A/N: Thanks so much guys for helping me reach 700 reviews, 600 favs, 700 follows, and almost 100,000 views! I never thought the fic would go so far and get such an amazing response.

First chapter covering all three members of Team 7. Enjoy!

Remnants of a Shinobi's Fire

Chapter 13: Unexpected Visitors

Cerulean eyes blinked open, expertly piercing through the dense darkness that surrounded him.

He could feel the hum of energy pulsating in the heavy bindings around his hands and feet, trying—and failing—to contain his power. Walls of seastone meters thick surrounded him on all sides, a formidable setup by any means for even the most fearsome pirates. Yet for him, it was but a feeble replacement for the ice prison he'd been held in up until a year ago. To the Marines' credit, the sheer amount of seastone in this cell would've been more than enough to devoid any normal Fruit user of all their energy, and perhaps even reduce them to a dreamless coma.

Not him, however. No, to Uzumaki Naruto, not only did the seastone bindings not weaken his chakra in the slightest, they actually gave him a means of strengthening his power.

After all, seastone, at its core, was merely an object imbued with the essence of the sea—the sea's energy solidified, so to speak. For one who had mastered the sage arts, seastone provided a source of pure, condensed natural energy—the combined energy of every single being that lived in the ocean's depths.

And so, deep in the cells of Impel Down, Konoha's number one most unpredictable ninja drew on the power of the very chains that were meant to weaken him, and struggled to maintain the perfect balance between spiritual, physical, and natural energy to keep his inner passenger under control.

Closing his eyes in concentration, Naruto descended into the familiar corridors of his mindscape and reinforced the metaphorical bars around the Kyuubi's cage with senjutsu chakra, ignoring the glowering red eyes glaring menacingly back at him.

When he had first awakened a year ago from his drug-induced coma in Admiral Aokiji's ice prison, Naruto had immediately noticed the return of the familiar burn of the Kyuubi's chakra. After months of wandering in and out of his mindscape searching for remnants of the demon's presence, the former jinchuriki had been pleasantly surprised to suddenly rediscover traces of the fox's chakra.

Having the Kyuubi back inside him once again, after all, meant that Madara and the Akatsuki must have failed to extract the demon from his body two years ago, and thus could not have possibly succeeded in their plan to enact the Infinite Tsukuyomi.

Or so he'd thought.

The Kyuubi's chakra had returned to him slowly and gradually, and Naruto had never been the most observant ninja, so when he had first felt the traces of the Kyuubi's return he had been too caught up in his excitement to notice that the menacing red chakra was no longer confined to its former cage.

When he'd finally realized that his seal was gone, the only explanation he could come up with was that it must have been forcibly torn apart during the extraction process that did, in fact, happen. Naruto didn't know how he had survived (perhaps the Uzumaki longevity he'd inherited from his mother's side saved him) or whether the Kyuubi had been ripped from him to create the Juubi (which begged the question of how it had returned to him a year later) or whether Madara had been able to enact the Infinite Tsukuyomi with only partial Kyuubi chakra, but between the barrage of questions he didn't have answers to and the sluggish state his mind was in, Naruto didn't recognize the Kyuubi's subtle attempt at gaining control until he had already broken through Aokiji's ice prison and was plowing through the swarm of Marines outside like they were butter.

He'd realized too late, and his mistake had nearly cost him to lose control completely and flatten Marineford for the second time.

Fortunately, the upper echelons of the Marines were not completely useless and had been prepared for Naruto's escape attempt. The combined forces of Fleet Admiral Sengoku and Admiral Aokiji had been enough to subdue the half-Kyuubified Naruto long enough to wrap him in seastone bindings from head to toe. A half-second reprieve was all Naruto needed to draw upon the natural energy of the seastone, and force the Kyuubi back into a makeshift senjutsu cage in his mindscape.

Realizing that he could not possibly allow himself to escape least he lose control again and hurt countless innocents, Naruto had pretended to be restrained by the seastone's power, and allowed himself to be dragged back to the cell he currently occupied, reinforced with enough seastone to reduce a normal fruit user to a state of unconsciousness.

In the year that followed, Naruto had been mostly left alone in his dark prison, with the sole exception of the odd man in the white lab coat who came to take tests and samples once a month. The prison warden and one of the three Marine Admirals always accompanied this Dr. Vegapunk on his trips, and Naruto merely kept a tight lid on his chakra whenever the man came by, opting to feign unconsciousness and observe them instead. It was, after all, a simple task for him to use a bit of the Kyuubi's corrosive chakra to nullify the drugs he had been given once the trio had left.

