Author's Note: As we all know, Clopin is the narrator for this movie but only during the beginning and ending sequences. I'm changing that and writing this out the way it was done for the live stage shows at the Disney Parks. In the shows, Clopin was always on the stage, even if he was just in the background, allowing him to tell the story throughout the entire show. What that means is that Naruto (who plays Clopin) will tell this story in the third person when he's not in the actual scene. When it does come to a scene where he is part of the action, he'll be speaking in the first person. I know it sounds a little confusing, but it'll make sense once you get to ready the story.

Walt Disney and GothicDancer proudly present:

Tsunade as Esmeralda or Kishimoto's The Hermit of Amegakure Tower

It was rare that the sun would ever rise in a city named for rain, so on the morning when the sun did rise, the citizens of Amegakure were eager to get out of their houses and spend some time in the heart of the city. Days like that are my favorite. They mean that children come out and play, and when they enter the center of the city, I'm the first thing they see. They're instantly attracted to my cart, waiting for the curtains sitting in front of a small stage to rise.

"Ah," I sighed as the curtains opened, revealing myself to my small audience of children, "what a beautiful morning this is. Everyone's out. The fishermen are fishing, the bakers are baking, and all is right with the world, dattebayo."

You're probably wondering why I would be sitting in a cart made for theater. Well, the answer is very simple. See, I'm actually not a person from Amegakure. I'm known as a Konoha Nin. Konoha Nin tend to be more carefree and artistic than Amegakure Nins, so we travel the world to put on our shows. I'm a puppeteer.

Suddenly, we heard a ringing noise coming from a tower high above us. The children looked up in astonishment. I just grinned.

"Listen to the bells. They're beautiful, no?" I asked them. They nodded in agreement, so I decided to take the conversation further. "You know, they don't ring by themselves."

"They DON'T?!" My puppet jumped up and flailed about.

I shook my head. "No, you silly boy. Up there, high in the bell tower lives the mysterious bell ringer, dattebayo. Who is this creature?"

"Who?!"

"What is he?"

"What?!"

"How did he come to be there?"

"How?!"

"HUSH!!" I smacked a stick down onto the puppet's head, making the children laugh. I turned back to the audience and murmured, "I, Naruto Uzumaki, will tell you. It is a tale, a tale of a man...and a monster..."

It was a dark, cold night when four frightened Konoha Nins snuck into Amegakure. One of them, a woman, was clutching a baby to her chest, telling it to quiet down. The Konoha Nins feared for their lives if they were caught on that river near Amegakure Tower.

Once they exited the boat, they realized that they had walked right into a trap. Several ninjas dressed in black surrounded them, cutting off their escape route. If that didn't scare the Konoha Nins enough, they gasped when they saw another menacing shadow creep its way into view.

"Judge Pein..."

Judge Pein wanted a world with no vice or sin. You see, he was a very religious man, and he believed that he was the holiest being on the planet. In everyone else, he saw nothing but filth. "Bring these Konoha vermin to the Palace of Justice. And that woman is hiding something, probably stolen goods. Take them from her!"

She ran. She ran as fast as she could with her bare feet through the thick, cold snow on the ground. She tried running up to Amegakure Tower, for she knew she would be safe there. "Sanctuary!" she cried out. "Please give us sanctuary!"

That was when Pein rode in on his black horse. He grabbed the bundle from the woman and kicked her to the ground. Her head met with the stairs leading to the tower, and she died instantly.

Pein gazed at the bundle in his arms. It was crying. "A baby?" he asked as he pulled the blanket surrounding it away. He gasped. "A monster!" Thinking quickly, his horse moved towards a well. Pein was just about to drop the child when...

"STOP!!" Archdeacon Sarutobi cried.

"This is an unholy demon," Pein replied. "I'm sending it back to Hell where it belongs."

"You've murdered an innocent woman here, Pein!" Sarutobi scolded as he picked up the dead Konoha Nin. "You can claim that your soul is clean, but you can't hide what you've done from Amegakure Tower! It sees everything!"

Pein shakily looked up at the tower. For once in his life, he feared for his soul. "What should I do?" he panted.

"Care for the child and raise it as your own," Sarutobi responded as he made his way back into the tower, the corpse still in his arms.

"What?" Pein growled. "I have to be stuck with this misshapen...Okay, fine, I'll let him live here in the tower. He can live someplace where he'll never be seen, maybe the bell tower. And, hey, who knows? Maybe even this disgusting creature could one day be of use to me..."

"And Pein gave the child a cruel name, a name that means "that which looks like a frog"(1): Jiraiya."

As I spoke these last few lines, I changed puppets. I had a small puppet that looked exactly like Judge Pein, and a little one represented the bell ringer. I moved them behind a translucent curtain so the children could not see the deformed man's face.

I finished up my performance with a question for the audience. "Here's a riddle: Who is the monster, and who is the man? Sing the bells, bells, bells..."

"THE BELLS OF AMEGAKURE TOWER!!"


Up in the highest part of Amegakure Tower, the bell ringer known as Jiraiya jumped down from the bells and carried himself to the balcony, where he could see the city and take in the warm sunlight of the early morning. He wasn't the most handsome man, but he wasn't so terrible to look at. His white hair fell down his hunched back, his eyes were dark, most of his face was covered in markings, and his rather large nose was covered in warts. However, he could still have a smile on his face, for he knew that today was a special day.

"Good morning," the hermit murmured to a baby bird sitting in a nest within a statue's mouth. "Will today be the day? Are you ready to fly?" He frowned when the bird looked away. "Are you sure? It's a good day to try. After all, today is the big Festival of Fools! It'll be fun with lots of performers and dancers and all sorts of stuff!" He brought his hands away when the bird tried to fly, revealing that the little animal could do it all by itself. The bird, excited, chirped when a few other birds flew by. "Go on," Jiraiya whispered, "no one wants to be cooped up here forever!" He let the bird go and smiled as it flew off towards the horizon.

Suddenly, one of the statues began to move. "YUCK, GROSS!!" it shouted. "I thought he'd never leave! I'll be spitting feathers for a week..."

Another statue began to move. "That's what you get for sleeping with your mouth open," it scolded as it flicked its long, black hair back.

The first statue rolled its eyes and walked over to Jiraiya. "Jira-chan, what's going on down there?"

"It's the festival!" the other statue laughed.

"You mean the Festival of Fools! Yes, this is what we've been waiting for! Nothing like front-row seats for watching it, eh, Jira-chan?"

The hermit sighed. "Yeah, watching." He turned and slumped back into the bell tower towards a table covered in books and wooden figurines.

The two statues were confused. "What's wrong with him?" the first one asked.

The other one shrugged. "Maybe he's sick?"

"Impossible!" came a third voice, a woman's voice. "If twenty years of listen to you two idiots hasn't made him sick by now, nothing will." She swatted away a few birds and followed the guys into the room.

