Jump 215: Naruto (final)

Nov 26th, 2016
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  1. Jump 215: Naruto
  2. >Eight of Swords (Interference), reversed: Learning a valuable lesson from the unexpected consequences of prior decisions. Narrowly escaping criticism, censure, and the imposition of external restrictions. Focusing on the crux of a problem and freeing oneself from a difficult situation.
  3. >Age: 12
  4. >Location:
  5. >Identity: Orphan (-100)
  6. I can only hope that someday people will decide not to charge for every background beside drop-in. Someday.
  7. >Drawbacks: Stuffed (0), There's How Many Movies? (0), Boruto! (0), Hated: Ame, Iwa, Kiri (+200), Dysfunction Junction (+200), Low Priority (+200), The Chosen One (+300), MC-Kun (+500) [Total: +1400]
  8. Filler is good, and it keeps things from being TOO boring between missions. And as far as movies... yeah, I'm okay with those. Even Boruto. There's a lot more I can learn in forty years as opposed to ten. As far as other things... well, rumors of a Senju bastard would grind Iwa's gears, because 'hey, if we could use him or his bloodline somehow, those Konoha bastards would have their own legacy turned against them or at least get the embarassment rubbed in their faces'. Ame, though? That's more of a 'we could use him because PLOT'. I suppose I can deal with it. Kiri... well, I am kind of funding a guerilla missing-nin resistance, and honestly they deserve it. MC-Kun's a thing, and Sakura will just have to go on a different team. She can still pine for Sasuke-kun, but maybe having to deal with reality and getting her fanboy crush refined to affection by time and distance would help. Low Priority? Obvious, because I'm a student of Kakashi. Dysfunction Junction because... I mean, come on, it's Naruto and Sasuke, they're both messed up. And The Chosen One? Acceptable; unless it's part of the assigned mission or an absolute last resort, I will not kill. It would screw up too much of the plot, and killing everything is easy mode anyway. The main thing I like is that I CAN work toward the goal of rectifying the situations set up by the drawbacks, rather than being permanent conditions. Aside from MC-Kun, anyway.
  9. >Bloodline: Senju (2000, Orphan)
  10. >Bloodline: Uzumaki (1800, Orphan)
  11. We are not going to discuss how the bastard child of a Senju and an Uzumaki could come to be. We are very very much not going to discuss it, ever, and we are going to put him in an orphanage under a different name before burning the paperwork.
  12. >Bloodline Limit: Wood Release (1600, Senju)
  13. Somehow unsurprising for someone with such ancestry, no matter how buried.
  14. >Bloodline Limit: Storm Release (1400)
  15. >Fine Control (1200)
  16. If I'm to stay competitive with the direction this is going, I'm going to need to be able to use every last bit of chakra efficiently.
  17. >You Have Reserves (1100)
  18. And I'm going to need to have enough to draw on to make it work, too. Of course, I effectively have this twice, from having Uzumaki and Senju bloodlines.
  19. >Elemental Affinity: Water (0, first one's free)
  20. >Elemental Affinity: Earth (1000)
  21. >Elemental Affinity: Lightning (800)
  22. A necessary pairing if I'm to have wood release. Which, incidentally, is useful when you're on a team that may contain a less-than-stable jinchuuriki.
  23. >Genjutsu Specialization (0, first one's free)
  24. Coupled with fine control, I should be quite skilled with genjutsu. Beside, Team 7 needs a genjutsu specialist. I believe that was what Sakura was originally supposed to do, though I may be wrong. Though unlike her I'm actually going to take this job seriously and study from people beside my teacher.
  25. >Lesser Ninjutsu Specialization (0, Senju)
  26. >Lesser Taijutsu Specialization (0, Senju)
  27. >Lesser Bukijutsu Specialization (0, Senju)
  28. Having Senju blood apparently means I'm omni-skilled. How convenient.
  29. >Fuinjutsu Prodigy (500, Uzumaki)
  30. Fuinjutsu. A fascinating art. I wonder what it would take to have Naruto let me examine his seal, as long as I promise not to alter it in any way? ...probably a hell of a lot considering Dysfunction Junction. Actually, considering fuinjutsu is the art of manipulating chakra, I wonder if I can make some sort of healing bandage?
  31. >Genius of Hard Work (200, Orphan)
  32. Again, an absolute must, if I'm to keep up with Naruto and Sasuke.
  33. >Ninja Party (0)
  34. Companions deserve the chance to believe it, too.
  36. -----
  38. Things that did not make it into the final cut because it ran too long:
  40. I mass-produced duplicates of the Raijin sword, but they were not built to last. Quite literally. I built a failsafe into them that would let them work for a given period of time before they fused into a useless piece of wood, but if anyone tried to take them apart they'd dissolve into dust. Only a hyuuga could hope to reverse engineer it, but they didn't think to try until it was too late.
  42. Chakra-powered weaponry runs on plot. I am convinced of it. My attempts to actually weaponize chakra didn't work because for the most part it was too draining unless used by someone who was a jinchuuriki or was stronger than most jounin. Needless to say, I burned that research and buried the ashes at sea because that is NOT the kind of escalation we want.
  44. All the villages that hated me from the start ... well, Stone still kind of hates me, but it turns out that fear is a good way to keep them from acting on that hatred.
  46. Mist? They had a coup before the Kage summit and they're cool with bloodline powers now because it was very emphatically demonstrated that it's better to have them working for you rather than against you.
  48. Rain evacuated when things were going insane, which is good because it became a crater. That crater is now a lake.
  50. Konoha now tattoos its nin with sealing tattoos so that messages can be securely taken and emergency supplies kept on hand. The Anbu tattoo now is (a very weak versions of) the same type of tattoo that Tsunade and Sakura have.
  52. I ended up getting a summoning contract. As it turns out, llamas are themselves a fan of trolling everyone and having fun. Once, I summoned a duck through the llama contract; I am pretty sure they were trolling me. "Did you ever see a llama kiss a llama on the llama?" one asked me, immediately after I had done so. "Llama's llama tastes of llama. Llama llama duck."
  54. Bribing teammates with food, information, and generally just pestering them does wonders for overcoming Dysfunction Junction, as long as you know when you should back off, but there's no fix for being neglected by your sensei except being willing to do the work on your own instead of waiting to be taught.
  56. -----
  58. After class was dismissed on the day of graduation, I used every means at my disposal short of mind control to get an audience with the Hokage. He, of course, saw that it was decidedly anomalous that some not-even-genin could get an audience with him, but I asked for only fifteen minutes of his time, to which he (grudgingly) acquiesced.
  60. "My apologies, Hokage. With your permission, I need to show you something that you will likely classify as at least an S-ranked state secret," I told him, waiting for his reaction. A flicker of amusement was visible before he nodded; I first gave him a copy of a Naruto manga that I'd picked up at InfiniCon - specifically, one that detailed Konoha's invasion and himself being detained by Orochimaru.
  62. I gave him perhaps a minute to flip through it, before I pulled my warehouse key from a pocket, standing and walking over to his office door. His reaction to the comic was disbelief and a mild panic; to inserting a skeleton key into a door without a slot for any such, he actually bothered not to conceal his disbelief, and when I opened the door to what might at first appear to be a massive trophy room, he seemed to move beyond mere panic to fight-or-flight mode. Or must-I-kill-a-freshly-minted-genin mode, perhaps.
