Chapter Five: Exodus

Snafu's Notes: My little weekend holiday was relaxing. So here's the newest chapter. There's another twist in the story that you will not see coming.

Ruins of Otogakure, Sound Country – 72 hours after the battle.

Not even the Suna-Akatsuki War had matched what would later become the Oto-Iwa-Kumo Conflict in brutality and intensity. The war had engulfed all of the Land of Sound and parts of Lightning and Earth, threatening to even pour out into neighboring countries.

The three shinobi villages of Kumo, Iwa and Oto were all poised to destroy Konoha. But then, for all accounts and purposes, the triple alliance...self-destructed. Kumo and Iwa had both lost a sizable amount of ninja, and blamed the other and Oto. Naturally, Orochimaru had denied the claim, but neither side was listening.

Then all Hell had broken loose.

Orochimaru had found himself in the middle of a two-front war, a nightmare for any ninja, with Iwa in the west and Kumo in the east. The Snake Sage had came to a horrifying realization: there was no way out for him. He was severely out-manned, and not even his test subjects with the Cursed Seal or the revived Sound Four could stave off Stone and Lightning. Even Manda, his personal snake summon, would fall in the ensuing battle, having been brought down by Kumo and Iwa's own animal summons.

As for the Snake Sage himself, he would be severely weakened. Not by the loss of his Sound ninja force, but due to the fact that his current body was nearly burned out, and that even if he could transfer to another body, it would do no good.

Three days after the battle had begun, a cessation of hostilities was declared by the new Tsuchikage, Kurotsuchi, the granddaughter of the late Onoki and an interim Raikage. Both sides had endured massive losses and both sides had came to the conclusion that it was all Orochimaru's fault. A shaky peace treaty was signed and Kumo and Iwa left the field of battle, leaving Oto and the Land of Sound a virtual wasteland.

It was then, that once Kumo and Iwa were back within their borders, the true mastermind of the Oto-Iwa-Kumo Conflict had revealed itself.

In the ruins of Otogakure no Sato, Orochimaru knew that he was dying. But the last thing he expected was the Kyuubi brat making the save for Konoha.

Too bad he forgot that said Kyuubi brat had a bone to pick with him regarding the murder of Hiruzen Sarutobi. Orochimaru had attacked Naruto, who disarmed him and used both his own katana and Orochimaru's signature weapon, Kusanagi, to lop off both of Orochimaru's arms before criscrossing the blades in a scissor pattern on Orochimaru's neck.


[Flashback]

Ruins of Otogakure – 30 minutes earlier.

A weakened Orochimaru was on his knees, glaring at the son of Minato Namikaze, who held both Kusanagi and his own sword at his neck. The Snake Sage knew that he would never get the chance to burn down Konoha. He would never see the Hokage Monument crumble and fall.

He was finished.

"Why?" Orochimaru demanded, defiant in his final moments. "Why defend a place which has shunned you? Forsaken you?"

Naruto smiled evilly. "Oh, don't worry, you old snake. I'm not doing this for Konoha. But I can't let you burn the place down. The honor of destroying Konoha is mine and mine alone."

"Then why kill me? We can destroy Konoha together! Spare my life, and I will be in your service!"

Naruto shook his head. "So you can try and take my body like you tried to do with the Uchiha? No thanks. I can do without backstabbers. I dealt with plenty of those during the Unification Wars. No, you are too much of a threat, Orochimaru. Besides, you have to answer for your own slights against me. You murdered the closest thing I had for a father figure in the Suna-Oto Invasion. Your former sensei, the Sandaime Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi. Time to answer for your crimes."

"You'd kill me over that old fool? You should be thanking me! If it wasn't for my interest in Sasuke, you would still be stuck in that damned village! You would not have been forced to leave in order to become stronger! You are what you are now because of me! I...made...you!"

"Spare me your explanations. Your time is up, Orochimaru," Naruto replied as his grip tightened on the swords.

"You can go to Hell, Namikaze!"

"After you."

With a move of his arms, Naruto Namikaze decapitated Orochimaru, and thus, avenged the death of his mentor.

[End Flashback]


Naruto Namikaze watched as the massive form of Kitami's Nine-Tails unleashed her Foxfire Stream upon the destroyed village, burning it to ashes. Gaara's Suna ninja would conduct the mop-up operations, using the information Naruto had received from Kabuto in regards to Orochimaru's hidden labs...right before ending his life as well.

His katana was sheathed, while he held Kusanagi in his other hand, a specialized seal was on the handle, suppressing its power. Naruto will take Orochimaru's sword home as a trophy of war.

As Otogakure no Sato was engulfed in a sea of flames, Kitami reappeared, having reverted back to her human form. "It's done, kit," she said. "Otogakure is no more."

Naruto nodded. Konoha was safe...for the time being. Now, it was up to Tsunade and the Fire Lord. He had five ships on standby in Water Country, ready to move the clan heads and their families to the West. Now, it was time to return home.


Konohagakure no Sato – one week after Otogakure's destruction.

Konoha was breathing a sigh of relief. Orochimaru was dead, his Sound Ninja decimated, and the Land of Sound was destroyed. The civilians, full of themselves as always, claimed victory, saying that it was the Will of Fire which drove Orochimaru's alliance to self-destruct, and that they didn't need the 'Demon Emperor and his whore' to save their skins.

Oh, the lies we tell to make ourselves feel better.

It was after the celebrations had concluded, that Tsunade had summoned the council and dropped the bomb. She was resigning her position as Hokage.

"In these past several weeks, I have come to the realization that this village, once founded by my grandfather, has lost the Will of Fire. We have become complacent and arrogant in our abilities and in our dealing with people. It is because of this...I am stepping down as Godaime Hokage. I will remain in Konoha until the end of the month. Then I will travel west to offer penance to the son of the Yellow Flash, and hope that he forgives this foolish old woman."

