35K and half of words. Mother of all that is holy I did it. This is the last chapter of 'The Harsh Truth'. A brief note: Nitramy has kindly offered to beta-ed the first two chapters of this story, so they might be republished with less 'comma-spawning'. That said, this chapter is huge, and just because of that, I prefer to give an author note at the beginning, rather than at the end.
Firstly, I simply could not manage to give complete and utter screen time to everyone. I'm sorry, but that's the way it is. Secondly, there are characters' deaths in here too, but do read the epilogue before claiming someone's dead when he isn't. Thirdly, it's been a jolly good ride, I hope you enjoyed it half as much as I did.
Finally, a bit of final advice: I am the first to admit that some scenes, in here, are rushed. I admit it, but I could stand it no longer to let the readers wait. I'd rather upload a piece with rushed parts than not upload it at all. After all, you've got an imagination too: if you want to prolong a battle with flashy jutsus, then do so in the comfortable environment of your mind.
Anyway, read and be happy, have fun, cry a bit, fist-pump in the air, because the final chapter of 'The Harsh Truth'…is here!
Sasuke was staring, with his twin sharingan eyes, at the most problematic dilemma ever.
On one side, his clearly girlfriend had definitively hinted at something, when she told him she wanted him to be on the look-out near the small lagoon. On the other, he was an Uchiha, and as one he shouldn't be peaking with his sharingan infused eyes that made it so that everything he saw was memorized. Still, the sight of his naked girlfriend wouldn't be perverted…would it?
The fact that Ino was there too meant nothing. Like Tenten's presence too was clearly overrated. He was doing this because there was Sakura, naked, bathing. Not because there were Kunoichis, naked, doing kami knew what while giggling like schoolgirls.
Furthermore he was half-way sure Neji was doing pretty much the same with his Byakugan…but if he actually was, then it meant he was peeking on Sakura too…the damn Senju!
Growling slightly, Sasuke turned his gaze to where the Senju stood, eyes closed, but with a strange twitch at the bottom right corner of his lips. The nerve of the Senju! To listen to the giggling of the girls!
Truly, Rock Lee was being held back by a strange sort of mantra that he kept on repeating while his eyes stayed closed too.
"The flames of youth do not burn for those who peek. The flames of youth do not burn for those who peek."
"Uchiha," Neji commented, "I believe no-one can giggle for half an hour straight."
"My sharingan detects no Genjutsu being used on us, Senju."
"What if it was only auditory in nature?"
"Senju, I'd know if…urk!" Lee had promptly tried to remove the Genjutsu, after Neji's theory, through the only mean that Gai had taught him: pain inflicting.
As a fist was driven straight into Sasuke's guts, and another quickly reached Neji's stomach, the two turned their murderous glares at the same time on the green spandex clad boy.
Sasuke coughed for a moment, before letting Lee explain himself through his usual ranting…he'd give the teenager one chance to say his few last words.
"Yosh! Painfully exiting Genjutsus is the sign of the flames of youth burning brightly!"
"Or maybe of your own stupidity," Neji retorted, wincing from the boy's high voiced screams. If, by any chance, there were any type of shinobi, even half-trained academy Genins, looking out for them…then certainly they'd end up being found by the sheer noise of Rock Lee alone.
If not from the giggling that had been going on for at least half an hour.
"I'm still thinking it's not normal for the girls to giggle that long," Neji pointed out, "and why is your sharingan still alight, Sasuke?"
"Huh? What are you talking about Senju? My sharingan's off."
"No it isn't. Both eyes are activated."
"Listen here…" Sasuke closed his eyes, concentrating for a second…
"This is my activated sharingan." And then, pitch black darkness emerged from the Uchiha's eyes, tendrils of pure black matter darting forward, as the giggles became screams of pain and promises of murders most foul.
The next second Neji opened his eyes in shock, the dream all too vivid within his mind.
They were in a small clearing in the land of swamps, halfway towards the rendezvous point to get the Godaime Hokage and his family back from the land of iron's samurais. They had merely decided not to return to Konoha and wait for the couple of days of the Kage meeting in the nearby land.
To say it was creepy however was to say Sasuke Uchiha was a natural blond. It was even worse than creepy: light fog, strange sounds, bleary weather that bordered the grey, toxic fumes that smelled of rotten corpses…even worse, the legends about the body of a great demon being hidden within the swamp made someone, that clearly was not him, nervous.
Looking around with his Byakugan active, he realized his watch was just about to come. He smirked keeping himself still. The one who would wake him up was Sasuke, after all: he'd get at him for the nightmare.
The Senju had warned the Uchiha not to boil the kami be damned mushrooms, but no, the raven haired shinobi had to go against his words. Obviously, the fact that said fungi had later been used by him too to give flavor to the cooked rice meant nothing: it was clearly the Uchiha's fault that he had a nightmare. A sudden gut twisting pain made him wince, however. It couldn't be.
He was a Senju! He shouldn't be feeling…a stomach ache.
The problem wasn't only that he was feeling bad, but that he was also sweating profusely. A thought struck the Byakugan wielder: what if those mushrooms ended up being poisonous? What then? He was sure Sakura would have told them, if such a thing was possible! Unless she had been on the same side as the Uchiha, whose dastardly plan had been that of making the Senju stomach-flustered!
The nerves of the two! They were supposed to be comrades of the leaf!
It was then, that Neji decided to stand up and start his turn sooner…only to find himself pinned to the ground. That wasn't…his byakugan flared to life, but there was nothing pinning him down!
Maybe the sheets?
He tried to move but…he couldn't.
He felt constricted.
He felt like an enormous weight was crushing him down, and yet there was nothing his eyes could see.
"This is a dream, a dream," Neji tried to mutter, but no words came out.
Whatever this feeling was, whatever this was…it was beyond his comprehension.
"Nature is such a wonderful thing." A voice he didn't know spoke quietly, "Just like your comrades, you are now awake, yet you can't move or speak."
The voice was silky, smooth, but at the same time had an undertone of…wrongness, in it, that made the Byakugan user shiver.
"Now, now, I'm sure you're thinking something along the lines of 'The pesky Uchiha and his mushrooms! The pink-haired girl and her large forehead!' But in truth, it's not like that at all…wouldn't you like to know?"
The Byakugan was active, and yet there was nothing his eyes could see. Why? The man was speaking, he could see him, dark hair, a strange doctor-like suit on, but…he wasn't being seen through. There were no chakra coils: there was…nothing but him. Neji could see the chakra of the others, all shown completely awake and yet immobile, but he couldn't see that of the man responsible for their paralysis.
It was just like he was…'there' like that.
"A leech bites strongly upon one's flesh," the man kept talking, "However, its saliva secerns a powerful analgesic…and thus no harm is felt, but the blood is taken nevertheless."
A punch flew through the air, aimed at the ground to crack it open and the force the man backwards, as Sakura suddenly jumped up from the ground, holding her waist with one hand. A hand that was slowly, but surely, turning reddish from the blood seeping through the wound.
"My, you managed to fight off the poison? But did you fight off the anti-coagulant? I doubt it…still, it does not matter to me…you won't be able to save them all," Yomi replied with a light smile, "You may choose. Fight me, die, and let them all die…or save one, and only one."
"That's…stupid!" Sakura yelled, "I'm saving them all, and I want to see you try and stop me!" The pink haired girl's hand went for her senbon needles, only to be forced to roll on the ground and avoid a pair of nasty looking black snakes that seemed to have emerged from the man's back.
The girl gritted her teeth, as the wound above her stomach, where she had fought back and removed the 'foreign substance' had left her a gaping hole. Still, she had managed to close it, mostly, and stop the bleeding.
It was just as Sakura took the opening to charge forward, that Yomi merely smiled, before injecting something within his own body.
"Make your choice." The man grinned, before his entire body began to transform, turning into a sickly brown and black color, four more arms sprouting from his sides, while his back suddenly cracked, to reveal a lizard-like tail.
His mouth opened with a sickening lurching sound, but it didn't open like a normal mouth, no, it opened like that of a snake, completely disregarding any muscles or bones that might have been in the way. Thick white streams of webbing gushed from it, aiming to cover Sakura in the substance, probably.
Had the girl been any girl, then, probably, she would have been forced to retreat. Had she been a normal, fire affinity girl, she'd have used a normal, pathetic, fire jutsu that would have most certainly caused collateral damage, with her teammates packed close to her.
But she wasn't a normal kunoichi. She was Sakura Haruno, and her purpose in life was to learn all possible jutsus, and tweak them. So, when the webbing came forward, it was met with fire streams coming straight out of Sakura's mouth, that however disappeared into thin air only a couple of centimeters far.
When the web landed, thus, there was a hole in the thread wide enough for the Kunoichi to comfortably jump through, land near Yomi, and deck him with a punch enhanced by chakra. The next moment, the man was thrown backwards, crashing against a couple of mangrove trees and then bouncing off a rocky formation within the swamp.
Sakura was on the man in a second, her hands going through the seals for a jutsu.
"Suiton: Teppōdama!" Multiple small bullets of water emerged from the kunoichi's mouth, flying through the air to hit at the battered body of Yomi.
The man, however, suddenly twisted to the right side, getting back on his feet in mere seconds. The rock on which he had impacted was destroyed by the suiton's use, but the enemy shinobi was unscathed…like he had never been hit to begin with.
"Time's ticking," Yomi smirked, "Slowly, but surely…death comes to all."
"Shannaro! Stop spouting nonsense and die!" Sakura's yell was met with her fist coming down on the ground, once more. The earth cracked, as rock lances emerged from the ground on the spot where Yomi had been a second before. However, this time, when the man landed again, knee deep in the swamp's water, mud mounds emerged entrapping his feet, immobilizing him.
"And now…" Sakura muttered, taking a deep breath.
"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"
And as the smoke covered the area, the slugs answered the call.
Yomi couldn't even move, but that didn't mean he was defenseless, as pitch black snakes slithered out of his wrists, the slugs summoned by Sakura awaited their summoner's commands.
"Well…This container has done his course, then." The voice spoke in a set of low hisses and growls, as the body suddenly jerked, "Time to find a new one…a fresh one!"
A sharp shriek echoed through the meadow, too inhuman to actually belong to Yomi's throat, but with that, the green eyes of Sakura darted to her teammates, whose bodies suddenly began to convulse. She had to be fast about it, even if…unladylike, she was sure her slug summons wouldn't mind.
The slugs she summoned were literally grabbed from the ground they were on, in wait for orders, and thrown on the chests of her teammates, like a baseball pitcher.
"Shishou told me there are four laws for Medic-nins…" she began, as her hands moved through a set of seals.
"No medic ninja shall ever stop medical treatment until the lives of their party members have come to an end." As she spoke, the slugs actually moved the sleeping bags' covers of her teammates away, revealing pulsing tumor-like masses of black, the very same 'leeches' she had removed herself, using her innate chakra control to attack them from the inside out.
"No medic ninja shall ever stand on the front lines." As those words left her lips, she was forced to move to the side, to avoid the slashing of Yomi's snakes, that however didn't seem to stop, but went on, trying to hit the prone forms of the others.
"No medic ninja shall ever die until they are the last of their platoon." With those words, Sakura's right hand fell down on the snakes at her side, while her left hand instead kept going on with the seals. Yomi snickered, shaking his head that kept twitching, like it was just about to explode.
"Hahaha…think you can defeat me? Think you can stop me? Think the container can be so easily broken!? Nothing you have can stop me! No-one can! Again and again I shall be…"
"SHUT THE FUCK UP!" a fire affinity enhanced fist landed on the left side of Yomi, just as a Raiton charged katana sliced through the right side of the man. On one side, Neji Senju, on the other, Sasuke Uchiha, both panting, blood seeping from their stomachs, and yet having attacked.
"Only those medic ninja who have mastered the Strength of a Hundred Technique of the ninja art Creation Rebirth are permitted to discard the above-mentioned laws…that, or being Sakura Haruno, and having a far more apt jutsu for the occasion…" and with a perfect, white teeth smile, the pink haired Kunoichi finished the hand seals.
"Nunoshibari no Jutsu!" White clothes emerged from the ground, spinning around Yomi, to enclose it into the soft fabric, that was suddenly bundled in chains, covered in seals, and then fell on the ground, motionless, just as Neji and Sasuke barely managed to get away from it.
"Were you trying to get us too!?" Neji exclaimed, taking a deep breath as his Byakugan scanned the area.
Luckily, they were alone for the moment.
"Whatever: you alright?" Sasuke queried, eying his girlfriend, who gave back a mere weak smile, before moving closer to start healing their wounds.
"It's a strange anti-coagulant," she murmured, "I'd need some time to find a cure for it…you don't risk bleeding to death though, if you stay still and…"
And then the clothes twitched.
"That's…" Neji's statement was interrupted by Sakura paling: it wasn't supposed to twitch!
"I went through the hand seals to strengthen it! It shouldn't even move!"
Sasuke, however, was quicker. Grabbing Sakura, he gritted his teeth as he jumped away, just in time. The clothes ripped apart, as heads upon heads emerged from within it, roaring upon the skies.
"We are Moryo! We cannot be contained! We cannot be defeated!"
"Oh Kami be damned," Neji muttered, as he looked at the pulsing black mass that was reaching new heights, "We need a plan."
"We need to bring him away from the others. I had the slugs help remove yours because I knew we'd need all the firepower we could get…but…that thing's big."
"We don't have much time…you two always had more chakra than me: get some Kage bunshins to bring the others to safety!" as Sakura snapped that order, the two Shinobis nodded, swiftly conjuring two solid bunshins each, to carry the rest of their comrades away.
"The slugs might take a while to remove the…things from the others, since I won't be there to help…" she whispered, "We have to hold our ground."
The multi headed creature roared towards the skies, teeth flashing as the maws snapped repeatedly, before, with a quick and sudden movement, all the heads looked down upon the three shinobis. Three words emerged at the same time from all the mouths, three words that shook to the core the three ninjas beneath the creature.
"I. Am. Hungry."
The three eyed the pitch black creature that was slowly surrounding them with its slithering body, and yet they couldn't move. They did, however, react by instinct, getting shoulder to shoulder, in a triangle formation, watching each other's backs.
"Well, Uchiha, so now we face a god, huh?" Neji whispered, the tone held no caustic remarks, but the hint of nervousness was there, because, after all…it was true.
"What can I say Senju, it must be our sensei's bad luck." Sasuke replied, shaking slightly. This wasn't what he had thought would happen. He had expected brigands, but not a god. Not a god that was meant to be dead, and defeated.
"From what I read, this big mean guy was defeated by our Hokage when he was but a Genin," Sakura murmured coarsely, "we're the best chuunins Konoha has to offer." She added, "We can do this."
"Yeah, stop trembling, Uchiha, we can do this." Neji added quietly, his fists coating themselves in fire chakra.
"Hn. I wasn't trembling: I was shaking from excitement."
"Tell that to sensei when you meet him again," the Senju retorted with a light grin, "Well…I'm going to distract him up close."
"I'm taking him down with Amaterasu, if I get an opening for his body."
"I'll give you an opening from afar." Sakura hissed, "But I'm going low on chakra. I just hope those things don't grow back."
"With what I'm going to hit him? I doubt they will," Sasuke murmured, as Neji merely chuckled.
"Let the pride sink in, I still push you to the ground in Taijutsu."
The heads of Moryo roared, charging straight in and cracking the ground where they hit, only for the three shinobi to have already disappeared from there, in flurries of leaves and speed. Sakura, kneeling beneath the long winded necks of the beast conjured from the very ground rock whips, that swiftly bounded the necks of the dragon-like creature.
Neji, having moved backwards, began to turn to mush the faces of said 'god', doing his best to aim at their eyes, while avoiding the sharp fangs and the snapping movements of the maws.
Sasuke, meanwhile, had jumped upwards, trusting his teammates to take out the heads, otherwise he'd be in a tight spot right there and then, in mid-air...his eyes blazed both with the Mangekyou. The one that had been inserted into his socket, however, wasn't the same form of the other, but both still held their frighteningly fierce power over fire, over Amaterasu.
The black flames burned with the intensity of a hundred suns as they fell upon the back of the creature. The creature flailed, as the rock whips cracked and broke letting it go free, upwards, to devour its enemy.
It was then, that Susanoo sprung to life, the violet and ghost like armor protecting the raven haired Uchiha from the assault, long enough for a flaming sword to come straight down upon the god, that yelled its curses for eternity, as Totsuka did its job.
Just as Sasuke landed on the ground, panting heavily, Neji and Sakura were already close to him…but the Senju's face wasn't one of happiness. No, it was a frown of distaste.
Because no matter what, Neji knew that the sword of Totsuka had been in Itachi Uchiha's possession, and there was just no way it could have moved its owner like that, without reason…and yet Sasuke merely gave back a smug grin before replying.
"It is, after all, sensei's ploy."
"My…is this it?" The tone showed the amusement that was clearly plastered upon the Nidaime's face, as both Orochimaru and Kakashi stood, panting, side by side.
Around them, the village was going through a mixture of heavy typhoon like weather and flash floods, and the worst thing of them all…was that it wasn't stopping.
"Unlimited chakra regeneration," Tobirama spoke, "I could drown the world, if I so chose…but you know, this also works in your favor."
"Remind me why…" Kakashi drawled, as his sharingan tried to pinpoint the Nidaime's real location. The one in front of them was a Mizu Bunshin, that much both of the Konoha shinobi were sure.
"Because there's a difference between chakra capacity and regeneration: if it was the first case, I could push, let's say, an unlimited amount of chakra in a jutsu, and thus unleash a god-like Teppōdama that would most certainly destroy everything. However, since it's regeneration what I have, it means that no matter what I can only put as much chakra as my reserves usually had when I was in life."
"Fascinating…mind telling us how to defeat you?" Orochimaru spat out, his Kusanagi wielded in front of him.
"Why would I? I'm enjoying this. Two of the strongest shinobis of the village, powerless in front of me…and you'd be a Sannin, Orochimaru? You're pathetic."
The snake sannin merely smirked, before his golden eyes narrowed.
"Resorting to taunting the opponent? My, how low have you gone…for being my sensei's sensei, you're pretty weak."
Tobirama merely chuckled, before letting his hand move to the side, where the pool of water condensed, to form a water sword. The sword glistened for a second, before electricity began to spark through it, turning it into a condensed version of the Raijin, albeit this one was made entirely of water and thunder chakra.
"I might say that you're forgetting someone in this," Kakashi drawled out, "The moment the civilians will evacuate is the moment you'll get your defeat."
"Hum…I wonder…are you referring to the Sarutobi? Or to the Genjutsu mistress of Konoha? Maybe you're speaking of your eternal rival Gai, or hey, maybe it's Yamato we're talking about…but no, it does not matter even if it's the slug sannin…after all, they are busy with something else…something just, over, there." As Tobirama merely pointed with a light bowing of his head to the side of the village of Konoha, neither of the two shinobi turned to look, and maybe, just maybe, that was how they managed to avoid being beheaded.
The Nidaime literally flew atop the water's surface, landing a devastating slash with his sword that neatly cut in two the kunai that Kakashi was holding in his hand. The movement would have gone forward, beheading the silver haired man, had Orochimaru, out of all people, not extended the Kusanagi to parry the attack, giving time for his momentary teammate to move backwards.
"I am actually curious as to where the rest of Konoha is, though," Tobirama mused, "I mean: they are not in the refuges, because then the explosive seals I set there would have already detonated. They can't be out in the open, since there's an army of mindless armors lingering around… so where, indeed, are they?"
"Kukuku…Surprise, surprise…" Orochimaru grinned, and with that grin, it looked more like the snake sannin was the predator once more, and not the prey of the deceased Nidaime, "seems like someone's got a problem, isn't that right?"
"I kind of feel out of the loop," Kakashi muttered, and just then, a Kage Bunshin of the copy-cat ninja appeared from beneath the water, grabbing a hold of Tobirama and trapping him within the water prison dome.
"We have him," Orochimaru muttered, "But for how long?"
"Let's say…for not even a second," the Nidaime replied, this time his voice dripping with annoyance as the man in the bubble turned to water, and the real one appeared sideways the silver haired Kakashi…cutting through his side with the impromptu thunder sword.
The sharingan implanted within the man was maybe the only thing that saved him from immediate death, that and the Rashomon gate that Orochimaru managed to summon, a single one, in between the two. It was another level of speed. On the water, the Nidaime seemed to be a god…and maybe that was truly what a Suiton master was upon his element.
Worse, however, was another thought that coiled around the snake sannin's brain: the man was toying with them, and he was enjoying every moment of this. Orochimaru knew that feeling very well, he had practiced it countless times. It's the feeling of being at the top of the world, knowing that nothing and nobody can bring you down…and when somebody does, even if just a little bit, there is a cold seething fury that starts to bubble, awaiting release.
Something wasn't going according to the Nidaime's plans, and the man was toying with them, furiously thinking what was the cause of that, all the while knowing he could end this quickly…but couldn't, because he needed information.
Orochimaru was even tempted to give them out, really…but he didn't. He didn't because he knew all too well that if he did, then there would be no way out. There was nothing but a slim way out just then, and that was with everything going according to plan.
The blood drizzled out of Kakashi's wound, falling in the water as the copy-cat shinobi felt his body going limp by the second. The electricity of the blade numbed his senses and his muscles as his nerves became slower…it was like feeling drugged. Only there was all the pain attached to it, flaring like his body was on fire.
The Rashomon gate sported large cracks where the blade had just passed through like it had been nothing but a paper thin wall.
