Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Though fuck me, I wish I did. Chapter 544 was like perfection in my eyes. I only hope Kishi keeps it up.

Author Note: Hey guys, I'm back. I would love to say that I'm back indefinitely, but I can't promise anything. I finally decided to start writing again about two or three weeks ago, and it's taken me weeks to write new chapters for both my fics, when it only used to take a couple of days at most. When you spend most of the academic year researching and writing essays and theses, the last thing you want to do on your vacation is write even more. Sadly for me, I do enjoy it. I can't promise weekly chapters, but I'm not gunna make you wait like 6 months for a chapter again. Again, I'm really sorry to all the followers of my works.

A lot of people have mentioned the fact that I have kept Naruto at Genin rank rather than advancing him. At this present point, having him as a Chuunin / Jounin doesn't add a great deal to the story, as he won't be taking part in the start of the war. I just left it with the idea that he is a Sage rivalled only by his father (not sure if he was actually a Sage, but he is a legend amongst Shinobi regardless) and Jiraiya, which in my eyes surpasses rank. Even if his rank is 'Genin', everyone in the village would know that Naruto isn't just some fodder that can be ordered around by the lower ranks. I mean, I gave him a seat on the new clan based council...No one would order around a clan head, regardless of their rank.

This is a mistake on my part as it wasn't thought through thoroughly enough at the time of writing it, but I'm not going back and re-writing sections of it yet. It's bad enough trying to think of new chapters, let alone correct all the mistakes I've made in previous ones. But I assure you that it doesn't mean he will stay like that forever. And I can only apologise enough for writing things that are riddled with flaws, but I'm really not that forward thinking of a writer...I just write what's in my head at the time.

I had some really big speech about how I dislike people who flame writers work, but everyone will have already heard it all before...so I'll keep it short and sweet. If you don't like what you read, don't review. If you do decide to review negatively, make sure it's constructive and doesn't make me want to go shoot myself for being a poor attempt at a write.

Anyway, here's Chapter 9.

***Chapter 9 - ***

Hyuga Hinata knew that she had only closed her eyes for the briefest of moments, but she couldn't believe what she saw when she opened them. It felt as if she was in some kind of genjutsu. One second she was looking down the long and winding dirt path that led out of the main gates of Konoha, with greenery on either flank as far as the eye could see, the next she was standing in front of a beautiful waterfall flowing off the enormous rock-face that now appeared before her.

"What do you think Hina-hime?" The stunningly beautiful Hyuga was so entranced by the way the water cascaded as it fell onto the rockery down below, that she had almost completely forgotten she wasn't alone.

As the lavender-eyed Kunoichi's senses suddenly returned, she spun on her heel to be greeted by a heart-warming smile from the one person who could make her feel perfect with only a look from those piercing blue gems. All she could do was stare back in a stunned fashion as the setting sun shone from behind him, presenting him with a golden glow around his person. Hinata had to rub her eyes as she thought she was looking at a mirage. At that second in time, she wasn't staring at Naruto, she was staring at...

"What is it? Do I have something in my hair or something?" A wave of self-consciousness grew in the teen as he ran his fingers through his hair, ruffling it in case there was something there that shouldn't have been.

"N-no, I-it's nothing Naruto. You just look so..."

"Sexy?" He prompted for his own amusement, with the desired effect. A rosy tint flashed across her cheeks before she tried desperately to stifle the giggle that erupted from her by covering her mouth with her hand.

"I knew it, I'm irresistible," the spiky haired blonde mocked as he swayed his hair and pouted his lips, only making her laugh further.

"S-stop it, you're making my sides hurt." Her call's for peace only egged him on further, rasping his arms around her sides, tickling her into hysterics.

"Ahem," someone behind them attempted to draw their attention by a forcefully loud clearing of the throat, but to no avail. They were in a world of their own; nothing could snap them out of it...

"Oi, you little brat...pay some goddamn attention!" The booming voice sent shivers down Naruto's spine as he stopped his 'torture' of the girl in his arms, slowly averting his gaze to where the overly familiar voice came from.

A nervous laugh overcame the rookie-Sage of Konoha as he realised that they weren't alone. Every single toad in Mt. Myoboku had just had front-row seats to his 'assault' on the newest member to the fold. Hinata too looked on in amazement, shortly followed by embarrassment as what seemed like hundreds of pairs of eyes honed in on them. "Naruto-kun..." she mumbled weakly in disbelief.

"Uh, Hi guys," he chuckled hesitantly as he removed his arm around Hinata's waist, "How long have you all be standing there?" He already knew the answer, but it didn't hurt to ask.

"They have been waiting for your return since I left to get you Naruto-chan. They wanted to congratulate you." Fukusaku smiled as spoke. Naruto didn't know why, but that meant a lot to him. He already knew that the toads had accepted him, but it was still a great gesture.

"Thank you, everyone...even you Gamabunta. It means a lot to me." He looked on at the crowd of toads of all shapes and sizes. They appeared to have arranged themselves into some form of hierarchy. Gamabunta, Gamaken, and Gamahiro towered above the rest at the back of the group, who got progressively smaller until Shima and Fukusaku, who were placed at the front of the group along with the younger toads.

"Hey, I'm not here for you. I'm here for the Sake you owe me!"

"Yeah, yeah, stop making up excuses Boss-toad, you wanted to see me just as much as everyone else." Naruto brushed off the fact that he really did owe him a lot of Sake, after pulling a prank on him a few years back. He knew one day he would have to pay him back, but for the time being he could just shrug it off without any ramifications.

"Naruto-kun..." the smile she gave him could have melted his mind there and then. The innocence that exuded from her was unbearable as she seemed to look on at him, urging him to do something with her pupil-less eyes. It took all his will power not to plant a kiss on her luscious lips and take her then and then.

