"Dismissed." Tsunade said, her voice hard and emotionless. Kakashi and the others gave small bows as they left. They didn't blame their Hokage for reacting the way she did. The information they'd given her rocked her to her core. As soon as they left Tsunade's legs lost their strength and she heavily sat down in her chair, placing a hand to her head.
'The Hidden Rock Village all but destroyed in no more than half an hour?!' She thought. If anyone else had told her she would have laughed in their face. However she knew Kakashi and the others were deadly serious and a cold shiver crawled up and down her spine.
"Who'd have thought old man Onoki would meet his end in such a way." Jiraiya said as he moved behind his princess and began to give her a massage.
Tsunade took a moment to again thank Kami that she'd finally opened up to Jiraiya. The man was still a pit of a perv but now focused all of that onto her, and she wasn't complaining. Besides that he was her best friend, lover, confidant, teammate and advisor.
"How is it possible? Onoki, despite his old age, was still one of the most powerful ninja in the world and arguably the strongest Kage." Tsunade said, forcing her mind back onto the topic at hand and no Jiraiya's magical massage.
"It's not all about strength hime. Where and when a battle takes place is much more important." Jiraiya responded.
"Good point. If they did have a prior agreement then it's most likely that this "Pein" was allowed to walk right into the village unopposed." Tsunade said thinking.
"And once you allow a wolf into the chicken coop without any defense it's going to be a slaughter." Jiraiya added.
"They didn't have a chance. He must have hit them fast and hard and the ninja were torn between attacking him or defending the civilians." Tsunade said, picking up on where Jiraiya was going with this.
"And that's what lead to Onoki's death. He couldn't use his most powerful jutsus in the village or he'd just end up killing his own people. His Dust release techniques were made for widespread damage, not so much against one opponent." Jiraiya said in conclusion.
"So it's a scenario that probably wouldn't happen to us or the other villages as we'd attack him immediately before he stepped foot inside the village." Tsunade said thinking of all of the scenarios they'd planned out if the Akatsuki ever threatened Konoha.
"And at the first sight of him we'd be moving the civilians to the shelters, freeing up the rest of our forces to attack uninhibited." Jiraiya replied as he stopped his massage.
Tsunade stood up and walked over to the window, looking out at the everyday hustle and bustle of the Leaf village. Civilians and ninja moved around like normal, having little fear of being attacked at any given moment. Tsunade couldn't help but see flames and dead bodies line the streets as they must have in the Rock Village.
"We won't ever let that happen Hime." Jiraiya said walking up beside her, and knowing where her thoughts were leading her too.
"I'm sure Onoki thought the same, and that is one of the main reasons he decided to cooperate with them. And look what happened anyway." Tsunade murmured.
"Hey don't worry you still got me and that has to account for something!" Jiraiya said with a loud voice and a goofy smile. He wanted to break the cloud of dread that seemed to be around Tsunade and was rewarded for his antics with a smirk from the blonde Hokage. It swiftly faded when she uttered one word.
"Rinnegan." She whispered, hardly believing it. She looked over at Jiraiya and saw a troubled look on his face.
"What is it?" She asked curiously.
"I need to check on something." Jiraiya said suddenly as he turned and left before she could say anything to stop him. She heard a knock on her door and Shizune appeared with a message from their allies.
"Tsunade-sama the other three Kages agree that all of you should meet and discuss the next course of action to take against the Akatsuki." Her black haired assistant informed.
"How many escorts do they want to bring with us?" Tsunade asked. Though they were all allies the escorts would be there for added protection should something occur. Onoki's death was a reminder that while powerful, they were all still human and could die any given day.
"Two per kage" Shizune said. Tsunade immediately began to think on who to take with her. Kakashi and Kurenai had just returned from their mission and needed time to rest. As much as he would like to Naruto was still in no condition to protect himself, much less someone else.
"Very well. Shizune tell Shikaku Nara and Shibi Aburame to report to me as soon as possible." Tsunade ordered.
"Hai Tsunade-sama." Shizune confirmed as she turned to leave, silently approving of the candidates.
Shikaku was the leader of the Nara clan but also the head commander of Konoha's forces. His strategic mind was even greater than his son's. Shibi Aburame, Shino's father, was a renowned jonin in his own right with a mastery over a wide range of insects. Also known for his tactical thinking, like most Aburame, only Shikaku held higher respect than Shibi when it came to battlefield tactics.
'Jiraiya-kun will need to remain in the village in my stead. I still don't fully trust the elders or the civilian counsel not to try and funny business while I'm gone, though with the death of Danzo those four years ago they seem to have lost any real organization or power.' Tsunade thought to herself. She let out a sigh as she prepared to meet with the other four kages.
"You know all that stress isn't good for you right?"
