"Begin," Tsunade shouted.
Obito popped three kunai out from his sleeve, one between each of his fingers, and threw them at Izumi. The puppeteer jerked her head back and forth between each of the blades. Obito's eyes narrowed as he started forming hand signs. Izumi's eyes observed Obito carefully. The Uchiha launched a large fireball at the new recruit of Akatsuki. Izumi twirled around gracefully before planting her hands and feet on the ground. As the fireball approached, Izumi watched carefully.
Naruto looked on with worry, "Get out of there Izumi!"
Tsunade's eyes narrowed with disapproval. Izumi waited until the last moment to spring up into the air. She narrowly missed the fireball, but her eyes stayed focused ahead. As she cleared the jutsu, she was met with an airborne, and surprised, Obito. The Uchiha cried out in shock as Izumi swung her foot up. Obito raised his arm and blocked the kick before throwing his own foot at Izumi. The puppeteer caught Obito's foot with both hands before pushing her opponent back. The two opponents landed on the ground, crouching on the ground.
'She's good…she managed to see through that little tactic of mine, and managed to plant chakra strings on my foot when I attacked.' Obito activated his Sharingan and looked down, seeing Izumi's chakra strings attached to his foot. He placed each of his fingers on each separate string and used his own chakra to cut each separate string. Izumi's eyes lit up with shock as a small gasp escaped her lips. Obito looked back up at his opponent, his eyes narrowed as he scanned his opponent. 'She hasn't brought out any puppets either. She's trying to get a feel for my tactics and attack patterns, just like I'm doing. She was smart to see through my use of a fireball as a distraction. However…I covered both escape routes…'
A hand came out through the ground and grabbed Izumi's ankle. The new recruit gasped and snapped her head down to the ground. A second Obito broke out from the ground, with a blue swirling ball of charka in his hand.
'Th-that's Naruto's jutsu!'
"Rasengan," Obito shouted as he pushed his attack forward. Izumi's eyes were wide with shock as the jutsu closed in. The puppeteer then bent backwards as the Rasengan narrowly missed her. Obito released her ankle and scowled as he pulled his arm back to try again. He charged, screaming as he shot his Rasengan forward.
Izumi flipped her lower half backwards and stumbled backwards as Obito closed in on her. She threw her arms out towards the Uchiha, and from the sleeves of her new Akatsuki cloak shot out four long puppet arms that wrapped around him. Obito was frozen in place, groaning softly as he tried to push forward. Izumi panted softly with relief as she realized her opponent wasn't going anywhere. The Obito in front of her smirked and then vanished in a cloud of smoke.
'A shadow clone,' Izumi told herself. 'In case if I traveled underground during his initial attack.' The puppeteer turned her head towards the real Obito, who was smiling in approval. The puppet limbs started to retract back into Izumi's cloak while the kunoichi herself stood perfectly still. 'He may act the fool…but there's more to that man than meets the eye.'
"I didn't see that coming honestly, hiding a puppet in your new clothing. Very tricky of you Miss Izumi." The kunoichi chuckled softly before moving a loose strand of hair out from her face.
"You're hardly one to talk about tricky. A shadow clone underground, and using Naruto's Rasengan."
"To be fair, it's actually the jutsu of Minato Namikaze," Izumi's face immediately changed into one of shock, "Naruto's father."
"Th-the Yellow Flash," Izumi asked.
Obito nodded with a proud smile, "Jiraiya's student, my teacher, and Naruto's father. It shouldn't be too surprising that I know the Rasengan is it?" Izumi laughed softly, her face returning to a calmed expression.
"I suppose not. Shall we continue?"
"Well…I guess if you insist." Obito flipped out a kunai and took a battle ready stance. Izumi lifted her arms up a bit, holding them a few inches from her body. 'She's got a puppet of some sort in her robes. There's no bump or bulge…maybe it's a partial summon…or maybe…she's part puppet like Lady Chiyo was.' Izumi charged forward. Obito, a bit surprised, moved back a little more, 'She's attacking first? She's got something in mind…'
Izumi's eyes were half closed and expressionless, reminding Obito of another Uchiha he worked with. The spiky haired shinobi took another hesitant step back, keeping his Sharingan sharp. Izumi lowered herself down as she got closer to Obito. The spiky haired shinobi swung his kunai forward as Izumi fell down to her hands. Obito gasped softly as he felt something hold his body firmly in place. He looked down, and saw that his body was completely tangled up in a series of wooden, lanky limbs coming out from every opening in Izumi's Akatsuki cloak.
"Well…damn," Obito murmured.
"You should've kept your distance Obito-san," Izumi said with a soft tone, her eyes expressionless and staring forward at nothing.
"Well puppeteers don't typically rush forward," Obito pointed out with a sheepish grin. "I wasn't sure what to expect."
"You knew she had something up her sleeve, literally in this case," Tsunade scolded from a distance. The Sannin sighed and rested her forehead against her hand, "This exercise is over." Izumi's puppet limbs loosened around Obito and then started retracting back within her cloak. Obito sighed with relief then stepped backwards. An angry Tsunade walked back towards the hideout with Shizune right behind her.
The younger members of Akatsuki all moved towards Obito and Izumi, with Naruto leading them. The blonde sprung into the air happily just before he got to his two seniors, "That was awesome! Izumi nee-chan you're freaking amazing!" The new recruit turned to Naruto and gave him a nervous, yet flattered laugh.
"Man, when did it get so late," Obito asked as he looked out onto the horizon. The other members of Akatsuki turned their heads and saw the sun setting behind the trees in the distance. 'This'll probably be the last moment of peace that these kids'll have once the war picks up…they probably don't even realize what's about to come…'
The Alliance squad, now consisting of nothing but the Konoha shinobi, made its way back to the Land of Fire. The Serpent Five still remained absolutely silent, Sasuke's team brooded, Shikamaru and his partners remained indifferent, and only Sakura's team seemed to be actively talking. Sakura listened to her teammates talk about something tedious.
"Shut your mouths," Kimimaro barked suddenly, and loudly. "We're approaching the Land of Waterfalls. Hanzo-sama's forces should meet us here to escort us back to the Land of Fire. Until then I don't want to hear a word from anyone until we meet their forces." As soon as Kimimaro finished his sentence, a group of shinobi sprung down from the treetops in front of the Konoha shinobi. The pale leader of the Serpent Five stopped in his tracks in front of the gas-masked shinobi.
"Sheesh, do you just have no faith in me Kimimaro," the young green haired kunoichi asked as she removed her mask.
"I just prefer not to leave things up to the enemy Fu-san," Kimimaro replied firmly.
"Yeah, yeah, anyway, we've been told that we're to give you the paperwork you all will need to fill out for the upcoming war."
"We need to fill out paperwork," Shikamaru groaned. "What a drag…"
"It's to make sure that we can better organize our forces," Fu explained. "That way we know who should be with who, and if there are transfers during the war between regiments, then there's more paperwork to be done. Until then this is just telling you what platoons you're gonna be apart of, who'll be leading you, where you'll be stationed, and so on. All you really need to do is write your signature and turn it in back at your village." Fu motioned to one of her fellow shinobi behind her. The man walked up with a large stack of papers and pullet out the first stapled group of them. Kimimaro took the papers and then looked at Fu.
"I don't suppose you have something to write with?" Fu shook her head with a half annoyed look.
The rest of the papers were handed out, and the Konoha shinobi were going through the forms. "I'm apart of Division Five, the Special Ops Division," Fu said. "If you have any questions, basically we're the ones with unique abilities, and the reinforcements that'll be divided up amongst the other divisions if need be. The regiment as a whole shouldn't be on the front lines too much. And our commander is Orochimaru himself. And I only know the specifics of Division Five. The rest you'll have to find out yourself."
"I'm apart of the Fifth Division," Shino stated evenly, with a slight air of pride in his tone.
"I'm apart of the Third Division," Sasuke spoke with a bit of anger. "I'm not good enough to be apart of the Special Ops…?"
"Hey, I didn't assign anyone to anything," Fu snapped back at the young Uchiha. "So don't get pissy with me. At least your sensei is leading that regiment isn't he?" Sasuke huffed then nodded, looking at the picture of Kakashi that came with his forms.
