"Have you made up your mind?" Raiha asked the woman in front of him, with his eyes fixed unnervingly upon her face.
Knowing that with her acceptance, she would forever bind her fate with the man in front her, Yugito snorted, in a very indelicate manner, "Of course, besides what other option do I have?"
Turning forward to leave, Raiha remarked, "Don't flatter yourself, it was your only option, and you know it."
Gnashing her teeth, Yugito followed him, as they rapidly made their way towards the village of Konoha.
Few miles away from their location, the team of three Root Ninja's, dispatched by Danzo were rapidly making their way towards the Route upon which they planned to intercept the Hokage's grandson as he made his way back to the village.
As they made their way towards their target, Fuu their sensor, stiffened for a second. Instantly, both Torune and Shin moved their hands to the hilts of their swords.
"What is it?" Torune asked Fuu quietly. He knew better than to doubt his friend. Fuu was the best sensor in all of Konoha, even though Konoha itself was unaware of that fact.
"Twenty-four enemies are rapidly making their way towards the Hokage's grandson and his companion, intent appears to be hostile, their gait and their chakra natures indicate they are from the land of wood."
"Companion? I was not aware that Raiha-san had anyone assisting him?" Shin mentioned thoughtfully, while Fuu shook his head.
"Whoever this woman is," here both Torune and Shin looked at him in surprise, "has a massive chakra reserve. The only other female I have seen coming remotely close to matching that kind of chakra capacity is the Lady Hokage herself."
"We need to hurry," Torune muttered as the three of them sped forward.
Soon, the other two also became aware of the enemies racing alongside them towards the Hokage's grandson. They had no doubt that they had been detected, but left alone.
It was a logical decision. The Hokage's grandson was the target, not some three no-name ninjas like themselves. The greater prize warranted the greater attention. It had now turned into an all-out race to reach the Hokage's grandson.
"You do realize that even if we reach there first, we will still be vastly outnumbered?" Torune muttered quietly, while his friend was silent, "We may be stronger, and quality may be better than quantity, but quantity has a quality of its own as well."
"They are remnants of the assassins from the land of Wood, if my lessons in history serve me right, are they not? Why would they assault the Hokage's grandson? If anything, shouldn't they be aiming for Danzo-sama for spearheading the destruction of their clan and village?" Shin asked in confusion as he looked at his two seniors.
"They are doing so, because the one, who ordered Danzo-sama to eliminate the land of wood, was the Nidaime Hokage. During the course of the second world war, they were allied with us, at first, but they betrayed us, and in doing so, were indirectly responsible for the deaths of nearly half the members of the Senju clan, during the battle of Mikata-ga-hara. That battle hastened the decline of the Senju clan, and the Nidaime ordered the razing of their land and village in retaliation. We wiped out the village hidden in the land of the wood and permanently destroyed any chances they might have possessed for reviving their village."
"The Nidaime was aware of Root?" Shin asked in surprise, as he found that dubious.
"He founded it, and ran it, when the Shodai Hokage asked him to create a special unit within the newly formed ANBU during the first ninja war. When he became Hokage, he handed over its reins to Danzo-sama," Fuu replied glibly, while Shin became silent.
"But the war has been over a long time, besides none of us even existed during that time. Why are they attempting to take revenge after so many years of inactivity?" Shin asked as they sped forward.
"I guess the news that the Senju clan has been revived, must have been more than they can bear. If my guess is right, every last person, capable of being a shinobi from that land has come here today to take revenge, and to kill the last male Senju," Torune observed, while Shin fell silent.
"There is one thing you must learn, Shin. If politics makes strange bedfellows, then covert actions make even stranger ones. Diplomacy demands that politicians bury their differences when the need arises. However, shinobi do not. They nurse their grudges. Forever," Fuu spoke softly. Offhand, it was possibly the best advice anybody from Root had ever given to him.
As they made their way forward, Raiha suddenly stiffened, even as Yugito instantly moved her hands towards her weapon holster.
"What is it?"
"We are about to have company," Raiha muttered softly, even as three ninja's wearing Konoha ANBU uniforms, sans face masks, came into view, looking like they had just run all over the world.
"Raiha-sama, our deepest apologies, but we were ordered to come to your aid …," the leader began, only to be interrupted by Raiha, "By Danzo, yes, I know."