Tsunade turned and was deeply surprised to see the strange man in all black that had aided Naruto for so long. She hadn't seen him since he left after helping Jiraiya train the blond chunin. Her surprise quickly turned to annoyance. Whoever this man was he had a knack for getting under her skin.
"Where have you been and what do you want?" Tsunade said, not wanting to deal with the man.
"I've been around and I want to give you some help." He replied jovially.
"Oh? And just what kind of help are you talking about? Are you going to fully heal Naruto-kun and Hinata-chan?" Tsunade asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Nope!" He said happily as he turned his back on her and began to look at the photos of the previous Hokage's. He stopped on Minato's for a moment.
"This one died far too young." He replied seriously for a moment.
"That he did." Tsunade thought to herself. She could still remember Kushina having a crush on the future Hokage and confiding in Tsunade about her feelings.
"At least he got to meet them when he defeated the Kyuubi." The man said as he turned back to Tsunade. For the thousandth time Tsunade wished she could see the man's face beneath the black cloak he wore and see his expression.
"How long will it take him to master that new power he gained?" Tsunade asked.
"Who's to say. That'll depend on him." The man responded as he walked up to Tsunade. She tensed slightly, as all veteran ninja do around those they don't fully trust, as he came to stand directly in front of her.
"You said you wanted to help. What did you mean by that?" Tsunade asked, growing tired of his strange ways.
Rather than respond the man quickly tapped her on the forehead. Tsunade was dumbfounded for a moment at the strange gesture, and the fact that the moved so fast she couldn't dodge it.
"You're growing slow Baa-chan! You need to work on that!" He said cheerfully as he quickly ducked under Tsunade's punch and laughed as he continued to hop around her office, avoiding her attempts to cause him pain.
"We'll then it was nice talking to you! Have fun at your meeting!" He said as he ran out the door. Tsunade followed only to be meet with an empty hallway.
'I swear I'm going to kill him one day!' She thought. She shook her head at the mysterious man's actions and returned her mind to the coming meeting that would take place.
(Outskirts of the Hidden Rain Village)
Jiraiya walked towards an old building that he never thought he'd revisit in his lifetime. He walked through the seemingly never ending rain that plagued this country and couldn't help but be caught in past memories.
Though not technically considered one of the five great villages Ame was heavily industrial with its architecture composed of several metallic skyscrapers with rowed ducts connected to them and many power lines surrounding. Ame had the misfortune of being in a country that was between three of the five great shinobi countries which meant that it was always caught between warring factions when a war would spring up. Because of this the country was made up mostly of war refugees. This also made the village adopt a heavily isolationist policy and most ninja of the ninja and civilians were extremely paranoid of foreigners. Anyone seeking entrance into the Village Hidden in the Rain had to go through numerous security checks.
'I've got a lot of memories about this place. And few of them are very nice.' Jiraiya thought as he felt an old injury ache suddenly in remembrance.
During the Second Great Shinobi War he, Tsunade and Orochimaru were on a mission with several other high ranking jonin to combat ninja from the Hidden Rain Village. They hadn't expected to come across the leader of the Rain village, Hanzo Also known as Hanzo of the Salamander because they were his summoning beasts and he used them with deadly effectiveness in combat.
Out of their entire squad of elite Konoha shinobi only Tsunade, Orochimaru and Jiraiya were left after their battle with Hanzo. Even then the three of them were on their last legs and it wouldn't have taken Hanzo any effort at all to kill them as well. However he was impressed that they had survived as long as they had against him and allowed them to survive but only under one condition. From that day forward they would refer to themselves, and have others refer to them, as the Sanin of Konoha.
It wasn't long after that, on their way back to Konoha that they ran across three orphans. Orochimaru suggested killing them to spare them the slow death of starvation or worse at the hands of bandits or missing ninja. He was swiftly shut down by Tsunade and Jiraiya himself and the toad sage took pity on them and decided to train them at least until they could fend for themselves. Tsunade and Orochimaru headed back to the village and Jiraiya had followed them to their hideout to begin their training. All three progressed swiftly and soon Jiraiya believed they could protect themselves and he too took his leave of them.
'I hope I'm wrong but the descriptions that Kakashi and the others gave means it can't be a coincidence.' He thought to himself and he opened the door and was once again bombarded with memories.
He couldn't help but picture a young blue hair girl who always had a paper flower in her hair mastering her paper techniques. They found she could make and do almost anything with paper. Next was an orange haired boy so very much like Naruto with his enthusiasm to make the world a better place for his friends and always wearing a smile. Last but not least he thought of a quiet, timid, red haired child who had the eyes of….
"Hello Jiraiya-sensei." Jiraiya was torn from his thoughts when he saw Konan, the blue haired child who now stood a woman walking into the hideout.
"Konan. I always knew you'd grow into a beautiful woman one day." Jiraiya said, still in shock that one, if not all, of his former students were indeed a part of the Akatsuki.