"But, Shizune," the second statue protested, "watching the Festival of Fools has always been the highlight of the year for Jira-chan."

"Orochi, you're forgetting that he's human. He's not made of stone like us. After all, what good is watching a party if you never get to go?" Shizune walked up to the hermit and placed her hand on his shoulder. "What's the matter, Jira-chan? You wanna tell me all about it?"

The man sighed. "I just don't feel like watching the festival, that's all."

"Did you ever think about going?"

"Sure, but I'd never fit in out there. I'm not...normal."

Shizune swatted another bird away just as she was about to say something, and the first statue got there first. "You could wear a disguise! No one will think anything weird of you anyway since everyone will be in costume."

Orochi nodded. "Nawaki's right. We insist you go! There will be all sorts of fun stuff to do, and--!"

"Thanks for the encouragement," Jiraiya mumbled, "but you're all forgetting one big detail."

"WHAT?!"

"My master...Pein-sama."

The three statues stopped. "Oh yeah..."

Orochi scratched his head. "Um, when he says that you're forbidden from ever leaving the tower, does her mean like...forever?"

"Never ever!" the hermit explained. "He hates the Festival of Fools, too. He'd be furious if I asked him to go..."

A sly smirk grew on Nawaki's face. "Who says you have to ask him? You sneak right out and sneak right back in?"

"But what if I got caught?"

"Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission," Orochi reminded him.

"Jira-chan," Shizune laughed, "take it from us. Life isn't a spectator's sport. If watching is the only thing you're gonna do, you're gonna watch your entire life fly right by you!"

Jiraiya suddenly smiled and stood. "You're right! I'll go! Ha, I'll get cleaned up, walk down those stairs, march through the door, and--!"

"GOOD MORNING, JIRAIYA."

The hermit gasped and stopped short, looking up at the dark figure before him. His friends had changed back into stone, so he was on his own. "Good morning, Pein-sama," he murmured.

"Jira-chan," Pein continued as he sat down at a nearby table, "who were you talking to?"

"My...friends..."

"And what are your friends made of?"

"Stone..."

"Can stone talk?"

"No, it can't..."

Pein smiled, the many harsh piercings in his face molding against his pale skin. It was sickening. "Very good, you're smart, Jira-chan. Now then, let's eat." He opened a book as the hermit brought the plates and goblets to the table. Pein poured the wine and placed two pieces of bread on each plate, asking, "Should we go over the alphabet this morning? A?"

It was obvious that Jiraiya was uncomfortable. "Abomination..." he murmured.

"B?"

"Blasphemy."

"C?"

"Contrition."

"D?"

"Damnation."

"E?"

"Eternal damnation..."

"Very good. F?"

"Festival!"

Pein gagged on the wine, spitting it out across the room. "Excuse me?"

Jiraiya straightened up. "Forgiveness!"

The judge shook his head. "You're thinking about going to the festival, aren't you, Jiraiya?"

"It's just...you go every year."

"I am a public official! I must attend! Oh, Jira-chan, you have no idea what it's like. The dregs of society all come together in a disgusting array of cheap, showy, twisted ideas of entertainment! What a dark world it is out there, Jira-chan. You have no idea." Pein sighed and continued, "The world is a dark, wicked place. I'm the only one you can trust! Is this the thanks I get for taking you in when your heartless mother abandoned you? I want to protect you, Jira-chan, even though you're a monster, but I can only do so if you...stay in here." With that, he stood and walked down the stairs of the tower.

"I'm so sorry, Pein-sama," Jiraiya murmured.

"You are forgiven," the judge replied as he made his way to the door. "Just remember that this is your sanctuary."

"Sanctuary?" the hermit repeated once his master was gone. "I've wanted to go outside and explore for such a long time. I'm sick of being up here." He stood and walked back out to the balcony, his friends coming back to life and following him. "I don't care!" he shouted. "I want to spend some time out in the world, even just a single day! Today, I'm going to spend some time out there!"


Meanwhile, out on the streets of Amegakure, a man looked over a not-so-detailed map but eventually threw it aside in irritation. He glanced at his horse and muttered, "What do you know, Katsuyu? You leave town for a couple of decades, and they change everything." He smiled when he saw some soldiers walk by. "Excuse me, Gentlemen, I'm looking for the Palace of Justice! Would you...? I guess not."

The young man continued to walk forward until he saw a band of Konoha Nins dancing just off the side of the street. He threw two coins into the hat for their performance and looked up to observe the nins. One of them was a dancer, a beautiful woman with long, blond hair and sparkling brown eyes. She and the man made eye contact, and she slightly thrust her hips out to the side on her next dance move, further catching his interest.

Suddenly, one of the younger Konoha Nins whistled to the group, and they immediately stopped performing. The woman went to grab the hat of coins, but two Amegakure soldiers stopped her. "Alright, Konoha Nin," they hissed, "where did you get the money?"

"For your information," the woman angrily replied, "I earned it!"

"Konoha Nins don't earn money; they steal it!" The soldiers tried to grab the hat away from her, but she kicked both of them, and her pet pig tripped them, making an opening for them to escape. Once the soldiers got up and started to run after her, the man pulled his horse to block them, making both of them fall over.

"Katsuyu, sit!" her commanded, and the horse sat right on top of one of them. "OH, MY GOODNESS," the man continued, feigning sympathy, "I am so SORRY. Naughty horse! She's just impossible, Sir. Really, there's nothing I can do!"

The other soldier pulled out his short sword. "I'll teach you a lesson..."

The man pulled out a longer sword. "You were saying, Lieutenant?"

The soldier's face went blank. "CAPTAIN DAN!!" he realized. "Oh, my God, I'm at your service, Sir!"

Dan grinned. "The Palace of Justice?" He had Katsuyu get up, and the two Amegakure soldiers led him to the building. Before he entered, he picked up a few of the lost coins and threw them into a hat next to a man wrapped in a blanket. Only...it wasn't a man at all. It was the female Konoha Nin and the pig in disguise.

A shiver went down Dan's spine as he entered the Palace of Justice. It was a rather frightening place with stone walls and barely any light peeking through the ragged edges of the windows. Dan could hear a man screaming as he entered the main room. There, he saw Judge Pein.

"Wait between lashes!" the orange-haired man called out. "Otherwise, the old sting will dull him to the new." He nodded, satisfied with his work, and turned to the blue-haired soldier. "Ah, Captain Dan is back from the wars! So good to have you back. I expect nothing less than the best from a man of your reputation."

"You shall have it, Sir," Dan replied, standing up straight. "I guarantee it."

Pein smirked. "My last Captain of the Guard was a bit of a disappointment, but I'm sure you can whip my men into shape." He laughed quietly at his (very bad) pun and led the man outside. "You've come to Amegakure in her darkest hour, Captain. Look, Konoha Nins. Konoha Nins live outside the walls of good society. Their heathen ways corrupt the mind, and they must be stopped."

