Author Note

Hi there and welcome to another chapter of Nidaime no Sairin.

For those who had already read Chapter 34, I had to change the original chapter, because I had forgotten that the original Sound Four were attacked by Kakashi and Yuugao. I mentioned that in Chapter 25. Tayuya was captured and Kidomaru was the only one left alive, after fleeing. So, I had to adapt the members of the Sasuke capture team. I had other characters in mind for the group, but I had decided to use them in another arc. So, for those who are finding it strange to see a different chapter, now you know why. And once again, I do apologize for the blatant mistake.

A special thank you for fluffywolf21 for pointing it out.

There isn't much to comment on last chapter's reviews, so let's get a move on, shall we.

Please enjoy!

Nidaime no Sairin - Naruto Shippuden

(Reposted) Chapter 34 – The Last Loyal Uchiha

Beta: Scheffinator

Clueless of the fact that yet again, the snake Sannin had invaded the village to capture the last loyal Uchiha without anyone being any wiser, the Village Hidden in the Leaves' nightlife became abuzz with restaurants, vendors, bars, and food tents.

Naruto had received an invitation from Asuma after he finished his secret Hiraishin training for dinner. He first thought that it would be a sensei-student gathering, but when he came to the barbeque place, Naruto was surprised to see what appeared to be a joint gathering of the Jonin sensei and their respective and former Genin teams, with the strange absence of Kakashi's team. Gai's team, Kurenai's team and of course Asuma's team were all there, though. He soon joined up with Shikamaru, while he observed the Jonin sensei chatting amongst each other, oblivious to the former Genin now either Chuunin and recently promoted Jonin's presence.

"So, what's the occasion for this gathering, Shika? I wasn't aware of anything going on." The Nara heir was enjoying a cup of cold Beer, while lifting his shoulder.

"Beats me, Asuma-sensei came up to me with the invitation this afternoon. Said only that he couldn't find you…where were you by the way?" Naruto looked around, wondering about Team 7's absence, while also focusing on Kurenai chatting with Asuma.

"I was out training…tell me…if this is a gathering, then why isn't Sakura and the others here as well? And what of Kakashi-sensei?" Shikamaru looked around as well.

"Sakura is out on a mission with Shizune-senpai and Kiba, I don't know, perhaps he has something with his clan…it's not like he would ever say no to free meat."

Naruto chuckled as Choji approached them to converse with them.

"And Kakashi wouldn't have come without his team, so I guess that explains it." Naruto then ordered his own serving for the waitress, while checking on the groups.

Ino was seeen talking to Hinata. Lee and Tenten were chatting amongst themselves, while Neji appeared to be in someplace else, same as Shino. Turning to the Jonin, Asuma and Gai appeared to be discussing something serious for some reason, while Kurenai was listening in, also in a serious mood. The three of them were sharing a bottle of sake together. He couldn't linger on this visage for more than a second, or else a perceptive Shikamaru next to him would figure it out, but for a Genjutsu specialist such as him, a second was more than enough to record her beauty and subtle smile aimed at his way.

Soon, it was time for everyone to say their goodbyes as Naruto waved to Shikamaru, Choji and Hinata goodbye for the night.

He had lost track of Kurenai for now, which meant that perhaps she went out to meet either Anko or Yuugao somewhere else.

Without anything to do for now, Naruto walked away from the restaurant with his hands inside his pocket, while extending his chakra sensitivity throughout the area. A second later, he tried but failed to hide the smile from his face, as he kept on walking.

He felt the chakra invading his system in no time and kept walking.

"I wonder if that's for my benefit, Naruto-kun…" He looked sideways to see her head appear from within the trees.

"I will try to hide it better next time…" The woman laughed wholeheartedly at her young lover.

"Don't…it wouldn't be you." Naruto felt the warmth in that statement. "Were you heading somewhere?" Naruto negated it with his head.

"Back to my house to get some sleep…since I didn't see you leave the restaurant, I thought you'd be joining Anko or Yuugao somewhere." Kurenai smiled at that.

