Trials of Faith by karrafear
Summary: SEQUAL to Faith in Humanity and Restoration of Faith; PG-13. 2 and half years have passed and now is the beginning of the trials of Faith. Chapter 1: Homecoming
Categories: Alternate Universe & Crossovers Characters: Naruto Uzumaki
Genres: Action/Adventure, Dark, Drama, Fantasy, General, Spiritual, Supernatural
Warnings: AU, OOC
Challenges: None
Series: Faith Chronicles
Chapters: 6 Completed: No Word count: 67792 Read: 11633 Published: 13/01/08 Updated: 08/07/09
Story Notes:
Sequal to Faith in Humanity and Restoration of Faith. Part 3 of the Faith Series.

1. Homecoming by karrafear

2. The Fate of Jinchuriki I by karrafear

3. The Fate of Jinchuriki II by karrafear

4. Fall of the Kuunoki by karrafear

5. Scenes I by karrafear

6. Scenes II by karrafear

Homecoming by karrafear
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: Naruto is an anime and manga series created by Masashi Kishimoto. It does not belong to me; I’m simply using the characters and plot for my own creative devices.

Trials of Faith

Karrafear

Summary: SEQUAL to Faith in Humanity and Restoration of Faith; PG-13. 2 and half years have passed and now is the beginning of the trials of Faith. Chapter 1: Homecoming

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"Demon's talk"/Thoughts/, "Speech", 'Speech emphasis', (FLASHBACK), Titles, (Author's interruptions)

Warning: The story will start off focusing on the Rookie Nine characters first before Naruto will appear (probably from the 3 or so chapters onwards). However, it will slowly become more and more focussed on Naruto and what’s happening to Ruri. Hope you all enjoy the first chapter of the last arc in the Faith Series. By the way, Sasuke will seem very OOC. This is deliberate so don’t complain.

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Chapter 1

Kotetsu yawned as he watched a flock of birds fly off into the distance and disappear past the giant walls of Konoha. Gazing at his watch once more, he was rather put off to find that only 5 minutes had passed since the last time he had checked his watch. This means that he still had 5 hours, 45 minutes and 7 seconds before the end of his shift. /Man... I really hate guard duty. Nothing ever happens... What happened to the good ol’ days when we get invaded, or went under siege and stuff? God! What I wouldn’t give for a little excitement./

“Oi!” His partner nudged Kotetsu’s ribs. “Looks like someone’s coming this way.” Izumo warned. In an instant, Kotetsu’s eyes were zeroed in on the cloaked traveller walking their way.

Said traveller was wearing a long, thick, woollen cloak with a hood that covered off his entire face. His boots - which were the only items not hidden by the long brown cloak - were simple black Ninja sandals, indicating the owner’s own Ninja background.

“Halt!” Kotetsu called even while he readied himself for any unexpected provocation from the stranger. Beside him, Izumo stepped forward in an inconspicuously relaxed manner.

“Please let us have a look at your identify card and travelling papers. What is your purpose for coming to Konoha Gakure no Sato?” Izumo asked in a diplomatic manner even while he held out his hands for the scroll the stranger had pulled out of his cloak.

“I’m returning home.” A young, male voice spoke from within the hood.

Izumo raised an eyebrow in scepticism before unrolling the scroll and reading its contents. Immediately, his eyes widened in surprise before a small smile appeared on his face. “Well, I was wondering when you were gonna come back. Welcome home, boy.” Rolling the scroll back up, Izumo returned it to the cloaked young man. “Better get going now. I know that the Hokage would want to see you asap, and lets not forget all your female fans waiting for your return.”

The stranger shifted slightly in irritation at the last comment. “I was kinda hoping they would forget about me.” He muttered under his breath.

Izumo barked a short laugh. “As if. It’s good to see you home.” The older man nodded before letting the younger man pass without further trouble.

Once the stranger had walked pass the giant doors and into Konoha territory, Kotetsu quickly turned his attention back to his partner. “Who the hell is that?”

Izumo gave Kotetsu a whimsical smile. “Remember those kids that went to the Kuunoki about 2 and a half years ago?”

“Yeah.” Kotetsu shrugged. “A few of them stayed back while the rest returned. So what?”

“Well, he’s one of the ones that have finally come home.” Izumo answered.

And that’s when Kotetsu finally realised the implication. “Which one?” The scarred man asked in excitement.

Izumo lifted an eyebrow and shrugged. “You’ll just have to wait and find out.”

“MEANIE...”

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/There’s gotta be a better way to beat paperwork.../ Tsunade thought to herself miserably. Eyebrow twitching at the mountains of paper staring her way, she threw her hands up in the air in exasperation. “Ah! Stuff it! There’s got to be something more exciting than this happening today that needs my attention.” With that said, she dragged out the Sandaime Hokage’s old crystal ball and started scrying around the village, looking for something interesting to alleviate her boredom. It was here when she stumbled upon the entry of the cloaked stranger and how Izumo was referring to the young man after having read the scroll. It didn’t take long for her to realise who exactly this stranger was. “So, he’s come back.” She mumbled beneath her breath.

“Tsunade-shisou! You need to sign off those documents by this afternoon because the auditors are coming to review the progress on some of these developments!” Sakura called out loudly from the newly opened door in order to catch her part time teacher’s attention.

Giving the younger girl a cheeky smirk. “Say Sakura, why don’t we go out for a walk, seems like one of your old team mates have finally come home.”

“Eh? Who?’ Sakura was immediately interested.

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“This place hasn’t changed all that much since the last time I was here. Strange how I didn’t miss it so much until I’ve arrived back.” The young man snorted to himself sardonically, before pulling his hood back down and revealing his face for the first time. Silky strands of long ebony hair framed the young man’s face on both sides, while spiking behind his head, creating a strange bird’s tail appearance from behind (1). His dark eyes gazed softly across the vision of the Hokage’s monument, which now featured the face of Godaime Hokage upon it. His skin was still as pale as ever, no matter how much time he spends under the sun. And as compared to two and a half years ago, Uchiha Sasuke has certainly grown in height, broadness and stature, but also in presence.

“Yo. Welcome home, Sasuke.” Kakashi’s lazy voice called to the younger man on his right side, hands still holding onto the newest version of the Icha Icha paradise book.

Sasuke smirked at his ex-sensei, eyes slightly sad that it had taken so long for the two to reconcile. “Kakashi-sensei, what are you doing here?” His calm voice asked.

“To welcome you home, as you already heard.” This time, was the Hokage’s voice that called up to him from below the pole that he stood upon proudly. Beside the Hokage stood his ex-teammate Sakura; and behind them were the members of his existing team – Kurenai-sensei (although she seemed to have gained an awful lot of weight it seemed), Kiba (sitting on top of a giant white dog that could only be Akamaru’s grown up form), and Hinata (the ever shy girl stood straight and calm, regal in appearance). Surprisingly, Aburame Shino was also present, with an even longer jacket and hood covering more of his face and head (2).

Sasuke’s smirk turned into a small smile, before jumping down onto the ground to join his friends and team-mates. Straightening up again, he gazed across all of them. “It’s good to see you all again.”

Smiles spread across every face, before Sakura’s eyes dimmed slightly in remembrance. She gave a heavy sigh before slumping her shoulders, as if in defeat. “Now, all we need is to wait for Naruto to get back before the old team 7 is complete.”

Sasuke’s eyebrow raised in confusion. “Hasn’t Naruto returned yet? I thought he was the first one to leave, even before the tournament started.”

Sakura shrugged. “He did leave early, but he never came home. We found out afterwards that he left on a training journey alone, without any escort or even informing Tsunade Shisho. If it wasn’t for the scroll that Kaga had me hand over to Tsunade Shisho, Naruto may well have been labelled a missing nin or missing in action and all that. But yeah, it’s been two and a half years now, and he’s still not back. No one knows anything about his whereabouts or what’s happening to him. We’ve lost complete contact.”

“Actually, we were hoping that you might have some news, considering you were the last one (next to Naruto of course) to have stayed away from Konoha.” Kakashi snapped his book shut before stuffing it away. “But it looks like you’re in the dark as well.”

Sasuke shook his head, denying that he had any more information on the mysterious blond. “I wasn’t suppose to stay as long as I did, but things came up in the last 6 months that forced me to stay behind.” Sasuke’s face tinged slightly with a pink hue, which immediately brought the unwanted attentions of a Hyuuga, Inuzuka and Aburame.

“And what might those complications be, Uchiha Sasuke?” Shino calm voice asked. For those who knew the Aburame well, they could hear the curiosity in his voice, but most would not pick up on that at all. “If I remember correctly, most of the participants of the Hidden Air Chuunin exam – namely those without apprenticeships, left the Kuunoki straight after the tournament. Those that had been invited for apprenticeships stayed with their masters to learn more, at least for a while longer. I, myself, stayed for a mere 5 months before returning to Konoha. I know that a few of the other apprentices had left even before me, but a few stayed behind, yourself and Temari-san included.”

“Temari left to return to Suna about a year ago.” Kiba spoke up this time. “Supposedly, other than yourself, she was the last one to leave and go home.” Here he smirked. “Imagine her surprise when she finally got home and found out her younger brother had become Kazekage. Haha! Shikamaru was there and even he cracked up laughing at her open jawed expression.”

Both Sasuke’s eyebrows rosed to his hairline in surprise. “Gaara is Kazekage?”

“That’s right! You wouldn’t know, would you?! Oh God! Ha hahaha ha ha.” Kiba started cracking up for no reason.

Sasuke frowned again, not at all happy at being laughed at. “What’s so funny now, dog breath!?”

Kiba wiped a non-existent tear from his eyes. “How does it feel to be the only genin out of the Rookie-nine, Mister Rookie of the year (3)? Ahahahahahahaha”

Sasuke’s eyes widened at the implication. He swiftly turned his attention to Hinata. “Is that true?” He whispered in a soft voice full of dread.

Hinata shyly nodded. “Everyone (as in everyone who participated in the Kuunoki exams) either reached Chuunin then or became a Chuunin within the next exam. Neji-niisan, Shino, Shikamaru and Kankuro of the Sand have all reached Jounin status. The rest of us are just taking some time to gain some more experience before we take the Jounin exams later on in the year. Only yourself is still registered as a genin.”

“I can’t believe...” Sasuke almost stuttered in disbelief. “But... I... I’m more... God damn it, I’m stronger than you all put together! Why the hell am I still a genin?!”

“Hey! Who’re you calling weak, GENIN! I could take you!” Kiba taunted from atop Akamaru’s shoulders. The giant dog barked in seeming agreement.

“Hm... That’s one of the things we will have to do later on in the day – testing Sasuke and identifying his level of strength.” Tsunade suddenly spoke up, interrupting what would have evolved into an unmitigated argument. “But before that, we have a few other things to discuss. Let’s go to my office first. Having a serious discussion out on the open road is not something I’m fond of doing.” The Hokage then turned sharply away from the group and started walking towards the Hokage tower. With no further words among them, the rest of the Chuunins and Jounins (and one Genin) joined in behind their leader.

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It didn’t take them long to reach Tsunade’s office. Once there, everyone pretty much settled down, sitting on chairs, leaning against walls, doors or tables. Tsunade then opened the discussion for more serious matters.

“First thing you should know Sasuke, is that the original teams 7, 8 and 10 have been reformed during your time away from Konoha. For me, it just seemed easier that way, since Naruto isn’t back yet, and having Sakura study under me full time, the other members of the Rookie nine needed to be reformed into their original teams so that they can be useful. This is why you won’t be joining back up with Kurenai, Kiba and Hinata; instead, you will regroup with Sakura and Kakashi to form team Kakashi. When Naruto comes back, he too will be placed in this specialty combat team.” Tsunade paused slightly to study Sasuke’s expression. The boy seemed a little disappointed but at the same time he also looked relieved. Shrugging the tension away, she continued on with the rest of her explanation.

“Now, I want a full recount of events regarding why you were so late in your return. Not only that, but I also want a report on your current level of skills and what you’ve learnt so far.” The Hokage demanded in a commanding voice.

Standing tall and saluting his commander in chief, Sasuke started a detailed summary of his time at the Kuunoki. “During the first year of my stay at the Kuunoki village, Katono-sama had me learn the basic art of fire bending, as well as the use of the Dual Dao-sword (4).” The Uchiha heir paused in explanation as he pulled out his scabbard from beneath the cloak. There was only one scabbard, but in it there were 2 swords. One was the mirror image of the other and the two fit together perfectly to form one sword.

“After I’ve mastered the sword technique, it took me another year to perfect much of my fire bending moves. Fire Bending is an art that will take years, maybe even a life time, to perfect. I’m still only an intermediate ‘bender’ on the scale of things, not yet a master. But I am getting better. After two years of training, Katono-sama fell ill with old age. 6 months ago, he finally passed away peacefully in his sleep. That’s what I meant when I said before that I was supposed to return 6 months ago.” Sasuke paused for a moment, his eyes glazed in remembrance at having lost his master for the last 2 years. But unlike the Uchiha massacre, he was prepared emotionally for Katono’s passing. His master was not murdered but instead passed away during the night in a peaceful sleep. It made a world of difference to Sasuke, and also helped him slightly in mourning for his past relatives as well. He finally understood that everyone dies, how they die may or may not be in their control, but they all share one destiny – death. As such, he realised that he could mourn, but should not dwell too long on other’s deaths. For as long as he himself was alive, he should live in place of those that had passed away.

Clearing his throat and refocusing his thoughts, Sasuke continued with the rest of his explanation. “After Katono-sama’s passing, I was stuck halfway through my training and had to come up with ways to improve myself. Kaga-san supplied me some of the ancient scrolls on the bending arts and I learnt from them. Lady Ruri also released me from the 2-star seals, hence why both my Sharingan eyes as well as the curse seal can be activated now.”

After the last sentence, a few gasps of surprise were heard from behind Sasuke; even the Hokage narrowed her eyes in slight anger. “I can understand why she released Naruto’s seal on the Sharingan. But why the hell did she release the Curse Seal as well?” Having heard of what had happened to the Uchiha from Sakura after she had returned from her training in the Kuunoki, Tsunade was very surprised that Ruri would willingly dissolve a seal that Naruto had placed on the last Uchiha himself.

Surprisingly, Sasuke squirmed a little on his feet under the scrutiny of everyone in the room. “She said that since it was my actions that resulted in my having the curse seal, I will eventually have to deal with the fall out of that. I did the deed, now I need to face the punishment. Part of the last 6 months of my stay in the Kuunoki was spent in training myself on how to use and control the curse seal. Luckily, the Lady Oracle isn’t as cruel as to let me train with the curse seal on my own. She or sometimes Kaga-san would supervise me when I’m in either the curse seal stage 1 or stage 2 forms. I’m not completely able to control myself, but at the very least, I’ve come to a point where I can manage to keep my head pretty well. I will always be far more aggressive in either forms, but I won’t go off on a killing spree or let Orochimaru manipulate my mind anymore. The last I heard from Ruri-sama, is that I’m pretty much on the same level of sanity (or insanity as the case may be) as Mitarashi Anko. That’s pretty much it.” The last Uchiha shrugged in a non-threatening way, trying to ease the tension in the air.

Unfortunately, Tsunade’s eyes were still narrowed in suspicion. “I’ll let it go, Uchiha. But if you take any untoward action against any one in this village, and I do include the most minute of actions against any Konoha civilian or citizen, then you will face MY wrath, understood?”

It didn’t take an idiot to figure out she was referring to Sasuke’s original defection from the Leaf village to the Sound village, and Sasuke himself knew well how lightly he had gotten off regarding his act of treason. He wasn’t about to make such a monumental mistake again. “I understand, Hokage-sama.” He bowed in acknowledgment.

“Good, continue with your story. What else has happened to hamper your return?” Tsunade switched the conversation topic neatly away from Sasuke’s curse seal matter.

“Um... well.” For the first time in... ever, Sasuke seemed to be showing a bit of nervousness and shyness. “I kinda... um... that is.”

“Spit it out, UCHIHA.” Tsunade simply did not have the patience or was she in the mood to deal with a temperamental Uchiha.

“I kinda got engaged.” Sasuke finally answered.

There was a long pause of silence.

“You WHAT!!!” Suffice to say, that was the thought of everyone’s mind at the moment.

Giving an uncharacteristic sigh of defeat, Sasuke bowed his head slightly to hide his blushing face. “It was after a long day of training and I was exhausted. I didn’t have the energy to walk all the way back to Katono-sama’s home for a well deserved bath, so instead, I just went to one of pristine lakes near the Oniyoubu forest, as that’s where I’ve been spending my time training. I wasn’t really paying much attention when I stumbled into the clearing. Hell, I didn’t even realise I wasn’t alone until a squeak of surprise was sounded off right at my face.”

“wait. Wait. WAIT!” Tsunade interrupted, her face flushed with sudden understanding. “Did you just say Oniyoubu forest?”

Sasuke could only nod and kept silent.

It took a little bit of time before the others finally caught on to the hidden meaning. “Oniyoubu forest? As in the Oniyoubu clan forest?” Hinata, being best friends with a member of the Oniyoubu clan was the first to pick up the clue.

“You mean those guys with their face always wrapped in bandages. And whoever sees their face first gotta marry them?” Of course Kiba would be the one to remember the obscure things about a clan’s traditions.

“And you just stumbled into a clearing often used as an outside bath for members of the Oniyoubu clan, didn’t you?” Sakura didn’t know whether she should laugh at her ex-now-current team mate’s predicament, or whether she should throttle him in not noticing he had walked into someone’s bathing time.

“Hmm... are you marrying a male or a female?” Shino couldn’t help but add in curiously, which immediately set off Kiba’s funny bone, resulting in the dog boy howling with laughter.

Glaring at the red faced Inuzuka with all his worth, Sasuke growled out the last of his explanations. “It was a girl! And not just any girl! I stumbled into the path of a half naked Oniyoubu Maya – one of the Proctors for the Kuunoki Chuunin exam. (5)”

Again, a long silence ensued after Sasuke’s abrupt declaration.

“You were spying on MY BEST FRIEND/A MEMBER OF THE GATE GUARDIANS?!” Both Hinata and Sakura spoke up in unison. Both sported looks of wanting to bash the Uchiha’s head in.

Sitting before all the drama, Tsunade could only shake her head in exasperation. “ENOUGH!” Silence followed her order. “Let’s get back to the discussion at hand. Sasuke, you said you got engaged, which is why you’re return was delayed, is that correct?”

“Hai, Hokage-sama. I had to prove my worth in the eyes of the Oniyoubu clan leaders, which just so happen to be Maya-san’s father. After that, I had to prove to them that I won’t run away from my responsibilities, or else they refuse to let me leave. That’s why it took so long for me to finally get home.” Sasuke finished his story.

Tsunade nodded in understanding. She had heard wild stories about how the Oniyoubu clan would literary keep captive their chosen mates because they were afraid that their mates would somehow escape and runaway from their responsibilities to the clan, not honouring the contract. It wasn’t unusual and she wasn’t that surprised that it took the Uchiha such a long time to prove that he wouldn’t back out of the contract. In fact, having heard his story, she was surprised that they would let him leave in the first place, considering his history of abandoning villages and such, but that was a completely different context.

“I see.” The fifth Hokage nodded to herself. “Well then, let’s update you on the happenings around Konoha while you were gone then. You want to start, Sakura?” Turning her attentions back to mulling over what the Uchiha had said, Tsunade indicated that Sakura and the rest would fill the Uchiha in all the going-ons in the village instead of having her ramble on.

Immediately switching to gossip mode, Sakura turned to face Sasuke directly, clearing her throat in an attempt to sound official. “Well, as Kiba has already told you, all of the Rookie nine members that took part in the Konoha Chuunin exams 3 years ago have reached Chuunin or Jounin status, other than yourself. Hinata has also mentioned that Neji, Shino and Shikamaru are all Jounins already. In fact, talking about Shikamaru, he’s proctoring the Chuunin Exams that’s gonna be held in the Leaf village a few months from now, I wonder if you would be able to enter? But you’ll need to go in a team of 3 though...” Sakura trailed off as her mind drifted.

Kiba took up the reins of explanation from that point on. “We’ve pretty much reformed back to the old teams 8 and 10. Me, Shino, Hinata and Kurenai are a team; although, due to Kurenai-sensei’s condition, most of the C or B-ranked missions are just done by us three.”

“Condition?” Sasuke turned to his ex-sensei, looking confused. “What condition, Kurenai-sensei? Are you sick?”

Flushing slightly at the Uchiha’s attention and sending a slight glare at Kiba, Kurenai explained in a calm but rather uncomfortable tone of voice. “No, I’m not sick or anything. There’s nothing physically wrong with me. I’m just... well... pregnant... would be the term.” She finally admitted.

Sasuke’s eyebrows rose into his hairline. “Really?” He stated in a stunned voice. “Wow... Ah... Um... congratulations!” Forcing himself to refocus his thoughts, Sasuke was able to finally blurt out his congratulations, even though he was still shocked and confused. “Um... could I please ask, whose the father?”

“That would be Asuma-sensei. Kurenai sensei and Asuma sensei plan on having a wedding a few months from now, after the Chuunin exams that is.” The ever gentle Hinata explained, seeing as Kurenai was once again a little too embarrassed to answer.

“Wow, looks like a lot of things have changed.” Pausing in his speech, Sasuke’s eyes dulled slightly in understanding that he had lost a lot of time with his friends. They had all moved on while he had pretty much stayed the same. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. He did somehow managed to get himself engaged to an incredibly powerful Shinobi of the Air, but still, compared to some of his other comrades; it sometimes feels as if he hasn’t grown a lot.

“Anyway, Team 10 is currently a little split up at the moment. You’d be happy to hear that Ino is now semi-permanently stationed at Suna, working directly under the Kazekage as a representative of Konoha as well as one of his close advisors. How that blonde bombshell managed to talk or manipulate her way into the top seat, I have no idea, but she did. So yeah, you won’t see much of her at all.” Kiba jumped back into the rhythm of things by continuing his description as to what’s happened to Sasuke’s close relations in the past 2 and a half years.

“Kiba-kun. That’s mean.” Hinata interrupted Kiba’s enthusiastic descriptions. “You know as well as anyone else that Ino-san has worked incredibly hard these last 2 and half years. She would have been able to ace the Jounin exams had she wished to take it. Her medical skills are on par with Shizune-sans, and swordsmanship is now being compared to those of the legendary 7 swordsman of the Mist. Let’s not mention all those new techniques that she developed for herself that are completely unique, and plus she’s mastered all her family techniques. Ino-san is truly a warrior to be feared and respected (6).”

“Yeah. Yeah! But you and I both know that she jumped at the chance to live in Suna, just so she can stay close to Gaara (7). That girl is obsessed with supporting that weird dude. I have no idea what she saw in him. Hell, her obsession with Sasuke during her younger years pale in comparison to her dedication to the Kazekage. If Konoha and Suna weren’t allies, I sometime think she might switch sides you know...” Kiba grumbled as he remembered Ino’s excitable departure from Konoha to Suna. The blonde girl had become truly dedicated to the lifestyle of Shinobi. No longer the atypical blonde stereotype; Ino had become serious regarding her Shinobi duties, but more than that, she had matured to become an incredible diplomat and manipulator of politics. Sometimes, Ino reminded Kiba a little too much of the Lady Oracle.

“So yeah. With Ino now semi-permanently stationed in Suna. Suna sent their own representative to stay semi-permanently in Konoha in the last year, and this person turned out to be Temari-san. As such, the new team 10 consist of Temari, Shikamaru and Chouji. As you’ve just heard, Shika’s working on the Chuunin exams, Temari is helping him; leaving Chouji and Asuma-sensei to take on missions assigned to their teams.” Having refocussed herself now, Sakura jumped back into the conversation.

“In regard to Team Gai, their team didn’t change much at all. They’re still the best combat specialist team of Konoha. And although Neji is a Jounin, he opted to stay in his original team, instead of working alone. Of course, considering he’s dating Tenten-chan and wanting to keep her safe might be a factor. And or he just didn’t want to leave her alone with Gai and Lee.” Kiba grinned sardonically as he imagined what Neji’s reaction would be if he ever saw Tenten in one of those green spandex suits Gai and Lee always wore. God, what he wouldn’t give to have a camera that could capture his imagined thoughts and print them out so he could use it as blackmail material, irregardless of the fact that they were imagined in the first place.

“Anyway, with the rest of the teams formed and stable, yourself and Naruto having not yet returned to Konoha, Sakura opted to work permanently as Tsunade-sama’s assistant until a team vacancy was available for her. Now that you’re back, you and Sakura will be working with me to form team Kakashi.” For the first time, Kakashi actually put his infamous book away and looked directly at Sasuke and Sakura.

“Talking about reforming team Kakashi, I will need to evaluate your skills with my own eyes, Uchiha. It’s all good and well to describe what you can do, but until I’ve seen it with my own eyes, I can’t give an accurate judgement as to what kind of missions you should be given. As such, Kakashi will be giving both you and Sakura an exam of sort late this afternoon. Meet him at Training area 7 at 4 pm sharp. Until then, go and resettle yourself.” Tsunade concluded the discussions before she shooed everyone out of her office.

Once out the door, Kakashi pretty much disappeared with a wave of his hand, head stuck back into his book. This left the rest of Team Kurenai, Sakura and Sasuke standing around. The group spent the rest of the afternoon reacquainting Sasuke to some of the changes that had occurred in Konoha in the last few years – one of which being the Godaime’s face becoming an addition to the Hokage monuments.

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Time passed quickly and before long, both Sasuke and Sasuke were standing in training area 7, waiting for their tardy sensei’s appearance just like old times.

“Heh. I never thought I’d visit this place again.” Sasuke added quietly, his gaze soft upon seeing the memorial stone.

“Yeah, this place certainly brings back memories, or should I say nostalgia.” Sakura agreed.

“Ah. Hard to believe it was 3 years ago, that you, me and Naruto became Genins here. Thinking back, we were such brats back then.” Sasuke couldn’t help but laugh. Now that he had matured and released much of the anger, hatred and darkness which plagued his soul for so many years, he could almost see the humour of his past.

Half an hour of lounging around doing nothing but waiting and reminiscing, Kakashi finally turned up. “Yo!”

“You’re LATE! Sensei!” Sakura couldn’t help but snap. His tardiness was still irritating her, no matter how long it has been since the last time she had been his subordinate.

“Ma! Ma! No need to be so hasty.” Placing his precious book away in his ninja pouch, Kakashi then turned his gaze upon his students/subordinates. “Well, let’s get down to business huh?” Pulling out two very familiar bells and tying them to his waist, Kakashi grinned behind his mask. “I’m sure you remember these. The rules are the same as before. Do everything in your power to try to get these bells from me. You have until sunrise tomorrow.”

“You start NOW.” Kakashi’s commanding voice even as he pulled up his hitaite and showed off his single Sharingan eye in preparation. In response to his command, Sakura quickly pulled on firm, black gloves onto both her hands, while Sasuke pulled out his dual Dao Swords and took a swordsman’s stance in preparation.

Impatient to start, Sasuke suddenly rushed towards Kakashi while taking the moment to activate his newly learnt fire bending skills. The flames flicked into life near Sasuke’s wrists and quickly engulfed the whole of his twin Dao Swords. Swinging both swords in a graceful arc, Sasuke released twin half-moon shaped fire blades flying directly towards Kakashi, ready to slice the man’s body in half.

Kakashi’s eyes widened at the surprise onslaught, but being the veteran that he was, he avoided the deadly flames by simply ducking beneath the attacks. Pulling out several shuriken, the Jounin flicked his wrist and threw them towards Sasuke.

With his Sharingan eyes activated, Sasuke easily manoeuvred his burning swords to block and deflect all of Kakashi’s shuriken. With the flying projectiles dealt with, Sasuke concentrated once more on his fire bending and Dao blades. Crossing the two swords together to form an ‘X’, Sasuke took a deep breath before blowing out a large fire ball that simply sat seemingly comfortably in between the crossed blades. Readying his attack, Sasuke shouted as he uncrossed the blades, and released the giant fire ball towards Kakashi. This attack was very dissimilar to the Gokakyu no jutsu, the only difference being the fire ball continued to get larger and larger as it flew across the air, seeming absorbing more an more oxygen fuelling itself as it progressed.

Knowing instinctively that ducking won’t help in this situation, Kakashi quickly performed some lightning fast hand seals. “Doton! Gaeshi” (Earth Element, Mud Sheild). Slamming his hands onto the ground, a large but flat piece of square land suddenly flipped vertically up, protecting Kakashi from the incoming fire ball.

Fire and earth smashed together in an explosion of ash and burnt soil, but keeping Kakashi unharmed for the most part. However, Kakashi knew that that wasn’t all his ex-student’s had up their sleeve, and he quickly jumped backwards just in time to avoid Sakura smashing her way through his signed by still standing earthen wall. Sakura’s glove covered first was blazing with blue chakra, and Kakashi knew that one hit from those dangerous fists and it would be all over.

Needing to create some distance, Kakashi flipped, jumped and spun backwards until he landed safely on a pool of water created by the river that passed through the training area 7. Rapidly performing a long set of hand seals in only a few seconds, Kakashi performed his second jutsu for the day. “Suiton! Suiryuu dan no jutsu! (Water Element: Water Dragon Blast)” A large water dragon head emerged from the once calm river. Roaring its intent, it flew towards the two teens without mercy, leaving the two young Shinobis with no time to prepare. Sasuke at least was able to avoid most of the impact by jumping away onto a branch of a near by tree when the water dragon smashed its way onto the ground they once stood on. But poor Sakura was not that lucky as she was caught by the full scale impact of the collision between water and earth, resulting in her being swept away by the power of the waves and slamming roughly against a tree trunk.

Angry that he hadn’t been able to land a hit yet, Sasuke jumped off the safety of his branch, landing lightly on his feet before running across the still rushing water towards Kakashi, the young teen gave a feral yell as he attacked with all his skill. His dual swords danced in the air both elegantly and dangerously. Had Kakashi not been an experienced Jounin with decades under his belt, he would have surely suffered some major damage on his body. Unfortunately for Sasuke, Kakashi was as powerful as the legend states, and hence easily outmanoeuvred Sasuke’s strikes at every point.

Having somewhat recovered from being swept away by the torrents of water just moments ago, Sakura ran towards her teammate with a high pitched battle cry. She jumped just metres away from Sasuke and Kakashi’s battle before landing with a mighty high kick worthy of Tsunade’s legendary power. Suffice to say, the entire training ground within a 10 metre radius of ground zero (Sakura’s foot in the literal sense) was fractured and crumbled into hundreds of chunks of earth and stone. Kakashi, being the smart man he was, managed to escape Sakura’s legendary power by jumping away in the nick of time. Sasuke, having never seen either Sakura or Tsunade pull such a stunt before, was unaccustomed to the power the technique unleashed, and hence was completely unprepared, resulting in him tripping over his own feet, landing rather comically upon his butt.

Eyes terribly wide and focussed on Sakura’s furious face, Sasuke made a mental note never to tempt Sakura’s wrath ever again. With his attention focussed on his female teammate, Sasuke was rather put off when Sakura seemingly abandoned him in pursuit of their ex-sensei, whom had literally ran off into the distance.

Shaking his head clumsily and clearing his mind, Sasuke to himself, wondering why they were having such a hard time dealing with Kakashi. /Think, Uchiha THINK! Kakashi’s always sprouting about look underneath the underneath. What the hell is underneath this test then? He said he wanted to test our skills at the beginning. Well, we’re both a hell of a lot more powerful than we use to be, so why the hell are we having so much trouble dealing with one opponent. Sure, he’s a jounin and all, but with our skills, we should be able to be beat him... if only we could... OF COURSE! I am SUCH AN IDIOT! Teamwork! Me and Sakura hasn’t exactly been working together since the beginning of the Kuunoki exams. Sure, we’ve went at Kakashi one after another, but neither of us actively helped the other achieve something, it was more like avoiding each other’s hits. Well, if we have to work together in order to take Kakashi down, then I’m all for it./

Having reached this revelation, Sasuke was finally focussed on completing the true test regarding this little conflict. /Now, to find Sakura. Where the hell could they have gotten to?/ Deep inside Sasuke’s psyche, he couldn’t believe that this time, it was he who is following Sakura, instead of the other way around. /It feels so weird stalking my former-fan-girl in such a situation./ Sasuke silently laughed to himself. /But then again, Sakura had stopped being a fangirl of mine for a damn long time. I think... since the Wave country incident. She slowly but surely grew up, and now, she’s a damn powerful and scary Kunoichi to boot. Damn, how time changes everyone.../ Sasuke’s mind continued to wonder even while the rest of him automatically tracked Sakura and Kakashi’s trail by following the line of destroyed trees and crumbled ground as evidence of their passing.

It didn’t take him long to finally track Sakura down as she had finally lost Kakashi somewhere between the tress. Having calmed the rather frustrated girl down a bit, both Sasuke and Sakura finally put their brains together in order to devise a plan to catch Kakashi unaware. It was their only hope; that by working together, they can finally achieve something they had never been able to achieve before – beat Kakashi-sensei.

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Time passed, and when Kakashi looked upon the darkening sky, he estimated that close to two hours had passed since he last saw Sakura. /I wonder what they’re up to at the moment./

With nothing else to do, Kakashi bunkered down beneath a fallen tree, sighing a little tiredly. /It’s starting to get dark. And unless I want to start a fire and give myself away, I won’t be able to read my precious Icha Icha Paradise./ He thought mournfully. Some things just doesn’t change.

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Several hours passed in tensed silence. Kakashi knew he was the hunted in this game of predator and prey. He didn’t have the luxury of sleep or relaxation. He knew the minute he let his guard down would be his downfall. And although hours had passed in relative peace, this was only the calm before the storm.

And just as Kakashi had predicted, not two minutes later, the attacks began once more.

From behind several trees, a multitude of Sakura and Sasuke clones rushed out to meet Kakashi. However, with a kunai in each hand and his single Sharingan eyes blazing, it was child’s play for Kakashi to cut down all the Bunshins in seconds. Eyes narrowed at the amount of smoke caused by the Bunshin’s dispersing, it was instinct that led Kakashi to sense the presence of the real Sakura bearing down on him from above. Jumping off the ground and twisting around, Kakashi witnessed the fact that he barely got out of harms way when Sakura’s chakra enhanced heel smashed into the ground he had been standing on, crushing the earth into a giant crater of stone and rubble.

Not out of danger yet, Kakashi’s eyes widened as a strange flaming whip like appendage (8) suddenly swung towards him while he was trapped mid air. Thinking quickly, Kakashi created a shadow clone floating right beside him, and had the clone grab onto his arm’s sleeve and pulled him out of the way of the fire whip just in the nick of time to avoid being burnt.

Landing on his feet, Kakashi immediately had to duck and swerve in order to dodge several smaller fire balls that were released by Sasuke’s fists in a series of punch like motions. Unfortunately for Kakashi, Sasuke’s fire bending required far less Chakra to perform compared to most of his high end Katon jutsus, as such, Sasuke could very well spend the entire day punching out fire balls at Kakashi without ever feeling any real tiredness.

Punch after punch after kick after punch, Sasuke kept the barrage of fire balls going, leaving Kakashi no room but to jump, duck, summersault and doge in order to stay alive. During a short half second intermission, Kakashi somehow managed to throw several shurikens into Sasuke’s direction. Sasuke ducked beneath the flying projectiles and did two consecutive low sweeps with his legs, releasing two walls of fire crossing the ground towards Kakashi.

Seeing the incoming flames travelling towards him, Kakashi quickly performed a set of seals in response. “Suiton! Suijin Heki! (Water Element: Water Barrier!)” A wall of water condensed from the moisture of the air around him and from underground before erupting into a circular wall of water protecting Kakashi from the flames.

Above Kakashi, Sakura smashed her way through the water barrier with a chakra shield of her own, completely taking Kakashi by surprise. With no where to run or dodge due to the wall of water surrounding him still, Kakashi had no choice but to put both his arms up in a shield, hoping that he could grab onto Sakura's fist and twist it away before being hit by Sakura’s imminent punches.

So distracted was Kakashi with Sakura, he did not realised that the second the water barrier dispersed, a kunai shot forth towards him, cleaning sliced through the strings that held the bells to his waist. The bells effectively dropped onto the ground unnoticed by Kakashi.

Having her fist blocked and grabbed by Kakashi’s arms, Sakura twisted in mid air creating a half summersault, forcing Kakashi to release her arms less he wish to dislocate her. Sakura managed to still cause damage though as she slammed her heel into the earth, causing an intense earthquake and rupturing the ground into a crater of rumble. Jumping away as fast as possible, Kakashi only had enough time to blink when he watched Sasuke rush headlong into the spot where he had been located just a second before. Sasuke performed a short cartwheel across the rumble of rock and sand, gripping something off the ground before it fell into one of the cracks and stood back up away with both his Sharingan eyes ablaze and an arrogant smirk on his face.

Noticing his teacher’s curious expression, Sasuke opened his hand to reveal two small bells. “Looks like we won, Kakashi-sensei.” He noted confidently, while Sakura grinned from beside him giving Kakashi a ‘V’ for Victory.

Kakashi only blinked, checked his waist once more to make sure that the bells really were gone, before giving both his ex-students a sheepish expression. “Well, I guess you did.”

After a short awkward pause, Kakashi coughed and recomposed himself. Looking up at the full moon that glowed brightly in the dark sky, Kakashi gave both Sasuke and Sakura a smile behind his mask. “Well, looks like you got it done on time. Good work. You can all go home and relax now, but remember to be up bright and early tomorrow morning. I’ll meet you at the old bridge where the old team 7 usually meets up, at around 7 am and then we’ll go to the Hokage’s tower together. As of now, I need to go and report back to Hokage-sama. Ja ne!” With that said, Kakashi shunshin-ed away, leaving his two befuddled students behind to make their way home.

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In a dark cave somewhere in the distance, 9 shadowy figures emerged from the darkness.

“So. Is it time for us to move yet? Hmm...” One of the dark figures asked from his perch hanging upside down from one of the stalagmites.

“Ah. It is time. We should start gathering the Jinchuriki and Bijuus. You all know which ones have been assigned to you already, so get to it. I wish to have the first of the bijous sealed within the next week.” Another figure, obviously the leader spoke in a calm but commanding voice.

“What of the Kyuubi Jinchuriki? What do we do about him?” A third member piped up, this one had red eyes glowing brightly in the dim room – red Sharingan eyes.

“We leave the Kyuubi Jinchuriki to last. If we are unable to capture him, I have another option up my sleeve.” The leader answered and the discussions were over. Each of the shadowy figures disappeared from sight, each already on their way pursuing their various targets.

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Even farther away from the main land, standing on a small fishing boat rocking with each rise and fall of the raging sea, a white clad figure gazed upon the dark clouds covering the once deep blue sky. “And so it has begun; the trials of faith.” Sweeping some of his long blond hair away from his brilliant sky-blue eyes, the young man whom spotted three whisker-like scars upon each cheeks of his face, gave a determined look towards the dark clouds. “Bring it on. I’m ready now!”

Chapter one end

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(1) Hehehe... How many of you thought it was Naruto coming back alone. Nope, in this story, it starts off with Sasuke and Naruto will appear from the next few chapters onwards.

(2) Other than Sasuke, I’ve left most of the characters’ clothes as they are in the Cannon series. Although I may change my mind at any time! After all, people don’t wear the same clothes everyday.

(3) Ah, I like taunting Sasuke. It’s fun.

(4) Say thanks to Quathis (A reviewer of mine). He/She gave me the idea to incorporate more of Avatar the Air Bender stuff here by giving Sasuke the skills in using Dual Dao swords, just like Zuko and the Blue Spirit. You can see a picture of this on my website (although the image itself is from Avatar)

(5) Sorry to any SasukeXSakura or SasukeXwhoever fans. I’m making this story a SasukeXOC, this is NOT NEGOTIABLE. But don’t worry, it won’t be very deep nor will it happen very soon. Sasuke and Maya have barely been on talking terms and even though they’re engaged, it’ll still take a while for romance to bloom or what have you. Not only that, I’ve said it before: I’m not very good at romance. I may even decide to finish the story before the romance even starts.

(6) Just like I’ve made Sakura stronger and more dedicated through out my story. I’ve done the same to Ino as well.

(7) Here are the first hints of the pairings that are in this story:

SasukeXOC (Maya)

InoXGaara

TemariXShikamaru

TentenXNeji

And yes, NarutoXHinata is still on the horizon

Once again, don’t expect miracles. I’m mostly hinting

(8) This is the fire whip thing that Zuko used in his fight against Katara in the final episodes of Avatar the Last Airbender – Earth series.

