Chapter 32


The sentries on the wall stretched as the sun rose steadily in the east. They'd been on high alert all night, raised to that level by an apparently overzealous commander. They'd been ready for anything and nothing had happened. That and the fact that their shift was over lulled them into being complacent for the first time in eight hours. It was the last mistake they ever made.

There were twenty sentries posted around the wall, four in total facing the western forest. All four died simultaneously. In a green blur four bodies fell to the ground, their heads having been removed from their bodies, fountains of blood erupted and rained down. Shino didn't bother to look back at his work, instead racing around the top of the wall, his custom curved blades in his hands. Five… six… seven.

Three minutes later he had taken care of the wall guards. He sent a signal out to his insect brethren, who communicated his message to all the members of his clan. The purge had begun.

They poured like ants out of a disturbed hill. The members of the Aburame clan and the Inuzaki clan emptied into the streets. The dawn had now broken and their mission was a clear one. Cleanse all root and Iwa from their home. They came across a few stragglers and made easy work of them. Kiba was tempted to lead his people and attack the looming tower in the distance, his instincts telling him to take out Danzo, but that wasn't the plan. Instead he let the majority of his warriors engage in hand to hand combat through the streets. He looked back at the gates to his home and nodded in respect to his mother. She grunted in acknowledgement and a smaller contingent began moving the weaker members of their clan - the children and the pups - down the safe corridor that Shino had created for them. The streets and direction they headed down had no living Root or Iwagakue members left. They were met as they worked their way out by the likewise young of the Aburame clan, and those who they trusted enough to tell their plans to.

Within minutes the city was as empty of innocents as it was going to be. They melted into the forest and headed for the secret clan bunkers to wait for the result of the attack.

"They've started." Scorpion told Danzo quietly. They watched as the battle started to rage in the streets surrounding the clan quarters. Danza allowed himself a small smile.

"Fools. A direct assault. But it's the Inuzaki dogs after all. Can't expect big ideas from that bunch. I'm surprised at the Aburame's though." He waved at them. "No matter. We can now begin clearing out all traitors from this kingdom."

Scorpion nodded and leapt away. He met up with a large battalion of mixed Iwa and Root ninja, waiting for this moment. "Let's go."

The members of the Aburame clan were working in ever widening circles, moving in a line like fire ants, destroying everyone in their path. Shino had rejoined them and took the lead. Their territory was removed enough from the Inuzaki that he didn't need to worry about wasted energy crossing over already cleaned spaces.

They were met with very light resistance; the plan to take Danzo's troops by surprise at the shift change seemed to be working. Too well though, Shino thought. They should have hit a larger block by now.

As he crossed over into the grocery district an explosion rocked the street behind him, pelting him with stone. He looked back and saw several members of his clan down, their blood still a mist mingling with the dust in the aftermath.

A force of Iwa Nin charged up through a hole in the ground, engaging the flank of the Aburame clan. Shino turned forward. There had to be a frontal attack as well, in order to box them in. He was right; another force was advancing towards them at breakneck speed. At the lead was one of Danzo's four horsemen, Poison Frog. He spotted Shino at the lead and directed a squad of men ahead of him to attack.

If he was given to displays of emotion, Shino would have smiled. Instead he just tensed briefly then launched himself forward. He trusted his swarmclan, it was hard for him sometimes to remember the human terms- to be able to handle the enemy behind. The enemy in front he would handle himself.

Kiba led ten of his strongest pack members in a straight line towards Danzo's tower. It was sixteen blocks away, which any other day would have seemed very close, but today it felt like a lifetime away. They raced at full speed, facing little coordination among the enemies they encountered.

His instincts suddenly flooded him and he leapt off the ground high into the air. Akamaru followed him without hesitation. The ground exploded where their feet had been moments before. He looked back to see his clan members scatter to the side of the street as explosions ripped apart the stone road, their instincts to follow their leader saving them all.

