Chapter Forty-five

Suna was a village that was used to hardships. One did not live in the desert and expect luxury after all. But the people of the village, both shinobi and civilian, embraced the hardships. To them the hardships made them better people, stronger people. If they could endure what the desert threw at them, they could endure anything thrown at them. Anyone could live in a forest or a mountain or even on an island, but it took guts to survive and make a life in the desert.

But lately Suna had been having some good luck come their way. Gaara had disappeared long ago, and morale had skyrocketed because of it. Sure he had returned a little bit ago, but from the villager's perspective their Godaime Kazekage had actually succeeded in scaring off the sociopathic jinchuuriki. Since Gaara's vanishing there had always been an underlying dread of his return, but now that was all but gone. And to make it better, years ago Konoha had been destroyed by Kumo.

Sure Konoha had been their ally, but they had also been Suna's biggest competitor. This alliance had hurt Suna economically, with most Suna's missions and even some civilian jobs being outsourced to Konoha and the Land of Fire. But with them gone, the Wind Daimyo had no choice but to invest more money and business in his own hidden village and nation. Now living in the desert had a little bit more luxury to it. And as strong as they were, everyone appreciated a little luxury.

Then one day the Wind Daimyo decided to pay Suna a visit, and all the citizens were anxious to see what new bit of luck would come their way.

That diminished as soon as they saw the Wind Daimyo's guest.

'What is he doing here?' Nishiryu Gozen, the Godaime Kazekage, asked himself as his eyes locked right on Namikaze Minato, sitting right next to the Wind Daimyo in their carriage like they were old buddies. In fact, the two men were drinking sake and conversing as if they had known each other for years. Gozen did not like the looks of this.

The carriage and guards came to a stop just within the walls of Suna. "Ah, hello Kazekage. Such a marvelous day isn't it?" The daimyo greeted.

Gozen and his council had gathered at the entrance awaiting the daimyo. He didn't make this a surprise visit after all, he had sent a message days ago alerting them so they knew what to expect. Namikaze's presence however was completely unexpected.

"It is, though we are used to days like this." Gozen greeted, trying not to look at Namikaze now.

Namikaze on the other hand took the chance to get a good look back at him. He wasn't familiar with Suna's clans but he could tell this man belonged to one of them. One of the more dangerous ones, the one that possessed the Scorch Release kekkei genkai. The green hair was a dead giveaway, worn short and flat, like if Hiashi had cut his own above the neck but otherwise left it unchanged. Gozen's face was stern, clearly used to having to assert authority, clean shaven, and he wore a white coat similar to Ibiki over a black shirt and green pants.

"Well it's going to get a lot better. I've got great news for you. But let's take this somewhere inside." The daimyo requested.

Begrudgingly, Gozen led his council and new guests back to the kazekage tower and led them into the council meeting room. It was smaller than the one back in Konoha though that was because Suna had a smaller council. The council usually had five clan heads, one elder, and no civilians. There were a few appointed civilian representatives, but they were only addressed when the kazekage needed to work on civilian matters.

Inside the council chambers the members took their seats while some Anbu took guard. Gozen went to his chair but Namikaze in a swift way beat him to it and helped himself to the chair. "What the hell?" Gozen asked, surprised by the sheer audacity of this man.

"Don't be rude Kazekage." The Wind Daimyo told him.

Gozen glared. "He has no right to-!"

"It's just a chair, get over it. Namikaze-sama is my guest and he can sit where he wants. Now sit and let us speak."

Gozen however had no intention of letting this smug bastard act like he was the one in charge here. He did a small fire jutsu and set his own chair on fire. Namikaze quickly got out and watched as the chair burned away. He glared at the kazekage, who returned an angry look back.

"That was immature Kazekage." The Wind Daimyo said unhappily.

"Then perhaps you wouldn't mind having someone else sit on your throne." Gozen remarked. "This is not Konoha sir, this is Suna. The hokage does not outrank me here."

"Does everyone else believe this" The Wind Daimyo asked, looking around the room. He actually looked surprised when everyone nodded. "Are you people stupid? Do you not know who this man is?"

"We know, but that doesn't mean he gets to humiliate the kazekage like that." One of the clan heads stated.

Another nodded. "He hasn't done anything for Suna. What gives him the right to sit in our kage's chair?"

