Chapter Four: Revelations
Snafu's Notes: After this chapter, I'll be out on vacation with the family. The reason why this story has been updated at such a pace was that the first few chapters had already been written. This is the last pre-written chapter I have. The story will continue once I return.
'Be extreme subtle, to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate.'
'All warfare is based on deception.'
Sun Tzu, The Art of War.
Imperial Complex, Hall of Sovereigns – Throne Room.
For the team sent by the Konoha Council, this was not what they were expecting.
The Emperor himself, the one who had decimated the Akatsuki in the Suna-Akatsuki War, as well as defeated the majority of the Konoha Eleven, several Elite Jounin and several clan heads was their former teammate, the dead last who once proclaimed that he would one day be Hokage, but was banished from the Leaf in the aftermath of the Uchiha Retrieval Mission.
And his wife...
The former heiress of the Hyuuga Clan, once deemed worthless because she did not meet the standards of her clan, forsaken by her father, now an S-class missing-ninja with a kill-on-sight order for her actions in crippling the Hyuuga clan head, was now the wife of the Emperor, herself being the most powerful woman on the continent, second only to her husband.
Both were written off as worthless, and yet, they were the Emperor and Empress Consort of the Unified West.
But that was not what scared the ninja present (save for Shikamaru). Those present who had went to Suna to aid Gaara in the Suna-Akatsuki War saw the carnage that was left in the aftermath of that short, but deadly war which led to the Akatsuki's destruction. Fifty thousand soldiers from the Imperial Defense Force, as well as six Jinchuuriki, and from the look of things, one freed Tailed Beast had saved Suna from destruction.
But that was just a fraction of what Naruto could muster, this Shikamaru knew. Naruto held plenty of ill will towards Konoha, but he was not Orochimaru. Naruto could have taken the 'jerkass route' and unleashed hell upon Konoha, the ensuing invasion would have made the Sand-Sound invasion look like a backyard brawl. But he didn't. Naruto had freed himself of his past, and made a new life for himself' leaving Konoha in the dust.
Seated on their thrones, Naruto and Hinata Namikaze looked down at the cowering Konoha ninja with contempt. Hinata kept her emotions under control, her face neutral, but her eyes showed anger. Naruto, on the other hand, was outright furious. Blue eyes scanned the gathered ninja set before him, at the the people who had dared to infiltrate his home. He knew the truth about his banishment, but that still didn't get the shinobi clans off the hook.
There was his former sensei, the aloof Kakashi Hatake. The last time he had seen him was back in Hot Water Country, along with Kiba Inuzuka and the Inuzuka Matriarch. Besides Sasuke Uchiha, Naruto hated his former sensei with a passion. In his eyes, Kakashi was a hypocrite, plain and simple. He once preached friendship, that 'those who broke the rules were trash, and those who abandoned their fellow ninja were worse than trash.' Then he went back on his saying, abandoning him to train Saskue. Kakashi was even the first to turn his back on him when the banishment order came down from the Konoha council calling Naruto scum. Sakumo Hatake would be rolling over in his grave if he had seen how his son had ended up.
Speaking of Kiba, he was standing next to Kakashi. The feral Inuzuka and his giant dog looked like they were about to piss on themselves. Always charging in headfirst without getting the entire story. Just like the rest of his family. Then again, growing up, Naruto was just the same. Like Kakashi, the Inuzuka clan was the first to turn their backs on him, including Hana. For that, the Inuzuka clan - Kiba included - were ranked high on Naruto's shit list. Which was why Naruto took great pleasure in beating down both Kiba and Tsume back in Hot Water Country.
Ino was just as bad as Sakura. Almost, anyway. Shikamaru had told him about Sakura's actions which led to her ninja registration being revoked, and Ino declared the official apprentice under Tsunade. At least she wasn't screaming for his head when the banishment orders came down. She had matured in the eight years following his banishment, even outgrowing her childish crush over the Uchiha, but Naruto still remembered that day that she chose to support his banishment.
Kurenai Yuuhi Sarutobi - the genjutsu mistress and captain of the now-disbanded Cell Eight - he had no problem with. Then again, he hardly knew her. But even Naruto knew that she would look down on him with disgust, as if he was the Nine-Tails reincarnated. Just as blind and pathetic as the rest. Hinata, however still respected her former sensei a great deal, and since she was of the Sarutobi clan by marriage to Asuma, decided to show a bit of leniency.
Shino Aburame was kind of difficult to read, but was just like the rest. Even during their days in the academy, the bug user would keep his distance, as if he was afraid.
Shikamaru was doing a pretty good job of acting shocked upon seeing him. After all, no one would suspect the slacker of the Konoha Eleven to act as an inside man for Naruto and Hinata. He would most definitely have words with the shadow user later.
Kitami, on the other hand, watched the Konoha ninja squirm from her place beside Naruto's throne. The Nine-Tails was grinning maniacally at the sight.
But first things first.
Kakashi was outright shocked at the newest revelation. Naruto was not the Nine-Tails reborn! He was the son of Minato Namikaze!
'Oh, God...Sensei...your son...' Kakashi thought, his mind going back to all those times that he had neglected Naruto's training in favor of Sasuke.
It was true as they say: The past always catches up with you.
Or in cruder terms: Karma's a bitch, and she's back in heat.
Kakashi slowly went down to one knee. Ino, Shino, Shikamaru, Kurenai, and Kiba followed suit. Even Akamaru bowed low, whining softly. Despite this revelation, they had a mission to complete. The gray-haired ninja knew that if there was a chance of his and Kurenai's former students assisting Konoha, then it would come at a heavy price.
'Minato-sensei...I am so...so sorry for what I have done to your son,' Kakashi thought.
"Your Imperial Majesty...Your Imperial Highness..." Kakashi began, swallowing audibly. "Accept our sincere apologies for our intrusion into your lands. But we have come seeking your council on a matter of great importance."
