An explosion rocked through the Imperial capital with so much power that the city trembled slightly. The city came at a standstill as reality began to dawn within the hearts of the people within the protective walls of the city. They had been attacked once more. They knew there were battles occurring outside the walls, but they'd felt secure because nothing had penetrated the walls so far. Their shinobi were fighting with all their might to protect them.
Things changed with the explosion.
They started to panic. Even if the Emperor was present in the capital, within his royal palace, the Special Corps HQ had been blown into smoke. Nothing had been left of it. That was much more damage, even though it was just a building that had been destroyed. The special Corps was the elite force in the country. There was no better group than it and its HQ had been destroyed.
If there was any time to panic, it was now. If there was a good time to be afraid, it was now. Perhaps the Emperor was no longer untouchable as he used to be. If he was untouchable, something like this wouldn't happen would it? Not long ago, he had been badly injured.
The Emperor was not a demon, he was not a god as they'd come to think. He was just a human with more power. Eventually, now he has met his match and the city was panicking.
Inside his royal palace, Naruto felt the explosion. It meant failure. It meant Heisuke and Shinji had failed. Perhaps they didn't have enough time to disable the explosions or maybe the one responsible for the explosions set them off when he saw that they were being disabled. It was a possibility; nevertheless, it mattered little now.
His city was in panic mode. Such a reality never seemed possible for his city. He'd always thought the people would always take comfort in his power and be calm at all times, like he was. He was wrong. They were panicking. Thinking he was just a normal person who could be defeated. Humans.
He couldn't fault them though. What their eyes were seeing led them to believe so. He wasn't worried. He may have had the belief that his subordinates would succeed, even though they'd failed, it didn't change too many things.
Despite the fact that his city was overridden with fear, Naruto could still smile. Things were just going awry. He hadn't expected to be so far off.
Naruto's Sharingan lit up in the room as he felt a presence within the throne room. With the darkness within, the Sharingan seemed to lit up in a menacing manner. But that didn't scare the intruder.
''Emperor,'' Nagato started, his Rinnegan glowing with as much power as the Emperor's left eye. ''Why are you sitting here while the city is at disarray, and with battles being fought outside the walls?''
''What do you wish of me to doing at this time, Nagato?''
''Fighting with your people. You shouldn't be sitting here watching the battles like it is some sort of a show. This is not the right behaviour for an Emperor,'' Nagato stated firmly.
''Why don't you go and that for me, Nagato? Perhaps I may put you as Emperor in the next couple of years...'' Naruto offered lightly.
''It is not my place to do so,'' Nagato said. He raised his right hand, palm open. ''You're not worthy of being Emperor. This world should have seen the face of peace years ago. But you have been doing nothing. You have preferred to just watch. I'm afraid I can no longer tolerate that.''
''Nagato, this isn't th...'' Naruto trailed off when that damn swirl occurred beside the former leader of the Akatsuki. ''Obito.''
''Naruto...'' Obito acknowledge before placing his right hand on Nagato's shoulder.
The roof of the palace was blasted off by the Shinra Tensei. The thing was noted by almost everyone. This did nothing to soothe the citizens fears. Even the Emperor's palace was no exempt to the destruction.
Naruto had a deep frown on his face, while still sitting on his cracked throne, the walls around were cracked. A simple hit and they were going to crumble down the ground. It was disappointing. He hadn't thought another attack would be coming here at this time. He'd thought Obito would be busy protecting Konoha to come here, and Nagato would wait for the right moment to attack him.
Now of all times. He was still recovering from his previous death blows.
The Emperor stood up from his throne, which crumbled down after which. He didn't mind it. ''I raised both of you from the dead,'' Naruto said, walking straight towards the two, ''and I expect something better from you.'' He disappeared before he could reach them.
''What happens in Konoha?'' Naruto asked, looking above the sky as he stood still on a clear field. ''I'd thought you'd be busy fending off enemies to the village...''
''Sasuke is weaving out the threat along with Gai and Lee. They should handle it without problems. They may be over with it already,'' Obito answered frankly, his tone still devoid of any emotion.
Naruto guessed this should have been expected... But still. To think that another attack would be launched at this stage when he was in this state. It wasn't so bad that he couldn't take down both Nagato and Obito, but he wouldn't be able to fight after the battle. He would be vulnerable, and that was a feeling he didn't want to experience once more again. That time he experienced it when he was locked up in his sky palace was enough.
It wasn't even the best of times, if there was ever any, to feel vulnerable. There was a war occurring. If he allowed one in, it would be over. No one may be able to kill him, but being vulnerable means he could be defeated. There was a clear difference between death and defeat. Between the two, Naruto feared the latter.
The others left in Konoha could attack him while he was vulnerable. If he only counted Gai – with his gates open – his subordinates wouldn't be able to handle him. And so the Emperor couldn't allow them to fight the man if he does show up.
Still, at this stage, it was likely that he wouldn't make it here, unless there is a way to replenish his energy. He was busy fighting now. That meant he was exerting his energy reserves – Which was good for him.
''Are you worried about another wave of attacking coming at you?'' Obito asked. ''In your current state, even if you were to survive, you wouldn't be a winner at the end of the day if another wave of attacks from shinobi capable as we are is thrown into the fray...''
Naruto raised a brow, head tilted to the side for a moment as he digested those words from Obito. He smiled after they'd settled down. ''Did I leave myself that open for you to read?'' he shook his head. ''It doesn't matter anyway... Let us get this over with so that I can return to my home. Its current state... Displeases me...''
Nagato narrowed his eyes. He never had any doubt that the man did care about his country, to a certain level. He may hide it well, but Nagato knew. So those words didn't surprise him. What surprised him was the fact that the man was willing to them out loud for anyone to hear.
Oh well, it didn't matter much anyway.
This was something that had to be done for peace. For so long he has yearned for peace to be within his reach, but he had come to understand that so long as the Emperor remained active less, there would be no peace. If the Emperor was doing something for peace, then Nagato would be in his corner. He wasn't doing anything. He merely stood there watching everything as if it was all a good show for him.
Nagato couldn't allow that to continue. He wanted peace and would fight for it. He was willing to remove everything and anything that was an obstacle to the dream he wishes to grasp within his hands.
