Madara's student.

Disclaimer: Naruto and it's characters are owned by Masashi Kishimoto.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

'Takigakure, what a pisshole.' thought Naruto as he walked through the streets of the famous hidden village. He had spent three days at the village and he was stupidly wondering when they were going to end their celebratory festival. He felt, well he didn't feel anything rather than annoyance at the people around him, he regarded them as beings underneath his feet really, he was fully aware of his power and the threat of others were insignificant to him, Zetsu claimed he had a god-complex, Though Naruto knew better, he knew that having pride with one's self was greater than having pride in one's power as pride in one's power led to arrogance and possibly death. But still he had to drag himself through the streets looking for something to do, he hadn't killed anyone yet he had no purpose to kill anyone, without purpose there wasn't a need to do anything. Although the victims of Orochimaru, the ones that were locked in cages like animals at a zoo, he killed them because even if they were able to escape, they would still have been hunted down. There was purpose in killing them.

And thats what he hated, not having a purpose not being needed by anyone, every around him had a purpose, to be born, to live, to die. That was the general purpose of all livings things, he applied to that equation also but it's what people do before they eventually meet an untimely demise, the purpose of focusing one's life towards something they desire, the pursuit of their dream, some people never achieved such a thing, while others eventually earn what they were seeking. Naruto didn't have any purpose whatsoever, only the eye in the moon. However, he didn't feel like he was necessary to such a plan, he regarded himself as a minor detail of the plan, whether this was unhealthy thoughts of his or just his own destroyed psyche is up to interpretation.

He remembered the words of the old woman he had met, how she told him the story of the two lovers and their magic lanterns, that if you old a lantern and close your eyes you would find what was most important to you, whether or not what she said was true was of little importance, but it did raise a question for him, Infinite Tsukuyomi, just what was he aspiring from such a plan, he wanted to bring peace by forcing it to submit to him, he knew that peace could never be attained through words and understanding or through cooperation, those things would all bring about a temporary solution to the problem, but still why was he seeking Infinite Tsukuyomi, why was he seeking the dream world, what did he wish to accomplish or experience inside the dream. he didn't know the answer.

These thoughts were beyond him, he didn't have the answer nor will he ever unless he found something important to him. The Uzumaki had been having these strange thoughts, a certain longing for something, at first he thought it was mere lust and want, but it felt, deeper than that. As if what he was looking for was right around the corner, something important to him, he of course tried to deny such a thing, believing that he was either not worthy or not bothered by such a thing. He had missed out on the chances of life far too many times to know that what you wish for never comes true, the only thing you would receive is the despair that rides along with that dream. He missed out on his opportunity of life when he was made the Jinchūriki, he lost his chances of love when he became a genin, he lost his chance of happiness when he died, all these lost opportunities were weighing heavily on him. Then it occurred to him, Infinite Tsukuyomi, he wanted to reach that dream world where he would regain that which was lost and taken from him, there was little doubt that the blonde was emotionally deadened, he wore it on his face as if it was make-up. He wanted to feel, to feel again, happiness, sorrow, rage. All those feelings, he wanted to feel them again.

That was what he wanted, that was what he needed. He cared about nothing except to feel, the circumstances of losing his emotions were still unknown to him, he believed that the cursed seal on his arm helped a little, who ever placed it on him must have known what they were doing, probably he knew something that he wasn't suppose to, Madara didn't place this seal upon him, Madara was never too good at Fūinjutsu or Juinjutsu, this handiwork was done by another, but nothing came to mind as Naruto never knew anyone who could use such an advanced seal on someone, no one ever came to mind.

He needed to find the answers, to himself, to his questions while also dealing with his partner, Akatsuki, and the assassin's out for his head. Especially Konoha, they wanted him in the ground and his blood to coat the dirt their dirt, he had already killed two of their shinobi, two of his friends from his former life, he had no qualms about killing them, if it was to further Eye of the Moon then so be it, however he needed more power, he wasn't at Madara's level yet, even with Kamiyonanayo Madara could still defeat him although Naruto would still be able to give him a a hard time, he needed more power.

He didn't have much time for anything, for the moment he was awaiting orders from Nagato for another mission to which he was desperately hoping for one, he still needed to hunt down the traitor in the Akatsuki, he already had a good idea who it was, he had already sent one of his clones created from the Kamiyonanayo to speak with Deidara and Sasori and when he meant 'speak' it really meant itching his way into their minds and making them his puppets to use and tool with. Hidan, Deidara who were already under his spell. Kisame, Sasori and Kakazu were following him because of his services while Konan was still the wildcard among them, she was indefinitely loyal to Nagato, she would not follow Naruto quite so easily.

Speaking of Konan, things had certainly been... strange among the two of them, their relationship was above that of partners and more like good 'friends', Naruto couldn't really make friends. There was tension between the two of them, though to what kind of tension, he was clueless about, he understood that there was at least physical attraction between the two of them, that much was certain to him, in simple terms, they both wanted to bang each other, though it seemed as if it was out of lust really, Naruto couldn't feel anything for anyone, he never tried to, he had merely regarded Konan as his toy at first, to play with as he pleases to manipulate her to do what he wanted.

But to him it felt like there was differing feelings, Konan above all wasn't stupid, she understood full well that she couldn't easily be manipulated, she had spent all that time with Obito after all, a mastermind in the control of the human mind, he could always control her with Kamiyonanayo that would certainly be easier, but for some reason, for some unexplainable reason, he didn't want to, Naruto was a person that when he came up with a thought, he would do everything in his power to accomplish that thought, he was like a pit-bull, determined to the end, he would ensure that anything he did would come true as if it was a dream, maybe this was consoling on his part, self appreciation as the human mind was sometimes the most trickiest thing to understand. But Konan, he didn't feel like he should do anything to her, she was still like a flower, innocent and pure until it's petals wilt and die however the blue haired woman still had petals upon her flower.

He just couldn't explain it, he still didn't feel anything, but this restraint of his was tearing at his mind as if a caged animal biting upon it's bars, he didn't know, that woman was among the most trickiest being he had met, she was slippery like an eel and you never knew her thoughts like a rapid animal, she was a lot like him in that regard.

He then felt a presence, his sensory powers acting up, he could feel Konan's large and cool chakra reserves, he could also feel that her chakra and body have fully adjusted to the 'gift' he gave her, now it was only a matter of time before she could use it without restraint, with her Uzumaki chakra that he had given her and the strong cells she should be able to adjust to the new addition of chakra with little to no trouble. And of course her levels had increased yet she had not caught on yet. He was wondering who long it would take for her to awaken the dormant power in her body.

It didn't matter, the power-up he gave her should more than just please, it just might anger her.

He then saw her, walking around the village having forgone her Akatsuki cloak, though she was wearing her paper flower in her hair and the paperclips he had bought for her as a birthday gift and the light from the lanterns only seemed to glisten off her pale skin giving her this radiant look to her and her eye shadow added a level of enchantment that Naruto had yet to see. All in all, she was a beautiful sight to behold.

Like the times before she was searching around the village, possibly looking for souvenir's so to remember her time in Taki, the sight somehow made his heart sore, as soon they would need to leave for their next mission, Hidan and Kakazu had already left for their own mission leaving Naruto and Konan alone in Taki, although it would be a matter of time until the village discovered that Ryū Yokaze was among them, the infamous shinobi was already trying his best not to be identified among the populace, it was just too bothersome, having civilians attempting to kill you for the bounty on his head when they don't know the amount of power he commanded.

He noticed that the sun would be setting soon and that it was creating an auburn haze in the sky, the clouds were reddish orange and the sun had been losing much of it's glow, it was truly a beauty to behold, it was strange... he never took the time to watch the sunset, he was too preoccupied with world domination to bother, but since leaving the Mountains Graveyard he saw the world in a new light, a new face.

Sometimes he wondered if Infinite Tsukuyomi was the right choice, he remembered back in the Land of Waves when an old weapon's dealer gave him few, simple words, but the words were laced I wisdom that only a few have said before, perhaps, perhaps, there was another way, perhaps that humanity were not cursed to hate each other as he was led to believe, maybe the world could not be forced to achieve peace and understanding, but still, in his eyes, all he could see was the hatred that was infecting the world and destroying lives. It would still take a lot more to bring peace to the world than just random acts of kindness.

But for now he was content with watching Konan traverse through the village while it's festival was still in-affect, she had a smile on her face as she looked at all the knobs and tinker tools, the jewellery and bright coloured clothing, he could see the look of enthralment on her face, every movement of muscle, all forty two muscles moving in sync to form a smile. He could see that all with his Sharingan, the lanterns hanging up by strings added a sense of mystery and harmony to the place, he remembered the woman's words again about the lanterns, it didn't hurt to try it out, he didn't believe that it would reveal anything to him.

Then an idea came to his head, one that required two people. He knew exactly what he was going to do. And he only hoped Konan enjoyed it also, what he was about to do would be very out of character for him, as a month ago he would probably never do something like this, but interacting with Konan has given him a new view of the people around him, more specifically Konan, she was a lot like him, they both kept their thoughts bottled up with Konan the same goes for her emotions, having no emotion to bottle up that factor didn't apply to the blonde haired man, they were calm and stoic, never betraying anything in their faces, and they didn't concern themselves with the affairs of others, believing it was not their affair. Although Konan was much more empathetic to others while Naruto didn't care.

So taking action, Naruto walked up to Konan, slowly so not to startle her.

