Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and all rights belong to Kishimoto Masashi.

Rating: M

So I tried having this done by last weekend, but I didn't know I'd be so swamped with schoolwork this week. It seemed every time I was able to get a break, I got interrupted as soon as I'd start writing. Plus this was a long chapter. Those are my excuses, so please forgive me! Well, enjoy~


"Hey, how the hell did you die anyway? Weren't you immortal? Mm!"

Hidan quickly twisted his head towards the blonde in an unnatural way. A somewhat disgusted look appeared on his face. "The immortality only pertains to me if I regularly follow Jashin-sama's teachings. That's his gift to his followers." He clenched his fists tightly before waving one hand in the air for emphasis. "Since I was decapitated and trapped under rock and rubble, I couldn't perform any sacrificial rituals...The immortality slowly diminished and I swear that was the most gruelling and painful death anyone could ever have! Seriously, that hell hole was so damn painful! It lasted weeks until I finally fell unconscious for good." He chuckled under his breath at the irony of his next words. "Now I'm back again and immortally undead without Jashin-sama's blessings."

Deidara gave the other a sympathetic look for the first time, never truly liking or interacting with Hidan before. "Yeah, that's definitely not as amazing as my death. Mine was a masterpiece! Mm."

Hidan rolled his eyes and scoffed. "You do remember the part where you didn't kill Sasuke and blew up yourself for no reason, right? Although you did change the landscape and injure that brat..." the last part was quietly admitted under the man's breath, but the other heard it clearly. Deidara's eyes lightened up at this, but only slightly. He smirked and raised a fist to his chest in mock victory. "So my art has left a long-lasting mark among the land. Everyone will see it and be in awe. I bet that Uchiha brat was scared shitless at the time, too. Mm!"

"Hai, hai." At that moment a hawk flew down to their position by the river in the valley, clearly from their leader as he only knows their present location, besides Kabuto; that snake. As they unraveled the message and tried to read it together without fighting, they saw it was addressed to Deidara. Said man grunted.

Deidara, gather supplies and send them our way personally. You know which ones and I'll leave it to you to estimate the amount. Hidan can look after the hideout alone. Do this with utmost swiftness. Any delay is unacceptable.

Yeah, that sounded like the leader alright. Hidan made a motion with his hands telling the blonde to get a move on it.


Walking past a big stone statue and to the Souguu no Arashi bar that was part of the town the Konoha group last saw Naruto in, Yamato's bunshin gathered information from the regulars coadunated there. They directed him to the Shirakawago-Shimizu inn the four had stayed in prior to meeting with the Naruto-recovery mission group. There, an old woman remembered talking to a nice, polite blond boy who said they were on a long journey east but were heading south. He thanked the woman with a bow of his head and left the town entirely.

East, but going south? How far east, because Konoha is in that direction...they might be trying to go around Konoha to get to wherever their destination is. I know that the Land of Water and Kirigakure is in that direction but...that doesn't seem right.

The wooden clone kept up his intense thought process while continuing to run through the woods, inheriting the same mind and emotions as his original.


Kabuto-san,

We have arrived at our final destination and are stationed in the middle of the village. I promised I'd tell you and you know what you promised me. I expect to have the agreement fulfilled.

A somewhat sincere laugh filled the small stone room. He'll be more than glad for a change of scenery.


At this time, Nagato, Jiraiya, Kushina, and Naruto were talking to everyone they could find in the village, until they came across one man who seemed to hold more knowledge about the past Uzushiogakure than the others.

"They knew that if those Scriptures ended up in the wrong hands, that much destruction and chaos would take place. Their fuuinjutsu ranks high above all others, not to mention they were all seemingly brilliant. Even the civilians. I once heard a rumor that there was a hidden passageway somewhere underneath the middle of this here village. Maybe that's where they kept them? None of us here ever did try to find their scrolls and techniques. We wouldn't be able to use or protect them if we did." The four nodded in understanding at the rice farmer and voiced their appreciation before leaving.

XxX

After about two hours of walking around aimlessly, the only thing of use being Nagato's rinnegan, they searched and searched until something seemed a tad suspicious. With Nagato's eyes, they had him sense the area around them continuously to try and find any leads pointing to a change on the surface. When the ground in one spot appeared as if the tip of a metal coil was protruding out and the grass was barely unconnected in some places to other patches, barely noticeable unless you were said rinnegan user, Nagato pointed to the curious spot.

"What is it Nagato? Did you find something?" Kushina inquired hopefully. When Nagato nodded, they headed over to where he was pointing. Naruto put a foot on top of the ground with heavy pressure, then started to jump.

"Yeah, it feels like underneath this part is a bit hollow a certain ways down. Maybe we should start digging?"

All of a sudden there was a blue light and Naruto let out a little squeak, barely making it out of the impact on time. Jiraiya had conjured up a mini rasengan and brought it to the ground. The grass and dirt gave way quite easily and the sound of planks of wood cracking under the pressure sounded in the air. The other three looked taken aback with conspicuous drops of sweat trickling down their cheeks. Jiraiya, with his eyes closed and the biggest smirk ever, as if he actually succeeded in getting good book material in a mixed bath, didn't see the raised fist from one such Red Hot-Blooded Habanero. Let's just say it really triggered some old memories as he felt that fist collide with his stomach.

