90.9% Birth of the Forest / Chapter 10: Chapter 10

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Chapter 10: Chapter 10

"That Rinnegan wielder…he is a very serious threat, ero-sennin. You said a former student of yours had awakened those eyes, but my opponent did not look like him."

Jiraiya looked very interested. "If I didn't have to deal with Kisame, and then extract Sasuke and Sakura, I would have loved to have a look at your opponent. Can you Henge into him?"

"Mokuton: Henge!"

Standing before the toad sage was an Akatsuki cloaked man, with orange spiky hair. The legendary Rinnegan eyes blazed, giving off a sense of unfathomable power.

Jiraiya gasped. "Yahiko? You fought Yahiko?"

Naruto transformed back into his original body.

"No. I sensed that the one I fought was being controlled via chakra transmission. I know he was the embodiment of Tendou, the Divine path of the Rinnegan."

Jiraiya looked confused. "If you are right, then Yahiko is dead. No one else has the chakra to transplant those eyes on to themselves; it has to be a descendant of the Rikodou Sennin. So Nagato is the one behind all this, and is still alive. And what did you mean by paths?"

"Nagato. So that is his name. Ah, yes. The much is known about the Sage of the six paths, or about those eyes. I know that it has six paths: Deva, Asura, Preta, Naraka, Animal and Human. There is much more to those eyes, but this is all I know about it for sure. The rest of what I know is the usual legend about the Sage. I believe I faced the Deva path today, his jutsu was 'Shinra Tensei' after all. He was an extremely formidable opponent and I think if he comes at me with all six paths unified in his true body, I will have to fight quite seriously."

"Then we need more information. If someone using Nagato's eyes, or Nagato himself has resurfaced, it is indeed a serious threat. Akatsuki is becoming very strong, and I think they will continue to quietly gather strength before making a bid for the bijuu. Especially after you forced a stalemate with Pain", concluded Jiraiya with concern.

"I can match Pain, ero-sennin. But Sasuke has awakened the Mangekyo thanks to Itachi, and Itachi himself…is doing all he can to obtain more power. Konoha will be in safe hands even without me."

Jiraiya nodded, and the two sat quietly for a while.

"It's time to go, ero-sennin. Sasuke and Sakura are safe in Konoha, and we will do what needs to be done to get Tsunade back. I should never have brought Sasuke along…but I suppose it all worked out."

Naruto stopped his ponderings of yesterday's conversation and stared at the town they had just reached.

Tanzaku town, the place where Tsunade was sighted last.

They were here, finally. Naruto held up a half-ram seal, immersing himself in his sensory perception of chakra. His senses extended for a mile in every direction, searching, questing.

There. A large chakra, too familiar. It may or may not be Tsunade, but it certainly felt like the chakra of the Senju clan.

"Found her, ero-sennin. Or at least female members of the Senju clan. I have a lock on her location, and I can lead us there directly."

Jiraiya nodded, and the three of them followed Naruto through the town.

Naruto had healed Sasuke and Sakura, the two having sustained only minor damage.

Sasuke's chakra exhaustion was dealt with easily enough, and the Uchiha had become as quiet as the grave since the altercation with his brother. Kakashi and Gai had taken his teammates back to Konoha. As much as he hated to admit it, Sakura was a liability as of now.

Kakashi had been furious with her. But she was yet to recover completely, and Sasuke had wanted to go back.

Naruto thought of Itachi, and his plans for Sasuke. He really wanted to tell Sasuke everything, but he respected Itachi too much to interfere in Uchiha affairs. Instead he told Sasuke of Itachi's deception with Sakura to get him to develop Mangekyo Sharingan.

He could certainly point Sasuke towards the answers. It wasn't his place to brainwash Sasuke about the village's importance. It was a decision each shinobi had to make for himself.

Sasuke had caught on then, becoming introspective and silent. He was actually putting the facts together, and was asking himself why Itachi did what he had. Naruto hoped that the answer he found would not cause him to lose himself.

Sasuke had shown no intention of wanting to continue with the mission, instead wanting to go back to the village. He claimed he had to read something he couldn't before.

Naruto understood.

I will try my best to reunite Sasuke with you, Itachi. It is my promise as a Shinobi. I only hope he won't lose himself to the darkness when he learns what happened to you.

They paused in front of a bar in a busy street. Naruto looked at Jiraiya.

"This is the place, ero-sennin. Shall we go?"

Jiraiya nodded, looking anxious and happy at the same time.

He pushed open the doors and Jiraiya followed, and he set course towards Tsunade's chakra. His sensing led him to an occupied table with a pig crawling upon it.

He lifted his head and gazed upon his granddaughter, his grown up granddaughter. When had the little girl become so beautiful? Her blonde hair was now long and in pigtails, just like when she was little. Her body was perfect, with rather large…assets.

Naruto took his mind and eyes off there. She was his granddaughter, for god's sake! He calmed himself and kept staring at her face, affection in his eyes.

Family. This time, his direct descendant. He couldn't wait to tease the hell out of her!

