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AN: Well, it's been a long time hasn't it? As is becoming a regular occurrence for me, I'm considering changing the title and/or summary to something else. Any suggestions are welcome. Special thanks go out to Hygieia for proofing this, so if you find something wrong, BLAME HIM! Just kidding, seriously, he really helped me out. Special thanks also go to Kenchi618 for giving me some great advice that helped with a fight scene that was giving me all kinds of headaches. If you haven't read any of his works, I'd recommend Sealed Kunai. One of my top favorites that's actually still being updated. Also special thanks to Kagaseo, who's been a fantastic sounding board for me to bounce ideas off of for this fic.

Now, as much as I'd like to say that updates for this story will be regular...they won't. I've got maybe five more chapters worth written up for this, but between working on just Reckoning and Specialist, I'm having a hard time making enough progress to update both every month or so. Trying to do twice a month or more is...probably not going to happen. Not unless I take another year long hiatus to work on them anyway. And that's not even mentioning any other plot ideas I come up with. So for now expect an update once a month or so.

Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed despite nearly two years of inactivity. I should have responded to everyone, but if I missed you, I apologize. As always, all reviews/criticism is welcomed. So, without further ado, I give you chapter 7 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.



Reckoning chapter 7

Desperately struggling to control his breathing, he cautiously peered around the corner of the tunnel he was in. Gasping in relief to find himself alone, he slumped against the wall. The movement caused the young shinobi to flinch in pain.

Grimacing at the stabbing agony in his side, he bit down on his lip to silence a pained whimper . Mentally cursing himself for the brief distraction that led to the injury, he cautiously tugged up his bloodied shirt to examine the wound. It was a bloody gash tracing along the edge of one of his ribs, but despite the pain, the wound was fairly shallow.

'That's about the only thing going for me right now.' He thought sourly as he scrubbed a hand through his soaked hair. Shortly after entering the caves and tunnels he'd run right into a pitched battle between the two Ame factions. It was only his quick reflexes and some desperate dodging that he didn't lose anything more than his hitae-ate to an enemy's sword. Even worse, a poorly aimed Doton jutsu had collapsed part of the tunnels, separating the young shinobi from his allies and enemies alike.

The problem was, he hadn't been able to find his hitae-ate afterwards, meaning that by approaching any of his allies he ran the risk of being attacked on sight.

Bandaging his side to the best of his abilities, the young man cowered in his corner with a whimper, cursing his luck. Nothing was going the way he thought it would. The conflict was supposed to be all but over, needing only one decisive battle to bring peace to the shattered nation. He'd been ecstatic when he was given the chance to partake in what would have been his first real mission in service to the Village. His first real battle to tell the truth.

Now he found himself regretting not heeding his sensei's word to not to get involved. Though he'd trained for years, he found himself almost completely unprepared for actual combat.

He'd nearly been killed numerous times since the battle began -much to his chagrin- and the enemy was on the verge of completely wiping them out.

Squeezing his eyes shut in a desperate attempt to hold in his tears, he hysterically rocked back and forth as a feeling of utter hopelessness set in. "Oh God...they're gone...they're gone, everyone's gone!" He moaned in a keening way. As much as he didn't want to, he was once again subjected to the memories of the people he respected most being defeated and killed by those...those...monsters!

They had to be monsters; nothing human could have possibly done what they did!

Quivering in barely restrained terror, he forced himself to push aside those images and focus on what he still had to fight for. His sensei and the old man, both of whom were still waiting for him back in the Village. And then there was the Village itself. 'That's right!' He frantically reminded himself. 'I have to keep fighting! For the Village!'

Scrubbing at his eyes, he pushed himself to his feet, a new surge of energy rushing through his exhausted body. He quickly ran around the corner only to throw himself back out of the arc of a sword. He let out a panicked yelp that was quickly cut off into a choking wheeze as his attacker punched him in the throat hard enough to crush his windpipe.

Staring in horror as he recognized one of the monsters that had torn through their ranks, he only managed a slight keen before the blond demon's kodachi swung back around impossibly fast to plunge straight through his heart. Ishikawa died almost instantly.

Naruto tugged his blade from the redhead's chest with a squelching sound, grimacing in distaste as he was hit with arterial spray.

Forcing down his disgust, Naruto quickly rifled through the older boy's equipment pouches for anything of use. Unfortunately, all he found was a single battered kunai, a handful of shuriken, and a few meters of ninja wire. Hardly a decent stockpile.

Hissing angrily, Naruto kicked himself for chasing after the rebel when he fled after the tunnel had collapsed. He'd been hoping the older boy would lead him somewhere important, like an armory, or that his injury would compel him to run to wherever the Ame rebels were keeping their medical supplies and wounded. Or better yet, some kind of command and control center.

Instead, he found himself more or less lost in one of the no doubt countless tunnels that crisscrossed beneath the mountain.

Grumbling to himself, he carefully backtracked to the nearest hub of tunnels. Studying the entrance to each tunnel, Naruto grit his teeth angrily. 'Every tunnel looks the same!' He mentally growled. 'Damn it! I shouldn't have let myself get separated from Tsunade.' Strangely, despite having absolute confidence in Tsunade, he couldn't help but worry about her in the back of his mind. After all, she did have the oddest moments of uncertainty and baffling behavior at times.

Growing more anxious by the second, he tried to figure out the general direction he needed to go in order to get back outside. Once he was sure of his mental map, he dashed down the tunnel.

A tunnel that led the opposite way from where he wanted to go.

'This country,' Sarutobi grumbled to himself as he picked his way over bodies and up the slippery slope. 'is far too wet for my tastes. It's no wonder Tsunade was so angry with me when she returned from here.' He'd already had several near slips in the mud and had even managed to splatter mud on his hitae-ate much to his chagrin. He was the God of Shinobi, he wasn't supposed to slip and stumble like a tottering old man!

Pausing near a weakly moving form, Sarutobi bent down to check the fallen Ame nin's hitae-ate, effortlessly snapping his neck when he saw the groove scratched through the center. Standing straight again, he fixed his attention on the lone figure glaring down at him from farther up the slope.

The orange-haired man was the only other living thing in sight, and if the dark cloak with red clouds wasn't enough to identify the man as a "Pein", then the Rinnegan and the excessive amount of metal in his face certainly was. Sarutobi was slightly disappointed that he hadn't found the "original" though. At least then he'd know for sure what unique ability he'd be up against.