"No, I am all yours for the night…" Naruto then saw her coy smile, while finishing her train of thought. "That is if you don't have anything else in your mind." He would be a fool to answer otherwise and that wasn't even taking into account their relationship.

"I am on my way, then…do you want me to bring something?" Kurenai simply negated, before her image left the premise.

Once alone once more, Naruto began to feel the multiple sealing tags he had positioned in key areas around the village. The Hokage's Office Building, all of the Village Gates, the Hospital, his house, Shika's, the Hyuuga Clan Compound and of course, one of them, located in a hidden foliage right next to Kurenai's front door. The Genjutsu mistress was quite surprised to feel Naruto's presence outside her house, literally a second after she received the information from her Kage Bunshin. Her desire for him and her mind already in the bedroom stopped from beginning the questioning as he slipped inside her front door, before they both climbed the stairs to her room.

===Next Day===

As soon as the sun went up outside, Kurenai's eyes slowly opened up. At first, the drowsiness overpowered her senses. Since she quickly recognized her room, it was easier than breathing to shift from a soldier's readiness to immediate relaxation.

She stretched her arms slowly while yawning, before rising in a seating position to grab her legs.

As soon as her eyes turned to the right, a peaceful smile appeared followed by a warm chuckle at the sight of her secret boyfriend slightly snoring next to her. Contrary to the other days, last night, the activities were more subtle to speak of. The secret couple were getting into that special place where they simply enjoyed each other's presence. Plus, in her eyes, his facial attributes had only improved. His golden spiky hair, slightly bigger than a few years ago…his deep cerulean eyes was a sight to behold, now a deeper shade of blue. The forever whisker marks on each side of his cheeks had only made him that much more endearing to her.

In all fairness, Kurenai wasn't afraid to recognize the growing feelings she had for the blond enigma.

She smiled once she saw his eyes slowly open up as well, marveling at the deep ocean hue of his eyes.

"Good morning, Naruto-kun." The way his smile softened when he heard her greeting had only added insult to injury.

"Morning to you too, Kure-chan…" He said, slightly rubbing his eyes awake and then lifting his hand to caress her cheeks. "How did you sleep?"

"I slept just fine, thank you…I take it you don't have any plans for today. Staying in bed today sounds great to me." Naruto nodded with a smile at the invitation.

"No plans…I…" Naruto was about to answer, when both of them got startled by a loud noise of someone banging on her door downstairs.

Kurenai had immediately sighed, while rubbing her face at the presumed situation.

"Damn it, Anko…perfect timing!" She murmured in self-complaint. Naruto, however, was already up and alert.

"It's not her, it's Yuugao-sensei." Kurenai looked at him startled, before she got out of the bed and went downstairs, while quickly putting on a robe.

For Yuugao to do that, it meant that something dire had happened.

Naruto stayed in bed before both Kurenai and Yuugao appeared and Naruto noticed that his sensei was in full Jonin attire and with her sword strapped behind her back.

"Naruto, you and I have been called for a mission…Tsunade-sama sent me to call you…you have ten minutes to get ready."

Kurenai cursed internally at her plans getting ruined. Getting frustrated, but a mission is a mission. Naruto did as instructed and got up from Kurenai's bed. However, before he could move to get ready, he looked slightly sheepish at the two Jonin in front of him and remembered last night's activities.

"Ah, would it be possible for me to get a quick shower first…it won't take long?" Kurenai smiled and Yuugao sighed, not really wanting to hear about the reason.

"Fine…but make it quick…" Naruto saluted and vanished towards Kurenai's bathroom, while Kurenai indulged Yuugao about what was so urgent that her daydream had to be cut short. Her eyes widened when she heard the response.

"It's hard to know much at this point, but either one Uchiha Sasuke has left the village on his own will or he was kidnapped…either way, Tsunade-sama is calling a task force to retrieve him."