"You … knew? And you were expecting us, but how?" the leader seemed flustered, while the body posture of his men slackened considerably.
"Because Danzo is Danzo, I know how people like him think and act, better than most, perhaps better than he himself," he concluded, while the two lieutenants of Root Stiffened.
"If the boy is as smart as I suspect him to be, then he will have anticipated your arrival for his assistance, beforehand," unbidden, the memory of Danzo uttering these words came back to the mind of Torune. It would seem that Danzo-sama was correct in his estimations.
Then their eyes fell upon Yugito, who was standing beside Raiha, wearing the flak jacket and uniform of a Kumo Nin. More importantly, they noticed her slashed forehead protector, indicating her current allegiance, or rather lack thereof.
As the three Root Nin slowly tightened their guard, Raiha muttered softly, "I would appreciate it, if you do not antagonize my wife. I cannot guarantee your safety otherwise."
Within the second, all three stared at him in open astonishment, and gazed at the woman in wonder.
"Do you know who our unwanted guests are?" he asked in the same tone, as he gazed at the woods ahead, while the three of them took up guarding positions around him, and surprisingly, Yugito as well.
"They are the remnants of the Hanya assassins from the land of Wood, Raiha-sama, it would seem that they are here to exact vengeance upon you, for the casualties they suffered at the hands of Root ninja when the Nidaime Hokage ordered Danzo – sama to deal with them, during the second ninja war," Shin spoke out quietly, while Raiha became silent as he pondered over the information.
"From the Land of Wood? But they have been defunct for decades!" Yugito spoke out in shock as she eyed Shin.
"Not as defunct as we thought, apparently," Fuu grunted as he too began to make preparations for an imminent assault.
"Hanya assassins, eh, yes, I believe I know how to deal with them now," Raiha spoke out as he began to concentrate his chakra
"You two," he spoke as he turned to face Fuu and Torune, "Identify yourselves, and state your abilities; I need to know the abilities of everyone present to form a battle plan," Raiha ordered as he looked at them squarely.
"Fuu, sensor, as well as trap expert and wielder of the Yamanaka bloodline."
"Torune, infiltration, as well as the wielder of the Aburame bloodline."
"Shin, demolition expert and pictomancer."
"What the hell are they waiting for?" Yugito spoke out in agitation as she eyed the area surrounding them. It had been nearly ten minutes, since they had been surrounded, but the enemy had not made a single move towards their positions, which was understandably nerve-wracking for the Konoha ninjas.
"Let us find out. Fuu, which one is the nearest to our location?" Raiha asked, at which Fuu scouted around.
"There, 15 yards, south west direction, in the trees," Fuu pointed out at which Raiha nodded.
"Can you use the Shintenshin on him, from here?" Raiha asked quietly. Fuu nodded in agreement.
"Do so, find out what they are planning," Raiha ordered, at which, the man nodded.
"Torune, guard my body," he spoke softly and made the seals as his partner grabbed hold of his body.
"Shintenshin no Jutsu," and with that he forcibly took over the mind of the target using astral projection and forcibly viewed his memories, and instantly returned back.
"Raiha-sama, they are waiting for reinforcements, another hundred shinobi to arrive to their aid, momentarily," Fuu spoke out quietly.
"I see, under the circumstances, I suppose this is unavoidable, we must first get rid of these people, and then, prepare an ambush for the expected reinforcements," Raiha spoke out quickly at which everybody nodded and moved forward to take offensive positions.
After gathering the necessary chakra, Raiha made five hand seals rapidly, as he plunged his palm to the ground.
"Kuchiyose no Jutsu," (Summoning technique), he intoned as he flared his chakra, through the seal matrix that appeared within his palm, as a large amount of smoke covered the area.
The Root Nin stiffened, unaware of the fact that their target possessed a summoning contract. Yugito was watching the proceedings with a gimlet eye.
When the smoke cleared, three rabbits, each of them, the size of a full-grown dog stood in front of them.
All three of the rabbits wore what appeared to be the apparel of a samurai, with a daisho, and light leather armor covering their front and back, along with leather bracers on their fore-paws, which were similar to a human hand, they noticed.
