Dawn's Sage

Chapter 26

Naruto hadn't realized just how far away Zetsu had lured him until he had to run all the way back. The sheer amount of chakra being thrown around wasn't helping the sage get an accurate picture of what was going on with the others. He could detect the pulses of chakra from individual techniques, but Nagato's omnipresent chakra prevented Naruto from sensing individuals and locations form this distance.

Sensing a familiar and volatile chakra coming towards him quickly, Naruto held up his hand. Deidara grabbed a hold of him and swung him onto the clay bird that continued towards Nagato's location without missing a beat. "Can you sense anything? Obviously they didn't kill Nagato, even I can feel the chakra, but how are they doing, yeah?"

"I really can't tell. Nagato's chakra is still there and I can sense the others are still alive, but not much-" Naruto's eyes widened in shock and his mouth dropped open slightly. "Hurry."

"What just happened?" asked Deidara frantically as her clay mount began to go even faster than its previous breakneck pace.

"Hidan's chakra signature just vanished." said Naruto. "I don't know how, but it's gone."

"No way. Hidan's immortal, yeah?" asked Deidara. "There's just no way he's dead."

"Either way, we have to get there now." said Naruto as the color drained form his face. He hoped that they could stop Nagato without having to pull out all the stops, but he was beginning to fear that Akatsuki couldn't stop their former leader even if he used the Nine Tails chakra that had so easily dominated his fight with Zetsu. After all, if he could kill Hidan, Nagato might not be cocky in his power, but rightfully confident.


Kakuzu was shocked to see Hidan… dead. It was such a strange and alien concept that the swearing Jashinist could be killed that he figured the closest thing to an immortal in the world would be the last of them to go down, and even then only being incapacitated. On a positive note, now Kakuzu knew not to let Nagato touch him at all. That wasn't much of a consolation prize though. He found himself glad that he had comrades on the way to assist them in fighting this monster, and wondered when Naruto and Deidara would be getting here.

Kakuzu found it odd that he didn't consider the very real possibility of them abandoning the members of Akatsuki that had stayed to fight Nagato for even a second. Nor did he think that Zetsu and Konan would win, despite his views on experience prevailing above all. The bomber and the sage were powerful allies, and he only hoped that they would be able to make it in time. The bounty hunter swore to himself that he would be standing when they arrived.

"You came close, but none can stand before the might of a god for long." said Nagato calmly as he blasted his former subordinates away simply by narrowing his ringed eyes. The four Akatsuki members were sent flying head over heels by the raw power that collided with them, and not even Orochimaru could slither around the attack. The force subsided, and Orochimaru skidded to a halt some distance away. He observed Nagato grow another limb, similar to before when he destroyed the remains of Hidan's scythe.

Orochimaru's eye widened as he spit out a spare body just as the previous one was incinerated in a beam of light he couldn't even follow. The Sannin didn't even bother to predict where the blasts would hit, and slithered along the ground in random directions as fast as he could. Not looking where he was going however, had an unfortunate side effect.

When the blasts stopped, Orochimaru stood up, only to come face to face with Nagato, who quickly reached out with his right hand. Reacting with the speed of a striking viper, Orochimaru grabbed ahold of Nagato's wrist with both hands in an attempt to prevent his soul form being ripped out. He absentmindedly wondered if Nagato could rip his soul via his arms, maybe even taking just the arms, but decided that that would just be stupid, not to mention weird.

Nagato tried to raise his left hand, but Orochimaru opened his mouth wider than should be biologically possible and mentally commanded Kusanagi to extend out. The legendary blade impaled the god's wrist and continued on to stick deeply into the ground. Orochimaru worried for a second that his guess had been wrong, and that Nagato would simply grow another arm and remove his soul, but the seconds passed, and all that was proven lacking was Orochimaru's strength as Nagato's hand inched slowly towards the Sannin's chest, but not his theories.