"Yes you mentioned it many times." She replied as she looked around the old hideout. Her eyes were cold but Jiraiya thought he detected a flash of something in them.
"I was hoping I was wrong and that my former trainees weren't a part of one of the most powerful and destructive groups to ever threaten this world. This isn't the reason I trained you three all those years ago." Jiraiya said sternly.
"Many things change Jiraiya-sensei. We are no longer the children you knew so long ago. You have lost any and all right to judge us by our actions when you left us to fend for ourselves." Konan said, her tone equally as stern.
"I couldn't stay with the three of you. The war was still going on and I had my orders and had to protect my village." Jiraiya defended himself.
"Oh we completely understood Jiraiya-sensei. We held no ill will against you. You went out of your way to train us to defend ourselves and that was more than anyone cared to do for three orphans in a time of war." Konan said.
"Then why? Why are you a part of this group? Where are Yahiko and Nagato? What happened to the three of you?" Jiraiya asked wanting to understand.
"Life happened to us Jiraiya-sensei. I'm sure you know this is an evil and unforgiving world. We simply wish to change it for the better." Konan responded.
"By causing all of this death and destruction? How is this supposed to help the world?" Jiraiya replied in an accusing tone.
"To build a new world sometimes the old must be torn down." Konan responded simply.
"Yeah I've heard that before." Jiraiya said with a snort of derision.
"Don't think you're the first or the last to make that justification. The fact is that you're causing more pain and suffering. You were once an orphan how many orphans do you think you made in the Rock village alone?" Jiraiya continued angrily. Both the senseless destruction and his feelings of failing yet more of his former students soured his mood greatly.
Konan didn't respond. She slowly began to walk around their old compound. Jiraiya watched her warily. Unsure of what she planned to do.
"Pein-sama allowed you to make it this far in our lands and is gracious enough to allow you to leave as well." Konan said after a time.
"And if I choose to remain for a while?" Jiraiya asked grimly.
"Then Pein-sama will kill you. We still have fond memories with you Jiraiya-sensei and would hope that you could understand what we are truly trying to accomplish. However should that not be the case we will destroy you along with any and everyone that gets in our way." Konan said equally as grimly as she held up a hand. Her had turned into paper and flew around the hideout, sticking to the walls.
Jiraiya was familiar with Konan's paper abilities but it was the symbol that appeared on the sheets that caught his attention. Konan had formed explosive seals all around the compound. Enough to bring it down on the both of them.
"Leave now Jiraiya-sensei. Tell your Hokage as well as the rest of the Kages that we will not stop until the whole world understands what true pain is. Then and only then will our goals have been met." She said as she turned into sheets of paper and disappeared through the entrance. The explosive notes she put on the walls began to activate and Jiraiya walked out of the compound calmly.
It was not their intention to kill him, yet. When he existed and had traveled a safe distance the compound exploded. Jiraiya knew it was both a show of strength as well as a clear message that their past history meant nothing to them and that they would not stop for him or anyone else.
'I've failed again. Just how many people in my life will I continue to let down?' Jiraiya thought as he walked back to the land of fire, feeling the weight of his past failing weighing heavily on his shoulders.
He'd found the answer to some of his questions, yet none of them brought him any comfort.
Konan watched Jiraiya leave from a distance before returning to their headquarters. As she walked through the village many villagers and ninja bowed to her and whispered the word Angel to describe her. She ignored them until she entered their base.
Through the dim lighting she could see the shriveled figure of a man hunched over in a large device. His breathing was heavy and labored and she hated to awaken him but it needed to be done.
"Pein-sama. Jiraiya has left." She said softly as his head raised to look at her.
"Good. I'm in no condition to fight him at the moment." The cracked and raspy voice answered.
"You pushed yourself too hard at the Rock village." She admonished as she got him a cup of water to sip on.
"It needed to be done. I wanted to send a message that none of the other villages would be able to ignore." He said after having a drink.
"They will try and join forces now. I doubt Naruto Uzumaki and Yugito Nii will be allowed out of their villages for a while." She said.
"It doesn't matter. After I've had my rest I will crush any and all resistance they may bring. We are so close Konan. So close to true peace." He said as he eyes began to drop again.
Konan turned to let him rest as she thought on the turn of events. The one month time frame had been for Pein as much as the villages. He needed a lot of rest after using his power against the Rock village. However the other four didn't know this and would be in a rush to make plans in one month's time. Hopefully this would bring dissension between them and make their job easier.
'Either way we won't be defeated. Our vision will come to pass and this world will be better for it.' She thought as she left Pein to rest.