A year of being confined in this seemingly impenetrable prison had given Naruto a pretty good idea of its inner workings, and he was confident he could sneak out undetected were he so inclined. Security was surprisingly scarce on the deepest level of Impel Down, with most of the prisoners on level 6 deemed too dangerous for the guards to handle. In fact, the Warden was the only one with the official authority to come down here anymore, and Magellan took way too much comfort in the effectiveness of his seastone cuffs and poisons.

No, the problem laid not in his capacity to escape, but in his capacity to control himself once he did escape. Constantly restricting the Kyuubi with the perfect balance of senjutsu chakra took a tremendous strain on Naruto's mind and concentration, and the fact that he was quite literally drowning in natural energy from his seastone surroundings had helped tremendously in negating the Kyuubi's power. Once out, however, did he have enough faith in his control to maintain this balance without a ready source of pure, condensed natural energy?

I can't risk it, the blonde decided with a mental sigh. I can't risk the lives of thousands of innocent people for my own selfishness.

No, he'll have to keep working on a new seal. Without a working seal, he simply cannot allow himself to escape. For months now he had been trying to remember what little Jiraiya had taught him about the intricate art of sealing, and he had finally begun to make some headway in his experiments. His seal would never be as elegant or effective as his old man's had been, but even a severely bastardized version of the Fourth's Eight Trigrams Seal would go a long way in helping keep the Kyuubi in check.

Focusing once more in his mindscape, Naruto drew his latest experimental design with chakra, and applied it to the Kyuubi's blood red fur. The ferocious beast sneered, then with a casual swing of one of its tails, easily knocked Naruto fifty feet back in his own mindscape.

"Damn it," the blonde swore in frustration, and took a few calming breathes to right his internal balance. "You stupid fox, why can't you just cooperate for once, dattebayo! I'm running out of time—Sakura-chan is out there somewhere and I'm sick of staying in this hellhole!"

"Talking to yourself again?" A malicious voice drifted over from the opposite end of the prison block. "They say that's the first sign of insanity. I wonder, were you already insane when Vegapunk got his hands on you, or did that come after?"

Naruto scowled and shot a glare at the cell at the very end of the corridor. There was only one other cell occupied in his entire block, and while he couldn't see the prisoner's face, it was someone he was all too familiar with.

"Che, mind your own business, creepy oyaji." Naruto muttered, turning back to the rough designs he'd drawn on the floor. As he debated whether he wanted to add another dimension to the seal to enhance stability, the other prisoner's sarcastic drawl drifted over once more, interrupting his thought process.

"Oh, that's rich. Vegapunk's number one freak-show calling me creepy."

"Yeah?" Naruto retorted, giving up on getting any work done once it had become apparent the other guy wasn't going to leave him alone. "What else would you call someone who'd killed hundreds of his own subordinates for fun?"

"I was doing them a favor." The faraway voice answered easily, not a hint of regret in his tone. "Those prisoners were scum anyway, no one would have missed their existence. I would have gotten away with all those killings too if I hadn't attempted to touch Vegapunk's little pet project. What's so special about you anyway?"

"You tried to kill me without even knowing my 'crime'? Guess you really are as ignorant as you look."

A wave of killing intent washed over the desolate corridor, and Naruto was mildly impressed with the intensity of the other man's bloodlust. Shiliew of the Rain had gained a rather infamous reputation as Impel Down's harshest and most violent Head Jailer, known for heavily abusing his position to kill hundreds of prisoners for his own pleasure. Magellan had put up with it for a while, until one day the blonde shinobi had been transported to Impel Down, and Shiliew had made an attempt on his life.

Smirking slightly as he recalled the way Vegapunk and the Marine higher-ups had flipped their shit over the incident, Naruto grinned as he regarded the man held at the opposite end of the prison block. He couldn't see him, but he could smell him. Judging by the poignant smell from his general area, Naruto knew the walls hadn't been cleaned of blood in months. Even more so than Naruto, Shiliew was the one responsible for the absence of guards at their level, for the last platoon who had dared to venture close enough had paid for it with their lives.

