Side Story: Alliances and Paybacks, Part 3
Snafu's Notes: Glad to see that the story is getting so many positive reviews. Also, I switched out Han and Roshi's entry and placed it here. Yahiko and Konan are in the previous chapter, so feel free to look at that. Also, Yahiko is a gravity jutsu specialist, which means he can use the Shinra Tensei, albeit on a less-destructive scale.
Also, I switched out Han and Roshi's entry and placed it here.
I received an unexpected guest in my Empire today. Kazuma appeared before me while I was going through some paperwork and gave me the news. There was a Sound envoy on their way to the Imperial Complex, a group of 20 ninja led by Kabuto. Not one to take any chances, I had Zabuza's Demon Brigade and Yugito's Hellcats on standby just in case things got a bit nasty. Looks like Orochimaru is looking for an alliance...as well as candidates for new bodies, since Sasuke is off-limits. I had Kabuto's escort wait outside the throne room, while I held an audience with Kabuto.
House of Sovereigns, Throne Room.
Seated on his throne, Naruto eyed the white-haired man with a combination of disdain and suspicion. Kitami was not there, as he did not want her to give away any suspicion as to her true identity. The Kage-style hat was on his head, effectively hiding his face. Not to take any chances, his face was concealed by his mask.
Kabuto Yakushi took a knee, head bowed. "Your Imperial Majesty," he began, "May your reign be a long and prosperous one. My name is Kabuto Yakushi. I represent Otogakure, the Village Hidden in the Sound. I bring greetings from my master, Lord Orochimaru."
Using his chakra to disguise his voice (think Naruto speaking in Wesker's voice), Naruto responded. "So what business does your master want with me?"
"Lord Orochimaru has been monitoring the events that have transpired here in the West with great interest," Kabuto said. "He is especially impressed that you have united the lands in so little time. He has sent me here to discuss terms of an alliance between your Empire and the Sound."
Naruto learned back on his throne. "Tell me, Yakushi...what would I gain should I ally myself to the Sound?"
"You would have the backing of one of the most powerful ninja in the East," Kabuto said. "Despite our small numbers, you would mostly benefit from Lord Orochimaru's guidance."
'In other words, take over my body since Sasuke is off limits, and use my army to invade Konoha,' Naruto thought darkly. The young Emperor made it look like he was in deep thought. "I am sorry, but a military alliance is not in the Empire's best interest."
"You misunderstood me, Your Majesty..." Kabuto began, but was cut off.
"Oh, don't be coy, Yakushi," Naruto replied. "Do you really think that you are the first from the East to ask for an alliance? First it was the Rock...then it was the Cloud...you make number three. The people has seen war since the era of the Six Paths. Unlike the people of the East, they have not known a lasting peace. I saw the lawlessness of the lands and I gave them the peace they desired. I am merely a servant of the people and even an Emperor must listen to the will of the people. I am truly sorry that you have come this far, but tell your Lord Orochimaru that my answer is no."
Kabuto slowly nodded. "I see. In any case, Lord Orochimaru will be disappointed that you will not agree to the alliance. I thank you for your time, Your Majesty."
With a wave of his hand, Naruto excused Kabuto. As soon as Kabuto was out of the room, General Kazuma of the Shadow Company emerged from...quite literally, the shadows.
"That went well," Kazuma said. "Even better than expected."
"Have your men tail them," Naruto replied, removing his mask and returning to his normal voice. "Make sure that they are on the first boat out of Kimon. I don't trust him...or the snake."
"Why? What did Orochimaru did to you?"
"Orochimaru killed my mentor, and grandfather to Maru Sarutobi, Hiruzen Sarutobi," Naruto replied as he rose from his throne. "Between the snake and Konoha...I hate Orochimaru more. See to your orders, Kazuma."
Kazuma bowed. "Right away, my lord."
I was tempted, honestly tempted to kill Kabuto and declare war on Orochimaru. But I held back. Killing Orochimaru would bring complications that would haunt me later on. Kazuma would later report that Kabuto and his Sound envoy had returned back East without incident.
