Tesseract @time_parad0x
Chapter 14 - Battleplans

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto

I highly recommend you open a map of the Elemental Nations in your browser, that way – with a graphic representation – it will be easier to follow the battle plans laid out in this chapter. As some of you might have realized, there are differences - depending on the map - they can be major. I suggest going with the map you find here at naruto . fandom wiki / Geography or variations thereof.

This chapter was edited by PraetorXyn

Chapter 14 – Battleplans (19.10.36)

Instead of returning to the Uzumaki compound and awaiting Kushina, I went to the hospital. It wasn't so late that the person I wanted to talk to would be at home, so even if I would have been unable to sense her, I could be sure to meet her there.

Walking through the hospital, I stopped only to knock on her door. The gruff "Yes?" I heard from the other door made it clear that she was still hard at work. Without any further prompting, I unceremoniously opened the door and went inside, closing it behind me.

Tsunade was sitting behind her desk, bent over scrolls containing the medical information I had given her. She raised her eyebrows, and — after seeing who it was that had interrupted her work — said playfully, "Two visits in one day. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Is it that unusual to see me?" I shot back.

"Not if it would be lunchtime, no, but since it isn't — if I'm not completely mistaken — the question is why you are here?"

"Perhaps in my endless wisdom, I decided that one meal a day wasn't healthy, and I'm here to make sure you have a second intake of food?"

"Nice try, but I'm not buying it. You are obviously lying," Tsunade said.

"How do you know?" I asked as I seated myself in one of the two chairs in front of her desk.

"The obvious lack of food in your hands was my first clue," she said.

"There are seals, you know, and I happen to be the member of a clan that specializes in them."

"Right," she drawled. "So, mister Sealmaster, do you have food sealed away with the intended purpose of sharing it with me?"

"As a matter of fact, I do. I always have food sealed away," I said.

"But not with the express purpose of sharing it with me," she interrupted.

"No, not really," I confessed.

"So let me repeat my question, and this time I want an answer: why are you here, Naruto?"

Sighing, I said, "Am I that easy to read?"

"No, not really — at least not when you actually try to hide it. Besides, we aren't exactly strangers anymore. I mean, how often have we eaten together by now?"

"With or without Kushina tagging along?" I questioned back.

"Without."

"Well, since you are such a workaholic — not even considering taking a single day off — and not counting the declined first meal I offered you when you intruded upon my compound," she rolled her eyes "or you being a sore loser and skipping out of being present as Kushina and I ate on your tab. Well, we started at the twelfth and today is the nineteenth, so seven times in seven days."

"Wow, it has been that often. How time flies..." she mused, "Oh, and don't think you could fool me with your transparent attempt to deflect once again. So out with it! I haven't got all day."

"The day is already over," I said with a look outside into the night. Her glare intensified at that.

"Right," I conceded with a hesitant laugh. This wasn't the time to mess with her. "Can you keep this a secret?" I asked. The glare I received for asking and dragging this out once more was enough that I just got it over with. "Before Mito died, she made certain arrangements; one of them was a betrothal contract between myself and Kushina, pending me accepting was my status as Uzumaki-clan leader and everything it entails."

There was a sharp intake of air from the other side of the table. "It is not what you think," I tried to allay immediately. "You know, I noticed this before, but something really isn't right with us shinobi always jumping to the worst possible conclusions at the drop of a hat. By now, you've known me for weeks. You said so yourself — I'm easy to read. Do I strike you as somebody who would take advantage of Kushina for money and power?"

There was a slight hesitation as she carefully observed me but ultimately said, "No, I don't think so."

"Thanks for that vote of confidence," I responded with a slight hint of disdain at being doubted by her.

"But I have been wrong before," she added. The unspoken message was quite clear: "I'll be watching you." Well, I guess that was probably the best I would get from her at the moment. It wasn't as if I'd won her trust by my unwavering determination and defending her life this time around. "So what is it you want to talk to me about? I'm sure as a medical expert yourself; you already should be aware that the ideal minimum age for childbearing is sixteen."

"What! No, that was not..." I stopped myself there in the middle of the sentence as I saw her grinning at me. "Okay, I have to say that was a good one. I hope you are prepared for my eventual revenge."

Placing her elbows on the table and bringing together her hands in what I always dubbed her Hokage pose, she stared me down as she dared me with the words, "You can try."

Oh, that was how she wanted to play it. It was her funeral messing with the Prankster King of Konoha. I only smirked back at her in silent confirmation that the war was on.

"So you are betrothed to Kushina — big deal. You could tolerate being around her for the last few weeks, so I'm confident you will survive your marriage to her... or is it something else that has your panties in a twist?"

