Chapter Fifty-Five

Iwagakure's air smelt like ashes and molten metal. The incessant drumming of machines from the very mountains was everywhere around the shinobi village. One of the reasons all Iwagakure shinobi learned their namesake technique 'to hide in the rock' after all was to manage to sleep in peace and quiet, without being disturbed.

Across the gates, the Iwagakure Special Forces were currently trying their best to appear calm. In reality, they were outright going through every single known alert code they knew or had even a remote inkling of to get as much attention as possible on the Southern Gate.

That was because at the gate in question…was a visitor.

Differently from Konoha, that was hidden in the forest but easily accessible, or Kirigakure that was on an island and guarded by fearsome fog banks and jagged underwater reefs, Iwagakure's location was secret. It was the type of secret not even Iwagakure missing-nin could reveal, because the entrance itself changed every time.

A set of tunnels interchanged with one another before leading to the empty chimney of the dormant volcano upon which rested the village hidden in the rocks. That was on the good days, of course. On the bad days, the tunnels led to active magma pits actively patrolled by Iwagakure High Jounin, or in the middle of dangerous traps made to maim and kill the assaulters.

Konoha had its seals, but Iwagakure had the strength of nature herself on its side. There were not only jagged cliffs and tall mountains separating Iwagakure shinobi from the main trafficked roads, but also narrow rivers and a set of maze-like bridges to boot.

The visitor did attract attention, not only for his shoulder-length blond hair which ended in spikes of black or for the giant Butcher Cleaver strapped to his back, but also because he had no forehead protector, yet wore a chuunin flak jacket.

The cerulean eyes seemed icily cold as they scanned the gate guards, but the Iwagakure shinobi weren't trained to simply shudder because of a piercing glare.

"So, when is the Tsuchikage coming down here?" Naruto asked calmly.

"He will be here when he decides to be, shinobi," the gate guard snarled back.

"So…before the end of the day? How do you get light down here anyway? I'd think in the middle of a volcano there'd be a darker atmosphere."

"That is an Iwagakure secret," the guard replied gritting his teeth.

"We use mirrors, brat," the Tsuchikage appeared in a flicker, lifting a light sheen of dust as he landed. "Ah! I knew my hopes were well placed!" the old man snickered as he rubbed his hands together, sporting a small smile. Oonoki of Iwa's smile was anything but nice —it was a mixture of a snake having caught its prey and a ferocious wolf readying the mortal blow upon a deer— but Naruto returned it with one of his own.

"How could I refuse? It took me some time, but I did manage to reach here." His answer met with a gruff strangled voice from a nearby guard. To them it was probably preposterous to talk so casually with their Tsuchikage.

"How did you get past the tunnels, brat?" Oonoki asked then, his eyes narrowing slightly.

"I didn't, I just carved my way through in a linear line," holding a grin, Naruto produced a rasengan in his right hand. "Surely, you can do the same now?"

"Few of ours can," the Tsuchikage acquiesced, "But we'll have it learned in due time," Oonoki turned to the guards and the assembled Jounin —who had actually answered the call because of a 'visitor' at the gate.

"Listen up brats! This here is an esteemed guest of the Tsuchikage, the son of the Yondaime," gasps and glares echoed in the assembled shinobi force, "And a nuke-nin of Konoha! Before anyone thinks about backstabbing him or poisoning his tea, think what would taste sweeter: the death of the Yellow Flash's only son, or him swapping sides! And if your answer is still the first, then know that if you even try…I will not have mercy upon you, or your families."

That quieted down much of the assembled ninjas, who still kept their gazes of diffidence up…or simply faked their hostility disappearing well enough.

"Follow me," the Tsuchikage commented, flickering on the nearby rooftop. Naruto followed him, his feet landing on the hard stone before dashing forward, standing to the side of Oonoki.

"So, why did you choose Iwagakure in the end?" the old man asked, his voice neutral and controlled.

"You want to use me, I want to use you," Naruto deadpanned. "I'm not one for circling around the issue, Tsuchikage-sama."