"Then speak quickly, Hatake," Hinata ordered, looking as every bit as the Empress Consort she was meant to be. Had Hinata and her father had been on better terms, he would have been proud of her.
"Konoha is facing certain destruction from Oto, Kumo and Iwa," Kakashi explained. "Konoha has no allies to come to her aid, and should we go to war, then Konoha will be destroyed. We have come as representatives of the Konoha High Council and the Godaime Hokage to ask for military aid. Were you to ally with the Leaf, not only do we stand a chance of surviving, but the war could end in a truce before it can begin. The council can pay any price you name. Please, Your Imperial Majesty...help the Leaf."
Naruto could hear the desperation in Kakashi's voice. But he was not moved. He knew that the Konoha Civilian Council only agreed to this just to save their own asses.
"Answer me this, Kakashi Hatake," Naruto rebuked as he rose from his throne and descended the steps, stopping in front of the man he despised. "What can my country gain in the long run, should I agree to assist Konoha? Please...answer me that, Sensei," he finished, his voice laced with venom as he spat out Kakashi's former title as it was bile.
If looks could kill, then Kakashi would have been a pile of ash. If Itachi was still alive, then Kakashi would rather deal with him instead of his former student.
Fortunately, Kurenai made the save.
"Sire, an alliance between the Leaf and your Imperial Empire would improve the ways of life between us. Also, the Fire Damiyo would be interested in an alliance between you and Fire Country."
'Nice try, Sensei,' Hinata thought. Unknown to the gathered ninja (Shikamaru included), the Unified West was in contact with the Fire Lord, as well as knowing of the Orochimaru's intentions to raze Konoha to the ground.
"Is that what you think, Kurenai Sarutobi?" Naruto drawled.
This time, it was Hinata that had cut her former sensei off, addressing Kakashi. "Do you know what my husband and I see, Captain Hatake?" she sneered, her voice laced with venom as Naruto returned to his throne. "A group of ninja from a dead-end village, begging for salvation in the face of their destruction. A village who had chosen a potential traitor over a hero."
The ninja from Konoha winced. They knew that they were right.
Naruto continued the verbal assault. "I see a group of ninja who want me to waste not only my time, but also my resources and my military on an impending war which does not concern me in any shape, form or fashion. The same village that has abused me, spat upon me, and scorned me ever since I was born. The Yondaime - my father - wished the village to see me as a hero. Instead, you treated me like I was the fox reborn. The same village...that not only betrayed me, but banished me for doing my duty!"
At that, even Kitami winced from the anger that her former vessel was venting. Even she knew that the kid would not forgive Konoha for not only favoring the last Uchiha, but for banishing him, and that anger had festered and burned inside for so many years. Now it was being purged.
"Aside from the late Sandaime, my wife is one of the select few...one of the select few in that entire village who did not turn their backs on me. Aside from the both of them, I can count on my fingers the number of people who did not see me as the Nine-Tails incarnate. Sarutobi and his two friends...Teuchi and Ayame. They did not abandon me when my so-called 'friends' needed me the most. They saw me not as the jinchuuriki, but as a real person, unlike the rest of you. All of Konoha from the civilians to the clans left me at my most vulnerable point...but they remained loyal. Only five people out of the whole village who treated me like a human being!"
Naruto was silent for a moment, while the Konoha envoy lowered their heads in shame. They knew that he was right. He had given them his all - blood, sweat and tears - and was still looked down. It was at that moment, that Naruto passed judgment.
"Your request for aid is denied."
"No!" Ino shouted, rising to her feet. "Naruto! Hinata, please! Konoha is going to be destroyed! It's your home! You have to defend it!"
"Defend it from what? Civilians who think that they can interfere in shinobi matters?" Hinata shot back. "From people who celebrate the sacrifice the Yondaime made by trying to kill his legacy for something that was not even his fault? Or from certain shinobi clans who forsake their own children for their own political standing in the village? After what they had done to Naruto and after what my clan had done to me, Konoha had stopped being our home. This is our home now."
Tears were now in Ino's eyes. What Hinata had said was true. Hinata had all but forsaken by her clan, but Naruto had gotten the worst of the raw deal. Both were loyal Konoha shinobi, only to get hosed by the village.
Naruto continued after his wife. "The Unified West will not aid Konoha in your little war. This is a mess of your own creation. You should have destroyed Orochimaru when you had the chance. Take comfort that we will not destroy your village, despite the fact that you deserve it...but we will not save you from your own destruction either. However, you will be punished for your trespassing into our beloved home."
With a snap of his fingers, the ten Hellcats entered the throne room.
"Take them to the palace dungeons," Naruto ordered. "For your trespassing in my domain, you will stay there for the night. In the morning, you will be taken back to the port, where you will be sent back East."
"Make sure you place Captain Sarutobi and Jounin Nara in a separate cell from the others," Hinata added. "Just to make sure that they don't try anything rash."
As the Hellcats grabbed each of the Konoha ninja, Naruto turned to the Hellcats. "Get them out of of here."
Not one of the Konoha ninja offered any resistance as they were escorted out of the Throne Room. Not even Akamaru. Once they were gone, Naruto slumped into his throne. Despite having planned for an encounter with the former Konoha ninja, it still took a lot out of him.
Yukie, having watched the encounter from the side door, entered the throne room. "Naruto, are you okay?" the Spring Damiyo asked, concerned for her friend.
Naruto sighed. "Honestly...I don't know if I should play the unsung hero or the idiot. Hinata and I had planned on something like this...but seeing them after all this time..."
"I know," Hinata replied, gently grasping her husband's hand. "It was hard for me too."
"Are you still considering helping the Leaf?" Yukie asked.
Naruto shook his head. "No. Our decision is final on the matter. Hinata and I will grant the Konoha clans and the ninja who support Tsunade asylum, crippling its Shinobi forces, while the Fire Lord will finish the job."
Yukie nodded. Naruto and Hinata had told her the circumstances regarding Naruto's banishment, and she fully supported the royal couple's plans in crippling Konoha.
