I don't own Naruto, or any of the characters from the Manga or Anime.
Chapter 157: The Speech
The Land of Rain was once more living up to its name, a torrent was falling over the bleak landscape that surrounded Ame drenching the small group of shinobi that were crossing the countryside. The clouds from which the rain fell were so thick that even in the middle of the day only a small amount of natural light would shine through onto the muddy roads onto puddles that would overflow into the gutters.
"Well this place sure is depressing, why are we here again?" Anko complained, her trench coat pulled tight as she trudged through the rain with the other recruits to the special task force.
"Our initial base of operations is in Ame so, that's where we have to go." Kurotsuchi answered in a matter of fact tone. Duty always came first for Kurotsuchi, she believed that the prosperity of her village came before all else, and that orders were absolute.
"Whose genius idea was that, we should have just used Konoha, it's just as central to the rest of the elemental nations as Ame, and we wouldn't have to be drowned in this Kami forsaken rain," the snake summoner whined.
"Funny I did not take Konoha's Snake mistress to be afraid of a little rain," Atsui a Jounin from Kumo joked, unlike many of the others in the group the blond Kumo ninja was not affected by the rain at all, in fact he actually enjoyed the rain.
"I am afraid of nothing, I would just prefer to be stationed somewhere dry rather than literally right wettest country in the elemental nations." Anko scoffed dismissively.
"What about the Land of Water, that's technically wetter," Akatsuchi queried.
"That's a common misconception, the islands in and around Kiri are usually quite dry most of the year," a timid voice replied, he almost seemed out of place with the others being quite loud and confident.
"Chojiro is right, it wouldn't be wise to make accusations about a country based on it's name" Guren added in a business like manner, she also felt a little out of place in this situation, it was not that long ago she had been in direct conflict with the blond leading their travelling party as they made their way across the country side. In fact while serving under Orochimaru she would have been rewarded for capturing or killing any of the members of the group.
"Well you can forgive us for that considering it hasn't stopped raining since we entered this country," Kurotsuchi joked, the Iwa kunoichi was more relaxed than even she expected to be in the situation, she had never in her wildest dreams thought that she would one day be working with shinobi from all the five major villages in a task force nor that one of the members would be the son of the Yondaime Hokage, a man feared beyond all others in Iwa for good reason.
While this discussion was going on, a short distance away Naruto was scouting ahead making sure the road was clear for the group. 'We're a little slow. Kami we should have been at Ame yesterday,' he thought scanning the horizon where he knew their destination lay, currently obscured by clouds and the thick rain.
'I agree, but your new travelling companions are getting to know one another, it's no surprise they are not moving at the speeds you are accustomed to. Regardless I do not think that this is a big issue, perhaps it would help if you joined them.' The Kyuubi spoke in the blonds mind.
'It's not that I don't want to Kurama, but I don't think that it's a great time for it. Once we are safely within the confines of Ame we can relax a bit more.' the blond answered.
For the most part the fox agreed, but it was still unlike his new friend to be overly worried while travelling, he knew that it was something else that was really bothering the blond. 'That isn't the main issue you're having right now is it Naruto?'
The blond jinchuuriki sighed, slowly shaking his head in acceptance. 'No, you're right. It's the fact that any day now, hell it could have already happened, the joint shinobi task force is going to set out to start this war. Gaara will be going with the first Battalion to siege Yugakure, then once that first move is made I doubt we will be sitting around in Ame for long. I know for a fact there are several villages that had supposedly sided with the Akatsuki and our armies can't get to all of them.'
'So you're worried about the fighting?'
'No I've been in a war before, but this time I just feel like I am so far removed from the real fighting. I could deal with Yugakure myself, then nobody would have to die.'
'Nobody on our side would have to die you mean, death will be inevitable. The leaders or should I say whoever has orchestrated the change in policy of the minor villages will not accept surrender, and my guess is they will not go down quietly. Then again even if we were to deal with Yugakure ourselves, all that would do is send the main fighting elsewhere.'
'Just kind of funny that this is the second war I have been involved in and both times I am not involved on the front lines, it feels like I am not pulling my weight.'
'I wouldn't worry to much, by the time all this is over I would guess you will have seen more than your fair share of the action,'
They fell into a comfortable silence at this, while the village recruits of the special task force began to catch up, there was no sign of danger so the blond lessened his pace for the added safety that his presence would add in case of a surprise attack from behind.
