AN:-WARNING THIS HAS NOT BEEN BETA'D. (I'll put the beta'd version up when it's avaliable). Sorry for the delay. I've actually had this written for a while, well the basic of it, I was never completely happy with the battle and have re-written it countless times until i ended up with this copy which I'm happy with. Hope your happy with it, feel free to comment. Cheers Nova

Chapter thirteen – Motivating Laziness

Konan had walked this passage to many times to count over the last three years and every time it was the same. The sound of her sandals echoing off the walls, the single light bulb flickered constantly, occasionally plunging the corridor into darkness, droplets of the heavy rainfall from the outside would seep through and drip onto the dirty stone floor as she walked.

She really wished that Nagato had never discovered this chamber, but in the grand scheme of things that was very low on the list of things that she wished that Nagato hadn't done. But yet…she had an ominous feeling that the worse had yet to come.

The chamber was something that Hanzo must have had constructed at some point during his reign, Konan personally thought it was from the second great shinobi war…used for holding his prisoners from the other countries if the number of cells which lined the corridor was any indication.

They where now nearly all empty. They had no need for holding cells anymore; the war in Ame was over after one last bloody battle which she had overlooked from the skies safe as Nagato had said, far from any harm.

The exception however was a small, barely big enough for one human being, cell that sat right at the end of the corridor. This cell was not empty like the others, and hadn't been since Nagato had usurped power, for init chained to the wall like some rapid dog was her old Sensei. It still surprised her to this day that Nagato had spared Jiraiya, when she had watched Jiraiya plunge to the depths of the Lake of Amegakure she was sure Nagato would kill him upon sight when he remerged… but he hadn't. He had battled Jiraiya to the point where the toad Sage was well and truly incapacitated; he had lasted longer than all Nagato's previous opponents, causing more damage to Nagato's bodies than anybody had ever managed…even managing too completely destroy one. In the end however Jiraiya was no match for the five remaining bodies and was simply over powered, it was then that Pein dragged the injured Jiraiya to Hanzo's former headquarters.

Amegakure had changed almost instantly under their rule. Those who didn't wish to live under Pein's rule fled, no doubt seeking Asylum within the stronger villages of Konoha or Iwa but some had stayed, pleading false loyalties to save their own hide. The village of Ame was still very much a work in progress, some buildings where still showing the signs of some of the battles which had taken place and they still weren't getting the level of employment for the villages' shinobi that they would have liked but there was enough. At first it looked like Amergakure no Sato would prosper under Nagato's leadership and for a while it did but as time passed Nagato became increasingly detached, spending larger and larger periods of times locked away in Jiraiya's cell.

Nagato's neglected duties where filled by her. His absence only seemed to fuel the villager's fascination with him, they elevated him from leader to some mythical being that they where not worthy off. Konan herself was elevated to the status of his 'angel'.

Coming to a stop in front of the last of the corridor there was a dim light flickering from underneath the door, signalling that once again, Nagato was at least present in the cell. Quite what her old friend did during the countless hours he spent within Jiriaya's cell she didn't know, but Konan knew it was of the utmost importance to him. Anything Nagato put his attention to was undoubtly important.

Knocking lightly and hearing no answer, Konan pushed the door slightly not wanting to startle Nagato, opening it just a fraction allowing light to poor out of the crack and allowing her just a fractional glimpse into the room. Jiraiya was still chained to the wall, he looked frailer and older than he had done when he had first came to Ame, his clothes where dirty and blood stained and hung of his now frail body, his long white hair was shaggy and tangled covering his face.

In front of Jiraiya stood one of Nagato's 'bodies' the one named Preta Path, whose power lay in absorbing chakra. Opening the door a touch more, allowing herself entry to the room, Preta path had it's chubby, heavily bolted hand pressed squarely into the chest of Jiraiya no doubt keeping the toad sennin alive on the barest amounts of his Chakra whilst absorbing the rest. To Preta paths left stood the long haired, almost feminine looking form of 'Human' path, his hand clasped tightly on top of Jiraiya's head, his long spindly fingers lost in the wild white mane of Jiraiya's hair.

And to the left of them, sat almost on his own on a simple wooden chair was 'Deva' path. The body of their former ally, leader and friend Yahiko staring blankly at the moss ridden wall in front of him, he seemed almost unaware that Konan had even entered.