Tsunade walked towards the main gate of the village with many things on her mind. Jiraiya had returned the night before and was completely closed off. He shared with her a bit of what he'd learned and she too was surprised that those three young orphans were apparently behind the formation of the Akatsuki. She could tell it weighed heavily on his mind and allowed him his space to come to terms with it. Her blood also ran cold to learn that they had killed Hanzo. That man had almost effortlessly beaten she, Jiraiya and Orochimaru and to learn of his demise truly showed how powerful and deadly this "Pein" was.
"Tsunade-sama why do we have to be here this early in the day?" Shikaku Nara complained with a yawn.
"Greetings Hokage-sama." Shibi Aburame said in a neutral tone.
'Their sons definitely take after them. I wonder how their wives put up with it.' Tsunade though with a smirk.
Normally it was completely against regulation for the Hokage to leave the village without at least a full squad of Anbu with them to ensure her safety. However this was a special circumstance and she and the other Kages had agreed on having only two loyal shinobi with them for this meeting.
'We may be allies but old grudges and paranoia still exist.' Tsunade thought. Jiraiya would be the temporary Hokage until she returned and while he'd complained about it before his trip to the Rain village he said nothing against it with his return.
"Greetings Shibi-san. As for you Shikaku yes you have to be here as your Hokage commanded it. I'd think that would be reason enough right?" Tsunade asked with a raised eyebrow. Her tone with Shibi was respectful while Shikaku's was both a reprimand as well as a tease.
"Troublesome." Shikaku mumbled as the gates were opened and they left the village.
The four kages had agreed to meet in a neutral location. Surprisingly it was the Land of Rice fields which at one time had been renamed the Land of Sound as it was the country that Orochimaru had conquered and set up a village on. After his death Konoha, with the aid of the Sand village, destroyed the village and any laboratories they could find. Since that time the land was mostly abandoned.
While it was a neighboring country to the Land of Fire Konoha had no ninja in or around the border and the other Kages agreed to its location. There was something also fitting about holding a meeting to destroy a great evil on the site where a previous evil had been defeated. It would be a good moral booster that they could in fact overcome their shared foe and would not fall to the crazed ambitions of one man or group.
'At least that's the idea.' Tsunade thought to herself.
The Hokage and her guards traveled swiftly and were the first to arrive at the meeting location. It was an opening that led to an underground tunnel that had housed Orochimaru and his men. It hadn't been destroyed with the rest of the laboratories at this particular one was perfect for discreet meetings and planning as there was only one entrance and thus only one way out.
The leaf ninja waited until they sensed the arrival of another group. The Mizukage was the first to arrive. Mei Terumi walked up with her husband Zabuza Momochi and her assistant, the leader of the Hidden Mist hunter ninja, Aoi.
"Hokage-sama." Mei said with a slight bow. Tsunade returned it as was customary before Mei relaxed her guard and asked the question most important to her and Zabuza.
"How is Haku-chan?" She asked, deeply concerned for her daughter. Though Zabuza showed no outward emotion Tsunade could see him tense in anticipation.
"She is fine. Though she has yet to awaken her injuries are healing nicely and she should only has a few noticeable scars from her battle." Tsunade said. Mei gave a sigh in happiness, though she wouldn't fully be content until Haku was awake and in her arms again.
Zabuza slowly walked toward the leaf ninja. Saying nothing he passed by Tsunade and stood before Shibi. The two taciturn ninja stared at one another for a moment before Zabuza spoke.
"Your son killed the man that hurt Haku correct?" Zabuza stated more then asked.
"Correct." Shibi replied in his normal tone.
"It seems your son may be worthy of Haku after all." Zabuza said as he turned and walked back to Mei's side. To all present they were aware that was as close as Zabuza would ever come to saying thank you.
"Zabuza stop being mean. Of course he is worthy of Haku! Though I wish I'd have been the one to end that monster." Mei replied darkly. Zabuza gave a grunt in acknowledgement that he felt the same.
"Another group is coming." Aoi said suddenly turning to stare off in the distance.
This time it was the Kazekage Gaara of the Desert with his brother Kankuro and his sister Temari.
"Greeting my fellow Kages. My apologies for being late." Gaara said with a bow. Tsunade and Mei bowed as well in greeting.
"Yeah it took Kankuro more time than normal to put on his makeup." Temari teased.
"It's war paint!" Kankuro muttered angrily.
"Shikaku!" Temari said happily as she moved to hug the elder Nara, ignoring Kankuro.
"Hello Temari how have you been?" Shikaku smiled as he embraced the blonde jonin back.
"I've been fine. How is Yoshino? Also is Shikamaru still slacking?" She smiled back as she and Shikaku continued to converse and catch up with one another.
'It's amazing how the younger generation is connecting our villages together.' Tsunade thought. Shikamaru being with Temari along with Gaara and Naruto's friendship ensured the Leaf and Sand villages would continue to be allies for the foreseeable future. Haku's friendship with Naruto and Hinata and relationship with Shino also strengthened the bonds between the Leaf and Mist villages, two villages that had not always been on the best of terms to say the least.