Konan felt a presence approaching her from behind, she had felt this presence before, she had been travelling with it for months now, she knew the feeling all too well, it didn't mean her harm of any of that kind, the person in question, was a man, a kind man when he wants to be, or needs to be. He above all was a question to her, a question that needed to be answered, to unravel all the secrets about him. She was like a cat, curious to everything around her, and her curiosity for the man was undeniable.

She then turned around to find her Akatsuki partner, Ryū Yokaze, or by his real name, Naruto Uzumaki. A former Konoha nin, and former Jinchūriki to the strongest Tailed Beast, The Kyūbi no Yōko, a fox that was so powerful that even the Shodaime Hokage, flinched when facing the beast in battle. Naruto was one of the strongest men she had ever met, and one of the most elusive, the man was a two-legged secret, all his actions were done to better himself and to prepare himself, he wore a veil of lies and deceit that could charm anyone, he and his silver-tongue were above all, the sharpest thing on his person.

"Konan." said Naruto with a straight face. But what was interesting about the face, as Naruto's eyes weren't half lidded at all, like they usually wore, giving him a bored look on his face wherever he went. This time he seemed genuinely interested in something, which was like the end of the world to Konan. "I wish to ask something of you."

Her mind snapping back to reality, she registered his words and his moving lips, while taking into account of what he wanted.

"And that may be?" queried Konan carefully, as mostly whenever Naruto asked something, he was basically asking her to undergo an experiment to increase the power in her body and or other things.

"It's the last day of this festival, the Ikirantan (spirit lantern) festival, I wish to extend a courtesy to ask you to join me while I go out on the lake to partake in their customs, I think it would be better to have company seeing as how all these people are enjoying themselves with their loved ones and friends while they waste their times on vulgar antics and derogatory activities." said Naruto blankly as he looked over his shoulder to see people having fun together, and enjoying the others company, the act was surreal to Naruto as he never partook in such a thing before. "They also claim that the festival is much more magical when enjoyed with one's spouse, and since you're the only being in the village that I have connected to on an emotional level-." however his sentence was stopped however as Konan interrupted him with her own voice.

"All you have to say is, do you wish to join me?" said Konan with a small smile, when it came to certain things Ryū was never the right person to for the job. Naruto breathed a sigh in exasperation at what she just said, people usually asked 'him' to join them, he never extended the same generosity.

"Thank you, meet me by the docks, within two hours. There will be a gondola waiting for you there, you will know which it is, because I'll be there." said Naruto bowing slightly and leaving with a twitching eyebrow in annoyance, annoyance at himself, as he took a simple gesture and drawled it out too much. He never saw Konan's smile grow a bit more, perhaps Ryū wasn't as much a machine as she thought. He could be compassionate when he wanted to be and without knowing.

It was the dark, the stars were blocked by the clouds and their respective light was lost to all, upon the dark night, the moon stood tall, shining it's pale light in the world, it's aura dark and cold, only a few could comprehend the size of the moon and the eye that shines over it.

In a tall building in Amegakure that belonged to a person that had infiltrated the village many times, the rain was beating heavily against the metal of the tower, almost akin to war drums riding off into battle, inside the tower was a cold atmosphere it's pipes were runny and you could see your warm breath clearly.

There were six chairs within the room surrounding a table, the dull lit light didn't reveal anything, but the silhouettes of the people in the room, they all looked fairly serious as this was not a time to be joking around. Although someone was kind enough to bring a fruitcake for the meeting.

"Friends, assassins... bitch." said one of the figures who was not sitting in the chair looking upon a a number of T.V's with photo's and graphs on them, many of the photo's were that of a blonde haired man with blood red eyes.

"Fuck you too." said another of the figures sounding female and with a feminine body.

"As you can see here... Ryū Yokaze deaths... are coming in far below projections. you know the expectations built up here are not 'quite' meeting said expectations, as I saw the strangest thing, it was on a bright sunny day and I was enjoying what life had to offer and then I saw Ryū Yokaze walking around Takigakure or was he skipping through Takigakure, doesn't matter, I can never remember, with his head still on his shoulders. I then I thought to myself, that can't be, he should be dead, but then I thought, maybe it's someone wearing Ryū's Yokaze's face." said the man sarcastically still looking at the T.V screens speaking in a light hearted manner. "We're really going to have to turn this around, because you see that clock." said the man pointing to a clock to which all the figures turned their heads looking at it tick it's hands on different numbers. "That clock represents the amount of time, Ryū has been enjoying his life. And I can tell you this, he's done some very naughty things that his mother wouldn't be proud of."

Then the figure switched on the light, revealing the figures to everybody.

One of the person's who was the female among them. She was slender and cute with a youthful appearance, she had blonde slicked back hair with two long strands styled into distinctive antennae which were pointing backwards. She appeared to be in her early twenties with vivid green eyes with a light coat of lipstick, she had an hourglass figure that most woman maimed for and which could make men drool at the sight.

She wore black opera gloves with spikes on the knuckles and long skin-tight leather pants, black high heeled shoes which she could easily walk around in. she was wearing a Kumogakure flak jacket to which she wore a leather bikini underneath and she had a tattoo for the kanji for 'violence' and a spiked choker chain wrapped around her neck. This person was Ninfu Boruto

Another was a was and slender man with bright, shoulder length, red hair styled into slicked back spikes with a widow's peak and small eyebrows. Bright emerald green eyes and reverse tear drop shaped tattoo's underneath each eye.

He was a Sunagakure flak jacket but without the shoulder pads and a collar. He wore red ninja sandals with really baggy pants which were drooping at the back, he wore an orange sash around his waist and an orange jacket over his flak jacket and a ragged yellow scarf with dark yellow stripes around his neck and he also wore red wrist warmers. This man went by the name Yakedo.

Another was a massive man, easily the tallest in the room. He was believably, 6 ft 8 inches tall making him a giant to whoever looked at him, he wore a black leather jacket that could somehow fit him and yet show off his muscle underneath. He wore black pants with large black boots and leather gloves along with a mask to hide his face to which he was sensitive of, his mask was skin-tight and had white markings on it.

Underneath the mask he had very angular but strong features with a square chin, straight nose and sharp cheekbones. He had blue eyes and small eyebrow with auburn hair which was slicked back into odd and messy spikes. This man, a missing-nin in the bingo books for crimes of killing his comrades, went simply by the name of Hametsu.

One of the other men was a tall man with platinum blonde hair, worn with two long bangs framing the sides of his face, he had large bright green eyes and glasses. He was currently wearing the flak jacket belonging to Hoshigakure, one of the smallest and weakest villages in the world who call their leader the Hoshikage, a mere formality who bastardise the title of Kage, they didn't have a true Kage and never will. He was also wearing a long white lab coat with a flower pinned to it's lapel and sandals on his feet. This man was simply call Otaku.

And the last person appeared to be the youngest in the room and was certainly the smallest. He had bright aqua coloured eyes though only his left one was visible and the right one being covered by a long layered bang, his hair was steel blue in colour with his right bang covering the complete right side of his face, reaching his chin while he had smaller bangs on the left side of his face that weren't covering his eyes. He wore a Takigakure flak jacket with a hood, he wore arm warmers that went up to his elbow and a simple pair of jeans and sandals, out of all of them he appeared the most bored. The young man's name was Jakunen Furui.

While the person facing the T.V's was a man with elegant features, his face was quite feminine as he could be mistaken as a girl. His hair was shoulder length and pink with ruffles through it and blue eyes. He was currently wearing a Konoha flak jacket with a pink sash around his waist and a short sleeved green shirt, he wore black gloves stained with pink and a lapel over both legs. He had a tattoo of flowers up the entire length of his right arm, he wore basic ninja sandals and had the Konoha head band on his forehead. The person in the room was amongst the most dangerous and he went by the name of Toge Busshu

"Now, as you know, we have all gathered under a single, common, enemy. He's already taken down, Sogeki and Merōdi." said Toge as he walked up to the table and took a slice of the fruitcake, everyone was a little on edge around the pink haired man, their moods dire and their eyes were narrowed as they watched the man eat the fruitcake. "Hmm, this fruitcake is delicious."

"Now, we really have to straighten things out." continued Toge as he turned to Otaku, the bespectacled man in the room. "And when I mean we, I mean you. You see, my little birds have whispered in my ear about, you doing nothing, nothing at all, you haven't even seen Ryū and have done very... little to help with our... crusade as you may call it."

"Well, the probability of me meeting Ryū would only rise should I track his movements and analyse his steps." said Otaku, nervously and fidgeting with his glasses a little in the presence of the pink haired man. "I should be able to invent a device to restrain Ryū, it would be the of most assisting course of action, I could invent a device to specifically.-" but he was interrupted by Toge who had a sneer on his face.

"You see Otaku, I'm the guy with the money, and the kunai." said Toge as he got close to Otaku's face and held the kunai against his throat ready to slit it and allow his blood to stain the floor. Then Toge pushed himself away from Otaku and polished his kunai. "You see, when Danzō hires you to kill Ryū Yokaze, you shut the fuck up and kill Ryū Yokaze!... Now then, do you have anything else to contribute?"

Otaku shook his head while sweat ran down his neck at the dangerous aura Toge was projecting, he had never met such a man who could become as calm as a serene ocean and yet as dangerous as a maelstrom. Toge Busshu was not someone who could be trifled with so easily. However, he never knew that Toge's question was a literal one.

"I didn't think so." said the pink haired man as he pushed Otaku's chair out a window and onto the streets of Amegakure where he was screaming all the way unto his death, when he landed many people who were walking by screamed in horror and fear at what they had just seen. A man who's bodily parts and bones who lying on the ground and his bones sticking out from his skin and and his skull literally crushed as blood and brain matter coated the ground.