"The stupidity and the arrogance of the new generations is something that leaves me baffled every time," Tobirama hissed, as a water dragon sprouted from beneath Kakashi's feet, created with but a single hand sign and entrapping him within.
"I fought against many type of shinobis, of samurais, of warriors. I fought against technology and together with it. I fought many things, wide and varied. I learned many things, saw many tricks…and yet you believe me to be stagnant and stale like the water of a pond?" The Nidaime's question was drowned by the thick rain that poured down from the skies.
"Let me answer your question: yes." With those words, Kakashi's sharingan opened into the Mangekyou form, and Kamui activated.
The only problem…was that it did not work. The water beneath the Nidaime twirled and disappeared into nothingness, as too did the remains of the Rashomon. On a positive note, the water dragon dispersed freeing the copy-cat ninja, but the chakra exhaustive technique…did not work.
"You seem to forget where you got your eye from, Hatake," Tobirama mused, "And whom I killed to take his place," he added, "Maybe you weren't connecting the dots? Maybe, just maybe, you thought it a lie? If two sharingans of the same person meet, they nullify each other. Two teammates betraying Konoha out of three…and yet here you are, defending it to your last breath…Kind of makes me wonder why."
Kakashi clenched his right hand in a tight fist, wheezing from the blood loss and general fatigue, but he couldn't fall. Not there, not then…strangely, it was in moments like those that he kind of missed Gai's youthful rants. He could use the green clad man in that particular moment.
In truth, he could use anyone right there and then. His vision was getting cloudy, his legs barely sustaining him, and he knew, deep down, that the Nidaime's words had merely been the nail on the coffin. He didn't want to reminisce. He didn't want to remember. He didn't want to confirm and prove true that indeed, Tobi had been Obito once, an Obito who had then been killed by the Nidaime. Because if he did connect the dots, then the man who had freed the Kyuubi, condemned Jiraiya to death, brought an all new level of pain, suffering and despair on the world…that had been Obito. The Nidaime's actions had barely been on his same scale of power, or threat. Yet he was here nevertheless.
Kakashi was there, defending Konoha.
Konoha, the very same village that had yelled and screamed for his father's blood, forcing him to commit seppuku from the stress, forgotten by all the others, left alone.
Konoha, that held the very same population that would ignore, or try to murder a child, whose only fault was to be the jailor of the Kyuubi.
Konoha: the village that had bred and spawned the worst beings in all of the history of the shinobi world.
And yet, there he was. For even if he could betray the village, even if he could betray the civilians, the haters, the evil that lurked beneath its surface…he couldn't betray that one grey haired boy who had given him his trust.
Tobirama's sword came down once more on Kakashi, unrelenting and viciously mortal; deciding that to bring down a winded opponent would be easier than try and press up on the snake sannin.
Yet, Kakashi didn't feel sad. He didn't feel anger. He felt…at ease. He would die gladly for Konoha…but he would at least bring something of the Nidaime to hell with him.
So, as the sword made of thunder came down, Kakashi held onto it, and then…then he collapsed.
He…he would have wanted to stay awake, to hold, to use the shinigami sealing technique. However, he couldn't. There was too much exhaustion, too much loss of blood, too much pain jolting through his body…and so he fell. So his body began to fall silently beneath the water's surface.
And when Tobirama Senju turned, to face his remaining opponent, he couldn't help but smirk: eventually, they would all fall.
Eventually, his plan would move through. No matter what accidents there might be, or what that little 'other him' had planned to counter…because he was Tobirama Senju…he was the Nidaime Hokage. He was on the path of godhood.
He had Izuna's eyes, he held a body that could sustain their usage. He had the weapon. He had everything he needed…so why were they still fighting him?
They should bow and obey. This was also his village, after all…why couldn't they realize what he was doing was for their own good!?
"Orochimaru…seems it's you and me now."
The Snake sannin merely smirked, tensing as his Kusanagi moved in a sway-like motion. Just like a cobra that's about to strike, and wants to hypnotize his opponent.
"Now, now, I'm not going to kill you, if you cooperate," the Nidaime spoke, "After all, I need to know what my second coming did, and why he seems to know…"
"Kukuku…I have no idea what you're talking about, but I know I'm going to enjoy destroying that technique…and then steal it for myself."
"At least you're honest." Tobirama shrugged for a moment, the sword made of lightning chakra affinity in his hand dispersing, "A pity…because I hate honest people."
The thunder, however, did not merely disperse. No, it flew across the water surface, directed by the mastery of the Nidaime towards the sannin, who flung the Kusanagi in front of him, cutting through the water. The true purpose was for the sword's tip to touch the ground beneath them, to use it to spin in mid-air and subsequently roll to the side and land atop a rooftop nearby.
The roof creaked, as the water around the building began to increase. The Nidaime merely chuckled, landing on the opposite side of the rooftop.
"What irony," he mused, "Look where we are."
Orochimaru quirked an eyebrow, but it was only an instant.
They were close to the stadium.
"Well, what better place to kill a Hokage, than a place where it has already been done?" The Nidaime taunted, "But I'm already dead…so how are you going to play it?"
And Orochimaru, actually, truthfully, in the deep bowels of his mind…didn't know.
He didn't know…but that didn't mean he wouldn't come up with something.
Naruto Senju was calmly holding the Raijin no Ken, the sword of the thunder god, in front of him. As he did, the kunais that would have embedded deeply upon his side instead fell loosely on the ground, the small electrical field surrounding him made him virtually untouchable.
Obviously it was a lie. Obviously he merely was using concentrated bursts of wind chakra to let the kunais fall on the ground, and the electricity surrounding him? Merely a stage effect to hide the disappearance of Anko and Karin, since, after all, they had their own objectives within the three lions mountain.
Actually, they had the most important job: to rescue Yumi and get the hell out of there.
He was the one stuck with two Kages, Mifune and squadrons of samurais…oh, and the kages' bodyguards, yet he was the one with the easiest job out of them all.
He just had to wait, grab the moment, and then high-tail the hell out of there. In the meantime, he just had to enjoy a conversation with people who had wanted to kill him, wanted to kill, or would do all that was in their power to kill him.
"So, who wants to empty his sack first?" Naruto queried, "Mei and her Akatsuki funding and goons, A and his Kumo spies and actions to kidnap a Hyuga or Mifune and his general ploy of exterminating shinobi villages?"
"What?" The question was asked by A, who turned his gaze to the leader of the iron country.
"He is stating the truth," the man retorted, his Katana in front of him, and held with both hands, "I merely could not allow such rash attempts at war to go on any longer: the shinobis are a disgrace to peace."
"Actually, you were just jealous of shinobi taking over samurais," Naruto piped in, as his Raijin parried Chojuro's sword, before he slammed his fist straight into the man's guts, sending him backwards to impact against the wall.
The next moment, two samurais placed their swords at the man's throat, effectively stopping him from moving.
"There, what more proof do you need?" The Godaime Hokage's question wasn't answered, obviously, but Mei did send his way a cloud of highly corrosive acid. Something that Naruto was forced to dodge. The moment he did, A's fist slammed into his side, sending him to ricochet against another wall, only not before having passed through a couple of samurais that didn't manage to get out of the trajectory.
He felt pain. For once, the armor of the Nidaime that he was wearing actually had a hole punched within its side, and blood was oozing out of there.
"I'm not the Kage for nothing squirt," A bemused, "I knew perfectly well the trick behind your actions…waste of chakra that was."
"Not entirely," Naruto's reply came with a smile, as the ground along his 'launch trajectory' splintered and cracked, "since, you know, thunder beats earth."
A managed to jump backwards, avoiding the unstable terrain, but a couple of samurais were unlucky, and thus ended up falling downwards, their screams high pitched and certainly not manly as they plummeted to their deaths.
"Nice fall…Now I understand why this meeting area is overlooking the mountain's side…and not built on the mountain proper," Naruto's tone was condescending, even with blood coming out from his wound, he seemed to be having a school trip. It was unnerving. It was just like he was unfazed by the events.
"Raikage-sama, we should leave," C muttered, "I feel signatures coming from all around us: samurai divisions."
"The moment we give our backs on Mifune is the moment he gets to kill us," Omoi replied, for once not going over random thoughts but reaching straight to the point, "He's a master of swift extraction, I know for sure."
"Yeah, I know that too," Mangetsu snarled, "Which is why I really, really wish Kisame-Danna and Sasori-Danna moves it."
"Oh my, so you're telling me he wasn't the good twin of Kisame? How shocked I am," Naruto muttered, "But after all, Mifune knew too, didn't he? He did plan together with the Mizukage to kill the Kumo and Konoha kage in order to ensure peace with Akatsuki, didn't he?"
A flinched, because for some strange, debased reason, he had half a feeling…
"And he did the same also with A, the Raikage, yet he didn't even try and deal with little poor me…something to do with me not liking the outcome? Or maybe with the fact that, after all, he was also the one who provided the mercenaries for both factions? I kind of wonder how much time it would have taken to realize that they had been played, had I not come along…" the Godaime smiled, before slowly moving his left hand to take something from a seal etched onto his armor. It shone briefly, before revealing a couple of small orange pebbles.
"You know, I kind of understand the point," he mused, taking one of said pebbles and plopping it in his mouth, "after all…wouldn't want to give your final enemy the clue that you're going to backstab him, would you?"
A narrowed his eyes, before looking at both the Mizukage and the leader of the samurais.
"He's lying! I've always been on your side!" Mifune's exclamation was cut short by A's sudden jolting out of sight, and just like that, the samurai drew his blade.
The Raikage appeared right behind the leader of the land of iron, and for a second, neither said a word. Then, the next second, A's right arm was carved out of its socket, blood spraying everywhere.
That was the cue of the Mizukage, who swiftly went through hand seals, only for both Omoi and Mangetsu to simultaneously parry with their blades at Mifune's dash forward.
A pity, because the Raikage wasn't dead, as his remaining left arm made itself known by slamming straight on the floor of the room. The stone cracked, and broke, splinters flew in the air as whatever surface that could have held them became loose, crashing down completely upon the lower mountain surface.
The fall did kill the samurais, who weren't able to lighten the damage of the fall on their legs that gave way due to the terrible pressure. However the shinobis landed without a scratch, and Mifune, who was falling downwards, managed to impact against the ground with his entire frame, deadening the otherwise lethal blow.
It was a testament to his willpower and soul power that he actually got back up on his feet a second later.
"You shinobi lie," he hissed, blood oozing from the side of his mouth, "You use deceits, tricks, you follow your nindo and stray from the path of Bushido. You are dishonor incarnate…and none of you will leave this place alive!"
The cold freezing wind of the mountain howled upon the spectators. Chojuro stood bleeding by the neck behind the Mizukage, freed during the fall but also wounded. He couldn't feel his right leg, and with all probability, it was broken.
Mangetsu showed the samurai's leader a shark-like grin, but he was worried too: he couldn't turn to water in this weather, it would be his end.
The Mizukage was eying the situation critically instead. She had to leave quickly, because there was no doubt that if the Godaime, Naruto, knew as much, then who said he didn't also know what Nagato was up to? And if he did tell… and if the Raikage did believe…then she wouldn't be able to leave unscathed.
A, on the other hand, was planning the escape route already. He had to get back to his village, gather enough shinobis, destroy those hired mercenaries, and then hope that while the Mizukage did the same, she'd let herself open to attacks by his troops.
However he was the one most wounded, and little did it matter that he had used his lightning to cauterize his wound: things weren't going at all as planned.
The only positive thing was that both Omoi and C were still there, while the Godaime was alone. However if he did manage to escape, then it would be the Hokage's victory, and not theirs.
"Hey, Mei," A muttered, "How about we get a piece of the Godaime first, and then we settle our disputes?"
Mei raised an eyebrow, but said nothing for a moment, then, smiling sweetly, she chirped right back at A.
"How about you and I take care of Mifune here, while our guards take care of the Hokage?"
"How about no?" The Nidaime no Sairai spoke, "You seem to forget…I have many nicknames."
The wind howled and raged, as the clouds loomed darker and darker in the skies.
"You think every plan can work, in the nick of a second?" He added, reddish tendrils of chakra emerging from within the man's body, as another orange pebble found its way inside his mouth. The Godaime sported a grin, for but a second, before the wind howled higher and higher.
It was a second. After all the best plans, the best fights, the best scenes…do not last more than a second.
In that single second, a massive tsunami emerged from the top of the mountain, sprinkling water. At the same time, a giant black-scaled snake was surfing the wave with atop Anko, Karin and Yumi. Behind them, a shark-like Kisame was roaring in anger and rage.
In that second, Naruto, the Godaime Hokage, merely clapped his hands together, and the raging and howling winds came to his aid.
"Kaze no Yaiba."
Air swords flew through the air, crashing through the compacted snow atop the mountain's side. That tiny moment of distraction was all that was needed for Naruto to make his escape atop the skiing downwards snake.
As he landed atop the snake's head, he was met with the wide eyed stare of his oldest daughter, Karin, who seemed completely occupied gazing at his side wound.
"We get out of here, we talk later," Naruto supplied hopefully, before looking behind him, where the tsunami of water still seemed to be coming against them.
The Mizukage barely managed to get out of the way of Kisame's own angry snarling, and seeing how outright furious he was, Naruto couldn't help it: he had to ask.
"Yumi-chan peed herself in his water dome," Karin supplied, doing her best to avoid chattering her teeth. A quick glance around showed that, indeed, the three females were all…wet, and with the freezing temperatures that wouldn't bode well.
"And he took offense on it. When he transformed to capture us, I might have supplied to him how…he was breathing pee from his fins," Anko retorted, clenching tightly onto Yumi to keep her warm.
"Oh." Naruto's single word was more than enough, as he swiftly spun atop the head of the snake to counter the incoming water sharks with the Raijin.
"SENJU TRASH! I'M KILLING YOU!" Kisame's feral roars were something of bestial…for only a little bit of golden shower…
"You disgraced Samehada and me! I'm going to…"
"It's just a sword," Naruto replied rolling his eyes, "It holds no feeling."
Kisame snarled back as a reply, suddenly sporting a wicked smirk. The next moment, water columns erupted from the ground in front of the running trio atop the giant snake, and the freezing temperatures soon turned them into ice the moment Kisame's chakra stopped working upon them.
The snake crashed straight ahead against the ice column, bringing him to a halt as Kisame descended with maddening fury upon his enemies.
There blade met fist, and Kisame screamed as the thunder dashed across his scales, pushing him away from the Nidaime no Sairai.
The wind howled, the snow fell, the blue icy eyes of Naruto looked into those of the Monster of the mist, and surrounding them samurais looked. Kisame's water dome had burst as Samehada reassumed her normal form with Kisame wielding her ahead of him.
Naruto did the same and there, there the two faced each other in dreadful silence.
The samurais did not intervene, they did not interrupt. In the matter of swords, all knew well that it was dishonorable to interrupt.
Anko bit her lower lip, even if Naruto did defeat Kisame, would they manage to get out of there?
It was Karin who acted first and hadn't it been for her, then the purple haired woman would have probably died together with Yumi. The red haired kunoichi pushed her mother and sister out of the way, avoiding a barrage of kunais that seemed to have come from the air itself. Indeed, flying above them stood Sasori, leather like wings emerging from his shoulders and flapping to keep him in the air.
"Kisame…we should be withdrawing…not entering a fight with…"
"Sen'eijashu!" Anko had taken less than a second to get back her wits, throwing from her arms snakes wielding swords that however fell short as Sasori flapped his wings, rising upwards and out of reach.
"Come back here and fight you Kami-be-damned…"
The voice cut off short, however, as in that split second, both Kisame and Naruto moved.
The Raijin hummed and the Samehada snarled. The drops of drool fell upon the white snow as the two shinobi charged at each other. The blades met with sparks and silent crashes. Samehada could twist and bend its head to chew upon the Hokage's head, and the Raijin could assume the form it wished.
The speed increased and blurs of yellow and blue was all that remained to be seen.
Neither of the two moved from their spots one in front of the other, completely concentrated upon winning or dying.
There was no need for words, for taunts, for anything. Even Sasori had to stop and stare at the form of fighting the two swordsmen were using. It wasn't the art of puppetry, but it was art nevertheless.
Then the wind increased in intensity, the water gushed forward from the ground and the two shinobi were surrounded by an increasingly deep blizzard of ice. Sparks of electricity flew in the air surrounding the sort of small circular arena and then…then it exploded.
Naruto Senju's chest sported a deep bloody gash on his chest as blood came oozing down his mouth. To Anko, his battered body suddenly seemed far paler than before, far whiter than before...and she outright saw red. Nobody was messing with her husband while she was on watch.
"Not so tough now, huh, Senju?" Kisame's snarl came with a bloody cough, as the shark man too spat out blood from his mouth.
"Listen who's…talking," Naruto whispered back, his Raijin deactivating.
Anko charged ahead. If she could get to Naruto in time, then she might have been able to stabilize him. What she hadn't expected was Karin to do the same; furthermore, she hadn't expected her to run through the hail of senbon needles that Sasori flung at them from his wrists. Her emerging unscathed on the other side, while the Tokubetsu Jounin had preferred jumping backwards to avoid them was also something unexpected.
Yumi's gaze was fixed in fright on her father's bleeding form. Sure, she felt cold, but the reason she was actually shivering was another…it was fear. Parents are god in their children's eyes, and to see one fall…it was horrendous.
She knew her father was the strongest. He was the Hokage! He was undefeatable! Nobody could harm him or wound him or do anything to him…and yet he stood there, bleeding.
Yet he stood there, wounded.
Yet he stood.
Naruto Senju stood, gritting his teeth as he felt the familiar chakra of his eldest daughter move closer to him to mend his wounds. He could feel the warmth of it, and he was sure she was instead feeling the bitter cold and darkness of his own.
Since when had it been that dark? When did it all start to change? When did he decide that darkness was his path, that betrayal and hatred was his purpose?
Hadn't he become Hokage to smite on his father's actions? The very same father he had forgiven? Hadn't he kept on using his friends, his shinobi and his family? He had used Karin as bait, and yet there she was, healing him, moving through the senbons like it didn't even matter.
There was a little moment of relief, as he felt her soothing chakra knitting his flesh close, and then, just like that, he pushed her away as Kisame's Samehada came for the finishing blow.
As the blade came down upon him, he could hear it, the blood curling scream of Anko, of Karin, the cry of Yumi…so why, why did that particular scream mean nothing to him, in that precise moment?
Samehada cleaved straight through Naruto's chest, his blue armor shredded to pieces in the scuttle before, as blood sprayed all over the blade of Kisame, the chakra of the Hokage being syphoned out.
Yet as Naruto Senju fell on the ground, the white ground turning reddish, the blue skinned man could but barely whisper the start of his snicker…that he was surrounded by ninja wire. Only, this ninja wire was a pale white color, translucent and sticky. It seemed more like the webbed thread of a spider web than the metallic filament used for traps.
Maybe, if he hadn't stopped to ponder for that single second what it was, then maybe he could have dodged it.
He did, however, stay to ponder on it; it was only a second.
Seconds, in the shinobi world, are far too much time to stay and ponder.
Two words, only two words to define the jutsu of the wielder of the Rinnegan. Yet, with those two words, millions of lives were lost. That was the power of god. That was the power of Nagato. That was the power of Pain.
Kumogakure, the village hidden in the clouds, ceased to exist, nothing more than a crater left behind in its wake.
The population at large died instantly, those few who did not were wiped out by the Asura path and by the summons of Nagato. There wasn't a battle. There wasn't a fight. There wasn't anything but cold, brutal, slaughter. Just like Naruto Senju with Iwagakure: no secret planning to infiltrate, nothing but two words…and a hidden village met its end.
Nagato hadn't wanted to: truly, he would have preferred something less bloody, but there was no choice. Kumo had to fall. So that peace could become an option, the village had to be completely and utterly annihilated.
No zombie soldiers could withstand the strength of the Shinra Tensei. No amount of reinforced concrete or steel could fight off gravity itself. Yet he felt something was off.
It was Konan's cry that alerted him. The blue haired woman who was right next to his real body was screaming at the top of her lungs from pain. Pain that was his name and yet…why did that made him feel so angry?
Nagato opened his eyes, the ones of his real body, to try and understand what the problem was. He had but a second to flinch, and then nimble, porcelain white fingers curled around his chest.
Konan smiled, blood oozing out of her mouth as she looked at him, with an emotion that Nagato knew he wasn't worthy of, and then she fell. On her back, protruding from her flesh and covered in blood, her blood, stood kunais and swords.
Someone had thrown them at him, and she had blocked them with her body. Someone had found them, even though they had hidden, and was now attacking them before his paths could come back to help him.
His eyes looked, and what he saw angered him.
A Hyuga with pearly white eyes and a forehead protector of Kumogakure, that he knew was the apprentice of Orochimaru, was looking with a smirk at the scene in front of her. A teenager with a long white robe held swords and kunais emerging from his sleeves, looking ahead of him with a bit of guilt.
A kunoichi stood with a floral kimono, her hair tied behind with a comb that resembled a chrysanthemum. She seemed to be sporting a frown, as her hands weaved through various sets of seals. The third one was a Kunoichi too, she however wielded what seemed like a staff, and wore a camouflage trench jacket.
Nagato saw this. He did, indeed, see…but he also didn't care. Konan was on his lap, exhaling her last breath, and those four…those four were responsible for this.
His rinnegan flared as chakra condensed around it. No matter the Genjutsus the kimono clad girl wanted to throw at him, his eyes saw through them without a hitch. No matter the weapons that the only boy of that group flung at him, his eyes deflected them. His paths fell on the ground lifelessly where they stood, since they wouldn't have made it back in time, and as their powers reached him, Nagato stood up.
