KG: Ladies, and gentlemen, there comes a time in every man's life that he must question why he does what he does. He may never get the answer, and he may keep questioning, but if there is one thing he shall never do IS FALTER! Let us begin...

Wifey: Wtf was that?

KG: Shhhhh, all will be made known in time.

Music of the Week: Humanity Defined by Audiomachine

Quote: "Creativity itself doesn't care at all about results - the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless," by Elizabeth Gilbert.

A long month passed for the refugees and citizens of Konoha. It had been a shock to Kushina and the rest of the Hinoken team when Yugao missed a few training days. Fearing the worst, shinobi checked on her and found her sleeping in her room. Unfortunately, all attempts to wake her had proven impossible. Naturally, everyone turned to Kushina and Yuri for an answer. Stuff like this seemed to be Naruto-related. Unfortunately, neither Kushina nor Yuri had an answer to give. They were just thankful that Yugao was alive.

With that being the case, Tsunade set up Yugao in the hospital, but the strange circumstances didn't stop with just that. After two days, an alert came through the hospital. Uzuki Yugao had disappeared without a trace. For an entire week, people searched high and low for her to no avail. Tsunade pleaded with Kushina for a reply. Konoha shinobi had gone under speculation that Yugao had been killed by enemy shinobi.

For one, Kushina found that extremely unlikely. If Yugao had died, she had no doubts that Naruto would have returned to avenge the death of their teammate. Second, Yugao was powerful in her own right. Kushina doubted that anything short of the Kage would pose a threat to her teammate. Unfortunately, that knowledge did next to nothing in the face of growing tensions.

It became quite clear to Kushina that indeed the people in Konoha had been steadily growing used to her power. She found herself having to exert more and more power to keep the peace. It also started becoming clear that, though they feared her, their hate was just that much stronger. It certainly didn't help a few Konoha shinobi had begun trying to justify Yugao's death so they might start conflicts with Iwa and Kumo. That seemed to spill the problems into Suna and Kiri.

Pretty soon, the village and citizens were caught in a crossfire of unresolved violence and strife that threatened to cause a break in the structure of unity. The Kage did what they could, but with the leaders too afraid to lower their numbers, the best they could do was either imprisonment or manual labor. However, for some, it seemed that being imprisoned or forced to work was a worthy price if it meant taking a shot at those who seemingly wronged them.

Tensions escalated and patience was tested. What also didn't help was that everyone was feeling backed into a corner as food stores continued to dwindle. The natural human uncertainty took a worse turn. And, it was all directed at Kushina.

Many questioned here where Naruto was. Some even accused her or him of being the reason they were in this mess in the first place. Yet, befitting her status as the soon-to-be wife of the clan head, Kushina offered them her best answer. She simply didn't know. She knew not what Naruto was doing, but she knew he was alive. She also knew his power was steadily climbing in staggering ways. Since she and Yura were connected to him, their power continued to rise as well.

Unfortunately, that did little to stymy the growing angst amongst the masses. Some even claimed that Kushina was lying. Others assumed Naruto might have died out in the snow, unable to take the responsibility and consequences he'd bestowed upon the people. A small majority even dared claim that Naruto had sold them all out to Jashin. Many had brought suggestions to the Kage to attempt to find ways home. Unfortunately for the Gokage, the matters they were dealing with were far beyond them. They knew not how to placate the growing concerns.

That said, they had only one way to bridge the tension. The Five Kage agreed to, temporarily, split Konoha into five sections. All Konoha and Suna residents would stay in the center and southeast quadrants, Kumo to the Northwest, Iwa to the Southwest, Kiri to the Northeast.

While this was a temporary measure, its strain was quickly felt by all over the month. Omoi and Karui were desperate to be a part of the family that Samui and Atsui had always expressed interest in visiting. Not only that, it was almost out of an obligation to Shi. For a man who'd not had a family, he'd chosen to become a part of Konoha so that he might have a dream realized. Neither was willing to let that dream die so easily!

Of course, this didn't stop the training. If there was one thing the Kage were not going to tolerate it was anyone dampening the efforts of the alliance in regards to reclaiming their homeland. Even Kurotsuchi showed harsh, unyielding grit against the opposition. She'd warned that as long as she was the Tsuchikage, she'd make sure to harshly punish anyone who threatened the stability of the training. While things seemed bleak, the overall growth of the force couldn't be underestimated. Everyone's strength had grown leaps and bounds. As much as it pissed her off, she could only put her hope in the fact that the Yondaime's son was still alive somewhere. Without him, their strength meant nothing!

Of course, there were a few testers who didn't think Kurotsuchi would actually go through with it, but when the offended party was brought before her. She responded by knocking the teeth and breaking the nose of one. She then wrote their names down in a scroll. She claimed that once they had taken back the earth, the offenders would be working twenty years in the Iwa salt mines. The color drained from the faces of those present while Kurotsuchi handed them a special badge denoting their criminal status.

"Take off that badge, then when you get back I'll make sure to have you fucking killed! And, if you think that punishment means you won't have to try and fight for our planet, then rest assured that I'll make your families work the salt mines instead!" Kurotsuchi growled.

The lot quickly gasped. "K-Kurotsuchi-sama, you can't…"

The Tsuchikage slammed her fists on her desk and blasted the full might of her reinforced chakra. Even her guards trembled as the boards beneath her feet cracked. "Shut up! You think your needs are higher than anyone else's?! I took you as shinobi of Iwagakure! Have you all forgotten the Will of Stone? I'm fucking stressed out to hell! I haven't gone to sleep in three days, and I've had to put up with your stupid bullshit!" Kurotsuchi exclaimed.

"They killed my best friend, Kurotsuchi-sama! Those Konoha dogs need to pay!" one of them exclaimed.

Kurotsuchi glared at the one who spoke next. He stepped back in fear. The Tsuchikage gritted her teeth. She tried to remain angry, yet she could only sigh. "Are your little squabbles worth the end of our world? In case, you've forgotten but our lives are currently in the hands of Konoha's shinobi. What good is it gonna do if you keep provoking them? We… don't have the power to contest them and even if we did, it wouldn't serve a purpose! I share your pain. I lost people too! Those might be gone, but clearly, that Naruto guy has a way to return those we lost from last month. Are you really gonna risk losing who we had sooner from those who we haven't had for years?!" The Tsuchikage asked.

The Iwa shinobi balled their fists, yet they held their heads down. Finally, they apologized for their disrespect and accepted their punishment. Seeing this, Kurotsuchi leaned back in her chair and dismissed them. She ordered them to seek out those they'd offended and apologize. They agreed and departed which left Kurotsuchi and her guards alone.

Exhausted, the Tsuchikage leaned back in her chair and rubbed her temples. "Remember me never to make fun of the old man ever again," she said while she heard a gruff laugh behind her.

"It's not so easy, is it? Holding the fate of your people on your shoulders. With your words, you can cause them to either rise or fall. The chair and hat are both a blessing and a curse that only the most determined can wield, Kurotsuchi. Yet, if Onoki-sama were here, I have no doubts that he would be proud of you," Kitsuchi said.

Truth be told, he hadn't needed to be a guard, but he'd seen how horrible Kurotsuchi was at handling the pressure. Realizing he couldn't leave his daughter to handle such matters on her own, he offered to stand at her side.