"Well Choji, looks like you and I are in the same group," Shikamaru said as he looked at his chubby friend's forms. Choji looked at his best friend with a relieved smile and laughed softly.
"I'm in the Third Division along with Sasuke," Lee shouted youthfully, fire burning brightly in his eyes, "I promise I won't let you down comrade!" Sasuke rolled his eyes and groaned softly. "Sakura-chan! What Division are you apart of?"
"I'm apart of the First Division," Sakura replied, reading the fine print of the documents.
"Us too," Zaku shouted, pointing to himself and Dosu. "YES! This team remains inseparable!" Zaku raised his hand up to his partner for a high-five. Dosu however, ignored his teammate, as his eyes were wide with confusion as he looked at the last paper. "Yo, don't leave me hangin."
"This…this can't be right," Dosu murmured.
Sakura turned to her teammate, "What's wrong?" Dosu remained silent, unable to contemplate what he was reading. Zaku leaned over as Sakura stepped back on the other side of Dosu. The two gasped softly as they looked at their commander.
"That…that can't be right," Zaku stated. "Your uncle retired didn't he?" Sakura quickly reopened her file and flipped to the last page where it had the name of her commander, and a picture of her uncle's face.
"This…there has to be a mistake," Sakura whispered. "Excuse me, Lady Fu." The Jinchuriki turned her head to Sakura. "Are you sure this is right?" The pink haired kunoichi showed the last page to Fu. The green haired girl looked at the file and nodded.
"Yeah, I heard he was brought out of retirement to be a commander in the war," Fu explained. "It happened just the other day I think. I'm not sure about the specifics, but a few of the older veterans say that your uncle is more than qualified to be a commander in the war." Sakura swallowed nervously. She was lost beyond words, and wasn't sure what to make of the situation. "Is that all," Fu asked slowly. Sakura was snapped out of her trance and nodded softly to the Jinchuriki. "Then we'll be moving out now." The Ame shinobi turned around and started moving into the forest with the Konoha team behind them.
"This doesn't make sense," Sakura murmured to herself, still reading the file on her uncle. "It doesn't make sense…"
Danzo didn't like the situation he was in at all. He sent a private letter to Sasori and Mao, explaining a new jutsu that Orochimaru has perfected, that could give the Alliance the edge it needs to win the war. All he requested was that a few of his shinobi look over the remains of some of their more famous, and powerful shinobi. However, Mao requested that he and Sasori witness said jutsu before allowing Konoha to grave-rob his ancestors.
Thankfully the Alliance had a jutsu to allow both the Kazekage and Tsuchikage to witness the jutsu from their homes without wasting days of travel. Danzo still felt uncomfortable though, allowing both Mao and Sasori to see such a jutsu. He felt as though it gave away a certain edge he could hold over the two Kages. If it wasn't for Orochimaru's counsel, Danzo would've just had a few of his shinobi sneak into the villages and take what they needed.
Two holograms opened up before Danzo, one of Sasori and the other of Mao. "Thank you Lord Kazekage, Lord Tsuchikage, for taking the time to oversee this."
"If it gives us an advantage in the war to come, who am I to say no," Mao asked rhetorically.
Orochimaru stepped out of the shadows, wearing a bloody apron and leather gloves, "Ah, I see our honored guests are here." The Sannin pulled the gloves off of his hands and pulled the apron off over his head. "Shall we begin?"
"Ready when you are Orochimaru," Mao replied. Sasori nodded in agreement.
"This jutsu was created by the Second Hokage, who branded it a forbidden jutsu. With Danzo-sama's approval, I've managed to perfect the jutsu, and will use it for our own purposes." Orochimaru waved to the shadows and stepped to the side. Kin was the first one to step out of the shadows with the first two Hokages walking behind her. Sasori's eyes widened a bit with shock while Mao's narrowed in skepticism. "May I introduce, Hashirama Senju, and Tobirama Senju. Brothers, founders of Konohagakure, and the first two Hokages of our village."
"The first two Hokages…how did you…"
"Impure World Resurrection: Edo Tensei," Mao murmured, cutting Sasori off. Danzo snapped his head to the Tsuchikage, and wondered how he would've known of such a jutsu. Orochimaru simply chuckled as always and nodded. "I'm curious though…how far you've perfected it Orochimaru-san. And I'd like for you to prove that this isn't merely some genjutsu or some second-rate knock-off of the Edo Tensei that your Second Hokage created."
"An understandable concern," Orochimaru replied. "That is why I've prepared a demonstration for you." The Sannin motioned to Kin who nodded firmly to him. The young girl vanished in the darkness and then came back with a young child on a stretcher. "This poor lad was apart of a scouting party, on a routine patrol of the border. He got too cocky against a group of bandits and…well he was the only one injured on the squad."
The boy's eyes slowly opened and looked over at the Sannin, "O…Orochimaru-s-sama…?"
"Now, now my child…it's alright." The boy seemed to relax for a bit, and then became confused when he saw Orochimaru smear some blood over a scroll. The Sannin placed the scroll on the ground next to the boy, as a series of markings formed on the ground around him. "Now…this will hurt you…"
"L-Lord Orochimaru," the boy asked, his tone more frightened than before. The ground around the boy, encompassed by the seal on the floor, came up and started encasing him. The boy struggled and cried out for help as his body slowly started becoming consumed by the earth.
"N-no! Stop it! Please Orochimaru-sama!" The boy screamed in terror before his body was finally encased completely with earth.
The mass started to take a different shape of another young boy. Danzo's shot open in disbelief when he started to recognize the shape. The earth finally settled into a final form, of a young boy with spiky hair and two marks on the bottom of his eyelids. The boy opened his eyes and sat up, looking around in confusion. Tobirama, Hashirama, and Danzo all gapped in surprise at the newest resurrected.
"Hiruzen," Danzo murmured.
"Sarutobi," Tobirama whispered, his tone soft and remorseful. "You didn't survive that day…?"
Orochimaru turned to the Tsuchikage and Kazekage, both of whom were convinced by how surprised Danzo was. "As you can see, as long as we have a living specimen, and enough DNA of the deceased, I can bring any person back to life. They retain all of their abilities, even their summons, their personality, fighting style, everything is the same. They're immortal, immune to pain, and can heal from any injury. And the best part of it all is that they're under our complete control. And if need be, I can destroy their personalities and they'll run on their base instincts, and be nothing more than mindless killing machines."
"Quite the impressive jutsu," Mao admitted. "And I suppose you've already made a list of candidates for Sasori and I to prepare for you?"
"My, aren't you on the ball. It's not a long list mind you, but the ones we're requesting are…rather risky to pull off."
"From you Lord Mao, Mu the Second Tsuchikage, and Onoki, the Third Tsuchikage. From Sasori, the Third Kazekage, and the Honored Siblings. We have more on the list, but the most potential candidates are in Union territory, one of whom is Saizo Hideyoshi."
"If you got him, our victory would be all but assured," Mao spoke. "I fought him on the battlefield as part of the reinforcements to help Konoha. That shinobi…was more of a demon than a man. If he was immortal and unstoppable, then he could probably take down an entire army himself."
"But that would require us to get into Union territory, in the Land of Water specifically. Plus we don't know exactly how many shinobi would…oppose using the dead to help us. Which is why Lord Danzo suggested to wait until later in the war, when things were being dragged out and we're desperate for an ending. When little more options are available."
"I doubt that the tarnished reputation of the Third Kazekage would be a problem, nor would it be an issue to use the traitorous Honored Siblings would concern my people," Sasori stated. "I'll get Kabuto on retrieval of their DNA immediately."
"What about you Lord Tsuchikage," Orochimaru asked. "Surely we could bring back the great Mu and the cowardly Onoki back into the war."
"Unfortunately, the people of Iwagakure are too proud, or too stubborn, and would revolt against such an action. Even if Onoki were the one to be used. If it were up to me though, I'd gladly give you their remains."
"I understand," Orochimaru replied with a polite bow. Danzo glared over in Mao's direction. The Hokage didn't believe, nor trust Mao's excuse for a second. "That's all I have for the demonstration as of now gentlemen. If you have any specimens for me, please let me know. If there are any new developments, I'm sure Danzo-sama will let you all know." The holographic figures nodded and then disappeared from sight.
