Sage is owned by Digi, Naruto is not, revelations about the Rinnegan are awesome, Sasuke getting screen time is not... balance in all things - Yin and Yang
"Life is a gamble, at terrible odds; if it was a bet you wouldn't take it" - Tom Stopard
Naruto sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the far wall, completely immersed in his thoughts as Fuu slept peacefully to his left. Briefly he turned to look at her, a smile slipping over his features as he just watched her chest rise and fall for what felt like hours, but was more likely a minute or so. Gently he brushed away a strand of hair that had fallen across her eyes, chuckling silently to himself as the girl smiled in her sleep and nuzzled into the contact. However slowly the smile slipped away from his features and his eyes became foggy as he forced himself to look away.
"It's time Naruto." The surprisingly soft voice, like the low, unthreatening purr of a cat, rang through his head, urging him to move. Naruto didn't budge though, still just sitting there in his indecision, his eyes glancing back at Fuu's peaceful form every few moments. "She will understand, you said that yourself."Again the blonde didn't find the energy within himself to try and leave this comfortable position. In the warmth of the room, with Fuu there by his side, he could briefly forget himself and the worries that rested on his shoulders. For a moment he could ignore all those problems and just pretend he lived a normal life with the girl he loved.
However reality, the harsh and cruel tormentor of the soul that it was, eventually swept in on his warm little moment, forcing his body to get up and move away from that very same girl, all because the young monk, above all else, wished that she would be safe. He grabbed his shakujou and sugegasa on the way out, strapping the hat over his long mane of hair before stepping out into the rain of Ame's streets. The wind whipped at his travelling cloak, forcing him to tilt his wide-brimmed hat to keep the worst of the harsh rain away from his face.
"You know what to do Naruto." Giving one last longing look at the tall metal tower that stood as the highest point in all of Amegakure, briefly framed by a bright blast of lightning that illuminated the pitch black sky, the blonde nodded slowly.
"Kuchiyose!" He mounted the enormous bird summon that appeared before him quickly, jumping up onto its back and allowing it to immediately take off with great beats of its powerful wings. Despite the howling winds that rushed by his form, ruffling the massive feathers of the strangely-proportioned bird he rode, Naruto found his surroundings oddly muted as he undertook the long journey in silence, lost in his thoughts. Finally, after maybe an hour of simple self-contemplation as well as looking forward to what he was about to do, ironic in that he wasn't looking forward to the task in the slightest, he closed his eyes and allowed his consciousness to sink away to that familiar place.
When his rippled eyes opened though, it was not to the familiar locale of the seal, with its darkened passageways and great equilateral room containing the Bijuu. Instead he found himself sitting on what appeared to be a perfectly tranquil lake, or at least a large body of water. It stretched on seemingly endlessly, merging with what he assumed was the sky, although it appeared as little more than a large blankness akin to an untainted canvas for some future masterpiece. From what he could see, he was the only one in this odd, empty world, at least until a large ripple passed beneath him.
"This is new." When he turned it was toward the visage of the Kyuubi; he too was looking around the tranquil space, sitting on his hind legs with his long tails slowly swaying behind him. Each movement of the long furry appendages sent surprisingly small ripples through the waters, quickly dying out so as not to disturb its almost mirror-like stillness.
"Where are we?" The fox grunted as it lay down, seemingly having discovered everything it needed to about the odd space they occupied.
"Your guess is as good as mine, although I imagine this is the seal's answer to mine and the other Bijuu's presence." When Naruto remained silent the fox simply pointed down with one of his tails, prompting Naruto to look beneath them. He raised an eyebrow when he realised they weren't as alone as he had thought them to be as beneath the crystal-like waters he saw the rest of the bijuu. Their forms were inverted as if merely reflections of beings that weren't there. Long silvery chains wrapped around each of their necks and with a small start Naruto realised that when he traced them back to their source, it was him. A loop of thin, tarnished grey chain, no thicker than a few strands of hair, was wrapped around his hand; he hadn't even noticed it before.
After a moment's hesitation where he considered just how badly this could backfire on him Naruto gently slipped the chain off his hand, letting it fall into the still waters without even a ripple. It dissolved instantly, as did the much larger chains binding the rest of the Bijuu. The blonde nearly fell backwards as the previously calm waters suddenly surged and bubbled ominously as one by one, starting with Shukaku, the rest of the Bijuu burst from the water, rising up until they too were sat atop its surface that had once again taken its mirror-like finish. However they seemed far more confused than he or Kurama did; although it didn't take long for their attention to fall on him making his quickly realise they were now in a circle around him.
