Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. The First Raikage looks like Jimi Hendrix. That's fucking fantastic, and I mean that. I mean, just like him. Oh, sometimes it's the little things that can make you laugh when you need it.

Chapter 62: The Burden of Knowledge

Sasuke's eyes abruptly snapped open as an intense pain flared throughout his entire body, 'Damn it, not again!' He thought to himself, gritting his teeth and trying to force the sensation down through sheer force of will.

When he finally did so enough to get up he stood from his bed and moved through his empty clan home to the bathroom where he turned a light on and stared at his reflection in the mirror over the sink.

His skin seemed to change from a somewhat grey, ashen state to his normal fairly pale complexion while black marks receded from his face to the back of his neck where the cursed seal was situated. Turning his shoulder he could see the entire thing glowing red, even with the countermeasure that had been placed on it years ago.

This sort of thing had been happening every night since the day that Orochimaru had become the jinchuuriki of the Sanbi.

He had the same kind of nightmare he'd had after losing consciousness once the Cursed Seal of Heaven had originally been placed on him years ago, only now it was stronger, if that had been possible.

The first night he'd suffered from it he'd been in his own room in a Takigakure inn, so when he screamed out loud and had to bite back the noise while fighting the cursed transformation away it didn't get him much attention. It was when he had been on the road that it was tougher to hide, but he'd done it well enough in his own opinion. He refused to yell no matter how horrible the pain or the nightmares became.

He didn't need that kind of notice from Naruto, Lee, or Tenten, and when everyone awoke to continue on back to Konoha they just figured his attitude for lack of restful sleep to be a part of his normal, grumpy demeanor.

Breathing deeply, Sasuke splashed some water on his face and turned to look outside of his window. It was still dark, but that was early enough for him to start his day. He definitely didn't want to try sleeping again.

After returning to his room and getting changed into his normal attire for the day so that he could go out and begin training, Sasuke stopped in his halls, sensing something odd from one of the rooms that had been unused for years.

Suspiciously, he opened one of the doors only to promptly wonder if he was still dreaming or not. Either way, he yelled at the top of his lungs, "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN MY HOUSE!?"

With all of the decibels behind the shout, it was sort of disappointing that the recipient of the yelling only dug a pinky in his ear and turned around in the bed, "Yo fool, keep the noise down. Izzat how you treat guests in this town?"

Yes, that was who it was.

"You aren't a guest, you're a trespasser!" Sasuke defended, red Sharingan eyes spinning wildly, "Get out of here! Aren't you supposed to be killing Naruto or something?" He honestly might have preferred that over his personal space being intruded upon.

Realizing that Sasuke wasn't going to leave him alone to sleep, Killer B sat up and put on his sunglasses without ever opening his eyes to find them as he smacked his lips tiredly, "Just can't hold a grudge against Mister Nine, not like that. From bumpin' fists and fightin' with him he's an alright cat."

"…Okay, more important question. Why are you in my house?"

"Had to stay somewhere ya dig?" Killer B said with a grin, "Gave ANBU the slip and crashed here. The one place I didn't see any on patrol."

Sasuke let out an irritated grunt, wondering if he could kick this guy out by force. He had a good chance right? Just because Naruto had been wary of him at first didn't mean he had to be. After all, in his own humble opinion he was stronger than his contemporary rival, "And you chose my house? Out of all of the others you had to come all the way into my clan's district and pick my house?"

"Shit, the rest o' those places were dusty as hell! I got allergies fool!"

"That's because no one's lived here in almost ten years!"

Honest to goodness sorrow bled into Sasuke's voice from the shout, despite his best efforts to keep it from doing so. Killer B didn't react in his usual empty-headed manner, instead regarding Sasuke seriously for the first time, "...You've gotta let that hate go or it'll eat at ya soul ya know?"

Sasuke just glared at Killer B before scoffing and walking off, "What would you know about it?" As his form vanished from the doorway on his way out of his home, his voice echoed back to Killer B again, "Get out of my house," Was the last thing he heard before the sound of the front door opening and closing.

A frown on his face, the Hachibi jinchuuriki heard from his biju within, "You're not going to convince an Uchiha to drop their hate just like that. That's never how they functioned B. I know you could see it without even having to fist bump with him."

Killer B just sighed and threw on his Kumo flak jacket before standing up and stretching himself out to start the day, "Boy's got a lotta anger for sure. I never seen that much in one person before. Konoha better keep him in time. With that seal on his neck it'll eat him alive."

"You felt it too?"

"O'course I did. Don't sleep on me."


(Meanwhile – Elsewhere in Konoha)

The morning after wrangling three Root operatives, Shikamaru forced himself out of bed after only a five hour reprieve from the previous night. That simply wasn't enough sleep for him. His premium would have been a solid eight-to-ten hours if he could get it. If he hadn't gotten up though, he would have left Chouji waiting as his portly friend was present right on time to collect him from his doorstep.

So day two of the entire seedy underbelly of Konoha was to commence. Referring to anything as seedy in a ninja village was a stiff claim indeed, but Shikamaru didn't know what else to refer to Root as. They were what they were, and he called them as he saw them.

"It's too early for this crap," Shikamaru said, barely awake enough to walk through the village streets without stepping over his own feet, "Naruto and Ino better be in the same place. If we've got to get her from her parents' place after we check on those three guys we caught I'm going to be pissed."

There were still stars out and crickets chirping up a storm all over the place. The sun wasn't anywhere near peeking over the horizon. This was not the standard hour of Shikamaru-operation by any means, and he was not pleased.

"Don't worry. After we get everyone we can eat breakfast," Chouji said, gesturing to the bag of goods he carried along with them, "That's what got me out of bed so early."

That was Chouji for you, a good-hearted guy with a bright upside about him. He had a bit of a self-esteem issue from time to time, but he was a good guy. As good a guy as you could be when you were a government-sponsored mercenary anyway, which was actually pretty good all things considered.

Upon reaching Naruto's apartment complex and alerting the denizen within as quietly for the surrounding tenants as possible, Shikamaru waited until the door was opened by a bleary-eyed Naruto who stared at the two of them dully, blinking slowly before yawning and gesturing for them to enter.

Something about that put Shikamaru at ease. Apparently the poster boy for perpetual energy had just as much of a time flipping the switch early in the morning as he did. Then again, it made sense. When you started a big engine or a generator with all sorts of power behind it you had to give it ample time to warm up before you could use it right. Naruto was probably the exact same way.

"One sec," Naruto said, slogging back in the direction of his room using the hallway wall as a crutch to keep from zonking out on the floor then and there, "…Need to *yawn* get ready and dressed."

With that, he disappeared back into the confines of his bedroom behind a partially closed door and Shikamaru heard the creaking of a bed. Someone who was as acquainted with that particular piece of furniture such as Shikamaru knew that particular sound as someone in the bed moving around, 'Oh he'd better not have laid back down.'

If he was the one that actually had to kick butts into gear today, hell had truly frozen over.

It took another half-minute or so, but Naruto reemerged and took a seat at his kitchen table, dropping his head on the wooden surface with an audible thud. Clearly the engine inside had not warmed up yet. He felt like Shikamaru, and all he really wanted to do was jump back into bed where Ino was. It was comfortable there, company was warm, and there was really no other place he'd have rather been.