Yay! I've finished the first chapter of ToF. Tell me what you think, please submit a review.

The Fate of Jinchuriki I by karrafear
Author's Notes:
Summary: SEQUAL to Faith in Humanity and Restoration of Faith; PG-13. 2 and half years have passed and now is the beginning of the trials of Faith. Chapter 2: The Fate of Jinchuriki I

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Disclaimer: Naruto is an anime and manga series created by Masashi Kishimoto. It does not belong to me; I’m simply using the characters and plot for my own creative devices.

"Demon's talk", /Thoughts/, "Speech", 'Speech emphasis', (FLASHBACK), Titles, (Author's interruptions)

Warning: Hmm... nothing. A little violent but nothing you haven’t seen before. On a different note, I will not be writing about the battles fought by the members of Team Gai, nor will I go into too much detail regarding what happened to Gaara when the Shuukaku was being dragged out of him by that strange jutsu used by the Akatsuki. It’s already in the manga and anime, and there’s no need to repeat it here.

I sincerely apologise for the long wait for this second chapter. As some of you may know, I took a few months off to concentrate on revamping my website. It took longer than expected, hence the silence for several months from me. However, it is finished now (or as completed as it can be for the moment), and I can finally divert some attention to this forgotten fic.

My god, 32 reviews (and counting) for just one chapter and all of them saying “update soon”! Yes, I got the message. So here it is, the 2nd chapter of Trials of Faith. Enjoy.

Trials of Faith

Karrafear

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Chapter 1

Sasuke glared silently at the smug looking Hokage sitting in front of him. Tsunade tried to look professional, shuffling paper around her desk to look busy but not exactly accomplishing it. Of course, the smug smile on her face wasn’t helping the matter.

Gritting his teeth in irritation, Sasuke managed to growl out a response in a seemingly controlled manner. “It’s been two weeks since my return. Although I may be a Genin in name ONLY, but my team also consists of a Jounin and a Chuunin. WHY do you still have us fighting off pathetic bandits on the outskirts of the country? Hell, you still have me chasing that damn CAT!”

Tsunade lifted a delicate eyebrow. “My, are you questioning my orders, Uchiha?” She asked in a calm voice, but with an undertone of danger.

Sakura quickly slapped her hand across Sasuke’s mouth, saving him from the thumping Tsunade would have eventually given him. “No, Tsunade-Shisho. Sasuke isn’t questioning your orders at all, he’s just requesting NICELY if he could possibly have something... more challenging. That’s all.” Sakura clamped her hands over Sasuke’s mouth tightly, eliciting some pain in the jaw of the last Uchiha, effectively shutting him up.

When Sakura finally released her hand, she smiled evilly at Sasuke. “Isn’t that right, Sasuke-kun?” She asked in an eerily cheerful manner, totally concealing her deadly killing intent if he didn’t agree with her immediately.

All Sasuke could do was nod somewhat half-heartedly as he rubbed his aching jaw, making a further mental note to never cross either Tsunade or Sakura ever again. Using their bare hands, they could crush boulders, let alone his jaw.

“Fine. If Kakashi is in agreement, I can give you three your new mission. It’s a B-rank mission that will basically have you three traversing the borders of Fire Country and Rock Country as sentries. Keep an eye out for any Shinobis that come close to the border, warn them of their impending nearness, but DO NOT engage in any fights. I don’t want a war!” Tsunade was just about to give Team Kakashi their next assignment when the doors to her office suddenly slammed open, revealing a haggard looking interpreter from the Information Division.

“Hokage-sama! Terrible news! Suna! Suna has been attacked by the Akatsuki, and their Kazekage has been kidnapped!” The interpreter shouted even as she gasped for more breath.

Eyes sharpening with focus, Tsunade withdrew the piece of paper she was about to hand out to Team Kakashi. Once the paper was back on her table, she directed her gaze at Kakashi. “Team Kakashi. Change of plans. You are to go immediately to the Sand, find out the situation, and relay it to Konoha. After that, follow the orders of the Sand and back them up. GO!”

It didn’t take long for the members of Team Kakashi to race home, pack the necessities and rush back to the Western gates in preparation to leave. Upon arrival at the gates, they found an agitated Temari and a focussed Shikamaru waiting for them. It seems that the Hokage had managed to relay the information to Temari, hence her presence and impending return to her homeland. Although Shikamaru had not been given permission to go with Team Kakashi to retrieve the Kazekage, at the very least, he was here to see his girl-friend off. He had a firm arm around Temari’s shaking shoulders, but the warmth of his body was enough to calm her down slightly.

“Let’s go.” There was no more need for words, as Kakashi jumped off into the distance, followed by Sasuke and Sakura. Temari paused for a second before turning around, giving Shikamaru one last hug and a quick kiss on his cheek before she too turned around to return home. Just before she jumped away from the gates, Shikamaru called out to her. “Believe in Gaara. He will make it!” A thin smile graced her face as she leapt into the forest, leaving behind her foundation in order to face her shattered family.

Behind them, Shikamaru’s tight fist shook with anger. He wanted to follow them, he wanted so desperately to follow them, but his teammates were busy and scattered elsewhere, leaving him alone without a team. And the Hokage’s decree that no Shinobi were allowed to go on missions alone didn’t help any. /Please be safe, Temari! Everyone.../

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Pushing his students to the brink of exhaustion, Team Kakashi and the Sand delegate Temari, managed to reach Suna within 2 days, which was a record in itself.

“Temari-sama!” The scout on the walls of Suna shouted in happiness. “Temari-sama. You’re back!”

“Give me a status update NOW!” Temari commanded back, not in the mood to deal with newbie Chuunins and their admiration of her rank.

Straightening up quickly, the scout addressed his superior officer in a professional manner. “Two Akatsuki members infiltrated Suna about 3 days ago. The Kazekage discovered their presence and started an air battle with one of the members. The enemy then dropped some sort of bomb over Suna territory and if it wasn’t for the Kazekage’s sand, Suna would have suffered terrible losses. Unfortunately, it was also that one action which cost the Kazekage his victory. By midmorning, the Kazekage had lost the battle and was last seen carried away by a strange giant bird summon the enemy uses. Baki-san sent trackers after the Kazekage of course, but most of them never came back. The one that was found alive was Kankuro-sama, and he wasn’t faring very well last I heard. Ino-sama has been in the Hospital treating Kankuro-sama.”

Temari’s heart tightened as she listened to the scout’s report. Not only had one of her brothers been kidnapped; but another had been badly hurt, enough to warrant Ino’s help. “We have to hurry.” Her voice was tight and she increased her speed as she ran towards the hospital, followed by the rest of the Konoha Shinobis.

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Slamming the door opened, Temari took in the sights immediately, but the scene in front of her didn’t look as desperate as what she had heard from the scout. Lying unconscious on the hospital bed was her brother – Kankuro. His head was bandaged slightly, and he was sleeping calmly with a blanket covering most of his body. Standing beside him was Chiyo-basama and Baki, both looking focussed, as if contemplating serious thoughts.

“Baki-sensei, Chiyo-basama! Kankuro. How is Kankuro?” Temari’s voice almost cracked as her desperation rose for more information.

“Temari? I see you’re back.” Stiffening slightly at seeing the familiar face of Kakashi, Chiyo did not feel comfortable standing anywhere near the son of the man who took the life of her son. She nodded politely if stiffly to the white haired man and smoothly moved out of the room. It wasn’t that she hated Kakashi particularly; he just brought back bad memories, memories regarding her loss.

She had first met Kakashi almost 2 and a half years ago when she was reunited with Tsunade, her greatest rival at the Kuunoki Chuunin Examination Tournament, and to say she was shocked at the man’s appearance was an understatement. She almost attacked him right in front of all the delegates and important Daimyo’s. However, she reigned in her anger the moment Tsunade berated the Copy Ninja on his routine tardiness. It took her a long time to reconcile the fact that he wasn’t her enemy. In fact, it took her a very long time to stop being suspicious of everything any Konoha Ninja did, and it was all due to the introduction of a certain Yamanaka.

When Ino first arrived at Suna as the semi-permanent delegate from Konoha, Chiyo was furious and suspicious of the young teenager. Suffice to say, the two did not get along well at first. However, after a certain incident, the two somehow reconciled their differences, and made a pact together that they would do anything to protect Suna. It was due to that one desire which bonded the two kunoichis, which eventually led them to forming a teacher-student relationship. Now, Chiyo was proud to call Ino her apprentice – not in the arts of puppetry, but in the medical arts and poisons. In fact, in the last year alone, Ino had even surpassed Chiyo in almost everyway concerning the medical arts. The young girl was the epitome of what a Kunoichi should be, and Chiyo was extremely proud of her. 

Ignoring Chiyo’s silent retreat from the hospital room, Baki decided to explain everything to Temari and the Konoha Shinobis. Although he had been surprised at Sasuke’s inclusion, he did not say anything about the last Uchiha. Releasing a deep sigh, Baki started on his narration. “At 0600 three days ago, we first noticed the Kazekage having confronted an Akatsuki member in the skies over Suna. As per the intelligence report from Jiraiya-sama, the Akatsuki member was wearing a full body cloak, black in colour with red clouds.”

Sasuke suddenly interrupted Baki with a question. “What did this Akatsuki member look like?” His fist tightened in anxiety. He wasn’t sure whether or not he wanted the enemy to be his brother; he wasn’t sure whether he’s ready to face his brother at this point in time.

Baki glanced at Sasuke slightly before answering the question. “The man was of average height, with long blonde hair tied in a high ponytail. He was too far away for me to see his eye colour or anything like that, but you can ask Ino-san. She at least managed to scratch the bastard while the rest of us just stood out of the way.” Glaring angrily, Baki swallowed the lump of self-hate and feelings of worthlessness, burying it with the rest of his resentment of not being able to help the situation at all. He continued with the rest of his narrative. “The man was a long-range fighter using homing explosives shaped into birds. He uses a special type of clay that is used to shape the birds and by activating a one handed seal, the bird transfers into its full life counterpart. Another one-handed seal will result in the bird exploding.”

Straightening his back, Baki continued his explanation. “At first, the Kazekage had the upper hand. But then, the enemy escaped Gaara’s sand and started flying low, towards ground level. Gaara’s sand followed but it was difficult for him to keep his sand tracking the enemy while avoiding civilians that were on the road. That’s when Ino-san joined the battle and managed to scare the Akatsuki member back into the air. The enemy then produced a large bomb and dropped it from the sky directly into the centre of Suna. The Kazekage somehow managed to summon enough sand to protect the whole of suna from the deadly attack. But with his attention on the protection of Suna, Gaara was left vulnerable to attack by the enemy. That’s when he was captured and carted away on the bird the Akatsuki member was standing on.”

“We tried to follow but was stopped by the collapse of Suna’s main entrance. You know that there is only one entrance to Suna, and somehow the second Akatsuki member had booby-trapped the entire place. Kankuro and a few other ninjas managed to survive the traps and carried on with retrieving the Kazekage, while the rest of us stayed behind to try and clear up the debris and treat the injured. It was later when the second tracker team went out that we found Kankuro, poisoned and left in the desert to die. However, all was not lost. Kankuro managed to identify the second Akatsuki member – Akasuna no Sasori.” Baki answered in a grave voice.

“When we brought Kankuro back to the hospital, I immediately had Chiyo-basama, our resident Poison Master to look him over, but she was unable to help. That’s when Ino-san stepped in once more. She managed to retract most of the poison from Kankuro’s body, but there are still some trace amounts inside his bloodstream. She’s been working hard at the greenhouse trying to develop an antidote to the new poison.” Looking directly at Sakura, Baki requested: “She asked that if Haruno-san was sent by the Hokage, that Haruno-san should go straight to the greenhouse and assist her in the development of the antidote.”

“Right.” With a sharp nod, Sakura turned around and left the hospital room quickly. Although Ino was gifted in many areas, and was a brilliant Medical Ninja in her own right; Sakura had been Tsunade’s personal apprentice and had trained under Dokudes Ryoko – unanimously renowned as the best Medic-nin in all the elemental countries. Sakura knew that if there was anything Ino missed, she would find it.

Back in Kankuro’s medical room, the discussions continued on. “What can you tell me about that second Akatsuki member – Akasuna no Sasori. I believe he was a missing nin from Suna, correct?” Kakashi asked calmly.

Baki nodded in acknowledgement. “Akasuna no Sasori was a genius puppet user, and the grandson of Chiyo-basama. He left his station and disappeared about 20 or so years ago and was later listed down as an S-class criminal due to his special skills in puppetry. You see, Sasori’s mastery of the Puppet arts was so great that he managed to develop a new type of puppets – human puppets, called Hitokugutsu. Basically, he uses the corpse of a deceased ninja and turns it into a puppet. This puppet however, still has the original chakra circulatory system inside them, which enables them to use the same techniques that their human counterpart could use. At the time of his disappearance, he had created about 9 human puppets, most of which were left behind. That’s all I know for sure, Chiyo-basama may be able to give you more information.”

Looking to Kakashi, this time it was Sasuke that asked a question. “How will we find these Akatsuki guys? Do we have a clue as to where they went?”

This time, Baki grinned fiercely. “We found Kankuro lying in the desert south-east of Suna. He was able to collect a piece of cloth from Akasuna no Sasori. I believe you are a master tracker, am I correct, Kakashi-dono?” Baki asked and Kakashi could only grin and nod in acceptance. “Then there is no problem.” Gazing once more at Kankuro’s sleeping form, Baki signed yet again. “I probably should go back and report to the council. I will see you both later. With Haruno-san and Ino-san working on the antidote, I have no doubt that it would be completed soon.” Bowing in respect, Baki quickly left the room.

Temari then took a seat next to her sleeping brother, holding his hands tightly, willing the girls to get back as soon as possible. Kakashi and Sasuke silently left Temari to her vigil, both creeping out of the hospital room to grant her some privacy.

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“Phew. Got it! Thanks for that, Forehead. I never would have been able to create three antidote capsules if you hadn’t arrived in the nick of time. I got the majority of the antidote matrix figured out, but I’m not experienced enough in brewing it accurately. I may have wasted the other two capsules in order to get the third one just right.” Ino smiled tiredly as she slumped against the table while sitting on the only stool in the greenhouse laboratory.

Sakura snorted at the old nickname. “Is that any way to thank someone, calling them names?” She grumbled childishly.

“Humph. You’re one to talk. You brought that red-eyed freak with you, didn’t you? Give a girl a break.” Ino’s eyes turned uncharacteristically angry. Even after all these years, she still didn’t feel compelled to forgive the last Uchiha for his assault on her when she had participated in the team that went out to retrieve him back from joining the Sound Village. Suffice to say, she had been severely disillusioned with the whole last Uchiha fandom, and had turned her attentions to bigger fish – namely, the youngest Kazekage in the history of the Sand.

Sakura gave a heavy sigh, having known her best friend in so many years, she knew that the relationship between Ino and Sasuke was irreparably damaged, and the two would probably never be more than distant acquaintances, if at all. However, that doesn’t mean she enjoys being the middle person between the two stubborn shinobi. In fact, she was getting tired of always being the one to calm the two down from ringing each other’s neck. It was becoming tedious. Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Sakura tried to get her best friend to reveal more of what happened. “Hey. Baki mentioned that you managed to ‘scratch’ the enemy while the rest of the Suna Shinobis were unable to do anything. What the hell did he mean by that? What actually happened?” She asked in all curiosity.

This time, it was Ino that signed sadly. “I did my best, but it wasn’t enough to protect Gaara.

(FLASHBACK)

An explosion was heard in the distance. Both Ino and Chiyo looked towards the direction that the sound had originated and saw a sight that horrified them. Gaara was floating on a mass of sand in the middle of the sky summoning forth a mountain of sand to back him up as he fought a strange man in a cloak with red clouds patterns on it. The enemy was standing on a giant white bird like creature that looked anything but natural. However, the creature was versatile and fast, fast enough to avoid most Gaara’s sand as the enemy weaved in and out of the sand barrages that went their way. Ino and Chiyo immediately dropped everything that they were doing to head towards the Kazekage, thinking up any way they could help the situation.

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Ino skidded to a stop on top of one of the tallest buildings in Suna, watching anxiously as the enemy weaved in, out, around and beneath most of the buildings of Suna, interrupting the lives of Suna civilians while actively avoiding Gaara’s sand pursuit. She gritted her teeth in anger as she tightened her fist in determination. It didn’t matter to her that she was jumping into a battle between an S-class criminal and the Kazekage. All she wanted to do was help Gaara in anyway she can. And if that meant distracting the enemy so that Gaara could get in a direct hit then so be it.

Watching closely as the enemy flew closer towards her location. Raising her right hand, Ino shot forth five metallic needles, each with ninja wires attached to them from the mechanical bracelet on Ino’s wrist. The needles pierced through the hardened walls of the building across from Ino, and she strengthened the ninja wire with her chakra, just a few seconds before the Akatsuki’s summoned creature slammed across it. The impact between the furiously flying creature and the ninja wires that Ino had fired forced the needles to lose their grip upon the stone wall, and literally pulled Ino right off her feet towards the direction of the bird’s flight. Quickly readjusting herself to the sudden momentum, Ino launched five more needles from her other hand, which struck the back of the giant clay bird’s leg, and then, she hung on for dear life.

Gritting her teeth, Ino tried her very best to avoid any incoming obstacles as the Akatsuki and his summoned bird continued to weave between buildings. She knew that her additional weight must be slowing the summons speed down in flight, but any little bit helps as she watched in the corner of her eyes, Gaara’s sand creeping closer and closer to the enemy and her.

Above her, Deidara had already noticed the extra weight drawing down his summon and glared at her opening. He mentally commanded the creature to weave ever so closely to the surrounding buildings, doing sharp turns on every corner. Ino was forced to project chakra from every pore of her body, creating a semi-kaiten in order to protect her from smashing against solid walls, metallic signs and various people dodging out of the way.

/I can’t hold on forever./ She thought to herself, before coming to a decision. Closing her eyes in concentration, Ino released a spark of electrically charged chakra and let it race up the thin ninja wire towards the enemy’s bird summon. The point of contact was immediate and devastating. In mid flight, the clay bird suddenly exploded, blasting both Deidara and Ino in two different directions due to the force of the blast.

Quickly righting himself and ignoring the shearing burns upon his body, Deidara called forth yet a second bird summon, activated it into its larger version and landed on it as gracefully as he could, looking as battered as he was. Most of Deidara’s coat had been burnt off, and he had second degree burns all over his legs and part of his chest. Black burns and cuts littered his once smooth face. Suffice to say, Deidara was not happy that his beautiful piece of art work (his former bird summon) was destroyed before he commanded it to. Art is only a blast if he himself created it after all. /That women will DIE!/ He swore to himself angrily as he made his summon fly straight up into the atmosphere.

Having been blasted away resulting in her tumbling through the air in all directions, Ino was just starting to brace herself for impact when she was caught by something soft but dry. Opening her eyes, she let lose a sign of relief as the familiar sand particles surrounded her and gently dropped her down on top of a near by building. /Thanks Gaara. For saving my life again./ She thought to herself even as she blushed slightly in embarrassment at having to need his help once again. Shaking those thoughts away, she refocused her efforts on the enemy, whom had now flown quite high up into the air, too far for her to reach with her lightning attacks or ninja wire. /Damn! I wish I had a long distance attack!/ She swore but could only stand as watch as the man of her dreams drifted further and further away from her towards the enemy.

From a distance she was able to watch as the Akatsuki created yet another summoned bird, this time, larger than all the other summoned birds that he had produced in the past. This new summon was strange in appearance. It looked like a double faced owl, ugly and strange looking. Suddenly, the brid-shaped bomb dropped straight down towards the heart of Suna. And Ino’s heart literally leapt to her throat in fear. /Oh No! He’s going to destroy the SAND!/ And just as Ino predicted, the giant bomb exploded into a supernova of heat and flames, rocked with the sounds of a sonic eruption equal to a volcano’s wrath. Ino could do nothing else but cover her face with her arms bracing for impact and hoped that she survive whatever debris that were flying towards her direction. After 5 long seconds of waiting, she finally found the courage to open her eyes to watch her impending doom.

What she saw truly awed her beyond any expectation.

(END FLASHBACK)

“Gaara had summoned a mountain of sand and protected the village from the entire blast radius of the Akatsuki’s attack. It took every ounce of energy for him to control such a large mass of sand and then move it away from the village so that when he let go of it, it won’t smash down onto the village like a rain of rocks.” Ino paused in her explanation, her eyes dimmed slightly in memory. “But the distraction had worked. Gaara was exhausted after protecting Suna like that, and in a quick move, Akatsuki had captured him. I had wanted to go after them myself but then there was a series of explosions in and around the Suna entrance, blocking anyone from going out. There were several people seriously injured, and I stayed back to help them. By the time I had finished with the healing and was preparing to leave, Kankuro was brought back on the brink of death. Since then, I’ve been working closely with Chiyo-basama on figuring out a cure for Kankuro.”

Slumping into her seat, Ino’s arms shook slightly as she finally found time to release the tension that had been building up inside her heart for the last three days. “I’m scared, Sakura.” She whispered to her old friend. “I’m scared that by the time we find him... he’s gone. I can’t... I can’t lose him... Not like this.”

Sakura remained silent, but he pulled the shaking Ino into her arms in a tight embrace. “It’s going to be okay, Ino. We’ll save him. I swear it. We will save him.”

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Early the next morning, all three members of Team Kakashi were ready to set off towards the direction that Pakkun had said he could follow the scent of the Kazekage. Ino originally had wanted to come along as well, but was persuaded to stay behind (or ordered to more like) by Chiyo; the reasons being that her medical skills were still needed to administer the rest of Kankuro’s ailments. Temari, too, had been forced to stay behind as one of the few high-ranking Jounins, able to watch the border of the country in case of any invasions. Within minutes, Team Kakashi and Chiyo of Suna jumped away from the now clean entrance to the Suna village, running rapidly towards the borders of river country. They were on a tight schedule and all of them knew that being late would result in a catastrophe, not just for Suna, but perhaps the whole world depending on what Akatsuki’s plans are.

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Somewhere far in the distance and hidden behind an enclosed cavern large enough to hold thousands of worshippers, the members of Akatsuki convene for the first stage of their plan.

“You’re late.” A shadowed figure stated plainly. “Prepare it immediately.”

Turning his back to the two Akatsuki members who had just arrived at their location, the obvious leader of the group performed a series of hand seals before placing his hands upon the ground of the darkened chamber. In a sudden burst of smoke cloud a giant monument erupted from the earth. Seemingly made of wood, the giant monument showed the features of a nine-eyed monster head with its teeth clenching a metallic scroll like object. Its human like hands were also visible, holding up its fingers in a prayer like motion, both wrists were chained together by a strong chain.

Performing another hand seal, the leader of the Akatsuki spoke: “Assemble.” And immediately, six other shadowed members appeared upon the finger tips of the monument. The Akatsuki leader himself, Deidara and Sasori ball jumped to their respective positions atop the other finger tips of the statue, leaving only Gaara’s comatose form upon the ground. “Now, let us begin.”

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“Hey, um... I know this may seem like a stupid question, but why does the Akatsuki want Gaara?” Surprisingly, it was Sasuke who asked the question, having only had one encounter with his brother and never really understanding what the aims of Akatsuki were. He was simply curious and knew that this information would be vital for the success of this mission.

“You don’t know?!” Sakura queried back, surprised. But when she took some time to think about it, she realised. “Yeah, you weren’t here when Tsunade gave us the explanation about 6 months ago.”

Sasuke frowned. “What explanation?” He snapped back grumpily.

“You may or may not be aware, but Gaara is what we call a ‘Jinchuriki’, Power of the Human Sacrifice. Basically, he is a container of a tailed-beast, namely the Ichibi no Shukaku.” Chiyo’s grave voice answered.

Sasuke only frowned further in confusion. “What the hell is a ‘Jinchuriki’? What is a tailed beast? Is it that giant thing that Gaara turned into when he fought Naruto back during the Konoha Chuunin Exams (1)?”

“What?! You call yourself a Shinobi and you don’t know that?” Chiyo sneered at the last Uchiha, having heard from Ino about Sasuke’s betrayal during his youth, she was more than suspicious about his intentions and was not comfortable working closely with him.

“The information regarding the ‘Nine Tails’ are top secret materials in Konoha, no one above High Chuunin are privy to the information, so it’s not surprising that Sasuke doesn’t know.” Kakashi interrupted the conversation before a verbal fight could escalate.

“I suppose so...” Chiyo muttered under her breath before she decided to continue. “The ‘Tailed Beasts’ are in fact magical beasts, often referred to as demons, which possess tails. The Sand has always possessed the ‘One-Tail’; that is the Ichibi no Shukaku. Through out history, there are a total of Nine ‘Tailed Beasts’ in this world. Each one differs in characteristics, depending on the number of ‘tails’ they have. The Ichibi no Shukaku possesses only ‘one’ tail. The Nibi no Nekotama possesses ‘two’ tails. And so on and so forth until the Kyuubi no Kitsune which possesses all ‘nine’ tails. The ‘Tailed Beasts’ are a monstrous formation of demonic Chakra, or as some people call it ‘Chaos energy’. During the Ninja wars, every hidden village attempted to acquire their power for military purposes. They competed to attain these beasts. However...” Here, Chiyo’s voice turned grave while her eyes turned sad. “No one can truly control such power, they are beyond the ability of men. I’ve yet to understand why Akatsuki attempts to acquire such power... they are simply too dangerous. Well, even through the time of peace, the ages shift on. I’ve heard that all the ‘tailed beasts’ are scattered across the world. (2)”

Sasuke remained silent for a moment before he turned his attentions to Sakura. “If these demonic beasts were so powerful, why weren’t they turned into those Tenkun no Buki that Naruto always wield. They obviously would have been a far better ‘weapon’ than being sealed inside a human. And why would you seal a demon into a human anyway? That’s just... cruel...”

Sakura glared slightly at Sasuke, having been reminded of those terrible weapons. “It’s not that easy Sasuke. From what I remember of reading the historical texts at the Kuunoki Library, it is true that the Uzumaki leader managed to create weapons with the souls and power of demons sealed in them, these weapons are known as the Tenkun no Buki. There are only ten in existence in this entire world. But as Naruto has already explained before, not everyone can wield these weapons and stay sane. Most had been consumed by the power of the weapons and became a puppet of the weapons or simply went insane. The Uzumaki line is the only family line who can ‘safely’ use the weapon, and I use that term VERY loosely, because it was the blood of an Uzumaki that was used in the blood seals in the first place.”

“Having proven that creating weapons out of demons are more hazardous than fruitful, the Uzumaki leader abandoned that path and turned his attention to sealing the demons into another world – the Makai. As you know, they were successful in driving out the majority of demon kind away from this world and into another. However, that didn’t mean they got rid of ALL demons. In fact, it was recorded down that right after the demon wars finished, there was still around 300 years of turmoil where lesser demons (mostly D and C class demons) (3) were hunted down by the humans of those times and killed off. There were also records of Hanyou’s being born around those times as well. ‘Hanyou’ are half-demon, half-human kind. They look like humans but also have either special abilities of their demon heritage or they can transform parts of their body to showcase their demon heritage. The Hanyous were the left over demon’s attempt to safely merge into a largely human society. Some Hanyous managed to survive, even till today, and are the forefathers of what we commonly term today as ‘Bloodline’ clans. Others did not. And so ends the history of demon kind in this world that has become the domain of humans.” Sakura paused in order for everyone to reflect upon the large bomb of information that she had just given then.

“Are you saying...” Sasuke stuttered slightly in shock. “That all bloodline clans... originally came from... Demons?” The truth may have been a little too much for him to handle.

“That is only one theory.” Sakura tried to relieve her teammate but knew that the truth is not so easily silenced. “But many original bloodline clans within the Kuunoki village had been able to trace their family line to at least one Hanyou survivor. However, that is not to say that they are not humans. They are very much humans, it’s just that in their DNA, there is one tiny, TINY remnant of their demonic ancestors. And truthfully, it is these demonic remnants that make Bloodline clans as feared and as powerful as they are today. You should not feel ashamed or embarrassed about your history. Almost every single person in this world will have at least some contact with the old blood of Hanyous, its just that in Bloodline clans, they are manifested in a more visual, and powerful means.” Sakura assured the last Uchiha.

Taking a deep breath and releasing it out with the rest of his stress, Sasuke decided to stuff this information to the back of his mind until a later date. He needed to concentrate on the task at hand. “Okay, so we know that some demons were left behind from the Demon Wars, and managed to leave behind descendants. But what about the Tailed Beasts, how did they survive the Demon Wars? And none of you have answered me regarding why these ‘Jinchuriki’ were created?”

This time, Sakura bit her lip in hesitation. “I tried to find that out too, but all the historical texts at the Kuunoki Library said was that there was some sort of ‘deal’ made between the Uzumaki leader and the 9 powerful beasts. Supposedly, the Tailed beasts had promised to do something for the Uzumaki leader, and in return, they alone were allowed to stay in this world, provided that they didn’t wreck havoc everywhere they go.”

Sasuke frowned again. “But that doesn’t make sense. Didn’t the Kyuubi no Kitsune attacked Konoha several times in the last 100 years. Wouldn’t that be a breach of whatever contract that was held between the Uzumaki and the Tailed Beast? And how would this deal uphold considering during the Ninja wars, almost every hidden village (other than the Kuunoki) tried to capture a Tailed Beast for their own use?”

Chiyo gave a deep sigh.  “Such is probably why the Kuunoki shut their doors to the outside world for so long. The other hidden villages had no knowledge of this ‘pact’ between the Uzumaki and Bijyu (Tailed Beast), hence why we seeked them out, provoked them, and in the end, managed to capture them and use them for our own purposes. In a way, much of the damage caused by Bijyu’s is a direct result of them retaliating against our mistreatment of them, be they Jinchuriki or otherwise.”

“As for the Kyuubi no Kitsune; that was a man-made disaster.” Kakashi noted quietly by the side of the team.

“Huh?” This time, it was Sakura who looked curiously at Kakashi. “What do you mean, Kakashi-sense? I know that when Kyuubi attacked Konoha around 15 years ago, the Yondaime defeated it and sealed it within Naruto, but what does...”

Her question was immediately cut off by one of Sasuke’s. “What? What’s this about the Kyuubi sealed inside Naruto?” Sasuke called out in alarm, having never heard this news before.

“You mean you didn’t know about that either?!” Sakura looked back at Sasuke with a shocked look on her face, and Kakashi could only sigh in reply.

Bloating his face up and flushing in embarrassment, Sasuke barked out in a harsh tone of voice. “EXPLAIN!”

“Like I said before, the Bijyu have inconceivable power. Every country wanted to use them for military affairs. A ‘Jinchuriki’ is something created to control that power.” Chiyo answered as best she could.

“I thought you said no one could control such power?” Sasuke mumbled unhappily, having been kept in the dark about all this information.

“That is how it is yes. But human greed for power knows no bounds. Over time, people have tried to control that power... by sealing the Bijyu into humans. By doing that, the overwhelming power of the Bijyu is compressed and that power could be directed by a human mind. And for those poor souls that had Bijyu sealed in them, like Gaara, came to be known as Jinchuriki. The power of human sacrifice, a fitting name, don’t you think?” Pausing in forlornness, Chiyo shook her head in order to be rid of her past regrets. “Jinchuriki are characterised by being able to tap into an unimaginable power by resonating with the Bijyu. Though out Suna’s history, there have been three Jinchuriki, including Gaara.”

“Then what about Naruto?” Sasuke asked in a quiet voice, suddenly dreading the answer.

Sakura gave Kakashi a look, and the older man sighed. “You know, it’s an A-class penalty punishable by death if I break the Hokage’s law. Basically, only 2 people can talk about this, Naruto-himself, and the Hokage. All I can say is a few facts. 1. The first time the Kyuubi no Kitsune was sighted invading Konoha territory was over 60 years ago, when the great deserter – Uchiha Madara summoned the great beast to attack Konoha. At the time, the Shodai Hokage was able to subdue the Kyuubi, Madara was defeated, and both disappeared afterwards. It was commonly believed that Madara died that day. But now, we’re not so sure. 2. The Kyuubi no Kitsune reappeared about 15 years ago, and this time, it was stopped by the Yondaime Hokage. But as you already know, it’s not so easy to destroy a demon, especially one like the Kyuubi. 3. You already know that Jinchuriki’s exist. Gaara is a good example. Now make your own conclusions. 4. Naruto’s birthday is October 10th, the same day the Kyuubi was defeated.” Kakashi said, hinting at the answer without actually saying anything.

Sasuke closed his eyes, hiding his shock, disbelief and other assortment of emotions. When he finally opened his eyes again, they were calm. “Why weren’t we told?”

“For Naruto’s own protection.” That was all Kakashi could say, and Sasuke accepted that.

The rest of the journey was taken in silence.

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Within the dark cavern, the tall man with strange claw like appendages surrounding his head suddenly spoke up. “There are currently 2 teams of Shinobi heading our way, one from the west - lead by Konoha’s Maito Gai. The other from the east, is lead by Copy-Cat Kakashi.”

“Zetsu, who are the rest of the squad members?” The supposedly leader asked in a firm but almost nonchalant way, as if he was not concerned about enemies coming his way.

“Maito Gai’s team consist of his original team members – Hyuuga Neji, Rock Lee and Tenten. For Kakashi’s team, there is Uchiha Sasuke, Haruno Sakura and I believe a delegate from Suna – Chiyo.” The newly named Zetsu, still shadowed in darkness replied.

“Heh. Let me go deal with them. I’m more than happy to give a few more sacrifices to Jashin-sama.” Another shadowed person spoke out in an arrogant tone of voice.

“No. Leave Maito Gai and his team to me. I have a personal Vendetta against that bizarre beast of Konoha.” Yet another shadowed figure spoke forth, interrupting the previous one.

“So be it. Kisame, you deal with Maito Gai and his squad. After all, that jutsu was practically made for you as you have a large amount of Chakra even among us Akatsuki members. However, remember that I will need at least 30 percent of your chakra for the demon extraction.” The remaining Akatsuki members silently as the newly revealed Kisame suddenly turn silent, as if his mind was hundreds of miles away. The Leader turned his attention upon the next item of issue. “Now, who will deal with the other squad?”

“I will go.” A soft voice spoke forth, but this single statement immediately silenced all other protests.

“Good. Then you go.” The leader confirmed and then all was quiet once again.

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Upon landing into a clearing in the middle of the forest, all four members of the rescue team paused as they noticed the person standing before them.

“You!” Sasuke snarled, his eyes blazing red with a fully formed Sharingan.

“Those eyes...” Chiyo muttered from her place behind the other Konoha ninjas.

“Well, this is a surprise...” Kakashi commented calmly has he pulled up and exposed his own single Sharingan eye.

“Kakashi-sensei. Who is he?” Sakura asked, her gaze shifting from her team mate’s furious look to her sensei’s calm visage.

“Uchiha Itachi!” Sasuke spat the words out with disgust, but unlike his childhood-self, he did not immediately rush forward to try his luck at killing his brother. Instead, he stayed put waiting for Kakashi’s orders. Even now, he knew he was still no match for the other Uchiha, and he did not look forward to yet another humiliating defeat at his brother’s hand.

Sakura’s eyes widened at the implications. /This person is Uchiha Itachi? The one who killed off the entire Uchiha clan? The one whose been after Naruto?/ Her eyes hardened and she tightened her fist in preparation for the upcoming fight.

Standing opposite them, Itachi spoke calmly. “It has been awhile, Kakashi-san, Otouto.”

“Don’t call me that! I am NOT your brother!” Sasuke vehemently denounced, but again, he did not rush forward in a fit of rage, he stayed back with Kakashi.

“Well, looks like there’s no holding back with such an opponent, neh?” Kakashi signed a little, eyes never leaving that of Itachi. “All of you listen up, don’t look at his eyes or else you’ll immediately be pulled into a Genjutsu. We must attack him while focussing on his legs and or body movements. Sasuke, up front with me! Sakura, Chiyo-sama, please stay behind as backup.” With that said, Kakashi and Sasuke suddenly rushed forward to attack Itachi.

From Itachi’s sleeve, the Konoha traitor pulled out hundreds of shuriken and threw them all towards Kakashi and Sasuke as they rushed towards him. Sasuke ran in front of Kakashi, pulled out his dual Dao Sword and performed a defensive dance, swinging his two swords around at high speed, effectively deflecting all of Itachi’s thrown weapons. Sasuke then bent forward by his waist, giving Kakashi the advantage of surprise as the older man vaulted over the teenager and landed a kick at Itachi. Itachi blocked Kakashi’s kick with a forearm, but had to quickly jump backwards to avoid a low swing of Sasuke’s broad swords. Somersaulting in mid air, Itachi performed a few quick hand seals before landing and releasing a giant fireball towards the two Konoha ninjas. “Katon: Goukakyu no Jutsu! (Fire Element: Grand Fireball technique!)

Sasuke stabbed both his swords into the ground before slapping both his palms together. Kneeling down onto his knees, Sasuke then pushed his still clasped hands forward horizontally facing the giant fireball flying his way. Summoning all he had learnt of the fire bending technique, Sasuke shouted “HA!” as he released his own highly density, high heat blue flames in a thin but sharp razor arc against Itachi’s fireball. The giant fireball didn’t stand a chance and was immediately sliced into two parts, flying pass Sasuke leaving the younger Uchiha unharmed. Behind Sasuke, Kakashi dug underground to escape the flames while Sakura and Chiyo had jumped aside to same themselves. Suffice to say, when the two halves of the fireball landed against the ground, they both exploded into an outbreak of colour, noise, dust and flames.

Less than a second later, Kakashi burst out of the ground directly in front of their enemy. Itachi bent backwards to avoid Kakashi’s high punch and grabbing onto Kakashi’s sleeve, Itachi pulled the man down and readied his own punch. Kakashi managed to duck beneath Itachi’s punch but the back of his head was then grabbed and pulled towards Itachi’s face, looking directly into a pair of Mangekyou Sharingan eyes.

In an instant, Kakashi found himself trapped in the Tsukiyomi dimension, his body as flat as paper and slowly starting to burn from his legs up. Kakashi looked calmly towards Itachi who was standing before him. “I was under the impression that using that eye too much would be a danger to you, Itachi-kun. Tell me, how far have you’re eyesight gone?”

Inside the world of the Tsukiyomi, Itachi narrowed his eyes at Kakashi’s calm visage. “You truly are a genius, Kakashi-senpai. For one who had been under my technique only once, you’ve already begun to detect its flaws. I applaud you.”

Kakashi gave Itachi an uncharacteristic closed eyed smile, even has half as his body had already burnt away into ash. “I don’t deserve such credit; it was Naruto who informed me that those Mangekyou eyes have such a flaw in them. Most Doujutsu (eye techniques) does, including the Yochigan. I would tell you not to use those eyes so frivolously, but then again, you wouldn’t listen to me anyway...”

“I see. Because you concealed yourself beneath the ground, I didn’t see you until it was too late.”

In the real world, the Kakashi that was trapped within Itachi’s Genjutsu suddenly grabbed onto Itachi’s sleeve, preventing the younger man from escaping.

A few metres away from the two, another Kakashi climbed his way out of the ground. “Hit him and my Kage Bunshin (Shadow Clone) together in one attack, Sasuke!” Kakashi commanded in a no-nonsense tone of voice.

“I already know that!” Sasuke exclaimed as he stabbed one of his trusty swords right through Kakashi’s shadow clone, dispelling it instantly, and then stabbing the metallic object right into Itachi’s heart. “Chidori Nagashi! (Thousand Bird Current!)” Thousands upon thousands of volts in electricity vibrated against the very air as it shocked Itachi’s body with the power of a thunderbolt. The attack lasted a mere millisecond before the charred body of what use to be Itachi fell upon the ground, dead.

Every member of the rescue was surprised by the change of appearance of the body. The physical looks of the corpse (that they had thought was Itachi) had changed into someone else, someone completely different. Sakura knelt down to examine the body to make sure it wasn’t some sort of medical jutsu, but there was nothing there anymore.

“I don’t get it.” She muttered in a puzzled voice. “Was it their jutsu... or what?”

“I had a bad feeling about it while I was battling him.” Kakashi commented. “It did feel like Itachi... but at times, it didn’t as well.”

“He...” Chiyo stuttered in shock.

Kakashi looked towards the elder. “Do you know him, Chiyo-sama?”

“He’s Yuura. He’s a jounin from my village... But I don’t understand... He’s always been a supporter of Gaara... why... how... I cannot believe that he would betray the village... but, that’s the only explanation.” Chiyo murmured in a despondent voice.