In the days following Tsunade's resignation, things got even more hectic. Mostly regarding the Emperor of the West and his wife. The Main Branch of the Hyuuga Clan had voted unanimously to declare Hinata's marriage to Naruto invalid and issued an order for her to return to Konoha immediately, lest she would end up suffering the wrath of the Hyuuga Clan. The order was ignored.

For Naruto, the Civilian clan found out that Naruto had bank accounts in both Tea and Spring Countries. They had sent envoys there, with orders to the banks demanding that they hand over the Namikaze family's wealth so it can liquidated and used to further Konoha's selfish desires. Both were sent back empty-handed.

Five days after Tsunade had resigned her post from Konoha, she had received word from a smaller slug summon that the Fire Lord was less than a mile off from Konoha with his Guardian Ninja and a battalion of his private army.

'Perfect timing,' Tsunade thought as the small slug disappeared, just as a squad of Konoha ROOT ANBU led by Sai approached her while she was inside the ninja-only bar and grill, enjoying a drink.

"Lady Tsunade, your presence is requested inside the Council Chambers by the Rokudaime-Elect," Sai said.

"Can't this wait until after I'm finished?" the former Hokage asked, doing a good job of acting annoyed.

"I'm sorry, Lady Tsunade, but the Rokudaime-elect has ordered a mandatory meeting of all clan heads, their successors, and Special Jounin," the ink user replied. Please come with us."

Sighing, Tsunade down the last of her sake and headed for the Hokage Tower with her escort.


Konoha Council Chambers – minutes later.

Sure enough, the Konoha Council Chamber was packed with nothing but Shinobi, from the clan heads to the Special Jounin when Tsunade entered the room. Tsunade took notice of the ROOT ANBU and the Hyuuga Main Branch ninja that stood guard inside the room.

Seated in the Hokage's chair, in the robes of state and the Hokage's hat, was Danzou Shimura. The two council elders were seated on either side of the warhawk-turned-Rokudaime. Only this time, Hiashi Hyuuga sat next to Koharu while Asana Haruno sat next to Honmura. Tsunade also took notice of Sakura Haruno standing among the ANBU and Hyuuga ninja.

"Ah, Lady Tsunade," Danzou greeted smoothly. "So nice of you to join us."

"All right, I'm here. What do you want, Lord Hokage?" Tsunade demanded, showing Danzou the same disrespect he had shown her during her tenure as the Godaime.

"You could at least congratulate me on my ascension to the seat of Hokage," Danzou replied. "Aside from taking oaths of loyalty, which the clans have not taken yet, I am here to inform you, Tsunade Senju, that your rite of free passage is hereby revoked."

Tsunade cocked an eyebrow. "Excuse me? Last time I checked, Shimura, my rite of free passage was given to me and Jiraiya once we became Sages."

"True," Danzou said. "But you're needed here in Konoha. As for Jiraiya, I have tracked him down to Spring Country. If he knows what is good for him, then he will not refuse my summons to return. The Spring Damiyo will not interfere with Konoha business, even thought she did grant him asylum."

Tsunade snorted. "Needed? You mean you want me here to keep an eye on me."

Danzou shrugged his shoulders. "Call it what you like. You may be a sage, but you are still a shinobi of the Leaf. I cannot...no, I will not let you go West to that brat and his whore of a wife."

Tsunade smirked. "Still sore over the fact that same brat mopped the floor with you and your precious ROOT ANBU?"

Danzou ignored the insult. "Furthermore, I am reversing your judgment in regards to Sakura Haruno. I felt that it was...unjust. Effective immediately, she is reinstated as a shinobi in the Konohagakure shinobi force with the rank of Jounin. Furthermore, as your Rokudaime, you are hereby ordered to take Haruno back as your apprentice and to terminate your apprenticeship to Ino Yamanaka."

As Inochi and Ino raised their voices in protest, Tsunade looked at the smirking Sakura and the regal Asana. "And how much did Asana bribe you to make this decision?" Tsunade asked.

"That is none of your concern," Asana replied. "You will do as the Rokudaime commands and take back my daughter as your apprentice!"

"Um...fuck no?" was Tsunade's reply.

Before Danzou could reply to Tsunade's remark, the doors to the council chambers opened and five more ROOT ANBU marched in with a bound Makie Asahina. Deciding to place Tsunade on hold, Danzou turned to the Imperial ninja/Pekara Merchant. "Captain Asahina, do you know why you are here?"

Despite being bound, Makie showed no fear. "Enlighten me, you old crow."

"Makie Asahina, you have been brought before the Konoha Council to answer for the crimes of murdering three Hyuuga Main Branch Ninja," Hiashi replied. "My ninja. Second, the Pekara Merchant House will be ordered to pay reparations to the Hyuuga Clan and the Konoha Mercantile Guild."

"Your ninja attacked me," Makie replied. "It was self-defense. The Godaime ruled it as such. And to quote your former Hokage, 'Fuck no.'"

"And that is another thing that I am overturning," Danzou replied. "You have killed Konoha ninja from a respected and honorable clan, which carries an automatic death sentence. Do you have anything to say before your sentence is carried out?"

Makie didn't say anything. Instead, she reacted. While they were talking, Makie had freed her bonds. She elbowed the ROOT to her left in the face, driving the cartilage into her brain, killing her instantly. The second ROOT ANBU to her left drew her katana, but Makie quickly disarmed her, and was armed with her own katana, the second ROOT ANBU lying on the floor in a pool of her own blood, her throat slashed.

