A/N:

Thanks for all your reviews! Your encouragements are much appreciated.

First off, I'd like to apologize for last chapter being so short, but this one isn't much longer. The next one though will be quite a long one, and I should have it by tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow at the most.

And I've been asked why I have placed ' nigh immortal' in my summary. Well, first off, not even the Kyuubi's chakra is unlimited, so after it had run out, Naruto would have died. After three-hundred years, he has come very close. And secondly, I seriously doubt that Kyuubi could heal Naruto's body if he was decapitated. Regrowing missing limbs might be possible for the Kyuubi, but regrowing a head including brains and stuff? I don't think so, which would make Naruto very much dead.

After all that said, enjoy the chapter.


What Might Be – Chapter 4

He is watching councilor Serpent from a distance, just like hundreds of soldiers do. Serpent has been chosen as diplomatic liaison to Metal, and this is first contact with the Metal ambassador.

They have agreed to meeting at the borderline in a large clearing more than 400 feet in diameter. The north-western border of Sun is densely forested with only rare openings in the tight canopy. From there on, the land becomes more and more hilly until the huge mountains Metal is famous for loom at the horizon.

Of course, both Metal and Sun have brought part of their armies to make certain their envoys are protected. But all soldiers have to wait two-hundred feet away, staying behind between the tall trees. Only one envoy of each party is supposed to be in the clearing. Serpent is Sun's representative, and he is standing right in the center, dressed in all his formal regalia.

But by now, the envoy of Metal is more than fashionably late although Metal soldiers are there. He can see that Serpent is trying to hide his uneasiness but failing miserably. It must be quite draining to stand there all alone with several hundred soldiers watching your every move from both sides.

Finally, more than an hour after the time stipulated, the ranks of Metal soldiers part and someone in metallic, reddish robes strides forward until he is only ten feet away from Serpent in his green robes. The Metal ambassador has brilliantly red hair shaped in a bowl-cut, and his features are drawn into a depreciative expression.

They stiffly bow to each other and talk so low that none of the soldiers is able to hear them. He has no such problems though. His sensitive hearing is completely focused onto the two men.

"Greetings to you, Serpent of Sun. Why has your chancellor demanded to talk to the Metallic Triad?"

Serpent, usually a very aloof man, makes every effort to create an agreeable atmosphere despite the affront Metal has dealt him. "Greetings to you, too, Copper of the Metallic Triad. My country feels honored that Metal graces us with the presence of such an illustrious ambassador as you are. Just as Chancellor Sun has already sent word to you, we wish for a peaceful conclusion to the stalemate at our borders."

A haughty sneer on Copper's face, thin lips peeling back to reveal glinting teeth. "Where do you see a stalemate? I see none for our armies are more than strong enough to overwhelm yours."

"That might have been the case ten years ago, but now, we have the upper hand. I'm sure you have heard of the undefeatable Golden General. What you can see behind me is a third of his Golden Brigade, his top elite soldiers who haven't lost any important battles as of yet. I am sure you didn't want to imply they are weak. They have been fighting on two frontiers for the past five years, and they have been winning. And even you have to admit that Wind is a fearsome adversary."

Copper waves arrogantly. "Wind is not as strong as it once was. They have even less arable land than you have, and water is a sparse commodity within their borders. I am sure they would agree to your generous offer of peace and trade because they don't have anything left to fight with. Not so Metal. Our mountains are rich with both nourishment and hiding places. We are strong, and we do not need peace with such pitiful countries as Sun or Wind."

Gradually, Serpent loses his politeness in face of such blatant disrespect for any diplomatic gestures. "You are not interested in trade, either, are you?"

"What can you offer which we do not already have? Our ore deposits are much more abundant than any of yours, our lands produce enough wood and food, and our technology is much more advanced than yours. No, we do not need to trade with the likes of you."

"We have heard that Silver of the Metallic Triad has a daughter who is suffering from an unknown Wind poison. There might be some healers in our armies who know the poison and the antidote."

In a very interesting show of anger, Copper's face flushes nearly the same shade as his robes and his hair. "I knew it! That was the work of you dishonorable curs form Sun! You think that by offering to help a child you have poisoned yourself you will get into the good graces of the Metallic Triad? Get out of my sight and never return again! Should any of you ever step even a foot onto our soil again, we will rip you apart and give your bloody remainders to the Devils of Valhya!"