Nagato had ridiculously strong abilities even beyond the black chakra of the Ten Tails, he never would have united the members of Akatsuki under him as Pain otherwise. But whether it was the power of the abilities themselves or the added stress of holding back the Ten Tails, Nagato could only use one ability at a time. Grinning in victory, Orochimaru breathed out a thick purple smog around Kusanagi. The poison was a potent, not that it would have any effect on Orochimaru, but one that would likely slow Nagato down, if not outright kill him.

Nagato tried to pull back, but now Orochimaru wasn't holding Nagato's wrist back, he was holding it in place. The Snake Sannin wasn't as feared as he was for relying on one plan though, and he decided to enact all of them at once just in case being the Ten Tails jinchuriki came with some kind of toxic immunity privilege. The palm on his hand opened, biting down on Nagato's wrist and injecting it with Orochimaru's chakra. The chakra wasn't naturally explosive like Deidara's but the ability to manipulate the chakra was still there. Commanding Nagato's arm to remain still for a second wouldn't work for long, but it would do for the time being. Orochimaru had Kusanagi contract in the opposite direction, the hilt shooting out of his mouth to keep Nagato stuck while Orochimaru executed his next move. Another body emerged, fingertips alight with small flames.

"Let's see if we can do something about that pesky Ten Tails. Five Pronged Seal!" Orochimaru's hand shot out at blinding speeds to add additional pillars of support to the Ten Tails seal in hopes of cutting off Nagato's connection to the beast, or at least hampering it in some way should he survive the poison on Kusanagi and the poison in the air.

Centimeters before Orochimaru's finger came into contact with Nagato's skin, a blast of chakra sent Orochimaru flying and dispersed the poison in the air. Stiffly moving his arm as Orochimaru's chakra left his system, Nagato removed Kusanagi, the wound closing up quickly without so much as a drop of blood escaping the wound. Tumbling head over heels, Orochimaru tumbled to a stop, only to be enveloped in a brilliant beam of pure chakra. When the dust settled, Orochimaru was gone a smoking crater was all that remained of the Sannin.

As Nagato's right hand reassembled into a five digit appendage, the black Ten Tail's chakra formed a ring around him to dissolve the poisoned ninja wire all but invisible to the naked eye that tried to wrap around him. The corrosive chakra did little to stop the barrage of poisoned weapons from being launched against him, but they did little against the impenetrable shield of chakra that broke down all the senbon and kunai. Nagato looked to see the two puppets that dodged his counterattack fervently, not letting themselves be touched anymore.

The two were relatively simple humanoids clad in red cloaks with fur collars. The female looking puppet had long brown hair while the male puppet had short red hair similar to Sasori's, though it was a common enough hair color in the Hidden Sand. The limp ninja wire that used to connect the two had been severed, and the two drew their own unique weapons. Nagato was surprised to see an ornate serrated katana and a custom made kunai covered whip. These two puppets showed more care put into them than even the Kazekage puppets that Sasori had been using, which made Nagato wary of what powerful abilities they had, and why they hadn't used them yet.

"I suspect you gathered information on our abilities via Zetsu. Unfortunately for you, I have plenty of secrets. Though I don't really want to see Mother and Father destroyed, so I'll just bring my best against you. It took a lot of work to get these out of the Hidden Sand, I'll have you know." said Sasori, as he removed a scroll and unfurled it. The ten seals exploded in a cloud of smoke. "The name might seem strange, but I didn't feel like doing away with tradition. White Secret Art: Chikamatsu Collection! I've yet to make any puppet this powerful. Each one could elevate a lesser puppeteer to S-Rank. In the hands of a master… they'll spell you doom."

Clad in bright white cloaks, the puppets stood out against Sasori's usual red. Each one was unique, and Nagato was now outnumbered as Kisame joined the puppets, hefting Samehada menacingly. Twitching his fingers like a conductor, Sasori had five of the puppets, joined by Kisame, rush the self-proclaimed god. A puppet with long black hair shot its own hand off, connected via a cable, and grabbed ahold of an orb that a red faced puppet spat out. Four giant chakra blades began to rotate quickly around the sphere, which was swung at Nagato.