"Well this is an all too familiar scene." A voice Naruto didn't recognise finally spoke up after a long moment of the Bijuu glancing at one another, either in confusion or thinly veiled conceit. He turned, taking in the presence of the Hachibi as it, surprisingly, grinned down at him, its long octopus-esque tentacles swaying happily.
"Hachibi…" The Oxtopus raised a massive meaty hand as its grinning features took on more of smirk, which seemed odd coming from what for all intents and purposes was a snout.
"You can call me Gyuuki; Matatabi told me a lot about you Naruto and Bee held you in high regard…" For a moment Naruto saw genuine sadness flicker across the Hachibi's face and the blonde suddenly felt uncomfortable in the knowledge that he had been the one to finally send Kirabi to the other side."… so I can consider us friends." That was enough to make the young monk pause; that was it? From his experiences with the other Bijuu, the Kyuubi mostly, he hadn't been sure what to expect from the second strongest of their kind. Open acceptance and even… friendship, were certainly not possibilities; although from the way Kirabi got along with his tenant so easily, he was hard-pressed to remember why.
"Okay, thank you Gyuuki." The Bull-Octopus simply grinned in response, offering out a large, clenched fist toward the blonde. After looking at the offered hand in confusion for a few moments Naruto hesitantly bumped his own fist against the meaty appendage, widening the Hachibi's grin.
"We'll get along just fine Naruto; it's a pleasure to finally see you face to face." Naruto nodded slowly, the weirdness of this entire situation slowly being forgotten; stranger things had honestly happened to him. A loud and gruff snort ruined the moment though prompting the Hachibi to look up, a picture of disdain and irritation on his features as he glanced at the old fox. "Shame I can't say the same for you Kurama; still an egotistical asshole bent on the idea our tails mark out our favour with Father?" The Kyuubi grinned viciously as his tail's swayed more energetically, his red eyes cold and hard.
"Still a pathetic weakling slaved to the whims of humans?" A low growl ripped its way out of Gyuuki's throat, at least until it was drowned out by a frantic and low buzz as the Nanabi suddenly placed itself between the two glaring brothers.
"Dammit, I refuse to play peace-maker for you two yet again!" Despite the statement though, Chomei didn't move from her position hovering between two of the most powerful entities in the world. However it's droning, buzz-like voice finally caused the two Bijuu to break their glaring contest, leaving an awkward silence permeating the air after the Nanabi returned to her spot in the circle.
"So now what?" All eyes once again returned to the young monk stood among titans as his own gaze drifted along them all, gaining mixed reactions when his rippled eye fell on each Bijuu.
"That would be up to you Naruto." It was Matatabi that spoke up, her soft but loud voice, like a crackling flame, breaking through the tension.
"We understand what you are doing, and the necessity of your actions and you have our support despite your reluctance to claim it." Son Goku's commanding tones filled the silence before Kurama finally took over, his booming presence feeling almost like a visible weight.
"A long time ago our father assembled us in a manner similar to this, he gave us our names and told us that at some point in the future we would be brought together again. I would almost say that it is your destiny to stand where you are standing now but…" Naruto actually widened his eyes slightly as Kurama looked down for a moment, his furry brow furrowed in hesitation, something Naruto had never seen from the stalwart, confident and arrogant fox. "… but destiny rarely seems to apply to you. An orphan and an outcast, yet possessing a greater power than many on this earth could ever comprehend and lacking the malicious intent to use it how so many of your kind would." Madara's unspoken name rang in the monk's mind, bringing him back to what he was about to do.
"Thank you." Once again the Kyuubi shocked him by lowering his head slightly; not by much, as if in deference, but enough to at least convey a modicum of respect.
"I must say, being contained within you was far from what I had expected given your predecessors; but the experience has not been wholly… unpleasant." Naruto smiled at that, hearing the message Kurama didn't say, but still conveyed with his carefully selected wording.