"Sorry hime," he whispered into her ear before turning back to the on-looking sea of toads. "My apologies. Let me introduce to you Hyuga Hinata, heiress to the Hyuga Clan and the newest signature on the toad summoning contract. I hope that it would be acceptable if we were to live amongst the great toads of Mt. Myoboku?"

"Of course it would be Naruto-chan. Ma was just cooking up some grub if you're hungry?"

"Providing it's not with real grubs then I'm starving." Hinata laughed at what she believed to be a joke, but when she saw the stoic look on her boyfriends face she realised it was no joke. The paleness of her skin was one that Sai couldn't even rival.

"Hey, hey, Naruto-kun...Is she your..." Gamakichi called out from within the crowd, waving what could only be likened to a person's 'pinkie'.

The pair blushed simultaneously as they walked behind Fukusaku and Shima. Neither replied verbally, but their body language said it all to the smart-aleck of the toads.

"Punching above your weight with a Hyuga ain't ya?" Bunta jeered at the teen as he walked on by.

"Just because you're a hundred times bigger than me doesn't mean I couldn't beat you to a pulp," the casual swagger with which Naruto walked away only added further insult to the chief-toad, but he knew deep down he was in no shape to take him on as he was still hampered by his injuries at the hands of Pain.

"When I'm healed you better be prepared to back that up you little runt."

Naruto blanked him and kept on walking behind the sage toads, inside of the building carved into the stone with Hinata by his side.

"Was it a good idea to make him angry like that Naruto-kun?" She wasn't entirely sure what had just happened. All that she knew was that the large orange toad he was having a pissing contest with seemed to be the boss around here.

"Ah, they're always the same Hyuga-chan. Naruto-chan likes to annoy Bunta-chan, and Bunta-chan looks down upon Naruto-chan." Fukusaku stated matter-of-factly as they sat knelt on a colourful rug, waiting for Shima to return from the cooking area.

"Ano- does he not accept you Naruto-kun?" She found it a little funny that everyone in Konoha, as well as every other toad in Mt. Myoboku accepted him, except for the one who was supposedly his main summon.

"Oh, it's not that he doesn't accept me Hinata-hime, he has a certain rule. When I first signed the contract and summoned him, after Ero-sennin threw me off a cliff...but that's a story for another time...I had to endure through a challenge, which I succeeded. After all I went through; Bunta said he would refuse to acknowledge me fully until we could have a drink to seal the deal. It's a little trivial really, but he's got his traditions."

"Huh, that is a little strange. But that doesn't tell me why you act like you do around him..." she trailed off as she spoke, as she began to catch a whiff of something in the air. Whatever it was it smelt amazing.

"Until he gives up with his stupid tradition, he is subject to feel the wrath of the number one prankster in Konoha." He chuckled as he silently thanked Kami that Shima hadn't been cooking with real grubs.

The food smelt wonderful as she brought it in. Actual ramen, with ingredients that suited human needs, it made his mouth water slightly as Shima handed him a bowl.

"Arigato, Shima-san." Hinata thanked her politely as she handed the lady Hyuga a bowl, before pouring a ladle of steaming hot noodles doused in a rich smelling sauce into her bowl.

"Itadakimasu!" Naruto had no need for pleasantries, he was starving.

Hinata, Shima, and Fukusaku looked on in amusement as Naruto quickly polished off the bowl he had been given, before anyone else had even had time to break their chop-sticks. In all fairness, he hadn't eaten since the morning. After leaving the hospital, he really didn't know what to do with himself. Eating seemed to have slipped his mind entirely.

He instantly went in for seconds. After all he was starving. Hinata just smiled as she watched him devour another bowl. She didn't know why but there just seemed to be something extremely cute about the way he ate. Throughout the meal, Naruto constantly made the young Hyuga laugh, telling her stories of some of the pranks that he had pulled on Gamabunta in the past. After bringing it up again, Naruto told Hinata about when, and why, Jiraiya had pushed him off a cliff. She couldn't decide whether to be grateful or worried that Naruto had spent so many years under the tutelage of someone who had no issues pushing a twelve year old to his death.

Fukusaku and Shima analysed the young couple from afar. As soon as they had gotten talking, they had completely forgotten that they were with other people...well, toads. It was like Minato and Kushina all over again, but the roles reversed. Naruto took after his mothers hyperactive nature, whereas Hinata was relatively reserved, much like the Yondaime. They instantly thanked Kami that he had turned out more like his parents, than his old sensei. As much as they missed the Legendary Sannin, they knew that his nomadic life-style was one that followed a life of solitude. If only he and Tsunade had hooked up when they were younger...

"I hate to break you two apart, Naruto-chan, but now you've eaten we should really visit the Ogama Sennin. You know how bad his memory is." Fukusaku smiled as he jumped from his seat and headed towards the door.

"Hai. Sorry Hime, looks like duty calls." He leaned in close and embraced her in his grip, before planting an affectionate kiss on her lips. The pair agreed that it would be a little disrespectful to show their desires in public, so they kept it to the minimum. As their lips parted company, the displeased look she gave him said it all. "Don't worry; I'll make up for it later." His husky voice tickled her ear as he whispered seductively, sending shivers down her spine.

The blonde gave her one final glance before heading out after Fukusaku, leaving Shima and Hinata alone.

"Come on, I'll show you to where you and Naruto-chan will be staying."

"Arigato, Shima-san."

"She seems like a nice girl, Naruto-chan. Very different to most Hyuga's I've had the pleasure of meeting." The way he emphasised the word 'pleasure' made Naruto laugh, but he could understand how people could get rubbed up the wrong way by the naturally emotionless attitude of most Hyuga's.