"He what…!?" A towel wrapped Naruto called out in surprise, coming out of the shower. Kurenai was still stomped by the news.

"Get dressed already, damn it! I won't ask twice. I will be outside."

An angry sword user stomped out of the room, before Naruto gulped and summoned his Jonin clothes from a scroll.

Naruto only had time to send an apologetic nod and a kiss to his secret lover, before he and Yuugao rushed to meet the Hokage.

===At Tsunade's Office===

As soon as Naruto and Yuugao arrived at the Hokage's Office, Naruto noticed that two other shinobi were already there, waiting for him. One was Inuzuka Hana with her three dogs and the other was Tokuma Hyuuga. Naruto has worked plenty of times with Hana and her triplets and he knew that Yuugao-sensei often called Tokuma for tracking assignments with his Byakugan being one of the best in the family for that function. He has participated in one or two missions with him in the past, a nice guy overall, if a bit reserved.

"Good…everyone came here early, because time is of the essence here." The Hokage's tone was particularly serious as she looked at Yuugao's assembled squad. "As you all may know, Uchiha Sasuke has openly vanished from the village. Hatake Kakashi has brought me the intel himself just moments ago before he needed to leave for a mission of his own. The mission is quite straightforward, Yuugao. Hunt him down and bring him back by any means necessary." The swordswoman nodded, already going through the few necessary questions for their mission parameters.

"Tsunade-sama, had Kakashi-senpai given us any possible intel as to what could have happened?" The Hokage negated.

"He was scheduled to meet the Uchiha in his apartment for some breakfast and noticed that nothing was amiss with the exception that Sasuke wasn't in his bed, even though the ANBU detail had reported Sasuke was there the entire night before."

"But how could Sasuke have evaded the ANBU patrol if he had decided to up and leave the village?" Tsunade turned to Naruto.

"We don't have much to go on as I am sure Yuugao has told you…indeed, I had placed only the best ANBU members to tail him. For sure, he wouldn't be able to make a move without them noticing." Naruto mumbled curses for the stupid Uchiha. It was quite obvious to make the assumption that someone had taken him, but there was simply no evidence to support that theory. Hana and Tokuma were just getting their intel ready, while waiting for Yuugao to turn and give their orders. Still, Tokuma, having the eye for tracking, focused on precisely that.

"Hokage-sama, we still need overall directions to narrow our search…also we don't know how many hours he has against us."

The Hokage nodded and turned to Hana, urging her to debrief the rest.

"Kiba has given me a piece of clothing that Akamaru has ripped from Sasuke once…so my dogs can track his scent. All there is to find out now are possible paths to narrow the search." Tsunade then placed both hands together and her chin on top of it.

"There's no evidence to support this, but regardless of what happened, it's a fair assumption to believe that he is heading towards the Land of Sound." The four shinobi looked attentive at the mention and Tsunade expanded. "This is an A-ranked secret, so I won't repeat it…we have strong intel that suggests that Orochimaru desires the Sharingan. That being said, the snake bastard himself may have invaded the village like he did before and grabbed Sasuke." Yuugao took a step forward, wondering if this mission should be as ranked as it was right now.

"Tsunade-sama…" The Senju lifted her hand before Yuugao spoke the obvious.

"I understand Yuugao…however, it's unlikely that Orochimaru would bother with dragging Sasuke all the way towards the Land of Sound. Nevertheless, if he's involved, then his goons are definitely going to be there."

"Super…for a moment there, I really thought we would have to face an S-ranked criminal." Tsunade narrowed her eyes at the snide comment. Though, it wasn't a risk that she could rule out, even if she wanted to deck Naruto for his comment.

Yuugao knew the same thought was passing through Hana and Tokuma's head, but for now, their mission parameters were set. An A ranked, with a possible upgrade to S-ranked if Orochimaru decides to join the party.

"We have our orders everyone, let's go." The four-man team plus three dogs vanished, leaving Tsunade alone in the room.