The group noticed some steep stairs and proceeded with caution, Nagato protectively held against Naruto's back in case a stair should give way. Everyone was surprised no traps were set off yet as they reached the bottom.

When they reached level flooring, another rasengan was produced. Only this time from Naruto, and the reason was to light up the pitch black darkness. All around them were high shelves wrapping around the main entrance on the other side, curving to fit the room. Scrolls and books were stacked on each shelf securely, no spaces on those shelves left to be seen. As they walked forward, they saw into other adjoining rooms that were the same. The main entrance on the other side they came from appeared different, and they decided to inspect that room first. Jiraiya materialized his own rasengan to make it brighter as they walked through the large wooden archway. On the other side were multiple chairs, still some books lying about, and a long wooden table that looked like it was held for meetings and such. There was a really old-fashioned PC, probably the first model ever made, on the edge of the farthest wall. In the academy, they taught that computers were first made over five decades ago, by a superior clan. The books nor instructors never mentioned a specific time, place, or name. Apparently everything about the Uzumaki clan were kept under wraps.

Even further were long stretches of hallways that spiralled around and led to other rooms that had specific uses. There even was a room that looked similar to the Hokage office. Maybe this was the leader's room where he conducted business and signed those massive piles of paperwork, too? We'll never know.

After heading back to the archives past the main entrance, they inspected the books and Scriptures with earnestness and straid intent. Most were sealing techniques like the eight trigrams seal. However, some were religious texts or historic records predating over a millennium! Although it's impossible to know for sure if they were true or just myths. Some even talked about the Rikudou no Sennin or some Outsutsuki Kaguya person. The books and scrolls around those were all part of a creation section, it seemed. Naruto was the only one to give these any heed, skimming through some that talked about the Shinju, Shikotsumyaku, the creation of the moon and more. He thought it all very interesting, but unbelievable at times; the first progenitor of chakra was alien? That was out-of-this-world! Pun intended. Naruto decided to get to business on things that pertained to the present predicament, and after grabbing some fuuinjutsu books, sat down beside Nagato in one of the wooden, arm-rested chairs. "Nagato, did you find anything yet?"

Said man gave a wide grin that reached his eyes, clearly excited. "Hai. What can I not find in here? The knowledge and possibilities are boundless!" If Naruto didn't have advanced senses due to the Kyuubi, he wouldn't have caught the slight blush that tinted the red-head's cheeks. Nagato seemed to realize how he was acting and immediately shut up, turning his head down to the book resting in his lap. That was so adorable! I'm glad he's feeling more open and probably himself now. Maybe that's how he used to act before all those terrible things happened to him. The chairs were close enough that Naruto placed a gentle hand on Nagato's forearm. He smirked when the elder hung his mouth open a bit and held Naruto's gaze, then returned the smirk. Naruto then began reading something about adamantine chains.


In the Raikage office, with the man and Tsunade seated face-to-face, they were slightly startled at a knock on the glass window. There, floating in mid-air, was a chibi old man with thick brows and a chonmage hair style, along with a taller brunet woman. The two in the room recognized the man to be the Tsuchikage geezer. The Raikage opened the thatch on the window as Tsunade went out of the room and asked an attendant to bring two more chairs in.

"You're earlier than we expected, Ounoki." The Raikage assessed.

Directing a hand to the young woman beside him, he made the introductions as their feet hit the carpeted floor. "This is my granddaughter, Kurotsuchi. I hope you don't mind her being here, but I won't travel here alone. We arrived early because obviously travelling by air is faster. And it was a straightforward journey with nothing serving as obstacles, thankfully."

"Hmph. Besides your back, you stubborn old man. I had to plug my ears most of the way to block out his complaining!" Kurotsuchi pointed at said person. Laughter filled the room until the Tsuchikage's grumbles of annoyance cut them off.

The lightning man coughed and spoke up from the silence. "The Kazekage and Mizukage should arrive here in two days' time. Then we'll discuss battle matters and placement of troops."

A blond med-nin interrupted. "And what about your brother? I'm all up for using him with the fighting, but he needs to go into hiding before that happens. He-" The Raikage cut her off with a raised hand. However, the Tsuchikage had his own two-sense to voice out. "I seem to have the same views. If you are indeed talking about Killer Bee, we should utilize him during the war along with the Kyuubi's jinchuuriki. Right now, though, we should make sure he's protected from Uchiha Obito and possibly Uchiha Madara. If he does still live, he's not a threat to be reckoned with." The air around the room became tense. The Raikage seemed to weigh the importance of the Tsuchikage's words. "I agree he needs to go into hiding or be protected, after the Uchiha Sasuke incident. But because of that I want him to stay in my line of sight or influence at all times. And I certainly don't want him to join in the fighting!"

Tsunade was becoming inpatient and looked ready to destroy something... maybe the Raikage's face. She kept her whims under control by talking behind clenched teeth. "I understand you're overprotective of Bee. I am of Naruto. But the two of them were not meant to sit on the side-lines. I'm sure your brother would agree. Uzumaki Naruto will be fighting no matter what I do or tell him, so you might as well get a grip and make sure you're prepared!" Both disputers were now standing at this point and breathing down each other's necks.