The same could be said for Akatsuchi. He'd had experience as The Shield of the Tsuchikage. Having worked with Kurotsuchi, he wouldn't allow her to waver under the pressure on her own.

"It's fucking stupid. All of it. All this time I never really understood just how much bullshit we've all got stored up that we haven't taken care of. And now we risk dying to a damn god or taking ourselves out instead!" Kurotsuchi hissed.

Agitated, she slammed her desk. "Where is that damn bastard?! Doesn't he realize what's at stake here?!" she inquired. Unfortunately, neither her father nor Akatsuchi could give her an appropriate answer. If there was nothing that irritated Kurotsuchi more, it was the unknown. She would like even a bad answer to her questions, as long as she got one.

"Though we rely on him, I think we'll have to answer another question at some point. If… when he wins, is this going to become the rise of Konoha as a main power? None of the other nations will be able to stop him even with our combined efforts. It could be said that Konoha effectively rules the world as long as they have Uzumaki Naruto. I think we're also seeing the rise of the Uzumaki Clan," Kitsuchi said, clenching his fists.

Kurotsuchi closed her eyes and grunted. "How come I've never heard of this clan? The only Uzumaki I ever remembered was that Kushina lady. Are they really supposed to be from some fearsome clan?" she questioned.

Akatsuchi hummed. "I don't remember all the details since I was young at the time, but apparently the Uzumaki were a great threat. Sandaime Tsuchikage-sama with the combined efforts of other nations chose to destroy them before they could gain a further foothold. It… certainly warrants another look," he said.

Kurotsuchi snorted. "Then do you have any evidence that these guys are coordinating forces to try and take us out?" she asked.

Neither Akatsuchi nor Kitsuchi spoke for a moment. "No, but we could run the risk of…"

The young Tsuchikage waved them off. "Unless you have evidence, I've got enough shit on my plate to deal with maybes. Besides, I'd had our own group studying their power. Even if what you're suspecting does come to pass, Iwa should still be in front!" Kurotsuchi said much to the satisfaction of her father and coworker.

Unknown to the three of them, they were being carefully watched. Floating about the room was Deidara. Truth be told, he wasn't sure how he felt about spying on his former village, but he supposed he'd done worse. Yet, he never thought the day would come when he'd spy on Kurotsuchi of all people.

Having what he needed, Deidara flew back to the Uzumaki Compound. He found his mistress meditating in her room. He quickly merged his spirit with hers and shared all that he had learned.

It wasn't just him either. Asuma, Chiriku, and Sasori returned as well. They each reported what they'd heard while Kushina opened her eyes. "What are you going to do?" Asuma inquired.

Kushina stood up and stretched her back. "Nothing. They can study all they want, but they seem to forget one thing. I'm the only reason they can do this. Once they try and do it on their own, they'll face their own repercussions. As for that threat against my family, I'll leave that to Sochi's discretion. Whatever he decides, I'll go through with it," the redhead answered.

Having had enough, Kushina rolled her shoulders. It had been a long month and she truly missed her son. While his presence always felt close, she missed waking up to him when she went to sleep. She also knew Yuri did as well. Their bedroom had grown cold despite the sheets. The blizzard outside had remained a stinging constant. She found herself missing his sleeping face and the way he'd kiss her when they woke up.

While Kushina reminisced, there came a knock on her door. "Come in," she said, turning to the door. She smiled when she noticed her best friend, Mikoto, come through the door.

"Got tired of ignoring me, did you?" Kushina inquired.

Mikoto frowned but decided not to rise to the taunt. "I haven't been ignoring you. I've just been too busy. I've dealt with five separate incidents of violence over the last three days. I think the patience of everyone is reaching its limit," Mikoto said, glancing at Kushina expectedly.

This look wasn't lost on the Uzumaki Matriarch as she growled. "Do you really think if my son returned that I'd keep it to myself? No, Mikoto, I haven't heard anything," Kushina hissed.

Seeing her friend's agitation, Mikoto wisely nodded. "Sorry. I understand that you do feel the stress and concern just like the rest of us. No, maybe you feel it even more. However, it is true that we're running out of food and water. We only have a few crates left. Some of our forces have had to go hungry to feed others. No doubt many feel resentment toward the Uzumaki and Uchiha Clans because we're getting fed more than others," Mikoto said.

Kushina folded her arms and sighed. "Yeah, we share what we can, but it's obvious to everyone that we're the key to winning this battle. It's not just us, but it's all of those associated with us as well. We try to ration out what we've been given, but it's not enough. Nothing can incite anger more than a hungry stomach," the fiancee of Uzumaki Naruto stated.

For her response, Kushina heard Mikoto laugh. "You certainly don't need to tell me that. I've seen you when you're hungry," Mikoto joked.

It wasn't a joke that Kushina appreciated.

"I don't know what you think you mean when you say that, but you'd better not be saying what I think you're saying. I'm still head over you since you've been revived," Kushina answered, casting a harsh, yet playful glare at the black-haired woman.

Mikoto then mocked her friend with a gasp. "My, Kushina! Using your authority and power to further your own ends. You might actually be an Uchiha after all this time," The mother of Uchiha Sasuke claimed.

"Ha ha ha. Can you see me laughing? This is my laughing face, Mikoto. This is the face I make that laughs when you mock me. Ha ha ha!" Kushina deadpanned.

Mikoto giggled as Kushina hummed in dissatisfaction. Fortunately for the latter, that didn't last too long as she suddenly gained a smirk. "So… how many other bathroom incidents have you and Sasuke had since that time?" Kushina asked with a raised eyebrow.

Believe the female Uzumaki when she tried hard to keep the smug grin off her face. Unfortunately, she'd failed in that regard when she saw the blush on her best friend's face.

"I really regret telling you that story. Besides, it was an honest mistake. Nothing more happened, and nothing will," Mikoto replied.

"Unless you want it to," Kushina reasoned.

"I don't."

Mikoto stared at Kushina with an expression that clearly meant what she said. That said, the shiver in her voice wasn't doing much work in convincing her friend of that statement.

Kushina snickered. "Mhm, whatever you say, Mikoto. So are you still hiding from him or can you two stand to be in the same room together now?" she fired back. This time there was no smile on her face.

"...Shut up. Look, I haven't dated anyone in a long time. The missions hardly left much time for any… male attention. Fugaku certainly wasn't the most affectionate at the end of our life, even if he did talk about Sasuke and Itachi a lot. It had been a long time since we'd been… intimate. Yes, it was nice to have some male attention, but I-I can't be you, Kushina. I don't have it in me to break that barrier. I'm not even sure I want to either. I very much doubt Sasuke does either. Besides, he has Yuna. I'd never forgive myself if I ruined what they have. This isn't a story where fairytales happen. This is real life," Mikoto said.

Kushina inhaled and then exhaled. The cold air stung the insides of her nose before she nodded. She was getting ready to speak, but there came another knock on her door. "Come in!" she said. The two faced the door.

Said door opened and in came Fuka. "Hey, Kushina. Sorry to interrupt, but a messenger just arrived. Hokage-sama has requested your presence in her building… again," Fuka said.

Sometimes Kushina wondered if it was better if she stayed dead. Death sounded like a nice, permanent sleep right now. "And what, pray tell, does she want now?" Kushina asked.

Seriously, this was the fucking fourth meeting in two days. The former Kyuubi jinchuuriki actually wondered if she'd been inside the office more than the Hokage's own secretary.

