Chapter Six: Burying the Hatchet
Snafu's Notes: There is a method to my madness as to why Naruto allowed the Konoha clans asylum. And for those who don't like how my story is progressing or how Naruto deals with people, I can sum it up in seven words: my story, my choice, deal with it. Don't like it, then don't read it.
Also, I changed Haku's gender back to male, for the reason that he and Ino will hook up. The story is almost complete. Enjoy reading.
[Journal of the Emperor, Naruto Uzumaki Namikaze]
It's been two weeks since the destruction of the Sound and of Orochimaru's death by my hands. Two weeks since I allowed the Konoha clans asylum to cripple Konoha's power. I told the clans that I would not make it easy for them, and so far, I have kept my word.
But they are resilient, and do not back down from a challenge.
I should start off with Tsunade and Jiraiya. At Hinata's request, I assigned Tsunade to the hospital along with Shizune and Ino. I also notified Tsunade about Kokoro Yamada, and of her connection to the Senju. Tsunade was surprised to find out that she had family still living, and they survived the generations of war. The Slug Sage and the clan head hit it off pretty well, and I discovered another thing about Kokoro – she likes her sake as well.
Jiraiya could have retired and I would have to deal with him peeping in the women's hot springs. But he was needed back East, as his spy network was still situated in Spring Country. So now, he is working with the intelligence network out of the Pekara Merchant House in Spring, still independent. Aside from the Fire Lord, he also sends me intel regarding movements regarding Iwa, Kumo and Konoha.
Inoichi Yamanaka is at home with the IDF's Interrogation and Torture Division. When he resigned, he brought Ibiki Morino, Anko Mitarashi and all of Konoha's Interrogation Division with him. Zabuza found a friendly rival in Ibiki. They both can be seen at the bar trading war stories and slamming back tall glasses of beer at the end of the day. Ino, on the other hand, enjoys working at the hospital. One day, as Hinata and I made our rounds through the capital, we both spied Haku and Ino having lunch together at the local barbecue shack.
Just recently, Inoichi has reopened his flower shop with his wife and Ino. Kimon City was lacking in that department, and almost immediately, the Yamanaka Flower Shop turned out to be a huge success with the people.
Shikaku Nara is now the vice-commander of the Jounin forces in the IDF, his authority second to Roh Shainto's father, Commander Jiro Shainto. Those two are opposites, but Jiro can see that the lazy Nara is a gifted tactician. The area in which the Nara Clan had settled in is known for its deer. Something that Shikaku easily fell back on, given how he herds deer in his spare time. The Nara were also known to be expert herbalists, of which the Akimichi obtained their special pills and the Inuzuka military pills from. Old habits die hard in this case.
Shikaku's knowledge in herbal medicines can prove to be invaluable to the Imperial Forces in the long run, which is why I allowed him to resume his research into his herbal medicine. The Southern Region's island chain has several herbs I know that will interest him very well, which is why I allowed him to have several Pekara merchants to deliver the herbs to him. As for his son, maybe I have a sadistic side to me. I think Kitami and Zabuza has definitely rubbed off on me. I assigned Shikamaru to act as my proxy in the Suna Consulate...which means he has to deal with Temari.
Which leads me to the Akimichi. Chouza works alongside Shikaku in the IDF. Han had picked a fight with him while he was passing through the Imperial Capital on his way to the Southern Region to visit Roshi. The fight took place at Training Ground No.28, where the already established clans and the Konoha refugees watched the ensuing fight.
Suffice to say, the training ground was leveled, and the match ended in a draw. But Chouza had earned the respect of the former Iwa ninja. And even though Han would not admit it, he was impressed with the Akimichi's skills. His son works at the ninja academy alongside Tenten, Rock Lee and Maito Gai, Chouji teaching basic taijutsu, a skill he excelled in back in Konoha.
Moving down the line – Asuma and Kurenai Sarutobi. Given Asuma's background as a bodyguard for the Fire Lord, he was the ninth member of the Elite Guards. Almost immediately, he picked up a rival in Roh Shainto. Oh, and concerning him and Maru, I did keep my word and talked to Maru about his uncle being here. Maru was still upset over the fact that Asuma was here, but deep down, he was still hurting.
So I came up with a plan. What can I say, I'm still unpredictable. I had Asuma and Maru face off in a match. If Asuma won, then both he and Maru will sit down and talk. If Maru won, then Asuma would no longer bother him. Maru won and when it looked like the bonds that held the Sarutobi clan would forever be severed, Maru relented. Uncle and nephew sat down and talked inside the reception room. I am glad to say that Maru has reconciled with his uncle. Little Hitomi likes her big cousin as well.
Kurenai had been teaching at the Konoha Academy in intermediate and advanced genjutsu. When her successor at the Kimon Imperial Academy had retired days before the Konoha refugees' arrival, she had overheard about he vacant position and had put in for it. Hinata talks to her on occasion as she teaches a course twice a week on weapons combat. I also teach at the academy, only I teach philosophy.
Next on the list – the Hyuuga Clan. Who'd have thought that Neji and Tenten had hooked up? I suspect that one of the reasons why Neji decided to come here was to avoid his child being branded with the Caged Bird Seal. That and the Cadet Branch clan would be allowed to flourish in the Unified West without the hindrance of the Main Branch. As I've mentioned earlier, because of his leadership skills, the Cadet Branch – no, that's not right, make that the Western Branch of the Hyuuga appointed Neji as clan head.
The former Cadet Branch numbered 80 in total, with half of that number Chuunin and Jounin level ninja. For them, I assigned them to the military police division, which patrolled the streets of Kimon City and the port. Neji, on the other hand, opted to work at the Imperial Academy alongside Rock Lee and Maito Gai as taijutsu teachers, while Tenten was a weapons instructor. In her part time, she also operated a weapons shop, catering to both samurai and ninja alike.
