Story Synopsis: Destiny is a funny thing… you never know how life will turn out. A proverb that Naruto and Sasuke realize when their fated clash at the Valley of the End sucks them into the Fairy Tail universe. Notions are broken as the duo face a fight for survival against the forces of a corrupt government, criminal syndicates, and Hell itself. Will the Sons of the Sage rise to the challenge?


Chapter #2: Stratagem

"Hmmm… this development throws quite a wrench into the Akatsuki's plans now doesn't it, Black Zetsu?" White Zetsu, the lighter half of the Akatsuki member Zetsu, asked.

"Indeed. This poses quite a foreboding obstacle for the future. Pein-sama must be alerted immediately." Black Zetsu responded, before the duo sank into the ground and erased their presence.

Zetsu performed the role of reconnaissance and information gathering within the criminal organization known as Akatsuki (Red Dawn). The plant like creature possessed unique abilities that allowed it to travel underground quickly for long periods of time, making it the perfect spy because of its unparalleled skill in staying undetected.

The crime syndicate's greater goal of capturing the nine tailed beasts was currently unknown to the shinobi nations, however they were used by some hidden villages as an elite bounty hunter unit or a mercenary force.

A few moments prior, Zetsu had been a silent observer of Naruto and Sasuke's battle at the Valley of the End. Pein had ordered Zetsu to keep tabs on the power growth of the Kyuubi Jinchuriki in preparation for the boy's eventual capture as well as Itachi's younger brother in case of possible recruitment or whenever he became a problem to the group at large.

The pair had been watching with interest at the constantly shifting battle, before the two teenage shinobi were quite literally sucked out of the world by a tear in the sky. Zetsu's face shifted hilariously after the occurrence, rubbing its eyes repeatedly to make sure that it wasn't hallucinating.

Upon realizing that whatever happened was reality however, the spy beat a hasty return back to Akatsuki's base of operations in Amegakure (Hidden Rain Village).

The Hidden Rain Village was a small, but heavily industrialized metropolis that was surrounded on all sides by a sizeable lake. Due to its location between three of the Five Great Shinobi Countries, it has suffered political and economic instability because of massive influxes of war refugees and repeated damage to its infrastructure.

In response, the village adopted a stringent isolationist policy and invested heavily in powerful border fortifications, making it almost impenetrable to outsiders. To be admitted into the village, even those attending the Chunin Exams, one must go through an extensive number of security checks and be under constant supervision during their stay.

Thanks to this apathy towards foreigners, news rarely travels outside of the village, causing the outside world to be alarmingly negligent of Amegakure's internal affairs. That's why it's no surprise that there is no knowledge of the Civil War which has taken place within the village's borders, a Civil War that has led to the usurpation of power by Akatsuki.

Zetsu rose out of the ground, appearing in front of the tallest tower in the village which serves as Pein's headquarters. Seeing that it has arrived at the right building, the creature dissolved back into the ground and headed up the tower through the walls.

Eventually Zetsu phased back inside of the building, entering a large shadowed chamber with a massive statue that was holding out ten fingers attached to one of the walls. Pein's greatest body, the Deva Path, was holding a conversation with a man in an orange mask, before the two turned to the recently arrived spy in surprise.

"Zetsu? Why are you here? I have not called for a meeting." the Deva Path asked.

"Apologies, Pein-sama. But complications concerning our greater goal have arisen and I thought it pertinent to share with you." Black Zetsu responded in deference.

"State your case then." the Deva Path commanded.

When Zetsu brought Pein and the man behind the mask known as Tobi within the loop, both shinobi's eyes widened in disbelief. Of all the things that could've occurred.

"This is very troubling news indeed. Without the Kyuubi we are doomed to failure. How could this have possibly happened?" the Deva Path asked in incredulity.

"Now, now Pein. Don't fret just yet. While I agree that this is a setback, the situation is still salvageable. Luckily Akatsuki has within their ranks the foremost expert on teleportation and dimensional travel. Give me some time and let's see if I can't track down our lost jinchuriki." Tobi replied calmly.

Pein eyed Tobi skeptically for a moment, before nodding his head in acceptance. Tobi, or rather "Madara" as he was known as to a few, had been instrumental in the reorganization and planning efforts of Akatsuki after the initial disaster with Hanzo.

While most of the Akatsuki was unaware of Tobi's true nature and Konan was iffy about the man at best, Pein trusted him fully and appreciated his input.

"See to it that you do, Tobi. True Peace will not achieve itself." the Deva Path declared, before turning back to Akatsuki's spy.

"Zetsu, summon Itachi and Kisame. I have a mission for them. We will need further resources to combat this problem and I have a certain snake in mind." the Deva Path ordered, his Rinnegan eyes gleaming in the darkness.

It was a very melancholy Kakashi who began a dispirited trek from the Valley of the End back to Konoha. The man had spent the past two hours searching the battlefield and the surrounding areas a whole ten miles in radius for any sign of his bygone students. But eventually, the grim reality hit Kakashi like a ton of bricks.

His students were gone… and they were never coming back.

The hard, unassailable truth gnawed at his insides and it hurt all the more for the fact that he knew he could have prevented it. Oh the warning signs had been present in Sasuke from the beginning. Any responsible sensei would have seen Sasuke's cold hearted disposition and bloodthirsty ambition as troubling and taken steps to address it.

But like an absolute fool, Kakashi had decided to laugh it off as if it was a joke; comparing the situation to his own and carelessly thinking that Sasuke would eventually outgrow it. However, Kakashi now realized that no matter how similar Sasuke was to him, two people would always react to the same situation differently.

While Sasuke and Kakashi had both lost their entire families at very young ages, the circumstances surrounding them were different. Kakashi's mom had died peacefully in her sleep from disease and his father committed suicide by choice.

At the very least, neither happened while he was present.

Whereas Sasuke's clan was murdered horrifically and then the boy was forced to rewatch it over and over again as part of his brother's twisted plan to mold him into an instrument for which he could test his limits. How could a man as peace loving and devoted to Konoha as Itachi commit such a heinous crime?

"The next time I lay eyes on that man, I will kill him. That's a promise." Kakashi thought to himself, red filling his vision.

The impulse of burning rage quickly left Kakashi however, when he thought of his other student: Naruto. The boy who tried where he didn't even make an attempt and paid his life for it. As Kakashi continued to think more and more of the mistakes that he made with Naruto, the Jonin's depressed disposition worsened.

Naruto… he had ignored the boy outright from the start.

Kakashi had not been impressed with Naruto when he had first met him and wrote Naruto and his dream off as an impossibility, a fool's errand. However, the blond jinchuriki soon proved that the only fool was Kakashi.

It first started with Wave, Naruto was the one who orchestrated the plan to free Kakashi from Zabuza's Water Prison and despite the swordsman's tenacity, Naruto was also the one who finally outsmarted Zabuza into allowing the Jonin to escape from his own boneheaded mistake.

Further into the mission, Naruto succeeded where Sasuke, his "prized" student, failed by defeating Zabuza's protege Haku, a boy skilled in wielding the fearsome Hyoton (Ice Release) Kekkei Genkai. It didn't even end there as Naruto was then able to out bluff Gato's henchmen into fleeing when it would have been an easy effort to finish off the exhausted Kakashi.

Even after all of these successes however, Kakashi still ignored Naruto in favor of Sasuke, who he saw as someone who would actually take his teachings seriously, not some slacker troublemaker who could barely even graduate the Academy. The future had other ideas though, as Naruto continued to prove himself to the world that he was someone destined for greatness, someone whose potential exceeded that of even the prodigies.