Tsunade stopped her steady consumption of Sake, and stared back at him. A short-haired brunette woman considerably younger than Tsunade reached for the peacefully grunting pig on the table.

"What are you looking at, Gaki?"

Naruto felt really out of his depth. Tsunade used to be a little girl whom he taught gambling, not this grown woman who consumed Sake! He felt a temptation to wrest the Sake bottle from her hands and scold her till she cried.

Jiraiya appeared behind Naruto, noting his discomfort. Naruto looked like a startled deer as he stared at Tsunade with a conflicted face.

"JIRAIYA!" shouted Tsunade, her attention off the 'kid'.

"Hello, Tsunade! Looking as beautiful as ever…" said Jiraiya attempting to sound debonair.

"What are you doing here, pervert? It seems too much of a coincidence for two team mates to visit me at once…"

"You mean Orochimaru. What did he say?" asked Jiraiya, drawing up a chair to sit opposite Tsunade. Naruto did the same, still trying to collect himself.

Tsunade looked nonchalant. "Nothing, just stopped by to say hello. You know…we haven't seen each other in so long. That's more than I can say for you, you pervert!"

Jiraiya opened his mouth, but Naruto beat him to it.

"Liar. Orochimaru never just says hello to anybody. You lie, Tsunade…didn't your parents teach you lying was a bad habit?" asked Naruto with a grin.

He knew full well that her parents had taught her not to lie. He on the other hand had unintentionally taught her the opposite when he showed her gambling.

Tsunade scowled, as she saw Naruto grinning. Jiraiya too smiled but dropped it when Tsunade glared at him.

"Who's the kid, Jiraiya?"

"Uzumaki Naruto. Don't bother denying the lie, Tsunade. He is a very strong sensor. Anyway, do you know what has been happening in Konoha?"

Tsunade gasped a little and looked closer at Naruto.

"No, I know only that Sarutobi-sensei is dead, and some rumours. You are the one they are calling the "god of shinobi" now. They say you have Mokuton of all things, and you destroyed Iwa's army with it. Rumors…they get overblown sometimes, huh? Anyway Gaki, how dare you call me, a Sannin, a liar?"

"Well, you did lie. Thus, you are a liar." Said Naruto amusedly.

"Anyway" Jiraiya interrupted hurriedly, seeing Tsunade's temper rising "The village wants you back, Tsunade. It is time for you to return, you are being recalled officially."

Tsunade stared at him, and laughed.

"I will never go back to that village after all I suffered there, Jiraiya. You know that. Is the village in need of my healing now? Has the medical wing grown so lax in my absence?"

Naruto snorted. What was wrong with her? She had allowed herself to become too jaded. And presumptive.

"Look, Tsunade, ero-sennin and I are not here for your healing. In fact, I can heal people as well as you can. No, we need you for something else."

Jiraiya looked at her seriously. "We need you to come back, and become the Godaime Hokage of Konoha, Tsunade. The village is in shambles and we need a strong hand to guide us. It cannot be me, for obvious reasons. So it must be you. You are chosen."

Tsunade snarled to her companion, "Shizune, I cannot believe this. Look at the gall of the pervert, asking me to become Hokage of that godforsaken village! The position of Hokage is trash! The previous Hokage led futile lives, finally giving up their lives for a place that never appreciated their great sacrifices. I have no intention of leading such a village, never!"

Naruto flared a bit of his chakra in surprise, causing the table to crack up. It seemed nothing could get through to Tsunade. Not for the first time since he set eyes upon her, he wished she had remained a little girl.

"Is that really what you think, Tsunade? Is that what you believe about Konoha?"

Tsunade didn't even look at him. "Nice trick, Gaki. But I have more chakra in my pigtails than you have now. So, enough with the flaring please."

Jiraiya shook his head with resignation as Naruto's face hardened slightly.

"Then, care to make a bet? Fight. Just the two of us. You win, I pay of all your debts. Don't worry, I have the resources. I win, you come back to Konoha and become Hokage."

Tsunade looked at Naruto as if he had lost his mind.

"Suicidal Gaki. Alright, I'll bite. Let's take this outside."

Shizune and Jiraiya sighed, the latter giving Naruto a meaningful look.

Naruto nodded. Time to see how much his granddaughter had improved.

….

Jiraiya, Shizune and Tonton all stood to the side as Naruto faced Tsunade in the alley.

Tsunade lifted up a finger.

"All I need to beat a kid like you is a single finger."

Naruto smiled, thinking of the past. How odd to have his own words thrown back at him.

"Ojisan! Kaa-san taught me how to kick! Prepare to lose!" declared a five year old Tsunade, facing her grandfather.

"Hahaha! Tsunade-chan…I am still stronger than you in Taijutsu! I kick loads better than you! The only thing you can beat me in is gambling!" laughed Senju Hashirama.

Tobirama looked at his brother and sighed. "Only you could be beaten at gambling by a child, Hashirama. You were always horrible at it, but you taught your own granddaughter your bad gambling. And now you get beaten by her. Honestly…"

Hashirama looked indignant. "Hey, I beat you last time!"