  64. Inclining my head to him, I spoke again. "Walk with me, sir, and I can explain everything." And with that I stepped past the doorway. After a momentary hesitation and an attempt to dispel any genjutsu, he followed, prepared for violence at the drop of a hat. To try and keep that from becoming an issue, I moved deliberately and slowly, which of course he took note of.
  66. The two questions he asked were intelligent ones, of course. One does not ascend to such a position twice without being prepared for a crisis, even if it is completely beyond any context he'd known in his life. "Who are you in truth and what are your intentions toward the village?"
  68. "I'll speak nothing but the truth to you here: I have more names than all the thousands of worlds I've stepped foot on," I told him, "and while I was born in Konoha, I am far older than it. Still, I was born here as Shinji Senju, though my name was changed to protect the guilty, so that is of course the identity I shall go by here. Though I will add that Igami is a hilarious last name for someone whose first name is Shin, and appropriate. So far as my intentions... sir, you are my kage. I am here to serve the village, support my teammates, and possibly help save the world should it need it. In that order."
  70. He gave me a look that spoke of both annoyance and weariness. "Save the world. Spectacular. And what is this place?"
  72. "My home away from home, such as it were," I said with a shrug. "Time moves faster in here - roughly every second outside is three and a half minutes in here. What you see around you are artifacts from various places I've visited. When I first gained access to this place, it was empty and featureless. Couple hundred stops later, though, and it's a work of art. I can give you the tour if you wish, you're welcome to it and I very rarely get to do so."
  74. He palmed his face and muttered, "I suppose there's no harm in it, I need a few minutes to compose myself anyway."
  76. I smiled. "Apologies, sir. I have that effect at times. My companions find it annoying."
  78. "Your companions. You are not alone?"
  80. With a shake of my head as we walked , I replied, "No, that's part of why Konoha had such an anomalously large graduating class. I do hope we haven't taxed your jounin too much, in terms of needing to have teachers. Though I'll admit I'm really hoping Anko gets Team Pink. That is, Sakura Haruno, Elodie Cross, and Louise Cross. The twins didn't want to change their names."
  82. He quirked his lips. "That... could be amusing. I had wondered at the surnames on those two when they crossed my desk. How many others are in your retinue, then?" A harmless-seeming question, but again, he was in unknown territory and doing his best to gain valuable intelligence.
  84. I named off my companions; "Gaia, Carbon, Imaginos, Breach, Ceci, and Haruka - though for the most part those aren't the names they use here. Haruka and Ceci being exceptions of course. And Sakura is not one of mine, she's one of yours. But all of us are, currently, twelve years old and fresh from graduation."
  86. "And enough for three teams on your own. Convenient."
  88. I shrugged again as I walked through an arch leading into the garden, a tree of life in bloom at its center. "Coincidence, honestly. I would say the twins would actually probably do quite well with Sakura, she has a bit of a split personality that's just starting to manifest and the two of them can probably help with that, not to mention help that crush of hers mature into something more normal. Assuming we don't disrupt the threads of fate and cause her and the Uchiha to somehow not marry. Usually, that doesn't end up happening."
  90. He looked around at the garden, at plants and trees from dozens of worlds, taking it in. "You know the future that is to come?"
  92. I laughed and told him, "With all due respect, sir... the future is always in flux. There are very few universes where it is on a fixed path, but it does have a sort of inertia. I will admit to cheating when it comes to that, as I have a talent for such precognition, but I do my best not to rely on it. The fun is in the journey, even if the destination is something I look forward to."
  94. "I think I need to sit down," he said quietly, and with a wave of my suddenly gauntleted hand I transfigured a plant into a chair for him. He balked at this, before just shaking his head and sitting. "What are you, then? Some kind of god?"
  96. I repeated the gesture to give myself a chair, shaking my head. "No, I would not call myself such, though I suppose it is the literal truth - I have been a demigod and an outright god in many places, but I do not desire worship of any kind. I was born a man, and I aspire to something beyond godhood, but whether I reach that or not, I wish to leave behind a legacy that I can look back with fondness."
  98. "Beyond godhood," he repeated, his tone elevated. I think I broke Hiruzen a little.
  100. With a chuckle, I nodded, and waved a hand to cause a table to come into being; I moved around resources in the warehouse a bit to cause a tea service to appear on the table, happening quite instantly to his perspective, and I poured us both a cup. "In seriousness, I have been told that I have a spark, the kind of spark one hopes can be fanned into a flame, and the Lady - I'm sorry, but her name is not for your ears - has been kind enough to send me on this journey between worlds. In time I hope to stand on my own and perhaps even create worlds as some others do. It is not something to be rushed though, and the journey so far has been nothing short of sublime. There are good places, there are bad places, but I learn something valuable everywhere I go. Even if the lesson is that sometimes monsters cannot be redeemed, or that monsters can in fact be redeemed and brought back to sanity and health."
  102. One could be forgiven for missing the slight tremble in his hand as he drank his tea. "Interesting," he said. "Why would you tell me this? I would never have known."
  104. Sipping my tea, I told him, "You are my kage. The dice have been loaded - I'll be on Team Seven with Sasuke Uchiha and Naruto Namik- I'm sorry, Naruto Uzumaki, after Naruto steals what he thinks is the forbidden scroll for the sake of extra credit, about a half hour after our meeting ends. Smart kid, even if a little too trusting, but he'll change the world for the better and earn that hat."
  106. His eyebrows lifted. "Really?" he asked.
  108. With a grin, I said, "Believe it."
  110. He palmed his face. "That was not funny. You are serious, though, aren't you?"
  112. "Absolutely, sir," I replied, taking another sip of my tea. "In any event, I was hoping for your council on a couple of issues. Whether I should step in with abilities that I have not yet earned here, or that I cannot earn here, in order to change the path of things a bit. Unless of course you really do want your soul to be entombed within the belly of that chakra construct that people have mistaken for a shinigami. Ingenious, but it's no more death than the bijuu are gods. The divide between the material and the immaterial is thinner here, and they're just collections of energy that's gained self-awareness. I've dealt with their kind before. Nature chakra, I believe you'd call it. Just in the shinigami's case, he needs more energy to work than he has immediately on hand, so he takes the user's to help supplement before he can gather it again. Their soul, in that case."
  114. The hokage leaned forward, looking quite interested. "That's... fascinating. I've never heard such a perspective before, but it makes sense. So what of souls, then? Are they chakra as well?"
  116. I waggled a hand from side to side. "Ehhh. Chakra is part of what keeps them anchored in the body, I think? But the soul is its own entity. In short, you don't have a soul. You ARE a soul. You HAVE a body. And there is definitive existence after death - I always check, in every universe that I enter. Anyhow, every living thing produces chakra, but using up your reserves without being able to replenish them causes death from what I understand, so either it's an anchor or running out stresses the body past the point of death. I've not been able to study it, and I'm not sure that I want to, considering how it works. Even if I could reverse it somehow, it would make me uncomfortable. I don't want to aspire to be Orochimaru the day I've gotten my headband, and hopefully not ever. I hope to have a career with the lowest body count possible."
  118. "Still! Hearing this... you are not just speculating, I trust? You said you would speak honestly."
  120. I nodded. "To the best of my knowledge, yes. Studying metaphysics is something of a hobby of mine. Chakra, chi, magic, souls... fascinating stuff. Sorry, we're getting off topic," I said, before offering him a faintly glowing pear-like fruit, which he hesitantly accepted and began to eat. "Your death is one of those threads that I'm rather certain I can change in the tapestry of fate without throwing everything off terribly, though it is a distance off, if you wish it. And I wanted to make some contingency plans, with your permission as they involve certain S-class secrets that I would not know were I not from another world."