In an instant, five Hyuuga Main Branch Ninja and five ROOT ANBU surrounded the young kunoichi. The other ROOT in the room had their weapons drawn, keeping the other Shinobi at bay.

"You have no idea who you are fucking with," Makie replied. "I can just as easily carve through the ten of you without blinking an eye."

"Enough of this! Kill her!" Hiashi shouted.

Fifty seconds later, the five Hyuuga Ninja and the five ROOT ANBU were all slain. Makie was covered in blood spatter, but was still alive. Her flak vest had taken some damage, but other than that, she was unharmed. Suffice to say, the Shinobi clan heads and their children were impressed with her skill.

"You have sealed your fate!" Hiashi shouted. "You will not leave this room alive!"

"Looks like self-defense to me," the Fire Lord said from the doorway.

'Just in time," Tsunade thought as the Fire Lord entered the room, followed by his Guardian Ninja and a squad of heavily-armed ninja from his personal military force.

"Lord Damiyo! This woman has killed members of my clan! I demand justice!" Hiashi demanded as several ROOT ANBU cleaned up the bodies of the fallen ninja.

The Fire Lord turned to Makie. "You are free to go, Captain Asahina," he said. "Your actions were deemed justifiable in my eyes."

Makie bowed and departed from the room, while Hiashi sputtered out curses to the smirking Asahina. Once she was gone, the Fire Lord turned to Danzou. "Why is it every time you idiots make me so angry with your rampant stupidity I have to personally intervene? Did you forget that the Toad Sage answers directly to me, and not to the Hokage? Or did you forget that I personally signed the decision in regards to the Haruno girl? Or that this village is still a shinobi village because of my grace?"

He turned to Tsunade. "Tsunade Senju, I am hereby restoring your rite of free passage...as well as relieving you of your responsibilities as a shinobi of Konohagakure no Sato." He then turned to the Shinobi present. "As a matter of fact, I am extending this to all of you. For the next fourteen days, any Shinobi from the lowest of Genin to the Elite Jounin is free to leave Konohagakure no Sato. You will not be labeled as missing ninja nor placed inside the Bingo Book. Any attempts to restrain any ninja wanting to leave by genjutsu, force, blackmail, bribery or seals," he threatened, directing the last shot at Hiashi, "will result in an automatic death sentence to the offending party, regardless of their status in this village."

In an instant, Asana was on her feet. "You can't do that!" she objected.

"I just did," the Fire Lord replied. "And to make sure that my orders are carried out, I am leaving a battalion of my most loyal soldiers here to make sure that no one interferes for the next two weeks. Cross me, Shimura, and you will have the honor of being the Hokage with the shortest term in the history of the village."

That said, the Fire Lord stalked out of the room, his guardian ninja following close behind. As soon as they were gone, Tsunade turned to the gathered ninja. "In six days, I will be leaving Konoha for good. If you wish to come with me, then you are free to do so."

With that said, the Slug Sage departed from the room. Meanwhile, the gathered Shinobi were talking amongst themselves. They were seriously giving the idea consideration.

Hiashi saw that his fellow clan heads were clearly considering the Fire Lord's decree, and tried to make the ninja see reason. "You can't leave. We are Konoha shinobi. We must stick together and show a unified front. Your ancestors were part of this village ever since it was founded. The Leaf has put a major investment in your training and that of your children. Maybe instead of worrying about that drunk of a sage, you should start worrying about your future, and that of your own children."

Chouza, Inochi, Shikaku, Tsume, Shibi, Asuma and Kakashi all exchanged glances. Then Inochi rose from his seat and stepped towards Danzou and the others. For a moment, Hiashi thought that his words had gotten through to them and Inochi would be the first to swear loyalty to the Rokudaime...

...until Inochi unfastened his hitai-ate and dropped it to the floor, where it made a sharp CLINK as the metal struck the floor.

"I am thinking for my future, and that of my family. And it's not in this village," Inochi replied before walking out of the room.

Soon, Ino did the same thing, unfastening her hitai-ate and dropping it to the floor alongside her father's. Then Chouza. And Chouji. And Shikaku. And Shikamaru. And Shibi. And Shino.

"W-wait a second! You can't do this!" Asana objected as the procession passed the Hokage and his advisers, the sharp sound of hitai-ates landing on one another making the Rokudaime even more angrier by the second.

CLINK. Tsume has dropped her hitai-ate into the growing pile.

"You are all Konoha shinobi! Your loyalty is to the Hokage!" Sakura shouted.

CLINK. Kiba tossed his to the ground.

CLINK. Asuma and Kurenai's hitai-ates landed on the pile at the same time.

CLINK. Anko flipped off the Hokage and his advisers before walking out, having discarded her hitai-ate.

"You are jeopardizing your future as ninja!" Koharu shouted.

CLINK. Maito Gai's hitai-ate joined the pile.

CLINK. Tenten and Rock Lee's hitai-ates followed suit.

"SASUKE?" Sakura shouted.

CLINK. Sasuke dropped his hitai-ate at Sakura's feet. "I'm done with this town," he replied as Kakashi dropped his own hitai-ate and followed his rival's team.

With this act of defiance, unknown to Konoha, it was the beginning of the end for the Leaf.


With the exception of the Hyuuga Main Branch Clan, the Hyuuga Cadet Branch Clan, led by Neji Hyuuga, the main clans of Konoha – the Aburame, Yamanaka, Akamichi, Nara, Inuzuka and Sarutobi – as well as a sizable number of Jounin and Chuunin had decided that it was best to leave Konoha rather than serve under a power-mad and corrupt government. Since Tsunade was heading for the Western Empire, those that were leaving had decided to thrown in their lot with the former Hokage and head West.