She was on a roll today, that was for sure. Ignoring her insinuation in regard to Kushina, I said, "I just came from a meeting with the Uchiha clan leader. Long story short, I ended up betrothed to his daughter the heiress, one of my students — Uchiha Mikoto."

The look she gave me intensified, scanning my face for any tell. Which, to be honest, was an understandable reaction. It certainly was hard to believe. "You've got to be kidding me," she eventually said.

"Unfortunately, I'm not," I answered.

"Yeah, right — as if I would believe..."

"I can show you the marriage contract if you like," I offered. That shut her up hard. It took her three tries to regain her bearing and her voice.

"So what is it you need advice with? I'm no lawyer. I've no idea how I could help you get out of either of those contracts."

"I don't intend to... well, at least not until either Kushina and Mikoto ask me to."

A mumbled "Men..." was her response… but was that a slight tinge on her cheeks and a flaring up of embarrassment along with something else? Must have been the light and my imagination. Anyway, I ignored that comment, too.

"How am I gonna tell Kushina?" I wondered.

"That you got another wife in your sights?" she said laughing. "Start looking for a nice place you want to be buried after she kills you," she suggested as tears of mirth ran down her face.

"I'm serious," I told her. "And it is not only that, but she also doesn't know about her betrothal to me."

That made her pause in the middle of wiping away her tears. She started laughing again, this time even more unhinged.

"I'm glad that I could make you laugh," I grumbled at her. "You should do it more often; it looks nice on you."

"You just got yourself a second wife, and you're already looking for another one?" she scoffed.

"That's not what..." I began as a knock on the door interrupted us. Incidentally, I had hoped the person on the other side wouldn't actually be here for either of us, but I guess it couldn't be helped.

"Come in," barked Tsunade. She was as angry at being disturbed at this juncture of our discussion as I was. The door opened, and a mouse-masked ANBU operative stood there.

"Uzumaki-sama, you have been summoned by the Hokage, and are to go immediately to him," he announced as he took two short steps into the room and handed me a folded slip of paper before he retreated his steps and the door was closed again.

"Guess we'll have to finish this another time," I noted as I was standing up from the chair.

With my hand already on the door, Tsunade said. "You've got to tell her — the faster, the better." Nodding my head without turning around, I left the building.A short glance at the slip of paper informed me that my upcoming meeting with the Hokage wouldn't take place in his office; instead I had to venture outside the village to a hut in the middle of Sarutobi-clan owned property, which made me suspect that this wouldn't be your run-of-the-mill coffee party.

I had a real conundrum on my hands, and I had only myself to blame. I should have told her about Mito's betrothal contract days ago. Well, there was no reason to cry over spilled milk. I just hoped that the fallout wouldn't cause irreparable damage to anything... like Kushina's trust... damn.

While mulling that problem over, my body reached the store above the ANBU entrance I used to get into the village the first time. With the sun having set some time ago and all of the shops being closed, the streets were practically empty — the few shinobi who were still out and about preferring the rooftops for traveling. This was why I only took a short look around before I picked the lock of the store and entered the underground tunnels, which to my pleasant surprise had a few added safety precautions, but nothing that was any trouble for someone like me.

Nevertheless, it seemed the Hokage took my warnings seriously, because the first thing I noticed as I left the village and observed what was going on outside was a far denser net of patrolling squads in the vicinity.

Tracking them for a moment in my mind made it clear that they might give even me some trouble sneaking in and out of the village undetected, which to my great relief, wasn't on today's agenda: since the Hokage couldn't reasonably know about my sensor ability, and as such couldn't know if I could get past them without drawing attention, he must have informed them of my coming.

At any rate, that was the assumption I acted on. This being a set-up — possibly by Danzō — was unlikely, as I could sense the Hokage with two others exactly where I was supposed to go, surrounded by a ring of shinobi cordoning the area around him. Making sure that no one — not even a Hyūga — could get close enough to spy on us.

The trip was a short one, and as I suspected, neither the patrols nor the sentries bothered me.

When I got closer to the cabin in the middle of a small clearing, Sakumo's wife jumped down from the roof was the first to greet me. She gave me a nod to acknowledge my presence and told me, "They are waiting for you, Uzumaki-dono," cautiously eying me all the way until I reached the door and with a short knock — not waiting for a response — stepped inside.

Sakumo was waiting inside with Hiruzen. That could either be very bad or very good — I would have to see for myself. I entered a small anteroom before entering the cabin properly.

Hiruzen was sitting behind a desk, next to an open-hearth fireplace, with some burning wood inside. It was the sole source of light in the room, plunging it into a constant play of receding shadow and light.

Hiruzen wasgarbed in his Hokage robes with the stylistic hat on his head and his smoking pipe in his mouth. He was trying to give himself the air of the relaxed leader of the village, not bothered by anything. If I would have been less experienced, I might have missed the small detail contradicting the impression he tried so hard to convey. The subtle shift of his weight from one foot to the other he had firmly planted under the table in perfect synch with whatever foot of me currently was placed in front and held my weight, in order to be able to just react a fraction of a second faster than he would otherwise be able to.

