"-you think he is re…" Deidara cut himself off as Pein once more activated his hologram technique. They all saw their blond target was present with them and clad with their robes. He was using it as a cape however, he guessed his fellow blonde would trip over it if he wore it as a robe. A flash of amusement lit his eyes at the picture then he got back to business. Deidara took a breath to question his joining but sighed out instead. If their leader allowed him to join, he must have his reasons.
"From today forth, Uzumaki Naruto is a part of the Akatsuki." Tendo stated calmly with finality. His dead gaze travelled over the members to gauge their reaction.
"I thought we can't accept new members because of Orochimaru's defection." Sasori questioned with an emotionless voice, causing the rippled eyes to fall on him.
"Dealt with." Pein answered shortly.
"You certainly don't lack firepower." The new member said casually, his eyes travelling over his senior members. His eyes landed on Kakuzu.
"The stitch-work should be Kakuzu of the Jiongu." Kakuzu glared at the blond's choice of words. He started to think for different ways to kill the blond already, bounty or not. Hidan burst to laughter however and Kisame chuckled. Deidara had a little, amused grin.
"I heard you managed to survive a fight against the first hokage and lived to this day by stealing the hearts of your victims through your kinjutsu." The bounty hunter grunted.
"That is common knowledge." The blond hummed.
"Taki betrayed you by sending you to assassinate Hashirama then claimed you went rogue when you failed. Hashirama went easy on you – if you are not aware – and gave Nanabi to Taki as a peace offering over your failure. But they still did not accept you back even after you risked your life to fulfill a mission born from their paranoia. You got angry at them and stole the kinjutsu. You hated them and still hold a grudge… At least that is what you keep telling to yourself but actually you feel empty after such a betrayal. You fear another betrayal so you didn't join another village. You don't need to eat, you don't need to sleep, you don't even need to rest because of Jiongu. You don't actually need money, you only hunt bounties to try to fill that emptiness with it…" the bounty-hunter was stiff.
"How about this?" The blond's eyes left him without waiting for a response and landed on Hidan.
"I am going to fucking kill you." the bounty hunter spat between his teeth. The blond spared him a bored gaze.
"Go ahead. I have someone in mind to take your spot in the Akatsuki." His eyes landed on the smirking Hidan once again when Kakuzu just glared murderously. The Jashinist already liked this guy.
"The…" his eyes looked up then down and caught a pendant, a symbol of Jashin. "…Believer should be Hidan. I heard you are the result of a successful experiment on immortality. That you can't die even if your head is severed away…" The priest grinned and slammed his scythe's pommel on the ground.
"That's right, you blond fuck!" the 'blond fuck' rolled his eyes at the Akatsuki's excessive swearing. Was that really necessary…?
"However, from what I gather, you have one glaring weakness." The silverite glared.
"Oh yeah? Fucking name it, you bitch!"
"if you are beheaded, you are pretty much harmless."
"You are very well informed for a boy your age." Sasori drawled emotionlessly.
"That I am… boy-toy." Kisame burst into giggles and Deidara followed before he could stop it. Even Hidan joined. Sasori wasn't impressed.
"Ah Itachi, why couldn't you be more like…" the blond cut him before he could drop the bombshell.
"Sasori of the red sands. You are a war orphan and a puppeteering genius. You invented human puppet technique and right now hiding in one of them. You also changed yourself to a puppet and even if it isn't out right now, your strongest puppet is Sandaime Kazekage with his Iron Sand." He was impressed this time. He didn't disclose that info and only one that knew it was…
He actually stiffened.
"You killed Orochimaru." The blond shook his head.
"No… but I ripped his arms off and forced him to body transfer. I could kill him but… he has a use for now. I took the 'sky' instead." He raised his hand to show the ring.
"I don't think he will show his face for three years, until he can use the jutsu again." He said with a dismissive wave of hand.
"The blondie there must be Deidara the mad bomber. I heard you exploded the explosion corps of Iwa and made a run for it. Poetic really." Deidara 'hmph'ed.
"They were simplistic fools without an art sense." He chewed up some white clay with his hand-mouth and spat out a bird. He made a one-handed ram seal and the sculpture animated.
"Yes, I suppose there is an art in sculpturing. And you explode them, leaving your personal touch." Senior blond 'hmph'ed again with a grin.
"That's right, art is an explosion afterall. Hmph!"
"But it is not exactly my type." Deidara blinked several times. "I think you should have some time to savor it. Your art disappears too quickly. It's an art, I don't deny it, but it is not my type."
"See? Someone with a proper art sense. True art is eternal beauty, certainly not your fireworks." Deidara growled at his team member.
"I didn't deny its artistic sense. I only said it is not my type. And eternal art is not my type either, the picture of a windmill in a wheat field is beautiful but it will ultimately bore you and you will put it away to dust in the end. It is in our nature as humans to get bored from things after a sufficient amount of time passes." The artists shared a glance.