Neji, however, had an ulterior motive in leaving Konoha. The reason being was that he was romantically involved with Tenten. And since he was part of the Cadet Branch, any child born from their union would be subjected to the Caged Bird Seal, something that Hanabi had reminded him plenty of times. Deciding that a new life out West was more better than a lifetime of servitude and humiliation, the entire Cadet Branch had turned in their hitai-ates as well, crippling the power of the Main Branch.

The clan heads prepared for the move. Among them, Shikaku and Shikamaru had slaughtered their deer and preserved its meat for the travel to the West, Chouza and Chouji helping. Ino and her parents had sold the Yamanaka flower shop to one of the civilians who was a loyal customer, but decided to stay behind in Konoha. When the Konoha Mercantile Guild refused to sell them supplies, it was the Pekara Merchant House that made the save by offering supplies at half the normal cost.

Even Ibiki Morino, Konoha's resident torture expert and his younger brother, had decided to put in their lot with Tsunade. Since Konoha's numbers were still small and that there were no Genin at the academy this year, having about half of Konoha's experienced ninja leaving the village was a serious blow.

Before she resigned, Tsunade had pilfered the files of all of the clans and high-ranking Chuunin and Jounin, as well as raiding the village's treasury, removing the Senju family fortunes, as well as those of the Uchiha. The clan heads had already taken their cash out of the city's banks and were using their combined resources for supplies for the upcoming trip. Tsunade even went as far as to retrieve the ashes of the first four Hokages (Hashirama and Tobirama Senju, Hiruzen Sarutobi and Minato Namikaze), as well as the ashes of Dan, Nawaki Senju and Kushinna Namikaze from the Konoha graveyard and sealed them in several scrolls.

The Damiyo's decree was enforced with vigor. When a Hyuuga Main Branch ninja tried to stop Neji from resigning, he was immediately killed on the spot. All in all, fifty ninja and villagers were executed for violating the Damiyo's law, and over two hundred Konoha ninja and their families had decided to leave.


Konoha – Day of the Exodus

Morning came over Konohagakure. Tsunade looked at the gathered crowd before her. With the exception of the Hyuuga Main Branch Clan, the Hyuuga Cadet Branch were present, as were all of the other clans and over two hundred Chuunin and Jounin.

Watching nearby, were Asana and Sakura Haruno, the two elder council members Koharu Utane and Honmura Mitokado, Hiashi Hyuuga and his daughter, Danzou Shimura and a sizable amount of ROOT ANBU and Hyuuga Main Branch Ninja. The Rokudaime and his entourage did not look very happy, as the ninja leaving were the most experienced and the most promising in the shinobi world.

Shizune stood at her mentor's side, Tonton in her arms. "Everyone's ready, Tsunade," she said.

Tsunade nodded. "So many...there are so many of them."

"No argument there," said a voice she hasn't heard in over eight years.

Shizune and Tsunade turned to the source of the voice. Jiraiya stood by the Slug Sage, having appeared in a poof of smoke. Despite everything that has happened, she was happy to see the old perv.

"If the situation wasn't as serious, this could be a great scene for my latest novel," the old man said. He then took a serious expression. "I know everything, Tsunade. I went to the West to try and convince the kid to defend Konoha, but after what I learned convinced me otherwise." He looked at the Rokudaime and his lackeys. "This village was our home. But after Minato had died...it had lost the Will of Fire."

"So true," Tsunade replied. "Grandpa and Uncle Tobirama would be rolling over in their graves if they could see how this village has ended up. Konoha is finished. So what's the plan?"

"We head south, towards Wave. Naruto has several ships standing by to take us to the West." Jiraiya looked at the gathered ninja that were leaving alongside the Slug Sage. "Are all the people here ninja?"

Tsunade nodded. "And their families. A small number of civilians had left for the Fire Capital and the surrounding towns. We got all the clans – save for the Hyuuga Main Branch, and about two hundred Chuunin and Jounin. Even Anko and Ibiki wanted out."

Jiraiya also took notice of Sasuke Uchiha, standing with Shikamaru and Chouji, chatting. "I'm surprised to see that the Uchiha is coming."

"Me too. But I can't complain. But enough talking. Let's get this show on the road."

With that, what was soon to be known as the Konoha Exodus has begun.


Imperial Complex – House of Sovereigns, three days later.

A meeting of the Imperial Council.

"Operation Susanoo's Wrath is a success," Naruto reported. "Oto has been destroyed, and Orochimaru has been slain."

"And the refugees from Konoha?" Kokoro Yamada asked.

"I have received word that they are on their way to the coast," Naruto replied. "They are being led by Jiraiya and Tsunade Senju."

"Senju...now that's a name I haven't heard in a long time," Kokoro said. "A very long time."

"You know about the Senju clan?" Hinata asked.

"In a way," the older woman replied. "On my father's side, I am a direct descendant of the Senju."

"Care to explain?" Naruto asked.

"My clan ancestor and co-founder was Toka Senju, a master genjutsu specialist who was a close associate of one of the co-founders of Konoha, Hashirama Senju," Kokoro explained. "When Konoha was founded by Harashima and Madara Uchiha, Toka had met and fallen in love with a ninja from the West. His name was Hiro Yamada, the founder of my clan. Back then, the West was relatively peaceful, and not locked in the years of civil war."

"So Hiro's specialty was that he was an expert healer, right?" Hinata asked.

"Correct, Lady Hinata," the Yamada clan head replied, pride in her voice. "You can say that he was the forerunner of the medic-ninja. In fact, he was the creator of several medical ninjitsu, including the Mystic Palm Jutsu. However, Hiro was called back to the West when the wars had intensified. Hashirama allowed Toka to leave with him. By the time Tobirama Senju ascended the position of Hokage, all contact was lost. To tell you the truth, Chief, I am very surprised to hear that a Senju from the East is still alive,"

"Since you claim ancestry from the Senju, then you would have no problem in backing that claim up," Naruto said, interested that he had a distant relative sitting on the council.