Fuka shook her head. "I wasn't told. You're just expected as quickly as possible," she returned.

Kushina rolled her eyes before agreeing. "Thanks, Fuka. I'll go there now," Kushina said.

Fuka waved goodbye to her cousin and closed the door behind her. Mikoto then turned to see her friend sitting on the bed with her head in her hands. "You always did want to become the Hokage. You would have had to get used to being run around like this," The Uchiha matriarch said.

Kushina brushed her hands through her long red hair and snorted. "Don't remind me. Minato-kun made me aware of the realities of the job long before Naruto was born. I've got no more delusions about that damn chair than anyone else does," Kushina replied, suddenly feeling an intense measure of exhaustion over her.

Once she had summoned up enough patience to see this meeting through, Kushina wrapped her scarf around her neck and made for the door. Mikoto followed her out and the two walked down the stairs. After bidding goodbye to Risa, Tayuya, Shizune, and Ebisu, they stepped out into the frigid cold. Under their feet, the snow crunched as they observed the miserable state of the people.

"The training has slowed down," Mikoto said.

"No matter how much anger or spirit people have, it doesn't fill an empty stomach," Kushina said, confidently stepping forward and ignoring the spiteful eyes sent their way. She'd already grown used to it under different circumstances. The same could be said for Mikoto as she tried her best to not let the matter disturb her too much.

The two mothers walked together, speaking on various topics until it was time to part. As Kushina slowly made her way left, Mikoto made her way right.

"Mikoto…" Kushina said, getting her friend's attention.

"You're more like me than you think," she finished. She then continued on her way while Mikoto watched her friend go. The Uchiha opened her mouth to speak, but either Kushina didn't want to hear it or the words got stuck in her throat. Mikoto could only watch as Kushina faded away into the distance.

There was no way that meant what Mikoto thought it meant, did it?

Turning on her heel, she walked away as well with Kushina's comment burying itself deep into her mind with no way of escape.

As for Kushina, she made it to the building where the Hokage was stationed evidenced by the numerous Konoha guards around the perimeter. She walked past one of the soldiers, even as they tried to stop her to verify her identity. She really didn't have time for this.

"Hey, you can't just-"

The following words in the man's mouth died in his throat as Kushina cast a harsh glare upon him. His lips quivered as the weight of Kushina's power forced him to remain silent. Wisely, he kept his words to himself while Kushina continued on her way into the building. Once she was gone, the Konoha shinobi and all of his coworkers fell into the snow. Try as they might, they couldn't stop shivering, and they could tell that it wasn't from the cold.

For Kushina, though tense, still maintained the respect due Tsunade for her position. She knocked on the door and waited for the Hokage to receive her.

"Enter," the Godaime said.

Kushina opened the door and stepped inside. Violet eyes stared into brown as both became aware they were the only ones in the room. Perhaps that was just as good for them as it was for others. "You called?" Kushina asked.

Tsunade stared at Kushina a little longer. Finally, she intertwined her fingers and exhaled tiredly. "Any changes?" she asked.

Kushina closed her eyes. She'd actually been summoned for that question so many times that she started making a game of the matter. Every time she was forced to walk here, she'd wager to herself what the matter was about. As it turned out, she'd had a pretty good record on the game. She hadn't lost it yet.

"Tsunade…" Kushina warned, but then she watched the Godaime put her head down.

"Please, Kushina. I'm really not in the mood. Just… just please give me something," she pleaded with barely a mutter.

When she saw this, Kushina couldn't keep her irritation. She supposed she had to sympathize with Tsunade's plight. Kushina, being so close to Naruto and favored by the Shinigami, could come back to life if she died. The same might not be the case for Tsunade and the others. As expected, the Hokage was starting to show more than a few signs of starvation. While the ice and snow made for plenty of water, they just couldn't survive without food. Hell, Tsunade was managing the food as much as she could.

"No. I haven't even received a message from him. I can just tell you that he's alive and he's alive and he's training, as are the rest of us," Kushina returned.

Tsunade inhaled and then exhaled. "Yeah, that brat. He sure does love to train, doesn't he? Though, I think I'm starting to tell. You're getting stronger than anyone here. I'm actually thankful for the chair. Humiliating as it is to admit, I doubt I could properly face you without it, never mind standing," Tsunade said.

The two kunoichi stayed in the room for a little longer until Tsunade clenched her fingers. "Kushina, I'll be frank. Is there any way the technique that Naruto developed can be used to go back to the Elemental Nations?" the Godaime inquired.

Kushina's eyes narrowed. "And what do you expect to do even if you go back?" Kushina asked.

Tsunade bit her lip. "We could see if anything survived. Should the technique be possible, then the Gokage will assemble a combined front of shinobi to scout the area. They are comprised of our fastest units. We hope that…"

"Tsunade," Kushina interrupted.

The blonde looked at the redhead. The limits of her patience were severely tested when she saw Kushina shake her head. "It won't work. I know what you're thinking, but we've been gone for a month. Even if the portal could take us back we have no idea what we're getting into. Before we left, the air was saturated with blood and so were the rivers. If any food did remain, then do you really think Jashin doesn't know that? If it's not corrupted by the blood, then that means he kept it around to bait us out of hiding. I'll admit that I've grown stronger, but I… don't think I can beat him. The only reason I lasted as long as I did was because he was having fun with me. I doubt I'll get the same opportunity," Kushina admitted, even if it made her angry to say.

"Kushina…" Tsunade started, but Kushina quickly cut her off again.

"Tsunade. I remember that you liked to gamble. Well, you've only got two places to put your chips in. If Naruto doesn't come back, then we die here. If we go without him, we die over there. There is no other option. No offense, but one of these is better than the other, and if you're wondering which one, then just remember that if you die here you won't be killing the rest of your family after you pass away," Kushina retorted.

The Godaime gritted her teeth. Of course, she knew that, but how was she supposed to say that to the rest of her troops? To the rest of the Kage? Tsunade was tired. She'd grown sick of the cold, the snow, and the constant loss of chakra. She'd grown tired of days with no sleep. She just wanted everything to go back to normal

"Is that really all we can do?" Tsunade asked.

Kushina closed her eyes. "It's a horrible feeling, isn't it? Having to place your trust in someone else who you don't know will come through or not. The leader didn't work together when things were nice and now everyone's left panicking with no choice when everything's gone to hell. We have no other choice than to trust my son. During our time with Jiraiya, Naruto told me many stories of his journey. Once you bet on my son. Do you think you can do it a second time?" the redhead asked, pointing at the Godaime's neck.

When Tsunade looked down, though she saw nothing there, she knew what Kushina was referring to. There were times the Godaime would try and flick her fingers around her necklace only to realize it was gone. Whenever she found it gone, a smile would grow on her face. Unfortunately, there hadn't been much to smile about these days.

"Kushina, believe me. I know a lot about betting. I've definitely lost more than I've won. If it was just me, I'd trust the brat until my body withered away into the dust. However, I can't just think about myself. I have hundreds, thousands of other lives to consider. The medical staff is working overboard supporting all our sick. What am I supposed to tell them as their leader?" Tsunade asked.

Kushina closed her eyes for a moment. "Tell them they now know what if feels like to be a jinchuuriki," the redhead said.

Tsunade narrowed her eyes while Kushina continued to stare back at her. Finally, the Godaime Hokage dismissed the leader of Hinoken. Turning on her heel, Kushina left and Tsunade watched her go. Finally, she held her head down and sighed. Sometimes, this job wasn't worth the hassle.