Sakumo stood slightly to my left in front of the desk. His hands laid in each other behind his back at hip height as his head turned my way. Just like his wife, he was carefully observing my every move, his body tense. He wasn't nearly as good at hiding what he was doing as the Hokage; whereas I had to look for signs from the not-so-old man, Sakumo's body language was entirely transparent to me.

"Hokage-sama, Hatake-dono," I greeted both of them with a short nod of my head to each.

"I think it is time to tell us the specifics of what you warned me about," the Hokage initiated the discussion.

"I figured as much," I told him, glancing around the room and taking in the eerie atmosphere. "Finally choosing to believe my mad ramblings?" I said, stressing the last part of the sentence.

"No," he denied. "But on the off chance what you said is not baseless, we need to be prepared."

"That is sensible," I conceded as my eyes wandered to my left, indicating that it was Sakumo I was speaking about when I asked, "What does he know?"

"Sakumo knows that you were under deep cover inside another village where you were a high-ranking official, and that after you faked your death, you returned with some unverified — but extremely important — intelligence," the Hokage explained what bullshit excuse he'd fed Sakumo.

"No details?" I followed up.

"No details," he repeated after me, making it clear that he only gave Sakumo a rough picture — enough to give him a vague idea, but not enough to even guess at whether the story he was fed was true or not. For a shinobi, that was nothing new — we were commonly barely told more than we needed to know to be able to complete a mission — and Sakumo was a professional, so he should be used to not getting the whole picture, but only some carefully chosen pieces.

"Good. Then let's start from the top. In my function as a spy, I happened to come across a detailed plan to wage war on the Land of Fire." With the dropping of that bomb, there was a sharp intake of breath, but exactly as the professional I tagged Sakumo to be, he managed to get his bearings fast; the first question that came out of his mouth was an attestation to that.

"Credible?" All the while keeping a very close eye on his reaction — paying particularly close attention to his feelings and chakra. He wasn't by any stretch of the imagination suspected of being anything but loyal, but I couldn't just give him the benefit of the doubt. Despite the feelings I harbored for my late jōnin sensei, I couldn't afford to be sloppy — not with what was at stake.

"Yes, and imminent," I answered. It didn't bother me overly much that he questioned the reliability of the information I gathered. He didn't know me, and in his position, I would have done the same.

"How much time do we have?" He wanted to know.

"I think it would be best if I showed you," I said and removed a current map I found in the Uzumaki compound. Sorting through some things from the storage seal, I put it in and rolled it out on the desk in front of the Hokage.

"On the twenty-third of next month, a fleet of ships will depart from Kiri, full of shinobi. They are gonna meet a smaller fleet of Kumo ships a short distance away from the shores of Uzushiogakure under the command of the second Raikage, who then is gonna take command of that combined task force," I told them as my fingers trailed the path they would take. "He will split the forces in two. The smaller part — including two jinchūriki — will be sent to establish a beachhead in Hot Water Country. They will deem it too dangerous to send them against sealmasters while the Raikage attacks Uzushiogakure with the main."

"What about their defenses?" Sakumo wondered.

"Agents on the island will have disabled the whirlpools by that point, and with nothing preventing their approach, they will make their landing during the night nearly uncontested. With the element of surprise on their side — combined with their superior numbers — they expect the fight to be a short one," I let that sink in before continuing. "I, on the other hand — knowing the fierceness of the Uzu forces first hand — expect them to annihilate a considerable chunk of attackers at the cost of their whole population." I gave Sarutobi a pointed glare.

"Anyway, in case the attackers are successful, their remaining forces plan to hook up with the forces they split from at the southern beaches of Hot Water Country, exactly here." I pointed at the map. "From there, they intend to start a coordinated attack with the bulk of the Kumo forces — which by that time would have linked up with the forces of Shimogakure — to march through the northern part of Hot Water Country straight through Yugakure no Sato. They intend to take the unaware village by storm, and then proceed to attack the Land of Fire coming from the north-northeast while the forces of the Raikage — or what's left of them — come from the east."

Neither Sarutobi nor Sakumo contested my claims. They knew better than to expect Yugakure to muster any kind of meaningful resistance against a major village assisted by another smaller village— especially if they were taken by surprise. Also, there was precedent: Yugakure was the first to fall during the first Shinobi world war, and was occupied by Kumo for large stretches of the war. Back then, the best they could manage — in the grand scheme of things — was to become annoying. They resorted to guerilla warfare, harassing Kumo's supply line, but they were never able to cut it or inflict significant damage. One would think they would learn from their mistakes, but there was only so much you could do when you were outnumbered that badly — especially when the quality of your shinobi was so skewed that your average jōnin would lose against the average chūnin of a major village.

