Words-47383, Chapters-5, Reviews-78, Hits-15335, C2s-17, Fav-145, Alerts-156

Well, I'm still alive. I apologize for the long wait, and that this chapter is still unbeta'd. Though in my defense, I've been trying to update this thing for about ten days now. Please note, this chapter was put together on computer, my phone, and paper, then combined later on. So there may be places where it doesn't flow properly, though I tried to catch them all. If you find one, please let me know. I've actually been sitting on this chapter mostly done for a couple of months. It's only been in the last two days that I sat down and made myself finish it. The fact that I'm five chapters and a prologue into a new story that's really got me writing like crazy right now helped motivate me. Speaking of which, I'm looking for someone to bounce ideas off or for this newest idea.

Don't forget to check out my challenges. Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed. I should have responded to everyone, but if I missed you, I apologize. All reviews/criticism is welcomed. If you see spelling/grammar mistakes, or if I forgot to put something in the translations, please let me know. Without further ado, I give you chapter six of Naruto: The Reckoning

This will be AU (obviously) and Naruto will be two years older than Canon. Which means that the Kyuubi attack will be two years earlier.

Summary: A single moment's hesitation during the Kyuubi attack changed everything. Now as the world rushes towards war, a new order begins its rise.



Chapter 6

Naruto panted as the weather grew steadily more humid. With each step, he and his companions drew closer to their destination. Amegakure no Sato.

Their briefing had been surprisingly simple. They were to go with an unnamed Ame Jounin and journey to Amegakure. Once there, they were to help Sanshouo Hanzo himself, in putting down a rebellion. Well, to be more accurate, Hanzo, Sarutobi, Jiraiya, and Tsunade were supposed to kill this "Pein" guy, while he and Kakashi were supposed to deal with the lower ranked rebels.

According to Danzo-sama, this was so he could gain experience. But Naruto knew that Kakashi's job was to watch over him. This realization served to depress him whenever he thought about it. He knew he wasn't as strong as he should be, especially when they were at war, yet the fact that Danzo-sama thought he needed a babysitter seemed a little much.

Shaking his head, Naruto scolded himself for allowing his own feelings of inadequacy to distract him from the mission. Danzo-sama had been very clear on just how important this mission would be for Konoha, and as a ninja, it was his duty to see that it was successfully completed.

"Are you alright, Naruto-chan?" Tsunade suddenly asked from beside him, breaking him from his thoughts.

Looking up at her, Naruto smiled in what he hoped would be taken as reassurance. "Of course I am, Tsunade! After all, this is my first mission and it's a really important one too." He said with as much pride as he could muster.

Tsunade stared at him for a moment before moving closer so they were jumping through the trees together. "You know, this isn't really your mission." she said carefully. "We just thought it would be a good experience for you. You can leave completing the mission up to Sensei, Jiraiya, and me."

Naruto tried to hide how much those words hurt, after all, he was a Jinchuuriki. He was born for things like this, and being told that he wasn't good enough, by Tsunade of all people, hurt more than anything he'd ever experienced. He was drawn from his depression when he felt a hand affectionately run through his hair. Looking up, he saw Tsunade smiling down at him. "Of course, it's also important that we make sure the rebels are defeated for good. So I think it would be best if you help me with them, while Kakashi goes with Sensei and Jiraiya. What do you say; do you want to come help me?"

In an instant he felt his mood shift from borderline depression to ecstatic. "You can count on me!" he promised fiercely.

Tsunade frowned discreetly as she manipulated her own son. She didn't want to encourage him into thinking that everything was as it should be in the world. Hell, she didn't even want him to think she condoned his presence on this mission. And she most certainly didn't want him thinking fighting the Ame rebels was "cool" or some other such nonsense. But Naruto was her son, and she'd be damned if she let him fall into a depression.

So Tsunade once again found herself doing something she would hate herself for. All for her son. She allowed herself to briefly imagine what could have been, if only the Kyuubi had never attacked.

She and Minato would have raised Naruto to be a kind, considerate boy, who refused to take shit from anyone. He would have grown up loved and adored, never doubting his place in her heart, nor in the world. He would have joined the Academy at age six, just like any normal child, and he would have waited until twelve to graduate, also like any normal child.

Then, he would learn from Sarutobi, until he was old enough to realize that he would rather work in the hospital with his mother, and would leave the dangerous part of being a ninja to his father and the others.

After that, he would find a beautiful wife -though obviously she'd have to be someone Tsunade approved of- then he'd give his mother an entire brood of grandchildren to spoil rotten.

Grandchildren who would follow in their father's footsteps and choose a safe career as healers rather than fighters. Then all would be right with the world.

Instead, he had been forced into the world of shinobi before he was even old enough to understand the word, stripped of his heritage and childhood. Pushed to become a weapon rather than a person, to learn how to kill before he had even learned how to make friends or how to properly dress himself.

'I swear I'm going to kill you, Danzo.' Tsunade promised with a silent growl.

Scowling to herself, she scanned the surroundings for any sign of the rebels or Hanzo's shinobi. She wasn't entirely sure which would be worse.

Her previous visit to Ame no Kuni had been a bloody, miserable affair, full of desperate battles with terrified samurai and fanatical shinobi. The source of both the terror and the fanaticism was not the invading Konoha shinobi, nor from the knowledge that their once great nation was on the verge of collapsing under the assaults of three of the Great Nations. It was him.

Sanshouo Hanzo, considered by many to be the greatest Shinobi to ever live. The man who spat in the face of tradition and propriety when he seized control of an entire nation from its Daimyo, and then led it on brutal campaign of conquest and expansion that allowed it to go from being an almost insignificant nation to being one of the greatest.

Even when it was obvious that they couldn't win, the very mention of his name drove the Ame shinobi and samurai to fight harder, to choose death over surrender or retreat. And then, when it finally seemed that the forces led by her, Jiraiya, and Orochimaru were making headway, that victory might indeed be possible, he appeared.

Tsunade couldn't hold back the shiver that ran through her as she remembered that day.

The man had appeared before them, alone, with not a sign of emotion in his posture as he stared over their strike force. Dressed in an Ame Jounin uniform with a rebreather that covered his entire head and left only a portion of his face exposed, the rain and wind ripping at his long blond hair and the gray cape he wore, he stood there. For what seemed an eternity, he just stood there as she and her teammates demanded Ame no Kuni's surrender, demanded his surrender. He stood there, unspeaking, gazing over their army, as if judging them, weighing their worth and strength the way a man would judge a kunai or some other weapon.

She didn't know why she said what she did next. No, that wasn't true. Tsunade knew exactly why she said it. She had said it because she was tired, tired of being cold, tired of being hungry, tired of the fighting, tired of the death. But most of all, she was tired of the entire, miserable country of Ame no Kuni, with its delusion of greatness, tired of slaughtering the fools who refused to accept the inevitable, tired of being pestered by orphan children, tired of offering healing to the enemy wounded just to have her kindness spat in her face.