"Sometimes it's easy to forget that she is a Hyuga. She is so kind and caring, and well, perfect. I'm sure things will change when she becomes the clan head. Even if she doesn't change them, I already have an oath to her cousin that I will end the feud between the Main and Branch families, when I become Hokage." Naruto sighed as he reminisced on his younger actions. "I really was naive when I was younger."

"Wisdom comes with age Naruto-chan. But from what I've heard, you're becoming quite the legend. Maybe in time you will be in a position to make those dreams come to fruition."

"Maybe, but I've already turned down the position once. I don't know how many chances you are supposed to get at such a title. I'm just not ready yet." How could he be? Sakura was dead, and he was nowhere to be seen when it happened. The blame weighed heavily on his chest when he was offered the position. If he couldn't be there to save his own teammate, how could he protect everyone else? Naruto looked casually towards the stars, looking for some form of guidance from his perverted sensei or his father...but none came.

"Jiraiya-chan turned down the position of Yondaime and Godaime on two occasions. There's plenty of time for you yet. But I assure you, when we are finished here, you will be ready for anything." That caught the teen's attention as they entered the shrine area in which the Great Toad Sage of Mt. Myoboku resided.

"Is there more to Senjutsu that I need to learn?" When it came down to learning new techniques, Naruto's face resembled that of a kid being handed candy.

"Believe me, Naruto-chan. In all my years I have never seen someone so adept to using Senjutsu in battle as you. You defeated a foe that even dear Jiraiya-chan couldn't defeat. Not even Minato-chan could compete with you in that field," Fukusaku stopped and looked up at him. "Both of them would have been proud of you."

"Heh, you think so?" Naruto scratched his head in embarrassment at the praise, and headed towards the pedestal which housed the Great Toad Sage. The elderly looking toad opened his eyes slightly to catch a glimpse of who the echoing footsteps belong to.

"Welcome. I have summoned you here because- um...who are you again?" Naruto sighed as the elderly toad started going through his routine amnesia.

"It's Naruto-chan. I brought him here as you request Ojiji-Sama."

"Ah, yes, yes. Welcome Naruto." A lengthy pause ensued before the Sage Toad spoke again. "Naruto...I have seen your future. You...you will play a significant role in the up and coming war. I see many acts of selflessness in the futures of those around you. Those with great power from within their eyes will hold the key to the door of victory, but also to the door of defeat."

Naruto absorbed the words. Parts of his prophecy were already known to him. 'Great power from within their eyes' gave Naruto a shrilled tingle down his spine. Uchiha Madara...Sasuke...They were the only people he could think of who fall into that category. It scared him greatly when he spoke of the 'selfless' acts of others. War breeds sacrifice, something Naruto didn't know if he could live with, knowing those around him have sacrificed so much for his safety. "Gamatora...I have also foreseen the transfer of the seal to Naruto."

"As you wish, Ojiji-sama." As if on cue, the toad's abdomen elongated to something that resembled a scroll, except with legs and a head. After a slight tug on the top of the scroll, it unravelled presenting Naruto with a patterned seal that very much resembled the one on his stomach.

"Wh-what is this?"

"It's the key to opening and closing your seal. With this, you can take full control of the Kyubi, and use his power accordingly. It can also be the gateway to a host of techniques that only a handful of shinobi have ever been able to use."

"More power is all good and well, I doubt I would be able to defeat Madara without the power of the Kyubi. But, what's the catch?"

"I don't blame ya for being a little suspicious, Naruto. There are two parts to the Kyubi's power within you; the "chakra" and the "mind". In order to control it fully, you need to extract the "chakra" without any of the "mind". If you allow any of the "mind" to take hold over your own during the process, the Kyubi will be able to break free from its bonds and will walk this earth once more." Silence ensued as Naruto thought on what had been said.

"How can I defeat it?"

"The only way to defeat it is to confront it free of hate. If you don't, it will consume you."

"I- I understand." Naruto stepped apprehensively towards the seal. Every inch of him was in conflict over this. If he were to fail at controlling the Kyubi, it could mean so much worse for the shinobi world. That is, until a moment of clarity entered his mind.

"I sealed half of the Kyubi's chakra inside you because I knew that someday, you would be able to control it." There it was, the sign he had been waiting for. It hit him like a bullet in the head as the memory appeared in his consciousness as if someone had flicked a switch.

After that, Naruto was at ease as he calmly made his way up the stone steps, signing the scroll over to himself by placing his fingerprints on the scroll.

"This is bigger than me now. If I don't do this, it could mean the end of the world as we know it. I will fight the Kyubi, and I will win." Something had Naruto riled up, and Fukusaku and Gamatora were confused as to what that might have been. With the faith of his father, and the trust of his lover, Naruto knew that he would succeed.

Fukusaku gave an approving nod of the actions of the teen, as Gamatora transformed back to his original form. Naruto grinned in reply as he walked back down the steps towards the small green elder toad.

"If we are finished here, do you mind if I go back to Hinata-hime?" Fukusaku simply nodded and Naruto replied in kind, leaving the toads to discuss amongst themselves as Naruto headed back to the rock-face.

Konoha was relatively quiet on this particular evening. Word had finally circulated around the whole village of the deaths of the council, as well as the death of a well known Kunoichi within the higher rungs of the medical staff. Not only was the population soured by these occurrences, but they also had to come to terms with the fact that, with the village almost completely rebuilt, the threat of war was at their doorstep.

The streets were relatively empty. Many had decided to stay at home with their families, as the call for war almost immediately meant that all shinobi within the village would be mobilised soon. That made these final days all the more important to those shinobi with families, as it may be the last time they had to see their children, wives, husbands, parents.