The Inuzuka were still high on my shit list, but that still didn't mean that they could make themselves useful. For Tsume and that boneheaded son of hers, they both were assigned to the IDF's Tracker Division. Hana worked as an assistant veterinarian. Let Kiba and Tsume chase down bandits and highwaymen for the next year. See how they like it.
Next, are the Aburame. I forgot to mention that there is a clan similar to the Aburame, as they also deal with bugs. Only difference was that instead of kikachu bugs, the Yokoyama clan used Lahja Giant Hornets. Reminds me of Iwa's Kamizuru clan, who also uses attack bees. Only difference was the Lajha Giant Hornet is as big as your thumb and rather drain your chakra, it poisons you to death. Pretty useful for the Recon Division, which is where Shibi and Shino ended up.
Of course, once in a while, I had to use the famed Ino-Shika-Cho trio – both generations – to put down the occasional brigand or for an escort mission to the Southern Region. At least they get to travel, so they really can't complain.
As for my former teammates, the idiot Hatake and the Last Uchiha, I originally planned on assigning them to Zabuza's Demon Brigade, but decided against it. Tsunade had told me that Sasuke was training to become a member of the ANBU before the Exodus, so I assigned the both of them to the IDF's Second Division under General Kibagami. I still get bad memories whenever I see those two, so I avoid them as much as possible. But Hinata was right about one thing. Sooner or later, I will have to deal with the Uchiha, one way or another.
Maybe I'll deal with him once the Imperial Tournaments are over.
The Imperial Tournaments in South Ichiyama always draw a big crowd from both the East and the West. Ninja, samurai and fighters from the Empire and the East all come for a week-long tournament to see who is the best of the best. Aside from the major tournament here, we also hold regional tournaments in both regions, to keep the fighters' skills sharp. Just in case war rears its ugly head once again.
Plus, the masses always love a good fight. But something unexpected happened.
Sasuke had signed on to compete in the tournament.
I had fought the Uchiha twice – at the Valley of the End, and in Suna once the Chuunin Exams were completed. Now, he is taking on the finest the Unified West has to offer. And if by some stroke of luck he makes it to the finals, then he has to fight A, who is the current champion.
Aside from Hinata and myself, Tsunade and Jiraiya were also present, as were Damiyo Fujikaze, the major clan heads form the North and South Regions, and the Konoha heads. Aside from Sasuke, Neji and Rock Lee also signed up for the tournament. Those three have their work cut out for them.
During the tournament, an envoy from Iwa arrived seeking an audience with me and Hinata. The envoy was led by the recent;y-elected Tsuchikage herself, Onoki's granddaughter Kurotsuchi. Looks like Danzou let it slip that I was the Emperor of the West, and that my father was Minato Namikaze, hoping that Iwa would take me out of the picture.
Our meeting was an interesting one, to say the least.
South Ichiyama, Southern Region
The largest city in the Southern Region, South Ichiyama was home to the week-long Imperial Tournament, of which the Emperor and Empress Consort were present, taking in the tournament fights with great interest.
However, Naruto and Hinata were not at the stadium, since the tournaments were over for the night. The Emperor and Empress Consort was called into an emergency sit-down with an envoy from Iwa, led by the Godaime Tsuchikage herself, Kurotsuchi.
Naruto was no fool. Which is why he had Tsunade and the Elite Guards here, just in case things degenerated. The Emperor and Empress Consort were in the reception room of the Ichiyama Hotel, seated in chairs. Kurotsuchi herself was also seated, her squad of jounin-level ninja flanking her as well.
Naruto was in his usual black attire, the longcoat casually slung over his chair, while his wife looked stunning in her chesogam dress. The Godaime Tsuchikage was in her robes of state, while her ninja were in their standard Jounin attire.
"So is it true?" Kurotsuchi asked. "Are you the son of Minato Namikaze?"
"I am," Naruto calmly replied.
The Iwa ninja whispered among each other, while Kurotsuchi remained calm. "So why is the son of our most hated enemy the Emperor of the Unified West?"
"I was banished from Konoha eight years ago, so I have no love for Konoha," Naruto replied. "Especially for their current Hokage. Tsunade and a number of Konoha ninja are here because she asked for asylum, rather than serve under an oppressive and corrupt government."
"That, I have to agree with you," Kurotsuchi said. "In fact, it was an envoy from Konoha who had notified us about you."
"Knowing Danzou, he hoped that Iwa would try and go to war with the Unified West," Naruto pointed out. "Danzou hates me because he wanted me as Konoha's weapon, but he despises Iwa and Kumo more, as he wishes to rule not only Konoha, but he could be an even bigger threat to the East than I could be."
The Godaime cocked an eyebrow. "Oh?"
Naruto leaned back in his seat. "I have no intentions of invading the West, as I have told your grandfather when he came to Suna following the Akatsuki invasion. I am very content with my life here."
Kurotsuchi studied the younger man for a long moment. "You may be the son of the Yellow Flash, but I mistrust Danzou even more. The war with Kumo and Oto has pretty much left the Stone with less than half of its forces. Kumo is even worse off than we are. If you agree to leave Iwa in peace, I promise you as Godaime Tsuchikage not to interfere with your Pekara Merchants, nor your allies in the East."
Naruto and Hinata exchanged whispers for a moment before Naruto turned back to Kurotsuchi. "As long as you don't interfere with Suna, Wave or Spring, we will not attack Iwa. Konoha is fair game, but not the Fire Capital itself or the Damiyo, as he was the one who kept me out of the Bingo Book. Honor my requests, and I will not attack."
"My grandfather was right about you," Kurotsuchi said. "You are indeed a wise and sensible ruler. I will honor your requests in exchange for Iwa's safety."
Naruto nodded. "Go in peace, Lady Tsuchikage."
I sent an Imperial envoy to Iwa with the nonaggression pact, of which Kurotsuchi had signed. Iwa is out of the equation. Kumo is not that big of a threat, so I decided to leave them alone. But...if they attack Spring...then all bets are off.