"Kitami, send for Shikamaru Nara and Kurenai Sarutobi after Naruto calms down," Hinata ordered. "And incapacitate the others so that they do not know."
"I can use a genjutsu to make them fall asleep," Kitami suggested. "That way no one will none the wiser."
Naruto nodded. "See to it."
Imperial Dungeons – hours later.
Dark, dank and dreary. That's what the Imperial dungeons looked like. It was used mostly by Rokubungi Oda as a torture chamber. Now, it was used to house prisoners facing execution for capital offenses, such as treason (mostly from remnants of Rokunbungi Oda's forces) or those who tried to assassinate the Emperor and Empress Consort.
In short, Zabuza, who also served as the Empire's Chief Executioner, had plenty to do. So long as there were those who opposed the Emperor's rule, he would use his oversized sword to deliver swift justice to those tho threaten his boss and his wife.
Hours had passed since the Emperor and Empress Consort's judgment, and the Konoha ninja were forced to face facts. The Emperor was not only the son of Konoha's Yellow Flash, but he had flat out refused to help in the inevitable war which will ultimately lead to Konoha's destruction, and that the Empress Consort was the former Hyuuga Heiress. No one spoke, since none could get over Naruto's cold words which were spoken to them.
'The Unified West will not aid Konoha in your little war. This is a mess of your own creation. You should have destroyed Orochimaru when you had the chance. Take comfort that we will not destroy your village, despite the fact that you deserve it...but we will not save you from your own destruction either.'
It also gave the Konoha prisoners time to reflect on their mistakes.
In one cell, was Shikamaru and Kurenai. Next to them were Ino, Shino, Kakashi Kiba and Akamaru. Down the corridor, one of the prisoners was screaming bloody murder, cursing the Emperor for killing Oda and stealing his land.
In the first cell, Ino was hugging her knees. Kiba was punching the wall, muttering "Stupid, stupid, stupid," to himself with each punch. Shino was slumped against the wall opposite Ino, Akamaru was on the ground, whining softly. Kakashi was pacing the cell, berating himself over his actions as sensei of Cell Seven. In the second cell, Shikamaru simply sat on the cot, arms folded while Kurenai was brooding.
"Troublesome, Kurenai-sensei," Shikamaru muttered. "Very troublesome."
Kurenai smiled sadly. "Hinata always had a soft spot for Naruto. Leave it to him to stick to Hiashi. Even during the Chuunin Exams in Suna, he supported her, especially during her fight with Neji. Despite everything, I'm proud of her. Naruto had succeeded where Hiashi had failed; he broke her out of her shell and saw her worth."
'You have no idea, Sensei,' Shikamaru said, remembering that Hinata had fought alongside Naruto in the Suna-Akatsuki War.
"Then again, Naruto has once again proven to be the most unpredictable ninja," Kurenai finished. She wondered what would be the Hyuuga Clan's reactions once they found out that Hinata was the most powerful woman in the Unified West.
She snorted. 'Emperor's Whore. If Hiashi was on better terms with Hinata, he would have been jumping for joy that Hinata is married to the most powerful man on the continent.'
From the cell next door, Kakashi had heard Kurenai's comment. "I'm so stupid. Why didn't see this sooner? He was Minato's son," he lamented. "Why didn't anyone tell us?"
"I think both Sarutobi and Jiraiya knew," Kurenai said, speaking of her deceased father-in-law and the missing Toad Sage. In the back of her mind, she wondered whether or not Asuma knew. She would have words with her husband once they returned to Konoha.
"If everyone found out that Naruto was the son of the village hero, then the roles would have been reversed," Shino said. "He would have been the village prince, rather than Sasuke. It's the most logical conclusion that in Konoha, the name that people will respect is Namikaze. Naruto would have been pampered, while Sasuke, despite having the Sharingan, would have nothing. Maybe it's better this way."
"And it's our fault that he ended up this way," Ino sniffed. "We all thought that he was the Nine-Tails reborn. We drove him away because of our fear."
Kakashi sighed as he sat down on the cot. "I underestimated him. I always tell them to look underneath the hidden meanings, yet I did not take my own advice. He unified the West in such a short time and brought about a peace not seen since the time of the Six Paths. Out of everyone here, he probably hates me the most."
Kurenai smiled sadly. "I know. And the people love him. He would have made a great Hokage if the council hadn't screwed him over."
"From what I've heard, he has the Nine-Tails and the remaining Jinchuuriki under his command," Shino pointed. "The people and his soldiers are ready to die for both him and Hinata."
Ino nodded. "Loyalty. Something that we all lacked. We favored Sasuke and banished a hero."
Kiba, having finished venting out his frustrations, slumped down next to Ino, who began to work on his bloodied hands. "Tell me about it. We all fucked up big time by kissing the Uchiha's ass." The memory of his encounter with the Nine-Tails was still fresh in his mind. "Naruto never quit. Even when we fought in the Chuunin Exams, he never did quit. Even when Orochimaru screwed up his chakra, he never gave up. He fought on." He remembered the three-on-one confrontation with the Emperor in Hot Water Country. "I think it's safe to say that he has surpassed all of us. Some friend I was."
Outside in the dungeon's corridors, General Kazuma and Kitami appeared. Masking their chakra so that they could not be identified, they stood before the cell containing the four Konoha ninja and one massive dog. Kitami went through several handsigns while whispering, "Kitsune Style: Gentle Sleep."
Within seconds, Kakashi, Ino, Kiba, Shino and Akamaru were out like a light. Once they made sure that they were asleep, Kitami turned to Kazuma. "Bring the slacker and Sarutobi to the visitor's room," she said before departing.
"Yes, Lady Akashiya," Kazuma replied. Motioning to the jailer, he ordered him to open the cell containing Kurenai and Shikamaru."
The turning of the lock made both Kurenai and Shikamaru jump. Then the door opened and Kazuma was standing in the doorway.
