The Tower of Sound was as far as he eye could see an exact copy of the Tower of Fire.
"Except that it's fifty feet higher," Naruto said.
"I am not surprised," Sarutobi said. "he always wanted to out do everything that came before him."
Naruto and Tsunade both nodded at that.
"In any case the floor plan is exactly the same," Naruto said. "Why don't you and Tsunade use the conference room on the second floor? Whenever you're done come up to my office and we can talk."
"You don't object to my being alone with Tsunade?" Sarutobi asked.
"Nope, I don't think you plan to overpower her and I'm not afraid she'll turn on me." He sent Sarutobi an amused grin. "Oh, and you should know every room in the Tower in monitored except for my offices. If you want real privacy you can use a sealing jutsu, I don't mind." Naruto and his bodyguards headed down the corridor leaving Sarutobi and Tsunade on their own.
Sarutobi watched him depart with sad eyes. "I always suspected he would make a great leader some day."
"Does seeing you were right make you happy or sad?" Tsunade asked.
"Let's go to the conference room so that we can sit down and talk."
Tsunade noted that he had avoided the question, but did not press him on it.
In the conference room Sarutobi performed a series of hand signs to activate a sealing jutsu that would interrupt and electronic monitoring devices and block any scrying jutsus. (The secretary who was looking through an ordinary peephole and listening was not affected.)
Tsunade took a seat across from him at the table and spoke first. "I honestly don't know what you think you're playing at old man. No matter what you say my answer is going to be no."
"Tsunade," he lowered himself into his chair. The long journey had left him stiff and sore. I am much too old for this, he thought. Sadly there was no one else who could perform this particular task. "I know that you feel the village robbed you of those you loved most, but I beg you to remember all the ordinary and decent folk of Konoha. Remember the place that was home to you and was the life's achievement of your grandfather and grand uncle. I know the losses of Nawaki and Dan were tragic, but a ninja village cannot survive unless its ninja are ready to make the sacrifices necessary to protect it and its people. Nawaki and Dan were both Leaf shinobi and they understood this and were ready to make that sacrifice."
"Don't talk lightly of sacrifice old man, it really pisses me off." Tsunade said angrily. "My grandfather, my grand uncle, my little brother, the man I loved, and the whole Senju clan are gone. All for what? So that Konoha can exist and make money by killing and hurting people? What did they die for exactly? So that Fire country could have its own ninja village?" She shook her head violently. "Some things just aren't worth the price."
"You did not always feel that way," Sarutobi reminded her gently. "There was a time when you believed in the village and what it stood for, when you fought to protect it."
"You mean back when I was young and naive," she shook her head. "These are the same arguments you used when I first left. They didn't work then what makes you think they would work now?"
"The situation now is fundamentally different from what it was then," Sarutobi told her. "Back when you originally left it was to wander and escape your memories. You were turning your back not only on Konoha, but also on the entire ninja world. That is no longer the case. By abandoning your home village and serving Oto and its Otokage you have betrayed Konoha."
She shrugged. "If you want to place me on the missing nin list feel free. Just make sure any hunter nins you send after have their wills in order."
"Tsunade can you at least explain to me how you can justify this decision? When you originally left it was because you rejected the philosophy of shinobi and of the villages. How can you resent Konoha but serve Oto? Do you truly believe them to be somehow better?"
"No," she said flatly. "I am long past seeing anything noble in the work of the villages." She shut her eyes for an instant and allowed a small shudder to pass through her. "I will even admit to you that serving Naruto sickens me at times. I don't know what he was like before, but he reminds me of Orochimaru. Clever, patient, and utterly ruthless about getting what he wants. Do you remember when he spoke of wearing two faces? The face you saw today with the villagers was genuine; he really does want to protect Oto and its people. But he had another face he doesn't let the world see. When I look at that face I can well believe he is the Kyuubi. There's a part of him that really enjoys killing and hurting people. That part of him truly is a monster."
"How can you serve him then?" Sarutobi asked. He just did not understand it.
"My reasons are selfish," she answered. "He has promised me something I want in exchange for my services and my loyalty."
"If this is about his paying your debts…"
"You think I would get involved with this for money?" She asked with a sneer.
"Then what is it he is offering you? Danzo assures me Konoha will offer you anything if you will return to your old home."
Sadly she shook her head. "I'm sorry old man, but it's not something that you have to offer up."
"What is it then?"
"I'd rather not say."
Sarutobi gave a weary sigh. "Tsunade, please reconsider. Even when we disagreed I never had anything but the highest respect for you and for your beliefs. You told me once that the village's goal should be to preserve life, not take it. You battled against me to create a Medical Corps because you wanted to make healing and saving our ninja a priority even if it meant weakening the village's striking power. You have always believed in saving lives. You must know the sorts of things that are happening in the research facilities of Rice country. If you serve Naruto then you are supporting those abominations. Can you accept being a part of that?"