'Naruto, you and your friends are changing this world. I wonder how things will continue to change.' Tsunade thought as Gaara walked up to her to speak about general topics affecting their villages.
"It's funny that for someone to proclaims to be the fastest living ninja that the Raikage is the last to arrive." Mei said after a time.
"He is dealing with the loss of his brother and the injuries to Yugito. I'm sure that's what is delaying him." Gaara stated.
"Or he just wants to keep us waiting." Tsunade grumbled at having to wait for the Kage she probably has the least amount of respect for.
The relations between the leaf and cloud villages were strained, to say the least. Tsunade still wasn't pleased with A holding a stupid tournament that almost got Team eight along with Kakashi and Kurenai killed when the Lightning dragon was unleashed by accident. Though they did get a treaty out of the debacle it was not without push back from both sides. The Hyuuga clan in particular wanted nothing to do with the Cloud village.
It wasn't long before Aoi detected the arrival of the Raikage and his guards. The muscle bound man had brought Samui and Darui with him and gave a short bow to his fellow kages.
"My apologies for being late. I'm sure you all are aware of what happened to both Yugito and my brother." He said with a snarl. They could practically feel his rage radiating off of his body.
"We are aware and our condolences." Tsunade said, feeling slightly bad at thinking the Raikage might have been the last to arrive to be contrary. If Naruto had been captured she'd have mobilized the entire Leaf village to find him.
"I've mourned my brother and Yugito is still recovering. All I want now is revenge." He said gruffly. He moved to enter the cave and the others followed him. Aoi elected to remain outside to ensure that no one tried to attack them, though the number of ninja that would try and attack all the Kages at once was practically nonexistent.
As they walked deeper into the underground compound they came to a large room that used to be used for experiments by Orochimaru. The Leaf village had destroyed everything and set up a large table for the Kage to use. After they were seated and their guards standing behind them Tsunade told them all about Jiraiya's meeting with Konan in the Hidden Rain village.
"I say we march on the Hidden Rain village with our full force and destroy that wretched place." A shouted as he slammed his arm on the table shaking it.
"Which could be exactly what they expect us to do and have set up traps and plans in preparation." Gaara replied softly.
"I concur with Kazekage-sama. They would not have allowed Jiraiya-san into the village and allowed him to leave unless they considered the possibility that we would attack them. The Rain village has never been a particularly powerful one. Hanzo is the only reason it probably hasn't been invade already. And now he is dead." Mei stated.
"Which is worrisome in and of it itself. We now know that the leader of the Akatsuki wields the Rinnegan, has the power to kill Hanzo the Salamander as well and sack one of the five great hidden villages on his own. " Tsunade gravely said.
"This also doesn't take into account the remaining members of the Akatsuki. Itachi Uchiha and Kisame Hoshigaki are still some of the most powerful ninja that the Hidden Leaf and Mist villages have ever produced." Shikaku mumbled speaking up for the first time.
"Kisame was always the strongest amongst the Seven swordsmen." Zabuza added in confirmation.
"And Itachi needs no further explanation." Tsunade said.
"I fear that if we were to attack the Rain village that Pein and his followers would allow the village to be destroyed as a diversion while they attack the lightly defended Leaf and Cloud villages to capture Yugito Nii and Naruto Uzumaki." Shibi spoke.
"Our village is still making repairs after the incident with the Leaf ninja a few months ago." Samui brought up. A gave her look, not liking that she offered such information before it was picked up on.
"No need to worry about any of this information being used against you Raikage-sama. None of our villages have any desire to attack the Cloud. We have much bigger fish to fry." Tsunade said a bit in exasperation.
"Yeah well old suspicions are hard to do away with so quickly." The heavily muscle man muttered.
"Does anyone have any suggestions on our course of action? It won't be too long before a month is up and they begin to move once again." Temari said critically. She knew any her brothers knew all too well how powerful the Akatsuki could be and they obviously didn't care about attacking any of the hidden villages.
"We have to go on the offensive. Sitting back and waiting is not going to work. They've attacked all five of the great hidden villages to some degree and each time they got away succeeding in their mission or at least came very close. Also we still don't know Pein's full capabilities." Shikaku said with a sigh.
"We must go on the offensive. However we'll need to be conscious of the possibility that this is all an elaborate trap to lure us in and kidnap our demon containers to complete their mad plan." Zabuza spoke for the first time.
"Then we should keep Yugito and Naruto in a secret location so the Akatsuki don't know where they are." A said loudly.
"You don't know Naru-chan very well. If we were to suggest such a thing he'd be the first to escape and find his way to the battle field anyway." Tsunade said.
