Standard Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Author's Notes: Well, this is my first stab at a Naruto story! I've become hooked on it ever since reading the manga extensively, so I've decided to try it out.

This story takes place after the three-year interval in which Naruto goes off to train with Jiraiya. To be more specific, RIGHT after Gaara is kidnapped by Deidara of Akatsuki. This is sort of an alternate timeline; Kankuro does not take chase, The Sand doesn't even have time to mount a response to the kidnapping of the Kazekage. They don't even have time to notify their allies of what has happened. THIS is when my story takes place.


Attention new readers! This is the author speaking from way in the future (where my writing style is drastically improved); given that it's been some time since I have started Legacy, and the other members of Akatsuki have been revealed since then, I feel the need to notify you. At the time of writing this, many identities were unknown, so I had to make adjustments.

But I will NOT update Legacy to change the new Akatsuki members. Sorry, but this is my story. Everything after chapter 249 in the manga is DISREGARDED in my eyes (though you may see some material brought over). Consider this an AU where it diverges from canon after chapter 249. Understand?

I will not change Deidara from a white-haired woman to a blonde man.

I will not change Sasori so that he has the abilities he has in the manga (if I rewrite these earlier chapters though, I might bring some). Nor will Tobi appear as his replacement.

Toya Shuu will not be renamed to Zetsu (and for good reason).

Akira, Hiroto, and Koumorimaru will not be replaced by Hidan, Kakuzu, and Konan (Kakuzu gets a flashback, and both Hidan and Konan have a 'different' role. You'll see).

The Leader of Akatsuki is NOT Pein (though Pein does appear later on in the story in a somewhat different role).

Uchiha Madara is not the Big Bad; he has a different role!

Please keep this in mind as you read.




I do not go back on my promises...

For that is my ninja way!

-Uzumaki Naruto, Ninja of Konohagakure






/Desert, Outside Sunagakure, Wind Country/

The sun was setting.

A flash of blue sped along the sands. Upon that figure in blue was the green vest of a Jonin. Upon his forehead sat a headband protector, arranged in a way that hid his left eye. Upon that headband was the symbol of Konohagakure, the Village Hidden in the Leaves. Finally, a mass of spiky silver hair sat upon his head, pointing toward his left side.

It was Hatake Kakashi the Copy Ninja.

And he was running as fast as he could towards Sunagakure, the Village Hidden in the Sand. When the great battle in Konoha had ended, he had immediately high-tailed it to Sunagakure.

After all, it was Temari and Kankuro that had notified the Leaf of the incident in the Wind Country. That had been three days ago.

Kakashi scowled, his face covered from the nose down by his blue uniform. He still couldn't believe what had happened. Akatsuki...they made their move...

Akatsuki. The criminal organization headed by nine S-Class criminals.

And they had lured Naruto to the Wind Country. After all, they possessed Gaara of the Desert...the Kazekage. The host of Shukaku, the Demon Tanuki. Kakashi knew that was motivation enough for Naruto to go to them.

But why? Why had Naruto gone? Didn't he know that was what Akatsuki wanted?

Kakashi's frown deepened as he quickly neared the outskirts of Sunagakure; soon, the village would be in his sight.

Why did Naruto go? Did he sincerely think his three years of training with Jiraiya had been enough? Even if only ONE of the Three Legendary Leafs could take on a member or two of one would be able to hold their own against all nine.

It had been a clever distraction on Akatsuki's part. Naruto had left Konoha late in the night...and by the time anyone had gotten wind of his departure, the Leaf had found itself under attack by 100 Nukenin hired by Akatsuki.

However...they had been no mere Nukenin. Although they were renegades, they were SKILLED renegades. 64 of them had been of the Chuunin level...while the 36 that remained were of the Jonin level.

The battle had been monstrous. Even Tsunade - the Fifth Hokage - had been forced to partake in the fighting.

Of course, things had gotten even WORSE when Chuunin and Jonin from the Sound had appeared...and they immediately engaged both the Leaf's Ninja and Akatsuki's Nukenin.

That had meant only one thing.

Orochimaru, grimly thought Kakashi. Why had Orochimaru gotten involved? It was known he was no longer a part of Akatsuki...but what had possessed the former Leaf ninja to send Sound ninja to Konoha? Especially when he had not even led the charge against the Leaf...