  122. He frowned, though he kept eating the fruit - a life fruit, specifically, one should always endeavor to impress their guests - and asked, "What, precisely, are these S-class secrets to which you refer?"
  124. "Well... the thing is, Konoha and its residents figure very prominently in the tapestry of fate. To the point of my teammates - that is, Naruto and Sasuke - being the reincarnations of Asura and Indra Otsutsuki respectively. I don't believe Hagoromo entered the reincarnation cycle, though. But two things... firstly, if you do pass away without telling Naruto his parentage, I would like the privilege of doing so when he is ready and mature enough to understand it. I was actually considering seeing whether I could introduce him to his mother, though for several reasons that wouldn't be possible for his father, owing to that pesky in-the-stomach-of-the-shinigami issue I alluded to earlier."
  126. The hokage finished the fruit, leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers. "I should hope that you realize telling anyone such secrets without my express permission would see you dealt with accordingly," he told me.
  128. I nodded my head. "Oh, very much so. And it would not be proper to do so immediately. The other issue is... hm. Well, I suppose there are technically two more, the first being the subject of a massacre, but... that is not something I would speak of directly, instead simply trying to get Sasuke to open his twice-damned eyes instead of taking what he was told at face value. I want to help him get past it and off that path. The tree of revenge grows sharp thorns but never fruit... but he doesn't see that. Itachi did a hell of a number on him."
  130. "So I've heard," he said with a sigh. "I understand you want to look out for their well-being, but why not ask my successor, if I do shuffle off this coil?"
  132. "Because your immediate successors are borderline incompetent at best and under ridiculous amounts of pressure, and never have the opportunities they need in order to make that happen in anything approaching a timely fashion," I answered. "The third is Danzo's stupidity, but it's not easy to get to the root of that problem."
  134. Hiruzen stiffened. "Please tell me you were just using a metaphor."
  136. "They do more good than harm, at least for now, but his time will come. I simply want your blessing to deal with them when they become a problem. That is a part of the reason why I am making an effort toward learning fuinjutsu, to be honest. Curse seals are irritating things and I want to find out what makes them tick."
  138. "If it is truly the case, consider it granted, though it will never be official," he growled. "So long as it is in the defense of Konoha."
  140. "As I said, sir, you are my kage. There are some events that are best unchanged, but others... yes." I stood and plucked two more glowing pears, passing them to him. "In the meantime, you may want these. Life fruit, they called them. They'll reduce the wear and tear your body feels, just a bit. Helpful if you've got arthritis or a stiff back."
  142. He considered that, flexing a hand momentarily, before holding it out. "It tastes quite excellent. Do all things in this place have such properties?"
  144. I shook my head. "Not all things, but... go to enough places, you'll find interesting things. If you want something more like the fruit there, I can make ambrosia for you. It's quite good."
  146. He frowned. "I see. And what, then, is the cost of that?"
  148. I sat back down in the chair. "All that I give willingly, I give freely. Life's too short to play games."
  150. "I may consider it then," he mused. "Is there anything that you do want?"
  152. "Well, having legal access to any libraries would be helpful, though I don't think there really are any that are open to genin of course. Perhaps when I become a chunin. Otherwise... we'll see what the future holds."
  154. He bit into another of the life fruits. "This really is quite delicious. How long have we been in here, then?" he asked, glancing over toward the arch that led out to his office.
  156. "Less than ten seconds outside. Not quite a half hour, in other words."
  158. "Good. If you know all of these things, there are a great many things I shall be asking you."
  160. I smiled. "Well, I'll show you more of the tour if you like while we talk - the outside world's basically paused as long as you're in here. And you'll probably want to read the Naruto manga... it'll probably answer more questions for you than I can."
  162. The hokage stood, nodding. "The book is named after him, eh?"
  164. "Yeah, as it turns out he and Sasuke fight for a few years, then they seal away the goddess who was trapped in the moon because she was the ten-tailed bijuu."
  166. "The what."
  168. -----
  170. Two days later, in the Hokage's office:
  172. "Team six?"
  174. "Fail. Students couldn't follow simple instructions, send them back to the academy."
  176. "Team seven?"
  178. "Pass. The bell test, kids fought each other, used that as a cover to get the bells. Not half bad, for rookies." Murmurs were audible around the office for a moment, before Sarutobi raised his hand to silence them.
  180. "Team eight?"
  182. "Pass. They did a decent job, at that."
  184. "Team nine, still in service under Guy... ten?"
  186. "Fail. The kids got in a fight, and after I separated them, they got back into it."
  188. "Shame. Eleven?"
  190. "Pass. Flying colors, those genin are on the ball."
  192. "Team twelve?"
  194. "Pass. I'm surprised, but pass."
  196. "And our last team of the year. Thirty-six genin... Anko, team thirteen?"
  198. The jounin in question grinned. "Lucky thirteen. Team Pink passes with flying colors. I might have to invest in some hair dye."
  200. Sarutobi let out a low whistle. "If I didn't know how stringent you all were... more than half our students passed this year. Well, we'll be revising the academy doctrine a bit this coming year. Hopefully we'll keep getting competent graduates. Moving right along ..."
  202. -----
  204. "Mm mmm, mm mmm~..."
  206. Sasuke squinted as me. "What do you keep humming, anyway? You're driving me nuts."
  208. "Oh, some song I heard, can't remember where. I don't even know the words, but the tune is catchy."
  210. He shook his head. "Hn."
  212. Naruto, on the other side of me, exhaled a sigh as we walked together. "How'd you know the test was gonna be like that anyways? The academy always had us against each other, every man for himself and all."
  214. I fished around in my pockets, pulling out my wallet as we approached the ramen stand. "Eh, y'know. We're supposed to be a team, we have to work together. Sasuke's gonna get revenge, you're gonna get your hat, I want to be so good at being a ninja that I don't have to kill to get the job done... I figured if we work together we stand a better chance of getting it all done, you know?"
  216. "Yeah, I guess it makes sense. Hey, Ayame!"
  218. "Naruto! And these must be your teammates?"
  220. I nodded toward her, glancing behind at the ramen stand. Almost empty. "Yep. I'm picking up the tab today. Naruto will have... one of everything, I think?"
  222. "Hey!"
  224. "Right, two of everything."
  226. "HEY!"
  228. "And Sasuke will have a couple tomato ramen."
  230. ""
  232. "And since this is a ramen stand, when in Rome..."
  234. "...never heard of it."
  236. "...I'll take the miso."
  238. The two of them glanced between each other, briefly uneasy, before looking back at me as we all took our seats.
  240. "You know, you're weird," Naruto observed.
  242. "Hn," Sasuke agreed.
  244. "I can't believe you agree with me, bastard."
  246. "Shut up, idiot."
  248. I laughed, momentarily, while Ayame was busy cooking up the ramen. "Heh. So, an idiot, a bastard, and a weirdo walk into a bar..."
  250. After I fell silent for a moment, the two of them looked at me. Sasuke prompted, "And?"
  252. "Clang," I answered.
  254. He stared at me, then nodded to himself. "Weirdo."
  256. "Hn," agreed Naruto.
  258. -----
  260. Wave. An island without hope. Unfortunate, but understandable.
  262. More to the point of the moment: Zabuza. Watching him face off against Kakashi would be interesting to watch, and considering the near-complete lack of training I've been getting, I could frankly probably learn more from watching the two of them. But I have a better idea than that, though I acquiesce to his request to guard Tazuna. For a bit I watched Sasuke and Haku fight, which is... well, far less interesting than I'd hoped. And I can see which way things are going to go, so it seems about time to derail it.
