-AN-

Iwa is front and center. Jiraiya is feeling a little froggy, and Uzushio prepares itself.

Takes a bit of a sadder/darker turn. Wanted to rewrite it, did a few times, but I kept coming back to this. All fair and all that right?

-Story Start-

"I tell you Akatsuchi, this time next week that pesky Uzukage brat will be dealt with and Uzushio will once again be a footnote to history. As it should be." Onoki was grinning as he lowered himself down into his specially made chair. His desk was clear for the moment, only recently returned from the ambush that nearly caught those Uzumaki girls. Well, at least one of them would most likely meet her end if that spray of blood was any indicator. "Any word from the advanced scouts?"

Standing behind his Tsuchikage's shoulder, Akatsuchi shook his head, "No sir not yet. They should be infiltrating Uzushio any day now."

"Good, gives Han time to set up his part of the plan with the barrier unit, he should be about halfway there by now." Here he paused to sniff in disdain as he considered the boy who called himself a Kage. "That pretentious little snot, calling himself the Shadow Kage. He's lucky I don't get to face him myself." Onoki believed that he would have no problems annihilating the son of the Yellow Flash. Explosion users were nothing new to Onoki after all. "Well, let's settle in and wait for word. What should we do once we destroy that village again? Definitely have to make sure we slaughter every last citizen this time. Especially the Uzumaki. Can't have them coming back like the roaches that they are." Today was going to be a great day, his spirits were soaring! He hadn't thrown his back out even once!

Leaning to the side a bit to catch Onoki's eye, Akatsuchi raised a hand, "Should we be concerned for Kurotsuchi? We haven't heard from her in a while."

Onoki easily waved away his concern, "My granddaughter is strong, she'll be fine. She's either off on some scheme of hers to take my chair or maybe she's even headed to Wave herself. That would be a fortunate outcome. She could make a name for herself assisting with the operation." Internally he had to hand it to his granddaughter, she was highly motivated. If a little headstrong. Time would certainly help temper that little quirk though as it did for everyone.

Both men twitched as his office door burst open, one of his Jonin rushing in with a panicked look on his face. "My Lord! There's-a demon! A Golden Demon is-" Abruptly his sentence is cut off as he freezes in place and begins to float off of the floor. Onoki is already standing as he and Akatsuchi watch the man fold in on himself, body squishing and squelching down into a flesh ball roughly the size of a child's toy before dropping to the floor to seep fluids and blood into the stone. Equal parts horrified and furious, Onoki's eyes turn to the glowing golden Naruto who casually strolled into his office. On his back was a tied up bundle that looked like a young woman, but Onoki couldn't see who it was just yet.

Naruto held up a hand, saluting the Tsuchikage with a grin, "Yo. How's it hanging Onoki."

"You…you!" Onoki's face was beginning to turn red as he began to well up his chakra. How dare this brat show up here! Killing his men right in front of him at that? Did he have that much of a death wish?

"Yeah, see, you might wanna calm down a bit." Naruto was still all grins as he pulled the bound and gagged Kurotsuchi around and placed her on her knees in front of him as he paused in the middle of the office. "Unless, of course, you want something bad to happen to her." Naruto wasn't one to punish those who weren't a part of the problem. But after the girl admitted that she was back in Uzushio for a rematch, and now that Iwa was marching on Uzu. Well. He was beginning to lose patience with the entirety of this village. "Let's have a chat." Keeping on hand on the back of her neck, he locked eyes with the furious Onoki.

Still standing on his chair but keeping his chakra still, Onoki took in the determined look in Kurotsuchi's eyes. Good, at least she was still ready to fight. "You won't be leaving here alive boy. This was the largest mistake you could have made." Guess he'd get to fight the boy after all.

Shrugging and not worried in the least, Naruto noted Akatsuchi making space by edging around Onoki slowly, "Yeah, this isn't how I wanted things to go really. At the summit I was being serious. I wanted peace among the various villages and nations. I wanted us to be able to understand one another with words, not violence. But then I got a report that your Jinchuriki is marching on Uzu right now. And well, peace just doesn't seem possible at the moment." Here Naruto reached forward to tilt Kurotsuchi's head up slightly, making sure her eyes were locked on her grandfather's, "So here's the rub. It's not just Kurotsuchi's life on the line here. But every other citizen of Iwagakure is now fully dependent on your actions from here on." Naruto didn't mind the twitches from the two men across from him, instead watching Akatsuchi turn to look out the window to gaze out on the village.

"S-s-sir…" Akatsuchi could see thousands of identical glowing gold blondes all over the village. On rooftops, on the streets. There wasn't a single fight going on at the moment. Most assuredly the boy had made it clear what he planned to do then and had forced their ninja to stand down.

Onoki tried and failed to see some way out of this at the moment. Blasted brat, he never gave any hint that he was willing to stoop so low as to take an entire village hostage. "What do you want." Sitting down and taking a deep breath to control his heart rate, he'd play the boy's game for now.

Feeling the girl tremble under his hand, Naruto steeled his heart from it all. Iwa started this, not him. They were the ones to spit on his offer of friendship. "Really simple actually. You call back your forces, immediately. When they return you're to issue an announcement to your ninja and your civilians. Iwa is going to be Uzushio's vassal state from here on. You will follow my orders, cease all hostilities against other nations, and demilitarize yourselves." Seeing a frown begin to build on Onoki's face, Naruto just knew the old man would put up resistance.