If the removing couldn't work, then the Emperor had to be forced into action. Given the man's power, this was the likely action and Nagato was still willing to die in order to force the Emperor's hand.
In the blink of an eye, both Nagato and Obito disappeared. There was no silence in their disappearance; there was a sound of a battle cry. Both appeared in front of the Emperor, above ground. Nagato's right foot was floating towards Naruto's raised hands, while Obito stayed behind the former Leader of Akatsuki, touching his right shoulder.
The kick didn't connect with Naruto's hands, it simply phased through his body. A second later, Obito flashed behind the Emperor, still in mid-air. He swung his right hand towards the back of the emperor, and a chakra rod formed. He drove the rod at blinding speeds, trying to pierce Naruto on the back.
On instinct, Naruto flanked his left hand, twisting backwards, before grabbing the rod. Before he could snap it, the rod flickered with a shot of lightning that coursed through his body. Whether he felt the shock or not, it was left for the imagination to figure out as Naruto made no physical reaction to it.
Naruto was quick to snap his eyes back at Nagato who was just inches away from him, right hand held out. The next two words that came were predictable.
Naruto was blasted backwards by the jutsu. It did no harm but Nagato hadn't thrown it to do any damage.
''Katon: Great Fireball no jutsu!'' Both Nagato and Obito yelled simultaneously. The fireballs rushed at the emperor in menacing heat, giving him to time to make an escape.
The moment he released the jutsu, Obito appeared in front of him, having made himself intangible to avoid the blast, and was able to just smoothly get closer to the Emperor. Acting quickly, Obito launched a powerful right punch at the Emperor's gut, with a momentum that sent him to the air.
He didn't go far, as Nagato quickly flashed above Obito with a spinning kick that connected with Naruto's forehead. The kick sent Naruto backwards in blinding speeds. He was quick to regain his balance though, as he flipped several times before hitting the ground with his feet whilst sliding back.
Naruto's attention was forced up as a giant boulder shadowed him. The thing was coming down at him to crush him. In response, he raised his right hand. But he didn't do anything as he noted Nagato speeding towards another position while Obito charged straight at him.
He could foresee an attack that would follow if he chose to blast the boulder with a Shinra Tensei. While his right hand was still up in the air, Naruto held out his left. A burst of roots came forth around him, rushing up into the air. They pierced through the boulder, breaking it into chunks that fell harmlessly down the ground.
''Kuchiyose no Jutsu!'' Nagato yelled as a path came forth. The path quickly formed a missile launcher and a second later, it fired five missiles aimed at the Emperor. The missiles reached the target in a moment of seconds, before setting off into a huge explosion after connecting with the roots that were protecting Naruto.
As the explosion cleared, all the roots were no longer to be seen, having been burned off. Naruto was standing still, hands formed in a crossing position, hiding his face, burn smoke was coming off his entire body, and a few marks were visible on both his hands.
Naruto looked up as he sensed something coming: Obito's perfect Susano'o was activated. It must have been activated whilst he was being hit by those missiles. The Susano'o's blade was sweeping through the ground insanely, picking up gusts of winds before slamming into him. The force sent him rocketing a distance away through the air.
A distance away, Naruto crashed down the ground. As he attempted to stand on his feet, bruised and bleeding as he was, both Nagato and Obito crashed just in front of him.
Nagato threw a stack of paper bombs right at him. Before the bombs could explode, Naruto did a Shinra Tensei to blast the papers away from him, knowing that it wouldn't have done him any favours if he got hit. The blast of the Shinra Tensei he released was so powerful that it tore through the battleground, lifting up large chunks of debris and left him kneeled down a crater.
Yet again, Obito just teleported in front of him, along with Nagato. The two didn't waste time before attacking. Nagato went in for a lifting kick that caught the Emperor on the chin. This caused some blood to splash out of the Emperor's mouth.
Obito jumped up, catching Naruto by his felt foot. He then proceeded to slam him down the ground with so much force that there was a resounding boom when Naruto's body hit the unforgiving ground.
To stop further attacks, Naruto activated his Susano'o. This caused his opponents to step back slightly.
While lying on the ground, Naruto held out his right hand, frowning. Obito stated out why he was frowning.
''You're immortal, but that doesn't mean that you don't tire. No matter how powerful you are, the body will still need the time to replenish its strength and recover from its injuries. You received two death blows, although you reclaimed your chakra, your body is tired. With a tired body, you can't fight. We attacked now precisely because of this...''
Naruto ignored those words, and attempted to step up. He did so. But man did it hurt. Receiving a hit from a Susano'o blade wasn't a healthy thing, especially when it packed enough power to cut through a mountain. In his current state, it was just a knockout punch.
Yet, Naruto forced himself. He summoned his chakra, and activated his perfect Susano'o. But it didn't last for a second before crumbling down and Naruto was forced to his knees.
Nagato shook his head. ''It seems you don't know your own limits... I must thank the Raikage though. His death may have seemed pathetic, but because of him, we are within victory. No, victory is within our hands.''
Obito nodded, ''we may not be able to kill you, but we can still do the next best thing...''
To think such a day would come... Curse that bloody Raikage. But it was still good. A part of him felt jolts of excitement at feeling this weak. Naruto smiled a somewhat mad smile. ''So this is what it feels like to be at your limit...'' he picked himself up, his expression turning serious. ''I find myself curious. I understand why Nagato would do this, but why you, Obito?''
''You gave me a chance to correct my wrongs; I don't think I have, but I have come to see the world on a new sight. I have asked myself, why don't you do anything for peace? Your grandfather sought for it, Nagato sought for, but you rejected their ways as wrong. If you know that their ways are wrong, surely you know what is right. You want to live with your family peacefully, but you know it's impossible with half of the Elemental nations after your head.
Even, so, you have done nothing for peace? Do you know why?'' Obito paused for a moment. ''It is because you're because you're afraid. You're afraid of failing. This is why you sent those people to try to bring the world together. You're afraid that if you fail, you may end up like your grandfather.
Both Kakashi and Sasuke have said you're not generally a bad person; I have come to believe that as well...''