"Who are you?" The somewhat heavyset Pein with slicked back hair demanded dully. "You are not one of Hanzo's followers. Which Village do you serve?"

Sarutobi quirked an eyebrow in amusement at the man's tone of voice before letting out a light chuckle. It was almost as if Pein truly expected him to answer simply because he'd demanded it. Young people these days…

Instead, Sarutobi simply settled into a loose stance and replied, "You're right, I am neither a servant of Hanzo, nor do I have any insights into your cause or your motivation. I have no quarrel with you and I truly regret that it has come to this." And he really did. Sarutobi had no desire to fight in any war, let alone the civil war of a foreign country with a history of bloodshed like Ame no Kuni. Particularly when he had dedicated so much effort and so many lives into destroying it. Sadly, as had happened frequently throughout his life, what he wanted to do and what he had to do were two different things.

Pein began to walk slowly towards him with narrowed eyes. "We're both of the same breed then… you came here to spill the blood of my people without care or reason... motives for war do not concern us. Religion, ideology, resources, land, grudges, love, or just because… No matter how pathetic the reason, it's enough to start a war."

Sarutobi had to admit, there was some truth to Pein's words. Sadly, for all the progress humanity had made in Sarutobi's lifetime, many of the same troubles that led Hashirama Senju to seek the path of peace continued to plague the nations even today. Though unlike himself, Pein seemed to possess a rather pessimistic view on life, seeing only the evils of the world rather than the good it had to offer. "You should not be so quick to pass judgment on people." He chided in what Jiraiya often called his "grandpa" tone. "There are many evils in this world, that much is true, but that does not mean there is not good as well, nor does it mean that it is not worth fighting for."

"Who else is there to pass judgment if not God?" Pein asked rhetorically. "The Great Villages are ever bringing war and death to those who have nothing to do with their conflicts. Even now, Konoha wages war with Kumo and for what reason? Why must thousands die and experience pain because of what one man did to one child? This is why God's judgment must be passed on this world, and my judgment is absolute."

Sarutobi raised an eyebrow at Pein's rants and claims. He'd met more than one egomaniac in his time, but never one who actually claimed-and if Sarutobi was right, believed- to be God.

"Let's not pretend that the current Great Shinobi Villages are the only ones to have ever started a war." Sarutobi replied with an uncontrollable hint of derision. He could understand why someone from a nation like Ame no Kuni –a nation that had been used as a battlefield by the Great Nations around it in the past- would hold a grudge against the Great Shinobi Villages, but after forty years of leading Konoha, it had become more than a little irksome to hear people blame all of the world's problems on his Village. "Did Kusagakure not draw first blood against Taki, causing the first war involving two Hidden Villages? Kagerougakure was certainly not a Great Shinobi Village when they used brainwashed suicide bombers to pave the way for their surprise attack against Hotaru no Shi in the years leading up to the Second Great Shinobi War. And as I recall, it was Yugakure that later wiped Kagerou off the map, not one of the Great Shinobi Villages. Did Amegakure not launch the series of raids through the borderlands of Hi no Kuni and Kaze no Kuni that sparked the Second Great Shinobi War? I could go on, but the fact is, there have been just as many, if not more wars started by the so called "minor" Hidden Villages, as have been started by the current Five Great Shinobi Villages."

"This world must feel my pain, understand pain, and accept pain, in order to know pain. Only then, when all have experienced this pain can the chain of hatred be broken and peace brought to the world." Pein lectured dully without a hint of having listened to Sarutobi's words.

Still, he felt the need to at least try to reason with the man. "Why? Why do you feel that only through suffering can the world know peace? You speak of a "chain of hatred" and say that only by experiencing as much pain as you can that chain be broken…yet all you would accomplish would be to bring needless suffering to countless people, people who would hate you for it. How would that bring peace? Do you truly expect that after experiencing the suffering you think they must feel; people will thank you for it?"

"You wouldn't understand God's plan. You are but a mere mortal, and incapable of knowing what God knows." Pein retorted dismissively. "Now, which Village do you serve? They must be made to feel pain for your actions."

"…So how do you expect your "plan" to work if it's something us poor, simple mortals cannot understand?" Sarutobi asked sarcastically. "Perhaps you haven't gotten around to thinking about that part of your grand plan?" Shaking his head, Sarutobi knew there would be no reasoning with this man, simply because the so called "God" had no interest in any opinion save his own.

A seemingly common attitude among powerful shinobi of the past two generations or so. And seeing as how it was those same powerful shinobi who eventually led their Villages or factions, it was little wonder that what slight progress towards peace had been made by previous generations had been slowly slipping away. That hothead Ei certainly came to mind of late when Sarutobi thought of such things.

Focusing on the coming battle and curious as to what he was up against, Sarutobi ran through the seals for one of his many Ninjutsu. As he did so, the earth at his feet churned chaotically, mixing with the rain to become mud. As he clenched his hands in the final seal, a roaring dragon's head rose up from the ground and howled, firing numerous globs of earth the size of a man's head at his opponent. Two seals later, and Sarutobi spit out of tongue of flame, igniting the projectiles as they hurled towards Pein.

Rather than dodging, the chubby Pein simply raised his hands, as if bracing himself to catch something moderately heavy. As the fiery missiles passed between them, the chakra holding the mud and fire together seemed to be drained away, leaving Pein to be struck by loose handfuls of mud and flickering flames, both of which washed off his cloak with no real effect.

"You waste your efforts." Pein lectured in a dull monotone as he brushed off the little mud that remained on his clothing. "No mortal man could ever hope to harm God."

"Fascinating…" Sarutobi murmured as he raised a hand to cup his chin and feeling a craving for his pipe. "You use Fuuinjutsu to suck the chakra away, leaving the base elements of mud and fire behind. Despite the speed with which they move, without the chakra to hold them together, they're essentially harmless. You could probably do the same with almost any Ninjutsu attack."

Seeing Pein's eyes widening slightly in shock at how quickly Sarutobi had broken down his technique, he couldn't help but let out a somewhat sheepish chuckle. "Forgive me; my inquisitive nature gets the better of me some times. Although, if it makes you feel better, people have been known to call me a God from time to time as well." He also very pointedly did not tell him that he'd had over twenty hours to consider the technique based on Hanzo's information. Psychological warfare was a wonderful thing when you were the one using it to screw with an enemy's head.

