Oh my freaking... I never expected this final chapter to come out like this. I was asked in a review if this would be my longest yet, and I said probably not... well I was wrong. I can't believe how much I got out of this, but I was unwilling to leave things unsaid. And so this is it, the final chapter in what has been a story that has lasted nearly for an entire year. I hope you enjoy it, because writing it just about tore my shoulder muscles apart. But as one final note, for those of you who enjoyed this series. For a short while I will be working on a fic from another franchise, Tales of Vesperia. That will only be about 6 chapters however, and I will be getting straight into my next Naruto project as soon as it's done! So for those of you who stick around, see you soon! For those who don't, I hope you enjoyed youselves!
The Daemon of Pein
A monster that had only graced this earth once before, the union of two masses of physical and mental energy. That was the being known as the Juubi. Its size far surpassed anything Naruto had seen before, greater even than the Bijuu he had experienced not so long ago. As this massive mountain of flesh rose into the air, long thin limbs supporting it, the true scale of this thing was revealed. It was bigger than Konohagakure itself.
A skeletal humanoid shape bearing seemingly no fat at all, its skin stuck to its skeleton like some sort of adhesive tape. More than a human, it looked like some sort of hairless panther, its immense eye aside. It prowled over the village on all fours, letting out a strange sort of guttural purr as it breathed.
From far below the mass of this beast, Naruto watched with a look of madness. He had never truly been able to comprehend something of this mass before; it had always been his belief that there was a limit to just how large something can be. Yet this thing took up the entirety of the village he was born in, and simply from lifting itself from beneath the earth it had laid the entire place to waste. Suddenly he didn't have to think too far to realise just where those cables had been taking all that energy to.
Naruto turned his eyes to the side just for a moment, but no matter what he couldn't tear his attention away from the Juubi for long. It was like the behemoth drew his eyes in, something that demanded attention without the slightest bit of effort. "This is going to take more than we can provide to certainly put an end to this thing!" Pein called out, grabbing Naruto by the shoulder and forcing the boy's attention to himself. "There's no choice; we must call back the Jinchuuriki and use their power to-"
"No way!" Naruto interrupted, pulling himself out of Pein's grip. He couldn't bring the others into this; a fight that had been caused by his own actions. If he hadn't gotten caught by Konoha, if he hadn't been so ignorant to the power that woman gave him, if he hadn't been so prideful as to try and do everything in his own simple minded way, this mess would never have come to been. "This is our fight, our responsibility! We're the ones who let ourselves get pulled into their pace, we're the ones who should fix this!"
Without waiting for argument he turned around and whistled into his fingers, calling out the dogs once again. The loyal hounds came as ordered, leaping up to the roof of Kikyo Castle and joining their master. The look of fear on their faces was clear, and as such Naruto let them see his gratitude as he approached them. "I need you guys to lend me your strength now." he said in a voice that had calmness forced into it. He reached out with his hands and touched the faces of Akira and Hotei, his two most loyal dogs, and smiled to them. "Can I count on you?"
Although the dogs seemed by no means less afraid of the terrifying beast above them, they gave their wines and nuzzles in response. The ground trembled as the Juubi shifted its huge arms, colossal hands casting immense shadows across the broken Konoha. Naruto was grateful for the courage his hounds displayed, and quickly whipped out some scrolls from his pouch. With a quick seal he created five copies of himself, and together they hastily attached these scrolls to the dog's collars. However, before the purpose of the scrolls could be attained, the Juubi lifted its hand again and soon they were all eclipsed by that mammoth shadow.
Soundlessly the eight forms leapt out of the way, barely making it aside before Kikyo Castle and the surrounding buildings were crushed beneath the Juubi's hand. Pein was now split off from Naruto and the dogs, sliding through the crippled street with his life just barely intact. As he straightened up to study the beast further, he gave pause as he felt something against his back. "Is it wise to waste time with such a thing?" he asked, his gaze fixed solely on the eye of the Juubi far above. "You are wasting your time if you think killing me will save your village."
"Since you didn't deny your involvement in this, that makes you the only person who has any answers." replied Jiraiya, gripping his kunai tight. He gave off a murderous vibe that glanced off of Pein like rain against glass, trickling off his cool, hard exterior. There wasn't any intent behind that sensation though; simply that Jiraiya couldn't hide his feelings under such stress. "The entire village has been destroyed, and if you're the one who knows how to stop this thing, then you better believe I'm going to do whatever it takes to get that information."
To this Pein gave a turn of his head, just enough to see the old man behind him. The look he gave in that thin trace of an eye was not of shock or anger, but a simple case of ennui. "Is that all your so called "Will of Fire" amounts to?" he asked in a compassionless tone. Jiraiya clearly didn't get his meaning, and so he turned his head away again before obliging him with an explanation. "A village is more than a plot of land isn't it? It is your duty as a Konoha Shinobi to make sure that as many of your charges as possible survive. Leave this fight to us and protect who you can, if it will keep you from being in the way."