"Shikamaru Nara and Kurenai Sarutobi?" Kazuma asked.
"Yes?" Kurenai replied while Shikamaru nodded.
"Come with me. The Emperor and Empress Consort will see the both of you now."
"Wait, what about Captain Hatake and the others?" Kurenai asked.
Kazuma shook his head. "Sorry. Only you two. Please come with me."
Hall of Sovereigns – Visitors' Room.
Kurenai and Shikamaru were escorted to the visitor's room inside the Hall of Sovereigns by Kazuma and were told to wait. After Kazuma left via the shadows, Naruto and Hinata had made their appearance.
"How you been, Shikamaru?" Naruto asked as he approached the lazy Nara.
"Good, despite everything. You?" Shikamaru replied, just as Kurenai's eyes went wide as the realization had struck her.
"Same," Naruto replied as the two men shook hands.
Kurenai was on Shikamaru in an instant. "You KNEW? You knew that Naruto and Hinata were the Emperor and Empress?" she shouted. "Why didn't you tell Asuma? Or your teammates?"
"He did, as does Granny Tsunade," Naruto replied. "They both found out shortly after the Akatsuki were destroyed in Suna. As why Shikamaru did not tell them, both Granny and myself asked him not to. Ino's a gossip and word would have reached Danzou and the others. I wanted your reactions to be genuine and honest."
Kurenai looked like she was on the receiving end of the Thousand Years of Pain. But she quickly gathered her wits. "It was you who had taken Hinata during the Suna Chuunin Exams?" she asked Naruto.
The Emperor nodded. "It was me. I also freed her from that damned seal."
"You definitely succeeded on that," Kurenai replied. "Hiashi was very upset when he found out that you removed the Caged Bird Seal off of Hinata." She turned to her former student. "Look at you. Empress Consort to the Emperor. Congratulations, Hinata. I always had faith in you."
Hinata smiled. "Thanks, Sensei."
The red-eyed woman smiled back. Then she looked at the ring on Hinata's finger. "Married?"
The former Hyuuga nodded. "Two years."
"One of the conditions I set for her was to become a better ninja. Kitami and I trained her. I wanted an Empress who can carry herself on the battlefield, rather than some spoiled, pampered wives of the Damiyos back East."
"Too bad Hiashi didn't see it that way," Kurenai said, remembering how Hinata had crippled her former father back in Wave Country. She then turned to Naruto. "How long was Shikamaru was your inside man?"
"Since the Suna-Akatsuki War," Naruto replied. "My spy network back East was the one who passed on news of Orochimaru's planned attack on Konoha to Shikamaru, who in turn told Granny. After all, no one would suspect the slacker of being an informant."
"So you already know about the invasion," Kurenai said.
Naruto nodded. "And my answer still stands, Sarutobi. I will not help Konoha."
And Naruto told her. About the conspiracy which ultimately led to his exile, as well as the conspirators responsible. Shikamaru, who had told Naruto and Hinata the plot in the first place, had all but confirmed it. Kurenai did not know whether or not that extended to Hitomi, but knowing Danzou, it probably did, as she was part of the Sarutobi clan by marriage. She may be a Konoha Jounin, but her loyalty was to her daughter over all.
"So let me get this straight. Asana Haruno bribed the civilian side of the council to vote for the banishment, while Danzou threatened the shinobi clan heads to vote for the banishment or else their children would be turned into living weapons for his ROOT?" Kurenai surmised.
Shikamaru nodded. "In a nutshell, yeah."
"Now you see why Hinata and I refuse to aid Konoha," Naruto said. "But I still have a grudge with Orochimaru, as he was the one who killed Old Man Sarutobi. Which is why Hinata and I have decided on a course of action that will destroy Orochimaru's war machine, and at the same time, cripple Konoha."
"By the time you and the others return to Konoha, we will have executed Susanoo's Wrath," Hinata continued. After giving Kurenai a brief explanation of the plan, she turned to Shikamaru. "By that time, Iwa and Kumo will try and kill each other, while at the same time, Orochimaru will be caught in the crossfire. By destroying his fragile alliances with the Cloud and the Stone, Orochimaru can't invade Konoha."
"That's where you come in, Shikamaru," Naruto said. "Once it's known that Orochimaru won't be able to attack Konoha, you will tell Tsunade to resign her post as Hokage. More than likely, it will come down to either Hiashi or Danzou who will become the Rokudaime Hokage. By that time, I will have notified the Fire Lord and he will pass judgment on Konoha."
"And that is...?" Kurenai prodded.
"Half of the shinobi support Tsunade, including the clan heads, save for the Hyuuga, as well as a sizable number of Chuunin and Jounin," Hinata said. "The second half of Susanoo's Wrath is a mass evacuation, or exodus, if you will, of the major clans and shinobi. They will head to Wave Country, where they will be evacuated here."
"But half of Konoha's ninja force support Tsunade," Kurenai replied. Then it dawned on her. "By allowing the clans and more than half of the Chuunin and Jounin asylum, Konoha's shinobi forces will be irreversibly crippled. Combined that with the egos of Haruno, Koharu, Honmura, Danzou and Hiashi, Konoha will self-destruct."
Naruto nodded. "Correct."
"What about Hatake?" Kurenai asked.
Naruto's mood darkened. "I have lost all respect for him. Made the beatdown I gave to him even sweeter. He favored Sasuke, even after I brought his prized student back, not taking notice of the Chidori wound in my chest. What my dad saw in him I will never know."
"But still...this puts a new light in why you were banished," Kurenai said.
"I know what you're going to say, Sensei," Hinata cut in. "But we can't expose Danzou. The corruption in Konoha is too deep. After Minato's death, the Council has taken too much power, leaving the post of Hokage as a figurehead."
"But is there no other way?" Kurenai asked.
Naruto shrugged his shoulders. "The other option is that I personally decimate the shinobi forces inside Konoha and let Kitami raze the place to the ground. I chose the lesser evil. The idea of offering the clan heads asylum, that was Hinata's idea."