The Wind Daimyo frowned. "I don't care how the kazekage feels. Namikaze Minato is a living legend and you will treat him with the respect he deserves."

Namikaze grinned to hear this. The people of Konoha hadn't been the only ones to appreciate him. The legend of the Yellow Flash who ended a war all by himself, while exaggerated, nonetheless had gotten results. So many people were afraid to fight him, and there had been numerous people in the past who had attempted to join his side. Shortly after his defeat of Iwa there had been multiple ninja leaving their villages and heading to Konoha, all wanting to be a subordinate of the greatest hokage alive. Even a few Iwa nin had gone traitor to try and get on his good side, that sure made him feel pleased with himself. Namikaze however had never allowed any of them to enter Konoha of course, but he did see an opportunity and had redirected these missing nin to be the support group for Akatsuki and part of Jiraiya's spy network.

The Wind Daimyo was another fan of the Yellow Flash story, having been entranced by the idea of a single ninja who could decimate an entire army, especially the Iwa army. After the war he had tried to improve relationships with Konoha, and this was a big reason why Suna had been losing business to a foreign service. This had continued even with Namikaze's 'death' thanks to Sarutobi telling the man, after swearing him to secrecy of course, that there was an heir to Namikaze's estate and in a few years there would surely be a second Yellow Flash that could potentially outshine the original. And if the Wind Daimyo continued to be a supporter of Konoha, then it was entirely possible that when the time came, he might be able to have one of his daughters marry Namikaze's heir and then he'd have the Yellow Flash in his own family.

The Wind Daimyo took this to heart and complied despite Rasa's protests over the years. And when Namikaze himself came to his palace healthy as a horse, the daimyo saw it as a clear sign from above that all his dreams and good deeds were finally about to pay off. So when Namikaze asked to speak with Suna as soon as possible, the Wind Daimyo had them on their way to the village before the official heads up message even had dried ink on it.

"Guests that deserve respect do not enter your home and treat it as if it were their own." Gozen insisted. "What is it that brings you here anyway hokage? As I am aware, your village was destroyed years ago and all survivors taken prisoner."

"Not all of us. We've been hiding, rebuilding our strength, and now we have the opportunity to reclaim what has been taken from us." Namikaze replied.

"And you want our help?" Gozen asked incredulously.

"This does affect you too you know." Namikaze declared. "Kumo is not the real threat I face. I'm at a war with a much bigger enemy, the Uzumaki. If you were not already aware, the Uzumaki have been collecting all the jinchuuriki in the Elemental Nations, intending to use them to wipe out everyone who isn't an Uzumaki. They want revenge for what happened to Uzushio, and what they did to Konoha was just the start. None of you are safe."

The Wind Daimyo looked worried, since Namikaze had not told him what he actually needed from Suna was yet. "Then we must wipe them out before they come here."

"Exactly your majesty." Namikaze nodded.

"Hold it." The elder of the council, an old man named Ebizo, spoke up. "Kumo was the one to destroy Konoha. Why are you telling us it was Uzushio instead?"

"The Uzumaki loaned the jinchuuriki they had already collected to Kumo for the battle." Namikaze clarified. "I was there, I saw them release their monsters to decimate all my people. And the Ichibi was among them."

A shiver went down several spines.

"The Ichibi is bad enough for your village, but imagine if all nine are brought together." Namikaze added, leaning against a wall since there was no chair for him to sit in. Sure he could have asked for another one, but he had already snubbed the kazekage and he decided to hold off on pushing his luck by doing it again.

A clan head scoffed. "You expect me to believe that these people have been able to control Gaara all these years? Kumo would have been destroyed with your village if Gaara was truly there."

"The seal you used to contain the Ichibi was faulty, was it not?" Namikaze said. There was no response. "The Uzumaki are seal experts, the only ones who can be considered on par with myself. They could have altered the seal in any number of ways, including a way to keep him under their control. Do not assume that you are safe."

"Gaara did briefly return." One of the clan heads pointed out.

"But why?" Ebizo asked. "He didn't do anything except float above us and only one person went missing. That hardly screams a threat."

Another clan head nodded. "Indeed, besides we have Nishiryu-sama here. We're in good hands."

