Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
A/N: Hi. I'm back. Did anyone miss me?
And It Begins
"Subtle, isn't he?"
Naruto chuckled a bit at Gaara's dry remark pertaining to Jiraiya's entrance. It was all he could do to help calm his beating heart. Trying to laugh off his worry and tension didn't completely alleviate his fears, but it helped. It made the situation seem a lot less critical if he could laugh about it.
Though really, the current situation wasn't something that could be easily laughed at.
Naruto had been worried that Jiraiya wasn't going to show up. The super pervert had disappeared a little over a week ago to bring Tsunade and Shizune back to Konoha so they could help fight Orochimaru during the invasion. He hadn't heard a word from the Toad Sage until just a little while ago after he and Gaara were to begin their match after Sasuke had been disqualified. Kakashi had delivered a message to the two genin just before they fought. The message had confirmed Tsunade and Shizune had been brought back, and told Naruto and Gaara to wait for some sort of signal Jiraiya would give.
Said signal had been to drop into the arena in the middle of their match along with one of his wacky, obnoxious introductions to go with it.
But that wasn't what the man had meant by a signal, oh no. If Naruto had known earlier that the Toad Sage was going to drop the real Kazekage's dead body in front of him for all in the stadium to see, well… it's not like he hadn't done things a little over the top in the past, but this was ridiculous.
Though it had certainly gotten everyone's attention…
A heavy cloud of dust and debris completely covered the Hokage's box from view. The Kyuubi jinchuriki silently prayed for the Hokage's safety. Hopefully Yamato and Hayate would see to it. Disguised sound ninja had already sprung into action, striking at nearby ninja while they still had the element of surprise. Naruto could have been imagining things, but he could've sworn that there were more sound ninja here than last time. Konoha shinobi had already engaged the enemy ninja, quickly accessing the situation for what it was and acting accordingly. The civilians and spectators had already fallen into a panic, scrambling to escape or get away from the enemy ninja that would occasionally strike at a cluster of innocents. Another difference, Naruto noted. It seemed Kabuto had failed to perform that forced sleep genjutsu he used in the past so the villagers were wide awake amongst the chaos that had suddenly descended upon the arena.
Naruto quietly hoped the reason for that was because Haku and Dosu had already taken care of the four-eyed bastard.
Now all that was left was the Suna ninja.
Glancing at a few among the audience and at Temari and Kankuro, most seemed to be in a daze. Confusion was evident on every Suna ninjas' face, as none of them had quite come to grips with what Jiraiya had unceremoniously dropped on the ground to display. Was it a trick, or was their leader really dead…?
Temari's shout was the first response from a Sunagakure resident as she jumped down to the arena, followed by a wide-eyed Kankuro. The girl rushed to her father's body and knelt down, looking into the corpse's face. She gasped when she realized that the body was lacking a face.
"His face is gone…!" Temari whispered with wide eyes. "H-How is this…?
"Father should have known better than trust scum like Orochimaru." Gaara spat, disdain for the man who had made his life miserable thick in his voice. Despite the Kazekage being his father, Gaara couldn't bring himself to be broken up over the man's death. "Betraying an ally in favor of making a pact with one of the world's greatest criminals… he got what he deserved."
"Hey! Don't say talk that way about…!" Kankuro snapped at his brother before trailing off, looking down at their father's corpse in shock. "…D-Dammit! This can't be…!"
Granted, the man hadn't been a particularly loving father, both Kankuro and Temari wouldn't deny that, but he had always done what he thought was best for the village. To think that the one person who had led the village through years of hardship was dead…
...And yet, those Konoha ninja standing before the sand siblings seemed all too calm in the face of this event.
"Who did this?!" Kankuro demanded, turning towards Jiraiya with a furious expression on his face.
Jiraiya choose not to answer the boy. Instead, the man turned and nodded towards Naruto and Gaara. A silent message seemed to pass between the three.
Kankuro watched this exchange with eyes full of surprise. Did they know… did they have a part in this…?!
"Well, this is where I take my leave." Jiraiya said, though his expression was serious. "Good luck."
"You too…" Naruto said softly to his godfather. Jiraiya gave one final nod before disappearing in a whirl of wind and leaves. Naruto took a deep breath, still trying to release the tension inside him. If anyone could help the old man fight it out against Orochimaru this time around, it would definitely be Jiraiya. Naruto quietly hoped that Konoha wouldn't lose its Kage today like it had in the past.
The boy's eyes narrowed. Well, it's not like he had time to just stand around either. He glanced towards his fellow jinchuriki just as Gaara nodded at him.
"Get going." Gaara said tonelessly.
"Right." Naruto nodded. The blond lingered for a moment before his eyes hardened and he disappeared into the stands.
"Hey! Get back here!" Kankuro shouted after the retreating boy. "What did you-"
The puppeteer stiffened when he heard Gaara address him. Despite his anger and his need to understand the situation, something the Konoha ninja seemed to have while Kankuro himself didn't, it still didn't stop his body from locking up whenever he heard his younger brother speak to him.
However, given the gravity of the situation and with how abruptly it had all happened, Kankuro's mouth and brain kept moving even as his body refused to do so.
"B-But Gaara! Those guys! They know something! We can't let them go! They-!"
"Did nothing." Gaara cut in swiftly, his cold tone silencing his brother. "We have been deceived by Orochimaru. When father agreed to betray Konoha and invade with Otogakure, he was already been dead. The face of our village's shadow had been stolen and worn to deceive us, used to start this invasion. Sunagakure was nothing more than a tool to use and discard from the very start."
Kankuro's eyes widened as he pointed accusingly at Gaara.
"You… you knew about this!?" Kankuro exclaimed as the realization dawned on him.
Even given Gaara's hatred for their father he was far too calm for the situation to warrant. And the way he spoke, as if he knew of these events from the start! Had his own brother betrayed Sunagakure…?!
"Gaara…" Kankuro began slowly, as rage pushed his body forward. Temari was watching their exchange with wide eyes, coming to the same conclusion Kankuro had. "Tell us, what is going-!"
Gaara ignored his enraged brother as Baki and a few other Sunagakure ninja dropped down into the arena. From the corners of his vision Gaara could see the exam proctor, Genma, ready himself as the Suna ninja approached while two other Tokubetsu Jonin whom Gaara recognized as Aoba and Raido dropped down from above, ready to support their ally should Baki and his men decide to attack.
"That bastard…" Baki muttered under his breath as he kneeled next to his dead leader. He clenched his fists as fury consumed him. "We were tricked…!"
"Sucks for you." Genma spoke up, not batting an eyelash even when Baki shot him a piercing glare. Raido and Aoba took ready positions beside him. "But based on what the kid said, you guys had some pretty nasty plans concerning our village. And teaming up with Orochimaru… that would make you our enemies, no?"
Baki was silent as he stood up, bringing a shaking Temari up with him. He gave the girl's shoulder a reassuring squeeze as he took a defensive stance, ready if the Konohagakure ninja decided to make the first move.
"Maybe we are…" Baki admitted with a smirk. His gaze shot over to Gaara for a moment before switching back to Genma. "Though it seems Konoha wasn't entirely unaware of our actions. Why did Jiraiya, your sannin, have the body of our Kage? Have you been spying on us? Or was this all Konoha's plan from the begin-"
The man stiffened when his red haired student suddenly addressed him. Gaara stared at his teacher with a harsh, level gaze. The jonin gulped as Gaara glared at him. The man couldn't feel any killing intent, but the intensity in his gaze and the way he had spoken had generated a similar feeling of intimidation in the man.
"Don't say anything foolish. Konoha is an ally we cannot afford to lose." Gaara said lowly. "You're not suggesting that we still go against Konoha even after this betrayal…?"
Baki was silent. Even he wasn't sure what they should do. Their former plans were already revealed, but they could no longer ally themselves with Orochimaru and Otogakure, not after something like this. At the same time, they couldn't fall on their knees and return to Konoha's good graces after plotting to attack them. No village was that forgiving, and an image had to be upheld. They could retreat, but would Konoha let them go? What would they do about Otogakure and Orochimaru? They surely couldn't be left unpunished for their actions…
"We will fight with Konoha."
Baki's inner debate came to a stop when he heard Gaara speak for him. The three Konoha ninja stared at Gaara as the jinchuriki turned towards them.
"There are many questions that need to be answered, and Sunagakure will learn to regret its actions and will accept the consequences for them…" Gaara continued. "But for now, we must put all that aside and work together to fight a common enemy. Are we in agreement?"
Genma blinked in surprise before an amused smirk rose to his face. "And do you speak for all of Sunagakure, kid?"
"Gaara!" Baki shouted as he stepped forward. "You cannot-!"
"Are you objecting to this course of action, Baki-sensei?" Gaara asked in a low voice, not turning to look at his sensei who had stopped dead in his tracks. "This is not the time to be hesitant. We have been betrayed by Orochimaru and by Otogakure. The snakes of Otogakure must pay for their actions, and continuing to fight against our true allies, the village of Konoha, serves us no further purpose. Orochimaru must pay for his crimes and learn that Sunagakure his not his tool to use."
"You do not speak for-" Baki raised his voice again but Gaara spoke over him.
"You would join Orochimaru then? If I, the Kazekage's son, do not speak for Sunagakure then do you presume to?" Gaara demanded. The boy could feel a bit of his old self, the general that had led the united armies of the hidden villages in a past life leaking into his voice now. "Very well. I do not have the right to choose Sunagakure's allies or its enemies, but I do choose my own. I will side with Konoha, even if my village does not."
"…! Gaara!" Temari gasped. Baki just stared at his student in open shock.
"Well? If it is not my choice, then whose is it? Who will speak for the village?" Gaara questioned, daring any one of the Sunagakure ninja to answer him. All remained silent. "This isn't the time for debating. Choose right here, right now, which side you will take. But know this, should any of you choose to side against Konoha…"
Baki, Temari, Kankuro, and the Sunagakure ninja standing with them all shivered as a wave of bloodlust and killing intent wash over them. Sand spiked and curled around the jinchuriki's feet as Gaara of the Desert Sands gave the village of Sunagakure its ultimatum.
"…I'll kill you myself."
A promise soaked with the blood of many Sunagakure ninja should they choose wrong.
Baki for his part shook at the cold promise of death his student had given to all Sunagakure ninja. He didn't doubt for a second that Gaara wouldn't follow through with his promise. Gaara had been the key to this invasion, the weapon that was supposed to guarantee victory for whatever side he aided. Now that the weapon had sided with Konoha, it was clear who Sunagakure was to side with.
Even still, with the Kazekage gone that made Baki the de facto leader of their forces in Konoha, and his men, despite their fear of Gaara and what going against him would mean, still felt the need to seek his approval. The man steeled himself and turned his head towards his men, his expression serious.