It all began with Naruto's upset victory over Neji in the Chunin Exam Finals. Everyone had expected the previous Rookie of the Year to win with ease and were even placing bets on future matches between him and Sasuke or even Gaara. Yet, like the blunt hammer that the Uzumaki was, Naruto shattered all preconceived notions and snagged a win from the jaws of defeat.

Naruto then proceeded to once again beat the odds by defeating Gaara, the Suna Jinchuriki. A foe who bulldozed his way through many, including the Sasuke that Kakashi had invested a month into rigorously training.

Kakashi continued to ignore the facts in front of him however, even going as far as reprimanding Jiraiya for teaching Naruto the Rasengan, a jutsu the Jonin felt that the blond jinchuriki was too irresponsible to wield wisely.

Was this not the same guy who taught Sasuke of all people the Chidori?

Only when Sasuke had proven Kakashi's ignored fears correct did the Jonin now begin to reconsider. If he had been so wrong about Sasuke all along, then he must have been way off the mark with Naruto! Fate was truly cruel however, ripping Naruto and Sasuke out of the world when Kakashi had finally resolved to do right by them.

The knowledge that Kakashi had all of the time in the world to prevent this from even happening would hang on the man's heart forever, such incompetency was mind boggling. When the Jonin finally ended his train of somber thoughts, he noticed the Great Wall that guarded his home village approaching.

Konoha, the village filled with so much pain for his absent students, had arrived.

Kakashi was quickly waved through by the Chunin manning the entrance, and the Jonin hurriedly dashed off to the Hokage Tower to report the distressing news to their recently sworn in Hokage.

At least… he would have if it weren't for the sight that stopped him cold in his tracks.

Sakura, his third and most ignored student, was sitting on the bench where Sasuke had knocked her out, reading a book on Iryojutsu (Medical Techniques) with a smile on her face. When the girl noticed her sensei's footsteps, she got up and ran to him excitedly.

She was waiting patiently to give a warm embrace to the teammates who would never return.

Kakashi almost broke into tears at the thought but pulled upon all of his ANBU training to deaden his emotions. He needed to be able to present a strong front to provide comfort for his student when she learned of the terrible news.

Once he was home alone, then he could cry his eyes out.

Sakura slowed her exuberant pace once she got a closer look at the despondent expression on her sensei's face. Why was her sensei sad, wasn't the mission a success?

Weren't Naruto and Sasuke back?

When Kakashi began to explain the unfortunate turn of events, Sakura's face first froze in shock, then changed to disbelief, before finally settling on heartbreaking sorrow. The kunoichi ran into her sensei's comforting arms and began to ball her eyes out, crying out to the world about the injustice of it all.

Kakashi, despite his earlier promise, was crying right with her.

After ten minutes of this, Sakura eventually cried herself to sleep on her sensei's chest. Kakashi sighed at the predicament before picking her up bridal style and dropping his sole remaining student off at her home into the arms of her parents.

Once finished with that, Kakashi finally headed off to do what he should've done a long time ago.

Senju Tsunade was hard at work battling the incessant evil that was paperwork, however the monster knew no bounds and regenerated every so often. Despite the lack of progress however, the female Sannin kept at it to keep her mind off of the status of the Retrieval Mission.

So far the results were Pyrrhic at best. While the members of Orochimaru's Sound Four had been defeated, some of the Konoha victors were in the intensive care ward with bleak chances of survival.

Shikamaru, the recently minted Chunin who was put in charge of the mission was the least injured, merely suffering a little chakra depletion and a broken finger. Kiba had suffered a couple of stab wounds and chakra exhaustion, but he should be fine with some bandages and a little bed rest.

Choji and Neji were what worried Tsunade however, Neji was suffering a severe case of chakra exhaustion and had two large holes that punctured through his spleen and shoulder. If Neji was any less crafty, one of those could have hit his heart and ended the young Hyuga branch member.

Choji was the worst out of the bunch and the one who required Tsunade's direct assistance in healing, for he had used all three of the Akimichi soldier pills including the one that converted all of an Akimichi's body fat into a massive boost of chakra in exchange for a sure chance at death. Even with all of her expertise, Choji still had a very low chance of surviving.

The boy was lucky still, for if Tsunade hadn't sent out a team of Chunin the instant they were available to reinforce Shikamaru's squad, Choji wouldn't have had a chance at all. But then there was Naruto… something that made Tsunade's heart ache with pain as she had to wait longer and longer for a status report on her little brother.

Naruto was honestly the only reason that Tsunade had bothered to return to Konoha, the village still held too many painful memories for the female Sannin. The death of her grandfather and great uncle, the death of her little brother, the decline of her clan, and then the death of her lover which was the final dam that broke.

Each heartache sapped the vitality within Tsunade bit by bit until she was a dried out husk of her former self, constantly relying on Shizune to put her back together after every night of drinking which helped to wash away the sorrow. There were even those low times where Tsunade had contemplated ending it all for what was the point?

It was only the guilt at leaving Dan's niece behind which stopped her from going through with it.

But Naruto… he was like this radiant sun that lit up the darkness, purifying each and every one of her inner demons and giving her something to always smile about. It may have been in his rambunctious and annoying methods, but Tsunade wouldn't have it any other way.

"I can't wait to grab that adorable little brat and squeeze him until he's blue for making me worry like this! I'll be gaining wrinkles at this rate!" Tsunade thought in comical anger, quickening her pace at signing documents because of it.

Tsunade only hoped that Naruto succeeded where she and Jiraiya failed. Honestly, the parallels between Kakashi's Team 7 and her old Genin team were something to wonder at, the team dynamic was exactly the same.

However, when Tsunade began to draw comparisons between Sasuke and Orochimaru, her mood soured. Tsunade knew that it was hypocritical of her to get angry with the young Uchiha over his actions for she did the same exact thing decades ago. But all of the trouble that the boy's selfish actions had created were cause for contempt.

At least when she ran off, she didn't cause her comrades to nearly die chasing after her because she was becoming a security risk by going off to join with Hanzo or something.

Tsunade shook her head to clear her thoughts, Naruto wouldn't want her to think like that. Despite all the crap that life has put him through, Naruto still had such a positive outlook on the world that it made her problems feel insignificant compared to his.

A knock at the door captured Tsunade's attention and when she beckoned the person in, it was Shizune who appeared.

"Tsunade-sama... K-Kakashi-san has arrived for a debriefing." Shizune stated, a blush appearing on her face.

The female Sannin sighed at her apprentice's antics, Shizune had developed a crush recently on the Team 7 Jonin yet she was too shy to approach him. Whatever, Shizune's love life wasn't her concern at the moment.

"Alright send him in, he's kept me waiting for hours." Tsunade ordered, while arranging her desk to be more presentable.

When Kakashi walked into her office, Tsunade was expecting the laid back, nonchalant disposition that accompanied Kakashi after a mission well done. But the man's posture was hunched and his face was despondent.

"What in the hell happened?" Tsunade thought with some worry, this funk that Kakashi was in wasn't like the man at all.

"R-Reporting for a debrief, Hokage-sama." Kakashi said, forcing himself to make eye contact with his supreme leader.

"Permitted. Now what's this all about Kakashi? You look like you've seen a ghost." Tsunade asked, clasping her hands together in anticipation.

"I wish that was the case, Hokage-sama… I really do. But the fact is… N-Naruto and Sasuke are… are gone. When I arrived at the battlefield where the two were fighting, the place was eerily silent and the boys' scents had disappeared entirely. I searched the landscape for hours but… but… they've vanished. I-I'm so sorry." Kakashi reported, eyes dropping to the ground once more.

Tsunade's eyes dilated at the report and her face paled considerably, a nervous sweat breaking out on her complexion. No... this couldn't be happening... it just couldn't!