Namikaze allowed himself to scoff. "I highly doubt this man can fight off a released bijuu. Tell me, who here has done exactly that and lived to tell about it? Raise your hand." He raised his own, knowing none of them could. "So like it or not, you need me if you want to survive when the Uzumaki come to destroy you."

"If what you say is true, the Uzumaki have more than just one jinchuuriki at their disposal." Gozen pointed out. "While you got lucky against one somehow, you clearly don't have the capability to handle more than one. And I highly doubt that in three years you've managed to rebuild a better army than the last one you had."

"He's right. I don't think we're the ones in need of help. If anything, you're the one who needs our help." Ebizo proclaimed.

"Don't speak to Namikaze-sama like that!" The Wind Daimyo shouted, rising to his feet. "If he needs help from this village he is going to get it! I demand that from this moment on, you grant him every request he has! I don't care if it's as major as the most secret jutsu or as minor as literally stealing candy from a baby! He will get what he wants from this village!"

"Daimyo-sama you cannot be serious!" Multiple people in the room protested.

The daimyo ignored them. "Maybe this will show how serious I am! As of this moment, the kazekage is stripped of all power and authority and I hereby appoint Namikaze Minato as the one and only kage of Suna for as long as he so desires!"

At that moment Gozen truly believed it was possible to physically choke on his own rage. His council looked to be just as outraged and shocked as him and at the moment too stunned to know how to react on it. He glanced over to Namikaze, who had a shit-eating grin on his face. 'Bastard, this was his plan all along. He probably just wanted to see who here would actively oppose him.'

Gozen decided to be that opposer. He created a miniature sun with his hands and sent it at the blonde hokage. Namikaze swiftly did a substitution with Ebizo, resulting in the elder becoming dehydrated and collapse to the floor gasping for breath.

"Ebizo-sama!" Several council members cried out, rushing to the old man's aid.

Gozen however turned to where Ebizo had originally been, which wasn't that far away from him. Namikaze attacked with a tri-kunai in hand, but Gozen blocked with his arms, wearing mesh armor underneath his sleeves. Namikaze followed up with another slash, but Gozen used Scorch Release to heat the air around him. Namikaze still hit the kazekage, but the sudden heat threw off his aim and forced him back. Gozen's cloak took more damage than he did, but he clutched at a wound so he did still take damage.

'Damn that was like a sauna just got thrown in my face.' Namikaze thought, sweating a bit. Scorch Release was a dangerous kekkei genkai, it's user notorious for being difficult to get close to. The bloodline seemed designed to weaken all enemies so that the ninja or their ally could follow through with any sort of lethal attack. In a way they were not unlike the Aburame in their approach to combat, just using heat instead of insects.

Gozen tried to form multiple suns, but a kunai was thrown at him that forced him to dodge. The problem was this kunai didn't come from Namikaze, it came from the Wind Daimyo himself. Gozen grit his teeth, his own daimyo was trying to kill him too? Still, Namikaze was the bigger threat, so he projected the mini suns at the hokage. Knowing that Namikaze would likely substitute himself again, Gozen was already ready with a follow-up.

Namikaze did substitute himself, but instead of it being with another person he did it with a log. That bothered Gozen since there were no logs in the council room, meaning he must have brought one along for just this occasion and therefore back at the daimyo's caravan. But this was no ordinary log, it was covered in seal tags. And the tags started sizzling in the heat of the mini suns.

'Oh damn!' Gozen thought, wide-eyed, as he turned towards his council. "Everybody get-!"

BOOOM!

People outside the kazekage tower saw one of the rooms explode, projecting stone rubble over the town square and nearly hitting some unfortunate passerby. Anbu rushed to the tower, some stopping to help those that were wounded outside but the majority went inside. They found a bit of the internal structure damaged with one floor collapsing into the one below, making it harder to get to the council room. When they finally got there, they saw rubble and splintered wound everywhere, with pieces of body scattered around. Some were just visible parts of bodies otherwise buried under the rubble, and some were completely blown apart.

"Kazekage-sama!" An anbu shouted, finding Gozen's body. Others came to help him dig him out of the rubble, but doing so revealed that Gozen had clearly taken the most impact from the explosion. His body was torn apart and it was only his hair that made him recognizable anymore.

"I think this is the daimyo. He's been killed too." Another anbu revealed, finding the body of the imperial ruler of the Land of Wind.

