Tsunade yawned tiredly and continued to do the paperwork, the bane of her existence. She grunted in annoyance and glared at the photo on her desk, Naruto's gothic photo. It was a prank but… also the only thing she had of him, along with the hat and the endless paperwork attached to it of course. She sighed and caressed the photo over the glass, wondering what he was doing. It was something she was doing frequently in the last three years, she and Jiraiya both. The latter was still trying to find any leads about his whereabouts but no luck, as if the earth swallowed him up.

She sighed, feeling her age more and more as she grabbed a bottle of sake under her desk and turned around to watch the setting sun and the stone heads while enjoying her…

She paused and squinted at the hokage memorial - more specifically, the person sitting on Sandaime's head.

Black cloak with red clouds, straw hat with white strips of cloth to conceal identity.

Akatsuki.

She put down the sake bottle and glared at them. She opened her mouth to call the ANBU but… then she felt like something was wrong.

Why would an akatsuki member come to Konoha and climb up the hokage monument of all places?

She sighed and continued to glare at the person in thought.

"ANBU!" she didn't turn around but felt the shunshin.

"Hokage-sama?"

"Get me Jiraiya, tell him it is urgent."

"Hai." Again, the silent shunshin. She glared in irritation at the robed ninja a little more, then reached down for her sake bottle.

He was gone when she looked at the monument again. Her eyes widened. The ANBU and Jiraiya arrived moments later.

"Hime! I would have come sooner if i knew you..."

"ANBU! I want the gates closed off and the whole village surveilled! There is an akatsuki member in Konoha!" that drained away Jiraiya's joyful mood instantly.

"Are you sure, Tsunade? Did you see them?" She glared outside of her window and tried to find the robed person with her eyes.

"Yes, On the mountain of all places. Who knows where…"

She glared incredulously at the ANBU still in the room.

"What the…! Did you not hear me?! I told you…!"

"I can't tell there had been a siege if I hadn't seen it myself…" Tsunade and Jirayia both gaped at the ANBU... with a voice all too familiar.

"N… N-Naruto?" The ANBU turned to them and they saw glowing sapphire eyes in the eye holes of the mask.

"Long time no see Tsunade, Jiraiya…" his eyes jumped from one from another as he said their names. "...certainly longer than I intended but… I have been busy." She didn't like the way he said 'busy' but let it slide.

For now.

"You didn't… kill the ANBU, did you?" Jiraiya saw her tensing slightly and copied her in case of a confrontation.

"Pfft… No, I just made him believe you asked for my peers instead of the perv." They relaxed again.

"It is 'Jiraiya the Gallant' for you, brat…" Jiraiya crossed his arms and gave him a dry glare.

"Sorry, I made him believe you asked for my peers instead of Jiraiya the Perv and fetched him away from peeping on the women at the hot springs. Not that I was expecting to find him anywhere else…" Tsunade shook her head with a grin at their antics.

"In any case..." She drew their attention back to herself. "... It is good to see you again. Drop the disguise so I can see you properly." The blond sighed.

"Boss will be visiting Sasuke three weeks later, at Orochimaru's hideout in Kusa. He would be grateful if you tell the others and send them if they want to. Sorry... I… don't think I have-" The clone ran out of chakra and vanished in a puff of smoke.

"Hime…" Tsunade closed her eyes and gritted her teeth. She took a huge swing from the bottle beside her and gave it to the pervert. Jiraiya accepted after shooting a sour glance at it and finished the rest.

"Fuck… Fuck!" She slammed her fists on the desk, making the wood groan in protest. Jiraiya couldn't offer any words so just sighed in melancholy.

"He could be the next hokage… sorry, he was already hokage before konoha chased him away!" She glared hatefully down to the village from her window. "He only wanted to be treated decently, was it so hard?!" There was knocking at her door. She breathed deeply to calm herself down a bit.

"Enter!" She answered with more anger than she intended. The ANBU entered with the others in tow.

"Hokage-sama." the ANBU announced after taking a glance at the serious face of Jiraiya.

"Thank you, dismissed." Tsunade said after a deep sigh and turned around. The ANBU nodded curtly and left in a swirl of leaves.