Naruto tilted his head to the sight. His smiled widened a bit before he laughed, it was an empty laugh. ''You think so? Well, no matter. Let us get this final dance over with...''
''You don't get it, do you? Your body can't fight anymore,'' Obito said strongly, slowly walking towards the Emperor. A chakra rod formed on the palm of his hand before he flashed in front of Naruto. He tried to stab Naruto on the chest with it with it, but Naruto caught it with his right. It managed to pierce through the palm of his hand, drawing out blood.
''I never said anything about fighting with this body. I made this body for you, Nagato is fighting with my eye...''
Obito narrowed his eyes, ''what do you me...''
He trailed off when there was a sudden buzz of static. It came out of nowhere. When Obito looked down, he saw a marked blade sticking out of his chest.
Obito narrowed his eyes behind, ''how did you get behind me?''
''You two are not the only ones who can teleport,'' Sasuke stated, behind Obito. ''Besides, I have been watching your back for three years now, don't you think I know when you're open?''
''I didn't expect you to be here so quickly,'' Obito said, trying to get away, but couldn't.
''I finished things quickly,'' he said with a shrug before his hand became encased with lightning. ''Chidori!'' He drove the jutsu right through Obito's chest and allowed him to fall down the ground.
''What are you doing, Sasuke?!'' Nagato yelled, rushing towards the Uchiha.
''Amaterasu!'' Sasuke lit up the former god of peace with the black flames. It was done so quickly that even Naruto's tired eyes didn't see it.
Nagato blasted the flames away from him with a quick Shinra Tensei. He was forced to stop, as multiple chakra rods burst through his entire upper body, glowing with orange chakra. He couldn't move.
Naruto cut the distance between them before gauging out his eye from Nagato's eye socket. He sent it away after which, and looked at Nagato for a moment before turning his attention towards Sasuke.
He was frowning.
''I just saved your life. You owe me,'' Sasuke said before disappearing.
Naruto sat down on a makeshift throne within the partly destroyed throne room. His Emperor pose in place and a frown on his face with the Sharingan activated. He wasn't staring at anything in particular, just the empty space ahead of him. There were so much thoughts going through his mind for him focus on anything.
It was bitterly amusing for Sasuke to have actually come to a position where he could rightfully say he had saved him. It was not his life that was saved, because those two couldn't have killed him, but it was from defeat that he had been saved. He walked into a battlefield, and walked out of it alive, and kicking.
Something felt wrong in the situation though. It wasn't pretty that his people had seen him in this state when he returned from that battlefield. They'd seen him returning alive from a battlefield, wounded and bleeding, like any man. Perhaps this would reduce his fearsome reputation as a god. It was obvious that it would be hard for anyone to see him as the almighty Emperor who couldn't be matched in power after everything that they'd seen.
In all his accounts, he never thought that things would end up to this point. He had a much better vision for this short war. This has done nothing but put holes on his reputation. Well, at least he was still alive and the enemies were dead.
Even in his state, Naruto snapped his eyes to the left side where Nao appeared. The man didn't say a single thing as he threw an object straight at him. It missed by an inch. Kotaro flashed to end direction of the object before catching it. Once done, he pierced it through the ground. A second later, both pulled something from the ground and Naruto suddenly found his upper body bind by a marked silver chain.
The two pinned the chain down the floor using the blades, and rushed at the Emperor, each holding their swords. Their objective was clearly to cleave off the Emperor's head off his shoulders. Instead of cutting the Emperor, there was a clash off metal around the man: Heisuke and Shinji had arrived, along with Karin - who was standing a safe distance away.
''Why, Nao?'' Heisuke demanded.
''Tsk,'' Nao growled. They'd been duped into thinking these two were still busy fighting elsewhere. How could they have not noticed it? Well, it mattered not anyway. ''We all have a set of principles and ideals, Heisuke. An understanding of the other is only possible when you're willing to listen and adapt to other people's believes. The problem comes when you believe only you are right and try to force this right over other people.
It isn't to say that the Emperor forces his believes over other people. He simply does nothing, and that is the problem. His lack of action and a sense of responsibility is what brought this city to this state; it is what brought the Elemental Nations to harbour hatred. This war came because he did nothing 'good' even when he knows really well what good is. We cannot-!''
''That is enough!'' Shinji silenced the man. He snapped his left fingers, and the Special Corps surrounded the place within a second. ''You have betrayed the Empire, and you will not be forgiven! This is treason!''
''We came prepared. A scenario like this was likely to occur,'' Kotaro said. There was a boom around the royal palace after those words left his mouth, and in the mist of those tremors, and falling walls of the palace, he disappeared along with Nao.
''Dammit. They'd disappeared!''
''I can't track them down,'' Karin said. ''But I should be able outside of this place. Something is interfering with my senses.''
''Let them be...for now...'' Naruto's voice silenced everyone. ''There are more important matters to deal with.''
Heisuke turned to face the pale looking Emperor. ''The chain?''
''Don't touch it,'' Naruto merely said, but didn't offer any explanation as to why. ''Shinji, restore calm within the capital; Heisuke, take a few of your men and try to calculate the damage the country has taken; and Karin, go to the crystal palace and get working on rebuilding. Now.''
Before anyone could respond, Sasuke made another announced appearance. One look at the Emperor and he shook his head, showing some disappointment. It was all a play of course. ''I just spared your life moments ago and you were already going to lose it again? How careless of you...''
''Bastard. Do not speak of such nonsense. Don't even make me laugh, you save his Majesty's life? Get out of here!''
It was Sasuke who laughed, a mad laughter that made a few stomachs twist. ''But I did spare his life when we were fighting against him two on two. Nagato was on his corner. Obito and I beat them. Of course knowing him, he refused to accept defeat and ended up getting Obito but I survived. I would have killed him if I wanted. You two must know,'' he said looking straight at Heisuke and Shinji, ''he wasn't in any position to fight after what A had done to him... If I'm lying, he can say so himself.''
All eyes turned towards the Emperor - who had a flat look on his face. ''Sasuke. Leave. Now,'' that said, Naruto closed his eyes. ''The rest of you get to your duties. I wish to rest for a little while.'' Unconsciousness gripped him a second later, with the chain still binding his upper body.