"Who could have done this?" They asked.

There was a flare jutsu that went up into the air not too far from the kazekage tower. Those that were there could see Namikaze standing, trying to look like a heroic figure.

"People of Suna!" He shouted. "It seems I was unfortunately too late to save your leaders! I came here with the daimyo to warn your village of a threat to the entire Elemental Nations! That threat is the Uzumaki! They're planning to wipe out all hidden villages in retribution for what happened to Uzushio long ago! And they've gotten the jinchuuriki on their side, including the one you all know as Gaara!"

Many people were afraid to hear this.

"There was an agent of the Uzumaki in the council room! One of your own leaders was planning to betray you!" Namikaze continued. "We had a meeting to inform your kazekage and try to find out who the traitor was! I regret to inform you that the traitor was in fact your own kazekage!"

There were shouts of shock and denial at hearing this.

"That's impossible!"

"Kazekage-sama defended us when Gaara came back!"

"How dare you lie like that!"

Namikaze let them shout until he had an opening. "He was in league with the Uzumaki! I can only assume that he believed Suna would be spared from the Uzumaki if they surrendered! But the Uzumaki had no intention of sparing any of you! They would kill every single one of you, down to the last newborn baby! In fact, they had just recently done that in Taki!"

While the Suna citizens were still in denial, they did look horrified to hear this. Including those that had just recently gathered to hear this.

"Your daimyo and I tried to get the kazekage to see reason, but he threatened everyone with a bomb and said the Uzumaki were already on their way here! With all nine jinchuuriki ready to destroy this village unless we allowed him to meet their demands! I tried to get rid of the bomb, but he activated it, killing himself and every council member and even the Wind Daimyo too. I was the only one quick enough to escape!" Namikaze then looked down as if ashamed. "You have my condolences."

People looked at each other, trying to see what other people believed or not.

"I came here to help you and so I will! Please, you don't have a chance at staying here and fighting the Uzumaki! Not yet anyway! Follow me, and I will lead you somewhere safe where you can recuperate and avoid the Uzumaki! My army will assist you and help you reclaim your homes from this horrible threat! But we must work together! It took three armies to take down the Uzumaki the last time, neither you nor I can do it alone this time! I know I am not your kage, but will you put your trust in me for the time being?!"

The people in Suna were silent in thought.


Days later, a hawk showed up at the Kumo Anbu headquarters, more specifically the messenger bird tower. It was common among shinobi to use trained birds to send messages, and while risky it was a surprisingly effective means of communication. Most shinobi were not accurate or fast enough to attack a bird in flight, and those that could usually couldn't do it in the first place. Top three reasons were it would blow their cover, they couldn't realistically go for every bird in the sky, and there was always the chance that the bird was working for your side rather than an enemy. As a result, an unspoken rule of shinobi was to never kill a bird unless it was trying to kill you.

The hawk perched and an Anbu took the message off it's leg, reading it. Their eyes widened before they even finished and they rushed to the Raikage tower.

"Raikage-sama, you need to see this!" The Anbu said frantically, burst into A's office and throwing the paper on his desk.

"I'm kind of busy at the moment." A warned, in the middle of paperwork.

"Sir, you need to see this. It's from one of our spies in Suna."

Grumbling, A took the note and read it. Like most messages, this one was coded to be difficult to read in case an enemy did intercept it. "I'm not a decoder. Translate this." He threw it back.

Cautious, the Anbu took some paper and pen and began to decode. This particular code was a favorite among Kumo, in which the entire message was written in hiragana but looked like gibberish. The trick was to read every other hiragana to get the first part of the message, then backtrack and read the ones you originally skipped. Doing so gave the complete message without having to condense it too much. Once finished, he handed it back to A.

Namikaze Minato has taken over Suna. Kazekage, council, and Wind Daimyo are all dead. No army was used, just a bomb in the right place. Yellow Flash is claiming Uzumaki are responsible. Half of Suna has submitted to his rule while other half was killed, even the civilians and children. Next target unknown.

A was livid. Namikaze's army was growing, and if Kushina's warning was accurate he had an army of undead shinobi under his thumb too. A didn't believe that, but he couldn't ignore the possibility that his rival had enhanced Konoha's remaining army somehow.

A rose from his chair and walked out of his office, giving the Anbu no orders.