'Have a little patience Naruto.'

'Trying, but I can't get the sight of Hinata in that tube out of my head.'

'Oh no, I'm all for eviscerating the midget, but remember. Don't take out your anger on innocents. Any innocent.'

Naruto knew Kurama was including Kurotsuchi in that, and he would have to remind himself of it repeatedly.

"And what if I refuse such an obviously asinine demand?" Onoki couldn't believe this. He'd be ceding the village to this brat without a fight. No contest at all. It was laughable. The boy might be strong, but the rest of his forces must be weak if he was willing to go this far.

Naruto's grip around Kurotsuchi's neck tightened and a whimper escaped her throat, "I guess I can name the crater that I'll make of this village after you or something. No skin off my nose in the end."

It is here that Onoki feels some confidence enter his chest. The boy would never kill innocents, he wasn't the type. "You won't do that. There are countless civilians here in the village. You won't stain your hands with their blood. You aren't the type." It was a fatal weakness that he and A had recognized right away. Too much Konoha in him.

Naruto did have to nod at that, because it was the truth. "Normally, you would be absolutely correct. Buuut." Here his eyes turn cold, Rinnegan eyes glowing as his grip around Kurotsuchi's neck tightened a bit more, "Except you hurt someone I love dearly. Nearly killed her at that. One of my most precious people." He had to ignore Kurotsuchi's tears as they trailed down her cheeks and onto his hand, "You're also endangering my country, full of people I vowed to lay down my life to protect. That's a grave sin as far as I'm concerned. One that deserves a suitable punishment don't you think?"

"And is that not what you're doing now?" Onoki was standing again, unable to tear his eyes away from his now fearful granddaughter.

"Don't shift blame old man. You started this."

"Then let me finish it!" Onoki thrust a hand forward, a white cube formed of his dust release finishing its construction and propelled towards Naruto, who already had a hand pointed towards him in return.

"Predictable." The overpowered Shinra Tensei obliterated the section of office Onoki had been standing in, desk, paperwork and the two opposing men where rocketed away and out into the village. He watched as Onoki crashed through a building, toppling it over before smashing into the street below. Releasing his hold on Kurotsuchi, where she coughed and hacked to catch her breath, he tossed her onto his shoulder and gathered wind around his form to float towards the downed Onoki.

"You're….you're a monster…" Kurotsuchi's voice was raspy, rough from her treatment at his hands. "Why do this? Why threaten to kill so many people?"

"Don't make me repeat myself." Naruto sighed as he floated over the building's rubble and came to a stop just before the struggling Onoki, "You can try and hide behind your ignorance all you like. But you know as well as I do just what your grandfather gets up to. He isn't as terrible as the likes of A, but he's living in the past. A past I want to move the world away from." Naruto pulled her down and placed her gently at his side though again on her knees. "You need to see the truth."

"You aren't one of the Kami. Who gave you the right to make that decision?"

"I did. And that's more than enough." Naruto had to lean back as Akatsuchi whizzed by him, fist trailing chakra. Onoki was as well already on his feet and hands molding chakra for most likely another deadly Dust technique. Naruto grabbed Akatsuchi by the ankle, halting his movement before spinning and using his body as a bludgeon to smash Onoki away again, incidentally towards the village square. Casually tossing Akatsuchi away again and ignoring the explosion of dust and rock, Naruto grabbed Kurotsuchi by the back of her shirt and dragged her along. "You've been blinding yourself willfully. Ignoring what your village has done in the name of pride and honor. Time for you to see what that leads too.

Onoki struggled to stand, bleeding from a wound on his forehead and struggling to catching his breath. Such strength. Was this the power of the Kyuubi unleashed? He needed to warn A. Warn everyone. "You-" More of that unseen force drove him down into the ground. Immobilized, two clones raced in to slap seals on his back to lock away his chakra. Vision and senses dimming, Onoki was left helpless as he took in his people watching him from around the square. Each was accompanied by a glowing clone, but none of them were making a move towards or away from him. Gritting his teeth, he turned his eyes to the demon given human form. "You…you won't win."

Sighing as he once more came to a stop before the old man, Naruto put Kurotsuchi down next to him once more. "Kami, don't you get it? It's not about winning or losing. This isn't some game! People's lives depend on our decisions, good or bad. We can't so casually decide that we can toss those lives away." Taking a deep breath to steady himself, Naruto shakes his head and gives up trying to get through to Onoki. It just wasn't going to happen. Instead he mentally links with his clones, so they can spread his message to everyone in Iwa, whether they wanted to hear it or not. "I have been working, all this time towards peace. I traveled the nations, rooted out evil, saved people regardless of nationality. I did not care if you were from Konoha, Iwa, or Kumo. If people needed saving, I saved them. And yet here. You Onoki, you are ready to start a war against me. Against my people. For what? Pride? Hatred of my father? Well. Now you have a choice." Naruto held a hand towards Kurotsuchi's head, "You choose. Kurotsuchi, Iwa, or your Jinchuriki. One has to die."