The Third Hokage turned to Orochimaru, glaring fiercely at him with his visible eye. Orochimaru met the old man's gaze, unaffected by his superior's stare. "Be cautious of who you bring back from the grave Orochimaru," Danzo threatened. "From now on, I want the DNA of every single shinobi you plan on bringing back to life. No more secrets like Hiruzen, you understand?"
Orochimaru simply clapped his palms together. The three resurrected shinobi all hung their heads in unison as three coffins appeared around them. The lids shut with a noisy, wooden 'thunk' as Orochimaru lowered his arms.
Danzo glared furiously at the Sannin, who remained calm and stared back. After a few moments, Orochimaru smiled and bowed his head to the Hokage, "Of course Lord Danzo. Forgive me, but I believe the genuine shock on your face for the demonstration would help convince Sasori and Mao that this was the real Edo Tensei." Orochimaru lifted his head up and smiled again at Danzo. "But I promise, I'll give you a full list of the shinobi I plan on resurrecting. Even the DNA of those I don't have. You have my word."
Danzo nodded before he turned sharply and walked out of Orochimaru's lab. As the door closed, Orochimaru's smile vanished.
"Every single candidate Lord Orochimaru," Kin asked softly. "What about that…special donation."
"If everything goes according to 'his' plan, then I won't have to worry about Danzo," Orochimaru replied firmly. He turned to Kin and grinned devilishly. "For I will become the Fourth Hokage, and I'll revive all the damned shinobi I wish. Including that old squad Danzo formed."
"The one that the Yellow Flash and the Chakra Princess led?" Orochimaru nodded, cupping his chin with his hand. "As you said my lord, all you need is to ensure that everything goes according to 'his' plans and you'll bring back every shinobi you wish."
"Quite…How are we with setting up the Edo Tensei Grid?"
"The idea is very good Orochimaru-sama," Kin stated. "If we can teach other high-ranking officials within the Alliance the Edo Tensei, in the midst of battle we can spread out the resurrected shinobi, giving each regiment a few extra, immortal, unstoppable troops."
"You're doing it again," Orochimaru sighed. "Telling me what I already know…"
"Forgive me Orochimaru-sama. Anyway, it's difficult to work out the finer details of the Grid. Namely, how much power each summoner will have over the resurrected as oppose to how much power you'll keep over the individual. Not only that, but from what you want to have set up; a grid so that if something were to happen to one summoner and they were forced to release the jutsu, the others could keep Edo Tensei active, unless every member of the Grid were taken out. Setting up such an elaborate jutsu is going to take some time my lord."
"I want it completed before the war starts Kin," Orochimaru ordered. "And choose individuals we can trust. I don't want Danzo to use Shisui's eye against me, so he can take control of Edo Tensei instead of me."
Kin bowed her head down, "I'll work on the Grid immediately my lord. What will you be doing in the meantime?"
Orochimaru grinned and turned his back to the young girl, "I'm going to work on our special…donation. A power such as his deserves little less than perfect." With that said, Orochimaru headed deeper into his laboratory, vanishing in the darkness.
Jiraiya groaned as he opened a new file to read. The Sannin's least favorite part about being a leader in Akatsuki had to be the paper work. 'Who would've thought leading a band of misfits to overthrow the world would require so much organizing…'
The old Sannin's head popped up enthusiastically when someone knocked on his door, "Come in! Please for the love of everything come in!" The door opened and Konan slowly entered the room. Jiraiya groaned and slumped over, "You didn't bring me more paperwork did you…?"
"No sensei," Konan replied. "Though it's nice to see you keeping up with your duties." Jiraiya rolled his eyes at his former student's sarcastic remark as he leaned back in his chair.
"What do you need Konan?"
"Well…I've been going through some files, namely the ones we have on Konoha shinobi and…I'll just be forward, I'm looking for one individual in particular, but no such file exists on him."
"Well we only have files on a few shinobi. The shinobi in ROOT or even some in the ANBU we have no such files on."
"It's not a shinobi from either organization." Konan lowered her eyes and sighed. Jiraiya tilted his head slightly with curiosity. "He's a former shinobi. Retired apparently. I wasn't aware that Konoha shinobi were allowed to do that though."
"There have been a few exceptions. If he's not a shinobi, he's not a concern Konan." Jiraiya grabbed the document he was reading before his student showed up and started rereading it. Konan's eyes zeroed in on her sensei. She could tell he was hiding something now.
"But he was a former shinobi wasn't he?"
"But he's not anymore," Jiraiya stated simply, not removing his eyes from the document. "Leave it alone Konan."
"You're hiding something…" Jiraiya's eyes remained fixated on the document in his hand. Konan stepped forward, standing firmly in front of her teacher. "He's younger than me…but around the same age that the Yellow Flash would be if he were still alive." The Sannin's eyes darkened as they shot towards Konan. The young woman remained firm, staring back at her sensei with the same intensity he showed. "I reread his and Kushina Uzumaki's profiles. It says they were apart of a specialized team of six shinobi. Kushina and Minato were both classified as S-rank shinobi in their day. I cross-referenced every other S-class shinobi around that time, and no one else was apart of a specialized team of six Konoha shinobi. So either they're still alive, you nor Tsunade knew who they were, or much more likely, you're hiding the information."
"I told you to leave it alone…"
"Just tell me why you're protecting Higure Haruno. I understand letting Naruto run out his little crush with Sakura, but why are you going out of your way to protect Higure?" Jiraiya slowly placed the document in his hand on the desk. The two adults stared intensely at one another, neither backing down in the slightest.
"He won't join Akatsuki," Jiraiya finally spoke. Konan folded her arms over her chest. The white haired man knew that's what she was going to get to eventually, but Jiraiya knew better. "He's a…very dedicated man. He's trapped in Danzo's world."
"Why doesn't he just rebel like you and many other Konoha shinobi have," Konan asked firmly. "He can bring his niece as well to Akatsuki."
"It's more…complex than that," Jiraiya replied. "He can't just pick up and leave with his niece. I can't explain it to you in a way you would understand Konan…"
The blue haired woman sighed heavily through her nose. Jiraiya simply lowered his eyes to his desk. He hoped his former student would leave the room quickly. Konan dropped a file on Jiraiya's desk and silently walked out of his office. The Sannin narrowed his eyes before he picked up the folder and opened its contents. The older man's expression lit up in shock when he saw Higure Haruno's name as a division commander for the Alliance. Jiraiya continued to stare at the file wordlessly before he placed his large hand over his eyes.
Jiraiya breathed a heavy sigh as he rubbed his brow with his hand, "Oh old friend…what'd they threaten you with…?"
Sakura opened the door to her home and quickly stepped inside, "Uncle Higure? Are you home?"
"In the kitchen," a voice called out. Sakura closed the door and hastily removed her shoes before rushing to the kitchen. Higure stood in front of the stove, cooking something in a skillet and wearing a pink apron. He sighed and turned to Sakura with a half-pout look on his face, "I need to do laundry again. It's very undignified for a man to be wearing so much pink, ya know?"
"Uncle Higure…what's this about you being a military commander," Sakura asked, ignoring her uncle's remark.
"Then again I guess it's not that bad of a color. I mean you and your mother pull it off pretty well after all."
"This isn't funny!"
"Hey, I've never once made fun of you or your mother's oddly colored hair," Higure snapped. Sakura slammed her fist into the doorframe, causing it to crack and break under the force. Higure stared silently at his niece's fist and he noticed she was shaking slightly. His green eyes traveled over to Sakura, who had her head hung down, using her hair to cover her face. "It was something I couldn't say no to…"
"NO!" Sakura's head whipped up suddenly. Higure gasped a bit when he saw that Sakura was fighting back tears, yet her eyes held an unyielding determination. "No more of this half-truth you always give me about your past or about anything secret! I deserve an answer this time! Especially if you're supposed to be my commander on the battlefield!"
Silence filled the Haruno household as the only two occupants stared at one another with their same green colored eyes. Higure was the first to cave, sighing with defeat before turning around and leaning against the counter and crossing his arms over his chest.
"The Alliance needed one last commander. Danzo saw me as the best choice to fill in that position, and had the perfect way to force me out of retirement." Higure turned his head towards Sakura. The pink haired girl's eyes softened in realization as she placed her hand over her chest. A heavy weight of guilt pressed down on her heart.