"It's been my honour to know you all, and my privilege to have your trust; my promise remains, that I will never break it; and you will all have your peace." Despite the slight derisive snort from the Kyuubi, Naruto faded away from that strange white world with a smile on his face; many of the doubts plaguing his mind had evaporated.
"You sure know how to pick your containers Kurama." The fox's eye twitched slightly at the thinly veiled barb from the Hachibi before another vicious grin tore across his features, even as the Bijuu began to fade from the gathering space.
"At least he doesn't rap."
It took another three hours of flight at high speed before Naruto felt comfortable with the place he had picked. It was far out west, beyond even the westernmost borders of Tsuchi no Kuni where few bothered to travel anymore. Little lived out here in the harsher wastelands filled with little vegetation and fewer animals. It was perfect for Naruto though and as his summon swooped to the ground, displacing great plumes of dust with powerful wing beats in the process, he looked up. Out here, far from everything and anything, the sky was beautifully clear. A large full moon hung overhead in the sky like some great glittering white bead and it was framed by the thousands of pinpricks that made up the night sky.
The bird summon vanished in a loud burst of smoke, ruffling Naruto's haori before the air became still again. There really was nothing here, not even a wisp of wind to indicate time was even flowing; only the faint glow of green that covered the land, almost unnoticeable to the blonde after so long of seeing it, reminded him that even in wastelands like these, nature still existed. It was a comforting thought as he began to slowly mould and shape his Chakra, culminating in him slamming his hand on the ground as a sealing matrix, far larger than any he had seen before, spread out from his palm.
"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!" A cloud of white smoke, larger than anything he had attempted, or even thought about summoning before, erupted in the space in front of him, taking a long time to clear away. When it did though a frightening stony visage greeted him; a beast, with blind-folded eyes and manacled hands sat in a deceptively peaceful cross-legged position. Naruto knew this was the Gedou Mazou from Nagato's memories, but the sheer unease he felt from the malicious creature's aura was hard to express in words. It was like, despite its covered eyes, it was attempting to peer into him, through his body to the Chakra he contained within… its Chakra if Kurama was to be believed.
"I had begun to wonder if you would actually do this; thanks for not disappointing." Naruto turned slowly towards the voice, seeing the masked man step out from a swirling vortex of twisted air. He had changed, wearing a long purple battle-robe and donning a full-head white mask with the pattern of a fully evolved Sharingan imprinted on it, two of the tomoe serving as eye-holes. However the sight within those darkened recesses was enough to make Naruto grit his teeth; the man's left eye had been replaced with a Rinnegan, Nagato's Rinnegan. It was no doubt so that the man could control the stone behemoth in front of them.
"Whatever you are planning won't work." Despite his eyes being partially shadowed by the mask the glow the two different Doujutsu gave off was enough to see one of his eyebrows raise slightly in a mocking gesture.
"Oh, because you contain all of the Bijuu?" The lilting tone, as if the man was completely carefree, was enough to put Naruto on edge. The fact he knew about his nine tenants was surprising but it at least confirmed something Naruto had been suspicious of since fighting Kirabi.
"You knew; you planned for it." Again, despite being hidden behind porcelain Naruto could practically feel the smirk the man gave off.
"I suppose you could think of it that way; but like I said before you have a tendency to ruin anything I try to set in motion. Having the Rinnegan, running from Konoha, those untraceable years where I thought you had simply vanished for good, collecting the Bijuu and unknowingly protecting the other Jinchuuriki from the Akatsuki, even befriending Nagato. I've just come to consider you as one big wrench in the plans I lay down; enough that I've decided to deal with you myself." Naruto's eyes narrowed dangerously; this man was the cause of so much pain in his life.
"What makes you think you'll be any more successful than the last time you tried?" The masked man reached for the gunbai on his back as Naruto lifted his hand threateningly, already circulating his agitated, anxious Chakra. Gravity suddenly increased around the man, compacting the dusty earth and almost making him bend a knee; however only a moment later he flexed his own hand and suddenly the pressure on his body vanished making Naruto's eyes widen as his technique was cancelled out.
"You aren't the only one with that fancy eye anymo-" He was forced to cut off as Naruto got over his shock, swinging his arm up and launching a concentrated wave of gravitational force. However that seemed to be just what the man was waiting for as he swung the gunbai, batting aside the Shinra Tensei like it was just any old jutsu and only having his clothes ruffled for his trouble. At that very moment though two hands burst from the earth, or melded out of it would be more appropriate, and wrapped around Naruto's feet. Naruto managed to break away from one of the hands with his incredible strength but it was just enough time for the masked man to dart forward at Shinobi-worthy speeds and place his flat palm against Naruto's chest.