Kushina stepped out into the frost and glanced at the building that she'd just left. Finally, she exhaled and walked away.


Another week passed for the residents of Konoha. A knock on the door came to the Uchiha household. Sasuke looked up from the table along with Itachi, Mikoto, and Yuna. Glancing at each other, Sasuke stood up and opened the door. His gaze hardened when he saw a Konoha chunin there.

"Uchiha Sasuke?" he asked.

"That's right," he answered.

"You and Mikoto-san have been summoned by Lady Tsunade quickly. She didn't tell me what the matter was about, but it seemed urgent. I advise you to hurry," he said. The messenger bowed and then left quickly. Sasuke then closed the door and walked back into the room.

"Kaa-san and I have been summoned by the Hokage," he announced.

The others straightened up. "Did he say what for?" Yuna asked.

Sasuke shook his head. "No, but he mentioned that it was urgent. No time for a discussion," he said.

Hearing this, Mikoto immediately stood up. "Then I'll meet you at the front door in three minutes," she said as she disappeared down the corner. Quickly getting dressed and grabbing her sword, the mother of Sasuke and Itachi quickly appeared back with her son.

She thought she noticed Sasuke gaze on her a bit longer than usual, but he'd turned away too fast for her to know. Either way, he opened the door and quickly kissed Yuna goodbye. Itachi waved them off as the two stepped out into the frigid cold once again.

It wasn't hard to miss the indignant looks sent their way. Nevertheless, they ignored them and swiftly made their way to the Hokage's building. The entire trip there, neither spoke a word. Of course, this wasn't from lack of trying. Every time they tried to speak to each other, the words died in their throats. Mikoto, after having told off Kushina regarding the matters with Sasuke, was forced to concede that maybe things were spiraling out of control more than either she or Sasuke could have thought. It seemed like some kind of unknown force was driving them together.

Mistake after mistake seemed to be happening around them. Not only had Sasuke walked in on her again, granted he knocked that time she just hadn't heard him, but she'd even walked in on him. Not only that but after a very stressful time on duty, she'd been so tired that she hadn't realized which bed she got in. Imagine her surprise when Yuna smirked while she and her son stared at each other equally embarrassed. Mikoto had no idea what she was supposed to do and neither did Sasuke. Sometimes, the Uchiha Matriarch wondered if she was better off moving out of the house just so these comical errors could stop.

As for Sasuke, the matter wasn't any easier. The situations he'd started to find himself in revolving around his mother left him exhausted, confused, and amused all at the same. Even worse was that Yuna found a chuckle out of every part. She even asked him if this was what he meant by restoring his clan to greatness. She commented he must have meant it by any means necessary. Of course, Sasuke brusquely rebuffed her. However, the only thing he hated above all else was one comment.

"Good thing you and Naruto-sama aren't related. I'd mistake you for brothers otherwise."

That comment made Sasuke clench his fists. There was absolutely no way he could be like Naruto, especially not… this way. It was impossible. There was no way Uchiha Sasuke would ever admit to such a ridiculous notion. Yet, he remembered the dance they shared a few months ago. Even for Sasuke, who hated dancing, it was a nice change of pace. The feeling of his mother's hand in his arm, the delicate look of her eyes as she stared at him, and the way her body fit against his was… UGH!

"Sasuke, are you alright?" Mikoto asked as she saw the irritation on her son's face.

Aware that he'd been caught, Sasuke slowly tried to keep his face neutral. "Yeah. Everything fine," he answered back as they landed on the roof of the Hokage building. Entering through the stairs, they made their way into the structure until they came to the door.

Mikoto cast one more look at her son until she faced the door. She knocked on it and the two Uchiha were allowed to enter. As always, there sat Tsunade. She noticed the two enter.

"You called for us, Hokage-sama?" Mikoto asked, keeping her tone even. It couldn't have been lost to anyone just how utterly exhausted the Godaime looked. Bags hung under her eyes and she looked close to passing out at her desk. If she allowed herself to fall asleep, Mikoto wondered if she'd ever wake up.

"Yeah, I did. Thank you both for responding so quickly. I'll cut to the chase. I'd like you to be my guards for the Five Kage Summit that we'll be holding less than an hour from now. We've all agreed that Kushina should be the mediator as… she's forced to be the most neutral out of all of us," Tsunade said.

"Are guards really necessary?" Sasuke asked, albeit a little more rudely than he should have. Mikoto looked at her son disapprovingly, yet he didn't seem to mind. Instead, he kept his eyes focused on the Hokage. Luckily for him, Tsunade wasn't in the mood to care about etiquette at this point. She was much too tired.

"Ordinarily, I'd say they aren't. However, I think we've all seen a steady decline in our cooperation as the days have passed. While I don't believe the Kage themselves would try anything, it's become clear that a few of our shinobi have started to become unhinged. The medic-nin are struggling with all the fights we've had to stop, and the civilians are getting caught in the crossfire. I don't want to bet against anything," The blonde Kage answered.

The two Uchiha glanced at each other and nodded. "Understood, Hokage-sama," Mikoto replied.

Following this, Sasuke and Mikoto stayed around Tsunade until the time for the summit came upon them. The Hokage stood up and her guards escorted her out of her office. As it turned out, the meeting place wasn't too far away. In fact, one of the Konoha hotels still standing had its foyer turned into a meeting hall for the Kage. A single table with five chairs was ready for them.

"At least we're the first ones here," Mikoto whispered to Sasuke. He grunted to his mother until they noticed Kushina leaning against a wall with her eyes closed. Her sword rested at her hip.

Tsunade took a seat and laid her hat on the table. As much as Mikoto wished to greet Kushina, it would be proper for them to remain true to their stations and save the idle chatter for later.

The next one to arrive was Gaara along with Temari. He paid Tsunade a brief greeting and sat down as well, putting his hat on the table.

After him came, Mei, Ay, and Kurotsuchi, in that order. They sat down and laid their hats on the table as well. Additionally, their guards stood behind them, each looking suspiciously and indignantly at the others.

Once the Kage were gathered, Kushina opened her eyes and stood up. As the representative for Naruto, she couldn't afford to be a Konoha kunoichi. She stood amongst the leaders as more than that. She stood far above them and she'd have to act like it.

Straightening herself, Kushina spoke. "In response to the request of the Kage, the Five Kage Summit has been called into order. If you don't know me by now, I think you'd be living under a rock, but for punctuality, I'll speak. I'm Uzumaki Kushina, a representative of my son, Uzumaki Naruto and The Shinigami in their absence. I've been called to be your mediator. You may now begin," Kushina said, making sure none was out of reach of her voice. In fact, she even turned her hair back into its silver-white color just to make sure everyone remembered her status between them all.

As expected, they had all grown used to handling her might. When they had all first arrived here, they could hardly stand in the same room as her without trembling. Now, they could sit and gaze at each other professionally without turning into quivering messes. Well, unless she wanted them to.

Kurotsuchi leaned forward, glaring at her fellow Kage. "I'll be blunt. What are we gonna do? The morale of the troops is steadily falling further and further the longer we stay here. It's also no surprise that everyone's starting to dig up past grudges," she said. Following that, she swiftly turned to Kushina.

