On the afternoon of his accession Sarutobi Asuma reclined into the comfortable seat of his new office. The Sixth Hokage of the Great Village of Leaf.
Danzo’s passing had come at a fortunate time, coinciding neatly with the end of the war. It was largely the high regard the village had for his leadership that had reflected so well on the Sarutobi clan. Well enough to see them back into power, as long-time friends and allies of the late Fifth.
A flicker in the corner of the room caught his eye—he hesitated for an instant too long, reaching for his weapon too late as an unnatural stillness came over him, a sense of being frozen—paralyzed, like a mouse before a great snake, though he knew he felt no fear.
The attacker came into focus, fading into visibility as he moved.
He’d seen that technique before. Stone country. An assassin, then—revenge for their defeat? The man wore a mask to conceal his features, but he was clearly in no hurry.
“I have come bearing a message for the new Kage of Leaf,” said the intruder, his tone of voice neutral.
Asuma couldn’t move even to reply. If anyone saw him like this, saw him frozen like this, on his first day—
“The age of warring villages is ended,” said the intruder, “the time of our lord is at hand! The Undying Emperor has arrived, and all shall kneel before his eternal tyranny. The ninja of Leaf shall kiss the blood from his cruel fist, for his armies approach from the north and the south, from the east and the west; ten-thousand legions arise from the sea, and in seven days they shall arrive at your gates, to make dust of your walls!”
Asuma felt the resistance against his limbs abruptly give way.
He shouted for the guards stationed outside his door. They burst in only a moment later, but he hesitated before ordering them to seize the intruder. If he was paralyzed again by that technique—if he was seen by his own men to be frozen like a genin in his first battle…
The two ANBU stood ready for his orders.
Asuma cleared his throat, clasping his hands behind his back.
“Guards, take him away.”
The masked ninja disappeared in a puff of smoke. A shadow clone? That was a Leaf technique—
“Hokage!” cried one of the ANBU, rushing to his side.
He went limp in mid-stride, falling across Asuma’s desk and crashing into the wall behind him.
Asuma felt the paralysis take hold of him again. He could see a second shadow cast beside his own on the floor.
“Call every ally to your aid, Hokage,” the ninja whispered. “There will be no second chances, when your armies fail.”
Seven days later Naruto assembled the last of his army in a ring around Leaf village.
He’d known that there would be resistance, at first; not even he could expect to ride to the top on bluffs alone, but Hinata thought that defeating Leaf first would serve as a good demonstration to the other villages.
They’d spent weeks planning this assault. Now, finally, it was all coming together. Defeat was more or less impossible, with his newly-expanded chakra factories and all the power of the rinnegan drawing on Orochimaru’s warehouse of techniques. Earth clones were practically designed for this kind of thing.
They’d considered faking an invasion from outside at first—uniting the villages behind him against a common foe, but Hinata thought that that kind of unity was unlikely to persist once the threat faded away, and there was always the risk of exposure. Better, she’d said, would be to play the role of conqueror to full effect. A crushing victory, but one with few casualties to spark longer-term resentment. Instead of promising peace, he’d promise terror, menacing through his mysterious proxies like some unstoppable tyrant from another world. After a scare like that, just about anything he did would seem surprisingly bearable, in contrast. A small change in tax policy would sound like some sort of joke.
The planning of the ocean-draining system was progressing well, too, back home, as was his new and exciting “eyes-on-the-moon” plan. The rinnegan’s apparent ability to manipulate the forces acting on things was proving very interesting, but he was still experimenting with how best to accelerate himself into the sky. He wanted to get at least one pair of eyes close enough to figure out what the moon was actually made of, and how it really managed to float up there. Then the stars would be next—he had no idea what their deal was.
He was actually kind of distracted, as well, about something else. Hinata had told him earlier that she had something she’d been meaning to say for a while, and she wanted to tell him once he was finished doing his warlord stuff. He could hardly keep his mind on subjugating the country, now.
He had a long list of his personal responsibilities to attend to, though, and he followed the instructions one by one as his clones gathered, relaying their signals so that they could all start their march on cue, to synchronize their chant. Even warlords had to keep up appearances.
“We are the legions of the Undying Emperor, the destroyer of worlds!” they cried. “Kneel, for he is the Alpha and the Omega! He is of Life and of Death! Who sees all and hears all! The Dread Lord, Panasoniku!”