As he sailed through the air, propelled forward by his leap, he saw a platoon of roughly fifty IWA nin burst out of nearby buildings, clearly trying to spring a trap on them. At the lead he saw one of Danzo's four horsemen, Snake. Kiba knew without thinking that this was the man who had triggered the earth jutsu that exploded their path. His eyes narrowed and he formed his fingers into claws, tensing his muscles and snarling.

His prey was before him.

Shino sliced through the coming soldiers like a hot knife through butter. They were packed too tightly to use effective jutsu against him, and none were a match for him in hand to hand combat. His training had allowed him to fight on instinct, his muscles responding with twitch like speed.

A nin rushed him with a long spear, thrusting it towards his torso looking to impale him. He didn't stop his forward momentum, bending backwards at the waist and dropping to his knees, skidding forward in the dirt under the pole. He sliced the man's legs off at the knees and then rolled forward and back to his feet running.

A pair of swordsmen swung at him simultaneously. He blocked both blades with his scythes and spun into the body of the one on the right. He kicked backwards cracking the man on the left's head hard enough for his neck to hit an awkward angle, and spun again preventing the swordsman he was rolling with from attacking him. Shino placed his blades on his shoulder and spun faster, removing the man's head behind him, and then broke free of the falling dead body to continue.

Forward, towards the real threat Poison Toad.

Kiba landed with a whoomp, sending a billowing cloud of dust into the air, leaving a small impact crater. His eyes shone golden yellow, his muscles tightened, and he furiously launched himself towards Snake,

Snake had no intelligence on this Inuzuki clan member, and he prided himself on knowing everything about the ninja in Konoha. One of the traits he was most known for was intense study of his enemies. So this unknown warrior before him was most disconcerting for many reasons.

Kiba moved faster than a man his size should have been able to. Snake dodged a swipe from those giant claw hands, but only barely. A growl and he dodged again, this time he avoided the snapping jaws of the giant wolf-dog hybrid that the man before him fought alongside. Their coordination was fantastic, certainly the best he'd ever witnessed.

But, he grinned and drew his poison needles. He could dodge, which meant these two as strong as they were stood no chance. He ducked under another swing and thrust his needles upwards, looking to strike quickly into the large forearms of Kiba.

His confidence grew to shock as Kiba sped up dodging the attack himself and spinning into a back flip, kicking snake in his jaw, sending him reeling back. He only had a moment to register the attack though as under the spinning Kiba a roaring Akamaru snapped his giant jaws at him.

Snake squirmed away from the attack and kicked out, hitting Akamaru in the snout sending him skidding back.

Kiba let out a low growl that felt like thunder rumbling, his eyes flashing a golden light. Snake sneered and lunged forward again, this dog would not get the best of him.

Danzo watched from atop his tower. He could see the two battles raging below him and nodded grimly. Things were going well. The two clans were small and not a match for his forces. They would be wiped out. He spotted movement beyond the Konoha walls and saw the line of women and children heading into the woods. He snarled. They wouldn't get far. He would send Scorpion after them when this battle was done and wipe them out too.

He looked back down. All of the fighting was to the north west and north east. Something told him to look south. He turned and glanced in that direction. Nothing.

The fighting had drawn his defenders north, leaving the south clear. Too clear.

He turned quickly and barked orders to Scorpion and Lash. "South! Something..!"

The tower rocked from an impact. Dust and stone smashing all around them.

A giant fist had come crashing into it, destroying the southern wall. Danza was thrown from his feet by the sudden impact as were the others in the room. The fist retracted, leaving a gaping hole and a creaking stone tower.

Danzo cursed and looked up at the giant member of the Akimichi clan, that boy Chouji, suddenly standing there taller than the tower itself. His height was impressive, surpassing that of even his father Chouza, whom Danzo could see also strode towards the south side of the tower.

He cursed, using every bad word he had accumulated over a long lifetime. He had underestimated this little uprising but he would not do so again. He had not gotten where he was by being stupid. The Akamachi were not famed for their solo missions. They were part of the Ino-Shika-Cho attack teams. This led him very quickly to two conclusions

One, that stupid Yamanaka girl was involved in this as well. He had been complacent in allowing her into his orbit.

Two, the danger was far from what was obviously in front of him. The Nara clan were brilliant strategists.