"A typical pincer move," Sakumo noted from what I showed him on the map. "I suspect they intend to hit our guard post hard and fast, and traverse most of the country in order to link up near Konoha to hit the village with their combined might."

"Pretty much," I agreed, shrugging.

"The best way to stop that would be delaying one force until our main force managed to defeat one part of their split army," he suggested.

"Under normal circumstances, I would agree," I told him. "We no doubt would win both those engagements... but that is where the trouble starts; the other countries won't just sit on their asses and watch us duke it out."

"No, they won't," he agreed. "It's far more likely they'll try to take advantage of the situation. With our forces occupied in such a manner, they could open up another front — especially if we take too long to take care of that problem. They might come to think of us as weak. By biding our time to defeat one part of their forces, they might try to do the same — even if we are successful with their second host — prolonging the conflict and hoping someone else would swoop in."

"A good analysis. This would be the expected outcome if not for the fact that Iwa's and Suna's spies are going to find out about this attack shortly before it happens, and instead of picking off what's left of us when the dust settles or descending on us while we are still battling Kiri, Kumo, and Shimogakure, they'll both cross our borders a day after the others — shortly after our forces would have received marching orders to face the invading forces, and would have already been on their way."

"Smart," Sakumo praised. "This would not only cause confusion amongst our ranks about what was going on, but would also require our forces to be rearranged — possibly split again — while at the same time also moving them out of place. Because without us knowing about the impending attack, we would no doubt have ordered at least a part of our troops along our western borders into the center — perhaps even back to Konoha to form a strong reserve. Furthermore, while those troops were in transit, they would then have hit the depleted guard posts — overrunning our first and most fortified line of defense."

"So we would need to unearth them from our fortresses," Hiruzen mused for the first time partaking in the conversation.

"The toll on life would be tremendous — and that only to get them out of our country — as with just that we would be nowhere close to winning the war. With all the other mounting casualties we would have suffered at that point, this war could take years of trench warfare — fighting every inch of the way to push them back where they came from."

"Yes," I agreed. This was exactly what happened — and I had every intention of preventing a repeat of that. It stood out to me that Sakumo only considered the shinobi side of things, when it was the civilians living all across the country who would suffer the most throughout a prolonged war. Well, I guess he had the mindset of a soldier — not that of a politician able to see the bigger picture.

"There is one question I would like to get answered," the Hokage said. "How is it possible for the Iwa and Suna spies to catch wind of this attack when ours didn't? The scale of this, the preparation of such a campaign is massive. There is no way our spies would miss the signs where others won't."

"For one, your spies did catch this imminent attack — with time to spare, I might add," I couldn't refrain from that little comment. After all, it was his idea to label me a spy. "But I assume you are talking about other spies to corroborate what I discovered. Well, the spies of the other villages aren't better than ours if that's what you fear. It's just that Suna and Iwa are gonna be told about it by the one who instigated this attack in the first place to make sure they are ready to pounce on us at the first sign of war. Anything else — a nation spared from the effects of war — wouldn't serve his interest. An opportunity this good to eliminate a long-standing enemy permanently couldn't reasonably be dismissed by any military."

This wasn't what we were told happened in the academy and what was written down in the history books, but having commanded troops myself and having fought in a war, this relied far too much on luck on the side of the other villages. What were the odds that they learned about the attack moments before it occurred, pretty much at the same time as Konoha — the ones attacked — did?

Negligible at best. If their spies were good — better than ours — they would have learned of it prior to us, and would have been more prepared with a comprehensive plan of their own in place instead of just joining the fray while hoping for their troops to win it for them. In the opposite case — that their spies were bad — they would have learned of it long after the attack occurred, and wouldn't have been able to take immediate advantage of Konoha and Kumo forces fighting it out.

No — this had Madara written all over it — because this was the one scenario that ensured the maximal possible amount of casualties on all sides — weakening any resistance we could bring to bear — by killing the few S-class shinobi of this generation — or those who might become one in the future.

"I see," The Hokage said, stroking his chin beard in deep contemplation. Given what I had already told him, he drew the right conclusions of who I meant with the instigator. In Sakumo's case, I was fairly certain that he assumed I meant Kiri or Kumo — or perhaps one of their leaders — because anything else should have had him demand answers.

"Speaking of spies," I started. "If you are aware of any spies in Konoha, the surrounding area, or in the midst of Konoha troops or elsewhere you have allowed to remain in place so far for whatever reason, then you should crack down on them all; have them eliminated before this all starts, because this time, you won't need to feed the enemy any false intel."

"Why is that?" Sakumo asked, intrigued.