Raising his hand casually, Nagato drained the chakra from the deadly blades, and caught the orb before yanking the black haired puppet towards him. Before Nagato's victim could reach him however, a bald puppet with several holes in its head burst forth under Nagato's outstretched arm. The purpose of the holes quickly became apparent when spiked cord shot out, aiming to impale Nagato multiple times. He could easily survive the hit, but Nagato wasn't one to tolerate an image of weakness, especially now that he was a god.

"Shinra Tensei!" The spiked cord bounced off the protective barrier before it burst out, launching the puppet and smashing it into dozens of pieces. A single twitch of Sasori's left thumb was enough to snap the whole puppet back together in a heartbeat. A heartbeat that Nagato used to snap off his hand at the wrist and reveal a rack of small missiles. The projectiles launched towards Sasori himself, only to be sliced in half midair by a red haired puppet wielding two massive swords. The puppet landed on one of her sword as the bomb exploded in the air behind her.

A massive tornado began to suck at Nagato, who looked in the direction of the suction to see three of the puppets standing in a small pyramid and generating the winds. Anchoring himself to the ground with chakra, Nagato fought the suction, and barely had time to react to the threads that burst out of the ground beneath him. Nagato jumped to prevent Kakuzu from grabbing a hold of him and ripping out his heart, and had to channel the Preta Path to absorb the electrified water that came shooting towards him.

Morphing the Ten Tails chakra into a long spear, Nagato impales Kakuzu, who coughed up blood around his threads as his second to last heart was destroyed. The inverted tornado grabbed hold of Nagato before he could recover from jumping, and he began to hurtle towards the three puppets. Nagato prepared the Ten Tails chakra to destroy the puppets, but they broke apart right as Nagato was about to reach them. The momentum kept carrying him forwards though, heading towards Kisame, who swung Samehada down sideways to maximize the surface area of his blow.

Forced to use the black chakra defensively, Nagato stopped Kisame's strike dead in its tracks. Kisame merely smirked as the hilt of his blade extended, growing spikes and aiming to strike Nagato under his guard. The red head leaned to one side, and gained nothing more than a cut on his stomach that healed almost immediately. Kisame jumped back before the dissolving chakra could strike around Samehada in a similar fashion.

Before the Ten Tails chakra could retreat to its standard position as ten orbs hovering behind him, two puppets with massive fists came in from either side to try and smash Nagato's face in. The punches were stopped by Nagato's outstretched palms, and two more hands that sprouted shot the puppets with a powerful blast of chakra. One of the puppets grew another hand before it died and grabbed hold of Nagato's two hands, while the other puppet had to be satisfied with restraining only one arm. Nagato's ringed eyes widened as he looked up to see a blanket of lava descending upon him. Growing two more hands, he blasted the lava with missiles until the blanket of fiery rock broke into a rain of hot globules.

Freeing his hands from the puppets, Nagato began to drain the chakra from the mist that began to surround him as it started to eat away at his skin. As the mist faded, Nagato looked up to see the Mizukage looking back at him with her golden eyes, ringed by purple mascara. "You truly did a number on my previous body, and I had to jump into this one before I could make the modifications I wanted to. Now I'll be spending the next three years as a woman. Granted, you'll be spending eternity in a shallow grave. You'll need to do better if you want to kill a Sannin. Kukuku." said the person who was most certainly not the Mizukage.

"My mistake." said Nagato calmly. "I'll be sure to bring my best to the table this time. Well, the best that you deserve anyway." Nagato rushed forward, swinging the black chakra down to bisect the now female Sannin. Orochimaru brought his hand to the side in a sweeping motion, and the Kusanagi blade levitated up from its previous position to intercept the chakra and knock it off course. Grabbing the hilt of the legendary sword, Orochimaru swung it across Nagato's body, and Akatsuki's former leader was forced to jump back or risk being bisected.

Orochimaru would have shot his tongue out to grab Nagato and drag him back into the blow, or spat out of wave of a thousand snakes to chase him down, but neither was possible at the moment with his new unaugmented body, so he settled for a ball of lava that Nagato quickly drained the chakra from. He was still forced to deal with a small boulder coming at him, and the force from the rock transferred to Nagato as he caught it to prevent actually being struck.