"Watch it brat," Shiliew sneered, eying the deceptively harmless-looking blonde menace in the other cell with a mix of disdain and curiosity. "One day I'm going to break out of this shithole and wring your little neck."

"Whatever you say, old man," Naruto waved him off. "I'll be happy to give you another beating. Maybe this time I'll even be able to beat some common sense into you—like, I dunno, 'killing people for no reason is bad.'"

Shiliew muttered some threat or another, but Naruto ignored him, refocusing on his seal designs. Barely a minute had passed before he was rudely interrupted from his work once again, this time by a large snip! that reverberated throughout the walls of his cell. A perfect circle suddenly opened up in the middle of his ceiling, unfurling like paper to form a makeshift staircase.

"Oh ho! Look what we've found, Inazuma-boy! This must be the rumored Level 6!"

Curious to see who would willingly venture into this hell, Naruto hastily scattered his designs on the floor and looked up from his sitting position. His keen senses had picked up two distinct sets of footsteps, and whoever the two were, they were most definitely not guards. Prisoners from the upper level, perhaps?

If so, this place ain't exactly the best vacation spot, the blonde thought wryly to himself, easing into a defensive stance just in case.

Once the two had descended down the staircase and revealed themselves fully, Naruto couldn't help but gap at their ridiculous appearances. He didn't think it was possible, but he'd finally found an outfit that surpassed Lee's skintight green jumpsuits in cringe-worthiness!

"And oh look, there's the Naruto-boy Dragon told us about!"

At the purple-haired okama's words, Naruto finally got over his shock and hastily casted a discrete silencing jutsu over his cell to prevent Shiliew from listening in. Turning to his unexpected visitors with narrowed eyes, he questioned with a curious tilt of his head.

"Who the hell are you people, and how do you know my name?"

Viridian eyes watched the suspicious whispering duo at the far side of the deck, gaze unflinching as she calmly sipped her tea.

The blue-haired woman known as Ms. Wednesday glanced back at her nervously, and Sakura responded with a cheerful wave, causing the girl to snap back to her partner and whisper something frantically.

At Luffy's insistence, the two whale-hunters had been untied and allowed to wander freely around the ship. According to Nami, they won't reach Whiskey Peak until late afternoon, leaving Sakura plenty of time to observe their two guests.

Channeling chakra to her ears, the pink-haired nin was able to catch snippets of the two's conversations all the way from the opposite end of the deck. Sadly, her information network around these parts was close to non-existent, and so Sakura had little idea what any of the terms the two had referenced meant.

Nonetheless, the duo was definitely suspicious. It was painfully obvious judging from their body language that they were hiding something, the blue-haired woman more so than her pompous partner. Well, the pinkette thought to herself, at least they were smart enough to speak in code.

So far she'd caught mentions of something unlucky, a Miss All Sunday, an Igarappoi, and works from the Baroque era? Doubting she'll be able to get a straight answer if she just confronted them directly, Sakura wondered whether she should simply allow things to play out for a while before taking action. Back in Konoha, they would have simply handed the two off to Ibiki to work his magic, but Sakura doubted Luffy would permit the use of any of Ibiki's interrogation techniques aboard his ship.

For now, she would simply stay alert and observe, Sakura decided. There was no point in blowing things out of proportion if whatever the two were hiding didn't directly involve them. They would check out this Whiskey Peak, and barring any suspicious findings, simply move on to the next island. Time was of the essence, after all.

An uneventful hour passed, and just when she was about to write off her suspicions and join Nami at the helm, Ms. Wednesday let out a surprised yelp as a large eagle suddenly swooped down overhead, lifting Mr. 9 clean off the boat into the skies.

"The Unluckies!" Ms. Wednesday cried, rushing to the rails in time to see her partner get dropped into the ocean. "They've come to punish us for failing our mission to kill Laboon!"

As the unlucky pair came back for Vivi, Sanji suddenly sprang forth with a battle cry and launched one of his signature kicks at the flying eagle. "I won't let you little shits harm the beautiful Ms. Wednesday!" he yelled, clipping one of the eagle's wings and sending it crashing down to the Merry's deck.

Sakura watched curiously as she took in the two animals' appearances. The eagle had a pair of machine guns strapped to its back, while the otter was equipped with various weapons of all sizes. As strange as the two's appearance was, however, it was their behavior that really caught Sakura's attention.