"Neji!"

The white-eyed boy had been doing some work at a dojo when he heard someone call his name. Turning around he saw the only person in Kumo he could really call a friend or comrade, a girl named Raisotsu Akora. She had been the first person in Kumo he interacted with, and one of the select few he felt comfortable with after all this time. Part of this was because she and her teammates would often indulge him in spars and tell him about the missions they had gone on. And if Neji was honest, she was pretty cute too.

"Yes what is it?" He asked.

"Kumo is getting ready for war. Raikage-sama said everyone is to prepare tonight and first thing tomorrow we're heading out." Akora claim when she got closer. Her appearance had changed a little over the years, moreso than Neji who still looked like a dignified Hyuuga. Her hair was longer and trailed down her back, and she wore what could be best described as a mountaineer hiking outfit, fit to spend a long time outdoors surviving the elements.

She had a climber's hat, a camoflauge jacket with a high collar, brown cargo shorts with green leggings, and black hiking boots with her hitai-ate converted into a belt. With her jacket unzipped one could see a red shirt with thin vertical stripes.

"Everyone?" Neji asked, concerned. Wondering what is going on but hearing this is war he begins to think of will be left in the clan?.

"Everyone who is a ninja, so I think you and the Hyuuga are in the clear." Akora clarified.

While being allowed to reside in Kumo for his own protection, Neji had never actually been considered a Kumo shinobi. His duty had been to try and get the captured Hyuuga to see reason and not be in allegiance with Namikaze. Many had been just as stubborn as Hanabi, but it had been primarily the Main House with a few Branch House members. The majority of the Branch House on the other hand were freed, much to the chagrin of the Main House.

Since Neji and Hanabi had inadvertently proven that the seal could be transferred rather than officially removed, Kushina had secretly transferred the seals off their heads and onto the heads of cattle which were slated to be made into food and leather anyway. Once free, the majority of the Branch House was more than willing to accept a new normal with Kumo and the Uzumaki asking them for support in the future. Those that refused were still contained in cells, where they would likely remain for an indefinite time.

But due to not being a registered ninja, Neji no longer had confidence in his own skills. He hadn't taken any actual missions or been required to risk his life since the Chuunin Exams. Sure he sparred and trained, but practice only did you so much if you never had to actually put it to intended use. Rankwise he was still a genin and he felt like it too. Going to war did not fill him with confidence. In fact he shuddered to think what could happen on the battlefield after hearing about what happened to Konoha and people who were more skilled and experienced than himself.

"I think it's best that I stay here. At best I can reassure the civilians with some security in case an attack makes it here. Some Hyuuga may be willing to participate though, and I can contact my cousin if I need to." He told the Kumo kunoichi. "I'm also concerned about who Namikaze has under his banner. He still has some Hyuuga on his side who will try to harm me and the others if given the chance."

Akora nodded. "Good point. I'll be sure to remind everyone of that while you take care of problems here. And yes, get ahold of your cousin. Raikage-sama is willing to go to war with or without the Uzumaki. Their help can only make things better."


There was a flash of lightning and when it was gone A stood in his 'I'm the boss' stance. He had arrived at the island turtle, more specifically the jinchuuriki camp, though at that moment only one of them was actually there.

"Yo bro, what brings you to our-?" Bee greeted.

"Not now Bee. I'm here on urgent business. You and all the others here are to gather at Kumo before sunrise tomorrow. We're taking this war to Namikaze."

Bee looked surprised in hearing this. He thought he would let the Uzumaki finish him off or some grand plan later on. "So Miss Nine found the bad dude?"

"No, I did. The Uzumaki have been of no help since we conquered Konoha. I'm taking this into my own hands." A stated.

Bee frowned a little, then he crossed his arms and shook his head. "Don't diss them A. The Uzumaki have been weakening Konoha over the years, and it sounds like they finally drove them out in the open."

A scoffs. "This is not up for debate Bee! I know where Namikaze is and I know where he's heading! I am taking the fight to him and I sure as hell don't need the Uzumaki to give me permission to do it! I am ending this war now like it should have ended years ago! Now you and the others get ready and be at the gates by sunrise or so help me you'll spend the rest of your life cleaning the dung on this island barehanded!"