Kokoro nodded. "I can send you copies of my family tree, if you are interested."

Since Naruto had also claimed ancestry from the Senju clan through his grandmother, Haruka connected the dots. "Chief, you do realize that Yamada is a distant relative?"

Naruto nodded. "Yeah. Ironic that I have family in the West. But we can settle that later. Right now, we have to prepare for three hundred new arrivals. North Kimon will be a good place for the arrivals."

Located within the Imperial Capital, North Kimon was a wooded district that used to belong to the most powerful clans supporting Rokunbungi Oda. When Oda was killed, those supporting the fallen warlord had fled with nothing but the clothes on ther backs. Naruto had then seized control of their assets, had them liquidated and used them to finance his war. When they returned with their own personal army to take back Kimon City a year later, Naruto had a surprise for them.

He had just learned the Hirashin. Combined with two shadow clones, the clans and their armies were wiped off the map.

Now, North Kimon was empty. There was plenty of room in Kimon City, but Naruto chose North Kimon because it was the one place where he can keep an eye on the Konoha refugees. The clans got their own compounds, while the Jounin and Chuunin, he would have set up in three dorm-like buildings.

"When will the Konoha refugees arrive?" Ryuji Shinzen asked.

"In four days," Naruto replied. "Granny Tsunade has their dossiers with her, so Hinata and I will be busy with assigning them with duties similar to that of what they used to do in Konoha."

"And what about Konoha?" Sonshi asked. "If they do take up arms against you, then what?"

"Easy. We'll let Iwa and Kumo know that it was Konoha's very own ROOT ANBU that conducted Susanoo's Wrath," Naruto replied, grinning. "We'll frame Konoha and their Rokudaime for the attack and let Danzou deal with the headache."


En route to the Unified West...

The Exodus had taken two days' march from Konoha to the coast of Fire Country. It was made possible for the fact that the ninja had carried their loved ones as they hopped through the trees. Once they reached the coast, they were greeted with the sight of five supply ships, ready to carry them to a new world.

Tsunade had assigned the clans each to one ship, along with a sizable number of Chuunin and Jounin under their watch. Both generations of the Yamanaka, Akamichi and Nara had been assigned to the first boat. Asuma and Kurenai were on the second boat. The Hyuuga Cadet Branch Clan, led by Neji Hyuuga, the Inuzuka, Tenten, Rock Lee, Kakashi Hatake and Maito Gai boarded the third. The Aburame clan (along with Sasuke Uchiha) got on board the fourth. And Tsunade, Jiraiya, and Shizune took the last boat out.

With Konoha behind them, the clan heads decided to come clean about the circumstances behind Naruto's banishment. Shikamaru had told Ino and Chouji, who in turn confronted their parents about it. In the hold below deck, the three clan heads confirmed Shikamaru's claims, while the Jounin and Chuunin listened on in shock.

Inochi slowly nodded, as Chouza's expression was grim. "Yes, Ino. Much to our shame, we agreed to the banishment in exchange for your lives."

"We had originally planned on banishing the Uchiha," Shikaku seconded, "but Danzou approached all of us and issued the ultimatum. In exchange for your safety, we banished an innocent ninja for doing his duty."

"But is what Shikamaru said true? About Naruto being the son of Minato Namikaze?" Chouji asked.

"It is, son," Chouza replied. "Shikaku, Inochi and myself...we were all friends with Minato. We came up together in the shinobi academy. When he married Kushinna, we were all there. And when Naruto was born...oh, Minato was so overjoyed. But that was short-lived when Madara used the Nine-Tails to attack Konoha."

"So Uzumaki is not the Nine-Tails reborn?" a chuunin asked.

"No," Shikaku replied. "He is the son of the Yondaime Hokage, and the former container of the Nine-Tails. The Tailed Beasts are not demons as the civilians called them, but rather beasts that are more attuned to nature and the elements."

"And how do you know this?" Yoshino demanded.

"I read when I'm not herding deer," her husband replied. "The Konoha library had plenty of books detailing the Six Paths Sage and the jinchuuriki."


On the ship with the Hyuuga and the Inuzuka...

Team Gai, along with Kakashi, has just finished listening to Tsume's confession in regards to Naruto's banishment. They were not very happy.

Especially Kiba and Hana.

"Not only were your lives threatened," Tsume continued, "but those from other genin teams that showed potential...Gai's team, Neji Hyuuga..."

Hana looked sick. Her three dogs were also upset. "We screwed Naruto over big time," she lamented.

"You wasn't the one who threatened to kill him the next time he appeared," Kiba said. "He was justified in beating us down the way he did."

"Just think, the dead-last the Emperor of the West, and his wife who was written off as worthless by her own family the Empress Consort," Tenten said. "The same guy that unified the West and rallied the remaining Jinchuuriki under his banner, not to mention both he and Hinata had fought and destroyed the Akatsuki."

"Naruto could have just as easily turned his armies upon Konoha once he became the Emperor," Neji said, lost in his thoughts. "But instead, he freed himself of his past. Hinata could have killed me, Hannabi or Hiashi, and would have been justified in her actions." His fingers gently rubbed over the Caged Bird Seal. "'There is no such thing as fate. There is only choice.' He told me that in Tea Country. He was right."

Kakashi just simply listened on in silence as he tied a headband over his Sharingan, silently vowing that he would make it up to Naruto, no mater what it takes.


On the ship with the Aburame and the Uchiha...