Onoki could feel himself nearly vibrate in place as he tried and failed to force his chakra to respond to him. How could he be forced to choose? Kuro-chan over the village? Just. This couldn't be the same lackadaisical boy that he had met at the Kage Summit. Just couldn't be.

Kurotsuchi trembled, watching her grandfather wrestle with the decision. An impossible one in the end. "Please…Naruto…Uzumaki-sama. Please don't do this." Kurotsuchi turned to look up at the frog eyed young man, "This is something evil men do. Orochimaru would do this. That Pain guy would do this."

Onoki nodded as well, seeing the angle the girl was taking, "Your village's own Danzo wasn't even this heartless. See some reason boy. You can't go through with this."

Naruto had to admit, Onoki wasn't wrong. If Onoki did finally call his bluff, Naruto would eventually fold. He wouldn't kill Iwa citizens. "The opinions of a dead man mean nothing to me. Besides, I'm not doing anything. This is all your choice. You chose to provoke me. To harm my family, to attack my home. This is just a proportional response to that. Now choose. Iwa. Your Jinchuriki. Or your Granddaughter." Naruto let go of Kurotsuchi, only to instead encase her in a bubble barrier that had a slightly purplish glow. One of his strongest outside of those made for Biju. Nothing would be getting in or out, not even air.

Watching Kurotsuchi scream and pound against the barrier where no sound was escaping, Onoki struggled to his knees. "You'll never know peace after this boy." The barrier began to shrink, and Onoki's sweat began to fall faster, "Every waking hour will be haunted by our ghosts. The guilt from this will weigh you down till you die screaming to the next upstart who lusts for power."

Naruto rolled his eyes and a motion from his hand sees the barrier shrink further, Kurotsuchi beginning to scrunch into a ball, "You're the one dragging this out now Onoki. What am I to do? Let you kill my people? Kill me? Do you truly believe only Iwa matters in this world? Arrogant." Eye flashing once, Naruto waggled a finger at the older man. "Tik tok Onoki, choose or lose everything." Around them every Naruto clone unseals a completely black scroll, and while the civilians don't understand what is at stake, Onoki certainly does.

Coming to the conclusion that there was no getting out of this, Onoki feels rage settle in his heart. This was how it was to end for him was it? He supposed he could admit now, that he made a blunder to underestimate the boy. No. Naruto. "No! Okay! Take me! I am this village's leader, I gave the orders. Lay my sins at my feet, not theirs. Can you at least honor that?"

Naruto's eyebrows rose in surprise, so the old bastard could be reasonable. Go figure. "I suppose I can't ignore a leader taking ownership of his failures. Honestly, I like that sort of thing." Around them all of the Naruto's seal away their scrolls while Naruto himself drops the barrier around Kurotsuchi. She's dumped on the dirt, coughing and hacking from the lack of air inside the barrier. Instead now a new barrier forms around Onoki, while Kurotsuchi watches on after catching her breath.

"No…NO! This isn't fair!" Kurotsuchi again struggled to her knees, a Naruto clone coming up to restrain her. "We did nothing wrong! Every other village would have done the same if given the chance. Even yours!"

Naruto started to walk up to the barrier holding Onoki, noting the resigned look on the older man's face. "Then why haven't they?" Turning to face her calmly, he took in her tear streaked face, "Why haven't I? I never marched on Kumo even though they tortured and killed my family members. I never marched on Konoha for stealing from me or using me. I haven't marched on Kiri for assisting in the destruction of the original Uzushio. No Kurotsuchi, granddaughter to the Tsuchikage. The world has changed, you've just refused to see it. Just like you refuse to admit that your leader chose wrong." Turning back to walk up to the barrier, Naruto held up a hand to it to allow Onoki to be heard, "Who shall take over the village in your place?"

"Kuro-chan will. She has what it takes, she'll do just fine." Onoki decided that it was too bad really. He had wanted to retire in style. Maybe to a beach with a lot of cute little ladies. Heh. Guess he should have given up the chair a long time ago. This could have been someone else's problem.

Kurotsuchi shook her head slowly as the barrier around Onoki began to glow. "Please Naruto. Don't do this! We…we'll pull back like you said. Demilitarize like you ordered. Anything. Just please…please don't make me watch my grandfather die." She wanted to scream, rage, fight. Anything more than be stuck sealed and helpless against this fate. None of it seemed to important now. Hunting Naruto down for her rematch. The egotistical plotting and scheming. Faced with the consequences, she'd take it all back if she could.

Naruto turned once more back to her, keeping his hand to the glowing barrier, "And would you offer me mercy? If the roles were reversed? Would Iwa have spared my people once they breached our borders? We both know the answers to those questions, don't we?"

"But…I…we…" Kurotsuchi watched her grandfather shake his head slowly.

"Hold your head up with pride Kuro-chan! Iwa is the heart of stone! We persevere, endure. So too can you do the same." Onoki turned dead eyes to Naruto, "Don't drag this out any longer boy. If you're going to end me. End me."

"As you wish, Onoki of Both Scales." With a thought, Naruto commanded the barrier to shrink.

"NO! Grandfather! I-" Kurotsuchi didn't finish her sentence, watching as the barrier shrank rapidly down to the size of a chickpea. From there the now bright white ball floated before Naruto before disintegrating away with a whisper. Watching the motes of light dance on the wind, Kurotsuchi couldn't stop her tears from falling. Nor did she react as the real Naruto walked over to squat down in front of her to look her in the eye.