Dan raised an eyebrow. "I was summoned from the wars to capture a bunch of traveling performers?"

"Ah, the real war is before you, Captain. For twenty years, I have been taking care of the Konoha Nins one by one. However, for all my success, they have thrived." Pein picked up a loose stone of the tower to reveal a large ant colony. "I believe they have a safe haven within the walls of this very city. They call it 'The Court of Miracles'."

Dan shifted uncomfortably. "What are we going to do about it, Sir?" His eyes widened when Pein smashed the stone down on the colony. He gulped audibly and said, "You make your point quite vividly, Sir."

Pein grinned. "I like you a lot, Captain. Shall we go?" His expression faltered when he heard folk music come up from the streets. "Ugh, duty calls. Have you ever attended a peasant festival, Captain?"

"Not recently, Sir."

"Then this should be very educational for you."


Jiraiya jumped down from the top part of Amegakure Tower and sped down a rope covered in flags, his three statue friends watching the whole time. He watched as the bands came out and played the introduction music for the festival, and the rope holding him up undid itself. "Come on, come all!" the band sang. He flew down to the street, and when he opened his eyes, the band was right in front of him. "Come and join the Feast of..."

"FOOLS!!" I announced excitedly as I jumped to the front. Confetti burst into the air and floated to the ground. People began to dance and sing in the streets, and the games began. I, never being one to miss out on a good time, grabbed Jiraiya and started to dance with him. "Once a year, we throw a party here in town! Once a year, we turn all of Amegakure upside-down! Every man's a king, and every king's a clown! Once again, it's Topsy Turvy Day, dattebayo!"

I'm not exactly sure how Jiraiya managed to get away from me, but I was determined to tease him a bit more. I followed him through the crowds, occasionally smacking him in the head with my Pein puppet. At one point, we both fell into a tent, and when we fell out, Jiraiya fell into another tent while I joined the line of dancing girls (I look better in a skirt than you might think.).

Jiraiya cried out when he met with the floor of the tent. He grabbed onto a drape and pulled it back for support, revealing another Konoha Nin, the woman Dan had seen earlier that day. "Hey!" she reacted, quickly covering herself. "Oh, are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Jiraiya replied. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to..."

"Well, you're not hurt, are you?" the woman asked, approaching him. "Let me see."

"No!" Jiraiya tried to stop her, but the woman pulled his hood away to reveal his face. Her pet pig recoiled in fear, but the woman just smiled.

"Good. No harm done. Just be a little bit more careful, okay?"

"I...I will," Jiraiya replied as he left the tent.

"By the way," the woman laughed, "great mask!"

I took the opportunity to bring the hermit's attention back to the party. In fact, I brought everyone towards the stage as Judge Pein, Captain Dan, and the other Amegakure soldiers arrived. "Hurry, hurry, here's your chance!" I laughed as I popped up before Pein just as he sat down (I can't even begin to tell you about the look on his face--It was priceless!). "See the mystery and romance! Come one, come all, see the finest girl of out land, dattebayo!" I jumped to the center of the stage and raised my fist high. "Dance, La Tsunade...DANCE!!"

With that, a puff of smoke appeared, and I disappeared. When it cleared, there was Tsunade, the most beautiful of all Konoha Nins. Jiraiya quickly recognized her as the woman from the tent, and Dan remembered the Konoha Nin he had seen in the streets. He smiled contently.

Pein frowned. "Look at that disgusting display."

"Yes, Sir!" Dan replied a little too enthusiastically.

It was true that Tsunade was beautiful though. It was tough for all the men to keep their eyes off her. Between her shiny blond hair, her dark eyes, her sexy body, and that gorgeous red dress (which, might I add, I designed, heh), she was a sight to behold. From my hiding place behind the curtain, I could see her dance. She even winked at Jiraiya!

Once she took her bow, I retook center stage (I wasn't about to let even THAT upstage me!). "Here it is!" I announced. "The moment you've been waiting for! Get ready to laugh. Now it's time to pick the King of Fools! Make the ugliest face you can imagine, for the winning one will be the new king!" Tsunade and I laughed and lined up all the candidates on stage. As each one took off his mask, the audience booed them all away. They just weren't ugly enough.

When we got to Jiraiya at the end of the line though, Tsunade realized she couldn't pull his mask off. "It's not one!" she gasped.

The audience burst into a panic, realizing that it was indeed the poor hermit's face. Jiraiya tried to hide in shame, especially when Pein caught a look at him.

I couldn't let this spoil our good time. "Ladies and Gentlemen, don't panic. After all we asked for the ugliest face, didn't we? Jiraiya is our new king, dattebayo!" I placed the crown upon his head, and the audience came back to life. We all sang and danced together, bringing our new king to the center of the festival. It was so much fun! "What a perfect king for Topsy Turvy Day!"

The celebration was going well until one of Pein's Amegakure soldiers threw a tomato at Jiraiya, ruining his happiness. I saw where this was going, so I jumped down from the center platform just before the civilians caught on. They threw their rotten food at the hermit and eventually tied him down, spinning him about on the pedestal. "PEIN-SAMA!!" he cried out. "HELP ME!!"

"Sir!" Dan interrupted. "I request permission to stop this cruelty."

"In a moment," Pein replied, smiling smugly. "A lesson needs to be learned here."

Suddenly, everything became still. Everyone looked up and saw Tsunade, back in her regular clothes, walk up to the top pedestal. Slowly, she leaned down, picked up the end of her skirt and wiped off Jiraiya's face. "I'm so sorry," she whispered. "This wasn't supposed to happen."

"KONOHA GIRL!!" Pein shouted, standing. "GET DOWN FROM THERE AT ONCE!!"

"Yes, Your Honor!" Tsunade replied. "Just as soon as I free this poor creature!"

"I FORBID IT!!"

Then Tsunade did something even I didn't expect. She pulled out a knife she kept hidden under her skirt and freed Jiraiya, tossing the ropes aside and letting him stand. "You mistreat this poor boy the same way you mistreat my people!" she accused to the judge. "You speak of justice, yet you are cruel to those most in need of your help!"

"SILENCE!!"

"JUSTICE!!"

"Mark my words, Konoha Nin: You will pay for this!"

"Then it appears we have crowned the wrong fool, because the only fool I see...IS YOU!!" She grabbed the king's hat and threw it towards him. Enraged, Pein ordered Dan and the others to capture her. After a moment of considering her chances against ten soldiers, Tsunade disappeared in a flash, leaving Pein to gasp at her witchcraft.

Tsunade ended up leading the soldiers all over the festival grounds, taking care of each of them, one at a time. They all ended up stuck, hurt, or captured by the time she finished. "What a woman!" Dan laughed when he saw her disappear. She truly was gone, nowhere to be seen, just like the rest of the Konoha Nins, myself included.

"Find her, Captain!" Pein ordered as rain began to fall. "I want her alive." He then turned to Jiraiya and glared at him. The hermit shrunk back.

