Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto nor The Gamer. I own nothing, really.

Cover Art: Kissuli.

Chapter 122

"I have to say," Nagato's main puppet started, standing next to Konan. Eiji stared at them, even if he was more focused on the other five bodies. Although, saying that was a bit of an exaggeration. After all, the boy was more focused on one of them in particular. "I don't know what that is, or why it feels like a chakra beast, but it doesn't matter," the Akatsuki leader continued speaking. "Even still, you've-"

"Now," Kage told him and a second later, Eiji felt it. In the blink of an eye, more specifically his eyes, the balance of the energies inside him was reached. His eyes then turned an even, beady black not unlike those of his summons, in most cases.

He didn't waste any time, activating all of his active skills instantly and blurring, for himself and for his enemies. In the span of a single instant, one of his fists went straight towards the Naraka Path's head and the other through its chest. As he pulled back, the thing exploded from the majorly overpowered tags he'd added in the latter strike for good measure.

'No bringing back the dead puppets, Nagato, sorry,' Eiji thought to himself, flickering towards another path. The Animal Path, to be precise. He didn't manage to get to it, of course, as the Deva Path used its ability to push things to get Eiji away from the animal summoning puppet. That was fine, because-

The Preta Path was pierced right through from the very ground as Nuibari came up. He wasn't quite sure that would kill the guy, so he controlled the weapon and wire to tie/sew the puppet up. From what he knew and memorized, that particular path could absorb chakra. And while going the Naruto route and flooding it with Natural Chakra was an option, that'd taken too long and he just didn't have time. Naruto needed him, Eiji needed to be done with this mess really quick, either by making the "pair" run away or just killing them.

The latter was a bit of wishful thinking, considering that he'd have to look for Nagato's actual body if he really wanted to deal with him permanently. Unfortunately for him, he just didn't have the time to do that. He'd have to put it off for later.

As it was, Nuibari's wire should be strong enough to hold the guy down even if the chakra was absorbed. 'Now for the other four paths,' Eiji thought to himself. Right before his thoughts were interrupted by the Deva path.

This time, the main puppet used its power to attract instead of push, pulling Eiji's body towards it. Except, in the middle gathered a small storm of paper made by Konan. 'Oh, no, fuck that,' Eiji thought, activating Conflagration. He wasn't very sure how effective the fire would be against the jutsu paper, but if nothing else, it'd made it difficult for the pair to see him.

If the paper was as dangerous as he thought it was, World Ender would have to take care of the damage. 'God, I miss times when I could actually dodge stuff instead of tanking,' Eiji complained, as he continued his aerial trip, his body being cut everywhere as the razor sharp paper tried to tear his body apart. 'Death by a thousand cuts… That's not gonna stop me and you know that,' He added, preparing to engage in close combat if it came to that.

Sure enough, he did, although not with who he expected. The Senjutsu of the Spiders was, as he'd figured out quite a while ago, much better at sensing than he could be with Web Sense. He couldn't quite see the future or anything, but he could sense how someone's muscles moved and guess what they'd do due to that.

Which is why he saw the Human Path coming when the puppet body dashed towards him and tried to get a hold of him.

Twisting his body away from the extended hand, Eiji kicked the guy away. He'd have followed that up, but the Asura Path soon followed. The punch to his chest that Eiji couldn't quite dodge hit like he imagined a sledgehammer would if he were a normal person. Smacking him against the ground, which cracked under the pressure.

'Oh, no, it won't be that easy,' Eiji thought determinedly when he felt the Deva path float itself to try and put itself over him. No doubt trying to use his Almighty Push or whatever the technique was called to press him against the ground and incapacitate him.

Eiji Flickered away, dashing towards the Animal Path as it seemed to go to summon something. Before reaching it though, he Flickered to the side. The move was evidently the right call, because the very ground tore itself to pieces under the attractive power of the Deva Path. He tried again, but sensing the main body going for another interception, he switched targets to the Asura Path, who was apparently preparing to shoot him with… some kind of missile-like projectiles.