"Look. I'm going to say this once and make myself real clear here." Naruto made sure her eyes slowly latched onto him, accepting that there was nothing but hate for him in her heart with ease. "With this, I'm letting Iwa live. By extension, I'm letting you live. But I no longer have the patience for how your village has been doing things, so here's the deal. You so much as breath wrong. One person so much as gets a broken bone due to an Iwa ninja's actions, and I will wipe your village off the face of the Earth. This is the only warning you are going to get. I will make Iwa a footnote in history everyone will forget."

"Never…" Blinking slowly, digesting the fact that her grandfather really was gone. That she had witnessed him die in such a horrible manner. Kurotsuchi felt a heat and fire in her chest like no other before. She thought she hated the Uzukage before? No. This was magnitudes greater than anything she had ever felt. "I'll never let anyone forget just what you've done." Tears staining her face, dirt smudged on her cheek, Kurotsuchi cared only that Naruto understood that he made an enemy that would be waiting for a single chance for the rest of his days.

Sighing and understanding what she was feeling, Naruto stood and put his hands in his pockets, "Just remember, I never would have been here had you lot had just left me alone." Idly he leans to the side as an injured Akatsuchi barrels past him, fist outstretched to strike him once more. With little effort he reaches out, snagging the man's collar to slam him down into the dirt. With a sigh, he unseals his sword and holds it to the large man's neck. "Welp, first order as Tsuchikage I suppose. Make him stand down, or I'll kill him."

"This…it's not right. You're the one that preached that we can talk to one another didn't you! This is monstrous! You're a monster! A demon!" Kurotsuchi shook as the large sword dug into the ground next to the groaning Akatsuchi's neck. There was blood beginning to pool on the ground. "Akatsuchi, stand down!"

"But…he…"

"I don't care! Stand down!" Watching the man go limp, Kurotsuchi turned pleading eyes towards Naruto. "There, see, we won't fight. Not anymore." Why would they try? It was like fighting against the very Kami.

Nodding and picking up his sword, he laid it to rest on his shoulder, "The clones will stay for a few days but they'll be out of the way and out of sight. Have your ninja turn in their weapons here to the village square. You aren't allowed to have anything more than a defensive force from now on. Two hundred ninja, max. The rest are to retire and find something else to do."

"You're ending us. You may not be destroying the village, but one way or another, we're done if we agree." Kurotsuchi's voice was quiet, eyes locked onto the space where Onoki used to be.

"Probably, but that's not my problem." Naruto heaved a sigh as this was not something he would normally do. But Iwa and Kumo had pushed him. Too far it seemed. "I'm going to kill your Jinchuriki. Then we're going to eliminate your forces marching towards us. After that I'll return, and you and I will discuss what happens next. "

Kurotsuchi scrubbed her face, feeling the seals holding her chakra burn away from her, "Know that I hate you, Naruto Uzumaki. You'll burn in hell for this one day, and I hope to be the one to see you off on your journey there."

Naruto turns tired eyes to the distraught woman, nodding along with her thoughts, "Oh I know I'm destined for the fire, have been for a while. But at least I can live with the things I've done or are going to do. Can you and yours say the same?" Watching her blink in confusion, he flashed away with a whisper.

Watching Naruto's clones meander off, some poofing away and some simply vanishing from sight, Kurotsuchi turned to the panting and struggling Akatsuchi. "I…I have to make this right. One day. One day I-"

The clone holding her let her go, its voice a bare whisper on the wind, "Learn from your predecessor's mistakes and focus on your village for now. Unless you're looking to sharing his fate early." And then it was gone.

Akatsuchi shook his head slowly, "We'll have our chance. One day."

Kurotsuchi nodded, struggling to her feet as the village around her rose into an out roar of noise, "Yeah…one day." A sentiment she didn't fully feel but one that she would hold deep in her heart for as long as she would live.

-b-

"You know, we could have a lot more fun settling this over a jug of sake instead!" Jiraiya quipped as he avoided several slashes from Bee's erratic sword technique. Who in their right mind juggled swords? Why would you consider that a good idea? He was even holding one in his blasted mouth! Somehow against all logic Jiraiya blamed Naruto. This was his level of idiocy.

Bee was grinning as he and the Sage flitted about the trees, dancing about with his swords as he twirled and kept up a constant attack pattern to keep the elder ninja on his toes. He knew better than to give Jiraiya even a breath of time to plan, "I have my duty to fulfill my man, I'm sure you can understand."

Jiraiya grumbled as he tried to anchor himself to a branch with his feet in order to swing down and hopefully get behind the Biju container. No luck there as Bee was quick to follow along with his tactic, now both of them battling upside down. "Oh sure sure, I understand completely that your village wants to wipe out my godson's nation. Completely reasonable." Jiraiya ducked under a rather close shave from a katana, a few locks of hair floating away on the wind. "As a fellow hermit, don't you think we have a better option?" Crossing his arms over his chest to block a kick from Bee, Jiraiya released his chakra and let himself be knocked away to the forest floor. He needed the breather room.

"There are no options for us though, unless you're willing to fight against my bro yo." Bee followed after the elder ninja, launching several swords his way and watching as each pierced the ground as Jiraiya easily danced away. "I'm gonna have to get serious it seems."