Sasuke Uchiha was currently blowing chunks overboard. Shibi had just told the others about the true reasons behind Naruto's banishment. Almost immediately, the last Uchiha felt sick to his stomach. Which is why he was currently vomiting over the ship, while the ship's crew looked on in amusement.

Almost immediately, Shibi emerged above deck, and saw the queasy Uchiha. On the ship containing the Yamanaka, Inochi Yamanaka, as well as Chouza Akamichi. had witnessed Sasuke losing his lunch. A silent exchange between the two clan heads ensued, followed by a simple nod of the head from the master bug user.

Inochi's body went limp as he performed the Mind Transfer Technique, Chouza catching Inochi and setting him down gently on the deck. Seconds later, the Yamanaka clan head had possessed his Aburame counterpart.

"I take it you heard," Inochi/Shibi said as Sasuke wiped his mouth.

"I don't feel so hot," Sasuke moaned.

"Is it because of your actions which led to the banishment of Uzumaki? Or the fact that the clan heads were forced to choose a hero over you in exchange for the safety of their children? Or the fact that your former teammate is the son of the Yellow Flash?"

"With the exception of the last one, since I was present in the chambers that day," the last Uchiha replied. "But...why? You could have rose up against Danzou and the others."

"That would have ended in a civil war. And with the Hyuuga clan backing them up, Konoha would have been destroyed, its Shinobi forces depleted, and our children kidnapped and taken into ROOT."

"At least now I can understand why the other clan heads hate me," Sasuke admitted.

"But I am curious. Why did you decide to leave Konoha, and come with us?" Shibi/Inochi asked.

"Redemption, mostly. That and I would rather fight Gaara and Orochimaru at the same time before I marry Sakura," Sasuke admitted. "That woman is batshit insane. Her mom, too. I always thought that Hiashi would be jumping with joy when he found out that Hinata was the Empress of the West."

"Kinda hard when the one person you thought was weak effectively ends your Shinobi career," Shibi/Inochi said. "Do you really believe that redemption can be earned instead or bought? I destroyed a friendship because of my vengeance and caused a loyal ninja to be banished. Naruto will never forgive me for this betrayal."

"You admitting that you screwed up...that's taking the first step," Shibi/Inochi admitted. "But...Naruto was never known to hold grudges."

"People change, Yamanaka. Especially when you don't see them for eight years," the Uchiha replied before heading back down deck.

"So true," Shibi/Inochi said as Yamanaka broke the Mind Transfer, giving Shibi control back of his body.


The scene played out as well on the remaining two boats, Asuma and Kurenai telling the assembled Jounin and Chuunin about what they had learned from Tsunade while they were making the trek to the coast, while Tsunade and Jiraiya did the same on their boat. Reactions were varied, but everyone thought the same thing: leaving Konoha was the best decision they had ever made, lest they would found themselves in a virtual police state under Danzou.

But given the fact that they were heading for the Western Empire which was ruled by a banished ninja, it was a risk that they had to take.


Back in Konoha...

A war council was meeting inside the half-deserted Hyuuga Compound. The two weeks had passed without any further incident. Following the passing of that deadline, Danzou had Konoha placed under martial law. ROOT ANBU and Hyuuga ninja patrolled the streets in a show of strength. It was a new era for Konoha, as Danzou had envisioned. Once Konoha had regained its strength, all it had to do was wait until the Fire Damiyo had passed on. Then he could declare war on the Unified West.

Hiashi was going through the final numbers of the ninja that had left Konoha. "All of the clans, as well as the traitors in my clan, and approximately 175 Jounin and 160 Chuunin had defected from Konoha. On top of that, that damned drunk cleaned out the treasury and the library of all jutsu and techniques!"

"Over three hundred of our most experienced ninja...gone!" Asana Haruno shouted. "And we just let them walk out of the village! Furthermore, we lost Sasuke Uchiha! Despite the promise of power and wealth, he left along with that drunk of a sage and that perverted hermit!"

Hiashi looked grim. "Even more so, that damned Emperor can remove the Caged Bird Seal from Neji and the other branch members. He did it for Hinata, and he can just as easily remove it for the Cadet Branch in order to cement their loyalty. That damned brat is a threat! He must be dealt with, no matter what the cost!"

"Hiashi, calm," Danzou replied. "I have already taken steps in dealing with the situation. We will simply bring in some fresh blood, clans who are loyal to the Leaf. The wise will cultivate our favor, and those who challenge our power will not be around to argue. Second, we will open dialogue with Iwa. I think they will be very interested in discovering that the Emperor is the son of Minato Namikaze."


About five miles out of Konoha...

A squad of the Imperial Defense Force's Demolition and Explosives Division has just returned from a covert mission inside Konoha. The nine-man team was disguised as ROOT ANBU, and had performed their duty with no fuss from the real ROOT ANBU that were patrolling the streets alongside the Hyuuga Ninja.

The commanding officer of this 'special assignment' ordered by the Emperor himself, was Makie Asahina. This was her last assignment before she would head for Spring Country, where the Empire has just recently opened up an Imperial Consulate in the Spring Capital.

Clad in her ninja uniform with the crimson vest, Makie watched the unsuspecting village with a pair of binoculars, just as the nine ninja appeared in a poof of smoke.

"Mission accomplished, Captain Asahina," the senior ninja, a man by the name of Sho reported. He then produced a small remote detonator and handed it to her.

Makie accepted the detonator and flipped the safety off. "I always wanted to go out with a bang," she mused as she pressed the button.

At the same time, back in Konoha...

"What about the Empire's allies in Suna, Wave and Spring?" Koharu asked.