Unfortunately, Kisame and Kakuzu took full advantage of the fact that Orochimaru had taken up both Nagato's hands and his more versatile abilities for a moment to drain chakra. Kisame held the Ten Tails chakra back with Samehada, while Kakuzu hardened his fist and literally launched a punch at Nagato. Nagato might not be able to launch blasts of gravity, or shoot chakra lasers, or suck out souls at the moment, and his Ten Tails chakra was holding back Orochimaru and Kisame's legendary swords at the moment, but he still had access to the most basic on ninja skills. Dodging.

Nagato easily sidestepped the punch, dropped the rock that used to be a Lava Style technique, and raised a hand towards Kakuzu. "Bando Tensei!" Kakuzu couldn't fight the force that began pulling him towards the self-made god, and he readied a Water Style Technique with his final heart from the five he had started out with. Before he could finish the technique though, Nagato had placed a hand on his chest. Still channeling the Deva Path, Nagato couldn't rip out Kakuzu's soul. Instead, he shot a pitch black rod out of his sleeve to impale the second half of the Zombie Combo.

Orochimaru and Kisame were blasted back as Nagato turned his attention to them, allowing Kakuzu's body to fall to the ground. The ex-Mist and Leaf ninja skidded to a halt near Sasori, who had regrouped his puppets to assess the damage done to them by Nagato. Orochimaru began to sprint back towards Nagato, who simply scoffed at the Sannin's recklessness. Sasori's eyes widened at Orochimaru's actions, and Kisame was the first to find his voice as he ran after Orochimaru to provide backup. "Damn it Orochimaru! We need a plan! Rushing in will only get you killed!"

As Orochimaru drew nearer, reaching back with the sword of Kusanagi to strike off Nagato's head, Nagato maneuvered his black chakra to block the blow. Then the chakra faltered as a sharp pain arose from his back. Turning his head, he saw Kakuzu with his fist buried in the former Akatsuki leader's back, skin hardened and very much alive. "Thanks for the extra heart Orochimaru." said Kakuzu quietly, more to let Nagato know how he had been tricked than to actually thank the Sannin.

Orochimaru's sword found its target, and separated Nagato's head from his body in a spray of blood. "Think nothing of it. The old thing was failing me anyway." said the Sannin cheekily. Kisame and Sasori were both impressed that Orochimaru had a plan that worked so well, and furious that he hadn't told them. Any good ninja kept his guard up at all times, and the practice saved Orochimaru's life, though he still lost an arm.

Looking at the god he had presumed dead for a second, Orochimaru found his neck connected to his head by the majority of the black chakra. A small amount had remained to slice off the Sannin's limb, an injury usually inconsequential, but far more sever without the ability to reattach limbs with the snakes kept in his body. Limb reattachment was apparently a skill Nagato had in spades, and he addressed them all as he head rejoined the body it had shortly left.

"A valiant effort that would have certainly killed any ninja of any skill level. Even my old self would have been done in. But I'm no longer a ninja. You face a god, and to even harm a god is something you cannot hope to accomplish in a million years." said Nagato as he glared down the four Akatsuki members. Then Nagato put the final nail in the coffin by flaring his chakra and killing intent. Even Orochimaru was paralyzed by the sheer chakra and malice he possessed.

Nagato dashed in with a black blade in each arm to finish off Kakuzu and Orochimaru, when his black chakra was reallocated to stop the barrage of small birds that flew down on him and attempted to explode. They faded into the liquid black hole that surrounded Nagato protectively, but the human missile didn't. With gravity augmenting his speed, Naruto hit the black shield like a freight train, and it buckled under the force of a Sage Mode enhanced blow.

Naruto finally broke through, though greatly slowed, with his red and black sage cloak billowing behind him. "Sorry, but don't heroes always arrive fashionably late?" said Naruto while exploiting the element of surprise for all it was worth, hitting Nagato in the face while he was still stunned by the fact that someone had broken through his defenses. It was so surreal, Nagato forgot that he had fallbacks like the Deva Path for a moment, and was sent flying for his momentary empty headedness.