Kurenai gulped. Given how Naruto had unified the countries, beaten down the majority of Konoha's elite and decimated the Akatsuki, he could just as easily back his threat up. Sighing, Kurenai nodded. "I...I understand."
"Kurenai, I must ask that you do not reveal what we have said to anyone," Naruto said. "If Danzou or anyone here finds out what I have planned, then the game is up. You and the others can tell them that I am the Emperor and Hinata is my wife. But other than that, I will not aid Konoha." He stood up, Hinata followed suit. "This meeting is now over. You have your orders, Shikamaru. Make sure Tsunade knows her part once you return to Konoha."
Shikamaru nodded, just as Kazuma emerged from the shadows.
"Take them back to their cells," Naruto ordered.
The Shadow Company commander nodded and did his duty.
Morning came over the Imperial Capital.
The five Konoha jounin and one massive dog were released from their overnight imprisonment. Upon seeing daylight, they saw Kitami waiting for them.
The Nine-Tails/prime minister was direct and to the point. "The Emperor has ordered that all of you will board the first boat at port and will be sent back East." She retrieved a scroll and handed it to one of the Hellcats. "These are your orders. Class S assignment from General Nii, and the Emperor and Empress Consort. You and your squad will accompany the Konoha ninja back East, then return here. I will accompany you to the harbor."
The Nine-Tails gave a fanged, feral grin which sent chills down the spines of the Konoha ninja. Not even Tsume Inuzuka or Anko Mitarashi was this scary.
"Let's go. First boat leaves in less than a hour," Kitami said.
Kakashi nodded reluctantly and without any resistance, the Hellcats and their 'escort' walked out of the dungeons.
Watching from the bedroom window, Naruto watched as Kitami led the Konoha ninja out of the complex. Hinata soon joined him.
"Now, it's up to Tsunade and the Fire Lord," Naruto mused.
"This is a very dangerous game we're playing, Love," Hinata replied. "Very dangerous."
The blond Emperor nodded. "I know." He looked at his watch. "Come midnight, Susanoo's Wrath will be executed."
"You seem pretty confident in Zabuza and Yugito's cells," Hinata noted. "Are you sure that they will succeed?"
"I worked and fought with them for a long time. I have faith in them. They don't know the meaning of the word fail." That said, Naruto turned and walked back inside. Hinata stayed outside, watching the Konoha ninja until they were out of view.
Inside the Pekara Merchant Houses in both Earth and Lightning Countries, two sleeper cells of Zabuza Momichi's Demon Brigade and Yugito Nii's Hellcat Unit began to make the final preparations for the mission given to them by the Emperor and Empress Consort.
It was an SS-class mission of the utmost importance. Naruto had personally selected the men and women involved for their specialties in Lightning Jutsu, Earth Jutsu and Genjutsu. Inside the Earth Pekara Branch, the sleeper cell donned ninja uniforms identifying them as Kumo and Oto ninja, while in Lightning Pekara Branch, the cell there were dressed as Iwa and Oto ninja.
Their mission: prevent Konoha's destruction by causing the alliance between Orochimaru, Iwa and Kumo to fracture. They understood that it could well be a suicide mission, but that was only if they failed.
And one thing about the Hellcat Unit and the Demon Brigade, was they they never failed.
Come midnight, Operation Susanoo's Wrath was a go.
As the Unification Festival reached its climax, ninja in both Kumo and Iwa began do die. In Kumo, it was ninja wearing the uniforms of both Sound and Stone, while in Iwa it was Lightning and Sound. While Naruto and Hinata mingled with the more prominent clans inside the Imperial Palace and later, with the civilians down in Kimon City, Susanoo's Wrath was underway.
The ninja in both Kumo and Iwa did not know what had hit them, as the sleeper cells targeted the high-ranking Jounin and Chuunin. The Genjutsu specialists captured several of the strongest ninjas from both sides, brainwashed them into fighting their own comrades, ultimately leading to the attempted assassination attempts on the Tsuchikage and Raikage respectively.
By dawn the next morning, Kumo and Iwa would be at war. Not with Konoha, but with each other and Oto. Meanwhile the two sleeper cells had silently retreated back to their respective Pekara Merchant Houses, and destroyed the evidence of their participation in the operation.
There would be no explanation as why both sides had attacked the other. Orochimaru's explanations would fall on deaf ears as the next battleground would be Rice and Oto itself. Not even Orochimaru could stop the inevitable invasion from two villages.
Imperial Complex, Office of the Emperor and Empress – two days after the Unification Festival.
The scrolls were delivered earlier that day. Both were from the Pekara Branches in Lightning and Earth. Upon opening them, Naruto read them and his expression went from unreadable to that of satisfaction.
Hinata had caught the expression when she entered the office. "What is it?" she asked.
Naruto said nothing as he handed her the scrolls from Earth and Lightning Countries. Soon, her expression mirrored that of her husband's own once she had verified that the scroll was genuine, as only Pekara employees used only those scrolls.
Written in both scrolls were the words: Operation Susanoo's Wrath – success. Oto fighting two-front battle between Iwa and Kumo.
Konoha, six days later.
On the way back to Konoha, Kakashi and the others had plenty of time to get the backstory on Naruto from one of the Hellcats, who was a veteran of the Unification Wars. Following his banishment, he had met up with Yugito Nii, who like Naruto, had been screwed over by the Kumo Council. After fleeing to Kimon City, the pair had made a name for themselves by assassinating Rokunbungi Oda and securing Kimon, before launching into his war of unification.
One year to conquer the Northern Region, and another year to conquer the Southern Region. Shortly afterward, he was named Emperor of the Unified West. Once he became Emperor, Naruto showed that he was a capable ruler as well as a skilled warrior. Given the fact that Yukie had filmed most of her movies in the West, it was safe to say that Naruto had made a trade alliance with Spring.