Sasuke Uchiha has blown through the competition. Only Takuma Chiba had given him a serious challenge. He has improved greatly since our last encounter. Who knows...if he defeats A, he might challenge me next. But as he fought his way through the tournament, I can see the determination in his eyes.
I should know, since I had the same look in my own eyes when I united the West. Just as I was the hope for the people of the West, he holds the hope of the Konoha refugees on his shoulders. Maybe the Will of Fire is still alive in the Uchiha after all.
The tournament is over. Sasuke Uchiha is the new champion. A had given it his all, but Sasuke had pulled through. The strange thing about it is that he had only one request, of which was relayed to me by the proctor. Sasuke wanted an audience with the Emperor – in other words, me.
My first response to his request was no, but then that would make me a hypocrite, seeing as how I managed to get Maru and Asuma talking again. But it was Granny Tsunade that had talked me into making my peace with Sasuke. She told me that he was disgusted with how the civilian council had treated me just for doing my job. Kinda ironic how the one person I despise the most saw me not as the Nine-Tails, but as a loyal ninja to the Leaf.
I hope I will not regret this, as I agreed to the meeting. I will arrange to meet with my former teammate at the Imperial Complex's private gardens once we return to Kimon. I still mistrust him after all this time, but I have put Konoha behind me. I am not the demon brat that they made me. Here, I am respected and loved by all.
I really, really hope that I am not going to regret this.
Imperial Complex – Palace Gardens
Two days had passed since Sasuke had made the request following his victory at the Imperial Tournament. Since then, he had slowly gained the respect of not only his fellow refugees, as well as the admiration of the people of Kimon. It had also gained the attention of a young kunoichi who worked alongside the last Uchiha, a fire user like himself, and also the last of her clan. The attraction was mutual to Sasuke.
Then Asuma dropped by his dorm that morning to deliver a message: he was to escort Sasuke to the Imperial Complex for his meeting with the Emperor. His C.O. was already notified, and Sasuke was in the clear.
The younger Jounin was then taken to the Imperial Complex, and told to wait for the Emperor in the Palace Gardens. Located at the back of the complex, Naruto had it done for Hinata as a wedding gift (think Shang Tsung's Palace Gardens – without the Outworld-related stuff in it and the statues), seeing as how his wife loved flowers. Even Sasuke was impressed with the beauty of the gardens. Not even Konoha had something like this.
"The samurai believe that a perfect blossom is a rare thing."
Sasuke turned around at the sound of the voice. Leaning up against the tree, dressed in his standard black attire, sans the longcoat, was his former teammate.
Arms folded across his chest, Naruto Uzumaki Namikaze remained at his spot, looking at the sakura trees that Sasuke was admiring earlier. "For them, they could spend their entire lives looking for the perfect blossom, and for them, it would not be a wasted life." He straightened himself up and walked towards his teammate. "I had this place created for Hinata when we were married. She loves it here."
Sasuke nodded, noticing for the first time that Naruto was taller than he was, if only slightly. "It's very beautiful."
"For the record, I still don't trust you," Naruto continued. "I almost refused this meeting outright. But after I managed to get Maru and Asuma back talking again, that would make me a hypocrite. So, here I am. What do you want, Uchiha?"
"I came to ask for your forgiveness," Sasuke replied. "For what had happened at the Valley of the End...and for causing your banishment."
"You didn't cause my banishment. Danzou, those two old geezers who were Sarutobi's teammates, the banshee's mother and Hiashi were responsible for that. The only thing I was guilty of was just doing my job. But answer me this...why? Why run to Orochimaru, and risk being labeled as a missing-ninja, when you had everything back in Konoha? You were the little prince, and what was I? The demon brat, the dead last."
Sasuke took the Emperor's verbal barrage pretty well. "I...I guess I really have no excuse for what I did. I wanted the power needed to kill my brother, and Orochimaru was the best idea at the time. I didn't know that my actions would end up destroying Cell Seven. It was after you were banished, while I was holed up in the hospital, that I realized something. You may have been the dobe of the Rookie Eleven, but you never did quit. Tsunade told me about you being the jinchuuriki to the Nine-Tails, and even a blind man could see that you are not the fox incarnate. Otherwise, you would have pulled a Gaara and long since burned Konoha to the ground."
'Glad to see you're not as stupid as the scarecrow and the banshee,' Naruto thought. He then asked, "Why did you come here?"
"Redemption, mostly," the Uchiha replied. "When Konoha was originally founded, Madara had nothing to his name. Now, history repeats itself. Only this time, I will not make the same mistakes Madara, Itachi, nor my father had made. You killed Itachi, something that I could never do. You pretty much have a habit of making the impossible possible. But the most important reason why I came here was to counter Madara's prophecy – the Curse of Hatred."
"Curse of Hatred?" Naruto repeated.
"The Six Paths Sage adopted two boys – the eldest would be known as the clan ancestor of the Uchiha, the younger the clan ancestor of the Senju. Even though the boys were not related by blood, the Six Paths Sage trained them both in the Shinobi arts. When the Six Paths Sage was dying, he made the younger brother – the Senju – his chosen heir, because he held the ideas of which Hashirama Senju would base his ideas regarding the Will of Fire."
"The Uchiha clan head did not take that very well, I suspect?"
"Yeah. The Uchiha felt cheated out of his birthright, and waged war against the Senju. Thus began a cycle of hatred that transcended history, culminating in the mutual hostility between the Uchiha and Senju. Madara and Fugaku believed that the Uchiha would end up fighting the Senju to the death. You, being a descendant of the Senju through your mother's side, and me being the last Uchiha, Madara believed that is was fate that we would end up fighting to the death."
"So you knew about Madara?"