"I don't like the sound of that." Jiraiya huffed as Shima knocked him in the head with a webbed hand.

"Stop playing around boy, he's going to kill you if you don't get serious."

"You think I'm not!?" Digging his back foot into the ground and augmenting his legs further with chakra, Jiraiya launched himself forward while a Rasengan blossomed into his hand. Best to end this quickly, before the Kumo Jinchuriki decided to go full Biju mode on him. Thrusting the swirling ball of death forward, Bee blocked him with three swords crossed over his chest. The swords shattering and peppered Bee's skin with metal shards while propelling him backwards a few paces. Jiraiya tried to follow up with another hastily made Rasengan, but Bee jumped away, grinning and chakra beginning to tinge red and leak from his pores. "Well shit."

"You knew it wasn't going to be so easy peasy right?" Bee grinned further as he kept a step ahead of Jiraiya, both men dashing between the trees in an effort to kill one another. Bee needed a few moments to charge up and transform however, so was happy to draw things out. "I'll end you with my Biju, and we'll make our way through."

"Is this really how it has to be? Uzushio wants peace! I know you can see it. They've done nothing to threaten you. Hell, Naruto could have nuked you for what you did with his clan, and yet he hasn't! Why go through with this and guarantee that he'll be forced to up his response!?" A paper seal appeared between Jiraiya's fingers, stiffened with chakra before he threw it with all his might. It latched onto Bee's chest with ease, the other fighter not worried about such a simple looking tag. His mistake, as his demonic chakra began to leak away. "This serves no one at all! Not even Kumo!"

Bee hastily removed the tag, grin turning down into a frown as his chakra went haywire. He should have figured that the old man would have a counter with Biju chakra. He had watched over the Kyuubi after all. "Your bleating is useless, now c'mon and get your beating!" Three swords destroyed, four swords a dozen meters away and stuck in the ground, he needed to buy some time.

Jiraiya shook his head and he and Bee continued to dash back and forth between the trees, finally deciding that Bee wasn't wrong. Talking at this point was useless. "Let's go, Ma, Pa. I need some wind and some oil!"

Shima sighed but nodded as she began to mold chakra of her own. "On it!"

Bee was quick to perform a short range shunshin as the tree he had been in and several surrounding it were nearly vaporized in a conflagration of combined fire, wind and frog oil. Well he really didn't want to get caught by one of those. 'You alright partner? Ready to go again?'

'I've flushed our chakra, so we're good to go. Don't get hit by that seal again.'

'Of course!'

Jiraiya was closing in, a new and larger Rasengan blossoming to life in his hand with his sage chakra added in. "This is it Killer Bee!" He could see his own reflection in Bee's glasses, along with the wide smirk that grew on the darker man's face.

The area exploded in an outpouring of crimson chakra, Jiraiya just barely catching himself from flying through the air, launched away from the hostile Jinchuriki. Eyeing the charred and cleared space between the trees, a few hundred meter diameter space was now host to a chuckling and wide eyed combination Bull/Octopus chakra entity that had Jiraiya sighing and cracking the joints in his neck. Within the Biju, Bee felt a new confidence well in his chest. "Well Toad Hermit? What now!?" A large hand came crashing down into the space the white haired sage used to be, upturning earth and debris while Jiraiya was already away and making handseals.

"Doton: Yomi Numa!" Hands down on the ground, Jiraiya watched the earth under the Biju quickly change into a swampy quagmire that its large mass began to sink into. "Struggle all you want, you aren't getting out!"

"Don't need to!" Tentacles shot out, uprooting trees and tossing them Jiraiya's way, forcing him to run and dodge and evade.

"Think we can set up a frog song?" Behind Jiraiya another tree crashed down and splintered like a wooden bomb, peppering him with bark and leaves.

"Think you can sit still long enough for us to get started?" Fukasaku sighed as he and Shima looked to each other and nodded, "Without the suppression seal made for the Biju, you're going to have to best him in straight combat."

"Oh joy, just what I wanted to do today. Fight a Biju one on one." Sighing and shaking his head, Jiraiya kept on the move as Bee worked his way out of the swamp. "I think a few Rasengan and some toad fire will shake him up. Enough to put another suppression seal on him."

Shima agreed, "Get ready for my melodious voice then boyo!"

Bee chuckled as he began to gather dense chakra in his mouth. "I don't have time to play with you, it's been real Toad Sage!"

Feeling the massive build up of chakra, Jiraiya prepared to desummon himself back to the toad realm. Better that after all than to be taken out here. He was not prepared for the tsunami of sand that rose up and washed over the Eight Tails, burying it and cutting off its technique. Sighing with relief, Jiraiya turns to the Kazekage who dropped to the charred ground next to you. "I could kiss you."

"Please don't, Matsuri would be most upset." Allowing a small grin to show on his face, Gaara joined Jiraiya in facing off against the other Jinchuriki. "We received word that Iwa and Kumo were making a move against Uzu, so we came to help."

Jiraiya nods as the elders on his shoulder prepare for their genjutsu, "Good. I only need one shot and I'll put him down." Watching as a burst of chakra scattered the sand and revealed the Eight Tails, the Sage prepared to re-engage his target.