"Shishou?" Sakura asked unsurely after a few seconds of silence, in which Tsunade was staring at Naruto's photo on her desk. Tsunade sighed again before speaking.

"We have a lead on Naruto's whereabouts… along with Sasuke's."

A beat… two…

Then all hell broke loose. A tick grew on Tsunade's eyebrow but Hinata beat her to the punch as she glared them all into silent submission with her byakugan activated… which would be kind of funny three years ago.

She heard about their meeting in the Ichiraku Ramen before the blond defected. She doesn't know what exactly he said but it motivated them all, they were all at least chunin by now. Neji, Shikamaru, Hinata… and Sakura of all people were jonins.

Hinata had been affected the most from the meeting, changing almost completely. Gone was the shy girl who couldn't look someone in the eye for long, hiding in baggy clothes and behind overly kind words. She shed her baggy coat for a jonin flak jacket over a fishnet t-shirt and anbu style shorts with bandages on her shins, grew her lavender hair to a high ponytail with bangs flowing down freely from the sides of her face, and left her over-kind personality for good. She took being a ninja very seriously and quickly climbed the ranks and reached the jonin rank in a year, leaving all of her peers in dust.

Now, she was an ANBU in all but the name.

Neji followed her next year, 'genius' superiority almost completely broken, especially when Hinata outranked him by being a chunin before him. Now he was a very valuable asset to Konoha, another thing credited to Naruto, semi-directly or not.

Sasuke was an exception but Tsunade deemed him chunin material before he defected… not that she was sad, surprised or anything. Anyone who knew him a little was sure he was going to defect sooner or later, he was only around because Kakashi was training him with sharingan...and mangekyou, but only a select few knew about the latter including herself.

Sakura and Ino were sad because of his departure but managed to deal with it constructively, former more than latter. She took her training like a fish to water and was a chunin in the next year's exams. She passed jounin exams last year and she is a proud kunoichi now, someone that she can be proud of… if you ignore some of her moments.

Above all else, Shikamaru surprised her the most. She was sure the lazy genius was going to be a chunin for the rest of his life but he suddenly took the jonin exams last year and passed… not with flying colors but it was expected considering his tendency to do bare minimum in pretty much everything in his life. Still, she would hate to be against him. Giving him time to make a plan was a grave mistake at best, suicidal at worst.

All in all, Naruto is a natural leader that inspired his peers and more than deserving of the chair she was sitting on.

She sighed once again and waved the clouds of thought from her mind.

"What do we have on Na- I mean on them, hokage-sama?" She momentarily grinned a little at Hinata's slip but got down to business after that.

"His clone told me he is going to visit Sasuke at one of Orochimaru's hideouts in Taki. In three weeks." She eyed them to gauge their reaction. Some of them were excited, others nervous and all of them were thoughtful.

"Permission to check it out, hokage-sama?" Sai asked formally.

He was a dilemma, him and Yakumo. Their shinobi entries were put on her desk a few days after the blond's defection and that was the first time she was aware of their existence. Sai's past was redacted, and stunk heavily of Root while Yakumo was the jewel of the kurama clan… then she was kicked out after an S-rank mission involving Sk- Naruto and Kurenai of all people. She learned from the latter that the mission was a success and Naruto removed the demon in the girl's head, Ido. She was hospitalized during the operation and was unstable after that. The yakumo clan elders decided to remove her from the clan and sent her to the asylum after deciding she was a lost cause. They were wrong, she preserved and left the asylum with Sai after her recovery. Without Ido she was stronger than ever and joined the shinobi ranks with Sai. They tried to reclaim her back to the clan, forcefully when she declined. When she killed the agents sent for her, they had to accept the fact that she was gone. Tsunade put them together with Sakura and Kakashi to make the team 7 a full squad once again after Sasuke's defection.

"Granted. Jiraiya will accompany you." Jiraiya glanced at her but didn't say anything. "We don't know how long he will stay there so start packing and leave Konoha tomorrow. Dismissed." They left quickly after that.

"Do you think it is a good idea? Orochimaru, Sasuke and… and Naruto are missing ninjas." Jiraiya asked after only him and Tsunade were left in the room. Tsunade sighed and turned her chair to look at the hokage monument without saying anything.