"Because if all goes according to plan, there will be no one left to listen," I simply stated.

"How does this plan of yours look like? We could warn Uzushiogakure," Sakumo mused.

"No," I firmly declared. They both looked at me incredulously.

"What else is there we could do?" Sakumo wondered. "Given what you told us so far, short of attacking them preemptively or bunkering down on our borders, there is not much we can do at this juncture, and by the time they attack our borders — assuming those attack plans of yours are accurate — the only thing we could do would be to not weaken our western borders and invite Iwa and Suna in."

"We don't warn Uzushiogakure, and we don't do anything that would tell them we know about their intentions," I said. "We are in the prime position that we know what they plan and how they intend to do it, and can prepare accordingly. Doing anything that might have even a remote chance to get them to change their plans is the absolute last thing we want. Currently, we have the advantage, and we need them to stay unaware of that fact to be able to hit them the hardest."

"Are you seriously proposing we allow for Uzushiogakure to be butchered to weaken their army so that we can win?" The jōnin commander said, aghast. To be honest, it was something I didn't expect him to do. Even so, I appreciated that he did. It certainly made him more likable; he was someone who took alliances seriously, unlike some others... although the accusation that I would sacrifice my own family without the need to do so stung.

"No."

"Then what is it you are proposing? Because from where I'm standing, it pretty much seems that way. With what you have outlined is going to happen, we need every advantage we can get. Allowing Uzu to be in a position to weaken their forces should be imperative, and to give them the best shot at this, they absolutely need to be told. Especially if their defenses are about to be sabotaged. The losses the Kiri and Kumo forces would suffer at the hands of Uzu would be much worse, and in the end, Uzushiogakure might be standing. Aren't you an Uzumaki? How can you even..."

"I'm going to stop you there. Naturally, you are right. The losses Kiri and Kumo would suffer would be far greater if we inform Uzushiogakure. If — and that is a really big if — they decide to attack Uzushiogakure while their defenses aren't deactivated. I doubt any sane commander would sound an attack under those circumstances — they would lose badly. It would surprise me if even one of them reached the shore."

His eyes glinted, realizing what that would mean. "They would just sail around Uzu instead of attacking it, and land with their full undiminished strength."

"A strength we would have to contest with," I noted. "Of course, this would also put Uzu at their backs in a prime position to harass their supply lines — and even attack Kiri itself — but for them to do that, they need the means to get to land, and with the whirlpools around Uzu, they can only use their small boats, which are easy pickings for larger ships. Kiri knows that, so I suspect they will leave a token force atop most of their warships in an attempt to blockade the island, forcing them to fight while walking on water. I'm confident they would overcome it eventually, but when they reached shore after having run the whole way, they would be easy pickings."

"Which means they need a beachhead — a safe harbor with allied forces already present to prevent them from dying in droves in order to reach land — no matter their destination, be it Kiri or Hot Water Country."

"Admittedly, they could circle around and make landfall further south — perhaps near Wave... but that is a far longer distance. After fighting their way through, they might not make it, and even if they do, they would be separated from our forces and be on their own. They could just be taken out in the same way we intended to with the Kiri and Kumo forces by splitting them up. One part of their forces could be used to hamper us — trick us into thinking they are attacking — while they take care of the Uzu forces. No, I really don't think that we would benefit from doing this," I concluded.

Sakumo let my words sink in and stared intently at the map, contemplating other options. Before he could make a suggestion, I made my own. "What I propose is this. I will go to Uzu with my team, and we make them believe everything is going exactly according to plan. When they reach Uzushiogakure, we block their way of retreat with the whirlpools, and butcher them to the last man. Meanwhile, you send the main host of our forces towards the border of the Land of Frost. Have them await the Kumo main host, which is bound to make their attack by traversing through the Land of Frost. If you furthermore hide another smaller force behind the fortress near this coastal area in Hot Water Country where I'm sure their ship coming from Uzu intends to land..."

"It is checkmate," he mused.

"Exactly. With their main force dead on Uzu, those remnants from the fleet will be easy pickings — especially with forces to their front and back."

"That looks like a solid plan, but how do you intend to kill the force attacking Uzushiogakure if you allow them past their strongest defense?" He asked.

"Leave that up to me and the Uzumaki — I have an idea in mind that will work," I assured them both.

"Do you now," Sakumo pondered. "A plan that can kill an entire army," The room was silent for a moment, both of them trying their best at gauging myself and my claims.

An accepting nod from the Hokage put that matter to rest, at least for the moment.

"I can only hope so, because should you fail, this might become the disaster we are trying to prevent," Sakumo lamented. "I don't like it, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt — don't let us down." Returning his gaze back to the map, he said, "Either way, that still leaves us with two stranded jinchūriki on those shores."