That could only mean that he had gone to where Akatsuki was as well...but why? Why would Orochimaru go to Akatsuki even though there was clearly some bad blood between them?

Sunagakure was in sight. My questions will have to wait...I have to find out what's happened!

As Kakashi neared Sunagakure, he suddenly saw something else.

A gigantic coliseum made of hardened sand.

Kakashi's eye narrowed; no doubt Gaara had constructed that. But did that mean he had escaped...or that Akatsuki had managed to utilize his powers somehow?

He didn't want to think about the latter. Either way, knew that Naruto - dead or alive - was inside that coliseum. He quickly changed his direction and ran towards the monument of hardened sand.

As Kakashi neared the coliseum, he saw a large figure leaning against its outer wall. To his shock, it was none other than Jiraiya.

Jiraiya's red and green robes were stained with blood: the result of a large wound on the left shoulder. His horned forehead protector was cracked and on the verge of crumbling into pieces. His long, unkempt mane of white hair was also stained with blood. He quietly raised his head, revealing dark eyes filled with weariness. The Legendary Sannin chuckled quietly at the sight of Kakashi. "Heh...Kakashi of the Sharingan...I take it the Nukenin have been dealt with?"

Kakashi nodded. Jiraiya had left Konoha to find Naruto...even though the village had been under heavy attack, the Toad Sennin had left the village. It showed how valuable Naruto was...after all, he had the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox sealed within him. Or perhaps it was because the master cared for his apprentice. "Yes. But we were also attacked by the Sound."

This caused Jiraiya to raise an eyebrow out of surprise. Just as soon, however, he chuckled. "I see...that isn't so surprising now. After all, Orochimaru and his assistant Kabuto came...Orochimaru is the one who gave me this wound..."

As I thought, thought Kakashi with a frown. Orochimaru HAD come...but that didn't answer the question as to why. "But why? What business does he have with Akatsuki?"

"He has no business with Akatsuki...but his business was with the one person that came here," replied Jiraiya, slightly grinning as he clutched his woudned shoulder. "Gah...I had come to assist Naruto...I even summoned Gama-Bunta...but to think I was caught from behind by surprise..."

"Pardon me..." interrupted Kakashi. "But what person are you referring to?"

This brought a smile to the Sannin's face. "Heh heh...isn't it obvious?" He paused to glance back at the Sharingan user. "I am referring to the other male of Team Seven..."

This caused Kakashi's eye to widen. "You can't mean..."

"Uchiha...Sasuke..." interrupted Jiraiya. "...he came here on his own...freed Gaara...then he attacked Itachi..." Jiraiya grunted as he readjusted his position. "Soon after that, Orochimaru showed up to reclaim his runaway 'prize'...soon after I got injured, Gaara created this coliseum of sand and used his chakra to harden it...I don't know of anything else after that..."

Kakashi frowned. None of this makes any sense...Sasuke shows up and frees Gaara from did he escape from Orochimaru? WHY did he escape from Orochimaru? Without saying anything, he reached into one of his vest's pockets and pulled out the only first-aid equipment he carried: medical bandages and antibiotic ointment. "Here."

Jiraiya was silent as Kakashi handed him the materials before scaling the wall of sand. The Legendary Sannin frowned as he glanced down at his wound. He thought of Naruto. Then he grumbled. That no-talent bum...he'd better have lived.

As Kakashi scaled the wall, his thoughts were in a frenzy. Why had Sasuke shown up out of the blue? To fight Itachi of course. Why had he freed Gaara? No answer. Why had he escaped Orochimaru? Has he...changed? Was the Kazekage injured? No answer. Was Naruto injured or worse? I hope not.

He stepped onto the top of the coliseum's wall.

And he literally gasped. ...what...what...what is this?

The inside of the coliseum was basically a desert that surrounded a sheet of black obsidian; Akatsuki had obviously brought the sheet here for some purpose. Kakashi could see a seal marked upon the obsidian in red dye. It was immensely complex...and in the center of the seal were two symbols in the shape of rectangles...and they were as big as a human...

However, Kakashi's attention was more focused on everything else.

Ten corpses were lying throughout the coliseum at various spots. Kakashi quietly shifted his headband, revealing his right eye: the Sharingan. He gazed at the corpses one by one, using his Sharingan to determine how they had died.