"…We will help Konoha fight Orochimaru and his men." Baki answered, turning to address his men. In doing so, he missed the relieved smile that had crossed Gaara's features, if only for a brief second. "Take a few men and give our new orders to the men assaulting the village walls. It's unlikely that they're aware of these recent turn of events, and we don't want them attacking our allies. The rest of you are with me. Defend the village and its inhabitants!"
The Suna ninja nodded decisively and dashed away to attend to their duties. After his subordinates took their leave, Baki glanced down at the body of the Kazekage. His expression was strained as he turned towards the Konoha ninja who had made no moves to attack during Gaara's speech and after Baki had given his men their new orders.
"I know that… our actions cannot be overlooked, and though we had our reasons…" Baki trailed off as he shook his head. Now was not the time for excuses. "We will have matters to discuss-"
An Otogakure ninja suddenly landed in the arena and aimed about four kunai in Raido's direction. The Tokubetsu jonin sidestepped, easily dodging the kunai as Genma turned and spat out the senbon he was chewing in the direction of the enemy ninja. Gaara's eyes widened a fraction when the Sound ninja's head snapped back before his body fell to the ground. The senbon was embedded right between the man's eyes.
"After we've cleared out a few snakes." Genma finished for the Sunagakure ninja. He gestured towards Gaara as he raised another senbon and placed it between his teeth. "Your mini-kage has already promised to talk about things in the future. For now, why don't we focus on the present?"
Baki nodded once and jumped away to join his men in the fight. Genma gave Raido and Aoba a signal to get going as the two nodded and disappeared in two clouds of smoke. The exam proctor turned towards the remaining sand siblings, though he focused his attention on Gaara.
"Well, doesn't this just bite?" Genma sighed as he gave a helpless shrug. Gaara arched an eyebrow at the man who smirked at him. "You and short blond brat had better hope there are make-up exams if you ever want to finish your match."
"Is now really the time?" Gaara deadpanned in response to Genma's comment. The man chuckled as a dozen Otogakure ninja dropped into the arena.
"Guess you're right. Staying alive seems like the most preferable option now. Maybe shank a few Oto ninja while we're at it." Genma smirked, whipping out a kunai as he said so. The man gave a small chuckle before turning away from the genin and the dead body. "Just make yourselves useful. You're ninja right? You can still earn that rank!"
And with that, Genma disappeared and joined the fray, leaving Gaara alone with twelve hostile ninja who were slowly surrounding him and his siblings.
"Kankuro, Temari." Gaara addressed his two siblings, who were still coming to grips with the situation. "Go and help evacuate the civilians. I'll take care of things down here."
Kankuro and Temari both exchanged glances. The Gaara standing before them was a complete stranger to them. His match and seeing him interact with that Konoha genin… it had been like watching a different person fight. The bloodthirsty monster they knew was gone. The intimidation and unease was still there, but the intent had changed. Gaara wouldn't kill anyone he saw just to satisfy his bloodlust which they had thought to be insatiable at one point. This Gaara was controlled, he was calm, he was… different.
"…Got it." Kankuro nodded. It was all he could do. "But Gaara…"
"I'll answer all your questions after this." Gaara said without turning to look at his siblings. Instead, he focused on the enemies in front of him. "Go."
"Right." Temari gave an unsure nod, taking one last look at the Kazekage's body before she and Kankuro turned to leave.
Kankuro and Temari stopped and turned back when they heard Gaara's voice. Their younger brother turned his head just a fraction.
It was just surprise after surprise as Kankuro and Temari looked at each other in shock. Slowly, they turned back towards their brother. Kankuro gave the boy an uncertain nod.
"D-Don't worry about it…"
And after giving that reply, Kankuro jumped away with Temari following close behind him.
Gaara took a deep breath. He could feel his tension. His anxiety. Chaos and havoc all reverberated around him. For him, it was the first time experiencing the invasion with a clear conscious, with specific goals in mind. It was almost surreal to see it all happen again. He knew it was coming, he and Naruto had done their best to prepare, but the pressure of the whole situation was already weighing down on him.
But Gaara could ignore all that. He could ignore anxiety, he would bury his uncertainty. For now he would focus. He would fight.
And anything that opposed him was going to die.
Gaara raised his hands, the sands around him rising in response as he challenged his opponents.
The Otogakure ninja charged.
And the sands rushed to meet them.
"Ninja are invading!"
"I think we gathered that already!"
Sakura's hand snapped back as she struck a sound ninja in the ribcage. Hinata quickly followed her assault by striking at the ninja's vitals, dropping the assailant to the ground. Shikamaru held two ninja in place with his jutsu as Shino's bugs sucked away their chakra. The four genin stood close together as they took in the situation, making sure to watch each other's backs as more Otogakure ninja dropped in on them.
"Otogakure ninja are invading!" Sakura shouted as she smashed one in the face after Shikamaru's shadow had grabbed the man. The Nara rolled his eyes at her unneeded clarification.
"We can see their headbands just fine, Sakura."
Their banter was an effort to ward off their tension and fear due to how quickly the situation had escalated.
"B-But why?" Hinata wondered aloud as she ducked under one ninja's strike and delivered a counterstrike to his ribs. "Why would Otogakure want to invade…?"
"There's obviously more to this situation than we know." Shino said, his frown hidden by his jacket as the ninja began to back off and surround them. "Still, this whole event is unprecedented…"
"Are you talking about invasion that started two minutes ago or the fact that one of the three sannin just dropped the dead body of the Kazekage in front of the entire audience?" Shikamaru asked as he quickly drew a kunai.
"Both." Shino replied as he warded off a few assaulting ninja with his bugs. Hinata quickly moved to block and counter the one who avoided the swarm. "But if what Jiraiya announced to the village is true, and the Kazekage is really dead, then who was the imposter sitting with the Hokage…?"
An Otogakure ninja fell forward as Naruto jumped onto his back, stabbing a kunai into his neck as he did so. Three other Narutos jumped onto the balcony, engaging a few Oto ninja and getting their attention as the real Naruto jumped off the impaled ninja's body and addressed his friends.
"Orochimaru?!" Sakura gasped, remembering the encounter with the snake sannin during the second exam. "He's here?!"
"He was the fake Kazekage sitting up there with the old man." Naruto answered, glancing up at the tower for a brief moment before turning back towards his fellow genin. "Heard it from Ero-sensei and those Suna ninja down in the arena. Apparently Sunagakure planned to invade alongside Otogakure, but Orochimaru betrayed Suna and killed their Kage."
"Suna was… they were planning to invade?" Hinata asked, shocked at the prospect.
"Not now." Naruto replied. "They're fighting with us, but we'll only get in the way here. I've got orders from Ero-sensei to evacuate civilians and get them somewhere safe. He told me to get you guys to help."
"Ignoring the shocking revelation of Sunagakure planning to attack us and the appearance of Orochimaru… we've got other problems as well." Shikamaru murmured as Naruto's clones popped and the group of Otogakure turned back to the assembled genin. Before saving the civilians, they'd have to get through these guys first.
A sudden gust of wind slammed the group of Sound ninja into the walls with enough force to break their bones and crack the concrete. Several darts struck a few ninja standing near the edge of the balcony, and after a few seconds those Oto nin hit convulsed and hit the ground. The darts were apparently poisoned. Kankuro and Temari landed on the railings as Kankuro's puppet shot a few more darts at the two Otogakure ninja that managed to pick themselves up after Temari's attack. The fast acting poison quickly sent the two ninja to the afterlife. The Sunagakure genin regarded the Konohagakure genin with detached expressions before Temari took it upon herself to speak.
"We were asked to help you guys evacuate the civilians." Temari said shortly, folding her fan behind her back.
"And you expect us to just accept your help?" Shikamaru asked, arching an eyebrow at the two suspiciously. "We know what Suna planned to do, so how do we know-"
"Shikamaru, now's not the time." Naruto cut in quickly. "We can trust them."
"But…" Sakura began but stopped when Naruto shook his head.
"We have to focus on saving as many as we can right now." Naruto said. He gave his fellow Konoha genin a pleading look. "Protecting our village is more important. Besides, they're fighting with us now and that's what matters. Right?"
"Yeah." Temari nodded when Naruto turned towards her. She glared at Shikamaru as she spoke. "We don't care if you don't trust us. But you can relax knowing that we won't stab you in the back when it's turned now. Orochimaru is currently above Konoha on our priority list." She clenched her fan tighter. "He and his men will pay for what they did to fath- I mean, the Kazekage."
"Troublesome…" Shikamaru muttered.
"Well then let's get moving!" Sakura shouted, demanding everyone's attention. "We're not accomplishing anything by just standing around!"
"Agreed. Some of us should go clear out the hospitals wards here." Shino said, turning towards the door. "I volunteer."
"I'll go with you." Hinata replied. "There shouldn't be that many people in the wards, and I'm sure Konoha ninja are already evacuating it as we speak, but…"
"You're worried about Neji." Shino said.
"The rest of us should stay here." Shikamaru said, taking a look around. "Or at least find a way out of here. If things are bad here, I wonder how bad the streets look…"
"Just do what you can." Naruto said as the group nodded. They all dispersed, leaving Naruto the only one left on the balcony.
Naruto sighed and looked up at the rooftops where the Hokage and Orochimaru had fought in his old life. The dust had yet to settle, but he could see the figures of two men standing close together while a third, Naruto noticed with a smile, stood a few feet away. The barrier had yet to be erected as well, something that was very encouraging to see. Still, overlooking the battlefield Naruto couldn't help but notice there were too many civilians, too many Otogakure ninja, and far too few Konoha and Suna ninja to match the numbers. Naruto grinned as he brought his hands together.
Good thing he could produce the numbers to match all three!
"Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"
A swarm of blond genin swarmed around him. The original's voice rang out, uttering one command.
The clones answered in kind, all thundering out their response in unison.
"YOU GOT IT, BOSS!"
And a sea of one blond ninja charged into the battlefield.
Shortly after Jiraiya's announcement, Sarutobi Hiruzen turned on the Kazekage that had been sitting next to him throughout the duration of the final exam. There was no time to question it. Sarutobi hadn't felt the need, as he trusted his white-haired student implicitly and to interrupt the exams a make such a claim in such a fashion… it was something only Jiraiya could do, and there was no doubt in the Hokage's mind that his student hadn't been telling the truth.
Of course, the fake Kazekage had reacted just as quickly, as had his two bodyguards standing behind him. The trio had quickly moved forward, heading towards the Hokage.
Yamato and Hayate weren't slow on the uptake either.
The sickly Tokubetsu jonin drew his katana faster than the regular human eye could track. Almost immediately after, a shadow clone had appeared beside him, both moving to intercept the faker's two guards. Watching them swing their swords, it was like looking at a mirror image that had come to life. Their strokes matched, footsteps perfectly synched, and their strikes precisely cutting through the bellies of the fake Kazekage's bodyguards. Both men severed from the waist, began falling to the floor.
Normally, this would have been the end of any ninja. However, Hayate hadn't taken into account that what he was fighting may have been an illusion.