Takuma was invited to a martial arts tournament in Tea Country. So the rest of the Elite Guards and Yours Truly went down to Tea to support him. Actually, I had to meet up with one of my informants who had information on Mist Country's Jinchuuriki, the renegade ninja Utakata. Plus, Mei was going to be there, so I had to talk to her about giving Utakata a pardon for going rogue.
With the exception of Mei and Gaara, most people here don't know that I am the Emperor of the West. All they knew about the Elite Guards is that they fought alongside the Emperor, and one of them would be competing in the tournament. I like playing the enigma. It makes it even more sweeter when those who ridiculed and hated me find out what I've become. Then again, there's Iwa and the fact that they hate my father's guts to the point that they would try and go to war against my home. Maybe if I crush the strongest village in the shinobi lands then that would make the others fall into line.
Nah...I want to be remembered for bringing about an everlasting peace, not for starting a Shinobi War. If Iwa does want a piece of the son of the Yondaime, I'd be more than happy to give it to them...on the receiving end of my sword.
Sorry, where was I...?
So I invited Mei to the Pekara Merchant House in Tea Country to discuss Utakata. When Mei asked me why, I simply told her the truth. The Akatsuki are looking for them, seeking the power of the tailed beasts. My plan is to simply intercept them to protect them and to give them a home, a place where they can belong, to live their lives in peace.
That pretty much cinched it for Mei, so she issued a pardon for Utakata on the spot.
The tournament lasted three days. Takuma Chiba was pretty much the talk of the entire tournament. Before it began, Takuma declared that he was doing this in honor of his Emperor. I simply told him do it for yourself, show the East what the Chiba clan can do.
At least he's humble and modest to a fault.
On the first day of the tournament, I noticed someone in the audience watching me. It was Tenten. Who else would wear her hair like that. From the look of things, she was promoted to Jounin. Excusing myself from the guards, I decided to take care of this personally. I left the arena, knowing full well that Tenten would soon follow.
Longcoat floating in the wind, Naruto made sure his mask was secured on his face, the Kage-style hat in place before retrieving a scroll from his coat. Unrolling it and smearing blood on it, the scroll activated, and his sword emerged from the parchment. Naruto picked up the sword by its scabbard, relishing in the weight of the weapon.
The weapon was according to Sonshi, an O-katana. The O-katana is a older version of the standard katana, designed for somewhat taller samurai so they can use their height to their advantage. Naruto had found the weapon while returning from a successful campaign. While returning to Kimon City, Naruto was traveling through the Lahja Mountains, having cinched the northern half's loyalty when he came across a hidden cave. That was where he had found the sword...along with three hundred chests, each filled with golden bricks.
The sword was definitely something that caught Naruto's eye. Later, Naruto would swear that he was drawn to the sword. He retrieved it and had his army to retrieve the gold, which would later be used to finance his Southern Campaign, and to rebuild the war-torn continents once the war was over. Some he gave to his soldiers and clan heads as bonuses and hazard pay, most of it went into the Imperial Treasury, and Naruto kept the rest.
The sword, however was something that Sonshi took an interest in. It had belonged to a powerful warrior, who had forged the weapon from metal retrieved from a falling meteor, the blade itself being razor-sharp and indestructible. That was when Sonshi had taken Naruto on as his apprentice in the Samurai arts. The sword, as Naruto had found out, also had the ability to split into twin swords, making it an even more deadlier weapon in his hands.
Naruto sensed movement from behind him, and smiled. Tenten has arrived.
"Either you're pretty brave...or pretty reckless to come alone," Naruto said as he turned around, facing his newest opponent.
"I could say the same for you," Tenten replied, sword drawn. "You're pretty infamous in Konoha."
"So I've heard. You're the fourth encounter I've had with the Leaf," Naruto replied, eyeing the Jounin vest she wore underneath (she's in her Allied Shinobi Forces uniform rather than her Shippuden outfit). He removed his longcoat and placed it to the side before drawing his sword and rested the scabbard alongside a tree.
Tenten eyed the sword. "Now that is a very nice sword. You any good with it?"
Naruto smiled. "I was trained in both the samurai arts and in kenjutsu. So yeah, I'm good with the sword."
"You may be good, but I'm the best when it comes to weapons," Tenten said as she shifted into her stance.