The otter was making hand signals to the eagle. In code—code only taught to shinobi summons.

And just as she'd suspected, after the otter signaled 'report back first' to its partner, the eagle instantly disappeared with a familiar dispersion of smoke and chakra.

Ignoring the Straw Hats' exclamations of surprise, Sakura rushed the small otter and quickly slammed an anti-dispel seal on its back, preventing it from dismissing itself.

Eying the newly tied-up otter with renewed interest, the former Leaf nin shot an inquiring look at Ms. Wednesday, and closed the distance between them in the blink of an eye, pulling a kunai to her throat.

"You," she addressed the blue-haired agent with deadly calm, "better have a damn good explanation for how your organization got a hold of two shinobi summons."

Crimson Sharingan eyes observed the long-abandoned family shrine in the distance, taking a moment to indulge in the wicked fallacy before dispelling the illusion hiding the real Konohagakure from view.

Lush green forests and the majestic Hokage mountain instantly gave way to crumbled ruins and blackened, charred buildings. The black flames of Amaterasu still released acrid plumes of smoke high up in the air, and the long decomposed skeletons of countless shinobi and civilians littered the grounds in front of the former Hokage tower, the morbid centerpiece to commemorate Konoha's ruin.

Unlike the other Hidden Villages that had been left structurally intact for the most part, Madara had made sure to raze Konoha to the ground. His Infinite Tsukuyomi had started its purge in the Hidden Cloud, and then spread across the Land of Lightning into the Land of Earth and the Land of Water. The Land of Wind had been the next to fall, and the Land of Fire had been saved for last.

Sasuke took automatic steps toward where the Uchiha compound had used to exist, gazing with unfocused eyes into the dark. The morbid sights no longer affected him—perhaps he'd gone a little insane over the years, he mused. He had, after all, simply stood by and watched as the slaughter unfolded. At the time, he'd even relished in watching the village that had betrayed him burn.

Now, almost nine hundred years later in a world that never moves forward, the memory of what he'd almost become made him sick to his core. But like the elite shinobi he was, Sasuke shoved the memory to the back of his mind and concentrated on the here and the now. Not all was lost, he reminded himself. There was still a chance of salvaging Madara's apocalystic mess.

He just needed to decipher the last piece of the puzzle hidden beneath what was once the old Uchiha Naka Shrine. And so Sasuke focused, even as the sight of his family's last heirloom left him with inexplicable tremors and a constant nausea churning in his gut.

Bypassing the various genjutsu traps around the entrance had been easy. Even the advanced illusions put in place by Madara himself had become inconsequential under the gaze of his Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan.

The Sharingan was a gift, he had been told in his childhood. A gift that will raise the Uchiha above the limited capacity of all other shinobi. A gift that will push past boundaries and bring the clan to its true potential.

Only those who'd mastered it in its entirety had been able to see it for what it truly was.

A curse.

The Sharingan had granted him power, but it had also led him down a path of irreversible hatred. It had allowed him to accomplish his goal of attaining revenge on his brother for the massacre of his family, but it had also led him down a path of lifelong regret. It had protected him from falling victim to Madara's Infinite Tsukuyomi, but even that had driven him to near insanity by forcing him to reflect on his actions. Regardless of whether they were empowering his hunger for revenge or protecting his soul from Madara's illusion, the Sharingan would always and forever be his greatest curse.

And it would be because of precisely how cursed he had become that he will finally uncover the last secret of the Uchiha clan.

Forming the requisite sequence of seals, Sasuke removed the stone slab that laid atop the entrance way. Descending down to the hidden lower level, Sasuke noted with no small amount of irony that the last remaining remnant of the original Konohagakure was none other than the Uchiha clan's secret meeting place.

At the far side of the hall, the ancient Uchiha tablet called out to him. He could almost hear the whispered promises, offering the pinnacle techniques of his bloodline, the story of the Sage of the Six Paths, and the secret to restraining the Ten-Tails' power.

Sasuke focused on the tablet, past the passages on how to attain the Eternal Mangeyo Sharingan, on the portion of the tablet that he'd failed to decipher thus far. His eyes flickered between red and black, wide and endlessly staring, watching, pleading, gaze unblinking as he willed his eyes to do more. To see more.

To be more.

Images from his life's battles flashed before his eyes, and Sasuke pushed past his hate-filled memories and focused on his feelings of regret, the almost suffocating need to make amends and right things. When he'd opened his eyes again, red irises and a distorted, jagged pupil shifted into existence, and suddenly he could see.