Rain was not an issue for the shinobi in camp at the Joint shinobi headquarters, the main complaint amongst the large army of shinobi from various nations was still the past hostilities that had not been resolved since the past wars. Tensions were bubbling just beneath the surface, only their orders not to fight were keeping the peace. This was an issue that was not lost on the leaders of the villages the shinobi belonged.
"It is clear that doing nothing isn't working," Oonoki the Tsuchikage grunted, his small body levitating at a large window overlooking the large camps containing the brunt of their military force.
"It's odd to hear you admit such a thing, you were always quite the pragmatists almost to the point of inactivity," Tsunade sighed from her seat at the table, studying the large map where the initial troop movements were planned out.
"Inactive or not slug princess, if we go into battle as we are there will be unnecessary casualties." the petite Tsuchikage replied firmly while hovering back to the table.
"We have had this conversation before, it is not a simple task to make our shinobi forget almost one hundred years of hostility, in some cases more." A replied surprisingly level headed for the usually robust outspoken Raikage.
"They need a unified goal, something to actually fight for, at the moment all they know is that we are at war with the Akatsuki, the stakes are not in their minds." Mifune added, stroking his goatee in thought.
At the head of the large table Jiraiya stood with a sigh, he knew as well as everyone else that something needed to be done, for now they had let everything play out as it had, hoping that with time everyone would see that they were in the same boat and come together to work for peace. "We need to address them, let them know the consequences if this war is a failure, that it is not just the Jinchuuriki who will lose."
"Then that seems like a job for the leader of our alliance, shall we rally the men now?" the Kazekage asked, his tone was a little more reserved than it had been during their meeting at the first Gokage summit held in the Land of Iron, in part due to the humbling defeat he suffered at the hands of Naruto.
In truth Jiraiya had been putting this point off, once they rallied the troops and gave out the final marching orders he knew the fighting would begin. Reluctantly he gave a nod, a signal everyone understood. Instantly the several message runners that had been in attendance for the quick transfer of information left the room, taking the message to all the higher ups of the various villages.
In the division one barracks Kakashi and Gai both exchanged meaningful looks as the large message was displayed on a screen at the end of the hall, suddenly the light bickering seemed to come to a temporary halt, worried murmurs replacing them as tensions seemed to grow even further.
Slowly the soldiers began filing out of their bunkers heading down to a large open field just outside the camp where a large platformed stage had been erected. Along the stage sat the flags of each of their nations including the samurai. Above all the flags a larger symbol was placed, a Kanji that read 'Shinobi'.
Due to the sheer numbers of samurai and shinobi the field took awhile to fill, each soldier standing at attention in their assigned regiments and divisions, until the landscape seemed to be filled with soldiers, each one deathly quiet for the most part and only a few of the more outspoken boisterous shinobi still having hushed conversations could be heard.
Almost an hour after the first shinobi arrived on the field, the last arrivals made their presence known. Onto the stage walked Jiraiya, followed by the five Kage and Mifune along with a bodyguard each, standing by their side. The Kage slowly took their place underneath the banner for their nations leaving Jiraiya to stand alone at the front, tens of thousands of eyes on him.
Jiraiya had never been one to shy away from attention, but right now he was wishing he was anywhere else. "I know by this time you have all guessed why we are here," he began earning a small groan from portions of the audience. "I also know I am probably not the person many of you want to take orders from. In the past we shinobi of the five great nations, as well as some of our smaller counterparts have fought each other, killed each other, or at least tried. That has left us scarred and hurting. We blame others for simply existing from somewhere they think of as the enemy, so that's what they become, you don't see people trying to live their lives, struggling to make ends meet or raise a family, you see the enemy that hurt you in the past." again murmurs of discontent from portions of the listening audience and anger from others for showing disrespect towards the toad sage,
"Well if he was trying to start a war between our villages he's going at it the right way," the Kazekage scoffed quietly earning a light chuckle from Oonoki.
Ignoring all that was going on Jiraiya continued, even if he was quite unsure of his own words. "Pain is a powerful emotion, it blinds us to reality, we become selfish and greedy, ignorant of the fact that everyone else around us suffers just the same way that we do. This is how we fall back into the cycle of hatred that leads to war upon war between our people, we fail to understand one another, thinking only of righting the wrongs done to us, we act irrationally out of fear that we may be the next target."
"I hope he is going somewhere with this," A huffed, unconvinced by what he was hearing so far.
"That fear we turn into hatred for our fellow man and the other nations which festers and we commit crimes we justify by dehumanising the others, because if we took a good look at what we were doing, we wouldn't be able to live with ourselves. That is how we used to treat one another from other nations, but in the past we have also been guilty of turning that same fear and hatred onto our own... small children targeted with scorn and hatred or worse even indifference ignored to the point their existence had been invalidated," Jiraiya continued, casting a small sideways glance towards Gaara. "We labelled these people Jinchuuriki and kept them at arms reach, or turned them into weapons, anything to avoid accepting that what we did to them was wrong."