  264. When Naruto appears... well, I abuse things slightly; a notice-me-not charm on the bridge builder, a clone left behind with him, and the next thing anyone knows I'm in the mirrors with them while Kakashi just doesn't think about Tazuna for a bit so he can't complain at me.
  266. And when Haku expresses his desire to be a shinobi... to crush his heart, I nod to him as he begins attacking and say, while dodging attacks, "I can understand that, certainly. But to win a hundred victories in a hundred battles isn't the peak of skill, even for a ninja. To win without needing to fight is the peak of skill. But I could propose an alternative to you, Haku, Zabuza." I heard a disgusted snort from Zabuza a distance away, but nothing from Haku but his constant attacks.
  268. And with the mist outside of the mess, the attacks inside become more difficult to dodge. I'm honestly starting to consider cheating to start dodging things, until Sasuke opens his mouth and makes the mistake of provoking Haku. The result? Sasuke throws himself in front of an attack on Naruto. There are worse results, but Sasuke is definitely out of the fight for the moment.
  270. And Naruto begins to go berserk, before I slap him upside the head to pull him out of it, his slit pupils returning to circles as I whisper to him, "The bastard's still alive, you idiot."
  272. "R-really?"
  274. "Yeah, remember what he did to Zabuza, faked his death?" Naruto had to take a half second to remember, but I didn't relent. "Look, we've been doing this wrong. We're all attacking him individually. We need to work together."
  276. "Right," Naruto grunted, a trickle of crimson chakra visible as it ebbed and his wounds knitted themselves closed. The fight against Haku was more drawn out and less decisive than it might have been, but the end result was much the same - we might have gotten a few more needles for our trouble, but Haku was thrown through a mirror, lost his mask, and he and Naruto talked quite a bit as things settled; while they did this, I worked on patching up Sasuke and yanking his needles. Sure, it was just quick bandages, but it was still something.
  278. And when the mist cleared and I saw Kakashi moving in for the kill, Haku reacted too quickly and put himself in the way, I just quietly said to myself, "Fuck it," and decided to interfere. To change the story, I had to change my approach; an invisible string of magic pulled Haku off his feet as he was in front of Kakashi, though Kakashi saw him stopped there long enough to hesitate and not kill Zabuza.
  280. Thanks to the tide of battle being shifted just right, Gato picked that moment to show up, rather than about a minute later. Spilling the beans about not paying his Haku and Zabuza and instead outright bragging about using mercenaries to kill them since they're worn down... that was really the last straw for everyone.
  282. About a minute later, Gato had met his end at the hands of Kakashi and Zabuza simultaneously, while the mercenaries who had not been in the way were overrun by a veritable flood of orange and a surprise showing of villagers who were armed.
  284. We parted on surprisingly amiable terms afterward, the details weren't really important - but when Kakashi wasn't looking, I saw to it that Haku got a pouch of assorted precious gems.
  286. If Zabuza wants a war against the injustice that his village perpetrates up to today, then I'm willing to chip in.
  288. How the hell they connected my name to it later I can only guess.
  290. -----
  292. Skipping ahead quite a bit, we find ourselves in the Forest of Death during the chuunin exam. Bucking the trend a bit, we'd gotten the scrolls we needed, and were subsequently involved in a prolonged fight with Orochimaru. Who, of course, hit Sasuke with the hot-button topic.
  294. "If you want to see me again, then survive and pass this exam," said the sannin-turned-Josef Mengele.
  296. In the corner of my eye I could see that Sasuke was torn between anger and interest, but I scoffed. "What the hell are you talking about? With a burned-up face like that, you won't be walking out of this forest."
  298. "Perhaps you may think so," he acknowledged, "But it won't go that way. Sasuke-kun will seek me... to seek power."
  300. And then there was a sudden outbreak of body horror, as his neck lengthened to a ridiculous extent, launching itself toward the side of Sasuke's neck. And promptly stopped just before it reached it, bouncing off an illuminated field of hexagons out of Sasuke's view but within Naruto's. He tried to strike again, but in that moment I'd moved in front of Sasuke, grabbing onto the extended neck with both hands; I looked over my shoulder at the other two, the snake looking at me warily.
  302. "So, this person has an unhealthy interest in kissing you and we are decidedly outmatched. But! I have a plan. Naruto, Sasuke. Do you trust me?"
  304. "Maybe." "Nnno?"
  306. "I'm glad you're both honest. Run for the tower. I'll be right behind you," I told them.
  308. "But..!"
  310. "No buts. Trust me. Run, now! And do NOT look back!" I waited until the two of them had started running to release Orochimaru's neck; he looked at me, bemused, before launching toward my neck to try to bite me instead.
  312. Only to find that, abruptly, I had neither a head nor a neck and the clearing had started to fill with an unnatural, sound-deadening mist. His head retreated back to where it belonged as he regarded me; I reverted from vaguely monstrous to the very picture of child-like innocence. Relative to being a trained as a preteen killing machine, anyway.
  314. "Now then, snek-sama, let us palaver..."
  316. ...
  318. Without Sasuke being affected by a curse seal, we rendezvoused with Team 8 and immediately beat a direct path to the tower. The proctors were summoned, informed of what was going on, and while Naruto was a bit wary of me - understandable under the circumstances - Sasuke was downright keeping his distance and was shooting paranoid looks at me. After a bit of this, I walked over to him and sighed.
  320. "Look, if you're afraid he bit me, I assure you he did not. I don't want a hickey from him any more than you do."
  322. He cringed away from me. "Wh-what the fuck..."
  324. I paused, before shaking my head. "Oh, sauce. I tried to tell you not to look back. You were using the sharingan, weren't you?"
  326. All he could do is ask, "What ARE you?!"
  328. "I'm sorry, Sasuke," I said quietly. "I would take the pain of having seen that from you if I could. I can't tell you what you want to know, not yet. But know that I have our team's best interests at heart."
  330. "Don't walk away from me-!"
  332. But he was already behind me as I walked away, humming to myself. "...and the sign said the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls..."
  334. -----
  336. And so it came to pass that the exam finals came about. I had taken a knee against Gaara, because going up against him was suicide; I pointed out to Naruto that the exams were about making a good showing and not just about winning, though I'd given him a hearty pat on the back for the good job against Neji, and told him he should talk to Hinata more often because it seemed that she could be a good friend.
  338. Of course, when the time came for the invasion, the genjutsu had no effect on me - chakra may as well be magic, after all, and I am rather difficult to directly affect with magic like that unless I willingly submit to it. The most expedient thing to do was to create lower-powered versions of myself (basically rookie-level genin as opposed to the level I was at by now) and civilian-level clones to run around, shake everyone out of the genjutsu within reason, and help defend the village. Didn't want to chance the clones falling under such a spell, after all.
  340. I, on the other hand, apparated to where Orochimaru was facing off against the Hokage hokage, on the roof of the central watchtower. The hokage was utterly unsurprised to see me even if I had shifted my form to that of a cloaked and hooded being without a head, an appearance that often had a parallel as a grim reaper in many cultures. This one was no exception, but he'd seen it before, of course. Orochimaru was a bit more shocked, though he too had seen it once, but when his immediate blow against me was deflected by an AT field, he merely dismissed me with a huff.
  342. I would not give him any such dignity of course. "Snek-sama! You don't call, you don't write, one would think you were about to launch into a speech about crumbling leaves and tilting at windmills!"