"I am so sorry, Pein-sama," he murmured. "I'll never disobey you again..." He jumped down from the platform and trudged back inside Amegakure Tower, shutting the door behind him.

Out on the streets, a hooded figure made its way into Amegkure Tower as well. Captain Dan watched as it approached the building and made its way inside, recognizing it as the one from the streets earlier that day,

Once inside, Tsunade took the robe off, letting the piglet jump down from her head. The two of them walked about the tower, which also served as a church, listening to the refreshing quiet. At one point though, Tsunade could hear someone approaching her. She grabbed Dan from behind and threw him to the floor, snatching his sword and pointing it to his face.

"Easy, easy!" the soldier begged. "I just shaved this morning!"

"Oh, really?" Tsunade asked. "You missed a spot..."

"Let me just apologize!"

"For what?"

Dan took his sword and pushed Tsunade to the floor. "That, for instance."

"You sneaky, SON OF A--!!"

"Ah, watch it, you're in a church."

Tsunade stood and grabbed a long, metal candlestick holder. "Are you always this charming, or am I just lucky?" She swung it at him, and the two began a brawl right there in the middle of the church.

Dan was impressed. "You fight almost as well as a man!"

Tsunade snorted. "Funny, I was going to say the same thing about you."

"That's hitting a little below the belt, don't you think?"

"No, THIS IS!!" Tsunade aimed at the soldier's crotch, and when he defending, she smacked the other end of her weapon into his face. The piglet then added a head-butt.

"Touche," Dan commented. "Forgive me, my name is Dan. It's, uh, American!" He laughed nervously when he got unimpressed looks from the other party. "And you are...?"

"Is this an interrogation?"

"I believe it's called an introduction."

"You're not arresting me?"

"Not as long as you're in here. I can't."

"Oh...You're not at all like the other soldiers." Tsunade set her weapon down.

Dan nodded. "Thank you."

"So...if you're not arresting me, what do you want?"

"I'd settle for your name."

"...Tsunade."

"Beautiful. It's way better than Dan anyway." His smile caused the Konoha Nin to smile, and the two took a moment to reflect on one another.

"Good work, Captain!" came Pein's angry voice. "Now arrest her!"

Thinking fast, Dan turned and said, "She claims sanctuary, Sir, so there's nothing I can do." He ignored the irritated looks from Tsunade, for he had tricked her into staying inside the church.

"Exactly," Archdeacon Sarutobi agreed as he stepped forward to protect them. "Don't worry, Miss, Pein learned long ago to respect the church."

Frustrated, Pein started to storm out of the building, but he hid behind a pillar instead, while Dan and the other soldiers left. When they and Sarutobi were gone, he snuck up behind Tsunade and grabbed her. "I know you think you've outwitted me," he whispered, "but I'm a patient man, and I know that you Konoha Nins don't do well inside stone walls." He paused for a moment and slightly shifted his head so he could breathe in the scene of her hair.

Tsunade twitched. "What are you doing?"

"I was just imagining a rope around that lovely neck."

The woman jabbed him away. "I know what you were imagining..."

"Heh, you think you're so clever. Well, I must say that you've chosen a beautiful prison! If you take even one step outside, you're mine." With that, Pein slammed the main door to the tower, announcing that a guard was to but put at every door.

Tsunade groaned and sank to the floor. "Don't worry, Tonton," she murmured to the pig, "if Pein thinks he can keep us here, he's wrong."

"You shouldn't act so hasty," Sarutobi sighed as he lit the candles for the evening. "You caused quite a stir at the festival today. It would be unwise to arouse Pein's anger further."

"You saw what they did to that poor boy! I thought that if maybe just one person could...ugh. What do they have against people who are different anyway?"

"You can't right all of the world's wrongs by yourself."

"Well, no one out there is going to help."

"Maybe someone in here can."

The Archdeacon smiled for the Konoha Nin and moved on to complete the rest of the night's chores. Quietly, Tsunade stood and watched as several people knelt to the ground to pray. She understood what Sarutobi had meant, but she didn't think it could help all that much. Regardless, she started to pray.

"I don't know if You can hear me," she whispered sadly. "I don't even know if You're even there. I know I shouldn't talk to You since I'm just a Konoha Nin and an outcast, but I can't help but think...maybe You were once an outcast, too. Oh, God help the outcasts!" She listened as some of the other people started to pray for material possessions and things that could better their already-decent lives. She let a few tears fall down her cheeks. "I don't need anything; I can get by. However, I know so many people much less lucky. Please help them! I thought we all were your children! God help the outcasts..."

What Tsunade didn't know was that, from his room in the tower, Jiraiya could hear her. He had a smile on his face as he watched her pray, for he knew she was a good person.

That happiness didn't last long though. Some of the people spotted him and scolded him to go back up to the bell tower. Tsunade followed him quickly, for she didn't want to lose him. In fact, she wanted to talk to him. "I want to apologize!" she cried as she climbed the stairs to the top part of the tower. "I had no idea who you were. I would have never dragged you up onto the stage!" However, she stopped speaking when she saw Jiraiya's room. It was beautiful, covered in crystals that reflected the now-appearing sunset. His wooden toys and long books were splayed out on the table.

"Check it out," Shizune whispered as she nudged the other statues awake. "He's got a friend!"

Orochi blinked. "Wow, she's beautiful..."

Nawaki laughed. "The one in the dress is pretty cute, too."

"This is...my room," the hermit explained shyly.

"This is gorgeous!" Tsunade breathed. "Did you make all these things yourself? Did you write all those books yourself? Amazing! Oh, if I could do this, you wouldn't find me on the street dancing for coins."

"But you're a great dancer."

"Heh, it keeps bread on the table." She smiled at the hermit and continued, "You're so lucky. You've got all this space all to yourself."

Jiraiya smiled back. "Would you like to see more? I'll introduce you to the bells!"

"Yes, please! Come on, Tonton!" Tsunade and the piglet followed the hermit through the bell tower as the man named all the bells. They were shocked that there were so many but excited to see more. That was when Jiraiya brought them to the very top of the tower. From there, they could see the sunset and all of Amegakure. "Wow," the woman sighed, "I bet the Feudal Lords themselves don't have a view like this. I could stay up here forever."

Jiraiya nodded. "You could! You have sanctuary."

Tsunade shook her head. "But not freedom. Ugh, I hate that Pein! He thinks we Konoha Nins are evil!"

"But Pein is my master. He raised me."

"How could such a terrible person raise someone like you?"

"Oh, Pein-sama isn't bad! He took me in when no one else would. I'm a monster, you know. Just look at me!"

Tsunade took the hermit's hand, ignoring how it looked like a frog's. "Oh, that's weird," she mumbled. "I see lines that signal a long life and creativity, but I don't see any lines that say you're a monster. Now look at me. Do you think I'm evil?"

