A/N: This was a difficult chapter in the sense that I knew where I wanted the story to go, but we've reached the battles of canon where I'd long ago lost hope or interest and, as little as this world resembles it, I have been basing combat styles on it. Sometimes. And I really feel late-stage shounen is best watched, rather than read, because if we've thrown reasonable power scaling out the window we might as well enjoy it with music. Also, there needed to be Plot Dialogue in the middle of my fighting. That being said, welcome. I hope that everyone is keeping safe and doing well around the world.

Kill Your Heroes

-Chapter Seventy-

Gaman (Part III)

Only the unrelenting light in his eyes had made him look like a living thing when they'd encountered him in that tower in Rain, his skin stretched tight over the hard bones of ambition; now there were only hollows in a face bruised and swollen with death.

It had been a neat removal that wouldn't have caused any trauma to the eyes themselves. While the theft of a doujutsu as fearsome as his had been was enough to make her palms clammy as she examined the body and considered grimly who had gotten control of it, Sakura was also concerned about something else. Naruto was hovering in the periphery, making faces as she systematically stripped and inspected the corpse.

Sasuke was crouched across from her, watching her expressionlessly, and Gaara loomed awkwardly close at her shoulder, arms crossed and face set in stern lines. She was considering snapping at the Kazekage that he was blocking her light, but every time the cutting words formed on her tongue she kept them caged behind her teeth. She knew it was mostly the fear prickling beneath her skin that would have made her quick to lash out, but she was mindful that what happened in the field today would be remembered in the political negotiations of tomorrow.

Presuming that they survived today.

"He was alive when they took him?" she clarified.

"If you want to call that alive, yes," Sasuke replied. "It's been days. It's not surprising that he'd die of his wounds."

"He didn't," Sakura replied. "At least not the ones you caused."

"What do you mean?" Gaara rasped.

"If he'd bled out, there would be less bruising," she pointed out. "It's possible he died of shock, but…I can't imagine it. That his heard would just stop beating, after all of that?"

Someone hummed thoughtfully at her shoulder. "Nah. Nagato-chan wouldn't give up like that. But you broke his heart, so Tobi made it stop hurting when he reached in and took it out, ne? Tobi is a good boy!"

Sakura's own heart almost stopped in that moment, but her body was in motion from the moment that she recognized the voice as a stranger's, her hands on Nagato's chest serving as a pivot as she swept her body around to get out from under his hands and led with her feet when she returned.

The Akatsuki member known as Tobi giggled and vanished before her taloned toes could make impact, but Sakura let her momentum carry her to her feet, hands unsheathing her knives as soon as they no longer supported her weight.

Tail lashing behind her, snarl full of edges, she would have stepped between and behind, but Kakashi-senpai held out a hand and she obediently stilled.

"Sorry, Sakura-chan. Let senpai have a conversation with an old friend. You can go do some gardening. That weed looks invasive and tenacious," he said, tilting his head toward where the ground was rupturing around the fleshy leaves that marked the emergence of the last known member of Akatsuki.

He smiled at her then, eyes creasing into half-moons even as his silver hair crept down his shoulders and his tail gave a reassuring swish. "After all, we have lots of things to talk about. Don't we, Obito? Rin looked for you on the other side. I promised her that I'd look for you on this one. Looks like I didn't have to try very hard."

The eyes that opened were heterochromatic—one burned Uchiha crimson and bloomed into the second stage, while the other was the familiar placid dark, as fathomless as ever.

The man in the Akatsuki cloak flinched back and then stilled before he said in a hoarse voice at odds with the one he'd been using to speak, "You always ruin everything, Kakashi."

"Probably," Kakashi-senpai sighed.

In a movement jerky with anger, the swirling orange mask was ripped from the man's face and thrown to the ground. He might have been handsome in another setting, with fine features and thick black hair shorn short, but what was most arresting was his eyes.

They were narrow with rage and one was blazing red and the other—the other was rings of purple.

"Everything you touch—everything that I—I could have fixed it, why couldn't you just—," he could seem to get the words past the anger that choked him. And then he bellowed, "I could have fixed everything!" and vanished and reappeared behind Kakashi-senpai and she would have kept watching if her own target wasn't now free of the earth and watching them with one golden eye set in the mushroom-pale half of his face.

And, alarmingly, the ominous purple rings of the Rinnegan looked out of the pitch-dark half.