  344. He scowled. "Stop calling me that."
  346. "Oh, you are just adorable, snek-sama, a shame I missed your speech," I said to him, chuckling audibly. "You forget that there is always a bigger fish in every pond.... beside Tobi, that is, but I'm told that Tobi is a good boy so I'm not worried about him."
  348. Orochimaru turned to face me again. "You are infuriating! You launch into these things that make no sense, but you... how do you keep doing this!" He swung at me again, and was again deflected by the AT field.
  350. I moved my head to look to the hokage. "The invasion will fail and Konoha's casualties will be minimal. The wall is intact though it should be impossible. Konoha holds the line, and I uphold my word to you."
  352. He nodded at me gravely. "Very well. As to the other matter... I've decided to take your advice on it."
  354. As I inclined my nonexistent head, Orochimaru interrupted, "Damn you! You're no genin, reporting to the hokage, taking this sort of action- urk!"
  356. He was interrupted when I snapped forward unexpectedly, holding him fast as I placed a hand on his shoulder, thumb at the hollow of his throat, the scent of burning flesh filling the air, my tone all business abruptly. "Orochimaru. I did not properly introduce myself." I released him and stepped back again.
  358. When he rubbed his throat, his fingers came away with a bit of soot but seemingly no lasting damage, the burning smell having disappeared. "What... some kind of jutsu?"
  360. I shook my head slightly. "You have been Marked," I told him, stepping back, out of the way of the two of them. "There is nowhere in this world you can go that death won't find you now."
  362. He scowled at me, before returning his attention to the hokage. As if this were the signal that Sarutobi had been waiting for, he launched a barrage of shuriken, which was shielded by, of all things, a trio of caskets breaking through the roof of the building in front of him.
  364. "Oh, snek-sama, don't say I didn't try to warn you. Hubris, tsk, and you didn't even take into account that one of them is not in the afterlife," I murmured, casually walking over to the caskets as two of the three began to creak open. "Oi! Shodaime! Nidaime!"
  366. As the two stepped forth, I grabbed the top of both of their hands. "By the power vested in me by the state of Neverwinter, I release you from your earthly bonds."
  368. Orochimaru shoved over the caskets just in time to see them dissolve into dust, and in a surprisingly high octave, squeaked, "What."
  370. I wagged a finger, which Orochimaru suddenly noted looked quite skeletal. "Oh, snek-sama. You've been a bad, bad boy, and I'll be taking a limb for each of the resurrections you attempted. Didn't you know? The Fourth struck a deal with the shinigami to deal with the nine tailed beast. Does it somehow surprise you that I have been in Konoha since the day that the beast was sealed, or don't you realize that the afterlife could be boring enough that the shinigami might find life to be interesting to try out?"
  372. The dawning realization showing on Orochimaru's face in the instant before the suddenly-appearing neon blue needles pierced both his arms, the look that said 'I have fucked up now', is one I shall treasure forever.
  374. -----
  376. Rock Lee wandered about, aimlessly, through a world that didn't make a great deal of sense. He seemed to be half-conscious at best, and while he talked to his friends, he felt disconnected. As though there was something missing that he couldn't quite put his finger on. Looking at the sun didn't hurt his eyes, and when he ran, he felt unnaturally light, to the point that he could leap great distances. And the ground, when he landed, was springy.
  378. "Lee-kun."
  380. And then there was that voice again. He'd kept looking around for the source of it, but couldn't find it. Something was not right, but he couldn't put his finger on whatever it was. He swore to himself to find it out or else run five hundred laps around Konoha, but he found that the laps weren't very fun, that his muscles lacked the pleasant burn of exercise that he'd feel.
  382. "Lee-kun!"
  384. And the voice... if anything, it sounded amused. He ran through the village, checking every street and alley. When he looked up at the night sky - when had it become night? - the moon was gazing down at him, smiling merrily. When Lee looked down again, he found that he was floating in the clouds.
  386. "You have odd dreams, Lee-kun," the moon told him, its eyes twinkling as merrily as the stars behind it.
  388. "Am I dreaming? I must be," mused Lee, before he did a loop for the sheer enjoyment of it, before flying through the clouds. "I hope I won't wake up for a bit."
  390. The moon above kept him company as he travelled through the skies of the elemental nations. "Actually, they have you sedated right now at the hospital," it told him. "You did well against Gaara."
  392. "I wish I'd done better," Lee responded, doing a corkscrew roll, diving down and skimming some coastal cliffs.
  394. "You made your sensei proud. Heck, you made me proud to be a ninja of the leaf," the moon said.
  396. Looking upward, Lee noticed for the first time that the moon wore a Konoha headband, and he couldn't help but grin. "I didn't know you were a ninja, moon-sama."
  398. "Well, this is a dream after all," it responded, laughing almost musically. "But listen: in a dream, the rules can be bent, though I'm in a bit of trouble for breaking the rules already. I'd rather break the rules than abandon someone I could consider a friend, though." When Lee flew up above the clouds to look at the moon curiously, it added, "The hokage was attacked by a missing-nin, and I stepped in to save his life."
  400. Lee nodded seriously. "It speaks well for hokage-sama that he is a friend of the moon," he said, before realizing the almost nonsensical nature of the comment, and the world wavered around him briefly.
  402. "Try not to think about it too hard, it's a secret," the moon told him, "Things may make more sense when you awaken. Speaking of which, you've got a little while longer, but I wanted to let you know what was going on and give you a few options."
  404. "Oh?"
  406. The moon nodded. Somehow. "Yes. Because Konoha's medics are not as advanced as they could be, they are worried about splinters of bone by your spine. Or will be when they realize they're there, anyway. You've got torn muscles and broken bones, but those will heal. It'll just take a while."
  408. "I won't be able to train properly for weeks!" The clouds below grew stormy, the night casting a blue tint to reflect his sadness.
  410. "Months," said the moon. "The medics won't be able to fix your spine. Tsunade of the sannin could fix it, but there's a half-and-half odds that you might not walk if she slips up because she's a medic and a ninja who can't bear the sight of blood."
  412. "That makes less sense than anything else I've heard tonight," Lee said.
  414. The moon chortled. "At last, someone who agrees with me! But yes. So, I've got a couple of options for you. The first one, of course, is that I don't do anything and let things take their course. As it stands... if you wait for Tsunade to fix you, after she comes to Konoha in a couple of months that is, she'll succeed and you'll recover."
  416. "But... I won't be able to train for MONTHS!" Lee wailed. The clouds below expressed their sorrow, rain audible in the distance.
  418. "Option two, I can just fix you up and you heal within a week."
  420. Lee paused, thoughtfully, his thoughts seeming to be more lucid than they had been. "That is... very generous, moon-sama. You can do such a thing?"
  422. "Hn," said the moon, and with the nature of dreams being as they are, one syllable expressed a great deal of explanation as to the healing process. "Or the third option, we make you better than new."
  424. Lee raised a finger to refute it, then paused. "When you say 'better than new'... do you mean you will fix my chakra?"
  426. The moon looked slightly sad as it shrugged (somehow). "I can't say for certain. I am not optimistic, though there's a chance it might. What I can say is... well, without giving away too many secrets... I am a traveller. I've been to many places. And I have the means to make a person better than they were. Longer life, better reflexes, faster healing, less likely to get sick... it's a long term project of mine, to make people better than they were."
  428. Lee shook his head slightly, the dream feeling less surreal, despite the statement. "That... what do you mean, make people better?"