"Right. After you sent a wood clone to ask Mito for advice. That was hardly fair."

Hashirama looked sheepish.

"Well…"

"OJISAN! Let's fight!" yelled an obviously irritated little Tsunade.

Hashirama looked at his granddaughter, and lifted up a finger.

"What are you doing?" asked Tsunade cutely, tilting her head to the side.

"All I need to beat you is a single finger, Tsunade-chan."

"I'll keep it fair, then" said Naruto and lifted up his own finger. Tsunade smirked.

"Your funeral."

Tsunade appeared in front of him, and thrust the finger towards his chest fast, but Naruto blocked it.

The pressure of the collision created a small shockwave. Naruto grimaced. She was very strong. Stronger than him, physically.

He jumped backwards, his broken finger glowing green with healing chakra. As his bones mended, Naruto reflected.

Tsunade had found a way to harness extreme physical strength instantaneously. He himself needed to gather chakra for a few moments to enhance his strength many times over, that was the basis of the nature fist.

Naturally he was strong, yes. But from what he saw of Tsunade, she had found a way to increase her chakra control to ultimate refinement.

He dropped into the first stance of the nature fist, holding up only the now mended finger.

Chakra began reinforcing that finger, causing Tsunade's eyes to widen. This time Naruto took the initiative, rushing at his errant granddaughter fast.

Their fingers met with the force of rampaging bulls, causing the ground to crack. They disappeared from sight, clashing furiously, fighting only with their forefingers.

Strength met strength as the Nature fist began to unveil its power. Naruto steadily gathered chakra and his strikes became stronger and stronger.

Tsunade, to his surprise, was easily able to match his strength. Impressive! The girl really did deserve to be one of the Densetsu no Sannin.

Tsunade suddenly lifted her finger high and with a yell, brought it down on Naruto's head. Naruto blocked it with his own forefinger, but the strength was too much. Tsunade had put a lot into that strike.

He was smashed into the ground, multiple bones broken. He lay groaning in the depression he had created with his fall.

Tsunade landed in front of him.

"You are very strong, but not enough to match a Sannin. Too bad you lost the bet, Gaki."

Naruto's body glowed green, and bones began to mend themselves automatically. Tsunade gasped, as she recognized her ultimate jutsu used by that kid like it was nothing.

Naruto got up, shaking his head. If he unleashed too much chakra, he would alert the wrong people. The situation called for a more elegant solution.

"I must not unleash my chakra too much, but I will end this fast."

Naruto closed his eyes, his shoulder-length blonde hair rippling in the wind. A silver sheen emanated from his body, as he filtered his chakra to a higher purity.

"Nature chakra. So pure…" he whispered. The air around Naruto began to feel heavy,

Naruto opened his eyes, staring at Tsunade. Only other sages can sense this chakra. Let us see how you do when I use my chakra at this purity, Tsunade.

He appeared in front of Tsunade and flicked her with his finger. Tsunade caught the flick with her own finger, but was sent crashing into the ground creating an even deeper crater. Dust rose from the site, shrouding Tsunade and Naruto.

"Tsunade-sama!" cried Shizune, running to Tsunade.

Naruto stared down at Tsunade, who had markings appear on her forehead. He should not have damaged her this much.

He supposed Tsunade would have met his chakra with her own if only she could have sensed it. She was unprepared for his enhanced strike. That chakra he had used was special.

"Yin Seal! Release!", came her weak voice.

He could feel Tsunade's injuries healing up, and her chakra drop down slightly. Naruto felt proud of his granddaughter. She had come far.

"Doton: Chikyu no iyasu!" said Naruto, his palms upon the earth. The damage wrought by their fight was erased, and the ground went back to a somewhat normal state.

Tsunade stared at him with wide eyes. He could feel clearly her churning surprise.

"You fight like a Senju, Gaki. That Taijutsu of yours reminds me of…." Tsunade trailed off, scrutinizing Naruto with a critical eye.

"To be fair, this was a draw. You healed yourself after I knocked you down and I did the same. So the bet is still not resolved. We need to find a new contest.", she finished.

Naruto thought fast. By Tsunade's reputation, it was obvious what contest she would choose. He nodded. Time to see if his luck had changed.

"Let's gamble!"

….

"Thank you for coming, Kushina…" said Mito. She had appropriated a compound for the Uzumaki clan.

"No matter, Mito-sama. Setting up the Uzumaki clan again formally is a lot of work. In fact, I am glad you called me."

"Forget the formalities, Kushina. We are family after all. I called you here to run an idea by you. My husband and I are the only husband and wife of true Uzumaki blood, as of now. Unless-"

Kushina looked sad. "Don't mention it, Mito-san. I am always faithful to my husband the same way you are always faithful to yours."

Mito looked solemn. "No, Kushina. I would never use you to breed our clan. Uzumaki have higher ideals than that. I was about to say that we need to look for other Uzumaki in the countries. We were scattered by the war, and are now scarce. The remaining Uzumaki must stay together if our clan is to be born again from the ashes."