Lash and Scorpion were quickly at his side, gazing at the four, now five giants that were closing in on the Tower. Chouji had stepped sideways blocking the sun, his shadow covering them in semi darkness.

Shadows! Thought Danzo quickly. A barrage of Kunai erupted from the shadows on the stone floor. Scorpion stepped in front of Danzo and blocked / parried every projectile with ease. The shadow itself then reached out and grabbed for Scorpion.

The black hand that grabbed onto Scorpion shifted and began to bleed the black off, peeling away like tar, showing a real human hand beneath it. Danzo squinted in anger. The Nara clan had been holding back information on their abilities. There was no record of a clan member who could actually BE a shadow, only use them.

The hand pulled back quickly and the shadow form disappeared into the hundreds of dark crevices the room now held. One of Danzo's root lieutenants spewed forth a long stream of fire jutsu in a circle around the room, the shadows disappearing for a second. Long enough for Lash to make out the one shadow that shouldn't be there, the shape of Shikamaru Nara.

Lash moved like lightning and struck at the shadow, his fist connecting with the jaw of the black shape. Even as his skin touched the blackness it retreated, displaying the skin beneath it.

"Your Jutsu will not help you in here young Nara." Danzo growled at him. "No Chakra can be formed against my friends here."

The face of the shadow was dark again, but Danzo's stolen Sharingen eye could make out the outline of a smile. The attack wasn't over.

The same lieutenant who had used the fire Jutsu used it again, this time against Danzo from behind. His clothes and hair immediately caught fire and Pein lanced through every inch of his body. Ino's spirit smiled inside the root member as she leapt from him into another in the room, stabbing the previous host with a sword. As Lash and Scorpion turned to their leader to help him, Shikamaru threw a barrage of Shuriken at the burning Hokage. Several impacted with satisfying thuds. He allowed himself a single fleeting moment of elation, but that was short-lived.

Danzo however was not dead or dying, burning for his crimes. He had simply vanished.

"ku ku." Orochimaru laughed in glee watching the battle rage below. He and his apprentice Kabuto stood on a building far enough away from the battle so as not to be drawn into it, but close enough to see bodies falling.

"Our facilities have been cleansed Orochimaru." Kabuto said lightly, adjusting his glasses.

"Excellent. We've lingered here too long. Akatsuki would have heard about our temporary residence here by now and would be on their way to…interfere…with my research."

He glanced left and smiled. "There is but one last thing left to do…"

Sasuke landed softly on the roof and calmly glared at the two of them. "Are you ready?"

Shino narrowly avoided the poison tipped spear that was thrust with incredible speed towards his face. The Toad in front of him had a long reach with that spear, he'd not underestimate him. He brought his scythes across in front of his body and parried the spear to the left. Toad swung in a circle, the spear whipping around him, whistling as it came back around sweeping for Shino's legs. Shino shifted his balance to his back leg and raised his front leg over the sweeping spear.

He stepped down and forward, bending into a side spin, his scythes, whirling around him screaming for blood. Toad raised his spear, leaving the point down and parried both blades. He then brought up the spear rapidly hoping to catch Shino with the shaft.

Shino was a whirlwind with his blades, Toad dodging and darting his spear forward. Both knew that the slightest mistake would mean instant death. The ninja around them, both Iwa and Shino's clan alike stopped fighting to witness what would be one of the best weapon fight's they'd ever see.

Snake jumped upwards and spun, his needles spreading out from his hands like an umbrella of death. Kiba didn't block, he was just fast enough to avoid the falling needles. His claw like hands sought out Snake again and again, but the wiry ninja was slippery and kept evading his grasp.

Kiba's frustration grew, but he knew he could not let it cloud his judgment. This enemy was deadly, and delaying him from his primary task. He glanced back and saw that his clan as suffering losses at the hands of the overwhelming force of the Iwa nin. He could no longer play with this prey. He and Akamaru stopped suddenly a mere foot away from each other, seemingly giving Snake an opening and one large target.

Snake smiled. "That was your last mistake." His barrage of poison needles was something to witness as it resembled a solid wall of nails driving forward towards Kiba.

