The ground trembled. The leaves shook free of their branches. The birds for miles scattered in alarm.

There was an unavoidable terror that came with what Naruto was doing here. This part of the Fire Country had never seen him, only heard rumors and stories. To see a Bijuu stroll across the landscape, treating vast lakes as puddles and mountains barely as hills, was awe-inspiring at any time.

But the closer he moved to the border, the more others had to fear. The idea of him crossing that imaginary line, of what that could mean, had so many people on edge. Invasion? War? Just the wrath of a Bijuu set loose for some yet unknown offense?

Yet, Naruto paid them no mind. Not this time, not right now.

"Naruto? You think you can do this?" Kakashi asked idly from one the fox's haunches, watching the tree tops. There were many, many shinobi out there. Rain especially, but he was sure Grass and Valley had some watching from the south and east. Maybe even some from Stone to keep an eye on things.

Naruto took a deep breath, and it sounded like a gale of wind to all nearby. "Hanzo The Salamander!"

The name echoed across the lands like thunder, growing deafly silent in the face of his demand.

"Bijuu!"

Naruto's ears perked up as someone brave or foolish spoke up with a demanding tone. His gaze landed on a lone figure, an ordinary ninja wearing a Rain headband and a breathing mask. He stood at the side of a dirt road, trees cleared a large amount on both sides.

"Lord Hanzo is not here! Go back to your masters and tell them he has no business with them!" the ninja declared with bravado.

"Well, he's more stupid than brave," Kakashi mused, watching the exchange but not interfering for now.

Naruto didn't respond as he moved towards the ninja, the earth shuddering with each step.

The ninja courageously pulled out a katana, holding it up as if to threaten the Bijuu into halting. "Stop! This road marks the border of Fire Country!"

Naruto stepped closer again.

"If you cross, everyone will consider Fire Country an invading nation!" the ninja warned, sweat forming on his face.

Naruto stopped with his hands right next to the road but yet not crossing it.

The blade of the Rain ninja trembled, eyes wide as he looked up at the golden beast that regarded him with such indifference.

"Hanzo the Salamander," Naruto called out again.

The ninja gritted his teeth. "I told you, he's not-!"

One of Naruto's tails snapped, striking the ground, and sending trees and dirt flying. "Lie to me again," he dared, not needing to raise his tone.

"I...I..." he stuttered before falling backward, his blade falling out of his hand.

"That's enough. Get out of here, brat."

Naruto watched intently as another man walked out of the trees. He was large, blond, and had a bigger ventilator. In his hand was a chained blade that was like a miniature scythe in Naruto's opinion.

"I am Hanzo, the leader of the Village Hidden in the Rain," he addressed firmly, arms crossed as his subordinate retreated quickly. "What business does the Kyuubi and the Copycat have with me?"

"Oh, I was noticed," Kakashi said, rolling his neck before body flickering down, standing on Fire Country's side of the road. "Hello, Lord Hanzo. Sorry for all the commotion."

"Enough chatter," Hanzo said firmly. "If you're here to kill me, get on with it. If not, I have a civil war to fight."

"We're aware," Kakashi said with an eye smile. "We just wanted to have a word with you."

"And you bring this beast, to intrude on the edge of our lands? Just for a conversation?" Hanzo asked with annoyance.

Naruto gave a small growl. "Because of the thing intruding in our own lands."

Hanzo paused in realization. "Your undead monster? What of it? We haven't seen it here."

"Really?" Naruto asked. It wasn't a question of curiosity, but accusation.

Hanzo started, if only slightly. "You think I have something to do with it? If I had such a monster, why would I send it after you and not the fools trying to take over my country!?"

"Assuming those fools still live," Kakashi answered bluntly. "After all, a Gashadokuro would require many corpses to form."

"A gash- you threaten my country over an old legend?" Hanzo asked in annoyance.

"You are talking to a giant fox made of pure chakra," Naruto reminded pointedly.

Hanzo couldn't refute that point, and so ignored it. "And what would you like? Me to let you stroll into my lands and search for a giant skeleton we might be hiding?"

"Oh, we doubt you'd allow that," Kakashi said uncaringly.

"But you see, we have a low list of suspects since we've cleared Orochimaru of all people of suspicion," Naruto bluffed. He doubted it was Orochimaru, but didn't rule him out. Hanzo didn't need to know that, however.

"And barring an unknown party, you're the most likely one we can come up with currently," Kakashi remarked. "You're isolated enough to keep it a secret, you have the bodies, and Kami only knows you have motives."

Hanzo glared. "I am not behind this farce, and I didn't come here to be interrogated. So like I said, either kill me or go back to your ghost hun-"

Hanzo stopped and grunted as Naruto suddenly flared his chakra. The sheer weight of it was crushing; even Kakashi strained under it. For miles, the ninja and the unlucky watchers-on trembled and collapsed under the raw might as Naruto glared menacingly down at Hanzo.