The rabbit on the left was white in color, with green eyes, and possessed an air of nobility inherent within it. The rabbit on the middle was black in color with red eyes, and possessed an air of authority, while the rabbit on the right was brown in color, with blue eyes, and looked dispassionate and uninterested in the proceedings.
"Lao-Tzu, Sun-Tzu, & Chao-Tzu, thank you for your prompt response," Raiha bowed in greeting as the Rabbits bowed in return.
"Did you know that there was a rabbit summoning contract in existence?" Torune whispered, while Fuu shook his head minutely, watching the creatures in fascination.
Konoha possessed only five summoning contracts which were known. Three of them were major contracts, them being the Ape contract of the Sandaime, the Slug contract of the Godaime, the Toad contract wielded by the Yondaime and his teacher Jiraiya, and the minor contracts were the dog contract by Kakashi Hatake, and the Turtle contract by Maito Gai.
The Snake contract had been lost, when the Snake Sannin had defected, and although his apprentice could summon the minor creatures of the clan, the traitor had ensured that his apprentice could not summon the clan leaders, and gain their blessings to use the contract completely. They also knew that Danzo had a contract, but they didn't know what creatures it was for.
So, Konoha had five publicly known contracts, and one hidden, and it appeared that this number had just gone up by one more.
At Fuu's whisper, the black rabbit in middle, twitched and turned towards him with a stern glare, "There is a lot you don't know, child," at which the man began to sweat, as he felt an enormous amount of killing amount hit him from the creature.
"Peace, Sun-Tzu, he did not mean anything by it, forgive him," Raiha spoke in a quiet tone, even as the rabbit relented.
"Name your reason for summoning us, boy," Sun-Tzu commanded, while the watching humans raised their eyebrows, at seeing such a forceful summon.
"Master Sun-Tzu, we are currently surrounded by twenty-four enemies, and a hundred more are to arrive for their aid. I humbly request your assistance in dispatching this threat," Raiha made his request, while the rabbits paused.
As one, the three rabbits turned around, even as their long ears twitched for a few seconds.
"Very well, our blades have grown dull without any blood to whet them for quite some time, we shall aid you," Sun-Tzu muttered, and within the blink of an eye, he vanished.
"To raise my blade to cut down such unworthy foes, is unbefitting of my noble status, but, the rabbit clan honors its debts," Lao-Tzu, the white rabbit, muttered with a sigh, even as he too vanished.
"Though cast am I from the hearth of my home, black tears dribble from mine eyes, at the thought of the bloodshed that is to come," the brown rabbit muttered with a sigh, as it too vanished.
"Did that rabbit, just make a haiku?" Yugito asked, perplexed, while Raiha just stood still.
"Pardon me, Raiha-sama, but I was unaware that there was a rabbit contract in existence. If it is not too presumptuous of me to question so; when exactly did you acquire it?" Torune asked, while Raiha looked at him with his same impassive gaze, but the man did not flinch unlike many others.
After a few minutes, he began to speak, "The Rabbit clan are one of the twelve major summoning contracts in existence. They are sworn in service exclusively to the Senju clan, similar to how the Ape clan has sworn its service to the Sarutobi clan. They are the greatest masters in the art of Kenjutsu, and possess exceptional skill in Raiton Ninjutsu & Genjutsu. But the reason, why they are so feared and respected, despite their weak physical stature, and why they are considered as a great clan in the summoning realm, is because of their unparalleled mastery over Jikukan Ninjutsu, known more commonly as space-time Ninjutsu. The Nidaime Hokage's mastery of Jikukan jutsu was obtained under their tutelage."
Yugito gulped in no small amount of fear, and looked askance at the place where the rabbits had stood just a few minutes ago. Nor was she, the only one to do so.
Space-time techniques were considered as the holy grail of the ninja arts for a reason. Even the slightest knowledge of such techniques, automatically converted its owner into a grave threat. To date, the Yondaime Raikage, still raged about the Yondaime Hokage, about how the so called yellow flash had cheated his way into victory, every time they fought, using those techniques of his.
"Where did you get this contract, I thought it was lost with the death of the Nidaime?" Yugito asked, as she was aware of the existence of the Rabbit contract, although not the details that had been revealed today.