She had just wanted to go home.

So, thinking Hanzo was just showing the same, stubborn pride the rest of his people had done, Tsunade had spat out harshly, "This isn't a negotiation, Hanzo! Surrender your pathetic nation while some part of it still lives!" How she regretted opening her mouth.

Hanzo had looked her straight in the eyes, those cold, impossibly black eyes shining, and then rasped out, "You're right. This isn't a negotiation. I don't negotiate with the dead."

And then he had finally moved. Tsunade couldn't say how long the battle lasted, nor could Jiraiya whenever she asked, and Orochimaru refused to speak of it. But she remembered the surprise she felt as Hanzo moved through their ranks, killing effortlessly, before her rage had come as her teammates and she charged him. Then the rage had been replaced by horror. The terror as he brushed their forces aside as if they were mere children, the fear as her every attempt to heal one of the injured was ended by Hanzo appearing before her, killing whatever poor soul she was trying to save, then leaving.

When she realized her best chance to save those still alive was to fight rather than heal, she joined Orochimaru and Jiraiya, and together, Team Sarutobi attempted to drive the Ame ruler back. They failed.

It didn't matter what Ninjutsu or Genjutsu they had used, or how much strength she put behind her blows, Hanzo held them off with an ease that even Sarutobi had never been able to. All the while, he had continued to kill those with them, choosing for some reason to never strike a killing blow against her teammates, or herself, even as he chased those who tried to break contact and snuffed out their lives with ease.

When there was no one but Team Sarutobi and the wounded left, Hanzo had begun finishing off the helpless Konoha wounded, forcing Tsunade and her friends to summon their greatest allies to try to stop him.

Gamabunta had whined about being summoned away from his sake, Manda had laughed in his hissing way at Orochimaru for "needing me to save you again?" while berating the Toad Boss for being such a drunk. Only Katsuya had seemed to grasp that the situation was worse than they believed.

Hanzo had gazed at them nonchalantly before summoning his own ally. Tsunade never found out for sure if the salamander Hanzo summoned was a boss summon or not, though a part of her feared that even in a summons battle Hanzo hadn't seen the need to bring his full might to bear.

The battle between the summons had gone much the way the previous battle had, with Hanzo and his salamander easily defeating them. Gamabunta had been the first to be defeated, forcefully dispersed when Hanzo called forth a massive Suiryuudan from the seemingly ever present rain to slash at his face, nearly taking an eye and leaving what would become a permanent scar. Despite her caution, Katsuya was next to go, nearly boiled alive by Hanzo's summon when it burst out a flaming tongue that wrapped around the giant slug almost before she was aware it was happening. Manda had managed to last the longest, and as such had received the most damage of all. His pride had refused to allow him to retreat, and so he had fought on long after any other summon would have dispersed themselves, until he lay all but dead, still refusing to return to the Summon realm where he could recover.

Orochimaru, in an increasingly rarer act of compassion, had forced Manda to return to his own realm against his will. Ironically, it was this that had driven the wedge between Boss Summon and his only summoner. Manda had railed against Orochimaru angrily; spitting threats and promises of retribution if he dared send him from the battle. The next time Orochimaru had attempted to summon him, Manda had refused to come, instead sending one of his lesser brethren to inform Orochimaru of the new price Orochimaru would have to pay for summoning him. One hundred live human sacrifices.

The great snake had likely chosen the price knowing that Orochimaru was unwilling to pay it –at least at the time- as a way to tell him that he was angry and didn't want to see him, at least until Manda had managed to regain his pride.

Perhaps the two would have reconciled later on, but by the time Manda might have gotten over his "humiliation", Orochimaru had already begun his path to betraying the village.

Following their summons' defeat, Tsunade had all but accepted death. Every shinobi who had been with them that day was dead, their greatest summons had been defeated, Jiraiya couldn't even stand on his own, much less fight and Orochimaru had expended most of his remaining chakra by forcing Manda to leave. Tsunade had been the only one left with the ability to continue fighting, and she had known she didn't stand a chance.

And Hanzo? Hanzo had just stood there on top of his salamander summon, gazing down at them dispassionately, not even breathing hard, despite all he had done up to that point. When he finally spoke, Tsunade had been shocked that it wasn't the name of a jutsu that came from his lips, but a congratulations of sorts. "I see Hiruzen Sarutobi trained his students well. You three will no doubt one day become powerful in your own rights, maybe even nigh unstoppable together. Go back to your sensei, and tell him that the war between us is over. Tell him that I know even I wouldn't be able to defeat Konoha right now and that eventually, Konohagakure would win. Do this, and one other thing, and I will allow you to leave my country with your lives."

"What's this one other thing?" Orochimaru had asked cautiously, even as he struggled to hide his fatigue.

Hanzo had stared down at them, judged them, weighed them, and then nodded. "I will grant you with the title of the Sannin no Densetsu. Go forth and bear this title proudly, let the entire world know that it was Sanshouo Hanzo who granted it to you. Do this, and deliver my message, and I will let you and your remaining comrades return to your home."

Tsunade knew enough of the Old Tongue from her tutors as a child to translate the title. The Three Legendary Ninja. She had breathed a sigh of relief, before hesitantly asking. "And if we refuse?"

Hanzo had snorted as he turned away and leapt from his summon to a nearby cliff, dispersing the mighty summon as he did so. "Then I will kill every Konoha ninja, Hi Samurai, and everyone else I come across on my way to Konoha."

And then he was gone.

Tsunade shivered once more as she shook those memories away. She had always feared that Konoha would one day order her back to Ame no Kuni, back to that land of tears and death, but never in her darkest nightmares, nor in her wildest dreams had she believed she'd return to help that man.

Looking over at Jiraiya, she couldn't help but wonder what he thought of the situation. The pervert was still dressed in his usual get up unlike Tsunade, who wore a standard Jounin uniform, and from the look on his face, one would never guess he felt the slightest bit of unease at returning to face Hanzo once again. Even Sarutobi, who had never met Hanzo before, had changed into his old battle outfit. Yet Jiraiya looked the picture of calm and ease, his mind obviously elsewhere.

Frowning, Tsunade had a pretty good guess as to the subject of her teammate's thoughts. Those three war orphans he had taken on had obviously been more than a simple charity case to Jiraiya, and their apparent deaths had weighed heavily on his mind. She just hoped that he snapped out of it before-

Almost as one, the group came to a sudden halt at the sight that appeared before them.

Naruto frowned as the group came to a halt. Directly in front of them was what was obviously once a prosperous village. The village sat at the mouth of a natural chokepoint, and was surrounded by previously high walls and watch towers. The "border town" as it was called, was the only place where trade was permitted to the outside world.