He had been wounded by Hanzo of the Salamanders, and restrained to the chair. From there, he had developed the system of sending chakra to corpses in order to reanimate them, and use them in conjunction with the Rinnegan's path-ability. Now, however…
Now Nagato was enraged. The damage to his legs had healed over time, and truly, he had never bothered saying the opposite in order to keep the advantage. To make sure the others thought of him as a cripple that had to stay still to control his paths.
Yet now he stood up.
He stood up with Konan in his arms, looking at him with shock and surprise.
"I'm…sorry." He whispered, barely. If he hadn't mistrusted her too, then she would have known he could move. If he hadn't kept a façade of being a cripple, then she wouldn't have brought herself to take a hit in his stead.
"The Genjutsu isn't working any longer!" Saya exclaimed, as Yugoro merely directed his hidden weaponry from his right sleeve to create a wall of blades.
"Shinra Tensei." Nagato spat out with hatred, as the blades flung themselves backwards, together with the bodies of the four shinobis that had dared attack him.
Konan remained safely tucked away between his arms, as the red haired Uzumaki merely advanced upon the four, without relenting even for a single step.
"Shoko-chan, no!" Saya's exclamation was met with the resounding crack of the blond haired, violet-eyed girl trying to withstand the gravitational pull by pushing her staff downwards, against the ground.
The result was that she was closer to Nagato, while the others ended up being further back.
Pain's right hand opened as a condensed black sphere appeared straight in his palm, at the same time moving Konan on his shoulder to keep her from falling down.
"Chibaku Tensei," the whisper was barely heard, and yet…Shoko folded. Her flesh cracked and broke as her bones and everything of hers collapsed upon itself. The sphere emitted so much gravity that the girl died instantly, resulting in nothing more than a sickening ball of pink flesh falling on the ground a second later.
The smirk on Hinata's face grew slightly wider, as she jumped backwards. Just in time to avoid the screaming of Saya and Yugoro, who suddenly realized that indeed…they were overpowered. Truly, they were going to die right there.
Saya was the one who broke in fear, turning around to run away. Nagato turned his gaze to the boy that, instead, was yelling at him with anger. He drove forward with a Katana, enhanced by his chakra and crackling with electricity while doing so.
Nagato didn't flinch. He didn't speak or move.
He merely raised his hand once more, and a volley of air bullets emerged from the tip of his fingers, creating large chunks in the boy's flesh.
Saya was already crying and shrieking in pure unbridled fear of death, when the merciful blow came to her heart…by Hinata's hand.
The Hyuga kunoichi merely showed a smile to the red haired Uzumaki, while removing her bloodied hand from Saya's corpse, before whispering.
"We should talk, Pain-san…there is something you should know."
Nagato's gaze was murderous. Did the Hyuga really expect him to speak to her? She did kill the last girl though, so maybe she was a spy of Orochimaru? He was tired of having to deal with betrayers. He'd listen, and then he'd kill her nevertheless.
It was one word.
Just one single word…and yet, after having said that Nagato found himself listening to a tale. A well spun tale. One that forced him to tighten his grip on Konan's body…
"Troublesome," the Nara muttered. He was staring at the bubbling mass that should have been the ruins of Uzushiogakure, and instead there stood nothing but whirlpools, like the amassed land had caved in and fallen downwards.
They stood at the coast, in wait for whatever reason the Hokage had deemed them necessary to be there. Kiba was tense while Shino appeared to be completely at ease.
"You know Kage, I'd think anyone could make the connection between you and a, say, certain Nara, with that key-word of yours." Kiba stated.
"Shush it," Shikamaru snapped back, "I'm not in the mood right now."
"Calm down," Shino buzzed, "chakra signatures inbound…two are…they're…impossible."
"Huh?" Kiba's question was soon met with Akamaru's growling voice, as a small bathysphere popped upwards from the sea. Behind it, seemingly having pushed it upwards was a masked man with an orange swirl. He was wearing the Akatsuki's clothes, yet the hood was lowered, displaying a bright blue color in his hair.
"I'm Suigetsu," the man snarled, pushing the bathysphere to land on the coast, "You must be the Kage team, right?"
"Indeed," Shikamaru muttered, "Is that the package?"
"Yeah, one Yang Kyuubi container: coming right up," following the taunt-like tone of the voice, the teenager opened the metallic contraption, revealing to the three shinobi a familiar red haired face.
Kiba was the one who broke the startled silence with a small tucking in of air, before exclaiming.
"Katsumi!" The Inuzuka hurriedly grabbed the fainted Namikaze, holding her in bridal style as he made his way to lower her on the soft sand of the coastline.
Suigetsu merely smirked at the scene, before turning his gaze back to where the bubbles were frothing.
"That damn fool…"
"Mantis, look over Katsumi and tell me if she's got anything wrong."
Katsumi felt something soothing pass over her for a brief moment, before fluttering her eyes open.
"She's regaining consciousness."
The glare of the sun stung into the girl's eyes, as she slowly turned her head around, looking at the masked individuals…well, that and the giant white dog that she knew was Akamaru.
"Huh?" She mumbled, but that was soon interrupted. It was interrupted because Kage had turned his attention on the light blue haired man that had removed his mask to show a set of fierce shark-like teeth.
"Well then, my part of the deal's done. Tell your Hokage that if he doesn't show up with his own side, I'll be angry alright."
"Of course," Shikamaru drawled. He had no idea what the deal was, but he merely nodded in confirmation. The teen then disappeared in the water, and the Nara had no doubt about it: he had actually become like water, to not even leave an afterimage of him below the waves…but that was a problem to solve later.
The Nara turned to where Katsumi was, and knelt next to the lay down form of the kunoichi.
"How are you feeling?"
"I…I knew he'd send someone…" the girl gasped for air, "I knew it…"
"Did they do anything to you?" Kiba asked.
"She appears malnourished," Shino stated, grabbing from within his equipment a ration and handing it over to the red head. Katsumi didn't say no, instead she nearly chew off Shino's hand as she devoured it, the following ones, and the few salted strips of meat that Kiba had hunted and turned to edible food.
"Malnourished? I'd say she hadn't eaten in years, if she hadn't been kidnapped for less than a couple of months," Shikamaru muttered, before shaking his head.
"So now it's home time, right!?" Kiba exclaimed, "I mean, come on! There's nothing else to do here…right?"
"I assure you, if something happens right now, I will personally neuter you." Shino stated in his overly serious tone while looking at Kiba.
Shikamaru sighed, before hastily looking around. Everything seemed to be in the norm: they could camp and wait for a while before returning home…at least that was his purpose.
A pity that twin electrical bolts decided to make things far more difficult, searing through the sand and turning it to glass as they made their way to the assembled shinobis.
A girl with blond hair and red eyes stood in a pink armor at the side of the beach. Kiba hadn't smelled her, Shino's bug hadn't found her…and Shikamaru knew, he just knew that it was going to be troublesome to deal with her.
"That's…That's not possible!" Kiba yelled with a startled cry to the skies, "You can't hate me that much! What did I do to you!?"
"I am Ranke, of lord Haido's knights…and you're all in the way!" She yelled once more, as electricity began to crackle around her.
"She smells of ozone! I thought there was a storm coming, not a person!" Kiba's explanation had already been thought by Shikamaru, who suspected that Shino's Kikkaichus hadn't been able to communicate with the Aburame for the very same reason.
Yet as he stood there, he eyed Katsumi, the 'package' slung on Kiba's shoulder.
"Kiba, take leave," the Nara ordered, as his shadow began to creep towards Ranke. The girl didn't even make an effort to move, as the shadow bind her on the spot.
"W…What!?" The girl snarled, "What the hell is this, you little…" her growls grew as Shino had the gut instinct to raise his Kikkaichus' swarms forward. Maybe that was what brought the two enough time to Kawarimi out of the trajectory of an incoming flock of electrical bolts.
"I do not need hand gestures to control my electricity!" She snarled, "And my overheated plasma can withstand and pass through even the thickest of steel!"
Shikamaru didn't speak. He was just seriously considering the benefit of letting the woman vent out her stress, tell him everything about her strengths, and then wait the right moment to formulate a plan taking into account her weaknesses.
Kiba, meanwhile, had already jumped with Akamaru out of the area, holding Katsumi tightly to avoid letting her go. Albeit she was pouting and sending him cursed words through mutters, he thought better than to comment on her. He was on the job, and seriousness was required.
The Nara narrowed his eyes from his hiding spot, as he could see the girl grab a small teal crystal, and outright push it deeply within her chest. The sudden discharge of electricity in the surroundings blinded him, and when his vision came back, he was barely brought out of the range of a wicked claw-like punch by Shino's quick reflexes.
The girl had transformed into a monster of white fur and purple skin, an electrical sphere surrounding it.
"Purazuma Bōru." She hissed, "If you hide, then I'll just have to demolish everything around us!"
"Troublesome." Shikamaru muttered…as Shino, for once, actually replied.
If there was one thing Kakuzu hated, it was to waste time.
He understood killing people that stood directly between him and his target that much was granted in his line of work. What he didn't like was when people tried their best to irritate him and get in his way. In this particular case, he was outright furious.
He was outright furious because he had, indeed, been fighting nothing but empty armors commanded from afar. He was fighting puppets. He hated fighting puppets.
Just like Hidan too hated fighting opponents that didn't bleed. It just was a type of thing they both didn't like. Without hearing the screams of pain, just how were they going to survive the dreadful boredom?
The yells coming from the other side of the giant walking metallic contraptions made it all too clear they weren't alone…at all.
Hidan's snarl finally made the five-hearted shinobi turn to stare at just what the reason for all of this commotion was about.
A green spandex clad shinobi was outright charging upwards one of the metallic legs of the giant construction…while holding on his shoulders two outright screaming shinobis.
At least, one was a male with a beard and trench knife in his hand, the other was a Kunoichi dressed in a white wrapped up clothing that seemed to be made of bandages.
"What the fuck is that for Jashin-sama!? That's cheating! They're avoiding all these assholes! Fuck you Jashin! Fuck you!"
As the scythe spun around, tearing in half the armors around him, Kakuzu found himself merging with the ground, before letting black threads emerge where the armors had converged tearing them apart from below.
"This is annoying." He muttered, as he jumped atop Hidan's scythe's blades, "Throw me upwards."
"FUCK you. You know what? Fuck!" Still, the man did obey, even as a couple of armors managed to pierce his sides with their swords…obviously doing nothing.
As Kakuzu was flung in the air, he brought his left hand forward, letting the black thread escape and twirl around an overhanging steel bar. With his right, he grabbed Hidan's body, and pulled him upwards together with him.
"Ya know: you could have flung a kunai," Hidan snapped as he was flying upwards.
"It was not the same thing," the Takigakure shinobi commented, "And have you seen Fu or Gaara?"
"They're fine! You know how Fu-chan is! She wouldn't enter the fray! She's probably watching us fight from some hiding spot, you know."
Kakuzu grunted. He hoped for Hidan's safety that the Jashin cultist was right. He would have a few choice words with Gaara, however. It was best to remove the 'misunderstandings' about being close to Fu sooner than later. He didn't want any grandchildren as long as he breathed. He was ninety-one, not old and decrepit!
It was as the two made their way through a steel corridor that Kakuzu stopped.
"Hidan," the Akatsuki zombie whispered, "I'm feeling him."
"Huh? What the fuck are you talking about?" Hidan snorted back.
"A man that should be dead, a man that I failed to kill."
"You, failed to kill someone? Fuck Jashin, you told me you failed only once and that…" Hidan paled.
"You're shitting me."
"I'm sure: this is…Hashirama's mokuton chakra."
Kakuzu stilled for a moment, seemingly torn, before muttering.
"If he's using it, if it's actually 'him' then he's using it on Fu and Gaara. I can't let it go…I have to intervene, you understand?"
The silent hissing of the pipes around the two shinobi was the only noise in the long corridor for a moment, before the man grabbed his scythe with his right hand.
"For fucking Jashin! I'm with ya! Lead the way! We'll deal with this walking wreck leader another time!"
Kakuzu merely smirked, before bringing both of his palms to the side of the metallic surface they had worked so hard to reach.
The metal creaked and bent, under the strain of the fists that came crashing down on the wall itself. In the end it gave way to the two shinobi, who began their dash forward into the general direction of the Mokuton's chakra.
Truth be told, Kakuzu was willing to let Hidan tease him for the rest of his life, if he was proven wrong.
As the two neared a circular room, deep within the metallic construction, the stitched together shinobi looked with a mixture of rage and worry at two figures, tightly clutched within the claws of a wooden dragon.
A man with a monocle stood in a corner of the room, eying the chakra being drained by the two and entering a strange statue, no, not a strange statue…the statue of the Akatsuki: a statue that held many eyes open and that was, in that instant, opening two more…the seventh and the first.
Haido looked at the newcomers, who had so barbarically managed to bypass his security by tearing down the metal walls and grinned.
The two wouldn't even manage to scratch him. He had the stone of Gelel, obtained from the harsh sands of Sunagakure itself. He had the royal heir to control the power of the stone, and he had a man known as the 'first Hokage' itself among his grasp. That much, Tobi had guaranteed.
Hashirama Senju stood, clad in his red armor, in front of the statue. He appeared to be concentrating heavily upon the chakra that flowed out of the two Jinchuuriki and within the wooden construction. After all, he was the one who created it to begin with. He was the one who used it to keep the leash on the beasts known as Bijuus in the beginning…and he'd do it again.
Kakuzu stared at the first Hokage, or at what seemed like him except made of clay and dirt, and felt a bit of something within his chest. His original heart had given way to the years, decades before, but this…this was universal. It was the feeling that every shinobis feels when he is outclassed, and yet has to move forward for his mission.
Had this been a mission, Kakuzu would have fled. Considering how his village had treated him the last time, he would have…but this wasn't about his village of Takigakure. This wasn't about the elders of Taki, the mission, the money or anything as quaint and vain as that.
This was about the first Hokage, known as the one who fought and defeated all Bijuus and sealed them together, the one who founded Konoha and defeated Madara Uchiha…this was about him trying to kill his daughter.
For once, Kakuzu saw no plan or strategy. For once, for a single, mere moment, Kakuzu saw nothing but the pained face of his daughter…and then he charged right in.
Hidan was the one who at least managed a little bit of calm, which was the reason Kakuzu didn't lose a heart immediately. His scythe spun to the side extending itself, wrapping around the armored body of a blond haired teen that seemingly had appeared from above with a sword in hand.
Hashirama did not move. He wouldn't need more than an hour, to take back the Bijuus from the hosts. Had Mito been there, it would have taken considerably less…but at the same time he was glad that his wife wasn't there. Because it would mean that his brother had resurrected her too…and he didn't know, he didn't think…he couldn't even hope that Konoha would survive.
Bitter thoughts were all that ran through the man's head…how could his brother do this? Was it him, growing in shadow? Was it his successes, and him coming second? Was it the comparison, the way he had died? Was it his final words, or those of his colleagues? What had brought Tobirama to become like that…twisted beyond redemption?
Hashirama did not know. What he knew was that his orders were clear. He had to obey. If only he knew how to free himself from the seal…if only he knew the seals. But he didn't, because Tobirama had never used this despicable technique while he was alive…maybe he could have stopped him then. Maybe he could have helped him then.
Now, now he could not.
Now, tendrils of wood grew from the very metal that shouldn't have been able to sustain life, as the trees broke into branches that could cut as the sharpest of steel and flung forward encompassing the two Akatsuki members.
Hidan was repeatedly pierced in the chest, in the head, in the arms by the speed of the technique. Every leaf was like a shuriken, every branch was like a blade, and even the trunks seemed to be hitting him with the concussive force of a war hammer.
The Jashin cultist screamed in anger, rage, and maybe even a tiny bit of fright. Although he would never admit it openly, he too had grown up hearing the stories of the strength of Hashirama, the first Hokage…the one who had outright grew forests and decimated armies, equaled maybe only by Madara Uchiha himself.
It took a moment for Kakuzu to realize he had gone through the hand seals for the Katon: Zukokku, because when he did, he remembered just why he had actually accepted the mission of killing the first Hokage.
He had thought that fire could defeat the wood, that it was no big.
Just how wrong and idiotic was that thought? Terribly so. Wood was made of Earth and Water elements…neither weak to fire.
So when the fire spread, it did not even cover in sooth the branches, but the wood…the wood retaliated by tearing apart two of his hearts.
The Earth heart and the Water heart gave way in a second, as blood spluttered out of the man's mouth.
This was a rookie mistake, a potentially fatal one, from him…that was not expected, that was not wanted. He had to keep his cool! To defeat the wood affinity chakra, it was lightning that was needed. Electricity crackled through Kakuzu's body, as the trees splintered around him.
He raised his right hand just in time to block the incoming blow from Temujin's sword, and fling him backwards with but a lightning ray.
The boy did not stay down, but when he moved to charge once more, Hidan intercepted him, his wounds disappearing as if they were never there.
"Normally," Hidan commented in a low, silent voice, "I'd be yelling, and I'd take my sweet time," he whispered, as the trees covered him from Kakuzu, "But not today."
Temujin was silent, but he did charge in once more, again, just to be parried by the scythe and pushed with inhuman force back against the wall.
"Today, I'm not doing the interests of Jashin," he muttered, "He gave me a bye, you know? Figured he'd rather let me do this quick and then later I'll be twice as nagging," he added with a snort, "See ya in hell, kid."
Then the scythe prolonged itself, the wicked red blades grew in size and form, as the face of Hidan turned black with white markings around it in a sort of tribal paint.
Blood oozed down from the three pronged scythe, and Hidan did not speak. He did not yell. He merely plunged the scythe straight within his heart.
With that mere action, Temujin slumped to the ground, a hole wide open in his chest, at the same spot his heart was.
The only problem, as Hidan turned to leave, was that Temujin stood up once more.
"Hahaha! You cannot defeat the power of Gelel! The power of life itself!" Haido snickered, holding a strange light green orb within his hand, "With even a tiny amount, an entire continent can be destroyed! Resurrecting the deceased, controlling the weak minded…anything is possible!"
Hidan narrowed his eyes, and then shook his head.
"I'm in serious mode right now…" he sighed, making his scythe twirl, "But Jashin says, and I quote: 'the stupid blabbermouth infidel must be purged with the most atrocious pains and with the highest cackles of madness from your mouth' so…"
And then Haido found out that no, having a Gelel controlled heir meant nothing when he wasn't as fast as an S-rank shinobi whose only purpose was seeing you scream, and cry and yell in pain.
Temujin's attacks on Hidan actually made it even easier for Haido to scream: every wound on the Nuke-nin would pass automatically onto him, and thus…thus Haido died…because Hashirama wasn't there.
In truth, amidst an arena made of trees, the Mokuton Bunshins of Hashirama were fighting evenly off against Kakuzu.
"I recall you now," one of them spoke, "Kakuzu of Taki."
"Yeah, I outlived you all. Now if I get my hands on the sucker that brought you back from hell, maybe I'll wring his neck too."
"Tobirama," the first Hokage replied smoothly, "my brother…his darkness was way stronger than what I could have even thought about."
"Tobirama? He's alive too!? Oh hell," Kakuzu muttered, as he found himself conjuring a gust of air to redirect wooden shurikens and kunais coming at him from all sides. The truth was that Hashirama could make things grow, and 'purge' them from the trees…adding to that his innate healing abilities, he was an enemy Kakuzu had stood no chance of defeating.
Sure, he was famous for the Mokuton, but Kakuzu…the Taki shinobi knew just how much powerful he truly was.
Weapons were grown from the wood of his trees, and answered his commands. He could make a sword twirl and become a scythe, block and lop the enemy's head off in a single movement. He could make shurikens turn into a net in mid-air. He could inscribe seals within the trunk's bark and use it. He could grow Mokuton Bunshins from any place that held a tree of his. He could heal without hand signs, from the inside out. He could use Fuinjutsu like a master. He…he was Hashirama Senju, and Kakuzu had managed to survive a fight against him once.
There was only one difference, right there and then.
Hashirama had been a prodigy, a genius, an outstanding shinobi of unparalleled power…but he had not been fighting for the same time Kakuzu had.
The only difference, between the two…was experience.
Power could be defeated.
Nimbly, Kakuzu moved to the left of the arena of trees avoiding to step on them, or their barks, because he knew that from even one of them could emerge a sword. His wind heart left his body from below, granting him the push to outright emerge from the trees and look for a split second in mid-air at the situation.
Gaara was the one with less chakra, out of all of them…and he was now slumped on the ground, the first eye of the statue completely open. The seventh one… was instead three quarters wide and steadily opening up.
"I don't have time to play around with you!" Kakuzu exclaimed while in mid-air, as his fire heart emerged, to fling him forward, straight ahead to where the original Hashirama was. He brought both of his punches forward, charged with electricity, and silently, for once, he pleaded for the hits to connect.
They did. The hits passed straight through Hashirama's body…but the problem was that no blood emerged from it. Instead, it regenerated. It regenerated and held the Takigakure's shinobi's arms encased within his chest. In that single instant, Kakuzu closed his eyes.
Wooden pikes emerged from the ground, tearing apart Kakuzu's Lightning heart, and as they did, the other two masks began to tremble…but their last orders were there to be executed. Both reached for the statue itself: if they couldn't damage Hashirama, then they could as well make the statue 'un-repairable'.
"Fūton: Atsugai! Katon: Zukkoku!" the fire maelstrom shook the entire area, sweeping Hidan off his feet as he hurriedly brought his scythe upwards to parry the blazing inferno.