"You nearly killed a pervert, a hag, and a creep," Naruto growled. "Do you think you can kill a fox?"

Hanzo glared back, defiant despite a creeping fear. If this Bijuu decided to attack, he knew there would be little chance of fleeing. He steeled his resolve and held his weapon firmly.

Naruto glared a moment later before his stare moved beyond Hanzo. Suddenly, without warning, Naruto brought his head up and sighed as he finally reigned in his power. "Well, this was a waste of time."

Kakashi and Hanzo nearly fell over from the sudden lack of pressure from the chakra. The leader of Rain glared up in confusion. "The hell? What just convinced you?"

Kakashi chuckled, scratching the back of his hair. "Let's just say Naruto is an excellent judge of character. We honestly thought you might have died and were the Gashadokuro yourself."

"I haven't bit the dust yet," Hanzo said. "You come to the border, accuse me, threaten me. You can at least tell me just what convinced you I'm innocent."

Kakashi glanced up at Naruto who shrugged. "Well, to be honest, if you had the creature...you probably would have summoned it just now," Kakashi pointed out with an eye smile.

'Or one of your subordinates would have been talking about it,' Naruto thought to himself, his ears twitching as he listened in on Hanzo's subordinates nervous chattering to one another.

Hanzo sighed and turned to leave. "If there is nothing else, I have a war to win."

"About that," Naruto remarked idly. "Would you like a helping tail with that?"

Hanzo stopped suddenly.

"Naruto, that is a step too far. We can't get involved in another country's civil war," Kakashi warned sternly.

"You're right. We absolutely can't get involved if we're not provoked," Naruto agreed with a strange, knowing tone that had many people on edge. "But I think we're about to be provoked."

With that, Naruto suddenly looked straight up, and more than just Hanzo and Kakashi followed his gaze. There, against the light of the sun, was a figure that none of them could clearly see. Yet despite being high above even Naruto, the figure's voice rang out clearly.

"Almighty Push."

Acting more on instinct than anything else, Naruto pushed his body forward to shield Kakashi and, incidentally, Hanzo.

Both braced themselves as a massive wave of pressure and chakra washed over Naruto, a crater forming around them, expanding in all directions and destroying the surrounding forest.

Finally, it ended and Naruto looked back up. "That had a lot more kick to it than I expected. I could get knocked over if I'm not careful," Naruto remarked with a frown. "I take it you must be Pain, Leader of the Akatsuki?"

Kakashi stiffened at that. "This just got bad," he realized grimly. If the Akatsuki intended to capture the Bijuu, they had to have the means or power to potentially subdue them for sealing.

"That's him then," Hanzo said, glaring up at the figure in the sun.

Naruto tilted his head. "So, are you just going to float up there or what?"

Pain descended, watching Naruto intently. The Bijuu restrained from attacking just yet, if only because Naruto got a strange feeling about this. It wasn't danger, per say, but it was strange. Something was very off about this person.

Hanzo squinted however as Pain neared the ground. "That face," the Salamander said, feeling a memory picking at his mind. "Didn't I already kill him?"

"You know of me, Kyuubi," Pain remarked to Naruto without surprise. "I'm afraid it is too soon to capture you."

"And here I thought arriving early was a good thing," Naruto snarked as he stared down at the orange-haired man. "Hey, Hanzo?"

"Hmm?" the Leader of Rain acknowledged.

"He's part of the ones fighting against you. Tell me, did you just see him attack me, and Kakashi-sensei?" Naruto asked idly.

Hanzo caught on quickly, smirking to himself. "Indeed I did."

"Naruto, this might not be a good play," Kakashi warned, even as he pulled out a kunai.

"The alternative isn't much better," Naruto remarked. "Besides, I doubt he showed up just to tell me the schedule."

"Indeed," Pain agreed. "I...have come to kill you, Bijuu."

Naruto's face turned utterly blank at that. "Sorry, but I have no plans of dying twice in the same year."

"Lord Hanzo!" a rain ninja showed up, bloody with a broken arm. No one looked at him, keeping their eyes on Pain. "Most of our forces in the area are dead or injured from that attack!"

"Then clear out who you can and fall back," Hanzo ordered. "The demon and I have a god to kill."

The ninja nodded before leaving.

Pain eyed the retreating form. "You presume I intend to permit survivors."

Several blurs rushed towards the fleeing man, only to be intercepted by a golden tail. The man looked up in alarm as several tags exploded against the limb before running away.

Konan hovered on a tree nearby, considering attacking again, but a glance from Naruto persuaded her not to.