Sasuke nodded. "He came to me, shortly before the Suna-Akatsuki War, and led me to the underground chambers inside the main house of the Uchiha. There, he explained it all to me, that I was destined to fight you until one of us died. Before that, I found the papers regarding my father's plans for the attempted coup. Madara had used Itachi to slaughter the clan. Itachi was good, but he was no match for the Eternal Magenkyou Sharingan."
"What do you think?" Naruto asked.
"I think you said it best before you fought Neji in Tea Country. 'There is no such thing as Fate. There is only choice.' It was my choice to reject the Curse of Hatred, because it had all but brought the Uchiha to ruin. It was my choice to leave Konoha rather than to serve under Danzou. And it was my choice to come here asking for your forgiveness. You offered my friendship, and I ended up shoving a Chidori into your chest as a result."
Much to Naruto's surprise, Sasuke went down on one knee.
"Emperor Namikaze, I Sasuke Uchiha, do formally dedicate myself and the Uchiha Clan into the service of the Unified West. I will not make the same mistakes that my father and Madara had made. If you ask it, I will even give you my life."
For one full minute, Naruto looked at Sasuke. Then he ordered him to rise.
"I'm not going to have you killed, Sasuke. I'm not a bloodthirsty butcher. But like I've told the clans when I summoned them here, you must earn your redemption. But coming here and admitting your faults...that did take major courage from your part. I guess we both had some growing up to do. Ironically, Konoha was holding me back from reaching my true potential. So the banishment was a blessing in disguise. You've earned my forgiveness, but what I've said about your redemption will remain."
Sasuke bowed. "Thank you, Your Majesty."
Naruto waved him off. "Don't bother with that. Most people around here call me Chief. Goes back to when I was uniting the lands. There's something you should know about Shimura, before I forget. He has the Sharingan."
Sasuke's eyes went wide. "What? Are you sure?"
The Emperor nodded. "One implanted in his left eye, which he keeps concealed by his bandages, and a mechanical arm loaded with ten of them. He must have gotten them after the Uchiha Massacre. He was no match for my Fox Eye, though. But he is still more dangerous than ever."
"Will you go to war against Konoha?"
"I hope not, but the Rokudaime and his lackeys still has it in for me, despite me being the Emperor. He tried to invade Wave, but I managed to convince Tazuma to allow my units to destroy the bridge. Wave is safe for the time being. But sooner or later, the Unified West will be forced into a showdown with Konoha. By that time, the Fire Lord would have been finished with the creation of his new village and will strip Konoha of its hidden village status."
"A fate worse than death for a shinobi village, I'm sure." Sasuke replied. "If Konoha's status as a shinobi village is removed, then they will lose all perks and benefits that comes with the rights of being a Shinobi village. No military aid, no shinobi...Danzou and Hiashi will flip out if that happens."
Before the conversation could continue, one of the Imperial Ninja who was assigned to the complex appeared via shunshin. "Lord Namikaze, your wife is waiting for you inside the council chambers. The other council members are starting to arrive."
Naruto dismissed the ninja. Naruto dismissed him as well. "This meeting is over. Return to your post, Uchiha."
Once Sasuke was gone, Naruto addressed the third party that was watching from the shadows. "You think he was telling me the truth?"
Kitami appeared from behind the tree she was hiding.
"He sounded sincere, but only time will tell whether or not he will prove his worth," the Nine-Tails replied. "I'm surprised you didn't end up fighting him,"
Naruto chuckled as both he and Kitami walked up the pathway. "Are you kidding? Hinata would be pretty pissed if someone trashed her gardens. Seeing Hinata mad with her Bykaugan activated is something no one wants to see."
"True," Kitami said. "I do believe she did that on you several times."
It had taken them a week, traveling from Spring Country to catch a boat, but the Konoha envoy had finally arrived in the Imperial Capital.
Sakura Haruno and Honmura Mitokado – both representing the Konoha Council and the Konoha Mercantile Guild and Hanabi Hyuuga, along with their escort, three Konoha ANBU and three Hyuuga Ninja, took in the sights of the Imperial Capital as they made their way to the Imperial Complex.
Danzou and the Konoha Council had made it clear. This was an SS-class mission of the utmost importance. The Konoha envoy was to set their demands down upon the Demon Emperor and his whore. Failure to comply would result in a declaration of war upon the United West and their allies.
Unknown to them, someone from Konoha had saw their arrival. As they passed the Suna Consulate, Shikamaru had noticed the Konoha envoy and after excusing himself, ran for the Imperial Complex.
Inside the Imperial Council chambers, Naruto and Hinata was looking over the reports regarding the medic-ninja corps program that Tsunade had developed along with Kokoro Yamada. Ino Yamanaka stood before the Imperial Council, having delivered the reports herself from the hospital.
Despite having united the West, Naruto still had to contend with uprisings from highwaymen, bandits, and remnants in both regions looking for their own slice of the pie. Naruto's methods in dealing with men like these were simple: lay down your arms, join the Unified West and enjoy the benefits and perks of serving under him, or face complete destruction.
The smart ones chose to join up, while those continued to fight...and were summarily annihilated.
"The Imperial Medic-Ninja program started by Lady Tsunade and Lady Yamada has proven to produce very effective results," Naruto said as he passed the reports down to Hinata and A. "With each squad having a medic-ninja, casualties will be down by more than half. Congratulations."
"Thank you, Chief," Ino replied. She had heard that Naruto preferred to be called, Chief, rather than the more formal 'Your Imperial Majesty.' She had also seen how he was a hard-working, and just emperor. Not to mention that Hinata had made an excellent match for him.
But things between her and Haku were taking off as well.
Before the meeting could continue, Asuma Sarutobi rushed inside the room, followed by a breathless Shikamaru Nara. "Lord Namikaze...Lady Namikaze..." Shikamaru panted. "Troublesome..."
"What is it?" Hinata asked.