"W-well…you do have plenty of battle experience, a-and you are an apt leader from what you've told me," Sakura stated, her tone laced with nervousness. "I-I'm sure with your leadership will save a lot of lives in this war in the long run Uncle." Despite her trying to rationalize it, Sakura still felt guilty. Whether she liked it or not, she was the tool used to blackmail her uncle into servitude, and out of retirement.
"It's mostly just so Danzo can have one last petty victory over me…he wants to make sure that I'm kept in line, and that he can control me." Sakura's eyes fell to the floor, falling silent once again. Higure did the opposite and looked up at the ceiling as his eyes narrowed angrily. "He hates the idea of having a valuable tool laid out in front of him that he can't use. That man…sometimes I wish I was never apart of this stupid village."
Sakura's face lit up suddenly at her uncle's words. Immediately her mind went to images of Naruto, and his friends when they were undercover in the village. Despite their oddities and their often clashing personalities, they seemed to get along, and they were close, like a family. In her mind, Sakura was reminded of her, her teammates, and her uncle from remembering Naruto's interaction with his teammates, and the blonde's stories of his 'clan' that he would tell her when they were together.
"Um…Uncle Higure…" The older man turned his head with a curious look on his face. Sakura was nervous as could be even thinking her treacherous thoughts. The pink haired girl shuffled about nervously before looking her uncle in the eye. "What…what would you say to…um…" Higure looked a bit concerned for his niece, but waited for her to finish nonetheless. Sakura took in a deep breath and thoughtlessly blurted out what was on her mind, "Joining Akatsuki!"
Silence hung heavily in the air. Higure's only expression was one of stunned shock. Sakura herself was a little surprised with herself for such a bold suggestion, and that she shouted it no less. After a few long, awkward seconds, Higure threw his head back and laughed out loud. Sakura was again surprised as she took a hesitant step back.
Higure stopped laughing, smiling as he stared at the ceiling, "That's certainly an option isn't it…?" The older man lowered his head and stared forward with a smile and a spark of fire in his eyes Sakura had never seen before. Was that the Will of Fire her uncle talked so much about? Higure tightened his hand on his arms a bit with anxiety that he could scarcely contain. He turned to Sakura, his smile and fire remaining, "Are you sure that's an option you can follow through with?"
Sakura nodded firmly, "Yeah. I…I may have to bring it up with my friends, Zaku and Dosu though. They're my brothers. I can't leave them without giving them some kind of heads up."
"I understand," Higure replied. "This is…very sudden Sakura."
"I know…but I think this is what we need to do…ya know?"
"I understand…but before we decide anything, I think we need to sit down and talk about this. This is going to affect our whole lives Sakura. We're going to have to live on the run from the most powerful and largest shinobi force in the world. We don't even know if Akatsuki has a chance of survival." The pink haired girl froze in place. She hadn't considered that before. Her suggestion was just a spur-of the moment decision if anything. Sakura looked at her uncle and saw that his spark of life had been replaced by his regular calm, thoughtful expression.
"Alright Uncle…we can talk about it." Higure nodded then took off his apron before walking towards the living room with Sakura next to him.
The Raikage stood with Shinno over a map of the mainland, making their preparations for the coming war. The two leaders looked up when another two figures entered the room. One was Yagura, and the other was his bodyguard Kisame. A scowled slightly, annoyed that the Mizukage didn't trust anyone still. Then again, the Raikage knew he wasn't much different, except in the fact that he trusted his powers more than Yagura's apparently.
"We've gotten word back from the Land of Iron. They still persist on staying neutral in this war."
"I told you it was a lost cause," A growled. "You should just leave them alone Mizukage. I doubt the ultimatums you deal out wouldn't go as far as the ones your predecessor would give his enemies."
"I'm a Mizukage of my own right," Yagura replied calmly. "I'll remind you that I didn't inherit this position like some people in this room."
"Mizukage, Raikage, please," Shinno snapped. "We don't need to be fighting amongst ourselves, do we? The Alliance is going to be troublesome enough." A huffed while Yagura continued into the room, standing at the conference table and staring at the map.
"Will setting up supply posts be necessary," Yagura questioned. "With Shinno's aerial prowess, his troops could drop in supplies wherever we need it."
"But that would take time for our troops to send word back to HQ, and then more time for Shinno's forces to mobilize," A pointed out. "Plus we need the bulk of Shinno's forces to stay available in the fight. His aerial technology will give us an edge over the Alliance. And since the Land of Snow is staying neutral as well, the Alliance has nothing on us in the sense of technological resources."
"I also…have a slight issue with Shinno's entire 'country' being it's own regiment, led by him and with none of our men in his regiment, Raikage."
"Mizukage, if I didn't know any better I'd say you didn't trust me," Shinno said mockingly.
"Let me talk to him," A snapped as he stepped away from the table. Yagura's emotionless eyes turned to the Raikage before he and Kisame moved towards him. A leaned down and whispered lowly to the Mizukage, "Look, Shinno's forces are powerful, there's no doubt about that. But he and his people are little more than fodder to take out as many of the Alliance's forces as they can before they're wiped out. And with their aerial superiority, they can take out a lot."
"Sacrificing one of our 'unique' weapons for a greater cause," Yagura murmured. "You're trying to use Saizo-sama's tactics?"
"They worked," A replied.
"We also lost a sizable portion of our strongest clans with a kekkei genkai, thus lowering our overall power to try to overthrow the Alliance. The price was too high, plus they didn't work. If they worked, you and I wouldn't be having this discussion on how to take down the Alliance."
"Listen, the Land of Sky's greatest resource are their aerial prowess. With that, we've got an edge. But the bulk of their shinobi forces lack the same power and abilities our shinobi have. They'd hold us back if we mixed them amongst our troops. Plus Shinno knows how to use his troops and technology the best."
Yagura sighed and rubbed the side of his head with his fingertips, "I don't like it…but fine. We'll let Shinno play his little game…" A nodded then headed back to the war map with Shinno.
"Are you sure this is okay," Kisame asked. Yagura nodded as his eyes glazed over dully and his voice deepened.
"Shinno has larger goals than just destroy the Alliance," the possessed Mizukage whispered. "He intends to betray this Union and take over the world. Also he has a bit of a 'trump-card' which will prove useful while he plays his game."
"So we let Shinno and the Alliance duke it out and move in over their corpses towards our victory," Kisame grinned devilishly. "That's just like Saizo-sama's tactics if you ask me."
"Who do you think taught him?" Yagura's eyes got a bit of shine back to them before he headed back to continue discussing the war with the fellow Union leaders.
Naruto sighed as he lied on top of a stack of wooden crates full of supplies as the adults move all around the base, getting the organization ready for war. The younger members of Akatsuki, the kids around Naruto's age group, had been asked to stay out of the way while the adults worked. The blonde Jinchuriki and his friends all hung around the crates, watching the adults run by.
"This bites," Kiba murmured angrily. "We can help too can't we?"
"They think we'll just get in the way," Neji explained as he and Hanabi watched two Akatsuki members discussing where they were needed. "For some of us that isn't far from the truth."
"Well how about we do some training," Ino suggested, tossing her hand about lazily.
"Lady Tsunade and the others don't want us to kill each other before we're deployed," Tenten replied with her hands behind her back as she leaned back against the crates.
"Screw what they say," Kiba shouted. "All the adults are gonna be too busy to stop us anyway!"
"It's more than that." The young feral boy and some of the other kids looked over at Gaara. The redheaded Jinchuriki stared ahead, at nothing specific, "With war so close, both the Alliance and the newly formed Union will have scouts all over the place to claim as much territory as they can. If we're outside causing a commotion, that gives either side a chance to attack us before we're ready. Plus we don't exactly want to give the Union trouble if we can avoid it."
Kiba huffed and gave Gaara a look of annoyance while Tenten and Ino smiled gently at him. Neji nodded softly, "Gaara's right Kiba. Don't cause a fight."
"Especially not near all of the supplies," Haku added as he glanced back over his shoulder at the wooden crates, some of which he was sitting on with Ranmaru. The black haired boy turned his head towards Neji and Gaara, who both had their arms crossed and eyes forward, "Does anyone know where we're all being deployed? Are we going to be separated or can we all stay together in this group?"