"How merciful, for a demon," Pain noted coldly. "Do you have any idea who you're even defending?"

Naruto raised an eyebrow. "If you told me something terrible he's done, am I suddenly supposed to kill him when you just threatened to kill me?"

"Regardless, it's a mute gesture," Pain informed. "That man is already dead, same as all those loyal to Hanzo."

Naruto narrowed his eyes before he stiffened. It was very noticeable on a Bijuu, like a mountain shifting in place.

"What's going on? What's wrong with him?" Hanzo asked brows furrowed.

"Hanzo? Your men are getting butchered," Naruto answered with a growl. "So, that's the kind of "God" you are? Good to know."

Pain saw Naruto's arm move and fully expected him to strike up at him. Instead, Naruto suddenly turned and slammed his hand into the ground, seemingly at nothing.

"How did he...?" Konan whispered in alarm.

Kakashi and Hanzo watched in interest and caution as Naruto pulled something hidden beneath the dirt.

Or rather, someone.

Pain dropped out of the air like lightning, fast enough to surprise Naruto for an instant. Pain landed beneath Naruto's raised fist and, using the pause to reach out his hand. "Universal Pull!"

Naruto tried to crush his fist, but his claws only grazed his target before the body slipped out.

Kakashi, seizing the moment, appeared behind Pain with a kunai ready to strike in the head. But Pain didn't even look as he turned to deflect the offending arm, kicking Kakashi back with a powerful kick.

Despite the cuts, the person who escaped Naruto's grip stood up, revealing another man in Akatsuki robes.

"The hell?" Hanzo said, looking between the two.

Kakashi shared the sentiment. The two men were distinctly different yet also identical. A different face, build, and everything. But they both had orange hair and the exact same eyes of purple eyes. Not to mention the piercings on their face. Though different in design, there were a lot of them and all looked to be made of the same black metal.

"I take it that one is important," Naruto remarked, studying them closely.

Pain had no reaction from either of his bodies. 'I was careless. I was so certain that he wouldn't be able to smell the Naraka path underground, lying in wait for an emergency. I, like so many, was so mindful of a Bijuu's chakra that I didn't consider the power of his senses.'

"Kakashi-sensei? Get on my back. You too, Hanzo," Naruto ordered warily. "I don't think he's out of tricks."

"Me? And I should trust you not to kill me?" Hanzo retorted. "I'll take my chances."

"Suit yourself," Kakashi said as he leaped up to Naruto's head. "What do you think, Naruto?"

"Was hoping you knew, sensei. What the hell are those eyes?" Naruto asked with a scowl.

"No idea. I've never seen anything like them," Kakashi answered in concern.

Any further conversation stopped as the Deva Path raised his hand again. "Almighty Push!"

Kakashi ducked just in time, feeling only the wind formed by the attack as it hit Naruto head-on. The Bijuu braced but did not flinch.

Pain smirked.

Naruto's eyes widened in alarm as several large poofs rang out behind him. Before he could even turn, two giant figures had leaped onto his back, fangs biting into his side.

"Naruto!" Kakashi exclaimed in alarm as he stared at the summons. One was a giant bear with three eyes, the other a six-legged hyena. Every eye on each beast had the same ringed eyes as Pain, with giant black metal objects piecing some part of their bodies.

"I got this," Naruto grunted, his tails tearing away and tossing back the hyena while he reached around to bite the bear. It was big, but smaller than him. Naruto was able to pull it off with just his mouth, his wounds rapidly healing already.

He turned around and released the bear only out of surprise. Before him was a small army of giant beasts. All of them at least close to his size, each one different from the last. A two-headed dog, a giant billed bird, and much more.

"Where did...I didn't sense anyone else?" Naruto said in surprise before glaring back at the two bodies of Pain. "I get it, there's more of you."

"Worry about that later!" Kakashi called out as the two-headed dog ran at Naruto, teeth barred.

Naruto's eyes snapped forward, reaching up to grab the spot between the necks. He not only stopped the beast but slammed it into the ground. But the moment he finished, a black praying mantis was already slicing into his arm.

"Lightning Blade!" Kakashi called out, coming down on the large bug's head, impaling his first through the exoskeleton and brain. "Good. These stay dead."

Naruto grunted in agreement, turning to fend off another attack.

Pain watched the exchange pointedly. 'I can't revive them with the Naraka path. It'd be too much of a risk, sending that body out so close to this fight, with Kakashi Hatake watching.'

As if to remind everyone of his presence, Hanzo appeared from behind, trying to attack with his weapon. Without even looking, Pain summoned a black rod to his hand and used it to block the attack. "Eager to die, Hanzo?" Pain asked disdainfully.

