Chapter Forty: I uh, really don't have any excuse for the delay. Whoops?
I don't own Naruto, any of its characters, or any references in this story. If I did, horrible things would happen. Neither do I own any other anime that I reference. I do own all OC's and new Jutsu in the story as well as every ounce of pure awesome spawned by this.
Note: Actual semi relevant Author notes this time. Please read them.
o. o. o.
"I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting when I agreed to travel with your group," the Daimyo whimsically mused as he watched an unconscious and distinctively traumatized fox. The beast was nestled between the Hyuga Heiress' breasts, his mouth foaming. "Somehow, I am somehow simultaneously bewildered and completely unsurprised."
It had been a day since he joined with Naruto and everyone had adapted to the warlord's presence to the best of their abilities. They traveled to the borders of the Land of Fire. They set up camp. And they slept. Fortunately, the Daimyo didn't require that much special treatment, and the custom spare tents had been more enough to keep the man happy.
"Sadly it's something that one never gets completely accustomed to," Kakashi said while turning the page of the book he was reading. "We've tried."
"You have my condolences then," the Daimyo replied. "The stress must be quite taxing."
"More than the standard mission, but it does give way to some catharsis down the line if you stick around long enough." The Cyclops shrugged. "I'm more surprised that you're taking it as well are you are. Most civilians are rather reluctant to accept Naruto's… eccentricities at face value. More so when it comes to nobility."
The civilian waved his fan in front of his face to give himself a cool breeze and hide his expression. "The child interests me. In court, I am lavished with hidden agendas, half-truths, lies, and subtle threats. It is rare that I encounter someone willing to provide me with the full truth of ongoing events, necessary or not. Not without some sort of unreasonable favor, tithe, or uncomfortable convincing of course."
"Mmm. Well you do make a fair argument. It's rare for a shinobi to be so blatantly forthcoming these days. Then again, it's unusual to come across someone like Naruto in general. He has a tendency to have low tolerance when it comes to the usual cloak and dagger and backhanded deals that we tend to mire in."
"Hoh? Given from what I gathered, I assumed that he was quite apt in it." The Daimyo's very presence in their camp was a prime example of such a backhanded tactic.
"Oh no, he is. It's just most of the usual underhanded deals we've been involved with over the past few decades made things worse for everyone in the long run. Results that we should have predicted had we not been ruled by the usual pride, greed, fear, and politics. It all tends to come to a head when he's around, and he's particularly sick of it."
"Ah. When put that way, his behavior is far more comprehendible."
"And then some." Kakashi's visible eye briefly glanced up at his student before returning to his book. "Being around him is rather refreshing at times. As you said, be it politics or shinobi, we're perpetually mired and drowned in half-truths and unnecessary plots. So much so that not only do we expect them at every waking moment, but we eventually start believing the dredge that we spew and deal with just to save face. Naruto's a rare breath of fresh air like that. He's willing and able to call out that the emperor has no clothes without a moment's hesitation, no matter the repercussions. More conveniently, he is one of the few that can brush off those repercussions when they do come."
"Even when you're dragged into the punishment?" the Daimyo asked.
"Better to cut off infected flesh and get it over with then let it fester." Kakashi turned the page. "Plus it's nice to hear someone actually call out the nonsense we deal with. It's a comforting confirmation that we really aren't the maddest people in the room."
"We hang out with Naruto. Some measure of insanity is a prerequisite," Sasuke said as he sat down next to Kakashi and packed the last of the cooking supplies. "Main difference between him and the other idiots we deal with is that he's fully aware he's gone off the deep end and puts in an effort to remind everyone of it so they don't get their hopes up."
"Sasuke Uchiha." The Daimyo eyes narrowed. "Given the circumstances I assumed you would be taking this event with more concern. You and your clan's history are quite intimately involved with recent events if I recall correctly."
"More than you'd think," the teen muttered. "Enough that I've gotten numb to the whiplash. I'll be satisfied setting the responsible parties on fire when this is all over. There are intricate plans, and then there's being so infuriatingly redundant that simple murder would be considered an adequate solution to the matter."
"Pardon me for my slight disapproval of your perspective on recent events. Although that may be a bit biased, considering I recall you exacting such perspectives on myself in another time."
Kakashi and Sasuke glanced at the man slightly before resuming their activities.
"So you have your memories of the other timeline. I'm surprised you were granted them so early." Kakashi turned a page. His guess was that the man was given a chain link sometime last night. "Naruto must like you."
"Like is a rather subjective term given the experience," the civilian dryly retorted. "I could have done without recalling the Uchiha genjutsu, torture, and decapitation."
The difference between the Sasuke Uchiha of the other timeline and the current one was akin to night and day… no, rather, dawn and dusk. There were certainly similarities, but the one next to him was far more mature and in control of his emotions than the monster that cut off the Daimyo's head.
Sasuke grimaced under his mask as he finished packing up. "Yeah. I've been told that my other self was an unstable prick that made Naruto look reasonable. Part of the reason why I never got the full treatment like you did. I'm the only person on Team Seven that hasn't actually."
"Treatment, is one way of putting it." Looking around, the leader of the Land of Fire examined the other shinobi packing up. At least half of them were listening in on their conversation at that very moment. "Do tell, how many of the people present today are part of this illustrious club of yours?"
Kakashi shrugged. "If you're talking about the whole, 'remembering another timeline' bit, about half of us here have taken the plunge. There are circumstances in place that force us to be selective on who joins. Everyone else just knows about the mess we're in to one degree or another."
He started to point around the campsite. "Outside of you and me, Tsunade-sama, Shizune, Naruto, and Roshi all have our memories. Plus the Biju if you're count them. Sandaime-sama and Taki's jichuriki Fuu are among the collective. Finally, Kazekage-sama and Chiyo-baasama are also among the list travelling with us once they join."
"Tch. Of course that crazy bat is in on it," Onoki grumbled as he shifted his pack on with one arm. "Nobody would believe her even if she told anyone."
Roshi snickered. "Even if Suna and Iwa didn't have its grudge, you two would still be at each other's throats."
"Something I should know about?" Kurotsuchi asked.
"Nope. Not enough alcohol around for you to forget once I tell you." The old man's grin widened as his surrogate granddaughter turned an interesting mix of pale white and sick green.
"Certainly a diverse and resourceful cast." The Daimyo nodded. "No wonder you accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. I take it more will be at the summit?"
"The jinchuriki of all the other villages have been at one point or another been drawn in our little debacle, if you are asking," Kakashi added. "Other than them, Zabuza and Haku of Kirigakure are among our delightful little club. Everyone else is at most aware of what is going on, to one extent or another. To be frank though, getting the Kazekage and Zabuza in as early as we did saved a good deal of headaches for everyone."
Zabuza's status as a Jinchuriki was still a secret that was not his to reveal, so Kakashi remained quiet about that part.
"Gharaghalngh," Naruto gargled from Hinata's chest.
"Yes yes. Mostly for you." Hinata patted her boyfriend on the head. "We know you had a hard time dealing with everything last time around."
The fox continued to make questionable sounds. "Ghammememea."
"Watch it brat," Tsunade frowned from the other side of the site, completely ignoring the stifled giggling that Shizune was making behind her back. "I can still make this trip a living hell for you."
"I didn't know that half-lucid animal gibberish was also an acquired skill of shinobi, outside of perhaps the Inuzuka and those exceptional in the summoning arts," the Daimyo observed.
Sasuke shook his head with a resigned sigh while finishing packing his stuff. "It's a bit more finicky than that, but rest assured, we'll make sure you don't go crazy enough to understand it."
"Indeed. Back to our previous topic, I take it there are a few more individuals involved that are not attending the festivities."
"Perhaps, but we are going to a rather exclusive party. Even you aren't technically on the invite list," Kakashi joked.
The Daimyo's smile lacked any warmth. "Forgive me if I am still debating whether it is an honor at this point."
"It's quite all right," Kakashi said with a shrug. "Most of us are still questioning recent life choices as well."
"Grrrrr," Naruto groaned.
Hinata tried to soothe the fox down with mixed results. "Calm down Naruto. You know he didn't… okay, he did mean it, but it's not all your fault."
"Just most!" More than a few people voices spoke up around the camp at the same time, prompting a small cloud of depression to hover around the jinchuriki.
"For someone that's supposed to guide us through recent events and past future issues, he doesn't inspire much confidence at the moment," the Daimyo noted.
"No he doesn't." Sasuke sealed away the last of the equipment. "But then again, whenever he's around, it's surprisingly difficult to take most problems that come our way seriously. Even enemies. Truth be told, he's a good gauge of how dangerous things are."
"Easy. If he's actually serious, then half the landscape and local populace in a five kilometer radius is likely to get obliterated in the near future."
"Well, when you put it like that I suppose he has his uses. Oh!" The middle aged man stammered as he began to float in midair without warning. "A-among others. A warning would be appreciated next time though, Uzumaki."
"Naruto, don't even try to pretend you've forgotten how to treat VIP's since you've been gone," Tsunade said as she walked towards the group with her own equipment properly sealed away and in her jacket. "Get it right next time. You're the one that's roped him into this mess. Take responsibility."
She looked at the group. "Is everyone good to go?"
"Hai Hokage-sama." Shizune nodded.
"All good here." Sasuke stood up alongside Kakashi.
"Naruto-kun and I are all set." Hinata smiled, petting the seemingly near catatonic fox in her chest.
"We're ready, Tsunade-hime." Onoki hovered to her, followed by Roshi and Kurotsuchi. He glanced at the floating Daimyo and smirked. "You get used to the flying, eventually. Some take longer than others. It's not for everyone."
"Y-yes, well, comfort or not, I do see the convenience in flying long distances." The Daimyo tried to maintain his disposition with limited success. "It's a pity it is not more widely available for mass travel."
"Memgherhhhehgeh," Naruto gargled, getting a few surprised looks from those that actually understood him.
"Translation?" Onoki frowned.
"He said that with our level of engineering and technology, it would take us less than a decade to achieve sufficient vehicles designed for air travel and commerce once we know the proper physics behind it," Hinata explained, having trouble believing it herself.
"And another decade to establish proper international rules, security measures, trading standards, and facilities to properly manage such a setup without having it all explode in our faces in one way or another."
"If we are capable of doing the latter right," she grimaced.
"Sounds like the biggest holdup in humanity progressing is ourselves," Kakashi lamented. "I'm not surprised."
"You shouldn't be," the Daimyo lamented. "It's comforting and vexing that we are supposedly so close to such a technological revolution."
"Hsshhhaah," Naruto grumbled.
"Naruto! Be nice!" Hinata chided him.
Onoki glanced at Roshi holding back a snort and failing to do so. All it took was a raised eyebrow to get him to fess up.
"Brat said Daimyo's more annoyed that the Land of Fire probably won't be able to exploit a monopoly on the tech before he keels over," the Jichuriki whispered quietly, getting a momentary laugh from the Tsuchikage in kind.
"You understand him?" Kurotsuchi hissed.
"Presence trick you don't know yet," Roshi replied. "It helps I'm also a jinchuriki."
"I'd be pissed too if I had something like that just out of my reach," Onoki complained. "Instead I have to give ungrateful brats a lift three times a year."
"I'm going to assume you're talking about the drunk since you stopped doing that with me second year of the academy," Kurotsuchi deadpanned at her grandfather.
Roshi giggled like an ungrateful brat.
"On the topic of technological and international innovations, does our semi-incapacitated friend have any suggestions that are more feasible to tide us over in the meantime?" The Daimyo asked curiously.