"Did you find anything… ANYTHING that could confirm their deaths? Think hard, Kakashi!" Tsunade yelled, her pulse quickening in alarm.

"No, I didn't find any bodies. However, I have a sinking feeling that Naruto and Sasuke clashed with the Rasengan and Chidori while drawing upon the power of their curses. The resulting power clash could've spun out of control and vaporized the two boys, leaving no trace at all." Kakashi responded.

At that answer, Tsunade collapsed into her chair, shrinking into herself. Naruto was gone… completely gone and she didn't even get a chance to say goodbye.

Just like all of the times in the past.

"Dismissed… Kakashi." Tsunade commanded hollowly.

Kakashi heeded her command immediately, slinking out of the office so he could wallow in his own misery in private as well.

Once the Jonin had exited her office, Tsunade broke down into raging episode of tears. Why did this keep happening to her? Was she cursed to constantly live and suffer while loved ones with big dreams kept getting offed by fate?

Naruto was so young! Even younger than Nawaki, yet that didn't stop the cold hand of fate from ripping the boy out of Tsunade's arms.

"Tsunade-sama! You have a council meeting com-" Shizune began upon opening the door to the Hokage's office, but she stopped upon seeing the broken mess that was her master.

"...M-Master? What's wrong?" Shizune asked in worry, but Tsunade couldn't control herself enough to answer.

(One Week Later...)

Jiraiya happily whistled a tune to himself as he ambled down the path to his hometown. Life was never better, he had forged a bond with the living legacy of his best student and was on the path to develop him into a man who could… no who would finally solve the riddle that plagued this war torn land.

Many people didn't know it, but under Jiraiya's boisterous exterior was a broken shell of a man hanging on by a thread. The Sannin had to bury two students already, both who possessed mind boggling potential and were people who Jiraiya believed could lead the Shinobi World to peace, but were cut down before their prime.

Then there was Orochimaru's betrayal, something that Jiraiya never got over as shown with his persistent attempts at tracking the man down. He would never forgive the snake for cutting down their sensei, Hiruzen deserved to die peacefully not having to sacrifice his soul to the Shinigami to protect the village. There was also Jiraiya's constant failures at wooing Tsunade, further solidifying the thought in his mind that he was forever cursed to want for happiness.

Naruto however, was the sole remaining light in Jiraiya's life. The Sannin still kicked himself for abandoning Naruto to wolves after the Kyuubi attack 13 years ago. The Third Hokage had offered Jiraiya the chance to take care of the newborn baby, but the grieving Jiraiya had just buried a man whom he viewed as a son and Naruto was like looking at a clone.

It was just too painful.

Jiraiya quite literally ran for the hills and ditched his responsibility, believing that the Third Hokage would find someone else suitable for the job and then Jiraiya could swoop in when the boy became a shinobi and train him up in another attempt to find meaning in the world.

Hopefully thirteen years would be enough to dull the pain.

However, the old and weary Sarutobi had been forced back into a job that he was ready to leave behind, causing him to make lapses in judgement while dealing with the disastrous fallout of the Kyuubi incident which ended up dropping Naruto off into an orphanage.

And a civilian run institution who had suffered the greatest percentage of deaths in the Kyuubi attack was not going to offer a nurturing environment to the one who held the object of their hatred, no matter how disarming the innocence of a newborn baby was.

When Jiraiya finally returned to train Naruto, he didn't meet the well adjusted, prodigious child that he expected to walk into, but an attention-starved knucklehead who pulled pranks to get anyone to acknowledge his existence, no matter in what way.

Jiraiya remembered the meeting he had with his sensei after that very well, the Sannin had burst through the door in a rage and demanded to his sensei what he had done. Sarutobi quite literally knocked the wind out of his sails with a well placed kick to the stomach that landed him flat on his back, and then angrily asked Jiraiya "What did you expect when you ran out on him?" with contempt in his voice. Jiraiya left the office seeing red, but acknowledged the truth in his sensei's words.

Jiraiya had no one but himself to blame.

Instead, Jiraiya decided that he could make up for lost time and threw himself into forging a bond with the young jinchuriki, becoming the mentor that the child so desperately needed and trying to fill the void that plagued both of their hearts.

Jiraiya had to admit, he wasn't expecting much from Naruto after catching a whiff of his record in the Academy, but the Uzumaki shattered his expectations. Learning water walking within a couple of hours, gaining access in drawing upon the Kyuubi's chakra, succeeding in summoning the Boss Toad, learning the Rasengan in a month, the boy was choked full of untapped potential and Jiraiya was only beginning to see the tip of it.

Now the Sannin entered the village fully set on taking the boy with him on a three year journey where they would find and break Naruto's limits together, in preparation for the ominous clouds that appeared before them.

Jiraiya wouldn't lie to himself, he was scared for the future. The events in the making were shaping up to be the greatest calamity that the world had ever known.

Orochimaru… Kumo and Iwa… and then the shadowy organization that was the Akatsuki…

"Don't psych yourself out, Jiraiya! Orochimaru… Akatsuki… all of them, Naruto will be ready for them. Just believe in the boy and the Great Toad Sage's prophecy, if Naruto isn't the savior of this world then who is?" Jiraiya thought to himself.

Ah, the Great Toad Sage's prophecy, the one thing that Jiraiya both revered and cursed at the same time. It was the object that kept Jiraiya sane with all of the heartache that came with fighting in two Shinobi World Wars, but it was also the same thing that caused him pain when it cost the lives of two of his students. He only hoped that it wouldn't claim Naruto as well, Jiraiya knew all too well that he wouldn't be able to survive the loss.

"Here we go, the Hokage Tower. I wonder how Tsunade-hime is doing? Maybe I can convince her to have a drink with me." Jiraiya said while gazing upon the complex.

Hey, 5,000th time's the charm right?

The Sannin walked around the building to the side where Tsunade's window was, before jumping up high enough to reach it. Fuck the stairs, you gotta travel in style!

"Honey, I'm home!" Jiraiya joked with mirth in his eyes as he landed inside of the Hokage's office.

Mirth that promptly vanished when he noticed that the room was filled with the stench of sake and Tsunade was lying unconscious on top of her desk.

"Tsunade? What's the matter with you?! Why are you drinking on the job?!" Jiraiya asked in alarm as he shook the female Sannin awake.

Slowly, Tsunade's hazel colored eyes fluttered open and laid its gaze upon her worrying teammate.

"J-Jiraiya? Is, hic*… Is that you?" Tsunade asked unsure.

"In the flesh. Mind explaining to me what's going on?" Jiraiya asked, not impressed with the situation.

What the Toad Summoner expected was for Tsunade to either punch him into a wall or mouth off to him for his tone of voice, what he didn't not expect was for Tsunade to run into his arms and begin balling her eyes out.

It would have been everything Jiraiya had dreamed off if it weren't for the fact that he had no idea what the hell was going on.

"It's alright, Tsunade-hime. Tell the Great Jiraiya-sama what ails you so." Jiraiya said, trying to pull Tsunade out of her sorrow with a remark that he was sure she would snort at.

It didn't work.

"Jiraiya… hic*, Naruto, he's gone!" Tsunade cried in between tears.

At the ominous words, Jiraiya paused for a very long time. His heart raced at a thousand miles per second, he just couldn't accept what his ears had heard.

"W-Wait… hold on a second. What do you mean gone?" Jiraiya asked for clarification.

"Gone, hic* as in vanished. Something went wrong on the retrieval mission and when Kakashi arrived at the battlefield, hic*…. he found no trace of Naruto and Sasuke. Naruto is gone, hic*… we were too late to save him." Tsunade cried in anguish.

