TH: Last chapter-drabble for 'Ravel, Unravel'! Thanks to all you who read and reviewed and faved and etc. Really appreciate it. Hopefully this will whet all y'all's appetites for 'Shades'. Heh heh. It's going to be very much a different world when next we see everyone...

Ravel, Unravel


It was what he'd been fighting to prevent, what he'd given up years of his life—given up his life, once—to guard against. And still it hadn't been enough.

He should have seen this coming; all the warning signs were there. But he had been so busy guarding from threats outside the Village that he hadn't considered the inside.

Perhaps fate truly did have it in for him.

That didn't matter. Indulging in self-pity was a foolish thing to do, and he was no fool. He was a shinobi of Konoha… the real Konoha, not whatever bastardization had taken its place. He had the Will of Fire, along with many of his comrades.

His comrades. They were still in Konoha, under the new, militant Hokage. The Hokage's whose vision of Konoha was not the same as the previous leaders'. A Hokage who didn't have the Will of Fire, but instead something more like the Will of Steel. Stubborn, unrelenting… and weaponized.

They wouldn't be able to bow under that rule; to do so would be a betrayal of themselves and their ideals, their Konoha. They would fight and die, or flee. Perhaps some of the more grounded—those with families who couldn't flee, or those with obligations they couldn't abandon—would remain, quietly biding their time.

Crow knew the protocol for this sort of situation. Spies outside of Konoha acted largely on their own volition, making their own decisions based on what they knew. They couldn't receive orders from Konoha, of course, so they relied on their own judgment. In situations where Konoha itself was in danger, directly, spies abroad had to make a judgment call on whether they should abort their current mission or not.

For Crow, it was an easy decision to make. The success of his current mission would not help Konoha if the Village didn't exist anymore. What he needed to do was ensure that Konoha endured, in the form in which it was meant to endure.

He needed to find the loyal Konoha ninja who have fled the new military regime that had taken hold of the Village, and join up with them. They would be the force that would sustain the real Konoha—its ideals and principles. They would also be the force that took back the village proper from hands that now clutched it.

But they would need a leader. Crow's network of information told him that the chosen candidate for the Godaime Hokage's seat had been Senju Tsunade. His network also told him that the current 'Hokage' claimed that the offer had been made, but that Tsunade had declined it.

Considering who, exactly, was making the claim, Crow was suspicious of its validity. Which also made him wonder if Tsunade was alive or dead. After all, the easiest way to avoid getting caught in a lie would be to eliminate those who could disprove you.

She would be a good choice for Hokage. She had, in fact, been the Godaime Hokage, in his other-past. If she could be persuaded… if she led the exiled Leaf-nin… then perhaps they might have a chance.

Crow's informants had Tsunade in Tachikawa, a small town in Kusa, about three weeks ago. He'd start his search there. All else would follow.