In a flash Kiba and Akamaru had merged and were a spinning tornado of teeth and claws that burst through the wall of needles and tore into Snake.

His death was quick.

Danzo had reappeared in another part of the room, seemingly unscathed. Even the burnt clothes and hair were back to how they were just a few minutes ago. Shikamaru recovered from his shock quickly enough to move positions into different shadows.

Their attack continued. Ino controlled the body she was in and swung her sword at Danzo. He parried the attack and Lash's hands closed on the head of this body. Ino leapt out of it into another nin in the room, avoiding Lash, Scorpion or Danzo. Figuring that they would be the most risky to try to possess.

Lash crushed the man's skull in his fists, and looked towards scorpion. He got a nod of approval. He tensed up and arms flexed low at his sides, he shouted and an explosion of air pressure escaped from him in a widening ball. Ino was expelled from the body she was in and found herself back in the bunker, in her own body.

'What the fu..?' She exclaimed.

Shikamaru felt it as his Jutsu was forcibly removed from around his body. He knew Lash's power, like scorpion was to cancel out jutsu, but he hadn't know about this ability to project the negating effects without touch.

The nin in the room focused on him, arrows notched to bows and being released. Thankfully the negating effect of Lash's Blast was temporary. He very quickly melted back down into the shadows and moved to the other side of the room. The fire user was dead so they had no way of removing shadows. He glanced at Lash but the man looked tired. That skill must have taken a lot of energy.

Scorpion had escaped out the window. No. Not escaped, he was attacking Chouji and the other members of the Akamachi clan. His speed and Chakra cancelling fists were going to be a problem.

Danzo barked "Shikamaru, today you die for this." He seemed to be looking directly at him now, despite being the shadow. But he couldn't possibly be seeing him, unless…

Shit, Danzo had a Sharingen eye under those bandages. It's the only explanation. It also explains why months ago Kakashi had been framed for murder. It was Danzo all along, Shikamaru thought.

That didn't explain how he survived being killed the first time, but Shikamaru was more than willing to try again. A quick survey of the situation showed him that this first attack had failed, but there were only five nin left, plus Lash and Danzo himself. Of course Lash was at least an S-class and Danzo was technically Hokage level.

Shikamaru needed backup. He hoped it was on its way.

Shino stood over the body of Poison Toad, his blades dripping with blood. The man's body had been sliced in three, from waist to shoulder on both sides. The fighting around him had resumed, his swarm decimating the Iwa ninja. His instincts told him he was needed at the tower. He saw the giant chouji fall backwards, shrinking as he did so. The chakra destroyer Scorpion had two whips out, one around Chouji's neck as they fell.

Shino glanced at the work his swarm was doing, making sure it was going well, then leapt towards the rooftops and the tower. As he ran he felt the presence of Kiba and Akamaru next to him, running silently and at incredible speed, keeping up.

The second attack wave was on its way.

Ino swore violently as she reached the tree line. She needed to be in sight of someone to take over their body. She scanned but could see no one around. Shino had done a good job of clearing the outside defenses.

She ran through the gates, coming across a battle. She jumped out of her body amongst a pile of other bodies, hoping her own body would be safe there.

She inhabited the body of an Iwa Nin gripped in battle with a member of Kiba's clan. She threw the sword she was carrying into the back of another Iwa nin, allowing Kiba's clan member to slash the throat of the body she was in. She was already jumping into another body. She rolled in this body – a pack member – and slashed at the ankles of a ROOT ANBU. She left the body, and jumped into another enemy. This one had a short sword that she liked. She threw the sword high and in the direction she wanted to go. She left that body and into another, smashing the face of a ROOT with a hammer. She jumped again and she changed her swing, missing the clan member she was about to kill, instead cutting the arm off an Iwa nin. Again, she ducked under a swing. Again, she clubbed a man over the head and leapt over his body.

Finally she was in the body of a female ANBU whose mask had been torn off. She rolled away from the fight, caught the sword she'd thrown earlier as it fell, and rolled up and into a run towards the tower.