While Jiraiya continued talking the sections of the audience that were rowdy and difficult became fewer, several of the petty arguments that the shinobi were having now seemed pointless, causing some to even apologise, the longer the toad sage spoke the more each of them was forced to look at themselves and the way they had treated people in their lives past foes or not.
"We have all failed in the past," Jiraiya continued, as he began to go through the story of how he had left Naruto in Konoha all those years ago hoping that for what ever reason that the people of his home town would be different to how jinchuuriki were treated everywhere else as children. "You may think we are fighting this war for these Jinchuuriki, but we're not. The Jinchuuriki are being targeted to end our shinobi way, to remove our freedoms. The Jinchuuriki are nothing but victims once again of the circumstances that lead to their creations, our fear of the unknown, the need to maintain balance between the villages, or fear that the Bijuu will seek revenge for their own captivity."
Jiraiya's speech continued, more and more the shinobi began to regret how they had treated one another, or the jinchuuriki of their respected villages. Even the Kumo ninja who now revered Kirabi and to a lesser extent Yugito knew that in the past they had treated them both with scorn and distrust.
Jiraya continued, imploring everyone to come together, to protect the world. "You may know this. But I am close to three of the remaining four Jinchuuriki, one of them is even my god son, I would happily give my life to keep him safe. But that's not possible, the world we live in makes that so, our enemies that hunt him for the burden he carries dictates that my dream is simply that, a dream. But I can still do everything in my power to stop them, but for that I need your help. I want to ask for your help in protecting the young man who I love like my own son, but that isn't important, I need you all to protect the people standing beside you, because there is no point in winning if there is nobody alive to savour it. Protect them, because every life is precious." Jiraiya said his tone growing bolder as he put more belief into his words, each one escalating in a crescendo that was drawing more people in. "It doesn't matter what village you're from because we are not here as representatives of our village we are here as shinobi, and we will fight and defeat the Akatsuki as shinobi! Times ahead may be tough but we persevere, because that's what shinobi do! The odds could be stacked against us, we could be all alone, but we won't give up, we won't surrender, we will fight, because that is what shinobi do! And once the fighting ends, you can look at your brothers and sisters beside you knowing that it didn't matter where you came from we can cooperate, we can live in peace our own way, not because we are forced too, like the Akatsuki want, but because we want to. Now let's go show all those that side with the Akatsuki that we are Shinobi!"
A loud cheer broke out at this point, all past animosity seemingly forgotten, for now at least. Even some of the Kage seemed mildly impressed, Tsunade for her part couldn't ever remember Jiraiya being so passionate about, well anything. He had always just been a bit of a goof, never taking anything too seriously and when he did he was more quite and focused than loud and imposing. "Well I've seen better speeches, but it at the very least seemed effective," she said with a contented smile.
"That's true but he did spend a long time admonishing everyone for the way we have behaved in the past. Hard to accept being talked to like that from someone so much younger." Oonoki grumbled.
"You're just saying that, because the last person that would have talked to you that way would have been Ojii-sama," Kitsuchi spoke from his place beside his father.
For his part the oldest Kage huffed, folding his arms under his chin and stared down his son, "He was older, he had the right to set me on the right path," he rebutted.
"Nobody is ever too old for a lecture, Oonoki," Hiruzen chuckled from beside Tsunade.
"Says the professor," Oonoki scoffed. "When was the last time you were lectured, eh Hiruzen?" Oonoki replied still a little grumpily knowing he was fighting a losing battle, he knew Jiraiya was right, he spoke with passion and offered a path to peace, one in cooperation, rather than servitude.
For his part the twice retired Hokage chuckled. "I believe it was just a moment ago, Jiraiya-kun was addressing all of us after all."
Once the cheers finally died down the tone of the meeting changed. The divisions were given there instructions. Most of the Kage would not be out in the field unless necessary so the shinobi in charge of the initial assault on Yugakure would be Kitsuchi and Kakashi. Eventually once all the orders had been given out the shinobi were told to rest because when the sun rose the following day, they would be moving out.
"You're improving, even if it is slowly. I had to actually block that attack," Madara said with a lazy drawl, his opponent was standing, hands on knees breathing heavily his sharingan boring into the black of Madara's.