XXXXX

In another part of the world, a young man grinned to himself. He had a straw hat with white strips of cloth on his head, to conceal his identity… Even so, the black robes with red clouds over his shoulders as a cape stated his affiliation quite openly. He sighed in contentment and shoved his hands into pockets of his dark blue capri shorts. His black fish-net t-shirt made a soft sound as he turned to the other akatsuki members behind him… on their knees.

"Let's call it a day." Itachi panted a few more times and got up with a deep sigh after that. He carried a lock of hair dripping with sweat away from his face and dusted his sweaty pants a bit as Kisame got up with Sameheda's help and stretched his back with a groan. In contrast to them, Naruto was completely fine. He watched them recover as his long blond strands and white cloth strips waved gently with the soft breeze, the small bell tied to his hat made soothing chimes as they did so. He handed them both bamboo containers of water from his wrist seal when they were close enough.

"Can we do something… I don't know, lighter maybe?" He said while cracking his neck with a grimace, couldn't believe himself for saying this if it was a few years ago. Itachi grinned a bit at his accusatory tone.

"Forgive me…" His sharingan changed to the next level with a flare of chakra.

"... still trying to get used to my new eyes." He glanced at Itachi's new eyes, a 'gift' from Fugaku. A single dot replaced his pupil and three more added between the 'blades' of his old mangekyou.(1) Naruto grinned with an amused snort.

"They look good on you… Now, try to snuff out the lingering Amaterasu." Itachi closed his eyes, took a deep breath and let it out of his mouth. Kisame's hackles arose as the Uchiha snapped open his eyes with a sharp flare of chakra and focused on the black flames burning various trees around them. It took a bit of time but there were no flames after that. He let out an exhausted sigh and wiped the blood lazily sliding down his cheek.

"Snuffing them puts more strain on my eye than setting them." Naruto hummed in agreement.

"That is because you are more used to setting them. It will go in time." Itachi grunted softly.

"Yes, sensei." Naruto's eyes lingered on Itachi for a moment more, then trailed to the destroyed landscape. He made a snake hand seal. Tremors made the duo stumble and almost fell down to their knees again as the blond revived the forest in seconds. He broke the hand seal when he was satisfied with the forest's density.

"There. Good as new."

"It is new." Kisame said with a sweat-drop. Naruto shrugged. Kisame shook his head dismissively.

"Leader-sama wants us to gather up." Naruto hummed an affirmative.

"Yeah, I guess it is time…" They sat around the base of a tree and did a ram hand seal with closed eyes. When they opened their eyes, they were in a cave with a lantern in the middle. Naruto eyed the members one by one then his eyes stayed on Nagato, himself this time.

"I trust the three tails have been reformed." His voice was deformed a bit because of his cousin's technique. Deidara glanced at his fellow blond for a second, then his eyes trailed to Nagato.

"Didn't know there had been a change in leadership…" he trailed off, putting the thoughts of the majority of them into words. Nagato glanced at him for a moment then turned to Naruto.

"Yes, confirmed by our sources." Naruto glanced at Zetsu but nodded nevertheless.

"I see. I will deal with it. Leave six tails to me too and bring the others." Nagato stared for a moment.

"Very well. Sasori, you and Deidara go to Suna and bring one tail. Kakuzu and Hidan go to Kumo for two tails. Itachi and Kisame…" Naruto cut him off with a grunt.

"I have a different plan with Itachi." He turned to Kisame. "... take In'ei instead." Nagato and a few others glanced at him curiously but didn't say anything. Nagato continued after a few seconds.

"... Very well. Kisame, you and him will go to Iwa for four tails. Five tails is also in Iwa, capture him too if you can." His rippled eyes passed over them all.

"That leaves seven and eight tails." Sasori observed. Nagato nodded.

"I will deal with seven tails. Leave eight for the time being, I will think about it. Focus on the others." He eyed them all once again.

"Eight tails is one Killer Bee, shinobi of Kumo." Sasori provided. Hidan grinned at the opportunity for more bloodshed.