"Nagato?" She asked quietly, announcing her presence tentatively.

Deva path blinked like he was suddenly aware he was back in this dingy little prison cell. His rippled eyes scanned the room before settling upon her, he looked at her in confusion for a second before standing slowly from his chair.

"I thought I told you," there was no malice in his voice just a tone of disappointment, "not to interrupt me when I'm here?"

"I just wanted to make sure your ok?" Konan informed him looking at him dead in the eyes, aware that she wasn't looking into Deva Paths eyes but those of the true Nagato.

"I'm fine." He insisted.

"You've been down here a lot lately…" Konan trailed off, pushing a little further than she would normally after sensing no anger from her old friend. "The villagers are beginning to whisper."

This time a smile lit up on the face of Deva at this news.

"Whisper that I am a god? That I am some divine being worthy of their worship all because I ceased Hanzo's reign…Well let them. After all it is I who controls life or death," by this time the Deva path had crossed the small space from the chair to Konan standing quiet close to her, dipping his head so his mouth was millimetres from her ear, "only god can control life and death…that makes me a god…doesn't it, my angel?"

Konan shivered. Nagato hadn't displayed open affection for her in years, instead intent on locking himself in Jiraiya's cell until she came down to collect him hours later. She also couldn't help but get lost in the ripple like eyes she knew didn't belong to the face she was staring at; she couldn't offer any argument for his logic. He was the master of life or death, the ability to bring back those who had passed was held solely by him, a feet god was only capable of…and yet she stood here as proof that Nagato could do what he was claiming. He really was God locked in human form.

"And like a God I have only one adversary. One capable of damning our world into the chaos that I…We have fought our entire lives to end." He was speaking with such passion it boarded on anger, something Konan had rarely seen him do.

"Who?" It was barely above a whisper as she hung on his every word. Nagato had been so closed off for the last few years that even this insight, brief as it may be, was gripping.

"In the end," his voice was detached, an odd tone coming from the voice of someone who was normally so cheerful "it will be me, the savoir of the ninja world, versus the demon that is Uzumaki Naruto."

At the mention of the name, a name she only knew because she knew him to hold the Kyubi, she saw Jiraiya lift his head, his hair falling away to the side revealing his gaunt hollow face with blood shot eyes.

"The container of the Bijuu?" Konan asked, looking bewildered as to why this child would hold any more significance than any of the other Bijuu.

"He is much more than a Bijuu," Deva explained "he has been gifted with my eyes in circumstances similar to those I faced when I first awoke god's eyes. Only he was able to save her. Spared the pain of watching his loved ones die before his eyes but ultimately… it will be that pain that will see me come out of our inevitable encounter, victorious."

He wasn't making any sense. Was he saying Uzumaki had awoken the Rinnegan? Was that even possible? How would he know if he had? Nagato hadn't even laid eyes on Uzumaki Naruto.

Then as she was pondering this her eyes fell on Jiraiya. Then to Preta path and finally to Human path, what Preta path was doing their was fairly self explanatory, he was absorbing Jiraiya's chakra and ensuring no escape could be made but Human path his skills laid in mind reading…and suddenly it all fell into place. Nagato had spent those countless hours hidden down in the depth of Amegakure researching, literally picking Jiraiya's brains for anything about this Uzumaki Naruto. What ever he had discovered whilst poking around the toad sennin's Konan came to one conclusion…She pitied Uzumaki when Pein finally caught up with him.

Nine o'clock came way too soon for Naruto who had been really enjoying his comfy mattress and having a peaceful night's sleep, enjoying the silence of the night a stark contrast from having to share a boarding house with thirteen other men, which was never quiet.

All too soon he found himself walking towards the Hokage mansion where he would meet with Tsunade and Shikamaru. Truth be told he could think of better things to be doing than sparring with Shikamaru, and he was sure the lazy jonin felt the same, but a little part of Naruto was eager, as he always was, for the competition to prove himself against the only shinobi to get promoted from the chunnin exams.