The attendant finally came in and placed two chairs in the middle of the room. Once Ounoki and Kurotsuchi sat down, the old man broke the two's attention away from each other. "Maa, maa. Can't you have a civil argument for once? You're not acting like the role models you should be. I swear, the younger generations are really hopeless." This in turn earned two death glares directed his way. "And Tsunade, where is Uzumaki Naruto? Is he still in your village or did you bring him with you?" The glares diminished; one held solemn eyes while the other's were filled with pure travesty. "She lost him apparently." Kurotsuchi and Ounoki became confused at this.

"What do you mean...he's lost?"

Tsunade moved the chair to face all three and sat down again. "He has left the village and went somewhere with three others, last time anyone saw him. I sent a group out to find him and when they did... they just let him be on his way. He wouldn't tell his destination. However, he did say he would be safe, and I trust him." The Tsuchikage put a hand to his chin in contemplation. "And there's no way you can track him down again? If I hadn't known this, I was going to suggest the two jinchuuriki to stay with one another for now. I guess that's not possible." The Raikage grunted and Tsunade formed a smirk on her ever youthful face.

"Actually, about that..."


Flipping to a page about enclosing techniques, Naruto began to drift off. However, it wasn't sleep he fell into. He found himself inside a large room with shallow water encompassing his ankles.

Hello, Naruto.

Said boy sighed and faced the kitsune. Kyuubi. Oi, I have a question. Have you ever been here before? You know, with kaa-san or Mito-san?

The Kyuubi startled at this, but only a bit. Yes. Although it was livelier when Uzumaki Mito was here, obviously. Now, what happened to you for you to be down here? It's not like you need my power at the moment. The deep, rippling voice held mild annoyance, although he was glad to be relieved of the silence and loneliness. Not like he'd admit it, though.

Probably just curiosity. Or maybe I just wanted to have a 'nice' chat with you. Naruto internally laughed at that, but continued. Nee, you heard the Gama Sennin's prophecy right? Do you know what he meant?

Not expecting the usually dumb blonde to be asking all the right questions for once, he thought he'd entertain himself a little and go along with it. You should go back to those creation historical documents. I can vouch for them that they're not myths. When you come back after doing so, maybe I'll tell you. He gave a toothy grin, the canines protruding out in a way that wasn't threatening for once. The blonde thought that it must be a nice topic for the kitsune, and made a mental note of the fact. Naruto waved a hand in the air while walking away, vanishing from the mental mindscape when the hand had dropped. Waking up from that internal interaction, he got up from the wooden chair and went to the old historic section he found before. Nagato watched the boy the whole time, noticing the new found determination in the younger's eyes as he came back with two stacks in his hands. One carefully balanced stack of scrolls that had some not in the best condition due to age, and the other were rather thick books that might take a while to read through. Nagato smiled at the sight and glanced out the corner of his eyes once he'd sat down again. I wonder what kind of dream he had?

XxX

A few hours later, after getting through half the scrolls and only two books, Naruto decided to take a break. He stretched his arms out in front of him and heard the loud cracks while doing so. Getting up, he decided to go explore some more.

Walking down those long hallways, he smelled something that made his mouth water. Following his strong nose, he wound his way through two corridors on his left until he smelled something salty coming from behind one of the doors at the end of the hall. When he walked in, taking in the scent, he immediately stopped in his tracks at the sight in front of him.

There, right in front of what appeared to be an old-fashioned stove, stood a robust old man with white hair and adorning a bright pink apron and oven mitts. "Oh, Naruto! Want some? I got bored and thought I'd make something for you guys who need to eat still."

Loosening his jaw from that uncomfortable open position, Naruto tried not to laugh at his shishou's appearance. But failed. "Hahaha can you see yourself Ero-Sennin? Where's a camera when you need one? I wish Konan and Nagato could see this." The Sannin just grumbled under his breath and said something about ungrateful brats. "So I guess you don't want this ramen I happened to make either, huh? Oh well. Guess I'll give this to someone else. May-" That really shut him up.

"Gomen nasai! I take it back! You look so masculine in that and all those Obaa-chans will love you in it." He rushed for the bowl on the counter top before Jiraiya could process the last part that was said.

Sitting himself down and picking up some already prepared chopsticks with an "Itadakimasu!", Naruto began to slurp down the savoury goodness. Jiraiya just waited patiently in the chair next to him, a small smile etched on his face.

After drinking the last of the broth and slowly setting the bowl down in satisfaction, he looked at his master in remembrance. "Nee, Ero-Sennin... after you died...I"

"Stop right there, Naruto. I'm sorry I had to leave you, but you know things happen in life that one just can't help. I felt it my duty, and I'm glad I could help in the end with that message. And I knew you'd be the one to figure it out." He rested a heavy hand on the boy's shoulder.

"We found out weeks after it happened, you know. I actually finally understood Sasuke in his need for revenge. At first, that's all I wanted. Even Shikamaru, Chouji, and Ino got revenge for Asuma-sensei's murder." Jiraiya's eyes lit up at this, not knowing where this was going, but hearing for the first time of another nakama's death. It really is sad, when all the people around you just up and leave, never being able to come back (unless you were under the edo tensei of course). "I was called to go to Mount Myouboku with Sennin Jiichan and there I mastered Senjutsu in about a week. Near the end of the training, he gave me a book...your book. After reading it, I really understood all the things you told me from time-to-time when we traveled. About finding peace in the world. I'm sorry I wasn't a better student. When I faced Nagato, I asked him about his past. After hearing it, I told him about the book, and how it was based off him but used my name. I still hated him but I no longer wanted the revenge. You see, even though there's so much pain and chaos in the world, I decided to take on that pain as much as I can. I don't know the way to true peace for the world, especially the shinobi world, but I will find it! I already have some ideas! And Nagato will help me along the way. And now that you're here, I hope you can, too." He ended the speech with a clenched fist set in determination, but a sad, unmasked expression taking away its effect. Jiraiya pulled the boy into a tight embrace, and didn't let go for a while. Naruto, who'd usually be complaining at something so weird between men and thinking it was one of his pervy actions, instead returned the hug and grabbed a fist full of the dark red haori. He hid his face in the man's neck and sighed. He really missed his mentor. His godfather. After a few minutes, the two separated.