"Lady Konan told me that most of Akatsuki's forces will be moving from outpost to outpost regularly," Hanabi spoke up softly. Since coming back from the Land of Snow, Hanabi had volunteered as Konan's little-helper to fit in better within Akatsuki's ranks.
"Depending on each person's abilities, we'll all be divided up accordingly," Neji added. "With Kiba's nose, mine, Hanabi, and Ranmaru's eyes, we'll probably be posted up closer to the battles so we can predict the enemy's movements better. Tenten's weapons expertise will probably put her in a supply outpost of some sort. Ino's sensory techniques will more than likely land her in a few scouting squads to better sense enemy movement so that we know where to avoid the bulk of enemy forces."
"Well don't be so eager to separate us all just yet fearless leader," Kiba growled bitterly. He didn't like the idea of being away from all of his friends in a time of war. Neji's eyes lowered a bit before he lifted his head up to where Naruto rested.
"You're being awfully quiet for once," Neji called out to Naruto.
"Sorry," Naruto replied softly. This caused the others to turn around and look up as well. "I just dunno how I'm gonna make it without you guys." Naruto rolled over onto his elbows and looked down at his friends with an almost pained smile. "Most of you have been with me since I was a kid. You all are all my best friends, and if we're all apart…I don't know…I just don't like that we'll all be apart from each other while in constant danger."
The group of young shinobi fell silent. They were all deep down fearing the same thing, but hearing it from Naruto caused it all to sink in much deeper.
"What're you kids all pouting about?" The younger group looked up, seeing Hana walk over carrying a crate with Itachi behind her.
"Nothing sis, just leave us alone," Kiba snapped.
"You all look pretty down in the dumps about something," Itachi pointed out. Kiba glared angrily at the Uchiha clansmen.
"We're just kind of upset about the fact that we'll all be separated when everyone is deployed for the war," Naruto said.
"We were fine until you got all depressed about it," Kiba growled.
"You all do know that there were, and still are, some that are in favor of keeping you kids out of the war right," Itachi asked. Some of the kids all turned their heads towards the older clansmen. "Jiraiya-sama said if you all wouldn't just find some way to cause trouble in the war even if we left you all somewhere, he'd be in favor of it."
"Yeah, and you kids wanted to help so badly," Hana added, pointing a finger at the group. "So don't go complaining when you get your way."
"We don't mind helping at all," Haku spoke up softly. "It's just…we don't know how it's going to be when we don't know how our friends are doing."
"That's just one of many challenges you'll face in war," Itachi said gently with an apologetic smile on his face. "And it's not like we'll be throwing you all in with unfamiliar faces. Each of you will have someone whom will watch over you, and make sure that you're doing your jobs."
"Hey, we're perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves! We don't need babysitters!"
Hana snapped her angered eyes at her younger brother, and pulled part of her upper lip up in a snarl, "What's wrong with you Kiba? Stop being such a whiny pup!"
"Don't tell me what to do! You're my sister, not our mom!"
"I've never claimed to be mom and you know it," Hana snapped as dropped the crate she was holding to point her finger dangerously close to Kiba's face. At this point, the rest of the Akatsuki members had fallen silent and stared awkwardly at the two Inuzuka siblings.
"No, but you sure as hell try to act like her! And if it wasn't for your boyfriend's clan mom would still be alive!"
"That was Konoha's fault, not Itachi's," Hana shouted as she grabbed Kiba by the collar of his shirt. "If that's why you've been avoiding me this whole time then you're just a little baby who I don't think is ready for war!"
Kiba quickly smacked his sister's hand away and then sprinted away from her and his friends. Everyone turned and watched as the young Inuzuka boy disappeared in the crowd of rogue ninjas. Hana sighed heavily as her face twisted with regret, but the anger still lingered. Itachi placed a supportive hand on Hana's shoulder.
"Come on," Hana murmured to her boyfriend. She looked up at the younger kids and offered them the sorriest smile she could muster, "Sorry that you guys had to see that. And I hate to ask this of you all, but Itachi and I still have work to do to prepare for the war. Could you guys maybe send someone to check up on Kiba?"
"No problem," Naruto offered as he hopped off the top of the crates he was lying over. "I'll give him a good beating!"
"I appreciate the offer Naruto, but beating him isn't going to fix it."
"I wasn't offering cause you two fought," Naruto stated. "I was gonna beat him up because he still doesn't trust Itachi! I mean Itachi has done more for Akatsuki and all of us than most people in this organization!"
"There's distrust amongst most people in Akatsuki," Itachi pointed out as he crossed his arms over his chest. "That's what happens when you get a group of rogue ninjas to form into a small militia band to overthrow the world. We're working with some of the most dangerous criminals in all of history. Any shinobi would be wary of a few of their 'teammates' in a group like this."
"But we all swore to join together to take down the Alliance and try to bring the world to peace," Naruto shouted defensively. "I don't care what anyone did in the past, if you're a part of Akatsuki, then you're an ally! If we all go around mistrusting each other, then we're no better than the Alliance!"
The group fell silent again at Naruto's bold words. Itachi sighed softly. He agreed with Naruto on some level, but the boy was still naïve on how the world worked, and how certain people functioned.
Everyone was snapped out of their own individual thoughts when Gaara started to slowly walk away. Before anyone could ask, the redhead simply spoke, "I'll take care of Kiba."
The shaggy haired boy sat on the bank of the lake near Akatsuki's hideout. He stared vacantly at his reflection, trying to empty his head and forget about Hana and her boyfriend, and he tried to repress his memories of his mother. She was a hard woman no doubt, but she was always loving and caring, as every mother should be. Kiba's nose alerting him to the dry scent of Gaara as he approached.
The Jinchuriki walked forward and stood next to Kiba, his arms over his chest as he stared forward at the horizon. The Inuzuka remained silent, but grew slightly angrier than before. He hardly knew the Jinchuriki, and he knew that the redhead was going to try to 'talk some sense' into him as Hana had tried over and over again. After a few seconds of silence, Gaara took off his gourd and set in on the ground next to him before falling back on his rear to sit next to Kiba. The Inuzuka stared at the water while the Jinchuriki stared forward still.
"What," Kiba finally said after a minute of silence between the two.
"Itachi is a comrade, and a member of Akatsuki you know," Gaara spoke. Kiba rolled his eyes and angrily huffed.
"What do you know about comrades? You didn't have a clan that was wiped out in an instant by Konoha…"
"No…but everyone in our group knows loss."
"Do they have a reminder of the people who wiped out their family in front of them every single damn day?" Gaara shook his head silently as Kiba glared at him. The Inuzuka snarled before whipping his head back around and staring intensely at the lake.
"Tell me about what happened to your clan, Kiba," Gaara softly requested. Kiba tensed up, gripping his jacket tightly. Gaara waited before moving his eyes over to look at his friend.
"The Inuzuka Clan was used by Konoha for tracking and infiltration. Their noses were comparable to that of any ninja hound. Every one of us had a trusty hound with us from a young age, which grew up with us. It was the tradition of our clan. I had my own puppy, named Akamaru, given to me by my mom. I did everything with that dog. He was my closest friend…hell, he was apart of me. Then for whatever reason, Danzo ordered the execution of the Inuzuka Clan, calling us all traitors. That's all I know of the situation, because Hana claims that's as much as she knows. Konoha shinobi came to the Inuzuka compound, led by the bulk of the Uchiha Clan, and started killing everyone, man, woman, child, and dog. My mother forced Hana and I to leave, but before she could join us, she was surrounded by members of the Uchiha Clan. Mom, her faithful companion Kuromaru, Hana's dogs the Three Haimaru Brothers…even Akamaru, stayed behind to fight the Uchiha Clan and Konoha to allow me and Hana to escape."
By this point, Kiba bit his lip to stay silent as his shoulders began to shake. He tried his best to fight back his tears and sobs in front of another person. Gaara remained silent and stared with sympathy at Kiba before turning his head back to the horizon.