"I think in case you've forgotten, but none of us have the blessings of the fucking god of Death looming over us. We don't have the time to wait for him! In fact, many of us think he's already died attempting… whatever he was doing. Many even think you're stalling facing Jashin yourself. What was all this training for if not to take back our home?" Kurotsuchi asked.

Kushina looked at the Iwa Kage and then closed her eyes. "The training was meant for us to not be a hassle to my son when he returns. As for your rumors, then allow me to dispel them. He's alive and he's continuing to grow stronger. That's all I know," she replied.

Kurotsuchi slammed on the table. "Then why the hell don't you…"

The young woman's words died in her throat when Kushina released a greater portion of her might upon the meeting. The guards quickly stood in front of their Kage, yet they were immediately blown away save for Mikoto and Sasuke. In fact, neither bothered moving in front of Tsunade.

"I'd suggest you wisely move on while I still have the nerve to put up with you," Kushina said, her voice reverberating through the room as the floor splintered beneath her feet The glass windows broke and the pressure pushed against the walls until they cracked like broken ice.

The Kage were forced to bend their heads down to the pressure until Kushina was sure that she made her point. She eased the pressure and cleared her throat. "I'd like nothing more than to know what my son's up to, but that's clearly not my part to play. He'll return when he's ready. As I said before, he knew the circumstances when he brought us here. He won't lie us to die," the redhead added.

The Kage picked themselves up and so did their guards. Kurotsuchi glared at Kushina, but Kitsuchi stayed her anger lest there be any more provocations. The young Tsuchikage scowled, but slammed herself back in her chair and folded her arms. "Then you better hope he comes through before there's none of us left to launch a counter-assault," Kurotsuchi fired back.

With the Tsuchikage having said her piece, the others quickly took the floor. "That said, for all this training, perhaps it won't do us so much good if we don't know our enemy. I think it would be best if we continued what we had planned. We commissioned various artists to draw the enemies we face based on our description of them from the battle. We've also spent much time going over the details of what we've seen," Gaara commented.

The Mizukage then offered her opinion. "Yes. One problem with the battle was that we were all very much unprepared for it. Though we've lost a large portion of our forces, we still have a capable number to battle with. However, I worry that Jashin will have added to forces in the time that we've been gone. Not to mention they can replenish their own might from our deaths. In addition to our declining trust in each other, I don't think it will take much for our forces to crumble," she stated. Mei looked at her cousin a bit until her focus returned to the table.

"Yes, however, one thing that was noticed was that though sturdy, they are simple creatures obeying a higher authority. They aren't going to be making plans or luring us into traps. That alone lends us an advantage that we can exploit. Mabui and several of my intelligence officers have a list of appropriate formations we can exploit," Ay said, placing a scroll on the table.

Tsunade and the others looked over the scroll as did Kushina. Mikoto and Sasuke glanced at each other curiously, but made sure that nothing took hold of their attention for too long. Even from where they stood, they could make out bits and pieces of the formations in the scroll. One in particular made Mikoto frown, yet she kept her opinion to herself.

"However, I believe we have another positive. Perhaps I'm looking too much into this lone scenario, but Jashin seemed intent on keeping Naruto out of the battle between us and those creatures. Perhaps Naruto had a means of dealing with them, or at least he could have culled their numbers faster than we could on our own," he mentioned.

"You sure that wasn't just because he wanted a piece of the guy for himself? If anything, like the lady over there mentioned, he enjoyed toying with all of us. Who's to say he wasn't doing the same to that Naruto guy?" Kurotuschi inquired.

The others thought on her words for a long number of minutes. Finally, Tsunade addressed Kushina. "What do you think?" she asked.

The Uzumaki Clan Matriarch stared off to the side again. She wasn't exactly sure what to think since she'd fallen in the battle long before that hellhole started appearing. She'd also not seen these creatures. Hell, that she hadn't died was news to her. She'd fully been expecting to die at the end of that battle.

"Since I was incapacitated, I can only rely on your experiences of the encounter. However, if it was something that had to do with my son specifically, then I believe it best that I remain with you. Keep in mind that you will need me so that I can keep the spirits under control. We will only get one shot at this. If we lose here, then we won't have the men to strike back. Losing anyone else without a victory will only worsen our chances," she answered.

The Kage collectively sighed. Of course, they'd tried not to think about the consequences of failure, but it was a looming cloud over their heads. It was as Kushina said, if they failed then there would be no second chances. They'd be dead and there'd be no hope of returning to the Elemental Nations. Not only that, but Jashin would have gotten fat off their losses. There was no telling if Naruto could send them away a second time.

It was then that Kushina wondered if she ought to have worded her response better. It wouldn't do good for the troops if even their leaders grew helpless, but even she was starting to feel demoralized. While feeling her son's power was a nice substitute, she still missed him and even she sometimes wondered if perhaps it was just her head messing with her. She certainly didn't believe she'd gone crazy, but then again she'd also been working a lot lately.

The Kage continued to trade news back and forth. Once or twice, they drifted off like prattling children and Kushina had to bring them back on topic. Of course, there was hardly any good news anywhere. The food stores were basically empty save for a few crates. Tsunade had already projected that after the second week, there'd be basically no food left for anyone. Naturally, that got a few glances at Kushina. Try as she might, she made it known that she knew how dire things were as well.

"So much power and even I'm helpless. Naruto, come on. I know you're out there. Maybe they don't believe in you, but I do. I know you'll pull through. You're my son, and the love of my life. Please, come home," Kushina begged while she continued to watch the Kage speak upon more matters, at least until a hard knock came on the meeting room door.

"Hokage-sama! We have a problem!"

Acting quickly, Mikoto moved over to the door and identified the individual. Once he was let inside, he rushed over to Tsunade. "A massive dispute has erupted on the borders of the Northwestern quarter between Konoha civilians and Kumo shinobi. The dispute has spilled out to involving every nation. All the borders are broken and…"

The messenger stalled. He looked at Kushina and the redhead immediately didn't like the look in his eyes. Frowning, she immediately sped off before anyone could think to stop her. Mikoto and Sasuke watched her go. A sense of dread steadily filled their bodies.

Meanwhile, Kushina busted out the doors and immediately her ears picked up on distant shouting. She cared not for the wind or the snow brushing against her. Instead, she kicked up the ice and frost beneath her feet. She dashed off, hopping from rooftop to rooftop until she came upon the scene. Her senses were running haywire as she feared the worst. She didn't even regard the shinobi running alongside her until all the screaming suddenly stopped.

As she landed, she widened her eyes. When compared to the cold around her, her body felt even colder.

"N-No… I… I didn't mean t-t… She s-stood in m-my…" A Kumo shinobi said as his body shook with a kunai in his hands. He stepped back, his kunai dripping with blood as Kushina watched Tayuya fall to her knees, clutching her chest.

The air was silent, everyone bearing witness to what they'd seen. Risa swiftly burst through the crowd and grabbed her daughter. "Tayuya? Tayuya! Come on, stay with me! Don't you dare die again! Not in front of me!" Risa snarled as she pressed hard on the open wound to stop the bleeding. Tayuya winced in agony while Risa scowled.

"What the fuck are you all looking at?! Someone get a medic!" she hollered.

Biting her lip, Kushina angrily released her strength amongst the masses around the northwestern quarter. When everyone saw her, their eyes shook with fear and terror and she crashed into the ground. Each step made the ground splinter. Each pulse of her power made buildings tremble. Those around her were immediately brought to their knees as Kushina's power made the weather spiral out of control.