"Then… what is your definition of art?" Deidara asked the – admittedly – interesting boy, an opinion shared by Sasori though neither were aware of the other's opinion nor would they admit it to each other.
"Life…" The blond said the word calmly. He opened his hand palm up under their curious gazes.
"life starts with an explosion…" A single sapling sprouted from the blond's palm.
"it continues its explosive growth until it reaches adulthood…" The plant did grow with the blond's words and turned to a blood red rose with a single blossom when he finished.
"It lives for some time, allows its admirers to savor its beauty and ends when a certain amount of time passes…" The rose's petals fell and flew around the blond then it withered away.
"and it leaves its place to a new life…" The withered plant sunk to his palm and another one sprout up. It grew to a chamomile this time. Then it was like fast backward as the chamomile sunk back and rose got 'resurrected' back to its adulthood.
"You can end it faster if you get bored…" He clapped his other hand harshly on the first one and 'crushed' the rose. He raised his hand to show them the crushed flower.
"...start the circle early…" It sank again and changed to carnation this time. It was fast backward again and the rose was back.
"...and if you really like it." This time he 'plucked' the flower and pressed it gently between his hands. When he separated his palms in a presenting fashion, there was a dried rose in them.
"You can preserve it to let it exist forever." Sasori watched emotionlessly but both blonds knew if he was capable of expressions, he would have wide eyes in his shell. His silent acceptance was enough of a proof that he was impressed with this new definition of art. The blond presented the flower to him.
"This is a hologram technique; You know I can't take it, right?" the blond didn't reply, just held the flower for the puppet man to take. Sasori paused for a few more seconds, then hesitantly guided Hiruko's right hand to the flower. He was surprised when the hand actually touched it and gently grabbed it. When it left the blond's hand, it turned to a hologram like Sasori is. Deidara blinked at it several times, meanwhile the younger blond made his way back to middle.
"What is this… flower?" Deidara asked after he recovered. The blond faced him again when he reached the middle ground.
"It is the epitome of one of the genjutsu branches; something I call the Ethereal Suggestion."
"That's… a fancy name." Kisame replied casually. Naruto shrugged.
"guess it is… but it is pretty much what its name implies. what I just did was tell you all 'there was a rose on my hand and I gave it to Sasori' with a genjutsu." Kisame raised his eyebrows.
"And you are not sure if there is a rose or not so you go with 'it is true, there is a rose'. The flower is with Sasori because you think so. And because you think so, the flower is with him. If someone I didn't 'tell' anything comes here, they will still see that flower on Sasori because you think it is there. If all of you in this room dies after that, it will still be on Sasori's corpse because now that new person thinks it is here." Kisame was lost.
"I… think I understood it better before your 'explanation'." The blond chuckled.
"Don't worry. I believe Stickless got it a bit… if the way he gapes is any indication." The 'gaping' was a tiny widening of his eyes, which for anyone with an understanding of Uchiha-ese meant gaping. Deidara snorted at the 'Stickless' part.
He didn't laugh though; you do not do that when you know the 'Stickless' can end you in three seconds flat.
He should applaud his fellow blond for his guts… after he got back to himself from the mind-rape, of course.
"Is it even…possible?" Deidara's eyebrows shot up. the blond shook his head with a few clicks of tongue and started walking to them.
"Oh, my dear little student…" the last word caused all of them to take a step back – even Pein, Obito and Zetsu in shadows; if the student was such a monster, what would the teacher be?
"…How do I always reply to this kind of question?" Itachi's eyes got back to normal and a tiny grin lit his face, which translated to a smile of true happiness and contentment from Uchiha-ese.
"'if chakra is in equation, anything is possible with proper skill.'" the blond hummed shortly in satisfaction.
"There is your answer. Hey, Kami-sama." Pein internally sighed at the nickname…
"Are we done yet?" he grunted softly, perhaps he isn't that bad.
"Sure." The blond hummed.
"Let's go, Itachi. We are going to have a little chat about your… ailment." Itachi swallowed thickly.
"In'ei, Kisame…" the duo snapped to attention.
"Yes? / Master?"
"Yes. / Of course." Naruto walked closer to the Uchiha and put his hand on Itachi's arm. Two white Zetsu clones were expelled from his body. Shadows swallow those clones before they can recover and do anything.
Zetsu lost the connection he had with them.
"Zetsu…" The plant-man swallowed silently.
"… get me a piece of Ginkaku and Kinkaku each." The blond didn't wait for a response and Zetsu didn't give one. He just sank to the ground unseen by anyone. Naruto left with the other three, to an unknown destination to everyone but the blond.
Naruto blew out on a mug of tea to cool it faster, Kisame and In'ei were not far from him, resting on opposite walls of the cave they were in. Kisame glanced towards the darkness every fifteen minutes or so since the blond came back from their 'chat' about the Uchiha's ailment.