More of a discussion could not be made as the Juubi reacted again. It bowed its head low to the ground before suddenly rearing it, letting out a deep and hollow moan that would bring even lakes miles away to tremble. Once again the clouds in the sky gathered up, and soon the sunlight itself was omitted beneath a blanket of shadows. The Juubi lowered its head, just as a black aura began to cover its fleshy body. Its ears grew in length to that comparable of a rabbit, its eye becoming defined through the blackness. But what was the clearest change of them all was a single black tail that grew from the base of the Juubi's spine. At this sight Pein showed a response, a shocked expression that soon brought a turn of his head.
From the rubble of the streets around, Naruto rode out on the back of one of six armoured dogs, with the determination to overcome the obscurity of his reappearance. The black plates and spikes that covered his hounds certainly made them look more threatening, and the fact that Naruto held the Suijin tight in his hand added to this effect. He knew well what Pein too had realised. The Juubi was slowly developing itself, and thus far had succeeded in creating but a single tail. That meant they still had time; that this beast was more size than anything else right now. With that information stored safely inside, Naruto was able to hold a strong charge towards the monster's hand.
The perception of the Juubi appeared to be its only redeeming feature at this moment in time. Though it was slow, clumsy and rather oafish, even with something as small as Naruto's dogs it could see, and perceive. It raised its hand and swiped down after the mutts, but against its expectations the beasts used its hand as a footing. The monster took a moment to realise that rather than crushing the dogs, they were now running up its arm without a hint of slowing down. By the look of things the Juubi contained non of the intelligence of those responsible for creating it, though considering the way its body was that could simply be subject to the time being. Nonetheless there was one simple notion that it could easily comprehend; get the tiny things off its arm.
The speed at which the hounds flitted across this inconsistent flesh was truly remarkable. Once more Naruto was glad that he had put so much effort into their athletics training, for they certainly were paying off now. He looked off to his left and glared at the giant claw of the Juubi that moved towards them, its intention clear and in no way kind. He raised his own hand against the monster, narrowing his eyes as he tried to get a sense of scale. Yet no matter how he looked at it, he couldn't afford to expend the chakra necessary to stop that claw from reaching him. As much as he hated to say it, it seemed that he was going to have to do things the hard way if he wanted to get out of this alive. His jaw was tight, his eyes unsettled. He lowered his lips to Akira's ear, and began to whisper his command.
A sudden, crashing sound, like two boulders colliding with each other at hurtling speed. With it came a flash of colour in this otherwise grim place, a huge mound of something a very pale brown. Naruto watched with anxiety as he saw the Ichibi no Shukaku grab onto the Juubi's wrist and bite down on it, its golden eyes watching Naruto from their corner. "Gaara!" Naruto called out, before witnessing the Sanbi no Kyodaigame drop from above and land on the Juubi's arm, snapping it beneath its colossal weight. "Yagura!"
"You should really give up on trying to make us give up!"
Naruto turned his head to the right, seeing to his shock Utakata's face not too far from his. The bubble nin was poking out of the body of the Rokubi no Namekuji, flashing Naruto a smile by no means deserving in this situation. From his other side the Gobi no Irukauma could also be seen, taking a few steps back to attack. "Oh by the way…" Utakata added, his smile turning a little uneasy as he gestured behind him. "It looks like we were followed."
"HOO BABY, THERE AIN'T NO GAME WITHOUT THE KIRABI, KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT?"
Before Naruto could confirm his thoughts, he caught sight of a blast of chakra that flew over his shoulder and struck the Juubi square in its eye. The monster reared its head back and let out a scream, a shrill shriek that even now seemed to echo out. Naruto turned his head back in shock to see none other than the Hachibi no Kyogyu itself staring back at him, its massive mouth closing from its own attack. "YO KYU-BOY, I HEARD YOU WERE TAKING THE FIGHT STRAIGHT TO THOSE AKATSUKI BITCHES!" Kirabi's voice boomed out, its volume maximised from the body of the Hachibi. "IN THAT CASE AMMA TAG ALONG, AND LEAVE YA'LL IN STITCHES, WHEEEEE!"
He didn't like this, Naruto. This was supposed to be a fight that didn't involve people who weren't responsible for it. Yet at the same time he couldn't help feeling relief at the back up provided. He had to admit than in a battle like this he was going to need all the power he could muster. "If only I hadn't used so much chakra fighting Madara, I could be doing the same!" he thought to himself. But there was no helping it now, what's done is done after all. "Don't any of you dare die, you got it?"
His response came not in spoken words, but roars emitted from each of the beasts as they waged war against the largest of them all. The Ichibi launched balls of wind that struck the Juubi like an uppercut, while the Sanbi used the demon Tanuki as a springboard to leap into the air and slash the monster's throat with its tails. The Rokubi then spread its slimy lips apart and spat out a globule of some sort of gunk that struck the Juubi's wound and immediately began to burn at it with some acidic mix. The Gobi followed up by executing a much more agile leap that took it to the head of the Juubi, before exhaling a stream of steam that could melt rock. This string of attacks ended with Kirabi, who charged straight for the Juubi's stomach with its jagged horns impaling the titan's flesh.
"OOOORRRRHHHHH!" the Juubi howled, as it was blinded, choked and gutted from the attacks made by the fragments of its predecessor. It held its head high in the air as it released this cry, but continued to hold it up even when relative silence returned. Naruto and the rest of the Jinchuuriki had their slither of hope taken from them as nothing more happened than the growing of another tail. And with it, the healing of the wounds they had just inflicted.