“Could he have been impersonating Itachi under a henge?” Sakura threw out that idea as it was the only thing she could come up with.

“No.” Sasuke answered succinctly. “I think I know Itachi the best, out of all of us. The jutsu he used, both the Tsukiyomi and the Goukakyu were genuine jutsus that he would use. But somehow, it felt... not weaker per say, but more limited... as if he only had a limited source of Chakra to use on hand.”

“Hmm... well, let’s not waste anymore time on this. We’ve got a Kage to rescue, remember.” Kakashi brought their attention back into focus and together, all four Shinobis jumped away, back on their journey towards the common goal of rescuing Gaara.

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Once both the Kiri Swordsman and the Uchiha prodigy’s mind had returned back to the task of extracting the Ichibi no Shukaku, the Leader spoke forth in order to catch everyone’s attention. “So, the jutsu has ended I see. However, your efforts had bought us quite a bit of time. Well done, Itachi and Kisame.”

“Humph. You make this sound so easy.” Sasori grumbled from his station upon one of the giant statue’s fingers. “The two men who became sacrifices of your jutsu and lend their bodies were both my subordinates.” Loosing another 2 potential puppets, and to such unworthy causes just did not sit well with Sasori, who could have put them into much better use – such as turning them into Hito-Kugutsu (Human puppets) instead.

The leader stayed silent for a time before finally commenting smugly. “With my Shoten no Jutsu (Imitation Shape shifting technique) (4), they became full Akatsuki members, even if only for a short amount of time. He he” The leader’s laughter was cut off by another response however.

“Yo Itachi. You don’t mind if I play around with your little brother, do you? I just want to see whether all Uchiha’s are such an apathetic bunch, unn. You won’t mind, I’m sure...” Deidara smirked at the Uchiha prodigy, his eyes gleaming in anticipation.

Itachi simply remained silent. The Leader however, gave Deidara permission. “Do as you wish, but only once the extraction process is finished.”

“Hai. Hai... Pein-sama...” Deidara answered mockingly.

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All members of team Gai stood before a giant boulder upon the middle of a cliff side against the calm water of medium sized river. All of them looked a little tired and roughed up, but no one was seriously hurt.

“Gaara is behind that door.” Pakkun answered as he stood on the should of Rock Lee.

Neji immediately activated his Byakugan in order to look pass the boulder and into the cave within. What he saw made him gasp in surprise. Tenten, having noticed his companion’s suddenly pale complexion, asked in an urgent voice. “What did you see, Neji?”

Neji blinked and released his Byakugan. “It... They... words can’t describe it.” He finally stuttered.

Taking those words in negative light, Gai immediately ran towards the boulder and thrust his powerful fist against it, only for the giant rock structure to seemingly absorb the force of his punch. The Konoha jounin frowned upon seeing this. “It’s a Kekkai (Barrier).” He concluded grimly. “We will need to break the barrier seal before we can go in. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with this seal and don’t know how to break it.”

“Gai! It’s a Gofuu Kekai (Five Seal Barrier)” Kakashi’s voice called out from behind Team Gai as his own squad finally arrived at the destination.

“Heh. You’re late as usual, Kakashi.” Gai took this opportunity to taunt his rival, even as Kakashi ignored the verbal jab.

“No. No. We ran into a little trouble and were delayed.” Kakashi explained with curved eyes.

Turning their full attention towards the barrier once more, Gai spoke in a confident voice. “Well, then. Let’s do this! Let’s save the Kazekage of Suna!”

End

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(1) Faith in Humanity, chapter 18.

(2) Entire explanation copied from Naruto Cannon series Chapter 256, pages 13 and 14, as scanlated by Inane.

(3) Please read Faith in Humanity, chapter 14 for explanation about the rank of demons.

(4) This is the translated name for “Shoten no Jutsu” as described on the Naruto Scanlated manga – volume 29, chapter 260, page 19, by Shannaro.

Okay, first up, please go to my Fanfiction website to check out all the cool pictures I’ve just uploaded there, including the new look of Ino of the Sand. In my story, Ino is not going to wearing the skimpy purple top and skirt. Obviously, she’ll get sunburnt wearing that in Suna, hence I’ve completely changed her wardrobe. Enjoy!

Lastly, I just need a place to rant. The latest manga release from the Naruto Cannon series is kinda... disappointing. I’m mean, even I’m starting to lose interest in the whole ‘traitor turn good turn traitor’ idea, and I’m one of the more open-minded people. And, my god, Sasuke is naïve beyond belief. He really would be so easy to manipulate – like a puppet with strings held by multiple people tugging him in all different directs. Stop and think for yourself for a minute! Okay, rant finished.

Aren’t you all glad that I’ve got a manipulator of my own – Ruri. ^_^ I’d rather place my life in her hands than any other.

The Fate of Jinchuriki II by karrafear

Karrafear

Summary: SEQUAL to Faith in Humanity and Restoration of Faith; PG-13. 2 and half years have passed and now is the beginning of the trials of Faith. Chapter 3: The Fate of Jinchuriki II

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Disclaimer: Naruto is an anime and manga series created by Masashi Kishimoto. It does not belong to me; I’m simply using the characters and plot for my own creative devices.

"Demon's talk", /Thoughts/, "Speech", 'Speech emphasis', (FLASHBACK), Titles, (Author's interruptions)

Warning: NARUTO COMES BACK!!! Enter Tobi! And... more on the Tenkun no Buki... And I’ll be amending the Chiyo & Sakura Vs Sasori fight a little bit. hmm... that’s all I can think of.

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Chapter 3

“This Gofuu Kekkai (5 part barrier) creates a barrier by having tags with the character “Kin” (Forbidden) written on them placed at five different locations in the area. Obviously the first one is directly in front of us.” Kakashi explained while pointing at the small, seemingly innocent piece of paper in front of the giant boulder that is obstructing their entry into the Akatsuki lair.

“The trick is to remove all 5 “Kin” tags, including the one in front of us, all at the same time.” Kakashi concluded.

“But... where are the other four tags?” Tenten questioned. Even though she was the only resident seal user in her team, she had never used seals for barrier techniques, only for storing, hence why this information was new to her.

“Neji-kun.” Kakashi prompted and Neji immediately activated his Byakugan to full range.

It didn’t take him long to find all the other four tags. “One’s about 500 metres Northeast, on top of a rock; another 350 metres south-southeast, on the trunk of a riverside tree. The third can be found at about 650 metres northwest, stuck to a Cliffside, and the last one is just under 800 metres southwest, in a grove.” Neji finished.

“Right! If that’s the range, we’ll use these portable radios to communicate. Kakashi, my team is faster than yours, so we’ll take care of the tags before rushing back to aid you. Neji, you will have to have your Byakugan activated the whole time and give us directions if we’re going the wrong way.” Gai ordered in a confident manner and each member of Team Gai, as well as Kakashi placed the delicate ear piece and voice box on their body. “Good. Everyone ready?” His team mates nodded. “Kakashi, the frequency is 174. Right! Let’s go!” With a punch in the air, all four members of team Gai disappeared from the waterfront clearing, all rushing towards their various targets.

Due to Team Gai’s impressive speed, it only took them all of 5 minutes to find their various targets, Lee having taken the longest due to the distance as well as the difficulty in finding his chosen tag. “Alright everyone, remove the tags in front of you on the count of 3! 3! 2! 1! NOW!”

In synchronisation, Neji, Gai, Lee, Tenten and Kakashi all pulled the delicate piece of paper seal away from their attachment area. Sakura, who had readied herself quickly rushed towards the boulder the moment Kakashi pulled the tag off. Giving a passionate cry, she punched into the stone structure will her might, shattering the rock’s surface crumbling and falling haphazardly into the river below. Team Kakashi didn’t waste time as they immediately jumped into the cavern.

Unknown to team Kakashi, the members of Team Gai were now trapped in their own individual fights, hence they would be unable to rush back in time to help them.

“Damn. Too late.” Kakashi narrowed his eyes at the two Akatsuki members sitting nonchalantly in front of them. There was a giant of a man crouched down in a hideously deformed fashion. Another man with long blond hair tied to a high ponytail, sitting disrespectfully on the seemingly dead corpse of Gaara. Lastly, behind Gaara’s corpse was the giant, white clay bird which was the summon belonging to the blond guy, as described by Baki and Ino.

“Oh. Look, Danna. We have guests.” Deidara mockingly welcomed.

“Sasori...” Chiyo’s soft voice echoed in the cavern.

Sasori remained silent, but Deidara wanted to play. “Yo, Sasori-danna. Isn’t that your good-ol’ grandma? Shouldn’t you go over there and give the old bag a hug or something?”

“Quiet! Deidara!” Sasori snapped back.

Deidara pouted before focussing his attention on the other members. “Oooh. We’ve also got the legendary Copy Cat Kakashi and Itachi’s little bro...” Here, Deidara’s eyes remained on Sasuke’s impassive face for a while longer before he thinned his smirk into a determined stare. “Ne, Ne. Danna. Let me play with the little Uchiha. I want to see how far he’s come along compared to Itachi-sama.”

Sasuke’s eyes narrowed dangerously at Deidara’s taunt.

“Do whatever you like. I don’t care.” Sasori answered in a bland voice.

Refocusing his attention to Sasuke, Deidara continued to taunt in a childish but threatening manner. “Hehe. How should I kill you, I wonder? Should I blow you up like a human firework, or should I simmer you down like a bright human fuse. An artist must always seek ever greater inspiration or he’ll lose his touch... I’ve already seen what Itachi-sama can do. Now, let’s see if you can even compare, Uchiha-no-boyo (Uchiha boy) (1).

Sasori snorted in a sarcastic manner. “What? You insist on calling those little fireworks of yours art? True art endures the ages… beauty everlasting.”

“As a fellow craftsman, Danna... I respect you, but art is in the beauty of that single fleeting moment of destruction!” Deidara retorted passionately.

“Deidara... are you trying to anger me?” Sasori threatened with a deep voice.

“Well, you’re the one who’s always putting down my art!” Deidara exclaimed in self defence, completely ignoring the four intruders that had invaded their lair. “My art is the explosion itself.” Deidara said forcefully, as he gracefully stood up. His pet bird immediately made a move to swallow the body of Gaara. “Quite different from your little puppet shows, Danna!”

In a flick of movement, a strange wooden, mechanical tail suddenly lashed out at Deidara from behind Sasori’s form, revealing his mastery of puppetry. Deidara had barely managed to avoid the attack and jump gracefully onto his summon, which had already taken to the sky with Gaara still in its mouth.

“Tch!” Sasori snorted in irritation.

“See you later, Danna!” Deidara cheered before looking at Sasuke and Kakashi once again. “Yo, Uchiha-boyo. Come and face me, show me how weak you are compared to your dear older brother!” His last comment blew Sasuke’s fuse. Seeing that he had what he wanted, Deidara quickly flew out of the cavern and into the sky outside.

“Shut up! I’m not weak! And He’s NOT MY BROTHER!” Sasuke screamed at Deidara before trying to rush off after the man, only to have his arm gripped by Kakashi.

Kakashi glared at Deidara who was still flapping around in the air, flying further away with each second he waste, and then turning to look at the formidable Sasori before coming to a decision. He silently pressed into the speaker phone for the portable radio. “Gai? Can you hear me? We need your team back here now!”

“PSSS. That’s easier said than done, Kakashi. We’re all caught up in the enemy’s jutsu. You’ll have to wait a bit longer! PSSSS.” Came Gai’s reply.

/Shit./ Kakashi thought to himself before finally giving out his orders. “Chiyo-basama and Sakura, can you hold off Sasori – the puppet master? Sasuke and I will take care of Deidara and rescue Gaara’s body. But, until Gai and his team comes back, don’t over do it.” With that said, he released his grip on Sasuke’s arm, pulled up his forehead protector to reveal his own single Sharingan eye and the both of them rushed out of the cave to follow in pursuit of Deidara and Gaara.

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Back inside the cave, there was a tense silence between the three Shinobis, that is, until Sakura suddenly commented out of the blue. “You! I recognise you!” She exclaimed.

Behind her, Chiyo gave the pink haired girl a surprised look, having known how secretive Sasori’s personality had been before he deserted the Sand. Her grandson had always been one to keep to himself, never advertising his presence loudly in public, so she was highly surprised that anyone outside of Sand would have met him and still be alive today; but Sakura’s next statement helped her understand.

Sakura announced calmly: “Two and a half years ago, during Orochimaru’s second attempt at invading Konoha, you were there trying to capture Naruto. I remember Yami-san of the Kuunoki describing your appearance and abilities to us. You’re that puppet master that went toe to toe with one of the Kuunoki Gate Guardians! (2)” Although her voice was confident, internally, Sakura was feeling very insecure about her chances against such an opponent. Inner Sakura was in full support of taking on such a challenge, while outer Sakura knew that she was way out of Sasori’s league.

Unfortunately for her, she couldn’t just walk away either. This man puppet standing before was one of the Akatsuki main members – one of those men who were out to hunt Naruto, a good friend if not a brother to her. She couldn’t just allow this man to leave here alive. Not only that, but she had to keep him here while Kakashi and Sasuke deal with the other Akatsuki member. She was certainly not going to stand aside and watch her precious people be harmed, so she literally had no choice but to fight with her all.

Behind her, Chiyo had loosened her hair, letting the white manes fall whether they go, and gave her grandson an old but determined look. “Sakura, do not fear him, remember I am by your side.” With those words, she released a string of kunai directed at Sasori, whom easily deflected them all with his wooden, scorpion like tail.

Seeing how easily their enemy deflected those weapons did not help Sakura’s confidence. “Chiyo-basama. I know that Puppet masters usually fight behind their puppets using chakra strings. And I also know that the puppet themselves are usually filled with traps and poison. I heard from Yami-san that unlike other puppet masters, Sasori actually hides himself inside one of his puppets. So how are we going to get him out of it?” She asked earnestly.

Chiyo gave the girl a weary smirk. “That’s where you come in, Sakura. It’s true. To Defeat Sasori, we must first take out Hiruko – that puppet that you see before you. But I definitely don’t have the raw power to destroy it. However, you, who have inherited Tsunade’s strength, would be able to pull that off without trouble. And it will be my responsibility to get you close enough to him to smash that puppet to pieces, without you getting injured by any of Sasori’s traps. Trust in me, Sakura, I will get you there in one piece.”

“Hey. I hate waiting. Are you ready to fight or not.” Sasori muttered impatiently as he raised his right hand to pull off the black cloth in front of his puppet’s face.

“Relax...” Chiyo chided her grandchild. “We’ll be killing you shortly.”

And so starts the battle. Sasori ripped the mouth cloth out of way, and opened up the three wooden segments that made up the puppet’s jaw. From the opened mouth, hundreds of poisoned needles shot out with deadly accuracy towards Sakura and Chiyo, who had rushed Sasori the moment Chiyo finished her speech. Miraculously, both Sakura and Chiyo managed to weave and dodge their way pass the hail of needles without getting cut even once.

However, Sasori wasn’t done. He raised his left hand, with what looked to be some sort of wooden cannon with small missiles attached to its rounded sides. A snap sounded upon Sasori’s right elbow and the wooden cannon like appendage shot forth in the area between Sakura and Chiyo’s running forms. While in midair, cannon split apart revealing thousands of poisoned needles now flying in all directions, a full 360 degree circumference around its base. Both Sakura and Chiyo were frantic in their movements, desperate to avoid being hit by any of the needles. 

Amazingly, neither of them got hit and Sasori was starting to get angry. Due to the lessening of distance between the two, Sakura quickly rushed towards Sasori’s stationary form, readying the chakra in her fist in preparation for the final impact. Sasori tried to impale Sakura using his scorpion tail but the motion was suddenly stopped when he felt foreign strings that were attached to the wooden appendage suddenly pull tight, rendering him unable to move it. The split second was all the chance that Sakura needed in order to slam her fist into the back of the puppet – Hiroku. She was surprised when she saw that her fest had met and then destroyed a giant wooden face mask that was hidden beneath the large Akatsuki cloak. But her surprise quickly wore off as she saw a small black form escaping from the centre of the crushed mask.

The black clad form skidded a bit before standing up straight. There, the real body of Sasori stood in a calm visage. “As expected of Chiyo - my grandmother and a master puppeteer. No wonder even that girl was able to avoid my traps completely. You’ve been using chakra strings to control the girl’s body from the very beginning, enabling her to react instinctively to avoid all my attacks. Not only that, the initial ruse with the kunai you threw at me helped you attack more chakra stings to Hiruko’s tail, which was why I couldn’t move it when I needed to pierce that girl’s head.”

“You’ve not lost your touch at all, Sasori.” Chiyo commented with a hint of pride and sadness.

“Of course, it was after all you who taught me everything I know of puppetry, Grandma Chiyo.” A petite, delicate looking hand appeared from under the long sleeve of the black gown the figure was wearing. These pale white hands reached up and pulled black cloak away, revealing a very young face, the face of a child’s. Short, shaggy looking reddish hair framed a young, fragile-looking face of a boy, but the pale face held very cold eyes – eyes of a merciless killer. Dropping the black cloak that he once wore over his body, Sasori revealed another coat underneath – this time it was the infamous Akatsuki coat, covered with the threatening colours of black, red and white outlines for the clouds – all giving an ominous and dangerous impression for a boy so young.

From the sleeves of his Akatsuki coat, the young Sasori pulled out a small scroll, opening it with his small fingers, the paper revealed a large character with the word ‘three’ on it. “I didn’t think I would need to use this puppet again, but I guess not everything goes according to plan all the time. I hope you all feel proud, this was the puppet I used against your so-called Gate Guardian who I fought to a standstill (3).” With those words, the summoning scroll suddenly burst into clouds of smoke. Once the haze cleared, the once summoning scroll was replaced by a human size puppet with spiky black hair hanging down the puppets head and wearing a pure black cloak with spiked-looking features upon its collar. The gem like eyes upon the chiselled face of the puppet would haunt the nightmares of many Shinobi who had ever faced such a foe.

Chiyo stared on in shocked horror. “That’s... it couldn’t be...”

“What? What is it?” Sakura asked, slightly afraid as she watched the blood disappear from Chiyo’s face.

“That is the Sandaime Kazekage...” She muttered in shocked fear.

“Sandaime Kazekage? What do you mean?” Sakura asked in confusion, having not heard of this little secret from Yami during their past conversations.

“It’s been over ten years now, since the Sandaime Kazekage disappeared from the village. Sasori! You wound dare go against our Kazekage, and not only kill him, but turn his body into your slave by turning it into a puppet, a Hito Kugutsu (Human Puppet)!” Chiyo cried out is shame and disappointment, having finally gotten over her shock. “My grandson... you’ve fallen so far! You’ve not only betrayed our village, but you’ve caused the deaths of three Kazekages!”

“Three?” Sakura stuttered, amazed that one man could have caused so much pain and chaos to the sand village alone.

“I see before me the body of the Sandaime Kazekage. And it was you and your partner who took Gaara – our Godaime Kazekage and killed him during the Bijuu extraction process. Not only that, but it was Orochimaru – guided by yourself – who killed the Yondaime Kazekage!” Chiyo yelled in anger.

/Orochimaru?!/ Sakura shuddered as she remembered the Snake Sannin and his exploits against her team members in the past, as well as the two attempts at invading and destroying Konoha. If there was one person Sakura could claim to hate with all her being, it was Orochimaru.

“Hey, Hey. I had nothing to do with the Yondaime. It was my subordinate that guided Orochimaru, not myself. Don’t put the blame of something I didn’t do on me.” Sasori countered with a calm visage. “Although, I admit that Orochimaru had been my original partner in Akatsuki. And we did do a lot of things together. Now, let’s get going.” Sasori then directed the puppet of the Sandaime to fly towards Sakura’s location.

In reaction to his move, Chiyo pulled Sakura (using her chakra strings) far away from the incoming puppet. Flying in close towards Sakura’s form, a sudden ripping sound could be heard as the right side of the Sandaime puppet’s cloak was slashed open, revealing several deadly looking knives and blades, all coated with poison ready to stab into Sakura’s vulnerable being. Chiyo reached in instinct, pulling up the scorpion tail left over from the broken Hiruko puppet and placed it in front of Sakura to protect her. With a single slash, the Sandaime puppet shattered all the pieces of the wooden tail appendage, but it gave Chiyo enough time to pull Sakura safely to her side without any further incident.

“It’s not over yet!” Sasori warned as he flung the Sandaime puppet through the air directly towards Sakura and Chiyo. The deadly blades upon the puppet’s side slammed into the ground, separating Chiyo from Sakura as they dodged in opposite directions during the attack.

Raising its right arm directed towards Chiyo, 2 slabs of wooden blocks on the each side of the Sandaime puppet’s right arm suddenly popped open, revealing elegant calligraphic writing symbolling the seals grafted into them. “GHAAA!” Sasori shouted and an instant later, hundreds upon thousands of ‘wooden’ arms or hand appendages burst forth from those calligraphic seal writings. The ‘arms’ multiplied in numbers and reached Chiyo’s shocked form in no time, burying the elderly woman in a forest of wooded puppet parts.

“CHIYO-BASAMA!” Sakura yelled as she rushed from her position to try to get towards Chiyo. Knowing that she would have to cross the puppet’s location to get to her destination, Sakura tightened her fist in readiness. Unperturbed, the puppet merely raised its left hand, the wrist suddenly popped up and opened to the side, revealing a small cannon hole in which it fired a small black pebble right into Sakura’s path.

Not knowing what to expect, Sakura made a hasty stop. Her body just barely stopped in its momentum before the black pebble hit the floor and a blast of smoke erupted from the impact. Then the smoke turned purple, and Sakura immediately knew it was poisoned gas. /SHIT!/ She thought to herself, as she ran blindly towards any direction, hoping she would be able to out run the gas. Eventually, she broke through the poisonous smoke cloud, only to land heavily on her shaking knees as the lower half of her body became increasingly numb. /Damn it! I must have breathed in some of the poison. Calm down, regulate your chakra and force the poisonous gas particles out of your lungs and bloodstream!/ Sakura concentrated, trying to regulate her chakra through out her body in order to dissipate the poison out of her body in the safest way possible.

Unfortunately for Sakura, Sasori wasn’t going to give her the time to any of that. Twitching a few of his fingers, he immediately the Sandaime puppet open up a few more hidden compartments inside its body and threw out dozens of kunai, all directed towards Sakura’s prone form. Sakura’s eyes widened at her immanent death, before they narrowed in anger again. /I refuse to LOSE!/ Closing one hand in a fist, she slammed it into the ground, uplifting huge boulder like stones off the ground, just in time to protect her from the kunais. Now, safely hidden behind her boulders, Sakura once again concentrated on evicting her body of the poison, and mentally praying that Chiyo was okay while she was occupied with staying alive long enough to finish this battle.

On the other side, Chiyo had summoned forth two puppets to her defence, and with them, she managed to protect herself from the swarm of wooden hands.

“Ah...them.” Sasori paused, and reminisced slightly at the familiar faces of the two puppets Chiyo had summoned forth.

“Yes, the first puppets you ever constructed... Your mother... and father...” Chiyo spoke sadly, her mind wandering into the past of so many years ago, but she quickly shook her head and returned to the reality at hand. By now, Sakura had managed to be rid of all the poisonous gas she had accidentally breathed into her body. Sakura stood shakily, leaning on one of the boulders as she watched in awe at the two puppets now at Chiyo’s hand. She couldn’t believe that these two puppets, once human, were actually Sasori’s parents. And more over, she couldn’t believe he would make them into puppets. /What type of person take their own parent’s corpses and make them into puppets? It’s so sick and twisted! She thought privately to herself. 

“What exactly do you hope to achieve with those two? I made them, I know all their tricks. God, you’re so pathetic, I’m almost ashamed, Ba-chan.” Sasori snorted back, his face completely expressionless, showing nothing but contempt.

The two puppets had their palms placed against one another, and then they separated, revealing a thin-looking, but strong ninja wire between them. Together, the first puppets Sasori had ever created launched themselves at the Sandaime puppet, easily cutting and slicing through its army of wooden arm appendages. Soon, the two puppet masters resorted to use all the other tricks and weapons within their puppets to fight against one another. Sakura watched in silent awe as both masters’ hands danced in the air, as their puppets slammed and struck at one another. Eventually, all three puppets came out of the assault badly harmed; most of their weapons were withered and broken. It came out as a tie.

“Hump. Looks like this is going to be paid after all... Guess I should start taking this seriously then.” Sasori muttered as he did a quick hand seal, and the Sandaime puppet’s mouth opened. Slowly but surely, a mass or red sand-like particles floated into the air.

“What is that?” Sakura asked Chiyo as she finally made it to the old woman’s side. The side effects affecting her body now fully disappeared as all the poison had been evicted out of her lungs and bloodstream, Sakura was ready for the next round.

“Satetsu (Iron Sand).” Chiyo explained. “A jutsu developed by the Sandaime himself. Based on the jutsu used by a previous host of Ichibi no Shuukaku, the Satetsu can be formed into any shape, allowing one to create weapons that fit any situation. The Sandaime Kazekage was born with a special physical trait which allowed him to turn whatever chakra he formed into magnetic forces. As such, the iron sand is the perfect weapon for him.”

“But that’s just a puppet, right? Why would a lifeless puppet have chakra?” Sakura questioned again, this time feeling more and more anxious as she watched more and more of the said iron sand come out of the puppet’s mouth.

“A Hitokugutsu is a puppet made from the body of a living person. It’s made in such a way that it retains the chakra that the victim had while still alive.” Chiyo’s voice deepened into sadness. “Only Sasori is able to make Hito Kugutsu. And by doing so, he is able to take control of the jutsu that the victim used while still alive. That is also the greatest advantage of the Hito Kugutsu.”

“That’s not everything.” Sasori said in a prideful manner. “After all, this is my favourite puppet from my collection of almost 300 puppets.”

“Sakura... Get yourself out of here now. I’ll take care of the rest alone.” CHiyo stated gravely, knowing that it would be very difficult for her to win against Sasori now, but at the very least, she wanted Sakura to survive no matter what the cost. “This is far beyond what I was expecting. With that in the game, you won’t be able to compete at all...” She explained, trying to deter Sakura from staying.

“No way!” Stubborn as a mule, Sakura snapped back at Chiyo. “I’m going to see this fight to the end! I am Haruno Sakura, apprentice to both Tsunade of the Sannin and Dokudes Ryoko of the Kuunoki. Until the day I am pronounced the best Medic Nin in the world, I WILL NOT DIE!” She shouted passionately, releasing a hint of inner-Sakura while doing so. “I’m going to crush this guy under my fist if it’s the last thing I DO!” She promised heatedly.

“Oi! Oi! You’re too loud.” Sasori taunted as he reformed the mass of iron sand into thousands of small red pellets. “Satetsu Shigure (Iron Sand Rain)!” He called out as the thousands of pellets flew through the air and pelted down at Sakura and Chiyo. When the dust cleared from the impact of such an attack, Sasori was mildly surprised at seeing both his original puppets having Chakra shields activated in order to protect both Chiyo and Sakura. “Well. So you have been tinkering with those puppets a bit. I wasn’t expecting a chakra shield. It seems you’ve upgraded them from when I use to play with them.” Sasori noted nonchalantly.

Chiyo huffed slightly in breathlessness, she twitched her fingers and tried to close the compartments on both the arms of the two puppets, but all the limbs were stuck. Taking a look at them, she identified the problem immediately. There were red sand particles stuck in all the important joints. /As expected, the iron sand has rendered the puppet immobile. We’re really stuck this time./

Sasori silently recalled all the iron sand to reform into giant spikes in the air. A second later, the newly formed barrage of spikes rushed towards Sakura and Chiyo, indenting to end their lives. With both the two puppets of Sasori’s parents rendered immobile, Chiyo had no choice but to cover Sakura with her own body, and revealed her hidden trump card. Opening the compartments of her own arm, she erected a chakra shield from her own appendage, protecting both herself and Sakura from the barrage of spikes. Both Sasori and Sakura were shocked by this revelation.

“Your own arm... you’ve rigged your own body, haven’t you?” Sasori asked without expecting an answer, and then he chuckled. “We puppeteers... we definitely think along the same lines.” He stated, confirming Chiyo’s suspicion.

“I see... so that’s why you haven’t aged in over 20 years.” Chiyo stated tiredly as she disengaged her left arm which she had used for the chakra shield. Sighing as she gazed at her broken puppets, she could not help but feel useless. “Sakura... We will need to find a way to escape. I no longer have workable puppets on hand and hence, there’s no way I can defeat him.”

“Then use me!” Sakura stated firmly, surprising Chiyo with her determination. “I said that I would punch that guy’s face in if it’s the last thing I do, and I intend to keep that promise. If there is one thing I hate the most, it’s losing.”

Giving the younger girl a wary smile, Chiyo tried to persuade her to change her mind. “I can only use one arm now; I won’t be able to help you dodge all of his attacks like before. Not only that, the Sandaime’s power comes from magnetism! So any weapons of iron and steel are useless against him.” She warned the pink haired girl.

“That’s just perfect!” Sakura readied her fists. “I don’t use weapons anyway. What I do have is Chakra and my fists.”

“That again. How pathetic.” By now, Sasori had summoned a huge red cube and red pyramid, both floating in the air ready for his command.

As Sakura and Chiyo rush towards Sasori, the giant pyramid like structure suddenly sharpened into an elongated spear, heading right towards Sakura. With Chiyo’s help, Sakura managed to jump aside, avoiding being impaled by the iron spear, but as she was twirling in the air doing a handless cartwheel, she delicately placed her right hand against the cool surface of the iron sand spear for a split second. In that split second of contact, she injected her chakra into the iron sand. “Chakra Pulse!” She announced as the iron sand suddenly paused into is momentum and slumped slightly in heaviness.

“What the hell?” Sasori’s eyes widened at the affect the girl was having on his precious iron sand with a single touch. “What the fuck did you do?” He pulled back the sand particles that made up the once pyramid-turned-spear, and the sand reacted to his calling lethargically, as if his chakra was unable to bond quite as strongly with the particles as it had been just a second ago. Angrily, Sasori mentally commanded the giant cube which he had created before to slam down on the prone form of Sakura.

Once again, Chiyo came to the rescue, pulled Sakura back from the impact crater caused by the giant box-like structure crashing onto the ground. Standing up from her fall, Sakura rushed towards the reddish cube and smashed her fist against it. In one mighty punch, he pushed the giant box-like statue right back into the cavern walls, causing quite a large cave in and exposing the inner sanctum into the outside sky.

Sasori could not help but comment on Sakura’s unladylike brute strength. “All that brute strength and you call yourself a girl?!” He sneered at the girl. “And what the hell did you do to my sand?”

Sakura smirked back at him even as she huffed and puffed to gather breath. “That was called a Chakra Pulse (4). I told you before I was the apprentice of not only Tsunade of the Sannin – who is famous for the one-punch-knockout. But I’m also the apprentice of Dokudes Ryoko – who, during her younger days was known as the Unarmed Assassin. Born a Dokudes, Ryoko-sama was already quite formidable when she became a teenager. But it was after that, when she developed her unarmed combat style that made her renowned. She specialised in Chakra attacks that were able to produce all sorts of affects, for both close-combat and ranged-combat. One of which is the Chakra pulse, which is just the injection of foreign chakra into an object or substance that already has chakra by way of vibrations, wavelengths or pulses. The way in which we ‘inject’ this foreign chakra is so ingenious; it actually weakens the ‘link’ between the enemy user and their chosen weapons, in this case, you and your iron sand.”

“Hump. Troublesome woman...” Sasori muttered under his breath. /My Iron Sand won’t be able to withstand too much of that chakra pulse technique. At this rate, not only will it take too long, but it might endanger me as well. It’ll use a bit of chakra but there’s no way around it. Guess I’ll finish her with ‘that’ jutsu./ Sasori thought to himself as he moved his fingers and chakra strings in preparation. The pyramid formation flattened into a triangle and it sliced into the floating form of the giant cube. As the two giant objects merged into one big structure, thousand of spikes suddenly erupted from its merged surface. The spikes – made out of iron sand – grew like the branches of a tree in all directions, including Sakura and Chiyo’s locations. “Satetsu Kaihou! (Iron Sand World Order!)” Sasori called his final attack.

/This is bad!/ Chiyo thought as she desperately used chakra strings to pull Sakura out of danger, but it was too late. In a matter of seconds, the entire cavern caved in, revealing a dense forest of iron sand spikes and spears literally everywhere. Both Chiyo and Sakura did not come out of this assault unscathed. Chiyo’s right arm – or her old arm – was currently buried under a large rock, resulting in her being unable to move. And Sakura was stuck in between the mass of spikes, multitude of scrapes and bruises littered her body, some bleeding, and others turning purple or green in colour, reacting to the poison inside the iron sand.

“Hehe, finally. I did say that ‘that’s not everything’, didn’t I? I mixed poison into the Satetsu, so basically as long as you get a single cut on your body caused by my iron sand, you’re infected. I see the poison’s already started to take effect.” Sasori smiled as Sakura slumped forward in a dead faint, her head landing harshly against the hard earth below her. “Her body will become numb and immobile immediately. Left alone, you’ve got three days. But I have no intention of prolonging your suffering.” He stated as he manoeuvred the Sandaime puppet into flying towards Sakura and Chiyo, to finish the job once and for all.

However, in the final moments just before the puppet pierced into Sakura’s unmoving form with a sword, Sakura suddenly sat up and punched her fist into the puppet’s body, smashing it into many tiny pieces of rubble and wood. A second after the puppet’s destruction, the iron sand in the air began to fall onto the ground like rain, littering the floor with soft, red particles. Sakura avoided the sand and ran towards Chiyo, helping the older woman up by removing the rock that trapped her hand. “Sakura, how did you...” Chiyo asked, amazed that the younger woman could still move.

Sakura then showed her a small capsule. “An antidote! There’s just one left now and I will give it to you. When I was helping Ino make the antidote for Kankuro-san, I was able to make three. Because I knew the opponent uses poisons, I made them into injection capsules and brought them along. But the antidote only works for three minutes. In that time, no matter how much poison we get, the effects of the antidote will turn it into harmless protein. Now, I have about another three minutes where the poison has no effect. We need to defeat Sasori within this time limit.” Sakura explained.

“Right. Let’s do it.” Chiyo stated calmly as she climbed onto her feet, once again, she was amazed by the ingenuity of the younger generation. Not only was there Ino – who already impressed her immensely, but here was another young woman who could and would go far.

Standing in front of him, Sasori had a no-nonsense look on his face. /I see. So I was being played all this time, huh? Well, I’ve had it with this game. I’ll acknowledge that you’re a brat to be reckoned with... and hence, I will now take a chapter from the Kuunoki’s books. No holding back!/ “This is the first time since that trouble I had when entering Akatsuki. It’s been so long... since I’ve last used myself...” Sasori commented as he pulled apart his Akatsuki’s robe, revealing a body of wood shaped in the form of a man.

On Sasori’s back, there were 2 wing like appendages. On his chest, there was a small trap compartment as well as a small round cylinder that had veins connecting it to the rest of his flat chest. His stomach area was hollow, showing a thick rope dripping with poison residing inside of him. It was a frightening sight to witness and Sakura could only give one statement to summarise it all. “He made himself into one... a Hito Kugutsu (a Human Puppet).”

Using a chakra string, Sasori pulled out a scroll from his back, and then he opened the hidden compartment on his chest. Opening the sealing scroll, Sasori released all his collection of puppets. In less than a second, he had close to 300 Hito Kugutsu puppets floating in the air, each one connected by a chakra string that links directly into his body through the opened compartment hole. Sasori smirked proadly down at Sakura and Chiyo. “Aka Higi Kyakki no souen (Secret Red Techniques: Hundred Manipulation)!” He announced. “With my full collection of puppets, I am able to take over a nation. So, let’s see how you cope against my power now?”

Seeing the massive numbers against them, Chiyo had no choice but to act herself. Using a chakra string, she pulled back her old arm appendage that had once been stuck with iron sand, but was now free of them. Reattaching her arm, she pulled out a small scroll. “I’d forbidden the use of this jutsu. I thought I would never use it again, but it looks like that won’t be the case.” Flipping the scroll open, Chiyo performed a small set of hand seals and summoned forth her own special collection of puppets. Unlike Sasori’s hundreds, Chiyo called forth just 10 puppets, each one wearing a white coat but with different facial features, and possibly different attach techniques as well. “Shiro Higi: Jikki Chikamatsu no Shuu (Secret White Technique, Group of the Ten Collection of the Chikamatsu)!”

“Alright! Let’s go, Chiyo-basama. Remember, I’ve still got 3 minutes and counting. Let’s do this fast and furious.” Sakura punched her fists together in preparation for the final confrontation.

Without further ado, the army of black clad Hito Kugutsu flew towards their adversaries, and a massive fight was on hand. Chiyo effectively dispersed her attention among her ten puppets, sometimes utilising two or three of them together in combined assaults, other times, using single puppets to slice and dice their way through the entourage of enemies. Sakura too, smashed her fish in and out of puppets left and right, other times she created chakra blades or spears to pierce and break apart puppets. But it all seemed never ending, the moment they take one puppet down, two or three more takes its place.

/This is taking too long!/ Chiyo understood that they simply could not compete with the numbers of puppets on Sasori’s side. As such, the only way they can survive is if they take on Sasori himself. “Sakura! Aim for Sasori. I’ll hold back the other puppets!” Chiyo called out to her partner.

“Got it!” Sakura answered as she punched yet another puppet in the face, shattering it into little pieces.

“Use this!” Chiyo cried as she manoeuvred one of her puppets to intercept Sakura and gave her a small white globe. “Get in close and throw it at him!”

“Right!” Sakura answered as she caught the globe in her right hand. Ducking behind a sword wielding puppet, Sakura carefully placed the globe beneath her armpits, and then she quickly performed a set of seals. “Gen Bunshin (Illusionary Bunshin)! (5)” A large burst of smoke created from Sakura’s jutsu eventually cleared away revealing 10 Sakura’s in her place. The ten Sakura clones rushed at the attacking puppets, heading towards Sasori’s location.

The puppets tried to dispel the illusionary clones by piercing them or striking them with various weapons, but the clones simply faded out for a bit before solidifying once again, and somehow managed to land their own punches and kicks at puppets, hindering the mechanical dolls even more.

On the opposite side, Sasori was a little bit confused as to the purpose of the jutsu. Normal Bunshins were simply illusions that immediately dispel upon contact. Other clone techniques like the Kage Bunshin or Misu Bunshin uses Shadows or Water as its base element – and these clones usually dispel when they are hit directly with one solid attack. These Bunshins utilised by Sakura fade in and out between the two phases – sometimes they were just illusions that do not dispel but simply pass through the attacks; other times they become solid and are able to do some damage themselves, even though their punches and kicks were no where near the level of power of the original Sakura.

/So, if all ten of these clones – as far as I can see – are simply that, Clones! Then where is the original?/ Sasori thought to himself as he scanned the battlefield. /I can’t sense her anywhere? Is she using an invisibility technique to cloud my senses? But how? I thought she was a Medic Nin? How is she able to escape.../ In that instant, Sasori’s world suddenly turned black and silence shrouded his world.

A form slowly faded into existence behind Sasori’s frozen form. “Mukaku no Jutsu (Blind Senses Technique) (6). Even though you’re body is a puppet, there is there still something human inside, something that produces your chakra. And as long as there is still something human and alive inside your body, I can attack it with my chakra. It’s over, Sasori of the Red Sand.” With those words said, Sakura slapped the white globe object that Chiyo had given to her previously onto Sasori’s back. Sasori immediately feel onto his feet and then the floor as if he himself was a puppet with all of his strings cut. Whatever that globe had been, it started sucking up all of Sasori’s chakra before sealing the chakra away, and at the same it, it grew in size, covering and laying on top of Sasori’s immobile body like a giant parasite. With Sasori’s chakra cut off indefinitely, all of the Hito Kugutsu puppets that had once been attached to Sasori via chakra string feel onto the ground haphazardly and completely defeated.

Chiyo slowly but surely trotted her way across the mass of puppet bodies and puppet parts, making her way towards Sasori’s fallen body and Sakura. “You cannot move... It’s over... Sasori... That sealing jutsu completely suppresses all chakra... you can’t even use a chakra tread anymore...” Chiyo then coughed out blood as her body shook from the poison invading it through a small cut on her arm.

“Chiyo-basama! Quickly. Take the antidote.” With her arms already numb from the poison, Chiyo had to wait until Sakura ran towards her side and hurriedly stab the antidote capsule into her body.