No other such towns existed anywhere else on Ame no Kuni's borders, as Hanzo's isolation policy was strictly enforced throughout the rest of the country. The border town was Hanzo's concession to the need of outside supplies to rebuild his nation, and Hi no Kuni was the only nation that Ame was on even remotely decent terms with, resulting in the choice of location.

So the border town flourished-even with the heavy taxes imposed by Hanzo, as they had a monopoly on all trade with the outside world. 'Or at least, they had flourished.' Naruto thought wryly as he studied the rundown towers and collapsing walls. There were several places where the wall had collapsed, gaping holes in others. Strangely, Naruto was almost certain that the damage wasn't the result of battle, but of neglect.

Before he had a chance to ask, the Ame Jounin started forward again, silently commanding them to follow. If the outside of the village seemed strange to Naruto, the inside was even more so. In the first five minutes, he saw what he was fairly certain was ten or twelve Ame shinobi. And that was just in the area in front of the gate.

The shinobi took notice of them as well, yet their eyes quickly shied away from them, almost as if afraid or ashamed. Their guide also pointedly ignored these unknown shinobi. Perhaps the strangest of all was the complete lack of hitae-ate among these ninja. Even the rebels reportedly still wore their hitae-ate, albeit with a slash running through it.

Yet these men and women, despite wearing the rest of the standard Ame attire, didn't display a single forehead protector amongst them.

Confused, he considered asking Tsunade, but seeing her slightly troubled look, he instead turned to what he felt was the next best choice. "Excuse me, Sandaime-sama." He asked politely as he had been taught. "Why aren't they wearing their village symbol?"

The elderly legend sent him a kind smile. "I'm not sure Naruto-chan. Perhaps you could elaborate for us, Jounin-san."

Their guide glanced at them, and then stared at the ninja around them in disgust and outrage. "Because they're cowards." He spat loudly, intentionally ensuring that he was overheard. "They fled the village to avoid the conflict, planning to return when the fighting is done. Until then, they cower in villages like this one all across Ame no Kuni. The bloody cowards will be lucky for a quick death when this is all over."

More than one of the ninja around them flinched at these words, before beginning to hurry away from the Ame Jounin's piercing gaze. "After all, Hanzo-sama and Amegakure no Sato has no use for these spineless weaklings!"

Naruto frowned in distaste at the ninja around him, before he was forced to speed up to keep up with their guide, who had decided to take to the roofs to travel more quickly through the village.

Along the way, they passed by dozens of other "Ame" shinobi, who to a man went out of their way to avoid attracting the group's attention.

'As well they should.' Naruto mentally sneered. He had never been as disgusted as he was right then. That anyone could just abandon their home in its time of need, just to try to crawl into the good graces of whoever won was appalling to Naruto.

All his life he had been taught that loyalty to his village and to his country was one of the most important traits of a shinobi. Knowing that there were those who would betray the village was one thing¸ but leaving because you didn't want to fight, didn't want to pick a side…that was unforgivable! And somehow these people actually thought they could just waltz back into Amegakure when the dust settled?

Naruto couldn't even put into words how much that upset him!

"Try not to judge them too harshly, Naruto-chan." The Sandaime's voice broke through is thoughts.

When Naruto turned a questioning look towards the former Kage, the only response he was given was a sad shake of the head.

Glancing at Tsunade to see her reaction, Naruto tried to suppress his anger and turn his attention to the task at hand. The cowards weren't his mission, and Hanzo would no doubt deal with them himself.

After leaving the border town, they had journeyed on through the night and into the early morning with little rest. Naruto was mortified to wake up on Tsunade's back in the late morning, having apparently dozed off during one of their short breaks.

Even worse, he couldn't decide whether he should announce his wakefulness or feign being asleep. On the one hand, he was already seven years old, Konoha's Jinchuuriki, and almost a Chuunin to boot so it was more than a little embarrassing to be carried around like a child. On the other hand, if he "woke up" he was likely to get scolded something fierce.

Peeking out of one eye, he found his head resting in the crook of Tsunade's shoulder, and gazing at her neck, he was suddenly struck by a strangely powerful, yet vague sense of disappointment.

Before he could try to figure out the cause of that strange sensation, the group came to another halt as their guide –who had still yet to give his name- turned to gaze at Tsunade. "Wake the boy. We're nearly there."

Scowling at the Ame Jounin, Naruto semi-reluctantly climbed down from Tsunade's back. "Why didn't you wake me?" he whispered angrily to Tsunade once he was sure the Ame nin wasn't looking. "Don't you know how embarrassing that was? I'm seven years old and you were carrying me around like a baby!" He certainly wasn't blushing; no matter how hot his face was as he said this.

"Oh, hush, Naruto-chan." Tsunade scolded lightly as she once again ran her fingers through his unruly hair. "You're never too old for me to baby you."

Muttering curses that he wasn't supposed to know, Naruto turned on his heel and dashed after their guide, dutifully ignoring Tsunade's wide smile and light laughter as she easily kept pace with him.

As they came out the tree line, any thoughts on how Tsunade embarrassed him were brushed aside, replaced by awe as he stared at the first foreign Hidden Village he had ever seen. Amegakure no Sato sat in the middle of a large lake, almost seeming to rise out of the waters, made so by the mixture of buildings that stood on supports rising from the water and the ones that actually sat on the island. Assuming of course, that there actually was an island somewhere under all of that steel.

The buildings towered over anything Naruto had ever seen before, as if the residents were attempting to reach into the heavens. Unlike any building he had seen in Konoha, these building seemed made entirely out of concrete and steel, shining dully in the waning light.

'Wait a minute, it isn't even noon yet…' frowning, Naruto finally managed to tear his gaze away from the village to gaze at the darkening sky, taking note of the ominous clouds that were slowly moving over the village towards him. The wind was also beginning to pick up, churning the waters of the great lake chaotically.

As he gazed in awe at the impressive sight, their guide raised his hand in a beckoning gesture, which was followed by a dozen Ame shinobi slowly rising from the waters of the lake, until they stood on, and then walked across the chaotic waters to stand before them on the shore.

"These men will Shunshin you into the village." Their guide stated simply.

Naruto frowned and began to ask why they couldn't just Shunshin themselves, only for the man to interrupt him. "The village is in a state of heightened alert. It wouldn't do for one of you to Shunshin somewhere by yourselves, and then be set upon by our ninja." "Fool" was implied by the man's tone of voice, causing Naruto to stiffen in both anger and embarrassment.

He didn't appreciate anyone talking down to him like that, but even Naruto had to admit that for this being an incredibly important mission –not to mention his first- he hadn't made a good showing of it thus far.