"Well of course it would possess great regenerative powers, enough to surpass the Kyuubi's at the very least." Pein thought, as he distanced himself from this clash of titans and did what would be best in this situation. No physical wounds would remain on this thing for very long, and while it was fought against it continued to grow stronger. At the moment the most it could handle was swipes and slashed, but anyone could tell that the attacks it was making on the Bijuu were getting faster and closer. How long until it could make true attacks, the sort that had earned the original its terrifying legend? "How did you do it Rikudō Sennin? What was the key to your success against this creature?"
The Shukaku cried out as it was grabbed by the Juubi's massive hand, lifted into the air by its arms and throat. From the eyes of the Ichibi Gaara glared out, before the Juubi clenched its fist tight. The demon tanuki exploded in its grip, sand befalling the village was the rest of it crumbled. Next to suffer the Juubi's wrath was the Sanbi, who tried again to break the limb of the ever strengthening colossus before it. But this time it was to no avail, as the Juubi moved its limb in time to avoid the attack.
Then, before any other assault could be made on it, the Juubi lowered itself down to its haunches, before springing up and back to an insane level. The six hounds clung onto the Juubi's flesh, fighting quite literally tooth and nail to keep themselves from falling the great height that the Juubi effortlessly ascended, then again as it crashed down to the ground miles away from the village. The earth and trees were torn apart as the Juubi dug its heels in, creating what in the future would become entire lakes and rivers.
Though in the distance the five Bijuu were hastily giving chase, and soon would reach, Naruto had other concerns on his mind. The Juubi could heal at such an incredible rate, past what even the massive chakra blasts of the Hachibi could achieve. It could jump miles at a time, and crush even something the size of the Hachibi with relatively little strain. Yet all he had managed to do during the Juubi's simple leap was hold on for his life. He needed to do something, to come up with a solution.
For the second time he heard Pein's voice, yet was shocked by the fact that the leader of Akatsuki was already here. Looking up to the sky he saw his temporary companion flying on the back of a hideous bird with a deformed beak and three wings and legs. That bird shot in and around the Juubi, who could barely follow its movements, before swooping into the dogs on its arm. In a quick movement it grabbed the dogs in its beak and talons, with Naruto leaping onto the back to join Pein. "What is it?" he asked, looking at Pein bewilderedly.
"I have a plan for defeating it." Pein simply replied, as his bird swooped down to the ground a good distance away from the Juubi. There the dogs were placed on the ground, with Naruto and Pein hopping down, before the bird itself roosted as well. From the place atop a tall hill they could clearly see the other Bijuu reaching the Juubi, this time combating the beast with greater care. "For now however let's allow them to hold it back. We need time to prepare, and the exact moment."
That was a dangerous move to make for sure. The Juubi had already shown to be greatly resistant to damage, even if it could still feel pain. The others would have to watch not to get caught by it, but more than that there was the issue with the number of tails. Naruto recognised all of this, and as a result he already didn't like the plan. "Come on, lets hurry." he said, deciding to relent behind the decision of someone who clearly had learned more than he had. "What's the plan?"
Far across the field, where the Bijuu gathered, the landscape was becoming something that was already unrecognisable. The stomps and claws of the Juubi created canyons and valleys, even now some of which were being treated by broken rivers. The smaller Bijuu dodged the attacks and retaliated with their own, using force of numbers against the beast that was ten times their size. The Rokubi spat out another ball of slime, this time however it struck the Juubi's eye and stuck fast.
While the monster gripped the gunk and attempted to tear it off without ripping its eye out, the Ichi and Gobi teamed up and took to the Juubi's front. There the former released a ball of wind, and the latter a ball of fire. These two elements hurtled through the air and neared each other, coming together just as they impacted the Juubi. The resulting explosion caused another roar from the titan as it lifted itself up onto its hind legs. With a screech it pulled off the goo and glared at the Bijuu, just in time to see the Hachibi pick up the Sanbi.
"THIS MOVE IS A DEAD RINGER; I CALL IT THE BEE STINGER! UWHEEEEE!"
With that cry the Hachibi whirled around, before hurling the Sanbi with all its might. The three tailed giant turtle whirled through the air, aided by a constant stream of water it blasted from its mouth. It struck the Juubi before the giant could move out of the way, all three tails striking and wrapping around its neck. The Sanbi then used this grip to swing around and onto the back of the Juubi's head, clamping on tight and forcing the behemoth to bow down.
Then, the worst possible thing happened. From the base of the Juubi's spine, the third tail had already grown. But against expectations, that appeared to be where that method stopped. Instead, the tails that already inflicted their presence upon this world divided, splitting into two separate tails each. As the six tails of the Juubi broadened their form, the surrounding Bijuu were crushed by a sudden and powerful increase to the pressure in the air.
"This is… impossible!" cried Yagura's voice, emanating from the Sanbi's body. The tails that gripped onto the neck of the Juubi lost their hold, and soon the turtle was sent tumbling down the back of the creature. It fell to the ground like the other Bijuu, even like the Hachibi and Gobi further away. This weight… was it gravity, or a killing intent like no other? Being under this kind of pressure… it reminded each and every one of them of the first time they truly felt fear.