Elsewhere in Amegakure Pain was standing out over the village surveying everything that was transpiring around him. Using his perceptive rain he sensed a disturbance to the east where he turned his head, he could sense that someone was falling to the ground before he lost the chakra signature entirely meaning he was dead. The leader of the Akatsuki narrowed his eyes at what was happening, he would have to investigate it later on.

Back at the base, Toge was thoroughly enjoying the fruitcake and was not at all disturbed at what he had just done, while those around him were sweating and and biting their lips in fear of the man.

"Hmm, like I said, this fruitcake is really good, who brought it?" questioned the pink haired man while the masked giant in the room raised his hand to answer the question. "And, I thank you for that, so does anyone want a piece?" asked Toge as he waved his hands around waiting for someone to answer the question. "No... too bad, well then more for me."

"Now go out there, kill Ryū Yokaze, not that hard really, and take the door on your left on the way out and don't touch anything Danzō-sama likes to keep his bases clean." said Toge as he turned to the T.V screens again. Yakedo, Ninfu and Jakunen left the room following the directions of Toge. However Hametsu stayed firmly planted in his seat with his arms crossed and just stared at Toge with no hint of fear and or intimidation. Hametsu was the only person in the room who was unafraid of the pink haired man and was not disturbed by his ruthless streak. "Well, are you going anywhere?" questioned Toge as he turned to Hametsu who kept staring at him.

"No, he's coming for you now, and when he gets here, I'll bring you his corpse." said Hametsu as he got off the chair and stood to his feet where he easily towered over Toge who merely smiled at the giant. "So you, sit and wait." said Hametsu who seemed annoyed as he pushed Toge into a chair who crosses his legs and arms and saying that this would be fun. While Hametsu walked over to the hole in the window and looked over it scanning the village.

In Takigakure, night was fully on the waters and rivers, waterfalls and streams. The great tree in the middle of the village was standing tall and proud, little light was penetrating through the tree but it didn't matter the light came from the many lanterns being launched into the air. It was around the time that lanterns would fly into the air dotting the village with it's life.

It was around this time, a beautiful blue haired woman wearing a flowery blue kimono with a paper flower in her hair and scaled blue hair clips that look like flowers. She was making her way to the docks where her partner was waiting for. She was a little nervous in fact as she had never done such a thing before in her life, this could be considered a 'date' but yet it also didn't feel like one.

Her sparkling amber eyes shone in the night and her vision was clearing and she saw the man that was awaiting her. The handsome blonde wearing a black cloak who was barely visible if ti weren't for his glowing red eyes and the lights on the dock.

"You made it." said Naruto as he caught Konan in his sights. He took in her appearance and he was stunned by what he saw. She was wearing a lovely kimono to which she had brought for the occasion, it was form fitting, allowing anyone to her her near perfect curves and assets, she looked nothing like he pictured she would be. There was just this certain sense of serenity from her, this calming presence that she commanded, it was awe bestowing, this angel before him, was Konan?

His mind snapped back to reality as he took her hand and guided her in the gondola, which was strange as when they first met, she would never have allowed him to do such a thing, thinking of herself as independent, not requiring any aid of the sort. There had been a change between the two of them that they themselves may not have seen. They were influencing each other in ways that didn't require words, perhaps.

When Konan sat herself in the gondola she took notice of two lanterns sitting either side of Ryū. She raised her eyebrow a little in question of the lanterns but decided to not voice her questions and keep the mood flowing, she knew that the blonde had something in mind and as if he could hurt someone with lanterns.

Naruto grabbed the oars of the gondola and started rowing the boat out onto the waters of Takigakure. Silently and gracefully, hardly disturbing the water or the life that was sheltered underneath such as the fish. She watched as people gathered onto the banks of the water ready to light their lanterns for the festival and enjoy themselves on this night. She now knew what the lanterns were for, she thought she remembered Ryū saying that festivals were stupid, but maybe he mellowed out and swallowed his pride.

It would be sometime until Naruto knew they had reached their destination as the lake was massive and at the speed they were travelling it would take some time, so she fell into the soft embrace of rest, always with a smile on her face. When they would arrive she felt a small nudge waking her from her sleep where she saw her blonde haired partner looking at her. She smiled some more at seeing his face and quickly adjusted from the grogginess that came with sleep.

"So tell me, why did you decide to kidnap me on this night." spoke Konan with a small grin at the slight and unexpected cheekiness she was showing. Naruto only smirked in response.

"I only felt like, that, I don't know really, I just, well, I didn't want to be alone, that I wanted to share this experience with someone." said the blonde trying to find the right words as he looked out into the water and he saw people gathering their lanterns for their festival. "I was walking around the village and I heard the stories of people bringing others out onto the lake to spend time with people they care about... you know that I'm not great at 'expressing' how I feel through my body... or words, but this is just a way of saying, that... I care about you." said Naruto, without a forced smile, something which Konan knew wasn't fake, perhaps. "I have only felt this way for one other, and when they left I felt like there was nobody who could fill the void, until that is you came."

Konan's eye seemed to shine some more at the awkward words of her partner. She then saw Naruto hand her one of the lanterns where he laid it softly in her hands.

"Well, I thank you for the words and lantern, but to what do you expect me to do with it." questioned Konan with a smile. In response Naruto pointed the tip of his finger where a small spark of flame appeared, he positioned his hand into his lantern and lit it up shining brightly in the night, the flames flares shining through the paper.

"Well, they say that if you hold a lantern and close your eyes you'll see that which is important to you... I'm not sure if it works but..." his words trailed off after that, as he stared into the lantern. He then gestured for Konan to hand over hers where he quickly lit her lantern also.

"So just close your eyes." stated Konan to which Naruto nodded. And both shut their lids and darkness was all they could see, both were wondering what they would see, Konan especially while Naruto was still skeptical of the matter.

So he sat there, holding the lantern, for minutes he did nothing but sit in the boat holding the red lantern in his hand. He could feel nothing, not the wind on his face nor the smell of the lake, he just sat there waiting for something to speak to him.

But there was nothing, no image, or sign, no symbol or path, he saw nothing, he continued sitting there. He had given in to hope and that was foolhardy of him, but hope was a strong thing that not even he could understand. He just hoped to find something, that which was important to him, but he could see nothing, nothing, nothing. He was clawing at his mind, the despair of giving into hope, it was itching and twitching within his mind and he couldn't be rid of it. He was such a fool, he thought that what he was doing he was doing wrong. But then came a more logical answer, there was nothing in important to him.

He opened his eyes to see a sweet smile on Konan's face with her eyes still closed, that was all the proof he needed to know that there was indeed nothing important to him. He did care for Konan maybe not as much as Madara but, was she important to him? Was what she was experiencing important to her? Did he live out his life with no purpose. He, he, was there anything important to him, nothing that he greatly cared for or wanted. What did he treasure more than anything. At first he thought he would see Infinite Tsukuyomi, the Eye of the Moon Plan, he regarded that as important to him, but was all that he thought false, was the Infinite Tsukuyomi that important to him, or wasn't it.

Just what was he trying to accomplish if he carried out something that wasn't important to him, why was he doing the things he would do? For something that he regarded as unimportant. Just what was he longing for? What did he need?

He looked up at Konan again and could only wonder what she was seeing, guess the old woman was right, when you hold the lantern you would see the most important thing for you, just what exactly was Konan's dream, what was important to her, he could see it with his eyes and feel it in his bones. That which she cared for most would bring her nothing but joy. If what she was seeing was making her happy than he could only wish for her was to be happy. Seeing her smile, it was like this euphoric feeling wash over him, not some false or forced smile to escape situations, but a true one, one that was instinct and not acting. But then he remembered, he 'felt' something, at first he thought it wsa just the trick of the mind but it was as real as the gondola he was sitting on and the blood pumping through him.

Without warning and without knowing Naruto's Sharingan eyes began morphing into his Eternal Mangekyō Sharingan. His eyes soon began to bleed as the orbs in his sockets began twitching wildly and violently, flittering back and forth, it almost seemed like he was in this harsh trance. With each second his eyes convulsed faster and faster, they bled more and more with each second his blood was staining his cheeks and he was breathing hoarsely, what he was feeling was more painful than anything he had felt. His body was twitching from the overload it was feeling and his eyes became blood shot and bright red all around,

And finally it stopped, just suddenly his eyes stopped twitching and his body stopped convulsing and his eyes were no longer bleeding. He then grabbed the sides of his head, and his eyes were wide and his body was sweating.

'what, but that can't. How?' thought Naruto as about fifty six questions were running through his mind. He then wiped away the blood on his cheeks with his cloaks sleeve dipping it in red liquid that glittered from the light. He then turned to the gondola's side and dip his gloved hand into the water, and wiping away any traces of the blood while his eyes returned to their original state, not so bloodshot and now appearing as his regular Sharingan. He also wiped his sleeve with the water expelling the blood from it and of course getting him wet. Though he probably shouldn't have done that if I were him.

He then took hold of his lantern again and closed his eyes, he must know if it was true. And he saw it, that which was most important to him, it was soft, gentle, melancholy, with a hint of nostalgia but with a loving grace that only few things in the world possessed. He jolted from the image in his head and had a shocked look in his face, what he saw, was it real? those images, the ones form before were no more clearer, they made sense to him, he wondered what they were, they felt like they belonged to another from a different world, and there were other images among them.