Sasuke left with a wide grin. Mission accomplished. This was his show now to run. He had said the same story in Konoha. Whether the leaders believed it or not was hardly a consequence. What mattered most was what the villagers thought, and they believed. Soon enough, they would stop hating the Emperor and hail him as the hero who defeated a god.
It was possible they would even add that Naruto had begged pathetically to be spared and out of the goodness of his heart, Uchiha Sasuke had spared the Emperor because he had pitied him.
The rumour would spread across the Elemental Nations.
Naruto wasn't going to comment on it. He would neither deny nor accept it. He wasn't about to admit that Sasuke had saved him. Besides, this lie ensured that Amegakure and the Imperial Kingdom remained allies. And for once, Naruto would be seen as a human.
In due time, people would stop fearing Naruto's power. Things would settle down soon enough, and he a hero will eventually take his place as Konoha's Hokage.
A Week Later
''You really have to look like an Emperor, Naruto,'' Samui said, carefully putting the pieces back together in Naruto's cloak – the cloak was the normal one he used to wear, but added with a few pieces of red clothing. ''You're no longer going to spend these next couple of years hiding in the throne room. You now have an image as Leader of the Imperial Kingdom.''
''My image was destroyed when the rumours started to reach all corners. It's unbelievable that people would be so much willing to believe that I would actually get on my knees and beg for mercy in the hands of Uchiha pathetic Sasuke,'' Naruto said.
It has been just a week, but the rumour had already reached all corners, and his then fearsome reputation had been drenched down into a cold puddle of shame. The power than once shadowed his name had disappeared with a stupid war and all that was left of him was just a name and the empire.
At least no one was going as far as to attack his home. The attacks had ceased. People were taking joy into the fact that Sasuke had 'defeated' him. If he could do it once, he could do it again. The fact that he did nothing to refute the rumours did him no favours. But Naruto didn't have too many complains. He was willing to walk without shame. Besides, only fools would believe that he actually begged to be spared by Sasuke.
''That is that and unbelievable as it is, people are willing to believe anything that will help them sleep better at night,'' Samui said with a slight shrug of her shoulders. ''You're going to represent us. It is better to look like a leader, and you need to ensure stability before you go away. Stability will only become a reality when you start doing your part.''
''I've never been a fan of formalities,'' Naruto said with a sigh. ''But this has to be done, is it not?''
''Yes, even if it means you have to swallow your pride,'' Samui said firmly. ''We need to create better terms with other nations for Etsuko's sake. Sasuke's lie may have shattered your pride and image, but this has given us an opportunity to start things afresh.''
''It has,'' Naruto acknowledged. ''This is the reason I'm not too displeased with him. If news had gotten out that Nagato had betrayed the Empire, and if things had continued as they had. I would have been forced to further my stay in this world or even enslave it to create a better world for Etsuko.''
Samui blinked. He was being completely serious. Ah, it was to be expected of him. She really shouldn't be surprised to hear him say something like that. ''Well, all the better things are in this way,'' she said, managing a smile. ''On the bright side of things, you are still Emperor to your people.''
"It's not as if someone would've been foolish enough to challenge me for the throne. They may have seen me battered up, but a part of them has to believe that I am a warrior and just because I was "defeated" by Sasuke doesn't mean I have become weak."
"Some people may not believe so," Samui was quick to say. "Let us just thank that first wave of attack. Because of it, the people know you care for them and they have learned to care for their King"
"That is important, isn't it?"
"It is," Samui affirmed with a nod. "A strong bond will only be created now between you and your people. You took a hit for them and they will now be willing to do the same because they now believe that their King is human as they are."
There was a knock on the door. ''Must you always knock as if you're a guest?'' Naruto asked, looking at Yugao, who'd helped herself into the room.
''Everyone deserves privacy,'' Yugao said. That was something she agreed with Samui. ''Shinji is waiting for you. He says the guests are arriving.''
Naruto nodded and summoned his Shakujo. He left the room, leaving Yugao with Samui.
Shinji was waiting for him just outside of his quarters. ''Shall we?''
Shinji nodded, leading the Emperor towards the Crystal Palace, which hadn't been touched during the attacks in the capital. The Royal Palace had suffered some extensive damage and was currently being rebuilt. Some facilities were still usable nonetheless.
Naruto was a bit surprised when he entered a former war room within the crystal palace. The, surprise was in what he saw in the room.
''I wasn't expecting you to be the first person to be here of all people,'' Naruto said, walking towards his seat.
''I had more time,'' Kurotsuchi said with a shrug. ''You look happy...'' she commented, seeing a little difference in him since the last time she saw him. ''I thought you'd be pretty pissed with the rumours flying around.''
Naruto waved his right hand dismissively. ''I have no reason to be angry,'' he said.
Kurotsuchi nodded. Her eyes narrowed. ''I actually came here before the others arrived because I have something to say to you.''
''Come on with it then,'' Naruto said, folding his hands across his chest. It was okay to talk. The guards were stationed outside the room – they were not aloud inside.
''I don't believe the nonsense that you begged for mercy. I believe it is just a rumour. And Sasuke spared your alive? It is hard to believe. You're not the type to be spared and given your power. I don't see a situation like that ever arising,'' the Tsuchikage said strongly. ''So what is the true story?''
''You really want to know?''
''Yes. I don't want to end up living in lies.''
''I did not beg for mercy and Sasuke didn't spare my life. I was indeed involved in a fight with Nagato and Obito. I was at a disadvantage and Sasuke came in just in time to stop the battle. He said something about saving my life.''
Kurotsuchi stared at Naruto for a couple of seconds before bursting out in laughter. ''Hahahahahahaha!''
Naruto just stared at the black haired woman.
''Someone saved YOU from defeat?! I can understand why you aren't saying anything about it. How would you defend yourself?'' The woman paused for a moment, thinking. '''He didn't spare me nor did I beg for mercy. The truth is... He saved my life from death.'''
Once more again, the Yondaime Tsuchikage burst into laughter, just trying to imagine the prideful Emperor saying something like that. It was hilarious. She had seen his power in Iwagakure when he waged his attack.
That had to be a knockout punch to the man's pride.