At once a crippling pain surged through the monk, even as he stamped on the hand still restraining him to the ground. He tried to bring his shakujou around to strike Tobi but the Shinobi had already jumped back, a long tether of blue, glowing energy, tinged with a hint of orange, connecting his palm to Naruto's chest. Where he landed another figure rose from the ground, a completely black figure that Naruto recognised from the descriptions of Zetsu Fuu had given, although this one seemed whole and completely black. When he looked down it was apparent this had been the one to restrain him, although how he had managed to sneak up on him was beyond him, at least until he saw the faint trace of natural energy surrounding the dark figure.
"I would thank you for finally allowing me to complete what has been over four decades in the making, but I understand you are somewhat of an… unwilling piece in this board game. Instead I'll give you the honour of witnessing the beginning of a world of true peace, in the Eternal Tsukuyomi." With that Tobi wasted no time; before Naruto could recover and even try to sever the Chakra tether, a black rod Naruto recognised all too well slipped form his long sleeve, bound at one end to the ethereal rope. In a fluid movement the masked Shinobi threw the long black spear like a javelin, however not towards the blonde.
The Gedou Mazou let out a long, continuous roar as the Chakra-conductive pole impacted heavily with its chest, right above what appeared to be a small, round rock that was glowing with purple energy and seemed to have been forcibly implanted into the beast's chest. Once again Naruto felt the terrible drain from where that cursed rope of light now connected him with the statue, even despite his Preta path desperately trying to pull his Chakra back. In the end he severed the Chakra thread with a sweeping motion from his shakujou, grunting as he took an involuntary step back. It hadn't been an enormous drain of his reserves, but it was definitely noticeable; plus he didn't like the look of the statue now, writhing about as if in pain with long cracks splitting across its body.
"What did you do?!" The masked man turned to him, the glee visibly radiating from his body as he tore his attention away from the Juubi's shell to the now straightened monk.
"What are you talking about Naruto Uzumaki? I did nothing; you were the one to provide the spark needed to finally awaken the Juubi from its long overdue slumber." Naruto's eyes widened at the implication before narrowing to dangerous slits as he glared at the man.
"What are you talking about?" Now that his plans seemed to have come to fruition the man seemed almost carefree about what he said, absently spinning the war fan in his hands.
"Did you think I would have no Plan B Uzumaki? I'm always prepared for every eventuality, even before I knew you were going around collecting the Bijuu like festival prizes." His eyes narrowed as he gestured to the still writhing statue with the gunbai, obviously taking great pleasure in having to spell out his plan to the younger monk. "The star of Hoshigakure, the Zero-tails and, with a little persuasion for our mutual snake friend, a seal designed to draw in Nature Chakra…" Naruto suspected that was what the mitsudomoe mark across the creatures chest was, he certainly hadn't seen it in any of Nagato's memories "… they provide the Chakra and you my young monk, you provided the life essence." Suddenly Naruto's Rinnegan widened in horror, the full realisation of what had just happened crashing down on him, much to Tobi's obvious delight.
"Yes! I see you understand. Your Chakra is merged with that of every single Bijuu; you alone are the spark that is necessary to ignite the fire that will burn away this cursed reality!" Suddenly Naruto was in motion, his body a blur and Chakra surging through his limbs as he sprinted at the statue, hoping to be able to stop this somehow. However Tobi suddenly appeared in front of him, war-fan held out in front of him. Naruto's eyes narrowed as Chains burst from his body, their silvery colour enhanced by the moonlight above them.
"It's not going to be enough Uzumaki!" To Naruto's surprise Tobi was able to bat away each of the chains with ease, their sharpened, serrated points not even scratching the toughened gunbai. However the blonde still used the distraction to get in close, rearing his fist back and moulding his Chakra. Unfortunately before he could deliver a blow that would have separated the man's torso from, well everything else, he simply passed through the man like he was a desert mirage. Now off-balance Tobi swung round, viciously aiming the war-fan's edge at the monk's neck.