At the tone of finality in Tsunade's words, Jiraiya's heart shattered. This couldn't be happening again, Jiraiya refused to bury a third student, he absolutely REFUSED!

All of the pain and sleep deprivation caught up with Tsunade as she cried herself to sleep and the ever so gallant Jiraiya placed a "Do not disturb" sign in front of the Hokage's door before using the Shunshin (Body Flicker Technique) to drop Tsunade off at the Hokage Mansion so she could rest.

Once that was done, Jiraiya headed to the outskirts of the village and performed the Kuchiyose (Summoning Technique) to summon Gama, the toad in charge of the list of summoners. This was Jiraiya's last chance, if a cross, which signified death, formed on Naruto's name in the list, then the Toad Sage would truly know that the end had arrived.

He had no will to live if Naruto was gone.

"Gama… please bring out the Toad Summoner scroll. I need to check something quickly." Jiraiya said desperately.

This was the moment of truth, if Naruto was gone then Jiraiya would know that there was no saving this world. That the Great Toad Sage's prophecy was full of hot air and that the Sannin had driven three students to death for nothing.

Gama brought the scroll out of his mouth with his tongue and slowly unraveled the piece of parchment. Every second that passed as the scroll opened up in its entirety made Jiraiya fill up more and more with dread.

Jiraiya's eyes scanned the paper thoroughly, moving down the page with care until his gaze rested on the name of Uzumaki Naruto.

A name that had no cross over it.

"T-Thank Kami! Naruto, you magnificent bastard! After all that, you're still alive! I should never have doubted you my boy." Jiraiya thought with immense relief, exhaling deeply as all of the pent up emotions left him in one fell swoop.

But if Naruto was alive, yet Kakashi who was a master tracker failed to pick up his scent, then where was he?

Jiraiya stood up from his crouched position on the ground, rising to his full stature of 6'6''. He stared at the sky with vindication, a new purpose burgeoning from within him.

"I don't care how long it takes me. I will find you Naruto, I promise. I will scour the ends of this Earth to find you and will not rest until you are safe at home."

"I can't believe what a mess this situation has become! How could the Sound Four have been so incompetent?! Even Kimimaro has failed me… NO! I refuse to allow the Sharingan to slip out of my grasp! There has to be a way!" Orochimaru angrily thought, pacing around his lair in agitation.

Yakushi Kabuto, the Snake Sannin's right hand man, stood warily against the wall, safely out of the way of his master's rage fueled prancing. Orochimaru's temper had flared uncontrollably after the realization that Sasuke would not be coming.

It had been three weeks since the disaster with retrieving Tsunade. Orochimaru snarled in fury upon remembering his dimwitted teammate's and the man's pet jinchuriki's roles in causing his current predicament. If it weren't for them thwarting his plans, Orochimaru would've had his arms back and been on his way to finish off Konoha by now.

But NOOO… that fucking blond brat had to reignite the fire within Tsunade, encouraging her to once again stand firm against adversity instead of caving in like the weakling Orochimaru thought her to be. Forcing the Snake Sannin into taking drastic measures and attempting another Living Corpse Reanimation to transfer his soul into a suitable specimen.

This meant that Orochimaru would've had to wait three more years until he could take Sasuke's body for himself, but the Sannin was fine with that and had planned to use that time to train Sasuke into a formidable shinobi.

However, the man's plans were now all up in smoke.

"Before I take any further actions, I'll have to find suitable replacements for my bodyguard. Hmmm… the results on the experiments with Suigetsu are promising, he could be one. Next there's Karin, not much combat capability but her sensory abilities might prove useful in scouting for enemies. I could always teach her some genjutsu and how to access her Uzumaki bloodline. Then we have Jugo… he's unstable but some motivation on tracking down Kimimaro's killers should keep him in line. Yes, perfect…" Orochimaru thought with a sinister expression.

"Kabuto! Fetch me Suigetsu and then make preparations for a trip to the Southern Hideout! We have some recru-" Orochimaru hissed, before a massive explosion shook the base and interrupted him.

Alarms immediately began blaring within Orochimaru's chamber and the computers sitting on top of the Snake Sannin's desk flashed on and switched to the Security Camera feature. When Kabuto raced forward to check who was caught on the screen, his eyes widened in alarm.

Akatsuki… and the organization had sent the devastating pair that was Itachi and Kisame.

"Orochimaru-sama, Akatsuki has found us! We need to move now!" Kabuto warned his master.

Orochimaru nodded gravely, before the two shinobi fled the room hurriedly. Not many knew it, but Orochimaru had already suffered defeat at the hands of Uchiha Itachi. The Sharingan wielder in conjunction with Hoshigaki Kisame the "Monster of the Hidden Mist" was not something that the Snake Sannin ever had plans of facing.

Add to the fact that Orochimaru's body was still weak and frail from the recent soul transfer meant that it was imperative to get the hell out of dodge.

"Kabuto come quickly, the emergency exit is this way." Orochimaru whispered, before jumping out of the hatch that led to the outside world.

However, trouble struck the moment that Kabuto followed.

"Katon: Goenkyu." (Fire Release: Great Blaze Ball) a voice called out.

A meteor-sized sphere of flame soared over the heads of the two fleeing shinobi and detonated with extreme force, clogging the area with smoke. The heat generated from the powerful Katon jutsu was so great that the flames warped the air around it.

When the smoke cleared, the Katon: Goenkyu left behind a towering wall of flame that blocked off Orochimaru's escape route. An impassive Itachi and a grinning Kisame landed behind the Snake Sannin and his subordinate.

"It seems that we meet again... Orochimaru." Itachi stated, not even breathing hard despite his large expenditure of chakra.

A large bead of sweat slid down the Snake Sannin's face, this was the man who had made a mockery of his power. The man who had made a mockery of several decades greater experience, the man who had made a mockery of his ultimate jutsu, the one that provides him the means to immortality.

THIS was the man who had driven his insatiable desire for the Sharingan, to master all the ninjutsu of the world and to never feel so helpless once again.

"Indeed, Itachi-kun." Orochimaru purred, trying to hide his discomfort at the situation.

Meanwhile, Kabuto stood frozen like a board as he watched the scene play out before him, his body refusing to heed his commands in the face of the monstrous killing intent being exhibited by the Uchiha's shark-like companion.

"So… THIS is power… true, unadulterated power. Absolutely wonderful… the intensity is so great that my legs can't stop shaking." Kabuto wondered, in true awe and fear of Kisame's chakra reserves.

The swordsman's chakra could be considered breathtaking if it weren't so fear inducing. Kisame's chakra reserves were MASSIVE, akin to a dense ocean that spanned for eternity. It seemed that the rumors were true after all, Kisame did in fact possess chakra levels rivaling that of a tailed beast.

"Hahahaha! You should learn how to pick better lackeys, snake face. Your friend over there can't stop shaking in fear. Though I can't blame him, I am pretty awesome." Kisame mocked in laughter, while Itachi rolled his eyes at his partner's antics.

Orochimaru snarled in rage at the insult, while he had a healthy respect (read fear) for the Sharingan wielder, Kisame never stopped to rile his temper. The swordsman was strong sure, but it was Itachi's cold efficacy that was the true terror of the duo.

Still the Snake Sannin thought better than to correct Kisame, instead trying to think of a way to give Itachi the slip.

"Alright listen up freak, I'll make this quick because I can't stand to look at your ugly mug. Pein-sama requires your immediate return to Akatsuki's ranks. Some complications came up that will require your network of contacts and scientific knowledge. Know this however, if you refuse and somehow escape us today, Pein-sama himself will track your ass down. Choose wisely." Kisame explained with a bloodthirsty smile, grabbing the hilt of Samehada in anticipation for Orochimaru's expected refusal.