"He said trains," Hinata translated.
"Easier said than done." Tsunade shook her head. "There have been attempts on using them before for international commerce, but the tracks and are easy targets for sabotage. Most of them don't even make it a tenth of the way to completion before the costs grow too much."
"He said that whoever started the project did not put nearly enough effort into telling everyone how much money they could make if they… ahem, thought about it clearly." Hinata spoke slower at the end, indicating that she was paraphrasing the last part of Naruto's statement.
"Haa. Hsssheaaa. Mahaaha."
Hinata looked at Naruto curiously, as if making sure she had heard him right before translating again. "If a proper international system was offered and introduced to the other nations that was agreed upon by most if not all parties, it could be used to accelerate the trade and economies of everyone involved. And if one country was found to be sabotaging the system or not holding their end of the bargain, then the other nations could hold that economic growth hostage and stem trade to them as punishment. If executed right, the trade between all associated countries could increase profits and tax revenue by…"
Most of the older and politically powerful individuals there did not miss the fact that the girl trailed off, clearly uncomfortable by the figures she was given.
"Out with it girl," Onoki grumbled. "How fat is this supposed plan to make our wallets?"
"Like hell it's that high!" Tsunade snapped, clearly not believing him. "Since when were you an economist!?"
"Naruto says that… taking out costs for maintenance and general security procedures, and incorporating natural resources and economic focuses, if Iwa, Suna, Konoha, and the minor nations between them, he estimates that, the combined efficiency in internal and international trade could double if not triple the size of the economies involved…"
"Wait for it," Sasuke grimaced.
"Per year. For at least a decade, so long as the tracks are routed properly between major cities and key locations." Hinata concluded. "As a low estimation. And that's not including the jobs the system itself could provide both civilian and shinobi sectors."
The campsite was dead quiet for several long seconds.
"If everyone stands to make bank from this, remind me again why nobody has established an international train system by now?" Roshi blinked.
Onoki frowned, trying to recall when exactly trains and the associated technology were suggested and recommended to everyone. "Fear for village and international security… which I'm slowly trying to remember how that excuse alone can be possible. If everyone was slapped with those numbers, then the civilian governments would have strong armed everyone to play along with this years ago…"
Trains themselves were not a new idea, but they were never widely established. They were mostly used for closed systems, transporting heavy materials between two specific points for processing and refining. Nobody had ever managed to scrounge up the resources or support to try and establish a country wide, let alone international system yet. Most major plays with money these days still focused on the military in one form or another.
"I believe it was roughly before the Third War," the Daimyo said. He had shared similar thoughts as he dredged through decades of political events. "It was held back due to escalating international tensions. Even afterwards, the poor relationship between the Land of Fire and many of its neighbors in the immediate aftermath posed as major roadblocks, even with the financial incentives. Primarily with the Lands of Ame and Kusa. Their governments have always been rather… temperamental."
Literally and figuratively.
"If anyone wanted a hope of such a setup, it would have to garner widespread international support," Tsunade hummed in deep thought. "Internal systems would just get targeted by enemy shinobi and spies. And setups that include only a few countries would fare even worse by those that fear an alliance and increase in development by those involved."
The Land of Fire was an excellent center hub for commerce in the elemental nations, but in every direction there were issues. Like the Daimyo said, Kusa and Ame were unstable governments, cutting off a portion of the west and north while threatening the establishment of tracks in neighboring nations. The ones directly north of Konoha had little to offer by themselves, and had less of an easy time defending them. To the northeast was Kumo, and they were skeptical at best about anything happening near them that wasn't under their thumb. To the east was water, and boats ruled absolute in this region.
So the best that the Land of Fire could do with trains if they wanted to start international trade without involving any of the major shinobi nations was to reach out to the southern nations, which on paper didn't sound too bad…
… But the moment other nations heard about it, they'd freak out about the Land of Fire was expanding too rapidly with a setup that THEY weren't benefitting from (even though they wouldn't or couldn't for one reason or another). They would do something violent to ruin everything.
In short, it was an all (or at least, three major nations plus the minor ones in between) or nothing deal.
That said though, now that the Tsuchikage was interested in the idea, and Iwagakure was in dire straits, the country itself would likely be more open to more radical ideas to boost the economy. Throw Suna into the mix…
"Naruto." Hinata shook her head tiredly. Clearly he had said something rather crass again.
"He does have a point," Sasuke shrugged.
"If you could?" Madoka turned to Kakashi.
"He said that whoever tried selling the offer before never put an effort into realizing just how much absurd amounts of wealth obtained through completely legal, non-controversial, and simple means can entice those in power," he shrugged. "Of course I'm paraphrasing a bit but you get the idea."
"More than you'd think." The man smirked behind his fan. He had been around Naruto for less than a day, but he was already aware of just how accurately crass the young man could be. "Be that as it may, shall we get to travelling instead of merely discussing it?"
"Of course." Kakashi stretched his shoulders a bit. "We will be reaching the border where Taki and Kusa meet and travel along it till we get into the Land of Earth where we will rendezvous with the Kazekage and Takigakure's group."
There were many "official" routes that many shinobi took through enemy territories to do international missions. These paths had checkpoints that HAD to be passed through and registered both ways in order for the teams to have bare minimum hope of being cleared of any espionage activities when travelling in enemy territory should shit go down. It was a paltry attempt at security given the fact that shinobi were, well, shinobi, but it did do its job for the lesser ranked teams.
That said, if a shinobi didn't want to risk an international incident but also didn't want to deal with going through a specific nation and deal with the locals, they also had the option of taking the "scenic" route running alongside country border lines. It was time consuming, yes, but it was also safer. If shinobi hated the idea of starting a mess in enemy territory, they REALLY didn't like the idea of getting involved in a fiasco between two of them. Same goes with the bordering nations.
Of course, being tracked and seen was also part of the plan. It wouldn't do to fly over everyone if they are trying to promote the faintest hope of international cooperation after all. They needed all the good publicity they could get.
"And how will my current status be managed? Won't questions be asked if someone sees me flying alongside you all?"
As if the grumbling was a magic spell, the floating man vanished from sight. Conventional sight at least.
"Hoh? A genjutsu? I forget how dexterous your skills are Uzumaki." The Daimyo's disembodied voice noted with a hint of genuine amusement.
"Just let us know if you need anything, Madoka-sama." Tsunade shouldered her bag. "We have a long trip ahead of us and we're already under unconventional circumstances."
"I understand Tsunade-dono. I will adapt as best as I can. Fortunately Uzumaki's skillset is rather accommodating for someone in my position."
"Ignore him. Just more gibberish I don't get." Roshi shrugged. He didn't know what the hell that accent was, what a taxi was, or where a name like 'Dopinder' originated from. "Well then. Ladies. Non-Ladies. Daimyo. And psychotic mistake. Shall we finally get going?"
With a series of nods and a brief check-up of the area to see if they missed anything, everyone agreed.
Two seconds later, there was nothing in the clearing.
o. o. o.
"I see you're doing well, Raikage."
The parties from both Kirigakure and Kumogakure stared at one another with unreadable expressions in the lands north of Kumo's territory.
Next to the Raikage stood Bee, Yugito, Darui, Cee, Samui and Atsui.
With the Mizukage was Zabuza, Haku, Suigetsu, Chojuro, and Ao.
"Bee. Been a while." Zabuza nodded to his fellow Jinchuriki, noting the kurki shaped blades on the man's back. "I recall Scab made you some new toys. I take it you've taken a shine to them."
"My man Zabuza. Ah've never been bettah. With my new set of stingers there's no question that the result of our rematch is me beating ya." Bee, as usual, rapped like the chunni he was.
"Holy shit. I totally forgot about the way he talks. Is it me or has he gotten worse?" Suigetsu snickered, only to get slapped upside the head by Ao.
"Focus," the older man grunted, never taking his good eye off of the Kumo shinobi.
"Is there a reason why you've decided to take the scenic route to Iron, Raikage?" Mei asked casually. "I was anticipating conversing with you in a more official setting."
"In earshot of a brat with a wind jutsu that can let him hear anything across an entire village? Konoha may have Suna and Iwa in its back pocket, but Kiri's still supposedly independent of their madness." The large man frowned and glared at Zabuza and Haku in particular.
"Are you talking about the Oogakari nonsense? Or the time travelling nonsense?" Mei played along coyly, garnering confused looks from those in their respective entourages that were still unaware of the situation. "From what I've been told, they're not mutually exclusive."
Personally, Zabuza still thought it was all an annoying trainwreck, but he went along with it because he could tell which way the wind was blowing.
On a side note, speaking of wrecks, he both did and did not want to know just how absurd Bee's attempt at describing this whole time travelling interdimensional situation to the Raikage was. It must have been both absolutely hilarious and seizure inducing…
Come to think of it, that was probably a big part of the reason why the Raikage was so frustrated with the situation in the first place. He'd be pissed off too if he was in the same situation.
"Hey, Isobu," Zabuza thought. "Ask the cat if her host was the one that explained things to big black and angry. If Bee was the one that did the talking, we might have to do some damage control."
"… Matatabi assures us that her host elaborated the situation to the human. From what little I have seen, no doubt another war among your petty kind has been averted because of her actions." The Sanbi rumbled within the swordsman.
A quick glance between Zabuza and Yugito all but verified the statement as truth.
"Don't play games with me Mizukage!" The Raikage snapped. "This whole charade is a mess that will in one way or another determine the future of the elemental nations and we are being strung along. I won't let Kumo be toyed with by the whims of some mad child with some power behind him, and I had hoped that you would be of the same mind. The Tsuchikage has been at Konoha's mercy more than long enough for them to pull something suspicious if they want to, and Suna's been more than too cozy with Konoha since Orochimaru's stunt. If we allow things to get out of hand then the power balance might tilt dangerously in a direction unfavorable to us."
"You mean unfavorable to Kumo." Mei shook her head dismissively. "Don't give me that look Raikage. Everyone knows of your immature habits of hoarding power and resources whenever possible. You may avoid the outright worst activities your father employed, the kidnapping and breeding programs, but only just. It would not be far to assume that you are simply dissatisfied that you don't hold nearly as much power and control in the current situation as you normally do."
While many of the villages hold grudges, is universally accepted that if war ever broke out, Kumo would either be one of the main instigators or the first to join in hoping for a free meal. Their aggressive approach to everything made them a powerful country, but also unliked and distrusted. If any international arrangement was made, odds are it would not be to the Raikage's liking.
"Careful Mizukage…" Ai growled dangerously while the shinobi behind him slowly showed their ire.
Mei Terumi took their displeasure of the truth in stride, inspecting her nails. "As for the Uzumaki boy in question, I have had the, experience, of meeting him in person a few months ago. While I agree he is a rather unique and vexing character, he does not strike me as the sort that would needlessly escalate a monumentally delicate situation without some meaningful and beneficial ulterior motive in mind. I do not hold hope that dealing with him will be pleasant, but neither do I suspect that conversing with him will be meaningless either."
"You'd be willing to be roped into this nonsense?" He scoffed. "Allies or enemies, I will not be ensnared into any more of the Oogakari's madness until we have them under control. There's no telling what they could be doing even now."
o. o. o.
Outside the Oogakari's compound, several teams of ANBU hidden in the nearby forestry watched the group of immortals lounging on their front yard.
Each and every one of them was high off their asses to the point that they couldn't even get out of their seats.
"Anything?" Monkey asked Pigeon.