Following a brief argument from Tsunade –who stubbornly insisted that Naruto Shunshin with her- the group from Konoha and their escorts appeared near the heart of the village. Looking around from up close, the village wasn't nearly as majestic and awe inspiring as it seemed from a distance. Up close, he could see some fairly horrific signs of battle damage, some relatively new, but the majority looking years, perhaps even decades old. Here there was a jagged hole in the side of a towering building, there another was nothing but rubble, over there was a fountain that was half destroyed, old burn marks scorched into that street.

He frowned thoughtfully at that. If he remembered his history lessons, the last and only time an invading force had reached Amegakure while Hanzo ruled had been during the Second Great Shinobi War. It was in fact, something of an embarrassment to Konoha, as despite the Sannin being the ones to bring about the end of the conflict in Ame no Kuni, Konoha had never managed to reach Amegakure. That dubious honor belonged to Iwagakure, who assaulted Hanzo's village nearly a year before Konoha actually invaded.

They suffered horrific losses in that battle to be sure, and were driven from the country practically overnight, yet they had managed to cause quite a bit of damage.

So why was the damage still here? It had been somewhere around twenty years since the Battle of Amegakure, plenty of time to repair even the most extensive of damage. Did that mean they had just left it as it was? But why would they do that?

Unable to find a reason, Naruto tucked the question away to ask Tsunade or the Sandaime later.

As the rain increased, they were quickly escorted through the streets towards a large building near what Naruto assumed was the center of the village. On the way, they passed many villagers and ninja, many moving with confidence and a sense of purpose, yet just as many bore looks of uncertainty, or in some cases, fear.

Again, Naruto kept his questions to himself as they arrived at their destination. Like many of the buildings in Amegakure, it was an incredibly tall building, constructed of steel and concrete. The key difference however, was what was at the top of the building. The roof appeared to have a surprisingly ornate and traditional compound built on top of it.

It was to this compound that they were taken, their trip through the inside of the towering building surprisingly brief as their guide was joined by more than a score of Hanzo's personal bodyguards, all stoically silent as they escorted them to the compound at the top.

The mansion itself seemed untouched by the damage below, though the heavy presence of Hanzo's bodyguards was easily noticed. Once inside, they were escorted to a set of rooms where they could dry off and leave their things -which included their weapons- before going to meet Hanzo.

"This is stupid." Naruto complained to himself as he reluctantly set aside the kodachi Ebisu-sensei had given him. "We're here to help Hanzo, so why is he treating us like enemies?"

He nearly jumped out of his skin when the Sandaime answered him. "He's a very powerful man Naruto-kun. His reputation alone is enough to keep most nations from even thinking of trying to attack Ame no Kuni. However, being such an important and powerful man means he must constantly be on the lookout for assassination plots. It's been theorized by several strategists both within and without Hi no Kuni that Hanzo's death would result in the destruction of Amegakure no Sato, and the collapse of Ame, Kusa, and even Tori no Kuni."

Naruto blinked in shock. "He's that important?"

After receiving a nod, Naruto carefully pondered this new information before asking, "But if Hanzo's strength keeps anyone from invading, then why did Kumo attack us? The Sannin are stronger than Hanzo so-" he never got to finish his sentence, as the Sandaime burst into laughter, drawing the ire of Jiraiya and Tsunade, and an apathetic look from Kakashi.

"Oh heavens no, Naruto-kun!" the Sandaime said as his laughter died down to a chuckle. "The Sannin aren't stronger than Hanzo!"

Frowning in confusion, Naruto slowly pointed out, "But they got the title Sannin for beating him in the Second Great Shinobi War. They're famous for it!"

"That's how many portray it, and just as many believe it as well. But the truth is more of a testament to Hanzo than my students." Naruto's confusion must have shown on his face, because the Sandaime was quick to continue his explanation. "Hanzo judged everyone at that battle looking for those who suited his purpose. He killed everyone, and quite easily bested even Tsunade-chan, Jiraiya-kun, and Orochimaru. He spared them for two reasons. The first was no doubt as a peace offering of sorts. Hanzo undoubtedly believed that killing my students would only enrage me, not to mention making me all the more determined to see Amegakure fall. So by sparing them, he could be sure that I'd at least consider peace."

"So what was the second reason?" Naruto asked curiously, eliciting another smile from the Sandaime.

"The second reason was Hanzo's foresight and political skills." The Sandaime raised a hand to halt Naruto's question before he could even ask it. "You have to understand Naruto-kun, Ame no Kuni had just gone from being large enough and militarily strong enough to challenge any of the Great Shinobi Nations, to its current size, the nation's cities and villages in ruin, their economy and military devastated. Hanzo had to act quickly and wisely to bring the war to an end without leaving Ame no Kuni under the control of a foreign power. The Sannin were his solution. When he confronted those ninja that day, he chose to leave my students alive, and planned to find some potential legends. That they met that standard as well meant little to him. He evaluated them, and saw their potential for greatness. As a result, he gave them the title "Sannin". Most think this was to honor my students, but the truth is another matter. As each individual member of the Sannin made a name for themselves and their fame and legend grew, people were always forced to remember two things. That Sanshouo Hanzo gave the Sannin their title in recognition of their skills…and that he did so after fighting and defeating all three of them at once."

Naruto blinked as his mind worked furiously to connect the dots the Professor laid out for him. "So, you're saying he did it so his legend and reputation would continue to grow through their exploits?" When the Sandaime nodded, Naruto frowned as he turned studied Tsunade and Jiraiya, who had both turned to listen to them. "Well, I'm sure Tsunade must have done all the work, while Jiraiya just got in the way. After all, calling them the Ninin would sound pretty stupid."

"What a childish thing to say." A voice rasped out. "I wonder if Danzo is trying to renege on our deal, sending me such an incompetent and ignorant child."

Three of the five Konoha shinobi stiffened, and then whirled around to face the corner the voice had come from. The corner on the opposite side of the room from the only entrance. The Sandaime and Jiraiya were the only ones who seemed unsurprised to see him there, though Jiraiya seemed unable or unwilling to speak.

"Hello…Hanzo-dono." The Sandaime greeted cordially. "I'm honored that you would come to greet us personally. It's nice to finally meet you face to face."

"Hiruzen-dono…you're looking older than I expected. I trust you still possess the skills that made you legend?" Hanzo questioned, somehow sounding dubious without actually doing so.

"Oh, I think you'll find that I'm still quite capable." The Sandaime replied casually. "Perhaps we could spar to put your mind at ease?"

"That's not necessary." Hanzo refused. "I'm sure you and your students will do just fine. It's these other two that concern me."

Naruto stood up a little taller and did his best to look impassive under the legend's gaze. His attempts were foiled when Tsunade wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled him back and away.

"I assure you, Kakashi and Naruto are quite capable of completing their portion of this mission." The Sandaime said with a calm that Naruto envied.

"Kakashi? As in Kopi Nin Kakashi?" Hanzo rasped curiously. "Perhaps Danzo was actually keeping his end of the bargain after all. Very well, leave the boy here and we'll go over my plans for dealing with Pein." Hanzo ordered –ordered! - them as he nonchalantly headed for the door.