"No!" Jiraiya gasped. "You're a good person and--!"

"And a Konoha Nin. And maybe Pein is wrong about the both of us."

Jiraiya took a deep breath and smiled. "For helping me, let me help you. I can climb down the tower. You just have to hang onto the piglet."

Tsunade didn't want to climb down because of the risk of falling, but she knew she had no other option with all the soldiers surrounding the doors. She gripped Tonton tightly, and Jiraiya picked her up. The three started to climb down the side of the tower, even managing to distract the guards from coming towards their landing spot. Once they were safe on the ground, Tsunade thanked the man and said, "You should come with me to the Court of Miracles."

"No, I can't do that," Jiraiya whispered in the darkness of night. "I belong here."

"Then I'll come to visit you!"

"No, no, I have lots of chores and things to do, so--!" He stopped short when Tsunade kissed his cheek and said, "Whatever is good for you!"

"If you ever need sanctuary," the woman began as she took off her necklace, "just use this. I know the crystal doesn't look like much, but it'll help you find your way." She picked up Tonton, waved goodbye, and dashed off before any of the soldiers could spot her.

Jiraiya smiled and jumped back up the tower towards his room. Along the way, he ran into Dan. Instinctively, the hermit grabbed a torch from the hallway and threw it against the man. "NO SOLDIERS!!" he shouted. "SANCTUARY!!"

"Hey, wait!" Dan insisted. "Give me a chance to explain. Please tell Tsunade that I'm sorry I tricked her, but it was the only way I could save her. Will you tell her that?"

"...If you go right now!"

"I'll go. Now please put me down."

Slightly embarrassed, Jiraiya set the man down on the stairs. Not once had he realized he had been hanging onto him. Quietly, Dan turned and began to walk down the stairs. At one point, he turned and added, "Also tell her that she's very lucky to have a friend like you."

Jiraiya shook his head and placed the torch back where it belonged. He then made his way back to the bell tower. There, his friends were waiting for him. "Congratulations!" they cheered.

"Great job with the soldier there, Jira-chan!" Shizune laughed.

Orochi nodded. "Oh, Tsunade was so beautiful. You're so lucky to have someone like her."

"I knew you'd get all the girls!" Nawaki added.

Jiraiya shook his head. "Thanks but I don't think I'm her type. I've got the ugliest face in Amegakure, remember?" He took a fresh block of wood out from under the table and started to carve it in Tsunade's image. "I've seen so many happy couples walking in the night. I always knew I'd never know the feeling of being loved, but maybe now I have a chance. A fearless angel kissed me, and I dare to dream that she might even care for me. The tower isn't so lonely anymore...thanks to that fearless angel of Heaven's Light..."


Across the way in the Palace of Justice, another man was thinking about Tsunade, but the reasons were drastically different. Pein stared into his burning fireplace with tense, nervous eyes. "God Nagato-sama," he whispered in prayer, "you know I am a good man. I'm so proud of my virtue, so why are things turning out like this? God Nagato-sama, I can't get that woman out of my head!"

Pein's eyes burst open to an image in the fireplace. Was he just imagining it? Tsunade was dancing within the fire. "Her sunshine-blond hair, her gorgeous face...I can see her, feel her right now! It's like something is burying itself in my skin, something terrible...something turning me to sin."

Now Pein was sure he had to be hallucinating. Behind him came several large figures wrapped in black and red robes, accusing him of his sinful ways. "IT'S NOT MY FAULT!!" he cried out desperately. "The Devil is so much stronger than a man, and it's all that woman's fault! Oh, God Nagato-sama, let that witch burn in Hell...unless she agrees to be mine!"

Suddenly, everything disappeared. The door to the room opened, and there stood one of the Amegakure soldiers. Pein looked at him in a panic, his hair out of place and his breath heavy. "Pein-sama," he heard the soldier say, "the Konoha girl has escaped. She's nowhere in Amegakure Tower. She just disappeared!"

"How?!" Pein asked. But he shook the thought off and continued, "Just get out of here. I'll find her if I have to burn down all of Amegakure!" He turned back to his fireplace as soon as the soldier was gone and continued, "Hellfire! Dark fire! She will be mine, OR SHE WILL BURN!!"

And he passed out in the middle of the floor.


The next morning, Dan and the other soldiers stood attentive as Pein arrived in the town square. When the judge emerged from the cart, he yawned and rubbed his eyes tiredly.

"Are you..." Dan began, "...okay, Sir?"

"...I didn't sleep very well."

"Oh?"

"...I had a little trouble with the fireplace."

"...Oh."

Silence.

Dan coughed awkwardly. "Your orders, Sir?"

"Find the Konoha girl!"


It didn't take long for Amegakure to start burning. Pein ordered his soldiers to leave no stone unturned when it came to Konoha Nins. He pushed their carts into the river, arrested them, and offered their freedom for money if they would tell them where Tsunade was. When none of them replied, he had them all locked up.

Eventually, he came to a miller's house. "We found this Konoha talisman on your property," the judge explained to the man and his family. "Have you been harboring Konoha Nins here?"

"Our home is always open to weary travelers!" the man explained desperately. "We're innocent, Your Honor, I mean it!"

"I'm placing you and your family under house arrest. If you truly are innocent, then you have nothing to fear." Once he was outside, Pein locked the door and handed a burning torch to Dan. "Burn it."

"What?! With all due respect, Sir, I wasn't trained to murder the innocent!"

"But you were trained to follow orders. Until I find the girl, these people must be made an example of."

Dan shook his head and threw the torch into a nearby bucket of water. Pein shrugged and took another lit torch from a solider. In no time, the house was on fire. Dan gasped and broke inside, saving the family from burning alive. That was when another soldier beat him in the back of the head and sent him falling to the ground.

"You threw away a most promising career, Captain," Pein sighed. "The punishment for treason is death."

Dan grinned. "It's my highest honor, Sir."

What no one knew was that Tsunade was hiding among a crowd of people. She picked up a nearby stone and threw it towards Pein's horse, who panicked on contact. Dan took the opportunity to escape by jumping on the horse and riding over a bridge. "Get him!" Pein ordered. "And don't hit my horse!"

Lucky for him (not so much for Dan), one of the kunai from the soldiers hit Dan in the back and sent him flying over the edge of the bridge into the water. Satisfied, Pein ordered his men back to the center of Amegakure to consider their next move.

Thinking quickly, Tsunade dove into the river once the judge and his men were out of sight. She grabbed Dan and dragged him to shore.


Back in the center of Amegakure, Pein paced back and forth on his horse, trying to discover how Tsunade could have possibly escaped. "I had the entire tower surrounded," he murmured, "with guards at every door. There was no way she could have escaped."

That was when he heard the bells ring.


Up at the top of the tower, the statues watched in horror as Amegakure burned. "It doesn't look good," Shizune stressed.

"You're telling me!" Nawaki shouted as he slapped a hand of cards down. "I'm losing to a bird! We're playing freakin' poker!"