Evidently, Nagato expected him to dodge that, because the Deva Path didn't try to intercept this time. The Animal Path behind him, summoned some kind of gigantic creature, but if he was honest, Eiji was the least worried about that one. As for the Human Path and Konan, they seemed to be keeping their distance for the moment thanks to all the fire he was still casting on his surroundings.

As for Eiji himself, he powered through the explosions, using Flickers every time one of the projectiles messed up his momentum. Nagato seemed to realize that the things wouldn't stop him because he tried to use the cannon that the Asura Path had for a head. 'A body that is an actual puppet, I just realized,' Eiji mused, almost absently stopping that attack from happening by wrapping the Path's head with wires.

That bought him enough time to reach and destroy the puppet with a flurry of strikes powered with everything he could boost his body with.

'Three down, five to go,' Eiji thought to himself, aware that there was no way he was getting at least one of those, since the count included Nagato's actual body.

A paper spear pierced through his thigh from behind, proving once more that his fire technique was little more than a smokescreen but more dangerous looking. Sure, the flames did eat through the sheets that Konan used for her techniques, but it was a slow, ineffective process. Only thing that was doing was make the woman have to use more chakra to keep her paper amounts, because he was certainly not stopping the attacks from coming and hitting even through the flames.

Eiji jumped over the paw of the oversized beast that the Animal Path had summoned, taking that moment to take out the weapon from his leg. Unfortunately for him, Pain wasn't going to let him just do that, and used the Deva Path to pull him from the air. Fortunately for Eiji, he had his ways to move even when mid air.

One of his wires shot out, partially hidden by the fire of Conflagration and kept at a low height to be even less noticeable. The thread then wrapped around the Animal Path's leg, promptly pulling him with Eiji. It was a momentary thing, since the summoner body wasted no time catching itself. Which worked well for the solitary Konoha nin, since it allowed him to have an anchor.

Still in the middle of the air, right between the Deva Path, Nagato's main Pain puppet, and the Animal Path, the beast summoner, Eiji unleashed the Sacred Flock. S-Class technique that it was, it made the Human Path jump away and Konan broke into a thousand pieces of paper. The remaining two couldn't very well move, since those were the ones containing him.

That was fine, those were the ones he wanted to hit. Or, really, he only wanted the Deva Path gone. He was the most troublesome and dangerous. Suddenly, that very body puppet pushed him away instead of continuing to pull, sending Eiji straight into the Animal Path. Who promptly wrapped its arms around him.

Except…

"It's stealing Tsuchigumo's chakra, Eiji," Kage informed him, even if he'd noticed almost at the same time.

'I was wondering why Nagato didn't use all his abilities in all his puppets,' Eiji thought to himself then before something else was called to his attention.

"The beast disappeared," Kage told him then. "He can't use more than one per body, for whatever reason," He explained.

"That was more troublesome than I expected," The Deva Path commented, floating down in front of Eiji as he struggled against the hold. Or that's the image he wanted to sell, at least. "Fortunately, recovering all the bodies won't be all that much trouble," The Akatsuki leader said through his main body puppet.

Right, he could just use the Nakara Path through that body or the one that was holding Eiji at that moment. After the fight was done, that is, because the guy seemed in no hurry to do so at that moment. He guaranteed some wariness, it seemed. Eiji couldn't bring himself to feel proud of that.

"Kage," Eiji said in his mind.

"On it," The male twin said instantly.

"Watch duty, Tsuchi," The boy added then, getting a whine from the beast. "None of that, it's better if you recede now," He continued, and felt the beast chakra leave his body. The phantom spider limbs disappeared. He'd have used those to fight off the Path that was holding him, but he'd changed plans slightly.

He used the moment of pause, as Konan formed and looked at him intently next to the main body puppet, waiting for him to just crumble after his chakra was depleted, no doubt. Unfortunately for them, that wouldn't be happening. It was fortunate that even if they knew he had a – or something like a – chakra beast, they didn't know the full extent of her capabilities.

