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Outside the Sound Village's residence.

Danzo walked slowly to the main gate with his subordinates.

However, he didn't push the door open but stopped in his tracks.

Behind him, the Root members with masks quickly dispersed in the surroundings.

Soon, the sounds of battle echoed from nearby.

In just a short moment.

Two masked Anbu directly under the Hokage, turned into corpses and fell to the ground behind Danzo.

Among the dispersed Root members, only his two guards returned to Danzo's side.

"Lord Danzo, all the Anbu tails who followed us have been dealt with."

One of the guards respectfully reported in a low voice as he took a step forward.

Sarutobi Hiruzen's telescope technique did not work on him

So Danzo was well aware that Sarutobi Hiruzen would definitely try to send people to follow him.

Unfortunately, he wasn't someone to be trifled with. If anyone followed him, he would kill them!

"You guys stay outside and don't let anyone disturb me."

After giving this order, Danzo once again pushed the door forward.

"Yes!"

Following the command, they stood guard on both sides of the door.

As soon as Danzo entered, Hiruzen appeared around him, aiming his weapon at his vital points.

Danzo didn't even blink at this and just looked calmly into the depths of the residence.

Then, he spoke in a calm tone.

"Orochimaru, is this how old acquaintances greet each other?"

"Old acquaintances? Hehehe," Orochimaru's mocking laughter came from inside.

"You can call it that way. Jirobo, put your weapon away, don't be disrespectful."

"Kabuto, bring my old acquaintance in."

Following Orochimaru's command, Jirobo finally put away his weapon and stood to the side.

Kabuto, on the other hand, walked out from the house, smiling in a somewhat insincere manner.

"Lord Danzo, it's been a long time!"

"I really didn't expect that you would have a connection with Orochimaru."

"It seems that the Root of Konoha has long since rotted away!"

Because of Danzo's design, Kabuto killed the person he respected the most, the head pharmacist Yakushi Nonou, with his own hands.

So Kabuto truly hated Danzo.

"Hmph, after rot comes rebirth, even the roots deep in the earth will eventually sprout and grow into towering trees."

"As for you, you're just an unfaithful and unfilial pawn."

Danzo had nothing but disdain for this pawn who had been saved and protected by Orochimaru and who considered Orochimaru his savior.

It was truly incomprehensible to him.

Danzo remembered very clearly.

Kabuto had initially left the orphanage because Orochimaru had taken an interest in him.

If it weren't for Orochimaru, Kabuto should have grown up happily in the orphanage by now.

Yakushi Nonou, the head of the orphanage, who was also the head pharmacist, would not have died in the end.

"Hehe."

Kabuto's eyes were chilling, but he still habitually smiled sarcastically.

"In that case, I sincerely hope that the rotten roots can sprout, rather than turning to ashes like two months ago."

After a sarcastic remark about the base that had been completely destroyed by Kazekyo.

Kabuto stepped aside to make way.

"Come with me, don't keep Lord Orochimaru waiting."

Through the corridor, a underground entrance quickly appeared.

This was a temporary underground space built by Orochimaru.

After all, being in Konoha, there were some things he couldn't put in plain sight.

Upon entering the underground space, Danzo saw Orochimaru tinkering with test tubes and an unknown liquid. Behind Orochimaru were four wooden coffins, each about the height of a person.

Danzo's initially calm expression showed some movement. 

His single eye's pupil tightened for a moment, as if he had realized something. 

Orochimaru, catching a glimpse of Danzo's expression, smiled faintly and then put down the test tube.

"Danzo, didn't you say you wanted to avoid suspicion and not make contact until the plan succeeds? What's changed now?" 

Orochimaru asked in a mocking tone. "And by coming here so boldly, are you trying to expose my connection with the Sound Village?"

Danzo, in response to Orochimaru's questions, withdrew his gaze and spoke with disdain, "They are just some discarded pawns; do you suddenly care about them? As for avoiding suspicion, it's no longer necessary. Since Hiruzen dared to reveal the location of my base, leading to the deaths of my subordinates, it's only right for me to return to Konoha for some actions. Are you ready to join in?"

Orochimaru's eyes narrowed, as if he had discovered something interesting. 

Danzo, on the other hand, coldly sneered and said, "Of course, I'm going to join in. But I won't be targeting people loyal to Hiruzen. I'll be going after your discarded pawns and the Sand Village ninjas. I want the daimyos to see how incompetent Hiruzen is and how weak Konoha is under his rule. Only my iron-fisted leadership can save Konoha and bring it a future."

Orochimaru, hearing Danzo's words, remained unperturbed. After all, they were all discarded pawns working toward their respective goals. He was more interested in Danzo's sudden change of heart.

"I recall that you previously mentioned wanting to destroy Konoha and then rebuild your own Konoha in its ruins. How did it change to helping Konoha fend off enemies and gain support to become the next Hokage?" Orochimaru inquired, his tone filled with sarcasm.

Before Danzo could respond, Orochimaru continued, "Oh, my apologies, I remember now. You must be short on manpower after losing three of your bases and subordinates, right? Hehehe."

Indeed, in just a little over three months, almost half of Danzo's subordinates had died. His sudden change of plans was likely due to this reason.

"Subordinates can be replaced at any time, as long as I become Hokage," Danzo retorted, unfazed by Orochimaru's mockery. "But seeing that you've completed that jutsu, I feel more at ease. What do you know about the Four-Star Village?"

Orochimaru was taken aback by Danzo's sudden question. "Do you suspect that your base was slaughtered by people from the Four-Star Village?"

Frowning, Orochimaru recalled the near-death experience he had the day before, and his expression became quite serious.

"In that case, you should be careful. That entity that can grant others tailed-beast powers is very dangerous. Its threat level is no less than that of the Akatsuki."

"Really that dangerous?" Danzo had already obtained information about the Akatsuki from Orochimaru. 

Knowing that the members were all powerful S-rank criminals and rogue ninjas, comparing the Four-Star Village to them was truly shocking.

With no more to discuss, Danzo quickly left the underground space. As he was leaving, Orochimaru spoke one last time, "By the way, the plan has been moved up; if everything goes as expected, it will happen in a few days. Be prepared."

Danzo's body paused briefly upon hearing this, but he didn't ask why. Instead, he continued walking out, saying, "Understood, I'll find a way to bring the daimyos to witness the battle ahead of time."

***

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