"I'm sorry for your loss Kiba. I truly am." Kiba huffed as he wiped his tears on his sleeve before lifting his head up enough to stare at the ground. "I don't know what my mother was like…all I know is that apparently she wished for me to exact revenge on Sunagakure, and held no love for her youngest child." Kiba's eyes widened before turning his head towards Gaara in shock. The redhead remained stoic as he continued, "My siblings hated me, my father was a member of the Kazekage's personal guard, and my uncle, who was the only person I thought cared for me, tried to kill me." Kiba's mouth fell open slightly. He was horrified by the terrible family life that the Jinchuriki had. "I was asleep…lost in the darkness due to the lack of love I received in my life. It wasn't until I fought with Naruto and that other man that I managed to wake up.
"He and I fought each other until we were ragged and nearly broken. Yet even at the end, when Naruto was exhausted and his body was about ready to fall over, he stood up on his feet. He stood tall and walked towards me, who lied broken and beaten on the ground, unable to even move my fingers." Gaara looked up into the blue sky and white clouds as his mind took him back to that moment.
"N-no! Stay away!" Naruto ignored Gaara's pleas and continued towards the redhead with hardened eyes.
The redhead could only tremble as he tried to force his body to move away. But he was numb, as if his whole body was glued to the earth itself. Gaara's mind reeled as he wondered what force compelled this boy to stand up and push onward. How was he any different, if not better than Gaara?
Before he knew it, Gaara was covered by the blonde's shadow. The redhead looked up with fear, expecting hatred and malice for putting the pink haired girl in danger, but instead he saw pity, and sorrow in the blonde's eyes.
"I questioned to myself what kept Naruto going," Gaara continued. "What was it that the boy had that kept him so dedicated? I spent my life fighting and living only for myself, and I was feared by child and veteran shinobi alike. I felt like the most powerful being in the world, yet I was lying in the dirt unable to move, while this child was able to stand on his feet and walk towards me without fear. Despite the fact that I was his enemy, and I threatened his precious person, he still felt sympathy for me, and tried to save me."
Gaara's mind took him back to when Naruto was approaching him on the ground. A smile came across his face, "I can see it so clearly now…" Gaara's mind envisioned Naruto's friends lifting him up off the ground and helping the boy walk towards the redhead when he lied on the ground.
"It was all of you who saved him from the darkness, as he saved me from the darkness. It was all of you that motivated him and pushed him to keep fighting when he was about ready to collapse." Gaara turned his head back to Kiba, his eyes showing sympathy towards the young Inuzuka. "I want nothing more than to be able to see my brother and sister, and apologize to them for every wrong I had ever committed against them. I want to look my father in the face and show him the value of friendship, despite his teachings of fighting for the village and oneself." Gaara stood up to his feet as Kiba lifted his head up, captivated by his words. "I'm on the opposite side of my own family in this war…I want nothing more than to show them how I've changed, to show them I'm my own person, and not that terrible monster inside of me. Your last remaining family is right here, on the same side with you. I know you won't always see eye-to-eye with her, but you shouldn't push her away."
Kiba was left speechless by Gaara's words. The redhead lowered his head and smiled gently at Kiba. "I'm going back to the hideout to spend a little more time with our friends. You don't have to come back immediately, but think about what I said." Kiba nodded slowly and Gaara nodded back. The redhead turned around and started heading back to the hideout, leaving Kiba to reflect on his situation.
It was only one week until the Alliance set out for war. The village was filled with hundreds of shinobi from Sunagakure, Iwagakure, and Amegakure, as the Divisions and squads were being formed. Despite the fact the village was packed with so many shinobi running around all over the place, Sakura, Dosu, and Zaku managed to find some seclusion near a small river near the training fields.
None of them liked the idea of going to war, even if they were all in the same Division led by Sakura's uncle. They all knew that their lives were going to be radically uplifted by this war.
"So," Zaku said, trying to make conversation before throwing a pebble into the river.
"Yep," Dosu murmured as he fiddled with his Melody Arm. Sakura sighed softly as she kicked her feet gently in the water.
Her and her uncle had decided that if the opportunity presented itself, that they'd go rogue and seek out Akatsuki. She had no problem with leaving, despite the fact they would be fighting against the village Sakura's parents had fought for their whole lives. Higure had told her time and time again that his friends, sister, and brother-in-law, tried time after time to find a way to change Konoha without uprooting thousands of lives, and causing another war. Now that a war was a week away, Higure told Sakura that Akatsuki may have been the last hope for the world.
Sakura's only regret would be leaving Zaku and Dosu behind. These two were her family, her brothers. She wanted to tell them more than anything, but she wasn't sure how they'd react to her going rogue.
"Hey guys…" Zaku and Dosu turned their heads to Sakura. The pink haired kunoichi shifted nervously for a few moments, "How do you think of Akatsuki? How do you think they'll impact the war?"
"Akatsuki is a crafty organization," Dosu stated as he went back to toying with his Melody Arm. "They're certainly skilled and they know what they're doing. As for how they'll impact the war…that remains to be seen I suppose." Sakura nodded then turned her head to Zaku. The black haired boy lied back in the grass and looked up at the leaves in the trees.
"They got a lot of good shinobi in their hands. I don't hate them like everyone else in the village does just cause they're full of traitors and criminals. I dunno how they'll impact the war, but I'm kinda curious to see it."
"Well…I was just wondering," Sakura murmured. The two males turned their heads in curiosity towards Sakura.
"Is everything okay," Dosu asked. Sakura nodded, fighting against every instinct to tell Dosu and Zaku her plans to go AWOL.
"Hey, punks," a playful voice called out. The three turned their heads, seeing their sensei Anko coming out of the bushes. "Danzo and Orochimaru have some kind of announcement and they want everyone there." The three kids nodded and stood up quickly and followed their sensei back to the village.
Gaara reentered the hideout and was a little confused when he saw everyone heading towards the same direction. "Gaara," Haku called out. The ice-user moved through a few groups of people before grabbing the Jinchuriki's arm gently and guiding him in the same direction as everyone else. "Good timing, the leaders want everyone present for their speech."
"When was this announced," Gaara asked.
"Not too long after you left, but I told everyone that I'd wait on you. How's Kiba?"
"He should be fine. He just needs time." Haku smiled and nodded before he started moving faster through the sea of Akatsuki with Gaara behind him.
Sakura, Dosu, Zaku, and Anko all arrived on the main road in Konoha, where the entire center of the village was filled, and citizens and shinobi alike were leaning out of windows, or standing on crowded rooftops. The Alliance leaders themselves stood at the top of the Hokage's Mansion, overlooking the thousands of people in front of them.
Sakura looked around the crowds to see if she could find her uncle. Finally, she saw him standing on the edge of a nearby building. Without saying a single word, she moved towards said building and made a couple of jumps up it, standing next to her uncle.
"What's going on," Sakura asked. Higure shrugged, keeping his cold, hardened eyes on Danzo and the other Alliance leaders. Sakura examined what her uncle was wearing, and was a bit confused. He wore a Konoha headband, which Sakura had only seen him wear in old pictures of him, a Jonin vest, and a long brown half-skirt that covered his legs and stopped just above the ankles. Sakura had never seen her uncle in any type of battle-attire before in real life, and was thrown off a bit from it.
Sakura turned her head when she heard someone behind her. Zaku and Dosu approached the two family members. "Mind if we join," Zaku asked.
"Just don't talk," Higure replied, "I want to know what this is all about…" Zaku and Dosu nodded as they stood behind Sakura and Higure, looking at the Alliance leaders in anticipation.
Haku and Gaara managed to find their friends, who greeted them quietly before turning their eyes to their leaders, who stood before the mass of people. Naruto smiled with his arms crossed, and waited anxiously. On the makeshift stage, his godfather Jiraiya stood in the same pose before catching the blonde in his vision. The two grinned at each other, as if they were thinking the same thing.
"I'm no good with speeches," Nagato murmured with a soft smile on his face.
"Then just stand there and look pretty," Konan advised jokingly. "Besides, they only wanna hear Jiraiya anyway." Nagato huffed in agreement as he stared at his sensei with admiration. He knew that Akatsuki had come a long way, and that this was their chance to take down the Alliance. It was their dream since the days when he, Konan, and Yahiko were kids being trained by Jiraiya.
Yahiko stood in the center of the Akatsuki leaders, holding his sword out in front of him, the tip imbedded in the ground and both hands on the handle of the blade. On his right were the two Sannin, Jiraiya and Tsunade, and on his left were his childhood friends, Konan and Nagato. The founder of Akatsuki gripped his sword and shouted, "Attention!"
