I do not own Masashi-San's very entertaining characters, nor using them for profit or illegal ventures. I'm just borrowing them for a story of my own.
Naruto: Another Tale
Naruto reached the village not long after dark on the fourth day since leaving the Sound Village. His team and Yamato were still a few hours behind him. He could have made it even faster, but he stopped to find and question Sound nin that were found in the area.
Sound nin that were, in fact, Leaf shinobi. No surprise there.
He quickly incapacitated the men sent out by Danzo, though even he couldn't pry his name from their lips, and then moved on. Still, it was obvious that the head of the Foundation, and his secret band were up to something.
He charged the kunoichi on his team to help take out any false enemy nin another the way, and moved ahead to do what had to be done. He, rather than Yamato, carried Jiraiya's missive since he was the faster of the two. He intended to deliver that message, and then tend to the treacherous shinobi himself. He was very close now to his ultimate goal, and he didn't want to be sidetracked by needless diversions now.
Not with what was at stake for him and Kyubi.
He continued to move, his body easily leaping farther and higher than any other shinobi could have managed in spite of the training and techniques they might possess. In moments, he was on the hokage's balcony, and he slipped into her window to find the woman sleeping fitfully at her desk.
"Hey, old lady," he grunted less than teasingly as he dropped the sealed scroll on her desk before her.
"Huh! Wha….! Naruto? You're back already? What did you find out? What happened?"
"I could tell you, but just so you'll trust my report, why don't you read that first," he suggested, nodding at the message scroll.
"Jiraiya sent this," she frowned, and opened it. "Why didn't he just…."
"He's still helping out back in the Sound. As to my squad, I left them outside the village to mop up a few stragglers around the village. Not sound nin, by the way. They're Danzo's men, posing as them."
She frowned, and wiped the sleep from her eyes as she pulled open the scroll, and read the words her fellow sannin had written. "This is….! Why would even he risk another war? I don't understand…."
"Frankly, I doubt you ever will. Some men just crave power. It's the way of the world," Naruto told her.
"I just want to be left alone, and to live my life in peace. Something I can't do with your ninja running back and forth hammering at each other over every little complaint," he grumbled.
"Well, whatever is going on here, we can't let Danzo lead us into war again when we only just managed to end the last one."
"You do know he has his own army, and has the support of half the elders in the village."
Tsunade didn't find that surprising. Most of those old farts were always arguing over every decision she made. Most of them had never wanted her named hokage. They'd rather have had Jiraiya, perv that he was, than her. Still, she couldn't blame them. She didn't have the best reputation. Or the best luck.
Only she was hokage, and she was in charge.
"Can I count on you, Naruto?"
"Considering what I can guess Danzo intends for me? Why not? But if I have to, don't tell me not to kill him if he pushes me."
"I hope it won't come to that," he was told.
"Right," he drawled less than convinced as she rose to her feet.
"Right now, we'd better gather a few people we can trust, and then go have a chat with Danzo."
"By now, he probably already knows I'm back, and is on his way here."
She frowned at that.
"You don't honestly believe he would openly move against…..?"
The sound of the knock was loud, and curt.
"Come in," she called.
Five of the nine elders walked into her office when the door opened. Shizune looked on helplessly as she was pushed out of the way when she entered with them. Danzo, and five of his own Anbu were among them.
"Lady-hokage," the older man smiled coolly as he glanced at her, and seemed to dismiss her as he turned to Naruto. "We have come to request you step aside."
"Step aside," the aging blonde sannin hissed, her own temper far from level.
"For the good of the village," he added, his good eye still locked on Naruto.
"Or your good," she asked pointedly as she noted the five elders with him were those that had always openly supported him, and undermined her. "Tell me, do your supporters know that you're having false enemy nin planted in the forest to instigate another war? Do they know you're trying to lead us into another senseless conflict to…..?"
"You know nothing," he spat. "Now, I order you to stand aside, and….."
"Order," Tsunade asked, and leveled her gaze on him. "I didn't see you on the walls fighting that day. I didn't see you in the streets when the village was infiltrated by snake nin. In fact, I didn't see you that day at all. One has to wonder whose side you're really on," she growled.
"I care only for the safety and security of this village, of course," she was told curtly.
"Then why did you try to assassinate the legitimate heir of the Fuma Clan just when they were ready to treat with us," she demanded.
She spun to face the elders, pointedly Utatane, and held out Jiraiya's letter. "And that comes directly from Lord Jiraiya, who was in place to prevent that monstrous ploy," she told them.
The older man turned to face Danzo, and simply stared.