"Okay, then," Narto replied as he went into a very basic kendo stance. "Let's dance."
Tenten improved. A lot, I must admit. Too bad I was kinda toying with her for most of the battle. So I was feeling a bit sadistic and I slapped her repeatedly with the flat of the blade, hoping to get a reaction from her.
She got pissed off enough to try the same trick she did with Temari. Can you say 'Deja vu?' I think Temari would be laughing her ass off when she found out that I blasted Tenten with Deadly Tempest. But I was at least nice enough to drop Tenten off at the local hospital instead of leaving her there in the forest.
Rock Lee and Neji Hyuuga showed up the following day. Both had been promoted to Jounin, it seems. While Neji looked after Tenten, it was up to ol' Bushy Brows to uphold the honor of Team Gai. In the meantime, Takuma had breezed through the tournament. The only opponent that gave him a problem was the Taijutsu expert from Iwa. Needless to say, Chiba's opponent was very pissed when he lost.
So much so that he tried to ambush Takuma with myself and the other Elite Guards present after the second day. No, we didn't kill them...just sent them to the hospital with a wide assortment of broken bones and cuts, just to show that we were the wrong people to pick a fight with. It was after the second day of the tournament that Rock Lee showed up.
Tea Country, evening.
The Elite Guards were at the local restaurant while Naruto decided to take a walk along a grove. The Emperor was dressed down in his standard uniform that he wore during the Unification Wars, the same uniform that he had on when he killed Hidan and Kazuku, but with one major difference. Rather than the Kage-style hat, he switched to a bandanna. The face mask remained on his face.
Naruto knew that Rock Lee was tailing him. That was a given. But he had given him the slip when he entered the grove, so now the roles were reversed. Naruto was tracking him. 'Heh. Looks like Mr. Youthful is now a Jounin as well,' Naruto thought as he noticed the Jounin vest on Rock. 'Still can do better than that crappy spandex.'
Deciding that this little game has gone on long enough, Naruto decided to confront his former comrade.
"Rock Lee. One-third of Team Gai. Second Green Beast of Konoha. It's a honor."
Rock Lee spun around, and saw Naruto leaning up against a tree, hands in his pockets, shoulders slumped. From the look of things, he was alone. "And you...you've attacked several teammates and comrades from the Leaf. That is most un-youthful."
"In my defense, they initiated combat when they challenged me," Naruto replied, standing straight up. "I was merely defending myself."
"You've been making a name for yourself," Rock Lee said, slowly sizing up his opponent. "Despite all of that, you did save Captain Sarutobi. I'll take that into consideration when I take you in."
"You can try," Naruto replied. "But...it won't be that easy for you. I hear you're a genius in Taijitsu. I'm an expert in the style myself." He shifted into his stance (think Kazuya's fighting stance). "So come on, Green Beast. Show me your stuff."
That cinched it for Rock Lee. "YOSH! You are indeed a worthy opponent!" He went into his Gouken stance. "This will be my most youthful performance yet!"
'I wouldn't hold my breath on that,' Naruto thought darkly.
I took Bushy Brows to the brink in our little battle. He ended up opening three Lotus Gates and removing his weights. I decided to unleash a brand-new Taijitsu technique that I've been working on.
The Shadow Dancer.
Similar to my classic Uzumaki Formation and Combo, only difference was instead of using my clones to attack, I used chakra-powered speed and power to smack Lee repeatedly. Kitami was right about thing...you can't dodge what you can't see. With the defeat of both Tenten and Rock Lee, it was only a matter of time before Neji would appear.
And given the fact that the pompous little shit threatened me with death should I return, I had a serious bone to pick with him.
Takuma had won the tournament. Big surprise. At least the others were entertained, not to mention they won a pile of ryo for betting on Chiba. As Takuma fought, I felt the killer intent radiating in my direction. At the opposite end of the stadium, was Neji himself. His Bykaugan was activated, and he was glaring at me. Sorry, Hyuuga, but you won't see any red chakra in me. I freed Kitami, but no one from Konoha doesn't know about that little tidbit just yet.
Following the ceremony in which Takuma was crowned, Neji made his move. He called me out on the stadium's letdai.