"…It matters not. God's Judgment is absolute. You will die here, as punishment for inflicting your senseless violence on the world." Pein stated dismissively, as if it were already a forgone conclusion and thus not worth dwelling on.

Drawing a kunai almost absentmindedly, Sarutobi casually nicked his thumb before flinging the kunai over his shoulder into the Ame rebel who had been attempting to sneak up on him. A quick few hand seals later and Sarutobi was slamming his hand on the ground. 'Kuchiyose no jutsu!' he mentally vocalized, deliberately pumping enough extra chakra into the technique to cause a larger than usual cloud of smoke to signal Enma's arrival.

Ordinarily, Sarutobi would allow his opponents to see Enma, just for the added fear and shock value that anyone who knew of him would feel, before having the Monkey King transform into his staff form. This would often catch even his most powerful enemies' off-guard, allowing him to get in the first –and often last- attack.

This time around, Sarutobi quickly signaled Enma to transform before the smoke had a chance to dissipate. When Sarutobi had Enma elongate out of the smoke –acting as his eyes at the same time- Pein was right where Sarutobi had expected him to be due to the man's arrogant attitude. In the same spot he'd been standing since the conflict began, though this time he appeared to be prepared to drain the chakra out of yet another Ninjutsu attack.

Sarutobi imagined the surprise on the man's face right before Enma collided with his chest was quite amusing. As it was, Enma was little more than a black blur that shot across the ground and slammed into Pein. Sarutobi heard him grunt and the Sandaime's keen hearing could easily decipher it as parts of Pein's body seemed to explode in showers of blood and gore. Enma pushed Pein off his feet and dragged him backwards into the slope of the mountainside, bones shattering from the force of the impact.

As the smoke cloud finally faded away, Sarutobi strode towards the fallen Pein as Enma's staff form retracted back to his usual length. "Amazing…" Enma voice muttered from seemingly nowhere. "He actually survived that blow…I'm fairly certain I hit the Kyuubi softer than that."

"Interesting…" Sarutobi agreed as Pein slowly and jerkily pulled himself out of the small crater and back to his feet. "He doesn't seem to feel any pain from his injuries whatsoever…then again; this isn't really his body, so I suppose it makes sense." He trailed off as Pein suddenly rushed him, throwing Sarutobi off guard as he ducked and weaved around the man's attacks. Although the movements in the man's arms and shoulders seemed strained, it appeared the ordinarily catastrophic damage done to his chest had little effect on his ability to move and fight.

Sarutobi danced backward, managing to avoid the jerky strikes with moderate effort, before slapping one such strike away with his gauntleted arm. That was a bad idea, as walking half crushed corpse or not, Pein hit hard, and Sarutobi wasn't as young as he used to be. Shaking his arm to get the feeling back into it, Sarutobi ducked under a haymaker and delivered a one handed thrust of Enma's staff form into Pein's chin. The man's head snapped back with an audible crack, and as Pein stumbled back a step, Sarutobi hurled a brace of shuriken into the man from pointblank range.

Unfortunately, the shuriken seemed to have little effect. Neither did the broken neck. Although, Pein did appear to have some trouble moving his head now.

"What an incredibly annoying enemy." Enma's voice growled from thin air. "Even that oaf Jiraiya would be rolling around in agony after that last blow."

"Jiraiya…" Pein somehow ground out from a shattered jaw. "Konoha…once again…once again you bring war to my people…was the Second Great Shinobi War not enough for you? Will you not be satisfied until all of Ame no Kuni is burning rubble, its people butchered and scattered to the winds?"

It was an odd sight to see, a man with no expression speak words of such vitriol and emotion…in such a bland tone of voice. Really, about the only noticeable change was in volume…which was just as odd to hear.

Still, with the knowledge that Pein was an Ame native who lived through the horrors of the Second Great Shinobi War, Sarutobi felt a surge of guilt. Guilt for the part he played in Ame's destruction, and guilt that he was helping to bring conflict to this nation once again, however necessary it might be. Although, considering that Hanzo was the only reason Pein even still had a country, it was rather odd that he was fighting so hard to bring down the man who had kept Ame no Kuni from being swallowed up entirely by the surrounding nations.

He was knocked out of his thoughts when Pein snapped his hand out to the side –accompanied by quite a few crunching noises as bones ground against each other- and a long, dark, sharpened rod of some kind shout out of his sleeve. How he'd managed to conceal it in a sleeve, was something Sarutobi couldn't help but wonder as he sidestepped the man's thrust, then slapping the pseudo blade aside with Enma before whirling and using the other end of the staff to deliver a powerful blow to the side of Pein's head.

As the man was forced into a half turn by the force, Sarutobi twirled Enma's staff form around his body, before landing a bone crushing blow on Pein's left shoulder, finally leaving that arm hanging limp and helpless, though once again the man showed no signs of discomfort or pain.

"Hmm…I suppose that's the solution then." Sarutobi mused as he swung Enma's staff form around himself defensively. "We'll just have to keep breaking parts of him until it becomes impossible for him to move."

Sarutobi couldn't resist grinning as the first sign of worry entered Pein's rippling eyes. "Let's go, Enma!" he called out with a slight chuckle as he darted back towards Pein, who was now struggling to maintain his distance from him.

Kakashi panted tiredly as he watched the long haired Pein get his hands on yet another of Hanzo's followers. The man let out a terrified shriek and began to struggle just as Pein ripped his hands away from the man's face as if pulling something off of him. The man instantly went silent and collapsed like a puppet with cut strings. 'How does he keep doing that?' Kakashi wondered angrily and, if he was honest, with a tinge of desperation.

He'd been studying this Pein intently ever since he first made his appearance on the battlefield, killing dozens of Ame shinobi while Kakashi watched on, seeking a weakness to exploit, or at least more information on what exactly Pein was doing. In the end, he'd been forced to step in when Naruto stumbled onto Pein, and Kakashi found himself in a battle that he had no clue how he was going to win.

Oh, he had some idea how to fight an opponent who could hurt you with the slightest touch –something that most Medic-nin and any Hyuuga were capable of- but there was a huge difference between fighting someone who could seal one of your tenketsu with the slightest touch, and someone who could kill you with the slightest touch. Kakashi had been forced to spend most of the fight running from Pein –no easy task considering the man was far faster than Kakashi.