Naruto opened his mouth to object, both to his exclusion and to Hanzo's nerve to think he could order the Sandaime and his students around, only for Tsunade to loudly interrupt him. "I'll stay here with Naruto and send a Kage Bunshin with you. I need to brief him on a few things myself."

Hanzo just snorted without looking at her. "Very well, so long as you are prepared for your part. And Tsunade? I trust you will enjoy your time in Ame no Kuni more than your last visit."

Tsunade stiffened at Hanzo's words, yet much to Naruto's surprise she didn't say anything as the group and her Kage Bunshin left them alone.

Sarutobi frowned slightly as he followed Hanzo to some form of sitting room, the ever present bodyguards stationed around the room. He had never actually met Hanzo before, and as such, wasn't sure how to read the man and his actions. Even worse, he wasn't sure whether Hanzo or he was the stronger, though at least Hanzo seemed as equally unsure. That would help keep the two groups on equal footing, and Hanzo would hopefully be less willing to consider betraying them.

"So, Tsunade has a son now." Hanzo suddenly commented as he knelt down at the table.

As one, the Konoha ninja froze, though their exact reactions varied. Sarutobi and Jiraiya were able to remain more or less blank faced, while Kakashi looked shocked and surprised for a brief moment before copying them. Tsunade's clone had a look of utter terror for the briefest of moments, before she too adopted a neutral expression, though there was still a hint of fear in her eyes.

Taking the lead, Sarutobi sat as well and nonchalantly asked, "What makes you say that?"

Hanzo just snorted as the others took their respective places at the table. "Because I'm not blind. They bear more than a passing resemblance, and she's far too protective of the boy for it to just be his status as a Jinchuuriki. By the way, Danzo and I will be having words about sending an untested, child Jinchuuriki into my country." Hanzo rasped irritably.

"Why don't we turn our attention to why we're here in the first place?" Jiraiya suggested carefully. "What can you tell us about the situation?"

Sarutobi didn't know whether to applaud his student for trying to protect Naruto and Tsunade by changing the subject, or bash him on the head for ruining his own attempts at learning how much Hanzo knew, or suspected.

"Why not?" Hanzo rasped with a shrug. "The sooner we finish, the sooner I can get you people out of my country." Raising two fingers, one of Hanzo's bodyguards immediately approached and placed a map along with a series of rough sketches on the table before withdrawing with a bow to his leader.

"The rebel's main stronghold is here." Hanzo pointed to a series of low mountains barely five miles outside the village. "There is a network of caves that they've been using to store supplies and shelter their wounded. Naturally, I want them all exterminated."

Tsunade's clone narrowed her eyes angrily, yet she kept silent. Sarutobi understood her reluctance to deliberately target wounded men and women, yet they were in no position to refuse. This was Hanzo's nation, and they were here with explicit instructions to aid him. Besides, there wasn't much difference between killing the wounded in an assault, and taking them captive just so they could be publically executed in Amegakure. Either way, they'd still die.

"Are these pictures of this Pein character?" he asked with a gesture to the sketches.

Hanzo singled out the sketch of one man and handed them out. "This is the one body that's been present at every battle. He possesses some strange ability to push and pull with a gesture that's nearly impossible to resist. The good news is, there's a delay of about five seconds in between each use. These others," he gestured to the other dozen or so photos. "are the ones I've already killed. They seem to have some special abilities of their own, though whether or not the new ones have them as well, I can't say."

"What kind of abilities are we talking about?" Jiraiya asked as he looked through the photos. "Bloodlines?"

"Outside the Rinnegan, no." Hanzo replied. "But one of them has some kind of sealing ability. As far as I can tell, it only works on chakra and element based attacks. Another common skill seems to have to do with summoning. But these aren't normal summons, they are all different creatures, and seem to possess the Rinnegan as well. Whether they receive any abilities from those eyes is unknown."

"You said last time that there were four bodies?" Sarutobi asked with a frown. When Hanzo nodded, Sarutobi pointed out, "Yet you've only mentioned three abilities. Isn't there a fourth one?"

"Not that I've noticed." Hanzo answered with a shrug. "While the bodies seem to fight in unison, only one of them seems to focus on Taijutsu. The others help, but the sealing one seems to focus on defending the others, while the main one keeps trying to throw me around."

"So it will be four against four, while Kakashi and Naruto focus on the other rebels." Jiraiya murmured thoughtfully. "And as long as we keep them separate, they shouldn't be too difficult to bring down. Though it'll be dangerous until we figure out which body possesses which ability."

"I'll be going with Naruto." Tsunade's clone suddenly spoke up. "Take Kakashi with you instead."

Kakashi glanced over at her, before looking to Sarutobi for guidance.

For his part, Sarutobi glanced at Hanzo and tried to figure out how he would react to this. In theory, if Sarutobi could predict that, he could manipulate the situation properly. Before he could however, Hanzo snorted. "By all means, Tsunade. We wouldn't want little Naruto to skin his knee without his mother there to baby him."

There was a tense silence for a moment, before Hanzo pointed back to the map. "We'll approach from all directions and assault the caves simultaneously. That will divide their forces and, hopefully, Pein's bodies. My men will handle the riffraff, with Tsunade and Naruto's aid." He glanced up at them all meaningfully. "I'd prefer if you not be recognized as Konoha nin. Regardless of that, however, I intend for this to be the final battle. If you even think of trying to leave before everything is settled, I'll see to it that Iwa and Suna are made aware that Amegakure will not oppose, and will in fact aid them should they wish to strike at Konoha."

Sarutobi frowned at the threat, and calmly said, "I assure you, Hanzo-dono, you can count on us to do our part."

He and Hanzo stared into each other's eyes, each trying to take measure of the other. Finally, Hanzo nodded decisively. "Then we attack at dawn."

Tsunade's eyes widened as her clone dispelled itself, the memories of the briefing and the decided on plan rushing through her mind, along with one very disturbing piece of information. Hanzo knew Naruto was her son.

Before she knew what she was doing, she crossed the room to where Naruto was carefully looking over his equipment, instinctively pulling him into a hug much to his squawking surprise. Tsunade's heart hammered as she remembered those impossibly black eyes looking down at her, and then saw Naruto in her place. The thought of Hanzo looking at Naruto with those eyes made her want to run to the farthest corner of the earth to ensure Naruto safety.

She buried her face in Naruto's hair, ignoring his squirming and questions. What would Hanzo do with his knowledge? Would he sell it for his own gain? Use it to blackmail her, or possibly even Danzo? Would he take vengeance on Naruto for her past hubris? Would he attempt to kidnap him?

Squeezing Naruto tightly, Tsunade took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down. Whatever Hanzo intended to do, she was reasonably certain it wouldn't happen until after he had reclaimed his country. By that time, they should all be rested enough to slip out of the country without much trouble. Nodding to herself, she reluctantly released Naruto.