Orochimaru gulped visibly at the ultimatum laid before him, he would've cursed if he wasn't so on edge. There was no chance for escape now, not with the potential consequences.

For all of Orochimaru's wariness at tangling with Itachi and Kisame, Pein was a whole new level of suicide. The Snake Sannin was arrogant but never think for a second that he was stupid, Orochimaru could see the writing on the wall.

Join us or spend the rest of your days being hunted down like a dog.

"Hmm... you two gentlemen don't give me too much choice now do you? Well alright then, if you insist I may as well." Orochimaru responded with a sickly sweet smile, already designing plans for betrayal when it best suited him.

Kisame frowned at the response and even Itachi blinked in surprise. Neither had expected the arrogant Sannin to fold so easily and the Mist swordsman was disappointed at the lack of a chance to spill some blood.

"Hn, if that is all then let us go. Pein is awaiting your return. Bring your subordinate with you, we do not want loose ends." Itachi said in monotone, before leading the way back to Amegakure.

Kisame shot Orochimaru another dirty look before heading off with his partner, the Snake Sannin and Kabuto following closely behind. Orochimaru schemed to himself, trying to think of a way to slip out of this mess.

"Hmm… unfortunately I'll have to play it safe for now. Pein will most likely be sniffing for betrayal and I don't want to put myself in the doghouse too soon. I'll play nice for now and bide my time, probing for any potential weaknesses. But watch out Akatsuki, if you make any wrong step I'll pounce on you with a vengeance!" Orochimaru thought, smirking to himself.

"Naruto…" a voice growled out.

The person in question did not respond.

"NARUTO…" the voice called out even louder.

Still no response.

"NARU-oh for the love of god. WAKE UP DUMBASS!" a familiar voice rang out.

The blond jinchuriki's eyes shot wide open and he soon noticed that rather than awakening in Konoha like he expected to, he was floating on top of the familiar sewer water that filled the Kyuubi's prison in his mindscape.

"K-Kyuubi? What am I doing in here?" Naruto asked, bleary eyed. When the jinchuriki tried to stand up, his body erupted in a debilitating episode of pain and Naruto collapsed face first back into the water.

Summoning his inner force of will, Naruto ignored the pain and stood up shakily, swaying side to side in exertion. Naruto soon noticed that his entire body was wrapped up in bandages, the only part of his wardrobe that remained was his tattered jumpsuit trousers.

Soon the jinchuriki put two and two together, the only reason that he would be this injured was if everything that he thought he dreamt of was actually real. He and Sasuke had actually ripped a portal through dimensions into Hell of all places, fought a demon, lost to and ran away screaming from said demon, and then all he could remember next was socking that monster in the face with a Rasengan for trying to kill Sasuke before blacking out.

"Feeling weak? Suffering pain in places that you never even knew existed? That's good, because you deserve it. WHAT IN THE HELL POSSESSED YOU TO ATTACK A GODDAMN BALROG WITH A RASENGAN?!" Kurama roared in fury, his idiotic container was going to get him killed but he would not stand for it.

Naruto winced in fright from the shockwaves that emanated from the power behind his tailed beast's roar. Despite the well-placed fear that welled from within him, Naruto dug deep into his core and pulled out the courage needed to stand up to the Kyuubi.

"Well what else was I supposed to do?! That demon would've killed Sasuke if I hadn't acted!" Naruto explained, defending his actions.


"What's your problem?! He may not mean much to you, but he's my comrade! And as long as I live I promise to never leave one behind!" Naruto yelled back, crossing his arms in indignation.

A vein popped out of Kurama's temple, he couldn't believe the idiocy behind his container's words. Sacrifice yourself for someone else? HA! What a laugh!

"Besides, what's the big deal? If I'm talking to you, then that must mean that Sasuke got us out of there alive. Everything's all right now, no need to worry." Naruto said with a grin, pulling his arms behind his head.

"You goddamn dunce… EVERYTHING'S NOT "ALRIGHT"! You may not be able to notice because you're unconscious, but I've been around long enough to know that this is NOT the Konoha that I know and hate with every fiber of my being!" Kurama shouted.

At that remark, Naruto froze. No… that couldn't be… that couldn't be true! The Kyuubi was just messing with him, he had to be!

If they weren't in Konoha, then where in the hell where they?

"Y-You're… you're lying. You have to be! How could you know that we're not back in Konoha anyway?" Naruto asked skeptically, trying to hide the mounting horror in his voice.

Kurama stared at his container in shock for a moment, before slapping his paw on his face and laughing… HARD. But it wasn't just any laugh… no, it was a laugh devoid of sanity. A laugh that chilled Naruto to the bone.

"You poor, deluded fool…For the first time I've ever started speaking to you, I can actually say I'm not lying. I can tell because if we were back in our own universe, I'd be able to sense my brethren all across the continent. But guess what? I CAN'T SENSE JACK SHIT RIGHT NOW! All that I can sense is that there's something in the air, and it sure as hell ain't native to where we come from. Which means that your friend Sasuke chose wrong and it's because of YOU." Kurama snarled in derision.

Naruto's eyes widened at the berating tone and began to wonder if the Kyuubi's accusations had some merit to them.

"How so?" Naruto asked in apprehension.

"Because you had to play the hero and get yourself knocked out, I couldn't communicate with the outside world. I was stuck helpless inside of you, but able to watch every moment as your friend made a panicked decision and stepped into the wrong portal. If you had forsaken your friend, I would have been able to tell you the right one to choose from and we would have been home free." Kurama explained.

Naruto withdrew into himself for several moments, warring within himself. Logic and Passion battled incessantly within him as Naruto tried to balance out the differing opinions inside of his head of what he should have done.

Should he have ditched Sasuke and saved himself?

Or can he be content with saving a friend but dooming them both?

Eventually, Naruto rose his head and locked eyes with the Kyuubi. But the tailed beast was shocked to see the jinchuriki's eyes shining with resolve rather than broken defeat which would have left him ripe for manipulation.

"It doesn't matter. At the end of the day, I will stand by my code. I'll never forsake a friend if it's the last thing I'll ever do." Naruto said with such determination that the Kyuubi was taken aback for a second.

Kurama eyed Naruto curiously, this human was something special. In the centuries that Kurama was alive for, he had witnessed many wicked things that humans were capable of.

And each act became worse than the last.

However, Naruto was somehow different. In all his time, Kurama had never seen a human as purehearted and genuine as Naruto ever was, constantly making him wonder if it was all a facade or reality.

He would have to see.

"Hmph, fine. Believe what you want, but it doesn't change the fact that we're stuck here with little chance of returning." Kurama responded despondently.

All the tailed beast wanted was his freedom, was that too much to ask?

Instead, he had to deal with some Uchiha with a god-complex using that accursed Sharingan of theirs to control him, forcing him to attack Konoha unwillingly and leading him to be sealed up within a human on two different occasions.

Honestly, Kurama had it good now within Naruto's mindscape as compared to before. Within his two prior jinchuriki, Kurama had been chained to a metal wall and staked through his stomach, tails, and various appendages.

And people wonder why Kurama was so pissy all of the time.

"Why is that? Sasuke and I can just create another tear into Hell and take the right portal this time." Naruto asked in confusion.

"No… No! Do NOT do that! Under ANY circumstances! Do you understand?! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?!" Kurama yelled in alarm, eyes widening at the ridiculous bravado his container was showing.

"What are you getting so worked up for? We were able to escape Hell and while INJURED might I add! I think that once Sasuke and I are back to full strength it should be a cakewalk." Naruto countered.