Even with judicious use of his Sharingan and Kawarimi no jutsu, Kakashi would have been dead some time ago if the battle hadn't shifted in their direction. Over a dozen Ame shinobi had thrown themselves at Pein, cries of "death to the traitors!" and "Long live Hanzo-sama!" echoing from them as they threw their lives away with little hesitation. Those who followed them fought just as desperately and as viciously, only with far more terrified screaming and the occasional begging pouring from their lips instead of praises for Hanzo.

Even worse, the man seemingly felt nothing. Kakashi had hit him with several kunai, shuriken, and even scored a direct hit with a Doton: Iwa Hashira which should have broken at least a few ribs. All any of that accomplished was attracting Pein's attention. Well, that, and it might have pissed him off, though it was hard to tell with how impassive the guy was.

Feeling his Sharingan eye burning with effort, Kakashi managed to dodge another of Pein's odd grapple like thrusts and retaliated by slapping an explosive tag where his Sharingan told him Pein's arm would be. The moment he felt the tag stick to him, Kakashi ignited it with a surge of chakra and then leapt backwards to escape the explosion.

Even with the predictive abilities of the Sharingan, Kakashi was still only just able to avoid being caught up in the blast, and actually lost his balance from the force of it. Still, he judged that as an acceptable risk, especially since no matter how tough Pein was, there was no way he wouldn't be feeling that. Hell, if he was lucky the blast would have torn Pein's arm off, or at least rendered it useless-

"Shit!" Kakashi bit out in panic as Pein emerged from the blast, cut and bleeding but showing no signs of being weakened in the slightest. Stumbling away from Pein's outstretched arms at the last second, Kakashi let out a yelp when the longhaired man closed the distance with seemingly little effort, arms lashing out in yet another attempt to grip his head.

Even with his Sharingan, Kakashi couldn't see any way of dodging Pein's grab…save one. Dropping almost boneless to the ground, Kakashi ran through hand signs at a rapid pace, pulling off the quickest Kawarimi in his life. Reappearing where one of the fallen Ame ninja had once been, Kakashi pulled himself up halfway, before his eyes widened as he saw Pein charging towards him, already halving the distance between them in the few seconds that had passed since Kakashi performed his escape. Falling back down, Kakashi once more ran through seals, his Sharingan eye showing him only one scenario that didn't end in his imminent death.

"Doton: Dorou Doumu!" Kakashi cried out as he put every ounce of will and strength into the technique that he could. Just before Pein could reach him, a solid barrier of earth rose up around Kakashi, leaving him safely imprisoned within. Panting at his close call, Kakashi carefully pulled himself up to a kneeling position without releasing the final hand seal, only to jerk back as if struck, while the earthen barrier around him shook as if under immense pressure.

"What the hell!?" Kakashi stammered just before being wracked by pain as the earth around him trembled just before a fist broke through. "Oh you've got to be kidding me!" Kakashi growled in disbelief. Bad enough that Pein could kill with a touch, but being strong enough to punch through a solid earth technique like that too? That was just bullshit! That would be like Tsunade being able to use the Jyuuken!

As the fist withdrew itself, Kakashi felt a pull on his chakra as the technique automatically drained chakra from him in order to repair itself. That was the Dorou Doumu's function after all, and was something that didn't really need any outside control from the user. And that was the problem. Kakashi was the user, and Kakashi was inside it instead of being outside as intended. Which meant that the technique was automatically siphoning chakra off of him in order to repair itself. Even worse, Kakashi had to maintain focus to keep the technique active, which kept Pein from killing him, but also left him effectively trapped by his own technique.

Snarling at the stupidity of utilizing the Dorou Doumu the way he had, Kakashi began force feeding his chakra into the earthen dome, thickening the walls repeatedly –and slowly sinking lower as the required earth was pulled up from beneath him- in an attempt to buy himself time to figure out how to escape. If he released the seal, the barrier would simply crumble away, so he'd have to move quickly if he was going to get away from Pein before the barrier collapsed.

Hanzo walked calmly through the chaos, not even needing to pay attention to the fighting shinobi around him. It was to be expected of course. Before Pein, no one within Ame no Kuni had dared try to attack Hanzo, and no one outside Ame no Kuni had dared since the end of the Second Great Shinobi War. As such, none of the rebels had the stomach to face him if they could avoid it.

So it was child's play for him to move through the battle in search of the one he'd killed once before, the one he intended to kill once again. Besides, orange hair and a face full of metal piercings weren't exactly subtle. It went even faster considering that Pein was searching for him as well.

The two stared at each other stoically, each ignoring the sounds of battle around them as easily and nonchalantly as they did the rain that poured down on them. There were no words exchanged between them at this stage. There was nothing left to be said anymore, not after all of the battles they'd fought against each other. But there was the obvious bloodlust between them, that intense desire to see the other dead by their hands.

There was no posturing or threats to prelude the battle, just Pein suddenly raising his hand, and Hanzo felt himself being tugged off his feet and dragged towards the Rinnegan user. Pein was just beginning to draw one of those chakra rods of his when the ground in between them exploded as a giant salamander rose up to catch Hanzo.

"Good job, Ibuse." Hanzo rasped calmly. "You know what to do." And the great salamander did know what to do. They'd fought this particular Pein on more than one occasion after all. Ibuse quickly expelled a cloud of toxic poison. It wouldn't have any effect on Pein, but it would kill most of Pein's followers in the general area.

This was particularly effective since most if not all of Pein's followers refused to wear the respirators that so many of Hanzo's shinobi wore. The fools thought they were making a statement by doing so, forgetting that Hanzo's shinobi didn't wear those respirators in honor of him; they did it because they were afraid of him and his poisons. Most of those few Ame shinobi who didn't wear them, were members of Hanzo's personal guard, who both knew to avoid Hanzo's poisons, and wouldn't dream of implying they would fight back should Hanzo desire their deaths. That was the extent of their loyalty to him.

Pein of course, remained completely unaffected, even as his followers gasped and choked in agony around him. Hanzo's own men didn't hesitate to move through the cloud to strike those few who escaped the poisonous fumes, before moving on in search of other traitors to kill.