He placed the lantern to the side and put his face in his hands, reminiscing what had just happened to him, while Konan was still enjoying the dream of hers.

'fire.' thought Naruto, thats all he could remember, fire and there was someone, in the fire, a woman, not a man, she was walking through it, unburnt. That was what he saw in the lantern. But he also knew it was... perhaps.

Konan opened her eyes slowly, what she had seen could enlighten any heart. The first thing she saw when opening her eyes was Ryū with his face in his hands and Konan knew that something had affected the blonde shinobi, it wasn't on his face and he didn't portray in it in his body, she just knew something was wrong and something was bothering him.

Konan inched closer to the man and cupped his right cheek with her hand, believing that words would not comfort him, instead of him reflexing and brushing away her advancements of comfort, he instead gripped her hand tightly and eased into her hand, accepting her signs of consoling, he closed his eyes as he felt her soft hand against his cheek, warm and bright to the touch, what he had seen, he didn't know what to think or feel about it, if he could feel at all. It was so confusing to him that it it almost felt like his mind had shut down. But there were few things that were certain to him, the warm hand cupping his face and the woman to which it belonged to.

At that time the people of Takigakure were releasing their lanterns out upon the lake, creating small lights around them, setting the mood of utter peace and tranquility, some would wish that this moment would last forever, Naruto wished this moment would last forever, the magical setting around him was setting his spirit at ease, his neutral aura was slowly washing away with every second as he look out onto the lanterns and Konan's hand on his cheek. What he had seen, it denied everything he was working towards and was hoping to achieve.

Every image he saw was perfect and he could remember them as if they were his greatest memory.

'That woman' thought Naruto. His thoughts were whirlwind, his mind was a maze, the woman in front of him, he felt something for her. He didn't understand feelings himself, it almost made him want to panic. But when Konan revealed herself to him, dropping the shields she had set up around herself she was everything he wanted in a person, which sometimes made her the most infuriating person in the world, although he would never show such annoyance.

The woman he had been spending time with, was a mysterious one indeed, during their small moments, he had seen her grow and overcome herself, she always remained strong no matter what happened to her, but it was the small moments she enjoyed, when he went out of his way to help her, during her times of unease he would comfort her, he got her things she couldn't get and she was grateful for it. And now, now she was the one comforting him.

Looking her in the eyes he could see no ill will or annoyance in them. Only concern for him and concern for his wellbeing, but there was something else in those eyes of hers, a warmth he hadn't seen anywhere else, not even in those who claimed they cared about him, he didn't know what it was but he could only wish that the people of Konoha would have looked at him like.

As if his body was acting on it's own, he inched himself closer to the woman in front of him, Konan's body couldn't react to what he was doing, she could only stare as the man came closer. She could feel his warm breath on her face and she was entranced by his eyes, which shifted from the blood red to magnificent blue, she too found herself inclining herself closer to his body. The lanterns in the sky and gliding across the water matched the euphoria of the two people, providing just enough light to make the scene romantic.

And finally they pressed their lips together and instantaneously their eyes fluttered closed as they enjoyed the taste of the others lips, and they kissed each other back in full force. Konan's hand was still on Naruto's cheek and her other empty hand trailed the blonde man's chest feeling the hard muscle underneath the black cloak, while the man trailed his hands across her body laying one on the small of her back and the other on her cheek.

The kiss was soft, gentle, and slow. The action was a simple example of their feelings or was it lust? It didn't really matter for the moment as the two were just enjoying their chaste kiss, but it didn't last for long as Konan's primal desires were flowing through her. Wanting more of the blonde haired man, Konan took his lower lip in her mouth and began to gently suckle on it, eliciting a soft moan from the blonde. He was trained to resist any and all kinds of torture, but for him, pleasure was a whole different world.

His hands, not staying idle began to snake their way around the woman's body, inching themselves closer towards the woman's bottom, before grabbing her buttocks which in turn made the woman gasp a little at the action, before she was hefted up and planted firmly on the lap of her partner, where she could feel the growing, large bulge in his pants prodding her in 'certain' places.

Naruto then attacked her neck, nibbling on it softly making her moan softly at the lightning like touches, meanwhile she combed her fingers through his golden hair, massaging his scalp. Her fingers than found the soft fabric of the bandages holding his spiky ponytail in place, she tugged on the bandages ever so softly until they released the wild mane of hair from their trappings causing his hair to flay about, giving the man a more beastly appearance.

Her mind was clouded with lust at the mans actions that she herself wasn't thinking straight or what was really happening aside from the sensations she was feeling, ephemeral and loving.

She then felt the sash tied around her waist holding her kimono in place, loosen. Then her naked breasts popped out, allowing the world to glimpse them in all their glory, she could feel the cold air around her, touching her skin, exhilarating her, her mind was foggy, unable to form coherent thoughts.

However, there was just one thought going through her at the moment, of a man with orange hair and brown eyes. Her mind reacting to what was happening. She found none other than the blonde man Naruto Uzumaki about to undress her, yes, she was about to have sex with Naruto Uzumaki. Her logical sense snapping at her, she pushed herself away from him before he could do the deed.

When Naruto felt the warmth of his partner leave him his eyes snapped open to see Konan with her back to him, fixing her kimono, he couldn't see her face but he could just feel the frown on it, he combed his hand through his hair again and he could feel the stray stands of his now loose hair hanging on his shoulders.

He was at the moment mentally berating himself, just how could he give in to such a thing, but the images he saw, he couldn't help but long for them, god he felt like a fool, those images, he was caught by surprise, because of their intensity. But truly, Konan, she was the most infuriating person in the world, why, because, her presence alone was making him, feel, the things he had thought were lost albeit small they were there, it was sickening and yet joyful at the same time, and from those actions he had felt a rush he had never felt before, it wasn't lust, no, it was something deeper than that, it was like a tsunami had crashed down upon him, he wanted to relive that experience.

Konan was at a loss, her lost love for Yahiko and her lust for Naruto was, well she didn't know it felt like she was looking at Naruto and Yahiko. She couldn't explain it, no thoughts were able to describe what she was feeling at the moment. Right now all she wanted to do was lock herself away and never see the light of day.

"Lets not speak of this, I doubt words will help in this situation." said Naruto looking at Konan for a second before back over the water, where he saw bubbles rising to the surface which made him quirk an eyebrow, Konan nodded at him and decided not to say anything.

Before anything could do or say anything something erupted from the water to their right, when Konan turned her head it was the giant eel that Naruto and Hidan had fought a few days earlier, Naruto just looked at it with a bored expression, although the eel's appearance had changed little it's face was heavily disfigured from the assault's of Naruto's and Hidan's respective attacks.

It roared in anger and rage for it had a hungry look in it's eyes, it was drawn by the scent of Naruto's blood when he dabbed his sleeve into the water when he wiped away the blood from his face.

It then lunged forward at the duo, more specifically the blonde it was trying to eat.

The villagers of Taki were currently enjoying the festivities, they then felt something crash against the shoreline where people were currently scattering about trying to reach the source of the crash.

When they arrived they saw the body of the Unagi, the giant eel that had been plaguing their waters ever since the founding of their village, was currently lying on the ground with a dead look in it's eyes.

There was whispers going about the people at who could have done such a thing to the Unagi while others were silently cheering at the death of the eel.

From within it's neck, something was prodding and sticking out before a black blade pierced it's skin and in a swift motion decapitated the dead body of the eel, the person who was stuck within stumbled out, bathed in saliva, gastric fluids and other foul smells. The person was Ryū Yokaze whose lively hair was coated in a light gleam of 'you don't want to know'.

"Is now the right time to deliver a cheesy one-liner?" questioned Naruto as he looked out over the people who were all covering their noses so to evade the foul smells of the eel's insides.

It was Spring in the Hidden Leaf Village, otherwise a time for rest and recuperation as the time of Summer were coming, the trees and leaves that decorated and dotted the village with their wild green and wood brown, were now nothing more than radiant, enchanting and sublime, Spring was the season for approaching life and fun and people were currently preparing themselves for the coming Summer for having already felt it's preliminary effects, mainly warm weather, soft winds and leaves holding on tightly to the branches of the trees that supported them, almost as if a mother holding onto her child.

The Leaf village was currently experiencing economic growth and prosperity that they hadn't felt for a long time, not since the time of the Yondaime Hokage, Minato Namikaze. Children were currently rolling around and jumping into piles and mounds of fragile and soft flowers, screaming and shouting in abject fun and youth. The adults were stocking up for Summer apparel such as shirts and loose clothing, as well as buying warm food that would assist them later in their ventures, while caravans carrying food and money to support Konoha were making their way through the streets with their drivers sporting big smiles at the joyful mood of the village.

However, today was a big day, today, somehow like the rest of the world, Konoha was having a celebration, the Take Ki (Bamboo Tree) festival, god where all these festivals came form no one had any idea, each day it was cause for celebration without end, possibly it was a way to forget all the hatred rising in the world and for people to forget their worries and leave their past behind themselves.

Tsunade was currently looking out over her village, her brown eyes inspecting every detail of her village, on the lookout for any faults or weaknesses almost like a predator searching for prey. Not only was this a day for celebration and fun, but today was also the day that a V.I.P, a man of utmost importance was coming to Konoha for business with the village, Tsunade didn't have time to entertain the delegate with her presence, as she had to keep order as this was the day that most of the civilians would become drunk and wild, well other than that tragic anniversary, this was the day people would celebrate most on.