"That old man knows nothing of what he's talking about," Danzo fumed. "Listen to me. You're bewitched by this….demon. I don't know what he intends, but he has you all enchanted by his….dark magics."
"As if I'd bother," Naruto snorted. "Frankly, I'm only here because it suits me to watch you idiots screwing with each other. It's fun to watch. Only you're messing with innocent people out there, and I don't like that."
"You! Don't like innocents suffering," Danzo laughed. "I thought you were a demon, boy!"
"Would you like to see how much a demon I am," Naruto growled as Danzo reached for his right arm still covered in thick bandages.
He froze, seeing all eyes on him, and stepped back.
"You trust him? Her," he demanded of the elders. "Fine. But when they lead you into ruin, remember I tried to save you. Next time, maybe I won't bother," he said suggestively, but Naruto wasn't fooled.
The man was still up to something.
"I'm keeping my eye on you, demon," Danzo spat before he turned, and simply stalked out.
"Well, that was…anticlimactic," Shizune murmured as the elders said nothing, but simply turned to follow Danzo and his followers out of the office.
Tsunade nodded her agreement.
"He's got something up his sleeve," she told her aide, and long-time companion.
"That goes without saying," Naruto grumbled.
"So, you're just here to watch us make fools of ourselves," she turned to ask him.
Naruto smiled at the hokage. "It's something he would believe. Do you really think he would believe the truth?"
"And what is the truth," she asked of him.
"Honestly," he said, looking right back at her. "I'm looking for a family. A place of my own to call my own. I was starting to think it might be here," he told her. "Now, I'm wondering….."
"It still can be," Shizune told him quickly. "Not everyone is like Danzo."
"You'd better hope not," he told her, and turned to her window. "I'm going to check on my squad. If I were you, I'd keep a very close watch on the wannabe."
Tsunade said nothing to that as he turned to vanish out her open window.
"Yeah. Keep a watch on both of them," she said to the Anbu who had been waiting in the shadows. "Just in case."
"Okay, that's weird," Choji said as he came into the restaurant to meet with his friends, and their senseis for the evening meal.
"What's that," Shikamaru asked as he looked up from where his head had been in his hands, trying very hard not to listen too closely to the 'lecture' Tamari was giving him about his eating habits.
"I went to invite Ino over to join us, and she was gone. In fact, they're all gone."
"Define all," Asuma told him.
"Well, you know she's been staying over at Naruto's lately. Well, usually she's there with Hinata, Ten-Ten, and Sakura. Only no one was there tonight."
"That's because Ten-Ten is out with Neji this evening," Lee smiled. "Apparently, our usually gloomy comrade has found a ray of sunshine to light his nights," he grinned.
Shino just rolled his eyes.
"And the others," Kurenai asked.
"Now that you mention it," Kiba remarked. "I know two others that disappeared earlier tonight, and haven't been seen."
"Two other….kunoichi," Danzo appeared out of the shadows behind them to ask brusquely.
"Why, yes," he nodded.
"That's five," Danzo hissed. "I should have guessed. I should have guessed. Go and find your witless hokage. We must stop Naruto."
"Stop him from what," Choji frowned.
"From finally freeing the nine-tails from his body, and turning that demon loose upon the world once more," he hissed.
"Why don't you warn her," Kurenai asked.
"Because she might not listen to me after a certain….misunderstanding earlier this evening.
Asuma and Kurenai shared a grim expression, and quickly rose to join him. "You'd better tell us everything."
"It's simple," Danzo told them as he led them out into the street. "Five kunoichi? I should have foreseen this. It's why he came here. I see it now. If he takes, and sacrifices five innocent souls who willingly accept his dark touch, then he can free himself upon this world again. I should have seen it sooner, but, like you, I was blinded by his apparent altruism."
"So it's a form of the five elemental seal breaker?"
Danzo nodded at Kurenai. "Exactly. And if I'm right, we don't have much time. You must hurry, because if he carries out this ceremony, you might not be able to stop him this time."
"You're right," Kakashi came out of the night to join them. "We'd better take this to Lady Tsunade," he told him. "I doubt she'd trust you just now."
Danzo said nothing to that as the silver-haired ninja eyed him somberly, then turned to race toward the hokage's tower.
"If we stop the rite…..?"
"If you time it right," he said. "You can weaken the jinchuriki enough that you can possibly kill him. Or bind him once and for all."
"He's right," Jiraiya appeared as if on cue at that moment.
"I thought you stayed behind in the Sound," Danzo snorted.
"Actually, I've been suspicious of Naruto myself from the start, too," the old sage told him. "Whatever he might have been before, Naruto is too bound to the Nine-Tails to be considered truly human now. When he started collecting kunoichi, I guessed he had an ulterior motive. Still, I hoped I was wrong."