"You fool… you have absolutely no idea of the horrors of Hell! You two haven't even begun to experience its depths!" Kurama berated.

"Explain it to me then! I remember you promising to start giving answers if we escaped, so start talking! All of these half answers are getting on my nerves!" Naruto said in annoyance.

Kurama snarled at the demand, his pride flaring at being demanded of by a human. But the situation was dire enough to have to swallow his hubris.

"All right you little shit… it's time you learned the vastness of our existence. Maybe then you can learn some humility. Hell is not one single entity, it is broken into nine different levels, each one being worst than the last. The Hell that you "escaped" was merely the front door." Kurama explained.

Naruto blinked in shock at the answer. There were nine different Hells?

"How is that even possible?" Naruto asked in confusion.

"Beats me, just know that you were extremely lucky to have ended up where you did. If you had punched through into a lower circle like I have in the past, you would not be standing here today." Kurama said.

"You've been to Hell before?" Naruto asked in interest.

"...Unfortunately I have, but that is not an experience that I ever want to repeat. I was an excitable young kit who was trying to test out the limits of his power. However, I was reckless in my haste and got dragged in the same way you two did. But due to my much greater power, I went all the way to Level Nine. THAT, my foolish jinchuriki, is TRUE Hell." Kurama answered, shuddering at the memories.

Naruto raised his eyebrows in alarm at the Kyuubi's change in attitude. What was so bad about the lowest cycle of Hell that the Kyuubi of all people shuddered in fear?

"What was down there?" Naruto asked.

"Not what, WHO. Level Nine is the realm of Lucifer, the Lord of the Underworld. I will tell you first hand that there are few who can match his power. His strength is so great that the nine tailed beasts would fall before him with ease." Kurama said in an ominous tone.

A bead of sweat fell down Naruto's temple... no that couldn't be even remotely possible. Such a power shouldn't even exist! The Kyuubi's chakra was the most terrifying force of power he'd had the displeasure of sensing, even in the face of shinobi like the three Sannin, Itachi, and Kisame.

Yet apparently there were eight more beasts of the Kyuubi's caliber and somehow all of them combined would be handily crushed by one person?!

What… in the fuck?

"But Lucifer is the last of your problems, for if you can even reach him I'd say you're one lucky son of a bitch. As I said before, the nine levels of Hell are an abode for the most horrifying of demons that come in all shapes and sizes. I'll put it into context, the demons who reside in only the first three levels of Hell would prove difficult for an experienced Jonin to defeat." Kurama continued.

Naruto gulped visibly at the warning. The jinchuriki keenly remembered the awe inducing strength that Kakashi had displayed during his battle against Zabuza in Wave Country. The Genin of Team 7 had been frozen in fear from the terrifying killing intent being exhibited by the warring shinobi.

While Naruto had made massive strides in improvement, he knew that he was still nowhere near the power threshold of a Jonin. The fact that the demons of the upper levels of Hell were that strong was intensely worrying.

Maybe the Kyuubi's warnings weren't so full of hot air after all.

"As you move further down, the strength of Hell's demons grows considerably. The middle levels of 4, 5, and 6 possess demons who could fight Kages to a standstill. Then from levels 7 and onward, Hell's demons can rival that of the tailed beasts. A thousand years ago, the nine tailed beasts used to be a single entity, the Juubi, with chakra equal to all of us combined. This knowledge has been lost to the humans of our universe, but the Juubi originated from the lowest level of Hell. It was sent by Lucifer himself to wipe out our Earth and prepare the way for his demons to colonize, however the Sage of Six Paths thwarted his plans by defeating the Juubi and splitting it up into the nine before sealing its body into the moon." Kurama finished.

"H-Holy crap…" Naruto muttered, eyes widening in realization.

"Do you understand the gravity of the situation now? If we punch back into Hell now, the Balrog will recognize you and call for reinforcements. There is absolutely NO way you can survive the stronger demons at your current strength, PERIOD!" Kurama said.

"Then what do we do? Is this it, do we just give up and live the rest of our lives in an unknown land?" Naruto asked in frustration.

"No, I didn't say that! I just said not to be hasty! If you want to make it back to our original universe, then you need to get stronger, A LOT fucking stronger! Power that would make the five Kages think twice about facing you, that's the only way you and the Uchiha would survive long enough to make it back to the portals again. We have to be smart about this, rushing in half cocked will end horribly for us. It's all or nothing at this point." Kurama countered heatedly.

Naruto nodded in agreement, this was what he was talking about! There was no giving up, not in his book! He was going to be the Hokage one day, he couldn't just sit around stuck in another universe.

Naruto could already picture it now, once he and Sasuke made it back, he'd be so strong that everyone would gush about him! With his strength he'll gain Kaka-sensei's and Pervy Sage's respect, Sakura's heart, and the village's adoration!

"All right then, now we're speaking my language! So what's the plan?" Naruto asked in excitement.

"Rip the seal." Kurama said bluntly.

At that response, Naruto's excited expression deflated quickly. Instead, it was replaced by comical anger as he ranted at the Kyuubi.

"How stupid do you think I am?!" Naruto asked, infuriated.

"Pretty stupid." Kurama said with a grin, oh how pushing this orange idiot's buttons was one of his favorite pastimes.

"Shut up you asshole! So after all that you're just trying to trick me into releasing you, huh?! Well you've got another thing coming, bastard!" Naruto ranted.

"As amusing as watching a little stripling such as yourself work himself into a frenzy is, this is not the time and place for it. I told you before that I have nothing to gain by tricking you. I don't have the chakra control you humans have to allow me to only break into the lowest level of Hell. All I'd accomplish is allowing myself to fall into Lucifer's clutches once more and that is a fate that I will never suffer again." Kurama explained.

"Then why ask such a thing of me?" Naruto asked.

"Perhaps I should rephrase my statement. I meant tear off a small piece. In doing so will allow me to pour a much greater amount of chakra into you. This will speed up your recovery process as well as add some improvements. Once healed I will immediately begin training you for the day of our eventual return to Hell." Kurama answered.

Naruto eyed the Kyuubi skeptically, all his life he had only heard stories of the terrible deeds that this beast had committed. Naruto's entire life was one of misery thanks to the Kyuubi and yet the jinchuriki was now being asked to put his trust into him?

The phrase "Deal with the Devil" constantly played through his mind as Naruto weighed his options. However, Naruto eventually fell into a state of resigned acceptance.

While Naruto could tell the Kyuubi to shove it and try and do this his own way, the truth of the matter was that Naruto would most likely need the Kyuubi's chakra again in the future and telling the tailed beast to piss off was probably counterintuitive to that.

Plus, Naruto knew all too much that he was not a disciplined person. He had only started improving himself once he had teachers to guide him along the way.

As much as Naruto didn't like it, the Kyuubi was the most powerful being he had ever met. And to potentially face a being who was even stronger than the Kyuubi was going to require the tailed beast's help in preparing him.

"I just hope that this doesn't come back to bite me in the ass." Naruto thought unhappily.

"Alright fine. You've got a deal Kyuubi. But know this, I refuse to allow you to run wild. This is my body and so we're going to play by my rules, got it?" Naruto demanded, to which the Kyuubi sneered in response.

Who did this little human think he was trying to boss around the mightiest of the tailed beasts?

"You've got a lot of nerve, brat. You should be on your hands and knees groveling in gratefulness for me bothering to give you any of my power. What makes you think that an arrogant little stripling such as yourself has any right to command me?" Kurama snarled.

"Because if you don't, I'll take us both down. Try and get back home on your own if you can even reform." Naruto threatened with steel in his voice.