"How much longer do we have to-"
"What do I always say?"
There was a sound of deep intake of breath.
"But sensei, the medic ninja in Konoha said it was impossible to…"
"Shhh…" the blond cradled Itachi's head in the pitch-black cave they were in. Itachi was lying on his back and Naruto was sitting on his knees next to him.
"…Do you not believe in your sensei?"
"I do but…"
"Then what is the problem? You want to stay sick so your brother will have an easier time to kill you?" Itachi gasped, something an Uchiha rarely does, and his wild, softly-glowing sharingan eyes found the blond's softly-glowing slit sapphire eyes. The blond was glaring at him disappointedly.
"Is this your answer? Death, death and more death…" he shook his head in disappointment.
"It will not work anyway; I planted a seed of doubt in Sasuke about the massacre. It will not take him long to learn the truth… and even if he somehow will not, he will not kill you until it is cleared. You will tell him it yourself if that time comes." Itachi gritted his teeth.
"W-why sensei? Why did you interfere? Why didn't you…"
"Is it not obvious my foolish student? I care about you." Itachi clenched his fists.
"The way you chose would make you both suffer. you pushed Sasuke away and shouldered everything yourself, you didn't give him a chance to try his luck on persuading your father. You forced him to hate you, you forced him on the avenger's path and now you are trying to force him to kill you… what you are doing is not helping him Itachi, what you are doing is ruining his life… both yours and his."
"Sensei I..." he sobbed very softly, almost too softly to distinguish from his breathing. "I..."
"Shhh…" the blond just hugged the head closer. Itachi took but a moment to circle his arms around his sensei. He breathed deeply and let go the tears of anguish he kept on for years silently. The blond rubbed his back soothingly.
"Sensei I… I don't know what to do… I wanted to die by Sasuke's hand to awaken his mangekyou but…"
"Sasuke already awakened mangekyou sharingan." The blond felt him stiffen.
"I tricked him to believe I sacrificed myself to save his life. It was enough for the awakening… thankfully."
"but what about…"
"I was suppressing it to prevent him going blind prematurely. I told him to go to Kakashi when it activated again. He should be learning how to use it or will."
"I see…" the blond grinned, not that it can be seen.
"Let's heal you for now."
"But the medics said it was impossible to heal."
"Oh Itachi." The blond said with a sigh. "what do I always say?" the Uchiha snorted softly in amusement, who was he doubting…?
"You always say…:"
"'if chakra is in equation, anything is possible with proper skill.'"
"Even your breathing sounds better now." and it was true, his sensei took a great burden from him; both physical and mental. Itachi grinned.
"Thank you, sensei. Truly." The blond grinned back.
"You have mangekyou sharingan." Was the first thing Kakashi said after Sasuke found the jonin as the blond told him to do. The elder man put away his 'literature'.
Neither of them was surprised; Sasuke already knew it and Kakashi had suspicions after the battle they had with Zabuza and Haku. The Uchiha nodded.
"I know, and I think it awakened at the battle on the wave bridge… but it hadn't shown itself until Naruto defected." Kakashi hummed.
"Do you think they are connected? Naruto was… suppressing it?" the jonin rubbed his chin in thought.
It made sense; Zabuza was terrified of the blond, thinking that he is the Whispering Death. He scared away Orochimaru, something he didn't believe a lot of people could do.
"Do what comes natural, Inu-yo"
That was Skull's line, an ANBU legend without being an ANBU and Itachi's sensei, who was another ANBU legend and the youngest ANBU captain ever. Some also say he tutored the Shunshin no Shisui too, the strongest Uchiha known since the Uchiha Madara. They were rumors but his prowess suddenly spiked along with Itachi's ascension to the captain rank, which may prove it.
He also knew the man's – boy's – prowess first hand… Itachi asked the rest of Team Ro to join him with their spars from time to time…
They never managed to get past three minutes; usually, the man/boy would be the only one standing after the two-and-a-half minutes mark. Without Shisui, the limit was two minutes. With him it was up to three and only once they managed to reach that.
And what is worse? It was when he was not taking them seriously. Their pride took huge blows the first few times then it lit the flames of ambition in them.
Then he disappeared, it was suspiciously close to the day of the Uchiha massacre. There were rumors of him annihilating the Uchiha but the higher ups said 'Itachi snapped and destroyed his clan'. It was… not far-fetched, neither of the possibilities were – Itachi had issues with his father after he joined ANBU and the man/boy was one of the few people strong enough to actually do the deed. He couldn't come up with a reason for the blond to do it however so he chose Itachi with a lot of suspicion… which was directed to Danzo, the man was in love with sharingan even if he got taught to hate Uchiha as a whole by Nidaime.
Now that he thought about it, the war-hawk's death was suspicious too. He died from a heart attack on paper but…
Was it possible that the blond killed him? If… if Danzo pressed Itachi to massacre his clan, Naruto may have slaughtered him and root in retribution. Which… made sense actually.
