Awareness returned suddenly, as if a lighting switch controlling life and death, which had been turned off for Sage only knows how long, had been brutally forced back on despite the wrongness of the act.
And yet the man could see only darkness before him.
"Where am I….?"
The man breathed in. Death. A smell he of all people was intimately familiar with. This tiny, confining chamber he stood in reeked of the smell of buried corpses and other unpleasant things that, once buried, were never meant to stay gone and never walk the land or see the sun again. For the man, a lover of freedom, this was anathema.
He hated this smell. He hated this chamber. What was Obito doing, having Nagato revive him in such a vile chamber? The least that Obito owed him was to personally greet him upon the climax of the promised day…the day marking the end of this corrupt and self-hating world. It was only then, in the immediate aftermath of the Juubi's revival, that the alternately divine and demonic beast would be weakened enough to be subjugated. Not even the Rinnegan alone could subdue and tame the father of the Bijuu at his full power. The Sage had made that clear in the final passages of the Uchiha Tablet, those passages that the Sage had meant to be read by the Uchiha-Senju mongrels who were meant to succeed him. A pity that that hadn't worked out. The man wondered…what would the Sage, who had failed in so many things, think about him? The Sage had meant for the children of the reconciled and united Senju and Uchiha to revive the Juubi and use its power to create a true heaven on earth.
A pity that that didn't work out, but if nothing else, the Sage was a failure in all things.
After waiting a few seconds for either Obito or Nagato to address him, the man impatiently raised his arm and let forth a great blast of chakra. The sight that greeted him was…unexpected.
"Where am I?"
The man was expecting to see Obito and Nagato standing before him, with the Juubi's empty shell somewhere in the vicinity. Yet neither his Uchiha sight or his chakra sensory abilities, boosted a hundred fold by his incorporation of Hashirama's power, could sense any of his legacy in the immediate vicinity. He could only see what appeared to be a fairly typical rocky desert of northern Wind Country, with a disheveled and bandaged man sprawled across the ground; the man had clearly been taken off guard by his chakra blast.
Flexing his stiff arms, the man was grateful to Nagato, presumably under Obito's orders, for not botching the resurrection. He could feel that his powers had been returned, and that his chimaera body and eyesight had been placed into his body as it had been at its height, just before his battle with the Shodaime Hokage.
"So it finally happened….it would appear that that little brat Nagato managed to grow."
The bandaged man got up onto his knees and stared in barefaced shock.
…"It can't be….this next summoning is…hahahaha, you must be…that they would even use you….whoever's behind these Edo Tensei summonings has a strong understanding of this war."
The words registered. This was not according to plan. The man looked at his hands, and seeing the cracks in the skin and the pale, waxy luster of his arms, he knew the truth. Sniffing, he realized that he still reeked of death and loam.
"Did you say Edo Tensei?!" Isn't that the technique known as a complete atrocity against the entire flow of life and death in the universe…?!
'Obito, what are you doing?' Edo Tensei is sacrilege. Tobirama was a fool to create this black jutsu. Hashirama sacrificed his life to stop Tobirama from ending the world with this jutsu after his wife and children were murdered, and the Sarutobi brat had the technique sealed. Why did you revive me in such a state…..?'
The bandaged man spoke. "Come, great one. We have a war to fight. I am….or was, the Nidaime Tsuchikage. The two men started walking to the east, from where the sound of far-off explosions could be heard. The man turned and stared at me in question. "We fought once before….if you still remember…?"
"I remember. You are Muu. Tell me, for how much longer did you survive after we fought….and what of your brat apprentice?"
"I didn't live long. Your actions at the Western Uchiha hideout caused the first Shinobi World War. A few months after the battle between us, the Nidaime Mizukage and I killed one other in a naval battle for control of the northwestern trade routes."
Madara scoffed. "A battle? Of your entire army, I only let you and your apprentice walk away alive, so that you could live to tell stories of my power."
Muu sighed. "Yes….that worked. You left Onoki and I on the verge of death. I lost many good, loyal friends that day, Uchiha. You, a single man, destroyed several regiments of our best shinobi all on your own, when we'd come in peace to discuss how the peace between our villages, after Hashirama gave us the Yonbi and Rokubi, should be structured. Hashirama came as close as any man since the Sage himself in achieving world peace. You murdered thousands of good men and women that day. Because we'd thought that you were still a part of the Leaf at the time, we blamed Hashirama…..that was the start of the curse of hatred between our two villages. All five of the Great Villages sent entire regiments of Hunter Nin after you once word got out…but no one could ever find a single piece of evidence about where you'd gone. Because the other four villages aside from Konoha thought that Hashirama was hiding you, we took revenge. You caused the first Great War, Madara….I assume that we've been summoned to fight in another Great War of the cycle that you caused. I see now how pointless it all is. How badly the world was misled by one man. …But, where did you go? No matter where you'd gone in the Elemental Nations, a hunter team should have eventually found you."
Idly glancing at the great sandstone pillars that defined the geology of the northern Wind Country, Madara smirked. The sounds of battle, once loud, were now fading down. They were getting close now. 'Our side must be losing…I'll have to fix that.'
"Once you see the techniques I use in this war, I think that you'll be able to figure it out. I went…travelling, after the battle at the Western Hideout."
Muu sighed. "Enough of your cocky bullshit, Uchiha. You've caused the world enough grief without adding me to the mix, especially now that we're both dead. You weren't in the Elemental Nations. You must have travelled into the Unknown Territories surrounding the elemental nations….the lands of the summoning animal tribes. What were you searching for….?"