Characters on the previously blank slate danced across the stone, and something akin to marvel glazed over Sasuke's eyes. This was it—the last passage of the Uchiha tablet.

The secret of Princess Kaguya and the Shinju—the God Tree that, as he would later discover, served as the birthplace of chakra and Devil Fruits alike.

"Oho!" The outrageously dressed okama gestured wildly to his associate, "Naruto-boy doesn't seem to be expecting us, Inazuma-chan!"

"Uh," the blonde jinchuriki interrupted, pointing to the okama's fallen companion. "Your friend just lost consciousness a minute ago. Guess not everyone can withstand the pressure of so much seastone."

The okama queen whipped around, and upon seeing Inazuma's fallen figure, suddenly felt the full force of the surrounding seastone's effects. The energy immediately drained out of him despite him not being in direct contact with any of the stuff, and Ivankov turned to regard Naruto with surprise.

"How are you still standing, Naruto-boy?" he asked, knees shaking, "I'm barely able to stand just from feeling the effects of the four surrounding walls, yet you look perfectly fine despite being wrapped in seastone chains!"

Naruto shrugged, and lied smoothly. "I guess I built up a high tolerance for the stuff." Strangely enough, the okama seemed to have only felt the effects of the seastone after Naruto had pointed it out. A weirdo through and through, the blonde thought to himself. Deciding to steer the conversation back on track, he repeated his original question, "You didn't answer me. Who are you and how do you know my name?"

Despite his supposed exhaustion, Ivankov still managed to strike a pose, and exclaimed proudly, "I am Emporio Ivankov, King of Newkama Land, former Queen of Kamabakka Kingdom, and Miracle Worker! Whether you want to live as a man, a woman, or an okama, I can help you transcend the border!"

"Eh…" Naruto scratched his head. "That's… interesting, but I'm not interested. I have my own variation anyway."

"Oh? This I must see!" Ivankov towered over Naruto, and gripped his shoulders excitedly. "You must show me, Naruto-boy!"

Backing away in alarm as the okama's disproportionately large face suddenly invaded his personal space, Naruto pushed Ivankov's hands off of him and crossed his arms. "Stop trying to change the topic. Tell me why you're here first, then we can talk."

"Alright, Naruto-boy," Ivankov winked mysteriously, and Naruto tried not to cringe as he dodged the wink. "Let's get down to business. Officially, I am the leader of a group of Level 5 prisoners who have found reprieve in Paradise, also known as Newkama Land in Level 5.5. Inazuma-chan and I were merely fooling around when we accidentally stumbled into your cell."

Naruto raised a brow. "And unofficially?"

Ivankov smirked. "On behalf of Monkey D. Dragon and the Revolutionary Army, we're here to break you out of Impel Down."

Perspiration beaded on her forehead, and Nefertari Vivi swallowed nervously, eying the small blade poised at her jugular with apprehension. She had known the pink-haired woman was suspicious of her from the beginning, but she didn't think the crazy chick would actually pull a knife on her! She had a kingdom to save, damn it! She didn't have time to deal with this nonsense. What the heck was a 'shinobi summon' anyway?

"What's going on?" The commotion had drawn Luffy, Nami, and Usopp's attention from the front of the ship. "Why is Sakura holding a knife to Ms. Wednesday's throat? I thought we'd all agreed to play nice until we get to Whiskey Peak."

Sakura ignored the crew's confused looks and focused the entirety of her attention on Vivi. No one dared to make a move to stop her for fear that she would harm Ms. Wednesday, but there was no real killing intent behind her actions. She just wanted to scare the other woman a little and get the truth.

"Don't make me repeat the question," Sakura sneered with feigned malice. "Why do you guys have shinobi summons working for you? Who are you working for?"

"I don't even know what a 'shinobi summon' is!" the other woman stammered, waving her hands in the air. "Those two—the Unluckies—that was Mr. 13 and Miss Friday! We're all agents of Baroque Works!"

"Baroque Works?" Zoro frowned. "The crime syndicate?"

"Don't be stupid, you shitty marimo," Sanji came to Vivi's defense before she could reply. "There's no way someone as beautiful as Miss Wednesday could work for a criminal organization."