(Snafu's Notes: The Letdai is a training platform. The best example of this is from Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance intro in which Shang Tsung and Quan Chi double-team Liu Kang)
Neji Hyuuga stared impassively at the disguised Naruto. The same man that had killed to S-Ranked criminals belonging to the most infamous organization of missing ninja, we well as bested several clan heads and high-ranking chuunin and jounin (his teammates included). It was while he was at the hospital looking after Tenten that Rock Lee was brought in. He had fought the Man in Black and had lost. That, to Neji, was impossible. Rock Lee was the same as him, a prodigy.
Despite losing to the Man in Black, Rock Lee was in good spirits. He may had lost the battle, but the Man in Black had earned his respect.
It was during the awards ceremony that Neji had crashed the ceremony, issuing his challenge to the Emperor.
"You deserve praise for making it this far," Neji began. "But your luck ends here. As it is fate for me to be a member of the branch family of the Hyuuga, fate as deemed me as the winner. I will defeat you and bring you back to Konoha."
Naruto frowned. Neji had never gotten over that crap about fate. Then again, he said the same thing when he was banished. "I never got this far by living my life bound to fate. Fate and honor are designed for one thing. They are designed by weak people to keep the strong in line. There is no such thing as fate. There is only choice. The choice to do what is right. The choice to make your own destiny."
Neji's eyes were alight with anger as he activated his Bykaugan. "You lie. No one can change their fate. There was one who said the same thing...but he turned out to be a demon in disguise. You will see soon enough. I will show you why I am considered the best in the Hyuuga clan."
'Oh that's it,' Naruto thought. 'If the beatdown I gave him back during the Chuunin Exams was bad, I'm gonna do worse here.' Sighing, the former Konoha ninja cracked his knuckles. "At first, I was just going to fight you. Now...I'm gonna kick your ass."
To his Elite Guards and the judges, he barked out, "Leave us. He is mine."
As the Elite Guards and the judges piled off the leidai, bets were being taken. Neji was well-known in the East for his skills in Taijitsu, but he had never faced off against a revamped Naruto. This time, his chakra system wasn't messed up like last time. He was going to rip Neji a new one.
Neji knew only one Taijutsu style. I know two. And since the Shadow Dancer technique was so nice, I did it twice. When Neji attempted the 64 Palms, I let loose with the Shadow Dancer. And just to be a total ass, each time I hit him, I struck his chakra points.
Yeah, I admit it. I was a total jerkass when we fought. I had seen the Jyuuken in action many times back in Konoha...when I was chased by the villagers, I was on the receiving end of it by some unruly Hyuuga asshole who had too much to drink and wanted to take it out on the Kyuubi brat. As he slipped into unconsciousness, I left him with a parting shot: "You claimed to be the best...but you fell like the rest."
No one from Konoha attacking me today. Good thing too. Something else did happen, though, despite me being on the tail end of this inspection tour. I heard reports of Iwa having not one, but two Jinchuuriki, both former Iwa ninja who had resigned and decided to wander. It took me a while, but my spy network came through. The ninja in question were Roshi and Han - jinchuuriki to the Four-Tailed Monkey and Five-Tailed Dolphin Horse respectively.
The bad news was that they were both being pursued by the Akatsuki.
But even bad news can be a blessing in disguise. Since I was already on the Akatsuki's radar by eliminating both Hidan and Kazuku, I tracked both of them down, as they were injured from their battle with Deidara and another member, some guy calling himself Tobi, and retrieved them both. An impressive feat, seeing as how I did it all alone. I guess it helped that I ambushed the both of them with a senjutsu-powered Deadly Tempest, then I used a shadow clone to retrieve the two men.
Iwa was out of the question, since Oneki would more than likely force them back into service, so I returned to Tea Country, where I used the Demon's Gate jutsu to return back to the West. At least the inspection tour was over. There, Han and Roshi had regained consciousness inside the guest quarters of the Imperial Palace. Yugito and Bee were there to greet them when they woke up. After making sure that they were fed, I summoned them to the House of Sovereigns.
House of Sovereigns, Imperial Complex.