Shikamaru had to admit he was outclassed. Danzo himself was attacking him, clearly seeing where he was in the smallest of Shadow. Only the fact that he kept himself clothed in shadow prevented the others from joining the fight. Lash looked like he recovered enough and was about to join in when two shadows slipped into the room.

Kiba and Shino made quick work of the regular nin. Lash turned his focus to them, leaving Danzo alone to fight Shikamaru.

A small blur entered the room, and suddenly Hinata had joined the fray, lashing out against Danzo. Her diminutive frame moved with the utmost fluidity, her strikes though were clothed in a harsh blue light in the shape of flaming lions. Danzo found himself attacked on two fronts, a much stronger than he realized Hinata Hyuga and an advanced Shadow User Shikamaru Nara.

More than this he concluded that if the little Hyuga was siding with these rebels, then most likely her clan was as well, and that could turn the tide against his forces on the ground. If he had been able to look in fact, he would have seen Hiashi Hyuga leading a force in the north flank against his soldiers.

East Gate

"Mmmm... do you taste that sister?" The sinister voice of Tessai said as three silhouettes walked through the dust and smoke of a deserted street in Konoha.

"Blood in the air." Benisato smiled. Her long snake like tongue flicked out tasting the air.

"Let's have some fun, before we get what we came for." Tessai growled in anticipation.

Bōkyōsei shrugged and they walked towards the battleground.

West Gate

Six shapes clothed in black cloaks with red clouds on them landed in a semi-circle in the ground facing the western gate. Each a different size, all had one thing in common. Each had black decorative spikes protruding from their bodies in different places.

A seventh appeared, a woman with a large flower in her hair.

"A battle rages inside the walls." She said.

"Two are supposed to be here." The six spoke in unison. "We will find them now."

Roshi the four tails host stirred from his drug induced coma. He blinked slowly, his eyes burning from opening after so long. He closed them tightly. He heard faint sounds of fighting. That must be why they missed his last injection. Since Iwagakue had lost the war he'd been chained to this table and kept drugged.

Roshi was no fool. Danzo didn't trust him, and rightly so for he would not forgive the assassination of his kage so lightly. He reached inside himself, feeling the presence of Goku (The four tails). Good. They'd not been able to find another container for his friend.

He heard breathing next to him and turned his head. Han was likewise awakening from his drugged state.

"Roshi." Goku's voice whispered up from inside him.

"Goku. It is good to hear your voice." The table they were on had some sort of seal on it to suppress the tailed beasts as well.

"Roshi, we must run." Fear was vibrating through Goku's voice. "They are here."

"Run? Who's here?" Roshi asked, shocked that his brash friend seemed to be afraid.

"The three generals, I can feel them. We must run. Now! Break free my friend; I will lend you all the power I can get through this seal, we must run now!"

"I cannot sense the beasts right now." One of Pein's bodies said aloud.

The fighting still raged on, to the point where no one was even noticing the newcomers, or if they did, it was not en masse.

"We must get their attention."

The Pein(s) leapt back out of the city and the orange haired one gathered his chakra for a minute.

He raised his hands towards the walls of Konoha.

"Shinra Tensei." He whispered.

The Demon General Tessai raised a struggling member of the akatsuki clan up and bit off an arm. A swarm of bugs fell out of the body, racing away from the demon. "These have good bits inside them." He munched with his mouth open. "Full of energy."

The three of them turned and looked up at the tower in the center of the town.

"Did you feel that?" Tessai asked.

"Of course we did fool." Benisata sneered. "A powerful battle rages. Let us go s…"

They turned quickly away from the tower and stared to the west. Alarmed, as one they jumped away and high into the sky.

Roshi held up Han and together they staggered out of their dungeon and into the street. They were at the base of the new Emperor's tower. Bodies of fallen nin littered the ground. Roshi was bleeding profusely from escaping his restraints. The blood had slickened the metal enough for him to break his joints and slip through.

He looked to the west alarmed at what he was sensing.