And where is Shisui in this equation? He was dead in the archives but…
Did Danzo kill him? To steal his mangekyou perhaps? Would he do something like that? Of course he would but… would he take the risk? Only the blond may kill the elder Uchiha one-on-one but Danzo had the backing of his root so they may have weakened him with an ambush and Danzo may have killed him and stolen his mangekyou. If he did that, he may have survived the blond's wrath…
No, he won't.
He was immune to even Shisui's mangekyou powered genjutsu… he proved it several times.
If Shisui was dead, where was his mangekyou? He doubted anyone knowing about them would leave them alone.
He stored them away for later, he already spent an awfully long amount of time with theories.
"if anyone can do it, it is Naruto… I think he is who I think he is." The jonin replied when the Uchiha was thinking he wasn't going to reply.
"I am not sure but if he is who I think he is…" uneasy silence.
'...what? Who do you think he is?'
"Who is he?!" it was more demanding than he intended but he didn't care, he wanted answers and he intended to get them. Kakashi closed his eyes and weighted pros and cons. After a few seconds Sasuke snarled and turned to leave.
"He is Itachi's sensei; the one molded him to the infamous shinobi he is. I am sure of it now."
Life stopped for Sasuke.
"Itachi's sensei…" "…the one molded him to the shinobi he is now."
His clone wiped the floor with lee, barely using any techniques and using the bowl-head's specialty. He didn't even watch the fight, and he just forfeited when Lee reached his limits.
"I am only here because you wanted to be a chunin." As if the whole exam was just a boring game… which was, for him.
He scared away that snake man, Orochimaru, who terrified Kakashi, their sensei – well, his and Sakura's sensei – shitless.
"Like what I did?"
Neither Kakashi or Orochimaru denied his words about the seal on his shoulder. He rubbed the brand, he still could remember the pain he felt when he got it but now it was not a mention-worthy discomfort, only a little burning that got a little worse when he used chakra.
Jiraiya – the best-known seal master in the world – also checked on that and admitted that it required much more advanced prowess on Fuinjutsu than his own. Kakashi told him it was Naruto's work and the old perv shrugged casually.
And cherry on top of the cake; he had been hokage for a time… then he defected and the only thing Konoha did was put a bingo book entry without any info. Only a name, a photo, X-rank statement and flee on sight order without any bounty.
Konoha actually feared him.
The strongest ninja village feared one person.
"How… how can this be?" he whispered breathily.
"Why?! Why would he teach…?!"
'The Uchiha massacre is more complicated than you think it is.' The thought suddenly hit him, it 'felt' both his own and not. He shook his head, his desire to get answers got even more urgent than before. He breathed slowly to calm down and clear his mind.
One question found its way to his mind.
"Why would he suppress my mangekyou? And why would he send me to you for it?"
"I think he didn't want you to get blind." Sasuke blinked.
"Blind?" Kakashi nodded.
"Mangekyou sharingan is like a candle; every time you use it, it will melt away. And when you use it too much…"
"…It will deplete; I will be blind." The jonin nodded. Sasuke stared away silently and hesitantly wondered how much time his… Itachi left before he would be completely blind.
Hesitantly because he also felt worry. He was not sure if he wanted his brother to die or not. Naruto's words left him knee-deep in doubt about his initial ambition of killing Itachi.
Also, the whole 'Naruto is Itachi's sensei' strengthened his doubt. Would he be sad if he killed Itachi? Would he interfere? Because if what Kakashi said was true, he doubted he would be able to deal with both of them at once.
He doubted he could deal with the blond alone.
For now, however, there are more urgent matters.
"Is there… a way to restore it? Also how do you know this?"
"None that I know. As for how I know it…" he touched the metal part of his hitai-ate. "…I too have a mangekyou sharingan."
"but you are not an Uchiha. How can you have it?" It was a strange sight for the Uchiha, his ever-casual sensei looking so crushed with grief because of a question of all things. It was only a moment, after that it was a well-practiced cheerful eye-smile; the ease it got plastered on disturbed the Uchiha even more.
Five minutes later he could understand why his sensei got so sad… a bit, at the very least.
"I… I see." It was almost like a mini and long-term version of what happened to him.
"That… that's why you are at least one hour late to every meeting; you go to the cemetery, to grieve even now."
"Not the cemetery, they were war heroes. Their names are carved to the Memorial Stone." Sasuke nodded silently.
He mentally applauded his sensei for finding the willpower to move on… he sulked and sulked and would still sulk if Naruto didn't pull his head out of his depression.
He mentally shook his head to clear the gloom and got back to business.
His sensei had a long time with sharingan. He may help him hone his prowess with it. And maybe help him with mangekyou variation too.
Naruto should have known.
"Naruto wanted me to train my sharingan with you." Kakashi nodded seriously. Then he hesitated.