Duty called however, and he had captives in his hallway closet. Sleeping in wasn't on the docket today.

Naruto sniffed around with his head on the table and perked up slightly, "…I smell breakfast," With that, Chouji presented him with one of the quick little edibles he'd managed to get together before leaving his own place of residence that morning, much to Naruto's gratitude, "Is this paying me back for eating my food last night?"

"You could say that," Chouji said with a welcome expression before it fell, "Hey, I thought you said you were going to get ready?" He didn't receive an immediate answer due to Naruto quickly stuffing his face to garner some energy.

It was received a moment later when Chouji and Shikamaru heard footsteps coming from the direction of the hallway. The two visitors prepared for a fight, thinking that somehow one of the prisoners had managed to escape Shikamaru's thorough binding in the supply closet.

Instead they saw a newly awakened Ino, standing at the corner of the hallway similarly to how Naruto had a moment before, her long hair obscuring one of her eyes from view. She spotted Shikamaru and Chouji and waved absently to them before tiredly walking over to Naruto and plopping down on his lap.

It seemed to be almost automatic for the two to share a kiss that neither of them thought anything of, simply as a greeting of good morning.

"…I'll be a few minutes…" She said with no abundance of vitality, "Goldie said I could go first since I'd take longer. Hey Goldie, you kept my toothbrush I was keeping here too didn't you?"

"In the bathroom with mine."


With that, Ino headed back to the bathroom, leaving Naruto to the inquisition from his other two friends that immediately followed. Naruto didn't get why they were both staring at him like they'd just seen the Shodai Hokage reincarnate.

"What?" Naruto asked, temporarily pausing in his devouring of breakfast for a moment, "…What?" Shikamaru just held the bridge of his nose in exasperation and pointed back down the hall that Ino had disappeared down, "Well yeah. She stayed last night. It was late, she was tired, and it's just Ino-chan. What's your problem?"

"You know what my problem is you idiot. Don't try to play this off," Shikamaru stated, "Really Naruto? Ino? Our teammate?"

"Come on, like you're really surprised," Naruto said with a grin slowly forming on his face. So that was the feeling of actually getting something that you really wanted? He'd forgotten what it was like, "It's not like we had se-."

"I don't care and I definitely don't want to talk about that," Shikamaru said abruptly, mumbling to himself that he saw this coming way back when, "…Most troublesome couple ever…"

"It took you two long enough though." Chouji said to Naruto after the thought, "You and Shikamaru have been back for a few months. I would have figured that something would have happened way before now. Ino missed both of you while you two were both gone, but she really missed Naruto hard."

In response, Naruto merely puffed out his chest in pride.

Shikamaru just rolled his eyes. Only too late did he realize his mistake of making a big deal of how things turned out with his two blond teammates. Now there was a chance that when Ino caught wind of it she and Naruto would turn on the gag-inducing lovey b.s. in a bid to mess with him.

Within fifteen to twenty minutes, Ino, properly clothed in her usual purple attire for the day, sauntered out of the bathroom down the hallway, moving with a knowingly smug air about her as she went over to Naruto and gave him a kiss on the top of the head, "Your turn Goldie."

The way she basically purred that short sentence to Naruto told Shikamaru that he was utterly screwed once the seriousness of the entire Root situation blew over. Naruto hopped up from his seat and headed to get his things and go into the bathroom next. It would only take him a handful of minutes to get what he needed done.

Ino took his seat and rested her cheek in her palm, smiling lazily at Shikamaru as if she were savoring the discomfort of the situation. She could totally feel it in the air, and all of it was emanating from only one person. Chouji was mostly happy for them, and it showed on his face. The other person present, not so much.

"…The walls in here aren't that thick Shika," Damn it. She probably heard most of what he said, tone included, and knew that she and Naruto could screw with him by overly playing up their relationship in front of him, "I'm not going to hurt him you know. I know you're more worried about something between us going wrong instead of how it'll annoy the hell out of you until you get used to it."

"I never said that I thought you two wouldn't be good together." Shikamaru said with a frown upon being put on the spot, "I knew this was going to happen for years, but actually having it happen… well…"

"I get it. Really. Us seeming good together doesn't matter," Ino admitted with a shrug, her expression growing more serious, "I know just because two people seem like they'll be good together, that isn't a guarantee that they'll make it. If we really broke up I know there's a chance that it could sour everything about Team 10. But I'm dead serious about him. He's the one I want."

Naruto wasn't perfect the way that every girl who was 'in love' with Sasuke back in school claimed the boy in question to be. There were things that she loved and things that she didn't like about Naruto, the same as with anyone else, but that was what made him endearing to her; that he wasn't perfect, and he didn't expect her to be either.

He wasn't someone on a pedestal to live up to or catch up to in some manner, someone that she had to prove to herself and others that she was worthy of. He wasn't someone that would make her doubt her worth or make her feel insecure just by being around. Naruto was the kind of person that accepted her, flaws and all, and she could do the same and be happy while doing it.

"I'm more scared than you are about this Shika," Ino said with an honest, nervous smile, "I'm terrified that I'll do something to screw everything up. That I'll mess everything up so badly nothing can fix it. But that's how I know this is real and not some crush like with 'you-know-who' in the Academy."

"I know that," Shikamaru told her, "I'd never have accused you or thought for a second that you were that kind of person anymore. That was a long time ago," They were damn near seventeen. They weren't kids any longer, "Just be careful."

Gratefully, Ino nodded his way in return before looking thoughtfully down at the table and smacking her lips as she tried to think of the proper words she needed, "Sometimes you have to try and take a chance if you feel strongly about something. That's what I think."

After a few more minutes, Naruto walked back out into the living room, dressed in his usual clothes and strapping his harness around his chest when he noticed how quiet it was, as if he'd missed something serious conversation-wise, "…So are we all ready to go here or what? We've got to move before the sun comes up."


(Early Morning – Training Ground #44: Forest of Death – Central Tower)

Danzo's cane tapping on the hard, tiled floor echoed out through the open-ceilinged observatory area of the Forest of Death's safe zone. He had been roused by a messenger hours before dawn to meet with Hiruzen somewhere extremely private.

As loathe as he was to go anywhere that smelled of a setup such as this one, he felt that it was one of those 'last chance' kind of scenarios. The kind where if he had chosen to decline the invitation it would have been the final straw as far as Hiruzen was concerned.

Whatever he had been called for didn't serve to prove very good for him, and he had been called before the time for his dispatched Root agents to report in had occurred. He hadn't even gotten his morning briefing of the previous day's happenings from his squads spying around the village.

Hiruzen had requested his presence, and he had been instructed to be prompt. The time to arrive had been a few hours before he was meant to be briefed.

It wasn't going to be an ambush, because he could clearly see Hiruzen. It wasn't going to be an ambush from Hiruzen in particular at least. He couldn't feel the presence of anyone else around either. Even with ANBU, he was well-versed in how they were trained, thus he could tell when he was being watched by Hiruzen's guards.

"I asked you all the way out here because I didn't wish for us to be disturbed Danzo," Hiruzen said, standing underneath the statue of a pair of hands forming the ram seal, "I'm going to be frank and lay all my cards out on the table for you."

"Alright," Danzo said in return, "I have no idea what you're referring to, but I'm listening regardless. What is this all about?"