"Who would we send to do this task?"

"I am going myself; it is within my rights as clan head. I am sure my husband will accompany me. Will you?"

"Of course I will. The council would never accept this, though. Depriving Konoha of Naruto for an extended period of time would never sit well with them.", said Kushina.

"My husband has revealed his Mokuton, but he still is yet to regain his old strength. I have influence enough to make them let go of him. They know I was Hashirama's wife, and that I am the only one alive who knows anything about Mokuton except him. You are also a force to be reckoned with. Three years of absence for training should suit our purposes well enough, don't you think?"

Kushina smiled. This would be an excellent opportunity to rebuild their family. And an opportunity to get to know her son better.

"I agree."

…..

The council of Iwa stood up, greeting their Tsuchikage. Onoki floated to his chair, and signalled them to sit.

He looked around at them, anger slowly blooming across his dimunitive face.

"You know why we are here. Konoha defeated us yet again. We never stood a chance against that boy. The council is gathered to discuss our counter to Konoha's 'God of shinobi'. Few exist who can match his power, which by the way is still growing. We need allies."

The council started muttering in low voices. The seriousness of the situation was not lost on them, obviously.

An elderly shinobi stood up.

"Suna is an option. They too were beaten back by Konoha, and their Jinchuuriki was captured. Surely they will consider an alliance with us."

"Too bad we can't just invade them…" muttered a Jounin.

Onoki shot a sharp look at him, making him quail. "No more invasions for a long while. We need to recover first. Anyway, Kiri is strongly tending towards an alliance with Konoha, and Kumo already signed an agreement with them. I am afraid Suna is our only option, weak though they are."

There were muttered agreements all around the council of the Tsuchikage.

The air to the side of the table spiralled into a single point, spitting out two red cloaked men. One had an orange mask and the other was a handsome blonde with golden hair.

"Hello, old man! Tobi, you moron, would you stop tugging on my sleeve?"

"Deidara? How dare you come here? I have no agreements with Akatsuki as of now. Leave before I turn you to dust!" ordered Onoki, looking irritated.

"Humph, as if. My art is higher than yours. Enough, Tobi!" screamed Deidara. Tobi hid himself behind a pillar, yelling apologies to his 'senpai'.

Deidara turned back to Onoki. "I am here to tell you not to interfere with Suna, old man. We predicted your intentions, and I was sent here to make you an offer."

The council was staring at their nuke nin with outrage and fear, but were calmed by Onoki. The Tsuchikage faced Deidara.

"Get on with it, boy. My back isn't getting any better!"

Deidara grinned. " yeah. You continue hiring our organization, and we can guarantee you Suna's support besides our own."

Onoki looked disbelieving. "Really, Deidara. Just for so much money, you will guarantee a nation's support along with the power of nine S-class ninja?"

"Not really. You see, we have another condition. We need you to grant us haven in Iwa, if we need , the choice is yours old man!"

The council was shocked by this demand, but Onoki was considering. Kumo and Kiri would not deal with a humiliated nation. Suna was the only choice, and Akatsuki's strength was unquestionable.

Here came Deidara, promising him the aid of Suna and Akatsuki. He could save his men by avoiding a takeover of Suna. He doubted that Suna would be amenable to an alliance.

That boy Naruto could defeat him in an all-out fight if it came down to it, and Konoha had the strength of individuals. He would put Iwa above anything, even his own morals. That is what Muu-sama had taught him. That was the Niidaime's legacy.

He made his decision.

…..

Naruto was grinning happily, as he walked alongside Jiraiya. He had actually won at gambling, hands down! His luck had improved. He couldn't wait until he told Mito.

True, he had beaten Tsunade whose luck at gambling was as bad as his own, but still it was a start!

"I won at gambling, I actually won!" shouted Naruto, too happy to keep a low voice. Jiraiya too looked happy.

"Good thing too, you got Tsunade to agree. She was always notorious for failing to follow through with payment when she lost, though. We need to keep an eye on her. She might still be considering Orochimaru's offer, you know", said Jiraiya pensively.

Naruto looked angered now. "Let him come. I will end him!"

"I know you want him to pay for sensei's death, I do too. But he is too strong to take down without a large scale battle, and we don't want any more attention drawn to ourselves. Wasn't that battle with Akatsuki enough?"

Naruto calmed down at that. Nevertheless, no grandchild of his would ever be in league with Orochimaru. He admired the Snake Sannin's skill and resilience, but hated everything else about him.

"I will still try to kill Orochimaru if I set eyes on him again. He is too dangerous. No way will I let Tsunade turn her back on Konoha."

Jiraiya nodded. "I will speak to Tsunade about it. Anyway, how is your progress with the Rasengan?"

"I finished stage one" so saying Naruto took out a water balloon and circulated chakra violently in it. The balloon burst in a shower of water.

"Great job! Now, the second step. Try to pop these rubber balls." Said Jiraiya and gaily tossed him a sack of the stuff.