"Baroque Works is not a criminal organization!" Vivi protested weakly. Not on the surface, anyway, she added inwardly. "We're basically bounty hunters. Everyone is working to build an ideal nation, and those who perform well in their missions will be granted a higher social status once the nation is built."

"Regardless," Sakura interrupted, "that doesn't answer my question. Mr. 13 and Miss Friday, as you referred to them, are both summons—animals with whom shinobi have signed a blood contract. Their presence here indicates the involvement of at least two shinobi in your organization. I need their names."

Vivi sighed exasperatedly. She was merely a Frontier Agent, why do they assume she knew everything? "Whoever you're looking for," she began anxiously, "I can assure you I don't know their names! All I know is that the Unluckies serve as Baroque Work's outside surveillance and answer to a pair of 'consultants' for the leader—we only know them as the All Seer and Lady Luck. Everyone in Baroque Works operates under a code name, so no one actually knows anyone else's real identity."

"How convenient," the Leaf nin muttered, by didn't let Vivi off the hook. "You can start by giving us your real name then. Tell us everything you know about your organization."

Vivi bit her lip, torn in her indecision. She couldn't tell them the true reason she was working for Baroque Works, but she had a feeling the crazy person holding her at knifepoint would know somehow if she lied… and she certainly can't save Alabasta if she was dead. From the other chick's tone, it didn't seem like she and the Unluckies' superiors were on friendly terms. Seeing no other choice, Vivi decided to take a leap of faith and hoped these Straw Hats have no reason to ally themselves with the mastermind planning her country's downfall.

"My name is Nefertari Vivi," she spoke with a bravado she didn't really feel, "I'm the princess of the Alabasta Kingdom, and I've infiltrated Baroque Works to stop its leader from starting a civil war in my country."

The secrets of the Shinju and the Juubi were inscribed in traditional kanji, and Sasuke slowly committed the ancient characters to memory as he laid eyes on The Truth at last.

Long before man had learned the concept of chakra, they had already been waging war against one another. The Shinju, long worshiped as a host of God himself, one day bore a fruit that grew only once every millennium. No one had been told the reasons behind it, but they were specifically instructed to never lay so much as a single finger on that fruit.

Yet with the endless war and bloodshed between mankind, there was a princess who decided it was necessary for someone to attain God-like powers.

And so she'd went ahead and consumed the fruit. When it was all said and done… Kaguya now had the power of God. She single-handedly ended all the conflicts that plagued the land. Thus was born the first person who wielded chakra. A child bore from her also had that power from birth.

"Otsutsuki Kaguya..." Sasuke's fingers traced the name of the one who'd started it all. He was already familiar with the gist of the tale from what Madara had told him all those years ago. According to the elder Uchiha, this was the starting point of the shinobi's curse.

"Once man decided to consume the fruit of the gods," Madara had said, "they became cursed, destined to spiral down a path of perpetual and endless tragedy."

Refusing to be controlled by Madara's ideals and philosophy any longer, however, Sasuke pushed his ancestor's morbid words to the back of his mind and read on.

However, with the loss of its Mother Fruit, the God-Tree mutated, and the reminder of its budding baby fruits fell immaturely from the Shinju, scattered into the far corners of the sea. The budding fruits, absorbing the natural energy of the ocean's depths, further mutated, and some lost the original properties of the Mother Fruit. Instead, these immature baby fruits took on mystical properties of their own, although a handful retained the propensity for elemental chakra manipulation.

The civilians on the Outside, lacking knowledge of the Shinju and fearful of these mutated fruits' varied abilities, attributed their creation to the work of the Sea Devil, and eventually they came to be known as "Devil Fruits."

"Interesting..." Sasuke mused to himself, absentmindedly wandering just what sort of mutated abilities these 'Devil Fruits' may grant, and whether the Shinju's premature spawn was as cursed as the Mother Fruit which granted the gift of chakra. He would have to keep an eye out for them once he leave for the Outside.

Meanwhile, having suffered the loss of the Mother Fruit and hundreds of baby fruits, the Shinju, hell-bent on getting its chakra back, went berserk. The Shinju's desire to reclaim its stolen power caused the tree to assume a monstrous form, eventually christened as the Ten-Tails.

The furious Ten-Tails rampaged throughout the lands until one day Princess Kaguya's son was able to defeat and seal the beast within himself. His name was Otsutsuki Hagoromo—the Founding Father of all Shinobi.