"There's an envoy from Konoha on their way here," Asuma reported. "Shikamaru saw them as they passed the Suna Consulate. He just told me. Nine in total, Lord Namikaze. Sakura Haruno, Honmura Mitokado, Hanabi Hyuuga, and six ninja – three from Konoha ANBU and the other three from the Hyuuga. They should be here in less than ten minutes."
Naruto's eyes narrowed, as did Hinata's. Kitami and A were both wondering if Konoha had a death wish. The council members whispered among themselves. Ino gasped, as their past was about to come back to haunt them with a vengeance.
Naruto immediately took action. "Have the Complex guards on standby in case they try anything," he ordered. "Asuma, rally the Guards and tell them to come here immediately."
Naruto and Hinata were not taking any chances. The nine-member team of elite bodyguards were stationed behind the Emperor and Empress Consort, ready to defend their Emperor and Empress from any threats. Kitami was also present, having changed out of her kimono and into her ninja uniform.
"You'd think they'd learn by now..." Naruto mused.
"Hmm?" Hinata turned to her husband.
"You think Konoha would learn that they are not the strongest village anymore. Oh well, I'll send word to the Fire Lord and tell him to proceed with the plan. But first, we need to deal with our guests."
They didn't have to wait for very long, as one of the valets had led the Konoha envoy inside the council chambers. Honmura, Sakura and Hanabi were shocked once the news that Naruto was the Emperor of the Unified West was released, but seeing him seated with Hinata at his side was indeed something that were not expecting. Even more, they had been led to the council chambers, of which all of the council members had either cross nor angry looks on their faces.
The six ninja remained at the door while the three representatives stepped forward and stopped in front of the table containing the Emperor, the Empress Consort, his Chief Prime Minister and his Chief Adviser.
Naruto glared back at the intruders who dared to arrive uninvited at his doorstep. They glared back at him.
"You are guests in my home," Naruto noted. "The least you can do is show the proper respect for your betters."
"You are no better than us, you..." Sakura began before she was silenced by Honmura.
"As I've said," Naruto repeated. "You are guests in my home, and in my Empire. You should choose your words very carefully, otherwise you will not return to Konoha alive. You are outnumbered, as my council not only advises me in all things pertaining to the Unified West, but can kill each and every one the Konoha ninja a hundred times over."
That very much was true. Despite having the elite Konoha ANBU and the best of the Hyuuga ninja backing them up, the Konoha ninja were still outnumbered.
Honmura straightened himself up and retrieved a scroll. "Naruto Uzumaki, I bring word from the Rokudaime Hokage, Danzou Shimura." He unrolled the scroll and began to read off from it. "By order of the Rokudaime Hokage and the Council of Konoha, Tsunade Senju and Jiraiya, along with the clans and high-ranking Chuunin and Jounin are declared traitors to the Leaf and are ordered to return to Konohagakure no Sato to face charges of desertion and dereliction of duty.
"Second, the Pekara Merchant House is to be liquidated, its income and properties are now the property of Asana Haruno and the Konoha Mercantile Guild. Third, by order of the Rokudaime Hokage and Hyuuga Clan Head, Hiashi Hyuuga, your marriage to Hinata Hyuuga is declared null and void, and Hinata is to immediately return to Konohagakure no Sato to face the Hyuuga Clan's justice."
At that, Ryuji and Haruka snorted. Hinata on the other hand looked amused.
Honmura continued reading. "Fourth, all monies from the Senju accounts and any and all monies from the Namikaze clan as well as all jutsu taken from the Konoha Library, as well as the Forbidden Scroll are forfeit and to be returned to the Leaf effective immediately. This also include all monies which you have gained as...'Emperor of the Unified West,' including said accounts in Spring and Tea Countries. Fifth, under the Konoha Clan Restoration Act, Sasuke Uchiha is to be married to Sakura Haruno upon his return to Konohagakure no Sato in order to preserve the Sharingan. You are to also surrender the names of your shinobi and samurai clans and send them to Konoha in order for the Leaf to regain her standing as the strongest of of the Shinobi villages."
The gathered council members looked at Honmura as if he had lost his mind.
Honmura finally got to the last part of the scroll. "And last...you, Naruto Uzumaki, the Demon of Konoha, are to abdicate your throne and return to Konohagakure no Sato to face a war tribunal for crimes against the Leaf. The Jinchuuriki under your control are also under the control of Konohagakure no Sato, and are to be initiated into the ANBU." He looked up rolled up the scroll. "So ordered by the Rokudaime Hokage of Konoha, Danzou Shimura."
Honmura handed over the scroll to the nearby valet, who in turn handed it over to the Emperor, who looked the scroll over, alongside Hinata and A.
"And what is to happen to the clan heads upon returning to Konoha?" Hinata asked.
"They will be executed as an example to show that desertion from the Leaf will not be tolerated, and their children will be initiated into the ANBU," Honmura replied. "Hiashi will personally execute Neji Hyuuga and the Branch Council."
"You think you can just waltz into my home uninvited with your paper shield and make such ridiculous demands of myself and of the Unified West?" Naruto asked as he shoved the scroll to the side. "And what makes you think that I, let alone my wife will bow to your demands?"
"If you do not wish to see your allies in Wave or the Spring Damiyo suffer the wrath of Konoha once we invade, you will make the right decision and submit to the will of the Leaf," Sakura shot back. She then got a real evil smile on her face. "Does this council know about your tenant? That you are the Nine-Tails reborn? I'm willing to bet that they would hand you over when they find out how much of a demon you are."
Much to her surprise, Naruto glared back at her without fear. "They already know about me being the Jinchuuriki. Or former Jinchuuriki. I freed the Nine-Tails from the seal a long time ago." He jerked a thumb in Kitami's direction. "She's seated beside me."
Sakura, Hanabi and Honmura looked at the stunning redhead, who was rising from her seat, then back at the smug Emperor. They thought that Kiba was lying about the Nine-Tails being a redhead in human form. The killer intent washed over the Konoha envoy. Even the Hyuuga and ANBU were taken aback by the bijuu queen's aura. Then they saw the nine fox tails emerge from her backside.