"I always found it interesting." Hanzo rasped conversationally as he waited patiently for Pein to make his move. "For a man who claims to hate me and everything I stand for, who wants to "save" Amegakure from my "tyranny", you show as little regard for the lives of your followers as you do for mine. Have you perhaps, had a change of heart…Yahiko?"

"One such as you could not possibly comprehend the motivations of God. Rest assured, once you've felt God's pain, you will understand all that you need to, before passing from this world." Pein intoned from directly behind him.

Hanzo was already moving before the rebel had opened his mouth, turning and knocking aside the chakra rod thrust with his kusari-gama even as he was bringing the weighted chain around to smash Pein's head in. As expected, the weight never connected, as Hanzo was driven off of Ibuse by Pein's technique. Same as always. A quick Kawarimi with a nearby corpse and Hanzo was the attacking from behind; lashing out with a quick slash of his kusari that he doubted would actually hit Pein.

His doubts were proven correct as the annoying rebel leaped forward, twisting in the air so that by the time he landed, his hand was already outstretched towards Hanzo. "Shinra Tensei!" Pein uttered coldly as Hanzo once again felt himself being pulled off his feet and dragged towards the arrogant boy. As he was pulled forward, Hanzo almost lazily spun kusari by the chain, utilizing his unique skill with the weapon to send the poison coated sickle arcing in at Pein's skull, forcing the so-called God to block with that odd chakra rod of his.

Snorting to himself at the boy's predictability, Hanzo simply eased his grip on the chain, allowing the sickle to travel just far enough that it was the chain that struck the chakra rod, simple physics taking care of the rest as the sickle and half a foot of chain wrapped around the rod several times, just as Hanzo gave a mighty heave.

And Pein or Yahiko or whatever the hell he was, was too slow to release the rod, leaving him rocketing forward off balance. That was all he needed though, and Hanzo quickly leapt forward as Pein's technique dissipated, holding his hand up in a random seal just to keep Pein's attention.


It said something about the kind of life Hanzo had lived that he didn't smirk or gloat or anything similar when his plan came together, Ibuse erupting partway from the ground to clamp his jaws about Pein's legs, leaving the fool unable to avoid Hanzo as he came rushing in. Then again, most shinobi don't tend to live to be his age, and those that do tend to be among the most dangerous. Young fools like Pein on the other hand, tended to be more…careless, especially if they're powerful.


Simultaneously pulling his kusari back to him while whipping the weighted chain around Pein's neck; Hanzo practically sneered when Pein actually tried to get an arm up between his neck and the chain now wrapping around it. Had Hanzo been in his place, he would have ignored the chain in order to focus on the more pressing threat of the man wielding it, particularly when one considered Pein's rather unique abilities and impossibly high pain tolerance. As it was, all the orange haired man accomplished was having his arm trapped against his neck by the chain as Hanzo darted past and twisting to put all of his considerable weight and strength into pulled the chain taut.


"Fool…" Hanzo rasped more or less to himself as he drove his sickle through the side of Yahiko's head before the five seconds the boy required to reutilize his technique was up. "You should have known better than to try to take me on by yourself. Especially when I've been fending four of you off at the same time for the last few weeks…" Deliberately wrenching the sickle back and forth as he extracted it from Pein's skull, Hanzo took a moment to reflect on how he'd been spending his life lately.

For some time now Hanzo had been…lacking. No, that wasn't quite the right word for it…he had been…tired, disillusioned, and though he didn't care to admit it –even to himself- careless. Oh, he'd secured Ame no Kuni's borders, and Amegakure itself was a veritable fortress, almost impenetrable. On top of that, he'd moved swiftly to crush every sign of rebellion, forced every splinter group, every rogue band of Samurai, even every bandit had been pressed back into the fold. But Hanzo knew he'd made a mistake.

He'd grown more paranoid certainly, but at the same time, he'd become complacent. Hanzo had long since become one of the most security conscious people on the continent; he could sniff out a conspiracy or whispers of rebellion with ease. But he'd let himself fall for the greatest trap of all, one that had destroyed many a great shinobi over the centuries. He'd allowed himself to think he was unbeatable. And while he'd been so busy maintaining his hold on Ame no Kuni and keeping any foreign enemies at bay while sniffing out the domestic ones, Hanzo had allowed his skills to deteriorate.

It was a gradual slippage, not something anyone was liable to notice overnight. But slowly, as his excuses for not training one day because he was tired, or because he had to leave early the next morning, or because he just could quite seem to find the time, turned into a fear of ambushes or assassination attempts if he tired himself out with a good day of training, the lack of training was beginning to build. It was beginning to show as he skills ever so slowly deteriorated one day at a time. Not by a great deal certainly, but he shuddered to think at how weak he might have grown had Yahiko's corpse not shown up to haunt him.

Hanzo hadn't felt any real fear at first, not even when the so called "Pein" fought his way through Hanzo's private residence to face him head on. After all, what did he have to fear? He was Sanshouo no Hanzo. He had killed thousands, had made kage level shinobi into legends simply by sparing their lives, he had even gone up against three of the Great Villages at the same time and still managed to keep his country alive. What did he have to fear from one man? Albeit, one of the stranger men he'd ever met, what with those eyes and all of those piercings, but still just a man.

When Pein had blasted him through a wall with that Shinra Tensei of his, Hanzo had been surprised to say the least. He'd never even heard of such a technique before, and in addition to Pein's resilience and durability, Hanzo found himself actually working to defend himself. It was a sobering moment for the old legend, but after several harrowing minutes of being flung back and forth like a ragdoll, he'd finally figured out the limitations of Pein's odd technique, not to mention that with the exception of the eyes and piercings, "Pein" looked exactly like Yahiko, one of those three traitors he'd teamed up with Danzo Shimura to wipe out.

That was impossible of course, seeing as how Yahiko was dead, but the resemblance was uncanny. Between the shock of fighting a dead man and the confusion of the strange techniques used against him, it was entirely possible that Hanzo might have been killed that day. Luckily, Pein spent far too much time pontificating about "God's plan this" and "God's will that", rather than just killing him while he had the elements of surprise on his side.

Rather than face defeat, Pein had retreated once Hanzo found his stride again, and other than making a note to hunt down and kill the piercing obsessed man –and to get back into training again- Hanzo had more or less put the event out of his mind. When Pein eventually returned, Hanzo had believed himself ready to dispose of the threat to his Village and country with minimal effort…except there were two of them this time.