"We can get the fucker too-"

"Leave the eight tails for the time being." Nagato stared at the Jashinist and they felt the aura Pein was emitting, only even stronger. Hidan shut up for once.

"That is all, you have your assignments. Remember, they need to be alive. Failure of this is not an option. Dismissed." They left one by one until only the blond, Nagato, Konan, Zetsu and Obito in the shadows left. Naruto eyed the Uchiha.

"It is time for you to get on the scene, eight tails is on you." Sapphire eyes met a crimson and a magenta eye. The reaction of the uchiha's body enchantments with the 'knight' was a surprise, it triggered Hashirama's cells to regenerate the lost eye in his left eye socket… and turned the eye in his right to a rinnegan. He changed his old mask to accommodate that, with a black one with white flame-like motives on the bottom… and two eye holes for once. He pushed the wall he was leaning on with a soft grunt.

"Of course." He left in his signature space-time vortex. The blond turned to Zetsu.

"Zetsu, Find me the exact location of six tails." Zetsu left without saying anything.

"Konan, can you find a place in Ame for the jinchuriki to stay?" She and Nagato exchanged a glance.

"I thought we were going to extract the tailed beasts from them and dispose of the bodies." The blond shook his head.

"Plans changed, I want to talk to them before deciding how to proceed." The duo shared another glance.

"Very well."

"Somewhere on the outskirts of the village if you can, where they won't do much damage if they react to being kidnapped violently." She paused for a moment in thought and nodded.

"Sure."

"That is all… say hello to Yahiko for me." That earned a small grin from both of them.

"Of course." He left with a grin of his own.

He blinked and he was once again at the base of the tree. He stretched a bit before getting up.

"What do you need of me, sensei?" He blinked a few more times and grinned at Itachi.

"We will go to Kiri after In'ei arrives. I will tell you on the road." Itachi nodded silently and waited for the masked man. Kisame sent a lingering glance at Itachi's eyes.

"His mangekyou sharingan is eternal now, it won't go blind and is easier to use." Itachi caught Kisame's stare as the blond explained, before the latter blinked at the blond. "That is not the only thing though, they are special." They both glanced at Naruto curiously.

"Special?" Itachi asked. Naruto hummed.

"Kisame, go over that tree." He pointed to a tree a few meters away from them. The duo shared a glance and Kisame did as told. Naruto moved over another tree around the same distance away on the other side.

"Now… Itachi, while looking at me, cast Tsukuyomi on Kisame." Itachi blinked.

"But sensei, I need to…"

"Just try it." Itachi blinked again and focused on casting the genjutsu while looking at the blond.

Kisame blinked as the world lost color.

"But… I thought you needed to make direct eye contact for it to work…" He glanced at the wide eyed Itachi.

"That is true, normally he has to make direct eye contact… but his new eyes, the eternal mangekyou sharingan, is an extremely rare variant… fukusū tomoe, multiple swirl." They glanced at Naruto with wide eyes.

"But I didn't…"

"You did." Itachi just stared. Naruto grinned at his expression.

"... normally visual techniques have a… similar principle as a kunai." A kunai materialized in Naruto's hand and a wooden dummy several meters away from him. He threw it to the dummy's 'eyes'.

"The user can affect only what is in their direct eyesight… but with his new eyes, it is more like this." more dummies materialized around the initial one in a wide crescent and Naruto waved his hand widely in front of him. A wind blade cut the dummies all at once. He turned to Itachi.

"You still need to face them and they have to look into your eyes for genjutsu but I believe you can overcome that, you are gifted… both of you."

Sasuke…

The reminder got a tired sigh from Itachi.

"Let's leave." That shook Itachi away from thoughts and he dispelled the genjutsu. They waited silently until they heard the soft sound of flapping cloth.

"Master?" the masked man called as he jumped down. The blond glanced at the black hooded cloak and Skull mask for a moment. He grinned after that.

"Hello, In'ei. Nice to see you once again."

"Nice to see you too, master. So much has happened since you have gone… but I doubt anything you haven't foreseen before." The blond hummed and gave the masked man a scroll.

"I would like to hear sometime, but I have an assignment for you right now." The masked man skimmed over the contents for a bit then rerolled the scroll and bowed a bit.