"I also wanted to tell you something else..." Jiraiya perked up at this, curious as to what more could be said.

"The Deka-jiichan Sennin gave me quite a few prophecies. At first it was that I'd meet someone with octopus tentacles. I still am confused about that... and the other was referring to a fight with Sasuke, I believe. He said something about battling a young man with powerful eyes. And just before I set out with Karin to find Nagato and Konan, I went back to Mt. Myouboku and received another one. This one was a bit unnerving though." Jiraiya nodded to continue after the boy stopped to take a breath.

"He said the blue-eyed boy would bring about change in the world and unite the nine bijuu. He specified it was me but not if that was a good thing or not! What happens if I do something unforgivable?"

"I'm sure nothing you do would be unforgivable. You are the prophecy child, and I believe you will be the one to bring about peace. C'mon, you said so yourself a minute ago!" Jiraiya smiled and ruffled the blonde's growing locks. Said boy shook his head to rid the negative thoughts away and returned the smile tenfold. "Sennin Jiichan said something similar! But you have it wrong, because Nagato was part of your prophecy, too. He's a good man, and he brought everyone back who had died. He's just been manipulated in life through his pain. And that book really was the key to everything, so you could say you're the progenitor or architect of peace!" The old man's chuckles filled the kitchen. "I think that's going a bit too far, Naruto. But thanks."

Naruto pouted at his next words, "If only you had continued to write novels like that instead of those hentai pieces of trash that only perverts buy."

"..."

"What Ero-Sennin?"

XxX

I wonder what all that ruckus is about... thought everyone within earshot of the sounds of furniture falling and muffled yells of panic.


WHILE IN AMEGAKURE

"Hey, did you guys hear about that war? And about 'you-know-who' who suddenly rose from the grave?" One man laughed after chugging down his cup of sake. "Yeah, apparently they're saying that Uchiha Madara came back to life, or was living all this time. As if."

More people came over to the group of five seated at the bar counter and joined in. "But isn't this horrible? If the five great nations are making an alliance, doesn't that just prove how dire the situation is?" Everyone nodded at this until another man spoke up.

"Who cares. That Madara should just destroy the elemental nations. After everything they did to us? It'd be a blessing. The Second Great Shinobi War was started just to take advantage of us and fix their economic problems from their first Shinobi World War. I'll never forgive them. We've been doing good lately thanks to Pein-sama. We only need to worry about ourselves."

"What happened to Pein-sama? The weekly rain has stopped for over a month and I haven't heard anything about Tenshi-Kyousama being seen anymore."

Everyone that had gathered shook their heads with worried expressions. Even if their leader Pein lacked a bit of compassion in his methods, he has done a lot for them and everyone trusts him. Even though they don't even know his face and appearance. Hopefully everything is still fine in Amegakure.


Kabuto stood on the outskirts of Uzushiogakure, a wicked grin plastered on his face. "You know what you have to do. Commence the hebi surprise attack!"

XxX

A man slowly explored the village, taking in the unfinished residential area but beautiful landscape as he looped around buildings and individual steppes. He didn't really want to go along with Kabuto's plan. He wasn't that sadistic, if at all. He noticed a path to the highest point of the village straight ahead and began making his way there. I bet I can see for miles down below once I'm there. A pity people had to corrupt this beautiful place. Out of nowhere, as he passed between two traditional houses, he sensed a chakra signature quite familiar to him. Ironic how he is the first one I'll meet.

The man changed direction, figuring he'd speed things up instead of waiting for Kabuto's little plan to play out. Jumping over some rubble and planks of dry wood, he spotted the familiar blond-headed teen that he'd crossed paths with multiple times. He was hauling some wood over to a building in-progress of reconstruction. The boy's head turned over his shoulder and he dropped some of the wood in his arms. The man walked towards the teen slowly, trying not to startle the blonde and cause a fight to break out. He was about to say something, but the other beat him to it.

"Itachi...so Kabuto brought you back, huh?" Naruto emitted a friendly smile, but was still unsure of how to act in the present situation. It was obvious in his motions and his tense body. Itachi nodded and removed the distance between them. "There are five others. You'll meet them soon. They're...having some fun at the moment."

Naruto didn't know what that had meant, but paid it no mind. He slowly knelt down and put the rest of the wood he held in a pile on the ground. "Do you want to sit, Itachi? I want to talk to you." The raven-haired man raised a brow and sat down on the grass in front of Naruto. He wondered why the boy wasn't getting upset at the sight of him. Why he was acting friendly instead of as enemies like they had before. Not that he minded; the teen was refreshing, and he had absolutely nothing against the Uzumaki.