And they knew what Naruto was said was indeed true. All this time, they had abused the boy all for nothing. The same boy that was the son of the Yondaime.
"Be careful who you insult, Sakura Haruno," Kitami warned. "You may not like the consequences of your actions."
The six ninja went for their weapons, but Honmura ordered them to stay their hands. The fact that Naruto was not the demon fox had definitely complicated things.
"Danzou must have balls as big as temple bells to think he can boss me around, despite orchestrating my banishment alongside Hiashi, your buddy on the council, and that harpy of a Haruno."
At that, Honmura's eyes went wide.
"Of course I know," Naruto continued. "I found out after the Suna-Akatsuki War. I could have had Tsunade kill all of you at that time, or better yet, I could have you executed, then invade Konoha and finish what the Nine-Tails have started. It took me getting tossed on my ass to see that the corruption in Konoha is far too deep. And here you are, in my home, making demands as if I was a genin...the nerve."
"You have no choice in the matter," Sakura sneered. "Are you willing to risk the destruction of your allies?"
"No, because Konoha is weak," Naruto replied. "Your threats are as empty as the village's soul. Tell me...did you manage to regain any of the alliances you had because of me? No? I thought as much. These past eight years have all but weakened Konoha. Hell, even Kumo and Iwa could invade the Leaf and still win."
"As for your demands," Hinata chimed in, "you can take them and shove it."
"You have no choice in the matter," Hanabi shot back.
"There's always a choice," A said. "You just made the wrong one in thinking you can make demands of the Emperor."
"That emperor is a genin of Konohagakure no Sato!" Honmura shouted, pointing at the Emperor.
"Oh, so now that I am the most powerful man in the West with an army, not to mention giving Konoha one black eye after the other by defeating Konoha's finest am I a genin? I don't answer to Konoha, its Rokudaime Hokage, or to any of you. The Unified West does not recognize the authority of Konohagakure no Sato, not its council or the likes of you."
"Then you will risk having Konoha invade Wave and Spring," Hanabi pointed out.
"Oh, you are such a fool, Hanabi," Hinata said. "Danzou tried to send a invading force to Wave, but we ended up destroying the bridge. Spring Country's hidden shinobi village is up and running, has been for the past five years, and will defend their land and their Damiyo from any and all threats. Mist and Suna will decimate your forces while we will sit back and watch. Your forces have been weakened, and would not stand even a siege, so don't you dare make demands of us."
Honmura knew that Hinata was right. He had hoped that Danzou's bluff could force the Unified West into capitulation, but he could see that it had failed. Konoha had fallen from grace the past eight years when Naruto was banished. The exodus of the village's most powerful clans and ninja has left Konoha on the brink.
"Furthermore, the Konoha refugees are under the protection of the Unified West," Naruto continued. "The Pekara Merchant House will not surrender its resources nor its wars to the banshee's mother. And I will not hand over the fortunes of the Namikaze clan...my clan."
"You are no Namikaze," Honmura grated. "You're just an orphan, a nobody!"
Naruto didn't stop. "We can care less what Konoha and Hiashi could think about our marriage. And we will not surrender our clans nor will I surrender the Jinchuuriki for Danzou's intentions. Last, I will not abdicate my throne." He rose from his seat. "You think you can dictate orders to me like a genin? I can kill you myself and send your bodies back to the warhawk as a warning. But I will not do that."
"You're going to let us go?" Hanabi asked.
"No. You are going to spend time inside the Imperial Dungeons," Hinata replied. "You will stay there for the night, and afterward, you will return home."
"I suggest you do what is good for you and allow us to walk out of here," Honmura replied. "Otherwise you will have a bloodbath on your hands. The ninja here are Konoha Elite. Do you think you have a chance against us?"
Naruto looked amused. Then he activated a hidden seal.
Honmura, Sakura and Hanabi, as well as the six ninja fell to their knees, as the chakra-draining seals took effect, draining their bodies of energy, but not killing them. Once the Konoha ninja were effectively disabled, a squad of Imperial ninja entered the room, stripped the Konoha envoy of their weapons, and hauled them out of the council chambers.
Naruto grinned as Sakura shouted death curses at him and Hinata. The seal was a basic one, yet effective. It was something that he had used before during the Unification Wars, and it had saved his life on many an occasion. Hinata looked at her husband, her expression mirroring that of her husband.
"You truly are unpredictable, love," Hinata said.
"And you love me for it," was the Emperor's reply. He retrieved the Konoha scroll. "This can be useful to our advantage."
"Easy. The clans from Konoha and the ninja will need to know about this." Naruto turned to Asuma. "I want all clans and ninja assembled in the North Kimon Public Assembly in one hour. Make it so, Sarutobi."
Asuma bowed. "Yes, Chief."
"What are you going to do?" Sonshi asked after Asuma had left.
"Cement the loyalty of the refugees to my cause," Naruto replied as he retrieved his longcoat and slipped it over his shoulders. "This meeting is adjourned. A, Kitami, Hinata, you're with me."
North Kimon Public Assembly, one hour later...
Before Kimon had expanded into a city, the assembly once served as its town square. Then Rokubungi Oda had moved in and expanded Kimon City tenfold. Now, the public assembly was filled with the Konoha refugees, with the clan heads taking the front. Sasuke Uchiha stood beside Neji Hyuuga and Tsume Inuzuka, curious as to why the Emperor has called for a meeting of the Konoha refugees.
Standing in the clearing, longcoat fluttering in the gentle wind, Naruto scanned the gathered audience. The clan heads and their families were present, as were the chuunin and jounin, some of which were on the rooftops, looking down at him. Even Tsunade and Jiraiya stood among the clans, wondering what Naruto had up his sleeve. Hinata was at his side, while Kitami and A remained behind.