The Juubi looked down at the animals before it, gazing over the small raccoon dog and the slug beside it. It gazed up at the ox and the horse, and even behind to the turtle stuck on its stomach. It turned its head back to the front, its huge eye narrowing slowly. Just as its eye completely closed, the space beneath it opened, a thin but long set of jaws opening like a first breath. Then its body began to change again, this time small differences upon itself. On each of its shoulders, the back of its hands, its stomach, its back and its knees, a pair of cracks appeared on each of them. These cracks opened up, revealing themselves to be a single eye and a single mouth each. Steadily, chakra began to gather at each of these openings.
Back on the hill, Pein was on his hands and knees. His face was twisted and in clear discomfort, but displayed no signs of resistance. Just above him stood Naruto, who wore all the signs of resistance that Pein refused to release. Between the two of them was the Suijin, the hilt in Naruto's hand while the tip was on Pein's back. But suddenly Naruto lifted his blade, a half defeated look on his face. "That's it… I won't take any more." he said in a defiant tone. He felt revitalised, the chakra Madara had taken from him mostly restored. But by the weakened look about Pein he could tell this wasn't easy.
Pein took a moment of rest, but no more than that, before he pushed himself back to his feet. He lifted his head just in time to be near dazzled by an explosion of crimson light that burst from where the Bijuu fought. Both he and Naruto watched as a sphere of chakra broke out from the Juubi and struck the other Bijuu, completely enveloping them in that light. When the explosion dissipated, there wasn't a single one of them who was still on their feet. "EVERYONE!" Naruto yelled out, hurrying to get to his fallen comrades. But Pein grabbed him by the wrist, and returned the glare given with one equally strong.
"Going now will only end their lives; we must finish the preparations now!" Pein shouted, allowing none of his words to be ignored. Everything they had been doing while the others fought was detrimental to the plan, the only conceivable way to defeat the Juubi. Throwing things aside now would equate only to their deaths and the deaths of many more people too. This was the message conveyed through Pein's expression, something that Naruto regrettably had to acknowledge. The two of them turned away from the fight for now, and instead looked at the seal which surrounded the hounds. "I have no doubts about this technique, but the process of using it requires total cooperation. If they don't comply, they will die."
Naruto nodded, yet with this too he was unwilling. He and Pein stepped to the side of this seal, looking upon the dogs and checking for any faults to the technique. The armour had been removed, along with their collars. The dogs were as bare as they could be, and clearly nervous of what was to come. Pein ran his hands through a series of seals, ending on the ram. "Zoufuku no Jutsu!" he called, his eyes narrowing as he triggered his technique.
He and Naruto watched as the seal around the dogs glowed from blue to a pale white, before totally obscuring the beasts behind it. Howl could be heard from inside, sounds like fear or maybe adrenaline. Naruto stood as close to the seal as he could, doing whatever was in his power to keep his hounds calm. Yet the duration of the Jutsu was not as long as he had thought it would be. Soon the light faded, and the results were clear.
The six dogs had been replaced by a single, considerably larger dog. Where each of them had reached the size of a horse, this one was easily comparable to an elephant. Upon its back the tiny wings that each dog had possessed became a pair of much larger ones proportionally. Also, upon its face, six pairs of eyes could be seen. It was unclear now, if a beast like this could even be called a dog any more. And yet as Naruto looked upon it, only one thought came to mind. "Is it reversible?"
"They should be able to merge and disperse as they desire, but only with the aid of a powerful chakra." Pein replied, as the light of his seal came to end. He let his hands drop to his sides, and regarded his work with unclear feelings. Then he looked over at Naruto, recognising the dislike upon his young companion's face. "Yours should do fine. But there is something much more important we need to focus on. That gift Hyuuga Neji gave you, can you use it?"
Naruto let his eyes pass over to Pein, before returning to the dogs for a moment more. He gripped the hilt of the Suijin and pulled it out, looking upon the cold blue steel and sensing that which Pein spoke of. He focused upon the sword, and with the aid of the consciousness of the Ekokaeten and Samehada combined, he seemed to succeed. What he saw made him gape. "Indeed… the Totsuka sword…" Pein muttered, viewing the aura that emanated around the Suijin, an aura that took the form of a blade much larger and much, much longer. The dark red light that extended around and past the tip of the Suijin was like moulded flames, flickering yet stable. "This was Uchiha Itachi's… and it is the key to defeating the Juubi."
At first all Naruto did was stare at the sword, his silent face looking over the power given to him only an hour before. He seemed almost too bewildered by it, but then it began to fade. When that aura was completely gone, he slipping the sword onto his back again and turned his head to look at Pein. "Let's finish this." he said, as the fiery quality to his eyes returned. Pein gave a nod in reply before the two of them turned to the great dog and leapt onto its back. Naruto knelt at the base of the hound's neck, leaning in close as his body became covered by his carmine cloak. "Let's go… Inugami."
The newly named composite hound barked in reply, turning to face the Juubi to the distance. It appeared the collective consciousnesses of the six dogs together formed a great courage in this new animal; a good omen if any. Inugami took a few steps back, before dashing forward and performing an incredible leap while spreading its leathery wings apart. Before anyone knew it, the great dog was airborne, soaring through the air from a combination of speed, strength and given aerodynamics. This distance between them and the Juubi, merely a stroll in comparison.