So at the moment, thoughts were rushing through her head to best deal with the situation, the delegate was a man of high political status and standing, he was a close confident of the Fire Daimyō and it was of utmost tact that the day went smoothly, even though Konoha acted as an independent organisation they still served the Daimyō of the Land of Fire. The delegate, based upon his mere criticism or passing by comment, might make or break Konoha in the long run.

Although the man always had the best interest of the Land of Fire and Konoha at heart, it still left room for caution and among other things.

Tsunade had already taken action, and had called for a certain someone to meet her at the Hokage office, she could trust no one else but the person walking through the door, with the delegate.

She then heard a knock at her door and ushered the person in without taking her careful eyes off the village. When she turned around she saw none other than her apprentice, Sakura Haruno, standing in her casual attire with a curious look in her eyes which also showed itself on her face.

"You called for me Tsunade-sama." stated Sakura as she stood in the middle of the office with her teacher's critical gaze on her, whenever Tsunade had that look in her eyes Sakura knew that she was going to have a small adventure with someone important. She always wondered why she was the one chosen out of hundreds to be nothing more than a poster-boy for the village, besides she wanted to spend some time with Ino so she could enjoy the festival. But no, she had something important to do, sometimes she merely felt like a servant.

"Yes, Sakura, as you know the Take Ki festival is about to start in a few hours, while I apologise in advance for taking away your, 'you' time, something has come up that requires my attention, unfortunately my attention is rather valuable and is currently focused on something, maybe more important." said Tsunade as she sat in her seat and folded her arms under her bust.

"Please, Tsunade-sama you can't do this, this is suppose to be my day off, and I want to live my life a little unlike you who has very little life to live." said Sakrua with a slip of the tongue which made Tsunade's eyes go dark, she had just broken rule number-one of the village, never mention Tsunade's age. Quickly calming the violently temperamental woman in front of her, she had to choose her next thoughts lightly so not to find herself in the hospital or suffer. 'Punishment training'.

"Sorry." said Sakrua as she rubbed the back of her head in exasperation. Tsunade sighed at her apprentice and took on a stoic face.

"Sakura, today, I received a letter from the Fire Daimyō who wanted to discuss the Land of Fire and trade agreements with Konoha, seeing as how he couldn't make it himself he has sent a delegate to speak with us on his behalf." said Tsunade recounting what she was told. "The man in question shall be arriving shortly, not only is he a powerful politician and advisor to the Fire Daimyō but he has also made vast contributions to the welfare of the Land of Fire and it's citizen's. I'm sure you've heard of him, Inzei Hōsoku."

"Inzei Hōsoku? You mean the diplomat who solved the crisis between the Land of Spring and the Land of Fire, through peaceful negotiation and trade along with the sole beneficiary of the citizen uprising stabilisation!" said Sakura in shock as the man was famous around the Land of Fire, a reputation that sprouted from his kind and modest demeanour, he was already considered a popular and trusted man among the people of the Land of Fire. Although Sakura had never met the man, the image she painted in her head was an old man with a sort of grandfatherly glow around him.

"You will be escorting and protecting Inzei until he leaves for the Land of Fire capital again, although I don't know what the Fire Daimyō wants but if it involves Inzei I can only assume that it's nothing but good for Konoha and the Land of Fire in general, also try to cater to his needs, take him to some tea shops, I heard he loves tea. Can I trust you to do this?" questioned Tsunade to which Sakura happily replied to. "Also, don't comment on his hands or feet."

They then heard clinking coming from outside the door almost as if metal was hitting itself against metal, then they heard a knock coming from said door but it sounded like metal was hitting itself against the wood. Tsunade allowed the person to enter, where Sakura saw, someone she didn't picture.

He was tall, taller than her, he had an angular face with narrow eyes though they were a little round, he had spiky, chin-length, caramel, brown hair and sandy brown eyes with light skin, he was wearing a white kimono with a black trim with a black obi that hung loosely on his side with motifs of a wavy mist on said trim, loose sleeves where he hid his hands away from sight in a respectful manner, and he was quite handsome, not someone Sakura expected.

"Hokage-sama, a pleasure to meet you again since your last visit to the capital." said Inzei respectfully as he bowed to the older woman.

"Pleasure to see you too Inzei." said Tsunade as she bowed her head at the delegate. "Sakura, allow me to formally introduce you to you, Inzei Hōsoku."

Sakura looked at the man and he had a kind smile on his face, one that could probably make any girl he met fall head over heels in love with him.

"Pleasure to meet you Hōsoku-sama." said Sakura as she held out her hand for him to shake it, though said man flinched a little at the gesture before steeling himself and unfurled his right hand from his robe which made Sakura hold back a gasp. His right hand was what shocked her, upon it was a black metal glove with long, black, straight talons three inches long on the tips of his fingers and thumb, the metal was scrappily made with bars of metal attached to sharp cables that encircled around his hand albeit you could barely see the cable aside from all the chunks of black metal hanging onto it, around his fingers and wrists were black rings of metal encircling the appendages, if you looked past the metal and the sharp cable you could see horrendous red burn marks on his right hand.

Seeing her shocked expression Inzei merely retracted his hand back into his robes and bowed his head a little, Sakura then looked down upon his feet and she saw roughly the same thing. Black, straight metal talons on his toes but were four inches long and there was cables with sheets of black metal on them with black rings on his toes and around his ankles and their were horrid burn marks on his feet also. She wondered what had happened to the man for him to receive such punishment?

"Forgive me Hōsoku-sama." said Sakura with real sincerity and bowed her head a little at the gesture.

"It's of little consequence, and please, refer to me as Inzei, I don't really like honourifics." said Inzei as he smiled while scratching his head a little with his metal talons, he then looked towards Tsunade his smile dropping a little. "Hokage-sama, when would you like to discuss the terms and agreements, as I can tell you have your hands pretty full with work. So it's best that I get out of your hair."

"Well, that would be best, Sakura, please escort Inzei around the village, treat him to some lunch or show him some landmarks." spoke Tsunade as she took out a pen and started writing upon her notes and documents.

"Yes, Tsunade-sama, if you would follow me, Inzei." said Sakura with a smile as the brown haired man followed after her with a small smile of her own, wishing a little to enjoy the village's sights and views.

So for the past half-hour Sakura and Inzei were walking around the village watching all all the frivolous, spurring recreational games and entertainment booths where stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes were offered to the winners, leaving the less than victorious others to walk away empty handed with frowns on their faces, children were running about with their friends with their parents in tow, intent on enjoying the day while it lasted, Inzei merely looked around at everything, he had little time to attend public festivals, so to say, he was marvelling at what was happening around him, while Sakura merely had a small smile and every so often would inch her head at the sights, trying to get a better look at what was happening.

"You know for a time I travelled the world, eager to see the sights that was beholden to it. I wanted to discover what the people of the other nations were like their cultures, traditions and times of fasting. What they did to their during their days on this world, how they would spend it or curse it, depending on your point of view, I wanted to unravel the mysteries of the human spirit and how people could possibly find the courage to continue living." said Inzei suddenly gaining Sakura's attention and catching her by surprise, given the fact that she could tell that his kimono was made of the finest silks in the great nations she never figured him for the adventuring type, she thought for a while that he was a man of exquisite tastes such as wines, parties and women.

"It must have been fun, seeing the world, not cooped up in a cage liked a bird, sometimes I just want to enjoy the finer things in life the simpler things, with another." said Sakura as her smile dropped a little at her last two words. "So what did you discover on this so great pilgrimage of yours?"

Inzei smiled at her curiosity and was genuinely happy she asked. No one was ever really bothered to learn of his adventures nor did they care for them except if they could get money out of it. He was a being that was naturally curious, he described himself as a man of the earth, humbled to all things around him and treating all life as if equal to everything.

"Well, I discovered the strangest thing, something no one would ever expect out of travels such as mine, it was truly awe inspiring, when I travelled the nations, I had discovered that the other nations were... not so different from that of our own." said Inzei making Sakura raise both of her eyebrows at the answer, she was expecting him to say such a things as riches or glory, but not that answer. "Before you question as to how such a thing can be... first take a deep look around you." said Inzei as he kept walking on the path with Sakura, the metal on his feet always clinking.

The pink haired girl did exactly as was asked and turned her head in multiple directions, all she could really see was people enjoying the festivities and other such things, she could see the smiles they were wearing, the sun was beating down upon them on, this was one of the rare few days that Konoha ever had clear skies and bright sunshine. She had to admit that it was better than all the gloom and doom she had become used to. But still she could not see what Inzei was referring to.

"I'm sorry, but I don't understand to what you're referring to." said Sakura skeptically wondering to what the delegate was talking about, it just seemed at the moment that he was spouting nonsense and maybe a little crazy.

"Are you familiar with the works of Guru Laghima?" questioned Inzei as he looked over to Sakrua who merely shook her head at him, never having heard of the name or any familiarity with the name. "Well, Guru Laghima was a renowned guru and poet, who lived nearly three hundred years ago, he was particularly famous for his sheer wisdom, foresight and teachings, he usually portrayed his messages through his poetry and passed on his teachings to his numerous students. His writing was so influential that is survived the worst of the era of warring states. Although I am saddened to say that his words are now seen and dismissed as nothing more than children's stories, well this may just be a children's story as they say he discovered the secret of weightlessness and became untethered from the earth for the final forty years of his life."

"And this relates to a children's story?" pouted Sakura hoping for him to reach the conclusion of his tale, while Inzei chuckled, getting caught up in the moment.