It connected with a long, shining, serrated tail of folded metal and created a horrible grinding noise before Tobi leapt back as a third arm that had appeared under the blonde's haori separated so that long metal tendrils from the fingers could lash out. They coiled around thin air though as Tobi landed a few meters back, his posture still confident and at ease as he propped up the war-fan and leant against it. He watched in amusement as the extra arms whirred for a moment before disassembling itself back into the blonde's body, looking at his own hand in mock interest.
"I wonder if I could do that? Ah well, as amusing as this has been-" No surprise registered on the man's face as a previously invisible Naruto suddenly pounced from behind him, two Chakra rods aimed to pierce his heart and neck, only to phase right through and disappear with a puff of smoke as the man viciously backhanded it almost absently "-but I really should be getting on with the main show don't you think?" Naruto tensed anxiously as once again Zetsu appeared from the ground, rising up as if it were water. For the first time Naruto noticed where Nagato's other Rinnegan had gone as he saw it implanted in the strange black creature's right eye-socket.
"I don't profess to have the same mastery over this eye that you have, or even to the same degree Nagato had, but after observing him for so long I think I've gained enough of an innate understanding of one technique, at least." The man flashed through hand seals meticulously, making sure not even a single one was off before finishing on the snake seal. It obviously took some exertion to do so as the man's hands were trembling slightly and Naruto was wracking his mind to try and come up with the technique he was about to use.
"Gedou: Rinne Tensei no Jutsu." Naruto's heart froze for a single moment as Tobi slammed a glowing palm right into Black Zetsu's chest, making the strange creature double over. Slowly though its form began to shift, steam hissing off its body and ominously collecting about its form until it was completely concealed. Next to him, the masked man collapsed, having to use a hand to support himself against the ground as he panted heavily. However after a moment or two a choked laugh escaped his throat as he looked up, the twin gleaming Doujutsu staring at Naruto with a glint of victory.
"It's amusing isn't it? Normally I would introduce myself as Madara Uchiha; it helps strike fear into the hearts of those I face." Naruto tensed, trying to peer through the steam still rolling off Zetsu's form as Tobi struggled back to his feet. "However considering what I just did, that seems a little redundant." Slowly the mist began to clear, blown away by some unseen wind to reveal the back of a man with long, spiky black hair.
"Ahhhhh." The sigh of utter contentment made everything freeze; the air, Naruto's breath, even the roaring of the Gedou Mazou seemed muted all of a sudden as the figure flexed their hand experimentally. "The feeling of having a real, living body again." The voice was deep, commanding absolute respect and obedience with its very tone and as the man turned, fixing the world in the sights of his single Rinnegan eye, Naruto saw why.
The man was the real Madara Uchiha.
"Madara-sama." The Uchiha patriarch turned, looking down at the masked man with a raised eyebrow before noting the gunbai slung across his back.
"Obito?" The masked man quickly nodded, removing the full-head mask to reveal reasonably normal features, albeit with what appeared to be long-healed scarring across the right side of his face. A streak of white, no doubt from the use of the Rinnegan's most costly technique, ran through a head of short, spiky black hair.
"The plan has almost come to fruition Madara-sama; the Eternal Tsukuyomi is ready to be used." Madara simply nodded slowly, his one eye gradually roaming the barren, empty field he found himself in. It took in the full-moon, the writhing, smoking form of the Gedou Mazo and finally looked at Naruto, his eyebrow only quirking at seeing another full set of functional, angry, Rinnegan eyes.
"Where is that Nagato-brat? I thought he would be the one to use the Rinne Tensei? And who is this?" The man, identified now as Obito, not that the name meant anything to the young monk, made to answer only for Madara to think better of the questions. "On second thought; I require a test of my abilities anyway." Before the confused Obito could even comment he suddenly found his head in the strong grasp of his mentor.
"Ningendou." Obito's eyes widened impossibly as a loud, strangled scream erupted from his throat, his pupils twitching about uselessly as his whole body convulsed. When Madara finally released him it was as a crumpled heap, the strength left in his body after resurrecting the ancient Uchiha finally leaving him all at once. Madara closed his eyes for just a moment before a small smile broke out over his face.