"Why, your pet project of course," Hiruzen said matter-of-factly, seemingly baiting him with his approach, "You know. Your little clandestine branch of ANBU that I told you to shut down, but you didn't, and I knew all along that you didn't. You've been having them skulk under my nose for the better part of fifteen years."

Danzo didn't even flinch, "I see. And do you have the evidence to back up these accusations of yours?"

"I wasn't aware I needed evidence to take any kind of action seeing as how I'm supposed control the entire village," Hiruzen lazily drawled the way that a man fifty years his junior and more than three levels under his current station would when they were making a point, "However, I'm certain that the dozen-plus emotionless ANBU that have no village identification to speak of are all the physical proof I need to justify anything that I have to say."

"Like I said before; I have no idea what you're talking about."

For the first time in quite some while, Hiruzen flared his sizeable amounts of chakra, blasting Danzo with intent to let him know that he was not going to play his little mind games. His words alone would not be enough to sway him. Not this morning.

"I indulged myself in letting you keep them despite telling you to shut ROOT down because we needed the manpower," Hiruzen stated firmly, "This village couldn't afford an entire organization of the military to close off after the Kyuubi attack, and with the pending conflict with Kumogakure doing such a thing would have been foolish."

"And what exactly has changed now?" Danzo asked, "You should know full well that everything I have ever done, I have and will continue to do for the village."

"You do what you have done for your own views on the village."

"Have my views really been so wrong in the case of protecting Konoha? You would handcuff us in domestic affairs over matters such as ethics and morals," Danzo spat bitterly, "It's a wonder how you ever managed to gain the edge over me with such an idealistic outlook."

Hiruzen sighed with closed eyes before his stern countenance took form, "Have you any idea of what your measures have brought upon us?" He asked, "For the short-term, yes you managed to protect the village, but actions such as the ones you've taken have a nasty habit of coming back to bite you. They already have."

"Such as?"

"Spying on young Uchiha Sasuke-kun."

"He is dangerous Hiruzen, you know this, if only because of the blood that runs through his veins. Now more than ever because of Orochimaru's seal on his neck."

"Were Itachi to discover your scrutiny of his brother, who has done nothing to warrant such, who you swore to him that you would allow to let be, to live his life… what do you think he would say of it?"

"It doesn't matter!" Danzo snarled, "I will do whatever it takes to keep our home safe and strong! He is a threat, and any threat that I see must be dealt with accordingly. Some of these things are closer to our reach than others, and those are the ones that must be handled with extreme prejudice."

"Doesn't it!? The most important of these numerous treacheries, and the one that's stricken home most severely as of late is your actions against one Yakushi Kabuto," The Hokage said, his ire growing, "You created perhaps the greatest deep cover operative one could ever ask for, and he used your own training against you. This is what happens when you handle every matter in such an extreme fashion, you inspire extreme retaliation!"

"You use people and dispose of them when you doubt your ability to control them! You can never be thorough enough to eradicate ill intent when you act that way against everything!" Hiruzen shouted at his old friend, "That is why you can never be Hokage! You claim that Konoha is surrounded by enemies on all sides, but granting you the title of Hokage would set every enemy you've ever garnered on us for putting you in power!"

Upon seeing Hiruzen somewhat lose his composure, Danzo noticeably calmed down, his usual collected countenance restoring itself, "So you just allowed me to do these things? And what am I to you, your rabid dog that you keep patrolling your junkyard? You cannot trust me, yet you still use what I'm capable of to harm those that come to close with ill intent."

"Well that is the reason why we're here," Hiruzen declared gravely, "I'm quite certain that by now you've noticed that I have none of my ANBU guards anywhere inside the limits of Training Ground #44. I also know that you're intelligent enough to refrain from risking bringing your own with you in my presence or theirs. You would never get away with it. You and I are all alone out here. Not a soul within ten kilometers of this exact spot."

Danzo tossed his cane aside, his squinted left eye tightening closed even further, "Yes…? I'm listening." He tucked his left hand inside of the sling that his dark grey kimono formed for his heavily concealed right arm. This smelled of a pending physical confrontation. It was definitely Hiruzen's style.

"Jiraiya is in my office with Tsunade. I've told them to remain there until this ends along with Koharu and Homura, to officially recognize my decision and send it to the Fire Daimyo," Hiruzen took off the stylized Hokage's hat on his head and threw it neatly on the top of the statue behind him, "I was looking for a successor, but I figured that this was the only way I could press you and keep you from fleeing the country. Only one of us is leaving this forest old friend. The one that does can lay claim to the position of Hokage."

'You always were one for spectacles such as this Hiruzen,' Danzo thought to himself. On one hand, it was a straight-up battle against the man that he could never overcome throughout his career. On the other hand, this was everything that he'd ever wanted all lain out before him. All he had to do was put everything on the line to win this battle, and he'd take it all.

But then again, what was everything to him really? Root? Root only existed so that Danzo could enact his will unto the ninja world from the shadows, the only place that he could. If he became Hokage, they wouldn't be solely necessary to do this. If he fell here today, it wouldn't matter what became of them anyway, as he would be dead.

The thought of dying sent a chill through his heart. He was too important to die. Everything that involved Konoha would fall apart without his firm hand guiding it from the shadows.

So he wouldn't die. He would win. He had been preparing for years and years with secret methods that Hiruzen knew nothing about. On the other hand, there was nothing Hiruzen could do that would surprise Danzo.

"You don't know what you're requesting," Danzo said, reaching up to his bandaged right eye to reveal a red glow behind it, "If you think me frail and crippled, an easy kill, I'll simply say that clearly I've done a better job of hiding certain things than others from you… old friend."


(With Naruto – Elsewhere in Konoha – Uzumaki Clan Mask Storage Temple)

"This is your hidden place? Your clan lands?" Shikamaru asked Naruto, watching Chouji stash the last of the Root ninja members in their captivity in a side annex to the mask temple, "…Alright, I'll admit I've never even seen this place before, so that's something."

It took quite a while to get there. On a direct route it probably would have taken them thirty minutes to get there from Naruto's home, but since for safety's sake they had to hide their passengers they had to go roundabout, blowing an hour and a half of time. That gave Naruto plenty of time to study what was up with that seal.

They all thought it would have taken longer from the way he'd been speaking the night before. They would have all been wrong on that front however. Even Naruto thought it would have taken longer.

"Uh-huh," Naruto replied to his friend's comment, listening but not quite listening as he tried to break down the seal on the back of their captives' tongues, "This is… really good," He admitted after studying it all the way up there from his apartment, "Even if they probably weren't trained to resist torture and stuff, they couldn't cough up any information if they wanted to as long as this thing is on."

Even though she didn't like her job, Ino was still an interrogation specialist, thus she was colored intrigued by the prospect of a countermeasure such as that, "What do you mean?"

"This thing'll come on the second they even think about talking about a forbidden topic, like Root I'd guess," Naruto explained, pointing to the two broken lines out of the five forming the array as the emphasis that there were at least two topics out of the available five that had been filled as forbidden to speak on, "It's a juinjutsu, a sort of cursed seal. It paralyzes whoever it's on if they say something out of line."

Shikamaru sighed upon hearing that, "You sound a little too impressed. So you're saying there's nothing you can do about it? You can't break it?"