"Han my friend, it is time we...grunt...disappeared." He dragged his friend as fast as he could towards the north, racing against time and towards a spy tunnel that Iwagakure had once used against Konoha. He hoped it was still there and he hoped he would make it before…

Danzo once again appeared to be unharmed. Shikamaru didn't know what Jutsu he was using, but he was able to deduce certain aspects of it. It was a time reset, and it only seemed to affect him. There was battle damage to his clothes and his skin that did not always reset. From Shika's calculations, he only reset about thirty seconds back when death occurred.

He also noticed an involuntary clutch twice of his right arm that was always also heavily bandaged. Whatever jutsu it was, it seemed to be tied to that as well.

Lash was holding his own against both Kiba and Shino. Danzo proved to be a skilled warrior as well. He was using many techniques he should not have been able to. This lent more credibility to Shikamaru's theory that he had a Sharingen eye under that bandage. Hinata had taken some damage, one of her arms was held close to her body now.

Shikamaru let the shadow consume him deeper. The black silhouette that he became at this level was almost…crazy in a sense. He felt wild and dark. He smiled at the sensation of battle, of death. His grin in fact split his face nearly in two, so inhuman it was. He lunged towards Danzo, determined to end him.

Lash's sword clashed with Shino's blades and parried them. The insect-man before him was ridiculously quick and skilled with those scythes. A low growl and he narrowly ducked under a swing of the bear like fist of the animal-man who fought alongside the other one. These two were a very real threat and he couldn't afford to hold back.

As one everyone in the room stopped fighting and looked out the balcony to the west.

Shikamaru shouted at his friends, though he needn't have bothered for they were already moving. "Run!"

As one all the combatants in the remains of the Emperor's Tower sped out of the gaping hole in the south of the room and fled to the east.

A giant chakra wave of compression rolled like a tsunami through the village of Konoha. Those fighters who were able to detect the wave before it hit, were racing east away from it. Many could not move fast enough and were crushed under the weight of the Jutsu or hit by the flying debris of crumbled buildings.

Inexorably the wave rolled and crushed, pushing the entire village up against the cliff that still held the faces of the four Hokages. Screams and dust filled the air.

Pein looked impassively at the destruction he'd just wrought.

"How are we supposed to find the tailed beast host in that now?" Konan asked him, frustration showing on her voice.

"We won't have to." Devo Pein responded. "They will come to us. Very few would have survived that attack. The beasts would not have fallen."

"Well I still don't sense them." She grumbled. Her eyes narrowed. "I do sense something else though. Something, dark."

Three blurs landed with a giant explosion of rock and dust a few yards in front of them. As the dust settled the Demon Generals glared at the Six Paths of Pein and Konan in front of them.

"What's this?" Benisata snarled. "Who are you to interfere with our hunt?"

Bōkyōsei shook his head, his fingers grasping and closing in anticipation. "Don't bother, these are dead already. No life in them, they're meat puppets." His eyes traced looked far off behind them.

"Mmm. That is a lot of life force, so delicious." The quiet general smiled and exposed fangs beneath them. "I must have it." He disappeared in a flash.

Konan shouted at the Peins. "Run! Nagato! You must ru…"

Tessai snapped her neck and ripped her head from her shoulders with a sickening crunch, drinking the blood that dripped down.

Benisata swiped her sword in frustration, cutting all six Pein bodies in half, the cut bursting into a black flame that consumed the bodies.

"Bōkyōsei and his appetites." She looked back towards the rubble of Konoha. "I still sense the shards, they're somewhere far, moving further away. Heading north east."

Tessai wiped the blood from his chin. "Yeah yeah. We'll catch up, stop whining."

Bōkyōsei approached the tree with abandon and entered gleefully. Inside he saw a man with a multitude of spikes extruding from his body. The man was breathing heavily. He know that the energy required to control the six puppets he had seen must have been draining, so he didn't exercise the caution he should have.

Nagato looked up and froze Bōkyōsei in place, his circular ringed eyes flowing with tears. Bōkyōsei stood frozen in shock, unable to move as the power of the Rinnegan welded him to the spot.

"Yahiko" Nagato whispered angrily.