"Fuck you Kakuzu!" In truth, maybe Kakuzu knew that somehow he would fail his attack. He had at least planned for that contingency.
He had planned for it, and in the end, the gambit had paid off.
While the statue seemed cracked in various points, but still salvageable, the structure around them seemed on the verge of collapsing, and collapse it did.
With the statue falling, Hashirama was forced to let go of the technique in order to make the statue land and repair it. As Hidan too fell upon the ground, the man's scythe twirled in the air to grab upon Fu's and Gaara's bodies, both falling downwards.
This was going to hurt a lot.
"Dainamikku Entorī!" Maito Gai, green beast of Konoha, literally jumped from the side, from the frigging side while the Akatsuki members were falling in mid-air, and outright pushed them upon one of the wobbling metal creature's legs to grab a hold on.
"Yosh! Let the fire of youth burn brightly today!"
"What the fuck are you on for fucking Jashin!? Why the fuck are you saving us!?" Hidan had no idea what was going on…but of one thing he was sure: whoever wore green spandex 'had' to have some problems, deep within one's head.
"Worry not! For we are on the same side now!" Gai replied with a bright flashing grin, "It is the fire of youth that brings us together to defeat our most unyouthful foe: the Nidaime! He is the man known as 'Tobi', and he has betrayed your organization! Yosh!"
Hidan's brain refused to think for a moment. Really? Tobi was Tobirama? The name was there, alright, but…it just seemed so…strange. Tobi was a dimwit idiotical buffoon: there was no way he could be…
"But isn't the Nidaime…" as Hidan's hand kept its hold upon a metal bar, Gai merely pointed with his free hand at the scenery, specifically in Konoha's direction. There a massive hurricane was outright surrounding the village, with water flowing out freely from the roads…
"Now let us make haste! There are Sunagakure villagers to save!"
Hidan merely nodded. He had Gaara and Fu over his shoulders: if the guy had wanted to fight him, then he would have done so already, maybe decapitate him while his hands were busy. He'd wait.
He'd wait and see and then, maybe, he'd decide on a course of action.
"This is going to be a problem," the ex-explosion corps artist muttered, looking at Itachi, who was outright in his best asset of war mode.
"Please tell me it isn't true," the bomber spoke once more, "I mean, look around! There are only civilians in here! New Kirigakure has not much in terms of shinobis…just why?"
Itachi did not speak. His Mangekyou sharingan merely spun, as black flames darted forward, to burn the spot where Deidara had been not a second before.
Deidara knew he was outclassed. Never mind being alone, facing an Uchiha prodigy, whose level was far more than a mere S-rank. Never mind the fact that his Genjutsu was something his trained eye could barely scratch through. The problem was that if he did use bombs, then it would destroy the village. It was already drowning, but it was doing so at a low pace, a deliberate one. If he fought with all he got he might not win, he might stall the Uchiha for a while, but he would, most certainly, hasten the demise of the sustaining pillars of the dome.
If that happened, screw the water already reaching halfway the dome's height: it would smash completely downwards, killing everyone.
Yet Itachi was there, facing him off, preventing him from reaching the emergency commands to at least make the dome start to rise.
If he did that, Deidara might have saved some civilians…yet now he knew there was no chance.
There was no way but to fight through this.
The black flames of the Amaterasu burned with fierce intensity, unquenchable and unstopping. The water fizzled and went out where it connected, and yet Deidara had to find a way.
A way to bypass the gaze of the Uchiha…
"Calm down," he whispered to himself, "You haven't trained for nothing. You can do this. You can show your art. Come on…it's nothing more than that..."
"Fear clouds judgment," Itachi commented, disappearing from sight in a murder of crows, "Genjutsu is powerful, because it displays fears as a mean of battle."
Deidara froze on the spot: that was impossible! He had his eye! His trained eye that could see through Genjutsus!
"Are you sure?" a voice hissed at his ear, "Are you sure that is all it takes? Are you sure stealing a Kinjutsu will make you the best Tsuchikage?"
"Why did you do it!?" A female shrieked in his other ear, "My daughter was in there!"
"You murderer!" An old man.
"Curse you, Iwa! Curse you!"
"They deserved no mercy, or pity, did they?" A voice Deidara knew as that of his ex-commander muttered behind him.
"N…That's not true. This is not true." The blond stuttered.
"Oh…but you are wrong," the voice went again, "We are but what you know…we are your truth, Deidara…aren't we?"
"Deidara-nii…why did you do it? Why did you betray Iwa? Why did you kill Kaa-san?" This was female. This was Kurotsuchi. When he had escaped he hadn't planned on killing anyone he had known. He had just thought Oonoki would have laughed at his daring attempt of getting one over his fellow Iwa shinobis and let him go. He was friends with his granddaughter after all.
It hadn't worked like that.
He had felt bitter, he had just wanted to escape…and when he did, he hadn't realized just who was in the prison waiting to see him.
"It was an accident!" He screamed.
"Accident? No, you wanted it, didn't you?" Another voice, harsh and old spoke. Oonoki had resurrected from his grave just to yell at him.
"My most prideful student: look where your pride has brought you! You're a murderer, a slaughterer, an assassin, a betrayer! You have failed me…you have failed my teachings."
"Stop this…please stop this," the teen whispered, tears coming down his eyes.
Quietly, Itachi's blade poised to slit Deidara's throat. For a brief instant, the Uchiha stilled. He could have ended it with Amaterasu…but he didn't want to make the last moments on earth of the man in front him painful. So as he was about to plunge his sword deep within Deidara's neck, he muttered a small prayer to Kami to forgive him…even though, for his sins, he would never be forgiven.
But he was a shinobi: forgiveness was not something he would ever live with.
Deidara merely stilled as the blade passed through his neck. Yet the man turned to clay. He turned to clay and he exploded, forcing Itachi to discard his own Akatsuki cloak and use it to deaden the explosion.
As the Uchiha was flung across the landscape, his back impacted against a wall. It was cold and freezing at the touch, but the raven haired man had no time to think about it. He rolled to the side, using chakra to maintain his balance upon the frozen surface and avoid the incoming miniature clay birds that seemed keen on exploding near him.
Deidara, the real one, emerged from his hiding hole atop a clay dragon, his gaze sorrowful and both of his eyes closed.
"You know…deep down, I knew it. I knew that no matter what, no matter how much I trained, I'd never defeat a genius. It happened in Iwa, a long time ago…and that was why I stole the Kinjutsu that made me who I am…" He whispered, unrolling his chest piece and unstitching a giant mouth that seemed to have grown there.
"Yet even all the cries of the people who I have killed mean nothing to me. Tell me, Uchiha, am I a monster? I burned and scorched and blew up many. Mines detonated killing children and shinobi and samurais alike. Yet…yet for all of that pain and sufferance…not once, not even once, was I unable to sleep at night…am I a monster?"
"No." Itachi hissed behind Deidara, seemingly having disappeared from the frozen surface of before, "You're a shinobi."
"Shinobi are not emotionless tools," the Iwagakure Missing Nin whispered back, as clay was fed into his central mouth.
"That is your truth to know, not mine to counter," and with that, twin yells echoed through the drowning village.
The Susanoo's clawed hands enclosed themselves around Deidara, as Itachi hissed.
"Yata no Kagami."
The Yata mirror could not nullify an advanced release, but he could nullify one of its two components. When the attack happened, the lightning nature was removed from within it, and instead of a titanic explosion that covered kilometers of width and range, it merely cracked open Deidara's body.
The earth component was not stopped however, and the Susanoo's hands guarded Itachi from being impaled by rock spikes that seemingly had the purpose to enhance the area of the attack once the lightning flew through them in the air.
The red colored guard of Itachi disappeared within his back, as what little remained of Deidara crumbled to dust and then melted with the water.
Itachi glanced over the water where Deidara's turned to earth body had crumbled, and then, once more, set off for his objective.
Why was he fighting against his very own belief of peace? Why was he becoming a murderer he had no wish to become? Would he lose his sleep at night, drowning in the screams of the dying civilians of Kiri? Would he wake up after nightmares of ghosts, accusing him? He had them already. When he killed his father, when his father looked at him with those blasted eyes of his…they showed no hate.
Even as his sword had pierced his father's heart, even as the blade had ended decapitating him…there was no hate in his father's eyes. Only sadness…for him, or because he had failed his coup?
That was the question he would never receive an answer for.
For that unanswered question, he would stay up and dread the night. For that question, he would cling to what he knew was there. For that question, that question that could never receive an answer…he would fight so that it would never happen again.
No matter the blood spilt. No matter the hatred that would gather.
He would fight for a night of silence. He would fight for the beliefs of the man he had chosen as his leader. He would fight for his friend, he would fight for the future of Konoha…he would fight.
And…and if he lost…then he would get his answer all the same.
But that moment, that moment was not there and then.
In that precise moment, as his hands moved through the few remaining controls deep within New Kirigakure's seat of command, he knew what he had to do.
The button for the emergency rise of the village was there, just to his left. He could push that button.
He could push it and save the few remaining alive persons.
He could…but his sword cut through the wires before his soul could scream at his cruelty.
There was no turning back now.
Tsunade had been sipping coffee when it happened. At first, her thought had been on just what she had been running through her veins to come up with the 'friends with benefits' line to Orochimaru, of all people.
First off, she was a widower-in-the-heart, even though she had never been married in a temple, at the same time she had never gone with another man before. Then, if she took into consideration just what happened during that drunken night and past that, she suddenly felt the need to blush like any teenaged girl.
Still, the Sake was just that: liquid courage. With enough to kill an elephant running through her body, she had jumped on an innuendo she shouldn't have even retorted about. The next thing she knew, she was trying to close the loneliness in her heart with the closest thing to her to a 'passable' friend. Damn Jiraiya and his being dead.
The coffee mug she had in her hand suddenly felt lighter, as she realized that the coffee had been floating, indeed, in the air. That was followed by the water from the faucets to escape in torrential jets, just like the same happened in every street and through any crack of the ground. Suddenly, it was no longer a normal boring day. It was raining, hurricane-like, and water was everywhere.
Yet there were no screams.
For that, Tsunade would need another half an hour to realize that, outside of the building, there were no civilians of sorts walking through the water filled streets.
But they had been there at least half an hour before! Was an alarm sounded? Was the evacuation order given?
She didn't hear anything…yet if the hospital had been evacuated, she would have known!
It was when she finally managed to regain her bearings, running from rooftop to rooftop, that she came across a familiar mop of grey hair being brought away by the strong current in the flooded streets.
The slug sannin took a moment to jump down and bring Kakashi's body on a nearby roof, before starting to check for his vitals.
Her face became a frown, as she barely could feel a pulse…but it was there. It was faint, it was weak, but it was there. She slowly mended his wounds, knitting back the flesh and stopping the hemorrhage. Her hands nimbly moved across Kakashi's chest, looking for the spots where the electricity had done the most damage, and helping in their regeneration.
His heart stopped repeatedly during the course of her operations, and she had to restart it every time. Many of his nerves had seemingly fried up, and the few that were salvageable had to be carefully reconnected to the muscles. Even if the copy-cat ninja survived, he'd probably be unable to feel anything in the surrounding area of the wound, and there was no way he'd ever be in for active service again.
"Just what is going on…" Tsunade murmured, looking to the right and to the left for someone, anyone, to help her transport the silver haired man.
Instead there was no-one around them. Yet she could hear, among the roaring sounds of the twirling water currents and the thunder claps up above, the flinging of metal against metal.
She had to make a choice, and she knew what it would be: she was a medic-nin. Gently, she held Kakashi's limp form and with precise and meticulous practice shunshin'd away, out of the village, towards the outskirts.
Her first stop should have been the hospital, but with all that was happening…she was sure it had been the first thing taken out. Whatever it was that was causing havoc in the village, it had to at least be of such a threat that barring a Sannin there was no hope. It was the only reason for a mass evacuation order. It had to be the only reason.
Yet, when she finally managed to reach for the refuges, the hidden stone bunkers within the Hokage's statues, she pulled open the door without thinking.
Had she thought, at least a bit, she would have avoided the detonation at point blank range that sent her, and Kakashi, rocketing backwards. Only with her instincts did she manage to shield the man from much of the blast, using her Creation Rebirth technique to survive the rock shrapnel that bore itself deeply within her back.
As the stone statues began to creak and fall down, deep gashes appeared on the side of the mountain as a veritable avalanche composed of the heads of the first, the third and the fourth Hokage came crashing down. The Nidaime and the Godaime's face, however…did not.
They stood there, cracks running alongside their necks, but neither fell. Between the two, that of the Godaime seemed the most unscathed, only a small amount of web-like cracks on a cheek, nothing more.
For some reason, that was finally the cue for Tsunade to look around with purpose. The eyes of the stone heads seemed transfixed upon a single spot.
On a rooftop, near the arena now halfway filled with water, two shinobis were battling in blurs of speed and clashes of techniques.
Orochimaru had always been the devious one in fights. He had never fought fair once, for all of his time as a Sannin of Konoha, during the war or even after. He had always used tricks, misleading and confusing the enemy before striking, but never, ever, did he fight head on.
When it was the time to gather information, he went on ahead. When he had to pull back, he had more than a hundred ways to escape. He was tricky, he was devious and he was deeply attached to his own life. Jiraiya had always been the powerhouse, the imbecile that charged forward yelling and held no regards for his own safety.
She had lost count of the wounds she had healed from the white haired man's body, and the few times she actually had to heal Orochimaru? It was mostly because of light scratches taken in order to avoid far bigger ones.
Orochimaru did not get wounded, period. He could get tired, he could get exhausted, but he could not get wounded.
In this particular case, however, Orochimaru was bleeding. He sported a deep gash on his left arm that stood limply to his side while the Kusanagi blade in his right hovered in front of him. His right hand went through the hand seals for his techniques, while the sword clashed in order to protect him from Tobirama's ire.
There had to be something wrong with that, because clearly, Orochimaru could not be bleeding. It didn't even matter that there was Tobirama, or at least, someone who resembled him, fighting on the rooftop. To Tsunade, the strange thing was Orochimaru bleeding.
It was so strange…so out of character.
The Snake sannin wasn't sharing such thoughts about his status. He was mentally going through every single trick he had, barely avoiding the 'throw the mud in the eyes' one since it was too easy to counter. His speed seemed even slow compared to that of the Nidaime, heck, everything he did seemed uncoordinated and grossly raw when compared to him.
It just didn't matter what he did: the Nidaime had the counter ready, like he knew everything that was being thrown at him.
The fact that he seemingly wielded two sharingan eyes was also another cause of distress for the snake sannin. He might have stood a chance with the sage mode…but he had never mastered it. No, more precisely, he could never master it. His body wasn't aptly his to begin with, and the technique he used for it wasn't able to survive the stress of condensing different type of chakras within one's own body…He was a genius, but even he had his limits.
That why, the second best thing to a genius was a cheating genius: the cursed seal, or 'heaven' seal was just that, a cheating tool. It worked too, all thanks to Jugo.
Yet all this paled in comparison. Speed, strength, technique, chakra, everything of the Nidaime was genuine, and it was desperate to even manage to keep up. He probably would have already died thrice, had the man been serious.
But the Nidaime wasn't. He was toying with the Sannin like a kid playing with a ball. Orochimaru was dancing to a fine tune, and he knew it, and even if he knew it there was nothing he could do to free himself from it.
That…that was the final explanation of why Orochimaru of the Densetsu Sannin did not expect to survive that encounter, at least had he any knowledge of Fuinjutsu as high as that of Jiraiya, then maybe he could have come with a way to remove the blasted seals that kept him from using his body rejuvenation technique.
Yet there he stood, desperate.
But he stood. Why was he standing? Orochimaru knew that answer.
He was afraid of dying. He was afraid of the stares, of the gazes, of the pointed fingers that would forever look at him in the ghastly afterlife. He was a murderer, a slaughterer, a monster. No matter the words 'scientist' no matter the words 'approved by the Hokage' no matter the permissions…he was a monster.
In his death, he would pay. A life of redemption would not bring him any closer to forgiveness, and he knew it. He knew it and he embraced the thought that he was so wicked he could go further, and still leave as a hero. He knew it, he cherished it…and that made him ponder in the dark of the sleepless nights just why…why had he chosen that path?
It was too late right there and then.
The blade of pure thunder came down, and this time, the Kusanagi creaked.
Cracks appeared alongside its surface, and when the second hit was parried, bits of molten metal flew away from it.
A miniature water dragon of the Nidaime slammed straight into Orochimaru's chest, appearing from the muddy ground, and brought the Sannin on his knees as it twirled and twisted around him, holding him prisoner.
"Tell me what I want to know, Orochimaru-kun," Tobirama muttered, "And I'll reunite you with your parents."
The golden eyes of the sannin narrowed as a startled hiss escaped his throat.
"I know that Amachi was your spy, Orochimaru," the Nidaime spoke quietly, "I know that Naruto knows that, I know that he planned something, I know that he used Kushina to get through the defenses of New Kirigakure, I know that he has sent the Kyuubi Yin half away from here. I know that he suspects I'm not merely Tobi but something else, but am I right? Am I saying the right things, Orochimaru? Tell me, little bumpkin, is it right? You always were a good kid with homework always done, weren't you?" The voice was sweeter now, it was also more feminine, older, graceful. To Orochimaru, that voice was also familiar, terribly so.
There was no Nidaime there, there was him, five years old, looking with a bit of worry at his mother. His parents couldn't help him with the homework, both were illiterates, farmers. The only reason he had managed to get into the academy was because of who he was: a prodigy, a lucky kid that had caught the attention of the Kami of Shinobi.
Whenever he did his homework at home, his mother would always smile a bit at him, ask him if he did everything correctly, and then nod. She couldn't read, but she trusted him to do the right thing. She trusted him implicitly: she…had such beautiful golden eyes and raven hair.
"How…How do you know her?!" The question was asked with a guttural howl as Orochimaru's skin cracked and began to break, to reveal the inner and true body of him.
Tobirama laughed, he laughed as he brought his right hand to a closing motion of a fist, constricting the Sannin's body.
"I solved rat problems in Konoha before you were even born! Do you believe that my fake death stopped my experiments? I just relocated! The war helped to hide my tracks, and you should know what the first casualties of war are, isn't that right, little Oro-kun?"
Fury erupted like molten lava from an active volcano, as the sannin simply screamed to the skies, his body breaking up completely.
With a startled but mocked face filled with shock, Tobirama opened his arms wide as the Sannin entered his body, to try and wrestle it over.
Did he really think…he could win in a mind battle against him, of all people?
"Now my dear grandniece," Tobirama commented, turning to stare at Tsunade, who had barely arrived, "Or should I say granddaughter, come closer and tell me all you know."
He beckoned her with his right hand, but she stood still, looking at him, waiting for something.
Tobirama merely smiled, before adding.
"What? Don't you want to hug your grandfather? I still remember Mito-chan's drunken night, you know? She was such a prude outside, but once under the bed sheets…roar," he added with a mocking tone, "your father was born that way, you know? He even outlived Hashirama's precious first born, proves that being first isn't always a plus."
"Wh…What are you…doing here?" Tsunade managed to stutter out.
"You mean, me being alive, me destroying Konoha, or me generally doing my thing?" Tobirama retorted, with such calm, such ease, that Tsunade simply popped a vein in her forehead.
"I killed," the Nidaime said shrugging, "I also lied, I deceived, I misdirected, I was the prime cause of the third shinobi war, and nobody realized it. I was the cause of the second shinobi war, and nobody realized it. I used the first one to lay the foundation of all my works and nobody even saw it fit to ask, to damn frigging ask why I stayed behind. I mean: I was in my prime, there were six shinobis I could choose from, why me?" He snorted, "Teammates? Friendship? Doing what is right? Do you know my words, 'Guide the people, and believe in them, for it's from among them that one will come who will carry on when your time is done' ? Well, the meaning of that sentence was completely different." He narrowed his eyes, as the thunder sword deformed into a chakram of thunder.
"What I wanted to say was that from those you nourish and trust there will one day rise the man that will stab you in back…just like I said to protect those who had faith and to train those of the next generation, because by controlling them, you can control the future. If you control the future," Tobirama gestured with his hand around him, "Then you control the world."
"There is a Body, a Mind and a Technique," the Nidaime muttered, "There is a past, a future and a present. There is darkness rooted in each and every individual. Some take days, other take years, but eventually all who walk upon the path of shinobi will bloom into wretched being of darkness. There is no way to stray from this path! There is no way…but my way."
The chakram flew, just as Tsunade lowered herself in time to end up with her ponytails cut, but not her head.
"A way that is of pain, devastation and slaughter. A way that shows the world the atrocities it has committed, a way that leaves behind no shinobi, no being of darkness…complete eradication…" Tobirama chuckled, "And yet I couldn't do that. That was my way, but I couldn't follow it through." He grinned, as Tsunade barely managed to roll to the side, avoiding jet blasts of electrified water.
"I couldn't, I needed to do something else…and so…so came the Heredity Project." He spoke quietly, "but now…now the mind of Orochimaru is growing thinner within my body, and soon, pretty soon, all that he knew will be mine. When that time will come, then Naruto will lose. For the enemy that knows is the enemy that wins…"
"Stop. Ranting." Tsunade hissed, nearly choking down as her very own saliva tried to turn against her, forcing her to spit it. When she did, the spit stilled in mid-air, before turning around and darting straight through her flesh.