The winds increased and thunder crashed through the sky. Lightning struck the ice and snow in the distance while Kushina's hair flew into the air.

"You DARE!" she seethed as she stomped on the ground, each step like the sound of the end of all life as every living person knew it.

Karui and Omoi, who'd been there watched unsure of what they were supposed to do. Their shinobi started the assault with a Konoha civilian, yet… it had been a member of their supposed family that got stabbed. Unsure of what to do, Karui clenched her fists and turned to her partner.

"Dammit, come on!" she said as she ran to Tayuya. Omoi sucked her teeth and immediately ran after her. Both stood next to Risa. Kneeling down, Karui tore her sleeve and used the rag to press down into Tayuya's wound along with Omoi. Risa watched them both critically, yet she immediately turned her attention to her daughter who started shaking.

"Come on, you stubborn idiot. You've survived worse than this. You're an Uzumaki! We don't die easily!" Risa said, uncaring of the harsh winds blowing in her face. It was only when lightning crashed into the ground did she remember her cousin.

Kushina seethed with rage. Why? Why was it so fucking hard? Why was it so damn hard for people to get along? Even in the face of utter annihilation and extinction, still they refused to put their differences aside. Still, they refused to cooperate. Still, they refused to work together!

Well, fine! Kushina had a better plan then. If they didn't want to get along in life, then maybe they could all get along when they died! No one was going to rip her family away from her again. Not Kumo, not Iwa, and NOT KONOHA!

Kushina frowned as she noticed the Five Kage stand between her and the Kumo shinobi. Tsunade quickly held up her hand. "Stand down, Kushina. Just calm down. We can fix this!" Tsunade pleaded, her body already shivering as well. Many stepped away as Kushina snarled, even her skin threatening to tear off her face.

"Who do you think you're talking to, Tsunade? As the Hokage, I shall grant you one opportunity. Stand out of my way or I shall erase the Senju line once and for all!" Kushina threatened, the sound of over a hundred thousand spirits speaking through her. They fed off her anger and her stress. White flames danced around the Uzumaki Matriarch's body as her once vibrant eyes turned as white as the snow.

"K-K-Kushina, I'm warning you. Stand down right now. I can save her, but you have to trust me!" Tsunade exclaimed, her voice shaking when she was forced to bear the full brunt of Kushina's wrath.

"Trust? Trust you?! I have long since trusted you, trusted Konoha, trusted the rest of you worthless peons. You all behave like fucking children, always so keen to get your way. I've had enough of trusting! We've done it your way. Now, we'll do it our way! You clearly can't rule yourselves! You are all like unguided dogs, attacking and killing each other like rabid animals. Now, we take charge. We shall rule, and we shall establish the peace that seems so hard for you mortals to obtain. And the first step will be killing its weak-willed leaders!" Kushina said, drawing her sword.

"Kushina, please…" Mei pleaded, trying to find the nerve to stand as Kushina's visage formed into that of a violent beast of fire. Each step made the lands explode with corrupted divine strength.

"Allow us to give you a please instead. Please, go die! You and the rest of your ilk!" Kushina said as she held out her hand. Everyone watched in horror as Kushina formed the Jikūyugami in her palm. The dark purple orb of spatial destruction loomed in the minds of everyone as Kushina made it larger and larger. A crooked smile appeared on her face.

The Kage scowled. "L-Looks like we have to fight!" Kurotsuchi said, even if she knew they hadn't a chance in hell of winning.

Kushina's grin grew larger and larger, cracking her face in a way that seemed unhumanlike.

From a ways off, the Akatsuki watched the scene. More specifically, Nagato watched. His eyes narrowed as he saw the rage, the anger, the despair, the pain that had taken over Kushina's face. "In the end, there is no other way to peace than through pain. When the person one loves is hurt, they shall in turn wish pain upon those that hurt them. And those whom they love will return the same. Then grudges are born, anger is born, resentment is born, and the cycle of pain shall continue. That's right. Know Pain!" Nagato said.

"Kushina…" Risa muttered.

The Kage braced themselves. The civilians watched. The foreign shinobi watched. Nearly everyone was present as they waited for Kushina's next action.

Clenching her fingers, the Uzumaki Matriarch was ready to fire the ball of manipulated space into the Kage and those behind them. However, before she could fire it, the white flames of Honshou that powered her immediately dispelled. Slowly, Kushina stumbled back as her silver-white hair turned back to a beautiful red. She crumbled to the ground, gasping for air in shock.

Nevertheless, she and others felt the presence of great power behind her. Turning her head, Kushina's eyes widened as did those around her. Risa, Karui, and Omoi looked down in amazement. A pure white aura covered Tayuya's body as they watched her open wound start to close until it was fully repaired.

Tears welled in Risa's eyes as Tayuya let out a series of coughs. "What the fuck… happened?" Tayuya asked while Risa roughly took her daughter into her arms.

"Stop cursing, you idiot," Risa sobbed.

Karui and Omoi breathed sighs of relief, yet it was only when they heard someone gasp did they look up. Everyone's eyes stared at the sky. Kushina, The Five Kage, the Konoha civilians, and every foreign shinobi under the stormy skies looked up. What the two didn't know was that others around the village were looking up as well. From the eastern parts of the village to the west, there was not a single eye that did not look into the sky with stunned silence.

"What the fuck's wrong with…"

Karui stopped when Omoi forcefully turned her head up. She'd have cursed him to death itself for that, but her words were lost. They were lost in the beauty of the stars shining before her. Yet, these were different from other starry nights. They glowed brighter than before, they sparkled like the dancing jewels of sapphire in the icy sky.

The cold clouds which had stuck to the skin of shinobi and civilians parted away as everyone watched a sea of white fire sail through the outer space. Dared some even think that the mouth of the heavens opened themselves as the cold air suddenly became very warm, the chilling wrath that had been steadily building amongst the masses gave way to the warm embrace of great unity.

People who were mere seconds from making enemies with each other dropped their weapons into the snow. Falling stars ignited the surface of the frozen realm. The full might and beauty of the aurora blanketed the firmament. All around them, fleeting balls of ice and snow were replaced by falling little balls of white fire.

Holding out her hand, Kushina took one and she felt her body imbued with great power. Hunger and thirst temporarily left her as her soul found itself fulfilled by divine might.

The same could be said for all those around her. Hunger and thirst were set aside, those who had lost and starved were found and filled. Unpleasant cold bodies were filled to the brim with pleasant warmth like the comfort of sheets and a bed on a winter's night.

What followed next would stay in the minds of many for years t o come. In fact, many would name this as 'The Sage's Night of Fire.' Numerous seals of which most knew no origin appeared in the outer space. The stars danced around them while pillars of light shook the icy tundra. Through each seal, the pillars of white fire broke through and circled around the realm making sure everyone witnessed it.

On her knees, tears welled up in Kushina's eyes as she'd found herself free from the control of the spirits who'd been feeding off her anger. "Naruto, my son. My love!" she said, feeling the warm embrace of the Shinigami surrounding her. The flames covered her body and she received the white robe of the God of Death once again.

However, this one had split itself into nine tails. Upon its back lay the Uzumaki Clan symbol. Kushina's red hair turned white again. In fact, it started to glow with so much might that those watching had to cover their eyes lest they go blind. Kushina stood up and held out her hands. She smiled a wide smile, a true smile, a loving smile.