“I see. So it was you who came up with the antidote to my beautiful poison. And here I thought no one would be able to figure it out.” Sasori calmly stated from his place on the ground. “Hm. To think I was taken down by an old hag, and a little girl who’s a Shinobi wannabe. How disgraceful...”

Chiyo signed tiredly as she looked on at her beloved grandson. “Why... Why, Sasori? Why did you do it?” She pleaded softly, her heart unable to take the torment anymore. “Just tell me one thing. Why did you leave? What compelled you to betray the Sand, the Sandaime, and me? What was it you were after? And why couldn’t you confide in me?” She bit down on the tears that wanted to drip pass her eyes. “I would have done anything for you? I would have gone to any length to make you happy? I even created a jutsu just for you. A Tensei Ninjutsu (Life Transfer Technique) – a technique that could have breathed life into a puppet, at the cost of the user’s own life. Just tell me WHY!? Why did it have to end this way?”

“Hump. You’re rampaging emotions is why. Pathetic. When did you start getting senile and overtly emotional, grandma?” Sasori sneered in distaste. “You want to know the truth? Fine, I’ll tell you the truth. I despise being human. That’s all there is to it.” He answered calmly.

“Wha... What? How can you hate being human? You are born one?” Sakura stuttered in surprise.

“That’s exactly my point. Humans are the most detestable creatures on this planet. Only humans would create wars, kill one another, and claim it as a justifiable action. Humans can create great works of art, preserving beauty for all eternity. But on a whim, they can destroy it all as well. I hated the fact that I was born a human, with a flesh and blood body that is weak against physical attacks. I hated the fact that my body would decay with the likes of a rotting rodent. I hated the fact that I am forced to feel useless emotions and fed stupid ideas like bonds of family, and ties to ones village. They are all concepts and lies that bind one-self to its cage, a physical cage that is known as the human body.” Sasori sprouted, surprisingly passionate in his speech.

“In this body that does not feel pain, you can hit me as many times with your fist and I will not feel hurt. In this body that do not bleed or rip as muscles do, I no longer worry about the limits I can take. In this body that cannot feel emotions, I have no ties with anyone, alive or dead. Hehe. Even if you argue that we are connected by blood ties as we were, I won’t feel a thing if grandma here dies. My heart... is just like this body...” Sasori’s impromptu explanation was cut off by Sakura. 

“HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT?! The life of a human being... Doesn’t it mean anything to you?! Doesn’t FAMILY mean anything to you?! Why do you think like that?” Sakura cried but was stopped from smashing Sasori’s face in by a tug on her arm from Chiyo.

“That’s enough... Sakura... He was made into what he is... by the misguided customs and teachings of ours in Sunagakure.” Chiyo muttered under her breath, she felt truly old and helpless at the words of Sasori.

“Why don’t you try having a body like this? Maybe then, you’ll understand some of what I’m saying. A body without decay... As a puppet, one’s body can be rebuilt indefinitely... And isn’t bounded by mortality either... I can just manufacture as many people as I want... from puppets... If I want them...” Sasori taunted. “I don’t just add for the sake of numbers of course. Collections are all about quality.”

Sakura grit her teeth in frustration. “What... the hell are you?”

“Well, if I had to say... I suppose... I’m a person who couldn’t fully become a puppet. I’m a puppet, but... I’m an incomplete puppet with a flesh-and-blood ‘core’... Neither a person... nor a puppet.” For once, Sasori smiled a genuinely sad smile. “Soon, I’ll stop moving altogether. But until then, let me make one last request...” Here, Sasori’s smile turned sadistic. “Please die with me.”

Several puppets around Sakura and Chiyo suddenly sprung to life again and headed straight towards the two women with blades out and ready to pierce them. In surprise, Sakura barely managed to dodge a deadly swipe directed at her eye before Chiyo activated her chakra shield with one arm and protected her. With the other hand, Chiyo called forth the two original puppets she had used, the puppets of her son and her daughter in law. Swords in hand, both puppets stabbed right into Sasori’s core, through his back using the sword in their hand. And instantly, the attacking puppets stopped moving and slumped onto the grounds again. Sasori too, was confirmed dead.

“Ha... How did he?” Sakura stuttered with surprise.

“He placed his threads underground and somehow attached them to the puppets around us. I had thought that the seal would have suppressed all of his chakra, including the ones he embedded beneath the earth. But it looks like I was wrong. He was just bidding his time so that he could reawaken those puppets and kill us. In the end, we were careless.” Chiyo answered tiredly.

“I see.” A few long moments of silence later, Sakura stood up onto her feet. “Well, let’s get going. We still have to rescue Gaara.” Behind her, Chiyo too stood onto her own two feet. /Goodbye. Sasori... I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry... I couldn’t have been a better grandmother to you.../

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Kakashi and Sasuke were in pursuit of Deidara as they jumped from tree root to tree root across a great valley carved through by a rapid river beneath them. “Sasuke! Do you have any long range attacks in your arsenal?” Kakashi asked as he jumped.

Beside him, Sasuke frowned in thought. “Only my Katon attacks.” Landing on yet another tree root, Sasuke paused for a few second to perform a list of hand seals. “Katon: Ryuuka no Jutsu! (Fire Element: Dragon Fire Technique)” Breathing out large fire dragon from his lips, the summoned dragon flames flew through the air and quickly caught up with Deidara’s flying form.

Deidara’s summon ducked and weaved away from the fire dragon’s clutches, before Deidara released a few more smaller, clay, bird-like creatures and had some them fly towards the dragon, while the rest fly towards Sasuke and Kakashi’s location. The birds that flew towards Sasuke’s fire dragon exploded right in front of it, creating a gigantic blast that neutralised both attacks. The clay birds that flew towards Kakashi and Sasuke were destroyed by Sasuke when he quickly performed Housenka no Jutsu (Fire Flower Technique).

Seeing that Deidara had used the attacks as a distraction to fly further away, escaping from most of Sasuke and Kakashi’s attacks, the two Konoha ninja had no choice to but to increase their speed and run after the ex-Stone Ninja again.

“Kakashi-sensei, what are you going to do? If I use any of my Katon techniques, the bastard will just duck and weave out of the way. All my fire bending techniques have only close to mid-range effects, I can’t do long range fire bending.” Sasuke admitted as he scrambled his mind to think of something he can do to help the situation.

“Hmm... I do have a technique that is long range and can be used in this situation. But because our target is a moving target, I may not be able to hit him with a direct hit. And I can only do this technique once, or at most twice. It’s a one-hit success or failure type thing.” Kakashi stated as he thought about the technique he could do with his own Mangekyou Sharingan. It wasn’t that Kakashi couldn’t use it, but he was rather reluctant to use it in front of Sasuke, having known that the younger Uchiha detested the Mangekyou Sharingan with all his being. Not that he blamed the youngster, but as a Ninja, you really had to use everything to your advantage. Luckily for Kakashi, Sasuke finally thought to something he could use.

“I think... I think I’ve got a technique that I can use in such a situation. And whether it hits or not, it’s big enough to definitely affect the enemy. But... But I need time to prepare. Can you cover me as I get read, Kakashi-sensei?” Sasuke asked seriously, his body tense in readiness.

Kakashi only nodded. And with that acceptance, Sasuke landed and stopped his pursuing of the enemy. He took a deep breath before widening his legs and squat down lower in order to stabilise itself. /Focus. Breathe. Remember what Katono-sama said about this technique. You must feel at peace with yourself completely before you can attempt it. Breathe.../ Sasuke thought to himself as he flexed the fingers on his hands and formed two, identical hand-seals on each hand. The index and middle fingers were straight together, while the little and wedding finger were closed with the thumb covering them. Moving his right arm only, Sasuke focussed all the positive energy within his body to move towards the tip of his right-hand’s fingers as he swung them from up to down, from right to left, twisting his waist as he goes along. Then he changed sides, moving his left hand from up to down, from left to right, he focussed all the negative energy onto the tips of that hand’s fingers. Releasing his breath and breathing in deeper, Sasuke then pulled the two opposition-ally charged fingers together right in front of his chest. When the single instant the two tips touched, Sasuke immediately straightened his right hand to point forward towards where Deidara’s flying form was located.

The reaction was instant. A huge surge of electricity erupted from Sasuke’s finger tips and flew across the air like lightning. And though the young Uchiha’s aim was not exact, the sheer power behind the lightning strike affected a large area of space, an area encompassing where Deidara had flown into. The rush of lightning struck Deidara and his summoned bird, shocking the Iwa-Ninja into numbness and disrupting whatever chakra technique he used to control his bird, resulting in the both the Iwa-Nin and his clay creature to suddenly plummet all the way towards the ground beneath them.

Sasuke slumped onto one knee, completely out of breath and having both his arms shaking under the strain. “Ka... Kakashi... Gaara.” This was all Sasuke could manager to say before he started coughing, body still shaking from the strain of the release.

Luckily for Sasuke, Kakashi understood the dilemma quite well. “You did good, Sasuke. Rest for now.” Performing a few hand seals quickly, Kakashi produced three Kage Bunshins (Shadow Clones). He and two of the clones quickly rushed off towards Deidara’s falling body in order to rescue the corpse of the Kazekage, leaving one behind to look after Sasuke.

With a few high speed jumps, the two Kakashi clones managed to grab on the clay bird before it smashes against the ground. Tearing into the clay construction with a kunai, the two Kakashi clones quickly but delicately picked up the Kazekage’s body and took it to a safe place.

Not too far away from his clay summon, Deidara’s own body crashed into the ground quite painfully, resulting in the Akatsuki member coughing up blood as he felt his lungs being crushed by internal pressure. Having his body shocked by a large amount of electricity, Deidara found it incredibly difficult to move any of his limbs as all of his nervous system is out of wack at the moment. Not to mention his Chakra system had been frying under the intense electrical shock. This was why there was nothing he could do to lessen his impact against the unforgiving ground. Gritting his teeth from the pain of rupturing his body from the inside, Deidara somehow managed to curse out loud: “Shitty Uchiha!”

Unfortunately for Deidara, his troubles weren’t over yet, as he suddenly heard the sound of a thousand birds all concentrated in one area. /Shit!/ He thought to himself as he saw Kakashi suddenly rush towards his fallen being with a powerful lightning technique in his hands.

“Chidori!” Kakashi plunged his electrified hand right into Deidara’s chest, sparking the entire area in a condensed electrical surge. However, to Kakashi’s surprise, Deidara’s body suddenly turned brown and decomposed on the spot. “Kawarimi (Replacement technique)” Kakashi confirmed to himself as he looked from one side of the clearing to the other, trying desperately to locate the missing Nin.

It was at that moment that Sakura and Chiyo landed behind Kakashi, and Sasuke with a Kakashi clone rushing out of the bush on the original Kakashi’s right side, reuniting the members of the original rescue team.

“Kakashi-sensei. Sasuke-kun. I’m glad we caught up with you guys.” Sakura stated, her eyes shining in relief, even as she supported the tired looking Chiyo by her side.

“I’m impressed that you managed to find us.” Kakashi stated, finally letting down his guard somewhat.

“Its because we saw the enemy flying not long ago, and then there was that huge lightning attack. Was that you, Copy Cat?” Chiyo asked, highly impressed by the attack used.

“Iie.” Kakashi shook his head. “That was all Sasuke.” Sakura looked surprised at her teammate, while Chiyo looked on with respect in her eyes.

Ignoring the awed look flying his way, Sasuke addressed his team leader. “Kakashi, did you get Gaara?”

Kakashi nodded and looked towards the far distance, where two of his clones had secured Gaara’s body away from all the fighting.

Some fifty metres away and hiding beneath a dense bush, Deidara glared heatedly at Sakura and Chiyo. /Unbelievable... To think that Sasori Danna could be beaten by a little girl and an old hag! So much for that ‘everlasting and eternal beauty’ stuff; he got himself killed in an instant! His construction with its weak point exposed to everyone, was just him being overconfident anyway. Hmm... Still, if I were to say so myself... it was a death becoming of an artist... Oh well, better get out of her before I’m caught./ Deidara thought to himself as he shuffled softly backwards and out of the bush, only to see all four members of team Gai appear on the scene.

“Good work, Neji.” Gai praised as he grinned at the last Akatsuki member.

Using sheer will and chakra to override his overtaxed nerves and muscles in his legs (due to the electrical shock of Sasuke’s jutsu) Deidara managed to run, dodge and jump away from Tenten’s many thrown weapons. Unfortunately, he still wasn’t fast enough to dodge Lee’s Konoha Senpuu. Having a heavily weighted leg smash into his face was not a nice experience. Deidara was kicked far away from the members of Team Gai, exposing himself to the rest of Team Kakashi as well. Deidara spitted a broken tooth out of his mouth as he glared hatefully at all the Konoha and Suna ninja against him, but then he grinned as he was only a few metres away from his prized clay summon. Running towards the clay bird, Deidara tried to use his arms but winced as the pain from Sasuke’s previous attack had rendered both of them completely useless. /No matter./ Deidara thought to himself as he opened his own mouth and bite into the clay, before swallowing it whole down his own throat.

“Everyone! Be on your guard! He’s a long range fighter that uses explosives!” Kakashi having seen Deidara head towards his clay bird quickly sounded out the warning.

“Take a look at my ultimate work of art! Art is a BANG!” Deidara screamed as his body suddenly bloated and morphed into a giant balloon like creature, ready to blow.

Neji’s face turned to shock as he watched Deidara’s body began to deform due to the chakra within it. /The Chakra’s all gathering in one spot at once! He couldn’t be.../

Before Neji even had the chance, Sasuke had seen the same chakra condensation with his own Sharingan eyes and yelled for everyone to run for cover. “Everyone! Get away from there now!” He screamed in alarm.

A giant explosion erupted from the epicentre of Deidara’s body, expanding quickly and swallowing up all the nearby trees, grass, soil, everything. It was too fast for anyone to escape. That is, until it suddenly disappeared from the clearing altogether.

“Wha... What?” Tenten asked in confusion.

“Kakashi!” Sasuke’s stunned voice brought all their attention towards Kakashi and his single, glowing Mangekyou Sharingan eye. “What did you do and how did you get that eye, Kakashi?”

It was then that Kakashi stumbled backward, closing his Sharingan eye in exhaustion.

“Kakashi-sensei!” Sakura rushed towards him to see if there was anything she could do to help her old teacher.

Kakashi sighed heavily as he looked at Sasuke. “I sent both him and his explosion to another dimension. As for how I got this eye, I’ll tell you later... Sasuke... I promise.” Sasuke nodded in acknowledgement. “But more importantly...” Kakashi trailed off as he looked towards Gaara’s corpse with sad eyes.

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In a large clearing some miles away from the destroyed Akatsuki lair, Sakura placed her hand no Gaara’s chest. But she could only shake her head sadly. There was nothing she could do to help him anymore. He had been dead too long. It was a gloomy reality that everyone had to accept, Gaara’s gone. They had failed.

Chiyo sighed heavily as she shuffled forward towards Gaara’s corpse. Kneeling down to the late-Kazekage, she placed both her hands upon his chest. “This is a result of my sin. As such, I should be the one to take all punishments. Ironically, in a way it would also be my salvation and redemption.” She muttered softly before a green glow appeared from the palms of her hands as she tried to bring Gaara back to life.

“Chiyo-basama! That jutsu will...” Sakura halted as she looked at Chiyo’s pained but determined face. /Chiyo-basama. Is this what you mean... when you said that there was still something you needed to do... You’re going to bring Gaara-kun back to life... in exchange for your own?/ Sakura could feel the tears prickle upon the sides of her eyes, she knew that this would be Chiyo’s last moment and she wanted to honour the elder’s choice by being silently supportive.

“Stop this foolishness, Chiyo-obasama. There is no need to sacrifice your life.” A voice suddenly called out from the side of the group, distracting Chiyo to the point where she abruptly cut off her jutsu. A young man, covered in long white cloak stood before them calmly. The man did not act in any way threateningly, but still, his has a very strong presence, as if demanding respect even while standing casually among the grass.

“Who are you?” Lee shouted out passionately as he prepared himself for another fight.

“No, wait. Stop!” Neji’s voice stopped Lee from assaulting their guest. “He’s...”

Neji’s voice fades as the young man pulls down his hood, revealing the face of none other than Uzumaki Naruto.

“Naruto?!” Sakura stuttered out the name of her old teammate, one who she hadn’t seen in years! The rest of the Konoha teams weren’t much better, all with their eyes wide and mouths open in shock.

“Naruto? What the hell are you doing here?” Sasuke blinked in surprise. “And where the hell have you been all this time?” The black haired boy shook off the shock and asked angrily.

“Now is not the time.” Naruto calmly stated, his eyes never leaving the fallen form of the Kazekage. “Chiyo-basama, the fact that you were already willing to sacrifice your life for Suna, for your Kazekage, for your past sins, that is already enough. You don’t need to actually go through with it. There is still more you need to do to ensure the future of Suna is prosperous.”

Chiyo narrowed her eyes. “Suna needs a leader. They need Gaara, more so than myself. If my life can be exchanged for the Kazekage’s, then I die a worthy death.” She stubbornly said.

“I did not say anything about letting Gaara die. In fact, that’s why I’m here in the first place.” Naruto stated before pulling out a small scroll from his cloak, opening it, he revealed that it was a storage scroll. Lighting tapping one of the symbols on the scroll, Naruto released the sealed object – a large, clear cylinder filled with a strange liquid, and inside that liquid is a human arm and hand.

“Na... Naruto-kun. What are you going to do with that arm? And what do you mean by that last sentence? Are you’re here to save Gaara too? But he’s already dead! Without Chiyo-basama’s Tensei Ninjutsu (Life Transfer Technique), there’s no way you can bring someone whose already dead back to life!” Sakura demanded.

“Who said Gaara is dead?” Naruto’s retort confused everyone. “It’s true the being lying in front of you is nothing but a corpse. But his soul, his life essence, is still there, sealed away from the body... for his own protection.” Naruto answered cryptically.

Both Sasuke and Neji took a deep, thorough look at Gaara’s body with their respective eyes, and both were shocked that there is still one part of Gaara that still has chakra, but hidden in such a way that it does not mix with any part of his body. “The seal is at his heart.” Neji muttered. “There’s a seal inside his heart that still has a minute amount of chakra inside, but that chakra doesn’t seem to be affected by the rest of the body, nor does it look it’s affecting the rest of the body. How the hell did you get a seal that small in to such a dangerous place, Naruto-kun?

“Who said I did? I didn’t place the seal, Neji. I’m merely the one to release it.” Naruto answered as he placed the cylinder onto the ground. Looking at Sakura, he spoke again. “Sakura, when I’m done, I’ll need you to attach this new arm to myself, can you do that?”

“What!? What you mean you need me to attach a new arm to your body? What the hell are you gonna be doing that would cut off a whole arm?” Sakura yelled in slight anxiety, not knowing exactly what to expect.

“You’ll understand soon enough.” Naruto uttered before turning his gaze to Sasuke. “Sasuke, I will need one of your swords, would you be willing to lend it to me?”

“Sasuke narrowed his eyes before nodding. “As long as you don’t break it in anyway.” He handed one of his broad swords to Naruto who stabbed it onto the ground to be used later.

“Naruto...” This time, it was Kakashi who asked the question. “If you didn’t place the seal on Gaara; who did? And when did they do it? Was it done before or after Gaara was taken by Akatsuki? Just how long as this seal been there?” He demanded.

“The seal has been inside Gaara for almost 3 years now. The seal has been feeding off of Gaara’s life energy and chakra, storing the access energy away just in case of this happening. It is similar to Tsunade’s Souzou Saisei technique (Genesis Rebirth). But while Souzou Saisei is activated by the user while the user is several injured but alive, this technique must be activated by an outside source, and only when the user is already dead. Once it is put on a person’s heart, it automatically starts sucking up chakra and life energy, basically shortening the person’s life the longer it stays on the person. However, if this person ever dies unnaturally or naturally, that’s when this seal can come into affect. Once released, it gives back to the person whatever life energy or chakra it had absorbed during its reign. The basic concept is that you take, you store, and then you give back when it is needed.” Naruto explained calmly even as he slowly removed his cloak, revealing his right arm completely bandaged from finger to shoulder.

Sasuke frowned. “Almost 3 years ago?” His eyes then widened in realisation. “Ruri-sama! Ruri-sama was the one who put that seal on Gaara, exactly a month before the Chuunin Exam Tournament. I remember now. On the day that we met up, Gaara was called off to meet Ruri-sama alone (7). And then I learnt that Gaara went missing for a week before he returned looking slightly worse for wear and a lot weaker. Ruri-sama herself wasn’t seen until the day of the tournament itself, Katono-sama later told me that she was sick with a high fever for a whole month. That’s got to be it.” He deduced.

“If Ruri-sama, after performing this... whatever seal it is, became sick for a whole MONTH, then what the hell will it be like for you, Naruto?” Sakura demanded, suddenly feeling weak in the knees, knowing that her teammate would choose the most painful, most difficult way to accomplish anything.

“It’s true, there are many drawbacks to such a technique; which is why it is ONLY ever used when you know that you will die in the future. It’s complicated because when the seal is put on a person, that person actually dies for a short period of time during the process. After that, he or she will have to be brought back to life manually. And then, later on, when that person who carries the seal is killed, their bodies must remain in tack, before the seal can be released in order to revive them from the dead. Not to mention, it does a hell of a lot of harm to the seal master in both instances - when the seal is placed on the body and when it is removed from the body.” Naruto agreed, but he nonetheless continued with what he planned to do. “However, this is the only way to ensure that Gaara still have the powers of Shuukaku – such as the manipulation of sand, even when the bijyu itself has been drawn out of his body.”

A short silence ensued as everyone digested the information Naruto had provided them. “Now, everyone, could you please move away from Gaara’s body. The technique I’m about to use is very volatile and may attack anyone within a certain distance, regardless of my command.” He warned and everyone heeded his warning, moving some thirty to forty metres away from him and Gaara’s body. Naruto then pulled out a small kunai before cutting Gaara’s clothes slightly to expose his chest area, namely the area surrounding his heart. Naruto then put the kuani away and took a few steps back to where the container (with the human arm) as well as Sasuke’s sword rested.

Sakura had a very bad feeling about this as she watched Naruto’s movements. “Naruto-kun, what technique will you be using?” She asked, almost dreading the answer.

Naruto didn’t reply, he simply closed his eyes in concentration before taking a deep breath to prepare himself. Biting his left thumb to draw blood, he stained some of his blood across all five fingers on his right hand – the bandaged one, before performing a short series of hand seals. “Kuchiyose no Jutsu: Tenkun no Buki – Gojyo Fuuin Wa (Summoning Technique: Weapons of the Legendary Warriors – Five Part Sealing Rings) (8)”

A small burst of clouds obscured Naruto’s right hand. When the smoke clears, there appeared to be small intricate looking rings on each of Naruto’s fingers. However, these insignificant looking items radiated a menacing aura, one which both fascinated and terrified the other Ninjas surrounding Naruto.

/Shit! I knew it! Only a Tenkun no buki would cause the wielder so much pain and suffering. No wonder Ruri-sama was sick with fever for a whole month. God damn it, Naruto! Why you always rely on these god-forsaken weapons!/ Sakura bit her lip in order to stop herself from crying out loud. She hated these Tenkun no Buki with a passion, and she hated the fact that her old-teammate constantly uses them, regardless of the harm he does to his own body in return for such power. Shutting her eyes to stop the tears from coming out, Sakura forcefully calmed herself. /There’s nothing I can do to stop him. I can’t stop him. All I can do is support him, and help heal him once he’s done with those awful things. Naruto needs my support, not my condemnation./ She thought to herself and refocussed her attention upon Naruto and Gaara.

Standing beside her, Sasuke had a different viewpoint to the whole situation. /The ‘fallen’ weapons – or sometimes referred simply as the ‘evil weapons’. Katono-sama had always respected those things... and at the same time feared and detested them. They are powerful, no argument with that; but at what price. The price to use them is too high... simply too high to pay. Naruto... to be able to use them again and again, how much are you willing to pay. How far are you willing to go? For each time you use it, not only does it cause your body harm, it strips away your humanity, making you one of them... a demon. And with you being a Jinchuriki, it would be so easy to become one of them... Aren’t you afraid at all? Afraid that one day, you will no longer be considered... a human? But a monster.../ (9)

Closing all of his fingers but leaving the thumb straight, Naruto rotated his wrist until he formed a ‘good’ sign on its side, it was then he spoke: “Inochi no wa, Hatsudo! (Ring of Life, Activate!)” The strange curved-dagger like appearance of the ring’s emblem suddenly shot away from Naruto’s thumb, still attached to him through a small metallic chain (10). The tiny dagger like attachment flew through the air in a straight line and stabbed right into the chest of Gaara, right over his heart.

What Sakura and the others could not see was how the dagger like stud slipped pass Gaara’s rib cage and pierced right into the very important organ that is known as Gaara’s heart. There, a pulse of chakra was released from the foreign object into the deceased organ, causing a wavelength of power vibrating through Gaara’s immobile nerves, restoring life into the once-dead cells.

From behind Naruto, he could hear Sakura gasp in horror and surprise, but he could not spare any attention away from what he was currently doing. Already, he could feel the ring draining life energy away from his own body. He knew he had to hurry or else he runs the risk of dying himself, even before he could revive Gaara. Bending his thumb (still with the metallic chain attached to the ring), Naruto closed his other fingers over it, and straightened his index finger this time. “Tamashii no wa, Hatsudo! (Ring of Soul, Activate!)”

Yet again, the attached stub on the index ring – this time in the form of a decorated cross, suddenly snapped away from Naruto’s finger and sprang towards Gaara’s corpse. With yet another metallic string chaining both the ring and its spearing target together. Just like the first ring, this second ring also managed to weave pass the rib cage and pierced into Gaara’s heart. A second silent pulse was released, and an almost ethereal glow slowly began forming around the heart. There, Gaara’s soul lies asleep, protected from Shinigami’s touch and awaiting revival patiently. 

Naruto had to physically bite his lip in order to not cry out at the spark of pain that ran down his own right arm. Already, he could feel the cells in his body heat up. /Got to hurry!/ He thought desperately. He then bent his index finger, closed the others around it, and pointed his middle finger. “Karada no wa, Hatsudo! (Ring of Body, Activate!)”

Like its predecessors before it, the third object, this time shaped like a two sided cone stabbed into Gaara’s heart with a vengeance. But unlike the other two ring’s affects, this one’s influence was clearly visible. Large, ugly vines suddenly sprung forth upon Gaara’s skin, originating from his chest, it spread rapidly across his upper body, down his arms, across his back, down his legs, before finally slowing down one the veins appeared around his neck and jaw (11). These veins were similar in likeness to Byakugan’s eye line veins when the Hyuuga activate them. However, what makes this situation so unbelievable was that these bulging veins covered almost every inch of Gaara’s supposedly dead body, all except his head.

Beneath the skin’s surface, a series of chakra surges swam through all of Gaara’s veins, arteries and chakra circulatory system. Each surge coincided with a beat of the heart, now active after almost 5 hours in a death-like state. Each surge of chakra brought forth life in many of Gaara’s muscles, bones, and organs. Glans and nerves that had once been dormant were now active and ready to be used once again; a true revival of the body in all its completeness.

By this point, Naruto was breathing heavily. His right arm was shaking slightly and he had to hold it straight with his other hand. Taking a deep breath, Naruto closed his eyes in concentration, before he straightened his ring or forth finger in preparation for the next step. “Kioku no wa, Hatsudo! (Ring of Memory, Activate!).”

The diamond shaped stud stabbed into Gaara’s heart just like all the other rings. But with its activation, all the visible vein that bulged across Gaara’s skin slowly but surely subsides. It left behind only faint marks or scars showing that the event had once happened in the first place. Gaara’s face too, started twitching with the new signals coming into the once inactive brain. Electrical pulses, nerve signals and live cells finally connected with the master brain function, enabling Gaara to twitch a nose, and move his eyes behind his eyelids. All these little movements brought forth hope and awe among the gazing participants, but at the price of its activator.

Naruto forcefully ignored the sight of his right arm slowly turning blue, then dark purple in colour. The skin around his ringed fingers were slowly pealing off, revealing dried up or dying muscle being exposed painfully to the son. /Just one more. Just one more./ Naruto chanted in his head as he pointed his little finger towards Gaara body. “Kokoro no wa, Hatsudo! (Ring of Heart, Activate!)”

The heart shaped stone struck Gaara’s heart right in the centre, passing through his rib cage as if it were not there in the first place. This last ring, the Heart ring, didn’t exert energy in pulses like all the other rings. Instead it vibrates, and helps in awakening the once hidden or buried emotions and feelings within Gaara’s mind and body. With all five rings now buried into Gaara’s flesh, Naruto simply had to release it all. “Gojyo Fuuin KAI! (Five Part Seal Release!)”

For a second, Gaara’s body arc up and off the ground as if he had been shocked by a lightning strike, but immediately after that instant, he opened his mouth and gasped in a huge gulp of air. And hence forth, his chest moved up and down, demonstrating that he was once again breathing. His eyes opened warily, but conscious in very way. His lips twitched with the wish to speak, but he was simply too exhausted to do much else but lie there on the ground, waiting for help.

“GAARA!” Chiyo cried in awe and hope as she stumbled towards her Kazekage.

“NARUTO!” Sakura’s cry was not in cheerful celebration. She watched in shocked horror, as Naruto recalled all the studs that had once buried into Gaara’s body back to his rings. Once the studs were firmly attached the rings again, all five rings disappeared in a puff of smoke, revealing a dying arm right in front of their eyes. Naruto’s poor hand looked as if it was rotting right in front of Sakura’s eyes. She could even smell the horrid stench of decomposing flesh and to watch it on her friend’s arm was a gruesome sight.

Naruto mostly ignored Sakura’s cry as he quickly pulled up Sasuke’s sword (which he had stabbed onto the ground at the beginning of the unsealing) and placed it between his chest and his right (and rotting) arm. Once the sharp end of the sword is in place and facing up against his armpits, he placed a kunai in his mouth in order for him to bite on it. Once he was ready, he placed his left hand on the hilt of the sword, griped it tightly and twisted it up in a vertical arc (12). The torrent of blood burst from his how amputated shoulder area where his right arm use to be, staining the once green grass a bright red.

Sakura did not to stifle her scream. “NAAARRRUUTOO!” She quickly ran towards her old teammate to try and stem the blood flow by using Medical Chakra in order to heal the wound.

Seeing what she was about to do, Naruto stumbled away. “NO! Don’t!” Turning his eyes away from the blacked appendage that was once part of him, he looked towards the cylinder with the human arm still inside. “Use the arm in the cylinder and attach that to me in order to give me a new arm. In that way, not only do you stem the blood lost, but I also gain a new arm as a result.”

Without needing further instruction, Sakura immediately ordered Sasuke and Kakashi help Naruto lie down a clean patch of ground and wrap the open wound tightly in order to clot some of the blood. She and Chiyo (whom had come over to help when Naruto first amputated himself) quickly carried the cylinder towards the bloodied form of a boy, opened it up, carefully moving the arm out of the container and placing it against Naruto’s open wound.

“This will hurt.” Sakura warned before green coloured healing chakra erupted from her hands as she firmly pressed down on the area where contact between Naruto and his new arm were made. Chiyo too, sat opposite Sakura and did her part.

Having dropped the kunai in his mouth somewhere prior to him stumbling away, there was nothing holding Naruto back from screaming his pain loudly for all to hear. He literally felt each individual nerve, vein, artery, muscle and skin patch fuse together with the foreign limb. As each second dragged on, the pain only climbs until it reached a climax where by Naruto drifts off into welcomed unconsciousness.

Beside him, tears freely ran down Sakura’s face, even as she continued to silently heal her friend and give him back an arm he had willingly tossed aside for this mission. It wasn’t until a few agonisingly slow minutes later, when the arm was fully attached to Naruto and fully wrapped in bandages, that she let herself collapse and cry in relief. Kneeling beside her and giving her silent support, Sasuke placed a firm hand on Sakura’s shoulder, silently telling her he was there for her, and also that he was proud of her. His gaze however, was riveted to the sleeping form of Naruto. 

/I don’t think I would be able to make such a sacrifice. To save a friend, he had willingly cut off his own arm, and become a possible disabled person. Had he not had that spare arm already prepared, Naruto wouldn’t have been able to live his life as a Ninja anymore. He would only have one arm, and be unable to perform jutsus and a whole lot of other things. I don’t think I would ever be able to measure up in that extent. I... I wouldn’t be willing to go that far./ It was then that Sasuke remembered something Haku had told him a long time ago, but that he had dismissed as nothing important. /When you have someone precious you want to protect, that is when you become truly strong... I think I understand now. Naruto is strong, because he’s willing to go to the extreme to protect and help his friends. I hope one day, one day I would also be willing to go that far for someone... someone precious to me./ He thought silently to himself.

By that time, a large contingent of Suna Shinobis had arrived at the clearing. At first, they were rather nervous having heard Naruto’s pained screams even from hundreds of metres away. But after seeing that their Kazekage was safe and sound, there were cheers of happiness all around, and a wave of respect and admiration directed towards the sleeping teen that had brought their leader back to life.

With Kankuro, Temari and now Ino looking after the weakened Gaara, Chiyo managed to pull aside a few Suna Ninjas and asked them of her selfish request. “I would like to bring Sasori’s body... back to Suna...” There was no need for debate, and the Suna Nin did bring Sasori’s body, as well as all of his puppets with them back to their home village.

Even in death, Sasori’s work could still be useful. After all, a puppet is a puppet, now that Sasori is dead, there are others that can take over his legacy and perhaps even use his puppets as competently as he did. Kankuro certainly wanted to try. At the same time, the Konoha Ninjas had all agreed that Kakashi’s team would bring Naruto back to Suna for healing, and stay with him there; while Team Gai would make their way back to Konoha to report back to Tsunade.

Overall, it was a tragedy that turned into a miracle and everyone was glad it was all over and that no one was seriously hurt, excluding the sleeping Naruto of course.

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A few hours after all the Suna and Konoha Ninjas left the clearing; a crack appeared on the ground, followed by an arm, and then another arm, and then a head. Deidara slowly be surely climbed his way out of the earth he had buried himself in when his bunshin had self-destructed.

Once out of the ground, Deidara took some time to calm himself and catch his breath. /Jeez... I can’t believe that even my self-destructing Bunshin was eaten up like that... Although, I guess it did create enough of a diversion for me to escape.../ Deidara looked around him just to check for any potential enemies. There were none.

“Hmm.. guess it’s time to head back, un.” He muttered to his self. Lifting his right hand - which can now be used after Sasuke’s techniques numbing effect finally wore off - Deidara gazed upon his Akatsuki ring and the Kanji written inside it. /I wonder... is it all worth it.../ He thought to himself silently, before shaking such ludicrous thoughts away and started stomping his way towards the Akatsuki’s real headquarters.

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“I got it! I got it, Zetsu-san!” A childish, loud voice called out the Grass Nin, who had simply been walking around the destroyed sight. A black clad figure, complete with a strange orange mask, held up the Akatsuki ring of Sasori’s. “With this, I can become a member of Akatsuki too, right? There’s an opening now, right?” The cheerful figure called out in enthusiasm.

“Idiot... it’s not that simple...” Zetsu’s human voice retorted only to be interrupted by his own demonic voice: “We can let him join... After all, Tobi is a good boy.”

End

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(1) Eh... inspired by Bleach, relating to how Yoroichi (a female character) always calls/taunts another character – Byakuya as “Byakuya-boyo”. Which literally translate to ‘Byakuya’ ‘boy’.

(2) Restoration of Faith Chapter 15

(3) Restoration of Faith Chapter 15. Personally, I’d like to think that Yami was winning against Sasori, but since I cut the battle short, it ended up as a draw. So officially, it was a draw, even though Yami did have a distinctive advantage.

(4) Original technique created by me. The direct Japanese translation is Chakra Shindo, but I decided not to use it.

(5) Gen Bunshin or illusionary clones is an original jutsu, created by myself and was first introduced in ­Faith in Humanity. The technique described here is the second level of Gen Bunshin. Basically, instead of being a normal illusionary clone, it phases in and out of being solid, depending on how much chakra is put into it. 

(6) A Genjutsu taught to Sakura by Kureinai. First appeared in Faith in Humanity chapter 13 and 16.

(7) Restoration of Faith Chapter 33

(8) First appeared in Restoration of Faith, chapter 33. For more information or to find out what it looks like, go to my website. I’ve got new pictures!

(9) Yet another side-effect of the overuse of Tenkun no buki. Although this side affect would probably be affecting Naruto far more than Ruri, simply because Naruto already has a large amount of ‘demonic chakra’ sealed inside his own body, if he overuses the Tenkun no Buki, which leaks demonic chakra whenever it’s in use, then he runs the risk of mutating his bodies DNA sequence into that which no longer resembles a human’s DNA. Scary thought that.

(10) Please go to my website to have a look at the new pictures of the Gojyo Fuuin Wa there.

(11) This veins covering the whole body idea came from Neon Genesis Evangelion, when Ayanami Rei was invaded by one of the Angels. Her body, too, suddenly had huge veins signifying the foreign parasite invading her body and slowly climbed its way up towards her head. I always found that scene a bit creepy.

(12) The which in which Naruto cut off his right arm by placing a sword at his arm pits and then twisting it up in a vertical cut was inspired by Claymore, where Irene (or Irena) used the same motion to cut off her own arm and offered it to Clare.

My GOD! That was a long chapter. I did not anticipate that the Sasori fight would last so long. Anyway, hope you like the latest chapter. Please review this story and tell me what you think.

Fall of the Kuunoki by karrafear
Author's Notes:
Trials of Faith

Karrafear

Summary: SEQUAL to Faith in Humanity and Restoration of Faith; PG-13. 2 and half years have passed and now is the beginning of the trials of Faith. Chapter 4: Fall of the Kuunoki

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Disclaimer: Naruto is an anime and manga series created by Masashi Kishimoto. It does not belong to me; I’m simply using the characters and plot for my own creative devices.

"Demon's talk", /Thoughts/, "Speech", 'Speech emphasis', (FLASHBACK), Titles, (Author's interruptions)

Warning: Violence, betrayal death and mayhem.

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Chapter 4

Naruto spent the next 3 weeks resting in Suna. He spent the first week suffering the affects of a strong fever before the fever finally broke half way through the second week, and the final week was used to rest and regain his strength back. Kakashi too, took the time to rest due to the effects of overusing his Sharingan eye. Sasuke utilised this time of tranquillity to interrogate Kakashi on how he managed to acquire his single Mangekyuo Sharingan eye, of which Kakashi somehow managed to dodge by feinting sleep every time he came to visit.

During that 3 week period, Konoha had sent a second delegate team in order to support Suna – namely Team Asuma; while team Gai returned to Konoha to report on the success of their mission. The members of Team Kakashi had remained by Naruto’s side within the walls of Suna, and helped Team Asuma where they could in re-establishing stability in the village of Suna. But then again, with Gaara now back at the helm, there really wasn’t much for the teams to do.

Chiyo and her brother had a small ceremony in order to bury Sasori’s body. Not many people attended the funeral of a criminal, but it eased Chiyo’s mind that her whole family was now finally together again. She then dedicated herself to teaching the arts of puppetry to the future generation of Suna Ninjas as well as teaching Kankuro how to fix and utilise the Hito Kugutsu that was left behind by Sasori.

Ino remained almost permanently attached to Gaara’s side, but the red-head didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he smiled shyly towards her as he held her hand in a tightened grip whenever they walked the streets of Suna together. Temari spent most of her time either as a border guard or reacquainting herself with her boyfriend, Shikamaru; that is, if she managed to lose Kankuro during their rendezvous. Suffice to say, Kankuro still didn’t think that Shikamaru deserved the affections of his sister, but since Gaara didn’t seem to mind, all he could do was hinder their meetings as much as he could.

Slowly, the peaceful days came to an end, and on the day that Naruto was finally strong enough to leave, there was a large contingent of Suna ninjas seeing both Team Asuma and Team Kakashi off on their journey. Naruto still looked pale but he heartily shook Gaara’s hand, strengthening the bond between them as both allies and most importantly, as friends who would always look out for one another.

Ino remained at Gaara’s side while Temari informed them she would make her way back to Konoha a few months later, once she had enough of mothering her youngest brother to death. Shikamaru was a little reluctant to leave Temari but he didn’t have much choice in the matter, and he didn’t really want to stay and be put under the watchful eye of both Kankuro and Gaara at the same time.