He focused his power on the demon general before him. With his avatars gone, all of the power of the Rinnegan was back under his immediate control. He had used the Deva path to lock him in place, both pushing and pulling him at the same time.

Now he activated the Preta path. The demon general tried to shift in place but all that could move was his eyes. He felt the tug at his chakra from the disabled man before him. He managed a smile.

Nagato felt the power start to drain back into him and he convulsed and coughed, wracked in pain.

The general was freed and chuckled while approaching. "Demon chakra is heavily tainted. It has been for centuries, since before it was called Chakra. When it was called Saidin, the source of all.

He crouched down to lift Nagato's face up to look at him. "Those eyes are interesting. I knew a human who had them a long time ago. They'd been… useful…in dealing with a particular enemy. You may prove your worth to me after all." He touched Nagato on the temple and the Rinnegan user fell into a deep coma.

He picked up Nagato and headed back to meet the others.

Danzo, Lash and Scorpion stood on top of the stone head of the Fourth Hokage surveying the destruction below them.

"The leaf is no more." Danzo declared. Funnily enough, it didn't bother him that much. His goal, or so he thought, had been to make Konoha the strongest village. But he realized he'd transcended that ambition, and now aspired to something larger.

"No matter." He turned to his Root captains. "The renovations at Iwagakure are almost completed. That will serve as our citadel for the foreseeable future."

"We will take this entire world, one country at a time. We will unify everyone under one banner, my Iron Fist." He glanced back at Konoha. "There's nothing left of value here. Come."

They melted back into the mountains.

Shikamaru got to the bunkers where the other families had gathered. They'd heard and seen the destruction of their village and a palpable silence hovered over the groups. Families huddled together. No one had expected today to go without casualties, but somehow they'd not expected this outcome. They had not lost the battle, but yet they'd lost everything.

He found his father and they shared a look. His father motioned with his head to the Akamachi clan. Chouji's mother was crying over his lifeless body. A victim of Scorpion's attack. Shikamaru felt a pain in his chest and he wanted to run away. One of his oldest friends was dead, thanks to his plan. This was the downside to leadership. Something he was not ready to handle.

Shino and Kiba approached the camp, the wear of battle showing on their faces. Shino's armor was splattered in blood, and Kiba's hair looked wild and matted in places. The both paused to pay respects to the Akamachi clan and to honor Chouji's sacrifice. After a few minutes the clan heads began to gather.

"There was a dark presence in the city when the wave hit." Shino said calmly.

"There was a strong user outside the city who was responsible for the attack." Kiba practically growled.

Shikamaru nodded. "I felt both." He paused. "Danzo escaped, with the majority of his forces that were stationed here."

Shikaku came over. "We cannot stay here. Without the walls of Konoha to protect us, we are vulnerable."

"And if we were to rebuild, it would take months just to get the walls up. During that time we would be open to attack." Shino chimed in.

"We must move." Kiba said. "Even to stay here a moment longer is a risk."

"Which way do we go?" The head of the Hyuga household asked as he came over.

"Danzo's forces are between us and Wave Country. Our sources say he has a large standing army readying to attack soon." Shikamaru said as he pulled out a map. "He's probably taken his forces from here and headed north to Iwagakure village. Assuming he's not circling around now to wipe out our camp. That rules out trying to get to Lightning Country."

He looked up at the others. "We're left with two options. Sunagakure or Tengaku."

The Hyuga elder balked. "I do not think our alliance with Sunagakure would hold enough for them to take in this many clan members. I wouldn't if the roles were reversed. I would assume it was a trick to get inside our walls."

Shikamaru rubbed his chin. "The Kazekage and Naruto are friends. We may be able to appeal to him nonetheless. The journey there is a great deal easier than the one to Tengoku." He looked at the people around him. "We have women and children with us. A trip across both Wind Country and the Badlands would take months. But…Tengoku is far enough away that Danzo would be hard pressed to attack us there. Not for a very long time. Time enough to regain our strength."

Shikaku shook his head. "We can contact both villages and see who would give us temporary refuge. We must leave this place right now. I'll send out a message to both."