"Enough with the empty words and gestures then," Oonoki grumbled, "Call me 'Jiji' from now on, nephew."

"Oonoki-Jiji?" Naruto brought up an eyebrow, "You're actually sentimental about these things?"

"Kurotsuchi is my only granddaughter," the man replied. "I might have the will of the stone to sacrifice her for a just cause, but that doesn't mean I can't wish for her happiness in the end."

There was half a threat in those words, one Naruto picked up easily. "Of course I'll make her happy, within the limits of reason."

"Very well," Oonoki jumped over one last rooftop, before landing on the roof of the Tsuchikage's tower. The construction looked like a giant castle, with the top cylindrical and with small windows, difficult to access and completely different from the layout of the Hokage's tower. Smaller towers popped up from its sides, giving it the appearance of a tree upon which mushrooms had grown from its sides.

It was then, that Naruto gave a full look around the village.

The buildings were all cylindrical, carved out of the rocks themselves. A bit in the distance, water rushed down in streams from crevices and cracks in the walls. There were few trees, sparse and in between, all covered in a light sheen of fog and dust. If not for the coloured tops of the buildings themselves, he would probably never have seen the rooftops to begin with.

"We should discuss business," Oonoki affirmed as he opened a hatch on the roof, before jumping down.

Naruto followed, closing the hatch behind him and landing in a softly lit room, where a deep crimson carpet laid across the floor. There were sculptures on the left side of the office, which accurately portrayed the Tsuchikage both of the past and of the present.

"You were taller when they made your statue," Naruto deadpanned, staring at a muscle-bound giant rendition of Oonoki —which screamed 'fake' over a thousand times over to his senses.

"I was young and reckless," Oonoki acquiesced, a smile on his lips. "And a bit high-strung on getting it 'to emphasize my good points'," he chuckled, "I scared the sculpture so much he had a heart attack by the time the statue was finished."

Naruto nodded, his eyes then settling on the Tsuchikage's now sitting form at his desk.

"Judging by how you came here alone, and with that sword on your back, I can reasonably understand what is going on," Oonoki said with a feral smile. "You faked your death, grabbed that sword, and went on a nice killing spree over the border of Kumo and Kiri to start a war. Then, under orders from the Hokage, you came here alone to later prove that all along you've been working for Iwa. In that way, you'd get Kiri and Kumo's weakened forces to pass through Konoha to reach Iwa."

The Tsuchikage's eyes shone darkly. "Then, with three battling and weakened countries, Konoha would be able to completely assimilate them."

Naruto blinked.

He…He took a step back. He didn't like that tone at all.

"Of course, this is only my supposition, a supposition stemming from being an extremely paranoid, old and cranky third Tsuchikage. Furthermore, I wouldn't have publicly announced you as a turncoat of Konoha for no reason too, if I didn't have my own share of earning to get from this," the Tsuchikage gave a dry and sly gaze towards Naruto.

"You mean, grandsons?"

"Yes, but that alone could easily be obtained by knocking you out cold, getting what Iwagakure needs and then slicing your neck. Of course we'd have to deal with the Kyuubi afterwards, but I have no doubt we could still seal it away," Oonoki shrugged. "No, there is a reason I'm dealing with you, one far more simple and easy to understand."

"Ah, now I get it," Naruto retorted, nodding sagely. "You don't know if I can slip through your grasp or not, right?"

"In part," the third Tsuchikage grumbled. "That slippery technique of your father killed many, and I will forever curse the day he created it, but that is not still enough to warrant aiding you —whether you're a spy or not, and whether you're worthy of it or not."

"So there's more I can do for you…like aiding you take the Land of the Moon?"

"Precisely kid," Oonoki smiled, "The Land of the Moon is rich, filled with Casinos and entertainment industries of various kinds," his old fingers tapped on the desk. "Many legal, many more illegal everywhere but there, but that alone would not be sufficient still. I can still try my hand and get it without dirtying myself too much…no, there is still one more thing you being on my side entails."