Her joy was infectious as the lightning sailed through the sky with seams of fire. Karui and Omoi grinned with Risa and Tayuya. From far away, Yuri wept as she felt her body receive the blessings from Naruto and the Shinigami.

While everyone gazed at the spectacle, their eyes quickly zoomed on on a star brighter than all the others. It seemed like the star itself was on fire, yet it didn't burn away. It also wasn't falling as fast as the others. In fact, it seemed to be floating down with all the grace of an ethereal being.

It soon became apparent to everyone that it was no star they were squinting their eyes at. It was a man. Yet, he was unlike any man they'd ever seen. The closer he came, the more they were forced to step away. Even closing their eyes, the brightness of his countenance seemed to pierce through their eyelids. Only Kushina and those of the Uzumaki Clan were permitted to stand before him as his feet touched the frozen ground.

When they did, the ground pulsed with waves of power. Like the ripples from a stone in a river, his power moved from the center, through the village, and out into the rest of the cold realm.

Kushina stared fully upon him. Her tears still hadn't stopped and they didn't stop when he cupped her cheeks. His hands were warm and strong just like she remembered. He was her son. He had returned to her.

When Kushina looked at him, she had to admit that one might easily mistake Naruto for someone else. The whisker marks on his face, usually thin like lines had broadened out like long rectangles. His eyes were the most beautiful shade of silver that she'd ever seen. Prayer beads circled around his neck and prayer bells dangled off the ends of his robe. When they rang, every spirit fell to their knees, good and evil, righteous and vile.

His hair was long and it was blessed with the stars. Between his cloak and his hair, Kushina almost thought she could see entire solar systems seeped into his body. It seemed to defy all logic that the world of Shinobi had ever made.

Then, he kissed her. Kushina widened her eyes, staring into his own. She remembered these lips. She always loved kissing them. They were warm and filled with life and strength, how rather ironic given the god who was powering them.

Kushina returned his kiss with her own, eager to tell him just how much she'd missed him. All her anger, all her stress, all her persistence, it was all for this moment as she found herself refreshed in his embrace. Her nails dug into his shoulders and his robes. She pulled on them possessively as he pulled her in further. They kissed and they kissed with passion. Filled with need, desire, and want, Kushina would have fucking taken her son right here if the circumstances permitted it.

From her cheeks, Naruto wrapped his arms around his mother's waist. He pulled her in further and her hands touched his chest, his so very broad and strong chest. Just feeling it made Kushina swoon.

When they separated, Kushina felt rather lightheaded. She wasn't sure how she remained standing after it because her legs felt like fucking jelly.

Before she could speak, she saw Naruto turn his head. He then smiled. It was not one of those goofy smiles he'd usually give. Instead, it was the smile of a gentle man, the smile of a ruler over the masses, the smile of a king over the commoners. Raising his hand, he beckoned for the one he spotted through the crowd.

While people swallowed the lumps in their throats, they stiffened when they saw Yuri come out. Her face was caked in sweat and her lungs seemed to burn, yet she felt the pull of her cousin. "Naruto-nii," she thought, her feelings a jumbling mess as she approached.

The closer she came, the brighter she became along with Kushina. A robe wrapped around her as well as she put her hand in Naruto's. His powerful, yet gentle gaze focused on her and he kissed her as well.

Overwhelmed with emotion, Yuri threw her arms around his neck. He kissed her just as deeply as he did Kushina and Yuri felt her body filled with the strength of his might. Her lips quivered against his while her tongue struck his mouth. Weeks of no contact, weeks of training, and weeks of repressed sorrows all seemed to flood out at once. Even the Sanbi was startled by just how much power flowed into Yuri's body.

When Naruto released her, Yuri's eyes fluttered as a thousand wonderful sensations filled her body simultaneously. When she looked into his eyes, her breath was taken away since it looked like his pupils were glowing like the space outside the frozen realm as well. All words seemed to fade away. Yet, she didn't need to speak. He understood the words she wished to say to him as he released her from his arms.

How she wished he hadn't. She already felt lonely without his embrace.

When Naruto let Yuri go, he briefly turned his gaze onto Karui, Omoi, Risa, and Tayuya. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tayuya was the only one to find her voice.

"T-Took you long enough, shithead," she commented, doing something she never thought she'd do as she lived. Her eyes welled with tears and she rubbed her arm over her eyes lest she become enough more pitiful.

Without uttering a word, Naruto smiled at her comment. He then turned to the rest of the masses, a harsh, accusing glare thrown their way. The masses shirked away from his intense gaze, almost all of them looked guilty one way or the other. They had no idea that while he trained, Naruto had seen them and witnessed what they'd done over the many weeks. He watched them slowly devolve into violence and he watched as some instigated others. He'd seen the secret meetings held about how to sow dissent in the populace. Had now been appropriate, he'd have killed them all. However, their punishments would come later.

Instead, the summoner of the Shinigami focused on one goal, one task, one chance that he'd longed for ever since he'd completed that month of sheer agony, pain, and understanding.

"Kaa-san, gather the Kage and summon everyone to the outskirts of the village," Naruto said slowly, his voice deep yet sounding like it was filled with the years of ancients. All Kushina could do was nod.

Naruto patted her and Yuri's shoulders. "I'll be back soon. There is one matter I must deal with. Wait for me," he said.

Before she could even agree, Naruto moved away from them and held out his palm. Immediately, a black portal opened. The Kyuubi Jinchuuriki looked back at the masses one more time. He then stepped into the portal. No one said a word or even moved as it closed behind him.

Once Naruto was gone, Kushina and Yuri glanced at each other. The former then immediately turned around. "Gather everyone in the village immediately! Hurry up dammit!" Kushina all but ordered.

The Kage finally found their nerves and swiftly spoke to their attendants. Tsunade glanced at Mikoto and Sasuke. "Make sure everyone knows! If no one shows, tell them I'm putting them in the hospital myself!" she said.

Neither mother nor son of the Uchiha clan needed to be told twice. In fact, they all but sped off, their chakra blowing apart the ice and snow beneath their feet.

"Is that a smile on your face, Sasuke? Could it be that you're happy Naruto's returned?" Mikoto teased. Though the smirk on Sasuke's face didn't leave, he faced his mother.

"Hn. It's about time he did. It was getting a little too boring around here," Sasuke replied.

The two Uchiha dashed off into the distance, prepared to tell anyone they saw of what they'd witnessed.


Meanwhile, the portal opened and Naruto stepped out. Since he'd teleported the masses of the Elemental Nations away, many weeks had passed. Now, he was the first one to step back and witness what had become of his world, and his heart grieved when he saw its pitiful state.

There was nothing there. Aside from dark red clouds, black lightning, and thousands upon thousands of black spike-like spires protruding from the ground, the rest was all but a desolate wasteland of nothingness. The air was thick with blood, death, and violence.

Waterfalls of red crashed in his ears as he heard the groanings of many spirits. They pleaded for release from the gruesome torture inflicted upon them by the curse of Jashin. In his state of heightened spiritual divine might, Naruto heard each and every cry. His hair blew in the arid wind and he noticed the screams of black demons steadily rising higher and higher.

"So that's where they went," he thought to himself as he looked at the spires. One by one, the black beasts started achingly, painfully, extracting themselves from the spires. No doubt Jashin had stored them away since there was clearly nothing left to kill but themselves.