The henges dispelled, revealing four smaller and younger opponents. Before Hayate had time to react, his clone was struck down by a boy with six arms, while he himself was batted away by a strong fist to the side of his body that belonged to a larger teenager.
By the time this had happened, Yamato had already analyzed the situation and had already finished performing his hand seals for a counterattack. Wood and vines sprang up from the floor, grabbing and reaching for the four ninja, some of whom looked mutant in appearance to Yamato's eyes. Was it bloodline traits or Orochimaru's experiments that had made them appear as they did?
Yamato guessed it was a little bit of both.
The boy with six arms and the girl with red hair managed to evade his wood attack with astonishing speed. He managed to catch the bigger boy and the one with an extra head, but that didn't last long. The burly boy roared and broke out of the wood that had wrapped around his limbs with surprising strength, while the boy with two heads split into two bodies to avoid the tendrils of wood that moved to intercept them. To prevent them from escaping, Yamato erected several pillars of wood to keep them trapped in the Hokage's box.
The man's eyes widened when a body slipped passed him. In his effort to keep track of four smaller targets that had suddenly appeared, he had foolishly forgotten the most dangerous and important target of all!
As the fake Kazekage grabbed onto the Hokage and jumped away from the Hokage's spectator box, Yamato cursed when he noticed what the disguised Orochimaru had left behind for him.
All of this had taken place within less than ten seconds of Jiraiya's announcement.
The pile of explosive notes detonated just as Yamato created some more wood to cover himself with, blowing the Hokage's box to bits.
Dosu ducked under the kunai thrown at him and deflected another with his Melody Arm. The heads of the two Oto ninja that had attacked him snapped backwards as Haku demonstrated her deadly accuracy by burying a dozen senbon into the faces of their attackers. About six more ninja took the place of their two fallen comrades and hurled themselves at the chunin and former sound genin wielding either swords or kunai. All were pointed and ready to skewer and cut through the two teenagers.
However, all six stopped short when half of them had their throats carved out by a katana and the other half fell to the ground with snapped necks.
Yuzura landed next to Haku with her katana covered in blood while Anko landed beside Dosu, cracking her knuckles as she stood up.
"Any luck?" Yuzura asked Haku as more ninja swarmed in on them.
"Afraid not." Haku replied with a frown as she turned towards Dosu. "Unless…?"
"He just keeps moving. Not only is he great at playing keep away, but he's smart enough to leave enough shadow clones around to confuse me…!" Dosu growled in frustration. "That bastard Kabuto…! He knows how to cover his tracks so well it's annoying!"
"…Damn." Haku muttered as she killed off two more ninja with her senbon needles. "What about the Sound Four?"
"They're close by, I can tell that much." Dosu said, launching a blast of concentrated sound from his arm at one ninja. The man seized for a moment before he fell to the ground with blood leaking out from his ears. "But I don't know if-!"
A familiar form suddenly smashed into the seats from above. Anko recognized the form immediately as did Haku.
"I-I screwed up…!" The man coughed up blood.
Yuzura and Anko dashed forward, warding off the Oto ninja as best they could to keep them from attacking the injured man. Haku knelt down to him while Dosu stood close by.
"Hayate-san, what happened? Aren't you supposed to be with Yamato-san protecting the Hokage?" Haku asked.
"T-The Hokage he, gah, Orochimaru and… guh…!" The man coughed. Haku grimaced at the blood. He was really hurt from the fall.
Her eyes widened when an explosion sounded from above. On closer inspection the chunin realized that they were directly under the Hokage's box.
And it was coming down on them.
Haku was snapped out of her surprised state when Anko shouted at her and hoisted Hayate up, getting away before the debris fell on top of them. Haku took half a second to make sure Yuzura and Dosu were following her before picking up her speed as the ceiling and box toppled down on them.
The four able ninja plus the one being carried by Anko turned back towards the ruin a few feet away once they were safe.
"What happened…?" Yuzura wondered aloud.
"Too many explosive notes going off at once."
Yamato answered to the girl's question, landing beside them while holding his right arm to his side. The sleeve was burned off and part of his shoulder and forearm was already beginning to blister. Yamato grimaced and turned up towards the rooftops where he could see two figures standing.
"We weren't careful enough. Orochimaru still got to him…"
"How? Between you two, there shouldn't have been any…"
"There they are!"
Dosu's shout caught their attention as he pointed towards four figures heading in the direction of the rooftops.
"Those are the Sound Four!"
"Shit!" Anko cursed. "Somebody stop them!"
All of them felt the wind kick up when a green blur rushed past them.
Tayuya, Jirobo, Kidomaru, and Sakon, with his brother Ukon remerged within his body, headed towards where their leader was. There had been a slight complication and they had been left behind, but they still had plenty of time to get over to the roof and erect the barrier that would-!"
The Otogakure ninja stopped and landed when they saw some weird guy in a green jumpsuit obstruct their path.
"Hold it right there." Gai ordered, crouching low as his eyes shifted from one teen to the next.
"Get the fuck out of our way you piece of shit." Tayuya growled menacingly. Gai merely arched an eyebrow at her.
"Such unyouthful language coming from a lady…"
"What did you say to me?!"
"Ah, Tayuya, ignore him!" Kidomaru grinned as he brought all six of his arms together and formed a few seals. "Get lost, green freak!"
Webbing spewed forth from the spider boy's mouth, aiming to incapacitate Gai so that they could be on their way. The Sound Four's eyes widened when the chakra web was sliced to shreds by a man who suddenly appeared next to the jumpsuit wearing freak.
Asuma smirked, spitting out his cigarette and holding his chakra blades in front of him.
"N-No way… how did he cut through my chakra web?" Kidomaru stuttered. "Kunai and other tools aren't supposed to do jack shit against that stuff!"
"This is looking bad…" Jirobo muttered as more Konoha ninja surrounded them. A good majority were jonin, and seeing how fast the jumpsuit guy was and how that other one had cut through Kidomaru's web so easily…
"Dammit," Sakon cursed, holding up his hand the same moment Ukon called out, "Scatter!"
Sakon threw down a flash tag and a smoke bomb, forcing everyone to look away and obscuring them from view at the same time.
When the light stopped flashing and the smoke cleared, the four ninja were gone.
"Dosu, where did they go?" Haku asked.
"Away from here." Dosu replied. "Looks like they split up. Guess they decided doing whatever damage they could alone was better than standing up to a group of jonin…"
"If we can take out at least one of them we won't have to worry about that barrier being erected," Yuzura murmured. "But we need to find Kabuto still…"
The group blinked when a couple of Narutos dropped in on their position. The Naruto in front grinned at them and gave them an eager look.
"So? Sound Four and Kabuto… any luck?"
"Unfortunately, no." Haku said, causing Naruto to growl his displeasure at the news. "We warded off the Sound Four, forcing them to retreat and split up, but Kabuto has created shadow clones and Dosu can't tell which one is the real one."
"Alright…" The clone nodded, his mind in a whirl. And idea suddenly came to him. He turned towards the former sound ninja. "Dosu, can you pinpoint the general direction of the Sound Four and Kabuto clones?"
"Probably. Why?" Dosu asked.
The Naruto clone smirked, as did the four behind him. All five made a familiar hand sign and called out their signature jutsu.
"Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"
Dozens of blond ninja suddenly stood before them among the seats of the arena.
"Just point us in the general direction." The lead Naruto smirked. "We'll help you guys search and destroy."
Haku, Yuzura, and Anko all grinned while Dosu just stared at the boy in shock. A second later, Dosu had a smirk to match.
So this was what it was like playing for the winning team…
Sarutobi watched from above as Otogakure ninja swarmed the arena from within, dropping their disguises and attacking Konoha ninja and civilians alike. In the distance, he could see giant serpents crash into and slither over the walls of Konoha. Sections of the village could also be seen breaking into chaos. Orochimaru's forces had already been spread throughout the village over the course of the month, lying low until the moment when they could act.
"It's a shame the exams had to be cut so short…"
Sarutobi's face was grim as his captor spoke, keeping a firm grip around him with his right arm while holding a kunai to the old Kage's neck with his left.
"Quite an unruly student you have." The man went on. "I had thought that one of the three sannin would have handled such matters more… delicately than this."
"Hmph… this coming from his teammate, no less?" The Hokage replied lowly. "Killing the Kazekage and taking his face… in a situation like this, delicacy is hardly relevant, Orochimaru…"
The man let loose a laugh as he pulled off the face of the Kazekage from his head, revealing the smiling snake sannin's true visage.
"Ah, Sarutobi-sensei, not so easily fooled are you? Still, how did you know it was me underneath?"
"Not many are as foolish as you, and even less have a grudge so great as to wage war on Konoha." Sarutobi answered. "I only wished I had noticed sooner. To have Sunagakure dragged into your schemes…"
"This day has been fast approaching sensei, surely you had foreseen that." Orochimaru smirked, hissing a laugh as he spoke. "As for Sunagakure, it was the perfect tool to accomplish my goal."
"And what would that be…?"
"Seeing Konoha razed to the ground, marking its collapse with the blood of its leader spilt by my own hand." Orochimaru said, smiling wide as he licked his lips in excited anticipation.
The snake sannin's smile stretched as his old teammate landed on the other end of the roof. Jiraiya's expression was severe as he approached the duo.
"Well, well, well…" Orochimaru laughed, halting Jiraiya's advance when he held the kunai's edge closer to Sarutobi's throat. The man glanced at his former teacher. "Isn't this nice, sensei? You can rest easy knowing that one of your students will die alongside you. My only regret is that Tsunade is not here to join you two."
Jiraiya barely managed to suppress a smirk at that.
"That's not the only thing you'll regret if you don't let sensei go, Orochimaru." Jiraiya promised as he took a fighting stance.
"Oh? Are you really in the position to make threats, Jiraiya-chan?" Orochimaru asked tauntingly.
"If my threats don't scare you I could always bring that blond kid up here and see if he gets a rise out of you." Jiraiya smirked.
He reveled in the reaction he got from his former teammate. His face contorted in rage for a brief moment before his expression relaxed into that familiar, irritating smirk of his.
"Your jokes are in poor taste, and that child…" Orochimaru paused, sliding his tongue over the side of his kunai before continuing. "I'll be sure to pay him back for what happened that day in the forest. Though I must say it's something to look forward to… experimenting on a demon container, that is…"
"You won't be getting your hands on my student." Jiraiya said, all humor gone from his voice.
"Other than your grudge against me, what are your motivations here, Orochimaru?" Sarutobi asked, taking this chance to speak. "No matter how powerful you think you are, or how powerful your forces are, Konoha will not fall."
"That is where you're wrong, Sensei." Orochimaru chuckled. "After I kill you I'll burn this village to the ground, and I'll also be taking my new body with me as well…"
"But for now…"
Orochimaru pushed the Hokage away, discarding the Kazekage's robes he'd been wearing as he did so. The action was surprising. The Hokage silently observed the snake sannin, barely taking notice of Jiraiya as he stepped next to him and gave the man a once over, checking to see if Orochimaru had harmed him at all. Sarutobi was unscathed.
