance and ghastly personality- the laughter had stopped.
"It was nice meeting you." The Hokage said through a gritted smile, "I'll consider you for the job." The Hokage had explained to multiple nannies how a small red-haired child had been left and abandoned after the Kyuubi attack. These were auditions.
The woman sharply bowed her head before shuffling out the door at a snail's pace. The moment she had exited the office, with her Basset hound (the Hokage learned his name was "Teinei-kun!" from the woman's sharp barking command for it to catch up) trailing lazily at her heels; a flicker of chakra alerted the Hokage to the Toad-Slug Army entering the village.
The Yondaime had already set up a bed for Shizune. He hoped it would be to Tsunade's satisfaction.
"THIS IS NOT RIGHT AT ALL!"
Of course, the Hokage would not be so lucky. Jiraiya and Minato sat in chairs being berated by Tsunade. It wasn't the first time, and Jiraiya had his doubts that this would be the last. It would be a long day.
Naruto sat on the edge of Shizune's bed clapping his hands and roaring out at the top of his voice "Icha! Icha! Icha! Icha!"
A murderous look was apparent on Tsunade's face. She was pissed before, but now…
She cracked her knuckles, and fury was evident.
Jiraiya and Minato squealed like pigs.
"Akatsuki?" The Tsuchikage replied with confusion in his voice.
"Yes. It is an organisation that is comprised fully of S-ranked Ninja. Its' aim is to gather all of the Nine Bijuu (Mythical Tailed Demons) in order to use their power for Akatsuki's own devices." The Mizukage continued on, checking his nails for any imperfection. As if talking about gathering a terrorist-type group of Ninja were a common practice.
The Tsuchikage's brain was screaming, but he withheld all emotion. "Continue on. What is the power for exactly?"
"That…" The Mizukage said with the words on his lips, "is all we have time for today."
Outside the office, Zabuza was visibly disappointed. But now he knew what he wanted to do: He would serve under this Akatsuki. He wanted to be a part of this power. He vanished back into the shadows.
The Tsuchikage sat in silence. Gathering the Bijuu would be no easy feat, but it was certainly not impossible. The Tsuchikage opened his mouth to speak when the Mizukage cut him off.
"If we ally, that does not mean that all of Iwa is a part of Akatsuki. It just means that you would manipulate things to benefit us."
The Tsuchikage nodded. "I would manipulate my populace to turn a blind eye to your acts? Or that I would manipulate them to accept Akatsuki as allies as well as Mizu?"
"We would like to be largely unrecognised this early on." The Mizukage replied. "Other villages can't know what is going on."
"… Alright. If I receive full support of Mizu, then I am fully ready to ally our nations. Even if I am to become a puppet of Akatsuki." The Tsuchikage submitted, not fully understanding the agreement. A part of him didn't want to.
"It is done. You can now return to your village. Select a team of dignitaries that will visit Mizu on a common occurrence and I will do the same. I look forward to hearing from you… Tsuchikage." The man simpered once more, with an innocent smiling eye.
Feeling drained, the Tsuchikage began his long journey home. He didn't look forward to informing his advisors about what had just happened.
"Oh? And Tsuchikage. You cannot tell anyone about this agreement."
The Tsuchikage didn't look forward to having to explain to his advisors how Mizu would be helping Iwa out of the "kindness of their hearts."
"Don't worry Tsunade-hime; I'll be sure to take care of Shizune." The Sandaime promised his former pupil. The Yondaime had left Konoha shortly after organising a new room for Shizune in the hospital, and he was heading to Mizu. Word was that the Mizukage had big news about Kumo and Iwa's alliance.
Minato was pretty sure it was a trap, but he had left regardless. On the other hand, Jiraiya and Tsunade were preparing to leave Konoha themselves. Sarutobi would be back in charge. He was not thrilled. In fact, the well-respected God of Ninjas was grumbling.
"Whippersnappers and their lack of respect…" He went on grumbling. He sat at Shizune's bedside during the few hours he wasn't busy in the day. Tsunade had made him promise. She had then proceeded to drag off Naruto and Jiraiya, the child still roaring "Icha, Icha!" and Jiraiya coloured black-and-blue. Tsunade was bitter about leaving of course, but Naruto couldn't stay within Konoha for too long. And she couldn't trust the perverted man with Naruto, no matter how often the brat played mind games with her.
Shizune lay before him pitifully. Sarutobi knew what her aspirations were, and he knew that she wished to become Hokage. He also knew that she would never receive the title. While the Yondaime was alive, Shizune would never achieve success as Konoha's Hokage. Namikaze was, and is, a brilliant Ninja after all. And even a woman of Shizune's bravery and beauty would not change that.
Sarutobi felt sombre. She was training for no purpose. She was comatose because of the dream of becoming Hokage. She was almost brain-dead for no reason.
It seemed that the ambition of being a Hokage was indeed cursed.
'What a depressing thought.' He grumbled internally now. It wouldn't do for his negativity to rub off on her.
"Sandaime-sama, you called?" A light-toned female voice called from outside the room. The door slid open.
"Greetings, Hinia-sama." Sarutobi said with a large smile. The Hyuuga woman who stood before him was a kind, if meek beauty. She stood tall near Sarutobi's own height, and had her long flowing indigo hair tied behind her back loosely. She ran a well manicured hand through her hair- a nervous habit of hers- and smiled.