Spotting an incoming target, the Juubi turned to greet the grown hound that raced through the crater caused by that blast from before. A pair of giant claws were lifted into the air, the eyes and mouths on its body closing and disappearing, before the Juubi slashed down to eradicate this pest before it could truly become a nuisance. The already murdered land was subject to further violence, more than what a thousand years could recover.
And yet, the attack did more than the Juubi intended. It realised a moment too late that it had missed altogether. Or rather, this new beast before it had dodged out of the way and leapt across its arms, making quick work of travelling up to the Juubi's head. Inugami landed on the giant monster's shoulders for just an instant, before flitting up to the Juubi's head and even further. The Rinnegan-Sharingan eye raised to look upon that beast, just as a sound filled its ears.
"KUCHIYOSE NO JUTSU: GEDO!"
The Juubi's eyes widened as it heard a deep rumbling from directly behind it, but was allowed no time to investigate. A giant head had grown from the earth, something semi-human and empirical. It looked like the head of some deformed king, bearing the Rinnegan in its eyes. This king allowed its jaw to drop all the way to the ground, before an uncountable amount of fleshy arms shot out from its mouth. The hands of these grabbed onto the Juubi, wrapping themselves around its arms and head, pulling it in. The Juubi shot its arms out, and was just able to keep itself from being pulled in. Yet high above it could see that dog descending again, but more notably a long blade of chakra aiming right for it.
The Juubi was facing its death. It knew what that blade was capable of; it could see the intention of it clearly. If it continued to struggle against the thing behind it, that blade would spell its end. Yet if it allowed itself to be dragged into the summoned thing's mouth, it was unlikely that would bear good results either. Its choices were limited to but three options, and right now only the third gave it a chance at survival. Without a word the ground beneath it became covered in its black chakra, before the Juubi suddenly fell through it. The thing that trapped it could not fight against gravity, and was forced to relinquish its grip. The Juubi disappeared, with the hole it created disappearing with it. Yet before that hole could totally vanish, Inugami slipped through just in the nick of time.
For a moment, Naruto didn't understand what had just happened. He thought that he had fallen into a cavern of some sort, but such an idea fell behind the suddenly stronger daylight present in this place. The sky was still cloudy, but it was nowhere near as dark as it had been just a minute ago. Wherever they were, however they got there, it was clear they were now nowhere near Konohagakure.
They appeared to be in a mountainous range of some sort, the cold, barren hills suggesting somewhere in Kaminari no Kuni. There was no sign of civilisation in any direction, the hills themselves almost totally devoid of nature. They truly were in a deserted place, which was in this case quite preferential. Miles ahead of them, though granted that wasn't much in this case, the Juubi perched on the mountaintops, its single eye fixed upon them.
"It seems to have realised that it shouldn't let us get so close." Pein said, from his place knelt on Inugami's back. He and Naruto were both studying the Juubi from their own perch, glad of the peace of having no one else interfering. When it became apparent that the other Bijuu could do little more than distract the Juubi; that purpose disappeared with the sixth tail. "Perhaps its even trying to assess our strength… it had become much more intelligent than it was before."
The Juubi appeared for the most part silent, freely assessing the ants it had come to be wary of. The questions running through its mind were clear, even if the thing lacked facial expression to dictate. What was that weapon from before? Did they have anything else like it? Just what were these pests? Each of these queries was no secret, but none of them were what the two Shinobi were focusing on. The Juubi had raised its tails behind it, with two more added to the ranks.
"If it gets to ten, who knows what we could do to stop it?" Naruto thought to himself, knowing that Pein was probably telling himself the same thing. Their earlier strategy had failed them, and if it was true that the Juubi would not let itself be tricked twice, then they needed a whole new plan. He let his head drop as he tried desperately to come up with something. He needed to do some of the work too. Yet even as he waited, soon the Juubi would be too much even for… the… "Wait a minute…"
Pein heard Naruto's quite words and looked at the boy, wondering what was going on in his mind. Even he was having difficulty coming if with a plan here, all else had already failed. But before he could ask Naruto, that very person shot his head over his shoulder, a deadly serious look on his face. "I got an idea." he said, the fire of his eyes blazing brighter than ever. His determination almost glowed just like those flames, burning through the cloak of chakra covering his body. "But I'm gonna need a diversion, one that won't cause big and ugly over there to go crazy."
Pein searched Naruto's eyes, asking himself again what it was that this boy could possibly have thought of. Yet after all that had happened, he decided to place his trust in the boy. "I can buy you a few minutes, but that is all." he said, before suddenly darting off of Inugami and disappearing down the side of the mountain. Naruto gave a nod of thanks to Pein, who reappeared a moment later on the back of that weird bird. He then looked down at Inugami, studying the dog closely.
There was someone he needed to see.
The Kyuubi had been breathing heavily for a long time now. Its body had healed itself, yet the swords still penetrated its form. How long had it had to suffer this? For a long time before this it had had no such concept of the thing, and had soon come to forget about that thing called "time". Yet now all it could do was count the seconds, and partially wish for the imprisonment it had had before. At least then it could move without feeling this searing pain.