"Obviously, you weren't," Danzo told him.
"We'll stop him," Jiraiya said solemnly, then eyed Danzo. "Just as we will stop any threat to the Hidden Leaf," he added before he turned to follow the path Kakashi took.
"Impudent sage," he muttered as the other two shinobi vanished in his wake, too.
Danzo looked back into the shadows. "Stay ready. If Tsunade falls this night, we might yet have our chance. First, and foremost, the fox-demon must be dealt with."
The men in the shadows said nothing.
"It's time for that favor," Naruto told Ino as he led the five women into the forest to a place carefully prepared for just this moment.
With the moon overhead, it was the perfect time, and the perfect place to carry out his ultimate plan.
"What is this place," Sakura asked, looking around as she realized the hard earth had been shaped into a square, and at each corner-point a small torch was placed in the ground.
"This," he told them as gestured, and Hinata walked willingly to the center of the square. "Is where I was bound to human flesh. This," he told them, "Is where we shall all shed the burden of that curse, and become greater than we are now."
"Greater," Sakura frowned as she was steered to one corner, and the torch placed in her hand.
In turn, Ino, Hana, and Cho, the last two nondescript kunoichi he had chosen in secret to better hide his hand all took their places before he walked into the center of the square, and put Hinata to her knees before him.
"Now, focus all your chakra on me," he ordered. "Let it all flow, just as I've taught you, and in turn, my chakra shall fill you. When we are bound, we shall begin," he smiled, thinking of what was ahead, and what dreams were about to finally be fulfilled.
"Yes, master," all five murmured in one voice as they opened themselves to him, and the ceremony began.
"Five Elements Sealing Jutsu," Kakashi and Jiraiya both shouted even as Kurenai and Tsunade came up on behind the other kunoichi to echo them, slapping glowing palms to each of the four kunoichi that surrounded the clearing where Naruto and his one, true bride knelt.
Naruto, standing over Hinata, about to slit her throat to free the fledgling demon within her, roared in fury even as he felt the seal around Kyubi within him suddenly swell and strengthen as the flow of chakra from the others was suddenly cut off..
Even as he screamed his outrage, Yamato rose out of the very earth, ignoring him, and touched Hinata's brow. Employing his secret wood release technique, the fledgling demon within her flesh died stillborn as Naruto staggered back, physically weakened for a moment by the sudden disruption in the ceremony meant to rebirth Kyubi upon the earth, and turn all four kunoichi into one-tailed fox demons that would follow him forever.
"We're grateful for what you did for the village, Naruto," Tsunade said as she came forward with the others after the kunoichi were quickly carried away by others that came forward to take charge of them. "But we cannot allow you to do what you planned here."
Naruto said nothing as he simply looked up at her from where he knelt, then abruptly lunged at her throat with outstretched claws.
"Suckered!" the hokage roared as she tensed to defend herself, only to realize Naruto had leapt right over her to flee into the trees beyond.
"After him," Jiraiya shouted. "While he's still vulnerable."
All five shinobi raced after the figure in black and orange, and managed to catch him even as he tried to flee into the thicker woodlands for cover. Kunai flew, as did powerful jutsu, and Naruto ducked, evaded, and managed to elude them until he suddenly found himself confronted by a scowling woman with a hard fist.
"We trusted you," Tsunade hissed, and drove her enhanced fist into his jaw.
He was flung back almost to the point where he had begun as the five nin converged on him again before he could escape.
"You're trapped. In this circle, you're just a man again, Naruto," Jiraiya told him. "Now, relent. We can reseal the demon, and give you your true life back."
"I have a life," he stood up, spitting blood.
"So be it," Kakashi said grimly, and his glowing lightning blade lit the night as he lunged forward, and Naruto fixed his eyes on him as he sought escape again, only to find himself surrounded by the other four who all stood ready to cut him off.
The moment he looked away, the copy-nin struck, driving his glowing hand like a living blade into his chest as his gleaming Sharingan lit the way.
Naruto just stared into his good eye as Kakashi looked into his pale, etched face.
"I'm sorry, Naruto," he murmured as he pulled his bladed hand back, covered in dark blood.
The younger man staggered back, visibly sagging as he clasped a hand to his chest.
Naruto choked, coughing up blood as he shuddered violently.
"Knew I should have…..tore out….."
He fell back, staring sightlessly at the sky as the Leaf shinobi began to close the gap around the apparent body.
"It's not a clone," Kurenai asked cautiously, eyeing the limp, bloody figure.