Evidently, they also either didn't know what Natural Energy felt like, or what large quantities of it could do, because the Path that was holding him started turning to stone. The split second it took them to react was all Eiji needed. Calling off the twins and urging Tsuchigumo forward, he called for all the power he could, which wasn't really necessary, he soon learned.

As he'd thought, the spider limbs Tsuchi's "transformation" granted him were enough to take care of the Path. Or maybe the rage the chakra beast felt for that particular body puppet was what made it so easy. In the end, what mattered was that the four things that his adorable tenant gave him tore through the Animal Path's – Or was it Preta Path after changing its ability? – body.

He hadn't been idle while waiting though, and wires instantly all but jumped from the ground and wrapped themselves around the Human Path. 'No mind attacks for you, Nagato,' Eiji thought to himself, taking a deep breath in.

"And then there were two," Eiji said, his breathing slightly ragged. Not so much from the fight as much as for the fight being right after running an entire Nation's distance. Having to deal with this pair and being perfectly aware of his brother's dangerous situation… He thought he could be forgiven if he was a little out of it.

"Very troublesome indeed," Nagato said through the only remaining Path, the Deva Path. He sounded annoyed, which was saying something. The guy hadn't expressed or even shown much emotion throughout the whole thing. At least from what Eiji had picked up. "I think that's-"

Eiji didn't let him finish.

"Tsuchi," He called, and the beast did exactly as he was thinking. Activating Conflagration once more, he looked as flames covered the entirety of their surroundings. This time, however, the flames weren't their natural color. No, instead, they were a dark blue, exactly like Tsuchigumo's chakra. She was powering and overpowering his jutsu this time.

The female cry that reached his ears told him that Konan didn't come out unscathed this time. Good, that had been the intent. When Eiji felt the pull of the Deva Path, he used the spider limbs to anchor himself to the ground. The fight was still on and he was very done with it all. He just wanted to reach Naruto and help him. Pain, Konan and whoever else got in his way better be ready to die.

The Deva Path changed tactics then, because there was a pause in the pull as it floated up. No doubt preparing for his strongest technique, like Eiji would just wait there for it or something. As Pain moved, he did too, jumping up and commanding his threads to grab the puppet body to pull himself closer. The Sacred Flock took flight once more through the sea of blue flames. Konan was too busy trying to get away from Conflagration, but Pain was still making a nuisance of himself and he was the target of the lightning birds.

Eiji was aware that he was throwing cards away. Aces that he'd kept up his sleeve for the end game were turning to ashes in front of his very eyes. At the rate he was going, he'd have no secrets left to use by the end of the fight, still having plenty of enemies to fight. That didn't matter though, none of it did.

He'd make new aces if he had to, he'd find new ways to deal with Akatsuki.

What he couldn't do was find a new Naruto.

The Deva Path's push came then and there, the wires Eiji used to grab the man pressing against his body, wanting to dig into it. Eiji wasn't too concerned about that, first because World Ender would take care of any injury and second because it was much the same for Pain himself and he didn't have a technique to heal himself.

Then Nagato decided to change tactics once more.

The push turned into a pull, so strong that Eiji practically Flickered right in front of him. The puppet body then snapped a hand forward and grabbed his forehead. That was all before-

"Oh, no, none of that," Kage snarled in Eiji's mind.

"You aren't welcome here, Pain," Hachi continued, much colder.

Tsuchigumo barked and growled menacingly.

It took the boy barely a second to realize what he was doing. Especially when he felt his body freeze. Conflagration still raged, but Nagato's attack was enough to dispel the Sacred Flock since it required more fine control. 'The Human Path? The one that attacks minds?'

"What is this?" Nagato said through his puppet body, sounding surprisingly shocked.

'That's fine, stay there,' Eiji thought to himself, watching as the Deva Path – Human Path? – continued to slowly, very slowly be burned by Conflagration's flames. His hands balled into fists though. He didn't have the time to wait for it. Then he noticed…

If he could move his fingers…

He focused as much as he could, he could move. His body locking up had to be a first reaction to the attack on his mind. The twins and Tsuchi were there though. If a chakra beast's rampage hadn't broken his mind, Pain sure as hell wouldn't either. He was stronger than that.

