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

Chapter 68

[Jiraiya]

The legendary Sannin felt his eye twitch slightly at the back and forth going on behind him as they traveled.

Well, it was more one than the other, really, since one of the people involved mostly replied with one word or even just a grunt. Jiraiya wondered, for a moment, how Naruto managed to convince him to bring his teammate with him. 'Oh, right, the Mindscape thing,' He remembered with a slight grimace.

The Toad Sage wasn't sure how useful that would be trying to deal with the Kyubi, really. However, it had done the trick during Orochimaru's Invasion and the last thing they needed was for the Fox to turn even more hostile with Naruto if he didn't keep his word. So, he allowed the Uzumaki to spend an hour or so working in his mind.

As for the Uchiha that had tagged along, not only was the boy helping Naruto with that part of his training, exchanging ideas and tips, but the boy also needed someone that knew seals in case his Cursed Seal got out of hand. That had been the reason why Hiruzen had wholeheartedly agreed with the idea of Jiraiya taking Sasuke with them while looking for Tsunade, which had in turn contributed a lot with him accepting that slight change of plans.

Still, Jiraiya didn't like being in charge of an immature Jinchuriki and an unstable Uchiha one bit, that much he could tell anyone that cared to listen. Especially if some of the rumors he had been hearing as of late regarding the other Uchiha were true. Nervous as that information made him, he had to admit, albeit reluctantly, that taking both of them out of Konoha was a good idea.

The village had received too much damage and with the trouble that seemed to be brewing between villages, they couldn't afford as much security as they would have liked. Everyone had to be dedicated to getting their feet under themselves. Babysitting two people, no matter how high profile they were, had become low priority.

Now, if they could be placed under the watchful eye of a Sannin and out of the way though, that was perfect, right?

Sometimes Jiraiya hated logic.

He almost groaned as Naruto's voice grew louder, arguing something against the other Genin. With a sigh, the Sannin decided to distract himself with planning. There was much to do on this trip, after all.

First, he wanted to get started and give Naruto some notes regarding the Hiraishin, to see if they sparked something in the boy. Jiraiya was sure that if anyone could completely crack how the technique worked, it would be the young Uzumaki. Not because it was in his blood or anything, but because the boy took to seals like a fish in the water.

Fuinjutsu was something that could baffle most people, even those that were considered geniuses and prodigies. One had to have a special kind of mind to understand them, to comprehend how they worked and even more so to create seals. Naruto had that kind of mind, Jiraiya had quickly confirmed.

Second, and this was a new development in his plans, was to train the young Uchiha. He wasn't sure what to train the boy in or what to teach him, but he'd have to do something. If he didn't, he could already see him either demanding some kind of training or, even worse, Naruto doing so.

'When did I change jobs from spy master to babysitter, honestly,' Jiraiya thought to himself, feeling a headache coming his way.

Although Hatake had taught the Uchiha his technique, which had been derived from Minato's… Something to think about, he supposed. He'd have prefered to teach that to Naruto, but the boy seemed disinterested in most things that weren't related to seals. Sometimes he even outright rejected the idea. Really, the blonde had such a one track mind sometimes…

The third thing to plan for was his actual mission, which was predictably the most difficult. Getting Tsunade to come back to Konoha would be a pain, Jiraiya could already tell. There was a reason his former teammate hadn't so much as come close to approaching the village for years.

He was already preparing his speech because he knew it would have to be a good one. To Jiraiya, even the scroll with a message from their sensei didn't feel like it would be enough. It was a good thing that they just needed her to come back for the message it would send to everyone else and to have her expertise in medical jutsu. They weren't crazy enough to think that they could get her back on the field. With how things had turned for her, they could respect her decision to stay out of that

Jiraiya blinked, confused.

Not because his plans did that to him though. No, it was because of the silence that followed him. Naruto had shut his mouth, which was surprising enough on its own, but his teammate wasn't expressing anything either. That meant that it wasn't just that Naruto was waiting for a response on some question or something.

Honestly, if the Toad Sage hadn't been able to hear them walking behind him, he might have been worried about them disappearing. Not that he'd let his guard down that much, but still. A second later, his mind caught up and remembered.

After all, this had happened a few times already. He'd only needed to ask one time to be informed of the reason.

Eiji Satou.

The boy that was considered a hero of Konoha, at least by those in the know. There weren't many that were though, surprisingly. Jiraiya's sensei had managed to contain that information remarkably well, which was helped by the fact that most of the Konoha forces had been placed on the outskirts of the village and few had seen what happened around the arena.

Jiraiya, however, had one main reason to be thankful towards the boy. He had helped save his sensei's life by giving them the means to penetrate Orochimaru's barrier. It was, amusingly enough, also the main reason for everyone else to be thankful to him, although those tended to broaden it into saying that he was the main reason the Invasion had ended as quickly as it had, which wasn't wrong.