"Nothing. They've been like this for the past few days. Even when it rained last night." The latter shook his head. "Could have sworn that Shadow actually drowned at one point. Don't think she's closed her mouth since lunch yesterday."
"Knowing them, I wouldn't be surprised if that actually happened." Monkey glanced at the idiots staring off into space with glazed looks in their eyes. Shadow in particular was leaning far back on a lawn chair with her mouth wide open, giving merit to Pigeon's report. "Did we get any of their students to check up on them? Maybe get more information?"
"We did. Unfortunately, we're dealing with the Oogakari, so nothing's ever that simple." The ANBU moved to the side to see Shino Aburame of all people curled up and rocking in place. "Poor kid got close enough to talk before he got overloaded by second hand whatever the hell those bastards were using. Hell, some of us get dizzy just being near him."
"I thought his hive was supposed to prevent or give him resistances to drugs?"
"If a kikaichu has balls. And it trips on them. And the rest of the hive trips as well, then how many balls are being tripped?" Shino asked in an eerily haunted tone. "So many balls. Tripping at once. They're everywhere and never ending."
"Never mind. I suddenly have the answer I never knew I never wanted."
"Oh god I moved too much! The dream is breaking! The cascade of balls has begun to spill! A thousand silent screams yield a chorus of untold tripping the likes of which the world itself could never fathom!"
"For fucks sake, get him to detox before Shibi kills us already."
o. o. o.
Mei frowned. "I'd hardly consider a devastated Hidden Village mere nonsense, Raikage, and if you are capable enough to take this matter seriously you wouldn't be attempting to find an excuse to disregard it either. My spies have verified the condition that Iwagakure is in, just as yours no doubt have. Whatever you would like to call it to soothe your nerves does not change the fact that Iwa was devastated by an unknown party, and from what we have witnessed and how the other Villages are acting, the boy is our greatest resource into making sense of the matter. As far as I'm concerned, getting my information from the source is the quickest and easiest way to get to the bottom of matters. If the boy is willing to divulge what he knows, I'm willing to tolerate his eccentricities for a time."
"And what if he tries to string you into his madness with more nonsense and empty promises?" The large man crossed his arms defiantly.
"It will depend. The boy is vexing, however he is no fool. If he desires something from us, he knows that he will have to entice us one way or another. We are not pushovers, if you recall." She shrugged, seemingly uncaring which way the future went. "That said, as far as I can tell, while he is a headache, Naruto Uzumaki is not one to lie or mislead others on matters like this. He's a rather peculiar sort like that."
"Yo. I keep telling ya bro. Numba nine's a goofy bloke, but the heavy shits no joke, ya hear?" Bee chided.
"And what do you think he would want of us?" Ai ignored his brother. "A boy that's supposedly been outside of the elemental nations without word for nearly three years. For all we know, he's the reason this nonsense has been stirring up everywhere recently."
"He very well could be." Mei shrugged. "Though I won't presume he has that much influence on Akatsuki. You are aware that that group has been around since before his birth, correct?"
The fact that they were likely related to Yagura's freefall into madness could be brought up at a later time. No need to reveal all her cards just yet.
"If even half of the nonsense I've been told is remotely accurate, I wouldn't hold my breath Mizukage…"
It looked like the man wanted to say more, but something had caught his attention if his scowl and eyes were any indication.
He wasn't the only one that noticed it.
"It appears that you were not the only one that was interested in meeting me today, Raikage." Mei frowned, her attention pulled to the nearby large stones and cliffs that littered the lands north of Kumogakure.
The soft sound of footsteps reached their ears soon afterwards. All the shinobi shifted their weight slightly in case they needed to move, but otherwise stood seemingly at ease.
From the other side of a nearby outcropping, Danzo Shimura appeared.
"Oi…" Zabuza grunted to Mei. He had told her about the man's actions and what he could do with the Sharingan under his wrappings.
"Ao," the Mizukage ordered evenly. That alone was enough to put the information and infiltration specialist at the ready, even if he didn't verbally reply.
"Turtle, tell me that the cat and tentacle monster have run by the Raikage what this rotten old hawk can do with those stolen eyes of his," Zabuza silently asked his tenant. Konoha had sent word to all the major villages of Danzo's deceit and his bizarre implants, but it didn't hurt to make sure.
"… They are aware of this human's traits. But, they claim that the Raikage is the sort that puts his own experiences above the words of others." Isobu clearly didn't like being used as an in between for a conversation, but went along with the request for now at least. Though judging from his tone, it was unlikely he'd have the patience to play the role for much longer.
"Fuck me. That meathead's a prime target to get taken over." He mentally hissed. "Hey Raikage. Kumo-nin. Before you get any ideas, remember that this old prick's got some special mind fucking Sharingan. Think before you act, let alone talk. All sensors keep your heads clear and keep tabs on everyone."
"Humph. I allowed you free access to Konoha for years, Demon of the Hidden Mist, and this is how I'm repaid?" Danzo scoffed as he fearlessly approached the two delegations seemingly by himself. "Do you not suspect that you and your apprentice would be under my influence if I was as careless with my resources as you assume?"
Ao made several minor gestures that only his fellow Kiri shinobi could translate. They were surrounded by at least twenty hidden shinobi. A sizeable force under most circumstances, but given who was in the trap, it was almost disappointing.
"As if you had the chance." Zabuza mocked right back. "You think I don't know about all the times the Oogakari played with your office? Those bastards are fucked in the head, but they're pretty good at telling when others are fucked too. Or maybe you want me to tell everyone about the time you tried your luck with Shadow?"
The old man's approach paused, and for the briefest of moments a subtle tremor wracked through his aging body. The trauma was clearly apparent, but it did not stop the War Hawk from shooting the swordsman a visibly irritated and emotionally charged glare.
"You have only yourself to blame for this turn of events, Danzo-san," Haku politely chided. "You pushed your luck too many times, both in the past and recently. The ambiguity and power you took for granted could not protect you forever. This is merely karma."
"A shinobi lecturing another about karma," the man snorted derisively. "Is that not the height of hypocrisy? How many sins have we all accumulated in the name of our village's prosperity and peace? Ridiculous."
"I'm pretty sure the lines are drawn at actions that directly lead to spawning multiple S-ranked missing-nin, their organization, massacres of clans out of self-perpetuated paranoia, and threats that destroying the established order between the Hidden Villages," Suigetsu deadpanned, completely stepping out of bounds of his position. "Or at least, that's what I've heard."
And that wasn't getting into the whole, Orochimaru mad scientist experiments, genetic splicing, and child soldier fiasco.
"Yo when he puts it like that, makes it wonder don't ya? Anyone ever hear of dementia?" Bee rapped.
"Humph. The host for the Hachibi." Danzo glared at the immature man. "True mastery over his beast, and yet still so unrefined. A paradox if there ever was one. Kumo is unfathomably fortunate to be in possession of such luck."
"Speak your piece, War Hawk," the Raikage growled dangerously. "As of right now, you're still only Konoha's problem. There are no promises what the villages will decide after the summit."
Mei held back a scoff. It was just like the brute to speak from both sides of his mouth at a moment's notice. He was the sort that said whatever fancied his preference at any given time. She could respect avoiding commitment in order to keep options available, but this was just embarrassing. What an insecure child.
Then again, she wasn't terribly interested in making the first move herself either.
"I merely come to grant you a warning. Whatever Uzumaki does or says is in line with whatever the Oogakari have concocted over the years." The War Hawk frowned. "Haven't you noticed it? The radical increase in interactions between the Five Nations over the past decade? Specifically with that clan? Weapons trade with Kumo. The recent economic trade agreement Kiri has with countries allied with Konohagakure. Suna's invasion. All have been orchestrated by those foreigners in some capacity. Ghost Oogakari's appearance in Iwa two weeks before the devastation is no coincidence either. We're being used."
"If you try any harder I'm going to assume you're jealous, Shimura." Zabuza snorted. "It's an open secret that your setup is just as obnoxiously invasive as the Oogakari's, only difference so far is that your resources have a tendency of screwing everyone over while those assholes just make us regret life decisions and being able to hear every time they talk."
Mei chuckled and crossed her arms under her chest. "As crass as he is, Zabuza's right. Their speed is impressive, but so far you are the one that has been responsible for multiple atrocities across the Elemental Nations. It was only because you hid under Hiruzen's skirt that nobody could take proper action against you. That isn't to excuse the Oogakari's ties to all these recent disasters, but those eccentrics have yet to be directly responsible for anything save for that one that appeared in Iwa."
Danzo held his ground. "And that time was enough to drive the village to its knees. Even you all should have heard some details of Ghost Oogakari's rampage by now."
"We have. Just as we know that it was due to Anko Mitarashi's and Hana Inuzuka's abduction." Haku nodded. "It was blatantly clear that his ire was out of concern for the two."
"Akatsuki pushed their luck on the two people they really shouldn't have. Iwa just had the shit fate of being ground zero of their stupid experiment." Zabuza shook his head. Even now, he still broke out in minor chills when he remembered the day Ghost lost his patience. The black embers flying around were odd for most people, but for strong Presence users and Jinchuriki, it was absolutely fucking terrifying. "It takes something special to genuinely piss off an Oogakari Shimura, and I doubt there's a person that's ever met one that would ever want to see what happens when they are. Much less be at ground zero. Even you should know that by now."
"Is that an admission of fear, Momochi?" the Raikage asked with mixed amusement and curiosity.
"Maybe. I'll spill if you tell me the ratio of protein to steroids in your energy drinks, Raikage. Fair warning, I'm counting random bullshit plants and animal parts as the latter."
"You excuse their crimes simply because they were angry?" The old man scoffed.
"Considering you were insinuating their worst actions were done on a whim instead of with purpose, I am progressively finding Zabuza's perspective on matters to be more… accurate." Mei hummed. "Whether the Oogakari's rampant actions were justified is one matter. Trusting them and their supposed rampant schemes above the ones you conjure, well that's another entirely, isn't it?"
"Careful Mizukage. While we may be from opposing nations, I am still dedicated to these lands. You would rather take the risk of siding with those outsiders? Even with my resources and investigations since the first arrived here, we've yet to identify what they are doing here or what they want."
"Which will also likely be explained in Iron, except some crazy lost old man with Alzheimer is currently holding us up right now," Zabuza yawned.
"You trust the word of Uzumaki to be the truth?" This time Danzo didn't bother to hide his frustration. "The child who ran from his duties for months and went rogue across the nations? The child who left with Oogakari for three years unsupervised? The child who allowed his Biju to exit his body as it pleases, and houses what I can only believe are fabrications of two powerful shinobi in his mind? I cannot even begin to fathom how deranged and mangled that twisted child's psyche is. He is so lost in his delirious hallucinations that it would not be surprising if he could barely remember to dress himself in the morning."
"And yet he was the only one that seemed to know and understand what was going on in Iwa once that Priest and white woman appeared. And as peculiar as they were, none of them had any issue comprehending what the other was talking about. Unlike the audience." Haku factually pointed out.
"Correction. Save for a few moments, I personally had little trouble following the conversation between the Uzumaki boy, the possessed Priest, and Kaguya Otsutsuki."
A new voice spoke up before anyone could sense or react its owner's coming.
Much less the decapitated ROOT agent's body that fell onto the rocky ground nearby.
"That said, I admittedly find myself curious as to what he will reveal during this oncoming meeting between the five Kage."
"What the… how did I notice him until just now?" Ao frowned, his hidden Byakugan active. "His chakra, I've never seen it move like this before. He's strong."
"Y-You..." Danzo faltered, clearly not expecting this newcomer but easily recognizing him. "How are you here?"