"It is nice to see you." She said politely. This phrase was one of courtesy. However Hiniateru always managed to make is sound sincere. 'She's a remarkable woman.' The Hokage thought, 'she reminds me of my late-wife.'
"Hinia-sama, I asked you to come here so you could check on Shizune." The Hokage said, his voice still kind, but with more professionalism.
"Shizune? Tsunade's back in the village?" The Hyuuga matriarch asked curiously.
"She was. In an attack, Shizune was defeated. Tsunade and Jiraiya then wanted to travel on. They'll be sending updates through a summons so that Shizune can find them when… If she wakes." Sarutobi said grimly.
"So Tsunade cannot heal Shizune? She can't bring her out of the coma?" The medic-nin enquired gently. "They're giving up on her?"
"No!" The Hokage said with a start. He saw that Hiniateru meant no harm, and he calmed himself. "No… Both Jiraiya and Tsunade care for Shizune. In fact, they are heading to the Land of Snow following a rumour that Tsunade heard about bringing patients out of a comatose state."
"That sounds great!" Hiniateru said happily, clenching her fists in happiness and partly in desperation. "They'll find a cure. They're part of the famous Sannin after all!"
Sarutobi could only nod. It was best to have hope. Even if there was very little one should have.
Shizune's Will of Fire would have to burn brighter than ever.
The Yondaime Hokage, Namikaze Minato shot through wildlife and forests with speed greater than any other. He vanished and appeared with great speed, covering distance larger than even speed experts could master.
And he always flew with a yellow flash.
'Kiri's ahead.' He noted casually, he weaved through more trees. 'The defences are low- intentionally so. Definitely a trap. Entering said trap will let me find out more. I need to find out more.' He thought with intensity. Waves crashed in his aquamarine eyes, and he shot through leaves faster than a bullet.
Namikaze Minato was determined.
He swam through the air in a translucent vision of gold, ducking through weak Gennin guards and feeble barriers. He felt that presence of evil before he saw it. The Mizukage.
In broad daylight the Mizukage was not concealed in shadow. His eyes were visible. The cruel eyes of a Sharingan user bore into Minato's own. And all Minato saw for several seconds was black and white.
'I will blend those monotone colours with a copious amount of red.' The Mizukage promised inwardly.
"So it's you? I knew it. Uchiha Madara!" The Yondaime called out, much to the shock of the bypassing Ninja of Kirigakure.
"So even inside my illusion you are still conscious? Such an impressive Ninja. And definitely worthy as a successor to the previous Hokage." Madara said slyly, a sharp glint in his eyes. "But you still do not compare to the Shodaime Hokage. No other man could ever hope to surpass Senju- Other than me anyway."
"The Shodaime? You hold a long grudge, traitor to Konoha." Minato said with a hard expression.
"Traitor? I was no such thing, whelp!" Madara snarled, "Pray to your Gods, you'll need all the help you can get."
"Who needs help with a tired old has-been like you? The Youth of today's world will conquer the old and irritable." The Yondaime replied with a scowl.
"Whatever, prick." Madara said before appearing before him to reveal the fury of the Uchiha.
Tsunade, Jiraiya and Naruto filed around a small ferry quietly. Shizune had held the group together. She had been Tsunade's younger sister, Jiraiya's only daughter and Naruto's best friend.
Tsunade refused to shed tears about the youth's situation now, and she knew that the answers to all of her questions lay ahead in the snowy peaks of the mountains before them. Snow Country loomed over the viridian seas, and while it's enormous size appeared to be close… It was still far off. The journey through Fire Country had been quick, and boarding the boat took a surprisingly short amount of time as well.
It was obvious that whatever God above them wanted the trio to find a cure quickly. Tsunade only wondered why a God would be so interested in Shizune, when her beloved Dan and Nawaki had been equally worthy of life.
Jiraiya had high hopes for their journey into the frost, not only for Shizune; but for Naruto too. He sought new techniques that Naruto would one day be able to use in the Snow Country. He had a feeling they would prove their worth.
Naruto on the other hand was subdued because a seagull was watching him. It had been watching him for a while. He glared back at the bird, which in turn glared back at him.
The seagull was beige in colour, with small black-beady eyes. It didn't even look real.
Tsunade and Jiraiya didn't notice the seagull. Nor the man that created it, with long dark hair and bright blue eyes. The man stood at average height with a muscular build. The only odd descriptive factor regarding this man was the mouths that were built into his hands.
However they did notice the loud word he yelled:
It was too late.
The ferry erupted in a ball of flame, and waves crashed against the distant shore of the Snow Country's coast.
In the ocean's depths and underneath the piercing flame, viridian met vermillion. And the Kyuubi no Kitsune (Nine Tailed Fox) awoke from it's three year slumber.
Hiniateru sat by Shizune's side keeping herself busy with her young daughter. Her beautiful toddler Hinata. Hinata was now three years old and she bounced happily on her mother's lap, while Hiniateru made "Googoogah" sounds.
The two were so enraptured with each other, that they did not notice a twitch of Shizune's fingers or the wincing expression.
Nor her steadily diminishing vitals.