"And what exactly is it, then?" Naruto's eyes narrowed, as the Tsuchikage quietly unclasped a scroll.

"It discredits Konoha. It discredits Konoha extremely," he stood up, letting his Kage robes flap loosely. "The son of the Yondaime, who was the most powerful shinobi of the land of Fire… the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki, an Anbu and personal guard of the Hokage…changing sides, like this? Without an alliance in place, whether you're a plant or not, your mere presence here gives me enough to take away more than half the business of Konoha," his eyes glinted.

"You'll suffocate Konoha economically," Naruto mumbled, his right hand up to his chin, his eyes closed. "And even if I'm a plant, you'll press me as much as you can before I give."

"Within reason of course," Oonoki said, bringing up his hands. "I need grandsons after all…and you said it yourself, with your 'use and be used'. You want to use Iwa as a shield against your actions as a missing ninja? I want to use you until you nearly drop dead from exhaustion."

"We'll have to make conditions however," Naruto began. "I do have the interest of becoming the next Tsuchikage."

"You do?" Oonoki's eyes widened for a brief second. "Either you're the gutsiest plant I have ever seen, or you really did not think of using Iwagakure as a shield for your actions to let Konoha save face," he exhaled, shaking his head slowly. "Very well, but in exchange I want Konoha's security details."

"I don't have them. I ranked as a Tokubetsu Jounin after my period in Anbu training ended. They never saw fit of giving them to me," he turned thoughtful. "I can give you something else however, but for that I have more conditions."

"Oh? And what is it that you'd sell for even more conditions? The Hiraishin? Did your father actually leave a written record?"

Naruto smiled. "That's my insurance. I'd think the entire village of Konoha knowing how to use said technique would be pretty devastating, don't you think?"

"And you wouldn't give it to them all while you're still alive because of the potential for abuse…but as a deterrent, I admit I'm intrigued. Summoning charged to hold the scroll, I suppose," Oonoki grumbled. "Well brat, at least you have a decent head for contingencies," the Tsuchikage sighed.

"Not that I was planning on doing anything with a strong arm. You are probably one of the few Jinchuuriki that remains in the grasp of a village. Whoever holds you can easily topple the situation around the world," grumbling, he moved to get his pipe. "So, what's your deal?"

"I reserve the right to retreat on missions involving Konoha shinobi I personally know," he began softly.

"Wait. You're not against doing missions against Konoha?"

"Konoha is just a village," he retorted. "It never was 'home'. Just a mass of buildings, a mass of people, a mass of individuals who go about their daily lives…"

"Uhm…" Oonoki turned thoughtful, "Go on then, I'm listening."

"I'll fight your missions, but I want a mask and a codename for it. Let Konoha know I'm on your side, but let me fight anonymously. If they know where I am…"

"They'd prepare countermeasures or try to take you in, while if I don't reveal you publicly in battle, they can still cling to us lying to bolster our strengths," Oonoki actually nodded emphatically. "That's a reasoning I can go behind."

Naruto swallowed. "And that is pretty much all there is. You can treat me like you would any other shinobi of Iwagakure."

"That's a pretty tall order. So, what do you have?"

"I know the Kage Bunshin technique, but of course I'm without the scroll for it," he smiled. "I'll have to teach it to someone, and considering its chakra requirements…I say I could teach it to my son or daughter when they come of age."

Oonoki smiled.

He smiled and chuckled then with glee. "Ah! It really is a pleasure doing business with you, Naruto Namikaze! Very well, I accept your terms," from the desk, Oonoki took out an Iwagakure headband and a Jounin flak jacket. "And to prove to me your trust, as well as getting you acquainted with the village…" here the Tsuchikage's smile turned feral once more. "I'll hand you over a team of Genin. Better to start learning about responsibilities early on, right?"

"And Genin don't have techniques I could steal or learn given time," Naruto deadpanned back. "And since I'd have to protect them, I wouldn't be able to slip away unnoticed during the missions, which would be D-ranks within the village for at least a few months."