Deidara flew down to just a few feet over the ground next to Naruto. "None of you have personal beef with jinchuriki, yeah?" she asked, addressing the members of Akatsuki.

"I killed the Three Tail's jinchuriki, but that was mostly because he was a tyrant and had me killing my comrades. That was a personal fight with Yagura, had nothing to do with him being a jinchuriki, though I'm not a big fan of the Ten Tails jinchuriki. Why the hell are you asking now?" said Kisame, annoyed that Deidara seemed to be ignoring the more imminent problem as Nagato slowly got to his feet.

Orochimaru shrugged his shoulders, and Deidara was noticeably freaked out by the Snake Sannin's raspy voice coming out of the young Mizukage's feminine mouth. "I've never once killed a jinchuriki. Except for my research that one time…"

"My reason for killing jinchuriki was that it was either orders or it meant a new puppet. I'm in the same boat as Kisame." said Sasori flippantly, more interested in doing some battlefield repairs on the two puppets that Nagato had destroyed during the fight.

Kakuzu grunted noncommittally. "They make good money, but they're usually not worth the trouble." Deidara turned to Naruto and gave him a thumbs up as he faced down Nagato, who was looking at Naruto with a look of pure rage on his face.

"You dare strike me? I am the reincarnation of the Sage of the Six Paths, created of all ninjutsu! I AM A GOD!" shouted Nagato, obviously agitated by the fact that Naruto had inflicted an injury that created lasting pain. Even being decapitated only hurt for a split second, but the simple punch from Sage Mode was capable of treating Nagato like a normal human. And as a god, he couldn't let that stand.

"Sage of Six Paths, huh?" asked Naruto, smirking at Nagato's unhinged behavior. "Well you might have the eyes, but your missing two vital ingredients." A bit of confusion shone through Nagato's divine wrath, and Naruto decided to enlighten him. "One, the Sage od Six Paths was just that, a sage. And I'm not sensing a drop of Natural chakra running through your body. Two, you aren't really the jinchuriki of the Ten Tails. You're missing a bit."

"Impossible! Akatsuki captured every Tailed Beast. The statue began to revive, and I sealed it into myself! This chakra is proof!" shouted Nagato as he gestured to the black orbs of chakra floating around him.

"Are you sure? Absolutely positive you found every jinchuriki? Because I have proof you didn't." Naruto decided to cut off any response by flaring the Nine Tails chakra. The Akatsuki members were all shocked at the familiar chakra of a Tailed Beast, save Deidara, who had seen the transformation. "I'm the real Nine Tails jinchuriki. And since I'm both a sage and a jinchuriki, I'm as much a reincarnation of the Sage of Six Paths as you are."

Naruto claim rubbed Nagato the wrong way, and he decided to show Naruto just how wrong he was. "NO! I AM THE SAGE OF SIX PATHS! IAM A GOD IN HUMAN FORM! I AM INVINCIBLE!" The black orbs of the Ten Tails chakra coalesced around Nagato's hands as he clapped them together, and the sheer density of the chakra formed a small crater underneath Nagato. With a loud shout, he threw the black ball of chakra into the sky, and the effect was immediate.

Even as it was still rising, the empowered Chibaku Tensei began to pull up massive chunks of the ground. Deidara's bird was pulled in slowly as it fought against the pull by flapping as hard as it could in a tug of war it was losing. The other members of Akatsuki didn't fare much better, being pulled into the epicenter of the new satellite that Nagato was creating. Remembering the strategy from before, Kakuzu, Orochimaru, Kisame, and Sasori all launched their strongest attacks at the black center of the technique, but this time the orb remained unharmed, protected and enhanced by the black chakra of the Ten Tails.

Naruto looked at Nagato before dashing towards the black orb in the sky by jumping between the pieces of debris. A similarly sized black sphere swirled to life in his hand, and the Nine Tails chakra around his arm extended to thrust the miniature Tailed Beast Ball directly into the center of the Chibaku Tensei. Just because the Tailed Beast Ball was smaller than the massive orbs created by Tailed Beasts didn't mean it had any less power though, and it probably had even more condensed into the size of a grapefruit.