"What about… you? What do you want to do?" Sasuke's eyes hardened.
"I believe in Naruto and…" he swallowed. "…I need to reach him and to reach him I need to get strong. Very much so." Kakashi frowned behind his mask.
"I didn't know you care so much about him and his words." the smirk Sasuke sent to him was positively screaming 'Uchiha'.
"If he tutored Itachi as you said he did then he should know a thing or two about this kind of thing. Also…" he paused a bit and continued reluctantly. "…he is my best friend… probably the only friend. And he has answers to some questions I have. To get them I need to get him first." Kakashi nodded after giving it a thought for a second.
"Very well." He eye-smiled at Sasuke. He knew, without any doubt that the Uchiha will defect after they are done but… he can't get himself to care. This village forced his sensei's son, the goal of his ANBU days and (perhaps) a friend to go rogue. Perhaps he will join him.
He mentally shook his head. He… can't. He can't do that to Gai. He can't do that to Asuma…
He can't… but that does not mean he will bar anyone from defecting.
"Thanks, sensei." The Uchiha responded with a grin.
Tsunade changed the page of the record file in her hands, a frown on her face. What she saw didn't impress her, it was mediocre at best. She closed the file and slapped it on the table. She put her elbows on it and stared hardly at the pink haired girl in front of her.
"You are a fangirl." She exclaimed with disdain after several seconds of tense silence. "Why shall I even bother with you?" Sakura flinched visibly. She was maybe… a bit too affectionate with Sasuke and, much later and to a lesser extent, Naruto but… she sighed internally.
Who was she kidding? The blonde woman was right, she was a bad ninja that was over-relying on her teammates.
"I… I know I hadn't been giving it my best and I-I was the weakest one in our team but… I-I want to change! I-I want to do things right! Even if… even if I know I have no chance at reaching them, at least… at least I want to be able to say 'I tried'!" tears started to flow down from her lashes under Tsunade's stoic gaze.
"To say 'I tried to walk next to you; Sasuke, Naruto'…" Tsunade straightened a little.
'This cherry gum is… was his teammate, isn't she?' she thought as she leaned back on her chair with a thoughtful frown. She looked at Sakura with disdain one more moment, then turned her chair around to stare at the hokage mountain, to Yondaime's face. Her eyes softened in amusement as she saw the… 'make up' on it, six black whisker marks on the face's chins to make it look like a fox…
To make it look like Naruto. Konohamaru's work, no doubt. She softly snorted in amusement.
Her door banged open, causing Sakura to jump in her seat. There was an ANBU at the door.
"Hokage-sama! The hokage monument had been desecrated!" Tsunade sighed.
"Culprit?" she asked even if she knew who he was.
"We are… still looking for them, my lady." Tsunade put her elbow on the chair's armrest and rested her cheek on her knuckle. She resisted the urge to grin knowingly at the ANBU, she was well aware that they were dragging their feet at finding the culprit… the blond, as the infamous 'Skull Masked Man', was admired by the ANBU division as a whole. The newer recruits, the ones that didn't see the blond's accomplishments were skeptical at first but when it turned out he was the mysterious hokage that got them back to their feet from the brink of collapsing down after Orochimaru's siege, he won their respect too…
Even after the mask fell down.
However, civilians aren't ANBU; they were, are, too petty to accept and be grateful that the blond saved their lives and village…
And what is worse? The blond was well aware of what was going to happen, how they were going to react.
Her emotions took a sudden U turn towards the negative part as her lips pulled down in anger and sadness.
In times like this, she wonders why she is doing this? Why not just walk away like she has done before…
"…Take care of Konoha; for Nawaki, Dan and others…" she gnashed her teeth silently, Konoha doesn't deserve someone like him. She angrily wiped a single tear that flowed down from her eye.
She swallowed to calm down her emotions.
"I see… bring the culprit to me when you find them." She was satisfied with her steady voice, she half expected it to crack somewhere.
"Yes, my lady." The ANBU was gone in a small cloud of smoke. Tsunade sighed once again.
"Tsunade-sama, shall I… come back later?" the cherry gum was still here, right? Her eyes landed on the stone head once again. She rubbed her eyebrow.
'I can't believe I am doing this…'
"Fine… but my training is hard and if I think you don't give it your all even for a moment, we are done. Understand?!"
"Yes…! Sensei." She added the last part hesitantly. Tsunade grunted.
"Go to the hospital and start your training with Shizune! Come to Hokage tower tomorrow at 6 am sharp!"
XX (Song Sug: Naruto OST – Hatred) XX
Naruto took a puff of smoke from his hookah and let it out after a few seconds. He watched the white curls for a moment.
"Have you brought me what I asked for?" he seemingly said to air. A second later Zetsu got out of the floor of the blond's room.
"Yes." He fished out a pair of scrolls from his pocket and gave them to the blond. Naruto hummed in satisfaction.