"Oi. Haku." Unlike before, Zabuza had his hand on his sword now. Danzo was a potential threat, but this guy was a genuine problem.
"I know." The ice user was ready to move as soon as he was.
"My my. We have a peculiar unexpected guest." Mei frowned. She didn't recognize the man, but he was certainly familiar looking. "I'm sorry but should I recognize you? Are you a friend of the Raikage's?"
The armor he was wearing was rather dated looking, though durable.
"Does he look like one of mine Mizukage?" Ai growled and took a stance. Unlike Mei, he did recognize the man. "I don't know who you are, but you have a terrible sense of humor, dressing up like that man. Much less now of all times."
"Humph." The newcomer snorted and looked around without a care in the world. "How disappointing. I thought the Kage of this era would be more interesting. Then again, I wouldn't mind a tryst with the Swordsman and the Ice user at some point. They'd look like they'd put up a good show, with or without the Sanbi."
"Sanbi?" Darui frowned and glanced at the pair warily.
Well that spoiled the surprise as to who the jinchuriki from Kiri was.
"Not now," Zabuza growled. "Don't know who this guy is, but the rest of you bastards better not let your guard down. The only other monsters I've ever gotten this bullshit feeling from are the blonde brat and the Oogakari. If he goes wild here I doubt even a third of us would get out of here alive."
"Ho? So you do have a rough idea of what you're up against. And yet you'd still claim that some of you would live?" The man smirked, clearly pleased by the revelation, casually taking a few more steps towards them. "Now I'm truly tempted to see your mettle…"
He stalled half step. As though someone or something had distracted him, and it was not missed by those there.
"That said, I suppose I'll have to have my fun some other time."
Everyone would have breathed a sigh of relief if they were novices.
That said, they did hold their breath when the monster known as Madara Uchiha turned his attention to one person in particular.
"Of course, if you wish to tempt your luck, I will have to make do with you. Failure of Tobirama."
o. o. o.
"Well now. I can't say that I was expecting this peculiar reunion today. Were you Kakuzu?" Izuna Uchiha, currently known by Tobi chuckled dryly as he and Kakuzu stood on the outskirts of the land of Waterfalls.
Facing them with their arms crossed and a dry stare was a very irritated Hashirama Senju.
"No, can't say I was." Kakuzu grunted.
"Nor I," Hashirama added. "To be frank, we thought that you would be going after the Rinnegan while everyone was distracted with the Summit. Tobirama was quite intent on seeing you again, Izuna."
The conniving Uchiha suppressed a shiver. Both in rage and in relief. He would not have minded facing off and potentially maiming the second Hokage once more…
But in Amegakure? With all that water flying about for that bastard to use? Even he had his limits, thank you very much.
Not that his current situation was any better.
"Maybe next time then." Izuna hummed behind his mask, observing his opponent. "You seem to be having a curious time. That condition of your skin… Edo Tensei if I'm correct. No? This is the second time in less than five years no less. I must admit, I'd be quite embarrassed about being used so frequently if I were in your position."
"Someone would have to be deranged enough to want to use you in the first place." The First Hokage gave a rare scathing comment, something quite unlike him as far as most people knew.
"Hahaha. True enough. Why have a monster when you can have the whore, sorry, Hero of the shinobi world? Isn't that why you sold yourself to so many parties to get the hidden village system established? Between that and the fight with Madara, it's no wonder why you died so young despite your constitution."
Hashirama's glare deepened. "You oversell yourself Izuna. You are no monster. Just a mistake."
That cut deeper than it should have, and Izuna was no longer in a humoring mood. "Why are you here, puppet? What message does your master have for me? In case you haven't noticed, I have tasks to attend to."
"Oh? You mean to tell me that you've gone senile over the years? Are you unable to figure out so simple and obvious?" The Hokage gave an unnaturally childish and snide smirk, his nose seemingly elongated in the process. "No wonder he doesn't want to talk to you directly. Clearly all this time hiding and alone has not done that personality of yours any favors."
An endless pit began to open up. The beast at its bottom stirred…
Before Izuna's rage began to swell proper, an utterly disgusting and titanic wave of chakra nearly smothered him and Kakuzu, rooting them to the ground they stood on.
Presence or not, the overwhelming power that Hashirama Senju possessed was something that neither of them had any hope of overcoming anytime soon.
The First Hokage gave the Uchiha a dry stare, as if judging the man's abnormal display. "Presence, if I'm not mistaken. It's an interesting trick to be sure, and I've only witnessed it a couple of times, but even so I can tell that your use of it needs work, Izuna. Madara would be disappointed if he saw you acting out like a child."
"Don't you dare mention my brother to me!"
Kakuzu grimaced. "Not to be a third wheel to your tedious prattling, but I'm guessing the rumors of you two back during the Warring States weren't more mindless gossip about how the Senju and Uchiha were at one another's throats. We only met and fought that one time, but I can tell you're normally not this bitter, Hashirama."
The (actual) zombie glanced at Kakuzu for a moment before shrugging. "Not much to tell. This useless lonely bastard was always after Mito. It was embarrassing actually. Even Madara couldn't look at me in the face whenever it was brought up. After the third time he tried to get Mito alone while we were courting, it became annoying. After the fifth, it was a problem."
It didn't help that Tobirama made it a personal duty to cock block Izuna. Frequently. Very frequently if Mito's complaining was any indication, though in hindsight Hashirama had a feeling that his younger brother had perhaps enjoyed the duty a tad bit too much.
"I'm going to be particularly pissed half of the bullshit that's taken place over the past century is because this bastard didn't get the girl he liked."
"Don't delude yourselves," Izuna replied. "I may have been attracted to Mito at the time, but it was a momentary fancy at best. Compared to how much I've wanted to end your insufferable existence, Mito's importance was barely notable."
Hashirama stared at Izuna with a dead expression. "Did you come up with that excuse before or after your brother caught you that one night alone with that candid picture of my wife at a hotspring?"
One could literally hear something brittle in the Uchiha's mind shatter like glass at that moment. It was likely his dignity. "Madara you bastard…"
Kakuzu's perpetual glare at his tormentor had changed. Before he treated the man as a dangerous and conniving monster. Now the treatment was akin to vile scum that he simply didn't want to get near. It was impressive. Even Hidan never got this sort of treatment.
"Mito was a beauty to be sure, but she was ultimately just another selfish distraction in the end. Hashirama." One could hear Izuna spit out viciously in spite of the mask he still wore. "The Senju. The Uzumaki. The Uchiha. All but completely wiped out. The legacies you all cherished and strove to protect. Wiped away. But I'm still here."
"Like the vermin everyone knew you to be." Hashirama frowned. "If I had the liberty, I'd exterminate you now and rid the world of a headache, however the one that summoned me has other plans for you."
"Plans? For me?"
Despite the situation, Kakuzu couldn't help but snort in amusement. "Ironic."
"The Five Kage Summit isn't something that happens often after all. And recent events are even more uncommon. No doubt it would be something you'd hate to attend if you ever were in a position of power. You detest dealing with people as if they were your equals after all. You prefer dealing with tools."
"Spare me Tobirama's rhetoric."
"Who said those were my brother's words?" The Hokage smirked, getting another rise out of the traitor. "My summoner isn't the only one curious of the Summit's outcome. He doesn't care what pathetic and embarrassing stunt you try afterwards either. If anything, it's the opposite. But it will take place."
"Hoh? So you won't interrupt my movements after the children decide to play nice?" Izuna hummed. "That's unlike you, Hashirama."
"You take me for a babysitter, Izuna." Letting down his guard and looking over the hillside that expanded to a large plains and forest in the distance. "Tell me, does it look like I need to protect anyone?"
Izuna Uchiha frowned and decided to play along. His Sharingan spun. His senses expanded. His being…
Was looked down upon at a distance like a speck of dust that flew with the slightest gust of wind. A minor irritation and curiosity among the endless passing tides…
"You didn't think your tantrum wasn't noticed did you? Your temper hasn't changed in the slightest." Hashirama smugly crossed his arms, still looking off into the distance. "It's still hard to say at the moment, seeing as he's still supposedly recovering, but I'm willing to bet that the kid's more powerful than I am. Actually kinda curious what it would be like fighting him."
The flat admission caught both missing-nin by surprise. "Stronger than, you? Is that some sort of joke Hashirama? Uzumaki's powerful, but I saw your fight with Madara. That child doesn't even come close to the masters of Mokuton and the Sharingan."
"Hah. You mean you don't know?" The Hokage laughed. "Didn't you notice that he never used the fox's power himself during the battle? He was always letting it out of his body and making the monster go rampant. The boy was sealed up until the end of the battle in Iwa. He took on all that power you mustered and scrounged up over the past hundred years in Iwa and won with a handicap. And then he fought someone stronger."
He could have added salt on the wounds and mentioned Naruto's ability as a Sage, but why spoil the surprise?
If Izuna wasn't pissed already…
"That twisted statue of yours is gone." Hashirama continued, calmer now. "Akatsuki is all but gone, along with their resources. You no longer have the Rinnegan. And to add insult to injury, your supposed grand plan that started before the Hidden Villages were even built was a ruse from the start, conjured by some monster that was somehow more twisted than you. When will it sink in Izuna? Even you should be aware of it by now."
Pure unadulterated rage and fury radiated from the Uchiha.
Of all the ways that the bastard was looking at him. Of all the tones he could have spoken with, he would not now nor ever tolerate it be out of pity.
"Don't. You. DARE. Look at me like that Hashirama. Not when all of this was of your making from the start. Your childish words turned my brother into a fool. Your disgusting power prevented my clan from achieving the glory and position above everyone else we deserved. Your wife turned away from her obligations to her betters. Your hypocritical brother nearly killed me and systematically turned my clan into a cavalcade of fools within two generations that I could no longer recognize as my own. As far as I'm concerned, the Uchiha clan is dead save for myself. The Uzumaki are aimless fools. And the Senju are parasites designed to make humanity pathetic. You have little idea how happy it made me to cleanse the world of them."
The Hokage was no longer smiling. "If I wasn't restrained by Edo Tensei, I'd tempt that to see how ending you once and for all would make me feel… however in the end, I know that all it would do is give me mere relief and the desire to take a shower. Like getting an annoying filth covered stone out from my sandal."
"As much as I'd like you to get yourself killed for everyone's sake, I'd like it more if you didn't drag me into it," Kakuzu growled, the skin on the back of his neck starting to stand on end. The longer he stayed here, the more he suspected something horrible would happen. He was effectively the bastard's slave with the Uchiha genjutsu affecting his psyche, but he wasn't pathetic enough to not have some leeway in his actions and thoughts. "Let's go."
Clenched fists and a blood red eye all but screamed the man's intent to do just the opposite before a dry chuckle escaped the man's throat. "Hah. Fine. This battle is all but lost. But, you forgot Hashirama. You're dead. Tobirama's dead. Madara's dead. But I'm still here. And I'll still be here long after that new fool gets himself killed."
With a sigh, Hashirama shook his head. "You have a point there, Izuna. There's just one difference this time."
"And what's that?"
"Madara isn't around to cover up for your mistakes and hide you like the coward you are this time."
The fight that almost broke out at that moment would have been one that would have both simultaneously reworked the landscape, and have been one of the most one sided beatdowns in the Land of Fire.
There was no fight though.
Only silence, and vows of vindication against the living and the dead.
o. o. o.
"Naruto," Hinata muttered as she gently hugged the fox in her grasp.