The resulting explosion of the Tailed Beast Ball impacting its target was almost as large as the finished moon would have been. Just as before, the boulders lifted up by the Sage of Six Paths' technique began to fall as the chakra orb in its center was destroyed by the raw power of the strongest Tailed Beast. Nagato was less than pleased with this, and shot a blast of pure chakra at the other jinchuriki while his speed was limited to the rate of gravity. Before the searing beam of energy could hit him, Naruto was pushed out of the way by a white clad puppet. The blast was enough to vaporize the legendary puppet, and Sasori was glad he was physically incapable of crying at the irreparable damage to such an artifact of his craft.

Naruto landed lightly on his feet as the black chakra reformed from the particles in the air around Nagato. Naruto turned when he was addressed by Kakuzu, who looked dead on his feet and was breathing heavily. "That black chakra destroys everything but Natural Chakra, and he can use other abilities like those lasers, but he can only use one at a time. If he touches you, he can tear out your soul, and he can blast you away with some kind of powerful force. He summoned some strange beasts earlier, but he hasn't in a while. And he can absorb chakra, even Natural Chakra with his bare hands." Seeing Naruto's questioning look, Kakuzu sighed. "I'm running on one very old, nearly dead heart. I'm afraid I won't be of much help."

"Alright. Thanks for the intel, but I got this, so try not to die." said Naruto, turning his golden gaze to Nagato. Feeling a powerful presence in his mind rearing up, Naruto closed his eyes and retreated to his mind for a moment. Time passed slowly here, and he could subdue the Nine Tails if it was escaping before Nagato even wondered why his opponent was closing his eyes. "What do you want fox?"

"I have a name you know." replied the Nine Tails indignantly from behind its cage. "Not that I'd ever tell you." Growling as if he was still debating giving Naruto the information, the mightiest Tailed Beast continued. "If you can manage to free my brethren and unite me with the rest of my chakra, I'll willingly cooperate with you for long enough to utterly crush that fake Sage of Six Paths."

Naruto raised an eyebrow in curiosity. It wasn't often that the Nine Tails offered anything more than a quick death, and it was even stranger that he would be willing to give Naruto the time of day, let alone help him in a fight. "How would I go about freeing the other Tailed Beasts? I'm not exactly the best at seals."

The Nine Tails scoffed at Naruto's lack of knowledge. "I should have known you humans would be next to useless. The best way would be to release me and let me do it, but if you insist on struggling your way through this, you should be able to pull to Tailed Beasts' chakra out of him like you stole mine before. Once out, we should return to the forms the Sage of Six Paths gave us when we were born."

Naruto was still suspicious of the Nine Tails, but there was no real risk to listening to the Tailed Beast. Opening his eyes in the real world, Naruto rushed the former leader of Akatsuki. The black chakra of the Ten Tails bent under the force of the sage's blows, but without the added force and the element of surprise, the shield held. Nagato raised a hand and lowered his guard to retaliate. Naruto tried to exploit the opening but was shocked when the force sent him flying despite the power of Sage Mode and the Nine Tails Chakra Mode combined.

A Naruto recovered though, and nodded to Deidara. She nodded back before tossing him a beautifully crafted clay toad and sending a wave of small locusts flying and jumping and crawling towards Nagato while Naruto sprinted back in. Nagato ran through a set of seals and countered the attack with a horde of actual locusts the only differences being the small Rinnegan and piercings in the insects. Nagato got the Ten Tails chakra up just in time to deflect the blow from Naruto, though he punched through the barrier with his superior strength and speed.

The hordes of locusts began to clash, with the real ones eating the clay and the clay ones blowing up the flesh and blood insects. The summoned bugs also had an effect incredibly similar to the Iron Sand that Sasori used so much, clogging up the workings of Chikamatsu's Collection. Sasori rushed in, protecting himself from a similar fate by incinerating everything with the flamethrowers mounted in his palms to rescue his puppets. Deidara's force was smaller, but her army of bugs was bolstered by new forces as quickly as she could make them and each one caused more damage with its explosion. Sneaking a bird into the mix, Deidara smirked.