It's amazing to see how spirits could change so quickly. How is it, that the actions of so few, could affect so many? All that Hatake Kakashi knew was that he needed a drink. Thankfully, he had good company.

"Another two glasses please barkeep."

"H-hai, Hokage-sama, coming right up." The barkeep replied to the deadened looking man donning red Kage robes. He was stood at the bar, waiting for his drinks as his 'date' waited in the booth behind.

The man behind the bar returned with two glasses filled with a murky looking liquid filled to the brim, a dark spirit by the look of it. Yet another benefit he had found with his new title, he didn't have to pay for any drinks. That was something he was quietly happy about at the moment as he was on his fourth, and Kurenai was on to her third. After nodding solemnly to the only person that appeared to be working in the fairly life-less drinking hole, the silver-haired Kage turned back to his booth and slid into the seat besides the Jounin-sensei that accompanied him.

"To fallen comrades..." Kakashi raised his glass in front of him as Kurenai picked up the other and clanged the two together.

"Fallen comrades..." was her sombre reply before taking a sip of the strong liquid, gasping for breath as it singed her throat upon swallowing. Kakashi had no such reflex, as he took a much larger mouthful, before slouching back into his chair slightly.

The pair remained in silence for a little while. It wasn't awkward, but it was most definitely unsettling for the Kunoichi. After her year in ANBU as a teenager, she was well aware of the rumours about Kakashi's past. The death of his father was something that hampered his emotional development as a child, and could possibly take part of the blame for the death of his team-mate. Then that fateful day came, almost seventeen years ago...his Sensei was the next to succumb to the cruel fate of the shinobi world. Just as he was getting over such a traumatic event of losing a friend and teacher, he lost the thing that he held above all else in the world, Rin.

It had pushed him into ANBU, somewhere that only further twisted his understanding of things towards the never ending spiral of hatred and despair. She could never forget the first time that she met the man, shortly after the three-man cell she was part of came under attack on a scroll recovery mission. He and his partner were living legends within ANBU, with a near 100 per cent success rate, and a kill-count that not even the Legendary Sannin could compete with. During that botched mission, she found out how they had become so infamous.

One of her team was already dead, the other was holding off the attacking Kiri shinobi whilst she began to use a genjutsu to mask their escape. However, before she could complete it, the other member of her team fell. No fewer than fifteen shinobi were raining down on her position, she had run out of time. Within seconds she would have been over-run. That was when he appeared. The crackle of electricity was all that could be heard as he bound over her head in the direction of the chasing shinobi. One-by-one, the silhouettes of the advancing shinobi fell to the forest floor. Every so often she would catch a glimpse of a flashing blue light through the tree canopy as she slumped into a heap against the trunk she had been hiding behind.

She hadn't even noticed that the other ANBU member was stood above her on a low-hanging branch. As he jumped to the forest floor, she breathed a sigh of relief as her fellow masked Nin helped her to her feet. Two shinobi appeared from nowhere behind the masked figure. Their headless bodies fell to the floor before she could even warn the man. As he was sheathing his katana, the screeching died down...until all that could be heard was the sound of footsteps on the crisp leaves littered on the forest floor. Two figures walked out from the shadows, each with an object thrown over their shoulders. As they stepped into the light she realised that it was two identical copies, each carrying a member of her team. One of the copies motioned the limp body over his shoulder to the ground, as the figure began to stir. The Kage Bunshin dispelled, leaving the real figure, with her dead team-mate slumped over his shoulder.

Blood dripped off his free arm, but she was positive that it wasn't his. From what she could see, he wasn't even injured. The look he gave her chilled her to the core. His Sharingan spun ferociously as he set down her team-mate. Moments later he shifted his mask and his eye was no longer visible. The aura he gave off was one of a cold-blooded killer, but it didn't stop her from falling for him there and then.

It had taken him years to fully come to terms with everything that had happened. She was just happy that he had found out about the Yondaime's legacy when he did. It truly gave him something to live for once again. Finally, his burdens appeared to be lifting from him. That bubble he protected himself with seemed to disappear every day. Still, Kurenai knew that she couldn't own the man's heart. Many rumours surrounded the fabled 'Sharingan' Kakashi in terms of his bachelor lifestyle, but as far as she knew he hadn't even looked at another woman since Rin. Or so she had thought.

But she could see it in his eye when she looked at him staring off into the distance, that vacant look that chilled her to the core the first time she ever looked into his lonesome eye. After what had happened, it was understandable that he may revert back to his former self. How are you supposed to cope with one of your students murdering the other?

"A ryou for your thoughts, Kakashi-san?" Kakashi stirred from his trance, taking another mouthful of his drink before turning to his companion.

"I was thinking about what I'm going to say to her parents..." he trailed off again as he reached for his drink.

"I-I'm so sorry. Please Kakashi, if there is anything I can do just tell me and I'll do it." Before he could haul his glass up to his mouth, her hands were gripped around his. It happened again. That feeling, it reared its head once again. "Was Naruto right?" The Hokage asked himself as the tense look on his face loosened as he looked into her rose coloured eyes.

"K-Kurenai, um- stay with me?" He wrestled with her hands in order to loosen her grip, so that he could put his glass down. Then, he placed his hand on top of hers, squeezing it gently before he spoke again. "I don't know why, but you sooth my soul in a way nothing else can."

The sudden change in body language came from almost nowhere. She quickly tilted her head in the light to mask a blush that even Hinata would have been proud of.

"Wow, now that is a line worthy of Hatake Kakashi." She smiled as she turned her hand, so that she could hold his properly. "Where did that one come from?" Kakashi scratched his head with his free hand as his visible eye seemed to curl in embarrassment.