She actually felt relief at the fact he did not know just how deeply involved she was in those experiments. As an expert medic nin she had been given charge of conducting experiments using chakra and jutsus. It sickened her, but she still conducted the experiments and then neatly wrote down the results. She told herself they would have happened if she were not there anyway. She told herself she had to do it for Nawaki and Dan, that returning them to life justified any price. "I know, but I can accept it."
Sarutobi noticed as she went through the motions of dry washing her hands. He didn't think she was even aware she was doing it. Ninja were trained to give no sign of what they were feeling. For a ninja of her ability to do such a thing was clear sign that whatever she was doing was weighing heavily on her.
"Can you really accept being a part of all this?"
"Sure, it doesn't bother me at all."
She again acted as though washing her hands.
"What will you do if he chooses to attack us?" Sarutobi asked in a hushed voice. "The day he abandoned the village he killed many innocent people blowing up various buildings. He has never made any secret of the fact he longs for vengeance against not only me but against all of Konoha. What will you do if he decides to march out against us? Will you stand by and do nothing? Will you fight at his side and kill helpless women and children?"
"I will do whatever he tells me to," she answered looking very unhappy. "I wouldn't like it old man, but I've decided to do anything I have to get what he's promised me."
"Then it would appear Naruto is not the only one who has taken after Orochimaru." He looked and sounded like a disappointed father.
She squirmed in her seat and felt like a 12 year old again. "That's a low blow old man."
"Perhaps, but it seems accurate to me." Tiredly he pushed his seat back and stood. "Thank you for talking with me Tsunade. I think I will go and talk to Naruto now."
Out in the countryside of Rice four figures in black robes and red clouds moved about in the darkness. One of them looked out at eh land with the sharingan and calmly wondered what he would say to his father and other relatives when he met them in the land of the dead.
"I thought you would like to know," the ninja in the ANBU mask said to Kakashi.
He nodded his head and gave a false smile. "Thank you I do appreciate it."
The ANBU waved a hand in acknowledgement and was gone.
"Sakura," he said beneath his breath. "I asked you not to do anything stupid. Disappearing from the village definitely counts."
When the door to his office opened Naruto waved Sarutobi over to the chair in front of his desk. Offering the former Hokage a seat was a kind gesture on Naruto's part, but he did not rise to his feet as he would have for an equal. As soon as Sarutobi had seated himself Naruto began with a smirk.
"This kind of brings back memories doesn't it? You and me in a Kage's office? Though the roles are reversed of course."
"As I recall when you were in my office it was usually because you were in some sort of trouble."
Naruto's smile had a little bit of cruelty to it as he replied. "Or else I was there to beg for some favor. That is why you're here now isn't it? To beg? Go ahead; I think I'd really enjoy hearing it."
"I am not here to beg Naruto," Sarutobi spoke with a dignified tone. "I was sent here as a special envoy in hopes of establishing a dialogue with you and entering into negotiations."
"I know the official reason why you're here." He picked up the original message and waved it about. "The Fifth Hokage seeks an accommodation with the leader of Oto for a restoration of normal relations between the two villages." He spoke from memory without bothering to look at the message. "That bastard Danzo doesn't even acknowledge me as a Kage."
"I am sure the slight was made unintentionally," Sarutobi replied smoothly.
It was a blatant lie and hey both knew it, but diplomacy often required blatant lies.
"By a return to normal relations I assume he's referring to the fact that we're technically at war with each other. Though you'd never know it, since the Leaf doesn't have the guts to do anything beyond send assassins after me."
"I decided that an actual invasion of Rice would have led to untold numbers of casualties and that restraint was called for. Given your actions in the village and at the Valley of the End declaring war once Oto decided to shelter you was unavoidable."
"You didn't attack because you knew you'd lose," Naruto told him. "You still wanted me dead; you just knew you couldn't win an actual war."
"That was not the case Naruto," Sarutobi calmly replied. "Many within the clans were screaming for an invasion to destroy you and Orochimaru both. Suna would have marched with us to avenge Orochimaru's murder of their Kazekage."
"Did you know that the Kazekage and Orochimaru were planning a sneak attack on Konoha? It was to take place during the finals of the Chunin Exams."
Sarutobi slowly nodded. If Naruto knew then there was no reason to try and keep it secret. "We'd had signs that something was in the air and that it might be an attack. We did not learn of the details until much later."