"Feeling some remorse, after all?" Sarutobi asked his former student with a sad smile.
"Hardly." Orochimaru chuckled. "I feel nothing for you or this village. And what was that you said about a grudge…?" The man shook his head. "Do you believe me to be so petty, Sensei? No, I have my own plans and a tight schedule to keep. I made time for this little detour, and gave Konoha something to add to the excitement of the Chunin Exams. After all, I find peace rather dull. This is just the kind of thing Konoha needs, don't you agree?"
Sarutobi simply shook his head in remorse.
What a foolish student. He matched the older fool that had been too afraid to put him down when he had the chance.
"You're already lost…"
"Think of me what you will, it matters not." Orochimaru said. "And while killing you as before would've been easy, I find it hardly satisfying. I won't be able to enjoy this moment to its fullest unless I give you a fighting chance."
"…That is why you released me?"
"You can believe it was my way of repaying you for letting me go all those years ago if it warms your heart." Orochimaru smirked, causing Sarutobi to clench his fists angrily in remembrance of that day. "After all, if you had decided to strike me down at that time, none of this would have happened and I wouldn't be around to experience this wonderful day."
"It was a mistake. One of the many I have made. And it will not be repeated."
Tossing away his Hokage robes, Sarutobi Hiruzen's battle armor was revealed to the world once again.
"Ah, so you were already dressed for the occasion." Orochimaru remarked with an excited smile.
Jiraiya stood next to his teacher as they readied themselves. He glanced around the battlefield warily. He nodded to himself when he noticed Yamato had managed to keep those marked kids at bay, preventing them from getting the barrier up. But unless one of them was taken out, the risk was still present. It wasn't a major concern to him at the moment, however. He was fighting with the Hokage now, and as a ninja of Konoha and a student of the Hokage himself, it was his duty to bring him out of this conflict alive.
It also helped that he had back up ready and waiting.
"We'll have to talk after we've taken care of your troublemaking teammate, Jiraiya." Sarutobi commented, some humor leaking into the veteran's voice. "There are a few things I'd like to ask about your… presentation…"
"I figured as much." Jiraiya chuckled as he replied. His expression quickly grew serious. "But sensei, we can't let him go this time…"
He had made the same mistake, after all. He had a chance to kill Orochimaru in the past, but he had let him go…
"I know." Sarutobi sighed. He had already accepted it. "We must do what must be done."
"Well then, with a burning Konoha as our stage of battle…" Orochimaru hissed.
Jiraiya and Sarutobi were already performing hand seals.
"…Let our final battle begin!"
The jinchuriki of the Ichibi's sand reached out towards its enemies, grabbing, constricting, rising. It encompassed and enclosed all of its enemies as Gaara raised his hands, palms open as cocoons of sand rose from the ground. Gaara closed his eyes, clenching his fists as he used his signature jutsu to crush his enemies.
Gaara crushed the last of his enemies within his sands before peering up at the roof where Jiraiya and the Hokage were about to begin battling Orochimaru. If the situation was going to escalate to point he thought it was going to, he decided that it might be best to find an exit so he could get out of the arena.
Gaara turned towards the jonin who was running towards him. Kakashi turned and threw a kunai at an oncoming Oto ninja before turning back to Gaara.
"Is there something you needed from me?" Gaara asked.
"There are Otogakure ninja swarming the exits trying to keep us all boxed in the arena. It's nothing that we can't handle, but now that the important fight has started we'd rather get out of this place sooner than later." Kakashi said. "I was hoping you'd be able to clear a path for us."
"Consider it done."
Gaara followed the jonin down the tunnels to find the hallways flooded with Orochimaru's men. Gaara's sand rushed forward to ensnare each enemy that he could see.
Gaara wasted no time in crushing them.
"Good." Kakashi nodded to him as he gave the signal. "We're clear! Get these people out of here!"
A horde of villagers rushed through the tunnels as groups of Konoha ninja saw them out. As Kakashi made a move to follow them out from the rear, Gaara stayed rooted in place.
"Gaara?" Kakashi questioned, turning to the motionless jinchuriki.
"…I need to stay here." Gaara muttered as he turned back around to head towards the arena. "Naruto is still trying to save the people who have been left behind, and I need to be there if he needs help. Make sure you get the villagers to a safe place."
"…Alright." Kakashi nodded. If it was Gaara watching Naruto's back, then his student would be fine. "Just be careful, okay?"
Gaara nodded as Kakashi turned and left. The sands crept up his legs and slowly began to cover his body as Gaara sank into the earth.
In a few moments, Gaara was gone.
For his part, Kakashi followed behind the group's rear, killing off any enemies that appeared from the other tunnels and tried to strike at the back of their group. Kakashi noticed that most of the jonin were present as everyone made it out into the open and away from the arena. Asuma, Kurenai, and a few others Kakashi recognized were at the front of the group giving out orders. Kakashi moved up quickly to join them.
"So what's the plan?" Kakashi asked.
"We just got word that the safehouses near here were sabotaged and destroyed."
"..." Asuma's expression was painful before he turned serious. "Look, fact of the matter is that we've got too many people gathered here so we're going to have to split up into smaller groups. All these villagers can't fit into one safehouse and we've got quite a ways to go to reach the ones that weren't destroyed."
Kakashi looked out towards the village as Asuma said this. He could see smoke rising from where fires had burned entire buildings to the ground and the giant snake summons that were tearing through the village. Not to mention the numerous sound ninja he could see jumping all over the rooftops…
"Doesn't seem too hard." Kakashi smiled underneath his mask.
"You're too nonchalant about all this." Kurenai sighed. She scanned the crowd for a moment before her annoyed expression turned into one of worry. "I hope our students are okay."
"When I left Sasuke with Gai I already noticed that most of our students who had been watching the fights had also joined him. They can take care of themselves and Gai wouldn't let any of them get hurt. Not to mention all those Narutos scattered around the arena were helping those they could."
"…That's an amazing student you've got there."
"We're having some of us stay behind to search the arena to see if there's anyone else that we missed." Asuma said. He smirked a little as he lit a cigarette and put it to his lips. "You wanna take care of that, Kakashi?"
The one eyed jonin turned back to the arena as he gave an affirmative nod.
"…Yeah. Can I leave things here to you guys?"
"You can count on us." Asuma smiled. "Take care of anyone we missed."
"Will do." Kakashi replied before he and some other ninja who opted to stay behind took off back towards the arena.
"Shuriken Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"
The Hokage had already finished the hand seals for the jutsu, sending a storm of shuriken at Orochimaru the second the snake sannin had finished his proclamation.
Jiraiya added his own technique to the hail of metal projectiles.
"Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!"
The large fireball spewed from Jiraiya's mouth, tailing the shuriken as the jutsu homed in on its target.
Orochimaru had already prepared for the initial attack and was on the defensive.
A slab of earth rose from the rooftop to cover Orochimaru. The shuriken struck the wall of rock before the grand fireball blew it to bits. Jiraiya and Sarutobi were already moving once they saw Orochimaru in the air. Moving in synch and working together in a way that only a student and teacher can, the toad sannin and Konoha's Hokage got ready for a combined attack.
Jiraiya let loose a stream of fire while Sarutobi created an attack from mud and earth that came together in the form of a molten dragon that rose up to intercept Orochimaru, who was had already finished another set of hand seals. As soon as the jutsu hit him, the traitor ninja's body exploded into a dozen snakes that fell down around the body of the attack to avoid it. Some of the snakes spat kunai from their mouths, all with poisoned tips, which Jiraiya and Sarutobi evaded. One of the larger snakes opened its mouth and Orochimaru was regurgitated out from the snake's unhinged jaw, accelerating down towards his former teammate and teacher with an insane, reptilian smile on his face.
Jiraiya noticed the sword in Orochimaru's hands and dodged Kusanagi's blade as it came down on him, avoiding the sword slashes as Orochimaru landed and continued to swing at him.
Jiraiya jumped away just as a fireball came down on him and Orochimaru, cursing to himself when Orochimaru dodged at the same time. The snake sannin jumped back a couple more steps just before Sarutobi slammed down on top of him. The old man's arm was covered in a thick slab of jagged earth he had tried to hammer Orochimaru with but had failed in the attempt. Jiraiya emptied his kunai and shuriken pouch to keep Orochimaru moving and on the defensive while Sarutobi aimed another attack, this time a water based jutsu, at Orochimaru. The snake nin grinned as he rose into the air on a pillar of earth just as the tidal waved crashed down on him. The water ran off the edges of the roof as Orochimaru fell back down to the ground, only to have to raise another wall of earth to protect him from the shower of fire balls that came down on him.
Any ninja would be amazed at seeing two legends and the man who taught them all battling at once. Jiraiya and Sarutobi's attacks were fierce and extraordinary and no normal man would have ever been able to stand up against the combined onslaught. Orochimaru was one of the few in the world that seemed to be able to stand up to it, but was forced to keep on the defensive in order keep from being swept away by the duo's jutsu. While one would have no choice but to commend even a man as sinister as Orochimaru for his fortitude, it was difficult to see how the snake sannin could turn the battle around.
But then again, he had yet to unleash his trump card.
Orochimaru smirked to himself, deciding that there was no time better to do so than the present.
Putting some distance between himself and the two Konoha ninja and in doing so barely avoiding the two grand fireballs aimed at him and the section of earth that attempted to swallow him up, Orochimaru retreated to the other end of the rooftop. He clapped his hands together in mock applause as Jiraiya and Sarutobi readied themselves again.
"Hah… I've never felt more exhilarated!" Orochimaru said, his smile stretching across his face. "I'll admit I'm impressed! The way you two move and time your attacks to work in synch with one another… I'm a little winded from all that! Jiraiya-chan, you're not quite the failure I once thought you were and I'm glad sensei isn't too rough around the edges after all this time!"
"And you still love the sound of your own voice!" Jiraiya retorted. "I liked you better when we were kids! You were much quieter back then!"
"Always with the jokes, even in the middle of a battle. Though I find your material lacking." Orochimaru grinned. He put his hands together. "But I believe it's time to stop playing around…"
Jiraiya's eyes widened when he saw the hand signs.
"Here it comes…!"
Three coffins suddenly rose up from the roof in front of Orochimaru, each labeled with the kanji for one, two, and four on their fronts. Sarutobi's eyes widened in shock as well when he realized what jutsu his former student was attempting to use.
"No… he couldn't have perfected it…!"
Orochimaru only smiled in the face of their shock and fear.
"Now, let's see how you stand against the former leaders of the village they once protected!" Orochimaru said as he finished up his hand seals. He brought his hands down. "Kuchiyose: Edo Ten-!"
Orochimaru's eyes widened in surprise when the roof suddenly caved in from under his feet. He jumped away, leaving the coffins behind as they fell into the building below. Orochimaru's expression of confident arrogance finally slipped away as he watched the three coffins disappear from sight.