The reason why the Rabbit contract was known to Kumo was because the Nidaime Hokage had utilized them in his last stand against the Kinkaku force and had decimated them completely, even though he lost his life afterwards in the battle, being betrayed by Hanzo. However, it had been assumed that the contract had been lost, as Tobirama had not allowed anybody else to sign it.
"That, my dear wife, is a discussion for another time and another place," he replied blandly, while Yugito nodded, even as the Root Nin rued a lost opportunity. Danzo was not going to be pleased with this incomplete report.
Soon, screams began to emanate all around them, and all of them, apart from Raiha, watched in fascination as a literal rain of human body parts began to fall down from the canopy of trees above them.
A slight sporadic rustle of a breeze, followed by the hoarse screams of the victims permeated the air.
After ten minutes, the three rabbits appeared in front of them. Lao-Tzu was wiping his blade clean, with an expensive scarf, while Chao-Tzu was again standing to the side, creating a new haiku to commemorate this battle.
Sun-Tzu, with his blade still dripping with blood, walked forward.
"That was a good battle, now, Raiha; do you have anything else for us to do?"
"Yes, I want you to assemble a hunting party," he replied, and instantly the other two rabbits gazed at him with a steely gaze.
"You understand the consequences of your actions? Even Tobirama did not assemble a hunt unless the situation required for it," Sun-Tzu replied after a moment's silence.
"Name the target of the hunt,"
"Hunt down the survivors of the Hanya group. Eliminate every last living being in that clan and village down to the last breathing child."
Yugito sucked in a deep breath as she looked at her … her … husband, as he casually issued an order for genocide. Although, she was not aware of the history between the Senju and the Land of the Wood, she knew when some things were beyond the norm. What have I gotten myself into?
The three Root Nin on the other hand, remained perfectly still. It was a valid and logical solution in their opinion. If the Hanya assassins could wait fifty years to take vengeance, then there was no telling what they could do in the future. Fanatical hatred of that sort could not be appeased, no matter the effort expended. The only alternative left was to enforce the kind of action being taken by the Hokage's grandson now.
After a moment, Sun-Tzu nodded.
"Very well, but you will need to speak to Seijuro-sama after this," the black colored rabbit warned, even as the three rabbits dispelled themselves.
Very well, let us be on our way," Raiha muttered, as all of them regained their bearings and followed him.
As they neared the village, Yugito became more and more apprehensive. Noticing her discomfort, Raiha looked at her, "Do not worry, you will not be harmed, you have my word."
Mollified, she hardened her resolve, and sped forward. As they moved ahead, at a suggestion from him, she removed her forehead protector, and placed it inside her coat as a precaution.
As they neared the gates, they could see that the village wore a festive look for some reason, and they could see the Hokage, standing at the gates, along with many other ninja's and quite a retinue of people.
"What is going on? Is there some sort of celebration going on in the village?" Raiha asked Fuu who was their point-man, who shook his head.
"When news of your deed in Amegakure reached Konoha, the people automatically began to revel. It has been decades since Konoha has achieved a victory of this nature, and the fact that you have avenged the Senju Clan was enough of a reason for everyone to start celebrating," he replied, while Yugito became confused.
"Wait, what … exactly did you do in Amegakure?"
"Nothing much, I just killed Hanzo."
Yugito stopped dead in her tracks. Hanzo, Hanzo of the Salamanders.
Hanzo was a name known to every shinobi in existence. He was the man, who had single-handedly protected and guarded Amegakure successfully through the three world wars, and had managed to thwart the Great Five Villages; he was the man who single handedly defeated the three Sannin, when they were at their prime, and had given them their title. Amegakure was, for all purposes, even if unacknowledged, the sixth great village, and Hanzo, was for all purposes, the unofficial and unrecognized … Amekage.
"You killed him! Him? But … wait, that is why those Ame Jonin were chasing you, weren't they? And you did it single-handedly and without any back up or support?" Yugito asked shrilly, while Raiha looked at her in surprise.
"I didn't need any, it was not that difficult to be honest," he muttered as he made his way forward. While Yugito and even the three Root Nin stopped after hearing that. They had to.
"Well, are you coming or not?"