Getting the information about the Invasion in the first place, containing Killer B, giving them Nuibari to pierce the barrier, snapping B and A from whatever "supposed" control they had been under… Lots of reasons, really.

'And thus lots of reasons to be successful in this mission,' Jiraiya thought wryly. After all, Tsunade coming back could be the difference between that boy waking up or not from whatever had happened to him during the Invasion. 'Lot's of planning to make...'

[}-o-{]

Konoha was falling apart. Buildings crumbled, wood burned and rocks cracked. The ground shook without ever stopping and the trees and posts fell. The unstoppable force proved worthy of such description, pushing through anything and everything that stood remotely close to its path.

The only people inside could only do so much while the world around them was destroyed.

They did what they could, however, working as if their lives depended on it, which might have been the case. They monitored the Beast, they repaired damage where they could, they helped the others. It wasn't enough, however, their efforts slowly but surely leading them nowhere.

"This isn't working," One finally admitted.

"I know," Another replied, looking grimly at the apocalyptic sight before them.

[}-o-{]

[Anko Mitarashi]

She strode forward with a smirk on her face, despite the many angry eyes directed at her. Anko had gotten used to those years ago while in Konoha anyway. These ones might have come from much scarier looking "people" but they still didn't affect her at all. She was the one in the winning side anyway, evidenced by all of them being already subdued.

"Traitor," One of them hissed at her and she laughed.

"Funny you say that. I was the one that was betrayed first," Anko shot back, grin still in place.

"What did it matter anyway?" It asked mockingly. "You were weak. Still are, needing help from outsiders."

"If you didn't want us to be involved, you never should have messed with our Clan," Kumohoshi said. The gigantic black spider stood on top of Manda's bound body. The Chief of the Spiders had subdued the one from the Snake Clan with some help from Anko. "Besides, you should have seen this coming. Almost every Clan has a grudge against you. I bet they'd let me summon them here to take part. Your Contractor has done no favours to your already in shambles reputation."

At the mention of other Clans, Anko saw Manda's body tense up. Interesting that. She wondered who else Orochimaru had managed to piss off in his infinite need to experiment with powers that he was better off leaving alone. It didn't matter in the end, she supposed. Her former sensei would get what was coming to him now.

"You finally make your appearance, huh?" The pale pink spider that had so far simply stood on Anko's shoulder spoke.

The Mitarashi was sure that she and the dark blue spider on her other shoulder were something akin to elders of the Spiders. Nobody had come out and said as much, but everyone seemed to heed their words without question, even though Kumohoshi was the Chief. Besides, everyone called them Mother and Father but Anko doubted they were actually everyone's parents, since she knew for sure Shirakumo was Kumohoshi's daughter. It was probably a title of some kind, she supposed.

It wasn't the time to think about that though, Anko reminded herself. Especially since a new gigantic snake appeared. This one was completely white, however, with golden bracelet-like accessories put here and there around her body. 'The Snake version of… Mother and Father?' The Mitarashi guessed.

"So annoying," The white snake hissed, sounding like someone that had their nap interrupted instead of their territory attacked and their people subdued. 'Just like the Snakes,' Anko thought to herself withholding a sneer. 'Not a care about anyone but themselves.' "What are you doing here, spideys?"

"Just finishing our Clan's revenge for the actions of your Contractor," The blue spider, Father, replied.

"I see… Are you done, then?" The snake asked, looking around disinterestedly, despite all the snakes around being bound by silk and with spiders standing on top of them. However, when she turned towards Anko, the Tokubetsu Jounin could see the displeasure there in its slitted eyes, reminding her of the rare times she'd seen the same look on her former sensei. The rage hidden under a facade.

The fact that the look was directed at her and not the Spiders wasn't lost on her. Anko would be damned if she cowed before it though. She had done so when it was Orochimaru, and it would always be a mark of shame for her. She would never do so again. Strength, she may lack, but what she did have was pride.

"We are," Mother answered this time, the arachnid nodding along with the statement. "Time for us to leave, Anko."

"Of course," She agreed instantly. She certainly didn't want to be there longer than she had to. She could stand the glare of the snake, but she had no delusions about who would die if something happened. The Spiders might have taken out the Snakes, but she didn't know how the new addition would affect things. Better to quit while she was ahead.

"Is this your revenge too, Contractor Mitarashi?" The White One questioned, apparently not done with them yet. Anko, meanwhile, froze. "It's good to see that you have some of your sensei's mind and viciousness in there. I would have been disappointed if you didn't."