Sakura had read what reports there were on this member of the Akatsuki, had in fact seen him briefly in the past, but there was a sense of wrongness about him now that her senses were heightened by the seal.

It wasn't only the enormous cilia-tipped blades that towered over his shoulders, though that was a large part of it nor the reports that he ate people—could you even call that cannibalism?—but also a vague but persistent intuition.

Her battle strategy was not Naruto's, who'd taken two running steps forward in her peripheral vision without his Sage aura active but the blue chakra of his signature jutsu pooling in one palm—she just desperately wanted to finish this, so in the moment that Kakashi-senpai had stopped her forward charge, she had immediately diverted the natural chakra that she'd have used for her jutsu through the bonds that bound her team together. This hastened their own transformations, so by the time Zetsu's cloak cleared the ground, her Ghost Tribe resembled humans about as much as he did.

She didn't look back to see, but by the strangled sounds that Sasuke was making, he found Itachi's form as dramatic as she had.

Yatagarasu.

The eight-span crow, the servant of the sun-goddess.

Sakura had only seen him fully manifested once, when the characters had first formed and they had tested the seal, but she smothered the impulse to look again. His fine hair had thickened and lengthened into something almost like feathers, making him strongly resemble the statue of Madara standing in the valley, the color of it matching the vast dark wings that unfolded from his back, his forearms and shins covered in scales like a great bird's, with lines of light forming a kind of corona about his head.

Kakashi-senpai had laughed out loud when he'd first seen it and remarked that it was probably the least stealthy thing he had seen since Naruto's Sage form.

Her hand snapped forward and she followed the knife through folded space, hand closing around the front of Zetsu's cloak and yanking him clear of the earth even as the knife in her other hand was forced up through fabric and flesh beneath his ribcage. She wouldn't have been surprised if her knife had encountered armor—wouldn't have even been particularly surprised if he'd managed to dodge, as her main objective had been to get him off the ground as she had zero desire to have a battle beneath the earth.

When there was a sound and sensation not entirely unlike cutting through celery, however, she couldn't help but hesitate.

Zetsu smiled down at her pityingly and every hair on her body prickled in foreboding. With a sound that was wet and awful and unlike anything she'd ever heard before and probably would never forget again, he began to—to tear apart, but those parts were still clinging to each other, ropes of unfinished human-stuff stretched between dark and light.

The fleshy pad on the white side withered and fell away as the yellow-eyed Zetsu fell to the ground as his own person and leaped like he'd snatch her out of the air like a cat catching a bird and the dark Zetsu melted back into the earth.

"Taichou!" Neji shouted, alarm in his voice, and she whipped her tail up out of easy reach and flickered to his side just in time to brace herself as Naruto's massive Rasengan—and why wasn't that idiot already wreathed in the golden aura of his Sage form?—impacted and she had to squint hard against the blowback and, crouching, shamelessly used her tail to brace her just as Neji had swept one of his wings forward to use as a shield. With his eyes, it was as if the barrier didn't exist, but while the winds howled Sakura was all but blind.

She almost thought what she saw when she could bear to open her eyes properly again was an illusion, because a loud, disruptive attack like Rasengan was almost like an invitation—she hadn't bothered, because while she had chakra to spare, it was a waste of focus against those eyes—but if it was a genjutsu, it was one she couldn't break. Like a grassland in the spring, as far as the eye could see those green cilia were sprouting.

Naruto was shouting at the dark Zetsu, who had survived his attack. "He was your ally! Why would you take his eyes! You guys didn't even try to save him!"

"These eyes were always mine. I only loaned them out to allow others to cultivate them—but Nagato failed, so of course I took them back," the dark Zetsu replied. "Should I have forced him to live on blind and vanquished in a world where all his friends were dead and his dreams had turned to dust? You are unexpectedly cruel, Uzumaki Naruto."

Naruto snarled, his chakra billowing red around him before it blazed golden and the black markings of his Sage state formed.

Meanwhile, Ghost Tribe had reformed around Sakura's position even as Sasuke turned an enormous tract of their surroundings into a sea of black flame.

While it dealt with whatever was beneath those cilia, Sakura couldn't help but ask Itachi quietly—or as quietly as she could speak and still be heard over the howling roar of flames that were crowning upwards to swallow trees—"How much will this technique spread?"