"Pardon us Raiha-sama; our duty was to escort you to the village gates. We must now take our leave and report to your superior. Please excuse us," Shin replied, after gathering his bearings, while Raiha nodded.
"Tell Danzo, that I wish to speak with him, soon," he replied back, even as Fuu nodded in acceptance.
Tsunade rubbed her forehead angrily, even as she stood outside the village gates. Accompanying her was the entire shinobi council, and half the ninjas present in the village. When the news had broken out that her grandson had killed Hanzo, a sort of revelry had broken out in the village, unseen since the end of the third war.
Her people were thinking that it was a great victory, and that they had been avenged for the betrayal of the death of the Second Hokage.
True, she had expected that she would need to make a forceful statement to prove to the world, that she had not been bluffing in the grand council.
But, killing Hanzo had been taking it too far. The unsanctioned (though no one knew it) assassination of a head of state was not a deterrent for future war. It was more like an invitation for one. The fact that apart from Hanzo, there was no one in Ame, who had the skill to go against her and the Kage-level shinobi in Konoha, might be the only thing that could restrain Ame from declaring war over this in the near future.
She had already been bombarded by a flurry of messages from the fire daimyo himself, and was nearing the end of her tether.
Suddenly, her musings were cut short as she watched her grandson come into view, walking steadily towards the gate. She paused, as she saw another person step behind him. A woman.
That set off all sorts of alarm bells within her head. To date, the only women with whom he interacted were her and Shizune. And the woman walking behind him demurely was most definitely not her student.
The woman was wearing a traveling cloak over her ninja uniform with a hood that covered her face.
The people surrounding her also stiffened, and whispers began to emanate as they noticed his companion.
She fervently prayed to all deities who would listen, hoping beyond hope, that her grandson had not done anything reckless, which might lead to a war. Killing Hanzo was bad enough; she hoped it wouldn't get any worse beyond that.
Then, the woman removed her cloak and showed her face. As soon as she recognized her face, Tsunade's heart nearly jumped to her mouth. Standing before her, right next to her grandson was the jinchuuriki of the Nibi no Nekomata. Yugito Nii of Kumogakure no Sato. Apparently, things had gotten worse than she could possibly hope for.
If a war doesn't erupt over this, then I am the greatest gambler in the world! Damn it to hell! The Idiot! What the hell was he thinking! Killing a head of state was one thing, but stealing a jinchuuriki, what the hell was wrong with this boy!
Even as Tsunade remained in the semi-trance, Raiha approached her, even as he beckoned Yugito to approach them, "Grandmother, please allow me to introduce to you my wife, Yugito."
That broke her out of her haze. A dead silence prevailed over the area as every single person became silent and gazed at the scene in front of them.
As she gazed at her grandson, Tsunade began to smile, and then she began to laugh, and continued to laugh harder and harder, until the people around her began to edge away, fearing for their safety.
Then without pause, she suddenly whirled around, and delivered a devastating punch to her grandson's face, even as he was sent away flying and crashed into a tree at the opposite end of the road, and groaned in pain and sank down, while the tree itself splintered into a thousand pieces.
Then smiling, in the same feral manner, she turned towards Yugito, whose face was blanched with fear, and placed her arms around her shoulder.
"Come, daughter-in-law of mine, let us go and have a chat," she spoke with a charming smile, while Yugito squeaked in fear, as she was led away, while her husband collapsed on the opposite side of the road in a dead faint.
It has taken me too long to come out of the writing block for this story. The reason being that the manga has taken a nosedive with regards to plot, and I can't make head or tails of what to do, as the direction of the series changes more radically than a leaf blowing in the wind. I mean, Obito alive, Jubi back, Neji dead, and Orochimaru back. Naruto and Hinata getting together in a cheesy battle scene! What is next, Hashirama Senju coming back to life along with Sarutobi and Minato? Jeez, at least maintain some semblance of believability in the plot Kishimoto!
Okay, rant aside, sorry that I could not deliver on the preview promised in the previous chapter, but it will come in future. For now, don't expect updates regularly for this. I will try to update Shinobi clan wars next, before moving on to updating Isane after that.
Next update for this story should be in another two to three months I think.
One thing I am making clear, this story will not be abandoned, no matter what. You have my word.
Thanks a lot for sticking with me and more importantly with this story for all this time.