"The Sage of the Six Paths," Sasuke realized. This was what he'd come forthe secret behind the Sage's power.

The Sage of the Six Paths was revered as a god for the virtue of his victory, and with his knowledge of the concept of chakra, the Sage travelled the lands, spreading his ideals and religion, the Shinobi Sect known as ninjutsu.

Upon his death, the Sage chose to entrust his strength, dream, and legacy to his two sons. The older son, who inherited his eyes, believed that power was the true key to peace. The younger son, who inherited his body, believed that love was the true key to peace. The Sage left behind two tablets for his two sons, which together detailed the history of his struggle with the Ten-Tails and the secret to controlling the Shinju's power.

There was no doubt in Sasuke's mind that the older son, who'd inherited the Sage's 'eyes'his powerful chakra and spiritual energywas the precursor to the Uchiha clan, while the younger son, who'd inherited the Sage's 'body'his life force and physical energywas the precursor to the Senju clan. It was all becoming clear now—who knew the feud between the Uchihas and the Senjus had its roots all the way back in the Sage's legacy?

The older son guarded the secrets to his tablet religiously, encrypting its message so that only his descendants, those who possess the necessary dojutsu, would be able to decipher its words. This is the Uchiha tablet on which this inscription lies today.

The younger son, deeming the Sage's secrets too dangerous, decided to destroy the Senju tablet and scatter its remains across all corners of the world, sending the pieces deep into the Outside, where no one with the knowledge of chakra can exploit its power. The whereabouts of this tablet is unknown, for the Sage's chosen successor had cast a powerful barrier separating the shinobi nations from the Outside, to ensure the Sage's secrets remained hidden.

Sasuke finished reading the inscriptions and closed his eyes in thought. In order to reverse Madara's Infinite Tsukuyomi, he needed to attain the power of the Sage of Six Paths. To attain the power of the Sage of Six Paths, one must piece together the secrets recorded on both the Uchiha tablet and the Senju tablet. Yet the Senju tablet was apparently scattered all throughout the world, far outside the realm of the Elemental Nations.

Well, the last Uchiha mused to himself, perhaps it was about time he'd left these ruins behind. And with that final thought, the last living soul in the Konoha ruins promptly disappeared in a swirling distortion of time and space.

A/N: And the Dragon and Naruto story line picks up again! Can't believe it's taken me this long to even start writing Naruto's part. And Sasuke too... guess this means he's officially in OP-world now. Juggling so many different groups of characters actually makes pacing quite difficult… I really wanted to make this a Team 7 chapter though, even as scattered as they are.

Thanks to everyone who reviewed last time! It's great to see all your theories—some of you were almost spot on in your predictions on how the poneglyphs and devil fruits tie back to Naruto-verse. Kudos!

Random Musings

-I'm appealing to a bit of creative license here with the use of seastone and senjutsu. In Naruto canon, the use of natural energy was always drawn from plants and stuff, but there's no reason it can't be drawn from the sea as well. So if seastone is supposed to be a solid form of the sea, then it's essentially a source of condensed natural energy. And, this may be stretching it a little, but for the sake of theoretical argument let's say if Naruto can manage to "draw out" ALL the natural energy in the seastone for senjutsu use then the seastone either disintegrates or loses its sea-like properties. Either way, it'll become useless for restraining Devil Fruit users.

-Regarding Naruto using senjutsu chakra to keep the Kyuubi in check without a seal, well here I'm drawing on the fact that senjutsu was the only thing able to damage Obito/the Ten-Tails, so Naruto was able to use it to keep Kyuubi from taking over even without a seal.

-The All Seer and Lady Luck... wonder who they are? With summons of eagles and otters… Guesses?

-I originally didn't plan to tie back Devil Fruits to the Shinju, but after Kishi made the Juubi a freaking tree I just had to. When I was reading that chapter I was literally thinking 'this could tie so well to OP-verse' haha. Since Devil Fruits are baby fruits that mutated in the ocean, Fruit users can't swim because the sea messes with that mutation. The sea (and seastone) doesn't affect shinobi because the mother fruit that chakra is derived from has never touched the ocean. Does that make sense?