"I know I'm not crazy! That's the face of a dead man! How the hell are you still up and walking?" Hanzo asked with a glare.

"A man did die that day, Hanzo. And what was born anew, was a God," Pain said dramatically, finally looking at him. "I could have killed you at any time. But I wanted it to be with these hands."

Hanzo didn't know what to think of that and didn't have time to consider it.

"Almighty Push!"

The full force of the wave hit him, sending the Rain Leader flying.

He turned his head and saw that he was heading straight toward yet another orange-haired enemy with the same eyes. This one had a hand outstretched as if to grab or strike him.

Indeed, the Human Path of Pain grabbed his old enemy by the head. But in that same instant, Hanzo disappeared in a puff of smoke, a log falling to the ground.

"Substitution," Pain muttered, all of his eyes scanning for any sign of Hanzo, all the while the Kyuubi fought off more giant summons.

Speaking of which, he was doing far better than Pain would have liked, watching as Naruto used his fangs to bite off the head of a giant billed-bird, turning to drive the beak into the side of a giant rhino.

Pain narrowed his eyes as he saw that not only was Kakashi on the golden back but Hanzo as well now.

"Decided to join us after all?" Kakashi asked rhetorically.

"Shut it," Hanzo muttered. "Hey, Kyuubi!? You got any way to clear these things out?"

"With them all over me?!" Naruto answered with a growl. "Yeah, I got one. Hold on and don't die!"

With that, Naruto spun around, using his tails to send the summoned beasts back, however briefly. Coming out of the spin, he raised himself high, on only his hind legs, standing almost upright.

"Know what he's doing?" Hanzo growled out.

"No, this is new," Kakashi answered.

"Almighty Push!"

Naruto growled as he was suddenly knocked forward, giving an opening for the injured rhino to ram him in the gut. With a growl, Naruto slammed himself forward, his hands impacting into the ground and-

The earth shattered. That was the only word for it. The earth shook and broke into many small broken "islands" that made up pieces of a broken puzzle. The giant beasts stumbled, some becoming partially submerged and trapped, others stunned.

"Damn. That didn't work the way I wanted," Naruto muttered, grabbing the rhino off of him with one of his tails before sending it flying a good distance.

"I'm not sure I want to know what he wanted," Hanzo said to himself.

Without giving the beasts time to free themselves, Naruto ran forth, to finish as many of them off as he could.

He tore the throat out of one, biting the head off of a smaller one, and used a tail to break the back of another that tried to jump him.

He didn't think anything overtly strange of the fourth one, a giant white spider. He reached down to bite its head from above.

And the instant he did, he knew something was wrong. That didn't taste like flesh at all, and there was no blood.

"Boom."

The spider glowed before exploding in his face.

Meanwhile

Hinata looked up at the evening sky with a sense of trepidation. She had an uneasy feeling, the same one she had when she learned Naruto would fight Neji in the finals. The same as when she heard he went after Sasuke with the others.

One of those had turned out well for Naruto, but the other...

Hinata looked down. She had grown closer to Naruto, that much was undeniable. But she still felt so useless. Before, she couldn't bring herself to come out of her shell to offer whatever support she could, to help him in his literal or metaphorical battles. Now, however? She knew just being there, being his friend helped. Yet how does one truly help a Bijuu? Support a giant beast in battle, soothe the worries of a force of nature?

How does a person stand by another's side, when they shine like and eclipse the sun in a near literal sense?

"Aren't you afraid of him?"

Hinata was jolted out of her thoughts by the voice. "Sister?" she addressed in surprise.

Hanabi tilted her head as she joined Hinata. "Everyone else in the clan is terrified of him. Just using the Byakugan around him is painful."

"It is at first, but..." Hinata said with a small smile. "If you're careful, and do it slowly, he looks amazing. Like a beautiful flame, always bright and burning."

Hanabi furrowed her brow. "So, you're not scared of him, at all?"

"Not really," Hinata admitted. "But I am worried for him."

"He's a Bijuu. I heard this skeleton isn't that strong, just hard to find. What does he have to worry about?" Hanabi questioned skeptically.

Hinata didn't answer, but Hanabi's expression softened as she saw the sorrowful expression on her sister's face.

In silence, Hanabi took her sister's hand.

"Would you...like to train with me, Big Sister?"

Hinata took a deep breath. "I'd love to."

End of Chapter

So, yeah, Pain decided to bite off more than he can chew. Granted, this isn't a very onesided fight due to all the tricks Pain has, and Naruto still is fguring out how to use his powers. He's OP, but his only "nerf" is lack of experience with said OP powers.

Hope you all enjoy this start to the fight.

Early viewing of chapters 25-26 avaliable on my pat-reon:

p a treon . com (slash) akumakami64