"Oh hell no," Naruto said, waving his hands defensively with a small smile, "I can totally break it. All I have to do is overpower it. Danzo must be a pretty strong guy, because he set the seal up in a way that makes it easy to apply, but if you have stronger chakra than him you can stop it."

Catching the end of that upon exiting the annex building, Chouji dusted his hands off and joined the conversation, "You know that Shimura Danzo used to be the top rival of the Hokage right? My granddad used to be his teammate back when he was alive and an active ninja. Your chakra is stronger than his?" It was hard to believe, even with the knowledge that Naruto was a jinchuuriki.

"Let's go see," Naruto said, walking his way into the annex where Sai, Fuu, and Hyo were all bound to a pillar. None of the three could move a muscle, but to make sure, Ino pricked the three of them with a senbon coated in paralysis serum, "Hi Sai!" Naruto greeted the one of them that he knew in a fake-excited voice, "Still spying on my friends and loved ones are you?"

Sai didn't answer, only staring impassively at Naruto, his head the only thing that he could move, "So I guess after yesterday, the ugly blonde girl behind you is actually your girlfriend now?"

The only reason Ino didn't belt him in the head out of anger at the insult was because she knew he wouldn't feel enough pain to make letting the remark get to her count. Thus was the negative point to using paralysis serum to interrogate someone; you couldn't use pain to get the job done. Shikamaru snickered at her expense, but he made sure he was far enough out of her range to avoid retaliation.

Naruto didn't even rise to the slight against his lady friend. Instead forcing Sai's tongue out of his mouth with one hand while pressing the index and middle finger of his opposite hand on the seal, "Well that's not a nice thing to say. Fuuin kai!" In a shimmer of black material, the seal disappeared, much to everyone else's amazement.

Everyone's amazement other than Sai's, because this was not a pleasant experience for him. He thought it had been painful when Danzo had first placed the seal on him. It was comparable to someone pressing a brand to you for a split-second when you received a seal on your skin.

"Talking about Ino like that isn't cool," Naruto said, watching Sai gasp and sputter as he recovered from the quite unpleasant altering of the seal, "Besides, what would you even know about how pretty girls are? I beat up like fifteen of you guys yesterday, not one girl in the bunch. Does Root even have girls in it?"

"Of course Root does," Sai replied flippantly, "Sexism doesn't have a place in the ninja world. Danzo-sama recruits men and women alike."

A grin slowly spread across Naruto's face as Sai and Fuu realized in horror what had just happened. Sai had spoken of Root freely and nothing happened to stop him. Ino had pumped them full of interrogation serum the night before to no effect because of the seal, and clearly it was still in their systems.

Naruto had restored Danzo's seal to its original state; the way it had been before he had issued the two topics that would cause a painful shutdown of his Root ANBU. Five black lines, indicating that the seal was once again a clean slate for which verbal taboos needed to be set.

Turning back around to his friends, Naruto offered a gesture of beckoning toward himself, "Come on, admit it. Breaking that thing was specialist kind of stuff right there."

Chouji shook his head and looked at the others who were also quite surprised, "We… really didn't think you'd break it that fast," He said, with Shikamaru and Ino nodding their agreement.

They didn't think he'd break it that fast? Well technically he hadn't broken it, he'd reset it, but the same premise stood. Them not thinking that he didn't have this stuff down pat really irked Naruto however. Over the last three years he'd poured tens of thousands of hours into monotonous seal study via his Kage Bunshin and his own theoretical exercises, and he hated that kind of work!

The only living person he knew of that had thrown more time into it than he had was Jiraiya, and that was simply from the sheer amount of time that Jiraiya had been alive and an active shinobi.

"Recognize me as Konoha's Patron Saint of Fuuinjutsu," Naruto demanded in a sagely tone, "Seals are in my blood. I am fuuinjutsu," He said cryptically before realizing that the reference had gone over Ino and Chouji's heads, "No… literally. I am walking fuuinjutsu. Like, my entire existence has been wrapped up in seals since day one. Ero-sensei said it's like decreed that I have to be great at them or I'm squandering natural talent here."



"Anyway…" Ino grinned as she moved forward and set her hand directly on the top of Sai's head, "…Since you're all talkative now, let's try this again shall we?" And with that, Ino dove back into his head. And it would be a quicker process this time around to get what she wanted since she'd already been through the labyrinth of Sai's mind once before already.

Naruto sat down on the floor and stared at Ino's interrogation process, "Yeah, is it wrong that out of everything I've dealt with, I'm scared of Ino's mind jutsu?"

"Which one?" Shikamaru asked, leaning up against the wall by the door.

"Let's go with the mind reading one. Until she learns something worse, that one freaks me out the most right now."

"Better be careful with her Naruto. You won't be able to get away with anything bad when it comes to her."

"You're not helping Shika."


(Training Ground #44: Forest of Death)

The mighty tower that once sat at the very center of the Forest of Death stood tall no longer. Hiruzen was honestly disappointed in its construction. It only lasted through three of their combined attacks before it was destroyed.

The ruins of the building surrounded both he and Danzo as he cast away what was left of his Hokage robes, leaving him in his black bodysuit and armored hood, "It's been a while," Hiruzen said with a sigh, referring to the last time he'd been in battle.

He couldn't see Danzo, but he knew he was there amongst the piles of wreckage somewhere. He hadn't chosen to flee into the forest to search for a better battleground yet. No, Danzo would probe him at first instead of breaking away to work on a stratagem. He would try to see what he was up against first.

It didn't take him long to spot his old friend, as Danzo's position was given away by the sound of heavy metal falling away on the ground.

"Time has done more than dull your readiness to fight," Danzo said, the large golden braces around his still concealed right arm on the ground around his position elevated on a tall heap of rubble, "I cannot say I've been immune to its effects as well, but unlike yourself I've taken steps to lessen its properties."

A smirk came to Hiruzen's face as his blood began to boil at the prospect of combat on this level again, "Show me then."

Without a moment of hesitation, Hiruzen Shunshined onto an elevated level and darted over the tops of the ruins to engage Danzo directly. He was the superior fighter at taijutsu, and with Danzo's arm constantly in a sling and those braces, even if it had been a falsified handicap, he had a weakness when it came to hand-to-hand combat on his right side. There was no way he couldn't.

Danzo didn't even try to engage him, forming a half ram seal with his left hand and blowing wind from his mouth to push himself away from Hiruzen's attack. A mere tilt or twist of his head during his exhale was enough to send him flying through the air like a leaf in a windstorm.

This was to his credit as arguably the foremost wind user in Konoha. Danzo dominated with that element, possessing even more skill than Asuma did.

The billowing of the wind from his own escape tactic exposed Danzo's right arm, grey and heavily scarred, that wasn't the most shocking thing about it. It was the grotesque sight of ten Sharingan eyes embedded in the limb from the forearm down to the back of his hand.

Apparently someone had been intrigued by something they'd seen and heard of and decided to take it to the extreme. That was Danzo's style after all; nothing was worth doing if you didn't do it all the way. One could not be half-pregnant after all, as the saying went.

"If that is all I can expect from you Hiruzen, I might as well have not even removed the braces," Danzo taunted, sliding to a stop on the dirt ground a safe distance away.