''Well, will you look at that... Isn't this pretty,'' Mei's voice tore through the room. ''The Emperor and the Tsuchikage getting along.,, Tell me, Tsuchikage-dono, what has the Emperor been telling you for you to laugh so hard?''
Kurotsuchi regained her composure and waved her hand in a dismissive manner. ''That is between me and the Emperor,'' she said nonchalantly, folding her hands beneath her bust.
''Is that so?'' Mei said. But no one responded to it.
''Hello, Mei,'' Naruto greeted the Godaime Mizukage with a small smile.
''Emperor,'' Mei merely said and looked the other side.
Kurotsuchi sensed some tension but shrugged it off. ''Your palace must have received some damage for you to house us hear. The last time I came here you were sitting on your favourite seat.''
''It did. The throne room was destroyed along with other parts. It is currently being rebuilt,'' Naruto said. ''Do you recall you were willing to offer yourself on that last visit. It had been amusing, and embarrassing for your part, huh?''
''Don't remind me,'' Kurotsuchi said a bit bitterly. ''You made me feel like a cheap prostitute.''
''Ah, I do regret that,'' Naruto said. ''Perhaps I should have taken up on your offer.''
Kurotsuchi snorted in disgust. She shivered when she thought of how things would've been like if he had taken up on her offer. The thought was horrifying. It made her crush all her thoughts and settle in silence.
Mei looked at the pair of Naruto and Kurotsuchi: it was amazing how things could change in little time. A few months ago, the Yondaime Tsuchikage couldn't stand her husband. Hell, she was more than willing to slit his throat while the whole shinobi world watched. The woman detested Naruto more than anything. She couldn't stand him. Yet now she was laughing before his very presence.
It wasn't that Naruto was making jokes while poking the sides of her chest, the woman was definitely laughing at the Emperor. It was still something nonetheless. There were no tensions between them. Well, with Naruto, the tension was always one sided.
This was a good change. Perhaps it would symbolize what the shinobi world will become like in the next couple of years. Surely, some people are only willing to tolerate the other, but if things were to change like they have with Naruto and Kurotsuchi, then the world had a brighter tomorrow and Mei felt warmed up by that thought. Peace could be within reach if things changed like that.
Mei's thoughts were cut when the other Kages walked into the room. She guessed it was understandable for both Gaara and Kakashi to arrive at the same time. The railway both used was connected and they may have used the same train coming into the capital city of the Rice Empire.
Darui was the last to arrive.
Kakashi never thought this day would come. The Kages gathering in the house of the Emperor, ready to discuss peace treaties? If someone had told him a couple of years ago, he would have laughed. It was unthinkable. Especially when everyone came here voluntarily. He would have believed it would happen if the Emperor was forcing everyone to come, but by choice? No. Yet it was happening and Naruto was as calm as ever.
War does change people, but Kakashi didn't think Naruto could be changed by that.
Still, the Hokage had to thank Sasuke for his scheming. Obito had informed him that Sasuke would most likely betray him in favour of the Emperor. He could've talked Sasuke out of it, but Obito had insisted it was the best way someone like him could die. Obito had sacrificed himself, and things had worked for the better.
He wasn't too angry with Sasuke because of it. If it weren't because of the Uchiha, they wouldn't be here freely. Naruto would have forced them to come here.
''Shall we start?'' Gaara asked, earning nods from the others. ''I'm happy that you all managed to make it here today. This is an important meeting that will determine the state of the Elemental Nations in the next couple of years. It is important, as we discuss, that we understand that we are not here representing our petty feelings, but we are representing our villages. We all want what is best for our people.''
There were nods around the table. ''We don't have to add on the objective of the meeting because you all know why we are here, and granted the current situation, we all want to return to our homes,'' Gaara continued.
''Who made you chair of this meeting?'' Darui asked.
''No one,'' Gaara said. ''I appointed myself. Do you have a problem with it, Raikage-dono?''
He nodded. ''I don't want to make things difficult but just to be fair, I believe a better person to lead this meeting would be someone who doesn't dine at the Emperor's palace,'' he said, politely as he could.
''That seems fair enough,'' Mei said with a nod. ''Who do you have in mind?''
''The Tsuchikage or the Hokage. I'm not suitable for it,'' Darui said. Besides, it would be too much of a task for him. He just wanted to get this over with and return to Kumogakure.
Kakashi was quick to rule himself out of consideration. ''I would rather the Tsuchikage chair the meeting,'' he said. He just didn't want to be put in a tricky position when the questions do come or when insults do come – if do come at all.
In these kinds of meetings, it was best to stay neutral as possible. It was exactly how Naruto was dealing with things. Given his silence, Kakashi assumed the man was just going to be like that until the meeting was over. He would only speak when he was requested. Talk about keeping a low profile...
''Does anyone have a problem with the Yondaime Tsuchikage leading the meeting?'' Mei asked. No one had a problem with Kurotsuchi. ''Tsuchikage-dono, the reigns are yours...'' Mei said politely.
''Thank you,'' Kurotsuchi said with a cough. ''Kumogakure is the only village that lost its Kage during the short war, and this place was the only place to receive damage. Although Konoha was attacked, it managed to fend off the attacks.
We are here because we don't want anymore conflicts. The peace treaties are just a step to that. Before we start outlining the terms of the treaty is there anyone who has something to say?''
Darui raised his hand, and Kurotsuchi allowed for him to speak his mind. The newly appointed Raikage looked straight at the silent Emperor. ''I do not wish to play the blame game with you. I know that even if you hadn't said those things during the Kage meeting, A would have still waged war on your country. But the one thing that has always made people fear is the Empire's power. Why don't we trim that power a bit to lesson the people's worries?''
It wasn't Naruto who responded to that, it was Mei who did so. ''What do you mean by that? More precisely, what do you wish?''
''The Rice is already powerful on its own. Having Amegakure as part of it further increases its power. Let us not forget that it also has Kiri in its corner. Uzu may be a research land, but more people are going there and it will eventually become another village part of the Empire,'' Darui paused for a moment to let the words sink in before he spoke his request. ''The Empire should free Amegakure. I believe it is only right it does so. Amegakure has always been a village on its own. It has its history.''