"Good." He checked the scrolls one by one and hummed once again. "Good." He repeated to himself after he rerolled the second one. He got up from his seat and put the scrolls on the ground. His shadow spat the Zetsu clones he 'took' from Itachi.
"Don't move." He ordered the disoriented clones. He made a one handed ram seal.
"Edo Tensei no Jutsu." He called calmly and the clones shrieked. Dust and debris covered the clones for a moment, then they crumbled away. What was under them was two entirely different people, two legendary shinobi of Cloud; Kinkaku and Ginkaku.
The duo watched Naruto without any emotion.
"Now, we have the kyuubi." Naruto stated calmly. Zetsu stared at the undead duo for a moment then nodded. Naruto watched cracks on the undead duo's skin for a bit more.
"Your job is done with me, Zetsu." He reminded him when the plant man lingered.
"Right." Zetsu replied stoically and sank to the floor. He didn't like this, didn't like this at all…
A month and nothing. All he knew about the blond was that he is Itachi's teacher, he is well informed about the ninja world, good at genjutsu and now he knows Edo Tensei…
In short, only what he himself provided. He thought about planting white Zetsu spores on him but he knew the blond could sense them… again, because of the info he himself provided…
So, he mentally grunted in anger.
"Uzumaki Naruto… you are both a very interesting and a very annoying individual…"
With that thought he left the blond alone, truly alone.
Naruto made his way back to his seat, dismissing the undead duo with a click of fingers along the way. He took another puff of smoke from his hookah and let it out.
"How are things in Konoha?" In'ei stepped out of shadows.
"Good. Sasuke went to Kakashi just as you told him to do… and Kakashi decided to help. Perhaps because of a sentiment born from his time with the crease face." Naruto hummed softly.
"Tsunade decided to take Sakura under her wing. I think she will succeed in beating the fangirl out of Sakura… if the cherry gum will survive anyway. She is teaching her the technique behind her super strength and Shizune is tutoring her on medical expertise." He nodded silently.
"Sai got out of the asylum. He befriended Yakumo and they got out together. I guess their friendship helped to restore their mental health." Naruto raised his eyebrows at the masked man.
He sent the pale boy to asylum after he assassinated Danzo. They aren't friends exactly but his friendship with the other boy, Shin, was… nice… beautiful… made him want to meet them in better circumstances even. He wanted to do it before Shin forced Sai to kill him to save the pale boy but things weren't ready yet. Konoha needed ROOT's backing after Kyuubi's siege and between Madara's tutoring, Itachi's tutoring and his "public face", he didn't have enough time to seize it from Danzo's wrinkled hands.
It was a sad truth… one he doesn't have any option but accept.
Yakumo, on the other hand, is a happy story. Hiruzen sent him, as the Skull, to help Kurenai with controlling her powers. Kurenai suggested sealing her powers but he managed to absorb Ido into himself, thus allowing her to use her genjutsu without losing control… but it wasn't without some mental damage from the demon in a last-ditch effort to resist absorption. It seems like it wasn't permanent like he feared.
He felt… happy for them.
"As for Konohamaru…" the blond raised his hand up. A few seconds later the air in front of them rippled with a vortex and the tiny black hole spat out a swirly orange masked man. In'ei glared at the newcomer behind his own mask. Naruto stared at them calmly.
"Hello." The blond said lamely and In'ei resisted the urge to facepalm.
"We need to talk." 'Tobi' got down to business without losing much time. In'ei's glare renewed. A few tense seconds passed.
"Well? Talk." 'Tobi' spared a glance at his fellow masked man.
"Alone." He said towards the blond. Naruto's response was to take a puff of smoke from his hookah and blow it towards 'Tobi'. The newcomer waited stoically.
"It is fortunate you came actually…" he took another puff. "… otherwise she may drive me mad with her nagging." They didn't see it but they knew 'Tobi' raised an eyebrow.
"What are you talking about?"
"Your girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend." Obito stiffened and glared behind his mask.
"What are you talking about?" he asked – growled – the question once again. Naruto sighed.
"'He is misguided!', 'It isn't his fault he is who he is now!', 'Please help him find light once again!'…" he talked with a higher pitch to imitate a girl's voice. "… 'I am sorry he killed your parents!' 'He is not the Obito-kun he was before!' 'He can be back to who he was before!' 'Please help, if not for him or me then for Kakashi-kun! I know you know him!'" Obito removed his mask. He was gaping at the blond.
"R-Rin?" his voice was not the ominous one he stole from Madara, it was his own smooth one. "I-Is she here? Is she … s-speaking with you?" Naruto took another puff of smoke instead of answering and looked away to puff it out. He watched the outside from the window silently; he can be as petty as that…
"Please!" Obito touched his knee. He wasn't kneeling but he was on one knee in front of the blond. Naruto looked back and sighed; no matter how hard he tried to hate him, he couldn't. All he felt was pity. He still glared coldly at Obito though, opened his palm and shadows formed something in his hand.