"Like all great children's tales, it contains truth in the myth. Laghima once wrote. Instinct is a lie. Told by a fearful body. Hoping to be wrong." spoke Inzei making Sakura widen her eyes in confusion.

"And that means?"

"It means that when you base your expectations only on what you see, you blind yourself to the possibilities of a new reality." said Inzei as he looked around again, but instead of seeing people having fun, he saw the the ability for great things in the people he was looking at, to him, human life was changeable and ever shifting like wind moving the waves of the ocean, he believed that a mere ant could someday move a mountain if given a chance, the potential and growth of humans exhibited were not flourishing, not given a chance, he hoped to rectify that and give all people an equal and fair voice in their lives. Sakura was taken back by what he said and was amazed at the man in front of her, when she looked at the people again, she saw what he saw, potential.

"I pegged you wrong." she said to the brown haired and he raised an eyebrow at her in thought. "I thought you were some prissy politician who was more concerned with the dirt on his shoe than people's feelings."

"Thats not someone I would like to be in the future." said Inzei but something caught his eye behind Sakura as he raised his eyebrow in exasperation and pity. "Although there are times when I question my beliefs when I watch some... rube, stuff an entire roast chicken in his mouth." deadpanned Inzei where Sakura looked behind him and she sighed and deflated at what she saw.

"OH MY GOD CHŌJI, I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT!" Yelled Ino whose head had grown to ten times the size and she was roaring like a lion at her ever hungry teammate.

"Butsss, ittsss sssooo gwoood." moaned Chōji sitting on his rump feasting on the delicious chicken in his mouth.


And with that said Inzei and Sakura walked away but they didn't catch the look of surprise on Ino's face when she saw her best friend walking away with a hunk of a man, that guy was practically a stud.

'is that Inzei the Carnivore? OMG Sakura you lucky bitch.' thought Ino in amazement at her friend.

A few hours later after enjoying the festival, Sakura and Inzei were making their way back to the Hokage tower, where the diplomat would talk with Tsunade about a few confidential things. Sakura could honestly say that she had a good time.

When they made it into the tower, Sakura decided to voice a question, well more like two questions that were on her mind.

"Hey, Inzei, why do people call you the Carnivore?" questioned Sakura off the top of her head.

"Well, whenever at work, I tend to be, uhh, uncompromising and a tad aggressive. And lets just say that if you cross me... I'll chew you up and spit you out like an angry mother tiger from a fresh kill!" said Inzei bringing up that aggression of his, which made Sakura's mind reboot from the sudden change in attitude. "Well, at least thats what my friends say."

Sakura, taking a breath and getting her mind straight, decided to ask the question which almost felt like walking on glass.

"And what happened to your hands and feet?" queried Sakura as she saw a frown mar Inzei's handsome features, she mentally scolded herself for it for asking such a personal and obviously hurtful question.

"Thats... not a something I can answer. It's best if you don't know." he said while staring at the ground. Sakura merely winced at her stupidity, she knew not to ask him and yet she didn't anyway, dammit, she wasn't good at these sort of things. Plus she didn't know how to console him or comfort him as they had only met a few hours ago.

When the made it to the office of the Hokage Inzei bowed in gratitude before engaging Tsunade in a conversation which would... possibly change more than just one life.

So now the metal branded man and the woman known as a princess within her own village were currently sitting in a room with two couches facing the other, as always the politician had his hands within his robes so to shield the world form their ghastly view. While Tsunade sitting in the opposite couch with one leg crossed over the other,while her hazel eyes stared at the man in front of her.

"There is no civility. No pleasantries. No good will. Only politics." spoke Inzei in a depressed state with a monotone ring in his voice. Tsunade could see that it was etched onto his face, the responsibilities of having to cater to an idiot, Inzei was a hard working man, yes. He didn't achieve the position he had in politics by being lazy. He had won the people's respect through determination and a unique charisma that could inspire many. Although once he entered the game of politics, then did he feel like he was her age. "The Land of Fire, the once great country that many respected is not what it once was. The halls of politicians and nobles are now filled with rapacious, squabbling, naïve diplomats. There is no interest in the common good. I must be frank Hokage-sama there is little chance that the Daimyō will act upon his duties."

"The Daimyō thinks otherwise. He's been our strongest supporter even before the invasion two years ago." argued Tsunade as she smiled a little while looking over her village enjoying it's growth and prosperity. A village her grandfather built.

"If I may say so the Daimyō has very little power left and what power he had before the invasion was little in retrospective. He is mired by baseless recriminations of corruption, scandals and overall incompetency, the few allies he has left wish to turn upon him when given the chance. The bureaucrats are in charge and his advisors whisper commands and he obeys like a lost puppy." snorted Inzei as he had met the Daimyō many times and all those times he was unimpressed with the man, fickle-minded and snotty.

"But my village has been prospering, with each day we grow stronger, producing finer shinobi than the last." said Tsunade as she turned her attention to the white robed man. "If he has little power left than why is the strongest shinobi village becoming even stronger."

"You fail to the see that which is right in front of you hime... the only reason your village has been flourishing as it has is because the bureaucrats have allowed it. In fact the Daimyō himself has been taking several steps to ensure the Konoha is remaining strong, it's the one thing he's done right during his term... He's been levying greater amounts of tax payment and has been donating rather generously to the welfare of your village. But all power comes at a cost." spoke Inzei his mood shifting, becoming more serious. "The people are starving, they will soon begin dropping dead like fish out of water, their frustrations are rising and I will not be able to quell their anger as I did the last time. The aristocracy are extorting all the wrongfully levied taxes and spending them on extravagances, the Daimyō's wife Madam Shijimi being one of the key factors behind the economic decline because of her spendthrift fault, she spends more money hiring your ninja to chase that cat of hers than she does on the finest silks, jewels and pearls. Trade routes are being raided by bandits and are freely killing innocents and claiming food and water that the people sorely need. And don't ask why you were never told of this is because the Daimyō didn't want you getting involved upsetting and fuelling the mess he has made, he's more interested in his belongings than the welfare of his people."

All the while the two of them weren't privy to the knowledge of someone outside the door listening in on their conversation, this person had pink hair and it didn't take a genius to discover who it belonged to.

"The land of Fire is currently embroiled in political and economic turmoil, it won't be long before a revolution happens, overthrowing the government and in place creating a new one, the masses will rise and other countries may seek to use the crisis to their own advantage. This all stems from a single thought." continued Inzei as Tsunade spoke with her eyes, questioning him on this one thought.

"Everybody wants to rule the world."

Tsunade raised her eyebrow at this, and she had to admit that it was mostly true.

"And it's fair to say that I want to rule the world, a little." said Inzei scratching his head.

"So what can we do to stop this so called crisis." questioned Tsunade lightheartedly.

"Don't patronise me, Tsunade. You may not care about the Land of Fire but I do. While I may have some knowledge on shinobi affairs, I know for a fact that if the government falls other countries may try to manoeuvre themselves, establishing political places within the government and influencing the country and Konoha." said Inzei which made Tsunade widen her eyes in realisation that the situation was worse than she feared. "The Fire Daimyō will lead this land into ruin, and the people will blame you for not taking action because of your passivity, they may turn on Konoha, as absolute power corrupts absolutely, I fear we may need a new leader who will not be tempted by proclamations of authority unless it's not too late for the Daimyō to change course and wash away the dirt and grime he brought along with him. The coming months shall decide whether or not the Daimyō is fit to rule this land with order or en-thrall this land into chaos. Just walk outside your walls and you will see what is happening, children and civilians are starving, suffering and dying, the rates of unemployment are growing drastically with each second, poverty is becoming a more adamant problem. It will be soon before riots start happening and then what comes after shall be worse."

Inzei got up out of his chair and brushed his robes, bowed with respect and bid Tsunade farewell. He was about to grasp the door knob with his hand when Tsunade called out for him to stop.

"What we are discussing, may very well be labelled as treason by the wrong parties, parties seeking power." spoke Tsunade carefully. "If you say this situation must be stabilised, then I can send one of my most trusted ninja to accompany you back to the capital and will act as an extension of myself. A delegate from Konoha. I'm putting my faith in you, resolve this problem before it becomes out of hand."

"This isn't treason, it's merely an exchange of views. The Fire Daimyō doesn't know how to rule, he'll most likely find his head on a spike being paraded down a street, the only thing we were discussing was a peaceful solution to the situation, nothing more. I'll be leaving tomorrow, send your delegate to me at the northern gate where we will part for the capitol." spoke Inzei twisting the doorknob and seeing himself out where he saw an inconspicuous Sakura leaning against the wall, he waved his hand in farewell before he was on his way.

When Sakura turned her head she saw the face of her master in front of her, with an expressionless gaze.

"Pack your bags, you're going to the capitol."

Elsewhere two figures were walking down a road towards a village famous for it's infrastructure. The two beings were wearing black cloaks emblazoned with red clouds, one had blue hair like the ocean with eyes that rivalled amber while the other had sun-kissed hair with ruby eyes with black tomoe within them.

The two were Ryū Yokaze (Naruto Uzumaki) and his partner Konan. The two had said nothing to each other nor have they spared each other glances aside from simple looks, all they did together for the moment, was walk upon the road to which the destination was at it's end.

Things had been tense and awkward between the two, Konan could remember what happened on the gondola as if it happened minutes ago. It just felt so right what she had seen looking into the lantern was something she could only perceive in a dream.