Rather than meet the two jinchuuriki inside his throne room, Naruto had them led to his office, where he was just finishing up the pile of paperwork detailing the condition of his Empire. Kitami was with him. The humanized form of the Nine-Tails was scanning a document when Yugito led Roshi and Han inside the office. Almost immediately, Yonbi and Gobi went nuts.
Kitami saw the looks on their faces and knew what that meant. "Roshi. Former ninja of Iwagakure no Sato, Jinchuuriki of Yonbi, the Four-Tailed Monkey. Han. Also a former ninja of the same vilage, Jinchuuriki of Gobi, the Five-Tailed Dolphin Horse."
"And you're the Nine-Tails," Roshi guessed.
Kitami smiled. "How insightful of you. Yes, I am Kyuubi no Yokou, but my human name is Kitami Akashiya."
Han, in the meantime, was looking at Naruto with an odd look in his eyes. "Has anyone ever told you..."
Naruto cut him off. "...that I look a lot like Minato Namikaze? I get that a lot, seeing as how he was my father."
Han narrowed his eyes. "Didn't know he had a kid. You know he's well-hated in Iwa."
"For his actions in the last Shinobi War, I know," Naruto replied. "The only Konoha ninja in the Bingo Book with a Flee-On-Sight order."
"I heard rumors that a kid unified the lands here," Roshi said. "Never thought it would be Minato's son. That would make you the Emperor of the West. It was you that saved the both of us?"
Naruto nodded. "Yes on all counts. Take a seat. I'll tell you the entire story of how I ended up here."
It took Naruto ten minutes, but he laid it all down. From his childhood to being banished in the aftermath of the Sasuke Retrieval Mission to uniting the country under his rule. Even Roshi and Han were shocked to find out that he was banished not only for being the container of the Nine-Tails, but for simply doing his job.
'The kid is telling the truth,' Gobi concurred. 'As crazy as this sounds, he's telling the truth.'
'He is not lying,' Yonbi seconded.
Han leaned back in his seat. "Attacking a child for something not in his control. Such a disgrace. Banished for doing your job. If anything, the Uchiha should have been the one banished."
Roshi nodded. "Indeed. And the council's been blocking your progress despite your devotion to the Leaf?"
Naruto nodded. He then changed the subject. "Have you ever heard of the Akatsuki?"
The two men nodded.
"The Akatsuki are gathering the jinchuuriki for something big," Naruto explained. "My spies have been sending me reports about their motives. Does the name Madara Uchiha ring a bell?"
Both men nodded.
Naruto explained that Madara was the mastermind behind Akatsuki, and that he wanted the power of the tailed beasts for his Eye of the Moon Scheme, of which Naruto had explained to both men. So far, Naruto had remained one step ahead of the organization of S-ranked missing ninja. His interference in their attempts to capture Roshi and Han was another wrench tossed in the gears.
"So you saved us from the Akatsuki?" Roshi asked.
"Yup," Naruto nodded. "In this case, the Jinchuuriki should be united against the Akatsuki. They sent Itachi Uchiha and Kisame Hoshigaki to capture me when I was younger. They both failed. I rescued Yugito from them and offered Bee and his brother sanctuary within the Empire. The people know about my past and do not see me as a demon or a monster. They even seen Kitami in her true form and did not run away."
"What are you offering?" Han asked.
"Sanctuary within the Empire," Naruto said. "Protection from the Akatsuki and all your enemies. You can settle anywhere you wish. Even become a leader of a village. But the time will come where we must take a stand against the Akatsuki."
"And what do you want in return?" Han asked.
"Your loyalty. That's all I ask. If you wish to return back East, then I will not stop you. What do you say?"
Seeing as how they had nothing left for them back East, they chose to stay.
"Okay, Lord Namikaze," Roshi said. "I accept your offer. I would like to wander around a bit, get my bearings straight."
Naruto nodded. "Of course." He then turned to Han. "What about you?"
"I'm more at home in the mountains," Han replied.
"There's several mountain villages in the Lahja Mountains north of here," Naruto explained. "Damiyo Todo said she needed some help in one of the villages. Said that their village elder had passed away and they need a new leader. Are you up to the task, Han?"
Naruto smiled. "Good. Welcome to the Western Empire."