"Kisame will be with you on this. I doubt it will give you much trouble… or any at all."

"Of course not. We will be on our way now." The blond nodded with a hum.

"We should be too." They shared a glance with Itachi and started their way to Kiri.

Kisame eyed the blond's back for a while, then his beady eyes widened because something came to his mind. Something ridiculous, impossible… and in a way made perfect sense.

'Are you… Uchiha Madara?'

"Kisame…" The shark man glanced at his teammate for the time being.

"Coming." He replied and did so after one last glance.

XXXXX

"I brought the reports you have requested, Mizukage-sama." The godaime Mizukage, Terumi Mei, glanced up from the paperwork she was doing to her assistant, an unremarkable man with brown hair and eyes. She was tired but with a subtle happiness nonetheless settled in her eyes as he put the reports on her desk.

"Thank you, Mizuro." She said with a small grin as he nodded and moved away. Mei stretched a bit and decided to take a small break.

"I'd like to take a break." She turned her chair around to watch the village flourishing after the whole Yagura nightmare, the village that she put back to her feet. With help, of course… especially with his help.

Uzumaki Naruto, the Whispering Death.

Zabuza came back suddenly 3-4 years ago, with a huge pile of money Kirigakure desperately needed. He explained everything over some drinks and… she didn't believe it, that the Whispering Death was a teenager genin even if he said all that while being deadly serious. Then a siege happened in Konoha and ended quickly. A masked man took the hokage hat, her agents reported. And then the Godaime Hokage was crowned, the masked man revealed to be Uzumaki Naruto.

She had no choice other than to believe… that he was but a kid when he killed Yagura and ended the royalist faction.

"Oh!" She blinked away her reflections when she heard her assistant's shocked exclamation. "Mizukage-sama is taking a break right now, please come back later."

"Then we won't talk about business for now. Would you mind sending us two cups of tea?" Mei blinked at the young man's words and turned around…

Uzumaki Naruto, in the flesh and… yeah, Zabuza skimmed on how handsome he is…

Now is not the time though.

"It is fine, Mizuro." She said to the flustered assistant with a strained grin. "Tea also sounds fine." The assistant's brown eyes skipped between them for a moment then he nodded.

"Yes, Mizukage-sama." He said in the end and left. Naruto watched him leave and his glance lingered on the closed door for a moment, then he focused on Mei and closed the distance between them. He sat on one of the two chairs in front of her desk.

"Zabuza told you about me." He broke the silence, not with a question but a statement and making her realize she was staring at his piercing sapphire eyes.

"He did." She said shortly and tidied up her desk, trying to find something other than his eyes to focus. He knew what she was doing but didn't stop her, letting his eyes trail over her instead.

"You look better than the last time we saw each other." It was true, she was slightly malnourished the last time they saw each other while the civil war was newly over. Her curves were more pronounced and full now, healthier. She caught his glance at her curves and couldn't help but feel flattered.

"T-thanks." She couldn't find anything else to say, trying not to blush. His eyes continued to trailer over her for a bit more, then found her face.

"... if still a bit ragged." Circles. He was talking about the circles around her eyes. She covered them with foundation in the morning but it seems she had to fix it again. She self consciously checked her drawers for her hand mirror, the blond once again didn't stop her.

They would have to drag her out kicking and screaming for her to step down - and she believes there are people that would do that if they could - but it has its own hardships, especially the first year was the worst. Getting back on their feet while on the brink of bankruptcy left her sleepless for many nights, her shinobi did their best and morale was high after the war was over but it could go only so far. She had to make sacrifices, grim decisions and at times had to deal with the mistakes she had made.

But still she was vastly better than Yagura, even the people who wanted her out of the office thought so.

'Finally…' She thought with a slight impatience and checked her makeup… but there wasn't anything wrong with it.

"Your makeup is perfect, Mei, you look very beautiful. It is your eyes." She paused with the mirror in her hand and barely out of her drawer for a moment then put the mirror back and closed the drawer with a blush she failed to press down.