They all stared at the bloody, battered body, and Kakashi hissed as he suddenly jumped back. "Back," he ordered the others as a scarlet shimmering haze rose around the body. For a moment the haze took on a vaguely bestial shape as the searing energies began to char and consume the body before them until only ash remained.
Yamato put up a protective barrier as the flaming silhouette gave a silent roar, and tried to strike at them, but even as it did, it was already fading. Vanishing into the very air as the ash on the ground remained in a vaguely human shape with a few pieces of an orange and black uniform left behind.
"I think….that was no clone," Kakashi said after Yamato's barrier was lowered, and only the ash remained to mark the passing of the jinchuriki.
"No. It wasn't," Tsunade agreed, staring sadly at the end of a life that once held such promise.
"We'd better get back to the village. We still have a rebellion to finish quelling, and we need to tend those hapless girls," Jiraiya reminded them.
"Right," Kurenai agreed. "Thankfully, we were able to figure this out in time to stop it."
"Oddly enough, we have Danzo to thank," Kakashi remarked.
"That doesn't excuse what he tried to do."
"No. It doesn't," Tsunade told the Toad Sage.
"Let's go," Yamato told them. "We're done here," he said after he gestured, and the ground turned over on itself to bury the ashes that marked the end of the nine-tails, and its host.
No one argued.
"Were you followed?"
"No, master," the young kunoichi told him as she offered the carefully prepared pack to him. "Everyone is still focused on Danzo's people, or watching the other four kunoichi you chose. They didn't even think to look at me."
Naruto took the food, and eagerly devoured it as he smiled and nodded at her.
The ceremony had taken a great deal out of him. More than expected. Being interrupted had been anticipated, and so were his precautions. Still, it had been a close thing. Pouring so much of his precious chakra into the clone he used to deceive the shinobi at the end had drained him even more. Especially after the very convincing 'death scene' he had crafted for that toad sage. Enough that he was left very genuinely weakened.
"How do the others fare?"
"They are well. But no one suspects them."
"Good. Remind them to remain quiet, and acquiescent for the moment. I will call them soon enough. For now, they need to wait, and grow strong."
"Sakura fears the sealing jutsu might harm her, or your child."
"Their jutsus are nothing. Tell her so."
"I will," Ail nodded before she scooped up the empty pack, and turned to go. "I'll be back tomorrow night."
"Wait two nights. Keep to your own routines. We don't want the copy-nin growing suspicious, after all," he smiled.
"No, master," she agreed.
"Be patient. Our time will come soon enough," he promised.
For what those witless shinobi didn't realize was that that was more than one way to free a demon. And he had not been trying to 'free' Kyubi. He/They were already free. He was freeing the new one-tailed vixens he had created within his carefully chosen mates. And while the sacrifice of their flesh might have made that process easier, and faster, he could wait a few months to let the chakra-spirits now growing within his brides consume their hosts to become as he; true kami.
Then, they would finally put the Leaf, and all those like them behind once and for all.
He could not wait.
"I will obey," Ail agreed, having been 'conscripted' on one of her late night walks without anyone the wiser. The ambitious, eager girl was so ready to prove herself that she willingly accepted his mark to gain more power. As his sixth choice she filled the numbers needed to break the seals of human flesh not on himself, but on the kunoichi, she was kept in the shadows, ready to aid him or his other brides as necessary.
After all, every pack needed a servant.
He chuckled at that as the eager little girl scrambled off into the darkness beyond his hiding place in a cavern deep inside a cavern he had created just for his recovery. A cavern only those he touched could even hope to find.
Everything, he mused somberly, was finally going his way. Just as he/they had long planned and anticipated.
This time, nothing, or no one, would stop him from his intentions. After all, it was his destiny.
They called him Madara.
Arguably, the greatest of the Uchiha. Now, apparently the last.
He eyed the mountains that sheltered the Leaf Village, and focused on what only he could see.
Akatsuki had been lost while he had been distracted with that folly involving Sasuke and Danzo. Before he could return to aid them, the rogue jinchuriki had leveled his unwitting allies, and severely damaged his ultimate plan for peace in his ever warring world.
What he saw now presented a very dangerous development. Still, to act precipitously even against the weakened nine-tails would only invite further disaster. Better to wait, and watch. Bide his time. Then he would redraft his plans, and continue.
For Madara was possessed of a singular conviction. He was determined to see the fulfillment of his great plan for genuine peace. The Moon's Eye was more than a dream. It was a promise. One he had made the world years ago when he left Konoha, and its witlessly warring factions. He wasn't sure what the fox-demon was really planning just yet, but it didn't matter.
In the end. He would prevail.
It was, after all, his destiny.