"I will talk and tell you what she says… if you swear your loyalty to me…"
In'ei saw what is in the blond's hand and stiffened with wide eyes;
A chess piece, black knight.
Only one rank below him, the black bishop.
"… with a special oath."
"Master, what?! Are you sure it is a wise decision?! Does he really deserve a power like…!"
"Genjutsu: Gag Order." In'ei continued to shake lightly like he was still shouting but there was no sound. He took in a deep breath silently and bowed his head a bit in defeat. He gestured the scarred Uchiha distastefully.
"What happened to him?" Obito couldn't help but ask. Naruto spared a glance at the masked man.
"Gag Order silences the target." Obito furrowed his eyebrows.
"Can't he dispel it?" He took another drag from his pipe and blew out the smoke.
"It also disables chakra usage." His eyes widened for a moment, then he took in a deep breath and let it out slowly from his nose.
He took the chess piece from the blond's hand…
…and blacked out shortly after that.
Naruto opened his eyes on an underground room with a lantern in the middle of it. He saw other holograms like himself appear.
"I swear it's like we have a meeting everyday…" Naruto grinned at Kisame's comment but didn't say anything. "… I blame you for that, blondie!" both Naruto and Deidara sent him a glance. The latter turned his uncovered eye to Naruto after he saw the shark was looking at the younger blond.
"Me? Why me?" the shark shrugged with a grin.
"Guess Kami- I mean Leader-sama can't get enough of you…" Tendo stared at him stoically, the shark snorted. "My only complaint is that you didn't teach Itachi how to be like you." Itachi rubbed his eyebrow. Naruto shrugged with a grin.
"He has his own style; chicks dig it actually…" Kisame chuckled.
"They do… it is bad business for us singles though…" he said with faux disappointment. Naruto shrugged.
"I suppose…" He grinned and stared at Itachi… then his expression dimmed down. "Perhaps one day he will find someone he likes too…" '…someone like Izumi…' he didn't say it loud but both him and Itachi filled the blank. Itachi sent him back a small, sad grin.
"Perhaps…" the blond reflected the expression.
"…Until then I will share sake with you whenever you like." Itachi's stare landed on the ground.
"…and dango…?" Naruto let out an amused grunt.
"…and dango." He repeated with a grin.
"You have a girlfriend, don't you? Otherwise your answer would be like 'I hear you man… let's go drink to being shadowed by Itachi's charisma.'" Naruto chuckled at Kisame's attempts to replicate his voice. "…or at the very least bitter…" the blond snorted.
"I feel too happy to be sad right now." Kisame's eyebrows shot up.
"Don't say you got laid…" Naruto burst into chuckles.
"No, you perv…" the blond chuckled a bit more. "It is a much more innocent thing…" he snorted and blinked slowly, when his gaze fell to the shark man once again; it was lazy, sharp, smug and amused.
"I am just happy that things are going just as I wanted them. Anyone would be happy in such a situation." The silence was deafening as everyone stared at the blond.
"The reason I summoned you here…" Tendo started, causing others to focus on him. "… is to announce something. The Akatsuki is going to lay low for a while, until the three tails reforms once again. We estimate it will take three more years." His cold eyes trailed over the other members.
"What should we do in the meanwhile?" Sasori asked with Hiruko's raspy voice.
"Do your own business. Just make sure no one links you with Akatsuki." Hiruko nodded with a few mechanical clacks.
"I have a suggestion." All eyes landed on Naruto.
"Speak." Tendo allowed calmly.
"We need funds to move as the Akatsuki. For that, I suggest we hunt bounties." His eyes landed on Kakuzu. "Kakuzu can find us good marks to hunt through his contracts…" he turned to Sasori. "… and Sasori can feed us information about them and their whereabouts with his spy network." Tendo nodded.
"Accepted. The meeting is over, go and do your duties for the Akatsuki." One by one the members disappeared.
"You look miserable." Magenta eyes with ripples blinked open and met sapphire eyes with slits. Nagato stared at 'Tobi' next and sighed, wondering about what the masked man's game was this time. In his peripheral, he saw Konan get in and stood next to him like a bodyguard.
"Tobi." He addressed the masked man instead. "What is the meaning of this?" he asked but the masked man decided to stay silent. Instead, he left to his own dimension. Nagato blinked.
"Not even going to say 'hello' to your cousin? Some Uzumaki you are…" the blond commented. Nagato turned his bored eyes on him.
"What do you want?" he asked after he closed his eyes. The blond shook his head.
"How is your day going, Konan?" he asked the blue haired woman beside his cousin instead. She blinked in confusion and sent a glance at Nagato.
"Konan." The blond's call made her eyes focus on him once again. "I am talking to you." She blinked once again and swallowed.
"I'm… fine… thanks." She paused a bit. "How about… you?" he grinned at her.