"Glad to see you've got a brain behind your mouth," Oonoki moved, to stare out of the window. "I know it might seem sudden, or hypocrite of me to say this, but you know…in another life, in another time…your father and I would probably have been friends," he chuckled quietly. "He had the same eyes as you and I do."

"What type of eyes?" Naruto asked, loosening his Konoha headband to replace it with the Iwagakure one.

"Cold, uncaring…yet fuelled by something beyond mere anger or resentment. The eyes of a determined person shine through the darkest of nights, you know? It's those types of eyes that belong to people who simply won't die without putting up a fight," Oonoki smiled, "Those are good eyes to have. Careful not to let them become dirty."

Oonoki crossed both hands behind his back and walked to stand to his side. "Let us walk now, I'll show you around the town properly."

Naruto nodded and quietly, he followed.

There was much to see and little time, as he soon found out. Iwagakure had a ground level riddled with fissures and deep rivers that multiple bridges crossed.

"On that bridge I fought Uchiha Madara himself," Oonoki said, his gaze lingering over a particular red-painted bridge with a small shrine at its end. "It is where I and the second Tsuchikage battled him anyway, and he wiped the floor with us both," he chuckled. "He was a downright bastard."

Oonoki spat to the side, before grumbling and taking a deep breath. He began to levitate a moment after, "Trouble of getting old," he explained, "Is that you end up with your bones cranky before long. Once I used to run around this village, now I can barely take a few steps."

"Are you trying to fake weakness?" Naruto asked calmly, raising an eyebrow. "It fails completely. I know you aren't weak, Tsuchikage-sama."

"I said to cut it with the honorifics," Oonoki smiled. "Very well, the market's a bit bare at present, what with the tensions high and the road's condition…" he gestured to a variety of stalls filled with all sorts of things. Ranging from penchants and medals to steel kunai and armours, it had an impressive display for being 'bare'.

"We supply the majority of weapons and armours the Land of Iron needs," he puffed his chest up. "And many more villages and suppliers come to us for the quality of our steel. Even Konoha, begrudgingly, prefers Iwagakure's steel to that of other countries," the smirk turned feral, "Our blades can cut through anything."

"And your shields can block anything?" Naruto continued, knowing where this would go.

"Then, what if they both meet?" Oonoki added with a gleeful chuckle. "Ah! I knew you would have known one of the oldest tricks in the book! So, what is the answer you gave?"

"The one who strikes better, who position himself better, who is better…that is the one who survives," Naruto retorted. "That was my first answer, but my teacher corrected me on that."

"So what did he answer?"

"If you give the enemy the time to take out his shield, then you're a failure of a Shinobi and should go back to the academy," Naruto quipped. "He was very incensed on having the right mentality for the right mission."

"Was he a member of the Special Forces?"

"He was their chief for a while," Naruto remarked dryly. "You shouldn't know him."

"I don't," Oonoki retorted. "It doesn't mean I won't find out, eventually." He stressed the last part out, before walking the last steps of the cobblestone road that led to a pear-shaped mansion that nestled for half of it into the mountainside itself. There was a pool of natural water collected from a river nearby that branched off, the other part falling down in the city's lower half.

"Maybe," Naruto looked up, craning his neck to take in the mansion in its entirety.

"This is the Tsuchikage's mansion. It's where you'll live from now on anyway," Oonoki shrugged, before gesturing him in.

"You can start calling it home," the old Kage snickered as he stepped in after him. The floor was made of smooth marble, and the smell of sulphur came up strongly from a door further down. "The bathrooms are at the end. They are natural hot springs. One of the few benefits of having a hidden village in a dormant volcano is that hot water is always available," chuckling to himself, the old Tsuchikage headed in the kitchen.

"This here is Junko; she's the housekeeper and one of Iwagakure's finest Kunoichi," the woman that met him with a crossed look was a tall and stern-looking ninja, dressed in formal mission attire and holding her dark eyes fixed on him as if he was some sort of monster. The looks of the Konoha villagers returned to his mind, but this time he snarled them down.