Han and Roshi fit in pretty well. Well actually, Roshi has taken to wander in the Southern Region, hanging around in either South Ichiyama or Tears' Point, while Han made his home in the mountain town of Ueto. When I visited Damiyo Todo, she was happy to say that Han had taken his role as protector very well. Of course, I had to see for myself, but after making a trip to the village, I saw it for myself.
Roshi had told me that Han had a chip on his shoulder the size of the Hokage Monument over how he was treated. Can't say I really blame him, since it was the same with me back in Konoha. I can honestly say that Han had found the peace he had long sought. Even Roshi had to agree when he came to visit his partner. The kids like him, even calling him 'The Giant,' as it was clear that he was the tallest man in the village, if not the entire Empire.
I could have sworn that one of the ladies was making eyes at him...oh well, not my business to pry into other people's affairs. As long as they are happy, then I know I did a good job. In the meantime, I think it would be best that I would hang around here for a while. Let things die down. Maybe Konoha would forget about me.
Then again, Konoha never let certain things go. I can expect another run-in with my past soon enough.
Today, I stuck it to the Akatsuki yet again.
I found out that two teams of the Akatsuki were looking for Utakata. I met the guy back when I was younger, so I knew what he looked like, as well as how he fought. As for the teams of Akatsuki, they were Itachi and his partner and the Five Paths of Pain. Kitami used a shadow clone and placed it under a henge to make it look like Utakata and sent it to distract Pain, while three of the Elite Guards, Kitami and I went after the real one.
Utakata was currently engaged in combat with Itachi and Kisame. We simply waited until Itachi and his partner had beaten down Utakata before we made our move.
Near the Lightning Border...
"Fire Release: Deadly Tempest!"
Itachi and Kisame leapt back from the deadly blast of superheated air, which had reduced several trees to instant ash, the unconscious Utakata slung over the traitorous Uchiha's shoulder. In an instant, Kisame had Samehada out, ready to shred any and everything. Since Naruto didn't had time to change out of his usual attire (i.e., vest, longcoat, pants and boots), he only had on the black hat. This time, he went without his face mask.
The Emperor had his sword drawn. "You have my thanks. Utakata is pretty hard to find," he said, looking at Itachi. "But this is where I come in. Utakata is coming with me. Drop the jinchuuriki and step back."
"The Akatsuki has been looking for him for quite some time," Itachi replied. "This has nothing to do with you. Leave."
"Can't do that, Itachi Uchiha. Drop the jinchuriki or there will be trouble."
At that, Kisame attacked. Holding the bandaged sword high, he charged. Imagine the shark-man's shock when Naruto merely knocked Samehada out of his hands with his O-katana, right before kicking it into a tree. After decking the renegade Mist swordsman, he turned to Itachi.
"Now that your partner is out of the way..."
Itachi cut him off by saying one word. "Tsukyomi," he deadpanned, his Sharingan morphing into the Magenkyou as he stared right into Naruto's eyes.
If anything, Naruto's golden eyes showed amusement. Itachi was surprised to see that his technique didn't work. Meanwhile, Kisame had retrieved Samehada and was back at Itachi's side. Even he was shocked to see that the Magenkyou was ineffective.
"Nice try, Uchiha," Naruto remarked dryly. "Your Mangenkyou is no match for my bloodline, if I can be so modest. Not only it increases the power of my jutsu and seals to rival the power of the Legendary Sages, it also makes me immune from all forms of genjutsu...including your dreaded Tsukyomi." His grip on his sword tightened. "This can end in two ways. And in both of them, the Rokubi jinchuuriki comes with me."
"You make it sound like we have no choice," the fallen Uchiha replied.
"You don't," Naruto said as he prepared for battle. "It's my way, or...ah, screw it, it's my way."
It was a two-on-one match between Yours Truly and the two Akatsuki. Kitami and the Elite Guard had retrieved Utakata and his student, a woman named Hotaru who had came across the battle. Anyone would have been crazy to take on two S-class missing ninja by themselves, but then again, I'm not your average warrior. Kisame was easy to dispatch. Oh, did I forgot to mention that my sword was indestructible, and almost hacked Samehada into pieces? That forced the sword to absorb Kisame's chakra, which drained him to the point where I could easily drop him. Then I fought Itachi. Hard to believe that he murdered his clan just to test his skills.