As he approached he was quite glad to see it was only Tsunade, Shikamaru and Asuma present. The last person to see him before he had left had been Shikamaru and Hinata, it hadn't occurred to him at the time that he hadn't said good bye to Sakura he was just to wrapped up that he was going to get single one on one training. He wasn't looking forward to her reaction when she realised he was back. She had a nasty habit of being rather volatile.

"Good to see you on time," Tsunade told Naruto as she looked at her watch, "we'll be heading over to training ground four for this little exercise. This will be as much for you both to demonstrate your abilities as it is for me to gage if reports are accurate."

"I beg your pardon lady Hokage," Shikamaru asked sounding as tired as normal "but I fail to see what you have to achieve by this sparring session. If Naruto wasn't up to scratch Asuma-Sensei he wouldn't have brought him back….And I've completed both the jounin exam and Chunnin exam. What exactly do you gain from watching us spar?"

"Because," Tsunade responded slowly and in a dangerous voice "I am the Hokage and what I say goes."

She offered no further explanation and apparently didn't need to as the moment the buxom blonde figure of the Hokage started to walk away, Shikamaru trailed after her apparently resigned to the fact that he couldn't reason his way out of it.

The walk to training ground four was quick and done in total silence. Not even the expected mutterings of Shikamaru about how trouble some women where could be heard by Naruto.

Naruto had little doubt that the reason for Shikamaru's silence was the Nara clan member was formulating a plan to end this 'sparring' session as quickly as possible. Naruto however knew he had two very distinct advantages over his old friend, Shikamaru had no idea about his doujustu nor about what Asuma-sensei had taught him over the last three years. Shikamaru's plan would be solely passed on the old Naruto.

It was with giddy excitement that Naruto turned into training ground four. Unlike the other training grounds that where placed around Konoha this one didn't have any portion of forest or river to hide and plot in it was a simple open field, with shortly cut grass and a few strategically placed boulders.

"So…" Shikamaru started in his usual laid back voice, "what are the rules for this sparring session?"

Naruto looked at Tsunade expectantly. He had spent a good portion of the previous night thinking about what rules might be, at first he thought they'd be like the Chunnin exams…but they where a bit extreme, after all both himself and Shikamaru where Konoha shinobi and he doubted either of them would look to do serious harm on the other.

Besides the sooner Naruto proved himself the sooner he could return to active duty and the sooner he could go in search of Sasuke.

"Normal sparring rules apply. No attempts to seriously harm your opponent. To win you must make your opponent withdraw or render them unconscious. And remember what I told you Shikamaru."

Naruto actually saw Shikamaru shiver in fear, making Naruto even more curious as to what it was Tsunade was threatening Shikamaru with.

"Are those rules agreeable to you both?"

"I guess." Shikamaru relucently agreed.

"Yeah lets go!" Naruto yelled his agreement.

"Alright assume your positions I'll be officiating."

Naruto fell into his Taijutsu stance an action which wasn't mirrored by Shikamaru, who just stood their several paces in front of him arms limp by his side.

"GO!"

In the blink of an eye Shikamaru began to flash through a series of handseals, his chakra turned black and seemed to pulse around his body. It gave him the necessary time needed to avoid becoming trapped in Shikamaru's shadow jutsu, the moment the jet black shadow at Shikamaru's feet lurched forward Naruto was gone. Using the Shunshin no Jutsu to vanish and reappear behind one of the boulders.

It seemed Shikamaru's style hadn't changed much. Still hoping to immobilise his opponent and he knew he wouldn't be able to get close to Shikamaru without getting caught in that jutsu. But there was also only so long he could use this boulder for cover…what he needed was to get behind the shadow user, to catch him unaware.

A smirk lit up Naruto's face as he remembered a Jutsu he learned from the Earth users of the twelve had taught him, perfect for assassinations and ambushing opponents. Right now he was sure Shikamaru had braced himself for multiple clones to come leaping out from behind the boulder.

Doton: Dochū Eigyo no Jutsu

Naruto thought, after flashing through the necessary handseals. The effect was immediate; the ground below him seemed to swallow him up, his body sinking beneath the surface.

It was an odd sensation to be travelling under ground, to have to fight for every step because of the unbelievable resistance that the earth offered. A series of soft echoes brought Naruto's attention to what was going on above him…Shikamaru was on the move. He waited for the padding footsteps to stop before he pushed himself through the earth toward the surface, breaking it silently and pushing himself back to the stability of the surface.