Turning to face her, Naruto asked, "Tsunade? Is something wrong?"

Looking down at his concerned face, she couldn't help but smile lovingly and run a hand through his unruly hair. "No, everything's fine, Naruto-chan." She reassured him, before kneeling down in front of his equipment. "We'll be moving out early tomorrow morning, so make sure you have everything ready."

"Right!" Naruto nodded as he pulled out a vial of light purple liquid and carefully began applying it to the kodachi Ebisu had given him. "What's the plan?" he asked curiously without taking his eyes from his work.

Tsunade eyed the fast acting poison suspiciously, before explaining what was known about Pein, and how the others intended to deal with him. "You and I will be attacking from the south, and we'll help Hanzo' men deal with the regular rebels. Stick close to me and do as I say during the battle, understand?" she ordered sternly, well aware of her son's reckless tendencies.

Kakashi considered himself a good shinobi. Some considered him a great shinobi, but he didn't let that go to his head. He knew his faults better than anyone after all.

Kakashi was a powerful Jounin and an Anbu captain, with an A rank listing in most villages' bingo books -not that that was something to be happy about. He was the son of Konoha's White Fang, and the sole remaining student of the Yondaime Hokage. He was always aware of his surroundings. Whether in the field, or in the safety of his own home, Kakashi could drop off to sleep the moment his eyes closed. Conversely, he could also snap to fully awake at the slightest disturbance.

So it was to his great annoyance that he couldn't drop off to sleep, no matter how hard he tried. It wasn't the impending battle in -Kakashi glanced at his watch- four hours that kept him up. Nor was it his location, in the heart of Sanshouo Hanzo's stronghold that disturbed him. It was actually something quite small, relatively speaking. A single sentence that kept bouncing around his head. "So, Tsunade has a son now." Hanzo's words were still shocking, even hours later.

Kakashi considered himself a very perceptive man. He had known about his sensei's relationship with Tsunade. He had even been at the wedding, albeit a bit late. When the Yondaime died, Kakashi had been heartbroken, and had withdrawn into himself, as he expected Tsunade had done as well. In fact, her abrupt withdrawal from the village seemed to prove this fact, and was actually what he had come to expect of the legendary kunoichi.

He'd thought nothing of her disappearance, and assumed that Shizune would continue to look after her mistress. He had actually been surprised to see her in that briefing room in one of the Anbu compounds. Even more so when it was revealed that she was going to accompany them.

Kakashi had also thought nothing of her proximity to Naruto Uzumaki. After all, who better to oversee the Jinchuuriki than Konoha's sole remaining Senju? And if she had seemingly grown attached to the child over the years? Well, women were strange creatures.

So when Hanzo had suddenly proclaimed Naruto as Tsunade's son, Kakashi's first instinct was to dismiss the claim. That is, until he noticed the reactions of the others. Particularly Jiraiya and Tsunade's reactions.

Giving up on sleep, Kakashi sat up and gazed around the darkened room. The Sandaime was sleeping easily in his futon, not a twitch or sound to show any disturbance to his dreams. Across from him, were two futons set right next to each other. In the collective center of the two futons, was a sleeping Tsunade, who was firmly holding a sleeping Naruto to her chest.

Kakashi would be the first to admit that it was quite cute to see Naruto argue and fight with Tsunade about sharing a futon, though in the end it turned out that Tsunade was the more stubborn of the two.

Glancing to where the other Sannin should be sleeping, he was surprised to find Jiraiya's futon empty. Getting up, Kakashi carefully padded over to the window where he could just make out the form of Jiraiya silhouetted by the feeble light coming from a torch outside.

As he came up to his side, Jiraiya glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. "Can't sleep?"

Kakashi remained silent and just stared at the legendary Sannin, his mind racing in an attempt to determine his next course of action. He felt enraged, confused, betrayed, and a gauntlet of other emotions.

Seeming to take his silence as assent, Jiraiya turned back to the window, staring up at the clouded sky, the occasional distant flashes signaling yet another day of rain. "I've always enjoyed the rain in Hi no Kuni. There it reminds me of growth, the rain ushering in the seasonal crops that give us such prosperity." He said softly. "But here, the rain is like the tears of this land, forever crying at the pain and strife that plagues this land so." Jiraiya paused for a moment, and then chuckled bitterly. "Some of my worst and fondest memories happened in this place. I took on my first students here, felt such guilt-"

"Why wasn't I told?" Kakashi finally interrupted. "Out of everyone, I deserved to know."

Jiraiya didn't even glance at him. "How's that?"

"Because Sensei was like a father to me!" Kakashi hissed. "If he had a son, I should have been told, especially after he died! Especially after his son became the Kyuubi's Jinchuuriki!"

"Do Tsunade's wishes mean nothing?" Jiraiya asked quietly.

"Stop dancing around the question!" Kakashi growled equally quiet. "Why. Wasn't. I. Told?"

For a moment, he thought Jiraiya would try to blow him off again. So he nearly jumped when the Sandaime's voice said from behind him. "Danzo."

Turning to face his former leader, Kakashi asked, "The Godaime ordered his heritage be kept secret? Even from me?"

"That was one of his orders, though it's the least of his crimes, considering Naruto." Sarutobi murmured near silently. "Have you ever wondered just how Danzo was suddenly able to become Hokage? There were no less than three other candidates for the position, two of them younger and, arguably stronger than him. Coincidentally, all three of them are in this very room."

Kakashi went very still at what he thought was being implied. "I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say, Sandaime-sama." He said cautiously.

"He took Naruto, Kakashi." Jiraiya suddenly said, still looking into the night sky. "Just moments after Kyuubi was sealed, Danzo took him. Then he put a Juinjutsu on Naruto."

Kakashi stiffened at the revelation, his mind connecting the dots effortlessly. "He blackmailed you?"

"In essence, yes." Sarutobi admitted calmly.

The trio descended into silence as Kakashi tried to understand the situation fully. His sensei's son had been used to create a Jinchuuriki. Then he was kidnapped and...enslaved by Danzo. The same Danzo who had caused such a stir when he abolished the Hyuuga clan's Juinjutsu, the Kagonotori shīru.

"That bastard!" He hissed angrily before turning back to the Sandaime. "What are you doing about it?" He questioned no doubt in his mind that any of these three would fight against this atrocity.

"Can we count on your help, Kakashi?" The Sandaime asked with a burning determination in his eyes. "Can we count on Anbu captain "Inu's" help?"

Kakashi nodded fiercely.

"Then first and foremost, you must not allow Danzo to discover what you know. That means no one else can know. Not even Naruto himself."

Nodding, Kakashi set his mind to memorizing everything they told him. None of them would be getting any sleep that night.