Suddenly the demon fox cried out, as the swords that held it to the floor were lifted from the ground. Once again its blood flowed, and its wounds began to knit back together. Achingly it raised its head, knowing there was only one possible way that it could have been released like this. "Those feelings… you want to take something more?" it asked, hatred clear on its pain stricken face. "How much more can you possibly take?"
Naruto walked towards the Kyuubi in a relatively calm manner, a smirk upon his face that in no way detracted from his own seriousness. The giant swords that he had bound the Kyuubi with hovered just inches above it, threatening to come crashing down once again. "You know me, I don't like doing things on a small scale." he said, watching as the Kyuubi's strength slowly returned to it. "Right now I have need of you. You up for stretching your legs a little?"
These words piqued the Kyuubi's interest, and pricked its ears. The tone of Naruto's voice combined with the emotions the fox could sense brought together a rather clear meaning behind what the boy was saying. Yet after all that had happened it was only naturally that the Kyuubi be distrustful of such a boy. "You have my chakra, and have even taken some of my mind." it said, as it tried to piece together the answer to the big question in its mind. "And yet you have need of me to do your fighting for you?"
To this Naruto could only sigh. With his faith in Pein he didn't feel to anxious, a fortunate thing when facing against the Kyuubi. Yet all the same he wanted to get through all of this quickly, and as peacefully as was possible. "I remember who I was, who I used to be all those years ago." he said coolly, remembering all those short encounters with the Kyuubi in the past. "But who I am now, what I have become, it's all thanks to one person. You know who that person is?"
Silence passed as the question hung in the air, both parties waiting for elaboration. The Kyuubi sneered at Naruto, trying to work out the boy's angle. When did that little idiot get to be so sinister? Was this what it was like being face to face with its own will? This discomfort the Kyuubi felt… it hated it. Its lips curled back, revealing its jaws in the dangerous way that canines often did. "The person for whom you owe thanks to?" it repeated, feeling like it was being treated condescendingly. "How should I-"
"It's you, Kyuubi."
The Kyuubi paused itself, its gaze narrowing even further. It wasn't one to succumb to such words, definitely not one to feel pleased for them. Should it be happy, that Naruto believed it to be the reason he had become this evil, cruel being? "Without the weight of carrying you around, without the pressure of being that thing called a Jinchuuriki… I would probably have become the very kind of person I hate." Naruto continued, a genuine look of peace mixed with danger on his face. "So as thanks for this, and as a request, there's something I need you to destroy."
Naruto opened his eyes, the look within them as blank as his chakra covered face. He looked down at Inugami, already aware that the dog was awaiting whatever it was Naruto was going to do. He didn't hesitate, didn't give the Kyuubi time to change its mind. The chakra around his body grew and grew, darkening even further. That chakra spread from his body down to Inugami's, covering the bewildered dog in its near black aura. Soon the chakra became something formless, something that was a total glob of dark red. Then, tails began to grow from this shape. It was not one tail, or even four tails. It was all nine tails.
Far ahead the Juubi was looking around, slashing at the bird swirling around its head. Its attacks were getting closer and closer, but just before it could land a proper hit, something to the distance caught its attention. Dismissing the bird, it stared off at that place, watching as something grew larger and larger before its very eyes. Up above its head, Pein too studied what was going on, a look of shock upon his face. Before them both, the mass that had once been Naruto and Inugami became none other than the Kyuubi no Yoko. Yet there was something different about what they were looking at, something Pein had not seen in the other Bijuu, and something the Juubi knew was inherently wrong. The Kyuubi's fur was a rust red shade, and on its back was a pair of large wings. There was only one reason Pein could come up with, once that made him silently commend Naruto.
"To use his own hounds as a medium for the Kyuubi's chakra, and using it to temporarily restore the mental energy that was taken from it… I don't know whether to call him genius or ruthless."
Whatever the Juubi was thinking however, it seemed to reach but a single conclusion. Looking at the Kyuubi, who sat on that mountaintop not too far away now, it saw all of the rage and killing intent contained within the most dangerous of the nine Bijuu. And so as the Juubi crouched down upon the mountaintop, its eye narrowing as the Kyuubi did the same, that conclusion that it made became startlingly clear; kill.
It was simultaneous, the leaps that these two beasts made. Though the Juubi was larger, the help of the wings borrowed from Inugami allowed the Kyuubi to hit its opponent much harder. The two struck each other with flying fists and slashing claws, tearing their enemy apart with no concern for their own wellbeing. These two were fast and strong, fierce and relentless. As quickly as once could cut, the other could cut back. This went the same for fiercer attack, like the chakra blasts that both began to use. Explosions in their faces tore away at their flesh, but they refused to back off and be declared the one on retreat. This was most definitely a fight to the death.
The ninth tail grew behind the Juubi, and with it came a burst of power. It used this power to grapple with the Kyuubi, using its slightly greater size to grip the beast into a powerful hug. The Kyuubi then responded to this by lashing out with its tails, triggering a loss of balance that forced both monsters to fall. Together they hit the mountaintop and rolled down into the valleys, the Kyuubi now lying on top of the Juubi. Once again the two of them opened their jaws wide, gathering chakra to blast into each other once again.