The trip back to Konoha was travelled at a slow but steady pace, with Naruto alternatively being carried by Sasuke and Chouji, while Kakashi was helped in his own progress by Asuma. Eventually, they made their way towards the main gates of Konoha and were welcomed back with a Hero’s welcome. But Naruto didn’t seem too happy to be back. His gaze lingered towards the Northern direction and then to the North-west direction. /It’s not over yet. This is only the beginning.../ He thought sadly to himself.

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In a large underground chamber, lit up by only candles, a hissing sound reverberated through the darkened room. A pale figure with long dark hair sat upon his throne with a bored expression. Behind him stood 3 body guards hidden in the shadows; while before him kneeled the figure of our infamous spy.

“Kabuto. What news do you bring?” Orochimaru sat slumped in his chair, as he looked over his nails, not bothering to even look at his loyal subordinate.

“News from Suna is that Sasori-sama had been taken out by his grandmother and a Ninja from Konoha. They buried his body in Sand some weeks ago.” Kabuto stood up calmly and smirked at his master. “I never thought that Sasori-sama would be so weak, that he could be taken out by an old woman and some Konoha weaklings.” While Kabuto gave this statement, Orochimaru’s eyes narrowed.

“I take it Akatsuki had already made their move...” Orochimaru asked.

“Yes. It has been confirmed that the Ichibi no Shukaku is in their hands, but somehow, Gaara is not dead. Supposedly, Naruto-kun arrived just in time to save and revive Gaara from the brink of death, or so I’ve been told.” Kabuto shrugged.

Orochimaru gave a savage smirk when he thought about the Uzumaki heir. “Any further news on the Konoha front or that of the Kuunoki?” He continued to ask.

“Nothing much.” Kabuto stated nonchalantly. “From what I understand, there’s been a bit of an information blackout from within Konoha. I would suspect that Tsunade is heightening her internal security, either trying to find our spy or to wipe out the Root Anbu group of Danzo’s. At the same time, she’s been trying to balance the power play of the Council, but I doubt that she’d be getting much headway in that area.” Looking at his master’s concentrated expression, Kabuto wondered: “Why the interest, Orochimaru-sama? Are you planning on invading Konoha while her attentions are split between the Akatsuki as well as Konoha’s internal struggles?”

“Iie.” Orochimaru answered succinctly. “With Naruto back in the ball game, both the Council and Danzo will not be in power for much longer. Not to mention our spy will probably be rooted out soon enough. Nothing escapes those eyes... the eyes that can see the future...”

From behind Orochimaru, one of the four shadowed figures stepped forward. “Do not fear, Orochimaru-sama. Call on us and we would take out the Seer with ease.”

“Do NOT underestimate him, Kimmimaro. You’re health may have been stabilised, but you will never be at your top form like before. I do not wish to lose the only original member of the Sound Five so early in the game.” Orochimaru threatened harshly.

“Hmp. Tayuya, Kidoumaru, Jiroubu, Sakon and Ukon were all weaklings. Do not compare us to them.” The only female member of the four snorted in contempt. “They lost to fucking Genins! The lot of them deserve to die pathetic deaths!”

“Do not speak ill of the dead, Hito-san (1).” A giant of a man stated calmly.

“Oh, shut it, Juugo. I’m not one of your stupid bird friends that need to be coddled. Give me a target and let me at them. I’ll shatter their minds and make them love being a slave.” The female ninja by the name of Hito snapped back brutishly.

“Quiet! Juugo, Hito, I do not wish to hear your squabbling. Now, tell me, where the hell is Kageru?! She’s suppose to be here as the last member of the Sound FOUR!” Orochimaru ordered in a loud and commanding voice, silencing both Juugo and Hito from any further comments.

Kimmimaro shrugged indifferently. “She and Suzumi left early this morning. They didn’t report where they were going.” He stated monotonously, even as his eyes narrowed in suspicion.

Kabuto sighed, feeling annoyed that the clone seemed to spend so much time with his sister (2). “What is wrong with that girl? Ever since she came back from the Kuunoki, both she and Suzumi have been hanging out a lot together. It’s just not natural to want to spend all that free time together in the same room...” His voice drifts off, only to be interrupted by Hito once again.  

“Maybe they’re into each other. Maybe they’ve been fucking each other with wild kinky sex all these years, you never know?” Hito taunted the white haired medic nin, only to be pushed aside with a punch to her should by Kimmimaro, who glared furiously at her. Kabuto didn’t take the insult lightly either, and he too glared heatedly at the short black haired woman.

Glaring at the irritated Kaguya survivor, Hito refocused her efforts at annoying him. “Tch. Feeling jealous that the snake bitch never even gave you a glance, Little bone?” Hito sneered at Kimmimaro, having always known about the bone user’s secret crush on the clone of his master, and not afraid to tease him about it whenever possible.

It was really a strange triangle between Kimmimaro – who had a crush on Kageru, who spent most of her time with Suzumi, who (rumours have it) has a crush on that idiot Suigetsu. And then there’s Karin who wanted to get into the pants of Kimmimaro and hates Kageru’s guts. If it wasn’t so stupid and complex, she would laugh at the hilarity of it all. Unfortunately, Hito didn’t have much time to reminisce about her fellow Shinobi’s twisted love lives, as a hard slap to the back of her head forced her onto the floor followed by a foot to her back. She twisted her head only to glare at a pissed off Juugo, who was fiercely defending his best friend’s integrity.

The curse seals upon Juugo’s body started reacting and he widened his lips into an insane grin before Orochimaru slapped his face. In that instant, the killing intent disappeared from Juugo’s mindset.

“I said ENOUGH of this petty squabbling. Let Kageru and Suzumi do what they want, they are of no concern to me. Now, Kabuto!” Orochimaru looked towards his must trusted advisor and henchmen.

“Hai, Orochimaru-sama.” Kabuto answered immediately.

“Prepare our soldiers’ combat readiness and heighten our defence. I have a bad feeling about the future. At the same time, I want the Sound four (with or without Kageru) to pack up our immediate supplies, we’ll be moving base in 3 days.” The ever paranoid Snake Sannin stormed off and out of the chamber.

Whenever Orochimaru feels even the slightest hint of a threat on his life, he would prepare to move his being away from harm. Such was the natural instinct of self preservation within Orochimaru’s bones. /Something is going to happen soon. Something big! And I’ll be damned if I’m getting caught up in it. Be it Akatsuki, Konoha or the Kuunoki, I will NOT PERISH!/ He thought determinately to himself.

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“Ne, why are we visiting the Southern base? Don’t you have a meeting with Orochimaru, Niisan and the other Sound Four members?” Suzumi asked her travelling companion as she trudged through the foliage of a dense forest.

“Ah. I do not intend on going to the meeting.” Kageru answered in a monotonous voice, void of any emotion.

Beside her, Suzumi signed. “You really don’t get along with Hito, do you? Is that why you’re not doing anything to keep your cover? We are after all, not exactly loyal to Orochimaru anymore...”

“It’s not Hito I’ve got a problem with.” Kageru interrupted but the rest of the explanation remain in secrecy.

Suzumi sighed again, accustomed to her companion’s silences. Ever since they had their spirit and emotions bound together by the seal made by Naruto, and especially after her adopted father (the doctor who created her) died, Kageru had become more and more silent and reserved with time. However, that does not mean that Kageru does not communicate at all. Kageru expresses herself more with her emotions and slight nuances of her face or small gestures on her hands.

Through the spirit link, Kageru could easily express her wariness, her anger, her happiness or contentment, or excitement, or sadness. Instead of using the spoken word to convey herself, she relied almost constantly on Suzumi to ‘speak out’ on her behalf. Hence why many people within the Sound village thought the two were a pair of lesbian couples. Not that Kageru mind the misinterpretation, it just helped her keep up the illusion of needing Suzumi by her side at all times.

Such dependency on another would have been frowned upon in Sound. However, Suzumi had become a proficient fighter with unique abilities through the years, and no one could ever argue that Kageru was weak. As such, the overall impression of the two was that they were two strong Kunoichis partnered together; who would dare go against them? It was due to this reason alone that Orochimaru did not try to separate the clone puppet and Kabuto’s once useless sister. The dynamic relationship between the two worked well and made them a powerful combination. Why break up something that works?

“Fine. So why are we headed towards the Southern base? You know that’s were Karin is right? I thought you two don’t get along either?” Suzumi persisted.

“We don’t get along.” Kageru confirmed and then paused again in her explanation.

“Oh come on, just tell me why we’re going there already!?” Suzumi huffed in impatience. Even she had a limit to her patience with her partner.

“There’s just something there I want to get my hands on. Research that only Karin knows about. It was either Karin or Kabuto, and I prefer talking to Karin.” Kageru answered, satisfying Suzumi somewhat.

Giving a final sigh, Suzumi gave up. “I guess that’s all I’ll get out of you at this moment in time huh?” Shaking her head, she refocussed on the trail before them. “It’s gonna be a long journey.” She muttered under her breath.

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In a darkened cave somewhere, nine figures in black cloaks with red clouds decorated on them stood in a circle, meeting in physical presence for the first time in a long time.

“Tobi is a good boy, Tobi join Akatsuki” Tobi danced on his tippy toes, happy to have finally made it as one of the main members of Akatsuki.

With a stern face, the Leader of Akatsuki ignored the new member’s happy trance as he brought up an important issue. “Having lost Orochimaru, we were already one man short. But with Sasori down for the count, it will start becoming difficult for us to collect the bijyus. At the rate we are going, we will need to recruit at least one other person to become an Akatsuki member.”

“Do you have anyone in mind?” Zetsu’s creepy voice asked.

Still expressionless, the Leader answered succinctly. “Yes, and we will leave tomorrow to recruit her.”

Turning his eyes to focus on the rest of the Akatsuki members, he spoke in a strong commanding voice. “Itachi, Kisame, Deidara, Kakuzu and Hidan, will be coming with me on a journey tomorrow. Zetsu, keep an eye out on the travels of the other Jinchuriki and tailed beasts. Konan, stay and watch over the base.”

“What about Tobi?” The newest member of Akatsuki popped back into the conversation.

“Stay with Konan or do whatever, I don’t care.” The Leader didn’t even turn towards Tobi as he spoke these words.

“Who are we recruiting exactly?” Kisame asked curiously after the selected 5 members left the cavern behind.

“The Lady Oracle herself, Uzumaki Ruri.”

A long silence ensued after the Leader’s announcement.

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Not 3 days later, a rare sight of 8 Akatsuki members, all wearing the infamous black cloaks with red clouds, were spotted trudging through the dense forests on the Raishin Mountain range, making their way slowly towards the Kuunoki village.

“Oi oi! You sure this is the way to the Kuunoki?” Kisame hefted the bandaged Samehade over his shoulder as he trudged along behind Itachi’s light steps.

“We were able to retrieve a scroll map from one of the gennin teams entering the Kuunoki Chuunin exam over 2 years ago. And it has confirmed the path to take towards the Kuunoki village.” One of the Peins spoke up in a calm manner, never turning back to address Kisame directly. This person had long orange hair tied into a high pony tail, and his slim face was littered with black piercings around his jaw, across his cheeks and one large piercing atop his forehead. He wore the forehead protector with the Rain emblem on it. As a missing nin, of course the emblem also had a cross directly across it.

“Well, why the hell are we recruiting this Lady crap? I say we should sacrifice her to the God of Jashin. That would be worth more to our cause!” Hidan snapped passionately from the back of the group. He simply could not understand why they were going out of their way to endanger themselves in order to recruit a single person.

“Indeed. Our time would have been better spent boosting up our finances by hunting a few more prize bounties, instead of this ridiculous endeavour. There is no guarantee that she would even join us! And if she was against us, what would we do then? Have you forgotten that the Jinchuriki for the Kyuubi is her nephew? I can’t imagine that she would willingly betray family in the pursuit of joining our cause.” Kakuzu interrupted Hidan’s rant about the goodness of Jashin with his own opinions on their current situation.

“She will join.” A second Pein answered succinctly. This person also had long orange hair, but unlike the first, he left his hair down. Across his once smooth face, there were also place stub piercings down across both of his facial cheeks, two on his chin and a long thin shaft across his nose diagonally. Like the first, he also wore a missing nin’s forehead protector from the Rain village.

“She has a reason to join us. Only we can give her what she truly wants.” The third Pein followed in the second’s speech without pause as if they were mentally linked. The third leader was physically larger in size than the other two, he had short orange hair and the arrangement of black piercings on his face deferred from the other two. This man had two cones stabbing out of his cheeks, 2 small round studs down his nose and small triangle piercings beneath his bottom lip. He also wore a forehead protector from the Rain village, with a scar across it.

“Oh? And what’s that, un?” Deidara stood languidly on his clay bird with was flapping now and again in order to stay above the ground, and by the side of the main group.

“Freedom.” Itachi whispered quietly from directly behind the three Peins. 

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Upon finally reaching the main stairwell that leads towards the Hidden Air village at the end of the Bamboo path, the 8 Akatsuki members did not seem surprised that there was a welcoming party waiting for them. It seemed like the Gate Guardians of the Kuunoki had already been informed of their impromptu arrival and have prepared a special greeting just for them.

“Yare Yare. This certainly brings back memories from 3 years ago.” Kisame commented nostalgically, as he looked over all 10 members of the Gate Guardians standing before him.

“And just like 3 years ago, we will stop you from reaching your goal. You will not get within a hundred yards of Ruri-sama, I can promise you that.” Jubei answered in a calm visage, knowing that he was facing the best of the best from the Akatsuki.

“Hehe. Well, let’s get this on the road. Jashin-sama will be content with this feast of sacrifices, I’m sure!” Hidan was just about rush forward with his trusty scythe by his side when one of the Peins – this one with long hair tied into a high pony tail – held out an arm to stop his movements. “Hey! What’s the big idea? My prayers to Jashin waits for no one, you know?!”

“It is unnecessary for us to fight.” The first Pein stated.

“As the Lady Oracle is already on our side.” The Second Pein followed the comment.

“Hence we do not need to bother with these small fry.” The third Pein finished.

In that instant, a bright purple glow could be seen from inside the Kuunoki village walls. And less then a second later, a huge intricate seal emerged on the ground, encompassing the entire village in closing it, forming a giant half dome. Smaller human size seals suddenly appeared all over the grounds, circling each and every one of the Gate Guardians.

“Ruri-sama?” Jubei stuttered quietly to himself, his eyes widened at the implications. The seals beneath their feet changed from a dark purple colour to black, and Jubei’s legs suddenly felt weak. He fell to his knees and slammed his chest upon the ground. He tensed his muscles but it was for no use, he couldn’t move at all. His chakra was sealed, his body was sealed. “Why?” was the last words that left Jubei’s lips as he felt something foreign invade his mind, forcefully rendering him into an artificial sleep.

“Huh? What happened, un?” Deidara questioned in surprise. Having been one of the few who had fought the Gate Guardians 3 years ago, he didn’t expect that they would find such an easy passage right through the Kuunoki’s front door. It was simply unimaginable.

“A powerful Fuuinjutsu-Genjutsu hybrid technique.” Itachi answered. “It seems that the Lady Oracle had cast a strong, area-wide Genjutsu that attacks only those people of the Kuunoki.

“Indeed. Let’s not waste anymore time. Our real fight is inside.” The first Pein ordered before walking forward and across the gates, ignoring the 10 bodies of the Gate Guardians hindering their path.

Itachi was just about to walk after the three leaders when he felt something grab onto his right leg. Looking down, he was surprised to note that one of the Gate Guardians was still conscious enough to grab onto his leg using sheer will alone. Silently, he admired her strength.

“I... won’t.... let you... through!” With each word, her grip upon his leg tightened to the point of being painful, but Itachi’s face remained impassive.

Gazing directly into her blazing blue eyes filled with desperation and a determination he had not witnessed in many years, it brought memories to his mind. Memories that he thought had left him for all eternity.

Kazeha Akiko’s face slowly faded away, melding into that of another female. This young girl was far paler than the Kuunoki Kunoichi’s own sun tanned skin. Akiko’s fiery blue eyes were replaced by solemn but deep ebony eyes so similar to his own. Yes, he remembered her - his first and only female friend. Uchiha Yumi. She, like all other Uchihas, had died that night that he had forsaken them. Even Yumi, his so called girlfriend, had not been spared. He remembered her tear-stained face so clearly now. Her eyes, filled to the brim with betrayal and hurt of such depth, voice pleading with his deafened ears even as he stabbed through her heart with his sword. It almost brought bile up to his throat; but Itachi forced it back down, and pushed those old and painful memories away.

Blinking slowly, he refocussed his eyes on the red haired girl who had griped his leg so tightly in a futile and desperate move to stop him. For some odd reason, his heart tightened in pain as he continued to look at her determined eyes. Truthfully, he didn’t want to hurt her, he had no reason to hurt her. Making a promise to himself, he reached down slowly and placed a finger gently against Akiko’s forehead.

Slowly but surely, Akiko’s eyes closed due to chakra-enforced sleep. Falling into a deep comatose, her grip on Itachi’s leg slackened, and the Uchiha was finally able to move away. As he walked, Itachi turned around just once to look down on the red-haired Kunoichi one more time before he turned a corner and forced the whole incident out of his mind in order to focus on the upcoming battle at hand.

Truthfully, he did not want the Lady Oracle to join their cause either. Not just because he believed her too much of a wild card, but it was also because with her addition, Akatsuki would become too powerful. And if there was something he feared more than anything else, it was the actual possibility that Akatsuki would succeed.

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As they crossed the lawns, footpaths and by passed houses, they watched silently, impassively as bodies after bodies of the Kuunoki residents littered the grounds. All of the villagers seem to be asleep, or trapped in some sort of Genjutsu. They were unharmed physically; they simply weren’t conscious, and therefore, they were unable to oppose them. It was eerie to walk pass an entire village of silent, none moving people, it even gave Deidara the creeps.

“Un. This is creepy, ne?” Deidara muttered under his breath. But he wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. After all, whatever the Lady Oracle did to suppress her own people gave Akatsuki a huge advantage, as they needn’t waste time and effort fighting their way through the horde of villagers while making their way towards her. “Yo? If you knew that the Lady Oracle would willingly join us, why did you bring so many people along for this particular recruitment? I mean, you only sent Sasori-danna and the Uchiha to go after me, so why put in so much effort for her, if she was already willing to join?” Deidara proposed this question towards one of the three Peins.

“It isn’t her ladyship’s willingness to join our cause that is the problem.” One of the Peins answered.

“It’s the souls that guard her which we must fight.” The second Pein finished right behind the first.

“Huh?” Hidan, being the newest kid on the block (right next to Toby) had no clue what the hell that meant. He was about to demand a better explanation when the group of Akatsuki members finally found their prey.

The Lady Oracle, in her pristine white gown, stood before the 8 invaders. Her pace impassive and eyes bland. She stood right in front of the town river, right next to the bridge that would lead to the Council Tower and Chamber of Prayers (3). A few metres to her left laid the slumped figure of Kaga, trapped in a Genjutsu of his own master’s mak ing.

“You have finally arrived.” Ruri noted emotionlessly.

The three Peins nodded in answer.

“I only have one request.” Ruri’s calm voice interrupted once more. Raising her right hand, the long sleeves of her dress fell down around her elbow, showcasing that she had yet another one of the infamous Tenkun no Buki activated right at this moment in time. Her entire right hand, all the way from the tips of her finger nail to mid way down her arm towards her elbow had become grey in colour. Not only was the discolouration alarming, but the Akatsuki members could clearly see that the arm was actually aging by the second. The skin was becoming brittle and scaly, as if it had been dried in an oven for hours on end, small spots of pigment across her arm as a sign of cancerous cells how growing on her skin. But Ruri ignored the whole spectacle that her arm has become and continued on with what she wanted to say. “As long as the Genzo no Bizu (Illusion Beads) (4) is activated, the Kuunoki villages will not be of any threat to you. I want your word that you will not harm unthreatening bystanders.” She stated her condition.

At first Hidan was about to argue that any sacrifice, threatening or not, was valuable to Jashin, when he was pulled back by one of the Pein (the long haired one without a ponytail). That same Pein answered resolutely. “You have our word.”

Deidara, Kisame and Kakuzu glanced at Pein in surprise. Everyone knew that Pein was the type of person who would kill your entire family, friends, and neighbours if you wronged him. Hell, he would kill everyone you ever cared for even if you didn’t wrong him. As long as you were in his way, you die, and your village burns down with you. His ultimate goal after wall was to bring pain to every single human on this entire planet. The fact alone that he had given the Lady Oracle such a blatant lie was in a way amusing, and in another way not so.

But whether or not Ruri acknowledged his lie or not, they didn’t know, as she turned her full attention to the river behind her. “It will start now. Be prepared.”

“sO YuO hAvE BeTRaBeD UsssSS... RURIIIII!!!!!!” The combined voices of the dead echoed across the entire village as the members of Akatsuki stiffened slightly at the horrific sounds.

As suddenly as the sound rumbled forth from, surprisingly, the centre of the river; the river’s water surface suddenly surged up to form a giant wall of liquid ready to slam down into the invader’s faces, swallowing anything and everything in it’s path. Deidara quickly rode his bird summon high into the hair to avoid the gigantic eruption that was caused by the surprise tsunami against the hard earth atop the mountain range.

Kakuzu used the iron strings within his body to anchor himself to the very ground and managed to stay put against the huge force of water pushing against him. Hidan unfortunately, had not been lucky and was swept away several yards to slam against a building. Kisame, having lived his entire life on the sea, easily jumped and landed on the torrential wave and rode it all the way until it calmed.

The moment the wall of water formed, Itachi had run towards Ruri’s pron form, grabbed her around her waist and jumped away as fast as his feet could take him. Jumping and running for all his worth, Itachi and his captive managed to find a safe haven on the roof of the Gas Tower, away from the destructive wave and the possessed water.

The three Peins had also jumped aside and avoided any damage by landing on nearby rooftops.

That could not be said for the helpless and unconscious Kuunoki residents who had all been washed away in that single moment of impact.

“FUCK!!! What the FUCK was that!” Hidan trudged forward, furious at having been drenched by the sudden wave of water and slammed into a hard surface wall the way he had. “Do you have any idea how much that fucking hurt! I almost broke my fucking neck!” He cursed fluently as his feet slapped angrily against the muddy ground, further staining the bottom of his Akatsuki cloak.

“Shut the fuck up, Hidan.” Kakuzu snapped irritably, annoyed at his partner running off on the mouth yet again. But anything else he wanted to say was cut off by further commands from one of the Pein’s (the one with long hair tied into a high pony tail).

“Deidara! Use your explosive clay to destroy the entire surface of the Kuunoki village. We have to reach the enemy which is deep underground, in the heart of this mountain. We need to blast our way in. Itachi, save your strength for later, when the time is right, you will use the Amaterasu to eliminate our enemy; and keep Ruri with you at all times. I do not trust her not to double cross us. Kakuzu, use wind and fire to help destroy as much of the water vapour as possible. Hidan and Kisame, assist Kakuzu!” Pein, the leader of the Akatsuki gave the orders and the members of the Akatsuki followed.

With that said, the various Akatsuki members split up to do their jobs, including the three Peins. The Pein with long hair tied to a high pony tail quickly summoned forth a large, three headed lizard. Sitting casually ontop of the giant summons head, Pein gave a one worn order: “Burn.” All three heads of the summoned creature opened their jaws. Upon their tongues, a large ball of burning flame grew in size before is suddenly shot forward into the pool of water that was once a calm river. A hissing sound of water vaporising into air could be heard from the centre of the pool.

Suddenly, as if in response to the threat that the Akatsuki pose, the whole body of the water pool itself shuddered in a surprisingly organic way. “DESTROY!!! DESTROY!!! DESTROY!!! DESTROY!!! DESTROY!!!

A giant hand, formed by the body of water, rose high into the air before slamming down directly in front of Kakuzu and Hidan. Other forms began to emerge from the body of water as well; forms that vaguely took the same of animals and or humans ran out and separated themselves from the main pool to attack the members of Akatsuki. Only to be cut and sliced apart by Kisame and Hidan. However, all their efforts managed to do was slow the creatures down, as even it’s been cut, the water simply gathered together again and reformed its body.

“WHAT THE FUCK! Something is weird with this river’s water. There’s already chakra running through it, and I can’t control it with my own chakra!” Kisame exclaimed in slight panic, having never seen such a thing before in his entire life. “Trying to suck the chakra out of the thing is useless as well, I’ve never seen anything like this!”

“That is the true form of the 7 high Councillors.” The brutish looking Pein answered. “They are the combined souls of the past leaders of the Kuunoki, all sealed into liquid form and stored in a cavern at the heart of this very mountain. Every single drop of water in this place is infused with the chakra and memories of the dead. That is how they remain in this time and place, still ‘alive’ in a sense, but never truly ‘alive’ in the first place.”

“This is true immortality.” The other Pein with long flowing hair continued after the first. “Formless, boundless, fearless, unpredictable and unending. They have become one single conscious entity with unlimited potential and power. And with this power, that is how the Uzumaki’s have developed the Yochigan – the all knowing eye. (5)”

“The only way to defeat this un-dead foe that has no form is to vaporise every single drop of water and vapour in this place. Hence, this is why we much burn it to the ground.” The last Pein, with the pony tail and was still sitting upon the giant summoned lizard, shot forth more and more fire balls at the centre of the pool.

The spirit of the dead however, was not sitting idly by waiting for destruction. Long streams of water injected straight up into the air tried to capture and encase Deidara who was dodging the grasps of deadly water as much as he could, while dropping more and more explosive clay bombs all over the existing building and ground of the Kuunoki. Kisame and Hidan were having a hell of a time causing any damage at more, more often than not, they simply acted as distractions for Kakuzu to use both his Fire and Wind phantoms to shoot forth their combined attacks: “Wind Element: Bleeding Force! Fire Element: Suffering’s Source!”

As for the Peins, the one with the pony tail continued to direct the attacks of his summon at the pool of water. The largish Pein acted as a defender for the first, absorbing any oncoming attacks directed at them, seemingly not concerned that he was being dealt a lot of damage. The third and Final Pein seemed to be doing nothing of importance; however, his eyes were firmly focussed on the Lady Oracle herself. Although he had ordered Itachi to take care of her if she showed any dissention, he wasn’t about to take that chance. This third Pein’s sole role was to watch over Ruri and keep her chained.

From a distance away, Ruri watched in silence as her home was being blasted and burnt to the ground right in front of her. She remained completely still and silent, not a hint of tears in her eyes, impassive as always. Behind her, Itachi too remained as still as a statue, conserving his strength as he was told. But even he could be curious at times. He could not imagine what Ruri’s going through now, as she watched the very village she had led for so long be destroyed. “Do you regret?” He quietly asked. Ruri did not reply nor did she look back at him. Ultimately, this had been her choice, and she had to live with the consequences.

Fire ball after Fire ball, both from the summoned lizard and Kakuzu’s combined Wind and Fire attacks from his phantoms devastate the all encompassing body of water. High above them, Deidara continued to drop massive number of bombs onto the surface, barely missing the remaining Akatsuki members as he went along. The bombs resulted in damage to large number of buildings and created giant craters about 10 metres deep into the mountain. But after only 5 minutes of intense fighting, everyone could tell that the un-dead spirits of the Councillors still have the upper hand. For every gallant of water that made up the main body of the enemy vaporised by Akatsuki’s attacks, a huge mass of water erupted from various cracks on the ground to take its place. It was an unending battle and they could see no victory.

“This is taking too fucking long!” Hidan cried out in pain; as his chest was cut open from a liquid being that had frozen one of its numerous tentacles into a deadly shard of ice. “I can’t even fucking sacrifice these things to Jashin because they don’t fucking bleed or feel pain!”

“For once, Hidan’s right.” The long haired Pein acknowledged before looking up at Deidara who was still dodging the multiple water dragons attempting to kill him. “Deidara! Stop fooling around and get right to it. We need to reach the cavern of souls now!”

“Yeah, yeah... Pushy as always, the lot of them.” Deidara mumbled as he ducked under a horde of ice shards that were thrown at his face. Unzipping his bag of goodies, he pulled out his favourite number. “Let’s see how they handle number 18. (6)”

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Miles away from the intense fighting between Akatsuki and the renowned Councillors of the Kuunoki, Jiroubu carefully settled the last of the Kuunoki villages on the ground, with the rest of the survivors that they’ve found during their escape from the village. “That’s the last of them from the southern side.” He reported as he looked towards their new leader.

“The northern side of town as well as the Uzumaki palace has been secured. Everyone there has been moved here.” Kidoumaru reported as well. In his arms rested a young child, one of the orphans that had been looked after by Ruri.

“Both the Eastern and Western sides have also been secured. The last person we got out was Kaga-san. And other than getting wet, all of them are fine. It was lucky that the Akatsuki didn’t notice us when we were collecting what’s left of the villagers inside the town.” Ukon answered on behalf of himself and his brother Sakon, of whom had separated from his body in order to over more ground and rescue all of the citizens.

“Good. Now, get into position to set up the barrier wall to protect everyone inside. Remember Ruri-sama’s words. Nothing must befall the people of the village. Even if the Kuunoki is destroyed, the citizens MUST BE SAFE! It’s our job to keep them safe, and that means protecting them from the Akatsuki if they come. Let’s do this!” Tayuya ordered and the other three members (Ukon and Sakon and merged back into one body) got themselves into position. Performing the same hand seals in synchronisation, the Ex-Sound Four members erected a family purple barrier in the same of a box all around the slumbering forms of the villagers that once called the Kuunoki home. On top of the protective barrier, Tayuya enclosed a layer of Genjutsu, hiding the shield from any prying eyes. /Now, all we gotta do wait for the battle to finish. And then slip away to Konoha with the survivors. Ruri-sama. Please be safe./ Tayuya’s thoughts drifted away as she went into a meditative state to conserve her energy while still maintaining both the Genjutsu and barrier up.

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“Uh. Is that what I think it is?’ Kisame asked in a strangely fearful manner.

“Che. Seems like we need to get to cover. Now.” Kakuzu wasted no time as he hardened his skin into stone even as he ran away from the giant but ugly looking bomb that had just been dropped by Deidara.

“SHITTTT!!!!” Hidan swore as he ran for his life. Even he, an immortal of immortals, didn’t want his body to be blown to smithereens. “I’ll kill that bastard when I get out of here!”

The large clay bomb smashed against the surface of what was once a river, the impact was immediate. An enormous eruption of fire blasted out of ground zero, the waves of destruction continued outward smashing buildings into rumbles, pulling trees out of their ground. The earth itself shook intensely from the impact and shortly after, the ground collapsed into itself. Giant slabs of earth surface crumbled and dropped further into itself, as if the entire mountain was sinking.

Every single Akatsuki member made it for the air, for it was simply the safest place around now. Deidara was perfectly fine where he was currently admiring his handy work. Upon the three headed lizard summon, which had suddenly sprouted wings sat the three Peins, upon each of the claws of the summon were Kisame, Kakuzu and Hidan. Ruri had protected both herself and Itachi by summoning forth a second Tenkun No buki – the Mugenkyo Nano (Infinity Cloth) (7). The two were now safely protected within the confines of the large expand of cloth of which acted as some kind of flying carpet for them.

As the clouds of smoke and steam cleared, the full damage was revealed. One whole side of the Kuunoki village, namely the mountain (where the stairs that led to the Uzumaki palace and the Library) completely collapsed down the side of the Raijin Mountain range. No building or man made structures remain upon the surface of the Kuunoki village. Simply put, the village itself was no more. All that was left was a vast cavern filled to the brim with clear liquid that looked exactly like water. The cavern itself was several miles wide (as wide as the village was large), and looked to be hundreds of miles deep right into the heart of the mountain. 

“That is your target, Itachi. Do it.” One of the Pein’s ordered in a commanding voice.

Stepping to the edge of the carpet cloth that he was currently standing on, Itachi looked calmly into the glistening void that was the chamber of souls filled to the brim with liquid souls of the dead.

DESTROY!!! DESTROY!!! DESTROY!!!” The combined voices of the dead reached a crescendo in their chants of destruction and betrayal.

Closing his right eye, Itachi closed his hands together in a single hand seal. Calmly, he spoke. “It is said that Amaterasu is the fire from hell which will never disappear until it burns everything in its path (8). It’s fitting that this would the fire that guided your deceased souls into the beyond.” His closed eye started to bleed. In a snap, Itachi’s bleeding eye opened wide and directed into the centre of the cavern of pure water.

Abruptly, a surge of black flames morphed out of no where directly on top of the water’s surface. The flames burned furiously and unrestrained all through out the cavern. A high pitched scream echoed from the voices of the dead. A truly eerie sound when you know that you are literally killing spirits that were already dead, souls that had lived on this earth for hundreds of years. But Itachi never paused, he never wavered. Soon, the liquid water that made up the souls of the dead slowly evaporated into nothing, even the steam was consumed by the ever encompassing Amaterasu.

Eventually, there was simply nothing left in the cavern at all. And only then, did Itachi finally stop his jutsu. The moment he did stop, Itachi nearly collapsed and fell off the flying cloth, had it not been for Ruri catching him and bringing back into the middle.

“It is done.” One of the Peins stated calmly as he looked at the destruction that he had wrought on the once beautiful and lively village hidden in the Air. There was nothing left but waste land.

Yes, iT has...” All members of the Akatsuki stiffened at the familiar voice of the souls. However, when they looked up from the destroyed chamber all they saw was 7 very faint figures floating directly in front of them in the air (9).

“G... Gh... Ghosts?” Hidan stuttered. Having been a devout follower of Jashin, he firmly believed that once killed, a sacrifice stays dead and their souls are devoured by the great god – Jashin himself. However, to see 7 real life ghosts floating right in front of him not only leads him to question his own faith, but also his own sanity.

“Honourable Council.” It was Ruri who spoke up this time, while still cradling an unconscious Itachi in her arms. The seven figures, though faint, appeared to be all female in form; each one had a covering over their faces. Some were short, others were tall, but each of them wore an outfit that did not fit this time period. In deed, each wore the clothes of their own time period, further implicating that the souls of these seven councillors derived from hundreds of years in the past.

Slowly, the first of the seven councillors, and also obviously their leader as she floated in front of the others, pulled off her hood to reveal a young, almost girlish looking face. Her eyes were pale in the sunlight, almost as pale as Konoha’s Hyuuga’s. The First, as she was sometimes known, gazed unflinchingly at Ruri. “You have brought destruction upon our village. The Hidden Air is no more.” Her voice... was entirely human, and lacked the creepy echo that always accompanied the voice of the dead.

Pausing slightly, the spirit continued. “Without the Kuunoki, the chains that bind you to your ability and responsibility have been cut. The Uzumaki too, are no more. Goodbye, descendant.” With those last words, the spirit faded into nothingness. Behind her, the other forms of the councillors too, faded away into the air, leaving nothing behind.

“Goodbye, Ancestor. And thank you.” Ruri whispered in an achingly quiet voice. Finally, she allowed the tears combined with blood to flow past her eyes. She could feel it, the symbol of unity, the symbol of her responsibility slowly fading from her forehead; and with it, her ability to read the future.

“I am...” Voice breaking slightly, Ruri continued. “Finally free.”

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In Konoha

Naruto slumped tiredly against the internal walls of Hokage building as he felt a surge of pain behind his tightly shut eyes.

“Naruto-kun! Are you alright?!” Having witnessed the blond boy’s sudden pained visage, Hinata couldn’t help but come over to assist. She gasped in shock as tears of red dripped down his face from his enclosed eyes. “Have you overused the Yochigan again, Naruto-kun?” She quickly pulled a handkerchief and moved to wipe the blood from the other boy’s face. But he only moved away and gave a small whimper of pain, which only further unsettled Hinata, having not used to seeing him in pain. “Naruto-kun, does it hurt? Tsunade-sama! TSUNADE-SAMA!” Hinata uncharacteristically yelled for the Hokage to come and help.

Naruto shook his head and tried to stifle both the pain behind his eyes as well as the new silence that surrounded his mind. “I can’t hear them anymore...” He finally whispered when he had calmed down.

“Can’t hear who, Naruto-kun? Are you really alright?” Hinata hugged the slightly shivering boy against her even as her hand glowed with healing chakra, trying desperately to pinpoint the source of his pain and heal it.

“I can’t hear the voices of the dead anymore. They’re gone. They’re all gone... The Kuunoki...” Naruto choked the final words out when he finally let go of the grief that came with that knowledge. “It’s been destroyed...”

End

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(1) You probably have all forgotten, but this new character is actually Gojou Hito, Hikon’s missing sister. She is a Genjutsu specialist and a new member of the Sound Four.

(2) For those of you who have forgotten, this is just a reminder that in this story, Kabuto DOES have a younger sister and she is Suzumi. By the way, I’ve uploaded a new image of Suzumi, depicting her looks as a 15 year old teenager. Please go to my website to have a look.

(3) See the map on my website if you’re not sure where exactly I’m talking about.

(4) To learn more about this Tenkun no Buki, go to my website.

(5) Will be explained later by Naruto.

(6) This is the same explosive he used during his battle against Gaara.

(7) To learn more about this Tenkun no Buki, go to my website.

(8) I took this quote directly from the manga. I found it fitting.

(9) You can find an image of this on my website, please go to my profiles page for the link.

Phew, finished my most important chapter of the lot, even though it is a bit short. I’ve been planning this one for YEARS! And you have no idea how good it feel to get this one out. So tell me what you all think by pressing that ‘submit review’ button on the bottom left hand side of the screen. Please review! 

By the way no promises as to when I’ll get the next chapter out. My life has been a bitch of a roller coaster ride lately. And No, I’m not giving any excuses. Just be warned that I am not a regular updater.

Thanks all.

Scenes I by karrafear
Author's Notes:
Trials of Faith

Karrafear

Summary: SEQUAL to Faith in Humanity and Restoration of Faith; PG-13. 2 and half years have passed and now is the beginning of the trials of Faith. Chapter 5: Scenes

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Disclaimer: Naruto is an anime and manga series created by Masashi Kishimoto. It does not belong to me; I’m simply using the characters and plot for my own creative devices.

"Demon's talk", /Thoughts/, "Speech", 'Speech emphasis', (FLASHBACK), Titles, (Author's interruptions)

Phew, I’ve been waiting for ages until Orochimaru dies in the Cannon series. Anyway, here’s the next chapter.

Warning: Nothing much this chapter, just a lot of mixed scenes to build the story up. Some characters may seem a little OOC, but you get that now and again.

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Chapter 5

Akatsuki Hide out

“Why did you join us?” Itachi asked. “Why did you betray your clan, your ancestors, everyone who ever trusted you, looked up to you?” Ebony eyes gazed towards the other form sitting languidly upon the bed gazing out the window.

“Isn’t that what you did, Itachi-kun?” The soft feminine voice answered.

“Iie. What I did was... the only way to protect Sasuke. What you did... would only endanger the one you want to protect.” Itachi retorted in a calm manner.

“Is it different? Did you not willingly become Sasuke’s enemy the moment you abandoned him to Konoha? Did you not protect him from afar as a member of the Akatsuki?” The ex-Lady Oracle smiled in a whimsical manner. “It’s ironic. You and I are so similar.”

Itachi’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Then tell me, how can you possibly protect Naruto, if you’ve been ordered to chase him down by Pein?”

“It will all come to pass in due time, Itachi-kun. I cannot go against Pein. But I will do everything in my power to see to Naruto’s safety. Pein knows this. He will not order me to chase my own nephew down. He has other uses for me.” Ruri answered confidently.

Itachi continued to frown in disagreement. “How do you know? You’re no longer able to see the future.”

“Some things, I don’t need to see. I just know.” Ruri’s eyes shifted from the window towards Itachi. “I have faith in Naruto. I believe him to be strong, I believe that he would be able to handle anything Akatsuki or Pein throws his way. All I can do now is having faith in him.”

Itachi turned away in silent thought. “With the Kuunoki gone, what will you do now? Follow Pein’s plans? Destroy the lives of all other Jinchuriki for the sole purpose of protecting one. You truly are selfish, Lady Ruri.” He stated monotonously.

Ruri flicked her eyes demurely towards Itachi before returning her gaze back out the window. “In all our hearts, we are all selfish. I would sacrifice everything to see my dreams come true. Just as you would...”

“But at what price.” Itachi rebutted back once more.

Ruri smiled in a frozen manner. “That is for me to decide. After all, these are the times of the trials of faith.”

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Konoha Hospital

“I can no longer see the future. The Yochigan has been stripped from me.” Naruto spoke out in a calm voice as he rested against the cushions behind his back, lying on a hospital bed facing the serious faces of Tsunade, Kakashi, and Jiraiya.