"When?" Hiruzen asked coldly, finding this sight deplorable. Sure, Kakashi had one, but it was something that he had been given by a dying friend. After how the Uchiha met their end, he doubted they voluntarily donated their vaunted doujutsu to Root out of the good of their hearts. Let the dead rest for goodness sake!

"These?" Danzo asked, holding up his discolored right arm, "Several years. What, did you think I would just allow you to dispose of all of the bodies of the Uchiha Clan and eradicate such a valuable weapon to this village? Even if their bloodline is dead, their power is still of use to us."

"This is what I'm talking about! Why you can never be Hokage!"

"Because I have the stomach to do what is necessary for our home?"

"Danzo! You claim that you've done the things you have for the village?" Hiruzen shouted questioningly, "No! Everything that you've done, you've done for yourself! The evidence is sitting right there in your arm! Why did you need this kind of power?"

Hiruzen was livid.

He was actually angrier with himself than with Danzo however, because he should have known or suspected something about that arm. Why did he never check underneath the bundles that the arm was kept in? Why did no one that should have been suspicious ever bring it up? It was as if something told him in the back of his mind to just ignore it, and strongly.

There was no time for this. The house could be divided no longer. It was time to get this all in order. Word would somehow get out about this, and when it did Konoha would be seen as having gone through a civil war. The quietest civil war in history, but a civil war nonetheless.

Hiruzen continued to wheedle Danzo for his practices that he claimed had always been for the greater good, "How about this then old friend? With your deep cover spies have you ever brought any sort of prudent information forth to the rest of the village, or have you merely kept it for yourself?"

"I don't need to explain myself to you any longer Hiruzen," Danzo said, his voice not lacking a hint of confidence despite its straightforward tone, "I'm going to be Hokage after all."

There was nothing to say to such brazen confidence.

"…Let me show you just how powerful my jutsu can be when I don't have the rest of my village and citizens to worry about getting caught in the crossfire… in case you've forgotten," A stony expression on his face, Hiruzen formed a tiger hand-seal as the entire foundation area of the tower grounds began to liquefy and move in Danzo's direction, "Doton: Doryuu Taiga (Earth Release: Earth Flow River)!"

The resulting mudslide from the jutsu sent the entire surface of the foundation away from Hiruzen, pushing along with it the debris of the tower.

Danzo did his best to ride along safely as he found himself transported into the unforgiving Forest of Death via Hiruzen's attempt at permanently altering the landscape of the vaunted training ground. With his capabilities he could do this and avoid taking any sort of wound or injury the way he would have had he been caught in the moving mud.

'I see,' Danzo thought to himself as he did his best to avert his path with his wind control. He knew it was for naught though, 'This is the depth of how serious you are. It seems I have no choice either.'

Speaking of the moving mud, it began to take the form of a colossal top portion of a dragon's head lifting its upper jaw from the moving mud, an intimidating glow emanating from the back of its throat and aimed straight down the wide path that Danzo was being carried, 'So it seems that you're truly dead-set on ending things here.'

These two approaches to the village affairs could not exist together any longer. They both left a rift right down the middle that people like Yakushi Kabuto easily used to hurt them to the core several times. As of now it was time to cut away the dead flesh.

The only thing left to decide was which side would be regarded as the dead flesh.

"Doton: Doryuudan (Earth Release: Earth Dragon Bullet)!"

An entire section of the impressive forest was brought down with nothing more than two ninjutsu. If the landslide hadn't been enough to dislodge the well-rooted trees, they were torn asunder by massive spheres of scorching rock shot from the dragon's head.

…And it was only the beginning. If Danzo survived that attack, there were dozens just like it awaiting him, and they possessed just as much destructive force behind them.


(Elsewhere in Konoha – Hokage's Office)

It really stuck in their craw, both Jiraiya and Tsunade, due to the fact that Hiruzen had taken it upon himself to end things once and for all with someone that he'd started everything with, but an order was an order. If they hadn't obeyed, after he kicked Danzo's ass he would have kicked their asses.

Even though they both knew they were strong enough to deal with Hiruzen, they were both well aware that the man could take it to them just as easily in battle in return.

"I don't like this," Tsunade groused aloud, eyes gazing out of the window in the direction that she knew the Hokage was off doing battle in, "If Danzo wins, Sarutobi-sensei told us that we couldn't-."

"I know," Jiraiya cut her off, not liking things any more than she did, "He had to dangle that carrot in front of him to settle things up once and for all. If Danzo won, and we just killed him when we got here we'd be spitting in sensei's face. Not to mention it probably wouldn't work anyway."

"Please, even one of us would be enough to take Danzo down."

"That wouldn't be the problem and you know it –hime," Jiraiya almost snapped, "In order to even get Danzo into this situation to settle things with the odds leveled, sensei had to make a snap decision. There was no planning this out, no setting any contingencies. It was a split choice, because any time he'd have given himself to prepare would have done the same for Danzo to come up with a way out. He took that choice away. He had to take this chance now to bait him once and for all."

"Hey dad, I-," Asuma started to say upon entering before finding that Hiruzen was not behind his desk, instead noting the rare presence of Tsunade and Jiraiya, "Tsunade-sama, Jiraiya-sama, sorry. I was looking for Hokage-sama."

Both of the legendary teammates looked at each other before Jiraiya took to be the one to say anything to the jounin Sarutobi, "Your old man isn't going to be in until later. You might want to come back then."

"Alright, well do you have any idea when he'll be here?"

"…No clue really. Could be five minutes, could be twenty hours."

Asuma narrowed his eyes at the extremely vague answer, "Uh huh… and where exactly is he until then?"


"I see."

Tsunade could see where this was going, and while she wanted to be at her sensei's side as he settled up with the source of the village's inner turmoil, as did Jiraiya, they had been told specifically that it was between Danzo and himself. It went back further than any of their lives did, and it was up to him to end things that had begun with the two of them decades ago.

It was clear that all of the secrecy didn't sit well with Asuma from the look on his face. Even if it was an order from the Hokage, for some reason it was harder to simply obey because the Hokage was his father. It had always been that way.

Tsunade and Jiraiya shared a subtle look between each other, both silently arguing over whether or not Asuma had the right to know what his father had gone off to go and do. Yes, they were older and more experienced, but the man was far from a child, and he knew full well when he was out of the loop.

Needless to say, it didn't sit well with him.

"Fine," Asuma said coolly, "I'll find him later then. I've got baby stuff to do with Kurenai later anyway."

"Don't forget, Shizune's still on for her routine checkups," Tsunade pointed out as he left in an effort to assuage the tension between them somewhat, "She's really excited about it, so make sure Kurenai remembers her appointments," She got a nod in return before Asuma departed.

After he did so, Jiraiya shook his head and smirked wryly at the busty blonde, "I didn't know your soft spot had gotten that big. Moving back here must have chipped away at some of that ice around your heart."

"Oh shut the hell up," Tsunade huffed in return, "He's still sensei's kid and the brat's mentor you know. I can't exactly hate him."

"…He can hate us though after this whole thing ends."

"Maybe, depending on exactly how it ends."


(Meanwhile – Elsewhere in Konoha – Hidden Underground Waterway Facility)

There were more to the catacombs of Konoha's sewers and clean water paths than many citizens of the village would ever know, especially those that had careers in the upkeep and maintenance of that sensitive part of village infrastructure.