He can see that Serpent stiffens at those insults, but bows to Copper nonetheless with a last veneer of civility. "We have not made any move to do Silver's daughter any harm; none of our men has poisoned her. But you have clearly indicated that you do not wish for a mutual peace.

"Any man or woman of Metal who crosses the border will be treated as spies with no mercy shown. Should you attack our country again, we will retaliate without hesitation. It was not very enjoyable talking to you, Copper of the Metallic Triad. May it take a long time for our paths to cross again."

Without acknowledging the arrogant Metal envoy again, Serpent turns around and marches back to the safe embrace of Sun soldiers. Those 200 feet are the most dangerous ones as Serpent's back is to the enemy, and appearance does not allow for him to show any unease.

Nothing happens, and Serpent reaches the protecting rows of Sun soldiers unharmed. The back of his green robe has turned dark with sweat.

Copper remains in the center of the field, growing more and more nervous by the minute as if he was waiting for something to happen. Finally, he marches back towards Metal, almost stomping with every step. He looks like a small child who didn't get what he wanted.

With a smile, the observer from the trees gets up and reaches behind the trunk. The gun he now carries is quite bloody on the butt-end, and the barrel is bent at a ninety-degree angle. If one looked very closely, one could find three different kinds of hairs within the blood: long, black, and wavy; short, black, and curly; and short, brown, and wavy. Their owners have long ago left the land of living.

There will be no almost-assassinated member of the Metallic Triad today. He has taken out the three snipers who had been hired by Metal to provide a reason for Metal to declare open war on Sun. And shooting Copper, the Metal envoy; during a diplomatic meeting certainly would have been a valid one.

Smiling, he ghosts off.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

Word has gotten around in well-informed circles that any time the Golden General is around, all assassinations fail. Nobody knows what kind of magic the Golden General weaves, but anyone trying to quietly eliminate the general or important people in his vicinity simply vanishes, and more often than not, is found later on quite dead.

But the Golden General is not always around. At the moment, he and a third of his Golden Brigade are at the eastern border to draft a peace treaty with Wind while most of his army patrols Metal borders. And, anyways, maybe the Golden General's legendary luck does not extend towards poisons.

The hooded man looks around; the wine master is gone and the servant isn't here yet. A quick hand slithers out of brown folds and drops a pinch of white powder into the jug of wine. The one who sold him the powder had assured him that an old man, especially one as old as the chancellor, will not live long after ingesting the poison.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

Negotiations with Wind are progressing in leaps and bounds. Bird and Westwind understand each other very well, and Wind is more than happy to trade some of its finest glass and porcelain for wood and crops. The plains they have met at are vast and dry, sparse grass barely covering topmost soil. What is one of the hottest places in Sun is seen as one of the colder forecourts to the hellish desert most of Wind consists of.

The same difference is in their clothes: While Wind soldiers are swathed in long, wide gowns with thick burnouses on their heads, Sun soldiers sweat heavily beneath their thick fabric.

Some of the more daring Sun soldiers have tried trading Wind soldiers for their garbs, and those meetings always are a great source of entertainment. Soldiers from both camps come and watch those verbal duels between drawling, slow-talking Sun citizens, and the almost singing elaborations of Wind soldiers. Most of the time, a few burnouses and a few wooden trinkets change owners before a superior breaks up the party.

At the moment, he watches General Minamoto tend to the paperwork such a logistic nightmare as leading an army of 50,000 men produces.

He thinks it strange that none of the people he has seen so far bear any marks of bloodline abilities. But perhaps those families are hiding away because they have become outcast for their different looks. If the majority of the population has lost all knowledge of chakra, who is to say they haven't lost all knowledge about bloodlines, too? Especially as the latter ones are more obscure.

Even three-hundred years ago, when he had still been in Konoha, all techniques concerning creation and alteration of bloodlines have vanished. Most information on their blood-related abilities had been guarded closely by the respective clans, and they had already started dying out when he had left. To think of it, he was the one who had killed the last two Uchiha…

The beast growls within his stomach. It is strangely comforting for him to know that the beast doesn't hate him for those centuries of starvation he has forced upon it. And, he thinks that in some animalistic way, the beast even cares for him. After those failed negotiations at Metal's border, it certainly is nice to see that something goes right for once.