"Itachi, I know the truth about you." Itachi flinched back a bit, unbelieving of the words just uttered from the jinchuuriki's mouth. "And what is that?" He mentally prepared himself, not knowing what he'll do, or what he'll have to do, if the blonde somehow found out about his secretive past.

"Uchiha Obito told me. I can't believe you went through all that, and no one is allowed to know the truth. Of how you saved them and made a huge sacrifice, but they treat you like hell itself. It's ludicrous, but people are like that. Sasuke also knows the truth..."

The Uchiha noticed the nervous tone on the end as the boy paused, waiting for a response of some kind. Itachi didn't know what to say. First, what's this about Uchiha Obito? He supposedly died years ago. And if this is the Uzumaki's reaction, what was his otouto's? And just how many people know now? This could become a huge problem, which is why it was kept under wraps all these years.

"What was Sasuke's reaction, Uzumaki Naruto?"

Naruto coughed and held his neck down, so that his head was lowered and long locks of hair were shadowing his face. "You can call me Naruto, ya know. And Sasuke...he did what you'd expect I guess. The opposite of what you wanted. He wants to attack Konoha and the people responsible for all that happened. He already killed Danzo, I heard." The raven blew out a sigh at this. It was mostly his fault, for torturing his otouto's mind all those years. But, he shouldn't be so rash about everything! Does he not see everything he does wrong? Uchihas are supposed to be smart, not lunatic. Itachi looked back at Naruto, who still had his head down. He took this time to take in the teen's altered appearance. He didn't know how long he had been dead, but that amount of time is etched into the growing blond locks that hung right below the other's chin. His fine-haired bangs curtained around his face and made it appear more angular. He adorned a thin grey shirt that opened up in the front and draped down past his hips, hugging them. The arms were bare but the shirt fully covered his shoulders. His black pants were loose at the top but skin-tight from his knees to his ankles. The sandals strapped over-top the pant legs on his lower calves. There was a turquoise crystalline gem hanging from the blonde's neck. Itachi took note that the boy probably never took it off.

Itachi scooter closer and gently lifted the other's chin to meet his eyes. "How many others know? And what do you mean by Uchiha Obito?" Naruto slightly shuddered at the sudden touch, but didn't pull back as he answered the questions. "As far as I know, only Sai, Kakashi-sensei, and Yamato-kaichou know. Although I think once you get more accustomed here, that you should trust the others and tell them. Especially Nagato." Naruto smiled at his last statement, thinking about how wrong he was about the elder man as he's come to know him. "Uchiha Obito was apparently Kakashi-sensei's old teammate. He had supposedly died during the Third Shinobi War, but somehow he survived. He was playing as Tobi when you were in Akatsuki. Recently he went to the Kage Summit and told them his plans. He also went to Kakashi, Yamato, Sai, and I when we were in Iron Country at the same time as the Summit. He told us...a lot of things. But he's working with Uchiha Madara, whom I'm sure you know of." Naruto decided to stop there and waited for Itachi to take it all in. He really didn't feel like talking about all this again.

Uchiha Madara? Something doesn't seem right. If I thought Uchiha Obito was Madara the whole time, how does the real one fit into the picture? The raven moved his hands to his lap and clasped them tightly. Going over everything in his head multiple times, his thoughts were interrupted when Naruto added, "he's back because of an edo tensei." Right then Itachi felt like the blonde got inside his head for a moment. A blinding smile was directed solely at him and he didn't know how to react. "I deeply respect you Itachi. I hope you can move on from your past and enjoy your second shot at life." Naruto got up and brushed off his pants. "Shall we go meet everyone else?"

XxX

Nagato was sitting in the same chair as the day before and reading through the stacks Naruto had collected, already done with his and unable to get up to collect more. Just as he was about to turn the page of a historically documented book, he heard something close to his ear.

"Oi."

Nagato turned his head behind him and jumped in his seat, a look of horror and elation written all over his features. The person behind him placed a hand on Nagato's shoulder as he moved in front to face him.

"Yahiko..."

"It's been a while yeah?" They both adorned the biggest, warmest smirks as they stared at each other. "I've got to hand it to Kabuto. The look on your face was priceless!" Nagato caught this and his expression turned tense. "What did Kabuto do? Is he here with the others?"

Yahiko nodded and grabbed a seat. "He's here. He wanted to pull a prank on all of you. Surprise everyone when we supposed dead are suddenly standing in your presence. I guess it worked." Yahiko seemingly stared at nothing as he leaned back in the chair. Nagato just glanced at his friend in annoyance. "Kabuto has sick humour! I knew you were coming at some point. But knowing and seeing you randomly pop up behind me are two different stories. I couldn't even sense you at first." The redhead almost huffed, but held it in by biting his lower lip. There were so many things he wished to tell and speak with Yahiko about. This wasn't how he had planned it.

A low chuckle rumbled from Yahiko's throat. "I had to mask my chakra and presence so you wouldn't notice. So where's Konan? And I heard that Jiraiya-sensei is here, too. What happened? I didn't get much details from that man."

Nagato's smile fell and turned serious. "Then there's a lot to tell you. But first, can you lift me up?"

XxX

Naruto and Itachi peered up as Yahiko came in with Nagato on his back. Naruto instantly realized that he must've been the real Yahiko instead of Deva Path, and he went towards the man once his hands were relieved of Nagato.