She didn't want Zetsu to survive, but she didn't particularly want to file a report taking responsibility for black fire sweeping over rural villages either. They had found Nagato's discarded body within a mile of one of the riverside settlements that supported the well-developed shipping infrastructure that buoyed the industry of this country. Whatever their activities outside its borders, it was true that the God of Rain and his Angel had stabilized the lives of the many civilians within this country's borders and allowed for a robust economy that could afford to undersell the services of its ninja.

These people probably already thought that Konohana shinobi were a force of evil; she didn't want to have to agree with them.

Before Itachi could answer, all that fire was gone as cleanly as pinching the wick of a candle.

Tobi—no, Kakashi-senpai had called him Obito, hadn't he?—was radiating ominous chakra as he glared at Sasuke. Not the ordinary sort that accompanied murderous intent, but the visible and tangible haze of a jinchuriki. Sakura could remember the red rage of that long-ago bridge in Wave—this was if someone had distilled it for potency while erasing the rampant emotions that had characterized her experiences with demon-vessels.

Sakura had seen all sorts of expressions behind the shield of indifferent humor that Kakashi-senpai hid behind, but she had never seen him wear such a look of open suffering. In public it was always simply fractures, glimpses of what might lurk beneath that were quickly glossed over, but it was as if he couldn't recover himself enough to erase the lines of betrayal from his face.

Her impression of Uchiha Obito was official-records-shallow, though she understood enough to know that almost everything of the Kakashi-senpai she knew was the product of the way his first team had died.

He had been a truly negligent sensei—if it weren't for lucky happenstance, Sakura would have probably died along the way or festered in her own uselessness for lack of direction—but he had also been at her side through war and death and the hard and soft days in between.

She was more than willing to hate on senpai's behalf; that this was also the man who had his hands deep in the scheme that had put Sasuke's family beneath a blade and Itachi's hand on the hilt—had made him willing to bind his soul to a seal bestowed by a goddess of uncertain intentions for fear that he wouldn't be strong enough to face him—meant that his intentions were irrelevant to everything but understanding how to best put to bed this long tragedy.

"I'd say something like 'Please don't make me do this again,' but I think it's a little late for that," Kakashi-senpai said softly. "But…why?"

There was an awfully fraught moment that was remarkably silent in the sudden absence of the fire that had dominated the soundscape, but then Kakashi-senpai smiled—if you could call it that—and asked, "Why wouldn't you at least grow your hair out if you were going to be playacting as Uchiha Madara?"

"It's like this and you're making jokes?"

"I made the mistake of following someone's bad example when I was younger. Luckily, I'm older and wiser now and unlikely to decide to emulate old teammates and throw away everything I've ever protected to go off and play terrorist. So there's that."

"I never threw everything away," Uchiha Obito shouted back. "I'm trying to protect everyone! Can't you see this is wrong? It's all wrong! Jinchuriki—they wouldn't exist if it weren't for those monsters that she made—it's just because you don't know!"

On one hand, there was this dramatic reunion, but while she listened to their discussion, her eyes were focused on the earth—or rather on the scorched-black leaves that were erupting like lodgepole pinecones after the fire, the black peeling away like the shell of an egg to reveal white underneath.

There were innumerable arms reaching up—they were crowded close as far as she could see and there were thousands upon thousands of them—and heaving themselves up out of the earth, yellow eyes fixing on them with no sign of disorientation from their "birth".

And amongst them all, watching with the indifferent composure of a dark god, was the dark Zetsu, Whole again after the horrific splitting, he no longer wore a cowl of fleshy leaves soaring above his head—instead, on the freshly formed side that was missing an eye, there was a single backswept horn like a root-tip emerging just before his hairline.

Obito didn't seem to be bothered or surprised by any of this, because he didn't hesitate as he continued speaking to Kakashi-senpai as if an army hadn't just spawned around them.

"The bijū were created by Otsutsuki Kaguya outside of the natural order of the world. They are monsters that exist and cannot be destroyed because, even sealed away, her pernicious influence remains and throws the world into chaos. So why not use them? Gather them and use their power to build a bridge to the moon where she was sealed by the sage, slay her, and use the light of the moon to radiate order and peace to this world."

Now she did take a moment to stare incredulously at Obito, because the whatever you considered Kaguya, the moon was Tsukuyomi's domain. Having seen the other side of death, gods—which had never felt real to her in any substantial way—were all of a sudden beings that had to be considered when doing things that might shake both this world and that one.