The leaders of the Union stepped out of the main building of a military settlement a few miles outside of Kumogakure. The armies all cheered for their leaders, A, Yagura, and Shinno when they saw them standing on the balcony overlooking the armies.
"Today," the Raikage roared as he lifted both of his massive arms up into the air. The armies fell silent on the booming voice of the Raikage, "We set out to prepare for war against the Alliance!" The masses screamed and cheered at A's words. "For years, Konohagakure has gone around instigating wars, conquering entire countries based on one man's twisted beliefs! I say NO MORE! Today, the Union takes a stand against the Wrath of Fire! To take down the Alliance and throw Danzo Shimura into the deepest, darkest pits of hell!" The canyon roared with thousands of men and women screams and cries of agreement.
Danzo lifted his hand up into the air slowly, causing the entire village to fall silent. The Hokage lowered his arm to his side, "Today is the beginning of another war. A war against the two major countries outside of the Alliance: the Lands of Water and Lightning. I know many of you are reluctant to fight this war. I understand your wariness of constant fighting. I have lived through every major war Konoha has ever been through. But I promise all of you that this is the war to end all wars. When the Union falls, the Alliance will reign supreme, and peace shall flourish throughout the world!" Citizens and shinobi alike cheered at the Hokage's words. Danzo smiled a bit before continuing, "We have the greatest shinobi in the world fighting on our side! We have Orochimaru of the Legendary Sannin, Kakashi Hatake, the White Fang of Konoha, Hiruko the Scorpion, Kitsuchi of the Stone, Higure Haruno, the Chakra Leech-,"
"The what now," Zaku questioned, thrown off completely by Higure's alias.
Higure shuddered and his eye twitched as he felt three sets of baffled eyes on his back, "I didn't come up with the name so shut up!"
"And Hanzo the Salamander," Danzo finished. "These men will be leading you all to victory in the war!" Again, the crowds cheered loudly for their Hokage.
"We all know that this war is going to be difficult," Yahiko spoke to the Akatsuki. "We're a small militia against two halves of the world. Many of us…we know we won't make it back. But that's what we're here for! We're here to change the world, to make a difference! To tear down Danzo's regime and his Wrath of Fire! All of us have been wronged by the Alliance, by a war that Konoha or its allies started. We've all lost someone precious to us. This is our chance…this is our opportunity to strike back at Konohagakure and the Alliance, to make them pay for their crimes!"
"Hell yeah," Naruto shouted enthusiastically. His friends soon joined in and began to cheer, being the only ones who were. All of Akatsuki stared at the group of kids and murmured to themselves.
Zabuza stared down from a higher vantage point at the kids, focusing on Haku and how the boy was screaming and cheering. The swordsmen huffed softly to himself as he realized how drastically those kids had changed Haku. Zabuza would never admit it, but he was happy that Haku had found a group of friends that he grew so close to.
"Anyway," Yahiko murmured as he glared at the group of kids. "We can't take on the Alliance or the Union in a direct fight! So we're relying on sabotage, espionage, and any other dirty trick we can use to try to overthrow Danzo. The Union is not our immediate target, but they won't hesitate to attack us. And we don't need the Union to become a repeat of history!"
"But you will not be alone in this fight," Danzo stated. "Using a jutsu created by my predecessor, Tobirama Senju, the Second Hokage, Orochimaru has perfected a jutsu that will tip the scales in our favor!" The Sannin's eyes widened a little bit before turning them to the Hokage.
'What are you thinking old man…' Orochimaru's thoughts were full of malice and outrage. Did Danzo really plan to have Orochimaru demonstrate the Edo Tensei in front of this crowd?
"A jutsu that can summon immortal warriors, impervious to pain and completely loyal to the summoner! The summoning jutsu: Edo Tensei!" Danzo moved his arm towards Orochimaru and immediately shot a glare that told the Sannin to do it. Orochimaru scowled at Danzo, but quickly performed said jutsu without missing a second.
Three coffins came up out of the ground before the crowds. The lids of the coffins fell open, revealing the first two Hokages and Hiruzen Sarutobi. Everyone present gasped softly with surprise, unable to fully process what they were seeing. The First Hokage stepped out of his coffin, and clasped his hands together. A few small trees shot up out of the ground and coiled together into one thicker tree. Hashirama sprung into the air and punched straight through the tree, causing it to burst into flames once his fist hit the bottom. Tobirama performed a few hand signs and brought out a water dragon from thin air and used it to quench the flames, and attack Hashirama all at once. Hiruzen summoned a long staff and then swung it at Tobirama, taking off his arm and a chunk out of his body.
Orochimaru made a seal and caused the three Konoha ancestors to stop. Hashirama and Tobirama began to heal their wounds from the earth nearby. Their faces were blank and emotionless before they were completely patched up.
"Fighting alongside old comrades who died in the battlefield, or your ancestors, that option is now available," Danzo exclaimed. "With Edo Tensei, we have an advantage over our enemies!" The people in the streets cheered with excitement, much to the other Alliance leaders' shock. Danzo smiled again as he held his arm up to encourage the people.
"A jutsu that can summon the dead back to life," Dosu murmured in shock. "That's…I don't even know…"
"How can these people cheer for a jutsu like that," Zaku asked. Sakura simply looked on in shock and nodded wordlessly. She turned her head when she noticed her uncle trembling. Sakura looked at Higure's face, and noticed a look of restrained rage.
"Uncle Higure…are you okay…?"
"Stay here…" Higure turned around and jumped off the building into a vacant alleyway.
"If anyone wishes to support the use of this jutsu, there is are two types of voting booths all over the village; you can either vote for or against select individuals to be brought back by the Edo Tensei! You will not be in trouble or persecuted for your votes! It's all completely anonymous. Now go people of the Alliance!"
"All of you, brave men and women who have devoted your lives for this moment," A continued in his loud, booming voice, "you all will go down in history! As the men and women who took down the Alliance!" The armies roared again, applauding the Raikage. "Today, the Lands of Lightning and Water stand together to fight against the tyrannical Danzo and his allies! We will march through Alliance territory and take down Danzo first! Then we will move to Amegakure, Sunagakure, and Iwagakure and take down anyone who refuses to denounce the Alliance! The world will be at peace, and it will all be thanks to every last one of you! Brave shinobi of the Land of Sky, Kirigakure, and Kumogakure!" The entire canyon shook with cheers and screams that could be heard for miles. The Raikage raised his arm up into the air and then let out his own bestial battle-cry.
"Quite the speech," Kisame murmured from the wings behind the Union leaders.
"You'd be surprised at how well Saizo gave a speech," Tobi replied, completely covered by the shadows. "If he were alive…this Union could take down the Alliance no problem. And my plan could be set in stone for sure."
"Don't fret," Kisame said with his usual sadistic grin. "I have no doubt that your plan will succeed no matter what. And then this world of lies…will be replaced by your world of truth, right Mizukage?"
Tobi remained silent for a moment before turning to Kisame, smiling behind his mask, "Yes, yes indeed Kisame." The swordsmen giggled softly as Tobi vanished behind the shadows.
The crowd cheered one more time at the Hokage's last statement as people began to scatter. Danzo smiled and then turned around. At the other side of the Hokage's Mansion stood an enraged Higure Haruno. Danzo raised his hand to the leaders, wordlessly telling them to remain in their places before approaching the Division commander.
Orochimaru glared furiously as Danzo passed. The old fool gave away their best advantage to whatever spies could be in the village. They were open to all sorts of infiltration since they were harboring thousands of more occupants in the village than usual. The Sannin growled angrily after he figured out the reason Danzo forced him to reveal the jutsu to the world. Orochimaru knew that with that jutsu revealed to the village or whatever spies were here, Orochimaru's tool became that must less efficient. The enemy would have ways to counter this jutsu now, making Orochimaru's personal jutsu less of a trump card, and just another ordinary war-asset.
"How did you like that speech," Danzo asked as he stood before Higure.
"You're not disrespecting my friends with that jutsu," Higure seethed, "Do you understand me?"