"Is he fully healed from his battle with that monster that injured Haku-chan?" Mei asked curiously.
"Not yet. All of team eight are still being treated." Tsunade replied, seeing where this was going.
"Then I doubt we can wait long enough for them to be fully healed before we attack." Gaara said stoically. He knew just how angry Naruto would be if he were left out of a plan to assault the Akatsuki but it was for the best at the present moment.
"Kazekage-sama makes a great point. I believe we proceed under the assumption that neither Naruto or Yugito will be available to aid us in battle." A said resolutely.
"Assuming we're going forward with this plan of action we still need to decide who will attack the Rain village and who will stay back in case of it being a diversion." Shibi stated.
"The Leaf and Cloud villages are in the best position for an attack. No offense Kaze-kage and Mizu-kage." Tsunade said.
"None taken Hokage-sama. It's well known that the Sand and Mist villages are still recovering from the civil war the Mist went through and the failed invasion of Konoha that my foolish father agreed to years ago." Gaara replied softly.
"However this is something well known by our enemy as well. It wouldn't surprise me if they had something very nasty waiting for both of our armies should we attack in the traditional fashion." A grumbled.
"This is so troublesome. We're dealing with an enemy that possesses a long thought to be extinct dojutsu who leads a group of very talented ninja. Despite their losses they still have Kisame and Itachi Uchiha along with any other members we have yet to face." Shikaku muttered.
"I suggest an all out assault by the Leaf and Cloud ninja with Suna and Mizu holding back in case of an emergency. As powerful as this man and his Akatsuki are they can't stand up against our combined might." A stated resolutely.
"And if it should be a trap? No one fully knows the limits of the Rinnegan. I say that we send in a small strike team made up of the best ninja between our villages to catch them by surprise and eliminate Pein and the remaining Akatsuki members. Once they fall the rest of Ame will surrender as they'd have no chance against our armies." Gaara spoke up calmly. The other kages looked at him a bit in surprise. He was the youngest of them, by far, yet his words showed that he had a keen mind and while he didn't speak often he always had something worthwhile to say when he chose to.
"I agree with the Kazekage's plan. It is sound and will reduce the potential loss of life our villages might suffer." Mei stated with a smile at the young red haired shinobi. Gaara gave her a nod of thanks in backing his plan and they turned to Tsunade.
"I've see no problems with this plan. Should the task force fail we can always go in with full force." She stated.
"It's agreed upon then. However, Pein's deadline is fast approaching so we'll need to move quickly." A said.
He spoke the truth. Pein had given them a month's time and just coordinating this meeting between the four of them had taken over a week and a half. Waiting for Jiraiya's report had taken more time than they expected.
"I don't believe that threat will come to fruition Hokage-sama." Shikaku stated. the lazy Nara instantly had the attention of everyone in the room.
"Why do you believe it to be baseless Shikaku?" Tsunade asked.
"If it was so easy for Pein to do what he did against the Rock village to the rest then why wait so long? Why give us an ultimatum at all? I believe it was to buy himself time and to influence us into making rushed and bad decisions." The Nara clan head replied.
"Which means that he might have given that time frame as it's how much time he himself needed to rest before making anymore moves." Temari said finally realizing where Shikaku was going with this.
"Correct, you might just beat Shikamaru in shogi one day Temari." Shikaku joked causing his potential future daughter-in-law to blush at his words.
"And what if you're wrong?" Zabuza offered.
"Then at the very least we'll make them react to us and not the other way around. Better to force your opponents hand then allow them to complete their plan as they see fit." Shikaku replied.
"That's assuming that they don't already have their plans in motion." Mei said.
"Nothing in battle or war is assurde. I say we attack immediately." A roared as he stood up.
"I concur." Gaara stated.
"As do I." Mei gave her agreement.
"Then we've come to an agreement. We'll return to our villages and in three days time will each send a four man strike team to meet here before following Jiraiya into the Rain village to kill Pein and his followers. Our armies will remain in reserve until such a time as we need them." Tsunade said.
All four kages rose and began to leave the meeting, all of them attempting to determine just which of their shinobi they'd send on a mission where survival was uncertain. No one knew just what traps and dangers awaited them nor the full extent of Pein's powers.
'I'm actually kind of glad Naru-chan isn't in any shape to fight. He'd blow a gasket if I left him off this mission.' Tsunade thought as they exited the cave and all four groups began their journey back to their respective villages.
Tsunade watched as Shikaku and Temari spent a few minutes catching up and determining when she'd return to the village. Shibi was meeting briefly with Mei and Zabuza and though both were men of few words she could tell that he and Zabuza had a respect for one another that probably was based on how close their children were. Both finished their conversations and rejoined their leader
"It's still amazing just how much Naruto and his team have changed the relations between the remaining hidden villages." Tsunade stated.