It was all so surreal that the fear didn't seek into her bones at first, because her mind wanted to disbelieve all of this like a bad illusion—even the Crush had not prepared her to believe that this kind of power was something that people could possess.

She still had the memory of the war against Ame—if you could call their brief slaughter that—bright in her mind, but they had fought as part of an army then—now there were less of them than she had fingers against this unnatural horde that had been summoned up out of the earth.

She could feel the fear filling her, until it was if the fear were the living thing and it simply wore Sakura like a skin. The air she breathed seemed cold and the core of her burned against the creeping chill that began at her fingers and the crown of her head and swept across her body, and there was a strange quality to her vision that pulled everything into hyperfocus that made it hard to think outside herself.

But she was more than the fear—more than the knowledge that she might die, because in this battle what would it matter? If they managed to kill this body, she would fight them against when they challenged the moon, because her soul was bound to guard Otsutsuki Kaguya's long rest.

Besides, Itachi was here, and Kakashi-senpai, and her soul would scatter before she left them to fight alone.

So her fingers twisted in a signal to her team and that strange truce that had existed long enough for Obito to throw all the blame for all the wars that had been waged in the name of bijū on a woman that hadn't walked the world for millennia—it vanished like a spring thunderstorm.

In a desert, Gaara's technique made him a demon. In this silty riverside plain, maybe he couldn't turn the world into a waking hell for his enemies, but just because he didn't shout like Naruto or Sasuke didn't make him less dangerous. She remembered the terror of him in her only formal exam—she hadn't misremembered, because he reacted with inhuman quickness and his sand was every iota as deadly as Sasuke's black fire.

It swept forward like a stormfront and in its wake the Zetsu were left in mangled chunks that dripped with stringy, clear liquid not unlike a pulped aloe stem.

Sakura saw this only in passing, as she was already trying to make her way toward the ominous dark Zetsu that she could glimpse as she cut down the weeds in her path. They felt strange beneath her blade—like they had no bones and though they at a glance appeared to be unarmed, their fingers turned into long, twisted things that could tear and gouge.

They didn't fight like people either, because people, even badly trained ones, left space for their teammates when they fought and instinctively attempted to avoid blades, but these were like those clones that Naruto spawned to overwhelm more skilled enemies. They packed in, reaching over the shoulders of their fellows, trying to bear her down just by sheer numbers and, because they did not die like people either—whatever clear ooze filled their veins, it seeped instead of gushing and they did not have organs or arteries where her knives were accustomed to finding them—and when she slipped one of her knives into its sheathe and delivered a crushing blow with her fist instead, it burst like a melon.

Only where her fist went through, that liquid clung and burned like acid—her gloves were untouched, but her skin peeled away and there was raw flesh and then bone and Sakura tried to catch her breath through the sudden pain of it, instinctively drawing her hand close to her chest and shoving healing chakra at it without glancing down again.

She made the decision to retreat toward Sai to give herself a little time and space to rethink her strategy.

None of them had shifted very far from the others, but every foot was hard fought as Zetsu swept around them like the tide. Sai had created a fortress for himself using the thick coiled bodies of four eight-headed snakes that were wreaking havoc even as other creatures spilled up and over the coils—an entire plague of rats the size of large dogs had begun to tear at the enemy with their clever, quick teeth.

In other battles, he would have been safer in the sky, but in this one it was probably less dangerous to take one's chances with the Zetsu-horde. The battle taking place above their heads looked like gods clashing.

She vaulted over the back of an inky tiger, ignoring the way the sky darkened in the illusionary side-effect of four Sharingan wielders summoning those monolithic chakra-forms to clash like titans above their heads, and she hissed as an enormous sword of chakra swept in front of her, leaving a narrow chasm many times deeper than she was tall—it hadn't even been aimed at her, was instead Obito's recovery after catching Sasuke's swordblow.

Sakura sent a silent apology into the world for the civilians who were probably cowering in their homes and businesses from the unimaginable noise of it, or watching dumbstruck out their windows, praying to gods they usually forgot to pass unharmed through this crisis.

She heard Neji snarl something unflattering as he used his footwork to avoid it, dozens of Zetsu losing their human form as he mangled their chakra system as he passed, his golden wings tucked tight against his body for much the same reason she hadn't bothered to skywalk—both of their weapons were best suited for close combat.

He saw her retreat and angled himself so that they encountered each other at the orochi formation.