She had seen Yahiko, seen him it felt like him, flesh and blood, right before her. When she opened her eyes he was still there, unruly orange hair and charming smile. She had no control of her actions, she had just acted on her instincts and just, swept herself in bliss that she couldn't let go of, she never wanted the moment to end. She wanted the things in her life to last forever, everything was perfect, until her mind had caught up to her. Then did everything end.

She had no idea what Ryū was thinking reciprocating the action and taking it even further. Did he mistake her for someone else. When she saw him, she mistook for Yahiko, from a time that he was depressed from the state of the world. Thats what Ryū seemed like to her and that is what made her foolishly mistake yellow for orange.

She didn't know if she should feel guilty her angered at what she had done or what Ryū would do to her. It would be a few more hours of walking though they would be there much faster if Naruto merely created that space-time portal of his. That was the indicator, since he wasn't using it he had to think over his thoughts while walking, so she would leave him like that until he wanted to talk again.

Naruto meanwhile, was coming to terms with everything he was, he was tired, tired of everything. No matter what he did it ultimately left him feeling confused about who he was, he felt like he was losing more than just his emotions, more like his entire being. He killed two of his childhood friends without hesitation and yet he felt no guilt or shame for killing them, even enemies felt guilt for each other but yet he didn't feel like that.

When he kissed Konan, he felt a passion that felt buried long ago, almost as if it belonged to another. It was a rush, all those thoughts running through him, the feeling, he wanted it, he wanted it so much that he felt like the Infinite Tsukuyomi was the only way for him to rekindle what he had lost.

But then he lost it, almost as if it was never there. And then he didn't feel anything afterwards. Just what was he?

So they continued walking, not talking to each other or looking at another. Just silence.

When they arrived at Amegakure they were immediately summoned by Pain to his tower. The leader of the Akatsuki wished to discuss some things with the blonde haired man. More specifically to see if the Newest member had fond the traitor.

"Were you successful?" questioned Pain as he stared out over Amegakure, again. His metallic purple eyes looking out over the horizon, never moving or twitching, he was the watcher of the village, like a tiger protecting it's territory. He could feel his village's citizens doing, whatever they did. Behind was Ryū Yokaze and Konan who were listening to his words with emotionless faces.

"Yes." answered Naruto bluntly, his red eyes never leaving the man in front of him. The blonde was no fool, his master was a wielder of the Rinnegan, he could tell the person in front of him was a corpse. Animated from Nagato's chakra. Naruto had to hold back a snort every time he saw the man. He believed himself a god when the original wielder of his eyes was more than just a god. But that mattered little at the moment, there was a person running around the world leaking the Akatsuki's secrets and movements and Naruto already had a guess as to who it was.

"Then you should go apprehend him, that is, if you can." said Pain with unintentional smugness and insult laced in his voice. To be quite frank he wasn't overly fond of Yokaze, he did not approve of the man's closeness with Konan, for one he barely trusted him, so how could he trust him to protect his best friend. Two, although efficient in his missions, it doesn't seem like he wishes for camaraderie or the very least cooperation, well that what it seemed, he couldn't confirm if it was true or not. Three, he didn't know what he was yearning for, money (Kakazu), religion (Hidan), art (Deidara and Sasori) or just for the fun of it with ulterior motives (Kisame). The man before him was a puzzle and like any child, Pain wanted to complete the puzzle and discover all the secrets of Ryū Yokaze.

"He's here in the village, I can sense him. You already know what I plan, so I'll be taking my leave." said Naruto as he turned to leave discarding the Akatsuki cloak he was ready opting for his usual black attire. As he was about to leave he turned to Konan and asked for the Shiromikairen to which she unsealed the blade and gave it to him where he said he would return it later, as he had a feeling he was going to need it. Konan frowned sadly, ever so slightly at his distant attitude and his neutral aura while his retreating form disappeared from her sight.

He walked through the village with little light, the endless rain pelting his body, the cold unaffected him as with each step he took a squelching sound was made. No one was on the streets and if there were they would be hobbling for shelter, away from the downpour, while Naruto kept on walking unaffected by the heavy drizzle. His red eyes were on the path he was walking on, no where else mattered but the road ahead of him. Other than the splashing of water from the dark clouds above him there was... utter silence. No light.

So many thoughts were running through him, he could hear voices not the kind that would talk back to you, but these voices belonged to a fragmented tale. They were telling him things that he did not understand or comprehend, but one voice in particular belonged to a girl, a young one, he was carrying something from her, something that only few people could understand or wish for, something that belonged to a different world. A world without memory, when the eyes closed, it came back to him, merely flashes, he had seen more than he should have and it was gnawing at his being.

But yet the images he saw were something so natural that they could be mistaken as reality, was it reality or was it more like an illusion, or a memory. His eyes allowed him to see many things that others were not privy to but the images they were real, they felt real, all of it, he saw so many things. The images merely confused him, made him question who he was and what he wanted what he felt was important. Were they memories beyond his grasp?

He felt no pain whatsoever so he was unable to feel the Juinjutsu on his left arm, throbbing ever so often, it would pulse every so often and it's colour would change from black to red, granted it did not glow in the dark atmosphere around him. He just kept on moving, his mind not alerting him to the pulsing on his arm that he had been occurring since the time out on the lake of Takigakure.

The voices were telling him their exact words.

'something so simple'.

'a creation born of ignorance.'

'a being without purpose, you are'.

'the secret place'.

'your voice'.

'you left me'.

'this time... I'll fight.'

'meet me at the place in-between'

'the forgotten place'

'they're gathering'

'you are a nobody, nonexistent'

'the third enemy'

'what took so long?'

'can we do it?'

'against that!'

'you're heartless!'

'I have come for you, my master.'

'you are the source of all.'


'Naruto... why?'


'the thirteenth order'

'-sama, but why'


'that which holds you back.'

'what is this place?'


'is this the answer you're looking for'

'you have no more use'

'this is the world's true form'

'maybe my life meant nothing after all'

'a paradise with you'

'we'll go together, Naruto'

'I've been to see him'

'he looks just like you'

"Everything is coming back to me, the true..." spoke Naruto as his speech trailed off after the last word. All those words recounted in his head, some were spoken by men, another by a girl. It was in that order, starting with 'something so simple' and ending with 'he looks just like you'. It rang like bell in his head, thunderous and loud, greater than the rain falling on him.

His train of thoughts were soon interrupted when he felt 'their' presence. At least sixty of them, each with subpar above Chūnin level chakra levels, nothing compared to his tailed beast level chakra. They were attempting to hide from him, trying to obscure their presence. However he had to give credit where it was due, they were at least 'trying' to hide their presence from him. Bu with his red eyes he could see them scaling the pipes and roofs of the industrialised village around him.

Before he stopped at a building in front of him that served as a hotel to some, the rain still beating down upon him, he smirked ever so subtly as they finally made their appearance. All sixty of them surrounding him from all sides creating a vacuum around the man in the shape of a circle, they were all standing around him, like statues. Each one wearing a different mask from the other, but there was something different about them.

They all wore short black jackets with red straps and black leather gloves. They all wore high collared shirts with black bands wrapped around their ankles and ninja sandals, they each had tantō strapped to their shoulders.

Naruto knew all too well, which organisation these puppets belonged to. They carried the stench of their master with them that not even the rain could wash away. ROOT, the now 'disbanded' subdivision of Konoha's ANBU black ops. One of the members of Danzō's clandestine division approached the blonde from his right side, cautiously. Naruto didn't face him and merely stared out ahead making no move whatsoever.

A little distance away in the evil, secret building of Toge Busshu and his accomplice Hametsu were looking out through the broken window. Watching the show from their sanctuary.

"Well... isn't this suppose to be the moment where you... I don't know kill him." quipped Toge as he turned to look at his brutish partner in crime.

"No... tigers wait for the right chance to strike, they observe their prey first. So you wait." said Hametsu as he pushed Toge away and kept staring out over the village hidden in the rain.

Back with Naruto who was still staring into space.

"Please come with us, Tekurufu." said the ROOT agent which made Naruto quirk an eyebrow at him, he had never heard of a fellow named Tekurufu. Well at least it wasn't a name he memorised for a bounty. But still what was the agent insinuating?

"Tekurufu?" queried Naruto as he looked up into the sky letting the rain fall against his face.

"If you resist we have been ordered to eliminate you." said the ROOT agent as he busted out his tentō and readied himself in a combat stance against Naruto who wasn't in the least a bit intimidated by the man.

Before the agent could react he fell to the ground with blood leaking from his head, he currently had a senbon in his left eye through the eyehole in his mask piercing deep and precisely enough into his brain. Many of the ROOT members reacted to this and readied their weapons to kill Naruto, as if, the blonde was already two steps ahead of them, one, he wasn't unprepared, two, he wasn't alone.

Naruto fell into a stance and swung his right arm where the Tonbogiri appeared and he then swung his left arm where the Shiromikairen appeared before spinning the both of them, grinding their metal against the other creating sparks from the contact and fell into a battle ready stance.

The ROOT soldiers took a few steps forward, while Naruto stood their with his swords ready to battle, the rain kept falling, soaking the ROOT agents to the bone in cold liquid, they stood there for a few minutes never doing anything other than letting time pass by. They had faith in their training that they could kill the one they labeled as Tekurufu.

Naruto kept standing there his eyes never moving, only keeping their gaze to those in front of him, his two swords by his side were dripping with water left over by the rain, you could not even see a twitch or inkling of fear, nervousness or hesitation. So now they were all waiting, for the machines to destroy the other, fulfil their mission and be on their way.

