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.../
xxx XXX xxx
xxx XXX xxx
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.
xxx XXX xxx
xxx XXX xxx
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.
xxx XXX xxx
xxx XXX xxx
“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.
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.
xxx XXX xxx
xxx XXX xxx
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.
“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.”
xxx XXX xxx
xxx XXX xxx
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.
xxx XXX xxx
xxx XXX xxx
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.”
xxx XXX xxx
xxx XXX xxx
“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.
xxx XXX xxx
xxx XXX xxx
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.
xxx XXX xxx
xxx XXX xxx
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.
xxx XXX xxx
xxx XXX xxx
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.
xxx XXX xxx
xxx XXX xxx
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!”
(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.