===North Gate===

In a short time, the seven blurs reached the village gates towards the path that leads to the Land of Sound. Yuugao then turned to her team, focusing on Tokuma and Hana.

"Alright then, let us begin…we don't have much time here for mistakes as Tokuma is right…Sasuke has hours ahead of us, so we need to speed things up. Hana, you are going up front. The triplets shall work to find out Sasuke's scent while we navigate throughout Fire Country. Naruto is going to be behind you for protection and booby traps detection. Tokuma and I shall be in the rear…Tokuma, Hana is our tracker, but you shall use your Byakugan to give us the intel of Sasuke's position as well as the possible enemies we might face."

The two trackers nodded. Naruto, for some reason, noticed Tokuma's chakra fluctuated, while Yuugao was addressing him for some reason. He also noticed Hana looking at her Byakugan friend with a knowing smile. It wasn't a secret for their generation that Tokuma has had a crush on Yuugao, ever since the Academy. And from Hana's standpoint, that hasn't diminished in the least. Problem for him is that ever since Hayate died, Yuugao's heart has yet to be properly glued back together to even think about going down that road once more.

"Ah Yuugao-sensei…" All three plus the dogs turned to their youngest member. "About what Hokage-sama said…by any means necessary…" Hana and Tokuma had their mouths narrowed at the good question. "Once we reach him, I don't think words will get through to the bastard." Yuugao nodded at her prodigy, but Naruto already knew about the possibility of having to engage against Sasuke.

It wouldn't be the first time, of course. However, they had never crossed that line before, the line in which they would try to harm the other. To this point, Naruto never had to use brute force against the Uchiha, but with Orochimaru involved and the very possibility that Orochimaru breaks the sealing chains that keeps Sasuke's Cursed Seal at bay, Naruto is now looking at a very dangerous situation, one that he won't be able to dictate fully what happens.

"I know where you're heading Naruto…our mission is to bring him back. You know him better than us, so even if he went on his own will or he was kidnapped, chances are that he won't take kindly to mere words."

'Knowing the bastard, that's an understatement for sure.' Naruto nodded anyhow, before Yuugao urged them all to move.

Hiruzen just puffed his pipe in his former Hokage outfit as he saw the assembled team presumably rush after Sasuke.

With his pipe in his mouth, the old man had closed his eyes for a while, before turning to walk away. He had a scheduled meeting with an old friend.

===With Orochimaru===

The snake Sannin had emerged from the ground, after traveling a long distance from Konoha.

He had chosen a more secluded location to emerge, one that is filled with tall trees and without any perceivable pathways to follow.

He just didn't want to be disturbed, while performing the deed on Sasuke. The snake spilled him out and the Uchiha lay unconscious on the ground. Orochimaru's sleeping toxin was still running through his veins, so it wasn't likely for him to wake up any time soon. That gave Orochimaru ample time to briefly study the sealing techniques applied to his cursed seal on Sasuke's neck. The first one, he had seen Kakashi apply before at the Chuunin Exams, but the second one still eluded his curiosity. To bind dark emotions using Fuinjutsu was something that only a handful of shinobi could perform.

Orochimaru could think of either the Hokage or Jiraiya to perform this, but he couldn't feel the link of either one in this second set of kanji.

His curiosity wasn't going to last long, of course. Standing so close to the cursed seal, Orochimaru could overpower it to the degree that he could break both techniques.

And with Sasuke unconscious due to Orochimaru's toxin, the pain won't even be registered. So, with a simple ram seal, Sasuke's Cursed Seal started glowing red and his body convulsed at the amount of malevolent energy running through his coils. In no time, the sealing protection broke through exertion as the snake Sannin smirked as the Cursed Seal of Heaven began to spread throughout Sasuke's body.

"Orochimaru-sama…" The snake Sannin turned to his four goons, to a girl's voice speaking. Her face was obscured with a brown hood, but her red hair was plainly visible. "It appears that Konoha has begun to move…they have sent a team of four to search for him." The snake Sannin turned to the unconscious Sasuke on the ground.