Seeing himself outnumbered and knowing better, Bee punched the ground to created a massive smoke screen, "Better luck next time Toad Sage!" Running for all he was worth, dropping his Biju form in his haste, he had to hope that Team Samui would be alright.

Feeling the Jinchuriki's chakra quickly leave the area, Jiraiya had to hand it to him. He really could run when he wanted. "Woooo, glad that's over. This is a young man's game, I'm getting too old for this."

Gaara nods and turns to face the elder ninja, "Perhaps you should slow it down then. Maybe actually consider retirement."

Chuckling, Jiriya nods along as both ninja begin to walk away from the battlefield, "Probably right there. Would give me more time to try and woo Tsu-chan." Easily the sage let Shima and Fukasaku remove themselves from his shoulders, waving them off as they poofed away back home. He was sure he would be getting an earful from them later. "So why are you here Gaara? Naruto send you?"

Shaking his head, Gaara walked along while the sand he had used reformed into his customary gourd, "I spoke the truth. Suna received word that Iwa was up to something and Kumo might be involved. I came to hunt down the largest chakra signature I could find and found you."

"Hmmm, that's troubling." Jiraiya had a hand to his chin as he thought about that. Wasn't Iwa's Jinchuriki supposed to be involved as well? "Han is MIA."

"I've sent Kankuro and Temari with a platoon of ninja towards Uzushio to assist. If anyone can find the missing Iwa ninja, it's them."

Shaking his head, Jiraiya stretched and leapt to the trees, "Something doesn't feel right with all this. Let's hurry and get back to Uzu."

"Right behind you." Gaara had to agree, something was deeply wrong. A feeling was in the air that had his heart antsy.

-b-

Fingers drummed along the top of a wood surface in a staccato as Tayuya sat on the edge of Naruto's desk and kept watch out of his window. She was doing her best to ignore the empty chair, but she wasn't ready to take his place just yet. This was an emergency, and they all had their roles to play right now.

Behind her, Ino and Karin sat in chairs opposite the desk, both keeping silent but watching the fiery redhead with some worry. Both were nearly ready to jump out of their skin, worry in their hearts after Naruto gave them a smile and a wave to left with the terrified Kurotsuchi in hand. What was he going to do? Would he fair alright against the Tsuchikage on his home turf? So many questions, but the only one who could answer them was long gone. This left Ino biting her nails while Karin checked and rechecked her supplies.

Behind the group and sitting off to the side, Sasuke and Sakura lounged about without much concern. Sasuke was resting with bandages over his eyes, though no one questioned why it was easy enough for him to get around unassisted. Sakura however held up a hand, "You all know that he's going to be okay. He'll be back before you know it."

Grunting but stopping her finger tapping, Tayuya turned an eye back to her husband's teammates, "I'm not worried about him coming back. He promised that he would." Silence stretches on as Sakura gives her a knowing look and Tayuya blushes but turns away. "The asshole just owes me a whole lot of cuddles. And he promised I didn't have to take the chair this time."

Rolling her eyes, Ino stood and walked over to her co-wife, hugging her gently and smiling as the redhead relaxed into her a bit. "So what are you worried about? Maybe…what sort of naruto will be coming back then?" Ino couldn't shake the thought that something had been changing in Naruto recently. She couldn't put her finger on it one hundred percent, but it was beginning to worry her.

Watching Tayuya sigh but not respond, Sakura pipes up as they watch several ninja jump over the rooftops below on a patrol route, "What do you mean by that? Naruto is Naruto. Sure he's a little explosion obsessed, but he's our usual knucklehead as always."

Ino shook her head, "You didn't see Naruto when he left with Kurotsuchi." Ino paused as her eyes looked off into the distance, mind lost in the memory. "Something in his eyes was different. He. He was different." She didn't want to label it as murderous. Resolute maybe? Like he had accepted something that he really didn't want to.

Karin relaxed back into her chair, a smile on her face, "I don't know. For his faults in this, Naruto is showing a lot of restraint in this." Seeing everyone turn her way, the shorter redhead shrugged, "Think about it. Hinata was injured. Iwa and Kumo are making way for us with scouts and some light forces. And all of this is right after we just attended the Kage summit. That he didn't execute her right away and fly off to bomb their village says a lot."

Ino looks up to the ceiling in thought before nodding slowly, "Well, you aren't wrong. But even so, something has changed in him."

Sighing and adjusting himself, the only male of the group groaned, "It's really simple if you stop overthinking it all." Feeling all of the girls turn to face him, Sasuke rolled a hand in the air, "What has Naruto been fanatical about above everything else?"

All of the girls stopped to think about it, before Karin snapped her fingers, "Explosions?"

Shaking his head, Sasuke was smirking, "Of course not. That's just a hobby. To him, it's family. You girls specifically. He is willing to go to hell and back for each and everyone one of you. The thought of one of you being in danger because of him just isn't something he can sit with. Ever." Feeling the energy of the room change, Sasuke assumed they were beginning to see the issue here. "Seeing Hinata hurt, I'm sure if Naruto decided Iwa had to be bombed back to the stone age and Kumo needs to be stomped into submission. Well. He's going to do it with a clear conscious because it'll mean you all will be safe."

"But, we don't want him to give up on peace, just for us." Tayuya's voice was quiet while Sasuke nodded with understanding.