Holding out a hand and firmly gripping Yahiko's once he took it, Naruto gave a warm welcome. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Yahiko. I heard a bit about you from Nagato. Now you're all together again." The other man looked a Tad confused, but returned the pleasantries. "Thank you. If I may, can you tell me your name?"

"Uzumaki Naruto." Realization lit up on the brunette's features. "Uzumaki, huh? That is quite interesting. Are you closely related to Nagato then?" He said this while glancing at his friend.

Nagato spoke for the blonde. "We probably aren't. We could be third or fourth cousins at the most. He comes from Konoha and is a bit younger than us, Yahiko." He paused and added, "Also, there are four other Uzumakis here with us. There's a lot to explain. We should wait until the rest of you arrive."

At that moment, Deidara and Sasori came in with a bang. Not literally though. All eyes fixed on them and Deidara's and Sasori's conversation abruptly stopped. "What? I came early and ran into this fellow." He pointed to Sasori beside him and took out a scroll from inside his shirt. Walking through the door, he placed it in front of Nagato and sat down beside the standing Naruto and Yahiko. "Everything is sealed away in there. Was there anything else you needed? Mm."

Sasori joined him and looked around, confused from the situation but waiting patiently for the explanation.

"Thank you. There was nothing else. You may go when you're ready, but I reckon you'd want to wait to see the others."

"Ah, you thought right. I've been traveling almost nonstop and deserve some food and sleep, mm! You better have a room and alcohol available."

Naruto pointed to a hall behind them. "Down the hall and second room on the right is the kitchen. Check the cupboards." Deidara was up and out of sight in a matter of seconds. By the time he brought back some bottles of sake, everyone else had arrived with their counterparts (the ones who were on the receiving end of the joke). "Kakuzu, my man! How's death been treating you?"

"Hn."

"Thought you were immortal. I know how Hidan died but what's your excuse?" A familiar glint appeared in the dark eyes at the mention of Hidan. Naruto, Yahiko, and Jiraiya were laughing at this point. Yahiko didn't even know what was going on, but thought the exchange entertaining.

Along with the twins, Kushina, Jiraiya, Konan, and Karin sitting on the wool rug in the middle of the room, the others that had come and were stationed by Naruto, Itachi, and Deidara were Sasori, Kisame, Kakuzu, and Kimimaro. Everyone internally questioned Kimimaro's presence until Kabuto shunshin-ed inside the grand hall.

He took center stage as all eyes turned to him questioningly. "You're messed up Kabuto! If it was anybody else, we could've been scared shitless and dropped dead ourselves. You don't have dead friends and nakama suddenly appear like that as a joke." Naruto, done with his rant, crossed his arms and huffed. Itachi raised his brows at his 'friends and nakama' statement, as it was he who had found the boy.

Kabuto smirked and took off his glasses to wipe them on his shirt. "Are you done now, Naruto-'kun'?" Naruto glared at his emphasis on the honorific. "Before one of you goes on explaining everything, I wanted to say why I chose Kimimaro. You will use him for this sole purpose, and anything additional. One member of Sasuke's Taka team is called Juugo. He and Kimimaro have a past that is the only reason he follows Sasuke. He thinks that because Kimimaro saved Sasuke as his last mission, that Sasuke is another version of him, or at least his soul's will. If Juugo knows Kimimaro is back, he will leave that group and Sasuke's team will be weaker and less effective. Juugo has the most strength and chakra out of all three of them, including Uzumaki Karin. Once Juugo leaves, there's a high possibility Suigetsu will, too. Sasuke will be alone and, although still a threat, he won't be a match for all of us. So Kimimaro is an essential pawn in this long game. One can even say he's the rook who will trap the king from moving forward. You all be nice to him."

Expressions of understanding erupted inside the room. At least for those who knew of the Taka team and Uchiha Sasuke. "Now, I'll leave the other explanations to someone else. It's annoying explaining something so long so many times." Kabuto simply walked past them to the hall and to kami knows where. Deidara handed Naruto a bottle of sake and Nagato took one from his lap as well. As they both simultaneously took a long swig, sighed, and glanced at each other, they broke out into mirrored smiles and started to speak. They took turns here and there. "So that is why I decided to seek out Nagato with Karin. Of course, Konan was the extra cherry on top." Naruto smiled wide at the girl to show that it was indeed a compliment. A slight pink tint emerged on Konan's cheeks in response as Naruto continued. "We met up in Kusagakure and headed towards Uzushiogakure. Along the way, we met up with Kabuto and other people under the edo tensei. The ones not here now are Haku and Zabuza from Kirigakure, and Hidan who was in Akatsuki, for those who don't know. They're in two different hideouts at the moment. Haku and Zabuza are in the Land of Rivers, while Deidara and Hidan had set up a base on the border of the Land of Waves and Rivers. Our present objective is to do research on fuuinjutsu that can aid us in our fight with Madara, and seal him away easier. Also, some of us will be helping with the reconstruction of the village during this process. Nagato might send some of you on missions for supplies, finances, and anything else that's necessary." Naruto paused to confirm with Nagato, who waved his hand in response and took over. "We just got a big shipment, so that shouldn't be a problem for now. Kakuzu, you know what you should do when the time comes." Kakuzu snorted in response. Money making was his favourite pastime, along with catching strong bounties. "Kimimaro-san, when we find Sasuke's location, I'll send you his way. Unless his teammate Juugo is not with him. Sasori, I will put you with Deidara again while Kakuzu goes back with Hidan at the new hideout. Kisame will meet with Zabuza and Haku. You shouldn't have a problem with that right Kisame? After all, you're all Kiri-nin and part of the Seven Kiri Swordsmen."