“What?! How did that happen?” Tsunade frowned in confusion. “Isn’t the technique a part of your bloodline limit? How the hell can you lose something like that?”

Naruto sighed. “Not all blood limit techniques are guaranteed. Although you may be born with the ‘potential’ to activate your bloodline abilities, it really is up to you to find a way to activate and then develop it. The Sharingan is a perfect example. Not every Uchiha born will activate their Sharingan. And even if they do activate it, they must actively work on it to make it a superior Sharingan. Then, they need to undertake extra steps in order to progress or evolve their original blood limit, such is the Mangakyo Sharingan.”

“It’s similar to the Uzumaki bloodline. What do you all know about our bloodline?” Naruto asked his audience, trying to gage how much he needed to explain in order to get his point through.

“You’re able to use the Tenkun no Buki without going insane. You’re able to use the Yochigan and see both the future and the past.” Kakashi piped up with his own 2 cents.

“The Uzumaki bloodline is very effective in countering Demonic Chakra, and has been used in the sealing of demon artefacts.” Jiraiya, the resident expert on seals spoke up as well.

“What Jiraiya said is true. The only unique ability about Uzumaki blood is that it is highly effective in the use of seals to control Demonic chakra. The Yochigan is something we developed in order to mimic a blood limit technique. It’s actually not a technique at its heart, unlike the Sharingan and the Byakugan.” Taking a deep breath, Naruto decided to inform his three viewers the horrific truth behind his clan’s abilities.

“What I’m about to tell you is a clan secret, so please don’t ever repeat this anywhere else. Long ago... After the great demon wars in which the humans won, and the majority of demon kind were sent to the Makai, that was when the united alliance of man split and fragmented into their various ‘clans’ and started fighting among one another for land, power and riches. The Uzumaki clan, having suffered devastating losses, took charge of some of their minor supporters (such as the Dokudes family and the Oniyoubu) and shut themselves out of the conflict and chaos that surrounds them. That wasn’t to say that the other clans didn’t try to recruit the Uzumaki and any of their allies to join them however. Obviously, the Uzumaki refused, my ancestors were tired of fighting, and felt great disappointment in their fellow man for degrading into the beasts that we have fought so hard to be rid of in the first place. There was a time of great tension between the remaining Uzumaki allied clans against the rest of the world. A few Uzumaki members were kidnapped and forced to join the other warring clans; when they refused outright, they were killed. Their bodies were then dissected in order to try and find the secret to our sealing techniques, their blood were extracted to sealing scrolls and other implements. In order to protect themselves, the Uzumaki allied families moved to the top of the Raijin Mountain Range. But my ancestors developed a way to protect their bodies from ever revealing the clan secrets to the rest of the world.”

“You see, when an Uzumaki member dies, there is no body. We are not buried, ever! What my ancestors did was to dissolve our human shells into liquid form and then extract that fluid out and put it into a safe place. The ‘safe place’ turned out to be the heart of the Raijin Mountain Range. Deep inside that mountain, there is a giant chamber filled to the brim with clear blue liquid. That liquid is the legacy of my ancestors, my family. They are what is left of my clan, the ENTIRE Uzumaki clan, for close to five thousand years.” Naruto reached up and wiped away a single tear that ran down his cheek. “Without a body, no one would be able to extract our secrets. And people like Orochimaru would never be able to summon us from the dead either. However, what we didn’t realise at first was that when we liquefied the bodies, we effectively trapped the souls and memories of the dead with it. We now have a chamber full of human souls and memories from people who lived thousands of years ago. These souls merged over time; their memories slowly became one collective mind; and the chakra that once flowed through their bodies, followed in the liquid form, amalgamating and becoming stronger. Eventually, we didn’t just end up with a chamber filled with water. The ‘life stream’, as I like to term it, was alive. It had power; it had thoughts, memories and emotions, but no form. It wasn’t a singular entity, but a mixture of hundreds. It did not have one voice, but rather a compounding echo of many voices. It became a collective ‘soul mind’ with the body of a ‘life stream.’”

“A few hundred years ago, the chamber was visited by a previous Lady Oracle – Himu. Due to hundred of years of isolation and inter breeding, Himu was born deformed and blind. She had a small body and both of her legs were cut off around the knee. She had 2 fingers in one hand and 6 in the other. Suffice to say, she had lived a hard and lonely life. But more than that, her greatest wish was to be able to see. Somehow, she found a way. She connected her life spirit with that collective ‘soul mind’ that was created in the chamber. Using that collection, she developed the Yochigan, and was finally able to see. But more than that, by using the collective ‘soul mind’ of the dead, she was able to access the ‘time stream’, which enabled her to see the past, and more importantly, predict the future. And so, the Yochigan was born.” Closing his eyes in sadness, Naruto finalised. “Due to her great development, when the time came and her frail body was shutting down on her, the rest of the Uzumaki clan members liquefied her body and had her merge with the rest of the ‘soul mind’. However, her soul was too conscious, and so, the first High Councillor was created. The ‘Soul Mind’ was no longer a collective substance without direction, it was now conscious, with thoughts, aims, goals. The High Councillor became part of the ruling system in the Kuunoki. The Village in the Air isn’t run by the living, but by the dead.”

A long silence ensued. Kakashi was simply shocked by the revelations that Naruto had sprouted, while Tsunade looked on with enlightenment in her eyes, having finally understood the burden that her old sensei was forced to shoulder as being part of the Uzumaki clan. Jiraiya was looking at it from a completely different point of view. He now understood the mechanism behind the Yochigan; and if he was being truthful, he found the entire development amazing and far beyond the standards of techniques employed in today’s society.

“So, if it is because of this connection to the ‘soul mind’ of the Kuunoki that allows you to activate the Yochigan and see the future, how come you say you can’t do that anymore?” Tsunade asked, trying to divert the conversation back to the original topic.

Naruto signed again. “The Kuunoki has been destroyed. The various souls and voices from the ‘soul mind’ has been scattered, I can no longer hear them. I can’t feel the power of the ‘life stream’ anymore. It’s just... gone. Without it, there is no Yochigan.”

“You mean to say... The Kuunoki...” Kakashi could not finish his sentence, the idea that the Hidden Air Village - the oldest village in the world had been destroyed, is simply overwhelming.

“Who could...” Tsunade stuttered to ask, but Jiraiya answered for her instead.

“Let me guess. Akatsuki.” Jiraiya noted seriously, a dark look on his face.

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Outside Konoha

A few miles outside the gates of Konoha, a large group of refugees slowly trudged their way towards their destination. Most of them looked unharmed, if only a little depressed and shocked. In the lead of the large group was Jubei, who looked just as tired as the rest of the people behind him. They did not carry anything more important than their very clothes and the weapons on their bodies. They didn’t care, it still hadn’t sunk in yet that their beloved home for thousands of years was destroyed, that they had lost everything. But most importantly, they were simply lost because their leader was gone. None felt the loss more acutely than Kaga, who had become a zombie of man, walking dazedly at the end of the mass troupe. Had he not be dragged away by the rest of the ex-Kuunoki guardians, he would have been happy spending the rest of his life staring at the desecrated area that was once a beautiful village. He didn’t know what happened to his beloved after the Akatsuki had destroyed the village, and he simply did not have the heart to even think about her betrayal. It was a sad day that an entire village of people (small as the village was) became complete lost and disorientated without the one who had always led them in the past. There was only one thing they had ever trusted with their entire being, and that was the Uzumaki clan. Without Ruri to lead them, they turned to the next Uzumaki in line. They were heading towards Konoha, they were heading towards Naruto.

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Konoha Hospital, Naruto’s room

“Hokage-sama! Hokage-sama!” The door to Naruto’s room was slammed open by a messenger in Chuunin garb, visibly tired from their rush. “There are a few hundred Shinobi and peasants making their way here from the northern direction! They claim to be refugees from the destroyed Kuunoki!” The man shouted in anxiety and confusion.

Tsunade’s eyes widened in comprehension, having just understood the situation from Naruto’s explanation. Behind her, Jiraiya gave a grimace at what this all meant.

The Kuunoki has been destroyed. The Akatsuki had won this battle.

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When the refugees finally made it to the centre of the Leaf village, it was chaos. Food and other necessary supplies were gathered for them as much as possible, but even with the massive effort made by the Hokage and her Shinobis, there just weren’t enough to pass among all the refugees. Temporary tents were set up all around the different training fields to provide temporary shelter for the refugees. But even then, they required at least five people to share a single tent. Other empty buildings (such as the Chuunin exam arena) were also used as temporary shelters. Food was in short supply, but at least water was plentiful. Luckily for Tsunade, there were no protests or riots from either side (refugees of the Kuunoki or the civilians of Konoha) in regard to the limited resources being distributed. The Konoha civilians had remembered that the Kuunoki had helped them during their time of need after Orochimaru’s second attempt at invading them. And in response to that, were more than happy to help out as much as possible.

In the Hokage’s tower, a large discussion was being held between the Hokage, various influential clans of Konoha as well as the council at large.

“We can’t just let them live in tents forever. We’ll need to schedule and plan permanent buildings for them to live in. That’s the least we can do for them after their help.” One of the civilian councillors argued in favour of helping the Kuunoki citizenry.

“Indeed. Not to mention, if we amalgamate their forces into our own, than we can boost up our own number of Shinobis as well as expand our fields of expertise.” One of the Shinobi councillors agreed with the proposition. 

“But we simply DON’T have the SPACE. Konoha is as urban as it’s ever been, with multiple reconstructions happening over the last 15 years. First the Kyuubi, then the Chuunin exam fiasco, then the second invasion! We’ve planned and replanned the infrastructure of Konoha in order to make it much more defensible in a war. At the same time, we’ve also maximised our use of space in the entire village to cater for such defences. We simply don’t have the empty space left, unless we sacrifice either the old growth forest that was here during the Shodai Hokage’s reign or we sacrifice our many training areas. All of which has been booked out for use by our Shinobi.” Another person put forth a new point of view.

“The Hyuuga are willing to foster some of the refugees within our clan houses. However, with the past animosity between the Hyuuga and the Dokudes, I’m not sure whether they will be willing to accept our help.” One of the Hyuuga’s new councillors said in all honesty.

“If space is your only concern then what about the abandoned Uchiha compounds? Surely, we can reopen that area and move all the refugees into there. The houses are all in tact and even the furnitures are still available. It just need some clean up, some maintenance checks on the facilities and an influx of food. There’s enough to cater for probably the entire refugee population as the Uchiha clan compound was big enough to cater for hundreds of people.” Surprisingly, it was Sasuke, who as the sole representative of the defunct Uchiha clan, spoke up and silenced the rest of the chamber’s councillors for a time.

“That’s... actually a good idea.” Tsunade amended before looking towards the small contingent of Kuunoki representatives, namely Naruto and Jubei. “Is that satisfactory?”

Jubei frowned a bit before reply. “Normally, I would say that we of the Kuunoki would be too proud to accept such charity, especially knowing that the Uchiha compound was your ancestral home.” Here, he looked directly at the last Uchiha before closing his eyes again. “However, considering you are betrothed to Oniyoubu Maya, a prominent member of the ex-village society, it should be no problem. However, I would suggest that you ask Maya and her family to do a spiritual cleansing of the entire compound before any of us move in. This is just to appease the spirits that may have remained there after the massacre. You may not believe in spirits or ghosts that linger after death, but to the Oniyoubu, they are very really. And none of the Kuunoki villagers will move in until a proper cleansing is performed.” Jubei explained in a tired manner. Obviously, the last few days have been taxing on the young man, more so than the rest of the guardians.

Sasuke nodded in agreement. “I’m okay with that.” He acknowledged.

“Then it’s settled. We’ll have the Oniyoubu clan perform the cleansing tonight and preparations of the mass movement can be done starting tomorrow.” Tsunade was just about to conclude the meeting before she was interrupted by Naruto.

“It’s best to do the actual cleansing tomorrow night, as there will be a full moon. The moon will give the Oniyoubu more power during their cleansing. I suggest that we prepare for the cleansing ritual today and tomorrow, and have the ritual itself tomorrow night.” Naruto suggested in a soft voice.

In the end it was agreed that the eventual cleansing ritual would be performed the following night, as per Naruto’s instructions.

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Uchiha compound, the night of the full moon

Incense was burnt, bells ring a hypnotic tune once every few seconds, and candles littered all over the Uchiha compound. For every person that died on the night of the massacre, a candle was lit in their place of resting. Together, the five members of the current Oniyoubu family chanted in unison, a song like melody echoed in the air (1):

“Namak Shiva Yang Kura Ve

Sachi dan nama kure taye

Isbladan Jaya shantaya

Ira lam baya te jase”

The procession of five continued from room to room, house to house. Their melodious chants guiding the hidden souls to freedom and enlightenment where they belong.

House after house, Sasuke followed in their wake, seemingly reliving that night all over again in memories, but somehow feeling much more calm and nostalgic than he would have thought. Perhaps it was the song that calmed him into a meditative state. Or perhaps due to the presence of his betrothed, who always had the uncanny ability to make him feel serene and calm. Sasuke didn’t know what it was, but he was grateful to not feel any remorse or anxiety while visiting his old home for the first time in many long years.

Step after step, he could vividly remember how the various bodies of his aunts, uncles, cousins and other more distant relatives laid in crumpled shapes all among the floor or furnitures. But instead of feeling pain upon seeing their freshly bled out bodies, he felt a strange sense of relief that they were finally finding the rest and peace that they had longed for.

In all the time that Sasuke had fought and lived the life of an avenger, he never thought about finding a way to reach his deceased relatives. Always, he had believed that the only way they could attain any sort of peace were if he killed Itachi with his bare hands. But through this ritual, he could feel it. The spirits of the dead were finally letting go, they were finally finding the peace that they so deserved, they were finally given the release that he himself should have given them, but had no clue how other than taking yet another life from the Uchiha. It was a fulfilling moment, even if he had not been the one to physically bring them absolution; he was at least present to feel their contentment in the air.

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Upon reaching the main house of the Uchiha clan, Sasuke’s old home, the youngest member of the Uchiha clan suddenly stopped moving and stood outside the doors, as if scared of what he would find inside. His fiancé and the rest of her family had no problems entering the domain that was Sasuke’s sole inheritance, chanting the song continuously to release any souls of their burdens.

Sasuke stood outside the house for several minutes, alone. He could not bring himself back into that building. The memories of his other relative’s death were painful, but dulled by the understanding that they were finally given absolution, and were able to move on to better things. However, to give up his parent’s memories - to let them go was much harder for Sasuke. For so long, he had wanted his father’s acknowledgement; for so long, he had his mother’s support and love. To let go of their ghosts which he had clung to almost subconsciously was not an easy thing to do. But his musings were cut off when someone called out his name.  

“Sasuke.”

Sasuke blinked his eyes and focussed on his fiancé, who stood before him in a nervous manager. He frowned slightly in confusion. “What’s wrong, this is the last house that we need to cleanse. And it’s almost 3 in the morning, if we don’t hurry, dawn will come.” He asked her in a somewhat calm voice, hiding his inner anxiety.

Maya shifted slightly in unease. “There’s 2 spirits that reside here. Their auras are much stronger then the other spirits we guided into the afterlife. The two here, they do not wish to leave yet. They have some unfinished business to do before they are willing to go.” She explained in a tight voice, knowing that her words would wound her future husband no matter how nicely she worded it.

Sasuke’s eyes widened in shock before he tightly shut it and grimaced in pain. The two souls that still reside here would be none other than his parents. As much as he wanted to rush in there and somehow manage to communicate with his deceased mother and father. He was so terrified that they would scold him for not having the ability to avenge them in all this time. He did not want to see their disappointment, not in life, and definitely not in death. One part of him desperately wanted to see them again, to exchange some last words. Another side of him was simply terrified of the entire notion. As if to secure his thoughts, Maya interrupted again.

“They wish to see you, Sasuke. They have something to tell you. And as stubborn as they are, until they fulfil their business, even I cannot cast them into the afterlife.” Maya paused slightly to give her future husband some room, but continued after a few minutes of silence. “I know it pains you to do this. But please, Sasuke, listen to their last words; their final wishes. As their son, it is your duty to do so. Don’t run away.”

Her words gave him courage. And together, hand in hand, the last Uchiha and the heir to the Oniyoubu finally entered the house together. 

Upon entering the room where his parent’s body was found that night all those years ago, Sasuke’s grip on Maya’s hand tightened inexplicably. But at a glance, he could not see anyone other than the other Oniyoubu members. With a quick flash of his bloodline limit, the Sharingan also confirmed that he could not see anything other than the five living bodies in the room other than himself. “I can’t... I can’t see them. How...”

“You are not able to see them in their spirit form, unlike us.” The younger sister of Maya, Miyu (2) answered.

“As such, we will let the two souls inhibit our own bodies, in order to speak to you. We are mediums, Sasuke-san. As such, it is our role to act as the bridge between the living and the dead.” The younger brother of Maya, Maru finished the explanation.

With that said, the two adult Oniyoubu clansmen (Maya’s mother and father), stepped forward and closed their eyes in preparation for being possessed. It took a few minutes of silence before both forms suddenly slumped forward as if the strings that held them up right were snapped. A haze began to form around the room, covering the features from everyone. And although, Sasuke still griped the hand of his betrothed, he could no longer see her, nor hear her or anything else in the room either. Soon, the haze dissipated slightly and Sasuke was face to face with his parents, for the first time in many years.

His throat constricted as his eyes watered up at the sight he had so desperately wanted to see again, but at the same time, frantically didn’t want to be reminded of. But before he would decide on how to react, they spoke.

“Sasuke.” Uchiha Mikoto’s skin was a white as snowflakes but her voice was as loving as ever. “You’ve grown so much. You’ve become a young man in the short time that had passed. I am so very proud of you.”

“Mom!” Sasuke chocked the word out of his throat as tears freely fell from his eyes.

“Son. I know I don’t tell you this enough, but I need you to know that I’ve always loved you, and have always been proud of you. It didn’t matter whether you were the best or not, or how you compared to Itachi. You are my son, and for that, I am already proud of you.” Uchiha Fugaku gazed sadly at his youngest son. His eyes were strangely tired as if having held on to this secret for so long had exhausted the once strong and proud man.

“Father!” Sasuke was sobbing openly at this point, finally hearing the words that he had always wanted to hear from his deceased father.

“Sasuke. There’s something else you must know. Before you go off and hunt Itachi. Before you blame the rest of the world for our deaths, there is something you must know. A secret that we have kept from you for far too long.” Mikoto looked at her son with such longing and sadness, it was heartbreaking. “A secret that ultimately ended in our deaths by Itachi’s hands.”

Her last words broke through Sasuke’s grief, and his shocked eyes gazed at his deceased parents without blinking. “Wha... What do you mean?”

Fugaku gave a tired sigh before looking pointedly at his youngest son and heir. “The Uchiha clan was about to stage a Coup etat on the eve of the Kyuubi festival, when three days before the festival, we were killed off by our own spy in the Anbu, Itachi.”

Silence reigned for a time, before Sasuke found his voice once more. “What?!” He looked towards his father with such deep confusion in his eyes.

Fugaku then looked away, as if in shame. “The Uchiha clan was supposed to be the strongest, the best. But since the founding of Konoha, the Uchiha clan has always been ranked second to the Senju clan, always in the shadow of the Hokages. If we were the strongest clans, then why have there never been an Uchiha become Hokage. Why were we exempt from the Shinobi Council, just because we made up the majority of the Military police? Why were we kept away from joining the Hokage’s own personal armies, the Anbu? We were segregated from society at large, forced to live in a corner of the village, though large that it was. We weren’t openly scorned but fear was evident in their eyes when they looked upon us. And after the incident with Kyuubi 16 years ago, we were looked upon with more suspicion then ever before.”

Pausing slightly to catch his breath, Fugaku did not let himself be interrupted before continuing on with the rest of his explanation. “I wanted to bring glory to the Uchiha clan once more. I wanted to make the clan prominent in the minds of world. I wanted to prove that we were better than the Senju clan. After the Kyuubi incident, with the death of the Fourth Hokage, and the Sandaime taking back the reigns of control – I thought it would be the perfect time to strike and take control of the village from the senile old man. I believed that had I succeeded, I would see Itachi as the new Hokage and the Uchiha clan in the lead once more.” Sighing heavily, Fugaku closed his eyes. “My ambitions may have resulted in the downfall of the entire clan.”

“Father? Are you saying... you were willing... to risk a civil war?” Sasuke stuttered in shock. This was sounding more and more like the massacre that happened in the Kuunoki 80 years ago – The Kuunoki 5 Clan Genocide (3). When an uprising led by 5 powerful clans of the Hidden Air Village were abruptly slaughtered all in one night, by a single 14 year old possessed member of one of the clans – Katono, whom later became Sasuke’s teacher during his apprenticeship to the older man. In order to avoid a civil war, the possessed man had single-handedly annihilated 5 clans and around 250 lives were lost that night, all because they went against the council’s ruling of the village.

Fugaku kept quiet while Mikoto took her turn to continue the story. “I’m sorry, Sasuke. But at the time, that was the agreed plan among all of the Uchiha clan. From the oldest member to youngest, everyone wanted to participate in the coup in order to secure the future of the clan. We wanted a better future for yourself and Itachi. I’m sorry... that our judgement not only resulted the death of so many, the destruction of the clan, but most of all, the pain in your heart.”

“Everyone!? Even the Aunty and Uncle that ran the rice cracker stands? (4) All of you were in on this? Even Itachi? If that’s the case, then WHY WASN’T I TOLD?! Sasuke practically screamed, having been kept out of the loop all this time.

Mikoto had tears in her eyes but refused to cry. “You were too young, Sasuke? And at the time you’ve just started going to the Ninja Academy. We didn’t think you had made any friends there yet, but we couldn’t take the chance. Everyone else had been older than you, and they understood the discrimination that we all suffered as being born an Uchiha in a world that worshiped the Senju. All I wanted... all I wanted was the best... for you...your future.” At this point, the tears ran down the Mikoto’s face unopposed.

Holding Mikoto against his shoulder, Fugaku sighed heavily before returning to the story. “The plan for the coup was agreed to by every member of the clan, but to ensure that no body caught wind of this, we sent a spy into Hokage’s Shinobi ranks. That spy was Itachi.”

Sasuke’s eyes widened again in surprise at the announcement.

“Itachi was supposed to report in to us whenever and if ever suspicious movement on the Shinobi forces have been deployed. He was especially ordered to keep an eye on the movements of Anbu (as he was a member of them at the time), and more importantly, to keep the confidence of the Sandaime, the 2 councillors Koharu and Himura, as well as Danzo.” Fugaku tightened his other hand into a fist of anger. “I did not expect... No, I couldn’t believe... that Itachi was actually a double agent. He acted as if he was in the interest of the clan, but in actuality, he was working for the Hokage, relaying all our plans.”

Sasuke choked. “He chose the village... over the clan...” His harsh voice whispered upon understanding the situation.

Mikoto’s muffled voice from Fugaku’s shoulders sounded. “No one really expected Itachi to turn traitor on the clan. And as such, his extermination of us was made that much easier because we believed him to be one of us. On that night, the night that everything fell apart, he came to me, and asked me to surrender and admit to treason.”

Sasuke stayed silent, and so did Fugaku.

“He told me that he was acting under the orders of the Konoha council; that the Uchiha clan will be annihilated on this night for treason against the village. He asked... no, begged... me to surrender. If I did, he may be able to negotiate for me to stay under house arrest and with you living with me. For him, the only two who deserved to survive were you... and me, Sasuke.” Sasuke cried silently in response. “I declined.”

Sasuke looked away, feeling abandoned.

Mikoto bit her lip as she watched the pain wash over her son’s face. “Please understand Sasuke. If the rest of the clan were to be killed off, then I, as a knowing member of the plan, as a supporter of my husband, as the lady of the main house, should NOT be spared just because I am the mother of Itachi and yourself. It wouldn’t be fair to the others who had to die on that night. I would never be able to live with myself if I knew that I was living on the sacrifices of others, the guilt would have eaten me alive. I made my bed, Sasuke, and as such I would lie in it of my own volition. As much as it pains me, my son, you were truly the only innocent bystander in the entire incident. You were the only one that deserved to live, that deserved to survive.”

“Our pride was our downfall. And it was also because of that pride, we would not surrender. We willingly chose death when we realised that our plan had been discovered. We fought fiercely, but we had lost the moment Itachi chose the village over us.” Fugaku paused for moment. “I... do not wish for you to follow in my folly.” He finally said.

“Why?” Sasuke shook his head in denial. “Why did Itachi chose the village over us, over our own family? Why was I spared if the entire clan were to be exterminated? Why am I the last? And if Itachi didn’t do anything wrong, why didn’t he stay? TELL ME WHY?”

With tears still streaming down her face, Mikoto tried to reason with Sasuke. “During the third Ninja world war, Itachi, barely four years old witnessed countless people slaughtered in cold blood. Not long after that, he met and befriended the Kuunoki presentative, Uzumaki Yuki – whom was there for peace negotiation and later became his sensei for a short amount of time. Itachi... changed after meeting her.” Smiling sadly at her son, Mikoto couldn’t help but stutter the next part out, revealing her personal pain regarding the matter. “He looked to her... as m... more of a mother... than he ever did towards me...”

“I believe it was her, who taught him that peace was far more fragile than anyone ever thought. And it takes persistence and sacrifice in order to achieve it. The early years of trauma had already turned Itachi into a boy who loathed war, but it was her who made him the man he is today. Through her, he became a strong and determined man who would work tirelessly to keep the village safe and stable. I knew his dedication to the village, his dedication to her memory was strong. But I didn’t know... didn’t expect... I didn’t want to believe that he would choose her over me, would choose to follow in her ideologies than to protect his immediate family. Perhaps... that resentment played a part in my wanting to die an Uchiha than to live as a known-traitor.” Mikoto’s voice drifted into silence in shame and heartache.

Fugaku looked towards Sasuke with pained eyes. “My son, I ask you, plead you, please don’t follow in my folly. For all it would bring is pain and suffering. My mistake has cost me everything. You are the last of my legacy, the only thing worthy of the Uchiha name. Make me proud my son. And once again, I am so sorry.” Fugaku’s voice faded slightly at the end of his speech.

“Mother? Father!” Sasuke’s shouted in confusion as he saw the strange haze appearing again, slowly covering both his parent’s features.

“It seems our time is up. Sasuke, know that we love you and are very proud of you. Do not follow in our footsteps. Lastly, there is something else you need to know.” Mikoto called out in a whisper.

“No, please stay. Don’t leave me again. Please! Mother! FATHER!” Sasuke let go of all inhibitions as he ran towards the fading forms of his parents.

“Uchiha Madara lives, Sasuke. He helped Itachi in the extermination of the clan. That is one man, who should not live. Sasuke, beware of Madara.” Fugaku and Mikoto completely disappeared into the accumulating haze, their voices fading into wind.

Sasuke could reach his parents. He could not find them. He stood there, hyperventilating, knowing that he had lost his parents right in front of his eyes again. Collapsing onto his knees, he crumbled and cried. He cried as he had never cried before. For the loss of his clan, for the sins of his clan, for the actions of his parents and brother, for everything that had tainted his life and name, he cried. After a while, he vaguely felt two arms who gently but firmly pulled him towards the chest of someone. He could smell the familiar scent of his fiancé, and it was in her arms, he reached his absolution. He now knew the truth and was finally free of the ties that bound him to the past. He cried and sobbed through out the night and into the early rays of day light.

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A few days after, all of the Kuunoki refugees settled into their new home in the Uchiha compound. The compound itself had changed due to both the cleansing ritual and the new settlers themselves. The gloomy atmosphere that had once plagued the land was gone; it felt like a clean slate, ready for moulding. The air was fresh, the birds were singing, and everything felt... peaceful.

As Sasuke leaned comfortably against the trunk of a tree he sat in, he contemplated everything he had learned in the last few days. He still didn’t know what he wanted to do from this point forth. Should he give up his revenge on Itachi now that he knew the reasons behind the action? But there were still so many unanswered questions. Why didn’t Itachi stay? Why did the Sandaime and the other councillors chose to destroy the entire clan? Couldn’t there have been some other way to deal with the situation? Why did the entire clan chose to go into civil war? Who the hell was Uchiha Madara? These questions may plague his mind, but he knew he wasn’t alone. Had he only ask, Maya would be more than willing to help him, and so would his friends in Konoha.

There was one thing that he had decided on. He would not follow in the path set by Itachi’s last words; nor would he follow in the footsteps of his father that lead to the destruction of the clan. /I follow my own path (5). I decide what I would do and I will do it. I am me, Uchiha Sasuke, and my destiny is my own./

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In a hidden cavern located somewhere in the elemental countries, the members of Akatsuki assembled once more. There were 10 figures all together and among them, the leader stood tall as he proclaimed their next tasks. “Preparations are complete, it is time to act. Hidan, Kakuzu, go after the nibi. Deidara, Tobi, the Sanbi. Itachi, Kisame, for now concentrate on the Yonbi. Konan and I will go for the Gobi. Ruri, I have a special task for you. As you have recently become the newest member of the Akatsuki and has yet to prove your worth. Not only that, but we are lacking one of the rings. It is your responsibility to hunt down Orochimaru, destroy his base of power and return with his ring. After that task is done, only then will I decide on whether to allow you to hunt the Rokubi. Your partner will be Zetsu. Remember, you are still in the probation period and as such, prove your worth. That is all.”

One by one, the shadowy figures of the Akatsuki shimmered away until only two stayed behind.

“Why did you recruit her? You know very well she would betray us at the slightest chance?” A demanding voice asked the leader, Pein.

“She is useful to our plans.” Pein answered simply.

“That does not explain why you deviated from the plan! Do not forget your place, boy! You work for me, you answer to me, you follow MY orders. I ask again, why did you recruit her? She is a threat to us, are you asking to be backstabbed? I’ve worked too long and too hard to get to this point only to be impeded by such nuisances.” The other voice snapped irritably. His rant was cut short however by the so-called leader of the Akatsuki.

“Madara. I know what I’m doing. I will tell you once more. She is useful to our plans. You do not need to worry about her betraying us; I already have her on a short lease. There is nothing to fret about.” Pein replied confidently.

“Hmp. If anything happens to our plans because of this change, I will have your head, god or no god.” Madara’s sinister voice threatened before he too vanished into thin air.

“Your arrogance becomes you, old man.” Pein commented snippily into the empty cavern before he himself vanished, leaving the cavern as empty as it one was.

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Upon leaving the cave opening which they used to project their image into the secret chamber for Akatsuki meetings, Ruri breathed in a deep breath of fresh air. Sighing slightly, she turned her head towards a nearby tree. “So, I believe you have some idea as to where we can track Orochimaru, don’t you? Considering you are the spy master of the Akatsuki.” She commented lightly.

Soon, a face and body emerged out of the tree. Zetsu glanced towards Ruri with a bland expression on his face. “Of course.” One voice snorted. “WE ARE THE BEST AT WHAT WE DO.

Ruri gave the strange plant-man a cheeky smile. “Mind if you lead the way?”

“Heh. I would have thought the Lady Oracle wouldn’t need guidance of such a simple matter. INDEED, HOW DISSAPOINTING.

Said lady gave a light shrug of nonchalance. “I’ve lost the ability to read the future. From this point on, I will need to depend on your information, just as any other member of the Akatuski. With Sasori gone, you’re the obvious choice.” Still keeping the smile on her face, Ruri continued in a cheery manner. “What do you say? You lead me to Orochimaru, and then I do most of the work. You get to watch the entire battle without lifting a single finger. Do we have a deal, partner?”

“Tch. Do not underestimate me. INDEED, WE ARE AFTER ALL ONE OF THE LONGEST SERVING MEMBERS OF AKATSUKI. Follow us.” Zetsu muttered before slowly remerging into the grass floor towards the western direction.

Ruri smiled charmingly even as she bit into her thumb and spread a bit of her blood over the rest of her fingers. Performing a short set of seals, she called forth her chakra. “Kuchiyose no Jutsu! Tenkun no Buki! Mugenkyo no nano!” A large beige cloth immediately puffed into existence to surround its master, wrapping her firmly but comfortably within its clutches. The head of the intelligent cloth pointed towards the western direction and without any further warning, it flew through the air, carefully carrying its precious master within itself.

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Some time later, Zetsu re-emerged from the ground and stepped towards the ledge of a large hill overlooking a cave in the mountain side. Standing outside the cave were no less than 10 shinobis, each bearing the Sound forehead protector. Behind him, he could sense the presence of Ruri and her floating carpet land softly on the ground.

“He should be there. With over 500 shinobis to guard him. Now, our deal is complete. The rest is up to you.” The bipolar Akatzuki member slowly shuffled away to re-merge with his beloved earth.

“Hump. At least I didn’t have to go through the trouble of finding the snake hiding in his many holes.” Ruri muttered to herself before she suddenly dodged to the right, barely avoiding ten small white bullet objects that flew pass her ear. Swiftly turning around, Ruri smirked at the three shinobi standing before her, each proudly wearing the Sound forehead protector.

There was Kimimaro of the Kaguya clan, both hands extended ready to shoot off more bone bullets if needed. Behind him, stood Hito of the Gojou clan holding a large cleaver like sword – the missing sister of Gojou Hikon and a former Snow Village Ninja. Standing threateningly on the right side of Kimimaro was the infamous Jugo. The original carrier of the Curse seal and one of the first test subjects of Orochimaru’s.

“Well, nice to see I’m so important that you sent a welcome party for me.” The smirk never left Ruri’s face even as Kimimaro’s eyes narrowed in anger.

Flicking his wrists this way and that, he flung many more finger bone bullets at the ex-Kuunoki Ninja. Instead of dodging this time, Ruri simply had her summoned cloth surround her in a protective barrier, deflecting all of Kimimaro’s bullets. “You’ll have to do better than that, little boy.” Ruri taunted in a confident manner.

“You’re being MEAN!!!” Jugo gave a roar of anger as he lost control of his inner beast once more, transforming into a horrid creature of horns, hideous scale-like skin and a giant axe for an arm.

Instead of staying completely on the defensive, one part of the summoned cloth attacked Jugo by extending itself even longer and wrapping the fearsome monster’s arm firmly before flinging the man back with a twist of its body. Jugo shrugged off the impact after having smashed his way through a boulder and several trees, before charging himself towards his enemy once more.

Ruri ignored the assaults of both Jugo and Kimimaro, confident that her Tenkun no Buki would be able to stand up to whatever the two flung in its way. She glanced up to see several white snowflakes falling down towards her. /Genjutsu./ She thought to herself even as she performed a basic Kawarimi to get out of the Genjutsu’s range. Her summoned cloth simply flew towards her new location and rewrapped itself around its master in a protective manner.

Seeing that the other Sound Shinobis had noticed their ruckus and were well on their way to surround her lonesome self, Ruri decided to up the anti a little. Lowering herself to her knees, she placed her still slightly bleeding hand on the ground. “Chi, Ishi, Itami, Hone. (Blood, Stone, Pain, Bone.) (6) My name is Uzumaki Ruri, and by my blood, my pain, my bone, for as long as the stones keep my oath, I summon thee. Come forth! Tenkun no Buki - Iwa no Hone! (Weapon of the Heavenly Warriors, Bones of Stone!) (7)

Immediately after finishing her call, Ruri leapt off the ground and with the use of her other Tenkun no buki – the Mugenkyo no Nano, she drifted high into the sky.

At first, Kimimaro, Jugo and Hito were all confused as nothing happened after her summon. But a few seconds later, they could feel the ground shaking as if a volcano was about to erupt.

“Scatter!” Kimimaro had a second to shout and leapt away himself before the earth suddenly erupted. A giant skeletal hand-like appendage ripped its way out of the ground and started dragging the rest of its huge body out. All of the Sound Ninjas were shocked to speechlessness as the humongous creature revealed its head in the shape of a bird like skull, and more bone like structures attached to his shoulders forming skeletal wings. Suffice to say, it looked like a full skeleton of a giant dinosaur with a bird like head and wings on its back (8). Unlike the skeletons in museums, this one was alive and moving. Its hollow eye holes glowed with a supernatural light. Opening its jaws, the creature gave off a howl of freedom even though it exists without a voice box.

Refocusing its attention on the ant like shinobis standing near its feet, the creature gave a strange grin like expression, especially considering it didn’t have beaks or lips to convey its pleasure at having targets to crush.

“I’ll leave these to you, Iwa no Hone!” Ruri ordered as she left her pet to its own devises. Turning, she slowly flew towards the entrance to Orochimaru’s underground base.

Drifting on to the ground, Ruri gingering placed her feet on stable earth and pulled her Mugenkyo no nano around her, shrinking the large piece of cloth into a more manageable size of a long scarf. She kept her eye directly at the entrance towards Orochimaru’s current hideout, as well as the young man standing firmly in her way.

Yakushi Kabuto glared icily at the ex-ruler of the Kuunoki village. Neither spoke a word before Kabuto suddenly rushed forward in a surprisingly reckless move. Both his arms glowed with Chakra as he summoned forth the use of Chakra scalpels. Ruri simply dodged back and ducked under the medic nin’s swipe of his arms before jumping a little further away.

“You are not my prey today, little Dokudes. Why don’t you step out of the way? You might live a little longer.” Ruri taunted the younger man, knowing exactly what words to say to enrage him.

“Shut your trap, you Kuunoki whore! You will die today! I swear it on my old blood!” Kabuto yelled uncharacteristically, the whites in his eyes bled into a reddish hue, releasing the full power of his bloodline abil ity.

Ruri simply sighed before she pulled one end of her weapon scarf towards Kabuto. The Tenkun no buki immediately lengthened upon her command and quickly wrapped itself around Kabuto’s chest, arms and soon enough legs. Kabuto tried desperately to cut through the seemingly invincible cloth but to no avail. The cloth simply absorbed all the chakra that he tired to use to cut it with. And trying to use the real scalpel to cut the cloth only resulted in the scalpel being bent due to the strength of the cloth itself. When Kabuto tried to yell at Ruri, his entire head was wrapped up in the enlarged piece of cloth, entrapping him completely.

Once her prisoner was secured to her satisfaction, Ruri simply turned around and walked confidently into the Snake’s den. She stepped lightly into a dark and dingy corridor once she passed the entrance. The corridor was lined with patterned walls and candles which provided the only light source in the whole assemble. Strolling through the corridor with a purpose, Ruri dragged the bandaged form of Kabuto behind her on the floor. She moved with seeming knowledge of the layout and didn’t stop until she ended up outside the last doorway in the entire hall.

Kicking the door open, Ruri immediately ducked under a barrage of swords being thrown her way. The swords were all copies of Orochimaru’s own Kusanagi but eventually dispelled to form snakes once they landed on the ground. Ruri shot the snake summons with shuriken before she threw the prone form of Kabuto towards the snake sannin standing in the middle of a large chamber. Orochimaru jumped aside as Kabuto’s body was suddenly released from the hold of the Tenkun no buki, flew through the air at high speed and smashed against the chamber’s far wall with a loud crunch. Falling off the wall and landing on the hardened ground with a groan, Kabuto found himself weak and unable to move due to having most of his body’s chakra sucked out of him by the Tenkun no buki. He couldn’t help but feel incredibly resentful when the one chance he had of fighting against the ex-Kuunoki leader with his master by his side, and he was incapacitated. /God DAMN IT!/ He swore continuously in his mind, as his body refused to move, regardless of how much he willed it to.

“Heh. Had it been Kaga or some of your lowly followers – the Gate Guardians, I would have been more worried. But you? Without your powers of seeing the future, I’m not afraid of you.” Orochimaru stated self-assuredly.

He bent down low from his waste, enlarging his mouth to enormous sizes, he then released a horde of snakes from his opened jaws, all scrambling towards their enemy. Ruri didn’t even bat an eyelash at his blatant taunting or the swarm of snakes coming her way. Tightening her grip of the Tenkun no buki, she jumped off the ground and landed on top of her trusty cloth. Then, the cloth like weapon suddenly lengthened itself and circled around its master in a protective shell before glowing bright white colour. The white cloth then gave a loud electrical screech before erupting out hundreds of bolts of lightning all along the ground and up the walls of the Chamber. The multitudes of snake didn’t have any chance to blink before they were all destroyed by the sudden surge of electricity, shocking them into dispersing.

Even Orochimaru was unprotected for this giant lightshow as he was too late to Kawarimi out of the way, not to mention there was nothing to kawarimi with, considering the entire ground, walls and even ceiling had electricity rupturing through its surface.