"Would you believe me if I said it was Naruto?" He chuckled slightly as she gave him a look of disbelief in answer to his question. "Through his defence of his feelings for your student, he opened my eyes to my own feelings. I don't know how, but he seemed to pick up on something in the hospital that I didn't. When you comforted me, you put my mind at ease. The very same feeling came back the second you stopped me from taking that drink. All I know is that the pain almost seems bearable when you are with me."

Kurenai was taken aback by those words. She couldn't fault what he said. As far as her eyes could see, what he was saying was coming from the bottom of his heart.

"Fine, I'll stay with you. But on one condition." She smiled as she looked up at his intrigued face.

"Go on..."

"Don't let go." Her eyes honed in on their hands, which had been joined together for the past few minutes.

With his free hand, Kakashi placed the Kage hat firmly on his silver spikes and looked back at her. "Would you like to go for a walk Kurenai-san?"

Her only reply was a smile, complete with a blush as they left the establishment hand-in-hand, strolling towards the Hokage tower under the star-lit sky.

After leaving his rather daunting conversation with the Ogama Sennin and Fukusaku, Naruto found himself arriving at Shima's home, void of one Hyuga. The confusion he felt was quickly swept away after the small toad pointed him into the direction of where she had taken the lady Hyuga. It was extremely difficult to make out under the night's sky, but a glint of light caught his eye between the overgrown trees.

It could only have been a ten minute journey, but it seemed so far away. As he grew closer, the light got steadily brighter, until eventually he arrived at the building. It was amazing he had never noticed it before. A wooden cabin hid itself within the strange looking trees that called Mt. Myoboku their home. It was a much larger construction to that found carved into the rock-face, and in no way resembled the Spartan style of the toads.

As he approached the door, he felt a little apprehensive about turning the handle. He knew that Hinata would be inside, but something felt wrong. It was as if there was another presence lingering around, and it made him feel uncomfortable. Before he could think about it any longer, the door swung open. Shortly after he found something warm and comforting wrapped around him. The scent of lavender and vanilla was ever present as soft violet hair nuzzled into his neck.

"I missed you too Hime," he whispered as he rested his head on top of hers, allowing the embrace to last as long as possible.

After his eyes reopened from drifting off into his own little inner world of bliss, he was presented with a small portion of the inside of the cabin. All he could see was a desk at the far corner of the room, with a book shelf on the wall above it. The lingering presence, it all made sense now.

The rookie Sage of Konoha pulled back from Hinata slightly, so that he could cup her cheek in his hand, drawing her lips up to a position that he could kiss. It was only short, but it was more than enough to satisfy his needs at the current moment.

"Let's go inside Naru-kun. Shima-san gave me the leftovers from the meal if you're hungry?" She smiled as his face seemed to light up at the first sign of food. He really was too predictable. He simply nodded as she took his hand and guided him into the cabin.

It didn't take long for the smell of food to bombard him, but there were other aroma's present within the cabin that seemed all too familiar. The more time he spent standing in the doorway, the more easily he could distinguish each smell. Writing ink was prominent in the air. It was a smell he had become so fond of during his travels with Jiraiya. The legendary shinobi had a knack of writing whenever he wasn't... otherwise occupied. It made sense considering the writing desk in the corner of the room.

The next smell was one that he had picked up not just from him, but from the only other Sannin he had spent enough time around, Sake. If there were two things he was sure of when it came down to his perverted sensei, it was that he liked his drink, and he liked his women. The man struggled to go a couple of hours without a strong drink. He seemed to be guided further into the room by the potent smells.

The more he looked around the room, the more he recognised the presence. A pair of geta were positioned neatly at the side of the doorway. As he moved close enough to the book shelf, he found that most of the titles were written by the same author. Three photographs were situated above the fireplace. The one on the left presented a photograph similar to one that Naruto had in his possession, of his Genin team and Sensei. The one on the right seemed to be a picture of three children that he didn't recognise at first. Only after he noticed the origami flower in the young girl's hair did he make the connection. But the one in the middle was a little humbling.

"Ero-sennin..." he muttered under his breath as a faint smile drew upon his face. He was the central picture. That loud orange jumpsuit of his younger years and his childish looks, it all came flooding back to him as he looked at the image.

"Ano- did you say something Naru-kun?" She noticed the smile on his face. Shima had already told her the significance of the cabin, but it appeared that Naruto had already figured it out in a little over a minute.

"No-no, I was just talking to myself." Naruto seemed a little distant as he spoke, but he was quickly brought back to reality when his hand was grasped by the soft, petite fingers of the lavender eyed kunoichi.

"Let's eat Naruto-kun." Naruto nodded in compliance as she guided him into the next room. The couple got settled in what could only be described as the smallest kitchen/diner known to man. A small table with two dining chairs was situated at one end, with a stove and three cupboards at the other. In comparison to the other room, it was extremely small and inadequate for the use of more than one person.

"How was your conversation with the elder toad?" Hinata asked quietly before she tucked into a bowl of leftovers. It was still just as good as when it was fresh from the cooking pot. She seemed to wait for a while before she got a reply from her blonde hero.

"It was- um- interesting to say the least," he spoke whilst he was eating, much to the disapproval of Hinata, but she let it slide as he paused and finished what he was eating before he continued. "According to Ojiji-sama's prophecy, I will play an important part in this war, which can only mean that..."

"It's okay Naruto, everything will be fine." Hinata didn't like the sound of that. If Naruto would play a prominent role in the war, it means that the conditions allowing them to stay away from the fight would change drastically. Nevertheless, all she could do was try and reassure the blonde.

"That's not even the half of it Hime. 'Those that hold great power within their eyes' will play the deciding role in the war. I can only assume he meant Sasuke and Madara, unless you're feeling a little rebellious Hina-Hime..." The severity of his words seemed to soften as he heard her laugh at his little joke. "And not only that, but they have given me the key to opening the seal on the Kyubi." That peaked her worry as she went through her mind what that could mean.