Kurama paused at the threat, inwardly cursing at his container's shrewdness. Could he even reform in a different universe? Even if he could, Kurama would still be fucked if he tried to cross over. As painful as it was to admit it, Naruto was the victor in this exchange.

But no way in hell was this over, not even in the slightest.

"Tch, you have your goddamn promise brat. But don't even think for a second that this is over. Make one mistake, one slip, and I'll pounce on you like there's no tomorrow. Deal?" Kurama growled.

"Deal." Naruto agreed, inwardly sighing in relief.

With the agreement made, the jinchuriki was lifted up to the paper seal in the middle of the Kyuubi's cage by a miniature typhoon. Naruto took a breath to steady himself for what he was about to do, before ripping off about a tenth of the seal.

For a few moments there was silence in the mindscape, before Naruto felt a pulse of excruciating agony erupt from within him. His body became engulfed in a fiery red aura of demonic chakra, and the pain was so great that Naruto fell back onto the ground and writhed in agony.

Kurama grinned savagely at the sight, that'll teach that little stripling not to mouth off at him.

"Oh yes, I forgot to mention. You'll go through quite a bit of torment as my chakra alters your body. Your healing factor is being amplified, your chakra network is being expanded to increase your chakra reserves several fold, and all physical imperfections are being corrected as we speak. Try not to move in your normal rambunctious manner for a while as you'll find your motor skills to be a bit off when you awaken. Ta Ta." Kurama farewelled in a malicious sing song voice.

"D-Damn... y-you... K-Kyuubi." Naruto gasped out, before returning to his writhing.

"Too late, I've already been there." Kurama cackled as Naruto's vision began to blur and fade, before he slipped back into unconsciousness.

Naruto's eyes shot open once again and he sat up quickly in alarm, swiveling his head back and forth to check his surroundings. The jinchuriki soon regretted his actions as a strong sense of vertigo overcame him, making his head spin.

"If that fucking bastard thinks that he has had the last laugh, then he's got another thing coming." Naruto thought, while feeling like he was going to throw up.

After a few moments, Naruto eventually regained control of himself and slowly blinked his eyes to take in his surroundings once more.

The jinchuriki found himself wrapped up in bandages as before, but this time he was sitting upright in a plainly designed but comfortable bed. As Naruto continued to look around, he realized that he was in someone's bedroom.

The room was sparsely decorated, containing a simple dresser, a mirror, a rug, and the bed that Naruto was sleeping on.

Naruto's gaze eventually reached his right side and when he looked down he saw Sasuke, heavily bandaged like he was, but sleeping peacefully in a makeshift cot.

"Thank goodness you're alright, Sasuke. You may be a bastard sometimes, but thanks for getting me out of there. Means a lot coming from you." Naruto thought with a grin.

Naruto, amazed at the lack of pain or soreness accompanying a serious beating, decided to swing himself out of bed so he could figure out what was going on.

That was where the jinchuriki fell flat on his face.

"What the Hell?" Naruto thought in surprise.

Naruto tried several more times without success to push himself upright, but his body was incredibly unwieldy. His body felt much heavier than before and his arms and legs felt like wet noodles.

"What is going on?! I can't control my body! Is this what the Kyuubi meant?" Naruto thought, struggling to pick himself up.

After several more minutes of bungling around and causing a racket, Naruto was finally able to stand on his own two feet. Meanwhile, all of the noise had awoken Sasuke but when the Uchiha laid his eyes on his teammate, Sasuke's expression morphed into one of shock.

"N-Naruto… is that you?!" Sasuke asked in surprise, rubbing his eyes to make sure that he wasn't hallucinating.

"Did you hurt your brain or something? Of course it's me!" Naruto asked in annoyance.

"But… how did you get so big?" Sasuke asked incredulously, pulling himself up to stand eye to eye with Naruto, or rather forehead to nose.

Naruto blinked in confusion until he realized what Sasuke was getting at. His gaze which used to be level with Sasuke's chin was now looking over the Uchiha's head.

Naruto's muscles were also a good deal more defined, while not bulky in the slightest, they were lean and mean. The jinchuriki's blonde hair also grew, his spiky, blond locks now falling in front of his face as bangs as well as reaching the nape of his neck.

"Huh, looks like the Kyuubi's chakra gave me a growth spurt. Cool." Naruto thought with a grin, comparing his newfound height with Sasuke much to the Uchiha's annoyance.

"Not necessarily just a growth spurt, brat. This body is where you would've have been had you not suffered malnutrition as a child. I'd say you've gained about four or five inches and maybe 15-20 lbs in muscle. Your healing factor and chakra reserves have been multiplied as well, you can probably now heal a wound that would have taken you an entire night in seconds. Your welcome." Kurama explained.

"W-Wow, I don't even know how to thank you." Naruto responded.

"Survive long enough to get me out of here, that's how you can thank me. Anyway, you'll need to spend some time doing some physical conditioning to get used to your body. Since I used chakra to enhance your body rather than you doing it yourself, your nervous system didn't adjust properly so it'll take a little while before your coordination is back to normal. But overall, I think it'll benefit you in the long run." Kurama answered.

"You got it." Naruto said, before being brought back to reality by Sasuke's snapping his fingers in his face.

"What happened there? You blanked out for a second." Sasuke asked.

"Sorry about that, I was just thanking the Kyuubi. He's the reason for all of the improvements that you now see. We're going to need to be a whole lot stronger to break back into Hell." Naruto answered.

"Wait… what do you mean by break back into Hell? Do you mean to say that I picked the wrong portal?!" Sasuke asked in rising alarm.

Naruto sighed and began to fill Sasuke in on their current predicament. Once he was all caught up, the Uchiha backed up against the wall in deep contemplation.

"Shit, this is not good. Not good at all. How can the world be so vast?! My vendetta with Itachi feels so insignificant now." Sasuke thought.

Naruto leaned against the wall next to Sasuke and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"Don't worry man, I know this sucks but look on the bright side. We're in a whole new land, the likes of which no one has seen before. The adventures to be had must be countless. Might as well enjoy the ride while we're here." Naruto said.

"Tch, only a dumbass like you can always see the good things in life." Sasuke commended in a backhand manner, causing a vein to bulge in Naruto's temple.

The two shinobi were soon embroiled in childish brawl, a dust cloud forming from their immature antics.

"Oi… what's all the ruckus about?" Toshiki's voice called out as he walked into the room, his sleep interrupted because of Naruto and Sasuke's rough housing.

Toshiki had to hold in a laugh when he saw Naruto and Sasuke at each other's necks, pulling each other's hair and cheek to cause the maximum amount of pain to each other.

"Hey, Yukari-chan! Get a look at this, the youngsters are awake!" Toshiki called out into the hallway.

"I'm coming, I'm coming! I'm not as young as I used to be, you know." Yukari said upon entering the room, before laughing along with her husband at the two teens antics.

Sasuke eventually paused from trying to knock Naruto's lights out when he noticed the elderly couple's laughter, their voices matched the ones he heard before he blacked out.

"Oi, dobe. Quit it, we've got company." Sasuke whispered while trying to pry Naruto off of him.

The jinchuriki quickly stopped when noticed the chuckling elderly pair as well, awkwardly rubbing his head and putting on a big smile.

"Um… good morning. We appreciate the help." Naruto said hesitantly.

"My, my, what good manners. You're such a gentleman, aren't you sweetheart. But look at you, I swore you were smaller when I carried you here." Yukari finished in confusion as she gave Naruto a once over.

"Heh, what can I say? I've got good genes." Naruto said, to which Sasuke rolled his eyes.