"Almost makes you believe that a future without war is possible one day." Shikaku agreed as they were on their way.
"I too wish to see a day when such a thing would be possible." Shibi stated calmly.
"Then let's make sure we keep the younger generation safe until they can make that day a reality." Tsunade said as they moved towards the border of the fire country and their village.
All being high level ninja they moved swiftly through the trees taking few breaks, each of them thinking about what was to come.
Naruto opened his eyes and realized that he was in his mindscape. The glowing orbs that represented the souls of his dragon companions all continued to glow dimly showing that they were still injured from their battle with the Kyuubi and were recovering.
'Wonder why I'm here.' He thought to himself. He was well aware that he took heavy damage from Deidara and Flame but normally while recovering he would be asleep.
'Fancy seeing you again so soon kit.' Naruto turned and saw the new cage that sealed the soul of the nine tailed fox. It look similar to the old one except this time the lock had a spiral shape like that of his mother's village.
"Kurama. Why am I here?" Naruto asked.
"You're strong but you still need to train using my chakra to it's fullest potential." Kurama replied.
"I already know that. Until I can full control it my new abilities are more a hindrance then an advantage. I suppose you're going to help me out with that?" Naruto asked.
"Yes." The demon fox answered simply.
"Cool. Where do we start?" Naruto asked just as quickly. Their earlier battle now behind them they fell into a comfortable back and forth that had defined their relationship over the past few years. They weren't the best of friends but they had a connect that could only come from having their souls joined.
"The new chakra cloak you can form is only the beginning of what you can accomplish. Form it and I will slowly tell you what you need to do." Kurama stated.
Naruto complied and summoned his new powers. The rush of energy that flowed through him was still new. In the past when he used Kurama's power it felt much like trying to contain a raging wildfire that would just as quickly consume him as assist him. This new form felt just as powerful but more like standing close to an open fire.
For the next few hours Kurama coached Naruto on his new form's abilities and limitations. Naruto knew that he would have to train like this in his real body but at least his mind was understanding exactly he could do and couldn't do just yet. When he was finished he released the power and noticed that Kurama seemed to breath easier when he did.
"What does it feel like when I use my new form?" Naruto asked, curious as to what he'd just seen.
"Like you are draining me of all of my power and using it as you see fit. It's a strange sensation for me to feel so utterly powerless." Kurama responded matter of factly.
"Ouch sorry about that." Naruto said with a wince. He knew Kurama's pride didn't take kindly to such a feeling of helplessness. Kurama gave a snort but didn't say anything else for a moment.
"You will need both mine as well as the power of the dragon's for what's coming." Kyuubi said.
"I'll be ready. As long as I have my friends and family it'll all work out fine." Naruto said comfortably.
"Many would call you foolish and overconfident." Kurama stated with a growling chuckle.
"I prefer intelligent and insanely handsome." Naruto responded with a laugh of his own. He began to fade and knew their time was winding up.
"Kaa-chan says it'll still be a few days before I'm back to being 100%." Naruto said.
"Then that gives us a few days time to help you control your new powers." Kurama replied as he settled down to rest.
"No one will believe me when I tell them just how good and eager a teacher you are." Naruto smirked.
"Most of your villagers still believe I'm nothing more then a mindless killing machine of destruction. Aside from you and a few others I still think you race is made up of idiots." Kurama said dismissively.
"Careful Kurama that sounded like an admission that you like me." Naruto said with a laugh as he vanished from his mindscape. Kurama snorted a chuckle himself before turning somber.
"A storm is coming Naruto and it will be here faster then you can imagine." He muttered to himself.
Hinata walked out of her apartment heading for the hospital to check on Naruto, Shino and Haku again. After Kurenai and Kakashi has married and moved in together Kurenai left her old apartment for Hinata to use. Naruto of course offered for her to move in with him but she declined, wanting to wait if, or moreso when, they got married themselves before living together.
As she walked through the village she took the time to admire how peaceful things were. For a shinobi it was sometimes hard to think of anything outside of missions and combat but Hinata enjoyed reminding herself what it was they fought for. They fought for the baker that could wake up and not have to worry about anything but selling delicious cinnamon rolls. They fought for the young mother that was taking her son out for ice cream. They fought for the next generation of villagers and shinobi and strove to make the world better for them.
She walked into the hospital and headed for Naruto's room. As she reached for the door a flash of white overtook her and the next thing she knew she was having a vision. Her visions were few and far between and normally were inconsequential. As he angelic guide, Hitomi, had told her visions were one of the angels' primary tasks from Kami. Whether people heeded them or even recognized that they were having one was another story though.