Naruto grumbled, and went to work. Atleast learning the Rasengan for a while would help him clear his head after meeting his jaded and world weary granddaughter. He really wished he could talk to Mito about all this.

Worry shot through him as he remembered the Rinnegan user. He had fought only the Deva path…

He absently got out a rubber ball and got to work. This step obviously emphasized power, just as the previous step had emphasized rotation.

Just like Bijuudama. Rotation. Power. Containment.

Containment was easy enough, he already did that with his Heavenly pillars of light. The problem was power, how to introduce more power into the Rasengan…

….

Uchiha Sasuke stood in front of the secret Nakano shrine of the Uchiha, his eyes morphing into the Mangekyo Sharingan.

His eyes alighted upon the tablet supposedly carved by the Sage of the Six paths himself. He began to read, noting the difference in perception between the Sharingan and the Mangekyo Sharingan.

He could comprehend…more…of the tablet. Eagerly he read on. Somehow, the evolution of his eyes had led him to being able to read the tablet in more detail. Still he knew that the tablet contained much more information.

As he read, his face changed from eagerness to disbelief to anger.

"Damn you, Itachi. You had to give me these eyes. If only I knew what was going on with you…"

"Sasuke-kun!"

Sasuke shook himself out of his daze, looking properly at the woman who had called him. He was at Naruto's apartment, and Kushina was doting over him as usual. Lucky Naruto…

"I'm sorry, Kushina-san. I was just thinking about my eyes…"

He had told Kushina everything, from his Mangekyo to what light Naruto had shed on Itachi. He knew Naruto knew more than he let on, but one look at his teammate's face had told him that it was confidential. He had to find out for himself, it seemed.

Kushina had been very worried when she learned that Naruto had been in another dangerous fight.

He trusted Kushina for some reason. She was like his mother. Unassuming and always ready to help. So he told her everything.

If only I could tell him what happened with Itachi. Jiraiya, Naruto, Mito and I are the only ones who know, apart from the council and the Sandaime. My son has not told him for a reason, and I trust his judgement. I am so sorry, Sasuke…you will have to find out for yourself, thought Kushina.

"Sasuke-kun, I believe you will find the answers only if you speak with Itachi candidly. That will also give you closure. I know how much you are hurting from that incident, but you have me and Naruto now. Not to mention Mito-san…"

Sasuke did a double take as Mito was mentioned. The woman holding Naruto's hand back then was the new clan head of Uzumaki. He did not even know there was such a clan till now.

But the beautiful woman called Mito had taken that mantle, and she seemed unnaturally close to Naruto. The council had introduced her to the public as a long lost Uzumaki sealing mistress returned to Konoha again.

The Jounin however seemed to look at her with respect and worship. Kushina-san too seemed really respectful with her.

She seemed to be a really important person. His eyes registered her strength and confidence, and he realized that this was no ordinary Kunoichi.

Thoughts of his eyes banished the curious Uzumaki Mito from his mind. Knowing what he knew from the Nakano shrine…the Mangekyo Sharingan was a burden.

He would not go blind. He would not.

I won't die before restoring the Uchiha clan, Itachi. If I have to get the eternal eyes by killing you, then so be it. But I will find out the truth about you first.

…..

Naruto focused hard on his sixty sixth rubber ball. He was only able to puncture them by now, not pop them. Jiraiya had said it was fine and had started him on the third stage.

That one came to him easily, and he had learned the Rasengan fast enough. But it could be so much more…

It had been two days since he met Tsunade, and Jiraiya had gone to talk with her. Tsunade, it appeared, was indeed notorious about following through with payments. She kept putting off the trip with some excuse or the other.

He hoped Jiraiya would be able to talk her out of her stubbornness as he didn't want to reveal himself this soon. He would rather do that after he reacquainted himself with Tsunade to a certain degree.

He gathered his chakra and pumped it violently through the rubber ball, causing it to puncture and lose air slowly. He was trying to improve the second phase, increase the power of the Rasengan.

What am I doing wrong? With the water balloon I rotated my chakra constantly in chaotic manner, here I do the same and the ball only punctures no matter how much power I use.

"Heh, who would have believed I would get a chance to instruct you, Hashirama?" asked Kyuubi, who seemed to be rather happy.

"What do you mean?"

"Would you come in here? Its really irritating to break through your suppression and talk to you this way."

"Fine."

Naruto closed his eyes and stood in his forest mindscape. Kurama was sleeping in his huge wooden cage, and batted open an eyelid as he came closer.

"You know, Hashirama, you did promise that I could get out of this place soon. I didn't know you were someone to go back on their word…"

"Funny, Kurama. I may be strong this moment, but I am not yet enough to suppress you by chakra alone. You know I need to reach my old strength before I can do that."

Kurama looked at him quizzically. "Have you forgotten that thrice damned necklace of yours?"

"No, but I cannot find it. I asked Hiruzen, but he said it wasn't in Konoha."

"Hashirama, I will tell you where to find the necklace and clue you in about what you are missing with the Rasengan, if you promise to take me out of this cage and let me free, at least in your mindscape."