And the alliance with Suna, given how Naruto had came to the aid of Gaara when the Akatsuki invaded. Not to mention how he was able beat down most of Konoha's finest. They couldn't pin it on the fox this time around. He had gone from dead-last to the most powerful man on the continent.
Hearing about Naruto's exploits in the war and as Emperor had crushed what little remained of the Konoha ninja's morale. They were not looking forward to returning to Konoha to give their report to Tsunade and the council.
The trip by boat took five days. And another day by foot to reach the Leaf. After greeting the guards at the gate, Ino and Shino returned to their respective homes, leaving Kurenai, Kakashi, Kiba and Shikamaru to make their report to the Hokage and the council.
Konoha Council Chambers.
The council was immediately convened upon Tsunade's request. Both Ino and Shino were still absent, as they had a lot to think about the past couple of days, leaving Shikamaru, Kakashi, Kurenai and Kiba at the mercy of the Konoha Council.
The returning envoy stood before Tsunade and her advisers, the shinobi and the civilian council members were filed on either side of the council chambers. All were anticipating the news of whether or not the Western Empire would come to their aid.
"Well?" Koharu prodded. "Did you gain an audience with the Emperor? What did he have to say?"
Kurenai and Kakashi exchanged glances. Then Kakashi began to speak. "As ordered by the Godaime Hokage," he began, his voice cracking, "we infiltrated the Western Empire. However, we were captured and brought before the Emperor. This also coincides with a secondary mission given to both Captain Sarutobi and myself: find Naruto Uzumaki and see if he would return to the Leaf."
At that moment, the council was in an uproar...until Tsunade called for silence.
"Why would you even consider allowing the demon to return to the Leaf?" Asana Haruno demanded. "We banished him eight years ago!"
"Indeed," Danzou seconded. "I for one am also concerned about this, Lady Hokage. Our decision was final in regards to the Kyuubi brat. Not even you can override the council's judgment."
"We are in an impeding state of war, Shimura," Tsunade shot back. "And since you and my...advisers like to flaunt the law, allow me to repay the favor. In the event of war, the Hokage of Konoha is automatically granted unlimited, emergency powers, thus even overriding the will of the Konoha Council for the sake of the village. As quoted in the Konoha Charter, the Hokage of Konoha's word is absolute, meaning that even banished ninja can safely return to Konoha and fight, in exchange for a pardon."
Danzou, Koharu and Honmura growled internally. They knew that Tsunade was right. But they wisely kept their mouths shut. Despite the power they wielded, they still were on thin ice with the Slug Sage with their orchestrating Naruto's banishment. One wrong move and they would not survive Tsunade's wrath.
"As if we needed the demon to return to this village," one civilian member said.
The shinobi half of the council knew better. Even they knew that the village was worse off because of Naruto. While the civilian council sang the praises of the Uchiha, Konoha had lost every single alliance and trade agreement it had gained. Even Jiraiya and his spy network, once invaluable to Konoha, was also gone. Most of the villages and nations said that unless the banishment was reversed, then they would do no business with Konoha. Even after eight years, the council was still blind to the fact that their village was better off when Naruto was still a member of its shinobi ranks.
But the shinobi council's hands were tied, as Danzou had threatened them not only to vote for the banishment of Uzumaki, but never to say a word, if they value the lives of their children.
"How does this coincides with the mission?" Asana asked. She the put two and two together. "Wait...are you saying that the demon is in the employ of the Emperor?"
Kurenai shook her head. "No. Naruto Uzumaki is not in the employ of the Emperor. He is the Emperor."
Silence reigned throughout the council hall. Hiashi and Hanabi both looked surprised. Even Sasuke listened on in interest. The same Naruto that was considered the dead last of the Rookie 11 was now the most powerful man on the Western Continent. The same man that had soundly beaten most of the high-ranking jounin.
It took a moment for Hiashi Hyuuga to connect the dots. "It was him. That damned demon took my daughter!"
"There's more," Kurenai continued, her tone smug as she turned to Hiashi. "We also came into contact with former Konoha chuunin Hinata Hyuuga."
"And you did nothing!" Hiashi sneered. "You know she is in the Bingo Book, Sarutobi. You always did have a bleeding heart for that disgrace."
"Of course I did nothing," Kurenai replied. "That 'disgrace,' as you call her, is Naruto's wife, making her the Empress Consort. Attacking her would in effect, bring upon the wrath of the Empire down on us all."
From her seat on the council, Tsunade mentally counted down. 'Five...four...three...two...one...and...'
As expected, bedlam ensued.
"We are saved!" a second civilian member shouted. "That Kyuubi brat will do anything to come back to Konoha! All we got to do is stroke his ego and tell him that he can come back! When the war is over, we can throw him out again."
This time, it was Kiba who spoke up. "No...you're wrong. We were all wrong."
"How so?" Tsume Inuzuka asked.
"Naruto and the Nine-Tails are completely separate entities," Kiba explained, remembering the team's confrontation with the humanized fox.
Kakashi nodded, confirming Kiba's testimony. "It's true." He then told the council of their encounter with the Nine-Tails, followed by their meeting with the former ninja-turned-Emperor.
As Danzou listened on, he was seething. Bitter irony that he once tried to make Naruto into a ultimate weapon for Konoha, but had failed when Hiruzen Sarutobi denied him the chance. In a twist of fate, Naruto had become a weapon, the ultimate weapon of the Unified West.
'That damned Kyuubi brat! I knew that banishing him was a bad idea!' the old warhawk ranted. 'He is even stronger than his father! Not even the Uchiha could beat him! And he's the Emperor of the West! That position should be mine! Such power would be useful in controlling all of the countries!'
Too bad that Naruto would more than likely have him and his ROOT executed should he try anything funny.
"If the boy is the Emperor, then we are saved!" one fat cat from the civilian side shouted, interrupting Kakashi.
That is until Kakashi dropped the bombshell.