Then they choked. Both the Kyuubi and the Juubi's eyes shot wider than ever before, the spheres of chakra at their mouths stalling dangerously. Neither of them could see, but both could feel the pain rushing through their stomachs. With their awkward positions, they were blind to the single Shinobi kneeling on the Kyuubi's back. Naruto stood with the Suijin impaled in the nine tailed fox's spine, that red aura running straight through and into the Juubi itself. There was no aura in Naruto's eyes, no cloak covering his body. Yet there was a killer intent as strong as ever, fiercer than what either could manage. "Both of you die… and take your creators with you." he commanded, as the two Bijuu began to get drawn into the Totsuka sword. "… And… one more thing…"
The two Bijuu, the nine and the ten tails, were being pulled into the Totsuka sword no matter how they resisted. Yet the chakra spheres they had created remained as they were. But with the presences of their creators diminishing, they were left incomplete and volatile. Pein recognised this and swooped in from above, reaching to pull Naruto out of there. But as he reached him, he found himself to be too late. The two chakra spheres exploded, and sent a shockwave that enveloped them both.
There were no birds in the sky, no fish in the rivers. The sky was cloudy and the air was cool. Everything around was simply so and so, a quiet day in a quiet place. It seemed almost hard to believe that this place only recently was the stage of some massive battle between monsters. Yet the misshapen mountains and ruined valley spoke for itself. This place was no longer a place of peace. It was this place, that after a time impossible to assess, Naruto woke up.
How long had he been out? The sky was still bright, but because of the clouds he couldn't tell just where the sun was. It could have been just a minute, or even a few days as far as he could tell. But in this weather, if he didn't have pneumonia then he probably hadn't been here too long. Yet he continued to lie, on the bed of pebbles beneath him, and wonder why it was he felt so at ease.
He noticed beside him that he was not the only one just waking up. It appeared that Pein too had been knocked out by that explosion, if his dirt streaked face was anything to go by. Not far across from him he also saw his six hounds, their breathing telling him they had survived what he did to them. He was glad, that was one piece of guilt he didn't want to have weighing on his conscience. Leaving his dogs to rest, he turned his attention to Pein, who wearily opened his eyes.
"That was… enlightening."
Naruto had to laugh at Pein's strange choice of words, even if the man was being totally serious in saying it. He had to admit the same; that was something he would never manage to forget even if he tried. "Here's hoping that was a once in a lifetime experience right?" he asked, displaying the lack of clarity that Pein seemed to be stuck on. He looked to the sky and let out another steady exhale, once again feeling glad he had survived that. "I think I've been around Kisame too long though… that was kind of fun!"
Pein of course didn't see the joke, it was unlikely he would ever any time soon. He stayed true to his nature and regarded what had just happened, and how it reflected upon what he had thought before. "To think that a power like could come across this world a second time…" he murmured, more to himself than anyone else. He closed his eyes for a moment, and seemed to think even deeper. Then he opened them again, the look of wonder he had a moment ago fading away for something more formal. "Naruto… after all of this, everything that has happened… I would be willing to give our previous arrangement a further try."
Naruto let his smile simmer down, until it faded away completely. In truth he didn't want to think about things like that just now. He just wanted to keep feeling this, this pleasure to be alive. But he supposed these were things he too had been thinking about for a while now, things he didn't want to be left unsaid. He let out a sigh before lifting himself up, resting his arms on his legs as he looked at the ground between them. "You know… when Zetsu took me out of Konoha, all the way up to you revealing your paths to me… I kind of worshipped you." he said, in a melancholy voice. "You were someone who understood how I felt, and wanted to change the way people were. It was that sort of thing I quickly grew attached to, and something that stuck with me for the years to come."
As he said these nostalgic things, Pein too lifted himself to a seated position. He recalled his past meetings with Naruto well, even if they had been through the eyes of his realms. But what he couldn't recognise was the tone in Naruto's voice, as that boy looked off to the distance with eyes that went even further. "But that time you showed me your power, I got myself thinking "What is a god anyway?"." he continued, relaxed and uncaring. "To me, a god is someone who can do anything, who doesn't need the power of things like demons. That's why… I don't think you're a god. I think your more like a… like a half-god, or whatever they're called."
"A daemon?" Pein offered, with a raised brow. For some reason he didn't feel offended by what Naruto said, and in fact seemed rather fine with it. He too regarded the distance with great consideration, even something of the slightest of smiles appearing upon his face. "So rather than a god of peace, that would make me a daemon of pain wouldn't it? So then does this mean that you no longer agree with my way of thinking? Do you intend to oppose me instead?"
A long breath made its way from Naruto's lips, and with it his eyes became downcast. He stayed like that for several long seconds, neither wanting to answer or let Pein come to conclusions like that. "A world where everyone knows what it means to feel pain, so that all of them will continue to seek peace." he said, surmising the faith Pein had described for so long. "I still want to help you create that world… I just think that our way of doing things is wrong."