  430. "Oh, I don't mean morally, people are people after all," came the answer. "But when bodies are strong enough that they almost never get sick, won't spend their last days wasting away in a hospital... chakra is something new I'm adding, though, so I'm not certain how it will be. Plenty of unknowns, especially when you open the eight gates. But if you went this way and were ever to be injured as badly as you were, you would be able to at least pull yourself from the fight instead of being rendered unconscious. Your bones would be half-healed without any intervention in a matter of days. You'd live quite a long time and be able to survive famine and drought. See colors more brightly, smell things better... overall, quite an improvement, I'd say."
  432. Lee closed his eyes. "You are not the moon, are you, moon-sama? And the cost? What if I have children someday?"
  434. "I will not accept any payment for this. There is no cost other than being willing to take the chance and find out what happens when you channel chakra. You may have to relearn many things as your body will move differently than it did. You may grow up to be taller and more muscular than you were. And when you have children, they'll get it. It would be like a bloodline limit, except not tied to a particular family."
  436. Lee opened his eyes again, looking at the moon skeptically. "What you tell me is unbelievable. But... are you telling me the truth?"
  438. "I swear it," the moon readily agreed.
  440. Lee exhaled a sigh. Then smiled. "If hokage-sama is a friend of the moon and trusts him, then I shall as well." He extended a hand to shake before realizing the absurdity of the gesture, and was surprised to feel a hand clasp his own.
  442. Rock Lee woke in the morning with a voracious hunger, mind still swimming from the dream he had. A passing nurse could swear that she heard him ask, "Why is hokage-sama friends with the moon?"
  444. -----
  446. "Sauce. You're going to leave and chase down Itachi after all, are you?"
  448. A quarter mile outside of Konoha, Sasuke froze in his tracks as he realized I was standing right behind him. "Gah! How do you keep doing that?!"
  450. I waved a hand, dismissing his concern. "Oh, I have my ways... but I thought you were smarter than this. You know, I've tried to give you subtle hints. You'd think if you paid the slightest amount of attention to our pitiful excuse for a sensei, you'd have learned to look underneath the underneath, see the impossible, do the invisible, row, row, row your boat, et cetera."
  452. With a flat look of disbelief, Sasuke uttered, "You aren't making any sense, weirdo."
  454. I grinned. "Only half of that was supposed to, but you're paying attention! That's half the battle. You're smarter than this, sauce, stop letting your emotions lead you to your imminent death and think for a damn second. Do you really think, in a village full of ninjas, that one of the most elite Anbu who had potential to be the genius of his generation would just decide to flip out and kill his entire clan one day? Come on."
  456. Gritting his teeth, Sasuke answered, "I was there. I saw it happen."
  458. "You saw only what he wanted you to see!" I exclaimed, waving an arm toward the village. "Please tell me I don't have to spell it out for you, because if you're going to persist in being this stupid, I will HAPPILY shatter all the illusions in your life that you built yourself around."
  460. "My brother murdered our parents! Our entire family!"
  462. "Suppose that he did. Why?"
  464. The question stopped him short. "I- because he went crazy, I don't know!"
  466. "I told you that you should have studied history, then I wouldn't have to bother with asking for the Third's favor in this." I paused, then strode toward him, my expression more serious than he'd seen outside of a fight. "Suppose I told you that the Nara clan head expressed sentiment that they deserved more when the Third retired again, that it should have been in charge of the village instead of just one voice among many clans. Then over the course of the last three months, more Nara died in training accidents and of natural causes than had died in the three years previous? Now think, damn you. Assume all these are hard facts and tell me what this means to you."
  468. Sasuke glared at me, lips curled in a snarl, red eyes swirling in rage. He'd made the connection. "You mean to imply-"
  470. WHACK. My hand blurred, slapping him in the face and the sharingan out of his eyes, and I took a bit of pleasure in the sudden surprise I saw at the unprecedented lashing out at him - I'd never raised my hand to either of them before, no matter the provocation. "I said THINK! Use that brain of yours! What does it mean?!"
  472. Sasuke glowered, fists at his sides, as he inhaled and exhaled, then said, "They wanted to stage a coup. Take over the village."
  474. "Five points to Slytherin, sauce." I turned away from him, looking toward the village. "If I had said such about any incident, and I by no means did, it would be classified an S-rank secret. Obviously. Because it would have been condoned by the hokage - it could not have happened without that.." I whirled back to him, pointing at him. "Now suppose an extended family member, one that was powerful but left for dead, came back and discovered all this. One filled with rage at his family not even bothering to come for him, feeling his friends betrayed him, feeling his village betrayed him."
  476. Sasuke crossed his arms, glowering. "You aren't making any sense-"
  478. "Just listen. Someone who was famous as one of the family's founders who should have been dead, but appeared to be back from the dead - you know it can happen under the right circumstances, your damned eyes could see me on top of the tower where no others could, dealing with the Edo Tensei and Orochimaru - a deal was cut, and he joined the slaughter. Instead of merely punishing the guilty as was intended, the massacre was a complete one, and you were only spared because of lucky timing. Now, I know you're not stupid, you pay attention in the mornings before training. Put all of these things together."
  480. Sasuke closed his eyes. "I am not even going to ask how you know all of this. You're seriously telling me that someone, who might as well have been Madara Uchiha-"
  482. "Another five points for you!"
  484. "-and that's a disturbing thought, he helped kill everyone and the only reason that I didn't is because Itachi lied about what happened after putting me under the FUCKING TSUKUYOMI, and told me to become strong enough to kill him... then came back to ridicule me for not being stronger... for what? For my own good?"
  486. I snorted. "Well, it's not like he helped you become a better ninja any other time you asked. No, I'm going to be very blunt: your brother did it because he can't kill himself and was hoping you'd do it for him. Also, he's hoping to give you his eyes so that you'll have eternal mangekyo so it isn't pointless, but he didn't realize that he poisoned the well because, like most ninjas, he's not. Using. His. Brain."
  488. Dawning realization began to appear on Sasuke's face. "No... you must be joking. When I thought you were wasting our time, or trying to get the idiot to smarten up... logic, ethics, all that nonsense..."
  490. I smiled, thinly. "Except it isn't nonsense, is it? Common sense is in short supply, and silence like a cancer grows. But you've heard my words, that I might teach you. Chasing down Orochimaru isn't going to get you what you want... and I know a lot of it isn't just a matter of being able to control your anger. Itachi's an idiot, and frankly if it was power you wanted ... well, I'm overdue to tell you and Naruto both, but fortunately he's playing stalker and chased us both out here. He's about twenty feet that way in a tree listening to us both anyway, because he's part of your team. As am I. We're your friends, Sasuke. And damn it, nobody wants you to throw everything away. Let us help you."
  492. "Hey, I'm not- aah!" And, as comedic timing insists, Naruto promptly took a pratfall and landed on the ground, rubbing the back of his neck. "Eh heh..."
  494. Sasuke exhaled through his nose, unable to stop from smiling. That was just so... Naruto. He should have expected it. In fact, a part of him did. "I should have expected that. All right, Shin. Let's hear it."
  496. I nodded, favoring them both with a smile. "I should start training you in occlumency like I am with 'Ruto, probably would do you a world of good - but... well. I was born here in Konoha, but I'm not from here. So, my S-ranked secret. It's... well, look, the easiest way to phrase it would be, do you two believe in reincarnation? It's going to be surprisingly relevant..."