And what was that name Jiraiya had shouted…?
Shock was the only expression left on the snake sannin's face when a familiar form suddenly jumped up onto the roof from below, carrying two of the coffins in her hands with no visible effort. The woman landed beside Sarutobi and Jiraiya, the Hokage openly displaying his shock and surprise while Jiraiya reveled in the expression on Orochimaru's face.
"T-Tsunade?!" Sarutobi gasped.
The slug sannin dropped the two coffins, both with the kanji for the numbers one and two, down next to her and turned to grin at her old teacher.
"Hey, Sensei. You don't mind if I join in on this little reunion, do you?" Tsunade smirked at the dumbfounded Hokage.
"Y-You… how… why are you here?" Sarutobi asked, looking completely lost.
"Ah, well… things just ended up turning out this way." Tsunade replied wistfully, giving a helpless shrug. She jabbed a thumb backwards at a grinning Jiraiya. "Long story short, this old pervert found me somehow and, after a long, violent debate, reminded me of the duties I had long forgotten. I've neglected my responsibilities and he convinced me to start making up for them."
Tsunade grinned and turned to face Orochimaru. She cracked her knuckles as she stared down her old teammate.
"I figured that I might as well get started by smashing this bastard's face into paste for having the guts to attack MY village."
Orochimaru recovered from the shock and regained his bearings, twisting his face into an angry snarl as he glared at his old team.
"Tsunade… you shouldn't be here!" Orochimaru hissed.
"You're not the only one with a few hidden tricks up his sleeves." Jiraiya grinned. "Now that Tsunade's here it's a real reunion for our old team. What say you now, Orochimaru?"
Even as a man who's actions made him irredeemable in the eyes of most of the world, Orochimaru was still considered a brilliant ninja. He was a gifted genius even in his childhood and while he was hated as a person, his skills as a ninja were respected. Part of that genius and skill was used to plan, to think ahead, to make sure all the cards were in his hand before he made a move. Without that mindset, an invasion of Konohagakure would have been just a fantasy, something that Orochimaru would have thought about with a smile before going to sleep. His manipulation of Sunagakure, killing the Kazekage, sneaking his agents into Konoha and spreading them around, waiting and watching until the perfect moment to strike… the dream of a burning Konoha was a possible reality due to all these careful steps. The icing on the cake would be the death of his former sensei by his own hand.
But Orochimaru was in no way a foolish man. Even in old age, the Hokage was still powerful. Sarutobi Hiruzen was the man who had taught him everything after all, and while Orochimaru had certainly learned much more in his time after defecting, Sarutobi was still his sensei. A student does not challenge the teacher unless there is a chance of victory. Orochimaru would not challenge Sarutobi unless there was a way to guarantee victory. Edo Tensei was a trump card to use to make victory a guarantee, but now…
Well, again remember, Orochimaru is a skilled, cautious ninja. He wouldn't even be in the position he was currently in if he were anything else. After all, it wasn't like Edo Tensei was his only trump card, and there was still a chance for it to…
"Calm down. Calm down…" Orochimaru repeated to himself as he brought his hand to his mouth and bit down hard. "Tsunade's presence was unaccounted for and even though this bit of information somehow slipped through the network… yes… yes, it's still fine. Just calm down. I need to just…"
It didn't matter. Even if Tsunade was here it changed nothing. He was stronger. He was better than even the three of them combined. He had waited far too long for a day like today. As his anger finally began to settle, Orochimaru felt his confidence slowly come back. It was fine like this. No, it was even better this way.
Now he had the chance to slaughter his entire team. What more could he ask for?
Meanwhile, Tsunade was busy trying to pry off the tops of the wooden coffins that were fastened shut.
"What about the last coffin?" Jiraiya asked.
"I left it. If he was trying to revive who I think he was Edo Tensei wouldn't have worked. I know a little about my granduncle's forbidden jutsu, so I know a soul couldn't be pulled away from the Shinigami's stomach. No, these two are the only ones we had to worry about."
Sarutobi was still a little lost as he looked between Jiraiya and Tsunade. Clearly his students knew more than he did about the situation and there would be a lot of questions later on. The Hokage opened his mouth before Tsunade gave a frustrated growl and raised her fists.
"Oh, forget this!" Tsunade snarled as she drove her fists into the coffins, splintering the wood and tearing the covers off of the two coffins by force.
One motionless body was found in each one of the coffins.
"No, just unconscious." Tsunade said as she reached down and touched their foreheads, using her chakra and healing jutsu to give the two teenagers a jumpstart. Both Zaku and Kin's eyes fluttered open before both of them shot up.
"W-What's going on?" Kin stuttered as she sat up. "W-Where am I? Orochimaru-sama…?"
"...So that's it, huh?"
Kin's head whipped towards Zaku who's voice was hollow and his eyes empty. The boy turned to his teammate as his body shook.
"Kin… he was going to kill us. He was going to kill us to use that jutsu…"
Kin's eyes widened before she shook her head vehemently in denial.
"No… no! You're wrong! Orochimaru-sama would never…!"
"He would! He would and you know it!" Zaku shouted back. He clenched his fists. "We… we just never thought he would do it to us…"
They knew how failures were dealt with in Otogakure. They had heard rumors and even confirmed some them... of what Orochimaru did to those who disappointed him…
"Hey, I know it must be soul crushing to find out that the man who you followed would betray you like this, but this isn't a place you should be right now." Jiraiya told the two kids as he turned back towards Orochimaru. It looked like the shock value had worn off and the man was getting ready to fight again. "It's about to get real messy here by the looks of things…"
Kin and Zaku looked between the two sannin, Konoha's Kage, and the man who would've killed them and decided that it really wasn't best to be anywhere near this place for the time being. Quickly recovering themselves and shelving their feelings of hurt and betrayal for the moment, the duo made their escape off of the roof.
Sarutobi watched the two children go with a sympathetic expression. His expression was furious when he turned back towards Orochimaru. "…How many more of your men have been disillusioned like that?"
"Tools aren't meant to have feelings. Ninja are meant to serve their village, and a strong village has no use for weaklings." Orochimaru sneered. "It's one of the reasons Konoha is too soft for a world like this."
"Do not insult my village." Sarutobi said lowly. "It may not be perfect, but Konoha is a place where friends and family can smile. Every single person in this village is someone I've vowed to protect or die protecting. That was one of the reasons you were overlooked when I was deciding who would be the Fourth."
Orochimaru's eyes narrowed a bit at that. He glanced towards the Yondaime's face on the Hokage monument. It wasn't like he cared for the position anymore, but old wounds occasionally stung, and knowing he had been passed over for THAT man…
"You lack a heart to understand the people you're meant to protect as a leader." Sarutobi said. "And it is my duty as the Hokage to see a monster like you be put down."
"Better aim for his head then." Tsunade quipped from beside her sensei. "Y'know, since he doesn't have a heart and all…"
"Still sentimental, Sensei? It makes me sick…" Orochimaru spat before his arrogant smile made a return. "But this battle is far from over. I'll see all three of you dead in front of me as Konoha burns to the ground!"
With blood still leaking from the bite wound on his hand, Orochimaru slammed his palm down.
"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"
Jiraiya, Tsunade and Sarutobi all cleared the area as the strongest colossal serpent appeared and demolished the building they were all standing on. The gargantuan purple snake gave a furious hiss at his summoner who was perched on his head.
"Orochimaru!" Manda, boss of the snake summoned hissed angrily. "How dare you summon me here! You think I'll forgive you this time…?!"
"Calm yourself, Manda." Orochimaru smirked. "This time I have prepared an abundant amount of sacrifices to appease you."
"…Is that so?" Manda asked. "Then where are they?"
"Why, everyone in this village of course!" Orochimaru announced gleefully as he spread his arms wide to gesture to the whole of Konoha. "I have prepared all the ninja and villagers of Konoha to be your feast!"
Manda's forked tongue flicked across scaly lips as he rolled over his summoner's words. An entire village…
"Hmph… you are forgiven this time." Manda said. "I will not be so lenient again, however…"
"Of course." Orochimaru smiled. "Now then, enjoy your meal.
Manda needed no signal. His head smashed into the stands adjacent to him, gobbling up whoever was unfortunate enough to be caught in the sweep.
From within the center of the arena the two remaining sannin and the Hokage were already responding to the new threat. They had already completed the hand seals necessary as all three ninja bit their thumbs to draw blood and slammed their hands down on the ground.
The three chorused as one.
"KUCHIYOSE NO JUTSU!"
Gamabunta, Katsuyu and Enma all appeared in front of their respective summoner. As Gamabunta and Katsuyu's massive forms crashed down in the center of the arena, Enma changed into his staff form after the monkey king's eyes saw the giant snake and who was on it. Seeing the wreckage of the arena firsthand, all the boss summons came to a silent understanding and acted according to their battle instincts.
Tsunade rode on Katsuyu's head while Sarutobi joined Jiraiya on top of Gamabunta. Manda's head reared up and hissed at his opponents.
"Katsuyu, Enma… long time no see." Gamabunta said from around his pipe. The giant toad's eyes narrowed at the snake opposite of them. "Manda…"
"Gamabunta!" Manda hissed. "I'll enjoy turning you into toad jerky! I'll turn Enma into a pelt and eat Katsuyu as a snack!"
"As insufferable as ever…" Katsuyu seemed to sigh. "Quite the reunion you've put together, Tsunade-sama…"
"All of you, I ask you to please lend us your strength!" Sarutobi declared as he pointed Enma at Orochimaru. "Help me kill my foolish student!"
"Orochimaru, eh? It'll be my pleasure." Enma replied. An eye appeared on the black staff and gazed at Sarutobi. "You sure you'll be alright, old man…?"
"I'll be fine." Sarutobi assured his friend. "Jiraiya, Tsunade! Get ready!"
The dominating force of the legendary three ninja and the Hokage of Konoha who had taught them all pressed down on the shattered, crumbling stadium. Snake, Toad, Slug and Monkey, four bosses, were about to clash. Never before had anyone witnessed such a climatic battle about to take place.
And nobody in the stadium wanted to be near the clash when it began.
The walls shook as Hinata guided the patients out of the stadium's hospital wing. Shino was already helping Neji up as the doctors and nurses scurried about. There weren't that many people inside, but the Oto ninja scattered throughout the hallways made evacuation rather difficult.
"Everyone, this way!"
Hinata turned towards the woman who was directing everyone out of the wards. The woman, Shizune, had shown up out of nowhere and had immediately taken charge of the situation and proved herself an ally by disposing of about a dozen Otogakure ninja with poisoned senbon needles she had embedded into the vital parts of their body. With skill like that, Hinata could believe it when the woman had announced herself as the legendary sannin Tsunade's associate and had been ordered by her master to help escort people away from the arena safely. Her Byakugan flared as she saw through the walls and structures to scan for anymore threats that might be lurking about. Most of the enemy ninja had been dispatched already, and their group was already making it out of the wards through an exit underground that Neji had found using his Byakugan.