Naruto meanwhile, was still trying to even lay a hand on Nagato. The redhead could see the extensions of Natural Chakra that Naruto tried to hit him with, and the speed boost from the Nine Tails chakra was only usable in straight lines for quick bursts. It could likely be used more effectively in close quarters combat, but Naruto hadn't used the chakra all that much, and as such hadn't really had a chance to practice and experiment. His inexperience was Nagato's gain, and the Rinnegan bearing jinchuriki counter attacked by smashing Naruto across the face with the black chakra of the Ten Tails.

The blow sent him into the ground in a cloud of dust and small rocks. Nagato raised his hand to absorb the chakra form the jinchuriki and complete the Ten Tails within him, but was forced to wheel around and drain the chakra of the clay bird that came diving down. Drained of the chakra that allowed it to move and explode, the eagle fell to the ground and shattered. Naruto used the time to recover though, and used his speed to smash Nagato across the face and send him flying.

Nagato halted his flight path by stabbing the ground with a black rod and pulling himself down. Glaring at Naruto, he almost missed the incoming attack. "Water Style: Shark Geyser!" The black chakra absorbed the eruption of water from below as Nagato jumped up to stand on a floating disk of it, and Kisame's strike with Samehada was stopped with a blast of gravity that sent the shark flying. Kisame would have lost his weapon from the power of the blast, but Samehada refused to be separated from its master and dug spikes from the hilt into Kisame's hand. Kisame grinned with his sharpened teeth as he landed on top of Samehada's hilt after digging it into the ground to stop his momentum.

Naruto noticed what Kisame had done, and took advantage of it. With the black chakra still holding back the seemingly limitless amount of water gushing forth from the ground and Nagato unable to absorb chakra while using his force manipulation abilities, there was no defense and Naruto rushed in in a golden blur and slammed his palm into Nagato's chest. The small toad in his hand that he had infused with Sage Mode chakra croaked once and then exploded as Naruto grabbed hold of Nagato to keep him in place. The force of the explosion was massive, and even Naruto struggled to remain standing through the blast. The remaining locusts were killed by the heat from the explosion, and Kisame was glad he had been launched to a safe distance by Nagato's attack.

The durability granted by virtue of being the Ten Tails jinchuriki kept Nagato alive, but his entire body was wracked in pain as he was sent flying away. Nagato looked up groggily, and was snapped back to full alert by what he saw. Stretching the distance between him and Naruto was a massive cord of red and black chakra. Realizing that the chakra was his, Nagato's eyes widened and he grabbed ahold of the chakra and tried to pull it back into himself. Naruto had created extra hands with the Nine Tails chakra to help extract the ridiculous amount of chakra, and Nagato returned the favor by sprouting four more arms and trying to pull it back in.

"Kisame, now!" Nagato looked up at Naruto's shout, and saw Kisame descending with Samehada raised above his head, ready to sever Nagato's connection to the chakra. Nagato willed the black chakra orbs around him to intercept the swordsman, but found them gone, absorbed into the chakra being stolen. Samehada cut through the chakra cord near Nagato's hands, severing two of them, and Naruto pulled the Chakra away with one last great heave. The chakra split into eight globules that landed heavily on the ground, and Naruto's Nine Tails chakra reacted to grab ahold of one of the bigger chunks of chakra, which it absorbed fervently.

Nagato pulled the remaining bit of chakra he had managed to keep ahold of back into his body, and a single red tail formed from the base of his back as black circles formed around his eyes. Nagato's vibrant red hair faded a bit to a duller, dead looking color. Akatsuki's former leader sagged a bit as the energy of the Ten Tails faded from him. His Rinnegan looked at Naruto, now without the tomoe around the rings. The golden jinchuriki stood resolute, unharmed by his proximity to the blast that had nearly killed Nagato even with the Ten Tails chakra.