"Fine, mostly. Just sad that you had to devote your life to taking care of my cousin." She was emotionless once again.
"It is alright. He is my…" she sent a glance at the sickly-looking man. "…He is my best friend." Nagato grinned a little.
"But doesn't it sadden you? That he is skin and bones, needs some kind of machinery to survive, can't walk on his own…" he walked closer as he talked.
"…Using your lover's body to 'socialize'…" she stiffened with a frown but didn't say anything. Nagato stared down.
"… that he is dependent on you?" he was in front of her now. She couldn't meet his eyes.
"Do you know why he is like this?" her eyes snapped up but they didn't meet even now because he was walking back to where he was. She was silent a bit.
"His eyes?" she guessed correctly; Naruto nodded.
"His eyes don't belong to him; his body is not suited to handle them properly." She frowned.
"I will not gouge his eyes nor let anyone do that." She said firmly now that she knows what his game is.
"What if I said you have to if you want to save his life?" she wavered a bit and bit inside of her lip. "I am surprised they didn't kill him already; it seems he inherited the Uzumaki resilience at the very least… strongly at that. Otherwise he would be long dead." She clenched her fists in her pockets and bit inside of her lip.
"Well, that is one solution at the very least… but there was something else in my mind…" he opened his palm and shadows once again materialized something in his palm.
A rook, black rook.
"… sharing his burden." They eyed the chess piece warily.
"What is that?" she asked tensely. The blond raised it up.
"A promise, oath. A special proof that he swore his loyalty to me and something allows me to form a link, to help him with the Rinnegan." Nagato eyed the piece.
"How do I know you will not deceive me?" Naruto met him straight in the eye.
"Do you want to make your dream come true? Do you want to tell Yahiko that you succeeded and the world is at peace?" Nagato was silent for a while. "Even now, if you like." Nagato raised an eyebrow.
"Are you threatening me?" the blond shook his head with a grin.
"No, what I am saying is… I can bring Yahiko back." Konan gasped sharply. Nagato glanced at her and a second later his gaze met Konan's wide eyed one. She closed her eyes with a sigh and stared at him once again.
'Do what is best.' It was what she meant but she couldn't hide the desire to see the orange haired man once again, not as a flesh puppet but as a man of his own. He sighed.
"…and what must I do in return?"
"As I said, swear your loyalty to me by taking the piece." Nagato closed his eyes and thought a bit.
"and after that?" the blond shrugged.
"You will see. it's not like I am going to bar your way to peace. Just like you, it is my dream to bring peace to this world… only that I don't care what people do with it. I only want to bring peace because – again, like you – my precious people desired it." The duo silently digested the blond's words.
"What… happened to them?" Konan asked hesitantly. The blond's gaze fell on her for a moment then at 'Tendo'.
"They died, like Yahiko." He paused a bit. "We are more alike than you think." Nagato nodded while weighing pros and cons. He closed his eyes.
"Very well." He decided after a few minutes. The blond grinned with a sharp gaze.
The red-haired man pulled his arm out of the device he was bound to as the blond walked closer with the chess piece in his hand.
"It is a peaceful sight." Naruto and In'ei were sitting on the hokage monument, the fourth's head to be precise. The sun was setting and the shops down below were closing down one by one. The masked man hummed.
"It is, master." There were several seconds of comfortable silence.
"I will not be in the elemental nations for the three years." The masked man turned to the blond.
"Are you going to start that?" the blond nodded.
"Yes. So, I will be busy in the summoning realm." The blond paused. "I want you to oversee things here in the meanwhile." The masked man bowed his head a bit.
"Of course." He paused a bit. "Was it wise to give them those 'ranks'?" the blond snorted with a roll of eyes, was the masked man still there?
"Nagato needed 'the rook' to properly link with mokuton cells through me. 'pawn' wouldn't be enough to trigger the merging for Obito so I gave him 'the knight'. I wasn't expecting the second effect however, perhaps mokuton cells implanted to him reacted when he got sworn to me." In'ei frowned behind his mask.
"Still… Nagato is pretty much the same rank as me… can't you give me 'the queen'?" the blond shook his head.
"You know I have already given 'the queen' and I am not proficient enough with the 'covenant' for two 'queens'." the masked man once again frowned but nodded nevertheless.
"I guess this is it then… for three years." The blond rolled his eyes.
"If you miss me too much, you can come to see me." The masked man shook his head.
"I can't leave my duty for personal desires. I will wait patiently." The blond's eyes softened.
"Such devotion…" he shook his head.
"You deserve nothing less." The blond shook his head again. His eyes landed on the village once again.
"Take care of them for me, alright? They have a place in my heart." The masked man squeezed the blond's shoulder.
"You don't have to ask…" he withdrew his hand.
"Thank you… Shisui." And the blond was gone in a puff of smoke. The masked Uchiha chuckled.
"Good luck, Sensei" he whispered to the wind and he too disappeared.
End of Episode 1