"Less than two hours ago, an envoy from Konohagakure no Sato arrived on my doorstep," Naruto began, his voice radiating power. He brandished the scroll. "They came to the Imperial Capital, and entered our home uninvited to order me and my wife around, making demands that I cannot and will not meet."
He tossed the scroll to Jiraiya, who unrolled it and began to read it alongside Tsunade. "The Rokudaime Hokage has declared all of you traitors to the Leaf, and has ordered your return to the Leaf, where the clan heads will face execution, and their children will be forcibly initiated into his ROOT ANBU."
A chorus of "No!" erupted from the ninja.
"He and Hiashi Hyuuga have declared my marriage to Hinata invalid and have ordered her to return to Konoha, where she will most likely face death. They have also declared that Sasuke Uchiha is to be married to Sakura Haruno in order to preserve the Sharingan."
At that, Sasuke blanched.
"They also demanded the liquidation of the Pekara Merchant House in order to line the pockets of the Konoha Mercantile Guild," Naruto continued, his voice unwavering, "as well as any and all monies from your clans, the Senju Clan and the Namikaze clans forfeit! Danzou also demands that I send the clans of the Unified West, as well as the Jinchuuriki under my banner to Konoha for the purpose of regaining the strength that it had lost through their own actions! And last, they demand that I give up my throne, and return to Konoha to face war crimes!"
By that time, the scroll had passed onto the elder Ino-Shika-Cho trio. The scroll contained the Hokage insignia, as well as Danzou's signature. It had all but verified Naruto's claims.
"Even now, Konoha curses my existence. Danzou wanted me as a mindless weapon when I was growing up, and following the Uchiha Retrieval Mission, had me banished when he saw that I could not be controlled. Even now, after the Suna-Akatsuki War, he has seen me as a credible threat. I have no intention of going to war, but I will defend not only my interests back in the East, but my allies as well. He believes that a Ninja should kill their emotions. I believe otherwise. It what makes us human."
"Oh, he knows how to work it," Jiraiya whispered to Tsunade, noticing that the young Emperor's charismatic side was starting to emerge.
"I have no intentions of invading Konoha, or anywhere else in the East," Naruto continued. "I am very content with what I have in the West. But if Danzou continues down this path, he will be dealt with extreme prejudice. You still have your concerns with coming here, and that is understandable. But I have to know...where does your loyalties lie?"
Jiraiya noticed that Naruto did not say 'himself or Konoha.' That was a smart move. Then he saw Shikaku step forward to face the Emperor.
"You could have destroyed Konoha at any given moment," the Nara clan head said. "You could have wiped all of us out out of spite. But you didn't. You and your old man are a rare breed. You don't let the past dictate your actions in the present. After seeing that scroll and what Danzou tried to do to our kids, I'll take my chances here."
"Same here," Inoichi said.
"Me too," Chouza added.
"You showed me twice that no one is bound to Fate," Neji said. "You truly can make the impossible possible, regardless of your lot in life. There is nothing left for us back in Konoha. My allegiance is with the Unified West."
"You have the Inuzuka at your command," Tsume said. "Nara was right. Despite our earlier threats to kill you, you did not hold it against us. Konoha has indeed lost the Will of Fire. But it lives here."
"My father loved Konoha," Asuma continued, "but he would be appalled as to what it had become. The Sarutobi Clan is at the service of the Unified West."
Shibi and Shino exchanged glances. Then the elder Aburame spoke. "The Aburame Clan is at the Unified West's disposal."
Someone in the back then chanted Naruto's name. Seconds later, the clans and everyone else were chanting his name, in a show of support for the United West.
Jiraiya watched all of this with a broad smile on his face. 'Oh the kid definitely knows how to work the crowd,' he thought. He made a mental note to talk to him later about taking over as the next Toad Sage.
The following day...
Naruto stood out in the courtyard, Hinata by his side as the Imperial Guards 'escorted' the Konoha envoy from the dungeons. Honmura, Sakura and Hanabi looked worse for the wear, while their escort looked worse for the wear. Naruto had made it where given their location of their cells, they could hear Ibiki and Zabuza's 'interrogation sessions,' as the pair was pulling an all-nighter, dealing with some highwaymen.
Psychological warfare at its finest.
"You will be sent back to Fire Country to give your report to the Rokudaime," Naruto decreed. "And give him a message for me: Any acts of aggression will result in my becoming very angry. I orchestrated the destruction of the Akatsuki, and I can do the same to Konoha."
At that, the elder and the two women gulped.
Seeing that his threat had the propet effect, Naruto turned around and activated the Fox Eye. His eyes going from cerulean to gold, he began to perform hand-seals, picking up speed, before clapping his hands, shouting: "Imperial Style: Demon's Gate Jutsu!"
Honmura, Sakura, Hanabi and the six ninja watched in awe as a massive steel gate, half the size of the main gates in Konoha, but still impressive, rose from the ground. Carved into the gates were the images of the tailed beasts from the One-Tail to the Nine-Tails. A massive lock was released and the doors flung open, releasing ice-cold air. After that, there was nothing but darkness. The Imperial Ninja and Samurai grabbed the Konoha envoy and despite their pleas, threw them through the gate. The gate then slammed shut and dissipated, its power spent.
The Demon's Gate Jutsu was one of the more powerful variants of the Hirashin. It was a time-space jutsu, designed to move a large amount of people from one place to another in far less time.
Naruto had used the Demon's Gate to send them back to the Konoha Gates. By the time Honmura would give his report, the Fire Damiyo would have come into play, and Konoha would be finished as a ninja village.
Konohagakure no Sato – Council Chambers.
Things had changed since Danzou had seized control of Konoha. The first thing he had done was to dissolve the council, and reformed it using nothing but loyal shinobi. The second thing he had done was to weed out any and all dissidents to his rule, and had them executed. Loyalty was to the Leaf, and to him above all else. Dissension was not tolerated. Second, he made plans to send his ROOT ANBU scouts to kidnap promising genin from the minor villages and have them brought back to Konoha, where they will be initiated into the ROOT ANBU.