He had grown from being a boy scared of his own shadow and the whispers; he had grown from being afraid of the glares. He would be doing the glaring from now on. His gaze went past the woman to the plates she was setting on the table.

"Ah, Tsuchikage-sama, do we have a guest?"

"Yes Junko, we do," Oonoki smiled. "Let me present to you Naruto Namikaze."

"It is a pleasure getting to know the son of the man that killed my father," Junko smiled.

"Well, you can't choose who you are born to," Naruto replied smiling back, "But you can choose whether to pick up their mantle or not, and I refused to pick up my father's."

"Well, that's something we will have to see," Oonoki hummed thoughtfully. "Is Kurotsuchi still training outside?"

"She's in the bath right now," Junko acquiesced.

"Oh, very well," the Tsuchikage sat down, "Please, add another plate. We'll discuss everything over a nice warm lunch."

Somehow, it felt more like two sharks were about to meet one another, rather than two people about to have lunch.


"So, is there anything else you can tell me about him?" she asked, eying Sasuke's form. His body was tense, his face pained as she had him recall everything he knew about his brother —what little details the rest of her investigations hadn't turned out.

"No, that's all," Sasuke dryly replied, a grimace settled on his face. "You won't be able to defeat him alone, you know that?"

"I'm stronger than I was at the academy, Uchiha."

"It's not a matter of strength," Sasuke murmured. "It's a matter of mind," he chuckled. "It took me a while to understand his words. You are really going to fight someone who had no qualms in killing his entire clan? How are you going to find him to begin with?"

"That is for me to find out," she retorted, "Thank you for your time, Uchiha."

"Listen to me for a moment!" Sasuke snarled, "If you even think that going against him head on is what will make you win, then think again! He will demolish you! He will tear apart your mind and strike you down!"

"It doesn't matter," muttered Sakura, "At least I will have fought."

"Go on then," grumbled Sasuke. "Go on to your death!"

Silently, Sakura walked away from the Inuzuka's grounds and towards the main road to the centre of Konoha. It wasn't the first time Sasuke had said he had told her everything, only for her to suddenly remember a different question to ask the next day. She'd keep on coming back until she knew everything, and then when all the information available was possible, she'd fight and kill him by herself.

That man had dared to take away from her the most important thing her life had. She was not going to let it go. She would avenge Naruto.

"Cherry," a male voice, coming from a nearby rooftop, distracted her long enough for Sai to land and stand next to her. "I saw your forehead's shining beacon and came."

"Forehead jokes are old news, Sai," Sakura retorted gruffly. "If it's about that dinner, I'm not…"

"It is a mean to socialize with other from our own generation. What little of them remains," Sai added. "There will be no refusal to participate from you, Cherry. I can paint you a dress if you don't have one."

"Are you telling me you will go with your clothes painted on you?"

"Painted clothing is a fashion statement," Sai remarked. "It's…clothes, painted on a naked body. The ultimate form of Schrodinger's reality: is the person dressed or not dressed? Until one touches her, she is dressed. When one touches her, she is naked."

Sakura sighed. "Being with Jiraiya turned you into a worse pervert than before, Sai."

"Jiraiya-sama taught me many things," Sai admitted. "He taught me where the G-spot is. Did you know it's…"

"I'm a girl and a medic! I know where the hell that spot is!" she retorted hotly, her face heated from embarrassment. "Really Sai," she groaned. "If I go, you promise you'll let me leave early?"

"The moment the first of them leaves," Sai said with a knowing nod.

"I'll be the only girl, I just know it," Sakura sighed. She yawned slightly, bringing her right hand up to her mouth. "Do I really have to go? I'm tired from listening to Sasuke's 'You-won't-win-you'll-just-die' crap."

"Yes, it will do you good. Socializing helps people forget their worries," Sai remarked, "By looking at how others live their crappy dickless lives."

"That's…I don't think that's how it's supposed to be, Sai," Sakura exhaled loudly, shaking her head. "I'll catch a nap and be there."