Naruto spied the bijuu. It seemed reasonable. Once he had his necklace back, he would be able to suppress Kurama without any seals.

"I agree. Tell me."

The nine-tailed fox sighed. "I could sense it on that hot blonde woman you were fighting earlier. Your granddaughter."

Naruto looked flummoxed. "Impossible. I would have felt it at such proximity."

"Well, you were fighting too intently to sense your chakra's reaction to the thing, but I could sense it all too well. Your necklace is with the woman. And as for that Rasengan of yours…remember its origins, and you will know what you are missing."

Naruto was happy. Two problems solved! All he had to do was get the necklace from Tsunade, and master the Rasengan.

"Thank you!"

He opened his eyes and saw again the park he was practicing in.

Tsunade and the necklace had to wait, but he could certainly master the Rasengan.

Origins. Bijuudama was the origin. He closed his eyes again, remembering his final fight with his friend and rival Uchiha Madara.

"Damn…he armored the bijuu with Susano. Smart Madara!"

He remembered the way Kurama looked like a demon lord, holding the twin swords of Susano and mirroring the eternal Mangekyo of Madara. The bijuu roared, looking terrifying in its complete armor of chakra.

He noted clearly how the chakra coalesced into Kurama's mouth, and its violent rotation. The ball of unbelievably dense chakra seemed to pulse at its edges….

Wait, it pulsed at its edges…?

Naruto opened his eyes immediately, thoughts striking in a torrent. Why would the Bijuudama pulse? No rotational force pushed outwards in such a way, however chaotic.

I'm an idiot.

He had to add one more component to the rotation, one that made the Rasengan actually explode upon contact. An outward force from the centre had to complement the violent rotation.

He picked up a rubber ball, and began again. The turbulence of his chakra was wearing down the ball's durability and he knew it was coming close to the point of puncture.

He simultaneously caused his chakra to gather at the centre, and focused. A small gathering of chakra, surrounded by violent rotation of chakra….

It needs to explode, like the Bijuudama. Ero-sennin's Rasengan is good, but I can make it better.

He needed to generate explosive power within the ball. And it had to be done with little effort.

He could simply force the explosion, but that would be inefficient. There had to be an answer….he cast aside the shuddering ball and laid down on the ground thinking.

Improving the second step was difficult.

….

"Jiraiya-sama!" came the concerned voice of Shizune when she saw the sannin slumped across the table. It had been about four hours since he had disappeared with Tsunade for a drink.

Tsunade had invited him for a drink to old times, and had apparently drugged him.

Jiraiya got up with difficulty, his face showing his near inert state.

"Shizune…Tsunade drugged me, I can use only a small portion of my chakra now. I am afraid she means to go to Orochimaru. We…need to get her back. Let's go."

"What about Naruto-kun?"

Jiraiya slumped down again. Damn Tsunade. She was still as good as she was back then. He had given Naruto instructions about the second and third steps to the Rasengan some four hours ago, and come to convince Tsunade.

It seemed Naruto would have to reveal himself sooner than expected.

"No need, Shizune. He…will…already have sensed my drop in chakra. He'll be here in a matter of seconds."

True enough, Naruto appeared with a shunshin. The young Jounin seemed to look spent. His clothes were torn up, and he had a few cuts on his face which seemed to be healing fast.

"Ero-sennin, she drugged you didn't she? I can sense her and Orochimaru, they are fighting. Let's go!"

"I…cannot, Naruto. My chakra…"

Naruto lifted up a hand with green chakra running through it.

"I can help you there." He laid the healing palm on Jiraiya's chest, and the man stood straighter.

"That is the best I can do on short notice. Purging drugs require attention to detail I don't have now. We need to rescue Tsunade. Besides, that drug will purge itself eventually."

"Its enough. Come on, Shizune."

Shizune, who was staring wide-eyed at Naruto's casual display of advanced healing, nodded.

The three disappeared.

…..

"There is no need for me to sense Tsunade, ero-sennin… this trail of destruction is enough to track her."

It was true. As they went on they could see large craters, smashed walls and general rubble.

Jiraiya nodded and looked at Naruto closely as they sped along the trail.

"Why are you so bruised?"

Naruto grimaced and held out his hand, forming a perfect Rasengan.

"You did it! Amazing…not so much, considering it was you…" wondered Jiraiya. Shizune looked stunned as the Rasengan winked out of existence.

Naruto grimaced again. "It was not the normal Rasengan, I got that easily enough. But I was trying to improve the second phase with my own theories and that got me in this state. I think it will take me a few years to make my hypothesis with the Rasengan a reality."

Jiraiya snorted.

"Of course. Not even Minato was able to improve the Rasengan. But if anyone can do it, it is you. I myself have tried for many years to add Suiton, but it seems impossible…"

Naruto just looked ahead, shaking off thoughts of his failed experiment with Rasengan. He would improve it…no matter what.

The trail had led outside the village to some empty plain where they could see a particularly large crater. Three people stood there with one woman kneeling.