They fought their way there—Gaara walked.

"If he'd had the nine-tails sealed inside of him instead of the Ichibi, it wouldn't have even been a fight back then," Neji remarked tightly as they watched the Kazekage's approach.

Sakura didn't bother to respond, knowing he could see her expression of agreement even as she tested the recovery of her hand.

Her hand shook a little, but she no longer felt like throwing up when she jostled it, so there was that.

All genjutsu were at their root one genjutsu, so it stood to reason that if one knew the shape of an element in one form, one could shape that element at will in all its forms. She reminded herself that she had never lacked control or theory, only the will and chakra to make something of it.

Kakashi-senpai often teased her that her elemental type was metal, because she found the four elements equally as easy to use and all grossly chakra-draining compared to the sleek efficiency of her own style. There had been other concerns since her seal had become active and it was usually more useful to take someone quietly and without collateral damage than breathe fire and it was probably a very bad idea to attempt this sort of thing when besieged, but right now she was more liability than asset.

So she had little to lose as she curled her empty hand loosely, like she intended to throw a ball. Her long, slightly curved nailed gleamed like opals against the red of her raw skin and she had a moment of disbelief that this could work, because for years she'd never gained strength or abilities that she hadn't bled for, but she looked at the blood smeared across her regenerating skin and told herself that this too had been bought with the suffering of her flesh.

Five Auspicious Claws, she called it as she drew her arm back like she was intending to crush someone with her chakra-enhanced strength, spreading her fingers wide as she transformed raw natural chakra to a wind that was all cutting edges. She slashed her hand forward before she could really begin to doubt herself, and was quicker and more vicious for her anxiety.

It did not twist and whorl like a whirlpool, like Naruto's, and there was only the faintest gleam of blue to mark its presence, like heat haze, but it was as if she'd pulled razor wire taut and used it to cut firm tofu.

If they had been real humans, ones that bled and screamed and begged, the carnage would have been awful. As it was, there were suddenly a great many white bodies oozing that sap-stuff into the earth, and Gaara was giving her that same look he'd given her after the chunin exam. The single Rinnegan eye of the dark Zetsu dipped down from where he'd been watching the battle above them, but only briefly, and then he was ignoring them again.

Gaara, as if in response to both Sakura and the dark Zetsu, raised his hand and then closed it—and every rock and stone that she could see crumbled into sand.

Beyond the reach of Sakura's shearing winds, Zetsu met their end.

"Fine, make it a competition," Neji muttered, shifting into a familiar stance, and the ground beneath their feet began to glow in concentric circles whose rings were filled with esoteric hexagrams. Sakura was close enough to hear him take a settling breath before, "Sixty-Four Hexagram: Twelve Wings Judgement."

The array pulsed with enough force she felt it in her teeth and the glowing taijitu beneath his feet swelled enormously for an instant—and in that instant, six clones of himself appeared at the points of a hexagram, and each of them spun like he would if he was using the eight trigrams palm movement, but it wasn't only his hands that struck—from his golden wings feathers flew with the same unerring accuracy and ability to close tenketsu.

She didn't have the wherewithal to count how many he struck, but hundreds of Zetsu fell as he landed lightly on his feet beside her again.

He looked slightly sick and was breathing heavily—she also found the experience of assimilating clone memories disorienting and disconcerting. Not everyone was like Naruto, but she was entertained by the idea that Neji had learned about more than just her erstwhile teammate's dogma when he'd fought him in the exams.

An erratic movement from one of the rats caught her eye—it sat up on its haunches and applauded their efforts.

"If you have time to be sarcastic, you have time to kill things!" Sakura retorted playfully as she sprang forward with renewed energy, ignoring the jaunty salute that the rat gave with its tail.

Her knife led the way and she caught up with it as it buried itself solidly in a broad white chest, both feet impacting against it as one had grasped the knife and she swept her other arm between herself and the face that was growing root-like, wriggling teeth, fingers naturally forming hooked claws, and cut off a hundred heads with one fell swipe.

As the body began to fall backwards, she used it as a platform to launch herself back into the air, aiming her knife at a Zetsu on the edge of her killing ground, and caught him in the eye. The force of it flung his head back and she landed with her feet on his shoulders and cut down ranks of the things, now within a step of the dark Zetsu.

Or she was.