"Surely that will be worse for everyone. What happens if it breaks loose?"

"I know, but I have faith in his prophecy. He has never been wrong, and if he foresees me being able to use the Kyubi's power completely, then so be it."

"It's far too dangerous Naruto. Please, please don't go through with it." The teen was almost on her knees begging Naruto to rethink his decision, but the look he gave her seemed to halt her from crying as she was so very close to.

"The only way I can lose to him is if there is hatred in my heart. With you by my side, there is no such thing. You are the light that guides me through the despair. I gather my strength from your love, if you're by my side, I will not lose." He laid his hand on top of hers as he spoke, squeezing it gently as she returned with a squeeze of her own.

"I-I understand Naruto-kun. Whatever path you decide, I will follow you until the day I die."

"Don't say that Hina, I don't want to ever think of such a thing." He smiled as he stood up and walked to the other side of the table, so that he could kiss her forehead, allowing her to wrap her arms around him. It scared him slightly to think that she was so willing to give up her life for his once before, surely the thoughts still lingered.

"I'm scared Naruto. We're too young to go to war." He could hear her sobbing into his dark top, but he didn't care. It was natural for anyone to show fear at such a thing. War, it was, just too much.

"It'll be okay. Have faith in everyone. It will be over before you know it." In the briefest of moments, the roles were reversed in their conversation, yet his reassurances were of little comfort to Hinata.

No matter what she used to take her mind off it, the thoughts of her friends going to war plagued her. All Naruto could do was hold her in an attempt to console her. He understood how she felt, hell, he would probably be doing the same thing if he hadn't of been told that the fate of the world lies in his hands. War was upon them, and he knew that it was just a pipe dream for it to end so quickly. He had to remain strong, for himself, for Hinata, for everyone.

"Let's try and get some rest Hina-hime." He could feel her shift around in his grasp in an attempt to free herself, before giving him a gentle look through her tearful eyes. He could tell that she was in no mood for discussion.

The couple retired into the bedroom, quickly settling down in the double bed. It didn't take long for Hinata to snuggle up to Naruto and succumb to mental and physical fatigue, yet the blonde remained awake even through the calmness that he felt being with her.

He seemed to lie there for a while, his mind void of any thought. Eventually something came into his head as if someone turned on a switch...Haruno Sakura was gone, and she was never coming back. Realisation had finally wormed its way in, and for the remainder of the night, he could think of nothing else.

It was quiet, too quiet. Something was stirring in the air, and those that were lying in wait could feel it growing with every second. The anxiety was too much too handle, yet they knew that they were to wait for backup before advancing any further.

"I really don't like this feeling." The tanned red-head mumbled to her team leader. The atmosphere around the entrance to the Akatsuki hideout was growing tense. It felt as if, something was coming.

"Neither do I, but we must be patient."

"Where the hell are the reinforcements? We've been here for the best part of two days. What's taking them so long?" Karui was growing restless.

"Calm down Karui. If you spike your chakra you will alert them to our presence, and I really don't want to fight the Akatsuki without reinforcements." The blonde seemed to have a significant influence on her subordinate. One look into her eyes, and Karui was struck with enough fear to quit her moaning.

The three sat in silence as morning fog began to lift from the area. Eventually, they heard something, the sound of squawking birds flying away from the tree line. In their eyes it could only mean one thing...

"We've got company..." Omoi whispered as he slowly reached behind him and grabbed hold of the hilt of his blade. They waited with eyes fixed on the tree line, but no one came.

Moments past, but still nothing came from the forest at their side. Their agitation only grew further from this, checking in all directions to make sure they hadn't been flanked. A loud thud averted their attention back to the cave. A cloaked man stood in front of the entrance, standing quietly as if he was waiting for someone.

They examined him from their prone position. They were far enough away to remain undetected, but still able to distinguish some features about the person. Unfortunately they were facing away from them, and all they could see was the back of the white cloak the person was draped in. In a flash the figure quickly changed stance, with his forearms almost lying on the ground. Something shot out from his sleeves, expanding rapidly in the direction of the cave entrance. A string of explosions rang out from the close proximity of the entrance...

"What the fuck was that?" Karin screamed in no general direction as it felt as if the cave was about to collapse on itself. The violence with which the lair shook awoke everyone who wasn't already awake.

"Someone tripped the booby trap at the front entrance." "Can we eat them? I'm starving." Karin didn't know what to be more anxious of, the fact that they were under attack, or Black Zetsu.

"Too late plant boy, somebody's already gone. I'm not letting them have all the fun though. Karin, stay with the prisoner." Kisame grinned fiercely with his shark-like teeth as he walked towards the exit, with Samehada draped over his shoulder, closely followed by Zetsu...

(Back outside)

"Well well, if it isn't the traitors little lap dog. What can I do for you...before I end you?" A single figure walked out from the darkness of the cave, his black cloak and swirling orange mask were too recognisable to mistake the man's identity. A metallic crunching noise was heard as he took a step, lighting up the area in an instant with his next step. The figure in white slid backwards to avoid the blast, looking on in disbelief as the figure continued to walk through the flames completely unharmed.

"It appears Orochimaru-sama was right. You are Uchiha Madara. And it seems he was correct in thinking that he was not the first being to reach immortality."

"Do not compare me to that pathetic excuse of existence. You have ten seconds before I kill you. One..." Madara grew closer to his prey with every step. "...Two."

"Now now, no need to get touchy. I feel that I have something that you require." Yakushi Kabuto had always been known as a smooth talker, and he knew exactly how to push everyone's buttons...