Out of the corner of his eye Naruto saw Tsunade nod with a proud look on her face as he successfully managed to get behind Shikamaru. Stretching his arm out, Naruto flexed his fingers before shouting, "Bansho Ten'in!"

Shikamaru barely had time to spin around and look shocked before he was pulled from his position in front of the boulder toward Naruto.

Naruto leapt into the air, meeting Shikamaru halfway and landing several punches and kicks to Shikamaru's midriff, sending the Nara clan member hurtling backwards landing on the ground with a thud whilst Naruto landed gracefully.

Naruto watched as Shikamaru pushed himself up of the ground, wincing a bit at the pain and clutching his ribs before turning questioning eyes upon him.

"What the hell was that?"

Naruto flashed him a grin before flashing through a series of handseals again, not content with giving Shikamaru any moments rest. He was going to show Shikamaru just how much he had improved.

"Kaze no Yaiba" Naruto cried, a blade of wind proceeded to fly from Naruto causing him to slide back with the force of it, causing dirt to fly from around his feet and Shikamaru to uncharacteristically dive to the side to avoid it, leaving just a poor boulder to suffer the jutsu's wrath.

"Kage Kubi Shibari no Jutsu"

Once again Shikamaru's shadow shot forward. Jumping backwards Naruto expected to see the shadow stop, like it had back in the Chunnin exam but it didn't, instead continuing forward until it wrapped his leg and yanked him toward Shikamaru, dragging him across the ground.

It seemed he wasn't the only one who had grown.

Before he could even think about escaping a weight landed on his stomach, forcing him into a sitting position, the air out of his longs in one long wheezing breath. A swift punch from Shikamaru connected to his face, forcing him back down to the ground, a crack for a moment had Naruto thinking his nose had broken but the lack of pain suggested overwise.

It wasn't until Naruto stood he realised what had cracked. The goggles he had thought where such an improvement to the stuffy mask and had snapped under the force of Shikamaru's punch, leaving his metallic silver eyes free for the world to see.

"Well that is certainly interesting." Shikamaru mumbled to himself staring at his eyes with interest.

Taking advantage of Shikamaru's momentarily lapse in concentration Naruto used a technique that he had only used a few times. Whilst he had been away one of the main area's Asuma-sensei had been keen to explore was drawing upon the Kyubi's Chakra, mainly for when he ran out of his own and was still in need of some. However, when they began exploring this option something rather unique occurred.

Clenching his fists and gritting his teeth Naruto began to channel his chakra. It was a similar feeling to that experience when channelling chakra for tree climbing or water walking only a lot more intense, like his very Chakra was trying to rip through the surface of his skin…which he supposed wasn't to far from the truth.

Opening his eyes and looking down at his hands, he couldn't help but smile with contentment as he saw the reddish outline of his own Chakra swirling off his body in waves.

It seemed that Shikamaru had gotten over the shock of his revealed Dojutsu because, due to their close proximity, Shikamaru launched into a flurry of Taijutsu that Naruto wouldn't have expected the lazy shinobi to be capable of. Truth be told, had Naruto not have created what he liked to call a 'chakra shield', then he'd probably have been knocked unconscious.

The fact was the moment Shikamaru's fist impacted with the haze of Chakra he withdrew it like a scolded child. Clutching his hand as if it where burnt, Shikamaru hissed in pain before apparently reappraising the approach of close quarters combat and leaping several metres away, no doubt thinking of how best to tackle somebody who he seemingly couldn't touch anymore.

Not willing to let Shikamaru have anytime to formulate a plan Naruto tensed, putting every bit of strength into channelling his chakra. The haze of chakra that surrounded his body pulsed for a moment before springing from his body, much in the same way that Shikamaru's shadow jutsu did, for a moment the furious face of the Kyubi appeared snapping its jaws as it rushed towards Shikamaru, who scrambled away as quickly as he could.

He wasn't quick enough. The Chakra soon caught up with, and engulfed the Nara in a haze of red chakra. The impact was immediate, Shikamaru dropped to the floor, writhing in pain.

Now Naruto didn't know what it felt like when his chakra surrounded somebody else but from what Asuma had said it felt like being suffocated, like his own chakra was being beaten into submission…like his own life force was being taken over.