The empty gaze of Yamanaka Fuu was straight ahead as he led Sai and Hyo into the underground chambers of Konoha's Root base of operations. Under the arms of the two following Root members were Shikamaru and the heavier Chouji, both defeated and bound.

The entire Root compound itself was like a village underneath Konoha with entrances all over the place, hidden away behind or underneath the properties of civilians, in training fields all over the outskirts of the village, even one around the side of the Academy where the spars between students took place, just to name a few.

It was like an eerie ghost town, as there was no one out and about despite obviously being a place filled with small dwellings for the members of the unit, just large enough to be considered a place to rest and recover from missions. It was easy to tell that however that the majority of Root's manpower rested within these small homes. Very few members of Root, such as Sai, resided above ground.

Stone-faced, Fuu expertly led his allies and their roughed-up captures from the residential portion of the underground stronghold to the more military-based area, down, down, down into the prisoner-holding area.


Being set against a stern voice from one of the Root members populating the business-end of the Root hideout, Sai turned around far enough to catch sight of his fellow blankly-expressive ninja, "Yes?"

Most of the rest of them didn't have names unless they were given one for a mission, so there was no need for an exact identification.

"Your mission from Danzo-sama was to watch the Kyuubi jinchuuriki and those close to him, not to capture them."

"They discovered us. The Nara boy would have never let anything as suspicious as being spied on slide again, and the fat Akimichi wouldn't have allowed his disappearance to be a low-key incident. He would have raised a fuss until we were put in the crosshairs."

The Root ninja stared Sai and his entourage down before nodding and sending them on their way, "This could be good. Danzo-sama could find a use for them on the outside. Perhaps to get closer to Uzumaki than you seem to be able to."

With that run-in dealt with, Fuu, Hyo, and Sai took their two prisoners and placed them into a cell, notably isolated. Root didn't keep many prisoners at all, and never for very long, so there was never any need for an elaborate jailing system.

After setting down Shikamaru and Chouji inside, Fuu moved forward and set his palms on their heads before channeling chakra into them before moving back and closing the door.

"Ugh, why did I choose to be the unconscious one in the plan again?" Shikamaru thought out loud, holding his head where he felt a bump forming, "It's my damn plan to begin with."

"Because it involved you being carried and lying down instead of what Goldie's doing to get in. All you two had to do until now was take a few punches," Ino thought from within Fuu's body, "When Chouji wakes up and you two are ready to break out we can get started for real. I'm going to go see how far I can get myself and these other two into this place and what we can find."

"I'll try not to tug on these stupid ropes and break 'em in the meantime," Shikamaru thought back to her, shifting himself into a position on the floor that made him appear to be out cold, "You just be careful. Are you sure you can control three people at once?"

"Their wills aren't very strong. Even with my control split three ways it's easier than I thought it would be."

"Get to it then. When Chouji wakes up he's not gonna be happy."

Inside of the bodies of Fuu, Sai, and Hyo, Ino nodded and went off to begin her deep infiltration. She was to set explosive tags where she saw fit and make it to a good position to neutralize as much of the base as she could by the time Naruto made his presence known and set everything off. That way this could all be wrapped up in a neat little bow… so to speak.

Yamanaka mind techniques were scary-effective in their subtleties. Mind Clone Switch Jutsu was one of the odder ones that almost worked similarly to a clone jutsu, and since she had to split her consciousness instead of her physical body it was a wee bit more intrinsic.

Just a bit though.

Shikamaru bit back a sigh and shut his eyes, feigning unconsciousness until the time came to become a nuisance. From where he was he could hear discomfort from Chouji, caused by the small toad that popped itself out of his mouth and squeezed itself the rest of the way out.


It was effective for what it was meant to do however.

From the toad's mouth, a spiky head of blond hair emerged. Slowly freeing himself from one of his summon creatures, Naruto took great care to safely cradle Ino's response-less body as he did so. He contemplated leaving her body inside of the toad, but he was quite certain that she'd step on his nads if she returned to her body and found herself alone inside of a summon that she had no control over.

Sitting on the floor in the darkest shadow of the room, Naruto kept Ino's body nestled close to his, protecting it as if she were the most precious object in the world, "So are we almost ready to do this? We've never taken down a whole fortress of ninjas before."

Guardian work hadn't always been bodyguarding the Fire Daimyo and the nobles of his court. The job oftentimes got far nastier than that. They'd taken out enemy strongholds before, from the inside as prisoners actually since it was usually the easiest way by Shikamaru's viewpoint.

It was his favorite way to do so and it played to his strengths instead of direct assaults which would have been more Naruto and Chouji's thing.

"It's almost the same thing as any other fortress. Bandits, whatever," Shikamaru said, noting that Naruto probably didn't even register just how intimately he seemed to be holding their kunoichi teammate, "As long as everything's prepared when we set it off, there isn't going to be much they can do. We've just got to make sure that we don't ruin this place's foundations or we might make some of the village sink inward."


"Yeah, remember, this place is built right underneath Konoha, so we can't wreck too much of it. Who knows what else we'll damage, either up there or down here?"

At that moment Chouji began to stir with a groan, smacking his lips audibly as he began to lift himself up off of the ground, "Blegh. What's that taste in my mouth?" He asked as the weakly tied ropes fell off of his body.


Looking down at the hapless toad on the ground, Chouji failed to make the connection and instead took in his immediate surroundings. So the plan had worked and they'd made it in. It was probably for the best that he didn't know where the flavor that he had been required to savor came from.


(Training Ground #44: Forest of Death – Interior)

Hiruzen landed on a sizeable tree branch as he looked down at the last dregs of his own handiwork. His landslide had carried two miles into the thickly veiled Forest of Death before it finally stopped on its own. With the debris he'd created, and the dragon's head of Earth Dragon Bullet automatically firing explosive rock all the while at the trapped adversary within, he hadn't missed.

He had been able to feel Danzo's chakra within the moving mud he'd had control over. He'd never escaped before finally being blasted with a near-direct hit, but his chakra signature had disappeared.

To say he was a sensor would be a stretch, but he was the Hokage and known as 'The Professor' for a reason. He knew how to do a little bit of everything. Hiruzen knew how to feel out enough of an opponent's energy to determine if he had killed them or not. There had been no tapering off of chakra flow to signify a steadily weakening lifeforce that usually went with the normal death of anyone no matter how they died. It simply vanished.

That wasn't right.

"I am not your equal Hiruzen."

Upon hearing Danzo's voice seemingly come from nowhere, Hiruzen leapt dozens of yards away, landing on the same monstrous tree branch as he faced the direction he heard Danzo's voice emanate from. Out of thin air, Danzo's body shimmered into existence, entirely unscathed from the powerful jutsu combination he'd been hit with earlier, "Danzo…"

"For decades I've tried and tried to match you on the battlefield, and I've failed. By now I'm at peace with this," Danzo said, as if he hadn't just cheated certain death without a scratch, "This even proves it. I have nothing in my arsenal with as much sheer force as just that jutsu. My talents were always of a subtler approach."

The ruby red Sharingan in the man's wide-open right eye contrasted sharply with the rest of him as he held a set of shuriken in the palm of his hand. Blowing on them he caused them to spin rapidly before they flew off of the flat surface as if they had been fired.