"That's the thing, he isn't changing. It's always been there, there's just never been a reason to go this far." Sasuke pointed downward towards the floor. More specially, towards where they all knew Hinata was resting and healing, "But now he has a reason to do something a bit more drastic."

Ino shook her head while her grip on Tayuya tightened a bit, "I hope not. I don't want him to go overboard for this. Iwa has to answer for this, but he wouldn't…or shouldn't destroy an entire village over this. There are a lot of innocent people there."

Tayuya shrugged in her arms, "How innocent are they though? Naruto is a known threat to them. The son of their greatest enemy. You know how our citizens can get. Imagine them?"

Karin sighed, a worried look focused on the floor between her legs, "I'd rather not. It makes peace seem so far out of reach."

Sakura relaxed and gave Sasuke a pointed look, "It might be right now. Iwa and Kumo are just spoiling for a fight. And we're ready to give it to them."

"We?" Tayuya was grinning as she eyed the pinkette, "Really have shrugged off that Konoha loyalty, haven't you?"

Sakura waved her off, "I'm loyal to what's important. This is my family. I go where they go."

"You can say that again Forehead." Ino was grinning as Sakura gave her the finger. Some things never changed.

Silence did not stretch for long, as with a muted flash Naruto was back in the office, injury free and pointedly alone. Shoulders sagging as he walked around his desk, with a groan he dropped into his chair and held a hand out to Tayuya. Eyes wide she walked towards him and allowed herself to be dragged into his arms.

"How…how bad?" Tayuya was already assuming that he had wiped the village off the map. He looked so drained.

"I…I had to kill the Tsuchikage. Onoki. Kurotsuchi is the new Tsuchikage now and Iwa is going to be a vassal of ours from here on." Naruto relayed all of the details of just what happened while he was gone in Iwa. He was thankful that everyone sat and listened quietly to the end, and wasn't surprised that it was Sakura that held her hand up first. "What's up sis?"

"Are you, okay?"

Naruto didn't have to think about that. "No." Everyone gave him time, eyes on him as he collected his thoughts and gently held Tayuya in his lap, "I've been really honest about my hope for peace between the villages. But I wanted…needed to learn from the mistakes of the past. Uzushio once trusted the other nations to honor treaties and alliances. That saw us destroyed and scattered. These days I know that unless we want to meet the same fate we have to defend ourselves. And sometimes that means striking out at those who would end us if they could." Naruto thought back. The look of rage and loss on Kurotsuchi's face. Knowing without a doubt that there would never be any love there. Hell, even just acceptance was out of reach for them now. But compliance? Yeah, they would have that. "I'm going to have to hit Kumo next. Not personally at least, but they'll have to learn as well that we aren't the same village they ganged up on in the past."

Sasuke nodded and stood, grinning with his covered eyes, "So, what's the plan and when do we head out?"

Sakura rolled her eyes and pulled her man back down into his seat, "Slow your roll there, you're still healing."

"I feel great."

"It's the painkillers."

Naruto smiled gently and relaxed a bit more, "No plan. We let Uzushio forces do their thing. I can't be everywhere at once, and I have to be ready to intercept Iwa's Jinchruiki at a moments notice. I can feel Bee running back to Kumo, so I expect Jiraiya to be here soon. Hmm." Another chakra signature was with him, "Gaara is coming too."

Ino rolled her eyes, "That means the fan girl is coming."

Karin giggled, "You like Temari."

"She's fun."

Naruto grunted, "Hey." Seeing everyone turn back his way, Naruto suddenly felt very naked, "Let's talk later. I have some stuff to get off my chest."

Tayuya was the one to lean into him, gently kissing his cheek before shimmying her way free and standing, "You know we'll be here. We'll talk tonight so hopefully Hinata can join us."

Naruto finally smiled, "Alright. Good. For now let's get to work, and hope our forces hold strong."

Tayuya was grinning as she walked back towards Karin, "Did I forget to mention I sent out Deidara with the border patrol group?" Seeing Naruto's surprised look, she realized she must have. "Whoops?"

"Kami save whoever runs into him."

-b-

Deidara was grinning from ear to ear while behind him a frowning En and a tired looking Gosu waited in turn. Before them in a wooded area they had stumbled upon a forward scout group from Iwa, a group that Deidara was previously had been very familiar with. One that knew him both on sight and by reputation, if the trembling they were doing was any indication.

"We-we-we're envoys from Iwa. If you'll just let us-"

"Nah nah nah nah nah!" Deidara threw up a hand, teeth gleaming in the sun, "Oh woe for those who would lie through their teeth before the land of our savior! Think we would not know your plots, your plans? Your sch-sche-smeme…plotplans!" Deidara pointed at the group of a dozen with wide eyes, "You've injured a member of the royal family! Your lives are forfeit!"

En sighed and turned to Gosu, "Should we reign him in?"

Gosu shook his head and cracked his neck, eyes shifting into their own Ketsuryugan. "Nah, I've got a bone to pick with them myself anyway."

Rolling his eyes as he threw up his hands, En turned to jump into the trees, "At least don't go overboard!"

Deidara had already surrounded himself with dozens of flying birds and scuttling spiders, all made of clay. "In the words of our leader! There's no such thing!" And the world erupted into explosions.