When they all made it outside, everyone's eyes widened at what they saw.
A giant Snake, Toad, and Slug were doing battle in the middle of the stadium! Now they knew what had caused all those tremors to occur.
"What on earth…?"
"That's…!" Shizune's eyes widened when she recognized the three summon creatures. "Manda, Gamabunta and Katsuyu! We have to get away from here!"
"I heard rumors that that the sannin were capable of summoning the boss summons of the Toad, Slug and Snake clans." Shino said from beside Hinata. "I suppose the rumors were true after all…"
Hinata only nodded from beside him. She only hoped that their friends and families had made it out of the arena before those summon creatures had showed up…
Her eyes widened when she heard one of the patients cry out in pain from behind her. The man fell to the ground, clutching his shoulder as blood spewed forth from a gash that had somehow appeared on it. A strange looking arrow was lodged in the dirt behind him.
"Who did that?!" Shino demanded as he sent out his bugs to search the area. Hinata and Neji were already doing just that with their Byakugan.
"There!" Neji shouted when his vision picked up on someone hiding in the trees.
Kidomaru smirked and fired more web arrows from his mouth, this time taking out two more men in the process. The boy grinned sadistically as he lined up another shot. With barely any ninja around to cover them he could pick off the lemmings one by one at his own pace. He would play his game and take the time to enjoy it…
Kidomaru's eyes widened when a blond head entered his vision.
The Naruto clone brought his fist back and punched the teen out of the tree he was hiding in.
Neji, Hinata, Shino, Shizune and all those present watched as a boy with six arms fell out of a tree opposite to them. Six other boys with blond hair and all looking identical landed on the ground a few feet away from the enemy who had been attacking them.
"Naruto-kun!" Hinata exclaimed.
"Nope, just clones!" One of the Narutos grinned in response. "Boss is back at the arena helping some people clear out. We came here to take this guy out!"
"Feh… take me out, huh?" Kidomaru chuckled as he got back up. He spat out more web onto his hands, quickly solidifying the web as it came into contact with his skin and threw the weapons, taking out two clones in his attack. "Don't make me laugh!"
"Go!" Shino commanded as his bugs flew towards their designated target.
Kidomaru's grin only widened when he saw the cloud of insects. "Bugs? Seriously?!" Web spewed forth from Kidomaru's mouth and almost all of Shino's bugs were ensnared by the net.
"Spiders, dumbass!" Kidomaru laughed. "I'm your worst enemy! Your bugs won't get close to me with my abilities, and nobody can cut through my web!"
Except for that smoking guy back at the stadium, but nobody else here needed to know that.
"Damn…" Shino muttered, agreeing that the Otogakure ninja was the perfect enemy for him. Without his bugs…
"Shino, go with Shizune-san and get those injured to a safe place." Neji said as he stepped forward.
Hinata turned towards her cousin. "Nii-san…?"
"His web is made of chakra. That means Gentle Fist would be most effective against someone with abilities like his." Neji said, having seen the properties of the web with his eyes. "I'll take care of him here while you get everyone to safety."
"I'm staying too."
Neji and Shino turned towards Hinata who stepped forward to stand beside her cousin.
"Hinata-sama, I can't-"
"I'm staying." Hinata said, this time more fiercely. "If Gentle Fist is this person's weakness, then the two of us fighting together is better than just you. And you're not completely healed from our fight too…"
"That's…" Neji shook his head and chose not to deny the fact. "That technique of yours was quite impressive…"
"We'll fight together." Hinata declared as she smiled at him. "It's what family should do. Fight side by side…"
Neji stared at her for a few moments before returning her smile. "Very well."
The two of them took their stances as they stared down their opponent, Kidomaru.
"Shino, help Shizune-san protect those people." Hinata told her teammate. "We'll take care of things here."
As much as Shino hated to admit it, there wasn't much he could do against this particular opponent. He would only get in the way. He gave a nod of acceptance and followed after Shizune who was already leading the injured and civilians they had gathered to wherever the safehouses were located.
From the sidelines, the lead Naruto nodded to his remaining three fellow clones. The three nodded back and took off after Shino and Shizune's retreating group. They would back them up if needed. The clone that had stayed maintained a comfortable distance away and watched the fight from afar, ready to step in and help the two Hyuga if he was needed.
Kidomaru cracked his neck as he brought all six hands together in preparation for battle. The boy smirked as he faced down his two opponents.
"Make the game interesting for me, yeah?" Kidomaru laughed as he rushed forward, web forming into spiked weapons as the two genin stepped forward to meet his charge.
"What a glorious battle!" Gai shouted as he watched the summons battle from afar. "Both the Hokage and his student doing battle with our village's greatest traitor! Not even Orochimaru could remain standing for long in the face of such power!"
"Yosh, Gai-sensei!" Lee shouted in agreement. "But what of the slug? I know the snake and toads are the summons of Orochimaru and Jiraiya but…"
"UWOH! It only means one thing my dear student!" Gai shouted. "It means that the legendary Tsunade has returned to the village to help us in our greatest time of need! Truly there is none more loyal than her!"
"Okay, really?!" Tenten shouted at them as she and the other genin led the stunned group of villagers in the direction of the safehouses. "We're in the middle of an invasion and you two still have time to shout at each other?! We're trying NOT to get noticed here! If you two are going to be lookout and make sure no one notices us, then KEEP QUIET!"
"Ahaha! Very well then!" Gai grinned as he gave his annoyed student a thumbs up. The villagers looked nervous as the strange man who rescued them turned towards them with a bright smile. "Fear not people, for we shall see to your safety. These wonderful genin in the springtime of their youth will give their lives to protect you all. You have nothing to fear. WE SHALL NEVER LET YOU-!"
"DAMMIT, I TOLD YOU TO BE QUIET, SENSEI!"
"Just had to get stuck with this group, huh?" Kiba grinned at Ino and Chouji who were walking beside him.
"Tenten's right though. We'll only draw attention to ourselves if those too keep yelling." Ino said anxiously.
Chouji simply nodded in response, holding out his bag of potato chips towards one of the villagers beside him who was, like the rest they had gathered, watching Team Gai shout back and forth at each other. "Want some?"
The villager blinked at the boy who suddenly made the offer before giving a slow nod and reached out towards the bag of chips.
Said villager retracted his hand as if it had been stung when Ino slapped the bag of chips out of her teammate's hands.
"You're eating at a time let this?!"
"It helps take away some of the stress…"
Sasuke buried his face into the palm of his hand as he listened to everyone argue. At Kakashi's orders he had joined this group to help escort the villagers Gai and the other genin had gathered out of the arena. It was a rather small group, and Gai was the only ninja who wasn't a genin around, but they hadn't run into any trouble so far. But if those guys kept shouting, he didn't know how long it would be before someone found them.
The Uchiha sighed as he thought of those not present. Mostly about Naruto, Sakura and the other genin who had been in the spectator box and hadn't been seen since the invasion started. Sasuke knew that they would be able to handle themselves, but…
Sasuke blinked when a flute's soft melody suddenly filtered through the air. It made the group pause as everyone began to worriedly look around the deserted area, trying to find out who was playing that flute.
"Well, what have we here?"
Sasuke's eyes widened when he caught sight of a familiar person standing in front of them.
The young man smirked as he adjusted his glasses, his forehead sporting an Oto ninja headband as he regarded the group with cold eyes. In the background, the music continued to play.
"H-How didn't we notice him before?!" Ino gasped.
"Genjutsu…" Gai murmured as he recognized the melody for what it was. "This melody somehow hid that boy's presence from us and helped him get close…"
"Now, now, don't mind me." Kabuto grinned as he raised his arms defensively. "I'm only here on a small errand. Since Orochimaru-sama is currently detained at the moment I was to have a small chat with Sasuke-kun in his place." Kabuto turned his head towards the Uchiha boy with a smile. "Well?"
"Get lost!" Kiba answered before Sasuke could. Akamaru barked by his heels. "I remember you! We saw you at the exams! And what's with the headband?! I thought you were with us! Are you a traitor?!"
"Really? Is that your question?" Kabuto sighed. "Is the headband not evidence enough? My referencing to your biggest traitor as Orochimaru-'sama' didn't do anything for you, brat? They sure make raise them stupid in Konoha…"
"Insults now, hm? How unoriginal." Kabuto sighed. He smirked. "Well, now that negotiations have seemingly failed, let us move on to persuasion."
Kabuto snapped his fingers.
"Jirobo, get them."
The wall adjacent to the group suddenly exploded as a giant smashed through it with sweeping hefty arms. The large boy jumped forward as his fist swung towards the closest ninja to him, who happened to be Tenten.
The boy's fist didn't make it halfway to her before Gai's fist smashed into his face and sent him flying back through the wall.
"What's this all of a sudden…?" Gai smiled as he stood up. "Attacking us was the greatest mistake you could've made."
Kabuto's eyes widened in mild surprise before he smirked and snapped his fingers again.
Everyone's eyes widened when a ring of explosive tags appeared on the ground surrounding them. The villagers broke into a panic as Gai's head whipped towards Kabuto.
"How did you…?!" Gai began before the flute's melody resonated in his ears. His eyes narrowed at the smirking boy. "Of course…"
"Now… let's discuss things peaceably, shall we?" Kabuto smiled. "While I'm sure someone as fast as you could probably take me out in a fraction of a second, could you run over and snap my neck before I detonated those tags? I'm sure you and the genin could avoid most of the blast, but what of the villagers, hm…?"
Gai's teeth clenched together as the villagers shook with fear. "What do you want…?"
"Haven't I already said? I just want a talk with young Sasuke here. Alone." Kabuto replied smoothly. "You were the ones that tried to make things difficult…"
"...What will it take for you to let us go?" Gai asked.
"First, Sasuke comes with me. Second, you leave and do not attack me. I'll even let you take the villagers with you." Kabuto smirked. "Lastly, all the genin must remain here. I imagine that my associate must be pretty angry at you for punching him out of the blue like that so he'll need some punching bags to help him vent."
"Hey!" Kiba and Ino shouted together.
Lee looked to his teacher with a worried look. "Gai-sensei…"
"...If I agree to these conditions, you won't hurt these villagers?" Gai asked.
"You have my word that I won't activate those tags." Kabuto promised.
"How can we trust you're telling the truth?" Tenten demanded.
Kabuto only raised his eyebrows in response.
"You'd rather have me activate the tags then?"
Tenten bit her lip and shrank back.
Sasuke glared at Kabuto suspiciously. "What are you planning…?"
"I'm only doing my job, Sasuke-kun." Kabuto smiled. "Now, what is your answer…?"
His smiled widened when Gai nodded. Good. Things would be so much more interesting this way…
"...Very well." Gai agreed. He gestured to the villagers and pointed down another path. "This way."