Naruto went cold. Tsunade was shivering, looking at something on Orochimaru's hand.

"What is she doing?" he asked Jiraiya urgently, but it was Shizune who answered.

"Tsunade-sama is afraid of blood…"

Naruto cursed. Of all possible fears for a shinobi! He glanced at Jiraiya and Shizune, who nodded.

"Three chakras. One Orochimaru, one Kisame, and one who I think is Kabuto. Let's go"

Naruto disappeared and caught Kisame's hand as it brought Samehada down on Tsunade.

"Our Jinchuuriki is here at last!" laughed Kisame. Orochimaru looked at him warily, and Kabuto stared at him with fascination.

Jiraiya appeared next to Tsunade and steadied her. The female Sannin was still shivering as she huddled into Jiraiya.

"Rejoined Akatsuki, have we, Orochimaru? Didn't expect that…" said Jiraiya noting Orochimaru's Akatsuki cloak. The snake Sannin's hands looked black and withered.

"Now, Now, Jiraiya…it is mutual benefit and I had to do it earlier than I planned, thanks to dear Naruto-kun. I am sure you understand. Tsunade here tried to kill me while she tried to make me believe she was healing me. If it weren't for Kabuto…." , Orochimaru trailed off.

Naruto stared at Kisame, registering the conversations happening. Kisame knew Naruto would beat him, but he still sensed no hesitation in the man. In fact the shark-like Akatsuki seemed excited.

"Heh,Heh….too bad I was partnered with Orochimaru. I was beginning to like Itachi-san…" chuckled Kisame. Naruto flared his silver chakra and began to crush Kisame's wrist.

Suddenly he gasped and flew back, looking at Samehada with realization.

"Realized, have you? Samehada can now eat chakra like yours, thanks to the snake here. He did give us a few gifts for letting him return…Itachi wanted to just kill him and be done with it. But no, leader-sama had to go and reinstate him. He is rather useful, though…"

Orochimaru smiled at that as Jiraiya handed Tsunade to Shizune, who tried to revive her in vain.

"We both have our handicaps, Jiraiya, but I think we know who is stronger." He looked at Naruto.

"You know, Naruto-kun, I was flattered by the fact that I sent you into such a rage that you exterminated an entire army of Iwa for me. Thank you, that made my plans a lot easier" he smirked.

Kabuto suddenly slammed his hands down on the ground.

"Kuchiyose no jutsu!"

A large snake appeared and hurtled towards Jiraiya, who knew that he was in no condition to summon a worthwhile toad.

"Naruto, you take Kisame this time. Shizune, fight that stupid apprentice of Orochimaru. I can hold my own with the snake even with my current chakra. Leave Tsunade for now"

Shizune shot off towards Kabuto, as Naruto and Jiraiya faced their respective opponents.

Naruto shone silver and disappeared, attacking Kisame with his Taijutsu. Kisame blocked, and swiped Samehada through his shroud of silver chakra.

Naruto fell to his knees as Samehada burped noisily, consuming more of his chakra. That sword was very irritating. He scowled. Using Kenjutsu against Kisame was not suitable, as it would take too long. Taijutsu too was eliminated.

He formed the ram seal as Kisame rushed towards him. He had to take care of Kisame fast, once and for all. Time to wipe out two of the Akatsuki by his own hand.

"Mokuton…."

"Don't, Hashirama. Get the necklace from her and let me out. I want to play too." came Kurama's voice.

Naruto paused in his thoughts, absently dodging strikes from a grinning Kisame. Samehada came down towards his head with stunning speed.

"Shunshin no jutsu!"

He appeared behind Tsunade and put his hand on her neck, feeling for his necklace. There was a chain…he pulled.

The necklace glinted, its green pendant shining. He put it on as Tsunade snapped out of her fear induced shock when he divested her of his necklace.

Green chakra blasted out of Naruto in all directions, kicking up a huge wind. Naruto smiled serenely as he felt his chakra become calmer and purer.

"I can let you out, Kurama. Make sure you don't damage too much of the land, and do not use Bijuudama at full strength."

"Fine. Now can you just do it?"

The fights around him had paused as Tsunade was walking towards Jiraiya and Orochimaru. Kisame was staring at him, and Shizune was groaning at Kabuto's feet.

Naruto disappeared, and appeared in the air above Kabuto with athe Rasengan blazing in his hand. Before the spectacled Shinobi could react he slammed the Rasengan into his chest with explosive force, sending him crashing into the ground.

One down.

He looked at the three sannin, who were now staring at each other. Naruto frowned as Kabuto appeared beside his master, the wound dealt by the Rasengan healing rapidly.

It appeared as if Kabuto had some weak ability of regeneration. Anyway, it was time to let Kurama out.

"Kisame, I believe the Akatsuki wanted the Kyuubi. Feel free to have him", grinned Naruto.

He slammed his hands together. "Mokuton: Mokubunshin no jutsu!"

"Kurama, now that I have my necklace I have made it so that you can manifest through my wood clone. I think you can only use a part of your strength, but it should be enough!", he thought to Kurama.