Finally, after several seconds, the light show died down, leaving Orochimaru’s shaking body to fall face first onto the undisturbed earth. Far behind him, Kabuto was unconscious.

Slowly lowering herself onto the ground once more, Ruri stepped lightly and cautiously towards the downed snake. As she strolled closer towards her prey, she couldn’t help but reverse Orochimaru’s previous challenge. “In deed, reputation wise, Kaga, Jubei and the others all are famous for their fighting capabilities, while I myself, am an unknown. But that just makes me even more dangerous, don’t you think? I am, after all, the one who commands their respect at one time. One would think that the master... should always be... more powerful... and more dangerous... then the servant.” She stopped directly before the downed Sannin. Releasing the cloth held in her left hand, Ruri raised her limb and called forth a technique without hand seals: “Tenshi no Doki (Angel’s Wrath)” The chakra surrounded her hand in the form of a large drill like saw, ready and waiting to slice through anything.

But before Ruri could plunge her deadly chakra enhanced hand into Orochimaru, the snake sannin opened his month and something large and white swiftly escaped his body. Turning around, Ruri never showed any of her inner shock as she gazed upon the true Snake Sannin. “I see. So your true body is nothing but a giant, white serpent... Can you even call yourself human anymore?” She commented quietly as she stared at the giant white creature with an ugly head, covered by spiky black hair.

Orochimaru didn’t hesitate a moment before he plunged his large opened mouth towards Ruri. The ex-Kuunoki Shinobi jumped out of the way, only to find herself facing two long white snakes that originated from part of Orochimaru’s body, hiding as scales. Swinging her Tenshi no doki, she slashed at the snakes, cutting and drilling them into pieces before using her Tenkun no buki to lift her away from the swift creature that Orochimaru has become.

Turning around, Orochimaru released more of his scale snakes towards Ruri in a large rush to surround and bite her. Ruri wrapped her Tenkun no buki completely around her body, repelling any attack of Orochimaru’s as even his snake could not penetrate the invincible defence of the Mugenkyo no Nano. Once more releasing a sudden but huge surge of electricity, Orochimaru found himself retreating as almost half of his body’s snakes were vaporised by the high density electrical charge. Using that moment’s hesitation, Ruri used Shunshin to instantly teleport herself out of her protective barrier to a location behind Orochimaru’s head. Just as Orochimaru was about to attack Ruri once more, he found his head being drilled through by Ruri’s Tenshi no Doki.

Blood splattered against all four walls and ceiling as the giant snake head was literarily punctured through from skull all the way through to the jaw. Nothing was left of the skull other than pieces of bone, muscle, tissue and hair. With the snake head fully destroyed, the rest of the body fell to the floor in a resounding thump.

Waving her hands in the air, Ruri grimaced at the smell of rotting from the corpse of Orochimaru – it was already moulting. Not only that, she also finally noticed the venom in the air, and concluded that it was probably another one of Orochimaru’s tricks. “Too bad, I’m also half Dokudes and therefore immune to poison.” She commented softly to herself before turning away from the late Sannin’s body and walked away from the entrance. Behind her, Kabuto – who had finally awoken in the last few seconds of the fight, could only lay silently still as he watched his beloved master fade from this world, and by the hands of the witch who also ordered his own mother’s death.

Once outside the chamber, Ruri diligently opened every door to every room she came upon, hoping that one of them will reveal the placement of the Akatsuki ring she was after. Several patient minutes passed before she finally found her target. Sitting among a multitude of jars with bodies of various snakes in them, is the rotting hand of Orochimaru’s original body, still with the ring attached to its little finger. Smiling at her success, Ruri practically skipped towards her prize in a cheerful manner. Pulling the little ring off the revolting hand, she cleaned it slightly with her Akatsuki cloak before placing it onto her own little finger. The Akatsuki ring shrunk in size immediately and moulded itself to her finger exactly. Ruri appreciated the look of the ring on her finger for a little longer before deciding it’s high time to leave the snake’s den.

It didn’t take long for Ruri to escape out of the underground entrance, and when she did, she gazed around with cold eyes at the destruction her summon had caused to the environment. Trees were uprooted, the entire area was filled with multiple giant craters, some areas were scored, and others were completely overturned. However, what caught her most attention were the bodies that littered all over the place, or in some cases, body parts. Stepping gingering over someone’s left over arm and torso, she glared accusingly at her giant summon who was busy crushing several Oto Nins in his skeletal hands as if it was playing puppets with them.

“That’s enough, Iwa no Hone! Return to the abyss, I command you.” Ruri ordered. Pausing in its torture ministrations, the blank glowing eyes of the giant winged dinosaur looked towards Ruri, before dropping its human toys unceremoniously onto the ground. Turning fully towards its master, the giant bone creature started dissipating into thousands of particles, dispersing into the wind. Soon, there was nothing left of the once-large creature that caused such havoc.

“Well, looks like I’m finished with my mission now.” Ruri shrugged, not giving her surroundings another glance, she hopped onto her floating carpet before speedily flew off towards the distance; probably back to the Akatsuki hideout.

Hundreds of metres behind her, hiding behind some overturned trees, the meek figure of Gojou Hito gave off a huge sigh of relief. “Looks like we escaped from the Dragon’s mouth. That was too close for comfort.” She stated to herself seeing that the enemy had finally left them alone. Turning around to look at her fellow surviving Sound Nins – an unconscious Jugo and an armless Kimimaro, she couldn’t help but shudder in fright at the thought of how close she had come to certain death. “Well, I’ll bet you that Orochimaru-sama is dead. Or else she wouldn’t have been able to leave the hideout like that. Guess we’re on our own huh?” She nudged her foot against Jugo, but the large man stayed unconscious, simply too exhausted to move.

“Oi! I’m talking to you! What the hell should we do now!?” Glaring at the unmoving form of Kimimaro (who was still gripping his missing left arm), Hito shouted in frustrated panic. But Kimimaro looked to be in a state of shock, all he kept on murmuring softly was “Orochimaru-sama can’t be dead. Orochimaru-sama can’t be dead. Orochimaru-sama can’t be dead.”

“Shit!” Hito swore to herself, wincing at the pain on the side of her ribs, no doubt some of them were broken as well as her wrist. She gave out a heavy sigh. “What will happen to us now...”

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Far in the southern end of the elemental continent, two female figures finally reached their destination. “Phew, I thought we’d never get here.” The shorter of the two women, with spiky white hair pulled into a high ponytail spoke out in exasperation. “Ne Kageru, do you think Karin will even want to see us?” She asked her companion.

“Even if she didn’t, she would have no choice in the matter.” Kageru answered, because she paused and shut her eyes as if in pain.

“What’s wrong? What was the sharp spike I felt with you?” Suzumi asked in concern as she too, had felt the strange sensation through her link with Kageru.

The female clone reopened her eyes slowly with a look of shock on her face before she quickly covered it again in a calm visage. “Orochimaru is dead.”

“WHAT! How the hell did that happen? Orochimaru! The same Orochimaru Snake Sannin? Who could...” Suzumi’s rapid questions were abruptly cut off.

“I don’t know who killed him. All I know is that the connection is gone. I can’t feel his presence in my mind or the curse seal anymore.” Kageru smirked at this. “This will make my mission a lot easier with him out of the question.”

Giving her companion a raised eyebrow, Suzumi asked curiously. “What exactly are we after?”

Kageru shifted her eyes towards Suzumi for a second before returning to look at the hidden compound in front of her. “I suppose, with Orochimaru dead, I can tell you. I have a mission of upmost importance, and that is to find out how to extract the curse seals from the bodies of Orochimaru’s experiments. I want to rid them of his corruption, and allow them to live their lives free of the seal.”

Suzumi’s eyes widened at comprehension. “Can... Is that even possible? I heard that not even Tsunade, the greatest medic in the world was able to extract the seal?”

“That’s because Orochimaru’s curse seal is a mix of Ninjutsu, Fuiinjutsu and Hyoninjutsu (healing arts). The only way to extract the entirety of the curse seal out of a victim is to attack all three aspects of the seal. I can handle the Ninjutsu part of it, as I am a clone of Orochimaru himself. I will have Karin, who has worked on the curse seal before and who knows more about it than most people to handle the medical side, and lastly, I have this scroll to handle the Fuuinjutsu side of things.” Kageru concluded as she held up a small finger sized scroll for Suzumi to see.

Suzumi looked at the tiny scroll in suspicion. “And pray tell, how did you get your hands on a so called miracle scroll that would cure people of the curse seal?”

Kageru continued to smirk. “From Uzumaki Naruto himself.”

Suzumi gapped at her companion, but Kageru had moved on from where she originally stood talking to Suzumi. She was walking towards her life’s goal. /I will undo everything that he has done. I will prove myself to be his absolute counter. If he is the dark side of what man is capable of, then I will showcase myself as his complete opposite./ Kageru thought firmly to herself as she strode forward confidently towards the hideout where Karin was currently residing in.

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End

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(1) Believe it or not, this is an actual prayer song in Hindi (I believe). I kinda copied it but am not sure that I got the spelling of it right; nor am I truly certain about the translation of it either. Please just ignore any significance in regard to what it means in Hindi, as I only chose it because I had it in my head at the time of writing this, and I had nothing else to choose from.

(2) A picture of all 5 members of the Oniyoubu Clan can be found on my website, I will do up profiles for them at a later date. Please go to my profiles page if you wish to find the link.

(3) Referenced from Restoration of Faith, chapter 33.

(4) Um. I don’t remember their names, but they did appear in the anime and the manga (chapters 225 page 8).

(5) “To break that chain of influence, you must find your own way... your own path.” Referenced from a quote that can be found in Restoration of Faith, chapter 33, when Katono-sama (Sasuke’s sensei in the Kuunoki) advised what Sasuke must do in the future.

(6) The oath was copied from a Gundam Wing Fanfiction – The Source of All Things by Maldoror (Chapter 30 – Truth). The full oath is “Chi, Ishi, Itami, Hone. Blood, Stone, Pain, Bone. My name is Duo Maxwell, Shi No Kami. As long as the earth keeps my blood, I will never tell a lie. Chi, Ishi, Itami, Hone...” I love that story. Too bad it’s not complete and probably never will be. /sigh/

(7) Iwa no Hone – this name is also copied from the Gundam Wing Fanfiction – The Source of All Things by Maldoror. It’s actually a place or home of one of the characters.

(8) I copied this image from an Art book I bought. Please see my profiles page for links.

I hope you guys don’t think I made Sasuke too melodramatic. As I’m not going to let Sasuke join in Madara’s crazed scheme like in the cannon series. I needed to find a way to fit that whole back story into this plot somehow. What better way than to get the story from a different point of view. By the way, I also hope I captured the personalities of Mikoto and Fugaku alright.

I always viewed Mikoto as a loving mother and a dedicated wife, but more than that, she strikes me as a person with pride and noble intentions. She loved her family, and would do anything to ensure their future happiness, even if it meant betraying the village, she would stand by her decision. But when found out to be a traitor, she would accept her punishments with her head held high. She would not find ways to escape her plight, especially if it meant unfairly surviving while everyone around her died. I think I got her right, hopefully.

Fugaku was much harder to portray, mostly because I can’t identify with him myself. He has a hell of a lot of pride in himself, his sons, and the clan. As a leader, he has a responsibility to the clan. As a father, he wants the bets for both Itachi and Sasuke. He acts tough because he does not want Sasuke to go through what every other person in the clan had gone through, but his actions ultimately cost him everything he held dear. He feels betrayed due to Itachi’s action, and yet he still loved him as a son. He both loves and hates Itachi, as well as feeling deep love but never showing said love for Sasuke. A complicated man that.

Scenes II by karrafear
Author's Notes:
Trials of Faith

Karrafear

Summary: SEQUAL to Faith in Humanity and Restoration of Faith; PG-13. 2 and half years have passed and now is the beginning of the trials of Faith. Chapter 6: Scenes II

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Disclaimer: Naruto is an anime and manga series created by Masashi Kishimoto. It does not belong to me; I’m simply using the characters and plot for my own creative devices.

"Demon's talk", /Thoughts/, "Speech", 'Speech emphasis', (FLASHBACK), Titles, (Author's interruptions)

Warning: Nothing much this chapter, just a lot of mixed scenes to build the story up. Some characters may seem a little OOC, but you get that now and again.

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Chapter 6

(Hundreds of metres away from the demolished Sound base camp)

“O-Ha-Yo! Leader-sama, Mission accomplished!” Ruri sang in a cheery manner, practically dancing around the shadowy image of her new master. “See, the ring fits perfectly.” Raising her hand, she showed off the reddish ring on her finger with pride.

Pein’s expression didn’t change as he gazed coolly at his new subordinate. “Good work. You will now focus your attention on finding the Rokubi and Nanabi. Do not engage them; I just want you to find their whereabouts with Zetsu. Once you have that information, relay them to the others so that they may gather them. Their skills match those Bijyuu better than yours.”

Raising an eyebrow in scepticism, Ruri couldn’t help but question his decision. “You sure about that? After all, I am the inheritor of the Tenkun no Buki, which were created specifically to deal with demons, Bijyuu or otherwise.” She tempted Pein with her words without seeming too forward with the suggestion.

“No. The usage of the Tenkun no buki results in too high a price. I need you relatively well in order for my plans to be fulfilled.” Pein stated calmly, eyes not even blinking.

“Awww. Come on. It’s not like I ever get any action around here.” Ruri shrugged her shoulders in nonchalance, already excited about her next real fight, whenever it may come.

Pein’s holographic eyes narrowed slightly in annoyance. “Show me your hands.” He suddenly demanded.

Ruri stiffened and lifted her left hand up, visibly showing the delicate looking ring on her little finger.

“The other hand.” Pein stated firmly.

Ruri slowly raised her right hand – the hand that she had used to summon Iwa no Hone (Bones of Stone) in her previous fight with the Sound forces. Even Zetsu, who stood some metres away, shifted uncomfortably at seeing the mutated hand. Fingers were elongated to abnormal lengths, and thin as bones, even the nails of Ruri’s once delicate fingers had lengthened and hardened into crooked pieces of dead cells (1). The entire hand, up to the wrist had changed into a dry, brown colouring, highlighting the deformity of the spectacle. After examining her hand for a few long seconds, Ruri lowered it, hiding her appendage within the folds of her Akatsuki cloak. “It’ll revert back to its original form within a few days, no worries there.” She spoke calmly while keeping a straight face.

“Hmp. As stated before, usage of the Tenkun No Buki have their drawbacks. And I need you at your peak. You are not to summon any more of them unless I give you permission.” Pein ordered, leaving no room for Ruri to argue.

“Tch. Nice to know you care.” Ruri muttered under her breath, before giving off a shrug of indifference. “Sure, whatever. I’ll just paddle along, trying to find the Rokubi or the Nanabi. Hai, oh great and mighty Pein-sama. Your wish is my command.” She bowed in mock subservience.

“Make sure that you do.” Pein ordered before his shadowy image flicked slightly before disappearing completely from the clearing that found both Ruri and Zetsu standing in.

YOU Surprise mE.” Zetsu’s deep voice resounded with intrigue. “I did not expect the Lady Oracle to be acting so childish. Especially in front of Leader-sama.”

Giving another shrug of nonchalance, Ruri replied with a flair of indifference. “It’s not as if he would punish me for my behaviour. In fact, no one can.” Pausing in thought, Ruri answered softly. “It’s not like that when you have a role to play; especially when you play the role of the high commander of the strictest village with the oldest traditions. I had the councillors literally breathing down my neck for every second of every minute of my life. I could not make a single mistake, less I want to suffer the consequences. It’s not easy hiding yourself when you have a million eyes watching you constantly, but I prevailed.”

Starting to walk away from Zetsu, Ruri didn’t turn around to look at her plant-like companion, even as she continued with her story. “Now that I’m free. I can do whatever I want, be whomever I want. I don’t need to act a certain way just because other people expect me to. I don’t have anyone to judge me for my merits, and wouldn’t care if they did judge me. This is the prize I attained when I joined Akatsuki. My freedom (2).” Her figure disappeared behind the foliages of the trees.

“Heh heh. Who’d ever thought one of the most powerful women in the world... is nothing more than a brat living in a glass cage all her life.” Zetsu chuckled softly to himself as he shuffled along the same path as his new partner.

Even though Ruri was some distance away, she still managed to hear Zetsu’s muttered words and it made her pause. /Glass cage? Perhaps that is what I’ve been living in all my life. The Kuunoki... was never really home... it didn’t feel like home... just a place I live in. I have never found a home... not a real one. But then again, people say home is where the heart is... and my heart... is fragmented to several pieces placed with several precious people. My precious people – some dead, some alive. Yuuki... Naruto... Kaga... and.../

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(Hokage lounge)

Tsunade did her best not to show any nervousness or agitation as she faced the two elder councillors sitting across from her in the official Hokage lounge, often used for welcoming dignitaries. “So, what exactly have you called me to discuss?” She asked calmly.

“It’s about the Kuunoki refugees, as well as Naruto.” Koharu wasted no time in getting to the point. Looking over at her political partner briefly, Koharu then went into detail about their concerns. “We have some concerns in regards to letting the Kuunoki refugees stay here in Konoha. They obviously chose to come here after the collapse of the Kuunoki simply because Uzumaki is living here. If they somehow convince him to rebuild the Kuunoki with himself as the leader, then we will have some trouble on our hand. The fire country can not sustain 2 hidden villages. If they chose this path, then they will become a threat to Konoha’s continual existence. No doubt the Fire Daimyo may well consider residents of the late-Kuunoki to be better Ninjas than our own crop.” Koharu stated firmly.

“Not only that. We also have concerns over the status of Naruto himself.” Homura interrupted with another issue at hand. “We finally have the Jinchuriki back after 2 and half years of wandering around. You should not send him on missions that have a possibility of contact with Akatsuki. And considering his Aunt has now become a member of Akatsuki, it doubles the level of danger he is in. From now on, appoint high ranking Shinobi to be with him. Assign him to a four man team to reinforce our supervision and guard over him. Also, you should decrease his amount of missions as much as possible, and restrict the range of his movements. He hadn’t had many missions since coming back to Konoha and we wish to keep it so.” Homura finished.

“Hmp. Keep Naruto confined in the village? I don’t know whether your so called ‘concerns’ over his welfare is because you fear the Akatsuki getting their hands on the Kyuubi or if you fear him suddenly deciding to re-start the Kuunoki and leave this village, taking the Kyuubi with him.” Tsunade snapped in irritation, suddenly not feeling like hiding her emotions any further.

“Tsunade, we are making concessions here. Any other Jinchuriki would have been kept under constant supervision by the other villages. We should be no different. Coupled with the fact that he is the heir and currently only remaining loyal member of the Uzumaki clan, we cannot let him run wild without constraints.” Homura responded back just as heatedly if in a more contained manner.

“I’ll agree with the stationing of high ranking Shinobis for his guard. I’ll even concede to the four man team if he stays in active duty. But I refuse to place such restrictions on his movements.” After some consideration, Tsunade finally confirmed her decision.

“Tsunade! Be reasonable. That child is in constant danger. If we don’t do this…” Koharu’s passionate words were suddenly cut off by Tsunade’s own fervent retort.  

“As you said before, Naruto is treated like a royal by the Kuunoki refugees. He is precious to them, having just recently lost their Lady of hope. If we cage him in this village like some criminal, in the eyes of those refugees, we would be seen in a very bad light threatening their only remaining royal. I assure you they would not sit idly by and watch in silence. They would fight for the freedom of Naruto and we would end up with riots in the streets, possibly a civil war.” Tsunade debated back with just as much fire, not holding anything back.

“Second point – even if Naruto remains in the village, Akatsuki will still pursue him. Just like what just occurred in the Sand. If that were to happen, Konoha would also be placed in danger. If Naruto is on the move, while being guarded by some extremely powerful Ninja, that is the only way to both protect Naruto and Konoha at the same time. In fact, I believe that members of the late Kuunoki Gate Guardians have already taken the spot of protectors for Naruto. They would not let him get into any danger without a lot of backup. And do not forget that it was they who pushed Akatsuki back during the Sound Invasion over 2 years ago.” Tsunade continued to rant, hammering her point across at her competitors of power. “You have to understand, I am also making concessions here.” She snorted with the finality of her words.   

Koharu only glared silently for a few chilling minutes. “So be it.” She paused slightly before considering the rest of her words. “But what if the boy shows signs of wanting to leave Konoha and start his own village. After all, was it not his own blood related Aunt that betrayed the Kuunoki, leaving the village to be destroyed and joined with a group of S-class criminals? Such things may run in the family some say.” She stated in a sarcastic manner.

Tsunade angrily slammed her hand onto the table before her. “You TAKE THAT BACK! Naruto is no traitor! He has and always will be loyal to Konoha! It’s in his BLOOD!” The floor shook with tremors caused by the impact of Tsunade’s palm against the table.

“Can you guarantee that, Tsunade?” Homura stated back with calm, frozen eyes. “Can you guarantee that Naruto will do nothing to endanger Konoha’s continual existence, nor will he be captured by Akatsuki which will lead to the same results?”

“Naruto... will not be taken. I trust in that. There are too many people to protect him, too many willing to die for him. And he too, is anything but slack. Naruto will grow strong, strong enough to counter the Akatsuki. I have faith in his ability, his strength, and his will to survive.” Tsunade assured with strong emotions behind her words.

“And if that belief is mistaken, what will you do?” Koharu couldn’t help but retort back, wanting to hear the specifics in Tsunade’s words.

“If anything in the future places Konoha, or the Fire Country in danger, I will put my life on the line to save it! As Godaime Hokage, that I swear.” Tsunade confirmed with strong conviction. “And I have no doubt that Naruto will be standing right beside me, helping all he can to save Konoha as well. After all, Konoha is his home.”

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(Naruto and Hinata’s apartment)

“Naruto-kun?” Hinata knocked on Naruto’s opened door as she peered in tentatively.

“Hey, Hinata. What’s up?” Laying face up on his bed, Naruto glanced towards the ex-Hyuuga heiress with a small smile on his face.

“With everything that happened recently and with how everyone’s been busy helping the refugees settle in, I guess all of us forgot to ask you a very important question.” Hinata gazed down shyly, but her words never wavered or stuttered as she used to do when in his presence. That, more than anything, showcased her maturity and will to overcome her past short-comings.

“Oh, and what question would that be, Hinata?” Sitting up gracefully, Naruto looked towards the girl with a curious look in his eyes.

“How are you holding up, Naruto-kun? Only a few days ago, you lose your ability to see the future, and then you found out that the Kuunoki has been destroyed. It’s practically your second home; you must feel awful about it. But I’ve never seen you sad or unhappy when you welcomed the refugees with open arms and helped them settle into their new homes in the once abandoned Uchiha district. And then, when you found out about Ruri-sama betraying the Kuunoki, betraying you... you didn’t look surprised or hurt. I just need you to tell me what you truly feel. You shouldn’t bottle up your hurt inside and not show anyone. It’s not healthy.” Hinata explained reasonably, having gained the courage to walk across the distance between the two and settled herself down right beside the boy of her dreams. Now, more than ever, he needed a shoulder to lean on, a friend, not a person who had a crush on him wanting to gain an advantage.

Naruto only sighed heavily before looking up towards the ceiling. “Truthfully, I don’t know what to feel.” He admitted. “Aunt Ruri was brought up with the idea that as long as she continues to exist, the integrity and traditions of the Kuunoki will survive. That idea is firmly engraved into her belief systems. So in a sense, she viewed herself as an absolute monarchy. Regardless of how many Kuunoki citizens she sacrifices, they would still follow her blindly and worship her as they would a god. I can understand how tiring and lonely that must feel at times.” He gave a sad smile, realising how hard it must have been for his Aunt to be placed on such a high pedestal and be looked at with such awe, but never be surrounded by the warmth of having close friends or family around. Now that the refugees have come to him for salvation, he could finally understand the enormity of the weight of such expectations on his own shoulders.

“As such, even though there are many people willing to die for her. She, herself, would only be willing to die for a few certain people whom she holds close to her heart. That is not to say she doesn’t care for others. She loved the members of the Gate Guardians as she would her own children, but she understands that it is their job to protect her, not her job to protect them. Even if every one of them died in front of her eyes, she would be able to survive. But to be counted as one of her most precious people, people whom she would do anything to protect, that is something special. I think I can count on one hand how many she would go to such lengths for – my mother, myself, Kaga-san, and possibly one other.” Naruto paused in his reply, suddenly feeling tired of everything.

“That’s sad.” Hinata interrupted softly. “To only hold those few people close to heart... is truly a lonely existence. But... I can understand why she would value yourself and your mother, you’re all family after all, but why Kaga-san?” She asked curiously.

Naruto gave a slightly saddened smile. “It’s love.” He stated succinctly. “Ruri and Kaga have a strong relationship, one that is based on their shared mutual affection from one another. If only she wasn’t born into the Prophet house of the Uzumaki family, I think the two would have married ages ago. But she is, as such she was bound by the rules of the Prophet House traditions, being unable to love, never to have an intimate relationship with anyone or start their own families.”

Giving another shrug, he continued with the rest of his contemplation. “I guess that’s why I can’t really hate her. Sure, there’s some hurt, some disappointment, but I can’t say I’m all that surprised.” Noticing Hinata’s shocked expression, Naruto decided to continue. “By doing this, she releases herself from the obligations of the Prophet house, as well as releases Kaga from his own duty as strictly that of a protector and servant of the Uzumaki family. Not only that, she also releases me from my own social chains. Now that the Kuunoki is gone, so is the entire Uzumaki clan system. There is no longer a need for dividing into the Prophet House or Breed house. No need to restrict the movements of anyone due to the status of their birth. I am free now to choose my own future and if I so wish it, I can get married and start a family of my own, raise my children in ways that are different to that of the now defunct Uzumaki clan. I personally believed that Aunt Ruri did all this not just for her own freedom, but for my sake as well.” Naruto concluded.

“I’m glad to see that you haven’t been too affected by all this.” Hinata stated graciously, giving Naruto a small smile of encouragement. “But what will you do now?”

Huffing in thought, Naruto thought over the entire situation for a few long minutes before replying. “I think... I should send the Gate Guardians out as messengers to the other hidden villages. Just to let them know about the downfall of the Kuunoki and the existence of the Akatsuki.”

“Now that they have Ruri on their side, there’s no doubt they will start ramping up their efforts to collect the bijyuus, and the Hidden Villages need to prepare for their assaults. I, myself, will probably need to step up my training too. So yeah, that’s my plan, inform all relevant parties of the impending danger and train as hard as hell to become stronger.” Giving Hinata a classic Naruto grin of confidence, Naruto suddenly asked: “No time like the present to get started! Hinata, want to help me train?”

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(Hokage lounge)

“Understood.” Homura finally conceded. “Do what you want if you are that convinced. However, if you keep Naruto in his current 4 man team with Uchiha, Haruno and Hatake Kakashi – do you not believe that the other members are being disadvantaged by him being there?”

“What do you mean?” Tsunade narrowed her eyes again in suspicion.

“As you said before, the late Gate Guardians of the Kuunoki will have no doubt taken turns to surround Naruto in a protective manner. In this case, it would affect the teams’ missions, having rotating guards around all the time. Not only will it affect the team dynamics but it might even impact on the success of missions itself.” Homura explained in a rather convoluted manner, only hinting at true meaning he was trying to get across.

“You want me to take Naruto out of team 7, and have him fully guarded 24/7 by the Kuunoki gate guardians. That’s what you’re saying right?” She paused and thought over the scenario, before grimacing with a wince. “It’ll drive him mad. Naruto is a very independent person, and having lived the last who knows how long on his own, he’s not going to like being hovered over so much, especially by the members of the Ex Gate Guardians.” 

“Perhaps you were right, giving Naruto the freedom to move around, even with those guardians, will help ease the transition.” Koharu too, eventually calmed down enough to start thinking over the merits of Tsunade’s decision. “I too, agree that keeping Naruto in team 7 will be more detrimental than anything else. Do not forget that the formation of Team 7 in the first place had always been controversial – especially in regard to the competitive relationship between the Uchiha and Naruto. The first time Team 7 was formed, it didn’t last very long, only until the first Chuunin exam before the Uchiha was exchanged to another team which worked out much better.”

“Indeed, not to mention, we also need to keep a close watch on the Uchiha. He did show signs of having traitorous thoughts towards Konoha after the first Chuunin Exam. We were lenient when we let him off the hook after saving a few civilians during the Sound invasion. But we never really took as much precaution as we should have in keeping a close eye on him.” Homura said in a contemplative manner.

“I don’t see the point.” Tsunade snapped back immediately. “The boy was under the influence of Orochimaru’s curse seal at the time. Now that he has full control over it, I don’t see any point in keeping an eye on him. He’s perfectly stable, mentally and physically.”

“You can’t guarantee that, Tsunade. The boy hadn’t even gone through a psychological scan by our special Medics yet. He has returned a powerful Ninja, and as such must be closely watched. We propose a shift in teams once more. Keep Naruto on the move, but only have him accompanied either by high ranking Konoha Shinobis (namely Jounins) or keep him with the Kuunoki Guardians. As for team 7, we will choose a member to add to the four-man team.” Homura stated reasonably, trying to force the Hokage to listen to reason.

Biting her lip in irritation, Tsunade knew that she had won the first round in regards to the restrictions on Naruto’s movements, but even she can’t win all battles against the councillors. It really made her angry how they continuously try to undermine her power and the way she do things. But at the same time, she understood their concern. It was only a few days ago when she got a visit from Oniyoubu Maya – the Ghost whisperer and future wife of one Uchiha Sasuke. The girl had told Tsunade that Sasuke was sick and would be staying home for the next few days. When asked for more reasons, the girl told Tsunade about the cleansing of the Uchiha district, how they encountered the Ghosts of Uchiha Fugaku and Mikoto, and the entire background story of the Uchiha massacre.

At first, she couldn’t’ believe how far the councillors and that hated Danzo would go to ensure Konoha’s so called safety - to massacre an entire clan in order to prevent civil war. She would not have been able to condone such actions. There had to be another way. But she wasn’t Hokage at that time and she still didn’t know the entire story. It was all in the past anyway and there is nothing she could do to change things.

Glancing back up at the elder councillors, Tsunade wondered to herself. /If I keep on pushing against them, will they find a way to dethrone me as well, just like they did with the Uchiha? If they believed what I’m doing will cause the downfall of Konoha, how far will they go to ensure it’s survival, even if it means bringing the entire village into the depths of hell? Regardless, I need to tread carefully./

“Alright. I’ll agree to the changing of teams, as well as having you bring your own person onto Team 7.” She finally agreed.

“Danzo, enter.” Koharu called out. Almost immediately, the door slid open to reveal an old man with bandages over half his face and his right arm in a sling.

“You.” Tsunade’s eyes widened in remembrance.

“It’s been a while, Tsunade-Hime.” Danzo acknowledged, never using the ‘Hokage’ title when addressing Tsunade.

“I see, if you’re here... then that means that the new member of team 7 is from the Root Division of the Anbu.” Tsunade’s eyes hardened at the sudden realisation of how she had fallen into the old man’s trap.

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(Inside Orochimaru’s Southern Hideout)

Passing cell after cell of prisoners, Suzumi shivered slightly, feeling the icy gaze of almost all the men focussed solely on her presence as well as the one walking beside her. Releasing chakra into her ears, she focussed on the whispered conversations floating around her. Most of the men were curious about her presence. After all, everyone had heard of the Snake Queen (Kageru) and her faithful shadow (Suzumi herself) but few had truly seen them with their own eyes and lived to tell the tale.

“God! I’ll be glad to get out of here.” Hunching slightly, she tried hard to ignore both the stares and words directed at her.

“Ignore them.” Kageru stated firmly, not even blinking at her surroundings.

Soon, they meet up with their target.

“I knew it.” Karin stood before them, leaning slightly on one leg and proclaiming her superiority for the world to see. “I knew I felt the two of you a mile away. So, what the hell are you doing here? You’re not exactly welcomed in my laboratory.” She stated snidely, not at all welcoming the other two subordinates of Orochimaru.

“Orochimaru’s dead. I’ll be taking over Sound now.” Kageru stated in a cool voice, wasting no time in getting to the point.

“HUH?!” Karin gave a comical face filed with shock and surprise. “Excuse me! What did you just say? OROCHIMARU is DEAD???!!” She couldn’t help but shout out in disbelief.

Unfortunately for Karin, her loud voice echoed all over the prison cells and it didn’t take long for all the prisoners to overhear the conversation. Loud whispers and shouting erupted from the news, most with cheer and others with shock.

Ignoring the ever growing shouts around her, Karin continued to exclaim: “What the hell are you talking about?! What ‘taking over Sound’? As if anyone would let you of all creatures lead! You’re not even human? And let’s not mention, I don’t believe a single word of shit sprouting out of your mouth, Snake witch!”

“Regardless of what you may think or feel about the situation, I simply speak the truth.” Kageru stated calmly. “Orochimaru is dead. I’m not sure by whose hand, but I know for a fact he is dead. I can no longer feel the connection to him. And the only way our connection can be severed is through death.”

Tightening her fisted hands even further, Karin glared at her rival with all her mustered hatred and anger. “I’m not gonna listen to a word you say, so just get out of my sight!” She screeched loudly, making Suzumi winch in pain at the vibration of the sound.

“On the contrary, I will not allow you to disrupt my plans. I require your ability and knowledge for my own uses.” Narrowing her eyes as a sign of her irritation, Kageru hissed in a threatening manner. “You do not wish to go against me, Karin...”

Taking a few steps back in hesitation, Karin bit her lip before showing off another false boost of bravado. “I refuse. You can’t make me do anything I don’t want to. Even if Orochimaru’s dead, I’m not under any obligation to follow you around.” She stated even as her voice wavered on the last word.

“And you believe you have a choice.” Lifting a single finger, a large anaconda summon suddenly launched itself out of Kageru’s sleeve, wrapping itself around the screaming Karin before tightening itself as a python would its prey.

“AHHHHH!!!! Get it off me! Get it off me! Get it off me!” Karin screeched at the top of her voice, until the large snake tightened itself further around her, making it difficult for her to breathe, let alone release any breath for screaming.

“As I said, you don’t really have a choice. Willingly or not, you will aid me in my quest.” Kageru stated calmly, her golden eyes never leaving the terrified form of Karin. Slowly walking towards the immobile form Kunoichi, Kageru stalked her prey as a predator would. Finally standing before the shivering form of her colleague, she struck her hand forward in a lightning fast move and shoved her fingers into Karin’s stuttering mouth. In an instant, Karin felt a flash of lightning travel down her throat into the pits of her stomach, before she spat the hand out in disgust.

Coughing loudly and spitting out the aftertaste of having Kageru’s hands inside her mouth, Karin spat out hateful words: “What the hell are you trying to do? Choke me to death!?”

Nonchalantly wiping her hand on a stray cloth she carried on herself, Kageru calmly answered back even as her giant snake disappeared into a puff of smoke, releasing Karin to fall flat on her bottom. “Iie. I’ve just embedded one of my special snake curses inside your body (3). If you disobey my wishes, then you will get a rather shocking surprise.”

As if to spite Karin, the curse suddenly activated, sending a sizzling spike of electrical charges all through out her body. Suffice to say, not only did she felt the pain of having almost every cell in her body vibrating due to the effects of the black lightning, but her body as a whole immediately slumped to the floor like a doll without strings. “Uh...” She gritted her teeth, lips hardly moving enough to portray her pain.

“As I stated earlier, you do not have a choice.” Kageru stated in a tone of finality.

“Ano…, Kageru? If we take Karin with us, what the hell are we gonna do with all the prisoners?” Suzumi finally spoke up, her attention having stayed firmly on the reactions of the jailed captives, whom have all quietened down and watching the drama unfolding before their eyes with unmatched interest.

“They will come with us for now. I need to get rid of the curse seals on their bodies, and or heal them until they are fit enough to be set free. For those who still have homes, they may return to where they have come from once they are able. For those who do not, they are welcomed to follow me as subordinates.” Kageru stated firmly, her eyes never leaving the struggling Karin.

Suzumi sweat dropped slightly at Kageru’a straight forward but rather naïve words. “Ano... I know that most of them are fairly good people, whom have been captured and experimented on by Orochimaru. But what if some of them really are bad people? You know, of the violent sort? You don’t really want to release them to the world, do you, Kageru?” She implored softly, willing her companion to understand the risks she takes in releasing all the detainees at one go.

“Regardless, anyone who have been used and abused by Orochimaru deserves a chance at freedom. I will not discriminate about people’s past and misdeeds. The common link among us is our combined suffering under that retched man. I do not condole anything that man stands for and keeping these inmates under lock and key are his policies, not mine. If I wish to portray myself as his opposite, then I must show my firm but merciful side.” Giving a sardonic grin, Kageru continued. “Not to mention, I have full confidence that if skirmishes did occur, I can handle it.”

Suzumi sighed in response to her teammate’s words. Kageru can be as stubborn as a mule sometimes. Once she set her mind on something, it’s nigh impossible to change it. However, that determined characteristic is what endeared her to many of her own supporters.

Although news of the Snake Queen and her bitch had travelled far and wide, everyone knew that they were two of Orochimaru’s more noble subjects, simply because they never stabbed anyone in the back and had reputations for being fearsome but honourable in battle – something most of Orochimaru’s underlings lacked. To say that no one within Orochimaru’s ranks would support Kageru is a falsehood. Although she’s not much liked by the higher echelons, Kageru is surprisingly quite popular among the lower ranking Shinobis, especially the female ninjas of Orochimaru’s ranks. The girls looked upon Kageru – one of Orochimaru’s highest ranked female generals - to be their idol and had aspirations to become like her when they grew up.

Suzumi was brought back from her wandering thoughts when Kageru spoke once more. “Suzumi. I need you to stay here with Karin. The two of you will organise a ship to bring all the inmates back to the mainland – to the central base camp. I need to collect Juugo and prepare the chamber. I leave the rest to you.”

Sighing at hearing the order, the white haired girl could only nod in acceptance as her partner walked confidently off and out of their sight, leaving her with a building full of ex-prisoners to set free, a giant shipping transport to organise and a moaning, uncooperative Karin to help. /Why me.../ She moaned mentally.

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(Back in Konoha)

The next morning found Naruto standing beside his old team mates inside the Hokage’s office, facing Tsunade’s grim face. He had a feeling that whatever was about to happen, he wasn’t going to be too happy about it.

“Thank you for coming in so early.” Tsunade started her speech, eyes shifting from one member of the old team 7 to the next. “The reason why you’re been called in here today is due to a rearrangement of team members.” She went straight to the point.

Sakura frowned in confusion. “Change in team members? Why, Tsunade-sama? We’ve only just reformed the old Team 7 with Naruto’s arrival not to long ago, why are we being separated again?” She asked, with a slight tinge of pain in her voice. She had really wanted to start again with her old team members. Sure, the first time team 7 was formed; it was dysfunctional as any newly formed teams were. But she had really hoped that with all them together again, they could form stronger bonds between them. She wanted what all the other teams had, a strong friendship, understanding and comradeship among the team, something team 7 had blatantly lacked in its younger years and had only dissipated over time due to the long distance between each member.

Standing beside Sakura, Sasuke too frowned in disagreement. Behind the three, Kakashi stood nonchalantly, as if having expected this change.

Sighing slightly, Tsunade explained further. “The council has concerns over Naruto’s welfare, now that Akatsuki is once again on the move. As such, I’ll be appointing Jiraiya, an Anbu captain by the name of Yamato and one of the ex Gate Guardians to be placed with Naruto, forming a super-team if you wish. As for the rest of team 7, you will be receiving a new member from another division of the Anbu.” Letting the words sink in a bit, Tsunade then turned her attention to the door. “You can come in now.”

The door to the Hokage’s office opened to admit Jiraiya – the Toad Sennin; an older man with short brown hair, dark eyes and a blank facial expression but wearing the standard Jounin uniform. Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura could only guess that this was the aforementioned ex-Anbu captain. Behind the tall man stood a young teenage looking boy, with short black hair that fell straight down his face, wearing an extremely fake smile. The boy wore a strange attire of skin tight shirt that only went down to mid-chest, and tight pants down his long legs.

“Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke. You already know Jiraiya, so he doesn’t need any further introductions.” Tsunade ignored Jiraiya’s pout, knowing full well that her old team mate would have turned it into one of his weird dance intros, and she just wasn’t in the mood to put up with it. “This is Yamato, your other team member, Naruto. Lastly, this is Sai, a member of the Anbu Root division.” Kakashi’s eyes narrowed slightly at the second last word, but outwardly, he showed no sign of his own feelings.