  498. -----
  500. Danzo becan unwrapping the bandages from his right arm as he kept his eyes on Sasuke and Naruto, commenting in an unconcerned tone, "Well, now I can add your sharingan to my collection."
  502. And, because a few months ago at the behest of both Naruto and Sasuke I had been encouraged to enter full troll mode, I apparated about ten feet behind him with an audible crack.
  504. His head snapped back at me, then at the others. "Tch... a real ninja would never have made a sound or hesitated."
  506. "Nice arm," I told him. "I like the eyes, they're a nice touch." The breeze seemed to carry faint music in the distance.
  508. The sharingans all began spinning. "They've all got their story, but it would take too long to tell them all-"
  510. I interrupted him, grin wide, "I've got eyes too!"
  512. He turned his head back toward me, a wary expression. "Someone dropped you on your head when you were a child, didn't they?"
  514. I shrugged. "Maybe. I've had so many childhoods. Wanna see 'em?"
  516. Patience running out, he muttered, "I can see them just fine."
  518. "No, no!" I exclaimed, grin growing wider. Beyond human norm. Teeth sharpening into needle points just for an instant before it snapped back to normal. "You should see them!"
  520. He took a step back as my clothes melted into my skin, the whole of my exterior adapting a skin tone color. "Some sort of bloodline--?" he muttered to himself.
  522. "It's a secret. But I can tell you if you like!" I told him, my form growing bulkier, grin disappearing. Mouth disappearing. Features growing indistinct. Thin lines appearing across my skin everywhere. "See them!"
  524. "What the fu-"
  526. He was interrupted when, all over my body, those thin lines - eyelids - snapped open. Eyes of every shape, size, and color numbered in hundreds, spinning in their sockets, before locking onto him. And then my form grew further, color shifting to something... off. Somehow indescribably just -wrong-. No chakra use for his eyes to latch onto; if anything there was not even chakra involved. And as cilia-lined tendrils shot out and began to wrap about his body, I screamed shrilly in a dozen distinctly inhuman voices, "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!"
  528. Judging by the looks on my teammates' faces, I am pretty sure shoggoths were not what they thought I had in mind when I said 'trolling'.
  530. -----
  532. "Here, 'Ruto, give this one a try."
  534. Naruto hefted the empty hilt in his hand, squinting at it suspiciously, before pointing it skyward and activating it. A cool breeze could be felt coming from it, and he squinted at it again. "I think it works. But I'm not gonna point it at anything, I can't see the blade."
  536. I nodded to myself, grinning. "That, my friend, means that it's working right. I'm not going to say to do anything with a sword you can't see, because y'know, wind nature chakra. If you ever figure out how to channel other kinds of chakra though, use one of those, it'll probably have interesting results."
  538. "Interesting how?"
  540. "Well, lightning makes it like the Nidaime's blade that I reversed engineered it from the pieces of. Not sure how to fix it to one element yet- oh, hey sauce."
  542. Sasuke scowled at me, shaking his head as he approached. "I wish you'd stop calling me that, weirdo. Hey, idiot, hokage wants you for something," he told Naruto.
  544. To his credit, Naruto was careful with the sword once he turned it off and handed it to me rather than throwing it. He acknowledged Sasuke with a brief, "Sure thing, bastard," before disappearing in a near-blur.
  546. The scowl melted off of Sasuke's face as I checked the hilt with my tools again. "More civilians have been heard singing that damn song of yours, you know," he said quietly. "People are not sure whether it's a passing fad or some folk song that people are just starting to sing."
  548. I nodded, tossing him the hilt; he caught it and eyed me warily. "Honestly," I said, "I didn't expect it to catch on like it did. The thing is, if it did, this means that it's something that's needed. That I need to stop holding back as much."
  550. Sasuke crossed his arms, before realizing he was pointing the hilt at himself and abruptly stopping. "This is you holding back? You've got to be kidding. You actually got Jiraya to teach you fuinjutsu as a freshly minted chunin, you're probably up for jounin now, somehow got a summoning contract with freaking llamas, you blackmailed Tsunade into teaching the Pinkettes medicine - and I'm really not sure how to feel about how two of them keep trying to set up Sakura and me WITHOUT the fangirling but they're scary - and you are putting together things that should get you labelled a genius if you weren't deliberately trying to avoid it. And I'm not even going to bring up your evil twins on Eleven."
  552. "I told you, they're not my evil twins, if they were, they'd have goatees. And llamas are awesome! Here's a lama, there's a llama, and another baby llama... point that away from yourself and channel some chakra through it?"
  554. "Not to mention the tattoo work. And this is you holding back. To what end? Seriously, I do not understand it," he sighed, before lifting the hilt and giving it a good grip. After a brief pause, a crimson blade of flame shimmered into existence, and his eyes opened a bit wider. "See. This is exactly what I'm talking about! This is the project you've been working on for the last week, huh?"
  556. "One of them," I murmured quietly, folding my arms. "I've been taking stock of the way things are going since we finished dealing with the fallout from Danzo and your brother and I'm seeing the patterns that are in the wind. War's coming, and it's going to be a ugly one. Channel some more chakra through that blade."
  558. Sasuke followed my instruction, the flame-like blade sharpening, fading through orange and yellow as we talked. "All wars are ugly, aren't they, though?" he asked, waving the blade experimentally.
  560. "Where I came from, they said that war is hell. I have never heard a more true statement," I mused. "Hm, blade didn't fizzle out, I think I finally got that thing right. But yeah, the only thing war is good for is killing people. Haven't seen a single war that didn't result in people suffering in all my time. And with Akatsuki starting to make their move... well, there's a reason why I suggested that we stick together if we have to go out on missions. There's a chance, if slim, that they could dogpile 'Ruto."
  562. Sasuke kept an eye on the blade, watching it change color still. Fading to white, then blue, eventually practically transparent save for blue at the edges. It snapped off once he stopped channeling chakra through it, and he tossed it to me; I caught it and touched, to verify that it was cold, as I thought. With a shake of his head, Sasuke murmured, "You always have plans within plans, don't you? You said Naruto's going to end up with the hat and I'll be one of his generals... you never said what you'd be doing."
  564. Looking up from the hilt as I channeled chakra through it, blade flickering with lightning, I gave Sasuke a grin. "You remember what I said on day one? I want to learn mercy, so I can teach it to the world. I think Naruto's beating me to it, though. Let's just hope it sinks in."
  566. -----
  568. The wind carried the faintest sounds of people singing on it as I stood at a distance, watching the conflict - watching the fight against Madara. The way things had to play out. But a few cards were still up my sleeve, thankfully, and that was without taking into account anything that the sage of the six paths had mentioned.
  570. Sure, Sasuke and Naruto had gotten a massive power-up and I'd gotten... well, balls, but it was an interesting way to deal with things. And I had told the two of them, Naruto, Sasuke, that Madara was theirs. That I'd deal with the threat waiting in the wings so that they could end him once and for all.
  572. And seeing the end of Madara's fight with Gai was stunning; turns out that the upgraded-human package that I'd started giving out was doing a fantastic job of making the body more resilient, even to completely burning itself out with chakra, though it wasn't quite enough to do the job alone.
  574. When Madara sent up massive chunks of rock as an attack, though, I decided that the best use of my time would be to destroy them. Behind the moon, Sajuuk woke. Sajuuk moved. And Sajuuk spoke. The rock disappeared in a flash of gold before Sajuuk fell silent again, but Naruto and Sasuke were distracted, dealing with Madara's shadows, and still couldn't stop him. But that's okay; it was necessary. Otherwise, eventually this would just happen all over again. The words of the prophets were written on the subway walls and tenement halls: 'All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.' My job was to prevent that.