Bee relaxed and sighed. "I'll be sure to let them know, but I can't force them if they-"

"I said this is not up for debate! They don't get to refuse this order Bee!" A demanded.

Bee blinked and stepped back. "But bro, only Yugito and I are Kumo nin. You have no authority over Gaara or Utakata or Yagura."

"They accepted refuge here, therefore they have submitted to my rule! They knew that they were expected to fight in this war and this war is happening now!"

Bee and A just stared at each other, but after a bit Bee shrugged. "I'll tell them, but I promise nothing."

"If you know what's good for you, you will promise everything." A said before turning around and disappearing in another flash of lightning.

"Then you leave me no choice." Bee said before turning around and walking away.


"What is it Sasori?" Konan asked, using an Akatsuki ring to speak to a holographic projection of Sasori.

"A contact of mine in Suna said the entire village has fallen. At the hands of Namikaze Minato. He's drafted all who submitted into his army and they're already leaving Suna. I imagine they're heading to either Iwa or Kumo."

Konan nodded, wondering what Namikaze's plan is. Itachi was missing and it was safe to presume that Namikaze had something to do with that since according to Itachi the Yondaime Hokage had been training his brother. Perhaps his brother had won, but then did Itachi inform Sasuke of anything about Akatsuki? Did Namikaze know their group's plans? He had gotten in contact with them before and did not take their refusal to ally themselves with him well, so who knew what he was intending now.

"Keep an eye on him then. Approach only if you have to or see a good opportunity. I'll head your way to confirm your claim. If this is indeed true, Pain must know about this. Perhaps we might get a chance to find the jinchuuriki." Konan stated.

"No need, I can eliminate him on my own." Sasori countered, then ended the transmission before Konan could protest.

"You weren't really planning on going without me were you Sasori?" Deidara asked, having stood by during the message without participating. He only heard what Sasori had said, but it was enough to lethim know what the former Suna nin was planning.

Sasori turned away and walked off. "I will not forbid or prevent you from accompanying me, but neither will I alter my pace or route for your convenience."

Deidara shrugged and followed. "I think I'd be worried about you if you did."

Back in the Akatsuki lair Konan got to Pain while the other members sans Tobi watched. "Pain-sama, do you wish me to still go confirm this?"

"No Konan, I think it's best that we all go be a part of this. Namikaze Minato desires the jinchuuriki just like we do and he is trying to draw them out. We should eliminate the competition, and I think showing our full might will be perfect to get the message across."

Hidan, Kakuzu, and Kisame smiled to hear this while Zetsu and Konan merely looked accepting.


The next morning A had all his shinobi gathered and ready to go to war. As expected he allowed the reluctant Hyuuga as well as the genin and standard village defense forces behind to guard the village itself in their absence. But everyone who was chuunin and without a medical excuse to stay behind was gathered there, ready to march down the mountain and confront the Leaf.

Except for five individuals that A wanted there the most.

A was outraged, but he had enough sense to know he couldn't just go off to the Island Turtle and confront the jinchuuriki. That would only harm his position as leader of his army if it looked like he could up and leave whenever he wanted to. So instead he ordered Darui and Mabui to go off in his stead to get the jinchuuriki to him, one way or another, then after they left he proceeded to lead his army away from Kumo, directing them in the direction of Suna for now.


Namikaze was marching his own expanded army north and he was getting annoyed by it. He had known there would be some friction generated by the inclusion of Suna but this was worse than he had expected. Honestly he had expected the comradely of the two villages to overcome any disputes between their merger. How Suna would be glad and grateful that their strongest ally was still alive and asking for their help in taking down the greatest scourge upon the Elemental Nations.

Nope, what he got instead was all the signs of an eventual mutiny. Suna felt no reason to follow him, they were only going along because he had twisted their arm into doing so. Even the ones that would have been loyal to him now only felt obligated after seeing him exterminate the non-followers like a second Uchiha Itachi. And the sight of the Edo Tensei forces, some of whom happened to be Suna nin, only made the living Suna nin even more reluctant to take part in this.

The Konoha nin weren't helping either, most of them had tried to make a show of welcoming Suna and acting like a helpful ally but after that the tone quickly became condescending. Like they were the ones doing Suna a favor, like Namikaze didn't have to save them from the Uzumaki but chose to anyway so they owed him their lives and their children's lives.