The villagers moved cautiously at first, only picking up their pace once they had gotten out of the large ring of exploding tags and followed the path Gai had pointed them to. Before he left, Gai turned and shot all the genin a winning smile.
"Catch up as soon as you can, alright?" Gai grinned.
"Yes, Gai-sensei!" Lee shouted, giving his mentor a sharp salute.
"You got it." Tenten smiled. "Just make sure you keep those villagers safe. Don't worry about us." The rest of the genin nodded in assent to that, giving the jumpsuit clan jonin their own smiles to reassure him.
With that, Gai and the group of villagers they had helped evacuate disappeared.
Everyone was silent and unmoving for a few tense minutes before Kabuto made a gesture to Sasuke. The Uchiha stepped forward as Kabuto smiled at him.
"Well, are you ready to get going?"
"Lead the way." Sasuke prompted as he maintained his glare.
He and Kabuto disappeared in a whirl of leaves. When they reappeared in an open training ground area some distance away, Kabuto let out a small chuckle.
"What's so funny?" Sasuke demanded.
"Nothing." Kabuto laughed. "It's just that negotiations went smoother than I thought. I was right about Konoha ninja being raised stupid, I see."
"What are you talking about…?"
Kabuto gave a predator's smirk as he adjusted his glasses.
"I only promised that I wouldn't activate those tags. I never said anything about anyone else activating them."
Sasuke's eyes widened at the same moment Tayuya, from back where the other genin were, activated the tags they were all standing in. From where he stood, Sasuke could hear the explosion echo and see the smoke beginning to rise. He turned towards Kabuto with a furious expression.
"Yes, yes. I'm a horrible person." Kabuto nodded as he activated his chakra scalpels. His eyes narrowed as he felt another one of his clones dispel. "Let's get started, shall we? I'm on a time table and I promised Orochimaru-sama that I'd collect his new body before he was finished."
With his Sharingan flaring, Sasuke charged towards Kabuto with a kunai drawn.
The rest of the ninja were blasted away by a gust of wind from Temari's fan while Kankuro's puppet stabbed and poisoned the remaining Otogakure ninja that Shikamaru had kept in place with his shadow. The battle was taking place a couple kilometers away from the arena. Sakon and Ukon both panted tiredly as Sakura cracked her knuckles and began approaching the two of them, who were currently separated from one another at the moment.
The twins had taken command of a cell of Otogakure ninja fighting some ANBU and had helped dispatch them with their special abilities. However, things changed once those four genin had suddenly shown up. All of them except that pink haired girl seemed to specialize at long range, which made the situation disadvantageous to the twins and when they had tried attacking the pink haired brat together she had shown them the power she hid inside that small frame. With twig arms like hers, the brothers were at a loss at how she managed to pull off half the shit she did.
And now everyone but the two of them was either unconscious or dead. Perfect.
"So, are you guys going to surrender or do we have to beat you too?" Shikamaru asked lazily as his shadow retracted.
The twins glared at the opposing genin as their curse marks began to spread to the rest of their bodies.
"Go to hell!" Ukon snarled.
"Hah…" Shikamaru sighed. "Why couldn't they just surrender…?"
"Quit whining, pineapple head." Temari smirked as she brought her fan back. "It's better this way. I want a chance to smack down every one of these Otogakure bastards!"
"Guys…" Sakura said to the two of them. "Something's happening to them…"
The twins both suddenly looked like two red oni as they both ascended to the level 2 cursed forms. Just as they were about to rush their opponents, someone else jumped between them. Shikamaru and Sakura's eyes widened when the recognized who had dropped in.
"Sakon. Ukon." Kabuto said, turning towards the twins as he stood up. "Orochimaru-sama requests your assistance."
"Orochimaru-sama said…!" Sakon paused and gave Kabuto a suspicious look. "Against the sannin? What could we possibly do to help?"
"It is not our place to question him. We are only meant to serve and be of use." Kabuto replied. "Get going."
"C'mon, Sakon." Ukon urged his younger brother. "If Orochimaru requires our aid, then we'll give it to him. Let's get moving!"
"Like we'll let you…!" Temari shouted as she began to swing her fan around to catch all three opponents in a gust of wind.
She stopped her motion when a snake suddenly fell on her shoulder from above. Temari's eyes widened as she dropped her fan and flung the snake off of her body.
"W-W-What the hell?!"
"Temari look out!" Kankuro shouted as he had Crow grab his sister and pull her out of the way just as more snakes began to drop out of the trees above. Even more were beginning to cover the ground and slither towards the group of genin.
"They'll cover your retreat." Kabuto said to the twins. "Don't dally here any longer."
"Right!" Both twins nodded and disappeared.
Kabuto smiled as the horde of snakes drew closer towards the group of genin. It would be entertaining to watch as they tried to-
His eyes widened when a sword was suddenly driven into his back and out his stomach. Kabuto grimaced and stared down at his impaled abdomen.
He disappeared in a puff of smoke.
From behind where the shadow clone once stood, Yuzura let out a frustrated growl.
"Yuzura-san!" Sakura exclaimed, catching sight of the white haired girl from a few meters away. Three more figures landed beside her, with one supported by another.
Haku stepped forward and, using her Kekkai Genkai, created a sheet of ice that fell on top of and covered all the snakes. The reptiles' movements slowed before they all completely stopped moving and poofed away. Haku smiled to herself. She had learned so many useful tips on snake biology in the month she had worked with Anko. Said woman was laying Hayate against a tree and inspecting his injuries.
"Haku and Anko-san too! What are you guys doing here?" Sakura asked as she made her way over to the group. She looked over the people she didn't recognize. "And who are…?"
"Dosu, how many more are left?" Haku asked, ignoring Sakura and turning to the boy who had some kind of metal attachment on his arm. Sakura couldn't help but think he looked familiar…
"I think that might've been the last one." Dosu replied. "I'm only picking up one person that matches his heartbeat and movements now."
"And the Sound Four?"
"One of them isn't too far from here while two with similar signatures are heading back towards the arena. That's probably Sakon and Ukon." Dosu reported. "The last two…" His eyes widened. "They're with Kabuto! Two of them are a couple kilos away from here with Kabuto!"
"Then we'll head in that direction!" Haku announced. "Dosu, lead us there. Yuzura-chan, let's get moving!"
"W-Wait a minute!"
Sakura tried to interject but the trio disappeared before they could answer her questions. Shikamaru and the two sand siblings approached her from behind. Anko smiled at the four genin and gave them a salute.
"Hey kiddies! Mind if you do me a favor?" Anko asked. "Could you watch this guy while I head back to the arena?"
Yamato had stayed behind to see what he could do and help Naruto if he was needed. Anko wanted to join him so she would have a better chance at getting a shot at her traitor of a teacher again.
"Why should we-" Shikamaru began, only to get cut off by the jonin.
Anko disappeared in a puff of smoke. Shikamaru palmed his forehead.
"Hah… ah… I don't suppose any of you know any medical jutsu, do you?" Hayate asked as he sat against the tree.
"Oh, um, I know a little." Sakura said as she knelt down next to him. "Where does it hurt?"
"Around the chest…"
Sakura's hands hovered above the man's ribcage as her hands emitted a green glow. She winced as she inspected the damage. It felt like something large had hit him and caused some internal bruising, along with a couple cracked ribs. There was also something wrong with the man's lungs she could barely tell, but it didn't have anything to do with whatever had hurt him. She could probably clean up the bruising but Sakura knew she was nowhere near good enough to fix his ribs carefully enough without causing further damage…
Sakura blinked when she heard a new voice address her. All the genin turned their heads and stared down at a white slug by Sakura's legs.
"I think I may be of some assistance." The slug said.
The genin continued to stare.
"…The fuck?" Kankuro exclaimed.
Gamabunta swung his tanto at Manda's head, though the giant snake easily avoided the slash. His lower body was coiled around Katsuyu's slimy form as he tried to sink his fangs into the boss toad. Their summoners where exchanging blows when they could, running along their massive bodies which were being used as a battle ground of sorts, making sure to keep their balance whenever the creatures moved.
Orochimaru exploded into dozens of snakes when Sarutobi swung Enma into his midsection. One of the snake's grew in size and rose into the air, regurgitating and spitting up Orochimaru who fell towards his teacher with his repaired Kusanagi blade drawn and aimed towards the old man's throat. Tsunade's fist smashed into his face from the side and sent him flying into a fireball Jiraiya had let loose in his direction, but the snake sannin poofed into smoke when the blaze hit him. Several more large snakes sailed down form above, hissing and striking at the toad and slug sannins while Sarutobi batted them aside. Orochimaru laughed as he jumped back onto Manda's body and let loose a horde of snakes from his mouth, all hissing and biting as they rushed towards Orochimaru's enemies.
Katsuyu divided herself just as Manda tried to take a bit out of her head. Taking his chance, Gamabunta slammed his body into the snake boss and drove his sword down, intent on impaling his body to keep him still. Manda quick shed his skin and slithered away just as the sword came down on him. His tail whipped backwards and struck the toad boss in the face, sending him to the ground. Katsuyu gathered herself up and reformed, spitting up acid and catching Manda with the attack. The colossal snake hissed and shedded its skin again before the acid could burn through his scaly hide.
Sarutobi watched with growing worry as the battle quickly destroyed what little was left of the arena. Even high up he could still see ninja and civilians scurrying about. His eyes narrowed as he faced Orochimaru, who was once again riding on Manda's head.
"I promise this day I will put an end to you, my student!" Sarutobi shouted. "You'll pay for the lives you've taken in your mad schemes!"
Orochimaru only laughed and summoned even more snakes to attack. It was fine like this. He had a plan. All he had to do was bide his time until the snakes did their work. Then things would tip back in his favor.
Meanwhile, Tsunade was watching the destruction their battle was causing with increasing worry. Katsuyu warded off Madara with some acid bullets again as the snake tried to get around her guard. Even if they needed Katsuyu's power to fight Orochimaru and Manda, Tsunade didn't want to see people die right in front of her.
"I want you to divide up and help anyone that's injured." Tsunade ordered. "I'll stay here and help Jiraiya and Sensei."
"But wouldn't it be better if you had my help?" Katsuyu asked uncertainly. "Orochimaru and Manda are strong, plus with all those snakes crawling around below us…"
"Katsuyu, I want to save as many as I can. The best way to do that is for you to spread out and heal anyone who needs it while I break both of these snakes in two in the meantime." Tsunade jumped over to where Jiraiya and Sarutobi stood on Gamabunta's head. "Get going!"
"…At once, Tsunade-sama."
Katsuyu shrunk down as she once again divided her form into hundreds of tiny slugs, spreading out into the crumbling arena and the entire village.
"She'll support the others while we take care of him." Tsunade said.
"That's good to know, but we can't hold back anymore." Jiraiya said solemnly. "Anyone who's still left in the arena is…"
"...I understand." Sarutobi nodded back.