Before, Anko would have been greatly insulted by such a statement. Now, however, she knew that someone could be similar to a monster such as Orochimaru and not be anything like him at the same time. It was all in how they used those similarities. Besides, it wasn't like she would be seeing any of them again. She certainly wouldn't be the one to summ-

"The Snake Clan will work for you, Anko Mitarashi," The White One continued, still staring straight at her, and she froze. Her mind stopped working, unable to process that statement.

"Elder-?!" Manda started, obviously going to object to such a thing.

"Silence," The only free Snake ordered, and silence was what she got. "The Snake Clan recognizes you, Anko Mitarashi. We shall serve you as we did your teacher. All of us," She added, for once turning her glare to someone that wasn't Anko herself and directing it straight at Manda.

For a long moment, she stood there, unsure of what to do. Her mind tried to catch up with what the White One said and failed. Why was she saying such a thing? After what she'd done with the Spiders… Why? Was it a trap?

"She is being truthful," Mother told her, sounding confused but not nearly as much as she felt. "Maybe the Snakes aren't as much of a shame on all Animal Clans," The Elder Spider added, sounding like she was talking more to herself than to the Tokubetsu Jounin.

"It's your decision from now. Loath as we are to admit it, the Snake Clan is a formidable one, despite their often questionable choices of Contractors," Father said, sounding like it pained him to compliment the serpents. "It would certainly do the world some good to have them under a decent Contractor for once."

For a moment, Anko just stood there, taking in what was happening. She had half a mind to just tell the Snakes to go fuck themselves. She wanted nothing to do with them. However…

That would mean remaining the same, wouldn't it? She would go back and train as she always had. Remain a Tokubetsu Jouning, maybe getting to be a proper Jounin in a few years…

No, that just wouldn't do.

[}-o-{]

"Can you keep holding it?" One of the figures asked from one side. The three of them stood next to each other. The ones on the sides calm and collected, the one in the middle agitated and strained.

"I can," The one in the middle assured through gritted teeth. His arms extended in front of him, looking as if he was stopping the very world from moving if the effort he was putting was anything to go by.

"What's the plan now?" The one on the other side spoke this time. The three of them stared at the force of nature that had devastated Konoha as it twisted, turned and writhed in its newly formed container. "It's a stalemate."

"There has to be a way," The middle one forced out, sweat running down his face.

"They don't even know what we are dealing with," One of the figures told him. "No reinforcements are coming."

"I know."

[}-o-{]

[Gaara]

Kazekage.

They wanted to make him Kazekage.

If he weren't indifferent to the whole thing, Gaara would have questioned if they weren't the insane ones instead of himself. Who in their right mind would let him be Kage? Konoha and its allies, apparently.

Temari had explained to him how it would be in their interests to have him as Kazekage. They would have power over him considering his new… friendship with Eiji Satou. That and they probably thought they would be able to easily manipulate him since he was so young.

In the end, according to her, it didn't really matter since Suna would be under Konoha's thumb regardless. There was no way they would get away with the Invasion. As it was, putting him as Kazekage with strings attached to the Leaf was the best deal they could get, Temari supposed.

Gaara himself was indifferent to the whole thing. If anything, he might have been glad for it, really. It would probably give him an excuse to visit his… friend, at least.

It was still strange for him to think like that. To know that there was someone out there willing to associate with him. Even his siblings, with whom he was interacting a little more, making an effort to talk to and such, were still afraid of him. Gaara was sure that they wouldn't have stuck around him if not for their blood relations.

Satou, on the other hand, had volunteered. Through a deal, yes, but he had done so anyway. Openly and even enthusiastically, unless Gaara had completely misread that. It baffled the Suna ninja, really. Never had he thought he'd experience such a thing.

It was… Nice, he supposed.

During his visits to the hospital, that happened in between meetings regarding his "promotion" and time spent with his siblings, he'd met some of Satou's other friends. They were a mixed bunch, from what he could see, even though he hadn't actually talked to any of them. Seeing them interacting was enough to tell that they were very different from each other.

It gave Gaara hope that it wouldn't matter how different he seemed to be to the normal person their age.

It was very strange indeed. Some time ago, he wouldn't have cared for such a thing. He would have sneered at the thought that he could need someone else. Much less a friend. It was something that didn't interest him at all. What did he care, really. All he needed was Mother and power.

Now though, Mother's voice was nothing like before. He could tell now. There was something very wrong with it. It filled him with that cold feeling that he'd gotten used to so long ago. It reminded him too much of the nightmares he would have whenever he slept. He wanted nothing to do with that. That couldn't be his mother, he refused to believe so.

And as for his power… It had proved to not be enough. There were people out there that could easily destroy him. He wasn't strong enough. He probably never would be.

Surprisingly though, he was fine with that.