"I was playing with Orochimaru, Tsunade-chan," Tobirama commented, "I will not play with you: I don't have the time." He added rolling his eyes, "You don't even have any of the grace Mito had. You must take from your mother's side of the family I suppose."
It was then, just as Tobirama was going through the single hand sign of his famed water dragon that he stilled. In that second of disbelief, Tsunade charged, her chakra enhanced punch ready to tear to smithereens the Nidaime, only for it to pass straight through his armor, without making any discernible damage.
Tsunade didn't stop trying to fling punches after punches at the man, but they all passed through his seemingly frozen body. She could see it: the Nidaime was shocked and figuring out something, but then, just then, just as he was about to let out a howl of primeval rage and hatred…
Wooden pillars raised themselves from the ground around the village, contorting into wicked and twisted vines that reached up above, towards the skies, before plummeting down upon the rest of the city.
Tsunade watched with morbid fascination as the Nidaime's body became physical once more, she watched with shock and surprise as the branches did not discern friend from foe and attacked her too.
She did not flinch as her heart gave way.
She did not flinch in death, as she realized that, after all, she was going to meet everyone she loved.
It was a bitter afterthought, but Naruto…Naruto was no longer in her thoughts as a loved one…and that was her only regret. She was a culprit, just like everyone else…so what did she not feel sadness?
Why did she not fight back?
Because she felt so sleepy…
Because she…saw, the blurry figure of Hashirama moving through the trees, and that…that clearly had to mean she was already dead...right?
Kushina's chains nicked repeatedly at Haku's ice dome, but it seemed to be for nothing.
The scratches would be closed in seconds, and the senbons flying around were definitively starting to hurt the fierce red haired woman.
"Please give up, Namikaze-san," the girl commented, "For Zabuza-sama, I have to do this."
"Please Haku! You're lying to yourself! You know Naruto is lying to you! There is no way to bring back the dead of their own free will!"
Haku stilled, for a moment, but then she resumed her incessant attacks.
"No, that is not true: he gave me proof…he's coming, and he's the proof."
"Who? Who is coming Haku!?" Kushina's yell was deafened by the explosions that rocked the dome of Kirigakure, as the water began to descend upon the village, and the screams echoed in the air.
"Oh no…the counter seals…" The Uzumaki woman knew that it was impossible. It should have been perfect. The seals were designed to be perfect.
There was no way they could be destroyed.
There was no way they could be removed with such ease.
There was simply no-one who had the skill to do so…and yet, there they stood, destroyed.
As the ceiling began to crack, Kushina expected the security mechanism to initiate the village's rising movement…but it did not happen.
Haku did not move, standing still with Yugito encased in ice next to her. It took but a moment, and a masked figure leapt into the dome. The cloak was that of Akatsuki, the mask was that of Tobi…but it was not Tobi the one behind the mask. The flash of light for his appearance, that…that was something Kushina had known, and when the mask gave way, removed, the red haired Habanero, Kushina Namikaze, let out a startled gasp.
For in all of his undead glory, Minato Namikaze, Yondaime Hokage, stood there. Reborn from the Edo Tensei, his blond hair was still, unmoved by the wind. His eyes turned softer, at the sight of his wife, but no words escaped his lips as he merely shook his head.
"I am here for the Nibi," the Yondaime commented.
"Did he do this?" Kushina hissed, "Did Naruto bring you back to life?"
Her chains rattled, as her rage menaced to blind her in that instant…it didn't matter that the ceiling was falling upon them, or that the rage of the ocean was pooling its resources on them…all that mattered was to find Naruto, and have her revenge on him.
"No," Minato whispered back, "Tobirama Senju did…and I am not the only one."
"Let's go!" Haku yelled, enraged, "We don't have time for this! I have to bring back Zabuza…"
The moment the girl left the protection of her ice mirrors, many things happened at the same time.
Kushina shot her chains forward, hoping to get to Yugito. Haku moved her hand upwards, trying to conjure an ice wall. Minato moved to grab Haku and the Nibi Jinchuuriki's frozen form. Itachi Uchiha emerged from only he knew where, deeply embedding his sword within Haku's spine.
The next second, none of the fighters was any longer within the village that soon ended up beneath the sea…the last drowning gurgles of the survivor haunting the bubbles of air that would surely end with enough time…
A village had been lost, not the first or the last, but all the lives, all the hopes, dreams, all the desire for a better future…were all crushed by the ambition of men: No…not of men, of monsters, those monsters known as Shinobi.
When they arrived, Kushina's chains were already preparing themselves for yet another attack, only for a sword to press against her neck. They stood upon what looked like the charred remains of a battlefield, one that had seen the sand itself turn into brittle glass, considering how it shimmered with the light of the sun.
Signs of explosive rocked the entirety of the surface, but whoever had done this had long since left the area. A bathysphere was the only thing that belonged to New Kirigakure, and that made it all the more evident that their location was in its close proximity: the sphere made of metal was still floating gently, the waves having yet to reclaim it.
"Haku…My blade." With the voice, the familiar voice of Zabuza hissing behind her, Kushina knew that something was just…not right.
Yet she could do nothing to stop the strangely rejoicing Haku from throwing the giant blade to the hand of the demon of the mist reborn, or resurrected, that took it with ease with his free left hand.
"Finally, Kubikiribōchō is back within my hands," the man growled, pushing with a strong kick Kushina on the ground, the sword swinging vertically to cleave the woman in two. However, the chakra chains that sprouted from the woman's back parried the blow, forcing the Uzumaki woman to grit her teeth from the effort.
"Futile." The man commented, his sword continuously slashing against the chains, without even an effort of changing tactics. Kushina's eyes settled upon the Yondaime, who looked at the scene with dead eyes, not even sporting the glint of an emotion.
Haku instead seemed to be in a sort of cheerful and gleeful mood, giggling madly at the sight of her Zabuza moving around. The girl had lost it a long time before, but Kushina had thought, hoped, she would return to the most 'sane' part of the shinobi world. She had been wrong, obviously.
She had been wrong on so many things…she had done so many things wrong, that she seriously was starting to think that her entire life had been a mistake. She had thrown out Naruto, instead of listening to him, instead of trying to understand him. She had done all that she could to bring him back all too late, and she had lied to him, and now…now she was paying her price, wasn't she?
Katsumi was going to be fine, she knew it. If the seals on the cage broke, the Kyuubi would take over and bring her to safety. But then again, if Minato had asked for the Nibi…then why didn't he ask for the Kyuubi too? Did he already have her?
Her eyes flickered for a moment to where Itachi was, speaking in a low murmur to the Hokage, who suddenly tensed after the Uchiha said something.
"Persistent," Zabuza growled, before snickering, "Well, I stretched enough." And then, without delay, another blow came down. This time, however, Kushina dispersed into a cloud of smoke, as the real one appeared, her Katana in hand, from Zabuza's side.
The Kubikiribōchō moved by the will of the Demon of the mist, and its flat side parried the blade, before pushing back the assault. He swung the massive cleaver sword in a half moon pattern, only for Kushina to duck beneath it, her red hair flying wildly in the air. Two chains came from beneath the ground, impaling the man's feet as the brief instant of distraction granted Kushina the chance to plunge her sword straight into the man's heart.
She didn't smile, however, or yell. She swiftly jumped backwards, in order to avoid a tsunami of ice that came at her from Haku's side.
"Zabuza-sama! Don't touch him you filthy whore!" As Haku's ice senbons hailed at her, Zabuza merely chuckled, before removing with a deliberately slow motion the katana from his chest. Not a drop of blood emerged, nor did the man wince in pain. Such was the level of the forbidden jutsu used. Such was the strength of Edo Tensei.
The blade cleaved down once more, as the man charged forward to behead the Uzumaki woman. This time, however, Itachi intervened, his sword intercepting and parrying the bigger one.
"We need her alive!" He hissed, "Without her daughter, she's the only one we can use to subdue him!"
Zabuza merely growled, before placing his sword on his back, securing it with some sort of hooks that attached themselves to the holes within the blade.
Kushina tried to stand up and run, but Haku's senbons hit her in the calves and in her legs, sending her sprawling on the ground.
It didn't much matter by then: she was surrounded by S-rank shinobis, and Minato could use the Hiraishin to reach her in less than a second. So she surrendered. At least, if she did manage to get near Naruto, she might just try one last time and see if her son actually had a heart, somewhere, or if it was too late…of one thing, however, she was glad: they didn't have her daughter.
The smell of charred flesh filled her nostrils, but she did not care. The wind howled fiercely, but felt like nothing to her covered in scales body. The flames that burned straight out of her deformed lungs melted the steel upon the samurais' bodies. The spears and lances enhanced by chakra were deflected by her natural armor that strengthened around the areas soon to be hit.
Another wave of fire erupted from the back of her throat, condensed into a ball that exploded straight into the formation of advancing samurais. Screams of the dying filled the air, but she did not care.
She was protecting her family. She was protecting her heaven. She was protecting Naruto and Yumi.
Karin was there too, but Naruto and Yumi were more important.
Her hands stretched even more as claws, and her teeth began to hurt as they turned to fierce and pointed fangs that emerged from her mouth. She was far less of a human now, and far more of a monster.
Yumi was shivering right next to her father's body. She was crying, she was afraid, she was scared. She was seeing her mother kill people like they were flies and her big sister doing her best to keep calm and healing their father.
Their undefeatable father that never lost a game of tag or that was kind enough to let her take leave in his office. The father that tucked her in and went out of his way to be there for parents reunions and the like. The father that was there when she got wounded or cried…yet now he was there, in the snow, bleeding. Yumi knew what bleeding meant.
They were trained in the academy to know it. Bleeding had to be closed quickly, or the man would die. There was no other explanation: she was only a first year after all…yet she knew he was going to die.
Her father was going to die and nobody was going to save him.
So she cried. She cried because she was but a child. She had little to no training, little to no expertise on the matter. She had nothing.
She had nothing and she grieved because of it.
It was the sound of the cries that awoke Naruto. It was that and Karin letting her blood to find its own way through the man's throat.
The pale blue eyes of Naruto opened up just as Anko's monstrous form reached the final two digits. The number reached the nine, and Naruto barely got up to sit, a bawling Yumi reaching for his leg. The number got to eight, and Karin looked around frightened, scuttling closer to her father.
It went to seven, and Naruto stood shakily up.
It went to six, and a small orange pebble was inserted into Naruto's mouth.
It went to five, and the Nidaime no Sairai moved towards the back of Anko.
It went to four, and Anko felt a weight on her back.
It went to three, and Naruto pulled out a scroll, wiping blood over it.
It went to two, and the scroll lit up with strange arrays of seals.
It went to one, and the seals glowed.
The moment it reached zero, seals etched themselves out of Naruto's scroll and straight into Anko's neck area.
Then the woman slumped on the ground, her form reverting, and Naruto Senju, Nidaime no Sairai, muttered a single word.
"Shiromari! Commence plan Alpha!" The yell echoed through the samurais' lines all the way to the back. It reached the tree tops and the winds, the howling winds. The winds that suddenly parted because it hadn't been nature to create them, but something else...
Shiromari, her red eyes glowing, howled from the nearby treetops, and the wind flew…it flew as it blasted off samurais like they were paper airplanes. It flew through the armor cracks with freezing intensity, and those who stayed on the ground turned to cold, icy statues…
And the giant chameleon stood quiet for a moment.
Then, in a moment of tense silence, it finally spoke.
"The master's plan appears to have been fruitful."
And to that, Naruto merely grinned.
Elsewhere, A and Mei were both flinging kunais at Mifune, who easily deflected them with his blade, while at the same time charging forward. Chojuro moved to intercept him, aided by Omoi and Mangetsu, and yet, even when three blades, two of which from Kirigakure, came to clash down on the steel of the leader of the land of iron…the sword did not shatter.
"It is the Bushido of the samurai: the sword is the samurai's soul. Unyielding, undying, eternal." Mifune spoke, as he overcame the combined strength of the three men, before twisting his Katana to the side, letting it slash horizontally on his enemies. Chojuro, with his broken leg, could not move back fast enough.
The teen's head rolled on the ground, as Mangetsu gulped: he was glad he had taken the risk of turning to a semi-liquid state. He'd have died otherwise.
Omoi had been the furthest away of the three, and thus had the most time to move backwards, resulting in him only getting nicked in the cheek. The blood began to slowly drip down, as Mifune merely chuckled, before sidestepping. Doing so avoided him the palm strike coming from C, while at the same time brought him in the trajectory to lower his blade and parry the upcoming attack of the Raikage's left arm.
Mei went through the hand signs for yet another technique, but shrugging off the Kumogakure's kage like he was a light weight, Mifune charged at her, his blade ready. It was C who somehow recovered fast enough to shunshin straight on the path of the samurais' leader, kunai ready to intercept the blow.
The blow came, but the sword cut through the iron of the kunai like it was butter, reaching through it and C's Jounin armor, leaving a wide and bleeding wound behind. Yet he had been lucky too in surviving said attack: the kunai and the vest had greatly lessened the otherwise lethal impact.
Samurais began to pour towards the mountain, in an effort to provide aid to their leader, completely ignoring the Konoha Kage who seemed worst for wear.
Yet they couldn't distract themselves now: Mifune thrived with said distractions and made them pay in lives. Mei had jumped backwards, and as the man had followed, so too had the Raikage moved to intercept. The electrically charged fist reached to the side of the leader of the land of iron, flinging him against the ground, but then the man got up, graciously so too.
"A samurai's armor is as thick as his unrelenting spirit," Mifune quoted once more, as his neck cracked under his movements to 'ease' the muscles.
A gritted his teeth. This wasn't possible.
This wasn't meant to be possible. There was a hole there, in Mifune's armor. He should have been dead by now! Certainly after having fallen from so high, and without Ninja training, he should have been wounded. Yet why wasn't he? Why was he still there?
A high pitched noise caught everyone's attention, forcing for once all sides to stop: because it wasn't normal. The winds suddenly stilled atop the mountain's side, while down below, where the Hokage stood, they intensified, they condensed and then gave way to a veritable barrage, that send Sasori who had been flying close to the skirmish zone straight away from the battlefield, to crash against the mountain's side.
Mei didn't even stop to look back, as she hurried to reach for the red haired boy, Mangetsu in tow.
Chojuro was already dead, and her eyes had seen Kisame being charred alive by that monster of a woman. Heck, she had a new found respect for Konohagakure's kunoichis now, seeing how she was holding her ground against samurai divisions. Yet, that wasn't important. What was important was leaving, getting back home, and once there hope to solve the situation peacefully. Whatever had happened right there and then just meant that, once more, they had to retreat.
Everyone had been played by Mifune, if only they had been smarter about it! New Kirigakure was going to end up completely indebted, just like Kumogakure, and all for a war that had barely solved the pirate problems, and had by no way managed to conquer any strip of land worthy of notice. Furthermore, instead of bringing Konoha down, it just seemed that Konoha had risen once more above them.
Mei wasn't an idiot, but she had doubted the Hokage could have planned anything like this...until that precise moment. There were just too many things that could have gone wrong…How could one even begin to predict all the variables? Even though she used her flirtatious attitude, and her body, to act like a naïve bombshell, she hadn't survived the civil war and become the Kage of Kiri only because she was pretty.
She could think, and she knew that somehow, somewhere, and in some way the Hokage had managed to get out of the gutters that had instead swamped both Kumo and Kiri.
The question however remained the same: how?
The Raikage, on the other hand, wasn't that lucky to be able to think.
He didn't have the time. He was busy trying to juggle C's attempts at stemming the blood loss while holding said Jounin with his left arm and making as much distance as possible from the crumbling mountain with Omoi following him closely.
If he didn't know better, he'd think the mountain had a will of its own, starting to shake and quiver like…like it was alive.
Kamereon's eyes flickered open, and by the will of his summoner, the earth broke and cracked.
The three wolf faces splintered and fell; their meaning of trust and neutrality shattered as the ground itself gave way to the rising steams from deep below the frozen surface.
C didn't have the time to warn anyone, wounded as he was. Omoi couldn't manage to dodge. A was too busy not dying. Mangetsu felt the ground itself disappear beneath him. Mei Terumi's eyes opened both wide in shock. The samurais nearby looked with renewed determination at the crumbling mountain. They knelt on their knees, and stood still. The symbol of their Bushido had been destroyed by the arrogance of their leader. They had followed him in honor, and now they would have to die to make amend. The sacred mountain had given its answer to their actions.
Mifune stood in a quiet awe, his gaze locked upon the elder summon.
"We can wait," Kamereon replied in a low growl, the voice echoing and tearing apart the very ground, and then, the mountain side came down upon the samurai. The strength of nature itself was something far too strong for him to parry, or dodge. When it settled, when the rocks and the dirt and the ground itself stilled, there was no mountain any longer.
Shiromari lunged forward with its maws, gently grabbing a hold of Naruto and the rest of his family, tucking them away in a spare pocket of her stomach before starting to run away, turning invisible. Kamereon looked with tired eyes, for a chameleon, to the rest of the assembled men and women, and muttered.
"Loyalty is what makes us strong." With those parting words, the boss of the chameleons disappeared into a giant puff of smoke, leaving behind the already ready to die samurais, a staggering Mizukage, and a bleeding to near-death Raikage and C.
*Land of the Sky*
The land of the sky's engines hummed quietly, as Yugao Uzuki and Genma Shiranui overlooked with their binoculars the road ahead of them. The two Konoha shinobi were on the lookout for possible troubles, as behind them the rest of the flying city bustled with activities. The Konoha villagers had taken the transfer with a pinch of salt, considering they had no idea how they had actually been brought there, nor how to leave. Still, it was all under orders of their Hokage, and because of the war, they actually felt that it was better be safe in a strange place flying above the clouds, than sorry and dying on the ground.
Had they known that they had literally been kidnapped in their sleep by trained Anbu soldiers, transferred through the use of complex seal arrays to the flying city, and left there for their own safety, then maybe, just maybe, there wouldn't have been half the chaos there currently was.
The shinobi had taken it easily: orders were orders and had to be followed. The shinobi families had understood, but the civilians? It had been months, months! Months of staying up there without any way of perusing their businesses! The only thing that kept them from outright revolting was that the Hokage, or at least, that was what the rumors said, would be refunding any loss encountered by the civilian party once it was all over.
Sometimes, however, shinobi had to intervene.
"Is Iruka fine now?" Yugao queried quietly.
"He's doing good," Genma replied, "Raido got to him in time, and the rioters were put down."
"Can't believe there's a war, people are kept safe, and they have to riot."
"Don't tell me. You heard from Hayate?"
"He's doing fine. The POW camps have been emptied, so he should come by as soon as all traces are removed." Genma merely nodded to that information, before a sour look overtook his face.
"I don't like this."
"Welcome to the club," a voice spoke from behind them, forcing both to jolt back and stare at the newcomer.
"Scared the hell out of me Ebisu!" Yugao muttered, "I'm not in the mood."
"The Sandaime's grandson has been sedated," Ebisu whispered back, "Indeed, Shizune-san is right now looking over the mind-altering Genjutsu he was put in…they're making astonishing progress."
"And you still look that haunted?" Genma muttered, arching an eyebrow.
Ebisu coughed slightly, before shaking his head.
"It's not that I don't trust the Hokage, but the progress made is…mechanical, periodical. I know all too well how there is usually some sort of distance, of irregularity between one and another…it's just like if…"
"They were feeding the info, having already researched it?" Genma completed the sentence, before overlooking once more ahead of them, "Well, you know the drill: if we're not cleared, then we don't have to know."
Yugao snorted, before grabbing the binoculars, "Doesn't mean we have to like it though."
"Still…it would be good to know at least what enemy we're fighting. It's not Kumo and it's not Kiri," Ebisu replied, placing his glasses back at the bridge of his nose.
"I've got the sights on plan Alpha," Yugao commented drily, "Team 'Mighty Beast' is at it right now."
"Why did they let Gai, of all people, choose the name?" Genma replied with an inquiring tone.
"I believe they lost a bet with him," Ebisu added, "That, and they made him promise it wouldn't be a continuous 'Youth!' power nagging."
The land of sky, a vast infrastructure of metal, gently hovered over the now stopped moving castle of Haido. Gently, its belly opened revealing small, in comparison to the two towering structures, golden airplanes that glided downwards with ease.
The Sunagakure civilians, ragged, dirty and malnourished, were eased aboard the bigger planes that could carry more than just one person. The other shinobis instead began to dismantle the castle, moving nimbly and quietly along the silently haunting corridors.
Gai overlooked the exchange while eying the Akatsuki member known as Hidan, who seemed to be, rightly so, distrustful.
He was an S-rank shinobi, surrounded by Konoha Nins. He had no doubt that he could escape with ease, being immortal and all. The problem was with Fu, who stood still out of her lights. He might have been fine with accompanying the Konoha shinobis, but that didn't mean he'd have the girl leave his sights.
Not on his very far away death bed.
Still, the fact that the green 'beast of Konoha' was dangerously close to him was starting to worry him. It was just like he was a tiger ready to pounce on him at a second's notice: but wasn't he just ranting about youth while the others merely chuckled and gave away with it?
Wasn't it just that, an idiot who just so happened to be powerful, like Tobi? And then again, wasn't the statue…was he even Akatsuki any longer? The statue, Hashirama reborn, was he still alive after the fall? Wasn't he meant to be coming back? Did something happen to him? Did Kakuzu take him down for good?
He didn't know that, but he did know he was going to protect Fu for the moment, and worry about the rest later.
Those were his thoughts, before wooden branches grew from the very ground he was on, latching firmly upon his body and holding him still.