"...And what might that be? Five." Even the infamous Uchiha Madara had his own buttons to press...

"...Power." The way in which he spoke seemed to send shivers down the Uchiha's spine. It was the same as all of that wretched clan. One word could halt them in their tracks.

"I'm listening..." The masked Akatsuki leader was stopped by the clanging of metal. It didn't surprise him that this might have happened. After all...

"You son of a bitch! I'm gunna kill you where you stand." Two chakra enhanced kunai appeared to be holding back the over-sized executioners blade of one Hozuki Suigetsu. The water based shinobi had a right to be pissed. After all, the man stood before him now had spent years experimenting on him.

"Hey you little shit, let the grown up's talk, or my pet is gunna feast on you." The swordsman quickly withdrew from his attack after he heard that. He felt the killer intent coming from his fellow Kiri shinobi.

Suigetsu withdrew to a flanking position behind Madara, besides Kisame. It was three against one with no escape.

"Well Kabuto? I'm not going to wait all day. There are a number of people in my party that would have no qualms in killing you right now, including me."

"Very well, I was only delaying so that your man could finish his job..." The spike in chakra alerted those who were watching from a distance to the danger headed their way.

"Hello there." "Dinner time." All that could be heard was a sudden rustling before loud bangs coming from two separate locations. It lasted a matter of seconds before five figures landed in the clearing, having been blocked off from their escape routes. The cell of Kumo Nin's was joined by a two man cell draped in standard ANBU attire.

"Good work Zetsu. Now that the rats are here, what does the snake have to say for itself?" Madara was quickly growing impatient with current turnings. He had known about the three man cell since they arrived, but the ANBU must have been following Kabuto.

"As I said, I can offer you power. It's as simple as that."

"Very well. A demonstration would be nice, and guess what? We have intruders. Kill them, unless of course you're in league with them." Madara didn't trust the man one bit. How could you put any faith in a man who had only had employment as a spy?

"Oh, don't worry. They aren't with me. Isn't that right...Anko? And judging by your chakra output, you're Danzo's little pet. Sai, right?" For the first time, one of the 'rats' spoke.

"Joining forces with the Akatsuki? That's low even for you. Take off your mask Sai, our cover is already blown." the pale skinned 'Root' member did as ordered, removing his mask along with his companion. Unless you were used to it, fighting with your mask on was a hindrance in such a high-levelled battle.

"You...you're the guy from the village." Karui stated matter-of-factly as she positioned herself aside the two Konoha shinobi. Omoi and Samui quickly followed suit. With Zetsu now back with the Akatsuki, it was five on five, but there was no way that they could hold out against four Akatsuki members, and a man increasing in power daily due to his merge with the legendary Sannin.

"Hello..." Sai smiled slightly at the girl before reaching behind him for his blade. The others seemed to follow suit, each grasping their swords ready for battle.

"Oh, we have some 'swordsmen' do we? Can Samehada and I have a little play?" Kisame forced his bandaged blade out in front of him. It was huge due to its gorging on the Hachibi's chakra for a couple of days. Spikes jutted from the bandages as it struggled to maintain its basic form due to its surge in power.

"You should take your sword back to the prisoner. If he wakes up all hell could break loose." Madara wasn't making a request; he was ordering his fellow Akatsuki member. But the shark faced man didn't back down.

"He's not gunna wake up for days. Samehada didn't even leave him with enough chakra to speak, let alone move. Besides, how far can he go with no legs?" That caught Karui's attention.

"I'm going to kill you slowly you fucking fish-faced bastard!" Her sudden advance was halted by the cool looking Omoi.

"Don't be so stupid. If this is the guy that captured Bee-Sensei, you have no chance against him. We're better off fighting as a group than on our own."

"Don't be like that kid. You'll ruin all my fun..." Without warning, Kisame was in front of them with his sword in full swing. It took the defensive stances of Karui, Omoi, and Sai to block the over-sized blade.

"Kisame...I will not tell you again. I wanted a demonstration of this so called 'power' we've been offered. How can we get that if you kill them all?" The booming voice sent chills down the man's spine. He thought he could get away with killing one or two, but Madara's word was final. He had no intentions of being killed for insubordination.

"So be it. Looks like I'll just have to have some fun with you later, brat." His comment was aimed at the on-looking Suigetsu, much to his approval. He had been waiting for a chance to get his hands on the strongest sword out of the Seven Shinobi Swordsmen of the Mist. Again, Kisame retreated to the sidelines, leaving the five shinobi to face off against Kabuto.

"I don't think this will disappoint, Madara." Kabuto quickly changed his stance, so that he was facing the two groups side-on. The cloaked figure began going through a number of hand-seals. With each one that was complete, the air pressure changed on the battlefield. Something was coming, and everyone could feel it. "In a few seconds, it will be all over."

"Kuchiyose: Edo Tensei!" The group looked on in disbelief as five coffins began to rise from the ground behind him.

"...No...Impossible..." was all that anyone could pick out from the gibberish coming from the seasoned shinobi. As the flies began to catch in Anko's gaping mouth, the others soon began to wear similar expressions on their faces as the coffin's opened.

"I present to you, Nagato, Kakuzu, Deidara, Akasuna no Sasori, and last but not least, Uchiha Itachi. With my offerings, you will have no problems against the Shinobi of this pitiful world. No one can stand against my technique."

"W-what the hell is this?" Even Omoi was beginning to fear for the worst. His cool demeanour from before had begun to crack. It was now two: one and something told him that those that had come from the coffin wouldn't be easy to defeat.

"This is far too dangerous, we need to retreat and wait for reinforcements. We can't take them on."

"Now now, how can I demonstrate my power if you runaway?" She was too overcome with panic to notice Kabuto appear directly behind Itachi. Before she could do anything it was too late.