Hiruzen grit his teeth and dropped down off of the branch, avoiding Danzo's attack altogether. He could see the almost unseeable fan blades of chakra that Danzo had created off of the edges of the metal disks. Combined, the shuriken were able to cut through the thick, wide trunk of the tree they had been on, sending its upper levels down to the forest floor.

Resounding crash of wood and earth aside, Hiruzen noted that Danzo had gotten behind him, intending to reach out and touch him to debilitate him with his fuuinjutsu. His better at taijutsu however, Hiruzen whipped around and grabbed Danzo by his offending wrist to prevent him from so much as brushing him with a fingertip as that was all that would have been required to cripple him.

With the close proximity, Hiruzen was granted the ugly sight of Danzo's greyed right arm and the Sharingan eyes embedded in it. It was enough to make him sick.

Blindingly quick, Danzo drew a kunai and slashed at Hiruzen's belly, missing the attack, yet prompting the latter to release him. The two men leapt away from each other, stalemated once more in the trees. Both stony-faced seniors stared one another down, minds working a mile a minute to come to their own combat conclusions.

'Why did he slash instead of stab?' Hiruzen asked himself mentally, 'To cut at me in the situation that we were in would mean that instead of trying to go for the kill he merely wished to gain some distance. But why?'

His attention fell back to the Sharingan eyes in Danzo's arm. The Root commander's course of action had been taken only after he'd noticed that Hiruzen had been looking at the Sharingan eyes he could see that hadn't been concealed by his kimono sleeve. One of them had been different from the rest.

The one resting on the back of his hand had been without any of the telltale black tomoe that came with the fully developed eyes.

And that was it. He knew what a blind Sharingan looked like.

Hiruzen knew of every technique that had ever come through Konohagakure, including the forbidden ones… of all clans. Executing them was not required. Simply knowing of them all was what gave him his title of 'The Professor'.

'Abusing the Izanagi in order to protect yourself,' Hiruzen almost let out a wry laugh at the thought of it, 'As despicable as it is, I have to commend you for your ingenuity.' That was as far as the courtesy extended however.

Noticing the near-quirk of Hiruzen's wrinkled lips, Danzo frowned, 'He knows. No matter. I still have nine more uses of the Izanagi in total. That gives me nine more minutes of safety if it comes down to it. So let's continue.'

In a Shunshin, Danzo moved himself from his tree branch over to the trunk of a tree to Hiruzen's upper left, his hands finishing a hand-seal combination as he took a deep breath, "Fuuton: Shinkuugyoku (Wind Release: Vacuum Sphere)!"

Multiple wind chakra bullets shot out of his mouth at once, narrowing down the possible escape paths that Hiruzen could use to avoid being wounded by the jutsu. Gritting his teeth, the Sandaime Hokage was dealt a bloody wound when his left arm was grazed by an attack in the midst of his evasive movement.

Directly in front of him, Danzo appeared with his hand planted down on the tree branch while Hiruzen recovered from his dodge. He tried to take the moment to quickly count the number of Sharingan eyes that Danzo had in his right arm, due to his sleeve flying up momentarily due to the motion, but he was soon granted with yet another unwelcome surprise.

The wood of the tree branch warped outward in a sharpened, gnarled, swirling pattern around the neck to try and behead Hiruzen as it tightened. He dodged, but his reflexes hadn't served him quite as well as he'd hoped. His armored hood was cut from his battle suit and his scalp was gashed open, freely drawing the Hokage's blood.

'Mokuton,' Was the prevailing thought that ran through his head despite his injury.

What had Danzo done to himself for the sake of power?

His right arm had to be forcefully ripped from the tree branch he'd bonded it with in order to attack Hiruzen. His control over the Mokuton was shoddy at best and he'd been hoping that the sheer surprise factor would have been enough to finish Hiruzen off. It was a start if nothing else.

Apparently losing his footing, Hiruzen took a tumble off of the elevated tree branch, and Danzo feeling a need to go in for the kill launched himself down after him. He couldn't be caught off-guard as long as he could avert his path in the air with his wind release ability.

A smirk came to the bloodied Hokage's face as he hurled a single shuriken and flipped through five hand-seals with blinding speed, "Shuriken Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (Shuriken Shadow Clone Jutsu)!"

One shuriken became a thousand, and with his Sharingan in his right eye Danzo did his best to evade the attack. Blowing wind from his mouth and contorting his body impossibly in midair he managed to escape a few dozen, but there were still hundreds that remained, and the numbers caught up to him. After two or three hit, dozens followed until he was a metal-riddled bloody mess.

Hiruzen caught himself by planting his hand on a tree trunk and drawing himself to a sliding stop with chakra as he allowed Danzo's body to hit the ground meters below. His corpse then promptly vanished.

"Another Izanagi," Hiruzen asked rhetorically, watching Danzo's unharmed form reappear standing on the ground and looking up at him, "At this rate I'll kill you eight more times before you can even kill me once Danzo? How would that make you feel?"

The attempt to bait his long-standing rival was thoroughly ignored.

"I always admired that jutsu of yours," Danzo said, holding a single shuriken in the palm of his hand that spun rapidly due to his wind chakra, "…I'd like to thank you for showing it to this eye of mine."

'No!' Hiruzen thought with wide eyes as Danzo let the buzzsaw of a wind-enhanced shuriken fly his way. There was no lag in the hand-seals of the Konoha elder, performed just as smoothly as Hiruzen's had been.

"Shuriken Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (Shuriken Shadow Clone Jutsu)!"

Used with wind-boosted shuriken, upwards of a thousand of them.

It was unfair for such a jutsu to be in the possession of a man such as Danzo, but with the Sharingan he'd managed to obtain the hand-seals with a mere glance at them.

And because of it, a veritable wall of metal that could cut through nearly anything flew right at one of only four village leaders that Konoha had ever seen.

Another member of the old guard would meet their end today, but it would be alright.

It would be for the good of the village after all.


(Elsewhere in Konoha – Hidden Underground Waterway Facility)

As long as she kept up the same expressionless countenance that the rest of the Root unit did 24/7, Ino pretty much had free reign to go anywhere. As long as she was in Fuu body in particular, she could go anywhere since he was one of Danzo's two top bodyguards along with Torune.

Oh God, she had to keep an eye out for him. She hadn't come across him yet, but he was Fuu's partner. If Ino didn't tread warily around him, Torune would see that the black-ops Yamanaka was possessed by his distantly related clan member and take her out without hesitation.

She had to be quick though, because since he knew jutsu it wouldn't be too much longer before Fuu started fighting back against her control, and if he could get some control back the jig would be up.

Still, that didn't mean she couldn't enjoy figuratively being the smartest person in the room.

'I… can't stand it, I know you planned it, I'm gonna set it straight this Watergate,' Ino mentally sang to herself as she took Fuu's body somewhere relatively safe from the fallout of her to-be actions, 'I can't stand rocking when I'm in here, 'cuz your crystal ball ain't so crystal clear. So while you sit back and wonder why, I got this fucking thorn in my side. Oh my it's a mirage, I'm tellin' y'all it's sabota~ge."

Cue a quick ram seal that no one else saw, followed by a combination of tactically placed explosives set off a chain reaction.

'Okay,' Ino thought to herself through the three bodies her split spirit inhabited, 'You guys better get this started while I keep this place all jumbled. Maybe we can pull this off after all?'