"Another Rinnegan wielder? That's interesting; I wonder how that came about when I was supposed to be the only true successor to the Sage." The man regarded Naruto for a long few moments where Naruto found himself paralysed in that searching, commanding gaze. This man, the aura he simply radiated, it was like nothing he had ever faced, not even in Nagato. "Perhaps my absence from the world prompted some kind of reincarnation; no matter, you and the remaining Chakra of the Bijuu you hold will be dealt with in time." He turned, almost negligently, back towards his crumpled student, looking to retrieve the last of his eyes. Moments later though and his arm snapped up, creating a wall of gravitational energy to cancel out the one that had suddenly been thrown at him.
"I will stop you." He turned, a look of actual amusement in his eye as he regarded the young blonde standing defiantly in front of him, haori blowing in the breeze and shakujou held confidently in hand. Slowly Madara crossed his arms in front of his chest, over the red samurai-esque armour he was famous for wearing both in his prime during the clan era and after his defection from the very village he helped to create.
"Really? A mere boy standing in front of someone like me? You may possess the Rinnegan child but do not presume to think that places you in the same realm as myself." Naruto's hand tightened around the shakujou in his hand to the point his knuckles turned white. "But if you insist on dancing, at least make me take the first steps." Faster than Naruto could see, he literally couldn't see the Uchiha's hands move they were so fast, Madara ran through hand seals before holding one up to his mouth.
"Katon: Gouka Mekkyaku!" Uchiha were renounded for two things, the Sharingan and their strong affinities for fire jutsu. However as Naruto saw the veritable tidal wave of flames that were suddenly bearing down on him he had to be reminded this was a man and not the vengeful form of Amaterasu herself. Knowing that even with the Preta Path he would likely suffer severe burns if he tried to absorb this conflagration he lifted his hands to his mouth and rapidly moulded his own Chakra.
"Suiton!" The deluge of water he sprayed out wasn't just a veritable tidal wave, it was a literal tsunami. It was far less refined than an actual jutsu but with the elemental advantage it managed to overpower the absurdly strong technique, leaving the area blanketed in a sudden veil of steam. However barely a second later Madara burst from that steam, flying through the air with his reclaimed gunbai in hand as he moved to swat Naruto aside like some irritable insect. It was all Naruto could do not to get his body crushed as he leapt to the side, chains bursting from his body to keep the powerful Uchiha at bay.
"Gakidou." However as soon as the Chakra constructs came close to the man he was surrounded by a small corona of light that absorbed the chains as soon as they made contact, taking a good chunk of Naruto's Chakra with them. He withdrew them instantly only for Madara to grab one of them, a vicious grin on his face that would have better suited the Kyuubi as he yanked hard. Blood erupted from the younger blonde's mouth as Madara's fist firmly planted itself in his stomach, making him crumple around the limb before being crushed into the ground with a brutal display of power.
"Pitiful, and Obito was having such trouble with a weakling like you?" Naruto lay there in the crater his body had formed, his eyes wide and unblinking as Madara set a foot atop his chest. "You're hardly even worth the effort, not even a Shinobi." Madara drove down, making Naruto cry out in pain again as the crater was deepened and another arc of blood erupted from his lips. "Shame, I had been so looking forward to a good fight once I was brought back; all I get is-" The man's lone Rinnegan eye widened for just a moment as he brought down his foot for another stomp only to be bodily swatted aside by tendril of sand the thickness of the Ichibi's tail.
"Is Father okay?" The timid, questioning voice rang out in his head as Naruto lay there, staring up at the starry sky with a body wracked with pain. Slowly he brought a hand up before slamming it into the ground next to him, digging his fingers into the broken earth and pushing himself up.
"I'm fine Shukaku… thank you." He got no reply except a faint feeling of happiness that seemed to ease some of the pain in his ribs. At that moment he reminded himself that it was not just himself on the line here; he was fighting for everything he cared for and believed in, the Bijuu, Fuu, Nagato and Konan, his friends, the monks… and they were all counting on him.
"Ah, you finally seemed to have gained some resolve; a shame it was too late." Madara's mocking voice echoed around the shattered battlefield as Naruto noticed something very strange; it was very quiet all of a sudden. The Gedou Mazou's almost constant cries that the blonde had tuned out had stopped and when he looked around a great shadow descended over the field.
At that moment Naruto truly felt like an ant as he stared up into the nine-tomoe eye of the Juubi.
And it stared right back at him.