Madara gave Muu a sharp glance. The battlefield was now only minutes away at their current leisurely pace. "There's no reason not to tell you. I went searching….for the ancestral lands of the Sage of Six Paths. After abandoning the village that the Senju and my traitor Uchiha brothers built, I aimed to become the greatest warrior in history, to rebuild the world in my own image and tear down Hashirama's village and everyone in it. I traveled, using the Uchiha Hawk summons, to the other side of the world…to the Great Crater. I fought and defeated the summon tribes guarding the Sage's home, and took from them the Sage's Six Tools and the three Imperial Treasures. The Kyuubi, whom the Cloud had previously and foolishly hunted down in the Western Wastes, was also at the Sage's home…..guarding the grave of his father, I suppose. Aided by the artifacts I'd stolen from the Sage's home at the edge of the Great Crater, I enslaved the fox and returned to the Elemental Nations, blasting my way through the bending nomads of the northern Barren Lands above Snow Country, the ninja of Snow Country, and the samurai/shinobi joint army of Lightning country, killing hundreds of thousands along with the Shodaime Raikage…and eventually faced Hashirama at the border of the Fire and Rice nations."
Muu quietly said "You're more evil than I ever could have imagined, Madara…it's no wonder that the Edo Tensei summoner saved you for last. What happened at the border?"
"I lost. Despite how powerful I'd become after looting the Sage's home and enslaving the greatest remnant of the Jyuubi, Hashirama had become even more powerful. Instead of seeking power by selfish methods like I did, he became a true Sage…..the greatest Sage that this world has ever seen aside from the Rikudou Sennin. He learned to speak with the spirits of the land itself and make them fight on his behalf….forces that had been sleeping ever since the sealing of the Jyuubi. Hashirama could regenerate any injury within seconds and raise pieces of entire continents to fight for him. Our battle formed the mountain ranges of Fang Country, flattened Rice Country, and dug out one of the greatest canyons in the world…the Valley of the End. I had to fake my own death to escape, and escaped as a mere cripple due to a burnt out chakra system because I'd channeled too much of the Kyuubi's chakra, but I took with me one of Hashirama's severed limbs…and swore vengeance."
The sounds of battle had gone entirely quiet now. Muu and Madara were close now.
"I retreated from the world…using my abilities, I could observe the entirety of the Elemental Nations. I could see how I'd ruined the world's chance for peace. I saw you and the Mizukage kill one another. I saw the First World War….the only war that the Jinchuuriki were unleashed in. It was much worse than the second and third wars. Hashirama died stopping his grief-enraged brother from using the most advanced form of Edo Tensei…opening the gates of the underworld. I saw how pointless my entire quest for revenge was. I saw that I'd laid the groundwork for the pointless death of millions. I saw that I'd given life to an entirely new and worse cycle of hatred, mere years after Hashirama had defeated the prior cycle by taming the Bijuu alongside me. I saw the woman who once loved me die in battle against the Stone by your apprentices' hands, her final words cursing my name."
"I see now how pointless it all was. I lived on, Muu. For decades. I aged into an old man….." Madara chuckled. "Who would have ever thought that I of all people would live to a ripe old age? I awakened new abilities, took on an apprentice, and laid the groundwork for creating true world peace….which, if my guesses are right, this war is the determinant of. My remains were utterly sealed. My minions should have impenetrably sealed them away in a preserved state for decades, until the climax of my plan….when my remains should have been unsealed by my apprentice and used to resurrect me. No one else would have been able to gain access to them. I personally saw to that. Therefore, my apprentice must have revived me….he will answer for reviving me in this cursed body."
'Where is Nagato? Where are my eyes?'
The battlefield was only a few hundred feet before them now.
Muu shook his head. "Madara, all I can understand right now is that you're responsible, in some form or another, for all four of the Shinobi World Wars. You've killed millions. You ruined the peace that Hashirama nearly achieved more than half a century ago….enough scheming. Isn't it time that you let the newer generations take over?"
Madara scoffed. "Hashirama's peace wouldn't have worked. He was only the latest of the countless 'peacemakers' who have sprouted up ever since the time of the Sage. They have all failed. Hashirama's peace would have eventually also failed, like all the other 'messiahs' who came before him. Even the Sage failed. We're human, Muu. Violence and hate come to us naturally as with no other creature. When I explored the Unknown Territories, do you know what I saw? That we humans are the only sentient species that kill one another. We are the true monsters of this world. To achieve peace, I must completely destroy the cycle of hatred….by destroying hate itself. That's what this war is for. To make humanity forget the instincts of hate, ambition, and revenge. That is the only way to achieve peace. That is the only way to save our race...from ourselves."
The battlefield was nearly in sight now.
Muu, eyes downcast, asked "Is it worth it? Is taking away our free will, the only thing that really distinguishes us from the rest of the world's creatures, worth achieving peace?"
Madara answered "I've come too far, sacrificed too much, to turn back now. I must believe that it's worth it, or else my entire life would have been pointless. History believes that I achieved nothing with my life except spreading darkness. Tomorrow's history, if I have any say in the matter, will no longer say such."
They had arrived. Madara looked down upon the battlefield, from the edge of the sandstone cliff he stood atop of. He could see hundreds of ninja before him, with thousands more in the background. It appeared to be an entire division of ninja. The ninja were clearly shocked to see Muu, but only a few could recognize the warrior in red armor. His activated Sharingan eyes took in all of the details. He saw shinobi wearing the attire of all five nations before him, even an extremely aged Onoki, standing next to a red haired Sand ninja and a blonde Konoha nin wearing orange and black. All three radiated power, but only Onoki seemed to realize how dire his situation had become, if his saucer-wide pupils were any reliable indicator.
Inwardly, Madara chuckled. Warts and liverspots and wrinkles aside, this expression looked exactly like the one that had been on the brat's face the last time they'd met. Some things never change.
And so it begins….