Jiraiya sighed sadly before he steeled himself. As Gamabunta gathered himself up Jiraiya spoke to the summon creature. "Hey Gama, we can't hold back anymore for the sake of those who still might be stuck in the arena. Go all out. Whatever is destroyed in this fight is now collateral damage."
"You got it. I won't watch my steps anymore." Gamabunta replied as he readied his tanto. "Get ready you overgrown snake, this is where I get serious."
"Hah! And you claim that you're not already?" Manda hissed his laughter. "You're as humorless as your summoner. Compared to me, you're nothing but a bug waiting to be crushed underneath me!"
"Why don't you try it then?" Gamabunta challenged as he hurled himself towards Manda.
Naruto covered his head as the wall and ceiling collapsed around him. He never stopped sprinting for a second as the ceiling fell and crumbled down as the stadium continued to be destroyed by the battle between the three sannin, their teacher and the summons they had called forth. Naruto's eyes widened when his leg got caught and tripped over himself. The boy fell flat on his back as the ceiling's concrete smashed down onto his body.
It was a good thing that Naruto had been a clone.
The real Naruto wasn't really doing anything that the clone hadn't been doing. He was generally trying to stay alive while the stadium came down on top and around him as he struggled to help those civilians who hadn't managed to clear out in time. He waved his hands as he urged some of the villagers to pick up their pace.
"Hurry up!" Naruto shouted at them as they fearfully stumbled along. "You've got to get moving! You'll never get out of here if you…!"
Naruto's eyes widened when he saw a woman and her child on the ground just underneath a part of the ceiling that was about to cave in. Thinking quickly, Naruto made his usual hand signs as he rushed forward to save the two.
"Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"
Two of Narutos clones helped the woman and kid up and away from danger while the rest held up the pieces of ceiling that had already fallen to give them time to escape. The clones popped seconds after attempting to hold the massive weight of solid rock, but a few seconds was all that was needed to save those two lives.
"T-Thank you…" The woman said in a shaken tone as she held her child close to her.
"Thank me after you get out of here!" Naruto said, pointing to where some other clones were directing the group he had gathered up. "The exit's just over there. Follow my clones and you should be safe!"
Naruto watched the woman and child go before diving back into the debris and rubble. He grimaced as a tremor shook through the area as Manda attempted to body slam Gamabunta and missed. Naruto eyes widened when he heard a scream to his left.
He only had the time to witness see the villager cry out for help before his head was crushed by a falling rock.
Naruto clenched his teeth together and looked away. There had been many more like that man, ninja too, who he hadn't been fast enough to save. He didn't disillusion himself in thinking that he'd be able to save everyone, but it still hurt to see people die. Naruto sighed to himself as he and his clones moved on. They wouldn't leave until he was sure he had saved everyone that could be saved.
Then suddenly, Naruto was relieved to see two people he hadn't expected to.
"Zaku! Kin!" Naruto yelled out to the two ninja who were doing their best to avoid the falling rocks. Naruto's eyes widened when the stadium shook again and the remainder of the ceiling began to crumble. "MOVE!"
Zaku and Kin obeyed, jumping and running as fast as they could as Naruto pointed to the exit. The two sprinted past Naruto before the blond followed after them. He could hear the rocks and rubble smashing behind his heels as he ran.
"Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, SHIT!"
Naruto went into a dive during his final sprint, barely managing to avoid the debris that would've buried him alive as the last support structures fell and the entire stadium crumbled to dust. Naruto looked up to see Zaku and Kin looking relatively uninjured and breathing just as hard as he was.
They didn't know how relieved he was to see them alive and well.
"You guys are okay!" Naruto smiled as he made his way over to the two of them.
"Naruto…" Zaku looked relieved for a moment before he dropped his gaze. "I… we…"
Zaku and Kin both blinked when Naruto gave the two of them a warm smile. He placed a comforting had on both their shoulders.
"W-What do you…?"
"Got the gist of it from Kabuto when he came to kill Dosu and then he told me the rest after we chased away the bastard." Naruto smiled. "And it's okay. I get it…"
Both ninja merely gaped at the blond boy who only continued to smile at them both. There were no words to be said. They could see it in Naruto's eyes, he understood without them having to tell them. Zaku and Kin both felt a little teary at that. After being rejected, condemned to die then getting miraculously saved…
And after all that they had a friend to smile at them and tell them it was going to be okay… it was a good feeling.
"But damn, this place really came down." Naruto said as he inspected the ruin around them. "We're gonna have to… hm?"
Naruto's eyes narrowed as he caught something out of the corner of his eye. He moved to the side to get a better view.
"Snakes…?" Naruto thought to himself as he watched the rather large pair of snakes slither away.
"Ah, sorry…" Naruto apologized as he turned back towards the two. "Look, I hate to leave you guys alone but I've got something to take care of. Can you two make it out of here by yourselves?"
"Huh?" Kin blinked. "Er, yeah, probably, but we can…!"
"Okay." Naruto interrupted. "Find some Konoha ninja and get someplace safe. I've gotta go."
"But…!" Zaku tried to interject.
"Oh, you guys won't need those anymore." Naruto grinned as he removed their sound headbands that were still on their heads. The forehead protectors dropped to the ground. "Get going. When all of this is over, I promise I'll get you guys situated. It's what friends are for, huh?"
Zaku and Kin could only watch as their only real friend left and disappeared behind more rubble and debris. The two former sound genin looked at each other, silently debating what they should do.
Tsunade detonated the explosive tag she sent flying Orochimaru's way, igniting the snakes that he had returned with as Jiraiya leaped through the smoke. The toad sannin hurled a dozen kunai and shuriken which Orochimaru blocked with his own. Sarutobi leaped over Jiraiya and came in swinging with Enma.
Orochimaru had no counter to that, nor did he have a way to block the attack.
However, when the transformed monkey king struck the traitor, his dissolved into snakes.
"Again?!" Jiraiya growled in frustration, his head whipping around to catch sight of where Orochimaru had disappeared off to.
Jiraiya was mildly surprised to find that he couldn't catch sight of his old teammate immediately after he had substituted this time.
"Jiraiya, look alive!"
"Huh? Oh shit!"
Jiraiya held onto Gamabunta's head with his chakra along with Tsunade and Sarutobi as Manda came in for a sweeping strike, fangs aiming to dig into Gamabunta's body. The toad jumped high in the air, prompting the snake to curl up and follow, not willing to let his prey escape him so easily. However, Gamabunta turned around and gave the signal.
"Jiraiya!" The toad boss shouted.
"GAMAYUDAN!" Gamabunta shouted as a river of oil spewed forth from the toad's gullet.
"KATON: ENDAN!" Jiraiya shouted as a bullet of flame shot out of his mouth the same time Gamabunta's oil did.
Jiraiya's fire worked in conjunction with Gamabunta's oil to combine and form the Toad Oil Flame Bullet. The oil combusted and raced down towards Manda, the intense blaze swallowing the snake boss as he cried out in pain as the flames covered his entire length. Gamabunta landed back down on the ground, watching the pyre along with the three summoners on his head.
"Don't lose concentration." Jiraiya cautioned. "Manda might still be…"
"I know." Gamabunta snapped back.
Confirming their suspicions, the earth began to rumble beneath Gamabunta's feet. The great toad jumped away just as Manda shot out of the ground beneath and retreated back to a safe distance, giving them an angry hiss as he did so.
"What a guy…" Tsunade said softly.
"Just like his summoner. Always so slippery." Jiraiya muttered. "Right when we think we've got him he disappears or finds some way to avoid damage…"
The most important question though was: where was his summoner?
Down below on top of some flat rubble, the real Orochimaru had just finished drawing up the necessary seals on the ground. The snake sannin smirked as two large snakes slithered up next to him, regurgitating two coffins before disappearing in puffs of smoke. Orochimaru opened the coffins and scattered the ashes on the two scrolls he had placed in front of the two seals he had drawn. He really should've prepared the bodies beforehand until waiting for the moment of summoning.
He blamed his penchant for the theatrical. It was a mistake he wouldn't make again unless he was absolutely and completely sure he could get away with it.
He had the seals, he had retrieved the ashes, now all he needed were two living, flesh bodies to regain control of this battle.
The sannin smiled. He loved it when things went his way.
Sakon and Ukon both landed beside their Master and bowed before him.
"We came as you ordered." Ukon said.
"Kabuto said you requested our assistance." Sakon added.
Orochimaru's smile grew an inch wider. Kabuto was certainly convenient to have around.
"Yes, I did call for you two." Orochimaru smirked. "Now, each of you go stand in the middle of those two seals I've drawn up on the ground there. And hurry!"
"Where are the rest of the Sound Four?" Sakon asked as he and his brother stepped into the center of the seals, unaware of what was about to befall them.
"Don't worry about them." Orochimaru purred as he bit his thumb. "You two are all that I need…"
Jiraiya noticed his former teammate only when it was too late to stop him. He immediately recognized the seal Orochimaru had drawn up and the two empty coffins beside him. He jumped down to the ground towards Orochimaru the same time Tsunade and Sarutobi did, the two of them also realizing what Orochimaru was trying to do.
Orochimaru only continued to smile manically as he slammed his hands down and activated the jutsu.
"KUCHIYOSE: EDO TENSEI!"
Sakon and Ukon were motionless for a moment before they let out bloodcurdling screams of pain and anguish. Their chests burst open as dust and ash encased their bodies and changed their forms into people who had long since left the world of the living. People who were stronger than the two twins could ever hope to be. People that Jiraiya, Tsunade and Sarutobi recognized as they touched down on the ground in front of them.
The Shodai Hokage and Nidaime Hokage turned towards the three Konoha ninja who were too late to stop their resurrection.
"Dammit…" Jiraiya cursed. He had been too careless and had forgotten about the coffins. This was one of the things that he had meant to avoid.
"What do you think?" Orochimaru chuckled as he gestured to the two men.
Hashirama and Tobirama Senju stood before the two sannin and the Hokage that was their successor. Tsunade and Sarutobi stared in shock as Jiraiya readied himself.
Things were about to get way messier than before. And that was saying a lot.
A/N: Here it is. It's finally here...
I could go on about where I've been for the past year, but I won't. Some things are just too personal to share and I'd rather put all of it behind me. Sorry. It's just life and some crap I've gone through throughout the year and I've dealt with it. Point is, I'm back, I'm writing again, and I've never been happier doing so.
There's a lot I want to say about the chapter and what's to come, but I'll hold off for now. Please forgive the spelling/grammer mistakes that might be present I'll fix them later. Be reassured by the fact that the past few months I haven't been as idle as I have the rest of the year, and I've got a whole slew of new ideas that I've written up and plan to post very soon. But first, I wanted to post this chapter before doing any of that. This story is very precious to me and I will never abandon it after all the support its seen. More of this fic and even more new ideas are coming very, very soon.
Anyway, it's good to be back and the next chapter will come soon, I promise. For those of you still reading this and decide to let me know you still are, thanks for sticking around. Have a good one.