Orochi sighed. "This is hopeless."

The female statue nodded. "But don't you say anything to upset Jira-chan, okay? He's worried enough as it is."

"You're right," Nawaki agreed as he pushed the deck aside. "We should stay calm."

The last statue stood up straight. "Not a word..."

Jiraiya jumped down from the top of the bell tower and ran to the balcony. "Is there any sign of Tsunade?"

Orochi threw his hands up in the air. "IT'S A LOST CAUSE!!" he cried. "SHE COULD BE ANYWHERE!! THE DUNGEON!! THE RIVER!! DEAD!!" He grabbed the hermit's shirt and sobbed into it.

Nawaki rolled his eyes while Shizune face-palmed. "Nice work, Oro-chan."

"No, he's right," Jiraiya sighed. "It is hopeless."

Nawaki shook his head and smiled. "Nah, if I know Tsunade, she'll three steps ahead of Pein-baka and out of harm's way! Sooner or later, she'll be back."

"What makes you so sure?"

Shizune smiled. "Because she likes you."

"Exactly," the other two statues agreed. Shizune giggled and the three of them asked, "Who wouldn't love a guy like you?"

The door to the bell tower opened suddenly, causing Jiraiya to jump. His friends turned back to stone, and he ran down the steps to see who had come. He was overjoyed when he did. "Tsunade!"

"Jiraiya!" the blond woman squealed. "Oh, it's so good to see you again. I'm afraid I have to ask you for your help one more time."

The hermit nodded. "Anything!" He looked beyond the doorway to see another Konoha Nin drag a man into the room. He gasped.

"This is Dan," Tsunade explained. "He's a fugitive like me, and he's wounded. I brought him here because I knew he'd be safe. Please let him stay!"

Jiraiya didn't respond. He wordlessly ran back up the stairs and pulled back a curtain to reveal his bed. Tsunade and the other Konoha Nin brought Dan up to it and rested him there. Jiraiya looked on from the shadows as the soldier opened his eyes.

"Tsunade?"

"Shh...You'll hide here until you're strong enough to move." The woman pulled the cork off a nearby wine bottle and poured the drink onto the wound. Dan cried out in pain as it dulled the skin, and Tsunade went to work patching it up. She smiled amusedly. "That family owes you their lives. You're either the single bravest soldier I've ever met...or the craziest."

"Ex-soldier," Dan sighed. "By the way, why is it that, every time we meet, I end up bleeding?"

Tsunade shrugged. "You're lucky though. That kunai almost pierced your heart."

"...I'm not so sure it didn't."

Jiraiya gasped as the two of them leaned in for a kiss. He realized that, no matter what happened, Tsunade was in love with Dan, not him. She would never see him as anything more than a friend, and it broke the hermit's heart.

When the two separated, Dan fell asleep, and footsteps could be heard from below. "It's Pein!" Jiraiya gasped. "Come on, you guys have to get out of here. Go down the south tower steps!" He pointed towards a doorway and closed it as soon as the two Konoha Nins left. He then ran back to his bed, grabbed Dan, and stuffed him under the table containing all his toys and books. Trying to make sure it didn't look suspicious, Jiraiya reorganized all the little pieces the best he could, feigning surprise when his master entered. "Pein-sama, I thought you wouldn't be back considering you're so busy."

Pein sat down at the table and shook his head. "I'm never too busy to share a meal with you, Jira-chan. I brought some grapes for you." He waited for a little while and coughed to remind the hermit of what to do. Jiraiya gasped and ran to the shelves, dropping some of the things there in the process. Pein grinned knowingly as he set two plates down on the table.

"Tell me," he urged, "is something troubling you?"

"No, Pein-sama, nothing!"

"But you're not eating."

Jiraiya stuffed some of the grapes into his mouth and hummed falsely to cover up the sounds of Dan's groaning underneath the table. He then kicked the man a few times to get him to shut up and coughed to mask it.

Pein raised an eyebrow. "I think...you're hiding something from me. Something's...different." He glanced at the table and picked up one of the toys there. "Isn't this one new? It's awfully good. It looks a lot like that...Konoha girl." He paused to growl. "I knew it. YOU HELPED HER ESCAPE!!" He pushed Jiraiya back and hovered over him menacingly.

The hermit's voice was scared. "She was kind to me..."

"THAT WASN'T KINDNESS!!" the judge shouted back as he grabbed the collar of Jiraiya's shirt. "THAT WAS CUNNING!! KONOHA NINS AREN'T CAPABLE OF REAL LOVE!! Think, Hermit!! Think of your own mother!" He roared out in frustration one last time and then calmed down. "But what could a poor monster like you know? Well, don't worry, Jira-chan, I promise that witch will soon be clear from your mind...forever." He stood and placed the wooden figure over a lit candle. It burned up instantly. Jiraiya gasped as the judge walked out of the room, the orange-haired man adding, "I know where her hideout is. Tomorrow, I will attack at dawn with a thousand men."

Once he was gone, Dan emerged from under the table. "We have to get to the Court of Miracles," he panted. "If Pein gets there first...No, I don't want to think about it. Are you coming?"

Jiraiya shook his head. "I can't."

"I thought you were Tsunade's friend!"

"But Pein-sama is my master, so I can't disobey him!"

"She stood up for you! You have a weird way of showing gratitude. Whatever. I'm not going to sit around while Pein kills innocent people. You do what you think is right." Dan left the tower, angry as ever.

Jiraiya turned to the stone statues, who had come back to life. They gave him skeptical looks. "What?" he asked. "What am I supposed to do? Save the girl so the whole town will think I'm some kind of hero?! She already has her knight in shining armor, and it's NOT ME!! Ugh, Pein was right. He was right about everything..." He suddenly remembered everything Tsunade had done for him, how kind she had been. He took the crystal from his neck and observed it. That was when Shizune pulled a cloak out for him. "I must be insane..." He grabbed it and ran down the steps.

Dan was just about to leave the tower when the hermit appeared above his head. "DAN!!"

"GAHH!!"

"Shh! I'm coming with you."

"I'm glad you changed your mind."

"I'm doing it for her, not you."

"So you know where she is?"

"No, but she said this would help." He jumped down and showed the other man the crystal.

Dan took it excitedly. "Great, great! ...What is it?"

"I don't know," Jiraiya replied. "Tsunade just said it would help us find her."

Dan took the jewel and observed it for a moment. "Maybe it's from a specific area. Or maybe there's something written here...?"

Jiraiya's eyes widened with realization. "No, it's pointing to the Court of Miracles! Did you notice how it's been pointing in the same direction the entire time, even when you took it?"

Dan was skeptical. "I've never seen something like that before."

"Hey, I've seen all sorts of strange things over the past twenty years!"

"I've been away to war and seen things you've never imagined! This is not one of them!"

"Yes, it is!" Jiraiya asserted.