Kisame gave a sharp, toothy grin, which made Kaoru and Chizuru flinch back from their positions. "That should be it. You can do whatever you please now." Deidara and Naruto took that time to down their whole bottles as Deidara put an arm around the teen's shoulders. "Deidara, even if you are dead, you should still slow down. It still affects people like us...and is a waste of good money." Kakuzu growled as he eyed the semi-expensive bottle. "That's the point, mm! I had to deal with that religious imbecile for two weeks! Then travel here without a break. I need this, mm. I don't know how you dealt with that bastard Kakuzu."

"I know. He doesn't understand the importance of money. And his rituals take a long ass time." For about an hour, the two participated in a Hidan bashing game that made everyone leave the room, besides an expressionless Sasori sitting a little off to the side, watching the duo.

Naruto had brought Nagato to their room, with Itachi following. They were sitting in a little circle, catching up.

"So you were the behind the appearance of Pein?" Itachi directed towards Nagato.

"Ah. That was my jutsu."

And yet my sharingan never picked it up.

"You seem a lot different than how you were before."

Nagato raised his brows at this. "How so?"

"Hn." Itachi eyed the man from his head to his feet. The way he held himself together; relaxed. Almost as if he found a new peace within himself. Or maybe, beside him. Itachi didn't miss the way Naruto and Nagato acted towards each other. They were comfortable with each other at a level of brothers or best friends. And the way the man looked at the blonde when he was being carried on his back and thinks Naruto wouldn't notice. Maybe he doesn't, but that look stretches past the realm of friends or brothers. Just what happened?...Not like I care about such things. It's just a matter of curiosity and misinformation.

"You said Naruto sought you out in Kusagakure. But how would he know who you were unless you met at a different time?" Itachi's eyes were intense, even without the sharingan activated.

Naruto, who wanted to take some pressure off the man which would surely come if he answered the question, placed a hand on Nagato's arm and spoke up. "He was not aware of Madara's plan at that point and he did what Akatsuki was doing before now. He attacked the village because I was nowhere to be found. Since I was in Mount Myouboku for senjutsu training and somebody killed the messenger frog from giving this information to us, Sennin Jiichan and I never knew a thing until...a lot had happened. Pein and I fought and I found his real body. We talked and figured some things out together. Nagato saved everyone in the village and I led everyone to believe that the real body behind Pein had died. He and Konan left with Yahiko's body and a month or so later was when I sought him out. Was that what you wanted to know Itachi?"

The raven was slow to respond. "Hai... and you used Yahiko's body for your jutsu up until now?" When nothing was said, he took the silence as a yes.

"Maa maa Itachi. You sound like you're suspicious of Nagato about something. Remember I told you...that he's a good guy. You can trust him, especially about...those other things." Naruto scooted closer to Itachi and whispered the last part in the man's ear. This in turn made Itachi look down at the teen and lock eyes for a moment. His eyes got softer as he recollected their talk from earlier. He doesn't know why, but when Naruto continued to smile at him and admit he respected him, he hadn't felt that relieved in a long time.

On the other hand, Nagato was watching this exchange with frigid intent aimed at the other man. Since when did they get to be so close?

Itachi's head looked up and at Nagato. "There is something you do not know about me. Naruto seems to trust you, so I will heed his words and hope his trust is warranted." This snapped the redhead out of his reverie and give his attention to the Uchiha's next words.

"The murder I committed against my family did not befall the way everyone thinks. After the Kyuubi's attack seventeen or-so years ago, it was suspected that it was an Uchiha who had commenced the attack. This led to the close surveillance on the entire family and we were isolated from the village by moving our living spaces to the edge of Konoha. This caused a lot of animosity to arise within the Uchihas towards the government, and they wanted to stage a coup d'├ętat. To do this, they sent me to the ANBU as a spy, but they never figured I'd be a double agent. I disagreed with them, thinking this would escalate into another shinobi world war. The Sandaime didn't agree with any of it, but Shimura Danzo knew that an attack on the Uchiha was the only way. After my friend's death, which members of my family accused me of, Danzo came to me and gave me two options. One, the entire family can be massacred, along with myself and Sasuke. Or two, the family can be killed with no knowledge of the coup seeping out into the village and they'd keep their honour. Sasuke and I would also be spared. I felt the latter was the best option and after meeting Tobi, who I thought was Madara, we committed the act together. He took some bodies with him for personal use, which I did not agree with. However, it was either I let him get his revenge on the Uchiha family, or he avenge himself and his brother against the Senjus and entire village. I went to Akatsuki with him and I leaked information to Konoha to prevent any attacks against it." His voice was at a low whisper through the entire explanation, and although it hurt to relive these memories, he felt that entire weight he carried all those years lift off his chest. Nagato and Naruto never moved and wore expressions of understanding and anger. That didn't help ease his conscious though. "It was an unforgivable act...but necessary."