Suddenly the rain stopped. And at that moment the ROOT agents took to the field of combat

one member attempted to sacrifice himself so to allow his comrades to gauge the skill level of their opponent, swiftly he ran towards Naruto who sensed his approach coming and without wasting any movements, acted accordingly to his training.

With the Tonbogiri he slashed the ROOT member vertically killing him instantly and making his body scrape across the ground as his blood coated the wet floor and the Tonbogiri where the small amount of red liquid dripped off the black sword.

Two more members attempted to rush the blonde intent on killing him. Naruto switching his grip on the Shiromikairen to a reverse grip, slashed one of the members across the chest killing her and then stabbing the Tonbogiri into the other. With quick precision and timing Naruto kicked the body of the agent he had killed with the white sword into an oncoming group of ROOT agents who were toppled over from the body. And then skilfully using the Tonbogiri, Naruto positioned the sword (with the blade still stabbing the ROOT member) towards a group of kunai that was flying towards him, making use of the dead agent by serving his purpose as a shield.

Naruto planted his foot on the man still attached to his black blade and pushed him off the sword.

With nothing but utter skill did Naruto stab the Shiromikairen into an agent who was coming in from behind him, he then flipped over the stabbed man where he landed behind the mans back where he then stabbed the Tonbogiri into his opponents back and threw him off the sword towards another oncoming group who were toppled over like bowling pins.

Naruto continuing with his defensive assault slashing another agent downward killing him, and then having the Shiromikairen slice off the foot of another agent making him scream in pain at what had happened to him, but his screams did not last long as Naruto twirled around and pierced him with the Tonbogiri before the blonde flipped over the dead corpse and sliced two members horizontally finishing them before doing a split kick which sent the bodies hurtling away and into other soldiers.

Naruto slashed another solider across the stomach before performing a simple kick breaking the man's teeth and skull.

He hacked away at another through an upward vertical cut and at the same time kicking another soldier away only to rejoin in the fight later.

Naruto then twirled around in the air killing another ROOT agent who foolishly followed after the whirlwind of metal death.

When the blonde landed on the ground, the keen visual perception and prediction of the Sharingan saw three ROOT members jumping into the air trying a new tactic that could kill the blonde. Naruto only jumped after them and the three combatants kept clashing their weapons against the other, however the clash only proved futile for the three of them as their weapons were either shattered into pieces by the Shiromikairen or nothing more than diced up metal thanks to the Tonbogiri.

When the four of them landed back on the ground, Naruto jumped into the air again but this time with seven ROOT members chasing after him, he efficiently dealt with three of them in the air by slashing them across their chests, it still meant he had four others to deal with who were coming down ready to strike him from above. Wasting not a single movement of his muscles he threw the Shiromikairen into the air straight past the ROOT members, but what they didn't see was the white blade boomeranging around in the air and came flying down towards them, killing all four of them in a single fell swoop and then returning to Naruto's hand as if it had never left it's master. And Naruto again holding it in a reverse grip.

Now things were getting serious and the kiddy gloves were coming off, the ROOT agents now began using jutsu against the blonde, Lightning and Fire jutsu that forced the Akatsuki member to think light on his feet, however even with their great discipline they still lacked self control which Naruto exploited as the ROOT agents were accidentally killing their comrades in the effects of their jutsu, friendly fire was a bitch after all.

Naruto using his amazing agility landed on a staircase leading up to the hotel where he cooly watched the little puppets of Danzō scurry about trying to flank him.

The blonde then looked up to the top of the hotel where he saw a cloaked figure standing atop the tower with a neutral gaze on his face.

And from the shadows came Itachi Uchiha with his red eyes staring down upon Naruto as if he was a holy messenger of a god. Naruto not intent on letting his prey escape ran up the length of the tower with great speed that only a Sharingan could follow with his swords scraping against the metal of the building creating sparks in his path, ROOT agents following after him.

Itachi seemed to smirk at the blonde which was rewarded with Naruto throwing the Tonbogiri at him with the black blade whirling towards the black haired man.

Itachi in response jumped off the roof of the hotel and amazingly grabbed the Tonbogiri out of the air and began descending rapidly down the length of the hotel with the black blade in his hand ready for action.

With the two Sharingan wielders closing in on the other, instead of attacking the passed by each other while offering their respective opponent a blank glance, while Itachi cut any ROOT agent in his way and traded places with Naruto who stood in the spot Itachi was standing in not a second ago.

When the former Uchiha heir landed on the ground he was immediately besieged by members of ROOT, the agents were also assigned to eliminate Itachi so not to reveal the deplorable acts of the Leaf village, more specifically the events surrounding the Uchiha massacre.

So Itachi started cutting up those who stood before him and using fire jutsu and water jutsu which was easily created from the moisture and water on the ground. Killing at least twelve without any interruption from our golden haired anti-hero.

So without further ado, Naruto jumped back into the fray of the battle not intent on letting Itachi have his way.

But things turned out as expected when Itachi threw a kunai at Naruto to which the blonde blocked it with the Shiromikairen, plucked it out of the air and threw it back at Itachi who dodged it by moving his head to the side with a look of surprise and shock on his face, the kunai flew past the Uchiha and pierced a ROOT member behind the Sharingan wielder while also cutting away some of Itachi's bangs that framed his face.

Naruto charged at Itachi without any hesitation while Itachi did the same thing with the ROOT members wondering if they were allies, enemies or frenemies.

Both Naruto and Itachi attempted to stab the other in the head but both seeing the moves with the Sharingan dodged by moving their head which also had the added benefit of killing two ROOT members that had snuck up behind them. Both then twirled away from one another while at the same time tried to slash the other which only met in a clash of metal that resounded around the area.

Since the Tonbogiri and the Shiromikairen were known as the sister swords, the effect of each blade was cancelled out when their metal would meet.

Naruto back away a little and pierced another ROOT member without even looking and blocked another agent with the Shiromikairen where he was no back to back with Itachi who had his own problems to deal with.

Itachi sensing danger behind him swung the Tonbogiri behind trying to kill Naruto who ducked under it causing Itachi to strike a ROOT agent and Naruto to stab another soldier of ROOT, Itachi quickly seeing Naruto's distraction took out a kunai and threw it against the blade of the Shiromikairen causing it to fall from Naruto's hand.

But this did nothing to annoy or anger the blonde as he basically took nearly everything in stride.

Naruto then unsealed a kunai from one of his wrist seals and held it in a reverse grip. Hr then rushed at a member of ROOT with great speed that the shinobi barely had time to react as Naruto slash him across the side killing him, staining the ground with his blood as he fell with a thud, Naruto wasn't finished with his rush of combat as another ROOT agent attempted to slice off his feet with his tantō only for Naruto to jump in the air and perform a reverse roundhouse kick hitting the agent in the head and breaking his neck, Naruto with the kunai in hand blocked a vertical slash coming from a tantō another agent and knocked it completely out of the man's hand where Naruto than stabbed him in the stomach, ending his life.

And in a span of only three seconds, Naruto grabbed the tantō out of the air holding it in a reverse grip. With his kunai he redirected an attack from the Tonbogiri which cut the kunai in half while at the same time slashing Itachi in the side with his tantō all in a span of three seconds and ending with the blonde's back to the Uchiha as he fell to the ground clutching at the wound he had received. Naruto only stood in that same position with his eyes closed holding the sliced off kunai in a reverse grip and the bloodied tantō in the other with his legs slightly crouched.

Feeling the presence of no more enemies Naruto dropped the tantō and the broken kunai to the ground which made a clank when they hit the hard ground and Naruto opened his eyes as he heard the shallow breathing from Itachi. At last he had found and bested the traitor.

Naruto turned around to see Itachi on the ground clutching at the wound, he could sense it around him, this was no genjutsu, it was reality. And he was amazed at the training he had received from Madara, as he bested Itachi, a prodigy with the potential to rival the Yondaime, defeated in only three seconds, something which he could never have accomplished before he met the old goat. he picked up the Tonbogiri and Shiromikairen off the ground and sealed them in his wrist seals.

"Lets go, Itachi, we have much to talk about." said Naruto as he grabbed Itachi from his Akatsuki cloak's collar. Naruto then activated the Eternal Mangekyō Sharingan in his left eye and used Kamiyonanayo: Suteppu no Shinigami (Steps of the death god) to open a black and purple portal that led to a different location.

With that said, Naruto dragged Itachi through the portal and ended up in a small room octagonal in shape and made of metal with small rectangular windows that allowed barely enough light piercing through the darkness and a single bed with a less than soft mattress and a door with iron bars, and behind the bars was an octagonal door that could only be opened with special chakra.

Naruto unceremoniously dropped Itachi on the ground who had a near dazed look in his eyes while Naruto sat on the bed and observed Itachi from his spot on the bed.

"So... Itachi, at last I find you." spoke Naruto emotionlessly as he stared at Itachi's bleeding form and pulled own his hood revealing his golden locks. Naruto held back just a bit so not to kill Itachi, he still had some uses as a pawn the blonde supposed. Itachi widened his now black eyes at the man, he had seen that face before, and he knew it all too well, it lacked a few certain properties but the resemblance was there, undeniable.


Ok Guys I am so sorry for having you wait a long time for this, but I have been really sick and I have health issues that have drained most of my time away and will take up most of my time for a long time, but I was able to push through my health issues to bring you this chapter. hope you like this chapter PM me for any questions and also check out my profile for what Hametsu, Jakunen, Otaku, Toge's evil lair and what the interiro of Naruto's safe house looks like. and we'll be seeing more of Inzei, he'll have a important role to play in the story.

Juubiwriter99 is down and out.