"Don't worry, I'll come and wake you up," Sai retorted. "Maybe I'll use a bucket of water. If I wet you enough, do you grow roots?"

"No, but if you try that I will personally castrate you."

With a bright smile, she flickered out of the road and onto the nearby building's rooftop. From there, she jumped down once more in front of her house, and entered. The moment her gaze went to the fridge, she just knew the scene would be the same as always.

Fuu was sticking her head in the fridge.


"Uh?" the girl replied, emerging with a dried sardine in her mouth like a cat caught with its paws on the jam. The sardine dangled from her mouth for a moment, before she quickly swallowed it whole.

"You're going to spoil your dinner," Sakura hissed.

"That's stupid," Fuu snickered back, "You can't spoil a dinner. It doesn't like things."

Sakura slumped down on the chair in the kitchen, letting go of the pile of papers she had in her hands and closing her eyes. A cool touch soon came gently to her temples, as Fuu pressed over her forehead a cold bottle of water.

"Here!" she chirped happily. "Everything went well?"

"No," Sakura groaned.

"Oh…uhm…" Fuu turned around. Sakura could just imagine her trying to come up with something to continue the conversation. "Why are baby showers done without babies?"

"What?" that question was strange even for Fuu's parameters.

"My team's going to hold a baby shower for one of my teammates who's pregnant! But the baby isn't born yet, so why is there a shower without the baby?"

"It's a way of saying they'll buy gifts a baby might need, and 'showering' him in gifts."

"Like what?"

"Like…I don't know, a crib?"

"But isn't a baby going to die if you shower him with a crib? Even I know that much," she said proud of her statement.

"You don't actually shower the baby with the gifts," Sakura exhaled once more loudly. She was going to have her hair turn grey before long. "You buy a gift, and then hand it over to the expectant mother. It's as simple as that."

"Oh, good!" there was a heartbeat of silence. Literally, Sakura could swear her heart had given off a single beat, before Fuu asked once more. "What do you gift a baby?"

"What does the mother have already?"

"Don't know."

"What would she like?"

"Don't know."

The way she replied made it clear she was trying to rope her into it. "When is the baby shower going to take place?"


"Tomorrow? Good," Sakura opened her eyes then. "You mean you have to buy the gift today."


"And depending on how long it might take, we will be out also during the night," Sakura continued.

"Uh? What? I don't know…"

"We'll eat dinner outside."

"At Hebi's?"

"Yes, at Hebi's," Sakura muttered. "Anywhere but here, where Sai can find us."


"Because he wants us to go to a horrible party," Sakura snapped back standing up quickly. "Let's go out and buy a nice teddy bear, all right?"

"Yeah! For me?"

"Well…one for you and one for the baby then," Sakura added, being particularly festive at the thought of avoiding the 'socializing' with the shinobi of her age. She was already at the door when Fuu commented offhandedly.

"Good! You know it's going to be a boy?"

"Yes? Nice to know," Sakura stated while plainly uninterested about it if not for the mental note of buying —if a teddy was not found— a cerulean baby dress.

"Uh-uh, and she's going to call him Naruto, like his father."

If Sakura's neck could have spun faster, it would have. "W-What?"

"Naruto! It has the same name as Naruto, but it's not our Naruto. At least, I think it's…when two people have the same name it's…"

"Ah…" Sakura exhaled in relief. "Yes, I understand. When two people have the same name it's said they are one another's namesake."

"Oh," Fuu blinked. "So it's a Naruto namesake?"

"Maybe," Sakura shrugged. "It is curious though…who else would call their son after a topping in ramen?"

"Someone who likes ramen very much?" Fu hazarded.

Sakura kept shaking her head all throughout the day. Even as they settled for a teddy and a couple of clothes, there really was no way to keep Fuu away from the Hebi. Therefore, she completely missed the signs of the trap springing, when she entered Hebi and found herself sitting at the same table as Sai and the rest of the 'same-age' shinobi.