With a heavy weight, the former clans of Konoha walked into the forest. Shikamaru looked back once at the four faces of the previous Hokages. "One day we will be back and will rebuild. I swear it."

Across the world


Two Days later

"Our sources say that the survivors are heading west. Which means either they're going to Sunagakue, or they're coming here." All eyes were on Naruto. Their leader for once showed no emotion on his face. In fact if there was one word to describe him it was impassive as stone. Like a statue.

Jiraiya continued. "Danzo is consolidating behind the iron gates at Iwagakure. His reach now stretches into Blood Country…" Nagi glanced up startled. "…where his men are claiming the mines. That money would be enough to finance his armies."

"Speaking of that, he also has an army gathering just outside the border of Wave Country. We estimate they will make a push across the border within the month."

Jiraiya put down his paper and sat back down. The people in the room were for the most part silent. All eyes again went back to Naruto.

He closed his eyes and released his clenched fists. He realized he'd been clenched so tight his fingernails had cut into his palms.

"Can you get to the Konoha clans?" Naruto asked Jiraiya.

Jiraiya nodded. In fact everyone knew the answer to that already, but clearly Naruto needed to talk whatever idea he had out loud.

Naruto continued. "Suna is a safe place, safer now with Ebizu and the Sandworms effectively locking off access to the desert. But it's up to Gaara if he will take them in as refugees. I'm going to go meet them and we'll see what they want to do."

"Also what do we do about Danzo? I know what I'd like to do, but what do you think?" he asked his friends.

"Eventually," Tenchi spoke up. "He's going to be a problem for us."

Tsunade shook her head. "His army is large."

"And it'll only get larger if we leave him alone." Tenchi countered.

Nagi spoke up. "It bothers me that he's raiding the Blood Country's mines."

Senji snarled. "Best we kill him and end this."

Naruto tilted his head and looked out the window to the tranquility of Tengoku. He didn't want to break the peace that his people here now enjoyed. Not to fight a war halfway across the world. But wouldn't that war eventually come knocking?

"Ok. First thing." He decided. "Ali!" he grinned wildly. "I offer your clan half and first selection rights on any and all loot taken from the armies of Danzo leaving the mines."

Ali opened his mouth in shock and then laughed outrageously. "No No, you must start low and negotiate up. Otherwise the bargaining is no fun at all."

"Ok 10 percent for you then." Naruto replied.

"Oh no no, fifty has been promised, fifty is accepted. But in the future, let me bargain a bit!" he laughed again. "Danzo would be lucky to retrieve so much as a brass coin from these mines."

Naruto smiled. "Ok, now the army by Wave, I'm open to suggestions on how to stop them?"

They all looked at each other. "I take it you mean short of just killing them all?" Tenchi asked.

Naruto grimaced. "If possible?"

"Well, we have the Vipers* in wave." Tenchi started slowly. "What if we sent them to take out the commanders? An army can't move without a leader. If every time they select a general or as far down as captain, the vipers can take him out, it would keep the casualties to a minimum and frustrate the army."

"Eventually that'll stop working though." Tsunade said.

"But a leaderless army can be dealt with more easily. If it comes to that." Guererra chimed in.

Naruto nodded. "Let's do that. As for Danzo himself. I don't know. Let's talk to the Konoha clans first and see what they want to do about him?"


*The Vipers are Iruka, Anko and Asuma. See Chapter 28-Burn.

Extended Notes:

I'm back after a two year absence! I'd tell you what I was doing, but it's classified. Thanks to all those who worried about me. It's been a rough couple of years, but it seems to be settling down. Please forgive any major plotholes or issues with abilities. I'm going on memory of my characters and what little notes I could salvage. I also posted without reaching out to my old Beta reader, just to hurry and give you patient readers something. (Next chapter will be better edited etc) So enjoy!

Also, Naruto's trying the no senseless killing thing out. Right now the Land of Hope (Never did decide on a better name), will have to wait as reality of war sets in. But don't worry lots of things are about to fall into place in the next couple of chapter! Thank you for staying tuned.

Sorry to kill Chouji. Would have been unrealistic to not have casualties. Plus I never understood how a target so large could survive battles.