The whisker marks on Naruto's cheeks had become large bars, and the golden energy spiked his hair almost straight up, creating two horn like protrusions. His high collared sage's cloak had become enveloped in the golden aura as well, with nine tomoe and a spiral added to the back. Black markings ran across his gold skin, completing the image. Nagato gasped at the sight. "How? I have the Rinnegan… I was supposed to be the reincarnation of the Sage of Six Paths. How are you closer to him than I am?"

"I'm not closer to the Sage of Six Paths." said Naruto, shaking his head. "I'm me. And you're you. And you're misguided attempts at peace have killed hundreds, including my comrades. And for that, I won't forgive you." A Tailed Beast Ball swirled to life in Naruto's palm. Nagato closed his eyes as the attack neared him. His plan for peace had failed, been foiled by the last hurdle in his path. He had built a bridge to peace, and then sought to destroy it to prevent a return to the world that had been. And the supports of that bridge had fallen out from under him. As his body exploded in a sphere of black chakra, Nagato wondered what he could have done differently to secure the future he, Konan, and Yahiko had dreamed about as children.

Once the blast subsided, Naruto's golden aura began to slowly fade, before leaving him entirely in a quick burst. Gasping at the sudden loss of power, Naruto fell to his knees and closed his eyes. Opening them in his mind, Naruto came face to face with the grinning fox, who was now over twice as large as before. "What did you just do?"

The fox smiled at Naruto sadistically. "I merely took back what was mine, and it feels so good to be complete again. I'd use my full might to escape and eat you whole, but you kept your end of the bargain, so I guess I owe you that. Now get out of my sight." With that, the Nine Tails roared menacingly, and the force propelled Naruto out of his own mindscape.

Naruto opened his eyes to see Deidara looking at him worriedly, with an arm slung over his shoulder. He grinned sheepishly and struggled to stand, succeeding with a bit of help from his partner. "Sorry to worry you." he said.

"No problem, yeah. And… good job. You just saved, probably the entire world." said Deidara, looking around at the destruction caused by the massive battle. What had once been three mountains shaped like howling wolves that towered above the Land of Iron was now a ruined crater that was actually lower than the surrounding land.

"Wish there were more rewards to saving the world than death and destruction." said Naruto glumly as he looked around at the chaos and devastation caused by the man he had followed towards 'peace' for years.

"Who says that there isn't, yeah?" asked Deidara, before grabbing Naruto's shoulders and kissing him. It was a strange experience, and Naruto didn't respond for a moment from the sheer shock of what was happening. Before he had time to respond though, Deidara pulled away and coughed awkwardly.

"Good job there, but what's with the leftover chakra?" asked Kisame as he strode up, Samehada strapped across his back. He gestured over his shoulder to the blob of chakra that was slowly taking form. It was unclear what it was going to be at the moment, but the indicated that it would be massive.

"That's a Tailed Beast." explained Naruto, half pissed at Kisame for interrupting and half glad for the excuse to focus on something else for a short time. "They'll reform quickly, so it might be best if we weren't here when they do."

"Very well then." said Sasori as he walked up, supporting a tired Kakuzu that was looking older by the second. "Though I should probably give Kakuzu a new heart soon… I think I have a spare."

"Yes, it was a pretty bad heart near the end." lamented Orochimaru. "Though this body was preferable to it. But this body might as well be weaker than the old one without any of the augmentations. Oh well, Kabuto and I will whip this body into shape soon enough."

"So… what do we do now?" asked Naruto. None of them had any clue, but they imagined they would think of something.


A/N: Twenty sixth chapter up! Wooo! This is the last regular chapter, though I'll post an epilogue after my break from writing when I upload my next story's first chapter. There's a poll up on my profile if you want to have some input on which plot bunny I hunt down next. I've been hesitant to write romance of any kind, so some feedback on the insanely little I attempted at the end would be appreciated. There weren't really any review questions, so I don't really have to answer anything here. Thank you for your support if you've been reading for a while, and thank you for reading to this point if you haven't. That said, I hope you enjoyed, and reviews are always appreciated. See ya!