He felt the Bijuu acknowledge this. A large tower of red chakra exploded from his wood clone, reaching to the skies. Kisame looked at the phenomenon with a kind of happy focus, already ignoring Naruto.

"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"

Naruto turned and saw that the sannin had called their boss summons, their battle escalating as well. He really wanted to kill Orochimaru, but now he had to be ready to reabsorb Kurama.

The tower of red chakra had subsided, leaving his wood clone transformed into a fox-human with four tails. He could feel its intense chakra, and its elemental desires. He remained on alert, drawing chakra through his necklace.

At the height of his strength he could suppress Kurama easily, but for now he had to use the necklace.

Kisame would have his hands full. Kurama, who was manifested through his clone disappeared and slammed his hands down on Kisame.

Kisame met the beast with Samehada, and a huge white explosion resulted devastating the land. Naruto winced, Kisame would hurt after taking that hit.

Facing a bijuu with the strength of your body was madness. Sure enough, Kisame was down to one knee with his face twisted in pain. Bruises covered his body from head to toe.

Interestingly, Samehada was buried in Kurama's gut not piercing him in the slightest. It was bloated to an enormous size and cracks suddenly appeared in its structure.

Kisame threw back the beast with a massive heave and stared at his sword. Naruto smiled.

"The Kyuubi's chakra is practically inexhaustible, Kisame. Through the link to my clone, it can funnel as much chakra as is necessary to its manifestation. Your sword has more indigestion, I believe…"

Kisame roared with anger, and rushed at the four tailed Kyuubi with Samehada held aloft. The Kyuubi raised its hands and they elongated, capturing Kisame in huge fists. Kurama then proceeded to slam Kisame onto the ground repeatedly, dazing the Akatsuki.

Kisame was then tossed so hard onto the ground that a small depression appeared.

Kurama's bloodlust skyrocketed as hundreds of multicolored balls of chakra floated from his body into the air.

Kisame got up groggily, and saw the beast open its mouth. The multiple balls of chakra coalesced into a single ball of massive density.

Naruto looked on curiously as Kurama prepared a much less intense version of his true Bijuudama. The four tailed Kyuubi swallowed the ball and bloated to a comical size.

Kisame kept staring at the thing drunkenly, apparently yet to recover from his violent beating. Samehada's hilt snaked around him, giving him chakra. Naruto knew that he was toast as he could feel the staggering amount of chakra Kurama was releasing.

A battered Orochimaru and Kabuto appeared by the still recovering Kisame's side, and Kabuto slammed his hands into the ground.

"Kuchiyose: Sanjuu Rashoumon!"

Three demonic gates rose from the ground to defend the Akatsuki trio as Kurama released a huge and blinding bright beam of red energy.

Naruto snorted. The Rashoumon was just enough to stop that underpowered Bijuudama. As it was, the three gates exploded into dust, throwing everything into sharp relief.

He could feel Jiraiya and Tsunade dispel their summons, and he could feel Orochimaru and his colleagues being tossed far away from the clearing. They weren't dead…too bad. If not for the Rashoumon, they would have been at least critically wounded.

He could sense them fleeing, though. Akatsuki wouldn't attack so brazenly after so many defeats.

He slammed his hands together, and dispelled his wood clone causing Kurama to unmanifest completely.

"Good fight, Kurama. Thank you for underpowering your Bijuudama. I know first hand the power in that attack…"

"The shark face underestimated me, Hashirama. From the way he fought, he thought me to be a mindless beast. I think he has fought other free bijuu before…I really want to tear him apart."

"Me too. But I have a feeling he wont go down that easily."

Naruto turned and ran to Shizune, but Tsunade was already healing her. Jiraiya grinned at him.

"I see you handed Kisame his third defeat, as expected. Tsunade really roughed up Orochimaru, the snake was literally crawling after his beating, great job Hime!" congratulated Jiraiya loudly.

Tsunade blushed slightly, and stared up at Naruto with a small amount of respect.

"That necklace you took is my grandfather's, Gaki. You used it well to manipulate the Kyuubi's chakra, but I need it back. It is very important to me, the only heirloom of my family I have except my grandfather's armour" she requested sadly.

Naruto couldn't contain himself. "You have my necklace, and now you have my old armour? What else do you have Tsunade-chan? My old Katana? No…my scroll!" he shouted excitedly.

Tsunade stared at him with absolute shock as did Shizune. Jiraiya just face palmed.

Naruto just stood there with mouth open, looking sheepish.

Why am I running my mouth so much these days?

He looked at Tsunade, noting her disbelieving expression. "I suppose now is as good a time as any to tell you. Let's get back to the hotel, ero-sennin."

The toad sage grasped Tsunade's shoulder and disappeared with her, followed closely by Naruto and an amazed Shizune.

At least this would make sure Tsunade would return to Konoha. Beyond any shadow of doubt.

He really wanted to go home, and be with his family. And now that family would include Tsunade. His wife, his mother, and his granddaughter. What an odd family he had…


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