A little more wary of the newcomer –who had the same orange hair, same strange eyes, and a similar obsession with facial piercings- Hanzo had moved in for the kill. Imagine his surprise when the new man –who also referred to himself as "Pein"- demonstrated a strange ability completely different from the ones "Yahiko/Pein" possessed. Even odder was how completely in tune with each other the two were, always fighting perfectly to cover each other's blind spots and openings, attacking in perfect synchronization, even communicating without so much as a gesture.

The only new weakness he spotted between the two was that the new "Pein" was oddly protective of the "Yahiko/Pein" though Hanzo had been unable to figure out why before killing the newcomer and driving the "original" off. The pattern was more or less set after that. The original "Yahiko/Pein" would return periodically with first one, then two, and then three different "Peins". And with each new Pein came new abilities, new tactics, and Hanzo found himself increasingly on the defensive.

It was a wakeup call, one that Hanzo immediately took advantage of. He shuddered to think what would have happened if all of the Peins had come for him that first time. They likely would have succeeded in killing him, and with him, any chance of Ame no Kuni's survival. So in retrospect, while Pein had been a fool to not press his advantage the first time, Hanzo was incredibly glad that the Pein's always spent so much time going on about how they were bringing "God's judgment" down on him.

Naruto crept through the winding tunnels as silently as he could, still failing to make any sense of where he was or where he was going. He hadn't so much as seen a suggestion of any kind of human life since killing that young rebel well over half an hour ago. If he didn't know better, Naruto would assume he'd somehow stumbled into one of the Summon's Realms or something similar, it was so quiet.

Even worse, Naruto found he couldn't stop worrying about Tsunade. Which made very little sense, considering that she was far above him in terms of…well…just about everything when it came to the shinobi arts.

Yet no matter how hard he tried to push his concern to the back of his mind, he couldn't stop thinking that he needed to find Tsunade, that he had to make sure she was alright even if it killed him. Which, aside from being irrational, was a borderline treasonous thought. Naruto knew full well just how much the Hokage was counting on him to protect Konoha, and to even think of throwing that all away because he couldn't stop worrying about Tsunade, one of the Sannin, not to mention one of the strongest kunoichi in the world, was the height of foolishness.

Yet even the thought of disappointing Danzo-sama –something that Naruto would rather die than do- wasn't enough to make him concentrate on the mission rather than pointlessly worrying about Tsunade.

Kicking a small rock in frustration, Naruto almost missed the strange sound it made when it collided with the wall. Frowning, he glanced around in the general direction the rock had flown, trying to place the sound that he'd heard. It almost sounded like…paper ripping?

Confused, Naruto moved closer to the wall, trying and failing to spot where the rock had landed. It should be somewhere in this general area but there wasn't a single rock in sight. Now feeling distinctly paranoid, Naruto crouched down by the wall and carefully ran his hand over it, searching for anything that was out of place. He found it almost immediately. Despite looking exactly like the wall of an underground tunnel carved inside a cave, the wall didn't feel anything like rough stone or earth of any kind. In fact, it felt like…paper?

'What the hell is this?' Naruto wondered as he ran his hands lower over the wall, soon coming across a hole that was about the same height as the rock he had kicked. Bending over further, Naruto cautiously peered through the hole, finding a whole other cave system on the other side. 'Who uses paper to hide something like this? A Doton Jutsu would work far better.' Naruto wondered to himself as he debated his options. On the one hand, he was alone, and had no idea what exactly was waiting on the other side of this fake wall. On the other hand, you didn't usually hide something unless it's important in some way. You especially didn't go to the trouble of hiding it with paper unless it really was important.

'Not like I have any better ideas…' Naruto murmured to himself as he slowly and carefully tore the small hole in the wall wider, until he was able to slip through without being too obvious. Once through, Naruto carefully moved over the oddly even cave floor to crouch behind a large boulder. Pausing for a moment to make sure he hadn't been detected by anyone, Naruto slowly peeked over the boulder to see…nothing. The tunnels were completely devoid of any life other than himself.

Glancing back at the wall he'd passed through, Naruto began muttering curses under his breath. The paper wall on this side looked the same as on the other, which was to say, like solid rock. Which meant, there was a very real possibility that the cave systems he'd just left, might well be the hidden one and these new caverns and tunnels might be a random cave system.

"Damn it! Now what do I do?" Naruto growled to himself as he glanced back and forth between the paper wall and the newly discovered tunnels. On the one hand, he knew that there had been Ame shinobi from both factions somewhere in those tunnels. At the same time, Naruto had been completely lost over there, and he didn't actually know what was on this side. Maybe he should take a look around to see if he could find anything that would help him decide one way or the other? Shrugging, Naruto moved away from the boulder and moved deeper into the tunnels.

'At this rate, the damn war will be over by the time I get out of here.' Naruto mentally grumbled to himself some time later. 'Four years of training, and I never got taught how to navigate underground…unbelievable. I mean, we just got done fighting a major war against Iwa, and they specialize in fighting underground and shit. You'd think Konoha would have tons of techniques and strategies for fighting in caves and tunnels, yet I don't know one. Talk about ridiculous-'

"What's wrong, Nagato?" A voice echoed from up ahead, causing Naruto to stumble to a halt before quickly pressing himself against the wall and going still.

"The battle is not going well, Konan." A second voice replied with a displeased tone. "You're spies in the Village must have been compromised once again, given their lack of warning about Hanzo's pending assault."

Hardly daring to breathe, Naruto slowly slinked down the tunnel towards the voices. From the sounds of it, the stoic female voice was some sort of spymaster for the Ame rebels, which meant that Naruto had at the very least stumbled across a high ranking rebel. Possibly even their command center if he was extremely lucky.

"It's not the first time our spies have failed to give us warning." Konan replied without much concern. "What is so troubling about it this time?"

"…Jiraiya-sensei is fighting alongside Hanzo's men." Nagato's voice replied with a grim heat in his voice, getting a startled gasp from Konan at the revelation.

Naruto almost gave out a startled gasp of his own hearing the rebel addressing the Sannin as "sensei". What the hell were a couple high ranking Ame rebels doing addressing Jiraiya as such? More importantly, what the hell was Jiraiya thinking if he actually taught a couple of Ame shinobi?