"Do not waste any more time, Uzumaki Naruto. Finish what I promised you and leave. Your power is fleeting as your soul slowly burns away," said the voice of one who'd granted him his current form.

"I know, Shin. You don't need to remind me," Naruto replied.

Acting quickly, Naruto closed his eyes and sensed out Jashin. Luckily for him, it wasn't hard. The god was on the other side of the world cackling away to himself as he sat on a throne of black spires. Naruto wasn't sure why he hadn't been noticed yet, but he'd make sure to give a royal reception to the bastard who'd corrupted his world.

Inhaling and exhaling, Naruto grabbed his sword from its sheath. As soon as he touched it, blinding beams of light broke through the dark clouds above as he held his sword over his head. "Are you ready?" he asked.

"We stand with you, Naruto-sama! Until the end of the ages!" Pakura, Dan, Kimimaro, Suiren, Yahiko, and Gari exclaimed.

Hearing their words, Naruto closed his eyes and filled his sword with divine power. The ground shook beneath his feet and the winds increased. Naruto inhaled and exhaled. He inhaled and exhaled.

Inhale. Exhale.

As Naruto stood, the spirit of the Shinigami appeared behind him. Both the God of Death and Naruto snapped the beads from their necklaces. They each swallowed one as the ancient seal of the Shinigami stamped itself on Naruto's forehead. Naruto gritted his teeth and millions of spirits poured their strength into him. Five Giant Sealing arrays appeared above his head.

"Shisenpō: Shinigami Fukoku: Hyakushin Hōhō: Shūmatsu no Daisan Mon! (Death Sage Mode: Death God's Edict: A Hundred Ways of Death: Opening The Third Gate of The End)!" Naruto roared as his honshou exploded into the air. He roared until his throat was dry as he slammed his sword into the ground.

The five giant seals over his head shattered as the ground in front of him splintered. A wave of honshou blasted out of his sword. The ground broke into pieces as every spire in its path was obliterated where it stood. Dark, yet purple flames of the underworld burst out of the ground, bellowing like a fierce dragon ready to stake its claim and burn its mark upon the world it'd been wrenched from. The flames danced around the air and the ground, bashing and thrashing like the chains that hung the dead in their place. The chains tore through the ground, pulling up spires like broken sticks off the ground.

The black beasts screamed in agony as the purple flames consumed them. One by one, they were numerous spires were willed into the darkened abyss beneath the splintered ground. The Gates of Death took them all and departed them for the afterlife, releasing their souls from Jashin's curse as the twisting, swirling, violent maelstrom of the Shinigami's life-draining energy continued on its path.

Far off, Jashin cackled as he stared into the nothingness. It hadn't been often, but sometimes he got to enjoy the true worth of his domain. As his followers had done, he'd eradicated all life from this world. While it was just one of the millions he'd conquered in his lifetime, there was just something special about this particular one, especially since his siblings seemed to favor it so highly.

Truth be told, Jashin was almost sad that he'd killed off humanity save for those others hiding in that little realm that they thought he couldn't get to. He could have gone there any time he wished, but it'd be much better to let them stew in their hope before he wiped it out. The slaughter would be so much sweeter that way. Maybe he'd even keep a few of them around just to entertain himself. Humanity's proclivity to hating itself was always amusing after all.

"In fact, maybe I should…"

The god of Slaughter ceased his thoughts when he suddenly felt the very earth itself tremble. It shook worse than any feeling he'd ever sensed before. Before he could even prepare himself, he turned around and widened his eyes. He watched a blast of pure divine might tower over him, breaking and thundering everything he'd built. That said, his shock was temporary before he laughed.

"Do you never learn, Boy? You will never have the strength to best me. Your world is mine and it will always be mine. Allow me to stomp out your feeble resistance and the faith my brother had placed in you," Jashin said, holding out his hand.

The god had to admit that the power of the technique was impressive. It was more powerful than any technique thrown at him before. Just like all the others, he'd stop it. Like all the others, he'd conquer it. And, like all the others, he'd save the despair that followed after it!

Or that was what Jashin thought might happen before the god of Slaughter screamed in agony as the blast of the Shinigami's might came upon him. He screamed in agony as dark purple flames etched the seals of the God of Death into his very skin. Try as he might, he couldn't escape the full impact of the technique as it thrust him through mountain after mountain. The wailings of millions of dying souls clung to his form, threatening to tear his immortal body and soul into a thousand pieces.

Jashin and the slicing blow sailed off into the distance until a cataclysmic, spiraling tower of dark purple fire, howling souls, undead chains, and the gates of the damned flew into the air. The tower reached so high that it flew into the very stars themselves, taking them and adding to its strength. Purple fire turned into a sea of stars as the chains pulled the pillar down into the gate of death.

Naruto's summons then appeared in the air and fired off their techniques into the gates, violently erupting its insides as the doors behind it closed.

Where he stood, Naruto watched lava from the earth slowly start to pour out. Hot steam and ash filled the air enough to melt human skin. The once decrepit wasteland seemed to turn into hell itself as fire scattered across the horizon. The blond could feel the doors of the third gate beginning to burst as he opened the portal again. Once he did, he lost his form.

"Wait for me, you bastard. I'll be sure to give you more of that when I return," Naruto said, all the power that he'd used erased from his body for the time being. He stepped into the portal and watched it close behind him.

As soon as he left, the third gate of death exploded releasing five towers of star-lit purple flames. How long the pillars danced for was anyone's guess, but know that Jashin felt every measure of their agony and might for every second that he was forced to stay within them.

Slowly, the flames and divine authority died down enough that the god of Slaughter was allowed to traverse the lands of the Elemental Nations again. He stumbled out in righteous anger as his body bled profusely. He touched his face and stared at the blood running down his palm. He touched his chest and his body still. Across his torso was a giant slash, its deep grooves making his insides burn from the open air.

Fury moving through his countenance, Jashin tried to heal the damage. He tried to make use of his natural godhood to ease the burden placed on him, yet he found this only seemed to make the pain even more intense. It was then that he understood that it hadn't just been his body. His very spirit, his soul had been struck, had been damaged, had been rended.

Jashin took a step forward, limping in sheer agony as his blood fell from the side of his face. All it took was one more step before he fell to his knees in pain. His eyes were blurry and his ears were ringing. When he looked up, he saw the devastation of all that he'd planned. He gritted his teeth and clenched his fists.

"UZUMAKI NARUTO!" He hollered, throwing his hands up despite the pain. Yet, when he looked up, he saw that not only had the earth been cut, but so had the stars and heavens beyond it.

"Hehehehehehe… hahahhahahaHAHAHHAHAHAAHAHAHHAHA! Congratulations, boy. You've done the one thing you shouldn't have. You have made me angry. You've made me VERY angry. Enjoy your last moments in your hole of a realm! I will be sure to etch this insult into your very core! And you, my brother, I shall never allow you and your summoner to meet ever again!" Jashin cackled, the pain racing through his body still.

The god of Slaughter laughed and laughed, awaiting the day that Naruto might return. However, luckily for him, there was something he'd know soon.

…He wouldn't have to wait long.

KG: Very few chapters actually make me smile as this one did. It's rather funny when you look back on where you've began to where you've come. Never would I have thought that I'd make it this far. Either way, next chapter will no doubt bring many thrills for me, and I pray for you as well. Well, there is still more than enough time to decide on the poll on my profile. Do choose wisely.