"They are tired…" She looked down between them thoughtfully. He glanced out to the village behind her as she glanced up at him. "... but also happy. You like being the Mizukage, for better or worse and… I say you are good at it. Kiri looks good, everything considered." She glanced at the village over her shoulder with a small grin.

"Yes. No small thanks to you. Kiri is in your debt, a very big debt… and I assume that is why you are here." The blond nodded.

"Well... It can wait until we drink our tea, no?" Mei nodded with a casual expression.

"Yes, of course." They waited for their teas in a comfortable silence. Mei averted her eyes and tried to find something to busy herself with again but it didn't take long for her to let herself get lost in his sapphire gaze. For a moment the world was just her office, just his eyes.

He blinked and the charm broke. She looked away with a fluster as he snickered.

"It's fine, I like your eyes too. They have an exotic charm… You have an exotic charm." He said with a grin as he rested his elbow on her desk and chin on his knuckles. "I am sure people are getting in line for a date." She laughed lightly with her fluster darkening to a blush.

"I am the Mizukage…" The blond nodded in understanding.

"I see, they are intimidated..." They continued to chat as their tea arrived.

"...I should go. I am sure you have work to do too." He said as he finished his tea. Mei blinked and checked the clock, seeing that her 'small' break stretched to an hour.

"Will you be around?" She asked as casually as she could, trying not to reflect the hope into her tone. He chuckled.

"I am a missing ninja, Mizukage-sama… I better not." She sighed inside, clicked her teeth outside.

"Utakata has six tails, he should be somewhere around the outskirts of Kiri. We never sealed the three tails, it is probably in a lake." She said in a tone for business. The blond nodded.

"Okay, thanks… I will go say hello to Zabuza and Haku." She nodded and brought her paperwork back to her desk.

"Yeah, they must have missed you." She pressed down the ugly feeling in her guts before speaking and focused on her work.

"Mei…" She hummed. "... we may not be on the same side next time we see each other." She froze and looked up but he was already gone.

XXXXX

Sasuke let out a relaxing breath as he beat up the last of the hundred-something people Orochimaru put against him in the name of training, willing the cursed seal back to its place and once again taking his 'human' form. He was cruel, simple as that and wanted him to kill them all but whatever… annoying him was more fun than killing people without reason. He walked to the only people other than him on his feet, Kabuto, and took a towel from him to wipe the sweat on his brow.

"Orochimaru-sama wants to see you." He grunted.

"Tell him I will be resting." Kabuto grabbed his shoulder.

"Annoying him like that isn't wise, you know. You will not be his favourite forever." The uchiha glanced at the hand holding his shoulder. Kabuto withdrew his hand. He continued to his room.

"Sasuke-kun…" Sasuke shot him a sharingan glare.

"I said I will be resting." It was also fun to make Kabuto scamper off like that. His eyes once again turned to onyx black and continued to his room without any other interruptions.

But of course his luck had to run out with the sick people around him, it wasn't even half an hour when his rest was interrupted. He heard his door opening silently.

"What?!" He asked tersely without turning to look at the intruder from his bed. He only did so when his intruder closed the door without saying anything.

Well, he didn't see the pale boy before.

"Who are you?" He asked, still tersely but more curious than before.

"My name is Sai. Are you Uchiha Sasuke?" Sasuke raised an eyebrow.

"Yes…?"

Hinata thought this would be much easier with her and Neji's byakugan but it seemed Orochimaru was more crafty than they thought. Suppression seals were put on walls to hide the hideout from doujutsu users like her, making her byakugan less effective. She grunted in annoyance as another room she checked turned out to be empty. She once again reflexively activated her byakugan to aid her research but of course it didn't do anything.

Well, it also didn't have to do anything, she figured the explosion she heard came from Sasuke's direction. She hurried to its general direction and covered her eyes from the harsh light of the sun. She saw the others arrived too when she once again could see.

"Konoha. Tch, figures…"

"Sasuke?" Orochimaru, Kabuto and Sasuke froze. Her eyes widened and turned her head to see Uchiha Itachi, a man in blue robes and… Naruto.

"Thanks for coming, everyone."

EoC

Thanks for reading. Don't forget to R&R.

(1): . I don't own the image.