No wonder Sasuke was so screwed in the head.
Since his Sharingan proved to be ineffective against me, Itachi went for his ANBU-issued katana. Now this was starting to get very interesting. I guess I should mention that my sword has a real interesting technique...it can split in two. The look on Itachi's face was priceless. After five minutes of swordplay, Itachi unleashed Amaterasu. The black flames did a pretty damn good job of scorching the trees...as well as hiding my Hirashin. I ended the battle by wrapping Itachi up with chakra chains.
Sheathing my sword, I saw that the Elite Guards had left the scene with my prize. Turning to Itachi, I left him with a parting shot.
"Your life is yours still, Itachi Uchiha. But the next time we meet...you will die."
As I turned from the two Akatsuki, I stopped and turned around. Hiding in the brush were three ninja. Two were living hives while the other had chakra which reminded me of Old Man Sarutobi.
Asuma Sarutobi and the Aburame, Shibi and Shino.
I looked dead at Asuma and wondered if I should pick a fight with the old man's son and the two Aburame. I decided against it and left the scene, leaving two unconscious Akatsuki and three bewildered Konoha ninja. The clone that Kitami had used to distract the Five Paths of Pain vanished, its job done.
Back West, Utakata regained consciousness the following day. There, I told him everything, about the Akatsuki's motives and my own plans in dealing with them. Utakata was surprised (who wasn't) when he found out that I was now the Emperor, but he was no fool. A chance of a fresh start with his student was too much to pass up. He agreed to my offer of sanctuary within the Empire.
Konohagakure no Sato, the following day...
Upon their return to the village, Asuma Sarutobi, along with Shibi and Shino Aburame headed straight to the Hokage Tower to deliver their report.
Asuma had been released from the hospital the previous week, and was assigned patrol duty so he could get back into the niche of things. Instead, he and the two Aburame stumbled upon Itachi and Kisame near the Lightning border and witnessed a confrontation with The Man in Black over Utakata.
Only the Shinobi half of the Konoha Council was present, as Tsunade had ordered the civilian half to leave, as she was getting tired of their rampant stupidity, especially from Asana Haruno. The civilian council wanted to place Jiraiya inside the Bingo Book as an S-ranked missing ninja, but Tsunade had refused. When they did it regardless - placing the Toad Sage as an S-ranked criminal with a retrieve-on-sight order - the Fire Damiyo was furious. Tsunade had suspended the civilian side of the council for a month without pay, while the Fire Lord reduced Konoha's military aid by half and sent their B and A-ranked assignments to Wind Country for the next year. Jiraiya was no traitor, as the Toad Sage was in contact with the Fire Damiyo himself, and was granted immunity after leaving Konoha.
Suffice to say, Jiraiya was taken out of the Bingo Book almost immediately. Even Danzou was against the council's move, which was surprising to most people. After all, Jiraiya was more useful alive instead of dead.
Tsunade and the Shinobi half of the council listened to the report with great interest of the confrontation with the Man in Black and the Akatsuki. Also present was Sasuke Uchiha, recently promoted to Jounin. It was through his hard work, not because of his name, that Tsunade finally relented and allowed him to take the Jounin Exams. But Sasuke knew that Tsunade despised him for his role which led to Naruto being banished.
Sasuke was also interested in the Man in Black. He has, after all, came out victorious against the best Konoha had to offer. Now, he fought his brother and his partner and had soundly defeated them in battle.
"So it's true," Tsunade said. "The Akatsuki are gathering the jinchuuriki." She only hoped that Naruto was safe. Jiraiya was no help, since he has deprived the Leaf his spy network.
"That can prove to be a problem for the Akatsuki," Shikaku Nara pointed out. "Yugito Nii, the container for the Two-Tails has disappeared following Uzumaki's banishment. And just recently, Han and Roshi have also vanished. The Akatsuki did not intercept them. If anything, I'm willing to bet that the Man in Black has something to do with those incidents."