Naruto began to pant; sweat began to gather on his forehead as he continued to pump his own chakra into the tendril that now connected him to Shikamaru. Naruto wasn't stupid he knew he couldn't do this forever, he simply wasn't good enough at Chakra control but he hoped to do it long enough to leave Shikamaru incapacitated and for him to win.

Although it seemed Tsunade had other ideas. Clearly having seen enough by this point, despite Shikamaru not giving up though Naruto wasn't sure Shikamaru could give up even if he wanted to.

"That's enough, Naruto." Tsunade called from the side lines, Naruto blinked and looked to Tsunade losing all concentration that he had put into channelling his chakra causing it to disperse, leaving Shikamaru panting for breath on the floor.

For a second Naruto thought he had gone too far. That in the haze of anticipation he had forgotten what he was, no matter how much he might hate to admit it he wasn't just your average shinobi…he was the container of the most powerful bijuu in existence even the slightest slip in control could result in somebody's death. However a small, reassuring smile from Tsunade put those doubts to the back of his mind.

"You ok Shikamaru?" Tsunade asked, as the young shinobi picked himself up. His clothes where shredded and smouldering slightly, the exposed skin was red raw and looked extremely sore.

"Yeah," Shikamaru panted, turning his eyes back to the pair of blondes and standing back up straight before wincing and clutching at his ribs, "just what happened to you Naruto?"

Naruto grinned uneasily, shifting his gaze towards Tsunade who gave the slightest nod of permission.

With a sigh Naruto began recounting everything to his friend, trying to not leave anything out. Shikamaru for his part sat their, whilst being attended too by Tsunade, and listened intently. Like he was absorbing every ounce of information and storing it away for further usage.

When Naruto finished his tale they had both ended up laying on there backs staring up at the clouds in a manner Shikamaru seemed all to accustomed to, leaving Tsunade the only one standing – watching absently from the sidelines as Naruto and Shikamaru chatted with abandon, seemingly forgetting that she was there.

"So that's why you where wearing that goofy mask?" Shikamaru asked with a slight smirk, "not because you had 'injured' yourself retrieving the Godaime?"

"Nope!" Naruto chirped happily, pleased that his little lie had deceived even the genius of the rookie nine.

"So if you went through so much trouble to hide your bloodline…why are you telling me?" Shikamaru asked curiously, turning his head away from the shapeless clouds and toward Naruto.

Naruto flashed a look to Tsunade. His eyes sending the Godaime a questioning look asking her silently why she had allowed him to tell Shikamaru when she had made it perfectly clear in the past that telling his friends was out of the question.

"Because," The buxom blonde Hokage took over from Naruto, "there is something happening in the shinobi world which hasn't happened since my grandfather was Hokage."

Shikamaru lifted his head from the ground and stared at the Godaime waiting for her to continue. Naruto for his part was eager to hear more about the first Hokage.

"There is an organisation which has formed between the most wanted criminals from across the Shinobi nations. They call themselves Akatsuki. We have known of them for a long time but up until recently their activities where restricted to collecting various bounties."

"So why are they a threat?" Shikamaru asked. "If there just being hired to find other wayward shinobi…perhaps you could hire them to find Sasuke?"

"Out of the question Shikamaru, like I said until recently their activities seemed to just be gathering resources. Now they've made there plans at least partially known from what Jiraiya was able to tell me."

"I'm guessing it's nothing good?" Shikamaru voiced an expression which Naruto took as fear on his face. Like he dreaded what Tsunade would tell him.

"Not at all," Tsunade confirmed, "from what Jiraiya was able to tell me before he left. The Akatsuki seem to be collecting the tailed beasts."

Naruto felt his eyes widen. This group was hunting the Bijuu…they where hunting him!

"Why does this impact us?" Shikamaru asked curiously, "There hasn't been a Bijuu in Konoha since the Kyubi attacked…"

Naruto knew that Tsunade's hesitation to answer was her way of gently prodding him towards confessing his darkest secret to Shikamaru. He didn't understand why she was making him tell Shikamaru, the third had always thought it best to keep it as quiet as possible.