"Leave them to me — I and the Uzu forces will take care of them, and if we do that in a convincing manner, the other host — should they hear about that sound defeat — might just retreat back to where they came from."

"But for that to happen, we need this to work without a hitch," Sakumo noted thoughtfully and requested, "Hokage-sama, with your permission, I would like to command the troops sent to reinforce the border."

"Why?" The not-so-old man demanded to know.

"As I said, this part of the plan needs to be a success to have any hopes in getting Kumo and Kiri out of the war early, and in case he fails, they need an experienced commander holding the reigns when facing two jinchūriki," he explained.

"I see — the command is yours then," Hiruzen said. "If everything goes according to plan, I want you to link up with Nara Shusuke,whom I will give command over the troops sent to intercept the Kumo forces at our borders. He will be given express orders to avoid a direct clash with them until you can assume command — to make them pay for every single inch of headway they make into our lands. By the time he is done, I want them to jump at their own shadows in fear of another ambush. I want him to make them miserable. When you arrive and take over, I not only want you to beat them — I want them removed from the Land of Fire in their entirety, and if you have to chase them all the way back to Kumo to drive the point home that they have no business here, you have my leave to do so."

"Yes, Sir," Sakumo bowed.

"That leaves us with the west. In my opinion, the best course of action would be that you, Hokage-sama, split the troops we have left and take command over the ones heading for Grass Country and take Kannabi Bridge before Iwa can do it. Your presence there might even get Ōnoki to leave his burrow and keep him in place as a counterweight to you. The other forces need to be put under the command of your students. They have to be sent near the area where Rain Country and River Country border each other. That will be the area which is gonna see the heaviest fighting."

"It makes sense that the fighting would be concentrated there. Suna would be hesitant to threaten the long-lasting relationship between the Land of Wind and the Land of Rivers, despite the long border they share with us and the advantage it would bring them, because it's their main supplier for food. They simply can't risk being seen to bring the war to their country. In a similar vein, it would be detrimental for us to violate their borders for some tactical advantage or to forage into their lands since it might bring Tanigakure into the war as our enemy. What I don't understand though, is why you want to give the command to Hokage-sama's pupils?" Sakumo asked. "They are young and lack the experience to be given such an important task."

"They are — I won't argue that — but they are also powerful and above all else, Tsunade will be needed there." That comment raised their eyebrows. "She is the only medic we have able to counter the poison the Suna puppet squads are gonna utilize in their ambushes and hit and run tactics. A single nick from one of their poisoned weapons is enough to take out the strongest shinobi and put them in a struggle between life and death that could last for days; the morale hit alone would devastate that front. I can assure you without her there, you'll have to deforest a considerable area around Konoha to get enough wood for the coffins you are gonna need otherwise. I'd also send as many Hyūga as you can there — they will not only help when it comes to detecting those ambushes, but also hunting down the ones responsible."

"What about Hanzō? Surely you couldn't have forgotten about him," the Hokage questioned.

"I haven't. I hope your presence in Grass will be enough to stay his hands

for a time — keep him from committing to anything reckless — until I can take care of him, but in order for me to do that, my team and I need to separate from the eastern troops and link up with the troops sent to the western border."

"I could send my remaining students there, and someone else with Tsunade to Suna," Hiruzen suggested. "That would allow you to stay in the east."

"You could if you want them to die," I said matter of factly. Admittedly I knew that they had not in the time I came from, and that the fight against Hanzō got them the moniker Legendary Sannin. Even so, assuming that those outcomes could be repeated would just be wishful thinking. Fights are unpredictable, dependant on so many variables that it is simply impossible for a fight to go exactly the same way — even if it were possible to recreate the exact same circumstances under which it occurred the first time around. No, I would risk the lives of neither Tsunade nor Jiraiya for this, because there was something that I knew for certain, "Hanzō is stronger than all three of them combined," and I shared as much with the Hokage and Sakumo. I was also very well aware that sending someone to fight against somebody stronger — who could beat them on his worst day — was a monumentally bad idea.

I came here to prevent the people I cared about from dying — not needing to rely on the whims of Hanzō to decide whether they lived or died.

It apparently was enough to get him to discard this idea. "While I agree that my presence might be enough to pin him in place and thereby prevent him from going after the main host in the Land of Rivers, it would certainly make him more eager to ally himself with Iwa to get rid of us. Especially if the fighting spills into Ame. Which I think we can all agree is bound to happen eventually."

"I would say it is more than just likely that he will try," I stated.

Narrowing his eyes at me after that statement, the not-so-old man responded, "Even with a quarter of our forces with me, it won't be enough to fight the whole might of Iwa if Hanzō is with them."

"You won't have to," I reassured him. "Forging an alliance will take time — time I won't give them, and after Hanzō has been removed from the board, it will fall apart either way."

"You want to kill Hanzō?" Sakumo asked.