As they did, he could clearly feel his head being removed by a quick sword swipe, while the rest of his body was smashed to a pulp by the ranting about youth man. A Genjutsu had taken over his mind while he had been worried in thoughts. Now, his head was rolling upon the metallic surface, and he was all too stunned to even think properly.
Wasn't Hashirama…wasn't he working for Akatsuki then? Was he working for Konoha? But then, why the…why the statue? Wasn't that theirs?
Yamato merely grunted in effort, nodding slightly to the other assembled shinobis as he appeared from the side of the structure.
"Target acquired." He muttered, as a scowl-looking Gai nodded silently while grabbing the still knocked out Fu.
"This is most unyouthful…"
"It's the only way," Yamato whispered back, holding the girl and then dashing off towards the side, falling downwards while using the Mokuton to create a sort of bridge to the tree tops down below.
Down below, the figure of Hashirama waited quietly. His eyes stood dead, yet they looked with ill-conceived anger at the man who appeared in front of him, having gone mere minutes before up, claiming he could get the seven tails without wasting any more time.
"And yet another innocent goes, for the will of a mad man once known as my brother," the first Hokage whispered, his head shaking slowly, "Who are we to refute? Is free will no longer ours?"
"We're shinobis." Yamato merely replied, holding back the nervousness in his voice, "Do I have your master's word?"
"You do: your daughter will be kept safe."
The exchange went in silence, and then Hashirama was no longer there, disappearing into a twirling of air. Yamato merely clenched his fists, hitting at the ground with his teeth gritting furiously.
Why could nothing ever go the way he wanted it to?
Why, just why, did he have to lose everything, every time, by the machinations of others?
He sighed deeply, easing the Anbu mask once more on his face. He couldn't stop now…he had a mission to do.
"The blade does not cut, unless you wish it to," Nagato murmured, "Yet I do not believe a blade can stop being an instrument of murder."
"The blade is but a tool. Keep it sheathed and it can harm no-one." Hinata retorted, as the two seemingly strange companions walked towards their destination.
"I remain of the belief that a blade must be shattered, in order to fully stop it from harming."
"If you shatter the blade, won't the splinters be dangerous still? Better to sheathe it and avoid it from coming out."
"A sheath can be broken." Nagato retorted.
"Not if it's strong enough." Hinata murmured back, "And one built by a master craftsman cannot be broken."
"Nothing is eternal." The leader of Akatsuki retorted, "Nothing ever is."
"Tell me about it," Hinata rolled her eyes as she heard, once more, the rant of red haired man. She just knew this wasn't going to go as planned. All that she had wanted was but a chance to earn her teacher's forgiveness, and now that she was given said chance, she had no idea how to proceed.
She had been given few sparse words, all to help bring Nagato on their side, but then again, she could have been dead already, and she had no idea why the man had kept her alive. Maybe he was just too taken by nursing the blue haired woman that was on his shoulders, rather than kill her? Or probably it was just because he needed her as a hostage if things went sour.
It could have been either, and it wouldn't have mattered anyhow. She was doing this for Naruto-sensei, for his forgiveness. It wouldn't have mattered if he had asked her to swim in an active volcano or drink up the ocean: she'd have done it nevertheless for him.
Maybe it was the cursed seal effects, but she knew it wasn't true: this was love, her love for him. Sure, it might have been a bit twisted, but it was that and only that. She knew he'd come around, eventually. Maybe he just needed for her to show him how trustworthy and loyal she was.
Even if she had to die to accomplish that, what was death compared to love?
"Nagato, Nagato…you amuse me to no end." Tobi spoke, appearing out of thin air in the middle of the desolate wasteland that was halfway between the land of lightning of border and the land of water border, straight in the land of fire.
"I thought you'd kill all in Kumo…why is the Hyuga still alive?" The masked man queried, a light chuckle escaping his lips.
"Because she provided useful information," Nagato replied, his voice monotone as his rinnegan flared, "Especially on your true intentions, Tobirama."
Tobi ducked, avoiding the massive pincers of a swiftly summoned centipede with rinnegan eyes. He merely chuckled, as he disappeared within a flash of yellow light.
The next moment, three pronged kunais had surrounded the entirety of the area, and as the man removed his mask, Minato Namikaze appeared in all of his undead glory.
But his eyes were a pale blue, far paler than the cerulean they used to have.
"My…it appears you have been sorely mistaken," the voice drawled out, "And sorely misinformed…but it does not matter. I will solve this problem, and acquire your eyes nevertheless."
"My eyes?" Nagato hissed, as Hinata jumped backwards, her eyes flickering from Nagato to…the resurrected Yondaime and viceversa.
"Indeed. Tobirama is proving to be…difficult, and lacking a Senju Dna…I'll have to do with the Rinnegan."
The blond haired man smiled gently.
"Kindly die for me, Nagato."
Then, in a flash, he was gone. Nagato could but swiftly jump forward, avoiding a rasengan that came straight to him on the side. He spun and kicked at the Yondaime's side, only for the man to disappear again, reappearing behind him and flinging down his kunai on the red haired man's back.
Nagato had but the time to throw Konan to the side, and that got him a nasty laceration parallel to his spine.
"Shinra Tensei!" The roar bellowed by Nagato's throat scattered the kunais around the area, but as the Hokage itself disappeared, he reappeared but a second afterwards.
"The attack goes in waves," he noted quietly, as he reached straight for the man's heart, "A pity that it has a five seconds delay."
"Teppodama!" The sphere of water emerged from Pain's throat, hitting dead-on the Yondaime, and sending him to fly backwards of several meters, before the man managed to regain his footing, and skillfully restart his charge.
"Banshō Ten'in!" Nagato hissed. If the Yondaime wanted to get closer…then he'd move him closer!
"Foolish." The 'Yondaime' spoke, as his cloak opened wide, to reveal seals that began to light up. Hundreds of kunais flung themselves forward, aided by the magnetic pull, but Nagato was ready all the same. The man jumped backwards, throwing straight ahead of him a large blue sphere.
"Fūjutsu Kyūin!" The blue and white sphere engulfed the Yondaime, as chakra seemingly moved from the dead body to the living one of Nagato, who appeared far more in health than before.
"This technique is how I got my legs back the first time," he muttered, "Let's see you doing anything now, Kyuubi."
A loud chuckle escaped from behind the man's back, as the three pronged kunai of the Yondaime made its way straight through the man's spine.
"Let's take them away again then!" The Yondaime's face deformed into a mask of madness, as twin blue flames erupted from the man's eyes, "You think your precious eyes see all? You know nothing! I'm the one who will have the final laugh!"
Hinata moved. Her right hand reached forward, engulfed into the fire chakra as her Byakugan activated. She ducked under a Kage Bunshin of Minato that had suddenly appeared to her side, rasengan in his hand. The sphere of destructive chakra wheezed over her head, before a sharp kick from the Yondaime forced her to parry and renounce intervening on the battle against the two destructive forces ahead of her.
"A young girl like you shouldn't intervene in a battle with stronger guys," the Yondaime's Kage Bunshin muttered, only for a tick mark to appear on Hinata's forehead.
"Was that a sexist remark you frigging…"
Minato took a step back, avoiding a barrage of fists and hits that seemed more targeted at his manhood than at his entire body.
"Hey! No, that wasn't what…" and just then, Hinata smirked.
"Got you in range. Ho Hari!" the flaming hands of the Hyuga turned into stacks of fire needles that launched themselves forward at point blank range against the Yondaime's Bunshin. The bunshin disappeared in a puff of smoke, tendrils of pale blue chakra lashing out from within its confinement, before outright dashing back towards the main body, busy battling a now staggering Nagato.
"Oh…now that did get my attention, little Hyuga," a sultry voice whispered, "A pity. You showed promise."
As the girl spun around, trying to pinpoint the location of said voice, it was too late that she realized that she hadn't actually heard it from her ears.
No, the voice had come straight out of her thoughts.
Nerve wracking pain passed through her, as the nine nines seal on her neck flared to life, forcing her on the ground as she could see with her byakugan her chakra system being broken down. The strength of the chakra itself wasn't the problem: it was just how it was silently cannibalizing the entirety of her chakra coils, removing the chakra bit by bit.
Blood escaped from the Hyuga's mouth, as she lay there, coughing and retching in spasms. When it was over, she stood as an empty shell of flesh and blood.
Meanwhile, the Yondaime simply snorted at the sight of Nagato raising his hand to conjure a small black sphere. Too fast to be seen, a rasengan found its way straight against said core, destroying the technique before it could be unleashed.
"Resorting to suicidal techniques now? It won't work." The Kyuubi-Yondaime spoke slowly, "Surrender, and maybe I'll spare her."
Nagato merely snorted, before shaking his head.
"Oh my, you got me!" The Yondaime chuckled, as his right fist drove itself deep within Nagato's guts, "You know nothing of lies and deceits." He hissed, as his left hand drove the three pronged kunai into the man's neck from the side, "And you will never know."
"Says…who?" The man whispered, as pale green chakra surrounded his body, "Maybe I don't…but if…if my dream can never be achieved…then I will erase yours too!" the wound in the man's neck closed, just as the red hair became white.
"Let my revenge be my justice, if you want my eyes, my power…then I will sacrifice them together with you!"
"Huh? What are…" The words died in the mouth of the Yondaime, as black rods emerged from Nagato's chest, hitting straight ahead and piercing through the Edo Tensei body.
"Chakra…cannon." The man whispered, as his entire body began to glow blue.
"Wait! You can't be serious!" The Yondaime snarled, trying to use Hiraishin to leave, only to find itself blocked.
"The chakra pulse is sent around to your kunais and they answer back for summoning you," Nagato whispered, "But now they pass through the rods…and I absorb them," the glow intensified, "It does not matter…you used me. You used Akatsuki. You used its members. I don't care…I'm stopping you here...Kyuubi."
"Stupid arrogant idiot!" The Yondaime snarled, "I am not even in this body to begin with! You are just wasting your life!"
Nagato merely chuckled, as the light grew even brighter.
"Maybe I am…but I'll entrust my justice, my revenge…to someone who knows and will defeat you."
"You know nothing!" and with that final exclamation, Nagato exploded in a devastating pulse of chakra, tearing apart to a molecular level even the Yondaime's reborn body, leaving behind only charred land.
Hinata's opaque eyes caught the slumping sight of Konan's form slowly get on her knees. The blue haired woman had barely stood on her knees, that her weight wobbled forward, already prepared to fall downwards.
Yet, a chest met the side of her face, and when the Akatsuki member looked at who the chest belonged to, she let out a blood curled whimper, before darkness claimed her once more.
She had thought she'd be free. She had thought everything was over. Yet why was she staring at the fallen bodies of Shikamaru, Shino, Kiba and Akamaru?
Why was she looking at an entire group of Black Ops Anbu brought down to its knees and defeated in the blink of an eye?
Why was she staring at an Iwagakure shinobi, holding upon her three tails of pure blue chakra?
And why…why was her blood boiling back at the scene? Why had the sky such a bright fierce blue up above, like if to mock their misery? Why was the plain such a verdant green and why were the leaves falling from the trees without a care, while she could feel the despair assault her soul?
"So he decided to make it difficult, huh!?" The voice of Kurotsuchi snarled ferociously, "Fine! I'll just have to rip them out from the Edo Tensei body!" She howled, before turning her full attention to the situation at hand.
"But first…you are going to come back where you belong, Kyuubi." She hissed, as Katsumi felt her stomach area, where the seal was, flare with pain and tremble, as chakra was forcefully extracted.
"That's right. Accept this deal and don't fight back." Kurotsuchi snapped, "I have waited for decades…waited and waited for this moment, since I was sealed the first time."
Katsumi staggered on her feet, clenching her fists as one of the blue chakra tails was passing her stomach side by side, turning purplish with streaks of pure red.
"Why?" She asked, her voice wavering under the pain.
"Why?" Kurotsuchi retorted, "Why? She asks why…isn't it the purpose of a prisoner to be freed?" she replied, "Isn't it the purpose of a death to have a meaning? Isn't freedom the highest thing to strive for? Or is it happiness? Is happiness in slavery better than sadness in freedom?"
"I…I don't understand."
"I thought so. You wouldn't, and you couldn't. You don't have the brains to understand it. Nobody does. I suppose we can enjoy the chat, while I absorb the Kyuubi's half from you," Kurotsuchi commented drily, as yet another blue tail appeared on her back.
"This one wasn't supposed to be here," the girl whispered, looking at the fluttering tail, "Did he lose? Couldn't be…it has to have been that other guy, the Yondaime…"
"Otousan?" Katsumi whispered, "But does my father have to do with all of this!?"
"Your father, Katsumi…was the prime culprit of all of this," Kurotsuchi exclaimed, opening her arms wide, "him and his master, Jiraiya, divided me in two! And that…" the kunoichi growled, "Was both a prize and a curse."
"Wait…you're the Kyuubi! But…it's supposed to be sealed in…"
"The Iron Seal couldn't contain a Bijuu that wishes to escape on its best days: do you really think it could contain me? The strongest of them all? Even half of my chakra would barely be contained by the Shiki Fuin! And he let me out…I did suggest it to him though, so maybe I'm to blame?" The girl teased with a light grin, "Just like I whispered in his ears for a long, long time…my hold on him is absolute, you know? Everything he does…he does it for me, because of me. And you? You served your purpose," the Kyuubi snarled, "Now…I no longer have a need for you."
The pain in the stomach grew even greater for Katsumi, who shrieked while both of her hands moved towards the tail, trying to remove it.
"Hum? Still moving, are you?" The nine tails mused, "I'll have to…oh, already here?"
Another blue tail sprouted from her back, as the kunoichi merely chuckled.
"Seems the seven tails has been sealed then: no need to keep Hashirama around…I've got Tobirama and he'll suffice." Another tail sprouted.
"You see, as the Kyuubi no Kitsune, I have nine tails," the Kyuubi spoke quietly, "Three, I kept within Naruto. One, I plunged deep within Zabuza, another in the Yondaime, a third I sent straight into Hashirama, a fourth entered Tobirama, the fifth was for Anko and the sixth I used on Hinata…then I removed two from Naruto, and plunged them in this body…and now? Now I'm getting them back. Doing so kills the hosts, but…I'm pretty sure nobody is going to mind, right?"
Sweat fell from Katsumi's brows, as her face contorted into a ferine mask of hatred.
"Oh…that face! The same face I had…come on, give it up! Give me back what is rightfully mine." The Kyuubi cooed, "Think about them, in the dirt, gasping for their last breaths as their chakra coils melt upon themselves! Think about those I killed destroying Konoha! Think those I betrayed: think…and get angry!"
Freedom is worth any price.
"No…You can't have…" Katsumi's plead was met with a light smirk.
"It's a long, long tale," the Kyuubi spoke, "but now is not the time…I've…"
Then, on the back of the Kyuubi, eight tails suddenly stood to attention, of which five were now a deep scarlet color.
"Huh?" Kurama stopped, for a second, to stare at the tails. There were eight of them. That wasn't meant to be…possible.
"Wait…Wait…No. The Kages should have killed Anko during the battle against Naruto, the Yondaime with Nagato was a coincidence, but it's fine. The Hyuga was a failure and she was there…Two were with me from the beginning…who? Tobirama? Zabuza? N…Naruto?" The growls reached a new level.
"I see…" the Kyuubi hissed, "I underestimated him." She added, "But this won't happen again." The kunoichi vowed, as the rest of the tails plunged deep within Katsumi's stomach.
"First things first: I take back all that is mine from you, then I go and kill the bastard…and nothing…nothing you can do will stop me."
"Maybe she won't…but are you sure about me being unable to stop you?" A voice inquired from the side of the clearing. It was then, that the Kyuubi turned her gaze to the side, and for once, she did, indeed, feel fear.
"Y…You!?" The roar that accompanied that question was met with the strong shaking of an earthquake, as the ground itself cracked open, ink erupting from the very soil to form chains and bindings.
"Oh my…always the potty mouth," the woman whispered once more, her red hair tied into two buns perched atop her head. Two piercings stood on her earlobes, both having papers with ink seals written on them. She was wearing a simple, light peach kimono, and her eyes were pupil-less.
"I thought I had told you once…If you use your power, only hatred will come from it. Stay tranquil deep inside me, but you did not listen: did you?" the woman asked, only to be met with a fierce violet furred claw, that dashed straight ahead to charge at the 'ghost', at the dead woman, at the haunting presence that was Mito Uzumaki.
The first Jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi, the wife of Hashirama…someone that Kurama hadn't resurrected using Tobirama. No…how stupid had she been not to consider the possibility of Naruto using Edo Tensei? But even then…why had he been freed from her control?
"You are supposed to be dead!" The Kyuubi roared, "I felt you die when I was imprisoned again! Why did he bring you back to life?"
"Tobirama left behind a sloppy trail," Mito whispered, "Probably he didn't expect anyone else with the Mangekyou Sharingan to unlock the forbidden scroll, to have his own armor and sword, to have his own blood…Naruto has been quite the infiltration specialist in his youth, don't you agree?"
"Wait." The Kyuubi murmured, "You mean he knew about the Heredity project, even before the…the death of the Yondaime? I was there! I would have known!"
"Oh my…maybe you weren't there. Maybe you were too busy sleeping, or trying to control Anko-chan's thoughts, or maybe you simply were not smart enough…or maybe you were controlled by the Mangekyou? My…lots of possibilities."
"You can't stop Tobirama, not now that we're close." Kurama snarled, "There is no way you can win: even if you seal me, I'll still…"
"Poor, poor child…" Mito whispered, shaking her head as twin tags appeared between her fingers, "You truly think I'm going to try, again, to crudely seal you? It wouldn't solve the purpose."
"I can't be killed. I'll reform. I always reform." The cries of pain of Katsumi became sobbing whimpers, as the eight tails of the Kyuubi were now a deep red. "I'll need the Nibi…but that is something Tobirama will give me once he's done cleaning house."
"Poor, poor Tobi-kun," Mito murmured, "You used him, and me, didn't you? You made a connection between us during that…drunken mistake, and from there you began whispering in his ears promises of power."
"Oh no…" The kunoichi body actually smirked, "I promised him something else…I promised him…"
"Kagemane no Jutsu." Shikamaru muttered, from his fallen position. His shadow binding technique, however, stopped mere inches away from the Yin half of the Kyuubi, as even the Kikkaichus of Shino, springing up for a surprise attack, fell dead at the beast's feet.
"Oh my…I should have drained you to death," the Kyuubi snapped, looking at the Anbu team slowly getting back on their feet, "I must have forgotten about chakra pills."
"Yeah! Fat chances of that happening miss!" Kiba snapped, "Katsumi! Snap out of it! You should be kicking her butt, not whine in a corner!"
"Correct. My methods of attack are worthless." Shino stated drily, as Shikamaru cursed quietly, trying to think. If chakra was drained, then…
"She's lying." Shikamaru muttered, "She can't keep the draining up any more than that! Kiba! Full-out! Shino, go back-up!"
"On it!" Kiba yelled, as he ferociously got on four paws, chakra springing forward from his limbs as he jumped at the target. The soldier pill, taken while the Kyuubi had begun to drain them, had been Shikamaru's idea. It had actually worked, considering they had barely survived that sort of monstrous freak. Although they did receive help in putting it down…flying help.
"Gatsuga!" Kiba's drill like motion was soon followed by Akamaru's, who however came from behind the proto-Jinchuuriki. The tails circled around the Kunoichi, flinging both the Inuzuka and Akamaru backwards, until Shino's Kikkaichus suddenly buzzed to life, finally reaching through the cracks and actually touching the woman itself.
Mito meanwhile unrolled a scroll that had been sealed in her right sleeve, and as she began to carefully brush upon the white surface with the tip of her finger, to chakra-write upon it, Shikamaru's eyes narrowed upon their enemy.
Katsumi was still halfway out like a light, not truly able to fight but not wanting to fall down and faint. She merely fought to stand, and just like that, she suddenly lurched forward.
As the Kikkaichus moved away, Shikamaru's eyes finally bulged in comprehension, seeing the red haired Namikaze punch straight through the tails at the woman's face.
"Those tails are chakra made…and the chakra is mostly Katsumi-chan's by now." He muttered, "Shino! Keep using the Kikkaichus to deliver chakra! She can't attack so close without killing Katsumi-chan too!" and there was something that ticked him off, that Katsumi wasn't meant to die until later…why?
"Naras…how I hate Naras…" the Kyuubi's voice was filled with disdain, as her hand moved to block another punch from Katsumi.
"The feeling is mutual," Shikamaru's mutters were lost in the cracking of the ground below them, as pale bone-like hands began to erupt.
"Genjutsu!" Shino exclaimed, only as a small chakra wave encompassed them all, disrupting it.
"Stop it Ku-chan, it won't work," Mito muttered, finishing the last stroke of the ink. "Immobilize her."
"Kagemane no Jutsu!" Shikamaru's low murmur of the technique was soon followed by the black streak of his shadow, erupting from the ground to land at the beast's feet.
The scroll swiftly wrapped itself around Kurotsuchi's body, pale flickering blue light emerging from within the scroll, as the seals written upon it purged the body from the hostile presence.
Minutes later, a wave of chakra detonated from the epicenter, sending Katsumi backwards, her back hitting against the earth before being stopped by Shikamaru himself, who gritted his teeth at the impact.
Kiba grunted in frustration, as he held on to Akamaru who was using his claws to keep his footing.
Shino merely stood unfazed, but he had been the furthest away of them all.
Mito Uzumaki…was gone the next moment.