"We will move against Wave first," Danzou replied. "We'll use several squads of ninja, cross the bridge and annex the island. The people have no ninja village and after we make an example out of several of them, they will not resist. I will transform Wave into a forward operations base and seize the Imperial Consulate located there. Then I will move against Spring. Anyone who is an ally to that damned Emperor and his whore of a wife is an enemy of the Leaf."

"But in the meantime, we must tread carefully and rebuild Konoha's forces," Hiashi pointed out.

"I agree," Danzou replied. "In the meantime, we will denounce the Kyuubi brat and his whore as traitors to the Leaf –"

KA-BOOM! KA-BOOM! KA-BOOM! KA-BOOM! KA-BOOM! KA-BOOM! KA-BOOM! KA-BOOM! KA-BOOM!


Outside of Konoha, Makie and the Imperial ninja watched with satisfied grins as the Hokage Mounment – containing the faces of Hashirama Senju, Tobirama Senju, Hiruzen Sarutobi, Minato Namikaze and Tsunade Senju – detonated from the demolition charges – basically several satchels full of exploding tags wired to remote blasting caps from their hiding places inside the mountain, destroying the massive faces, and sending chunks of rocky debris to the village below.

The falling debris had caused massive damage to the Hokage Tower, the building soon collapsing onto itself. Aside from the monument, the demotion team had also planted charges inside the former clan homes of the Nara, Yamanaka, Aburame, Inuzuka, Sarutobi and the Namikaze Estate also went up in a series of explosions. Not even the Uchiha District was spared, as the entire district was also destroyed.

All in all, zero body count, maximum property damage.

As chaos ensued inside Konoha, Makie and the others headed south for Wave.


As Danzou and the war council rushed outside, they were greeted with an unnerving sight. The faces of the first five Hokages that were carved into the mountain had fallen from the mountainside, demolishing the forests beneath the massive mountain...as well as the Hokage Tower, which was crushed under the debris.

Danzou was furious. He knew that Naruto was the one responsible. Almost immediately, Danzou had ordered the invasion of Wave to take place once the fires were put out.

However, by the time Danzou had ordered the invasion of Wave Country, they had found that the Great Naruto Bridge was also demolished, effectively blocking access to Wave. Disappointed, the ROOT ANBU and Hyuuga Ninja returned back to Konoha.


Kimon City, the Imperial Capital.

It was mid-morning when the five ships arrived at the Imperial Capital. Tsunade and Jiraiya made out the former Raikage of Kumo, along with the Nibi Jinchuuriki and the Demon of the Mist standing at the entrance of the town. Along with them were Konan and Yahiko.

Once the boats were secured, the refugees form Konoha began to disembark. Tsunade and Jiraiya told the others to remain behind as she approached the four ninja.

"Lady Tsunade. Lord Jiraiya. Welcome to Kimon City," A greeted.

"The Emperor and Empress sent the four of you to greet us?" Tsunade asked.

"Yeah," Yahiko replied. "Consider us your personal welcome wagon. The Chief has told us to inform you, Jiraiya, the clan heads and chosen successors to meet with both him and Lady Hinata at the Imperial Palace for a quick meeting. Everyone else will head for North Kimon and settle in. Me and A will take you to see the Chief. Konan and Yugito will lead the others to North Kimon."

"Preparations have already been made for the clans," A continued. "All clan compounds are identified by their clan insignias. The Chuunin and Jounin will be set up in three dorms until they can find their own place."

Tsunade nodded. She turned around and faced the refugees and relayed the order. Soon, Asuma Sarutobi stepped forward, followed by the clan head and their successors of the Akamichi, Aburame, Inuzuka, Hyuuga (in this case, the Cadet Branch had voted Neji as Clan Head, with Tenten tagging along), Nara, and Yamanaka.

"Follow me," A said as he and Yahiko led the clan heads, their successors and the two sages to the Imperial Palace, while Yugito and Konan took the remaining refugees to North Kimon.


Imperial Complex – House of Sovereigns

The main feeling that the Konoha clan heads were feeling was mostly apprehension. Here they were, strangers in a strange land, summoned for a quick meeting with the Emperor, the son of Minato Namikaze, as well as his wife. The same person who was once known as the knuckle-headed ninja of Konoha with a penchant of making the impossible possible was the most powerful man in the West.

Of course they had a right to be scared. Fortunately, Shikamaru had set things in perspective, that Naruto was not looking for vengeance on Konoha...despite the fact that they deserved it. If Konoha decide to bring war onto his doorstep (which is a possibility, since Danzou was now in charge), then Naruto would have no problem in destroying the Leaf once and for all.

A had given the clan heads a quick history about Naruto and the Western Empire. It was true that Naruto had rescued both him and Bee from being killed, as well as rescuing the other Jinchuuriki, who had made their home throughout the Empire. It was also true that the Nine-Tails was a vixen and the chief prime minister of the Empire. And it was also true that it was Naruto who had eliminated Orochimaru and destroyed the alliance between Oto, Kumo and Iwa.

A and Yahiko led the Konoha ninja inside the House of Sovereigns, stopping only when they reached the doors to the Throne Room. "The Emperor and Empress Consort are inside. Try not to piss them off. They're not as forgiving."


Inside the throne room, Naruto and Hinata Namikaze sat on their thrones; Naruto dressed in his white shirt, black vest, pants and boots, while Hinata was in her ninja uniform, hair tied behind her in a ponytail. Kitami stood beside Naruto's throne, dressed in one of her elegant kimonos.

The doors to the throne room opened, and Tsunade entered the throne room, followed by Jiraiya and the clan heads and chosen successors. It was already known that Naruto and Hinata were the most powerful couple in the West, but to the clan heads and their children, it was...unnerving, to say the least.