Sasuke winced. Uzumaki. He still blamed himself for his attempted defection. Naruto was banished for simply doing his job in bringing him back. He kept his distance from Kakashi and Sakura. Kakashi had pretty much abandoned Naruto, while Sakura still called for his death behind Tsunade's back. In the months following Naruto's banishment, even he saw that things had went bad for the Leaf, despite what the civilian council had said. Konoha had lost every single trade agreement and alliance it has forged because of his former teammate and has become a virtual pariah in the shinobi community.
Iruka Umino was dead, having committed suicide in the months following Naruto's banishment. Like the others, he had forsaken Naruto in his time of need. It was Sasuke who had found his body, having slit his wrists with a kunai, unable to live with the guilt of betraying Naruto. Sasuke covered up the suicide in his official report, claiming that Iruka had simply lost the will to live. He was buried in the Konoha graveyard. Only Tsunade knew the truth.
Iruka had left behind a suicide note. All it said was I'm sorry. He deserved better. We do not deserve his forgiveness. We all abandoned him in his darkest hour.
On Tsunade's orders, Sasuke incinerated the suicide note.
Teuchi and Ayame's business were hit hard in the following months. When confronted by Asana Haruno, they refused to recant and declare Naruto a demon, the civilian council, led by Haruno had virtually boycotted their ramen shop. In retaliation, Teuchi and Ayane closed down and moved to Wave Country, where the people welcomed them with open arms. Sasuke had heard that Ichiraku's was doing a lot better than it did back when it was in Konoha.
"The Man in Black has proven to be a worthy adversary," Asuma continued. "We also gained some new information regarding him."
"Such as?" Chouza Akamichi prodded.
"He has a bloodline," Shino said. "He didn't say its name, but gave a detailed description as to what it can do. Captain Sarutobi stated in his report in regards to the confrontation with Hidan and Kazuku that Hidan's immortality was nullified with his seals. It's the most logical conclusion that the man is a top-notch seal master, of which he verified when he fought Itachi Uchiha and Kisame Hoshigaki."
"He said that not only his bloodline boosts the seals' effectiveness," Asuma continued, "but casting genjutsu on him would not work, as his bloodline makes him immune, as Itachi failed to pull him into Tsukyomi. It also nullifies the Sharingan's ability to copy jutsu. Lastly, his bloodline also allows him to cast senjutsu-level jutsu."
'No wonder why my Sharingan didn't work,' Danzou thought, remembering the confrontation at the ruins of Chiriku's temple. 'But this boy is proving to be even more interesting every time I hear about him. I was careless the last time. He is a perfect candidate for being Konoha's ultimate weapon. Next time I see him, I will take him down.'
"After defeating both Uchiha and his partner, he started to leave with his entourage...but he stopped and looked right at me," Asuma noted.
"His face...did you see his face?" Koharu demanded.
Asuma shook his head. "No. Not his face. I saw his eyes. They were the color of pure gold. Then he turned and walked away. He had what he came for, so fighting us would have been moot."
"The bloodline could have something to do with his eyes," Shibi said. "But that is just an estimated guess at best."
"Lady Hokage, this is very unnerving news," Honmura said. "We should place this man in the Bingo Book as a A-ranked criminal with orders to retrieve on sight."
"Whoever this man is, he has not killed any Konoha ninja," the Godaime replied. "And you know the law, Mitokado. Unless a Konoha ninja dies at his hands, then we cannot place him in the Bingo Book. I honestly think that the civilian council's stupidity is rubbing off on you and Koharu." Ignoring the blubbering advisers, Tsunade continued. "My order still stands. Find him and bring him in. I don't care if you have to use diplomacy or brute force."
At that, Tsume Inuzuka smiled. After seeing the failed attempts of both generations of the Ino-Shika-Cho trio, Team Gai and Danzou's ROOT ANBU, the feral clan head was itching for a chance to fight the mystery man. It had been a while since the elite Jounin had a good match, and she felt that the mystery man could give it to her.
Snafu's Notes: Next Chapter...THE INUZUKA AND KAKASHI vs NARUTO! No flashback this time around for this match. Oh, and in case you didn't notice, there's some Duke Nukem references in Naruto's dialogue.