Dan threw his arms up. "Okay, FINE!! If you say so, it's telling us where to go. But if we want to save Tsunade, we'll have to work together. Truce?"

The hermit managed a tiny smile. "Truce." He then slapped him on the back in happiness.

"OW!!"

"Sorry..."

"...No, you're not."


A few hours later, the crystal had led the two men into a graveyard. Dan noticed that one of the graves had an inscription with a picture of the crystal next to it. When he tried to read it, Jiraiya grabbed the top part of the gravestone and pulled it away to reveal a staircase down below. Dan gave up on his translation attempt and led the two of them down, grabbing a lit torch along the way.

"Is this the Court of Miracles?" Jiraiya asked once they reached the bottom.

"Offhand," Dan began, "I'd say it's the Court of Ankle-Deep Sewage. These must be the old catacombs. Huh, what a cheerful place." He snickered at the irony. In reality, the place was dark, damp, and full of skeletons.

After a moment, Dan spoke up again. "Don't you think we should have run into some trouble by now?"

Jiraiya bit his lip. "What do you mean?"

"You know, a guard? A booby-trap? ...Or an ambush."

Suddenly, the fire on the torch went out, and a menacing green fire flared up around the two men. They were surrounded by Konoha-Nins wearing skeleton costumes. They grabbed the two intruders and wrestled them to the ground.

"Well, well, well, dattebayo," I sighed as I stepped out of the darkness. "What have we here?" I'm sure the two of them were surprised to see me. I'm not just the Master of Ceremonies, you know! I'm also the King of the Konoha Nins, their Hokage.

"Trespassers! Spies!" the Konoha Nins announced.

Dan shook his head. "We're not spies! You have to listen--!"

"DON'T INTERRUPT ME!!" I shouted as the others gagged them. Grinning, I held up two candlesticks and lit them. "You're very clever to have found our hiding place, dattebayo. Unfortunately, you won't live to tell the tale!" The other Konoha Nins and I laughed as we circled the two of them, dancing along the way. I took another opportunity to sing. "Maybe you've heard of a terrible place where the scoundrels of Ame collect in lair. Maybe you've heard of that mystical place called 'The Court of Miracles.' Hello, you're there, dattebayo!" The others picked the two spies up and carried them into the next room while I led them out in front. "We have a method for spies and intruders," I warned. "Here in the Court of Miracles, IT'S A MIRACLE IF YOU GET OUT ALIVE!!"

Once we got into the main center of the Court of Miracles, I asked for everybody's attention as I ran up the gallows. "Gather around, Everybody!" I called. "There's good 'noose' tonight! Hee, it's a double-header, dattebayo. Two of Pein-baka's spies!" I laughed when everyone shouted "Boo!" "And not just any spies!" I continued. "His Captain of the Guard and his loyal, bell-ringing henchman. You know what? I'm the lawyers and the judge, and I like to have fun here, so we're going to skip the trial, dattebayo! Any last words?"

The two intruders tried to shout something, but the gags restricted their words. "That's what they all say," I sighed. "Oh well! Now that we've seen all the evidence--!"

"Wait, I object!" Puppet cried out.

"Overruled!"

"I object!"

"QUIET!!" I smacked Puppet down and groaned. Really, was this the best time to be shouting about an objection? Sighing, I turned back to the two on trial. "We find you totally innocent, which is the worst crime of all...SO YOU'RE GOING TO HANG!!" (Yay, hanging time, dattebayo!) I skipped over to the lever that would have removed the floor from their feet, but a voice halted me.

"STOP!!" It was Tsunade! She jumped up to the gallows and explained, "These men aren't spies; they're our friends!"

"Oh," I replied. "...Why didn't they SAY so?!"

"WE DID SAY SO!!" they shouted as soon as Tsunade pulled their gags off.

"Dan saved the miller's family, and Jiraiya helped me escape from Amegakure Tower," the woman explained.

"WE CAME TO WARN YOU!!" Dan shouted as soon as he was free. "Pein is coming! He says he knows where you're hiding and that he's attacking at dawn with a thousand men!"

"Let's waste no time!" Tsunade added. "We must leave immediately."

The Court of Miracles was thrown into a serious panic, and everyone (including myself) went to work packing everything up (I needed my instant ramen!). Dan jumped down from the gallows with Tsunade, and the woman hugged him. "You took a terrible risk coming here. It may not show, but we're grateful." She hugged him happily.

Dan glanced at his partner and laughed. "Don't thank me. Thank Jiraiya. If it weren't for him, I never would have found my way here."

"NOR WOULD I!!" came Pein's booming voice. Soldiers immediately invaded the hideout, surrounding all of us. They even managed to grab Tonton! Dan, Jiraiya, Tsunade, and I were at the center of it all, and the evil judge approached us. "After twenty years of searching, the Court of Miracles is mine at last. Thank you so much for leading me here, Jira-chan."

"You're a liar," Tsunade snarled.

"And look what else I've got here! Captain Dan back from the dead. Heh, another miracle? I'll fix that." Pein walked to the center of our lair and announced, "There will be a little bonfire in the square tomorrow night, and you're all invited to attend!" He turned to the soldiers. "Lock them up. Take Jiraiya back to the tower and make sure he stays there."

I gulped. This was so not good...and not just because I didn't have time to pack my ramen.


The next night, the sky was ominously red, and dark clouds gathered together. We Konoha Nins and Dan were locked in cages right next to the platform where Tsunade was tied to a beam surrounded by firewood. We cried out for Pein to let her go, but he kept announcing the woman's crime and punishment. Once he was done, he took a lit torch from a guard and approached her. "You stand upon the brink of the abyss, Konoha Girl," he announced, "but there is still hope for you yet. Choose me...or the fire."

Tsunade spat in his face. Nice.

I was still worried though. We all needed a hero...

There was no way Jiraiya could help. Pein had chained him to the pillars of the tower, and he had given up hope. "Snap out of it!" Nawaki begged.

"You're friends are down there, Jira-chan!" Orochi added. "You've got to break these chains!"

"It's hopeless," the hermit sighed. "Pein has already won."

Shizune eyed him. "But these chains aren't what's holding you back, Jiraiya!"

"Leave me alone!"

The statues, stunned that their friend would give up that easily, turned and set themselves out on the ledge. "Alright, Jira-chan," Nawaki murmured, "we'll leave you alone."

"After all," Orochi sighed, "we're only made out of stone."

"We just thought you were made of something stronger..." Shizune finished as she became motionless.

Jiraiya could still hear everything Pein was saying though, and it didn't lighten the mood at all. Just when he lit the fire to send Tsunade to Hell, the hermit cried out in protest and yanked on the chains as hard as he could. In a moment of unbelievable power, the chains and the pillars crumbled. Jiraiya ran to the ledge, tied a long piece of rope around the edge, and propelled himself down to the platform. He untied Tsunade, who had fallen unconscious, and broke off the flaming beam to swing it at the oncoming soldiers. He then grabbed the rope and climbed back up to the top of the tower. We cheered excitedly when he made it up there, because he lifted Tsunade into the air and screamed, "SANCTUARY!! SANCTUARY!! SANCTUARY!!"