"Well then you two, there's a bathroom to your left. Wash up and then come down for breakfast. You two must be famished after sleeping for a week straight." Yukari said with a giggle, before exiting the room with her husband in tow.

"A WEEK?!" was all Naruto and Sasuke could think of.

The Balrog shivered in fear as it gazed upon the place of its judgement, looking down imperiously as if it possessed the gaze of Lucifer himself. After Naruto and Sasuke's miraculous escape from Purgatory, the Balrog who the duo had escaped from was summoned down to Level Four Hell for its fate to be decided.

The demon stood in front of the entrance to the tower where Level Four's sovereign and his commanders resided. The tower rose high into the sky, its spiky, obsidian exterior piercing into the dark purple moonlight that stood as the atmosphere.

The sky was cloudy and constantly shifting, its temperature cool compared to the scorching heat that was Level One. Don't let the calm climate fool you however, for no normal human could survive down here.

After all, the human musculature would be torn to pieces after exposure to five times the gravity of Earth.

Only the Balrog's powerful physical fortitude and resilience allowed it to stand upright and even still it was a struggle to move forward at a brisk pace.

The demon pushed forward and climbed the spiraling staircase to the top of the tower, before arriving at the door that held the throne room. The Balrog's fate was in Hell's mercy now.

Mercy that Hell did not have.

The Balrog pushed open the throne doors slowly, before walking up and kneeling in deference to Level Four's ruler and the lieutenant that the sovereign was speaking to.

"Lord Xandohr, I have come as you have requested." the Balrog said, trying to mask the fear in its voice.

Lord Xandohr, the Ruler of Level Four Hell, shifted his regal scarlet gaze onto the Balrog that prostrated itself before him. Burning rage flared from within him and a powerful wave of purple lightning erupted out of the Demon Lord's fingertips.

The Balrog shrieked in agony as the electricity surged all over its body. The demon's thick hide began to smoke and the smell of ozone filled the air as the creature writhed on the ground.

"My, my, enough already milord. You'll kill the poor beast if you keep this up." Lieutenant Shoko, Lord Xandohr's most prominent commander, commented.

The female demon was exquisite, her figure at the pinnacle of perfection. Shoko's skin was an alluring lavender complexion and she possessed flowing, white hair. She stood at six feet even and her scarlet eyes were piercing.

The Lieutenant wore a pristine attire of obsidian and purple armor that hugged her curves. A double edged spear was sheathed on her back, completing the combat garb.

"Do not presume to command me, Lieutenant Shoko. This stupid creature is under my authority, its failures are mine as well and that means a reprimand from the higher ups. Remember your place, unless you want to be on the receiving end as well." Lord Xandohr snarled.

Lieutenant Shoko took a deep breath to calm herself, Lord Xandohr was a tough one to get through to when enraged. She had to be careful in her approach.

"All I'm saying is give the Balrog a chance to explain itself. In all of Hell's existence, no one has ever escaped it. No matter if it was the first level, those humans must have been extraordinary." Lieutenant Shoko explained calmly.

The Demon Lord eyed his subordinate for a moment, before halting the flow of his lightning and allowing the Balrog to skitter behind Shoko.

"Very well, Lieutenant. We shall try this your way. Balrog, state your case! If this doesn't impress me, you'll wish I'd have finished you off." Lord Xandohr commanded.

The Balrog took a few moments to calm down its heart rate, that had been way too close. Lord Xandohr was not one to keep waiting however, so the Balrog forced itself to speak.

"Milord, the humans that escaped us… they were special. They possessed unnatural strength and techniques, one of which could clone himself and conjure a powerful orb of energy to bludgeon his enemies. Had they not been so severely injured prior to arrival, the outcome would have been worse." the Balrog said hurriedly.

The Demon Lord and his lieutenant blinked in surprise at the response. The humans had caused this much of a mess while weakened? What madness did they come from that allotted such power?

"Hmm… Interesting. There may be more to these humans than I thought." Lord Xandohr said in contemplation.

"Milord?" the Balrog asked in confusion.

"Balrog, once you and the rest of your kind have finished the repairs in Purgatory, track these two humans down and bring them to me. If you succeed, my transgressions against you shall be forgotten." Lord Xandohr ordered.

The Balrog nodded thankfully at the order, relieved at the chance for redemption. The fire demon quickly made its way out of the throne room, closing the doors in a hurry.

Lieutenant Shoko narrowed her gaze at the Demon Lord. What kind of game was he playing?

"Milord, why did you make such a request? If the humans interest you that much, you should've sent a task force or at least a higher level demon. Sending the singular Balrog that they outsmarted will not end well for the beast if the humans are back at full strength." Lieutenant Shoko asked in confusion.

"I know." Lord Xandohr answered bluntly.

"Then wh-" Lieutenant Shoko continued before she was interrupted.

"I did so because this is the beginning of an ambitious game. None of which are the likes that those humans have ever seen before. Forget that foolish Balrog, the creature's fate is what it deserves for failing me." Lord Xandohr explained, rising from his throne and straightening to his full stature.

The Demon Lord was eight feet tall and was garbed in an immaculate obsidian and purple armor with spiky protrusions. Xandohr's skin was a lavender shade which was given character by the scar that ran across his cheek. Xandohr's gleaming scarlet eyes rounded off his imposing face, the Demon Lord possessed a gaze that could look straight through your soul.

Luscious, flowing white hair ran down the length of his back and a pair of horns extended from his cranium, resembling the crown that suited his status.

A large broadsword, which rested on the Demon Lord's throne, was hefted up and swung experimentally in the air. Lord Xandohr released the rein on his menacing power, causing a fierce purple aura that cracked the ground below him to emerge and strengthened the force of his swing so much that powerful winds swirled around him like a tempest.

"I will test these two humans... by throwing more and more enemies at them, each one stronger than the last. If they survive… and reach a suitable level in strength, I shall appear before them in all of my glory. And once I vanquish the duo, I shall play the role of the benevolent Lord who offers them the chance to serve at his side. They will then tell me where they gained their power and lead to my ascension to the very top." Lord Xandohr finished with a sinister grin, one filled to the brim with avarice.

Lieutenant Shoko sighed in resignation at hearing her master's dreams of grandeur once again. Ever since that fateful day all those centuries ago when she had proven herself to Lord Xandohr, the sovereign had shared with her the goal that drove him.

Rise to the pinnacle of prestige… surpass King Lucifer himself in power and take for himself the ultimate throne of Hell.

While Lieutenant Shoko held fierce pride in her abilities, she held no illusions that Lord Xandohr's forces would ever be able to reach that goal. The jump in power between Levels 4-6 and 7 was massive, Shoko dreaded to think of the gap between 4 and 9.

However, the female demon had promised herself to stand by her master's side for all of eternity. After all, for the man that enabled her to rise above the misogyny of their kind...

She would do anything, anything at all.

"As you wish, milord. Is there anything else that you require of me?" Lieutenant Shoko asked, putting that train of thought behind her.

", I believe that is all. Return to your quarters, I shall summon you if I am in need your services." Lord Xandohr dismissed.

The lieutenant bowed to her liege before shuffling out of the room. Meanwhile, Lord Xandohr gazed at his retreating subordinate's swaying hips, shapely figure, and alluring lavender complexion with interest and a tiny bit of lust.

"Oh my dear Shoko, how truly lovely you are. However, I cannot afford to distract myself. Not until I've fulfilled my destiny." Lord Xandohr thought, while striding up to a window.

The Demon Lord folded his arms behind his back as he looked over his vast kingdom. Many would've been satisfied, but the sovereign's avarice constantly prodded for more, his greed never feeling satisfied.

"Let the games begin." Lord Xandohr declared.

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