Eight years was a long time, and in those eight years, Naruto had matured. He was still unpredictable at times, but proved to be a capable and effective ruler. Hinata looked regal, despite being dressed in her ninja uniform. If she was surprised to see Neji and Tenten representing the Hyuuga clan, she did not show it.

Tsunade went down on one knee, followed by Jiraiya. Soon, the other clan heads and their successors followed suit.

"Rise," Kitami ordered.

Once they did, Naruto began to speak. "Let's get one thing straight. I already know why you did what you did, as it was Shikamaru who had told me in the aftermath of the Suna-Akatsuki War. But that doesn't mean that you're off the hook. As you can already tell, my mistrust of the Leaf runs deep. If you are looking for redemption, it's not given here. It is earned. You, as well as all of the ninja who had came here from Konohagakure are on probation for one year. Prove your worth to the Unified West, to my wife and to me, and I will grant you clan status and citizenship."

He turned to Neji. "Neji Hyuuga, for you, I will sweeten the deal. The same rules still apply, but if you and the cadet branch show your loyalty to the Unified West, I will make you clan head...and I will also remove the Caged Bird Seal from your head." Then he turned back to the others. "If you have any problems or questions, our door is open. But I will say this once, so pay attention. If you try and screw me or Hinata over...if I hear one whiff of treachery from any one of you...you will be a head shorter. Are we clear?"

The assembled ninja nodded.

"Glad we understand one another. The rules in this town are just about the same as they were in Konoha – don't steal anything, treat the people with respect and everything will be fine. Jiraiya...Tsunade...remain behind. We have much to discuss. The rest of you are dismissed. Settle in and get your bearings around town. I will have your assignments for you in a couple of days."

The clan heads bowed and walked out of the room. All except Asuma.

"Something on your mind, Sarutobi?" Naruto asked as he leaned back in his throne.

"My nephew...is he well?" Asuma asked, knowing full well that Maru respected and admired Naruto a great deal.

The Emperor nodded. "He is. He's with the garrison at the Suna Consulate. Because of his actions in the war against the Akatsuki, Gaara promoted him and his two friends to Jounin."

"Can you...talk to him? I've missed so much out of his life," Asuma asked to the point that it sounded like he was pleading.

Naruto slowly nodded. "I'll see what I can do."

Asuma nodded his thanks and made his exit.


"Was that her?" Tsume asked as the clan heads and their children left the House of Sovereigns. "I smelled foxes surrounding her."

Kiba nodded. "Yeah. That's the Nine-Tails, all right."

"Quite amazing to see how the Emperor has the most powerful of the bijuu under his command," Shibi noted.

"Even more amazing that he did not have us execute for screwing him over," Shikaku added. "If it wasn't for the hair color, he'd look exactly like his dad."

Chouza nodded. "You think we made the right choice in coming here?"

Inochi nodded. "Most definitely. It will be hard at first, but in the end, things will work out for the best. I would rather take my chances with a banished ninja-turned-Emperor rather than that crazy warhawk and his ass-kissing henchmen."

"In the meantime, we should get settled in," Tsume said.


Inside the Imperial Palace...

The Emperor of the Unified West and his wife were seated with the two surviving sages and were talking over dinner.

"How was the way in?" Hinata asked.

"Very scenic," Tsunade replied. "Is it true? About Orochimaru?"

"I took his head myself," Naruto replied. "And I took his sword as a trophy. Kabuto is also gone. Zabuza took his head as well. Susanoo's Wrath was a huge success. I did what I said I would do."

"That you did," Jiraiya said. "So what now? Danzou is now a credible threat. Once the Fire Lord croaks, he will be hell-bent on destroying you and your allies."

"I know," Naruto replied. "He tried to kill one of my merchants, I believe you know her. I had her reassigned to the Imperial garrison down in Wave Country. That was Danzou's intended target, because of my support base there. So after talking it over with Tazuma and the Wave Council, they agreed to letting my troops destroy the bridge, thus hindering Danzou's attempts to invade."

"Just a week earlier, we received a formal notice from the Rokudaime-elect and what remained of the Konoha Council," Hinata continued. "Saying that the Pekara Merchant House is ordered by the Rokudaime and Civilian Council to pay reparations to the Konoha Mercantile Guild, as well as a notice from the Hyuuga Main Branch declaring our marriage to be null and void, and that I must return to Konoha immediately."

"The arrogance of the Council and their crazy Hokage," Naruto snorted. "It did get a good laugh from the council when we showed it to them. So I relayed an order to Captain Asahina and told her to send Konoha a message, hence the destruction of the Hokage Monument and the former clans' homes. Asahina blowing up the Uchiha district was a bonus. The message is clear: I can destroy Konoha whenever and however I want, but I will let them live with the disgrace that they had brought upon themselves."

"And what if Konoha do try and attack the Unified West?" Jiraiya asked.

"I'll tell you the same thing I told the council," Naruto replied, "I'll simply turn Kumo and Iwa loose on them, blame Konoha for Susanoo's Wrath. Let Danzou deal with Stone and Lightning."

"Fair enough," Tsunade said. "What do you have planned for the clans?"

"I don't know just yet. Hinata and I still have to go through the files you gave us. But off the top of my head, Zabuza needs some help with the Interrogation and Torture Division of the Imperial Defense Forces, so Inochi, Ibiki and Anko would be at home there. We also got a ninja academy in East Kimon, so some of the ninja can teach, others can patrol the city and the countryside. There's plenty to do here in the West. Konoha is the least of my worries at the moment."

"And if blaming Konoha on the attacks on Kumo and Iwa don't work?" Jiraiya asked.

"Then I'll let Kitami finish what she started. Only this time, she will be a willing participant. In the matter," Naruto replied.

In the back of their minds, the two remaining sages almost felt bad for their former village. Key word being almost.