"Captain!" Pein commanded. "Seize the tower!"

Inside, Jiraiya set Tsunade down on a small bed and ran back out to the balcony. He threw a wooden beam down to the ground, destroying the execution platform and Pein's transportation cart. Angry, the judge ordered the soldiers to pick up the beam and pound it against the door in hopes of entering the tower.

Just as one of them was about to step forward, Dan smacked him in the back of the head and took the keys. He unlocked his cage and stood on top of it. Grabbing a spear, he shouted, "Citizens of Amegakure! Pein has persecuted our people and ransacked our country! Now he has declared war on Amegakure Tower herself! WILL WE ALLOW IT?!"

"NO!!" the people shouted back. They barged through the crowds of soldiers, stole their weapons, and unlocked our cages. Yes, it was so good to be free! I grabbed a scythe from an enemy soldier and swung it about, managing to hit many of them, all while singing about our fight and freedom at the top of my lungs.(2) Dan punched a solider back and then ordered Katsuyu to sit on him...again! All of the Konoha Nins fought back alongside the Amegakure citizens. It was great!

Jiraiya and his friends fought back, too. They managed to keep the soldiers from climbing up the sides of the tower (Shizune even sent those birds after them!), and Jiraiya poured a huge tub full of melted lead down into the streets. This caused many of the people, both the good guys and Pein's men, to recoil in fear, but Pein himself managed to infiltrate the tower.

"Pein, have you gone mad?!" the Archdeacon cried. "I will not tolerate this behavior on the House of God!"

"Silence, Fool!" Pein hissed back as he threw the old man down the stairs, making his way up to the bell tower. "The hermit and I have some unfinished business, and this time, you won't interfere." He made his way to the top of the tower.

"We did it, Tsunade!" he heard Jiraiya cheer. "We beat them back! Come see!" The hermit paused for a moment and waited for a response, but he got nothing. "Tsunade? Oh no..." He rushed to her side and tried to wake her up, but her body was cold. He cried out for her and glared at Pein when he entered the room. "You killed her..."

"It was my duty," the judge replied, "as horrible as it was. Oh, Jira-chan, don't worry. I know it hurts, but it's time to end your suffering...forever."

Jiraiya looked up and gasped at the shadow of the knife held high in the judge's hand. He gasped and punched him back just as he was about to strike. He grabbed the knife and shouted, "All my life, you've told me that the world is a dark, cruel place, but now I see that the only thing dark and cruel about it is people like you!"

"Jiraiya...?"

The hermit turned. "Tsunade!"

"She lives!" Pein realized, unsheathing a sword at his side. He tried to follow Jiraiya out the door as soon as he grabbed Tsunade, but he couldn't find them. After a moment of searching the balcony, he looked over the side to see they were dangling from one of the statues. "Leaving so soon?" he called out, swinging the sword down onto them. Jiraiya jumped out of the way of the sword as many times as he could before throwing Tsunade back to the balcony so he wouldn't have to worry about dropping her. When he stood up on top of one of the statues, Pein growled at him. "I should have known you'd risk your life to save that Konoha witch, just as your own mother died saving you..."

Jiraiya's eyes were wide. "What?"

"And now," Pein finished, "I'm going to do what I should have done TWENTY YEARS AGO!!" With that, he threw his cape over Jiraiya's head, causing him to lose his balance and fall over. But Pein was still holding the cape, so he fell over the edge, too. Tsunade tried to grab Jiraiya's hand and hoist him back to the balcony, but he was too heavy.

Pein looked to the side and saw a statue (one he had hit when trying to slice Jiraiya and Tsunade) and jumped up on top of it. He laughed manically as he steadied himself on top of it, loving the fear in Tsunade's eyes. He lifted the sword high above his head and shouted, "AND HE SHALL SMITE THE WICKED AND PLUNGE THEM INTO THE FIERY PIT!!"

As soon as he was about to bring the sword down, the statue below him cracked. He held on for it for dear life, and after a moment of hallucination, the statue separated itself from the tower, and Pein plunged down into the molten lead, burning to death.

"Jiraiya..." Tsunade gasped as she tried to lift him up. "Jira-chan..." But he slipped through her fingers. "NO!!"

Just when we all thought all hope was lost, Dan reached out and grabbed Jiraiya, dragging him back inside the tower. Tsunade smiled and ran down the stairs to meet up with them. He smile only increased when she saw the happy looks on her friends' faces. She ran to Jiraiya and hugged him, but the hermit brought her to Dan. He set their hands together and left them alone. They knew what it meant. They leaned in and kissed. Jiraiya realized that he was happy as long as Tsunade was happy, and he knew Dan would take good care of her.

When the new couple emerged from the tower, we all cheered. We were so happy that the fight was finally over. The melted lead had disappeared into the drains, Pein's remains gone with it. We could finally live in peace!

Tsunade suddenly turned and offered her hand to Jiraiya, who was waiting inside the tower. He cautiously took it and stepped into the sunlight, waiting for the public's opinion of him.

I noticed that a small girl, one named Moegi who I recognized from my shows, was making a move to approach him. As soon as she got close, she put her hand on his face and smiled, realizing it was just a little different-looking from her own. Underneath, Jiraiya was just another human. She hugged him tightly and brought him into the crowd.

I couldn't let an opportunity like this slip away. "THREE CHEERS FOR JIRAIYA!!" I shouted, and the entire crowd burst into applause. They picked the ex-hermit up onto their shoulders and carried him through town, celebrating his victory.

I smiled and picked up Moegi, thanking her for her brave move. "I told you, dattebayo," I teased. "Remember my riddle? What makes a monster, and what makes a man?"

Tonton jumped up to Dan and Tsunade, and the three of them watched on in great joy. I could hear Shizune order the birds to leave her alone while Nawaki and Orochi shared some champaign. Then I heard something I had never heard before. The bells were ringing on their own!

Well, I couldn't let THAT go, now could I?

"Whatever their pitch, you can feel them bewitch you. The rich and the ritual knells of the Bells of Amegakure Tower!"

And we all lived happily ever after.

THE END

Next: Shizune as Snow White

(1) I have no idea what "Jiraiya" actually means. This translation was done for the sake of the story, so don't take my word for it.

(2) In Victor Hugo's original novel, Clopin is a more prominent character during the fight at Notre Dame. In my favorite scene from the novel, the King of Gypsies takes a ten-foot scythe and swings it about while singing in a high, nasally voice, killing several soldiers. While I wanted to include this aspect of the novel in my adaptation of the Disney movie (because it SO should have been included), I left out the part where he dies. Yeah, I wasn't gonna let that happen to my favorite Disney guy ever. XD