  576. When the infinite tsukuyomi began, when Madara reflected his sharingan off of the moon, he saw my face there, glaring back at him. My song was known far and wide; I'd ensured that the seeds that I'd left while people were sleeping planted visions for them to see, even now. Years of diligent work playing with dreams worldwide had done wonders, and it took hold of people as they slipped into the dreams that tsukuyomi gifted them.
  578. In short order (and suffering by Madara) she manifested, and that was my cue to make my entrance. No, there would be no fighting her by the others; the others who had been here had been instructed to flee to an area of safety, where they wouldn't have to deal with her. Instead, it was me crossing the distance toward her at a casual walk, ignoring the black zetsu's explaining to me what was going on, whistling in tune with the voices that carried on the breeze even now, the breeze bringing in fog, gritty gray dust blowing around me as I walked.
  580. "I'm sorry," I told her, "But your grandsons' reincarnations will be sitting this one out. You get me, instead. A complete outsider."
  582. She regarded me curiously, wordlessly.
  584. "Chakra is an interesting thing, don't you think? Far closer to magic than energy of the soul, but either way, you shall not have mine. Let us palaver, baa-chan," I said with a smile.
  586. The corners of her mouth ticked downward, and she spoke her first words, "Let's not fight in my nursery." The ground beneath the fog fell away for hundreds of meters, magma bubbling beneath.
  588. I shrugged at her, unmoved. Quite blatantly floating in midair, in complete defiance of the laws of physics, because to those who are like myself, 'laws' such as gravity are 'gentle suggestions' and I'd learned to ignore it a very long time ago.
  590. "Fool. When silence falls and grows across the planet like a cancer, there's nothing left of value in the world. You do not know, focused on nothing but your own power, but for your own sake, hear my words. You're not going to get all of their chakra, because I've planted my own vision. But you use chakra as a blunt instrument, and don't know better," I spoke, raising my right arm to point at her, gauntlet glowing faintly in the darkness.
  592. She was clearly beginning to grow irritated with me. "Chakra is mine alone," she said, moving toward me in the air.
  594. "I have the tools to wield chakra as a calligrapher wields a brush," I replied. "Not to mention the tools to wield other forces as well." And with a clap of my hands, an application of alchemy, and a flash of light that caused her to stop walking, the ground lifted itself back up from the magma and settled back into place beneath my feet.
  596. At last, this had provoked a reaction from her other than arrogance and annoyance. Eyes narrowing, she snapped, "Irrelevant! I'll blend all chakra into one, once again!"
  598. Waving a hand dismissively, "If I could do that right now, what do you think I could do with years of preparation and fuinjutsu- right, that was developed after your time, it's a method of channeling chakra. Here, I'll demonstrate." I flicked my fingers, a thin slip of paper appearing between them, before I tossed it carelessly to the side where it exploded with a pop. "You can do some fantastic things with it. Turns out it's useful for other forms of energy, too."
  600. She reached out to place a hand upon me, only for her hand passing through my shoulder. "What...?"
  602. "I told you that you cannot have my chakra, baa-chan. You're worried you'll be sealed away again? You don't have to worry about that from me," I told her. "You're out of your prison, but... well." I motioned upward toward the moon, and she actually looked up at it; she saw me looking down from it, toward her, for my face had never disappeared.
  604. With a snarl of rage from Kaguya, the world twisted, abruptly filling with snow. Another attack was launched at me, this time from the black zetsu, and once again it passed through me. She retreated rapidly, not sure what to do.
  606. I turned my collar to the cold and damp. "I hoped that I might reach you. You don't know that people today only bow and pray to the neon god they've made. You mean nothing to them, lost to time and obscurity, and I'm honestly quite curious whether your efforts are returning any chakra at all."
  608. My words fell like raindrops, echoing in the silence, but she didn't care to listen. "No. I must absorb their chakra..."
  610. "Shut up!" I snapped, the wind whipping up. The clouds overhead rapidly darkened, as I started walking toward her again. The precipitation was no longer snow - crimson rained from the heavens, at first a few drops, then rapidly growing to a torrential downpour, the sound of the rainfall oddly quiet. "You know nothing, and are listening to nothing but that parasite you created. Their chakra isn't yours, they're not caught in YOUR dream. I subverted your technique... I was already in their minds. I already knew their thoughts," I told her, wind falling completely silent even as it whipping the blood rain in sheets, staining her white garments a dark red.
  612. She looked down at her hands, at her clothes, and I could hear the panicked chatter of the black zetsu in her sleeves as she rubbed together bloody fingers in confusion, and slowly dawning fear. Before it, too, was silenced.
  614. The moon and stars above were blotted out as I continued moving, my magic manipulating the weather in ways I'd only practiced on very small scales before, but the effect on her was everything I'd hoped for. My form twisting with each step. Machine. Vampire. Beast. Abomination. Ghost. Shoggoth. "Clever hime, but too clever, she's given me a path into every mind on the planet," I hissed, my voice changing every few syllables along with my form. "You have no idea what forces you are playing with, child. And you ARE a child - as much a child to me as the people of this world are to you, if not moreso. Clever, clever hime, she thought she knew better than all men, knew better than the gods. But even gods know when to kneel before that which might kill them."
  616. And abruptly, the world snapped back to normal, sound restored as it should be, and I briefly heard the black zetsu screaming before it stopped. The blood disappeared from her garments and mine as quickly as the clouds cleared, though the ground remained soaked. She looked around, at herself, at me. "What... are you?"
  618. I stopped in front of her in the form she'd first seen me in, an arm's length away, and I lifted a hand to her, imploring, "Hear my words, that I might teach you. Take my arms, that I might reach you."
  620. She looked at me for a moment, before I heard the black zetsu whisper that now was their chance. And the look of caution, of uncertainty that I saw on her face shifted to one of triumph. Her hand turned, palm pointing at me, a spike of bone abruptly piercing my heart.
  622. I favored her with a pitying look, before I reached out and clasped her now-empty hand with my left. "People hearing without listening," I muttered, before pitching my voice up so she could hear me properly. "Baa-chan, you literally just saw me... do you REALLY think something as trivial as a heart-"
  624. Something flew out of her sleeve and punched a basketball-sized hole in my chest, shattering the bone spike.
  626. I cleared my throat, looking at her pointedly. "As I was saying. Something as trivial as a heart AND LUNGS, would keep me from speaking to you?" She had the good nature to look abashed, and I exhaled in frustration (despite lacking lungs, because it's all about the details). "As I said, however... even now, you don't have to worry about being sealed away again." I kept a flesh and blood hand on hers, giving it a gentle squeeze. "I really want to give you a chance here. While you have, unsurprisingly, burned through nearly all of my mercy-"
  628. Something flew from her sleeve again and my head vaporized in a crimson mist, leaving a space between my shoulders.
  630. The grip of my hand on hers did not slacken, though my gauntleted one shot up and grabbed her by the throat, gauntlet abruptly as bright as daylight, crackling with energy. "-but no... you two must be the SPECIAL kind of stupid," I hissed, ignoring the seeming impossibility. "There is always a bigger fish."
  632. Her sleeve flared again, but before the black zetsu could try another attack, the flash of a neon light split the night and left it screaming in pain.
  634. As I tightened my grip on her throat, intending to finish it at last, the light drained out of the world around us and the breeze carried the song with it once again. "Hello darkness, my old friend..."
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