"Because I'm here." Naruto told Shikamaru glumly, "When the Yondaime defeated the Kyubi he had to find something to seal the Kyubi's soul into…and, well he chose to seal the Kyubi within me."

The shock on Shikamaru's face was similar to how it had looked when his eyes had been revealed. It was almost like Shikamaru couldn't comprehend what he was being told, Naruto saw the shadow user look at Tsunade for confirmation.

"So you're a Jinchuriki…" Shikamaru muttered, looking lost in a train of thought "It explains why Neji and Hinata are so fascinated with your Chakra system…"

Naruto blinked he hadn't noticed the two young Hyuga ever showing an interest in his Chakra system…then again he hadn't really paid much attention to either of them.

"So you want us to protect Naruto?" Shikamaru asked.

"No," Tsunade replied with a shake of her head "Naruto can protect himself…What I want is people who can work with Naruto to protect Konoha. Unfortunately this discounts most of the elder shinobi…who still bare some resentment towards Naruto."

"Why?"

Never before had Naruto experienced two people talking about him as if he weren't their. He'd had plenty of experience of people completely ignoring his presence but never talking about him as if he wasn't there.

"Fear mainly," Tsunade commented "they fear that Naruto will unleash the Kyubi…"

"That's completely stupid," Shikamaru commented with a shake of his head. Never before had Naruto heard Shikamaru use a condemning tone of voice, like he was judging those who had treated him badly, "anybody who spoke to Naruto would know he loves Konoha!"

"That's just it. They didn't take the time to speak to him," Tsunade grumbled, "which is why I need to know he has support when they come for him."

Naruto snorted, Baa-chan was making him sound like some academy student incapable of defending himself.

"I don't need support!" Naruto exclaimed, "If they come looking for me I'll show them I'm no push over!"

"Whilst that's all very admirable," Tsunade told him gently, a look of fondness in her normally hard brown eyes, "but where not talking about some deranged Genin anymore. We're talking hardened war criminals, capable of the most despicable things. You've already met two of them."

"Really? Who?"

"Uchiha Itachi and Hoshigaki Kisame," Tsunade informed him, realisation dawning on Naruto just why those two had been on the boarder to Konoha all those years ago. "One murdered his entire clan in cold blood and the other is responsible for the assassination of several of the bloody mists elders. Those are the type of people who we're dealing with."

"They where coming for me?"

"Indeed." Tsunade replied with a nod, "Luckily you had Jiraiya with you. Not even Itachi is fool enough to go toe to toe with Jiraiya. However should they make a move for you again, you won't have Jiraiya to battle for you."

"You think it's likely that Akatsuki will make another move," Shikamaru asked quietly, obviously still trying to digest all the information he had been hit with.

"Over the last few years reports have reached me that they have claimed a number of the other Jinchuriki's…most widely reported was the fall of Iwa's four tails, a man named Roshi."

"They've already started then…" Naruto muttered sadly. It was no longer a question of if they came but when…like it had been pre-destined that Naruto would have to fight for his life all because a group of rogue shinobi wanted what was sealed within him.

"I'll talk to the others then," Shikamaru announced, breaking Naruto from his thoughts and causing both himself and Tsunade to look at the youngest Nara in shock, "what? You think the others won't want to help? Please, we've got your back Naruto."

"You don't want my approval?" Tsunade asked lightly.

"Not really," Shikamaru replied with a shrug, "if you deny us we'll do it anyway. We won't let them come for Naruto."

"You sound like your preparing for war?"

"Aren't we?" Shikamaru replied with raised eyebrows, as if the question had an obvious answer, "you get our sensei's, I'll get the others. Come on Naruto, I'm sure Sakura wants to see you!"

Naruto leapt to his feet, a grin on his face partially due to the way that Shikamaru had talked to Baa-chan and stood up for him and partly because, through the mayhem of the last few days, he had completely forgot he hadn't seen Sakura in almost three years.

AN 2:- I always said I wouldnt make Naruto Pein version 2 but the Bansho Ten'in is one of two of Pein's jutsu which I will be keeping the other is a rather untamed version of Peins Black rods of Chakra which I used in this chapter against Shikamaru. I used this mainly because I love the idea of Peins Chakra being intoxiating and with Narutos Pet demon it has potential...Like I said above sorry for the delay and feel free to comment. Cheers Nova