"He has denied our pleas for assistance in the war with Oto, Iwa and Kumo," the copycat ninja deadpanned. "His hatred of the Leaf runs deep. We have betrayed him in his darkest hour...because we were blind to the facts...we all thought that he was the Kyuubi in human form. Minato would be turning over in his grave if he saw what this village has done to his child."
"Wait...are you saying..." Tsume began, her face going pale.
Tsunade spoke for him, her voice grim. "Yes. The council, in its ignorance, has banished the son of Minato Namikaze, and his wife, former Whirlpool ruler Kushinna Uzumaki-Namikaze...who in turn, is related to the my grandfather, Harashima Senju, and my granduncle, Tobirama Senju, the Shodaime and Nidaime Hokages...as well as myself. Yes, the Senju clan is related to the Uzumaki clan, formerly of Whirlpool. Noble blood runs through Naruto's veins."
The shinobi side of the council looked ill, while the civilian side erupted in shouts of denial.
"The boy can't be the sole survivor of the Namikaze clan!"
"It has to be another of the demon's tricks!"
"ENOUGH!" Tsunade shouted, silencing the civilian council. "This has gone on long enough. It is because of the influence of the civilian council that we banished the son of the village hero. This is a shinobi village, and civilians have no say in ninja matters. Therefore...I am dissolving the civilian council until further notice." Her voice rose over the objections. "If you do not like my decree, then maybe a visit to Ibiki and Anko will change your mind."
At that, the civilians effectively snapped their mouths shut. One thing for certain, the civilians were completely scared of the chief interrogator and his assistant. Silently, one by one, they walked out of the chambers.
Once the civilians were gone, another round of talks began.
"Surely there is something that we can offer the boy in exchange for his aid in this war," Honmura said, grasping for straws.
Shikaku shook his head. "What can we offer him? The position of Hokage? He is the Emperor of the West. A pardon and his name cleared? Or maybe an apology for how he was treated over the years? Or maybe a rank to Jounin? Not even that would interest him. If anything, from his exploits and his track record, he is stronger than the last four Hokages combined. If what Captain Sarutobi and Captain Hatake speak are indeed true, then we can forget about having the Yondaime's legacy helping us." He sighed. "Minato would be rolling over in his grave as to what we have done to his son."
"So what?" Chouza Akamichi butted in. "That leaves us with two choices. Either we give into their demands of handing over Sasuke Uchiha, the Hyuuga heiress, recognizing it as a major Shinobi nation and stepping down, and handing over the Forbidden Scroll of Sealing - the latter of which we do not have..."
"Or Konoha makes its last stand," Danzou deadpanned. "I must admit that banishing the boy was good for the Leaf at the time, but now, we face destruction."
'Destruction because of your own stupidity,' Tsunade thought crossly. Turning to Shikamaru, Kurenai, Kakashi and Kiba, she dismissed them and remained behind as the shinobi council continued to argue over what to do next.
No one noticed Sasuke Uchiha leave the room shortly after the Konoha envoy. Finally, Tsunade got tired of all the arguing and dismissed the clans for the day.
Konoha – Market Square
Shikamaru made his way to the Pekara Merchant Stand, where Makie Asashina and her fellow merchants were busy hawking their wares and exotic materials from the Unified West. The lazy Nara immediately identified Makie by her crimson flak vest and katana, and made his way over to her.
Makie saw him coming. Before leaving the Fire Capital, she had received word of the attack via a fox summon from Hinata. "Ah, Shikamaru," she greeted. Retrieving a package from underneath the stand, she handed it over to the pineapple-headed slacker. Leaning in, she whispered into his ear. To anyone else, it looked like she was flirting with him. But Shikamaru knew better.
"I bring word from the Unified West and from the Emperor," she whispered. "Susanoo's Wrath is a success. Tell your Hokage to begin the next phase of the plan once word reaches here that Orochimaru will not invade."
"Troublesome," Shikamaru replied, but rushed off back to the Hokage Tower.
Training Ground No.3
Sasuke found Kakashi at the old training grounds. The gray-haired Jounin stood near a post, lost in his thoughts. But he knew that the Uchiha was there. Sasuke remembered this spot as well, as this was the location of their bell test. The post was the same that Naruto had been tied to in his youth.
"I thought you might be here," Saskue said.
"..." Kakashi remained silent.
"So it's true? About the dobe being Emperor?" When Kakashi nodded, Sasuke continued on. "Hn...guess I can't actually call him dobe anymore. Given how he managed to unify the Western Continent, as well as beat down most of the Konoha jounin. Should have known that he had on a mask. Not that I blame him."
He walked over to the post and placed one hand on the wooden beam. A sardonic smile crept across the Uchiha's lips. "I remember the bell test you made us take after we made genin. Naruto was tied to this very post when we failed to get a bell off of you." He sighed. "All of this...this is my fault. If I hadn't tried to defect to Orochimaru, then none of this would have happened. Naruto should not have been banished for my crimes. If anything, I should have been the one walking out of that gate."
In the eight years following Naruto's banishment, Sasuke had changed for the better, surprisingly. Despite the fact that it had cost him the trust of the Shinobi clans of Konoha, Sasuke had trained harder than ever once he was fully recovered. It had taken Naruto's banishment to see that his obsession with vengeance had ultimately caused the destruction of Cell Seven. He had distanced himself from Kakashi and Sakura as a result, and hardly spoken to Sakura for the next several years.
Until three years ago, he received a marriage proposal from Asana Haruno. Since Sasuke needed to rebuild the Uchiha, she was offering Sakura's hand in marriage. Sasuke blanched at the proposal. He would rather spend time in the Forest of Death with the critters than to be married to the pink-haired banshee.
Speaking of which...
"IS IT TRUE? THAT DEMON IS THE EMPEROR OF THE WEST?"
Sasuke and Kakashi winced as Sakura Haruno stormed in their direction. The disgraced Chuunin was now being groomed to take over her mother's mercantile business, which had taken quite a hit with the rise of the Pekara Merchant Houses. Ever since having lost her shinobi status, Sakura had focused her attention into seducing Sasuke – with no success, and running the day-to-day operations of her family's business.