"General, General!"

An excited soldier bursts into General Minamoto's tent, waving a piece of paper. "A telegram from Soleil! The chancellor is very sick, and he demands your presence immediately!"

The general frowns. "Let me see."

His frown grows even deeper when he reads the message, completely ignoring the soldier who still stands at attention.

"Inform council member Bird at once", he absently demands. "Tell him to come here, but do not tell him of the message's content if he is in company of the Wind ambassador."

"Yes, Sir!"

A few minutes later, a carefully neutral councilor arrives, dressed in his formal robes. He stiffly sits down on a collapsible chair. "What is so important that you had to interrupt my diplomatic dinner with Westwind?"

Without any words, the general hands Bird the message, and the councilor starts frowning, too. "That is a most… unfortunate… moment. A week or two, and we will have our treaty."

The general nods. "Add week or two and we might have a new chancellor. This sounds serious. It worries me that the chancellor has fallen ill so severely. Do you think Wind will sign the treaty when there is the chance that our Excellency might die very soon?"

Bird looks thoughtful. "Wind is desperate for peace, but they aren't stupid. If one of the more radical council members becomes chancellor, there are few chances that they will uphold any treaty. The telegram did not demand for me explicitly, so I could stay here with the Wind envoy. But it looks as if our chancellor was seriously ill. Usually, the whole council is present when a new chancellor is named, and I think he will have to do that, soon. He is more than 70 years old, after all. That would mean that we have to interrupt negotiations completely.

"But he hasn't demanded for me yet. I am not certain whether I should stay or not."

Bird is kneading his fingers, a sure sign that he is nervous. Sighing, the General stares at a tent pole.

"And just when things went that well… I've got close to 2000 men here. Wind's got almost double the amount on the other side, and they are used to fighting in such terrain. I know my second in command is capable, but this is not a good situation. Should Wind decide that these are only delaying tactics to cover that we don't seriously think of signing the treaty, they will attack. Two on one odds are bad, even for my Golden Brigade. On the other hand, if you leave at the same time as me, there will be no high-ranking Sun representative left. Wind could come to the same conclusion as before."

Having grown considerably paler, Bird looks anywhere but at the General.

"I… I don't think Wind will attack if I stay. Westwind is very moderate, and no doubt their spies will have notified them of the situation. And, General Minamoto, I believe in your Golden Brigade."

Slowly, the general nods. "I sincerely hope you won't regret your decision. I will take only twenty men with me, so most of them can ensure your safety. Let's hope that it is only a small illness the chancellor has caught, nothing serious. And that none of our more revolutionary fractions are the cause of the chancellor's all-too-sudden sickness."

"Yes, let's hope so. While you are gone, could you arrange for it that I get a daily report on the Chancellor's health?"

"Any news we receive will immediately be forwarded to you. Anything else you need before I leave? Oh, yes. Soldier Kimihara?"

The tent flap opens, and the same soldier who has brought the telegram comes in. "Yes, Sir?"

"See if you can find Colonel Suzuka. It's important. And tell battalion two, squads four and five to pack immediately. They are to head for Soleil with two pick-ups in two hours. I will meet up with them west of the encampment."

"At once, Sir."

Turning towards the council member once again, the General continues. "Colonel Suzuka is very experienced and a great tactician. You will be as safe with him as possible under those circumstances. The two of you already have been introduced, so I hope you will excuse me. Every minute counts now. Suzuka will arrive here as soon as he can, and then you will be able to discuss strategies in my absence. If you think it wise, you can take the telegram with you and show it to the Wind ambassador. Anything else I might have forgotten?"

Bird shakes his head. "I can't think of anything for the moment. Give my sincerest well-wishes to the chancellor, and I pray that Amaterasu will grant him a long life."

"Me, too, councilor, me too."


A/N:

Anything you didn't like? Found any plot-holes? Want to criticize my writing style? Then please leave a review; I appreciate anything that will help me improve my stories.

Sakiku