In Hinata's vision she found herself flying through the sky. She felt a sense of desperation though she didn't know why. All she knew was that she had to be somewhere and time was running out. Suddenly there was a burst of truly evil chakra that chilled her to the core. She saw an enormous beast rise up in the distance and look towards the sky. Though it was bright and sunny a full moon appeared in the sky. The giant white orb slowly began to turn blood red and took the form of a sharingan. The sharingan morphed into a new and strange eye she'd never seen before and then darkness began to flow like a tidal wave across the land. She heard and felt people screaming before turning disturbingly silent.
Hinata turned and flew away from the coming darkness but felt that she couldn't avoid the long dark fingers as they closed around her. Just as it was about to overtake her she saw a small gleam of light that was combating the darkness. With all of her might she flew towards this small island of light and saw Naruto there. He was fighting with all that he had to try and push back the darkness that was trying to consume him but she could see that it was a failing effort. he couldn't do it alone. With her path made clear she fly to him to stand beside him. If this was to be their end they would meet it together. However just as she was about to take his hand the darkness grabbed her feet and began to pull her back to it.
'No! Naruto-kun!' She shouted. Naruto turned to look at her with desperation in his eyes. he reached toward her but she was being dragged away from him. She fought and fought to free herself and reached out to grab his hand. Their fingertips touched just as she awoke from her vision.
Hinata fell to her knees and wad found herself covered in a cold sweat and panting as if she'd run a marathon against Rock Lee.
'What was that?' She thought to herself even as she knew full well what had happened. Hitomi had been very clear that visions were normally not very pleasant but to never ignore what they said.
"A darkness is coming. It will spread through out this world unless we stop it."' She found herself saying though it felt as if someone else was speaking for her. She was so focused on what she'd seen that she didn't notice Sakura walking up behind her.
"What was that Hinata?" Sakura asked as she walked up to her. Shizune was still the head of the hospital though Sakura was taking on more and more responsibilities. The Pink haired medic was widely considered to be equal to Shizune in everything but experience which she gained more of every passing day.
"Nothing. I was talking to myself. How are you?" Hinata asked trying to appear normal. It didn't work but Sakura let it go. Naruto, Shino and Kurenai were the only ones she really talked to about her visions.
"I'm fine. I was going to check on Haku and the others." She said as she held up her clipboard she carried on her rounds.
"Oh forgive me." Hinata said realizing that she still hadn't moved from the door. Together they walked inside. Both were surprised and elated to see Haku not only awake but sitting beside Shino.
"Haku!" They shouted as they rushed to the female ice user.
"Hello my friends. How long have I been here? What happened to Shino-kun?" She said both confused and upset.
"Calm down Haku I'll explain everything." Sakura said as she moved to the Kiri shinobi and began to check her condition as she explained how Haku had come to be in their hospital.
'Thank goodness. Maybe this is a sign that things are finally going to get better for us.' Hinata thought.
She tried to ignore the icy feeling of dread from her vision that was still coiled around her heart.
(Border of the Land of Fire)
Tsunade, Shikaku and Shibi moved swiftly towards the border of there Land of Fire. All were in deep thought. Tsunade was still trying to think of who to send on the infiltration mission. Many of their best Anbu and Jonin were out of missions at the moment though each of her fellow Kages agreed with her that they should call back all of their shinobi to prepare for the assault that was to come in four days.
'Kakashi and the others just got back from a taxing mission. Sending them on such short notice wouldn't be fair but then again nothing about being a shinobi is fair anyway.' She thought. Tsunade stopped immediately as did Shikaku and Shibi. All three of them, being seasoned shinobi of many wars, could fell when they were being watched.
"Show yourself." Tsunade said calmly but with the power of a leader being the tone. All three of them tensed when they saw two men appear, both wearing the cloaks of the Akatsuki. Tsunade didn't ask where the shinobi patrol that guarded this sector was. It was painfully obvious they'd been killed.
One of the men was Pein. She could tell clearly from the description that Kakashi and the others had given her as well as the Rinnegan that shown clearly as he looked at her. The other man she only recognized from what Inoichi had told her after scanning Flame's mind. The orange swirl mask covered all but one eye and through the eye hole she could clearly see a sharingan.
Pein made a hand sign and five more bodies appeared behind him. Though each of different size and height all five of them had the same black pericings in their face as well as a set Rinnegan eyes. She felt Shikaku and Shibi tense beside her. This was Peing the man that had not only killed Hanzo the Salamander, the same man that defeated all three of the sannin in the last shinobi war, but he'd single handedly destroyed the Hidden Rock village.
"Tsunade-sama. I believe we should talk." All six Peins said in unision.
I am SOOOOOOOOOOO sorry this took so long guys. A lot of stuff has happened it the last year from losing my job, having to move back in with the parents and then finding a new one. But alas that is no excuse. I'll definitely be doing better and you can expect the next chapter before the end of July, hopefully.
We're approaching the last leg of the story and things are going to move very swiftly from here.
Till next time, Kyuubi123 out!