Pein didn't offer counter argument to this, specifically because he wasn't sure what side of things Naruto was on. Instead he let the boy ponder his thoughts some more, in the hope he could come to understand just what this person was thinking. Yet before that happened, he was surprised to see Naruto getting to his feet. The blond swordsman turned his back on Pein, and with that he spoke some more. "I'm a perpetual mess-up, everything I do seems to either hurt people or make them distrust me." he said, speaking of past experiences that he held very close to his heart. "I've decided. I've done all I can for those people, anything more will only hurt them more. That's why I'm going alone, on a mission that won't ever stop until the day I die."
He looked over to his dogs, who sensed his awareness and woke up themselves. They got to their feet and walked over to him, knowing with no reason that it was time for them to leave. But Naruto just had one last thing to say. Turning his head back to Pein, he flashed his winning smile. "This time I'll be your diversion, so that you can bring peace to this world." he said, without a shred of insincerity. "Just do me a favour… make sure that in this world, no one has to suffer that hell called loneliness."
With that he climbed onto the back of Akira and gave a wave as his hounds took off. Pein was left sitting there, quietly and speechlessly looking on after Naruto. He knew what it was the boy had done, what he had used his blade to do. That boy had erased the wills of the Kyuubi and the Juubi, before absorbing the chakra from those monsters inside of his own body. This was what he saw, with those Rinnegan eyes. "It seems you made your decision even back then." he thought, as his eye narrowed to something that was almost a close. "Good luck, Uzumaki Naruto."
The winter had come with a piercing ferocity that year, and left with the shooing breeze of spring. The village of Keishigakure had benefited immensely from the blossoming season, its beauty grown even greater than ever before. Now it was truly a Shinobi village, with each and every ninja a welcome member of the society. Things had been this way for a long time now, a state of calm that only befell a village that had taken part in a treaty of neutrality. The other villages had agreed that Keishi would be safe from the ongoing war, as long as in return Keishi took no part in it under any circumstances. As such, it was a peace that came at a dangerous cost. But at times like these, it was welcomed as much as it could be.
From his office in the building furthest back of Keishigakure, Gaara was in the middle of writing a record of recent events. He had felt it was necessary to document such things, as a means of remembering how things were at the time. "It has been four months now since the attack of the Juubi upon Konohagakure." he wrote, with his chair turned so that he could easily see out into the sunlit village. "It seems for now that Akatsuki has disappeared into the shadows… or that would be the case. Deidara shows up every now and again, though that seems to be nothing more than a personal thing. Since Konoha fell and Akatsuki slipped away, there has been a tension among the five villages. This tension resulted in what is going on now; a war with no particular opponent."
He lifted his pen aside for now and regarded the view out there. From below the balcony he could hear Fuu's voice clearly; that girl had taken to teaching part time at the ninja school, specialising in Taijutsu training. She had overcome the dangers of her Nikusui, and since then had revealed a very affectionate nature. It was for that very same reason that Yagura was often volunteering to take missions away from the village.
Han continued to work on the village even now; recently he had shown a compulsive behaviour when it came to improvements. For the most part Gaara allowed him to indulge in these things, but on occasion he had to be put to a stop. For one thing, building automatic anti air defences specifically for the purpose of keeping Deidara away was not something he was willing to put on the village's budget. From what the blond bomber had said, Akatsuki was reassessing itself and focusing on growing its forces in countries not affiliated with the ones around the five nations.
His moment of idleness was disturbed by a knock at the door, followed by Rei's head appearing from the slither of which she opened it. Gaara looked over at her flatly; he certainly hadn't managed to make her less nervous of him during these past few months. "Gaara-sama, Utakata-sama has returned now, should I send him in?" she asked, ignoring his previous request to just let the other Jinchuuriki come in.
"Yes, it's fine."
Rei bowed her head before opening the door to its fullest extent. There she allows the person in question, Utakata, to enter the room. The bubble-nin smiled at her as she closed the door, something which only for a fleeting moment he was returned with. But as the door closed he let that smile slide, and looked over at Gaara's expectant expression. "I know I'm early… but things over there didn't last long." he said, his expression much more distant than was the norm of this usually cheerful person. "Iwa, Suna, Kumo and Kiri each sent a large portion of their forces to the ruins of Konoha. The battle is already over."
"I see…" Gaara replied, turning his gaze back outside the window. He had known that the alliance had been shaky for a long time now, perhaps it was only a matter of time before it broke down completely. However for it to happen so abruptly like this was past what even he had expected. It got to the point where he couldn't stop himself from frowning. "You said it's over already? Then who won?"
At first Utakata didn't respond, his silence drawing Gaara's gaze back to him. The forlorn look he was wearing made Gaara feel uncomfortable, to the point where he almost asked again. "There weren't any survivors, anyone with a weapon was slaughtered where they stood." he said, alarming Gaara considerably. But that alone was nothing compared to what Utakata had felt back then, that much was clear by the look on his face. "The winner… it was Uzumaki Naruto."
Gaara stared at Utakata long and hard, his eyes wide and his lips apart. That was a name that hadn't been spoken in up to two months now, not since they had all given up their search for Naruto's body back then. Everyone had been so certain that he had died back there, they had finally made peace with that fact. Slowly Gaara's expression calmed, but darkened at the same time. He lowered his head to look down at the ground, no longer thinking of Utakata or anyone else. "Naruto…" he thought, his hands curling into fists. "So this is the path you have chosen?"