"Like I expected they would. Now, it's up to you Kidomaru and Kimimaro to bring him up to speed in our plans with his Cursed Seal and then bring him to Otogakure." The snake Sannin then moved to leave, but not before using his authority on all four of his subordinates. "Do not fail me or else, you'll know what happens." Kidomaru, Karin and Suigetsu all gulped at the feeling of their master's chakra crawling up their spines. Kimimaro, for his part, merely nodded in reply to his master. The oppressive feeling had only vanished once their master slowly sunk back below ground, vanishing as if he was never there in the first place.

No sooner had Orochimaru vanished, they noticed Sasuke starting to wake up on the ground as the cursed seal rescinded for now.

He looked around, wondering what happened, before he laid eyes on Kidomaru as one of the imbeciles who tried to capture him.

"You again!?" Kidomaru only smirked in reply as Kimimaro took a step forward as his cursed seal began to act up. Soon as he did so, Sasuke's own cursed seal did so as well and the Uchiha growled in pain, not being used to it.

"You can feel it, can't you Uchiha Sasuke? The power that Orochimaru-sama so graciously bestowed upon you." Once he said so, him and Kidomaru's Cursed Seal acted up as well. "Now that Orochimaru-sama has rid you of the shackles placed by the hidden village, you can see for yourself the amount of power you now possess." Sasuke looked at his hands and with his Sharingan active, he could indeed feel the power passing through his coils. It was quite enticing, indeed. The further his memory went for the night of his clan's death, the angrier he felt and thus the more powerful he became as a result. He remembered Naruto and the fact that he had never come close to defeating him in a fight…however, this power…this power that passes through his veins…could be enough to beat him and…then…beat him.

"Who are you? Him I recognize, but you I do not. I don't recognize any of you for that matter." Sasuke said so looking at the Kaguya member.

Straight gray hair with lifeless eyes…Sasuke couldn't help but see some parallels of suffering just by looking at him.

"My name is Kaguya Kimimaro, the last alive member of the Kaguya Clan." Sasuke noticed that so far the other ones had yet to introduce themselves.

The girl kept looking at him strangely and the other one with blue hair next to her had a goofy smile on his face the entire time, while saying nothing. Nevertheless, with only Kimimaro in front of him, Sasuke could already tell that should he decide to fight this foe, his odds of winning just weren't clear enough. The girl was nothing to glance at in his eyes, but the other three had enough power to become a huge threat to him.

"I take it you will all make it difficult for me to leave if I so choose?" Kidomaru, though, only laughed at that.

"Of course, you are our master's capture, after all. However, what if I told you that you could become even stronger than you are now?" Sasuke narrowed his eyebrows at that. "The cursed seal you have is in its first stage…a powerful boost no doubt, but it's only a delicious preview of what you can achieve by reaching the second stage." They were of course briefed by Orochimaru, beforehand. For a power hungry and vengeful type such as Sasuke, the offering of power goes a great deal in getting him on board. "There is only a small snag that you have to go through to reach the final stage."

"What is it, then? Come on, spill it." Kidomaru smirked and delivered the intimidating news.

"It will be necessary for you to die once…" Sasuke looked pensive at that as the wind picked up speed at the ominous feel in the atmosphere. Kidomaru then grabbed a vial from his pocket and showed a stash of black pills. "This is called a Mind Awakening Pill, you shall take one. The pill will forcibly stimulate the power of the Cursed Seal to the Second Level. However, merely taking the pill will only bring you closer to death as your body won't be able to handle the strain." Sasuke saw the pills in his hand and then turned back to the pineapple-hair goon.

"You are not making any sense here…if by taking this, I shall gain this power but it will come with consequences."

"That's precisely I am here…to fulfill the mission Orochimaru has given to me…allow you to increase the Curse Seal, while providing you the means to do so. I happen to be a Barrier and Fuinjutsu specialist. The Barrier Ninjutsu will suppress the side effects of the pill. We shall mitigate that phase to ease you from eternal death to a state of half death." That all sounds too good to be true, but for Sasuke meeting these imbeciles for the first time and then trusting them with his life…it was simply asking too much.