As her knife opened the way, he was gone and suddenly emerged at Gaara's side. The Kazekage had been following her with less speed but far more crushed bodies in his wake, all that sand that had recently been stone rampaging under his control. Sakura tensed. All of Ghost Tribe carried her chakra in their veins and one of her knives on their person, and Gaara had an anchor with him as well, but she didn't know how well she'd be able to watch over him when the white Zetsu reached him again.

She couldn't really make a judgment before he had a chance to engage—his jutsu might end this quickly and his sand-shield defense made him more invulnerable than Ghost Tribe's seal regeneration—but the only pleasant surprise Akatsuki had offered had been Itachi and the others had been doing their best to make him seem even better by comparison.

His sand roared toward the dark Zetsu like a plague of hungry locusts as Zetsu stretched out his hand, but it only tore away the dark flesh to reveal wood beneath and it stopped pretending to be a human hand as it caught the Kazekage up by the throat.

Gaara snarled down at him even as his sand-shield began to crack from the enormous pressure, long red hair falling into his eyes as his hands swept wide and then crashed toward each other, covering the whole tableau with a sandstorm.

Sakura hesitated, because even if her skin could regenerate, she did not want to discover if she could still breathe with her lungs full of sand.

The instant the sand began to fall away, she substituted herself with one of the fallen bodies, coming up just beneath the elbow of the arm that Zetsu was using to hold Gaara aloft. His skin was purpling, and much of his armor was gone in favor of preventing his assailant from crushing his throat, but he was alive.

Sakura's black knife felt like it was meeting metal, but she struck again, harder, and her blade struck true—and shattered.

She watched the falling pieces with a sick feeling crawling up her throat.

Sand tried to surge at her ankles, but it wasn't just that Gaara was suffocating—as her eyes flicked down for an instant, she saw the strange way it moved, like it was straining to break free of the sludge that entrapped it.

Blood was largely water—the stuff that made up the insides of Zetsu were surely mostly water too?

She didn't let herself think too hard—Gaara did not have time for her doubts—and, keeping her eyes on the Zetsu who was regrowing skin in a human shade and who had a hand free, she slid her stance wide to touch one hand to the ground. The sheer number of bodies on the field of battle, all with identical chakra, had muddied her ability to perceive the subtleties of it, but with her hand deliberately in contact—and oh, it hurt, like touching scalding metal—she could sense that when they had crushed the white Zetsu, the chakra hadn't dissipated into the environment or even returned to the dark one. Instead, the liquid was almost more chakra than it was anything else—and with that understanding, she twisted her hand like she was unscrewing the lid of a particular difficult jar.

Her chakra burst from her with the force of an explosion as she ripped control of the little liquid that existed within the chakra from Zetsu, sending it safely past the boots of her teammates before she gave it a tremendous mental shove. It splashed up and froze like the petals of an enormous flower, glistening with all the colors of the light emanating from the chakra constructs above.

Gaara's sand swirled up to aid him, forcing itself grain by grain underneath Zetsu's hand. His fingers grew in an attempt to keep the Kazekage entrapped, but Gaara blinked once and his hand closed over an empty shell of sand.

Distracted and barely conscious, Gaara hadn't managed to substitute himself at any great distance, but he was free and Sakura was at his side, hands coming to touch his shoulder and they would have retreated to the safety of Sai's eight-headed snakes, but when she tried to use the Hiraishin again, something gave a mighty yank on the hand the hand that had been so badly burned. It like being jerked back out of a doorway one was almost through—she wasn't brace for it and lost her balance, but as she was falling she put her foot against Gaara's back and kicked him away as gently as she could manage and still get him far enough from Zetsu that Sai's creations could retrieve him in relative safety.

She could feel it now, the thing that had burned her, spreading thready roots up her arm and trying to—trying to do something, and it felt like fire ants crawling up her veins, biting and biting and there was no getting them off.

It was only when the loam-dark soil was rising up around her like a cavernous mouth, cilia framing the slice of sky that held the battle of Sharingan above, that she recognized she had underestimated just how thoroughly saturated this environment was with Zetsu's chakra.

He spoke directly to her for the first time. "If we had collected the power of the Ten-tails in time, it would not have come to this. But the gods are smiling on me—six sages brought themselves to forge one path that she cannot ignore. For the peace and order of the world, surrender, deva. The other paths will follow you soon enough. Those hateful pale eyes—I see the asura path charging this way."

Then the world was dark and burning.