He still needed to deal with the guy though.

"How did you even-?" Whatever he'd done, Eiji didn't find out, because his fist pierced through the chest of the puppet body. The hand grabbing his head loosened its grip, but he wasn't done yet. Another punch to Pain's face sent him flying. 'No, no, I'm not done with you yet,' Eiji thought, Flickering after the puppet body.

Without having to defend his mind, the twins and Tsuchigumo returned to their posts. Mainly the latter, flooding his body with chakra once more. The returned spider limbs pierced a limb each as they reached the Path, whichever it might have been at the moment. Sunfire Cape and World Ender roared, boosting his body on top of every Energy Skill he could use.

And then the last of Pain's bodies was gone.

'But Nagato is still out there,' Eiji thought with a grimace. Konan too, since the woman had fled as fast as she could. He could sense her getting away through his threads but… But he couldn't chase after her. He couldn't search for the Akatsuki leader's main body.

No, he had other things to do.

It'd have to be a battle for another time.

"Eiji, come on," Kage said then, dragging his thoughts into a more coherent realm. "You are almost there, pull yourself together."

He was so tired though and everything burned. He took a deep breath in. No, he could continue, just a little longer. Just until Naruto was safe.

"We should store the bodies, in case Pain wants to get them back somehow," Hachi suggested and he nodded absently.

Eiji made a clone then, throwing a storage scroll at it and leaving it to that. It'd take the scroll to the spiders after it was done and that would be that. He still didn't know what had happened to the spiders stationed in Suna, but that would be a question to ask later.

With another deep breath in and with Tsuchigumo's energy burning his chakra coils, he started Flickering again. If Pain's delay was enough to condemn his brother, Eiji swore… He'd find a way to destroy Nagato more than he already was. He'd take his eyes, he'd kill Konan and god forbid if the man cared for Amegakure.

"Calm yourself, Eiji," Hachi whispered softly and he did his best to follow her advice. It was difficult, so very difficult. Tsuchigumo was fueling his wilder emotions and he wasn't in a condition to be calm in the first place. The twins didn't offer to take over though, because they knew they would have to deal with all that, and none of them could very well put up with all that and remain calm.

Instead, the twins rose up in his mind, offering some support. Taking some of the mental strain as they helped him Flicker forward. Eiji felt his head clear a bit, and he sent a wave of gratitude towards the two.

As he moved, ignoring the disaster zone that he left behind, a part of his mind couldn't help but lament not being able to go after those two. If he could just… take them out of the board, permanently at that… It'd change everything. It'd be quite the move on his part and the game he was playing would be that much closer to the end.

He couldn't, however.

Exhausted and annoyed and in pain he might be, but Eiji still had his priorities and his family was in the highest place. There was already a chance that Naruto would be… There was a chance that he was already too late, but he'd be damned if he didn't still try his best to save him. He couldn't just risk it. There was no way he'd gamble with the blonde's life like that, he just couldn't.

"Everyone has to make hard choices sometimes, Eiji," Hachi told him, reassuringly.

"For what it's worth, I think you made the right call, for yourself if nothing else," Kage added, which did actually mean something.

And so Eiji moved, trying to keep his worries, his nerves and his doubts to the side and focus on what he was doing. Which was challenging enough, if he was honest. Moving as fast as he was in the desert wasn't something that he was used to, to put it mildly. It was very different from doing so on land, that was for sure. He had to do his best not to pull a Jirobo and fall face first into the dunes.

Which brought his mind to his team. He wondered if they were following him as best they could. That was his best guess as to what they would do, but there was a chance that Kabuto would go to Tsunade to ask for orders and they might do something different. Eiji rather doubted it though, but it was a possibility.

He wondered if any of his friends were aware of what was happening. The ones in Iwa might know, at least, but… Well, Eiji doubted anyone wanted more people rushing to Suna. Especially those that would have a hard time actually doing anything in the situation.

He was running out of mental distractions.

No thought could keep his mind occupied as he traveled, each step bringing his mind back to what he was doing. Or trying to do, at least. 'Just a bit more,' he thought to himself, pleaded, more like. 'Hold on a little more, Naruto, come on.'