However, now his heart ached whenever he was alone. Gaara yearned for someone to be with him. He needed company, to keep "Mother"'s voice away and to forget how weak he truly was. It was half the reason he was putting so much effort into talking with his siblings, really.

It was also the reason he visited Satou often. While he sat there, in that hospital room, he could imagine how it would be if his… friend woke up, what they would do then. Would they just talk? Like he was doing with Temari and Kankuro now? Would they train, seek to become more powerful together? That seemed like something Satou did with his other friends, from what he'd heard in their conversations. Would they do something else?

"I'll invite you over for dinner and everything," Satou's words echoed in his mind. There was that too, he supposed. He wasn't a great fan of… well, eating. It was just something that needed to be done, right? However, now he wondered how different a meal would be when he was accompanied. Meals by himself felt hollow and meals with his siblings were tense, at the best of times. Would it be different with Satou?

While he was doing that, he could forget that he was practically alone in that room, except for the unconscious boy. Even when some of Satou's friends visited he was essentially by himself. After all, Gaara wasn't their friend.

Yet, at least.

"I'll invite my friends. I think you'll like them… at least some of them…"

Gaara wondered about that. From what he'd seen, most of Satou's friends were loud, except maybe the boy that had fought Temari - Nara, he remembered - , Uchiha and Aburame. Would they really… like him, as Satou said? Gaara rather doubted that, but if the other boy thought so, maybe he was wrong.

Satou had already proved him wrong about what his existence was supposed to be. He supposed it wouldn't be too much of a stretch for him to be right about this too. Gaara wondered how that would be, having a group of friends, people that willingly approached and interacted with him.

"Gaara?" A voice called, breaking him out of his thoughts. Turning his head, he found Temari, standing over at his room's door. She looked distinctly uncomfortable, but then again, she always did when she had to speak with him. "Kankuro and I were going to take the Leaf ninja up on their offer to use one of their Training Grounds… would you like to come too?" She asked.

Gaara himself, meanwhile, was surprised. This was the first time his sister had come to him without having to. The two of them could have easily gone without him, after all. For a moment, he stared at her, processing this new development. In the meantime, Temari seemed to grow more and more nervous as time passed. Eventually, he replied.

"Yes. I'd… like that," He replied, standing from where he'd been sitting cross legged on the floor.

Was that another change that Satou had brought to his life, to make his siblings be more… friendly with him? That couldn't be it though. He'd barely interacted with them, as far as Gaara was aware. He wasn't sure if he'd interacted with them at all, besides indirectly sending a message through the Nara.

So, was this a result of Gaara's change? Was this because he'd been more open with his sister and brother? Was it because he'd made an effort to approach them and now they were reciprocating that? If so… then he supposed it was because of Satou, if indirectly so.

'I guess I'll have to thank him, when he wakes up,' Gaara thought as he followed Temari, together with Kankuro, towards the Training Grounds. He'd definitely have to thank Satou. Barely any time had passed and his life was already unrecognizable from what it had been before.

[}-o-{]

Eiji Satou laid on his bed, during one of his scarce moments of solitude in his stay at the hospital. Where there were usually a few friends visiting, now there were only empty chairs. As if reflecting that, the light of the sun was slowly but surely leaving place to the darkness of the night. The wind rescinded and the curtains barely moved with the lightest of breezes.

That's what he woke up to.

He stirred weakly, a whisper of a groan leaving his mouth. His body was in excruciating pain but that was to be expected. His chakra coils felt like they had fire coursing through them instead of energy. His right eye was particularly damaged, he could tell. It was covered in bandages that did nothing to assuage the tender skin and the smallest of twitches sent waves of pain through him.

Still, he was awake now, which was much better than how things had been a moment before.

He took a shaky breath in, trying to gather himself despite the weak state of his body and how torturous just being awake was. He pulled his mind together as best he could, having been through worse in his life than pain. There was a lot to do and the more time he wasted the more things could change for the worse.

He needed help and to get it he needed to act. Every second counted. He stirred once more, determined to, this time, actually do something. And like that, Eiji Satou's eye finally opened.

Only, it wasn't red, no.

It was a golden eye with a slitted pupil.

One of a pair of eyes that were infamous through the Elemental Nations.

[} Chapter End {]

Hey guys! How's it going?

Surprisingly, I don't have much to say regarding this chapter. I'm really curious about your thoughts though, so I look forward to reading them.

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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

Random Question: Regarding Suna, which is your favorite, Fans or Puppets? Personally, I would go for the puppets unless I had a Wind or Fire affinity. Puppets just sound like something I'd have a ton of fun messing around with. It'd be like having a watered down Shadow Clone but with some fun tricks to make up for it.

See you.