Namikaze had ordered that to stop but the damage was done, and he knew that unless he ended this war soon, his army would turn against itself and leave him with virtually nothing. Sure he could win without any of them, but more hands made the job easier and it's no fun to win if there's no audience to cheer you on as you claim your prize. That would be a hollow victory and he hadn't spent close to twenty years investing in a hollow victory.

'I need something to help bind these two villages together. A mutual victory to help them begin to overload the disdain between themselves.' He thought as they headed towards the mountains. 'Luckily there is one place that both Konoha and Suna hate and would happily take down together.'


Darui and Mabui showed up on the Island Turtle and marched right to the jinchuuriki camp. There they saw all the jinchuuriki behaving as normal, doing their hobbies and training and odd jobs like it was just another day for them. Even Bee and Yugito were there helping out.

"Yes, can we help you?" Yugito greeted the two shinobi.

"Don't act like you don't know why we're here." Darui warned, in no mood for this to drag out.

"Oh we know but we won't go. The show is for all not just my bro." Bee quipped in his usual style.

Mabui raised an eyebrow. "So what? Are you saying Raikage-sama is leaving someone out?"

"The Uzumaki!" All jinchuuriki said.

Both Darui and Mabui blinked, not expecting such a response.

"Your army can't win without them." Gaara added, laying atop a boulder with his eyes on the two kumo nin.

"We have before." Darui claimed.

"But the Hokage retreated and rebuilt his army. Has your army been preparing to make sure that doesn't happen again?" Utakata asked, casually blowing some bubbles as if he didn't take this seriously.

Darui sighed. "I'm sorry but we are not going to have a debate here. You are coming with us to assist Raikage-sama whether the Uzumaki are there or not. So get ready to leave-"

"Or what? You'll make us leave?" Gaara asked in a dangerous tone, narrowing his eyes and moving off the boulder.

"All of us?" Yagura added, grabbing his staff while Utakata, Yugito, and Bee looked ready to defend themselves. Temari, Kankuro, Matsuri, and Hotaru stood back ready to offer support if needed.

Darui and Mabui tried to look capable, but both knew they were no match. They might get lucky fighting one of the jinchuuriki, but not against all five present. The two looked to each other, knew they only had one way to resolve this, and nodded in silent agreement before looking back to the others.

"Very well, but Raikage-sama will not take kindly to this. He has offered you refuge from those that wish to kill you, and you disgrace him by refusing to assist him in this time of war." Mabui stated.

Gaara rolled his eyes. "Don't attempt to shame us. Kumo hides us, but for its convenience more than ours. The Uzumaki wish to free us so we can choose to live in peace. We'll fight for them more than Kumo any day."

The others nodded, even Yugito and Bee though the former was less enthusiastic about it than the latter.

Without another word, Darui and Mabui left the Island Turtle as empty-handed as when they got there.


"So according to our contacts in Kumo, the Raikage's army is advancing towards Land of Wind right now because Namikaze has effectively conquered Suna and acclimated its army into his own." Kushina told everyone she could in a meeting, having a message brought to her by a summons connected to Neji which she just summarized for them.

"Two armies like that are bound to find each other soon and start fighting, and in the most likely area that will draw the attention of Iwa. If that happens they will join the fight, thinking they can take out two birds with one stone." Shikaku thought out loud.

"That would put Namikaze at a disadvantage but with his Edo Tensei forces I don't think he believes he has any disadvantages left anymore." Kyuubi commented.

"Let's not forget that minor villages in the area could be drawn into it as well. I'd say Ame is the most likely and while they may not have the biggest army they do have one of the most ferocious." Inoichi added.

"Do you think we should go in too? Try to make this the real final battle in this war?" Kushina asked.

"Can we defeat the undead ninja? If we can't then this won't be final." Shikaku asked. Despite all his attempts to strategize he still wasn't sure if there was a way to counter the undead shinobi.

Kushina looked uncertain. "We don't have any plans or tactics that haven't been said already. So I'm thinking the only thing we can do is try our best chances and hope it works. It means we'll only have one shot, but we know exactly how to get it."

Shikaku groaned. "I don't like it, but history has shown we don't always get to fight when it's convenient. I say get everyone ready and let's take this egotist down once and for all."

Everyone nodded and departed to inform the rest of Shobikou.