"You noticed? Your range is better than I thought." He sighed in a mix of mild annoyance and acceptance. Opening an eye to look around, Naruto noted that of the people in their group, only Sasuke also seemed to detect the momentary disturbance over twenty kilometers away. He chalked it up to his friends being natural doujutsu users with a disposition for sensing. "Leave it."
"Are you sure? If that man is nearby…" She looked around hesitantly.
A deep and menacing growl coming from deep within Naruto's soul affirmed his decision.
"Kurama recognizes the other chakra signature. Don't know why that guy's there, or how, but he's more than able to run interference. We're not going to have trouble. At least not on the way to Iron."
On the way back was another story.
"Should we warn everyone?"
"At the meeting. No point adding more stress to the mix before we sit at the table. We are travelling with the elderly after all." His sharp ears twitched. "Speaking of which."
As if on cue, the resting group of Iwa and Konoha shinobi (plus one Daimyo) stiffened as a new group of six appeared on the edge of their clearing.
"Humph." Tsunade smirked slightly. "Took you long enough old man."
Hiruzen Sarutobi laughed good naturedly as he stood alongside Fuu and five Takigakure shinobi that, unlike him, looked slightly winded and tired. "My apologies Tsunade. I've been cooped up inside for so long I unintentionally took my time getting here to take in the sights. The land of Waterfalls is truly a beautiful and scenic territory. Ever since I became Hokage, I rarely had the opportunity to enjoy such views. Peacefully at least."
"Stop laying it on so thick Sarutobi. You tore up as much of the place as I did during the wars." Onoki grunted irritably, getting mixed negative looks from the delegation from Taki.
"Konoha may have infiltrated our territory on occasion, but they never flat out invaded us," one of the Taki Jonin growled. "Much less four times."
"I'm sorry you felt that way, but if I have a choice going through your territory and waiting for you to roll over for Kumo on their rush towards Iwa, I'm taking the option that isn't dipped in pathetic." Short and injured as he was, Onoki's steadily rising killing intent was still more than enough to underscore his position.
"We offered Iwa Shinobi free passage through our lands so long as they didn't start anything," another Jonin argued. "And we got Sparrow's Gorge as thanks."
"Of course. It always comes back to that god forsaken…"
"Sparrow's Gorge?" Naruto quietly asked Kakashi.
"Happened right before the Third War officially started. Everyone was gearing up for battle. Iwa had a non-aggression pact with Taki to let their shinobi go through so they could fight Kumo on the other side of their border. Kumo's reputation was even worse back then believe it or not. Anyways, it was all fine and good until supposedly some shinobi got into a fight in a main rest stop over something meaningless. Big travelling and tourist stop with an ornate bridge that survived the Warring States era. It turned out about as well as you can expect, as well as the repercussions."
"Before you children come to blows, I feel obligated to step in and inform you that Iwa was not completely at fault for that disaster." Tsunade stepped in. "I was going to give you the information at Iron, but since you insist on acting like fools I'll tell you now. The entire incident was a setup orchestrated by Danzo and Kiri, believe it or not."
That caught everyone flat footed.
"… Damn it Danzo. I should have known." Hiruzen sighed shaking his head.
"Kiri?" Shibuki gaped. "I, why on earth would Kiri be involved in that disaster? They're the farthest Hidden Village from Taki."
"From what I understand, Kiri wanted more chaos in the region to take more attention away from themselves. Plus it would force everyone to try to cross the sea to the north, where everyone knows Kiri has an unofficial force situated for black ops operations."
"Which is why I didn't just take a boat around you idiots." Onoki grunted but gave Hiruzen a dark glare. "Damn near everyone and their mother knew about Kiri's 'empty waters' initiative, but that was near it. Nobody was foolish enough to try and find them out on their territory when the land route was there for everyone to work with."
"While I am the last person that has the right to say this, hopefully we can avoid such a disaster repeating this time around," the former Hokage mentally gave a tired sigh. He knew that the moment Danzo's dirty laundry started to air out he would not come out of this mess unscathed. He wasn't exactly an innocent individual himself. That said he was stuck between hoping that Danzo wasn't as terrible as he expected, and secretly wishing that the traitor's activities were so beyond his reach that nobody could realistically blame him for this mess.
"Did you know about this, Hiruzen-sama?" Shibuki frowned. "While it may not have mattered that much to the Major villages, Sparrow's Gorge is one of the reasons why our village staunchly refuses to expand relations with the others."
"No. This is new information to me as well. Though, unsurprising." The old man shook his head sadly. "Konoha had found the turn of events… convenient at the time. Taki had requested some aid from the Leaf if you recall during the events of the Third War to combat Iwa, the latter of whom had changed their attention south, forcing Suna to act and move their forces to their borders. Meanwhile Kumo ran rampant for a while until Kiri started to raid the coastlines. The only reason why we managed to maintain a two front war as well as we did was by allocating the bulk of the specialist Uchiha and Hyuuga forces to the coast to the east, wreaking havoc among the Mist users, while the rest of our general forces took on Iwa. Your father made quite a name for himself during the war, Sasuke. Unfortunately politics prevented him from getting the accolades he deserved."
Sasuke blinked in mild surprise but otherwise kept quiet.
"After Kiri had enough with losing a dozen of their men for every one Konoha lost, they went north and tried their luck with Kumo. It paid off. Don't know what they found, but it was enough to put a leash and muzzle on the Raikage near the end of the war and have him pull out before nearly everyone else. Happened right after he took over after the death of the Third." Onoki huffed with a satisfied smirk. "Not before losing nearly the entirety of his naval division though. Idiot thought he could take on Kiri in the open seas. Got a good long laugh when I read that report."
"Kiri probably found the giant island turtle," Naruto mused to Kurama.
"Can't see that brash human go out of his way into a disadvantaged battle like that for anything short of that or his brother being taken," the fox agreed.
"What do you think Kiri got in return for releasing it?"
"Probably has something to do with the previous Mizukage mastering Isobu's power."
"Makes sense. Plus with Dad likely capable of jumping between the major fronts with Hiraishin and bringing all sorts of supplies with him, Konoha could probably handle the war better than most expected. Everyone probably thought that Konoha would get warn out and stretched thin with the fighting on multiple fronts, but with Iwa fighting so many smaller nations plus Suna and Konoha on one side, and Kumo and Kiri beating each other senseless on the other, we managed to somehow outlast everyone."
At face value, it would look like forcing Iwa south to fight Konoha would be the worse move instead of letting Iwa and Kumo duke it out, but that wasn't the case on a closer look. With Iwa and Kumo focused on the north, there would have been little to distract Kiri and Suna from potentially taking advantage from Konoha and putting the land of fire into a shitty situation on three fronts. Forcing Iwa south was a subtly genius move to all but strong arm Suna into joining forces with Konoha to take them on and split the load, freeing more resources for the east side of the country.
Danzo probably set something up with Kiri to have them focus on Kumo in the long run as well. It probably didn't turn out as well as he had planned considering they went after Konoha regardless initially before focusing on Kumo.
The War Hawk was a prick, but few could deny that he was actually damn good at his job from time to time. The rest of the time… not so much.
"It appears that Konoha will be making a few reparations by the time this summit is over," Shibuki frowned.
"Do keep in mind that regardless of our past sins, we do have more pressing matters to address with first, Shibuki-dono." Tsunade held her ground. "And regardless of what has been done and owed, an in depth review of established treaties does need to be made so that we do not hastily cause any more international incidents. Paying owed debts is more than reasonable, but I'd rather do so without incurring additional paperwork."
The leaders of their respective hidden villages all shivered as one. While they had their differences, there were still some topics that they all could agree unanimously on.
Naruto finally spoke up, grabbing everyone's attention. "That, and if you guys keep trying to kill one another as an excuse to not be productive for once, I'm going to be forced to do… something. Not sure what it will be just yet, but it's me we're talking about, so odds are it will suck something fierce."
"What the?" The Taki shinobi minus Fuu jumped at the snarky disembodied voice.
"Hey Naruto, I see Hinata's not letting you go." Fuu waved casually at the entrapped fox.
Said entrapped fox greeted her back in a haunted tone. "Many would be envious of my position. I shall have my restitution from those fools in due time. With a mighty vengeance that shall be whispered about among all the deranged of our world."
"And he calls me an edgelord?" Sasuke dryly muttered under his breath.
"In his defense, Hinata does corner the market with her own brand of terrifying," Kakashi chuckled.
"No wonder you're still single."
"This is Naruto Uzumaki?" one of the Jonin asked in disbelief.
"I told you he was crazier than the norm," Fuu shrugged, not caring what her entourage thought.
"Naruto, you seem to have seen some better days." Hiruzen smiled, taking everything in stride. "It's nice to see you again."
"Likewise gramps. Your heart still keeping pace?"
"As well as it can be, given the circumstances. I doubt I'd be able to say the same had I not retired when I did."
"And you have my eternal hatred for it, Sensei." Tsunade crossed her arms with a dry smirk that quickly died off. "How's the bulk of Team Gai?"
The mood quickly darkened on the topic. Hiruzen had the decency to look away from everyone. "They are managing as best they can, given the circumstances. They weren't able to accompany us to Iron for obvious reasons, so they are distracting themselves with protecting the remains of Takigakure's parliament and aiding in some investigations. They send their regards… and their thanks to Naruto."
"… Right." Surprisingly Naruto didn't say anything stupid this time.
Onoki leered at his former rival. "If memory serves, you encountered that monster priest before he showed up on my territory, Hiruzen. Old age must have truly addled your competency if the best you could do was drive him off."
The former Kage's eye's also turned hard. "I wish I could say that I was the one that did so. I'll go into details later, but… I'm afraid my, our efforts to best that thing were lacking. And certainly not due to insufficient effort. Make no mistake, I had delved deep into my esoteric bag of tricks to combat that monster, Onoki, and still found myself wanting."
Kakashi was supposedly the man that had copied over a thousand jutsu over his lifetime, but Hiruzen Sarutobi knew some of the most secretive and dangerous techniques in existence. The Professor had forgotten more about ninjutsu in general than most Kage would ever hope to know.
Roshi whistled, clearly impressed. "Not every day the old monkey in Konoha admits to getting pissed. He must have whipped out something real nasty during the fight."
Onoki looked like he wanted to push the topic, but a brief look around stayed his tongue. "Tch. Fine. We'll put this off until Iron. But don't think this means you're off the hook Sarutobi."
"I wouldn't dream of it. The current circumstances are too extreme to think otherwise." Nobody even considered doubting the kindly old man's words. They all knew it to be true. "Speaking of which. Tsunade, can you or someone explain to me why we have a guest hidden in our vicinity by what I can only assume is a jutsu of Naruto's?"
"What?" Shibuki looked around and did a head count. "What's going on? Each village was to bring a maximum of a full team in conjunction with their Jinchuriki and their leader. The only exception should be Hiruzen-sama. Is there another shinobi from Iwa here?"
"Wrong on both counts I'm afraid." Heitaro Madoka chuckled as he floated forward and, with permission, dispelled the air based illusion that kept him out of sight. "It's been a while, Hiruzen Sarutobi."
The reaction from the Taki delegation and the former Hokage was immediate, and expected.
"… Naruto? Can I assume that you are responsible for our unexpected guest of notable stature?" Hiruzen asked in a far too polite tone with a smile that promised far too much punishment in the future.
"Yup-a-doodle!" Naruto cheerfully replied in a tone that just as clearly indicated that he was already trying to mentally place himself in a place that was not on this planet for his own sake.