All eyes turned to the Emperor, who responded with a simple word. ''Fine.''
''Huh?'' It was Darui who said so. He found the answer to be baffling. He didn't expect Naruto to respond in that fashion. Hell, even Mei was surprised by his response. She didn't expect him to relent so quickly without a fight.
''Amegakure will be freed from the Empire's clutches,'' that was all Naruto said.
Gaara shook his head. Naruto knew before hand that this going to come. It didn't matter to him because he had no say in how Amegakure was run. It may be part of the Empire, but he didn't run it nor did Konan consult him with any decision she took: she did as she saw fit. Even if Ame does become independent, nothing would really change in the relationship between Konan and Naruto.
Anyone thinking the Emperor was bowing to pressure was a fool. Gaara shook his head. Things would go his way at this point. No wonder he was keeping his mouth shut.
''O-okay. That is cleared up,'' Kurotsuchi quickly cleared up her stuttering.
The Yondaime Tsuchikage really wished she could figure out what went inside the Emperor's head. Prior to the short war, he had a streak of predictability about him, but now that seemed to be out of the window. It has to be something if even the likes of Gaara and Mei were surprised by his response.
The surprise aside, this was a good thing. Kurotsuchi was not ignorant. She knew how things were run in Amegakure. It was nevertheless good because Naruto had agreed to it. He could have said no simply because he had been requested to let the village out of his grasp. Now, the 'no' would've been a response that wouldn't have surprised anyone.
''Is there anyone with anything else?''
They all shook their heads and they begun to discuss the terms of the treaty. The talks were as normal and civil as they could be. Naruto remained quiet, speaking when he was asked to say something. The Kages bickered there and then, but things went smoothly without anyone threatening the other with death.
''Why aren't you saying a word, Emperor?'' Darui asked, looking at the man with a raised eye brow. ''Is this not worth your effort? From what I understand, you have always had strong opinions about 'important' matters.''
''My quietness has nothing to do with the gravity of the situation we are dealing with here. I just think that it is important that for once I sit down and listen. I have had much of a say in the things of the past, wouldn't you say it is fair that I allow you to draw up the terms? If I disagree with something, I will say so. If not, I will abide to everything,'' Naruto said in flat tone.
''That is understandable, but this is something that we should all participate in,'' Darui said strongly.
''Fine then,'' Naruto relented. ''I just have a question. Non-aggression or so peace-treaties have been signed in the past but they have been nothing but just pieces of paper that were thrown away once the villages recovered from their losses. What will make things different this time?''
Kurotsuchi frowned. This was a question that she had failed to answer. Iwagakure had done this before. Her grandfather had just signed the treaties just to put an end to things temporarily. What would make things different now?
''It will be difficult for any village to destroy the treaty now,'' Kakashi said. ''Sunagakure, Rice, and Kirigakure share a bond that will not be destroyed any time soon. The Emperor's marriage to the Mizukage has ensured the relationship between Rice and Kiri stays strong. Gaara is not the kind to betray anyone.''
''What of Kumo and Iwagakure?'' Naruto threw in once more. ''You have to remember that the Elemental Nations isn't comprised of us only, but there are smaller villages.''
''The issue of small villages is another matter altogether,'' Gaara said. ''If you asked this question, you must have a solution on how we can deal with it.''
Naruto nodded. ''The Akatsuki - as small as – it had enough power to destroy a village. How about we create an elite force of shinobi with just enough power to oversee this treaty? This Military force will be a watchdog that investigates and ensures that no village breaches the agreement. If a village does breach the agreement, it will enforce the punishment.''
''I will only agree to it if the personnel is chosen from each of our villages, and it is controlled by this sitting not a single person,'' Darui said.
''I can agree to that,'' Kurotsuchi said.
''Creating this Military will require time...'' Gaara pointed out.
''We have all the time. As we rebuild, we can get this done, select the elite and perhaps get to know each other well,'' Mei said with a smile.
She had no problems with Gaara and the Emperor, but as Kages, Kakashi, Darui and Kurotsuchi were new to her. It would be good for a better tomorrow for them to get to know each other. Understanding of the other heart would not come if they did know where the other's heart lies.
Mei could feel that things would work for the better though. Kakashi didn't seem to have problems with Naruto. She could understand why and Darui seemed like a fair and understanding person. It could be why he was elected as Raikage. If A had been here, he would have been making things difficult. Just imagine the Tsuchikage as well. How better the world would shape up to be without those war hardened Kages.
''I'm not hopeful on that idea,'' Kurotsuchi said honestly. Really, she had no interest in becoming good friends with any of them. She just wanted to maintain an acceptable relationship with them. Her focus was Iwagakure. ''But I will not stand in the way.''
''What if this Military Force betrays us feeling all powerful starts to cause trouble?'' Darui asked.
''You're Kages, you crush it.'' That was Naruto's simple answer. Simple as it was, it made sense and didn't need any explanation. The Kages just nodded to it.
Further discussions were held. As usual, a few arguments did arise, but nothing too serious. Naruto assumed to it was the human nature to disagree with the other. They were all unique and had different ideals and principles. Everyone had a picture of what was 'right' and 'wrong'. It was those differences that made them human and brought about the violence that has gripped the Shinobi World.
Ideals couldn't always be the same. Everyone would have his or her own take, and it took understanding to accept someone's ideals. You couldn't be right all the time, and if you can't acknowledge that, you're going to fight with others.
Humility was a character that was needed and each of these Kages had it, to a certain level at least.
Once proceedings were completed, Kurotsuchi called an end to the meeting and a date for the next meeting was scheduled.
''Emperor Naruto,'' Darui called out as Naruto was walking within the passages of the Crystal Palace, on his own. He stopped and slightly turned to face the Raikage – who was being accompanied by Yugito.
After greeting Yugito, Naruto turned his attention to Darui - he had his visible eye closed as he did so. ''What can I do for you?''
''I have known Samui for a long time. She is a friend to me. To Yugito she is like a sister,'' Darui started. ''I would really like to see her before I leave. It would mean a lot to both of us if we do.''
Naruto opened his eye, ''I see,'' he said, and started walking away from the two. ''Follow me...''