"I am not placing too much faith in your abilities to keep me from dying…" Kidomaru chuckled from behind the Uchiha as Kimimaro explained it all.

"Every power comes with a price, Uchiha Sasuke. The only thing left for you to do is decide whether or not to fully commit to what Orochimaru-sama is offering you."

Sasuke looked at each of their eyes and then at the flask in his hand. His mind went once more to his ultimate goal of killing Itachi to avenge his family. Staying in Konoha and constantly fighting Naruto has allowed him to get strong sure, but he needed more. He always needed more. Doing missions, hanging out with the rest, going about it day by day…it wasn't getting him any closer to reaching Itachi's level. To do that, he needed to focus all of his efforts into getting stronger and then challenging Itachi. He needed more and he needed it now!

"I don't plan on dying anytime soon, so I am counting on you." Kidomaru smirked as Sasuke had taken the pill.

A second later, his body started convulsing in deep pain and he saw no more, while Kidomaru prepared the technique by summoning the coffin.

Using all of his arms, Kidomaru was able to replace the Sound Four in this technique.

"Huh, it sucks to do this technique all by myself…at least Tayuya could be here as well, if the bitch wasn't captured and locked in a dungeon somewhere."

"Get started already and stop complaining…Orochimaru-sama is waiting." Kidomaru tsked at being ordered by Kimimaro, while Karin looked towards the position where she had felt Konoha's team approaching.

===With Yuugao's Team===

The four shinobi traveled quickly throughout the tree lines, following Hana's three canines.

The Inuzuka only observed as her three huskies' nose flared, before they all turned to her.

They had targeted Sasuke's scent from a piece of clothing that the Uchiha wore, which was torn by Akamaru, Kiba's dog.

"Yuugao-taichou, it appears we have Sasuke's scent." Naruto looked at her back in wonder. His sensory capability did find some vague traces of Sasuke's chakra passing through here, but he could also find five other undeterminable presences. For now, he would be too far away to be of any help in terms of tracking. Hana's dogs, on the other hand, were fully grown Inuzuka canines, with the ability to sniff scents at long distances. Yuugao then turned to Naruto, who only negated briefly, earning a nod from the mission captain. She knew her subordinate long enough to know the range of his sensory abilities.

"Ok, Hana…Tokuma, what can you see?" The Hyuuga member of the group complied with the order.

"Right…Byakugan!" Tokuma's all-seeing eye easily reached further ahead of their position, until he could see four presences walking. And one of them, the one with six arms, was seen carrying a coffin on his back.

"It's strange…" Yuugao looked back at Tokuma. "Hana had spotted Sasuke's scent, but all I can see is a group of four Oto shinobi from the looks of things and one of them is carrying a coffin filled with Fuinjutsu tags on his back. There is no sign of Sasuke, though."

Naruto and Yuugao narrowed their eyes at the information.

"Naruto, you are quite knowledgeable at Fuinjutsu...what can you tell us?"

The Uzumaki remembered Tobirama's scroll from start to finish as well as the training he had with Jiraiya.

"I can't presume much without studying the seals used on this coffin Tokuma had described, but there are advanced techniques that could block even the Byakugan from seeing through. You mentioned they are Oto shinobi, Tokuma?"

"Yeah…the headband insignia matches as well as the similar outfits." Naruto turned back to Yuugao.

"One of them could be from that group that you and Kakashi captured, isn't it?" Yuugao nodded and then urged them to stop by the nearest tree line.

"Okay, right now, we are still required to ascertain if he left on his own will or if he was captured, but that shall have to wait until we can secure the target and have him tell us or Hokage-sama himself. Tokuma, how far are they right now and their traveling speed?" Tokuma once more used his Byakugan to study the group further.