The former Kage's smile remained static for several long seconds. "I should have fucking stayed in Taki."
"Hokage-sama!?" Shibuki shouted in surprise and alarm.
"Bwahahahahahahaha!" Onoki and Roshi burst out laughing in tandem. Not that anyone could blame them. They had never seen or heard the Professor break character so hard in their lives. This single moment alone would be one of their crowning highlights of the trip.
Even the Daimyo couldn't help but futilely hide his chuckling at the veteran's slipup.
"And how many times have you lot managed to keep it together whenever this one was around?" The embarrassed old man grumbled before giving his successor an accusing stare. "How on earth did he manage to convince you to go through with this ridiculous stunt, Tsunade? This goes well beyond his usual pranks, save for what was done in Iwa."
The current Hokage crossed her arms. "Convinced? Sensei, he snuck off in the middle of the night and came back five hours later with our mutual friend floating in tow acting like he was about to go on a pleasant camping trip. If we even tried to return Madoka-sama now, we'd be mired in so much diplomatic chaos that we wouldn't be able to attend the NEXT Summit."
Hiruzen wanted to say something about how the buildup of paperwork in the wake of such chaos was exponential and not additive, but stayed his tongue as his mind caught up with him.
Ever so slowly, he turned to look back at the fox in Hinata's grasp. His cold wizened eyes probed the gem blue animals'.
Naruto's tone since he arrived had been whimsical and comical. His words and jokes were as chaotic as ever.
But his eyes and stare were not remotely close to warm and immature.
The old man's heart felt a painful lance at that moment, and the urge to press the matter died not violently, but feebly as though all the energy had been sapped from it until it faded away.
Once more, the Third Hokage felt his age and failures catching up to him in all the worst ways possible.
"Hah. I suppose there is nothing to do about it then. If Naruto went out of his way to do something this vexing, then there must be a valid reason for it."
"You're serious?" Shibuki blinked in surprise. "The summit is supposed to be Shinobi only, save for the Samurai hosting the event. To have a Daimyo attend-"
"Means that whatever will be discussed will likely involve the civilian population in no small capacity," the Hokage concluded firmly, glancing at the other leaders present to see that they too had long since come to the same conclusion. "Madoka-dono is here either to serve as a litmus test to see how the others will respond to what will be discussed, or to lead the other Daimyo by example."
The token civilian chuckled good-naturedly as he waved his fan in front of his face. "Perhaps. Though I cannot deny that I am quite curious as to what a meeting consisting of some of the most powerful shinobi in the world will be like in the first place. I anticipate it to be quite an enthralling experience."
Considering the fact that these meetings had a good one in five chance of erupting in a fight of some capacity, that was putting it mildly.
"The Raikage's going to be insufferable about this," Onoki groaned.
"That manchild's insufferable about everything that doesn't go his way. You're only complaining because he's going to spend some of that time moaning to you as to why you're not complaining as well." Tsunade shook her head before turning to Shibuki. "My apologies for the irregular situation, Shibuki-dono. As you can see, things have been hectic as of late."
The young leader shifted uncomfortably before nodding in greeting as well. "I can see that, Tsunade-dono. Thank you for putting up with our confusion. Allow me to greet you all properly. I am Shibuki of Takigakure, along with my escorts, Yoro, Kegon, Sankai, Fudo, and our Jinchuriki, Fuu."
The Hokage greeted them with a polite nod. "Welcome. I am Tsunade Senju of Konoha. I am escorted by Shizune Kato, Kakashi Hatake, Hinata Hyuuga, and Sasuke Uchiha, alongside our Jinchuriki Naruto Uzumaki, and our guest, Heitaro Madoka-sama, the Daimyo of the Land of Fire."
They all pretended to ignore the reactions to so many notable names from Konoha. Tsunade's and Naruto's were a given, but to have Sharingan Kakashi in the group, plus a Hyuuga and the last loyal Uchiha was a heavy lineup that simply couldn't be ignored.
"You lot clearly already know who I am." Onoki nodded before glancing at his compatriots. "Roshi's the Jinchuriki for the Yonbi. Kurotsuchi's my granddaughter and one of my escorts. I'll grab the rest when we pass through Iwa, if there's anyone left worth bringing."
"Didn't know you had so little faith in your men Onoki." Hiruzen sounded genuinely surprised this time.
"Faith nothing. I'm doing those idiots a damn service. I can literally feel my sanity bleed from my ears with every passing second I'm near you lot. The less psychopaths like you Konoha bastards we have in Iwa, the better." The crippled old man shot Shibuki a warning glare. "Best you clench up boy. You're about to dive into deep end of the insane shit pool right off the bat, and even I don't know how deep it is this time around."
"Hiruzen-sama, I mean no disrespect, but I feel that you could have put in a bit more effort in warning us about how eccentric matters may get during this event." Shibuki sent the former Kage a glare that held a multitude of understandable emotions and thoughts.
The old man merely laughed sheepishly and avoided all eye contact. "I admit my mistake, however, I do recall young Fuu claiming something along the lines of undertaking that task…"
"And asking you and the others for help a week into it!" the Jinchuriki shouted in annoyance and throwing her hands up in the air. "I tried telling these idiots what to expect, but they all just brushed me off as if I didn't know what I was talking about even though I spent the past two years in Konoha! It was like talking to a bunch of brick walls! More than half of them won't even admit that the ONLY reason why Taki's involved in the summit is because I'm a jinchuriki! There's more critical thinking capacity in a chipmunk than in these dolls!"
"Fuu, how dare you speak to your villagers like that!?" one of the Taki Jonin snarled.
As if turning on a dime, the girl turned to him with a dead expression. "Oh? What? You're listening to me now? What did you say again? I wasn't paying attention. I was too busy focusing on how to do my duties more efficiently with underperforming compatriots."
"Tch!" Judging from his reaction, she was likely using his own words against him from a prior conversation.
Noticed by almost nobody, behind the small crowd, Kakashi wiped away a small tear of pride and gave her a shining thumbs up.
Hiruzen stepped in and played mediator. "Peace. Peace everyone. There will be enough headaches and strife at the Summit. No need to expedite it."
"Easy for you to say, Professor, you actually know what is going on," one of the Taki Jonin grunted.
The elderly man smiled bitterly. "Your kind words aside, I'm afraid I find myself less informed than you might assume. Critically so at that."
He turned to look at Naruto… who had at some point fallen asleep in the middle of the conversation if the closed eyes and snot bubble were any indication. "The only person attending that has any right to make such a claim has made it abundantly clear that we will be fully informed at the Summit, and no earlier."
"The Kyubi's Jinchuriki?" Shibuki frowned, putting the pieces together. "I thought that the Oogakari were behind everything."
"The Oogakari are under house arrest in Konoha until otherwise stated. And, for once, they seem to be complying. I'm still debating whether that's a good or bad sign." Tsunade shook her head. "That aside, they aren't responsible for the way things are now. If anything, they were merely a chaotic catalyst. Entities that exist for the sole purpose to make matters more ridiculous than they would have originally. Akatsuki was an issue and existed long before the Oogakari ever showed up in our lands, as were their plans to obtain all the Bijuu."
"They're the types that are more interested in playing with the plans of others than conjuring any themselves," Kakashi added before pausing. "With the exception of Scabbard of course, but he's more interested in focusing on business ventures and making things than trying to rule the world."
The nigh-emotionless immortal would probably say something along the lines of, "why would I want to do something as meaningless as that when I have more important tasks to address? Give that thankless job to someone that doesn't know better. I have fangirls to execute with extreme prejudice. Ah, there's a planet that is far too saturated with glitter to be existing as pleasantly as it does now. I should probably correct that soon with a satisfyingly overwhelming and liberal degree of fire…"
Every person there that could use Presence momentarily paused and looked at one another warily, unsure if they all just had the same exact thoughts…
"You did. Now get back to the plot already you idiots. Stop distracting me from my me time."
They all shivered as one and decided not to dwell on the topic any further.
"Regardless." Hiruzen coughed rather quickly while trying to rid himself of the fact that they had just been witness to the onset of what was likely off-screen planetary genocide. "The matter at hand is severe enough that a Summit has been called for in the first place and accepted near uncontested by those attending. This alone should underscore how irregular and unanimously concerning the current situation is. I hope that can be accepted."
Shibuki shifted uncomfortably, but conceded the point. The fact that he was being called to attend at all was an irregularity that could make or break his village's future. He was the smallest fish in the pond and no matter how prideful he or his men were, it didn't change the fact.
"As much as I'd like to stand around and establish the pecking order with these weaklings, how much longer are we going to be here?" Kurotsuchi asked.
"The Kazekage and his entourage should be here soon," Tsunade replied before looking at Hinata.
Before she could activate her doujutsu however, something else caught their attention.
"There's no need to strain yourselves, Hokage. We are here."
A second later, Gaara, Kankuro, Baki, Temari, and Chiyo arrived at the edge of the clearing.
"Took you long enough," Onoki snorted.
"We decided to take our time," Chiyo chuckled. "We thought we'd be here before you, seeing that some of us are crippled old farts."
Everyone stared at the old woman skeptically.
"I don't count. Don't you fools know? Ladies don't fart."
"Oh god there's more of them," one of the Taki Jonin groaned.
Baki did a double take. "Why is the Daimyo for the land of Fire here?"
This time everyone groaned.
o. o. o.
That night, while most of the shinobi and their respective groups were setting up camp, a small select few moved to an outcropping on the rocky terrain. They had made good time and should be in Iwa by tomorrow.
"You sure this will work?" Onoki frowned as Chiyo and Kankuro made their final adjustments to their equipment.
"If you don't stop your nagging I'll get so used to it that I'll make sure it won't so you can keep it up forever." Chiyo grumbled, playing with some internal mechanisms while inspecting the Tsuchikage's body. "Not like I don't have enough reasons already, cranky old git."
"Senile desert shrew."
"Woman there's a damn accord when it comes to the nose!"
"Attaching!" Kankuro shouted loudly before locking on the freshly made prosthetic puppet leg onto Onoki's stump. Almost instantly, the expertly placed sensitive chakra conductive material pierced the scar tissue and latched itself onto his chakra system and established a link to his body and nerves.
"Suck it up. At least you're getting to experts to do this. I had to do mine by myself." Chiyo waved off the man's minor spasms as she prepared his arm. "You truly do owe Konoha and your people a great deal. This procedure can only be done reliably if the parts are made with the original's flesh and bone as a base."
The fact that his arm and leg was preserved as well as they were spoke leagues of the Iwa shinobi's forethought. That wasn't even considering how small the window was for Konoha quickly thinking of Suna's puppeteers when they realized there wouldn't be enough time to reattach the limbs normally and getting the message to both villages in time.
Kankuro and Chiyo had spent the last month working nonstop to fabricate the best replacement limbs for the Tsuchikage as possible. A sign of peace and good will between two normally antagonistic Villages that would at the very least simmer down tensions for the immediate future.
That and the free publicity for their medical services would bring in some extra needed income for Suna. Shinobi lost body parts all the time after all.
"Hnngh." Onoki grimaced as his arm came next.
"You think that's bad. Wait till you have your annual examinations and have to pop them out again." Chiyo smirked as she reached for her right arm and quickly disconnected and reattached it. "It's a great trick to pull at parties. Better if you're too drunk to feel much."
"I take it that means you do it constantly after your first glass then. Lightweight."
"You're barely as big as me you gnome!"
"Gramps, how does it feel?" Kurotsuchi stepped forward and looked at him with mixed curiosity and concern.