Yugao afforded a smile seeing holding his daughter – already off his royal clothes, and left with just a black long-sleeved shirt and dark blue pants. As he sometimes does, his feet were wrapped up in white bandages. He surely walked like that even outdoors. It was no matter for him because his feet didn't normally touch the ground when he was walking outside.
When Naruto was in the presence of his daughter, he was something else. It was a sight to watch. Not to say that he didn't look harmful. It was far from that. Yugao had seen him in more than one occasion, looking like he was open, but a single movement and his eyes would be all over the room.
You can feel that he is watching. Even a would be assassin would return home without the mission attempted. Naruto wasn't the one you could sneak upon. Sometimes Yugao thought he had eyes in the back of his head.
''If things had gone different, you'd be carrying our child,'' Yugao said, looking thoughtful.
She wished things had been different. She wished both her and Naruto had made different choices back then, then perhaps things would have turned out better. Well, this was the reality of things, and she couldn't run away from it. What had happened, occurred. She couldn't change any of that.
Naruto simply looked at the woman before him, but said nothing.
Yugao sighed. ''How did things go at the meeting?''
''Good,'' Naruto said. ''No one threatened to cut my head off, and no one made any outrageous demands.''
Yugao smiled. ''That is at least some good news,'' she said. ''It was expected nevertheless.''
Naruto nodded. ''The current Kages are good people. They are a lot more understanding than the previous Kages.''
''It isn't because of that,'' Yugao said before adding. ''You have lived with Kakashi and he knows you. No matter what, he can't hate you. He will always try to find the reasons for your actions just so he can understand why you did and do certain things.
Both Gaara and Mei share a similar principle when it concerns you. I guess both are kind hearted people who understand. They have dealt with you in different situations to know that you mean well, and wish no harm. The shinobi world's perception of you isn't theirs. You have probably dipped your fangs on Kurotsuchi that is why she has come around. I can't say much about Darui.''
''You have analyzed the situation very well,'' Naruto said. ''Even if Darui had other plans, he wouldn't do much because I already have influence over the other Kages. I could have done more with Kurotsuchi. Well, no matter. What is present is tolerable.''
''Don't speak like that, Naruto, or I'm going to think this was your plan all along,'' Yugao said. ''You knew Sasuke was going to interfere with the battle. The how just eluded you. Sasuke wants two things: Konoha and the restoration of the Uchiha clan. He needs your support in both and doing things as he did gives him a better image. It could've worked better with you dead. He would be hailed all over.''
''Not precisely. Me being dead wouldn't make things better in this world. As it stands, I'm the lynch that holds this world together. Sasuke couldn't replace me with death. Defeating me to live another day will do, and he still needs me for the Uchiha rebirth.'' Naruto explained. ''I'm going to talk to Mei.''
''Finally,'' Yugao said. ''I have told you many times to talk to her. I believe Samui has urged you to do the right thing as well. If you don't fix things now you will never fix them.''
Naruto stared into sky blue eyes of the little girl he held. Such innocence. It was refreshing. How he wish the shinobi world was as innocent as those eyes. There was no way to return the lost innocence. The trick was fooling the mind and only Genjutsu could do so. He wasn't a fan of Genjutsu and so he would just wait and see how things would grow.
''There have been other things before me that I wished to rectify,'' Naruto said with a slight shrug of his shoulders. ''Besides, now is the best time to try to work things out. We have 'settled' down and can enjoy the remainder of our lives together...''
Yugao frowned at that thought. ''How long?''
''That is another matter for another time,'' Naruto said. He didn't wait to continue his conversation with Yugao. He left the room and walked towards the room Samui was hosting her guests.
Once he got there, he handed her the baby and whispered a few words to her.
''Is she home already?'' Samui asked with a raised brow.
''No,'' Naruto said with a shake of his head. ''Still on board a train, I imagine,'' he disappeared from view after those words left his lips.
Seeing that Naruto was gone, Darui coughed up a bit. Yugito was fondling over the baby and he wanted to get to his business. ''Samui, I have a request for you.''
''Come back home.''
A few minutes later
''Well this is a lovely surprise,'' those were the words that greeted Naruto when he flashed into the compartment that housed Mei. He looked the red haired woman: her expression was blank, by her side was the Kazekage.
Naruto made himself comfortable alongside the two. ''I thought you'd be heading home,'' he said, looking to no one in particular, but he was obviously talking to the Godaime Mizukage.
''You thought...'' Mei said, ''But I have some matters I have to be handle with Gaara. At this flow of time, he is about the only friend I have and I want to make the best of our friendship before anything happens.''
''I see,'' Naruto's eyes turned to Mei, who was sitting on his right. It was only for a moment, but not subtle enough for either Mei or Gaara to miss it. ''Gaara.''
''Naruto,'' Gaara acknowledged the other man. ''It seems that we're heading towards the right direction. For so long I have wished for us to take this step. At this stage, it seems as if peace will be within our reach.''
''If you had walked on your own or taken Nagato's path, you could've reached a point as this some time ago,'' Naruto said.
Gaara shook his head: he already knew that Nagato had chosen to fight the Emperor in order to achieve his own peace. The information was kept a secret and only a few people knew about it. Those who did, had sworn to die with it. If such information does come out, it would put Sasuke's lie in jeopardy and people would ask questions that would lead to the truth.
If people start to think that Sasuke has been plotting with the Emperor for a long time, all hell would break lose. Without even proof, they would say this was all a ploy by the two Uchihas to gain control of the Kages, and by extension the great villages. This peace would collapse.
Gaara found it to be bitterly amusing that a simple rumour was a side reason for state of the shinobi world. Most of it was a lie, but the people believed and it worked for the good.
''That is an alternative, but things would've never come to this point. No matter how we may wish, a different past would not have resulted in this present. Our past choices are what brought this reality. If we had made difference choices back then, we would be facing another reality. Good or bad. That is for the imagination to figure out,'' Gaara said. ''Besides, I have always believed that if I stick with you, we would see a better tomorrow.''
There was honesty in Gaara voice. Naruto was quick to note, but offered to comment on it. ''Is that so,'' he said in a thoughtful tone. ''She didn't have anything to do with it, did she?''