“Tsunade-sama. It seems to me that this arrangement is less about me having teammates than about me having bodyguards. I am not so weak that I need to be babysat in such a way.” Naruto retorted in a calm manner, but underneath his nice tone was a fury at being treated this way. “I am not a child. I am a Shinobi, a strong one, and I can take care of myself, thank you very much.”

Giving another sigh, Tsunade knew it was going to be a verbal battle to get Naruto to accept this. “I’m sorry, Naruto. But my hands are tide in this case. As Hokage, my job is to ensure the safety of the village, so I cannot risk Akatsuki coming here to capture you. At the same time, as someone who cares for you personally, I will do everything in my power to also keep you safe. The only way I can do that is to have strong people to guard and help you, while you are away from Konoha central.”

“You’re sending me away?” Naruto’s eyes widened slightly at the implications of Tsunade’s words. “You don’t think I’m strong enough to hold off the Akatsuki? Don’t forget, I did just that on my own during Orochimaru’s invasion of Konoha all those years ago. I can...” Naruto’s words were abruptly cut off by the rest of Tsunade’s rebuttal. 

“They were underestimating you at the time, Naruto. And they were also trying to get at you in a quiet manner. If they come to us now with guns a blazing and with no concern over the amount of damage caused or the number of lives lost, I know for a fact that we will fall just like the Kuunoki did!” All three teens winced at the mentioning of the fall of the Kuunoki. After all, if one of the oldest, strongest villages (small as it was) could so easily fall to the Akatsuki, what were the entire Akatsuki truly capable of? “I do not doubt your strength, but even you must admit you’re no where strong enough to face them, especially your aunt.” Naruto bit his lip in pain. “I want you to be kept safe while giving you enough time to get stronger. For now, I’m going to send you on an errand to the Fire Capital. It’s just a message delivery errand but once you get there, you’ll probably be called into a meeting with the Fire Daimyo. After that, I want you to stay in the Fire Capital and train. Train to become stronger, Naruto.” Tsunade pleaded with the young man, and even the Uzumaki heir had to eventually resign to his fate.

“Fine.” Lowering his head in surrender, Naruto tried to negotiate the terms of his being sent away. “But I want Akiko Kazeha (4) as the third member of my so called team. I want to work on my wind elemental manipulation ability.”

“Wind? What do you mean?” This time, it was Sasuke who asked. He hadn’t spent as much time with his team mates since Naruto’s return as he had liked, and he felt as if he was still missing a lot of information.

“I’m wind natured. I discovered that some time ago during my travels but I didn’t know how to train on it.” Naruto answered, see no reason to hold back his dilemma. “Akiko, being a wind mistress, would be able to help me greatly in cultivating that skill.”

“Wait a minute? You’re wind natured? If you weren’t training on that all this time, then what were you working on?” Jiraiya piped up, curious as to what his prodigy had been wasting the last 2 and half years working on.

“Control over Kyuubi’s chakra.” Naruto’s answered silently rocked the foundations of the entire room.

“Kyuubi? You’ve been working on drawing out the Kyuubi’s chakra on your own? That’s very dangerous, boy. You should have waited until your return, and have either myself or Jiraiya by your side when you start drawing out the Kyuubi’s destructive chakra. Don’t gamble your life or the lives of others like that.” Yamato’s firm scolding surprised Naruto. The younger man squirmed slightly as he had never been talked to in such a manner in regard to his using Kyuubi’s chakra before.

“Look. I had things under control. I went to a giant, deserted iceberg and trained there on my own. I needed to know my limits. I needed to know how much demonic chakra I can draw out while still remaining in control of my mind.” Naruto justified heatedly.

“So, what were the results?” Jiraiya waved the other’s concerns away, knowing full well how stubborn his student was when he felt he had done the right thing.

“At drawing out 10% of the Kyuubi’s chakra, my eye’s change colour (5). At 20%, I draw out one tail’s worth of chakra. At 30%, I have two tails. At 40%, three tails. But once I reach 50%, when I gained the forth tail, that’s my limit. I lose complete control of myself.”

A few minutes later, the meeting was concluded with a decision that Naruto, Yamato, Jiraiya and Akiko (who was absent during the meeting) would be sent on the mission to the Fire capital the next day. In return, Sasuke, Sakura and Kakashi had left with their new team member Sai, mentioning something about learning each other’s strength and weaknesses.

The former members of Team 7 found it curious that Sai hadn’t said a single thing in through out the meeting, but then again, they weren’t comfortable with Naruto’s replacement yet to talk familiarly with him.

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(Cloud Village)

Slamming both palms onto the sturdy table, a young man of 17 with short reddish brown hair pulled back by a bandanna forehead protector displaying proudly the symbol of the Hidden Cloud village, glared heatedly at the older, dark skinned man before him. “What is the meaning of this, Raikaga-sama!?” He demanded.

The older man, with a strange looking white moustache and wearing the traditional gowns of a Kage, glared just as heatedly back at the young Shinobi. “What the hell are you talking about, Waisa Bado? (6)”

“I’m talking about Nii Yugito! Why did you send her out towards the outskirts of the Hidden Cloud village on her own, when you know full well that the Akatsuki are after her! We’ve already received a message from Konoha confirming that they have the freaking Lady Oracle join their cause! We cannot take this information lightly. We should be double, no, tripling the number of guards we have around Yugito, not send her on her own!” Bado practically screamed his response right at the face of his superior, seemingly unafraid of the consequences.

“You listen here, you brat! I am the Raikage and what I say goes! Yugito practically volunteered to be bait for the Akatsuki! She wanted to challenge them on her own, wanting to prove that she wasn’t weak or needed protection. Had I not allowed her to do so, she would have done it even without my permission. Now, at least we know where she’ll be and if it ever came to it, we could aid her!” The Raikage screamed back at his unruly subordinate.

“We’ll be too late!” Bado insisted. “That girl and her god damn pride.” Bado cursed beneath his breath and was just about to continue his rant when the whole building suddenly shook as if an earthquake had occurred some distance away. “Shit! It’s begun!” Bado cursed as he immediately jumped out the window, instead of using the door, smashing his way through the clear glass window and steel frames, raining pieces of glass shards all over the floor as he passed.

“God Damn it! Bado! Haven’t you heard of doors?” Raikage cursed the Waisa clan heir even as his office door was slammed open to reveal several Jounin Shinobis wanting to check on his health. /You better get there in time to save her, Bado. Or else you’ll answer to ME! Damn it/

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By the time Bado, and his partner, Sakeyama Asahi (7) made it to the location of the fight, they barely caught sight of the unconscious form of their fellow Cloud Nin and team mate – Nii Yugito – the Jinchuriki of the Two Tailed no Nekotama, carried off by a two faced man in the infamous Akatsuki cloak. “Let go of her, you Akatsuki scum!” Bado called out loudly but he was too late to stop Zetsu merge fully into the ground with his burden.

“AHHH!” Bado smashed his fist against the rubble ground that Zetsu had just disappeared into in frustration. Behind him, Asahi finally caught up with the young man. Asahi was taller than Bado with his spiked up, dark blue hair and he still wore his forehead protector in a slanted manner similar to how Zabuza had his.

“It’s not over yet, Bado. Keep your head; we’ve still got some enemies to face.” Asahi cautioned his gaze focussed on the 2 figures in the distance, both wearing the Akatsuki cloaks. “If I summon some of my Cats to try and track that man who took Yugito, we may be able to find a trace of them, and save her before the extraction begins. You with me?” Asahi finally caught Bado’s attention with his words and even the passionate Waisa clan heir had to accept his partner’s advice.

“Right, let’s get to it. Summon your cats.” Bado wasted no more time in encouraging his long time teammate, having come to appreciate Asahi’s level headedness during missions. Well, Asahi was usually level-headed, the only time he wasn’t calm was when he had to deal with his alcohol obsessed family, especially his sister. Having worked with Sakeyama Saporo, Asahi’s half sister, for the first few years of his Ninja career, Bado could sympathise with the other man.

However, since returning from the Kuunoki Chuunin Exam, Bado had shed much of his arrogance and superiority complex. He was still loud and boastful, but now, he had the power to substantiate his boasts. He worked damn hard in the last two and a half years to become a Jounin. Not only that, he had also (with the help of the Raikage) managed to over throw the elders of his clan, whom had sanctioned experiments both on captives of other countries (Hyuuga’s included) but on their own clan members (himself included) all in the name of gaining power. It was disgusting, and after regaining his lost memories of living through that torture, Bado wasted no time in calling out the elders on crimes against humanity, with evidence to prove it. Eventually, many older members of the Waisa clan were executed publicly, creating a stain on the Waisa name. But regardless, Bado himself was seen in relatively good light, having been the youngest person to reach Jounin in many years.

In regards to Asahi, after he returned to Kumo, he was shocked at finding out his sister had suddenly retired from being a Shinobi, and took up the family business of running the sales of alcohol. This left him being the sole heir of the Shinobi branch of the Sakeyama family. Needless to say, it took him a while to get use to the responsibilities, but he stepped up and took on the role with minimal fuss or problems. Issues arose later when Nii Yugito was put on their team as their third member. After a few rocky starts, the three eventually put aside their differences and formed a solid team. This was why Yugito was important to them, and they would do anything in the power to keep her safe.

Back to the situation at hand, Asahi didn’t waste anytime biting into his thumb to draw some blood before running a few complicated hand seals and slamming his hand onto the ground. “Kuchiyose no Jutsu!” A large cloud of smoke exploded before clearing off to reveal twin looking house cats. Each had light grey coats, one eye green and the other a brilliant red. “Hey, Can you guys pick up the scents of the Akatsuki member who took away Yugito-chan. I know you guys loved Yugito-chan’s scent the most.” Asahi stroked the two cat’s head, appeasing them first before asking them for a favour.

The two cats meowed happily at being pampered before the started sniffing the ground for various scents. Eventually, they both turned to their summoner with quizzical expressions on their faces. “There were 3 scents other than Yugito-chans.” One of the identical cats replied.

“Yeah, 2 of them fought Yugito-chan. But after the battle, they left that a way.” The second cat pointed its adorably small paw towards the South.

“The third one took Yugito-chan underground. The scent has disappeared. I won’t be able to follow him.” The first cat sniffed with large tears developing in its eyes, hoping that its master will not be mad at their incompetence.

“It’s okay. You two did great.” Asahi patiently rubbed their heads and chins to bring up their spirits. Looking back at his partner, he stated seriously. “Seems like 3 Akatsuki members left this location after capturing Yugito, one escaped underground so we won’t be able to track their scent anymore, and another two by foot, travelling towards the Southern direction.”

“Right, Konoha’s in the south. They’re probably headed there. I need the bloody Raikage’s permission to go after whose two. We’ll need more than the 2 of us to fight them.” Bado surmised.

Nodding, Asahi turned back to his cute summons. “I want one of you to follow the scent that travelled South; and the other to stay by my side to relay any findings. Go!” One of the summoned cats flashed away towards its destinations, already tracking the fresh scents of the Akatsuki members, the other remained with its summoner.

“Let’s go and report back to the Raikage. The faster we can scrounge up a team to hunt down Akatsuki, the better!” Bado commented, and the both of them quickly turned back towards the Raikage tower, hoping that they would be given permission to hunt down the bastards who had taken away a good friend of theirs.

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(Somewhere far away)

“So, you say that you witnessed the Akatsuki hunt down and successfully capture the Sanbi, is that correct?” A young, cold voice enquired.

An older woman with long blue hair was slumped against a tree, bruises and cuts littered her form as if she had just come out of an intense battle. “Ah. There were two of them, one who uses self detonating bombs and the other wore a strange orange mask, but he didn’t seem to use any recognisable technique.” She spoke softly through her gritted teeth, still reeling from the pain of having faced two Akatsuki members and survived the ordeal.

“What were you doing here in the first place?” The first speaker revealed himself to be a young, teenage boy with bi-coloured hair – mostly spiky red with highlights of black, held back by a forehead protector displaying the symbol of the Hidden Mist village.

“My name... is Guren (8). I was given a mission from Orochimaru... to capture the Sanbi.” Pausing to cough out some blood, Guren continued her story. “We had a child with us, Yukimaru, who could control the powers of the Sanbi. However, we did not expect the Akatsuki to arrive so soon. They killed Yukimaru, and all my other subordinates. I’m the only one left now.” She spoke with effort; it seems the internal bleeding in her lungs caused by a rupture from a broken rib had finally started chocking her with her own blood.

“I see. Thank you for the information, you have been a great help. I will now reward you with a quick death.” The young Mist Nin stated as he withdrew the Katana from his back, ready to end Guren’s miserable life.

“Wait. Tell me your name.” Guren’s eyes stayed calm, as if already accepting her end.

“Kapasu Juro (9), a new member of the 7 swordsman of the Mist.” The newly revealed Juro wasted no time in decapitating Guren’s head from the rest of her body, ending her pain once and for all.

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(Hokage Tower)

“I see, even that Chiriku...” Tsunade murmured slightly, eyes sad at hearing such news.

The monk kneeling before her had scratch marks on his face, as if having come out of a fierce battle. “I happened to be out on guard duty... and when I came back, it was already too late...” The man bit his lips hard to keep from crying.

Standing beside Tsunade, Shizune had a serious face. “They’re probably making a thorough search of any place in the Fire country for Naruto. They’ve come at last... Thank god we sent him away in time.”

Tsunade’s eyes narrowed in determination. “Don’t let them out of this country. Contact the newly organised Nijyuu Shoutai (20 squads) immediately.”

Less than an hour later, Tsunade could be found standing in front of 80 strong Shinobis, members of the newly formed Nijyuu Shoutai, specially formed to counter the Akatsuki. Among them were Asuma, Shikamaru, Kotetsu and Izumo.

Once Tsunade finished her mission briefings, she continued to say. “I would like to find out about their plans, but these guys are simply too dangerous. In the event capture becomes impossible, eradicate them. Don’t let them out of the Fire Country. Find them, no matter what. Go!”

With her words in their hearts, all 80 members of the Nijyuu Shoutai jumped away in all different directions, aiming for the Akatsuki.

“Tsunade-sama?” A voice called out to the Hokage from behind her. Tsunade turned to see Jubei (10) standing there calmly, still pale but with determined eyes. “I’d like to help in some way. I’ll send out my rings as scouts, and if I see either the Akatsuki, or if any member of the Nijyuu Shotai come to harm, I can instantly teleport a member of the my guardian teams to aid them.” Pausing slightly, Jubei continued. “I want to get back at them. They took away our home, our livelihoods, our history, but most of all, they took away our precious lady. For that crime, I will make them pay.” With that said, he turned away from the Hokage. Using one of his teleportation rings, enlarging it to human size; he lightly stepped through his ring and disappeared from sight. The ring too, immediately shrunk in size and flew away as if being pulled by an invisible string.

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(A few days later)

“Come in.” Tsunade announced as she looked up from her piles of paperwork. The door to her office opened as instructed.

“Umm. Tsunade-sama, there is someone here from the Hidden cloud village wanting to meet you.” Shizune hesitantly stated.

“Oh?” An eyebrow lifted in curiosity. “Let them in.”

Through the door, a female ninja entered. She had a bust as large as Tsunade’s own, with short, straight blonde hair and small, sharp eyes; the ninja bowed slightly in acknowledgment before introducing herself. “My name is Samui (11). And I have been sent here as a messenger from the Raikage. We wish to work with Konoha Ninjas in the hunting of two Akatsuki members.”

Now lifting both eyebrows in surprise, Tsunade asked for more clarification. “Oh, what is it that the Raikage is proposing?”

“Right as we speak, I have a platoon of four ninjas currently following the trail of 2 Akatsuki members through Fire Country. They were responsible for the capture of one of our own Ninjas, and although we were unable to follow her scent and rescue her, we wish to capture one of these 2 other Akatsuki members and find out more information. Specifically, we want to know where they’ve taken their hostage so that we may go and rescue her. Since this is Fire country and under your jurisdiction; we would like to have your permission for us to hunt the Akatsuki in your region. And if possible, we can help each other out in the process.” The newly introduced Cloud nin explained with a blank, serious expression on her face.

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“Did you see that!? He freaking sewed that’s guy’s head back on to his body?” A female voice squeaked, slightly trembling in fear and disgust.

“Shut up!” A harsher, male voice countered the first. “I don’t know how the hell Samui puts up with you guys, but even you should know to keep your mouth shut in a serious mission.”

“Hey hey. Lay off man, it’s our first mission going up against guys this strong and freaky. I mean, what’s wrong with us being a little freaked out? We have the right to be, right? Or may be we should have expected something like this, something unexpected? Maybe...” A third voice mumbled off and on in the background, interrupting the first two voices.

“For the last time, shut up! You’re gonna give our location away.” The first male voice snapped at the other two before turning his attention to their forth member. “Do you have a good enough angle for a shot? Remember, we’ll only get one chance at surprise.” He reminded.

“Don’t worry. I’m ready. And when I see the chance, I’ll take it.” A forth voice, also male, but much calmer and concentrated than the other two replied back.

Down below them, the four figures continued to watch vigilantly as a squad of four Konoha Shinobis (one Jounin and three Chuunin) combat against the two Akatsuki members. One of the Akatsuki members was some sort of immortal. Even having his head cut off by the injured Konoha jounin, he could still talk. And just now, the other Akatsuki member somehow managed to sew the first member’s head back onto the rest of his body.

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“Your ceremonies are long, but your battles and speeches take forever. Take on the guy with the bounty, everyone else is mine.” Kakuzu chided Hidan after having to put his head back on to his body, literally.

Seeing their captain, Asuma, about to be killed, both Izumo and Kotetsu jumped into action. Kotetsu summoned forth a large, shell like hammer, before running forward with his weapon ready to bash the enemy in. Still standing a distance away, Izumo launched a jutsu of his own to accompany his partner. “Suiton: Mizuame Nabara! (Water Element: Syrup Snare Field)”

A large amount of syrup was spilt onto the floor by Izumi, flowing rapidly towards Kakuzu’s location. Kotetsu then jumped high before throwing his weapon at Kakuzu hoping to crush him in. In retaliation, Kakusu released his hands, flying through the air trying to stop the weapon; multiple vines made of metal ripped itself out of Kakuzu’s appendages to block the weapon’s flight. However, the strange looking shell weapon changed shape into a plane like shape, twisting and turning in mid air while avoiding all the metal vines that ripped out of Kakuzu’s hands.

The weapon smashed heavily against the ground creating a large crater, but when the smoke and dust cleared, it was revealed that Kakuzu had simply stepped aside, letting the weapon smash harmlessly against the ground he was recently standing on, the summoned syrup too fell into the newly created hole, not affecting Kakuzu at all.

“We’re not done yet!” Kotetsu yelled out passionately. It was then, that his weapon suddenly burst out of the ground behind Kakuzu and slammed hard against the back of the man, before flying towards its rightful owner once more. Glaring heatedly at them, Kakuzu was about to charge towards the two Chuunins when he found his feet was stuck due to the syrup that now submerged his shoes. Turning back, he finally realised that although the syrup fell into the first hole created by Kotetsu’s weapon, it followed the weapon all the way out of the second hole and surrounded him even without him knowing.

Just before Kakuzu was about to launch his counter attack, something happened. Someone from atop the nearby building shot something at Hidan, and with a large burst of blood and gore, Hidan’s brain had exploded into tiny pieces. “What the?” Quickly turning to look at the origin of the shot, Kakuzu suddenly noticed that they weren’t alone anymore. There were 4 new players in this game, and they each wore a Hidden Cloud Village Hitaite.

“Damn it. More bugs.” Not even caring about Hidan’s now brainless body, Kakuzu stripped away the glue that held him captive against the syrup and ran towards the new enemies at high speed.

“SHIT! He noticed us!” A female voice echoed loudly just before Kakuzu smashed his iron fist against the roof of the building where the four Cloud Ninjas had situated themselves.

Back at the scene with the Hidan and the rest of the Konoha Ninjas, Shikamaru quickly ran towards his old Sensei and checked over the man’s vital signs, although severely injured, he wasn’t at the point of death just yet. Shikamaru then turned his attention back at the seemingly impossible to kill Akatsuki member, Hidan. Even with the head cut off from the rest of the body, he had still lived and was able to talk and complain. But how, with the top half of his face blasted away as if a small bomb had gone off near his head, Shikamaru could finally feel as if they have an actual chance at stopping these Akatsuki monsters. Hidan wasn’t dead yet, his body and fingers were still twitching slightly, but without the top half of his head – the brain, the signals were obviously messed up, and therefore he was vulnerable to everything. Glancing at his fellow Konoha Ninjas, whom were preoccupied at watching Kakuzu fighting against the four member team of Kumo, Shikamaru finally made a decision on what to do.

“Kotetsu! Izumi! We need to secure this guy first! Don’t give him the time or ability to heal himself! While he’s still in this state, we need to capture him!” Shikamaru ordered as best as he could even while he cradled Asuma’s unconscious body against his own. Even if he had wanted to help out the unexpected Cloud Ninjas with their fight, he couldn’t, simply because he was completely out of chakra. And even before that, he needed to secure the immortal one as well as his own team’s survival first. /Thank you. Whomever you are. I swear, I will come back to help you guys out./ Shikamaru swore silently to himself.

Behind him, Izumi and Kotetsu quickly placed ready made seals on Hidan’s body, cutting off chakra circulation and immobilising his body completely.

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“Everyone, stay back! I’ll take care of this guy! Asahi, back me up from a distance.” The team leader of the Cloud ninjas ordered as he rushed forward to attack Kakuzu head on.

“Is he crazy? What was he thinking, taking that guy on his own!? I’m gonna back him up.” The only female member of the group, a dark skinned girl with spiky black hair exclaimed before trying to join the battle with her commander.

“No, Karui (12), stay back. We’d only get in the way if we step in this time.” Another dark skinned male Shinobi snapped back at the female ninja, holding her back from entering the fray.

“But Omoi! Bado can’t handle that guy alone!” The girl, Karui argued back, struggling to escape the dark skinned youth’s grip.

“Karui, there’s a reason Bado’s a jounin while we’re just Chuunins. Not to mention, he even asked Asahi to back him up. He’s not alone.” Omoi, surprisingly the more restrained member of the two didn’t let go of his teammate. While the two dark skinned cloud Ninjas stood aside and watched, Bado was fighting in a fierce hand to hand combat with the enemy.

Punches, elbows, kicks turn sweeps, jumping and somersaulting away only to run back into the fray and start the whole process again; Bado was keeping Kakuzu heavily occupied with his outstanding Taijutsu and Lightning armour. Each time Kakuzu tried to gain an advantage by extending his hands and releasing the metallic wires embedded within his body to wrap around Bado’s form, Bado releases short bursts of electrical charges through his lightning armour (13), which travelled down the wires and causing Kakuzu to have mild heart attacks. They were at a stalemate as their abilities comfortably balance each other’s strength and weaknesses. Bado was fast, with stronger defences, Kakuzu was physically stronger, with greater offensive powers. However, it didn’t help Kakuzu that his main elemental affinity was earth, while Bado’s was obviously lightning.

After a few minutes of constant running around, dodging and attacking, Kakuzu decided to up the anti. Jumping away to put some distance between himself and the stubborn Cloud Nin, Kakuzu pulled his Akatsuki cloak away, ready to release the other creates hidden inside him.

However, his goals were cut short slightly when he felt something burn right through his heart as if a gun had shot a small bullet of compact fire across his body, all the way through from the front of his chest out of his back. Indeed, when he looked down, he was slightly shocked at the gapping hole he found in the middle of his chest, where his heart would have been located. /Well, at least now I know what it felt like for Hidan when his head suddenly exploded./ He thought mildly to himself.

Looking back up and focussing on the remaining Cloud Ninjas, he finally found his culprit. Asahi was kneeling on one knee and held his oriental staff up like he was holding a sniper, his eye level with the opening on the end of staff from where the ‘bullet’ obviously came out of. In fact, a small amount of smoke was still flowing out of the opening. /So he’s their long range fighter, no wonder Hidan didn’t stand a chance. A team leader with exceptional Taijutsu skill and another member good at long distance assassination, just the two of them makes this team a formidable foe./

Kakuzu fell forward onto his knees first and then his face. He completely ignored the sighs of relief from the other Cloud ninjas, as he concentrated on replacing his ruined heart with another one from his collection. Within a few seconds, he was climbing back up onto his feet and glaring at the shocked expressions on both the Kumo and Konoha Shinobis.

“No way! Asahi shot right through that guy’s heart! I saw it with my own eyes! I did! There’s just no way... How can he still be alive!?” Karui screeched in fright, her eyes were wide as can be.

Beside her, Omoi wasn’t much better, having turned a sickly pale colour upon seeing the animated corpse. “Asahi never misses... Asahi never misses...” He tried to console himself but it wasn’t working.

“Che. It’s time to get serious.” As Kakuzu spoke those few words, his back literally ripped open and four giant black masses burst out, forming individual creatures, each with a strange mask for a face. However, one of those masks was broken and even before it fully formed; it dissolved into a puddle on the floor.

“What the hell are THOSE!?” Karui couldn’t help but scream, scrambling further away from the twisted creatures as Kakuzu’s back miraculously sewed itself back together again.

Without any prompting, one of the masked creatures (the one with strange wing like contraptions) opened its mouth and a large gust of wind suddenly formed in front of it. “Fuuton Atsugai! (Wind Element: Bleeding Force)!”

The cloud ninjas barely had time to hightail it out of the immediately area before it was completely engulfed in hurricane strength winds ripping everything apart within a circular perimeter. Even Shikamaru, Kotetsu and Izumo had to move Asuma’s body carefully as well as carry their prisoner while they fled the battle field, cursing that they should have included a Medic Nin in their group.

The other masked creatures weren’t idle either. Having noticed that they had captured his partner as a prisoner, Kakuzu had no choice to go after both teams. Two of the three creatures split apart and flew towards their respective prey, trying to do as much damage as possible.

“Raiton: Gian! (Lightning Element: Mock Darkness)!” One of the black creatures with a horned mask shot out a horrifying amount of lightning at Shikamaru and his compatriots, exploding the ground beneath them as they desperately made their escape.

“Katon: Zukokku! (Fire Element: Cranium Carver)!” The Cloud teams weren’t faring much better, each making their way dodging shrapnel and bursts of fire from every angle.

When the two teams coincidentally met up in the same area, and the two masked creatures that followed them also arrived, they knew that they each had to help each other in order to survive. Bado jumped in front of the Konoha Ninjas, his hands outstretched, ready to absorb the enormous amount of lightning energy being released at their combined group.

On the other side, Kotetsu and Izumo had jumped in front of the Cloud ninjas, and both were quickly forming seals to counter the large firestorm coming their way. “Suiton: Suijin Heki (Water Element: Water Barrier)!” They both yelled in unison as they both summoned forth a large amount of water to create a tidal wave, obstructing the fierce fire from reaching them. Back on Bado’s side, he barely managed to hold back the massive bolts of lightning all on his own. He knew that his hands were burning due to the intensity of the energy being absorbed and redirected to the ground through both his natural chakra circulatory system as well as his artificial one, and although it was still taxing he couldn’t stop.

Eventually, the attacks died down, revealing an unharmed Kakuzu with all three of those masked creatures by his side. “Shit. Anyone has any idea how we kill this guy?” Omoi muttered, hoping for an answer.

Gasping slightly for breath, Bado was the one to rise to the occasion. “I can take him one on one. But it’ll be too much if I have to worry about the mask creatures too.” He admitted, even as he unleased a scroll and summoned forth a large hammer.

“We need to somehow split them up and stop them from working together.” Shikamaru concurred, having recognised Bado and Asahi as fellow examiners from the Kuunoki Chuunin exams some years ago, but still surprised at their growth compared to his own. “If one of you has a soldier you’re wiling to share, I can probably ensnare one or all three of them at one go. But someone’s gonna have to be play distraction.”

“Here.” Asahi pulled out a small pack of soldier pills for Shikamaru. “Me and the other two can play distraction for you, right guys?” He directed his question at Karui and Omoi.

“Yeah sure.” Karui shrugged hesitantly. Standing beside her, Omoi nodded in acceptance.

“Good.” Swallowing the soldier pill, Shikamaru could feel his chakra revitalise. “Kotetsu, Izumo, you guys guard Asuma-sensei and that Hidan guy.”

“Hai. The two Konoha Chuunins agreed without protests.

“Good. Let’s dance.” Pulling the giant hammer behind his back, Bado rushed forward towards the calmly standing Kakuzu. As he ran, Bado rotated the hammer via the handle before swinging it up and slamming it down onto the ground with a mighty heave. As the giant hammer impacted the ground where Kakuzu once stood (he jumped away obviously), Bado shouted out the name of his weapon: “Raikanazachi! (Lightning Hammer)(14)” Lightning erupted from the hammer surging across the ground in all directions, forcing Kakuzu to jump onto a near by tree.

Bado barely paused long enough to pull the hammer back up as if it weighed nothing at all, before rushing off towards Kakuzu’s new location. While Kakuzu jumped away from the tree that Bado had quickly incinerated with his lightning hammer, two of the masked creatures - wind and fire – suddenly flew in front of Bado, stopping him from going after Kakuzu. The two creatures merged into one large being with two masks. Suddenly, both masks opened its mouths, and out came a combined attack of both wind and fire.

Bado did his absolutely best to avoid being blasted either by air bullets or fire balls, or a combination of the two. While the merged masks were preoccupied with chasing Bado, Omoi and Karui suddenly appeared besides the flying being. And in an orchestrated dance, both pulled out their katanas and sliced at the merged creature with high speed sword swings. By the time, both Karui and Omoi landed back on the ground, the black thing that was once a creature with two masks crumbled into a multitude of pieces. “Well, at least we know it can still be cut.”

On the other side, Asahi had been leading the Lightning oriented mask creature all over the battle field playing bait and avoiding the flares of lightning shot at him. Upon crossing paths with Shikamaru, the Konoha Chuunin suddenly performed a technique and ensnared the creature’s shadow, immediately halting its movements. Swiftly turning around, Asahi fingered his staff back into a rifle position once more. Muttering softly to himself, Asahi released his now infamous assassination technique. “Fushichou Seikatsuba. (Phoenix Sacred Fire Spit) (15)”

The now easily recognisable fire bullet spat out of the staff that was held by Asahi, traversed the air at high velocity before smashing itself all the way through the Lightning oriented creature’s mask, killing it instantly.

“And now, there’s only one.” Bado shouted triumphantly as he swung his hammer over and over again in an intricate dance to try and smash Kakuzu to death. However, the Akatsuki member was nothing if not swift and he managed to avoid most of Bado’s attempts at his life. Truthfully, although Bado was dangerous at close hand combatant, Kakuzu was more worried about Asahi and his assassination technique from a distance. If he put all his concentration on avoiding Bado, then he would be showing openings for Asahi to take advantage of. However, due to him concentrating on both Asahi and Bado at the same time, he never noticed until too late that he had been captured by one of Shikamaru’s shadow binds.

“Gotcha!” Shikamaru smirked in tiredness at finally capturing the other prey. Shifting one of the hand seals, he changed the Shadow neck bind to a Shadow sewing technique, creating many multiple shadow tentacles stabbing and holding Kakuzu’s body in place.

Now, with only one heart remaining inside his body, Kakuzu was a little bit too preoccupied with using his own internal wires to counter Shikamaru’s own. “Damn. I underestimated you guys too much. To have taken out all four of my collective hearts... I will not forgive you for this transgression.” The rest of Kakuzu’s threats were cut short as a lightning laced hand stabbed through his chest, crushing his heart all the way through.

Behind him, Bado stated angrily. “This is for my team mate, Nii Yugito. Remember it as you pass into hell.”

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Kageru stood before a large area that was once the base of Orochimaru’s hideout. There were craters, blood stained sand, uprooted trees and debris littered everywhere. However, it seemed all the bodies of the dead had already been burnt and or dumped in mass graves since she could still smell the combined scent of burnt, rotting flesh.

Sensing a few live chakra sources, she followed the trails left by the surviving members of Orochimaru’s once large army, before coming to a small encampment, which held less than a dozen former Sound Ninjas, including the one she was looking for. However, upon entering the tent, her priorities shifted.

“Just look who the cat dragged in, you fucking whore! Where the hell have you been? We fucking needed you and you weren’t here to help, you piece of shit!” Immediately, Hito launched into a series of foul mouth swearing at her former comrade in arms. What had once been a proud member of the infamous Sound Four, Gojou Hito had become bitter and resentful of the entire world as a whole.

Lying beside her was the dying form of Kimimaro. How he had survived these last few days, she didn’t know. But the bone user had lost a lot of blood with the loss of his left arm. Luckily, Juugo had fused with Kimimaro’s body, providing his own flesh and chakra to stop the continual bleeding (16). Unfortunately, the onslaught of illness followed due to Kimimaro overexerting himself during the fight. Sitting on the other side of Kimimaro, a younger looking Juugo hugged his knees, trembling in fear at the thoughts of his best friend’s potential death.

Sighing slightly at the sorry state of her former comrades, Kageru knelt down next to the prone form of Kimimaro. Placing her hand gently against his feverish forehead, Kageru concentrated, wanting to transfer some of her own bodies’ immunities as well as basic strength into Kimimaro’s body. While doing that, she asked for a status update on their troops, as well as an explanation of what happened.

“Akatsuki happened, that’s what. That Lady Ruri bitch, the one who betrayed her village and joined up with the Akatsuki showed up suddenly, summoned a massive skeleton dinosaur thing and had us completely destroyed. While we were trying to survive that thing, she went into the base and killed off Orochimaru. Orochimaru’s dead and it’s your entire fault! Now, you tell me where the fuck were you when we needed you?!” Hito condescending voice echoed loudly.

“I was away at the Southern Hideout. And I couldn’t care less if Orochimaru died. Now, where is Kabuto?” Kageru answered succinctly.

“Wha...” Hito was about to launch into another full blown argument, when Juugo interrupted.

“He left. He abandoned the base and everyone here. He took some of Orochimaru’s experiments and just left us here to die. Some of the troops have left as well, while others, the ones that still feared us, stayed.” Juugo mumbled softly, his eyes never leaving Kimimaro’s sickly form.

“I see. This would actually help my situation. Listen up you two. From now on, I am the leader of the surviving Sound Village. Anyone who does not wish to follow me, you may leave, but the next time I see you, we will be enemies. For those who join me, I can promise you that you will not regret it.” Rising to her feet, Kageru gave a commanding presence while the others could only watch and gulp in slight hesitation, wondering what a ninja army ran by Kageru – the Snake witch would be like. 

End

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(1) I’ve got a picture of this on my website; go to my profiles page for links.

(2) I know that some of you will be wondering about Ruri’s sudden change in personality, so I wanted to give this explanation on why I suddenly changed her serious nature to this rebellious, childish one. Sometimes, people change due to whatever reason. A perfectly well behaved person would be tempted to be rebellious when given the chance, and that is what Ruri had been given; hence her wild and slightly callous behaviour.

(3) Inspired from the manga/anime Soul Eater, where the witch Medusa was able to force another witch to swallow her snake curse and then control the witch victim as she wishes.

(4) Kazeha Akiko is the wind mistress of the Kuunoki Gate Guardians. She’s the one with the long red hair tied in a braid, often seen wearing a green tank-top and short blue shorts. She also carries with her a giant Boomerang. She first appeared in Restoration of Faith, as one of the Kuunoki Gate Guardians saving Naruto from the clutches of Akatsuki during Orochimaru’s second invasion of Konoha. She then reappeared as an examiner for the Kuunoki Chuunin Exams. And she last appeared in Trials of Faith, trying to stop Akatsuki from entering the Kuunoki to capture Ruri.

(5) Inspired by the manga/anime Claymore. The half human half Youma Claymore warriors change their eye colours from silver white to brilliant gold when they use 10% of their Youki. After that, their bodies start bulging with veins and or deforming towards their Youma half instead of staying in their human form.

(6) Waisa Bado was the original character introduced in Restoration of Faith, chapter 28. He was the arrogant, obnoxious, self-absorbed cloud Nin that battled against Hinata and hurt her badly with his own form of Absolute Defence. In the second round, he fought in a 4 way battle against Neji and lost. Although he likes to portray himself as a powerful offensive fighter, his true abilities lie in his defensive power. At the end of the Chuunin Exams, Waisa Bado was punished by Naruto for inciting a fight among the contestants which resulting in some property damage in the Kuunoki. Having suffered the affects of the Tenkun no Buki (Kurei Hiraisho), Bado’s mind shattered, releasing hidden and forgotten memories of how he was experimented on by his own family in order to perfect their absolute defence. He left the Kuunoki village a changed man. Since then, Bado has worked his way quickly to the top, becoming a Jounin at 17 and then supporting the new Raikage into power, while overthrowing his own clan elders in a small Coup etat.

(7) Sakeyama Asahi was another original character introduced in Restoration of Faith, chapter 28 He was the self-conscious, quiet guy in the background of the Cloud team, terribly embarrassed by his alcohol-obsessed sister, and his other arrogant, self-righteous teammate. After spending several months in the Kuunoki under the apprenticeship of one of the Kuunoki members, Asahi was welcomed by the Hidden Cloud village a hero. It wasn’t long before he was proclaimed the new heir to the Shinobi branch of Sakeyama clan. Upon that announcement, his sister (Sakeyama Saporo) immediately gave him her summoning contract for the Nekos and started getting really into the Business branch of the Sakeyama family, running the sales of alcohol all over the country and beyond.

(8) Yes, this is the same Guren from the Sanbi arc in the Naruto Cannon. I wanted to state briefly that Akatsuki had captured the Sanbi as well as introduce future characters that may come into play. And what better way then to show that Guren (and the host of other characters, Yukimaru included) had tried to get their hands of the Sanbi, but instead of Konoha disrupting them, it was the Akatsuki, with devastating consequences. I never really did like Yukimaru, he annoyed me. So yeah, both are dead now.

(9) Kapasu Juro, is an original character that participated in the Kuunoki Chuunin exam some years ago, he first appeared in Restoration of Faith, chapter 28. He was the grandson of a former Swordsman of the Mist, but due to certain circumstances, he was a weak and useless Ninja for most of his life, having been protected by his other 2 teammates. However, at the end of the Kuunoki Chuunin exams, one of his teammates was killed in front of him by Hoshigaki Kisame, and the other teammate fell into a deep coma. Since then, Juro had become an avenger, obsessed with killing Kisame.

(10) Dokudes (Hyuuga) Jubei, the older half brother of Hinata and Hanabi. He was the unregistered son of Hyuuga Hiashi, conceived due to an affair with a Kuunoki Shinobi. After the betrayal and death of Jubei’s mother, there’s been bad blood between the Dokudes clan and the Hyuugas’. He has long lilac hair, pale eyes of the Hyuuga, and often seen in a white sleeveless shirt and long white pants. He wears hundreds of rings around his body (ears, neck, arms, wrists, ankles and waist) which are also his weapons. The rings can be used to fight, lift him into the air and or teleport things from one ring to another instantly, regardless of distance. It can also be used for spying. He first appeared in Restoration of Faith, as the leader of the Kuunoki Gate Guardians saving Naruto from the clutches of Akatsuki during Orochimaru’s second invasion of Konoha. He then reappeared as the instigator examiner for the Kuunoki Chuunin Exams. And he last appeared briefly in Trials of Faith, trying to stop Akatsuki from entering the Kuunoki to capture Ruri. He was the one who led the Kuunoki refugees to Konoha after their home was destroyed.

(11) One of the new Cannon characters introduced in the Naruto Manga. Please note, this is NOT an Original Character.

(12) Karui and Omoi are both new characters introduced in the Naruto Manga.

(13) Lightning armour is an absolute defensive type technique that only Bado can use, he basically uses the artificial chakra circulatory system created by the sashes and clasps he wears around his body to fuel an invisible armour of lightning, preventing both chakra attacks from hurting him as well as minimizing the force of any physical attacks. This technique was described in Restoration of Faith, chapter 30 when Bado was fighting against Neji in the Chuunin Exams.

(14) To read about the Lightning Hammer, please go to the character profiles page for Waisa Bado on my website, links are in my Profile’s page.

(15) To read about the Lightning Hammer, please go to the character profiles page for Sakeyama Asahi on my website, links are in my Profile’s page. This technique was also described in Restoration of Faith, chapter 35 when he fought against Kageru.

(16) In the cannon manga, Juugo fused his flesh and chakra with Sasuke, saving Sasuke’s life. But as a result, he changed into a child-like state. That’s what happened here between Juugo and Kimimaro.

Yay! Another chapter finished!

This story archived at http://www.narutofic.org/viewstory.php?sid=7339