"You're not even trying, what is the point of this exercise, just teach me something I can use to crush my opponents." Sasuke replied although with less venom than he usually held, the anger was clearly still there but there was no outburst that there would have been in the past.
"You don't need new techniques, you need to improve on what you know, your lightning attack is impressive, but the noise makes in unpractical if your opponent has superior speed, intelligence, or experience." Madara lectured the younger Uchiha.
"Maybe you should rest a little Sasuke-kun, this is not a battle you could hope to win, even if you had a hundred years to train." came the mocking call of Tobi,
Sasuke didn't like the sound of that, who were they to tell him what he could and could not accomplish. "Whatever," he spat bitterly.
"You don't seem to like that thought, that there is someone who you cannot defeat," Madara mused as if analysing the young man.
"I have trained non stop my whole life with the sole goal of killing Itachi and now destroying Konoha, there should be nobody that can stand up to me!" the younger Uchiha replied.
"I see. Tell me Sasuke, what do you want out of life?" Madara questioned casually.
"What are you deaf? I just told you what I wanted," Sasuke spat back a little more annoyed, it was if the Edo Tensei Madara was mocking him.
"That is not what I meant foolish boy. Those are things you want to do, if you want I can go destroy Konoha for you right now, nothing a simple jutsu couldn't accomplish. No what do you want out of life, you know like a wife, children, anything like that?" Madara replied still casual to the point of indifference towards Sasuke's anger.
Sasuke thought about it for a moment but the answer simply didn't come. "Nothing," he answered truthfully. "I don't care if I die, so long as I get to kill Itachi and everyone that was responsible for the death of my family."
Madara seemed less than impressed with his answer and scowled before walking off, pausing for a moment as he made it to the door. "Then what is the point of living at all? You are pathetic."
Sasuke's fists clenched, Madara was treating him the same way Itachi had. "What would you know, you're just a traitor what did you ever want except for power!?"
Madara who had almost exited the room stopped dead in his tracks. "What did I want, I wanted peace," he answered flatly.
This seemed to bewilder the younger Uchiha who couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Peace?"
"That's right, everything I have ever done has been in the hope of peace, Hashirama and I ended our clans blood feud, brought together our clans and started Konoha. I even supported him when he became Hokage." Madara answered.
"Then what changed, you both fought at the valley of the end, I thought it was because he was chosen as Hokage over you?" Sasuke queried.
"They really need to teach the next generation better. Hashirama was Hokage for quite awhile before we had our falling out. Our falling out came from our response to the other villages that sprung up in response to Konoha." Madara answered.
The answer seemed to confuse Sasuke even more. "I don't get it, why would that matter?"
"Hashirama was a fool, he wanted to get along with the other villages, he treated them as equals. Even going so far as debasing himself by bowing before the others who declared themselves as Kage!" Madara spat at the memory. "As if they could even hope to be considered his equal. Hashirama had only one equal, me. To prevent future wars I told him to put the other villages in their place, we didn't need the other villages, having them would only lead to more fighting I wanted to end it."
"By destroying the others?" Sasuke guessed.
Madara nodded, if all the villages were unified under one superior village they would not had had the last three wars. "Only if they didn't surrender and swear loyalty. But Hashirama, the fool wanted to give them a chance in hopes of working together. Look at what that did. If they had listened to me there would have been no more wars! We got into a fight after that and then my own clan turned against me. It was then I knew something had to be done. I needed to control the village to bring peace, my own clan siding against me meant that should something happen to Hashirama, then his brother would be chosen ahead of me for the next Hokage. I had to act, I did not challenge Hashirama for selfish reasons. I did it all for peace, to end all fighting."
"It's a shame it didn't work, so many lives would have been saved if you had won," Tobi said gravely, he had an almost longing look in his one visible eye.
Sasuke had found the insight somewhat enlightening, he had always considered that Madara challenged Hashirama, because he thought the strongest should rule. That was something that Sasuke actually agreed with, why should the weak decide what is best for everyone. But peace, Sasuke didn't care for that, how could peace be possible when the people responsible for the death of his clan were still alive, while Itachi mocked him with his new eyes, throwing away the very thing that made him an Uchiha. "You're right, the strong should rule, but you were a foll if you thought that would end all the fighting."
Madara quirked an eyebrow, interested in what Sasuke had to say. "You think there is a better way?"
"I didn't say, that either." Sasuke scoffed but he didn't stop there. "Your plan had fewer faults than the Shodai's did sure, rule over the weaker other villages, keep them under your thumb. But that doesn't end fighting. Itachi killed our clan inside Konoha, during times of peace. Individuals will act in ways you cannot control, kill people others care for, in the end more killing would come of it, you are just as big a fool as the Shodai. Squabbling about world peace like you know what that even means."