He'd be ok.

Eiji's brother would be ok.

He had to be.

That was when he saw, far into the distance, the cloud of smoke that could only mean one thing. That had to be Naruto. Eiji's brother was, indeed, still fighting. 'That's the number one unpredictable ninja,' Eiji thought to himself. However, the relief outshone that feeling quite easily. 'Now, let's deal with these two and be done with this god forsaken day. Just hang on, Naruto.'

[}-o-{]

[Nagato]

"That was… unexpected," he muttered inside the cave he'd hidden himself in while controlling his Paths. In a flurry of paper sheets, Konan appeared in front of him. Nagato would freely admit to being concerned when he saw the burn mark on the woman's arm. When had been the last time he'd seen her hurt?

"He got Yahiko's body," was the first thing she said, sounding hurt. In some way, Nagato understood what she must be feeling, but he also didn't.

As the one to control the Paths, he'd long since stopped seeing them as people. They were what puppets were to Suna's puppeteers, tools. It was a perspective he'd gained with time, however, and he could easily remember how it'd been at the start, when he could almost fool himself into thinking Yahiko was still there with them.

"He got all of them," Nagato replied, keeping his voice neutral. Konan, for her part, simply nodded and they remained in silence for a long moment.

"The Weaver took the remains," she said then, almost sounding angry. Almost, but not quite.

"No doubt to stop us from getting the Paths up immediately," Nagato reasoned and he could respect the decision. The same way he could respect the Weaver for his strength. The same way he could respect… "What do you think of him?"

"I guess you aren't asking regarding the fight or what he did just now?" Konan asked, unsurprisingly figuring out where he was going with the question instantly. "I think you know what I think," she answered simply.

Nagato guessed that was fair enough. They'd had many conversations on the matter of their main… Rival, as it were. Eiji Satou was, after all, the one hunting down their members. The one fighting back against them, directly at least.

The boy, now turning into a man, was a thorn on his side, yes. However, Nagato couldn't very well not respect him for what he did. For what he'd accomplished in his short but rather impressive career, if nothing else.

The silence stretched for much longer then and Nagato had to wonder what his dear friend was thinking. He knew he was quite… vexed by what had been happening as of late. Plans had fallen apart, surprises had appeared and questions had popped in his mind.

That was, perhaps, the biggest accomplishment of the boy that had taken out each of his Paths. Making Nagato think, question and reconsider. He'd been confused for a long time and now… With all that had been happening as of late, even more so. However, he also found himself quite… curious.

The world seemed to be changing and Nagato wanted to see just what it'd be by the end of it all. He wanted to know if it'd be closer to his and his teacher's vision or if it'd be the opposite. The world walking an unexplored path and uncertainty was the only thing that was assured.

He was still curious though.

And maybe, just maybe, Nagato would get to see the outcome of it all.

[} Chapter End {]

Hey guys! How's it going?

God, this fight was a nightmare to write, I tell you.

If it's very confusing how the fight jumps from Nagato's body puppets or Paths or whatever, I apologize. I did what I could, but since this is the same person with six bodies to control, I don't know how I could have made it any better, really. It was confusing for me too, if it's any consolation.

Also, some people might complain that the fight was too short, or Pain was too easy and… I kind of, but not really, agree. You see, Nagato is monstrously strong, yes, but so is Eiji. On top of that, most of Pain's strength comes from the fact that his enemies don't know what the Paths can do or that he controls all of them and such. Eiji does know though, and he has solid counters for most of them too. So… The fight turned out much differently than I first thought when I started the chapter, that's for sure.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the chapter.

As always, if you can't wait until next week for next chapter, there's up to three new chapters in my Pa tre on:

P a treon . com (slash) AdrianKing

Discord Link: discord .gg/UTDransjJZ

Random Question: Which is your favorite Path of Pain? I… Don't really like any of them, to be perfectly honest. But if I really have to choose one, then I'll go for the Animal Path, only because I really like summoning.

See you.