Biting back another scathing comment, Onoki forced himself to look at his attachments. He was by no means a user of chakra strings, and only knew the most basic of theories behind them, but slowly, he began to move his limbs as if he still had them… and the puppet counterparts made of his flesh and bone reacted in kind.
It wasn't perfect. He couldn't feel through them yet, and his movements were stiff as could be, but the Tsuchikage had more or less four limbs again.
"Better." He grunted, critically examining his fingers and wrists as he moved and flexed them slowly. "This isn't normal puppetry."
"It's not. Suna's puppet and medical division has made some significant advances over the past few years thanks to a few unspoken sponsors. A good part of it is based off of my grandson's illicit experiments before he was exiled. He was such a clever boy, and yet not too bright in the end." Chiyo smirked, already bringing a dark look to the old man's face. "It's still in the experimental stages, but we've managed a few proof of concepts already. Yours is our magnum opus as of now. I wasn't joking when I said we need follow up examinations."
"Tch. Of course it's like that." The old man didn't turn away from his hands as he slowly began to make various one handed signs with them to test his control and dexterity. "My chakra's flowing through them well enough."
"It will take time for you to adjust." Kankuro supplied. "Even if it was made from your flesh, and expertly preserved, it's still technically dead material. We estimate that you should get at least seventy five percent of your original natural motor skills back as it is exposed to your chakra over time and is revitalized. More if you had any experience with puppeteering. Until then, I don't recommend any high intensity ninjutsu, or you might rupture and tear apart your coils. These things are advanced, but they aren't self-healing. Stick to chakra control exercises at most."
"Seventy five percent eh?" Onoki seemed to be lost in his thoughts as he continued to flicker through one handed seals before slowly clapping his hands together. And then opened it again.
There was a brief spark of chakra when he opened them, but nothing appeared otherwise.
"I'm pretty sure Dust Release qualifies as high cost you senile old fool," Chiyo deadpanned.
"I heard you, sand bat. I'm testing something else." The old man clasped his hands together, opened them again, created a spark, and then nothing.
"Gramps…" Kurotsuchi frowned as she watched her grandfather repeat the action repeatedly. Clearly there was something else going on, but she couldn't tell what it was.
The next hour was like that. Kankuro and Chiyo went through several tests and procedures with the new limbs for the Tsuchikage, but whenever he had free time, the man continued to repeat the same process over of clasping his hands and opening them with a brief flash of chakra.
After everything was set and done, and the Suna nin had given him all the instructions, medications, and warnings that came with his new equipment, they had left to turn in for the night. They knew better than to question the man's actions. His secrets were his own after all, and they could tell something was amiss.
Kurotsuchi however stayed by his side.
A half an hour later, with barely any sound, a small golden fox walked up to them from the direction of the campsite.
Naruto Uzumaki, still partially mummified, sat down on a small boulder next to the Tsuchikage with a heavy hiss of pain. The latter clapped and opened his hands without paying the fox any mind.
Nobody said anything for nearly ten minutes before the newcomer spoke.
"You can't properly shape your Dust Release techniques with the new hand, can you?" Naruto asked. "The dexterity and mass you need in your muscles and tendons in your hands need to match, otherwise you can't have proper symmetry for the shapes when you pull your hands apart."
Kurotsuchi flinched, while Onoki scowled but didn't bother to look up.
"Was it obvious?"
Naruto shrugged before clasping his own hands together, and pulled them apart to show a perfect familiar looking chakra cube with nothing in it. "When I first started to learn Rasengan, the hardest part was keeping it in a perfect sphere. It's an example of applying and controlling pure maxed out power, motion, and shape simultaneously. For the longest time, I could only do the first two by myself. My chakra control was utter shit back then. Eventually, I improvised and made a clone to manually do the shaping while I did the rest. Learned how to do it before I even started elemental manipulation actually. Ass backwards logic and ordering. What else was new?"
He joined his hands together again, only this time instead of pulling them apart evenly, he opened the back first. Instead of a cube, he made a cone. "Anyways, I'm pretty good at Earth Style, even though Wind is my primary. Tried to mix them up while I was away, trying to imitate some Sand Style moves to mess with Gaara. Came up with a few other tricks here and there for the hell of it, but it gave me some perspective on what I could and couldn't do."
As impressive as his feat was, Naruto guessed he was at most only a fifth of the way to actually performing the full Dust style technique. He had seen how the move utilized the energy and innate deconstructive properties of the fire element to obliterate anything it came across. He still was at a basic level when it came to that particular field, and even with clones he doubted he'd be able to figure out how ass pull his way to do something like that within the next decade on his own.
The old man scoffed as he continued to try and make his own empty cube… and failed. "You here to give me advice on my own technique then? Quite presumptuous, even for you."
"Nah." Naruto joined his hands together again and made another cube, only this time…
"Wait, that looks like…" Kurotsuchi gasped at the small red ball in the construct.
"That's lava… you've already mangled my body and my village, and now you want to bastardize our legacy?" Onoki's temper finally began to reach a limit as he spied the small ball of genuine lava in the middle of the cube Naruto made.
"Relax, you know I'm not that kind of asshole." Naruto shook his head. "That's just lava chakra from the Yonbi. I still have some of the other Biju's chakra in me from the fight. Remember? On my own, I'm barely passable in Fire release by itself. Didn't think it would work in the first place. I was just seeing what would happen."
"You need a Bloodline Selection in order to use Dust release, you idiot," Kurotsuchi growled.
"And yet people said the same thing about Ice release techniques and Bloodline limits, but I've seen Kakashi-sensei bust out an Island crushing white whale three years ago. It's on camera at that. As far as I can tell, elemental bloodlines just make the associated techniques easier, natural, and more efficient for the user to pull off by absurd magnitudes. The actual jutsu aren't impossible for others to do. Just real damn hard." Naruto joined his hands and generating a cube with a deep blue fire in the core. "Nope. Nibi's chakra doesn't work either. Pretty colors though."
The old man gave the boy a dark glare. "What do you want, brat?"
The blonde stared at the chakra construct in his hands for a while before sighing and dismissed it. "Not sure, really. Was a bit curious to see how you and the new limbs were turning out, but when I saw what you were doing… I kinda just let my mind wander a bit."
He licked his lips and repeated making shapes. "You're old, Tsuchikage. And you're not going to be in office for much longer. Everyone knows it. And yet, you're still the only known person with a Bloodline Selection in Iwa, or at least, the only one that can use Dust Release. Once you're gone, anyone else with the potential is going to have to learn from scratch, or at most from books and secondhand instructions from people that knew you. It's… a waste."
"You want me to teach you, a Konoha shinobi, one of my village's most prized technique?" The audacity of the unspoken suggestion was so outlandish that it snapped Onoki out of his irritation and straight into bewilderment.
From her facial expression, Kurotsuchi shared his opinion.
"Yeah, that's pretty much the reaction I expected. Almost had it myself." Naruto sighed, taking it in stride and clasping his hands again. "I don't really care either way if I have your technique or not. I'm not bashing Dust techniques, not in the slightest. You have some crazy shit in your arsenal that almost anyone would envy. I simply have enough ways to destroy the world around me of my own. If anything, I'm just, I dunno, kinda curious. Like I said. If you guys don't have anyone left to use them after you pass on, you'll be setting yourselves back."
"And your suggestion is to take them for yourself on a whim?" Kurotsuchi balked as his logic.
"I prefer the term, remember." Naruto shrugged. "And teach at a later date if someone with the potential shows up. I'd make it a point to look only for Iwa shinobi of course. But… like you guys said, Dust Style moves are your village's cherished legacy. And after all the shit I've seen and been through, having a legacy as big as this just fade away just leaves a bad taste in my mouth."
"Never took you for a traditionalist."
"Hah! That would be the day. No. No way in hell I'm one of those types." Naruto laughed and gave the old man an amused smirk. "That said, I'm not someone that outright dismisses the old ways either. Tradition carries the history, intent, and experiences of the past generations forward. Most of it is outdated and useless, if not downright counterproductive to modern society, but at the very least it needs to be properly remembered and recorded in some capacity. If at least to explain why it was there to begin with. Otherwise, everyone would be left with a weaker comprehension and foundation of the world they are in now. Which would just cause everything to fall apart regardless. It's a balance that is rarely acknowledged by either side of the argument, but needs to be recognized."
Onoki digested the boy's words carefully. It was rare that Naruto Uzumaki opened up like this, exposing his deeper and more philosophical perspective on matters. It was easy to forget that seemingly chaotic and insane boy had a distinct foundation and sense of logic underneath the madness he normally radiated.
A few moments later, he recalled something about his guest. "They said you time travelled and other nonsense. Something about not even knowing you were Namikaze's brat the first time around."
Naruto snorted. "I learned who my dad was before I knew my mother's name, and I'm Naruto Uzumaki. That was when I nearly lost going after the Rinnegan user in the middle of the crater that used to be Konoha. Didn't even know about the land of Whirlpools or anything until everything went ass over. As far as I'm concerned, everyone's priorities here are more fucked than mine. Barely anyone thinks things through anymore before throwing a kunai."
The Tsuchikage couldn't argue against that. "Humph. When you put it that way, I'm not surprised you didn't tear apart Konoha when you found out. Akatsuki had done it for you already."
"In a different time and setup, that might have happened." Naruto didn't deny it in the slightest, causing the Iwa shinobi to look at him oddly. "Don't be like that. I'm human and I had a fucked childhood with limited human interaction. Of course I'm not right in the head. Our society in general is absolute shit when it comes to ensuring proper mental welfare for those that need help. It's fucking embarrassing. And that was all before Ero-Nii got his fucked up hands on me. I'm surprised I didn't turn out as twisted as Han did in retrospect."
And wasn't that a particularly sobering idea?
"Some would argue otherwise," Kurotsuchi muttered under her breath, though everybody ignored her.
"I thought Sarutobi was looking after you when you were a brat."
"From a 'safe distance' to keep up appearances. Yeah." The blonde snorted and lazily waved a hand. "Must have gotten wailed on by angry mobs at least three times a year once the orphanage kicked me out."
"Is this supposed to make me pity you?"
"Nah, I'm just aimlessly bitching at this point." Naruto made a sphere this time. "Bottom line is, I feel better helping you. You can distrust me all you want. I get it. Everyone sucks to some measure. Only some of us are trying to make existence suck less and make sur we can actually enjoy ourselves."
"You sound like you can actually do it. Or at least set us in that direction. Peace." Onoki snorted in bitter amusement. "A better relationship between the shinobi nations. An impossible and pointless endeavor if I've ever heard one."
Naruto smiled. It was a genuine and honest thing that caught the others by surprise. "You're right. But, well, if that's the case then it's a good thing I'm already insane, isn't it? Otherwise I might not be able to pull it off."
It was the pure sincerity of his words that stunned the pair. He truly meant what he said, and what he intended to accomplish.
Onoki didn't know why he continued with the conversation. It was the stupid ramblings of a boy with far too much power available, but he was curious none the less what direction he was being steered in. "With what, you as the king of this world? As God? I don't know what nonsense the priest and that white woman were speaking about, but they clearly acknowledged that you somehow "owned" the world."
The teen looked genuinely nauseous and viciously shook his head in denial. "It's a bit more complicated than that. It means more and less than you'd think. King of the world? God? Fuck that. I'm not THAT crazy. Trying to micromanage humanity is a punishment. Not a reward or something to aspire achieving. I'd want to off myself within a damn year if that was forced on me."
"Then what does it mean?"