If they were really emotionless, the members of Root wouldn't be affected by the panic, so it was time to test just how much emotional control they all really had when everything started coming apart at the seams around them.

Omake: Out of Body Experience (Hour 6-7)

By Shikamaru's count and from the chakra the two of them had been using in order to screw with each other, they'd knocked quite a bit of time off of their switch time and it would only be a matter of minutes

Really? After the entire day that they'd had, with the time left on the clock running down to absolute zero for Naruto to hit one out of the park on him, Shikamaru really hadn't expected to find Naruto where he wound up meeting up with him again at of all places.

The ramen shop: Naruto's favorite eating establishment. It was one of the first places Shikamaru had checked, and he figured from his initial sweep of the neighborhood that Naruto was smart enough to stay away from there.

"You couldn't wait until after you got your body back to eat?" Shikamaru inside of Naruto's body asked as he saw his own stolen body. A bowl of ramen wasn't normally the food of choice for Shikamaru's palate, but he wasn't in control of his palate; Naruto was.

He saw a large, bulging burlap sack on the floor next to Naruto's seat and kicked it back out into the street before Naruto could try to reach for it. Whatever was in there, Naruto had planned on using it to make a big splash from the weight that he'd felt the bag have.


"Alright, time to knock you out," As he lifted his fist to make use of Naruto's brute strength and deliver a skull-thumping shot to his quarry, he was stopped by Naruto calmly raising a hand as if to silently ask him to wait. He wasn't done eating yet.

Why Shikamaru stopped, neither would ever know, but he did.

Eventually, Naruto let out a sigh and set his bowl aside, "I didn't want to stop before I did what I wanted to get done, but I got exhausted from hustling all day. Your body's so lame Shika, you get tired faster than me. I didn't even get to-."

"-That's called being normal," Shikamaru cut him off abruptly, "And I don't want to know what you were gonna do. I don't really care, because it isn't happening now," Shikamaru said, grabbing a pole stake that he'd found outside to bludgeon Naruto with, "Anyway, hold still," He was torn, because he wanted Naruto to feel the pain, but if he hit himself he'd be the one feeling it tomorrow, "I want to make this one count, now go to sleep so I don't have to do it again."

Hitting Naruto was for the greater good really. Anything could happen before the time elapsed for all he knew.

Fortunately, this wasn't necessary. Both began to feel a strange pull on their chakra and knew what that meant, having felt it beforehand at a faster rate when they had been originally switched. Their time was almost up. Mere seconds remained. It was all over with, and Konoha hadn't self-destructed.

"You know Shika," Naruto said as he stood up to face his best friend, "Despite everything that happened, today was really cool in some ways, don't you think?"

Shikamaru was not a fan of burying the hatchet in this instance, "Shut up and give me my body back already."

And with that, Naruto's body went limp for a few seconds before his body seemed to reboot and reactivate with the proper mind driving the seat. His blue eyes lit up to their usual bright sheen as he stood face-to-face with Shikamaru, who didn't seem relived to be back in his own body or anything.

Because it wasn't quite Shikamaru. It was a clone that Naruto had made while in Shikamaru's body, thus it was still Naruto in essence.

"...Man, that actually worked out," 'Shikamaru' eventually said with a very Naruto-esque grin on his face that was mirrored by the original possessor of the expression, "So how bad is it?"

"Oh he's gonna hate me tomorrow," Naruto assured him before tapping him hard on the forehead and dispelling him. Noting that he hadn't paid for the food his clone ate, he dropped the money on the counter and bid Teuchi and Ayame a farewell before heading back home, whistling a jaunty tune to himself.

The father and daughter just watched after their best customer, thoroughly confused. What had just happened?


Shikamaru would have been relieved to be back in his own body and back at his own comfortable home to boot, but the moment he returned to his body he found his caring mother Yoshino screaming in his face at the top of her lungs.

"HONESTLY I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE YOU LEARNED HOW TO ACT LIKE THAT! DID YOU PICK THAT UP IN THE GUARDIANS? WHAT IN THE WORLD WOULD POSSESS YOU TO TREAT YOUR MOTHER THAT WAY!" The moment Shikamaru's eyes unfocused for a few seconds as the switch between his mind and Naruto's was made, Yoshino took this as him tuning her out, "PAY ATTENTION!"

This was emphasized with swing of a hard iron pan that came crashing down over the top of his head.

Only then did Shikamaru realize that Naruto had faked him out. That splendid bastard pulled a 'Kawa no Kuni Shuffle' on him.

Naruto knew that Shikamaru would stick to his own body like white on rice while the rest of the time expired, figuring out that Naruto would try to pull one more massive jaunt while he still had the chance. Unfortunately, the plan completely revolved around Shikamaru finding himself so to speak and doing exactly that.

Even if he'd hit the clone, he'd wasted so much time barking up the wrong tree to find it that the damage would have already been done by the time he realized something was wrong.

Goddamn it, Naruto followed the tactician's handbook step-by-step, line-by-line. Who knew he had it in him? He'd been underestimated, and after being played fast and loose all day by his smarter partner he finally wound up burning Shikamaru in return.

Shikamaru had been looking to avoid the big flashy k.o. punch at all costs when he should have been checking his own positioning in the ring so to speak.

'Alright,' Shikamaru thought to himself with a scowl as he continued to endure his mother's harsh rebuke, 'Bravo you son of a bitch. Now I can't even go back out to do something else to you for the rest of the night, and by tomorrow I won't care enough to.'

Because Yoshino was going to bitch a hole in him until the owls came out. Man, she was getting nasty now.

Yoshino was a kunoichi, even if she had retired from active duty years ago. Which meant she was tough, and simply would not tolerate any shenanigans in her home, "-THAT WAS COMPLETELY DISGUSTING! I CAN DEAL WITH THE LAZINESS, BUT HAVE SOME KIND OF DECORUM SHIKAMARU! YOU COMPLETELY RUINED THOSE PANTS!"

What pants?

'I lost him for thirty minutes at most, twenty of them he'd have had to spend getting here in the first place! What the hell did he do?' Shikamaru thought to himself with a twitching eye, holding the brand new bump on his head as he pretended to listen to his mother rant at him, 'If I ask she'll just hit me again, because it doesn't look like she'll be done anytime soon. And where's dad?'

Shikaku was having a drink on the roof, laughing his ass off at his son's expense. Today had been a good day to take some time for leave.

"The best thing about having a kid for all the trouble it is…" Shikaku said to himself as he chuckled under his breath between drinks, "…Is that you really don't have to go looking too far for your entertainment."

You know, for some reason I never really hated Danzo's abilities in canon, because while Izanagi is a completely hax jutsu, Danzo's offense was never so overwhelming that it made him unbeatable. He was strong defensively due to the Izanagi with a versatile offense that had enough power to make him dangerous to any character pre-war, and Izanagi was something that could be outlasted instead of just something that could be used as a timely out for him. He could barely even control it.

It wasn't his battle style that made him a villain. It didn't hurt that it was so infuriating a concept, but that wasn't what it was.

Anyway, that aside, the next chapter brings an end to the Civil Unrest Arc. Konoha will have to resettle from the results of its subtle power struggle, along with everything else going on outside of it.

I've got to go to work now all, so I'm done and I'll see you guys next time if you'd like.

Kenchi out.