"Yes, I don't think we have any other choice. It is unlikely he would consider an alliance with us. Even if he does, chances are he offers the same to Iwa, thinking himself the weight to tip the scale. As a result, talks will be slow and expensive in case we can come to an agreement with him; even then, it's contingent upon whether we can trust him to abide by it rather than stabbing us in the back." Considering all the things would kickstart with the help of Danzō, he definitely needed to go.

"You sure you can manage him?" Kakashi's father was back to doubting me. "I heard he's a monster in a fight... what is it he is called by his people?"

"The uncrowned Kage," Hiruzen interjected.

"Right."

"Absolutely," I declared. It wouldn't be the first time.

Sakumo looked at Hiruzen with concern plastered on his face. "I'm not sure," he hummed. "This whole strategy rests heavily on Uzumaki-san being able to deliver on what he promises at every turn. If he were to fail — notably at the beginning — it would create a chain reaction, and this whole thing falls apart."

Hiruzen scrutinized me very closely while he took a deep pull of his cigarette. "We are gonna do it as discussed." His tone had a finality that left no room for argument.

Sakumo, ever the soldier, accepted it without objections. "Another problem we have to address is that our forces are split far apart, which would not usually be much of a hindrance by utilizing Yamanaka..."

"I won't take one with me. I can't. The mere presence of another member on my team — especially a Yamanaka — is too great a risk if the information finds its way to the enemy. They could come to fear for their attack on Uzu being broadcasted to Konoha, which in turn would warn us. No, the risk that they change their plans in response to this is far too great, but that doesn't mean I don't agree with you. We need a way to communicate to concentrate our efforts to eliminate the beachhead forces," with a grin, I added, "And I might have just the thing for it."

I withdrew a small sealing scroll from my back and opened it for a moment of searching, and I found what I was looking for. I placed the scroll on the table and unsealed a stack of small notebooks in leather binding.

There were some raised eyebrows — no surprise there — what they had in front of them hasn't been invented yet.

"I call those communication notes. The ones in front of you come in linked pairs. Meaning, what is written in one of them appears without delay on the pages of the linked twin, allowing for immediate communication over any distance, without a chance for the message to be intercepted."

They looked baffled at my explanation — I couldn't fault them. Instant communication is vital in any war, and the means to do just that was provided to Konoha via the Yamanaka — one of the many reasons their clan was so highly regarded and why Konoha was on top.

"How?" the not-so-old man demanded to know as he sat just a little bit straighter in his chair, waiting for my answer.

"Fūinjutsu — what else. I currently have ten linked pairs prepared linked only to their twin."

"Is it possible to link more than two?" Sakumo followed up, understanding my implications.

"Naturally, but that has its own risks. The more there are linked together, the higher the chance one might go missing, and if the messages aren't encrypted, the enemy might read them too. Of course, there are some protective measures, but they could potentially limit the use."

"Explain," the not-so-old man ordered.

"Well, in the case of a blood/chakra seal allowing for only one user to open the book, this means should that person fall, no one else can use it, which would result in severing the chain of communication. Since the commanders are often the prime targets, I expect this to happen at least occasionally."

"So you are saying that by extending that to another person, while it reduces that risk, it doesn't eliminate it. Because it will be the second in command who might also be a known entity to the enemy, and if our side suffers high casualties, even greater numbers might not be enough to ensure the line of communication doesn't get torn off. This, in essence, means that the more with access to it, the less reliable this form of communication becomes," Sakumo correctly concluded.

"Exactly — it is a balancing act of usability with casualties in mind and safety."

"Leave those ten pairs with me," the Hokage ordered, "I will distribute them as I see fit." As I unsealed them and put them on the table paired up. The Hokage handed Sakumo and I each a book whose counterpart was left on his table, while the second's books we both got were each other's counterparts. Doing it this way made sense because it gave both of us a line of communication with him and with each other.

"When will your team be eligible for C-rank missions?" Hiruzen asked.

"We started with the first mission on the sixteenth. If I go ahead and give them Sundays off as I intended — with the twenty-first, twenty-eighth, and fourth being Sundays — that means we are delayed by three days, so at the end of the seventh of November, we would qualify. We could go on the C-rank mission to deliver Mito's remains to Uzu at the earliest on the eighth.

"With an average travel time of three days to reach the shores of the Land of Fire and one day on the boat, that would allow for you to arrive on the twelfth at the earliest," Sakumo calculated, "With the attack happening on the twenty-third, you would have eleven days on Uzu. Is that enough time to prepare them?"

"That is plenty — as a matter of fact, I'd like to delay our departure to the ninth, giving them an additional day off. Also, instead of four days to reach Uzu, I will probably take twice that." At noticing their prying eyes at that rather unexpected statement, I saw the need to explain myself. "I plan to use the time on the road to teach them how a camp is set up properly among other things, and that takes time."