"Did you know that Gaara was the one tail's jinchuuriki? The attack was supposed to start simultaneously with his transformation at the Arena. Orochimaru called it off at the very last minute because I killed him and because he realized he would be up against the power of the Kyuubi. I saved Konoha because of what I did that day!" He shouted at him. "I saved all of you and what was my thanks?! To be betrayed by the one person I trusted the most! How could you do that to me when I trusted you?!" His fists came down slamming into his desk. "I should have been treated like a hero damn it!"
Sarutobi was shocked as for the second time he witnessed Naruto completely losing his temper. Having survived countless attempts on his life and years as Orochimaru's apprentice he'd expected he boy to have better emotional control. He did not allow any of these concerns to appear on his face.
"I did not know that at the time Naruto," he answered easily. "I never considered my actions to be any sort of betrayal of you. You must realize the effect of your releasing so much of the Kyuubi's chakra in the midst of the village in the most public manner possible. That couples with your brutal killings of both Gaara and Neji convinced many people that the Fox had gained control or at least influence over you and that we were all kin danger. Had I not acted to curb their fears I likely would have had the civilians and the shinobi calling for your death or imprisonment."
Hearing Sarutobi talk so calmly and rationally only drove the point home to Naruto that he needed to calm down. A Kage didn't keep losing his temper like this. Seeing him again really wears on my nerves, it's like all the old wounds are getting reopened. He took a deep breath and forced himself to sit back and at least look relaxed.
He lowered his head. "I apologize for my rudeness, please forgive me."
Naruto took another deep breath. "You didn't know I'd saved Konoha. What you did know was that I'd won the Chunin Selection Exams and hadn't broken any of the rules. Gaara slaughtered three rain nin and crippled Rock Lee. Neji tried to kill Hinata and came way too close to doing it. Neither of them were punished. But like always I was the only one who was made to suffer. You refused to promote me even though I'd earned it, and what was worse you were going to leash me. You were going to seal away most of my power to make everyone else happy. Tell me Sarutobi, can you name me one other ninja who was ever punished for being too strong? If you can name me just one maybe I'll feel a little better about things."
Sarutobi knew there was no such example available. From the moment a shinobi began to train he was taught to become as strong as possible and to bend every effort towards that goal.
"I am very sorry Naruto. The only thing I can tell you is that you were a special case."
"Tell me about it," he said with bitterness in his voice. "What a shame special doesn't always equate to good."
"Naruto, I know I made mistakes. If it were possible to go back kin time I would do many things differently. I can only offer you my apologies and seek to learn from those mistakes." Sarutobi rose to his feet and gave the seated Naruto a formal bow. "I am sorry Naruto."
"Do you think you bending your back and speaking a few words makes any difference at all old man?"
"I can offer you nothing more Naruto."
"How about your life?" Naruto asked him. "What would you do if I told you that if you cut your own throat open for me right here and now I'd make peace with Konoha?"
"If my life would bring peace to my village then I would gladly offer it to you."
Naruto gave him a ghost of a smile. He hadn't expected any other answer. "Forget it; your scrawny neck isn't worth near that much. You want to know the terms I'm willing to offer Konoha?"
"Yes, that is the reason I am here."
"Two words: unconditional surrender."
"Is that a joke Naruto?"
"Nope," he spoke sounding utterly serious. "Have Danzo surrender unconditionally to me and offer me his place as Hokage. I'll hold the titles of both Otokage and Hokage and rule both villages from here. I'll send Tsunade there to act as my regent. All leaf nins and all civilian residents will be required to kneel before me and publicly swear allegiance to me. All ninja who refuse will be treated as missing nin and expelled from the village. All civilians who refuse will have their property confiscated and be expelled from the village. I'll treat all those who kneel and swear the same as I treat my people here."
"Those terms are completely unacceptable and I am authorized to reject them on behalf of the village."
"Fine then, those are the best terms you will ever get from me. If you reject them there is nothing more to discuss."
"This is not how you negotiate Naruto."
"It is when you have all the power," he replied. "Just remember I can crush the Leaf like that if I want." He snapped his fingers.
"If you truly believe that why have you not done so? You talked about Konoha not waging a real war, but Oto has not done so either."
Naruto shrugged. "I can be patient when I need to. When the day comes that I do decide to move it won't be a war, it'll be a massacre. That's why you should accept my terms now. I'll only show mercy if you submit to me. If I have to conquer the place I'll burn it to the ground."
Sarutobi felt a chill fall over his heart. He did not doubt that Naruto believed what he was saying.
"Think about it for a few days and enjoy my hospitality," Naruto said sounding like the cheerful fun loving boy he had been once.
"Very well," he said and got to his feet. Even if there was little hope he would try to get Naruto to soften his terms to something that might at least seem reasonable enough to pass on to the Hokage.