"Why would Jiraiya-sensei be helping Hanzo? Why would he even return to Ame no Kuni after all these years?" Konan asked disbelievingly. "Surely Hanzo didn't send for him. That tyrant would never allow the lockdown to deteriorate enough for the other nations to learn of our war."

"I don't know." Nagato gritted out as Naruto edged up against the entrance to the chamber their voices were coming from. "All I know is that he's keeping my Animal Path from moving to engage Hanzo. And he's not the only one."

Naruto resisted the urge to peer out from behind his cover at the silence that followed, though he assumed Konan must have been giving Nagato a disbelieving look of some kind. Naruto was more than a little confused himself. What the hell was an… animal path? And how the hell could he know what Jiraiya was doing? Was there an exit or some kind of observation post nearby?

"There are two others, both Konoha shinobi who are fighting me as well. The old man has almost completely outmatched my Preta Path." Nagato explained with something like frustration in his voice. "And the other –while no match for my Human Path- has been able to delay me from joining my Deva Path against Hanzo. That my Human Path is the furthest of my Paths from Hanzo is only compounding the problem. At this rate, I may lose Deva before I can get the others to Hanzo."

"Can't you have Deva retreat and draw Hanzo towards the other Paths? Or use Animal Path to summon him away from Hanzo? That was the original plan when you split up your Paths after all." Konan asked with the first real emotion in her voice. Anxiety. "If we don't do something, Deva will be destroyed!"

"I know that!" Nagato spat angrily. "But the only thing I could do is summon him away, and Jiraiya isn't exactly an amateur. I'm barely holding my own against him!"

'What the hell!' Naruto frowned in utter confusion. 'I can't make heads or tails of this guy.' Was "Nagato" actually some kind of clone or something? How could he possibly know how all of these "Paths" of his were doing in the battle?

"Then I'll go." Konan said resolutely, seeming to have regained her stoicism. "I'll go distract Jiraiya-sensei enough for you to summon the other Paths, and then you can go deal with Hanzo once and for all."

"Be careful, Konan. We're too close to victory for you to be lost now." Nagato ordered sternly as Konan's footsteps moved towards Naruto's position.

He hesitated for a split second, before deciding that he wanted no part of a fight with a woman who thought she could "distract" Jiraiya. Especially not when he was alone and she had back up nearby. Quickly scurrying back down the tunnel to hide among the shadows, Naruto only caught the tail end of Nagato's parting words. "…show no mercy." Then a blue haired woman in the same kind of black cloak as the orange haired man Naruto had seen outside stepped out into the tunnels and quickly strode away from Naruto's position and further into the tunnels.

As he waited for the woman to get out of sight, Naruto pondered what to do next. If he followed Konan, she'd probably lead him to an exit, where he could consider ambushing her and finding his way to link up with friendly forces. Or he could follow her to Jiraiya, then ambush her and help the old pervert with that "Animal Path" thing.

On the other hand, the room she'd just left was either a command center of some sort, or at least had a high ranking rebel of some kind or other inside. Naruto debated the issue for a moment, before coming to a decision. Reaching into his kunai pouch, he pulled out most of his exploding tags and attached them to a single kunai. Once that was done, he carefully crept back to his original position next to the entrance to the room. Listening carefully, Naruto glanced around the corner, ready to throw his explosive laden kunai at the first sign of discovery, only to blink at what he saw.

It was a large room, seemingly carved out of the rock around it, but that wasn't what held his attention. It was the single man within. If the emaciated corpse could actually be called a man. The redhead within was…attached to some kind of…chair or throne or whatever the hell it was, from the waist down. The thing stood on four legs and gave the illusion of greater height to the withered man within, who seemed to be leaning forward and bracing himself on the construct, as if tired or battling exhaustion. Of course, the half dozen giant metal rods sticking out of his back might have had something to do with it as well.

Naruto had to bite back a curse as the cripple within squeezed his eyes shut as if concentrating on something that Naruto either couldn't see, or just plain didn't understand. Killing this guy, however important he may be to the Ame rebels, was like killing a coma patient. There was nothing he could do to defend himself. And like a coma patient, you didn't use a fist full of exploding tags on a guy like this. That would be complete overkill. Sighing resignedly, Naruto pocketed his kunai and drew his kodachi in its place as he stepped away from the wall. A quick kunai to the skull, and Naruto could try to catch up with "Konan" before she got too far away.

"Who are you?" Konan's voice came from Naruto's immediate left. Jumping in shock, Naruto whirled around to see the stoic woman's paper-mâché head growing out of the wall just inches from Naruto's face.

"Shit!" Naruto yelped in shock as he quickly stepped back and tried to cut the woman's head in half with his kodachi.

The woman didn't even blink, merely breaking apart into a wave of individual sheets of paper that Naruto's kodachi didn't even touch as the paper parted around the blade before reforming and surging out of the wall and crashing into Naruto's torso, propelling him off his feet and sending him careening into the room. Losing his grip on the sword, Naruto thrashed desperately as the paper continued to surge around him, wrapping him from neck to toe in a cocoon before he'd even hit the ground. "What the hell is this?!" Naruto growled in fear as the cocoon held him immobilized despite his best efforts.

Then he let out a startled scream as Konan's head formed out of the paper covering his chest, rising up on a stalk of papers so she could stare him in the face. Naruto didn't consider himself to be a coward or scared easily, but damn that was freaky as hell!

"…Another Konoha shinobi…" Konan murmured with a hint of disgust. "Why can't you people just leave our county alone?"

Naruto didn't even have a chance to consider answering the woman's largely rhetorical question, as the paper cocoon began to constrict around him, quickly leaving him gasping and struggling to draw breath into a chest that couldn't expand in the slightest. Naruto tried to thrash around to give himself even a second's breathing room, but the paper didn't give in the slightest no matter how hard Naruto struggled. Panicking, Naruto let out a breathless groan as he felt more than heard his ribcage begin to creak dangerously.

Throughout it all, Konan just stared at him coldly, not a hint of remorse on her face as she crushed Naruto to death in a deliberately slow fashion. That he was to all appearances just a child didn't seem to bother her in the slightest.

His lungs burning and his chest on the verge of collapsing, Naruto's futile struggles slowed and then ceased altogether as his thoughts grew fuzzy and the world darkened before his eyes.