-I hope it was clear that I was referring to the poneglyphs as the pieces of the Senju tablet. The existence of a Senju tablet was never confirmed in Naruto canon but imo it doesn't make sense for the Sage to give a tablet containing all his secrets to the eldest son when he chose the younger as his successor. Some of the theories floating around proposed that perhaps the younger son/ancestor to the Senju didn't create a tablet because they had no doujutsu to encrypt it, so I just modified that idea a bit.

-However, the OP poneglyphs are not merely pieces of the Senju tablet. Like Madara added the secrets of his body's location to the Uchiha tablet, there will also be additional modifications to the Senju tablet to tie in with OP-verse and what Roger's crew discovered.

Mini-rant about Naruto canon

I finally caught up with the manga and I don't like what Kishi is doing lately at all—the power-ups are getting ridiculous and way too DBZ-like. The slow-paced Talk-no-Jutsu/fight/power-up rinse-and-repeat-formula is making me lose interest in Naruto. Personally I think Kishi should have ended it after the Pein-invasion arc. Imo, the Fourth Shinobi war arc is just bad and unrealistic and undermines all the awesome villains we had up to that point.

So what does this mean for this fic?

Currently my interest in One Piece as well as my nostalgia for Naruto is keeping me writing. I have the next arc mapped out in detail and I'm excited to finish it. So for the time being, this fic is safe from being discontinued. It's hard to write when canon no longer inspires you, but I will finish this, at least up until the Alabasta arc. After that, I guess it depends on whether I still have interest in the Naruto fandom at all.

Since I started this fic right after the Pein-invasion arc, I'm discounting everything that has happened thereafter in canon. Meaning I won't try to incorporate all of Naruto/Sasuke's canon power-ups at some point into the fic (which I was planning on doing originally). I'm just going to pick and choose the ones that were foreshadowed and seemed reasonable to me, as well as add some original ones that has roots in OP-verse. They'll still be the 2 strongest shinobi of their generation, just not God-level and so much above everyone else that they could pretty much solo the entire war by themselves. Rather than pure power I want to emphasize the strategic/stealth/subterfuge aspect of shinobi warfare, which, imo, Kishi barely portrayed at all.

On that note, I have decided to rework the first four chapters, namely the ones that I'd written before my 2 year hiatus. The content is the same, so no need to reread, but hopefully the execution is improved.

As several reviewers not-so-kindly pointed out, my early depiction of Sakura was kind of OOC. I basically just tried to elaborate on her motivations and changed some of her skill set so that her moves are more in line with the canon depiction. I suppose I did give Sakura some rather uncharacteristic jutsus/weapons for plot reasons the first time around, so the biggest change comes in chapter 3 during the Mihawk fight. If you're interested, I've added small "Edit" sections at the end of the first few chapters that summarized what changed.

One other thingI've decided to just go with the canon depiction of the Void Century as 800-900 years ago. There was a reason why I needed it to be 300-400 years ago before, but I've reworked that plot point.

Also, there's an additional little tidbit in Interlude 3 with Sasuke and Gaara that addresses why Sakura and co. were sent to this precise point in the future, and it ties in with the Shinjuu myth. I've added the small section below so you guys don't have to dig through the entire chapter again.

"If it'd truly been over 800 years since the others escaped the Elemental Nations..." Gaara frowned, "how do you know they're still alive?"

Sasuke wouldn't meet his eyes. How suspicious. "I have yet to work out all the mechanics of Madara's jutsu," he said slowly, "but there's a reason why the barrier between our world and the Outside is at its weakest exactly 876 years after the Infinite Tsukuyomi was casted. The only way to bypass the barrier is with a time-space jutsu like Kamui, and my guess is that even a jutsu as powerful as Kamui can only bypass the Sage of Six Path's barrier at its weakest point in time."


"Meaning when Kakashi had used his Kamui to send the others to the Outside, the jutsu had automatically found the weakest point in the barrier's time-space continuum and sent them 876 years into the future."

"So after enduring 876 years of Madara's Infinite Tsukuyomi, we are now exactly aligned in the same time frame as those who had escaped to the Outside all those years ago..." Gaara sighed. As much as he wanted to bash the Uchiha's head in, they had bigger problems on their hands. If what he'd said was true… if Naruto and Temari were indeed out there somewhere, unable to find their way back because Madara's false reality existed in a different time… well, there was really only one solution.

So I guess one more mystery... Any mathematicians out there able to figure out the significance of 876? Considering I originally had it as 365 and the logic behind it is similar...

Remember to read and review!