Gaara smiled. ''Actually, she did,'' he said. ''She has been the one who kept telling me that you're not a bad person and eventually things would turn around and now they have because I chose to trust her judgement.''
''I guess I must thank her,'' Naruto said.
Why were people saying that he wasn't a bad person? He was a cold person who cared for his own only. He didn't care about peace, or how the world was shaking. He cared about his fun and the family he has created. You can't forget about his people. Naruto reasoned having no desire to be a Sage for peace didn't make him a bad person, but just a normal person.
''That would be a first.'' Mei butted in.
''Possibly,'' Naruto said, despite being in knowledge of the fact that Mei was a little sarcastic when she said those words. ''I believe Hamura would be saying I believed something like this would happen while Hagoromo would be trying to lecture me about being a real Sage.''
Naruto shook his head. ''Nothing. I'm just mumbling about the Sage of Six paths.''
''The monk who taught Ninjutsu and preached peace?''
''No and yes. He didn't teach Ninjutsu. He taught Ninshu. I am a Sage as well and wield powers he held. He used his powers to try to unite the world. Naturally, he failed, but created a legacy for himself.''
''You should try to be like him,'' Gaara offered.
Naruto turned to face the Godaime Kazekage to try to discern if he was joking or not: he wasn't. He was dead serious. Naruto found it to be amusing. He being like the very man he ridiculed? It was funny. He couldn't quite even imagine himself being all humble and peaceful while preaching peace to other nations.
His amusement was visible to those around and Mei was quick to say something. ''Is something fun?'' She asked, a bit forcefully. ''Your image has been ruined. You're no longer the god you once were. This will be a good time to reinvent yourself as Uchiha Naruto: The Sage of Peace.''
Naruto Looked at Mei with a raised brow. He had no words to her so instead he just shook his head.
''Improving your image will ensure that your children are treated as children of a legend wherever they go. Your name will go down in history as not only the Strongest shinobi to have ever graced the land, but the greatest.''
''I prefer just being known as the strongest,'' Naruto said with a wave of his hand. ''I came to talk to you, Mei.''
Gaara wanted to excuse himself upon hearing that, but Mei insisted that he not move. The Kazekage relented only after he saw a threatening look from the woman. It seemed like Naruto wanted to talk about personal and he didn't want to be in the room.
''For so long I have been guilty for my actions, lack of rather. I know and can point out when things are wrong or right, but you're never going to see me trying to correct what is wrong. I have acknowledged before that I have treated you unfairly, but still did nothing to change that.''
''So?'' Mei said, looking at the side of the Emperor.
Naruto ran his hand through his hair, just beside it, his left eye turned to face Mei, and he spoke: his tone resigned. ''I'm sorry for not telling you about Etsuko. That was wrong of me. I should've told you.''
''Are you saying sorry because your time is coming soon and you wish to enjoy the rest of your days?''
''No and yes. I wish to enjoy the last days and I can only think of it with you being part of that life,'' Naruto said.
According to Konan, Nagato knew he couldn't win a battle against him, yet he still made his way towards the battlefield to face him. What was there to achieve if he knew he would end up dying? Had he simply been tired of living? Did he feel that he needed to end his life with bang? Amegakure was at peace: the crying village no longer cried continuously. The people of the village could now see the sun, and be showered by its light.
Did his dream just end there? It didn't. But Konan had said Nagato had known.
Naruto shook his head: he couldn't get an answer. Well, no matter – he wanted to say. Calmness and balance was within reach and he could rest. There was nothing to worry about. Nagato was dead. It wouldn't change anything if he figured out what the man thought. It wasn't like he was going to adopt a new life style just because some parts of him had a few questions that needed to be answered through actions.
Nothing much had changed for him.
Naruto looked down the empty streets beside the tallest tower – he was sitting on the edge of something like a balcony, his feet hanging over the air. The rain he had made was washing him with drops of cold water, but he didn't mind it. He allowed himself to be watered.
There was nothing interesting in the streets, but his eyes stared down, mind gripped with the emptiness that was in the streets.
''If I didn't know any better, I'd assume you were having some heated discussions with yourself,'' Sasuke said, walking over to Naruto. The Emperor showed no outward reaction to Sasuke's presence, even when he sat down on his right. ''Kakashi knows what I want. Obito probably told him that he was expecting me to stab him in the back.''
''Hardly a surprise,'' Naruto responded with a bit of nonchalance.
Sasuke nodded. ''I didn't deny it. I was surprised that he seemed relieved when I didn't try to hide anything. He even said he wouldn't be saying anything to Tsunade or the head clans, but would support my quest to become Hokage.''
''There are a few strings attached, presumably...''
''Yes, but they are hardly a consequence,'' Sasuke said. ''By the time I become Hokage, things should be well set for a new change. Although Kakashi hates the workload, he won't hand over the mantle any time soon. This works better for me, nonetheless, I can see to it that the Uchiha is built on a strong foundation.''
''You're speaking years. I don't have that much time.''
Sasuke shrugged. ''It isn't like you're going to be dead anyway,'' he said. ''The second part has to unfold and in order for that to happen, you have to be there, just until I become Hokage.''
''Can you work around Konoha's opinion of me. They may no longer fear me, but they don't like me,'' Naruto said.
''We will do it steadily. I will do something. They've always favoured me. I can colour them and by the time I become Hokage, you and I will shake hands like Hashirama and Madara.''
"Is that so?"
Sasuke nodded. "Aside from this, what are your other plans?"
"I have no other plans. I'm content with just watching children fool around and for the sake of it, I will entertain them."
Sasuke raised a curious eye brow. "You're not the one for that. Do you really plan on playing the humble Emperor until you grow bored of it?"
Even though Naruto didn't say anything in response, Sasuke knew he had heard him. And he guessed the answer to his question was obvious, hence Naruto didn't say a word.
Sasuke didn't say anything else, however. He just kept his silence and allowed the rain to wash over him.
Unfortunately, I'm calling it quits to the story. I wanted to expand the war a bit, but I can't write anything tangible. I'd have just ended up putting more meaningless words to the story.
Thank you for your support. Really, thank you for the encouraging reviews you have offered and your continued reading of the story even though at times it seemed to have lost its plot.
The Omnipresent Sage