Naruto rose early the next morning, though it was obvious that the Sandaime, Jiraiya, and Kakashi had been awake from some time. And he was willing to bet Tsunade had been as well, since he opened his eyes to Tsunade staring at him with a strangely familiar expression, though he couldn't quite place it.

Once she finally released him -which took a good five minutes- Naruto rose and put on his equipment. A single shuriken holster on each leg, along with a kunai pouch on each hip. And last but not least, was the kodachi he strapped to his back.

Naruto briefly wondered if he should have found some form of armor like Tsunade wanted him to. Now that his first real battle was just hours away, Naruto felt almost rediculously unprepared. Instead of armor, he'd settled with a somewhat traditional outfit. The clothing consisted of a pair of dark shinobi pants, a long-sleeve fishnet shirt, and a dark short-sleeved training shirt with a square portion cut out of the front. He had recently added a pair of Anbu standard forearm bracers during his Kenjutsu training, and he had to admit, he found them far more comfortable than expected.

Flexing his fingers and experimentally drawing his kodachi a few times, Naruto nodded to Tsunade who blinked repeatedly at him before squeezing her eyes shut and drawing a deep breath.

Naruto opened his mouth to ask if she was alright, only to be flabbergasted when her eyes snapped open, filled with a fierce determination. "Let's go, Naruto-chan."

Gulping at the ferocity of her gaze, Naruto followed her from the room, the Sandaime and the others falling in around them.

They moved in near silence, and Naruto discretely took in the appearances' of his companions. Tsunade was dressed in the standard Konoha Jounin's attire, though she had added a large waist pack and a second kunai pouch.

Sarutobi wore what he thought was a black jumpsuit, which featured mesh segments over the lower portions of his limbs, and a grey gauntlet that covered his right wrist, forearm and elbow. He also wore an armoured hood reminiscent of a Samurai helmet, with a bandanna-like hitae-ate wrapped around it. He also had two shuriken holsters strapped to either side of his back, which seemed to have a place for something else to be attached, though Naruto was sure what.

Kakashi was dressed in a standard Jounin outfit as well, though he wore the metal backed gloves of the Anbu as well. He hid his lower face with a cloth mask, and his hitae-ate covered his left eye just as it had since they'd first met.

Jiraiya on the other hand, looked no different from how he always dressed. Inwardly sneering at the fool who was seemingly unaware of the seriousness of the situation, Naruto came to a halt with the rest of the group when Hanzo appeared before them.

"Follow me." The legendary Ame leader ordered with a rasp, before a group Shunshin transported them all out of Amegakure and onto the waters of the great lake that surrounded the village.

Naruto stumbled for a moment before he was able to bring his chakra to bear to keep from sinking. Feeling his face heat up when he saw that he was the only one to stumble, he scowled when he saw Hanzo staring at him speculatively. Naruto found Hanzo's measuring stare disturbing, and if the way she stiffened and stepped slightly in front of him was any indication, Tsunade agreed.

Hanzo nodded once and said, "Maybe you're not so useless after all boy." Naruto didn't have a chance to answer, as Hanzo turned to face the large assembly of Ame shinobi that was arrayed around them. Most of them wore breath masks like Hanzo himself, and all the ones who didn't wore the grey capes of Hanzo's personal bodyguards. "Move out!" Hanzo somehow ordered loudly, despite the raspy quality of his voice.

As the morning drizzle turned into a downpour, the Ame force turned almost as one, and began sprinting across the waters, Hanzo and the Konoha nin quickly taking the lead.

Naruto cursed silently as he slowly crept through the rain towards the base of the mountain.

It hadn't taken long for Hanzo's men to reach the mountain, and they had swiftly surrounded the mountain, before slowly and cautiously tightening their encirclement. That was nearly two hours ago, and Naruto was starting to question whether or not he should have been a samurai instead of a ninja. At least then, the fighting would probably be over and done with, and he wouldn't be stuck out in this rain.

They hadn't even seen a rebel since their arrival, and there was only twenty or so meters left between them and the base of the mountain.

Glancing to his left and right, he could just make out the line of Ame shinobi stretched out with intervals to prevent making themselves a target. He knew there were another two such lines behind them at fifteen meter intervals, just as he knew that Tsunade was directly behind him. Naruto could feel her eyes on him.

Crouching a little lower, he peered through the bush to study the mountainside. It wasn't exceptionally steep, and didn't appear to be defended. There wasn't a sentry in sight either, though that didn't mean much with ninja.

Naruto glanced right periodically, waiting for the hand signs that would drift up and down the line from the commanding Jounin -a man by the name of Ugatsu- in the center.

A moment later, the hand sign for "attack" was given, and once the return signal was given, the line dashed forward. Well, most of the line did. Naruto was prevented from joining them by a firm hand on his shoulder.

Glancing back in surprise, he saw a serious Tsunade standing there. "Wait." She whispered sternly.

Confused, he turned back around just in time to see the Ame shinobi reach the mountain. Then all hell broke loose.

A number of boulders ranging in size from the size of his head to three or four times his body suddenly shot out from the mountainside, crushing and knocking down any ninja unfortunate enough to be in their path. No sooner did the boulders strike, then dozens of Ame shinobi with slashes through their hitae-ate rise up from hidden trenches and fighting positions. Most of them let lose a barrage of kunai and a handful of umbrellas floated into the air, unleashing a hail of senbon into the disorganized loyalists.

With cries of, "Glory to Pein-sama!" the rebels charged down the slope, a fanatical gleam in their eyes as they attacked.

Ugatsu recovered quickly, and with an equally fervent cry of "Long live Hanzo-sama!" The remnants of his line zealously charged up to meet their foes. They were quickly joined by the second line, which now included both Naruto and Tsunade.

The rebels had briefly had the advantage of surprise and numbers when faced with only the first line, but the arrival of the second line quickly reversed their positions.

Drawing his poisoned kodachi, Naruto hoped the rain wouldn't wash away his poison before the battle entered the caves before charging at his first opponent with a chakra enhanced leap.

His adversary was surprised by how quickly he closed the distance, but still managed to almost completely avoid his blade. Unfortunately for the rebel, almost wasn't good enough. Naruto's kodachi gave the man an insignificant cut on his arm, followed shortly by a look of shock, then terror filled eyes as the poison took effect. Drawing a kunai, Naruto instinctively stepped in close to the now convulsing man, who stared at him with eyes filled with a terrible realization. Trying not to look too deeply into the man, Naruto quickly slit his throat just as he had practiced.

As his first kill fell to the ground with a frantic gurgle, Naruto was briefly surprised that he didn't feel any of the emotions he had been expecting. Then again, that might have been because he was busy fending one of the rebel's comrades.

This one fell almost as quickly as the first, caught off guard when Naruto's chakra enhanced reflexes allowed him to easily duck under the swing of the man's sword, before darting in to inflict a shallow, yet deadly gash in his left leg. Naruto was able to ignore this one's eyes, yet was unable to finish him as a third man attacked him almost instantly.