She had heard of this from the reports made by the ANBU squadron that watched on as Orochimaru fought with the late Sandaime. In the instant the tag was placed into the back of Itachi's skull, the body began to reanimate. Its initial greyness seemed to dissipate as it took a few steps out of the coffin. The last thing to 'come back to life' was the figures eyes. Anko went wide eyed as the life-less orbs transformed into something she wished she never had to see again in this world.

"We need to fall back, NOW!"

"Too late, Anko-sama..." The reanimated doll spoke for the first time. The gentleness in the voice was riddled with killer intent. That truly was Itachi. The group stared on as his pupils seemed to spin wildly, turning from their original form into something far more sinister. "Amaterasu!"

The group looked on in disbelief as the ranking Shinobi of the group went up in a sea of black flames. Her screams could be heard for miles around as her body quickly became engulfed by the devastating jutsu. It only took a couple of seconds for her body to turn to ash right before their very eyes.

"Wh-what just happened?" Karui couldn't believe her eyes as she watched the ash swirl in a gust of wind, carried away into the stratosphere.

Sai tried to hide his emotions, but you could see the angst on his face as he gripped the hilt of his blade that tightly his hands started to bleed. He wanted to attack, but he knew he'd be dead before he even took a footstep. This was a battle for demons and monsters alike. Normal Shinobi had no place in this battle, unfortunately for them, they had no 'monsters' within their ranks.

A slow clapping came from the back of the pack, averting the attention of the Kumo/Konoha shinobi to the masked figure lingering near the entrance of the cave.

"Impressive, very impressive. Even through death, he still possesses his Mangekyo Sharingan. I must say Kabuto; I'm definitely intrigued by your offer." Madara licked his lips as if he was a serpent about to devour his next meal, looking on at the reanimated corpse of his brethren.

"The technique is flawless. Each person resurrected will maintain all of their previous skills and attributes, without the side effects such things cause on one's body. For instance, the disease which plagues those of your clan who achieve the ultimate doujutsu is rendered inert. Chakra use is of no issue to those whom I control, as they have unlimited reserves. And better yet..." his gloating was cut off by a sudden rumbling. The ground began to tremor as the foothold beneath the Akatsuki members began to collapse.

The ground quickly became uprooted. In the blink of an eye, the Uchiha was severed in half as a fifteen foot long snake shot out from the ground. Before Itachi's shredded torso hit the deck, the reptile vanished from view in a cloud of smoke, along with his legs.

"My, my...Orochimaru didn't tell me that you could use the 'body shedding' Jutsu. But to back it up with a Doton Jutsu and such a powerful summoning, you must be near your limit." Everyone looked on as the dust settled, revealing something they didn't expect...Anko knelt on one knee as her erratic breathing evened itself out.

"You weren't always that bastard's right-hand man." She seethed in agony as she could feel her reserves running dry. At least she had taken care of Itachi...

"Unfortunately for you, you didn't let me finish my speech before you needlessly expended so much energy." Kabuto fixed his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose as he watched the fatigued figure look on in disbelief as, piece by piece, Itachi's legs reformed. "As I was saying, the most important thing about this technique is...Immortality."

'Shit, shit, this is impossible. I'm almost out of chakra. I can't keep this up...we're gunna die here if I can't find an escape route.' Anko was panicking, and the four disbelieving figures behind her could see it.

Something caught her attention as the newly reformed Itachi began to walk towards her with his newly formed limbs. His eyes, those fucking Sharingan orbs seemed to be resisting the technique. She could see the agony pained across the walking corpses face.

"I-I'm so sorry, Anko-sama." his words were draped in remorse, something Anko never knew the fabled murderer of the Uchiha clan possessed.

"I guess the Sharingan really is something of legend after all. To resist my technique, now that is something I have yet to see in my Edo Tensei's. Itachi was one of the one's I had planned on maintaining their original memories. Too bad." Kabuto appeared to form a seal with his hands before chakra began to visibly emanate from them.

Anko watched as the pained face dissipated into nothingness. It was like it was no longer Itachi, but a shell that held all of his power. To think that such a man could have become this twisted. 'Damn you Kabuto.'

"Something's coming... and it's fast." White Zetsu murmured into the ear of his leader. The swirling mask turned slightly in acknowledgement, but he said nothing. He already knew who it was, but he gave Kabuto no inkling as to what was approaching. 'Let's consider this an additional test.' He smirked beneath his mask as he saw a flash in the distance.

He could feel the man's chakra output, but Madara truly was flummoxed slightly by his presence. This wasn't part of his plan. He could begin to feel everything begin to slip from his grasp. He could potentially lose the Hachibi before he even had time to seal it away.

"Erubō!" The cry seemed to lag the actual Jutsu. It happened so fast that those who stood at the foot of the rock face were almost unsure of what had actually happened. One second, Itachi was stood there, the next, he was imbedded in the rock-face behind them. A blurred colossus of a man took his place, lightning coating his entire body. His eyes were seething in disgust, never averting away from the man with the swirling orange mask.

"R-Raikage-sama...?" Karui almost couldn't believe her eyes.

'Finally, the back-up has arrived.' Samui breathed a sigh of relief, never lowering her guard.

"Where the fuck is my brother?" His voiced boomed as a whole division of Kumo ANBU landed in the clearing behind him.

That's all folks. Please Read and Review. I really appreciate it.

I'm going to change the section with the prophecy, because It doesn't read right. But I can't exactly have the canon one, as I'm not going to have Bee and Naruto together. Any suggestions / advice would be much appreciated.

I hope it was worth the wait, but judging by the lack of reviews Shadow received for its new chapter, it probably wasn't. Ah well eh, I guess I'll improve again once I get back into the swing of writing.