Sakumo's eyes narrowed dangerously. I could tell he didn't like the cavalier attitude with which I treated this whole situation. I couldn't blame him — he just recently started a family. So in order to assuage his worries, I asked them both.

"How long does it usually take to deliver something? The travel-time there and back, and if we are generous a day of rest in between them. Even if we stay in Uzu as the mission parameters state to allow Kushina to attend the funeral, being away longer than a week in Uzu would be stretching it — especially for a newly minted genin team. Sensei and their genin are usually more than eager to get their C-rank quota fulfilled to qualify for the rank of chūnin as early as possible. This means that for those taking a closer look — which I can assure you they will, especially concerning every mission to Uzu that close to their planned attack — will make us stick out like a sore thumb, and they might become suspicious that something is up." Those words had the intended pensive effect.

"This is why we will depart on the ninth. We will then take our time — eight to ten days with our leisurely speed — as I teach them until I'm satisfied to reach Uzu. You can send a message ahead of us for Uzu to expect our arrival on the twentieth at the latest. Staying three to five days there till the twenty-third then won't raise any suspicions."

"Not if you dallied every chance you got — giving your genin days off, etc. You are establishing a habit," Sakumo said.

In response, I gave him a smug grin.

"If that is all..." The Hokage started to say, only to be interrupted by my raised hand. With a slight nod, he gave me the go-ahead.

"There is one more thing. What do you know about a Kumo shinobi named B?" The one I had learned of as the Third Raikage.

"Not much — mostly rumors... that he is invincible... but nothing concrete," Sakumo said.

"Those rumors are far more accurate than you might think. He is all that and more. Without a doubt the current strongest Kumo shinobi there is, and might ever be. He is Kumo's Hashirama, and I have reason to believe it will be him leading the second Kumo force attacking us from the north-north-east through the Land of Hot Water. He and his son are people we absolutely have to kill at the earliest opportunity."

"And how do you suggest we do that? If he really is as strong as you make him out to be — with invincibility of all things and no hard intelligence beyond that — by all indications makes this an impossible mission. We would need our own Hashirama to do that," probably only then realizing what he said and how it could be taken, and followed it up with a "No offense," addressed to the Hokage.

"None taken — my sensei was special." Having met the man myself specialwas a loaded word to describe the First.

"We don't need a Hashirama of our own. We don't need anybody to fight against him on equal grounds; we just need somebody to kill him."

"I'm sure that is easier said than done. Although, in case you are volunteering..."

"You misunderstand — I won't be there. If everything up until that point goes according to plan, I'll be on my way to take care of Hanzō." His complexion started to get a little lighter, already predicting the next words out of my mouth. "Therefore, this very important task will be left in your capable hands." Most would try to protest what must look like nothing but an impossible mission — the kind that is used to get rid of someone — not Sakumo. He took it in stride.

"I won't fail, Hokage-sama," he instead declared with an unwavering voice.

"Of course you won't," I said as I gave him claps on his back, "because I'm going to teach you how to assassinate a future Raikage." Both the not-so-old man and Sakumo looked at me as if I had grown a second head. "Meet me tomorrow an hour before dawn at the tower in the middle of the Forest of Death. By then, my team is done for the day, and bring someone who is good at genjutsu as your tag-team partner. You'll need it — we've only got twenty-three days left to get you up to speed."

With those parting words and a nod to the not-so-old man, I left the cabin. I was just preempting the Hokage dismissing me. It was the ordinary order of things. I had said everything I had to say, and it was time for them to discuss it amongst themselves.

Authors Note: Have I mentioned that Kishimoto's naming scheme to name every Raikage A is a royal pain?

For those of you who are well versed with the timeline — this chapter has another AU element. According to the Wiki, the second Raikage died in the ambush by the Gold and Silver Brothers, which is something that I changed here. It was the first Raikage to have died there, not the second in my story.

Some of you might have noticed that the B they are talking about here is A, the future third Raikage. Since the first four Raikage all had the same name — and three of those are currently alive — in order to keep confusion to a minimum, I will go with the idea that A, B, C, and D etc aren't names given to them but ranks. A is always the title bestowed to the Raikage, and B is his designated heir and occasional bodyguard and partner, with C, D, and E the next in line. Without Darui (D) being an outlier, canon would support that theory (or at least not contradict it). Either way, I think this is better than burdening you with three different A at this point.

Additionally, I hope the whole planning phase wasn't too dry. However, I noticed that in most Naruto fic he is never involved in the planning stages and neither was he in canon - always the grunt - I hope, especially given this Naruto past experiences that it was to your liking even though you might not be used to it. For those of you who didn't really like it, I can reassure another chapter like this is not planned.

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