"By our full speed, we can reach them in a few minutes, Taichou. If Sasuke's truly inside that coffin for some reason, then they can't risk high speed travel." Yuugao nodded.

"For now, we may have the element of surprise, but since they are Orochimaru's elites, I wouldn't count on them being caught unaware. Naruto, can you sense traps nearby?" The three shinobi and canines all saw as he placed two fingers on the ground with his eyes closed, searching for chakra residues. It didn't take him more than a few seconds to open his eyes and turn to the rest. His sensory perception must be somewhat failing as he felt the enemy's chakra in various locations throughout the forest. Though, his eyes couldn't see anything other than spider webs and small arachnids in them.

"Yes, a few sealing tag traps installed in the trees up ahead. However, something is amiss in the area around us."


"I don't know, aside from the paper tags, I can feel the enemy's chakra presence in other places throughout the forest. It feels like we are surrounded, but I can't see anything." Yuugao knew to trust his perception, so she turned to Hana and Tokuma.

"My canines can't help here Yuugao-taichou…"

"Same here, taichou…other than the tags and the flora in this forest, I can't see what Naruto is talking about." Yuugao began to consider the options for a while, before coming up with a suitable plan.

"Right, I can vouch for Naruto's ability, but so let's proceed with caution. Perhaps, the enemy already knows we are coming and may plan ahead for an ambush. I am afraid we won't be able to avoid a full out assault in order to secure the target. Furthermore, it's obvious that their mission is to protect Sasuke, so the minute we attack, they are going to break formation." The other three shinobi nodded as Yuugao continued. "There are four of them against four of us, but I don't like the thought of us four separating. As such, we are going to form pairs. Naruto, you are with Hana…Tokuma, you are with me. Once we manage to take the enemy out, we move on to the next target, until all four are neutralized, agreed?" Hana of course wasn't expecting Tokuma to question those orders and she had already battled with Naruto in other missions.

"Roger…" The other three said in unison as all four plus the canines moved to strike the enemy.

===With Hiruzen===

Sarutobi Hiruzen kept on walking throughout the empty streets of Konoha until he stopped in front of a dark hole that seemed endless.

There was no light that could reach the bottom. The Sandaime Hokage thought long and hard about actually doing what he considered doing.

His previous conversation with Shikaku came to mind. Of course, the Nara clan leader was completely against the idea for obvious reasons. Back when the wars were still being fought between villages, Shimura Danzo and his ROOT ANBU were a necessary evil and weren't disbanded until the catastrophic way in which the Uchiha coup was handled. Hiruzen of course knew better than to believe Danzo would adhere to his orders back then and Shikaku thought so as well. Regardless of that, the old war hawk had never actively acted with his ROOT, so Hiruzen had never followed through with his inquiries.

Now that it was evident that Danzo was aiding Orochimaru, for Hiruzen, it was the only possible venue to take right now.

So, with swift and precise leaps, one Sarutobi Hiruzen jumped down the dark hole and maneuvered himself through the hidden pipes and passageways that slowly but surely appeared as he went down. His eyebrows widened slightly as he observed the man he had come to chat waiting for him in the lowest possible platform. Hiruzen expertly landed on the passageway as he eyed the man that once in the past he had called his best friend and rival.

"I take it you wish to talk to me…Hiruzen." His only visible eye was closed and his hands firmly grasping a wooden cane.

Hiruzen though didn't need to extend his senses to feel the welcoming reception, composed of the very organization that should have been disbanded long ago.

Author Note

Ok, that's it for now.

The true action shall all be focused on the next chapter.

So, I apologize in advance for the rather short length chapter, but it served more as a build-up for the following one or two chapters of battle after battle.

This shall be the last chapter of this year, so for this story's readers, I wish everyone happy holidays. May all your wishes come true in 2024. I believe I shall be able to update Fate Stay Night by the end of this year and with some luck, Cursed Eyes.

So, please send me your impressions and reviews.

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Also for those who wish to make a pledge there, it will be highly appreciated.

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Next update: Avalon Bond