Tobirama looked apprehensively from his spot at the valley of the end. Quietly, he was sitting atop the head of his older brother, looking all the more curious as to why Itachi was being so late.
He had felt Minato break off from the rest of them, to head over to get Nagato to move. That much he had felt through the Edo Tensei, but then the connection had grown blurry. Zabuza too had disappeared a moment later, but that much he had expected. After all, his plan, together with Itachi, was something far different than what the others could expect.
Zetsu was looking critically at the situation at hand, his golden eye fixed in front of him.
"Brings back memories," he bemused, "We fought here once, didn't we?"
"That you two did." Tobirama replied, his mask on his face.
"You're not really Tobi, are you?" The plant man queried.
"The Tobi you speak of is dead. You know that."
"Tsk. So much for being brought back to life." The black side of Zetsu spoke quietly, before black flames suddenly surrounded him. There were no screams of pain, as the plant-man burned to ashes. Maybe he simply did not feel it, or maybe it didn't matter any longer. The cause of the black fire appeared on the other side of the valley, however, and the Akatsuki cloak fluttered in the wind.
"My…Itachi. You shouldn't have gone that far you know?" The masked man commented drily, "You disposed of everyone?" He asked, only to receive a brief nod from the raven haired Uchiha, who brought forward the Nibi Jinchuuriki, beaten up and knocked out. Kushina was instead tied with ropes, a chakra suppressing seal pressed on her shoulder.
"It was most easy." The Uchiha replied quietly, "Shall we begin?"
Tobirama chuckled, before nodding. His hands moved through the hand signs, and the Gedo Mazo was thus summoned from the earth.
All its eyes except the Ninth and the second were now open, and for that Tobirama merely grinned.
"Seems like my brother has managed its own part…Then I can unsummon him now..." The chakra condensed around Tobirama's form, before the statue itself opened his mouth, thick blobs of energy emerging and surrounding the half-frozen and half-chained form of the Nibi Jinchuuriki.
"Everything comes to an end, doesn't it?" Tobirama whispered as the blue and golden hue of the Nibi's chakra began to enter the statue, "Just one more and everything will finally be over."
"Naruto will not be an easy opponent to defeat," Itachi commented, as his own chakra was added to the statue, in order to facilitate the removal of the Bijuu.
"What I created, I can destroy." The Nidaime merely commented, "I killed two sannins, does he really think he can beat me? Me who created him, who made him what he is now? Does he think I can be defeated by his tricks, the ones that I taught him?"
Itachi narrowed his eyes, as suddenly he pivoted on the spot, unleashing a barrage of explosive kunais both at the Nibi Jinchuuriki and at Tobirama himself.
The explosions soared atop the head of the first Hokage's statue, but the Nidaime stood there quietly, his right hand already in the seal for the Suiton: Suijinheki.
The water deadened the explosion, as the kunais scattered around and the water began to rise.
"Kuchiyose." Tobirama hissed, as the puff of smoke to his side revealed Hashirama Senju, "Take care of him." The man commented as the first Hokage darted forward, uncaring for the water pressure that composed the defensive perimeter around the statue.
Itachi had jumped backward, starting to fall downwards towards the riverbed below. That action, that movement, the wind blowing upwards against his back as his eyes settled upon the pursuing Shodaime…it was all so familiar with that time, years before, when another Senju had battle him. This time, however, would it suffice?
Was it even the same, now?
"Amaterasu." The black flames of the sharingan sprouted from Hashirama's chest, but just as they did wood grew from it, before being cut off like a dry branch, falling downwards.
"Madara used better tricks," Hashirama commented, as a wooden storm of kunais emerged from both his hands, only to be blocked by a purple colored and enflamed armor.
"Susanoo, huh? It never gets old." The first Hokage muttered, "Useless, but still." The fall was abruptly stopped by a wooden platform that had grown, in the span of few seconds, from the ground itself. Itachi's Susanoo impacted with its back against the bark, before wooden pillars began to constrict and surround it.
"Do you know what my real strength is, Uchiha?" Hashirama whispered, quietly standing atop a wooden tree, sprouted from the very cage that seemed to hold still Itachi's Susanoo.
"It's Growth. Wood is but a byproduct, but the truth is that Growth is two-fold. On one side, I grow," at those words, flowers began to sprout from the bark, "on the other, feeding must be provided. So as one side grows, the other drains." Hashirama's words were met with the sizzling noise of chakra being absorbed from the Susanoo's ribs.
"Uchiha chakra is always so…cold, dead, horrid. Hatred fills your every moment, anger, rage, violence…such fate is your curse, isn't it?" The man added, before suddenly arching an eyebrow, "How quaint. You're different."
"Fate…is bullshit," Itachi hissed, the Susanoo's armor disappearing as thick white fog exploded literally around them, "What matters…is what we decide for ourselves."
"Kirigakure no Jutsu? Are you really, really going to…" the fog exploded in a deafening explosion of electricity, as the wood itself cracked and splintered.
Hashirama's chest was torn apart by the lightning jutsu known as the Raikiri, as Itachi merely kept his hand stuck deep within the man's chest.
"Maybe you're right," the Mangekyo sharingan twirled, his gaze locked with that of Hashirama, "but even if that is the case…I do not believe in you."
Swiftly, Itachi disengaged the hand and dashed to the other side of the riverbed, with Hashirama in quick pursuit, the wound already closing up the second the hand had been removed.
A wooden sword met a chakra enhanced one, and even though the Shodaime's one was splintered, from the cracks more blades grew, forcing Itachi to disentangle his own or risk having his right hand skewered.
The Akatsuki cloak was thrown straight ahead, and beneath it Itachi revealed an Anbu armor and twin Konoha chakra blades strapped to his chest. The third one in his hand was spun rhythmically as the sharingan traced the movement of the splinters and of the seedlings that seemed to sprout from within them.
"I changed a landscape, but Madara had the Kyuubi with him," Hashirama pointed out, "You hold no chance."
"I know," Itachi replied smoothly, "No need to repeat yourself," the man added, "but after all…I'm not alone, am I?"
Chakra chains suddenly surrounded Hashirama's composition of trees, tearing them downwards as the red haired woman known as Kushina Namikaze entered the fray from her side, while the one chained and chakra-less disappeared into a puff of smoke.
"I'm still not convinced!" Kushina yelled, as more and more chains began to wrap themselves around Hashirama, "But just this one time, I'm taking a chance!"
The chains began to bulge, as they soon ended up being destroyed by the growth of more and more trees around Hashirama himself. The time that Kushina had given him, however, had been more than enough for Itachi to charge yet another Raikiri.
Just as the assassination jutsu landed, once more, against Hashirama's chest, so too did wooden spikes erupt from the man's own body, piercing through the Uchiha's armor and grievously injuring him.
Yet Itachi moved backwards, as more and more splinters…
"That, won't, work." Hashirama drawled, as the scene around him wavered and then broke, thousands upon thousands of flowers releasing a thick amount of pollen while branches smashed his own brain apart, before the Edo Tensei built it back.
"I fought Uchihas before, for years and years I did before peace was signed. You think I never faced Izanagi? Izanami? Susanoo? Amaterasu? Tsukuyomi? I faced them all! I…" the first Hokage exclaimed, as cloth bindings began to swirl around him, "This is…oh."
The next moment, Hashirama disappeared into ashes, a corpse been left in its place. Kushina had barely turned her gaze to stare at the bleeding Itachi that twin fists landed straight upon her face. On one side, Rock Lee with fire in his eyes, on the other there stood Sasuke Uchiha, while Neji was standing guard near the bleeding body of Itachi, Sakura already at work there.
"We're back and this is the mess we have to face? Sensei…I hope you know what you're doing." Neji murmured, his byakugan eyes settling their milky white gaze atop the head of Hashirama's statues.
The white and red Hokage's robes were flying in the wind, as twin cerulean orbs stared ahead, where a statue with eight open eyes stood. The wall of water had fallen down, to reveal the Nidaime in his armor, standing in front of the statue, only one eye remaining.
"So kind of you to come here," Tobirama mused, "I was thinking you'd be late," he added carefully, "But you wouldn't be, would you?"
Naruto said nothing: his eyes merely flickered from the now dead and cold body of the Nibi Jinchuuriki back to Tobirama himself.
"Right about now, my associate is capturing the nine tails," Tobirama added dutifully, "I'm sure you know, by now, who it is. I did consume Orochimaru to understand your ploy…that's why I'm here, holding you to fight instead of letting you go to kill Katsumi. Can't have…"
For a brief second, Tobirama merely looked with a kind of surprised face at Naruto, before it turned into a deep scowl of rage.
"How did you get…"
"Balanced, you mean?" Naruto candidly replied, raising an eyebrow, "Turns out, and this is a funny story, there's a kid called Sora that had been bestowed with some of the Kyuubi's Yang chakra after the beast's sealing. I might have crystalized it, and used it for my own gain." The Hokage retorted, "Once she was removed from my body, leaving behind but a figment, I could naturally balance it out, tap her out, and block the connection. I'm free. No Kyuubi in me any longer. You want your nine tails? You'll have to kill the nine tails itself."
"Why are you fighting me?" Tobirama queried, "You read my writings, didn't you? Weren't they helpful? Didn't you model yourself after me?"
"I remembered…I merely remembered who I was," Naruto whispered back, "You see, I did, at first, grab a hint of the Heredity project when I bestowed upon myself the remaining eye of Shishui Uchiha, after a nightly infiltration within the Hokage's tower. The scroll was there, ripe to be opened and read. I didn't actually think I'd find anything interesting except the Kage Bunshin…turns out there was far more in there."
"So you read it all?"
"All. And…for a while, the idea was fine." The Hokage muttered, clenching his fists, "Even then, I had grown blind. There is nothing fine in what you were planning to do!"
"So you cleaned the POWs camps, backed away…it's not going to stop me."
"I know," Naruto whispered back, "I know. The Pows, the idea of selecting genetical traits so as to ensure perfection…but I must ask…how long was it, since you last read your own words?"
"What are you talking about?" The Nidaime queried, his eyes narrowing as the crack of thunder became more pronounced around them.
"You wanted to transcend war by making it fruitless and pointless. You turned to the objective at hand and came up with the Edo Tensei as a key point of it. The problem was the requirement for it to activate: somebody had to be alive in order to start the summoning procedure, because it was a required sacrifice."
"By using the prisoners of war, one could with little problems bring back entire civilizations, as long as even a small amount of body was recovered," the Nidaime nodded, "The great knowledge of the past, the greatest minds, the greatest achievements…everything could be brought back, and made immortal and indestructible."
"Yet it had a flaw, didn't it?" Naruto whispered, "You'd have to destroy thousands upon thousands of lives just to save the same amount."
"No, it wasn't that. It was the requirements. You might think that Hashirama is strong, but world leveling? Could he destroy an entire nation? No, he could not. Could he kill an entire army? No, he could not. Could I? No. Could you?" at that, the Nidaime grinned, "The more the generations pass, the stronger they become, the more they overcome the boundaries of the old ones. Genetics at its finest claim that from two distinctive beanstalks, the most predominant traits are the most like to be heredities…so what I actually needed was some way to make the numbers more manageable."
"If you can't work with millions work with dozens," Naruto snapped back, "You began experimenting on the population, unknown by them you used the water source beneath the Senju compound to corrupt the drinkable water, and from there you started working on achieving a new level of default for the shinobi power."
"Indeed," Tobirama nodded, "Chakra Coils were the first part of it. They had to be wide enough after all, to grant the user a chance with overpowering jutsus. From there, I simply worked on making sure the new generations would be born better, stronger, faster, smarter…the Nara clan? A byproduct of mind enhancing spillage. The Akimichi clan? A byproduct of strengthening and mass. The Hyuga themselves are the result of mingling with the Senju and Uchiha Genoma, and the Rinnegan? That I must say…was a pleasant surprise."
"You performed experiments on the population, created the clans and governed them, even though in your writings you claimed the Hyuga had come at the same time as the Uchihas…those were lies."
"Had a look at their charters and the dates of my diaries, didn't you?" Tobirama retorted, earning a scowl back as a reply, "What can I say? I had to be sure: double sure, that nobody would touch my plan that wasn't…selected for the purpose."
"How much of it was a coincidence?" Naruto queried, "Me with your sword and the armor on, saying those words in the library? How much coincidence and how much planned by you…and by the Kyuubi?"
"Coincidences do not exist in the shinobi world," Tobirama spoke, making a 'no-no' gesture with his right hand, "I had to be pretty sure everything would work as expected. I had to make sure you'd follow the right path, mine. After all, I couldn't have you chicken out halfway through. Let me tell you this though," the second Hokage added, "I wanted peace. I still want peace. It's not too late to join my side, you know?"
"Then how about answering me a question? What are you actually doing with the statue? What is its purpose, if you actually don't need it?"
The man's face turned sour, as no reply came back from that mere and simple question.
"I thought...I thought you'd understand me." Tobirama spoke quietly, "Did my teachings not reach you?"
"That they did," Naruto replied, in a low murmur, the Raijin humming at his side, "But even then, I chose my path."
"This will only lead you to despair and sufferance. This will only lead to your fall."
"Then so be it: let it come. I will accept it when it arrives, and I will fight it with all my might…destiny holds no sway over me."
"I see…well, if the truth is something you cannot tolerate, then so be it! You will face it! Face it like those before you, those that will come and those that are here now! There shall be no peace, until darkness has devoured us all!"
Naruto closed his eyes, taking a sharp breath, before shaking his head.
"I refute those words! I renounce that theory! I am not your second coming!"
"You can try…but too long have you walked in the darkness, Naruto…too long have you followed into my footsteps. Too long have you acted like I would have done, too long have you been me…there can be no other outcome, no matter what you do!"
The wind blew through the charred land that had witnessed the fight between the Yondaime reborn, and Nagato.
Now silence stretched widely through it, dust being the only thing lifted around the two shinobis, the two so similar to one another to be far more than brothers: more like clones.
"I will still hunt down the Kyuubi," Tobirama added quietly, "And I will take the power of the bijuus as mine."
"I will stop you."
"Your own self is against you, and you have yet to realize it," the Nidaime chuckled, shaking his head.
"Oh no…" the Godaime Hokage replied, in a low murmur, "should I be shocked? You forget: I am your second coming in thoughts, after all…"
Silence came for a moment, before the Hokage finished his sentence, "But unpredictability…that's my forte."
Tobirama's eyes narrowed, as he began to hum a light jingle within his throat.
"So…So…Oh…Well…if that's what it is…then let's see, hum? Let's see if you know or if you just think you know."
And then the clash happened.
The Raijin met a blade of pure thunder, held by the Nidaime.
The sword creaked under the strain and the pressure, as a typhoon roared above the heads of the two similar clad shinobis, who fought to overpower one another.
On one side, a man who had fought tooth and nail for respect, power, glory, who had backstabbed and hit, who had murdered and ordered murders, a man that had walked through the light and the darkness, throughout the entire spectrum of possibilities…and had come out as Naruto Senju, the Godaime Hokage of Konoha.
On the other side stood the peak of the shinobi's world in terms of cunningness, of looking beneath the surface, of betrayals and of masquerading one's own thoughts. The Nidaime, Tobirama Senju, in his immortal body that lived because of the Edo Tensei, and that had destroyed Konoha, and had ordered the destruction of all the other Shinobi villages…for peace.
And yet both danced to the clawed hands of the third one, who looked and chuckled and waited.
Even though his or her body had been destroyed by Mito's Fuinjutsu, he or she just had to wait, and decide. The first one to fall would become its new host. Either of them would be enough to overcome everything else, and she…she'd finally be free once more.
Free and complete, like it was meant to be.
"You know you're being used," Naruto snarled, his right fist driving itself through Tobirama's cheek, as the Genjutsu disrupted itself from the attack.
At the same time darkness descended upon the Godaime's eyes, while the Nidaime's left leg snapped at his kneecap.
Twirling on himself, Naruto's left elbow impacted against the opponent's sternum, as a pulse of chakra later he knew where to charge.
"You are the one being bullheaded," the voice came from the left, but Naruto parried a blow from the right. The chakra condensed, before exploding, blinding his chakra senses. As a hit came from above his head, the Hokage disappeared in a puddle of water, emerging right next to the Nidaime's side, tagging him with an explosive note.
The note did not detonate however, as the ink left the paper and stuck upon the Godaime's own armor, exploding and releasing splinters of armor forward. Blood splattered through the air, as Naruto made but a single hand sign, swiftly followed by the hail of blood-senbons that pierced through the Nidaime's own armor.
The man did not as much grunt, since he felt no pain after all, there wasn't a need to. The Raijin activated just in the nick of time once more, parrying what looked like javelins made of electricity. At least, if Naruto actually had an inkling of what they were made like: all he felt was the ozone in the air suddenly increase, and because of that he used the thunder sword to block whatever jutsu was coming his way.
The sword's handle began to crack, and as the blind eyes of the Godaime narrowed, the sword was sheathed once more. Tobirama's hand merely gestured for the water to appear, transform into a lance-like shape, and then be flung through the sparks of electricity that ran through his body.
"Eeny, meeny, miney, mo…four I throw, how many caught?"
"None," Naruto whispered back, as his own hand went through the single gesture for a Kaze no Yaiba to depart from the tip of his fingertip.
"It's pointless," Tobirama retorted, "I have unlimited chakra. Must I repeat myself? You cannot hope to achieve victory. You should just retreat and leave."
"I can still seal you."
"And then I'd be free, if you ever managed that feat. Only I can dispel myself: so why would I want to?"
Naruto stopped to breathe, closing his eyes since darkness was surrounding him nevertheless.
"You wrote with alacrity against the Hyuga using their caged bird seal. Was all that false?" The Godaime asked, his voice rising, "Were your words on the next generation, on becoming the first through construction, and not destruction, all but lies? You wanted to be recognized as the first, and many even now do so! Why did you choose this? Why did you let hatred guide you? It wasn't the darkness that swallowed you! It was you who chose! We are always given a choice! We can choose!"
"Choice is but an illusion!" Tobirama snapped back, "You will never understand, will you? Have something precious taken away by the sheer hands of fate! Knowing that you won't get them back, no matter what! You know not of war! You saw it happen, you fought in it, but did you feel the pain of it? Did you lose loved ones? Did you hold them as life left their bodies? Where you told of your children's death? Did you howl in rage among the battlefields, showing no quarter and no mercy!? You knew nothing of Pain but he was your enemy nevertheless! You know nothing of me yet I am the one at fault! You know nothing at all yet you claim you're right! You are pathetical!"
"Then tell me," the Godaime hissed, "Tell me and let me know. You think me stupid." Naruto added, "Know thy enemy, and thyself, and no battle can be lost. I know of Pain, of who he was, of what he became. I know firsthand what it feels like to lose someone close to us, I know what it feels to have one's own heart rend out and smashed for the world to see. Half my life was a lie! The other half was controlled! Yet I stand here against you and you don't even ask yourself why!"
"What is it? For the next generation? For a brighter future? For the dream of peace that can't be achieved without sacrifice? Humor me, Blood-soaked Hokage, my second coming, the frozen wave, destroyed of countries and merciless killer. Humor me!"
"Because I'm selfish." Naruto whispered, before clenching his teeth and staring dead ahead, at where he supposed Tobirama was. "I'm selfish, because only selfish people wish for something they don't have. I want peace. I'll never achieve it and I know it. Yet I want it…but peace cannot be achieved through blood, or deaths. Hatred is a circle that can't be broken unless both sides agree to it."
"So destroy one side," Tobirama retorted, "and the other will obey."
"And in the end, you'd be king of nothing."
"Better to be a king alone, than a servant of the masses."
"That's bullshit! Kages are born to protect the village! We are the first and the last line of defense!"
"Against what!?" The Nidaime chuckled, "Against samurais? Isn't the army enough? Against brigands? Thieves? Murderers? Aren't we shinobi that however? We guard against ourselves. We protect ourselves. We claim we are useful, but to what purpose? We live in the shadow and guard those that live through the day: yet is it true? We are born by the selfish desires: you are right on that regard. For money, we kill. For money, we destroy. Point the finger and off we go, murderers legalized! Thievery granted! Isn't it just the little perfect world? Shinobi against shinobi, while Daimyos dance upon their court. And yet…yet when it comes crashing down, we are called for peace, aren't we?"
"That's not what we are at all!" Naruto snapped back, "We are humans too! We bleed and cry, we are not just tools of war and deceit!"
"Repeat it, keep on saying that, and eventually, will it be the truth I wonder?" Tobirama commented with an amused chuckle, "Answer me! You who destroyed a village, you who killed infants and mothers alike, together with kids and mere Genins: how does it feel? Is their blood not enough? Yet you used this entire plot to fight off Kumo, didn't you? Wasn't New Kiri submerged by Itachi? Didn't your student receive orders to fight off Moryo in the swamp? Who told him that? Who told him to prepare for that ambush? Why not warn the others? Why only him? You wanted him to succeed, did you not? While the others failed, you wanted him to rise above the others. As an act of pardon against what you asked Itachi to do. Yet it wouldn't matter anyway…would it?"
"You are weak, Naruto Senju…or should I say Uzumaki? Or Namikaze? Who are you? A maelstrom, or a fishcake? How can you be the child of the prophecy, I wonder, if Jiraiya never trained you? How can you bring peace to the shinobi world? Aren't you just the child of destruction, after all?"
"I know of the prophecy, the toad told me," Naruto whispered, "And you know the funny thing about prophecies?" He added, soothingly.
"That they always have a way of becoming reality." Two arms bind themselves around the back of the Nidaime, as a white haired figure of clear demonic origin snarled at the sight of the grey haired man.