If looks could kill, hers would have murdered Sai in an instant.

Shikamaru Nara, Chouji Akimichi, Kiba Inuzuka, Ami Satou, Shino Aburame…broken teams, reformed teams, dark eyes…they all shared the same look.

She, Sai and Fuu completed the table. There was an empty chair, for someone who apparently had yet to arrive. The only one that could possibly join them would Neji Hyuga, if he ever decided to leave the door of Hinata's room unguarded.

Thinking about Hinata made her grimace. The timid girl of the Academy replaced with a ranting lunatic, unable even to remember herself, was a harsh and bitter pill to swallow.

She smiled forcefully towards Ami, who returned the smile before sweetly saying.

"Ehi, Forehead Girl, you trying to get in Sasuke's pants now that Naruto's dead?"

The Hebi was no longer the same after Sakura flung the first fist.


"Where are you going?" Konan asked him, and as always, he just stared back at her. "Don't give me that look, Nagato," Konan remarked. "Where. Are. You. Going."

"Sunagakure," Nagato said. "To see if Sasori is done with his Gelel-Puppet army."

"He would have sent a message if he had."

"Not if he's working for Orochimaru," Nagato said dryly, moving towards the outer balcony of Amegakure's Kage tower. Hanzo had the tower completely closed from the outside, and even the balcony had been out of limits during his time —paranoid as he was, he never went anywhere without being sure he was covered from snipers.

"If he is, he will die," Konan replied. "There is nothing that can stop you, Nagato."

"If that was true, then why does the statue elude me yet?" the red haired man replied bitterly. "I can feel someone is holding it down, but I can't understand where it is."

Growling, he slammed his fist against the wall's side. "If only I hadn't trusted Madara. I let him keep the location a secret!" snarling, he looked up to the sky. "In any case, I'll go and see how long it will take yet. While I'm gone…keep an eye out for Amegakure's citizens."

"I will," Konan nodded.

With those words, Nagato disappeared in thin air.

Konan returned inside, and sighed. Once more, Nagato assigned her to guarding one of places everyone else already guarded. It wasn't as if someone would suddenly be suicidal enough to step inside now that he had left, right?


Konoha sucked.

"Stand still you brat!" Karin's manners were even worse.

"I can't properly peel your skin if you keep on dodging!" her means of showing loves were truly horrible. One had to wonder what she would turn out when that inflated belly of her finally gave away.

"Maybe that's the point of me dodging?" Hebi remarked dryly.

"Anyway," Karin snarled, settling her glasses properly and sitting back down with a huff. "I'm doing as asked. How did you get inside Konoha to begin with?"

"Sabiru-san got me through. They've asked him to reinforce the defences of Konoha, so he carefully poked holes to let spies in."

"That stupid man?" Karin grumbled, "Orochimaru-sama could have asked me to do it."

"In that state?" Hebi deadpanned, "Who the hell did you eat anyway?"

"No one," Karin retorted. "I just did as Orochimaru-sama ordered."

"Anyway," Hebi slid backwards, attaching herself to a wall, "See you later…fat cow."

"You bas—"

Hebi ignored the rest of the girl's taunts, and then slowly began to make her way quietly through the walls of the apartment complex. Naruto Uzumaki's own room was empty of everything valuable, but at the same time remained closed because of 'sentimentality'.

She snorted at the thought as she safely landed inside the empty room. The moment the sun would set, she'd proceed with her mission. Pulling Sunagakure into the war wouldn't be a problem. Especially if 'the enemy' as Orochimaru-sama said would pull the country itself into a bad position.

Really…it was so eerie how Orochimaru-sama knew just about everything that was supposed to happen.

Then again, he wasn't a legendary sannin for nothing.

Still…there had to be a limit to his 'prescience'. There had to.

Author's notes

Took a while to get the chapter out. This is one of the few that still keep the 5K format for 'serious' stories. The 1K and 3K formats are actually easier to write, hence being I an extremely lazy person tend to finish those first…repeatedly.