-AN-

This took a bit longer to write than I thought it would. Of course, in typical fashion I completely forgot about the holidays and well, all my planning went down the holiday preparation hole. This went a bit darker than I originally planned, but hey, gotta have some balance of fluff and drama in an adventure story right? Now comes the fun. What to do with Kumo? And where has Han gotten too?

-OMAKE-

"Mmmm this is heavenly. Uzushio hotsprings are certainly worth the trip." Shizune could admit, that while it had taken some convincing to get herself and Kakashi here in Uzushio, if there was one thing she regret it might be that she didn't make the move sooner. A warm sun, fun beaches and a carefree attitude made for a wonderful living situation. Plus, there were plenty of familiar faces here with her and the hospital here had hired her nearly on the spot.

"You said it. Only thing that'd help might be Iruka being here. Or Naruto if I can ever get him and Iruka badly drunk enough." Anko cackled at the looks being sent her way. Yes Iruka was the love of her life, but she owed Naruto more than she could ever repay in a single lifetime. So what was a night or two of intense fun? She'd wager that he wouldn't complain, same with Iruka once she convinced him some.

"You are horrible." Giggling in spite of herself, Ayame hadn't expected to join the ninja pair in the Yuki baths. But Shizune had spotted her and then Anko had dragged her along after she had closed up shop. That of course led to their last occupant. "Everything okay Lady Tsunami? I haven't had a chance to check on you since that Itachi incident."

Tsunami was all smiles as she enjoyed a cup of saki poured by Anko, the heat of the spring water starting to get to her, "Oh I'm just wonderful, Naruto made sure I was fine and taken care of."

Anko was leering as she wiggled her eyebrows, "Saaaay, what is going on between you and Naruto anyway. Everyone can tell that there's something there." Far be it from her to judge for an older woman preying on such a young man. They all had to find happiness somewhere. So long as they were too young.

Shaking her head while a massive blush built on her face, Tsunami giggled, "Oh no, I couldn't. I made a promise."

Shizune held out a hand to Anko, "Let's not talk about this. You know they're just really close. He saved her family after all."

Anko nodded and crossed her arms, "Oh of course of course. Even still, that doesn't mean that something can't have happened."

Ayame rolled her eyes and passed the saki to the ponytailed woman, "You'd think if anyone would know what's going on it'd be me. If I haven't heard something then there's nothing there." Ayame did turn a grin towards the smiling Tsunami however, "Though I have heard a little birdie talk about some visits to the Zosensho clan pretty often."

Tsunami nodded, thoroughly out of it, "Celia is a lot of fun when she isn't working. And she has such good tips." Tsunami somewhat admired the dark skinned beauty, and she was a good listener.

Anko laid back into the water and sank to her shoulders, "Oh no fun. I was hoping for some juicy gossip."

Looking around and taking in the time, Shizune sighed and began to stand, "We should probably head out. Tsunami isn't going to last much longer."

Anko took in her fellow ninja and then the two(maybe) civilians and nodded. Tsunami did look a few headbobs away from passing out, and Ayame had just been working all day long. "Alright, but you owe me a good party soon." Shizune nodded as she helped the older woman from the bath, "I'll have Kakashi invite Iruka one of these days."

All four women took their time getting out. Changing back into their clothes with light banter and easy smiles. Grateful that they could enjoy these easy and peaceful days. Much like the Land of Hot Waters, they hoped that Uzu could earn such a reputation one day. So many beaches and vacation spots deserved to be shared.

Anko was grinning as she took the lead and opened the door to the changing room, "That reminds me, how did you convince that cyclops to finally settle down anyway? You broke a lot of girls' hearts when you and he went-" Speech trailing off, all of the women minus a sagging over her shoulder Tsunami, paused as they took in the sight before them. The sight before them was just, somehow, out of place.

Tsunade sighed, mind whirling and praying that she could salvage this. The taller man next to her freezing in place with his arm over her shoulders but thankfully not saying a word. "Ladies."

Anko and the others all bowed to her, "Lady Tsunade." Blinking several times in quick succession, her mind tried and failed to make sense of it, before finally deciding it wasn't worth it.

Tsunade sighed and couldn't fight off the blush from her cheeks as the man next to her began to chuckle. A fist to the ribs did little to shut him up either. "I hope we can keep this between us. Yes?"

Shizune nodded quickly, "Of course Lady Tsunade."

Nodding and turning away, she continued on her way, "Then you ladies have a good night." Soon she was gone, her and her companion disappearing towards the shared couples baths.

Ayame looked towards Anko and Shizune, wanting to squeal but also knowing she might be signing her death warrant. "That-that was…that."

Shizune shushed her quickly, "No no no. We saw nothing. Nothing at all. We didn't recognize them."

Anko was leering as she straightened out Tsunami on her shoulder and started to walk again, "I'm so not drunk enough for this."

Tsunami giggled, eyes unfocused, "Lord Jiraiya looks good in a robe! Not as good as Naruto though. Mmmm, those abs. Can we call him? Inari deserves a younger sibling or three."

Ayame, Anko and Shizune all exchanged a look before sighing and decided to leave. Ayame crossed her arms under her bust, "I'm so dragging that out of Naruto later on."

Anko nodded, "Call me, I'll join in on the ribbing."