Naruto sighed and scratched his head. "Like I said, it's complicated. Part of what I'm going to cover at the Summit. If possible, I'll try and keep the end product as far away from generic human and shinobi politics. The few times they will overlap and I'd have to step in with that sort of authority… well, let's just say that someone has to seriously fuck up in order for that to happen."
"Like now?" The old man's eyes narrowed.
He nodded with a reluctant shit eating smile. "Yeah, like now."
Well that didn't sound pleasant. "You know that few would ever accept Konoha having that much power over the rest of the world."
"Never said it would be Konoha's."
That new piece of information definitely had his attention.
Naruto stood up with elaborating and stretched a bit. "Better get back. I can literally feel Hinata staring me down from here for leaving without letting her know."
"What are you plotting, boy?" Onoki stared at Naruto dead in the eyes. He would not accept a joke for an answer.
The boy shrugged. He took one last look at the Tsuchikage, then off into the distance, before taking a step forward, once more seamlessly turning into a small fox. "Just trying to not look your age by the time I hit twenty, Tsuchikage. You should know by now that I'm not terribly unreasonable outside of my sense of humor and conversational skills."
"Past events say otherwise."
"Past events are why I'm here."
Onoki didn't retort to the disappearing animal. Nor did he get up. He simply remained where he was in silent contemplation for several long minutes before glancing at Kurotsuchi.
"He was right about one thing," the old man said. "Things will and do need to change from this. Whether we like it or not."
"You're actually thinking of going along with his bullshit?"
"We'll see. Konoha clearly knows something that the rest of us doesn't, and it's got them spooked. It clearly has to do with that woman and the priest, but somehow more."
He clasped his hands again. "And while I hate to admit it."
He pulled his hands apart, and watched as his jutsu fell apart, much to his chagrin.
"I'd rather have a plan going into whatever headache is coming our way than not."
o. o. o.
"He noticed us from this far away. Not bad."
"I told you." Hashirama grinned at his brother from the tree branch he was sitting on. The pair were on a particularly tall mountain some miles from where the convoy of shinobi were resting.
"He doesn't seem to be terribly keen on allowing us to approach though." Tobirama frowned as he put away his telescope. "Not that I can blame him."
"True. A pity. It would have been nice to talk to Hiruzen again." The First Hokage lamented casually.
"Not Tsunade?" The second smirked, causing his brother to cringe.
"I just hope she's managed to curb some of those bad habits of hers."
"And whose fault was that?"
"Sorry for trying to be the fun grandparent! I seem to remember a certain someone having trouble getting students because his constant scowling scared away all the kids that he got near!"
Tobirama sighed and shook his head. "That could easily apply to Madara as myself, you idiot brother."
"That alone should say enough," Hashirama pouted.
"Unlike certain other silver tongued parties." Tobirama got them back on track. "You should have killed Izuna when you had the chance. You are able to fight the influence of Edo Tensei if you wanted to. Without that Sharingan that can perform Kamui, he would have little hope of escaping."
The elder brother shifted uncomfortably, as if a child who had been caught stealing cookies. "Yeah, well, you're right. Izuna should be our responsibility, but I had a feeling something was off if I tried to fight him there…"
"Don't tell me you wanted to have Madara have a go at him first because they're brothers."
The stern Second Hokage scowled. "Let's see what Madara says when I tell him that."
Seeing a dead man pale so dramatically was a peculiar experience.
"W-well what about Danzo?" Hashirama tried to deflect the topic. "Don't tell me you don't want to give that boy a piece of your mind?"
"Of course I do. But I also want such an unstable and corruptive factor in the world dealt with as soon as possible if I could help it." Tobirama grimaced. The topic of Danzo Shimura was a sore one for him, and for good reason. "I won't deny that I am responsible for how my student turned out. If Hiruzen was your successor, then Danzo was undoubtedly mine. There is no changing that. However it's because of that that I won't compromise myself and others, if not the shinobi nations' wellbeing just out of personal closure. We are dead, brother. We are long past the point where that should matter."
The elder brother sighed and shook his head. "As always, your cold pragmatism gives me the chills. Even in death."
"Well someone has to keep your nonsense grounded." The younger huffed with a small smirk on his face. One that died off a few moments later. "Were you informed about happened with Madara?"
"Mmm. Seems like everyone is putting a great deal of investment into this Summit. If my gut is right, it could hold more importance for the shinobi world than the one we orchestrated to birth the Hidden Village system."
"That brash idiot had no right stepping out of line as he did. He's as bad as you sometimes."
"Leave Madara be. No one was hurt in the end. You're as curious as the rest of us about this generation." Hashirama waved him off.
"Even now you're too forgiving of that man. Even if Izuna was the reason why he acted as he did at the end, it doesn't excuse his crimes."
Hashirama shook his head. "The same could be said for your own actions, Tobirama. You moved with good intentions, but your stern rules and inability to accept leeway can also be considered a major contributing factor for our current situation."
The younger brother clicked his teeth in annoyance, ceding the argument. "Then we just wait for now?"
Hashirama shrugged. "Unless Izuna decides to push his luck. We are no longer the main players in this game. It's not our place to decide what direction the world heads now."
"On that, I agree completely."
It was a long night, and the next ones would feel even longer. To wait for war, for change.
Even death couldn't make the silence bearable.
o. o. o.
Naruto clapped his hands together and pulled them apart. Instead of a cube or cone, he made a teardrop.
"Not bad." Onoki admitted.
He clapped his hands together and pulled them apart. A prism this time.
A clap. And now…
"Kill. Me. Kill. Me."
"Huh. Didn't think it would be a functioning clone." Naruto blinked at the glowing and struggling to breathe mini him begging for death in a high pitched voice.
Ino would find it adorable.
"A dust clone?" Onoki blinked in genuine surprise.
Naruto crushed it between his hands, but not quickly enough to stop the mini clone to scream out a final "Sweet release!" before being wiped out.
The old man glared at the glowing chakra penis. "Now you're just fucking with us."
"How the hell did he even…" Kurotsuchi muttered before yelping as Naruto chucked it at her. "What was that for asshole?!"
"Wanted to see how long it could last." He shrugged.
"Huh." Naruto blinked as a dark Dust style mini Kyuubi roared to the world in his hands. "So that's what happens if you add pure Bijuu chakra directly into the mix."
"Uh. Is it supposed to be able to do that?" Kurotsuchi pointed out as the mini fox started to conjure what clearly looked like a Biju-dama.
"Fuck if I know." Naruto shrugged clearly not doing anything to stop it.
"And you're letting it continue because?" Onoki asked while slowly edging away from the attack.
"I find its attempt to be menacing and devastating absolutely adorable." Naruto swooned with sparkling eyes as the unstable and rabid looking beast finished gathering power. "I shall name you, Sushi."
"That name makes no sense!" Kurotsuchi shouted.
"Hey! Don't yell at Sushi! He's very sensitive!"
"BHAAAAAAA!" The chakra monster literally exploded with power as it unleashed the equivilant of an upper A rank projectile ninjutsu into the forest, destroying a good portion of the local landscape.
"See?" Naruto pointed factually before realizing that the fox was gone. "Gasp! Sushi! Noooo!"
"Fuck it, I'm teaching him how to use Dust techniques." Onoki threw both arms into the air in surrender.
His granddaughter gaped. "Seriously?"
"He was so young! He had his whole life ahead of him!" Naruto wailed, ignoring the two.
"Do you want to see what other nightmarish nonsense he'll conjure up if he keeps playing around with the basics without anyone looking after him?"
"No, but I was hoping he'd be, you know, in Konoha for most of that. And be their problem."
"He was going to go to college! He was going to have a family!"
"You know what? It's not worth the risk. If he somehow makes something that propagates, we're all doomed."
"Shit, I didn't think about that." Just went to show how little they expected Naruto to follow the rules of reality that she didn't even question that possibility.
"Don't worry little Sushi. I'll always remember you."
He did. For all of that afternoon.
o. o. o.
Thanks Kagaseo for Betaing.
OKAAAAY! I'M BACK BITCHES!
Fuck. Over 10 months? Really? Shit. I really don't have anything to say about it. My bad.
Sorry for the delay everyone. I intended to have this out for Halloween, but events in RL stalled my beta unfortunately. Guy's got a lot going on atm so I really can't hold it against him for it. Good things though. Good things.
Lots of talking and politics going on in this chapter. It was unavoidable really given the circumstances. Multiple players are moving at once, and the interactions and histories of the major nations has to be taken into account for something this big, so I've had to put on my old World Building hat to set the groundwork on everything. There's more players this time and they're nearly all confused and pissed, so that has to be taken into account with their dialogue and actions. With so many leaders gathering and tensions so high, it's not unsurprising that arguments and unexpected events would break out before the summit takes place that would need to be covered.
It's just like every other major meeting of major leaders. Everyone has their own agenda and priorities. The problem at hand is that the news that Naruto is going to deliver is literally going to interfere and surpass them all in terms of priority, and many are NOT going to like it.
Which gives way to people being assholes. Just like in real life. Yay realism. Blegh.
That's enough about that for now.
So, let's see. Got a bit to announce atm. Gotta list it out tbh.
I have a reddit now. Thanks Ghostx03 for making it. Sorry it took so long for me to get the word of it out. It's simple enough, just go to the reddit website /ThirdFang. Hopefully it will be a place where everyone can go and chat and chew me out and stuff.
I have a new Shirt out! I asked a friend to make a logo for the Oogakari and they delivered! And I put it on a shirt! Yay! Just go to the teespring website and tack on the following: /t-shirt/25225790-oogakari-sigil?store_id=817891
Speaking of new art though, I have a REALLY nice one coming out soon of Crypt. Unfortunately, for those of you that don't know, I'm putting most of the art I'm commissioning in my Pa-reon. Most of the money I'm earning from there is paying for the commissions… just like the one of Naruto with his Grand Spiral Rasengan that's the new logo for TTRT! … That took, six months to make. Yeah. Commissions.
Shameless Pa-reon plug here: Hint, look up Third Fang
Anyways. (looks at notes). Right! Shoutout! I have a buddy named Maxime Durand! He writes actual books and stories! And he's come out with an audiobook! So I'm shilling for him! Because that's what friends are for! Shameless free advertising!
Seriously though, Max is a top tier writer. Odds are some of you have already read some of his stuff already. Show the man some love, will ya?
Just go to Audible and look up: "The Perfect Run"
I just switched jobs at my company. Like I've said before, I work at a major auto manufacturer as an engineer, so my options are pretty wide. It was about time for a change. Anyways, instead of giving you all the official title of what I am and do, I'll boil it down into simple terms: I now work in the building where electric car batteries and equipment are tested extensively to the point of burning out, leading to my clothes getting that nasty battery acid smell stuck to them the whole day after those eventually happen.
I don't work with said batteries unfortunately (or fortunately), but I do work with… virtually everything else that has distinctively lethal voltages and power run through them in a car. So yeah. I'm an inside man in the system. Oooooh. The things I knoooooow… would probably get me fired if I probably say anything more than that. Company security is ramping up these days when it comes to electric vehicle tech. Cool stuff here though… but loud. Lots of loud equipment… yeah.
Meh. Bragging rights is always a plus.
Anyways. That's all for my ranting and raving this time. And here comes ye old holiday season! Gonna definitely get two more chapters out by years end damn it!
SO REVIEW! WORSHIP THE LOG! THE WING THAT SHINO WAS DETOXED IN WAS QUARANTINED FOR A FULL DAY AFTER THEY BROUGHT HIM IN! AND REVIEW AGAIN!