The Shinigami itself licked upon its blade, before the blond haired man that held the jutsu, and the second Hokage, came into view in a fluttering of his own shinobi robes.
"What…Nagato destroyed you!" The accusation of the Nidaime was met with the mere narrowing of Minato's eyes.
"I know what he did, but you never had all my body, did you? When I did die…I was brought back again."
"Time delayed Edo Tensei Fuinjutsu," Naruto mused, "wins every time. Terminate the Shiki Fuin! Let's get this over with!"
And just as Minato's body nodded, an extremely shrill voice rang from the back of Naruto's throat.
"NO!" the yell, so strong and fierce, was accompanied with a titanic wave of chakra, that all in one bulged through Naruto's chakra coils, as the Kyuubi's presence tried to return within the boy's body, "You blocked me out! But it's not enough! I'm not going to…"
"DO it!" Naruto gurgled, as his consciousness was abruptly jolted from his body, to stare face to face at the Kyuubi's body.
The purple fur seemed greyed out, as the, normally clean and useable room, was cracking and tearing itself apart. The mirrors were all shattered, except one that seemed to be staring straight ahead at the Shinigami. The walls broke, revealing a scene of hell and damnation around them. Deep blue fires erupted from a volcanic eruption-like place. The Kyuubi itself roared, as its nine tails swiped the area, its claws pointed at Naruto.
"You think you can stop me!? You think I'm going to sit here, and watch you destroy all that I worked forward to!?"
"Yang can be grown again," the Godaime whispered, his eyes bulging in realization, "but Yin cannot, isn't that right?"
"You will not condemn a part of me to oblivion brat! Remember my words! You treacherous backstabber!"
"Listen who's talking!" The snarl came at the same time as Naruto dodged a claw swipe, trying to reach for his Raijin, only to realize it wasn't there.
"Do you wish to be dead?" The Kyuubi replied, "To eternally sleep within the Shinigami's grasp? To never let your eyes open to the light of the day? To be at peace? Forever, and without troubles? Do you seek the escape from a reality of pain, of darkness, of hatred and of despair?"
Naruto shook his head, the memory assaulting him like a deep blanket, trying to suffocate him within it.
"I…" Naruto's words died in his throat…what about Kaa-san? She'd certainly cry, blame Konoha, and leave to drink her sorrows away. She lied to me, used me. She's no longer even worthy of being called mother.
What about Anko? She'd never realize the beauty of Ramen over Dangos. We loved her and she betrayed us. We gave her the world and she stabbed us with it. She smiles while we cry within ourselves.
What about Itachi? Would he still go on, laughing and smiling, or would he revert back to being the serious and stiff boy the clan wanted? He was the first to betray, the first we forgave. He was used, he is still used. We use him to make him pay, we know it, but we do so nevertheless.
What about Jiji? He used us. And Uncle Jiraiya? We never even met him! What about Neji, who he had saved from becoming a fate-crap follower? We gambled with his life! What about the truth? Living one's lie was better! What about Shizune-Oneesan? A betrayer like Tsunade! She had to know! What about Kakashi-Niisan? Loyal to the charge, not to the person! What about Yuhi-san! Used us for money! Ibiki-san! Betrayer! All for a sick and twisted love! Teuchi and Ayame-chan? Wasn't it for the money we brought to that stall? What about Konoha? They spat on us when we were weak! They venerate us because we are strong! What about the chameleon summons, that counted on him to kick salamander's ass? They wanted us for strength and strength alone! To prove to the salamanders who was boss! They are worthless!
Who do you think you are, to claim you're right? You liar, you deceiver, you backstabber, you monster! You claim darkness hasn't swallowed you? You claim you have escaped it!? I'm here! I have always been here! Look into the mirror, Naruto! Aren't we one and the same!?
The voice came from around him, and yet it was his. He knew the voice. He knew who it belonged to. He knew that, deep down, the voice was right.
"No…" the weak retort was drowned by the fierce roar of the Kyuubi.
"Even your own self is conflicted! You cannot defeat me! I will be free, and I will be whole once more, because I am the Jubi! Nothing will stop me, and the world will once more know me! It will fear me, and…"
"Stop that. Stop doing it. Stop it," she sobbed, "You're father. You saved me, you're kind, you're gentle, you help people without even thinking about it, you helped Neji, you love Yumi, you love the stall girl, you have an insane passion for ramen, you're loved by the people, Sasuke and Neji would die for you, the students you taught come by to speak about their problems to you, they trust you, I trust you, we all trust you and love you and no, I don't want to lose you to your own thoughts. So stop it…please…please just stop."
"That's Kakashi," Naruto whispered, "And if one must look underneath the underneath, then answer me: who is my comrade? The people who share my symbol? The people who share my village? Those who share my ideals? Those who share my blood? Those who share my surname? Those who share my hair color, my eye color, my skin color? My comrades are those I choose to be such." Was that his voice? Were those his words?
"Being Hokage sucks." Being Hokage opened my eyes, is that the excuse?
"You need…" TO DIE.
"Because, Hinata, tomorrow the sun will rise, the baker will bake bread, the shinobi of Iwa will walk upon the rocky path of Iwagakure's stairs to take a mission from his Tsuchikage, the Kyuubi will snore, the leaves will move because of the wind's breeze, the ground will dry, the water will be drank, the food eaten, the clouds will move unfazed and nothing, nothing at all, will change. Death is nothing, compared to life."
Life will always win over death.
Live with it.
So do what you think is right, do what you know is right, cry if you think it's worth it, laugh if you think you want to, and never, ever, feel the need to excuse your actions to me, I trust your judgment.
"I…I…get it," Naruto whispered, his right hand jolting forward, chains erupting from within it, "maybe, in another time, in another place, things would have gone differently, but right now…right here, in this moment, you are threatening my family. The ones I love, the ones I trust, the ones I wish to protect. I will stop you until I draw my last breath. I will fight you until I have won." More and more chains began to sprout from the volcanic ground itself, as the nine tailed fox came with its claws inches from smashing Naruto itself.
"If I'm conflicted, I'll smash the opposition!" He yelled, "If I'm afraid, I'll destroy the cause! If I'm in doubt, I'll annihilate the question! I care not to think, when I can act! You make me doubt!? Then be gone! Trust isn't given or taken, it's always there! It's to us to open our eyes and see the truth! No matter how ugly it is, I don't care! You're going down, and if I'm evil, then so be it! If I'm a savior then so be it! I am what I am! I am Naruto! I am…ME!"
The chains split and divided, as more and more appeared from the sky itself, landing down with the strength of comets, while followed at the same time by Torii gates, that blocked the entirety of the Kyuubi's body.
"You think you can control me? You think you can take me over?" The Godaime snarled, "I'll fight you tooth and nails, I'll fight you until you surrender and shrivel and die. This is my body, this are my actions! I don't care about your influence on me! I'll tear you to shreds! I can live without you! I will live without your powers!" And then, Naruto clapped both his hands together, and the chains constricted while the Torii gates shrank.
Slowly, ever so, the Kyuubi was reduced of size, until Naruto screamed few final words.
"Your lies no longer work on me!"
With those final words, massive gates sprung from the sides of walls made of chains that had erupted from the ground, closing themselves upon the tightly compressed ball.
"And stay there!"
With that final warning, Naruto's consciousness returned, finally, to the world.
The air smelled of charred wood, when the Godaime finally opened his eyes again. The Nidaime's husk was laying on the ground, next to the Hokage's and that of the Gedo Mazo. Unknown to him, he had unwittingly missed the final stone on the Jubi's tomb.
Tobirama had tried to conjoin with the Gedo Mazo to activate it, but the shinigami instead had outright reaped both his soul and that of the statue together with Minato's own. The result had been the explosion of the statue, and seeing how Neji seemed to be holding him on the side, it was probable he had been knocked back quite a bit.
"Is it over?" Sasuke's question hung in the air, as the Godaime's eyes went to the prone form of Itachi, ankle deep in the riverbed below the valley of the end.
"That depends." Naruto whispered back, "Is it over, Itachi?"
"It is, Naruto." The Uchiha replied, one of his eyes closed, "But Izanami did not work. I couldn't get Hashirama on our side."
"Mito-san is going to be so sad about that," the Godaime retorted, only for a light snicker to echo in the air.
"It is fine, Naruto-kun," the feminine voice came from a strange ink-black portal that had seemingly appeared on the side of the wall. From there, Mito had stepped outside, soon followed by team Kage and Katsumi, of all people.
"I placed an anchor seal here…it was my favorite picnic spot, before someone decided that trashing it in a battle royal was a fun thing to do," the woman spoke light-heartedly, but it was clear she was waiting for something.
"You're free," Naruto commented, uniting his hands and going through the hand symbols to terminate the technique.
With a light nod and a small smile, the Uzumaki woman simply disappeared in a column of light.
"Oniisan," Katsumi whispered, moving slightly closer, on her wobbling legs, "The…the Kyuubi is…"
"It's still here, but I'm keeping him under wraps," the Godaime tapped gently upon his stomach, "Yours on the other hand has been silenced, if I'm correct…now the seal should be more than enough to hold it back."
Katsumi's eyes merely began to tear, before launching herself to embrace her brother.
"Hokage-sama," Shikamaru muttered, being held up by Shino, "Please tell me I'm not going to become Hokage after you."
"Oh. No! I wanted you as Orochimaru's new apprentice…but it appears he's been kill…"
"Please," the slithering voice of the snake sannin echoed from behind their backs, "to kill me would take far more trouble than it's worth." Kiba himself jerked in surprise, as his neck was sporting an outright protrusion that looked similar to a small white snake.
"Gack! Get him off me! Off!" The white snake merely jumped out of the boy's skin, before peacefully settling on the ground.
"Nobody kills me if I can avoid it," Orochimaru added chuckling grimly.
"Remind me of it," Naruto retorted, before a voice piped in.
"Uhm, sensei? Not that I'm bothered that you told Sasuke but not me, but…would you mind explaining?" Neji's question was met with a thoughtful gaze from the Godaime, before the man himself shrugged.
"Sure! But first, let's get out of here, okay?"
"Kaa-san?" Katsumi's worried tone was met with Sasuke and Neji averting their eyes from the scene, as both had, maybe, exaggerated a bit in putting the woman 'down'.
"She's fine Katsumi-chan," Naruto murmured back, "She's not in any trouble at present. You'll be able to talk to her a lot afterwards…for now we have to go back home...and…wait a minute."
It was but an instant, but Naruto was no longer there, instead having shunshin'd back to the top of Hashirama's statue's head.
There, his eyes scanned the undergrowth of the forest, before taking a couple of hesitant steps forward.
"Come out…I'm not going to hurt you," he whispered, extending both of his hands forward and wide.
A small tuft of grey hair appeared from behind a bush, and when a pair of eyes, one green and one blue, met his, Naruto's breath all but stopped for a second.
"Tobirama?" He whispered the name gently.
"H…Hai." The young boy replied.
"I'm…I'm your father."
"Ah…I…I was told…I was in Konoha, but he…he kind of took me here again…" pointing at the still body of the Nidaime, Naruto merely nodded grimly, before moving closer and closer to the boy.
"I'm sorry…" the man muttered, as he got on one knee in front of the little kid, "I'm sorry I wasn't there."
"It's okay," the boy replied, "I'm a grown up, I can take it."
"I'm going to hug you now," Naruto simply stated, as his arms wrapped around the boy who merely returned the gesture, "My son."
And in that silence, in the silence following the aftermath of a battle that might have just as well decided the destiny of the shinobi nation, a grown man and a kid…wept of joy.
What do Izuna's eyes have to do with everything?
The Mangekyou sharingan appears (in canon) to be a key component to free the Kyuubi once it's sealed. Tobirama knew that Madara could control the Kyuubi with it, thus in the frame of time before the Uchiha challenged Hashirama he plucked Izuna's eyes out, de-facto one of Izuna eyes was used in conjunction with the other one from Obito (that Tobirama stole from Obito's corpse after taking on his 'mask') in order to be able to use techniques like Amaterasu and the likes. (Furthermore, to try and control the Kyuubi)
Who are the two who brought Katsumi out? One was the Edo Tensei Minato (under Obito's orders) the other was Suigetsu (Under 'originally' Obito's orders, in truth double working for Naruto)
Is Itachi alive or dead? Pretty much alive.
How will the zombie duo fare against Gelel powered soldiers? They fared pretty well, me believes.
Is Konoha doomed to death by the unstoppable Nidaime? Well, it was trashed and destroyed, but the Nidaime was 'expected'.
What does Karin's action mean? Karin pointed out who was the most 'culprit' in the game of giving the fault to another.
Why is Konohamaru willing to go to Sasori of all people? It's not willing, but remember that Konohamaru was one of the kids 'kidnapped' by Yugito? Gaara did bring them back, but not before Sasori managed to mind-control one of them. That was something Naruto actually planned, (since his Heredity knowledge spans since Shishui's implant of Mangekyou and his nightly visit at Hokage tower for Kage Bunshin)
What the frigging hell is Heredity!? Heredity project is, to be specifically explained, the conjoint usage of two factors:
First, the increase in power of the shinobi generations, to increase bloodshed, death, and by paramount ways lower the number of persons the second factor is to be applied to.
Second factor is the POWs (prisoner of war camps) to be used to outright 'zombify' the population. Doing so makes it immortal, indestructible, without need of sustenance and thus…peace! The only problem would have been the 'sacrifice' for each of them. For that, the Nidaime had (Firstly) thought about using the Jubi, because ying+yang=creation. The removal of memories, swapping with first/second/third head was done because the Nidaime had, at first, thought about instead using the very own 'ancestor' of Sasori's jutsu to modify people's memory. (Which then led Naruto to use said system by analyzing Sasori's, through Konohamaru's lab-rat status)
Oh and…concerning Konoha's water…
Recall these lines here?
"And really, (The age difference between Hinata and Hanabi is of 5 years, yet she's seen sparring against her…at an eight years versus three? And she loses against a three years old? I hope not.) I've seen all types of small kids growing into tough as nails fighters…and I'm always perplexed. Must be something in Konoha's water."
The Ploys used, the possible destination this fic could have had, and what happened in the end.
The ploys are as follow, please read this carefully if you didn't understand just what happened.
Kyuubi's ploy: Whisper in the ear of the Nidaime to get him to take back all other pieces of him, and then become whole again. From there move to destroy the world. Problems along the route: The Nidaime couldn't manage in a lifetime, so the Kyuubi tried to get the Nidaime and Naruto to cooperate, by sending Naruto on the same 'wavelength' of the 'corrupted' Nidaime. Using the Yin tails, she could enter and control other people's dreams and desires subtly. Thus she went about 'corrupting' ideas in order to ensure unification once more.
She tried to convince Yamato to change side, as shown when the man gives Hashirama the seven tails without questioning, while in truth it was a ploy (see below). The Edo Tensei Hashirama and Minato, while created by the Nidaime, were also under the Kyuubi's orders.
Nidaime's ploy (divided in Corrupted and Uncorrupted):
Uncorrupted: Knowing his mind was slowly changing, he realized it had to do with the Kyuubi's influence within him, but could do nothing at the present, or in the decades to come. Seeing a chance after getting the Gedo Mazo, he decided to risk his luck by claiming the Uchihas as Madara (following Obito's own ploy), the need for a purebred Uchiha was because the Kyuubi couldn't be controlled by something that wasn't the Mangekyou, and in the event of his departure, more than one was needed.
However, it slowly began to change and become less about 'controlling' the Kyuubi, and more about going onto a different path, the Heredity one.
Heredity (Uncorrupted)= It was meant as a way to increase the power of Konoha, through back-handed means that would have made Orochimaru look like a newt, peace would be achieved by superiority of the genetical makeup of future shinobis, and the creation of clans through that.
Heredity (Corrupted)= Edo Tenseing everyone in Konoha, using the Jubi to supply the Edo Tensei Jutsu requirement. Mad as it was, it seemed such a bright idea.
Corrupted (comes first): Having learned of Heredity project, seeing the requirements and the notes left behind, having obtained the info from Itachi about what would happen to Kumo and New Kiri in time, he set about Edo Tensei-ing Mito Uzumaki, to bring her on his side. Secretly he warned Sasuke and had Itachi give him the sword of 'sealing' for fighting Moryo, who would ambush them in the swamps. Sending the land of iron into chaos with the destruction of the mountain thanks to a well-placed Kamereon and Shiromari, he used Karin to be sure of who actually possessed the fault. His plan was to later wage war upon the land of iron with the power of the Gedo Mazo, after stealing it from Akatsuki, and becoming the new 'peace-regulator'.
Corrupted-Evil=He would have used Itachi to later kill Katsumi, before the ninth tail could be absorbed, thus avoiding the Jubi unification and foiling the Kyuubi's plans.
Corrupted-Redemption= He would have sacrificed himself to save the rest. The Nidaime would have been freed from the Kyuubi's grip, and would have proceeded to get his redemption.
Uncorrupted= Realizing just how down he had fallen, the plan would proceed like the corrupted version in order to avoid the realization from the Kyuubi, but once separated, through the usage of Yang chakra, he'd balance the Yin with the Yang, in order to grant back the single tail of Yin chakra to the Kyuubi while keeping his own life with it. The seals placed to prevent the Kyuubi's remerging with Naruto fail towards the end, and he is forced to make a stand. Actually knowing what is going to happen, he asks Yamato to play along, handing over the seven tails so that, once the Gedo Mazo is nearly completed, he can use a delay-timed Edo Tensei jutsu to resurrect either himself or Minato, in order for either to use the Shiki Fuin and seal the statue, and Tobirama, in order to avoid the return of the Jubi.
Shion, Amaru, Shinno and those who were not presented at first were to be, but I later realized that adding them would have just prolonged the 'agony' of the readers, waiting to see how the story would have ended.
(Furthermore, the Amaru-Shinno land of sky thing went nearly the same way, except the No-Tail was trashed, Shinno killed, and Amaru kept to operate the thing for the evacuation part.) Shion was freed from Moryo's grasp, (albeit if you prefer to think of her dead, it's your call) and she went her way.
Endings for all!
I left the end 'open', but I'm going to give you the usual 'this is how I would have written about, you go your own way if you dislike them'
Kushina is pardoned, she gets along with Katsumi but is no longer a part of Naruto's family, (albeit he does tolerate her) the sacrifice of Minato's own soul makes Kushina bitter with Naruto.
Katsumi actually marries Shikamaru, of all people (being rescued has this effect).
Ayame goes with Kakashi, who's actually alive.
Orochimaru (after getting a body he can actually call his) gets along well with Tsunade, albeit he kind of has to look out for strange thunders falling from the sky every now and then.
Sakura and Sasuke marry. Go and have fun mentally SasuSaku fans.
Karin actually goes with Kiba. (Don't look at me, Kiba *is* kind of a second Naruto when push comes to shove)
Hinata is brought back to Konoha. Having suffered severe chakra backslash from the Kyuubi's own removal from her coils, she no longer can use chakra. (This isn't bashing. Original plot was to have her die right there and then) However in the course of years she reverts back to the normal/non-creepy attitude, she gets Sutego back from Orochimaru and raises him.
Suigetsu's 'other side' of the deal is Zabuza's sword, that Itachi delivers him after destroying the Edo Tensei Zabuza. (If you'd rather have him freed together with Haku to enjoy a Yandere/Zombie relationship, your call)
Naruto slowly becomes a sort of easy-going Hiruzen, but doesn't reach the hyperactivity or the happiness of a normal 'canon' Naruto. Furthermore, when the time comes, he outright seals the Kyuubi within himself, and carries him to his death.
Yumi grows up to become known as the 'Apple of Konoha', something to do with Apple-based Genjutsus.
Tobirama becomes the Rokudaime Hokage, while Shikamaru after the training with Orochimaru takes on the mantle of snake sage and becomes the general strategist for Konoha.
Anko is kind of the 'divorced' wife that still lives with the family. However, lacking the Kyuubi's control and corruption, she slowly comes to term with the fact, and tries to honestly regain Naruto's love. Whether it worked or not is something no-one, but the reader, can decide.
Neji actually gets accused from Tenten of peeping one too many time, and the two go along from there onwards.
Then there's Ino-Shino (don't ask) if you want, or otherwise forget about pairing everyone up.
Yamato's daughter (who was Yumi, actually) comes to term with who her parents are, but still goes with both.
Konan will be later seen banding together the ragtag groups of shinobi that survived all the 'village' exterminations. They would finally enter Konoha as a whole, and through the destruction of the shinobi borders, peace would at last come by uniting everyone under a single banner: Konoha's. (A and Mei were against it, in principle, but mellowed after realizing they actually had no home to return to)
At first, my idea was to make a bitter Kyuubi who's only purpose was to be killed in a sort of exemplary suicide, because 'the price of immortality' is loneliness. Then I realized that the other Bijuus would still be around, and thus changed it to a Kyuubi who wanted to be rejoined to the others and would lie her way all throughout the plot in order to get there.
Really Final Words:
If, by any chance, some piece is still 'not' clear, do not hesitate to ask. I'll pm you the reply without problems or maybe outright write a final chapter with the answers. As with most of my fics, the ploy works but I'm unable to render it openly, because after all, the more one rants the less I find the battle actually to have a sense. (I kind of stretched it a bit with Tobi versus Naruto and the others, but even then)
If, by any chance, the chapters get corrected/edited, then maybe, maybe, this chapter might be reworked in order to be 'less rushed' and more 'human'.
Till then, this is the ending. These are the 'ends', and…I hope you enjoyed it.