"You don't know what you're talking about boy," Madara replied, his features firmer than they had been since his reanimation, almost contorting into a scowl.
"No apparently you don't, the other nations wouldn't sit idly by while being ruled by Konoha forever, it is not in human nature to be subservient, the strong will break their bonds and fight back look at all the missing ninja that joined the Akatsuki, more people would be willing to join and fight back against such a system. Yet you call me foolish," the younger Uchiha replied a smirk gracing his features. He enjoyed the fact that he had finally found out how to get under his ancestors skin.
"Well it's a good thing that once we win this war, there will be no chance of that happening at all, nobody will ever be able to stand up against us." Tobi said firmly, he needed to end this argument now, if the already brittle relationship between the two broke down, Sasuke wouldn't receive anymore training and it would be likely that Sasuke would leave in search of other ways to achieve his goals.
"Whatever, as long as I get to destroy Konoha myself I couldn't care less what your plans are, but personally I think you're delusional." Sasuke replied dismissively, shaking his head before stalking off in the opposite direction to Madara and Tobi.
"He could prove an unwanted annoyance later on if he learns of our final plan," Madara said, his brows furrowing while he stared in the direction Sasuke had left.
Tobi sighed, he knew it was true, Sasuke had shown little to no loyalty to either, in fact it seemed as if he only stuck around due to the offer of training from Madara. "He's of little consequence, call it a side project, and potentially a useful ally once given his brothers eyes. Plus there is someone that I would really like to see him kill."
"Really now, who would that be?" Madara asked for once seemingly interested.
Tobi chuckled darkly, at the thought. "Just an old acquaintance of mine, someone I knew before I put on this mask. I feel it would be justice if he is killed by an old teammate."
At that moment Zetsu rose from the ground. "I have news." the white half said calmly. "The Joint shinobi armies will start moving tomorrow," the black half added informatively. "From what we have gathered, a large force will be stationed near Ame, while the main fighting forces will be heading towards Yugakure."
"Do you know the location of the Jinchuuriki?" Tobi questioned urgently.
Zetsu nodded an affirmative. "The Ichibi will be with the forces sent to engage the village to the south of the Land of Iron. The Nanabi and Hachibi are located a short distance from the Joint shinobi headquarters on an island. Lastly the Kyuubi, he is currently travelling towards Ame, they should be there in a few hours. his entourage consists of well known shinobi from all of the major villages, but strangely no members of the group known as the Yoinokuchi."
"Who should our first target be?" Madara questioned formally.
"That is hard to say, security is tight in each case, perhaps the easiest targets would be those on the island, while unable to locate them directly, only a handful of shinobi are on the island with them." Zetsu replied.
"Except for the fact that there is a whole army between us, and I cannot use my time space migration to go somewhere I have never been." Tobi said with mild frustration.
"That may be true, but an attack at the heart of their defence, taking both or even one of the Bijuu stationed there would be a massive blow to their moral." Madara mused already contemplating going there himself.
"That is a good idea, perhaps I can be of assistance," came the smooth tone of Kabuto as he slowly entered the room.
"Why am I not surprised you were eavesdropping." Tobi remarked wryly.
Kabuto smirked, he so enjoyed getting under peoples skin. "Because, otherwise I would be left out of the loop, and I don't like being in that position. Now I think you will find this to be the perfect opportunity to use my unique set of skills. I can capture the shinobi based on that island for you, or would you prefer I sent backup to Yugakure?"
"More Edo Tensei then, who will you bring back this time?" Madara asked a little bored, he found Kabuto to be nothing but an annoyance, the way he held himself showed he had no real skill in combat past that of an average Jounin. He tolerated him however because of the work he had obviously put into finding the DNA of shinobi to put to use for the Nidaime Hokage's jutsu.
"I was thinking the previous members of the Akatsuki, or you could simply have Deidara and Kisame go. But how will Kisame fare without his precious blade, I hear it is kept somewhere in Konoha for safe keeping outside of the usual vault due to it's... unique abilities." Kabuto taunted.
Tobi scowled beneath his mask, this man knew far too much, not his own work by any means, but those of his former master Orochimaru, he had put his resources to good use since his death and knew things he probably shouldn't. "Fine, but I hope you are not underestimating the Jinchuuriki yourself, they are quite formidable, especially the Hachibi."
"I wouldn't dream of it, trust me, in just a few days you will have those two to add to your collection." Kabuto replied, his smirk never leaving his face.