Last, he sent Honmura Mitokado, Sakura Haruno and Hanabi Hyuuga with his list of demands to the United West, with the threat or war on the allies of the United West.
From the look of things, the mission was a failure.
Seated at the Hokage's chair in his robes of state, Asana Haruno, Koharu Utatane and Hiashi Hyuuga flanking him, Danzou gave the order to report, to which Honmura had done in great detail, completing the report with the threat of Naruto invading Konoha should any of his interests and/or allies are attacked.
Danzou dismissed the trio...but not before ordering the execution of the six Hyuuga Ninja and the Konoha ANBU for failing to protect the envoy. Failure was another thing that was not tolerated in Konoha. You either complete your mission...or die.
"So the Demon Emperor has refused our demands," Danzou said. "Very well. I was hoping that we could reach an agreement without any blood being spilled. But now, the time for talking is over."
"Agreed," Hiashi replied. "I propose that we set up a forward operations base in Whirlpool Country, and build up our forces there. Once our forces are strong enough, we will strike at Spring Country first."
Danzou nodded. "I agree with you, Hiashi. I will also send out my scouts to the minor villages in order to bring in some fresh recruits to rebuild Konoha's strength. It will take some time, but once Konoha is back on its feet, the shinobi world will soon fear the might of the Leaf."
After Danzou had said that a ROOT ANBU appeared via shunshin. "Lord Hokage, there is a courier ninja from the Fire Capital here to see you."
Danzou nodded and seconds later, a courier ninja entered the room. He presented a scroll to Danzou, saying, "From the Fire Lord," before disappearing in a puff of smoke.
Danzou looked at the seal. It was from the Fire Lord, all right. He broke it and began to read its contents. Hiashi and Asana were reading over his shoulder...and all three were shocked as to what the scroll's contents contained.
In essence, it was Konoha's death certificate.
NOTICE OF LIQUIDATION
By order of the Lord of Fire Country, the village of Konohagakure no Sato is hereby stripped of hidden village status. All honors and benefits of Konohagkure no Sato are hereby revoked. This notice has been relayed to Kumo, Iwa, Suna and Mist. All military aid is hereby ceased and Konohagakure is ordered to repay the military aid given for the last six months to the Fire Lord.
All bounties and placements in the Konohagakure Bingo Book are now invalid. All shinobi clans are stripped of clan status and are ordered to surrender half of their clan's finances to Fire Country. All ninja are stripped of their ranks of Genin, Chuunin and Jounin and are declared civilians. Accountants from the Fire Capital will arrive by the end of the week in order to audit the village and to seize any assets necessary for the good of Fire Country. So ordered by the Lord of the Land of Fire.
"Oh God...we're ruined," Koharu lamented as she grasped her chest. "We're...finished," she managed to gasped out before keeling over.
A medic-ninja who had stayed in Konoha rushed over to the frail old woman, and checked for a pulse. There was none. Koharu Utatane was dead from a heart attack, unable to face the fact that Konoha was no longer a Shinobi Village.
She turned to Danzou, Hiashi and Asana. "She's dead," the medic said.
Hiashi sank back into his seat. Ever since the founding of Konoha, the Hyuuga was one of the main noble clans. Now, the Fire Damiyo had stripped them of that honor and status. He was very, very angry.
Word had spread throughout Konohagakure no Sato about the Fire Damiyo's judgment. Overnight, the Leaf Village had gone from being a shinobi village to just a plain village. Chuunin and Jounin were stripped of their ninja ranks and reduced to civilians. Some even committed suicide or fled the disgraced village, seeing as how Konoha's Bingo Book was now useless.
Upon hearing the news that Konoha was no longer a Shinobi Village, Honmura had committed suicide.
As expected, the audit team had arrived in Konoha the following day. Faced with spending twenty years in prison, the remaining shinobi clans surrendered half of their wealth. That did not mean that the Konoha Mercantile Guild had came out of this unscathed either. Most of Asana Haruno's assets were liquidated and upon discovering that she had a hand in the corruption that festered around the Leaf, she was ordered to surrender seventy-five percent of her assets. Asana was all but furious. The mercantile guild's lifeblood was that of being a shinobi village. With that gone, the Konoha Mercantile Guild was finished.
Even more insulting was that the Flame Village's Hokage had signed a trade agreement with the Pekara Merchant House. The trade agreement, as she found out, made the Pekara Merchant House the main guild in the village. And the village got much needed products much cheaper than what Asana had originally sold them for.
The Haruno family had ran the guild since the village's founding, and now, with Konoha no longer a ninja village, the Konoha Mercantile Guild, as Asana knew, was finished.
When Danzou personally visited the Fire Damiyo demanding an explanation, the Damiyo gave him the reason why. Konoha had become too corrupt and the Fire Lord had been working on a brand new village to replace Konoha.
Tochigakure no Sato, or Fire Village. Danzou then found himself stripped of his title of Hokage, where it was later bestowed upon the new Fire Shadow of Fire Village. Now, Danzou was just a nobody from a village that had all but dug its own grave. The ROOT Commander was all but furious. He had spend decades in loyal service to the Leaf, only to have it ripped out from underneath him. So what id some people had gotten hurt or were in his way? What he had done was all for Konoha.
Upon returning to Konoha, he had sent his entire ROOT ANBU to his underground headquarters. Then, he made long term plans. Plans which include the destruction of the upstart ninja village and the assassination of the Fire Lord. Once those two were out the way, he would declare war on the one person who was the bane of his existence.
All roads led to him. Konoha's downfall had begun with him. Following orchestrating his banishment, he had resurfaced as the most powerful man on the Western continent. As Danzou watched as his world crumbled all around him, he made a solemn vow.
That vow was to wipe the Demon Emperor from this plane of existence.