"I'm afraid Orochimaru is in charge of that jutsu, not me. If you have a problem-,"
"Orochimaru reports to you," Higure snapped. "You leave my former teammates to rest peacefully Danzo! They've lived enough of a retched life following your orders, they don't need anymore of your shit!" Danzo's eye narrowed as a smirk crossed his lips.
"Stay loyal to Konoha," Danzo ordered. Higure's eyes widened briefly as Danzo's words sunk in. "With Akatsuki's growing reputation, and your niece's infatuation with the Uzumaki boy, I realize that the possibility to go to Akatsuki is…quite appealing." Higure's eyes lit up with understanding and his face grew pale. Danzo took one more step forward, leaning in close to Higure's face with a deadly stare in his visible eye. "Stay loyal to Konoha, lead Alliance forces, and do as I say…and that specialized team I set up, the Six Paths of the Shinobi, will remain forever at peace in the afterlife. Deal?"
Higure clenched his fists as his whole body trembled with anger. His head was spinning at his predicament. The Division commander lowered his head and turned to the side, before murmuring a single venomous, bitter word, "Deal…" Higure jumped off of the roof of the mansion and headed back to Sakura and her teammates.
Sakura looked over and waved her uncle over to the roof. Higure jumped to the roof with a look of shame and defeat on his face. Dosu and Zaku looked at each other and then back at Higure. Sakura reached out and gently placed a hand on her uncle's arm, "What's wrong Uncle Higure…?" Higure lifted his head up as he sighed before smiling warily at his niece and her friends.
"Nothing," Higure replied. "Nothing at all." Sakura frowned a bit at her uncle's obvious lie. "Come on, I want to vote against this Edo Tensei thing."
"Me too, mind if I join," Dosu asked. Higure smiled and patted the boy on the shoulder.
"Not at all." Higure looked back at Zaku and Sakura, "Are you coming Sakura or are you heading back home?"
"I'll…catch up with you guys," Sakura replied. Higure nodded before he and Dosu departed. Zaku looked at Sakura, who stared at the floor with her hand over her chest.
"Okay…what's wrong with you now?"
Sakura shook her head, "I don't know…I just feel like something's really wrong with Uncle Higure…" Zaku placed his arm around Sakura's shoulder and gave her a light, supportive squeeze.
"He's a grown up, he can handle himself. If not, then we'll do our best to help him. Me, you, and Dosu, we'll all try to help him. Alright?" Sakura nodded, smiling softly at her friend.
"Thanks Zaku…" Sakura twirled out of her teammate's arm and grinned, "Come on, let's catch up with Dosu before Uncle Higure kills him for being annoying."
"Him! You know I'm the annoying one on the team!" Zaku ran towards Sakura, who then turned around and also ran to catch up with her uncle and best friend.
"Damn straight you are!" Zaku and Sakura laughed as they both hopped off the building. Higure and Dosu were nearby, waiting on the other two as they ran up towards them. Dosu smiled softly behind his mask while Higure stared at Sakura with a pained look in his eyes, and a forced smile on his face.
He'd remain silent about this burden. And he wouldn't drag Sakura into this mess, no matter what.
"The odds are against us," Yahiko stated. "But I know we'll be able to change the world! To bring a new dawn to all the countries, all the village, all of the families, and to each individual human being on this world!" The kids all started to cheer again loudly, clapping and hollering.
Deidara huffed as he smiled at the kids with admiration. Though art was the most important thing to an artist, Naruto had helped bring Deidara down to earth a bit. He respected the knucklehead's reckless, yet artistic fighting style. Deidara turned to the Akatsuki leaders and pumped his fist into the air before he cheered himself with the kids.
More heads turned around as a new source of noise rung through the room. On the other side, Hana and Itachi both started to cheer as well, joining the kids in their enthusiastic cries. Zabuza shook his head before he grabbed his sword and raised it high into the air, roaring loudly.
Slowly, more and more people began to cheer with the younger shinobi. Yahiko sighed softly, a bit aggravated at the kids. Jiraiya, Nagato, and Konan all smiled and began to applaud. Tsunade just watched with a neutral expression, thinking it was disrespectful to interrupt Yahiko, but at the same time knowing it was good to keep morale high.
Jiraiya stepped forward and patted Yahiko on the shoulder, offering to relieve the orange haired man of the spotlight. Yahiko nodded then stepped aside as Jiraiya stepped forward, "We have the best of everything in Akatsuki! We have shinobi from all corners of the world, and the best batch of ninjas anyone could ask for! From rogues from the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist, to rogue bombers from Iwagakure, and anything else you could think of or ask for we've got! And it's because of all of you that I know we're going to win this!" More people started to cheer with enthusiasm at Jiraiya's speech. The kids especially started screaming and cheering at their senior's words.
"The Alliance," Jiraiya continued, "Konohagakure, Sunagakure, Amegakure, and Iwagakure…they are powerful indeed. But against us? They don't stand a chance, am I right?" All of Akatsuki roared in response. Jiraiya laughed at their reaction and beamed a happy grin at the soldiers. The Sannin stumble back suddenly, opening his eyes to look at what was pushing him aside.
Naruto stood at the edge of the makeshift stage, determined to put his own two-cents in. "The Alliance is a joke! We managed to infiltrate Konoha, in the middle of the Chunin Exams, and then escaped without a single casualty on our side!" The crowd applauded and whistled eagerly. "Akatsuki alone has two of their Jinchuriki, yours truly and Gaara of the Sand! And Akatsuki managed to overthrow the Land of Snow and it's tyrannical dictator, Doto Kazahana to put Princess Koyuki in charge! Konoha tried to get the princess first, but who was it that got her first, right under Konoha's nose?"
"AKATSUKI," the crowd screamed.
"Despite their best attempts, Akatsuki managed to liberate the Land of Snow, and make it a peaceful haven that is going to keep itself out of this war! We've given Konoha and the Alliance the middle-finger so many times now, and what have they done about it? NOTHING!" The crowd screamed, whistled, and hollered with cheer and fervor. "It's because they can't stop us," Naruto shouted in the middle of the crowd's cheering. "No matter how hard they try, the Alliance can't stop us! The Union won't stop us either! And we won't stop! Not until I beat the living hell out of Danzo! And I'll be sure to give him a good beating for each and every single one of you," Naruto panned his arm across the sea of shinobi, "I promise the Alliance will be taken down! And the Will of Fire will flourish in Konohagakure once more!"
Akatsuki all cheered loudly, some springing up into the air, and others fist-bumping or doing some form of energetic action. Naruto grinned happily and gave the peace sign to the crowd. Jiraiya laughed as he lifted the boy up and placed him on his shoulder, causing Naruto to start laughing as well.
The crowd started to chant the blonde's name, "NA-RU-TO! NA-RU-TO!" The Jinchuriki's eyes widened a bit as he scanned the crowd. Every single person he saw was chanting and screaming his name, cheering for him. The blonde closed his eyes and grinned his usual goofy grin.
"To the Will of Fire!"
"THE WILL OF FIRE!" Akatsuki's shouts echoed throughout the cave as they prepared for war.
MAMMA MIA! Is it…could it be…April Fools maybe…? No…wait…IT IS! This story is finished! =D Wait…you all are probably not happy about that. Don't worry! I'll have a sequel for it sometime! I plan on making this a trilogy, like Star Wars. Ya'll like Star Wars right? Right…? Hardcore anime fans…? You like sci-fi stuff too right…?
But I know I left this story with a lot of questions up in the air, like ME3's ending (HA! Nother sci-fi reference), but just be patient for the sequel everyone! For the title of the sequel I'm debating between Wrath of War (WoW, not like the MMORPG) ((lots of acronyms FTW!)) or War of Fire (WoF…like Wrath of Fire, but the sequel) and I'm pretty sure for the third story it'll probably just be Will of Fire. Let me know what you all think would make the better title. Your input is valuable to meh =D
Until the sequel! I hope you all enjoyed the story. I know I've had a lot of fun, stress, and time put into the story. I'm sorry this story had to end, but just look forward to the sequel. Thank you to every single person who reviewed this story at some point in time. I promise I've read every review posted. And a special thank you to those who have read this story from beginning to end (and a few of you who have reread this story a couple of times D= I salute you're dedication), you all are amazing, and thank you for your time and patience if you're reading this lol. Have a wonderful day, and I hope to see you all in the sequel =)