Unlike the last two, this one had witnessed his previous battle, and was prepared both for his chakra enhanced speed, and his poisoned blade. Naruto's kodachi couldn't come close to the man, who took every opportunity to deliver a skull rattling punch or kick.

Snarling, Naruto attempted to dart in close, slashing at the man with his kunai in order to distract him from the kodachi. Unfortunately, the man easily saw through his feint, and seized Naruto's left wrist in an iron grip.

Realizing his dangerous position, Naruto swung his kodachi wildly, only for his opponent to kick the flat of his kodachi, knocking it far off to the side.

Naruto was just barely able to keep a hold of his sword, and as a result his right arm was now extended to his far right, leaving him completely open to the rebel's own kunai thrust.

For a moment, time seemed to slow down as he watched the kunai approach his chest. Naruto was filled with a terribly sense of regret and disappointment. Disappointment that he was so weak that he couldn't even complete his first mission, dead at the hands of some delusional rebel.

Regret that he'd never see Ebisu-sensei or Shizune again, regret that he wouldn't be able to apologize to Danzo-sama for his failure. And strangely enough, he felt an overwhelming sense of regret that he'd be leaving Tsunade alone. He didn't understand that last one in the slightest, but that did nothing to lessen the pain.

Time sped up again, and the rebel's kunai arm suddenly halted, a strangely familiar hand holding it with contemptuous ease. Naruto and the rebel both blinked in shock, and then the rebel's head went bouncing across the ground, his body crumpling in front of Naruto.

"Are you alright?" Tsunade asked frantically as she tried to stare him up and down while scanning the surrounding battle at the same time.

Blinking his eyes, Naruto shook his head to clear it before replying. "I'm fine. I'll do better next time!"

Tsunade looked like she desperately wanted to say something, but before she could; a pair of rebels came charging at them from opposite sides, trying to catch them in a pincer move.

Tsunade turned and leapt at the closer of the two, and Naruto did likewise with the other.

Like with the last man, this new attacker had seen Naruto's reflexes in action, and struck out with a series of powerful strikes, forcing Naruto to block rather than parrying or dodging. Even worse, this man was wearing strange metal gauntlets that covered from his fingertips all the way to his shoulders, preventing Naruto from cutting his arms at all. Of course, that turned out to be his undoing. For whatever reason, the man didn't make the connection that if Naruto could greatly enhance his speed with chakra, then enhancing his strength was equally easy. Catching one of the man's fists in his palm, Naruto used a strength enhanced pull to whirl the man around and slam him to the ground, followed by a slash to his back with Naruto's kodachi. Naruto cursed when the man quickly started to rise, before stabbing the blade through the rebel's heart.

'Shit!' He hissed to himself. 'The poison must be washing off...damn rain!'

Seeing Tsunade finished with her own opponent, Naruto began pulling on a minute amount of the Kyuubi's chakra. There were no physical manifestations of the fox, and its potent chakra allowed Naruto to move several times faster than his own chakra would allow. He hadn't wanted to use the Kyuubi's chakra, wanting to rely on his own abilities for his first battle. Unfortunately, with his poison all but gone, his best weapon was now useless. Naruto couldn't afford to let his pride get in the way.

Darting through the battle, he settled for backstabbing occupied and distracted rebels for the most part, only occasionally going toe to toe. Even then, his enhanced speed and strength allowed him to finish most of his fights in the first few strikes, when his opponents were still underestimating him. Only a handful were able to match his attacks, and then things became desperate for him. Quite simply, his inexperience prevented him from finding quick solutions, and more than once he was saved by Hanzo's ninja, or in the few life-threatening cases, by Tsunade.

Naruto turned from his latest opponent to see a strange sight. Standing near one of the caves, was a tall man with long orange hair and a face that looked more metal than flesh, there were so many piercings. He wore the same slashed Ame headband as the other rebels, but also wore a strange, black cloak with red clouds decorating it. Around him were nearly a score of Hanzo's ninja, all unmoving and looking as if they had simply collapsed and died.

The strange nin turned to him and studied him with cold, purple eyes with concentric rings radiating out from the pupil. The man took one step towards him, and then jumped to the side to dodge a barrage of kunai.

"Maa, I was wondering if one of you would show up." Kakashi said lazily as he moved calmly towards the Ame rebel. "You're one of Pein's bodies, right?"

When the man didn't answer, Kakashi tilted his head towards Naruto, but carefully kept his eye on the silent man. "Run along now, Naruto. I'll be fighting this one."

Naruto nodded cautiously, and then joined a squad of Ame shinobi charging into the nearby cave.


Kagonotori shīru=Caged Bird Seal (I think)


Not much this time around. I'd thought about finishing this battle in this chapter, but that would not only be a huge chapter, it would also end this little arc in one chapter. Naruto's fighting style right now is based on poison, and chakra enhanced strength and reflexes to make up for the fact that he's a seven year old his outfit, think the Hyuuga training outfit, minus the long sleeves, and add in the fishnet and forearm bracers. Right now, he isn't lashing out with the Kyuubi's chakra, for the sole reason that it makes him a huge target. Not something he wants in his first battle. If he immediately started pulling out vast amount of Kyuubi's chakra, everyone in the battle is going to notice, and a lot of shinobi from both sides are going to try to kill him to keep him from unleashing said power on them. And before anyone asks, only four of Pein's bodies will be making an appearance. My reasoning is, it should take Pein a while to figure out how to create/use his bodies. If he just instantly gained mastery of them the moment he killed Yahiko, Hanzo would never have made it away from that battle. And since it's taken him awhile to figure them out, that would mean it's taken him awhile to really threaten Hanzo. Besides someone would have noticed the extermination of anything and everything connected to Hanzo if it had happened years before the start of the series.

Finally, about no one really doing anything to conceal their identities/village affiliation, keep in mind a few things. One, their aren't going to be many up to date pictures of anyone floating around, due to lack of the technology to do so/how hard it is to track shinobi of their caliber down, take a picture, and escape. Everyone's heard about the God of Shinobi. But hearing a story or rumor about someone doesn't mean much when it comes time to identify them. Yes, any halfway competent intelligence service will try to piece together a rough sketch of what someone looks like if hey feel they're important enough. But that again requires someone who's actually seen them relatively recently. For instance, if random Ame rebel #1 doesn't know about Tsunade's technique to maintain her youthfulness, then he's going to expect her to look like she's in her forties. So they're not going to see Tsunade who looks like she's in her twenties and go, "Holy shit, it's Tsunade of the Sannin!" Even if they hear someone say her name, they're more likely to assume that it's a popular female name in Konoha.

As always, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, as are any reviews, suggestions, criticisms, etc.

Peace, Vaan.