Naruto did something entirely unexpected. He grabbed Itachi's hand and covered it in both of his, squeezing tightly in assurance. "What you've been through and the reasonings behind it, not many people could do that. You're a hero of Konoha, and I'll be damned if I let them treat you differently at the end of this war. Same for you Nagato, since you saved all of them and almost died in the process. It's people like you two, which the world needs. I'm sorry for everything unfair that has happened to you." He smiled at both of them, eyes closed and warmth radiating off his body. "Iie. Naruto, you're the real hero. Remember everyone accepting you after our fight? The words you said to me, all the pain you went through that was unwarranted. You dealt with it all and never did anything to harm another who caused you such pain. You turned your destiny around and never gave up or changed. And you changed me. Along with everyone else, you're my hero." Nagato pulled Naruto's wrist gently to get him to open his eyes and look at him. At this point, the red head didn't care about his embarrassed flush covering his face or the awkward position he put himself in. He needed to convey to the boy he meant everything he said, and repay what was given to him from his blonde.

"Let's just say we've all been through a lot of pain and conquered it." Naruto gently made sure his words were final, and never released his upturned lips. After a while, Itachi decided it was time to retire to bed and Naruto offered to take him to the closest available room.

They walked some ways down the hall and stopped at a room four doors down from Nagato's and Naruto's. As Itachi stepped in and was about to bid the teen goodnight, Naruto placed his foot in front of the door and pushed his way through.

"Itachi. I just wanted to say thank you...for trusting in me, and for trusting Nagato. I...also want to apologize. There's nothing more I can do about Sasuke. He's gone too far, and not even I can protect him from the karma he reaps." Naruto took a breath and was about to say something more, but the raven stopped him.

"It's okay, Naruto. He was never your responsibility; he was mine. I did this to him, and I'll regret it for eternity. But if even you say so, I don't think there's any redemption for him. And that just proves there probably isn't for myself either." The solemn look in the Uchiha's eyes was too much for Naruto. He didn't know what to do, so his body moved for him. A loud clap sounded in the room, as Itachi's face twisted to the side, eyes wide with disbelief. Naruto dropped the hand that was suspended in mid-air and grabbed both shoulders of the man in front of him. "You are not beyond redemption, Itachi! What you did had good intentions that saved thousands, maybe millions. Sasuke has had friends and people who stood beside him, but he brushed everything aside because he wanted power and to act upon hatred. I've seen plenty of people with lives worse off than his, and who never acted upon anything remotely similar to the things he's been doing. He has a weak heart, that is all. You do not. Maybe what we need to do is give part of ours to make up for what he lacks."

Naruto slowly removed his hands and looked to the side. However, Itachi lightly moved Naruto's chin with two fingers to face him. The never-before-seen smile that lit the raven's features caused Naruto's body to relax completely, and his next words to cause his heart to skip a beat. "Arigatou, Naruto."


Swiftly arriving in the Land of Rivers, Yamato's bunshin decided to check the next town he came across. There was one a few hundred paces from his current destination, if the regional map was anything to go by.

Once he got there, he found the town to be rather quiet. As he stepped through the little town square, everyone focused their eyes on him, only going back to what they were doing once confirming something unknown to the bunshin. Yamato's bunshin soon came to a little dango restaurant that served as a bar as well. There wasn't many restaurants around, and no bars in sight, so he decided this would be the best for information. It seemed the locals were tense about something, because when they spotted Yamato entering through the flap of the quaint shop, they shifted in their seats and never stopped glancing through the corner of their eyes. He tried to ignore it as he went to the server at the counter.

"Sir, you wouldn't have happened to host four travelers a while back here, have you? One would be blond, two red heads, and one with seemingly blue hair." The server looked relieved for some reason, and set down the glass he was cleaning before.

"Ah, yes. About two weeks ago, give or take. They were a fine group. Not much was said, but all were decent and polite. I think I heard them saying something about a hidden village, but not sure which one. Were they friends of yours?"

The bunshin took the new information into account as he nodded. He looked over his shoulder and again at the other customers still staring. He bent in to lightly whisper to the bar server. "Sir, may you be so inclined to tell me what happened here? Everyone's on edge, and it can't be helped that it would be infectious to a mere traveler as myself." The bunshin tried to come off sounding like a sophisticated civilian and made it seem like he was as scared as everyone else. The server bought it.

The man bent even lower and cupped a hand around his mouth to prevent the words from spreading to others' ears. "Do you know about the recent news going around of an Uchiha Sasuke?" When the bunshin nodded 'yes', the man continued. "He was here just early this week and caused a ruckus...Everyone was frightened and didn't know what was going on, as one regular in this shoppe recognized him and caused a huge scene. That Uchiha must've slipped out under our noses, but it's probably for the best. None of us can really take on an S-class criminal like that, we civilians." This really worried the bunshin. It can't be a coincidence, right? That Sasuke is headed in the same direction... and which hidden village? He pondered for a minute before remembering to thank the man. He left the high-strung town and continued in the same direction with faster pace.


Okay, so I just got four different ideas for new Naruto fics and I think they're all pretty good. The thing is, I don't know which one to do first and I still have this story, which I'm not leaving until the end. If anyone wants to help me out with some problems for one or all four of these ideas, feel free to PM me and I'll give you the gist of them. I'll really appreciate it. The last one I just came up with is based off the anime Durarara and it seems so fun to write! I just hope these ideas aren't too much, because I have so much planned already. Anyways, look forward to the next chapter!