Then he got angry and decided, fuck subtlety! Focusing the last of his waning concentration, Naruto reached deep within himself to that familiar, dark power that was the reason for his existence. And then he threw the gates as wide open as he could. The Kyuubi's chakra flooded through his body like a tidal wave, filling Naruto with a strange combination of joy and disgust as the corrosive power simultaneously made his stomach roil and made him feel like he'd spent most of his life with only four of his five senses. The sense of completion as colors were suddenly brighter, the air suddenly sweeter and the feel of the paper around him suddenly so much more vivid was intoxicating.

The Kyuubi's chakra compressed in on itself within Naruto's chakra system, and then surged out of his chakra points and surrounded his body, corroding the paper closest to his body and forming a thin silhouette.

Even as the closest layer of paper was blackening and shriveling in on itself, the rest of the paper and Konan's head surged away from Naruto, allowing him take a desperately needed gasp of air, feeling his ribcage protest even as he painfully pulled himself to his knees. Looking up as the silhouette of visible red chakra grew a pair of fox like ears and a single tail, Naruto grinned darkly as he caught the visible grimace on Konan's face as she reformed from out of the flurry of individual sheets of paper.

"That hurt you sadistic bitch!" Naruto growled as he clenched and unclenched his fists to get a feel for his new claw like fingernails. He really hoped the corroding of the first few layers of paper had hurt the woman, who had been deliberately drawing his death out just to satisfy whatever hatred the kunoichi had for Konoha.

"A Jinchuuriki…here?! But why would…" Konan muttered to herself in shock and an undertone of fear that Naruto's ears easily picked up with the amount of the Kyuubi's chakra surging through his veins. He also picked up the fear in her eyes when she glanced at Nagato, specifically fear for the emaciated man's safety.

'Well, I guess I know how important the walking…er sitting corpse is.' Naruto mused to himself as he surged forward in her moment of distraction. 'I'll have to remember to deal with him after I'm done with her!' Naruto leapt a few feet in the air so his fist would come down on Konan's head, knowing from his training with the Kyuubi's chakra that the kunoichi would be unlikely to get back up from such a blow for a minute or two. Plenty of time to finish her off, as well as to suppress the Kyuubi's chakra before any other Ame rebels could arrive, allowing him to escape uncontested.

Just as he began his descent, the woman's eyes snapped back to his, filled with a grim resolve as paper wings emerged from her back to bat Naruto aside. The paper immediately began to corrode as it came into contact with Naruto, causing Konan to grimace again and abort most of the force behind the strike. Still, the blow was enough to push Naruto aside so that his fist met the stone floor of the cavern, cratering the ground and sending rock shrapnel flying from the force of his blow.

Snarling, Naruto once again began to charge the kunoichi, who was now hovering a foot or so off the ground as her wings beat slowly, discarding the damaged and corroding papers as they did so. As Naruto closed the distance between them, Konan's wings suddenly surged forward, dozens of pieces of paper separating and flying towards him as accurately as any shuriken. Instinctively skidding to a halt, Naruto quickly reversed his momentum and leaped back just in time as the paper projectiles pierced the ground as if they were shuriken and the stone floor made of paper.

Growling, Naruto retaliated with several shuriken of his own, only to be forced to dodge backwards once again as another wave of paper projectiles knocked the shuriken and pierced the ground where Naruto had been standing. Naruto snarled in frustration and quickly leapt back again as more of the paper projectiles flew at him. 'I need to distract her somehow…' Naruto thought as he continued dodging Konan's projectiles. If this kept up for too long, rebel reinforcements were sure to start pouring in, using the Kyuubi's chakra like a beacon. Glancing towards Nagato, Naruto quickly cobbled together a plan.

Opening himself to even more of the Kyuubi's chakra –a second tail growing from the shroud of visible chakra surrounding him- Naruto reversed his momentum and darted forward and under the latest volley of paper shuriken, and was rushing past Konan before she could react to his sudden increase in speed.

Naruto couldn't resist grinning victoriously as he drew closer to the unmoving Nagato. Sure, a part of him felt bad about targeting a cripple, but the guy was obviously an important part of the rebel's leadership and as such was fair game. And considering that the two seemed to be friends, his death would enrage Konan, hopefully making her reckless. Still, the least he could do was make it quick. Drawing a kunai, Naruto prepared to throw it into the redhead's skull, intending to spin and reverse his momentum to get in close with that bitch Konan before she could stop chasing him.

Just as he drew back his arm, Nagato's eyes suddenly snapped open and glared at him, just before a dark metal rod shot out from the base of the man's throne. Surprised, Naruto stumbled to the side; almost managing to avoid the projectile altogether, save for where it grazed his arm.

Unfortunately, that was all it took, as the moment the strange metal broke his skin, Naruto felt everything just stop. The Kyuubi's chakra was simply gone as if it had never been, his own chakra didn't even circulate through his chakra network, his heart didn't beat and the blood in his veins ceased to flow and his lungs froze up. Naruto couldn't even catch himself as he collapsed like a puppet with all of its strings cut, and Naruto felt a distinct moment of sheer terror as Nagato glared at him with gray eyes with concentric rings and Konan drew closer to him from behind, her blood lust and fury hanging so heavily in the air that Naruto could practically taste it.

And then the Goddamn wall exploded.


Hotaru no Shi=City of Fireflies(saw this name on a fanmade wiki site that I can't find or remember, thought the name sounded catchy. Which would be better, Hotaru no Shi or Hotarunoshi?)

Kuchiyose no Jutsu=Summoning Technique

Iwa Hashira=Rock Pillar(Could have sworn there was an actual technique like this but couldn't find it)

Dorou Doumu=Earth Dome Prison

Shinra Tensei=Divine Judgment

Did I miss any?


Writing Pein was rather difficult, both the way he talks, as well as the way he would fight when unable to use all of his bodies in sync. Hopefully, I didn't do too terrible a job. As for the outcomes of those fights, I honestly feel that Pein was as unstoppable as he was in canon because he had six bodies that worked in perfect sync with one another. On top of that, I see Pein's bodies as being pretty strong and fast physically, and seeing as how they're dead bodies, unable to feel pain. All of these things combined made Pein damn near unbeatable. Split him up however, and more importantly know something about his abilities, and I can see him being far easier to bring down.

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

Peace, Vaan.