"It's true, all right," Kakashi confirmed. "Naruto is the Emperor of the West."
Sakura folded her arms across her chest. "It's a lie. You've probably been fooled, Hatake. You know as well as I do that Naruto can use Shadow Clones. There's a meeting at my mother's home. The civilian council which Tsunade had ejected are talking about sanctions against the Pekara Merchant House, as well as summoning Naruto back to face trial."
"There's a problem with that, Sakura," Sasuke pointed out. "Since the civilian council forgot, let me remind you. The Fire Lord himself personally intervened, saying that no one is to make a move against Uzumaki under any circumstances. Since he is the Emperor of the West, he is now protected by diplomatic immunity, as his Hinata. We attack anyone of them, and Orochimaru will be the least of our worries."
Sakura snorted. "As if that dead list can do anything. He loves Konoha too much to raise a sword against it."
Kakashi shook his head. "People do change when you haven't seen them in almost a decade. Naruto and the Nine-Tails are not one and the same. I should not have doubted Minato-sensei's sealing abilities. He sealed the Nine-Tails inside Naruto's body in order to save Konoha. The Nine-Tailed Fox is a woman. A very hot woman, despite the tails and demonic chakra."
"Whatever," Sakura replied. "Mom and the more prominent members of the civilian council are filing an injunction against Naruto, denouncing him and Hinata as traitors to the leaf, as well as denying him as the son of Minato Namikaze. The second injunction is aimed at Tea Country, demanding that they hand over the demon's wealth immediately, or else they will find themselves suffering from a trade embargo with the Leaf."
"Good luck with that," Kakashi snorted. "Tea Country's on friendly terms with the Unified West. So threatening them would be moot at best. You haven't seen what kind of damage that Naruto can do, Sakura. Sasuke and I have. We've seen the aftermath of the Akatsuki invasion, and given the fact that his army are battle-hardened samurai and ninja, they can easily overrun Konoha and destroy it."
Sakura snorted again and walked off.
At a ninja-only bar and grill...
Ino and Shino had just finished telling the other members of the Konoha 11 and several high-ranking Jounin the news. They did not take it very well. Most of them had assumed that Naruto and the Nine-Tails were one and the same. But after Ino had told them what had happened and with Shino backing her up, they knew that they screwed up big time.
What was even more shocking, as Neji had pointed out, was that Naruto had fought and beaten most of the Konoha 11, several elite Jounin and clan heads following the deaths of Hidan and Kazuku. On top of that, he was the architect behind the destruction of the Akatsuki, as well as retrieving the surviving Jinchuuriki and allowing them to live in the West.
"Well, shit," Anko Mitarashi said. "I always knew that kid wasn't the Nine-Tails. If he was, then Orochimaru would have long since been pissing on this town's ashes. If Iruka was still alive, he would have been proud of him."
"We have done a very unyouthful thing in condemning Naruto," Rock Lee lamented. "We all thought he was the fox reborn. But to have united the Western lands in such a short time and bring about peace to the war-torn lands..."
Maito Gai nodded. "Indeed, my youthful student. He has proven to have both the Will of Fire, as well as the flames of youth burn brightly in him."
"Can't believe we all fought him, and lost," Tenten said as she poked at her lunch, having lost her appetite. "Guess it shows that we all became complacent in our abilities. Looks like Naruto had never stopped training, since he could just as easily wipe out Konoha without missing a beat."
Neji Hyuuga had taken the news the hardest. "I'm such a fool. I always lived my life by Fate, given the fact that I was born into the cadet branch. Naruto proved it to me that one does not live by fate when we fought the first time, and I threw it back in his face when he was banished. What he told me when we fought again really had me thinking about my life, especially after Hinata had disappeared. There really is no such thing as Fate, only choice. And Konoha had chosen poorly in banishing the son of the village hero."
Chouji's eyes went wide. "You mean...?"
Neji nodded. "Yes. I overheard Hiashi and Hanabi talking with the Hyuuga council before I came here. Naruto is the son of Minato Namikaze...and husband to Hinata, making her the Empress Consort to him being the Emperor. The Hyuuga Council has declared that Hinata's marriage to Naruto is invalid and immediately nullified and are in the process of demanding that she returns to Konoha." He scoffed. "That will not happen. Hiashi has lost face to the point that he will risk the destruction of the Hyuuga just to get Hinata back."
Chouji slumped back in his seat. "And Naruto and Hinata have refused to help us. We're screwed. We are so screwed."
The others couldn't help but to agree.
Office of the Hokage.
"So Konoha has dodged a bullet? Orochimaru has his hands full with Iwa and Kumo?" Tsunade asked.
"Yeah, Asahina verified it. Susanoo's Wrath is a success," Shikamaru replied. "Once it's known in Konoha that Orochimaru will not attack, you will resign your post as Hokage. The Fire Lord will do the rest."
The Godaime nodded as she leaned back in her chair. "We'll have to work fast. More than likely, it will be Danzou who will be chosen for as Rokudaime. Are you sure that Orochimaru and Oto will not hinder the exodus when the time comes?"
"Naruto's spy network has been getting around-the-clock reports on the assault on Oto. Once the damage has been done, he will personally deal with the snake himself."
Tsunade nodded. "You're dismissed, Shikamaru."
The shadow user nodded and left the room. Tsunade almost felt bad for the snake. Key word being, almost. If Kumo and Iwa don't end up killing him, then Naruto would most definitely will, as he had to answer for killing their former master.
Tsunade took out a bottle of sake and poured herself a cup. Toasting the memory of Hiruzen Sarutobi, the Slug Sage downed the warm liquid, and waited. Waited for the news of Orochimaru's impending demise.
Until then, she would sit back and watch as Konoha go nuts with the fact that the so-called Kyuubi brat was not only the Emperor of the West, but also the son of the Yondaime Hokage.