One corpse was that of Hoshigaki Kisame, the wielder of Samehada. Speaking of Samehada, the blade was broken in half, lying by his side. His black cloak - lined with the red clouds of the Akatsuki members - was in tatters, and his mouth was open out of shock. His light blue skin was pale, and his normally beady yellow eyes were wide with shock. If I'm correct...a powerful Genjutsu technique was looks like he died out of fright...

The next corpse was of a woman. Her white hair was tied into a ponytail...but it was almost burnt off. Her entire body, cloak and all, was burnt. Near her chest and abdomen, her clothing was completely burned away, revealing horrible, horrible wounds. Around her body sat pieces of gray clay. Hmm...she looks like the woman Kankuro and Temari said captured Gaara. They said she used explosive clay...and from the looks of her wounds, her own explosive clay was turned against her.

The third corpse was that of a man. His head was bald, save for a few strands of dark hair. What shocked Kakashi was the sight of a wooden scorpion tail protruding from the bottom of his spinal cord...and protruding from other parts of his body were wooden appendages that had various knives and daggers protruding from them. As for the aforementioned tail, it lay beside him, its tip covered in red blood. The man's neck had a hole in it; probably from the tail. Hmm...he uses Kugutsu no jutsu, like Kankuro...except his puppets have been surgically grafted into his body. As for his cause of looks like his own tail was used forcefully against him...against his own control.

The fourth corpse was that of another man. His face was splint into two halves thanks to face paint; the right side was black, while the left side was white. His light green hair was matted with sweat, as was most of his body. The oddest thing was the large, plant-like mouth that surrounded his body, as if threatening to engulf it. It looked like a Venus Flytrap. Protruding from his fingers were thorny vines, and they - like the rest of the vegetation that lay around his body - were wilting away into brown, flaky material. His arms looked like they had been burned by fire, and his torso was crushed. He used plants as a weapon, and most likely as a defense as well...his arms were burned so that he couldn't utilize his chakra effectively enough to use his plants extensively...I think. As for his looks like it was if he were stepped on. Maybe it was Gama-Bunta...?

The next body was that of a female. Her red hair was short and spiky, save for the long strands that covered her left eye, which was red in color. Instead of arms, she possessed brown, leathery bat-like wings. Protruding from her toes were claws. Her ears were bleeding, and her sternum had been cut away, revealing her crushed heart and lungs.Hmm...wings of a bat, toes of a bat...maybe she has a contract with bats, allowing her to use Kuchiyose no jutsu? As for her bleeding ears...I think she used sound waves to both see and attack, as bats can't see with their eyes...I think the same went for her in this transformed state. Her sound waves were probably amplified and reflected back at her, overwhelming her ears...and in the disorientation that followed, she was attacked up close.

The sixth body was an absolute giant of a man, easily at nine feet when standing at full height. His entire body was made of solid gray stone...and there was no blood visible around the body. However, several parts of the body showed needle-like points of attack near the head, neck, chest, wrists, ankles, and thighs. His eyes - which were utterly blank - were made of rock as well. On the forehead were tiny grooves etched in an intricate pattern; the sign of a seal that had once been, but was no longer. Wrapped around his right bicep was a headband protector...and on it was the symbol of Iwagakure, the Village Hidden in the Stone. That is no mere transformation jutsu...with the exception of his inner coils, all of his body was transformed into stone, even the brain. That way, there would be no weak points...and with his inner coil system intact, he used his chakra to move the body according to his own will. That seal was probably used to keep the chakra contained...but the seal was removed...and the punctureswere made on or near his opening points so that his chakrea would flow out more quickly. Without his chakra, he simply ceased to be. Of course, all of his thinking was just logical conjecture. He could be wrong. Perhaps the puncture points were the weak points on the body...the Jonin didn't know for sure.

The seventh corpse was that of another man. His silver hair and uniform were instantly recognizable to Kakshi. It was Yakushi Kabuto, the right-hand man of Orochimaru. His body was lying facedown on the ground. His body showed no signs of battle, aside from a few bruises near the right arm. Even so, Kakashi knew he was dead. Kabuto...he must have been so heavily damaged during the battle that he had to use his healing ability...but in doing so, he exhausted all of his chakra...and he died.

The next body was that of a man. A headband protector tied down his short, blonde hair, and it had the symbol of the Hidden Waterfall Village on it. His Akatsuki cloak was gone, revealing blue sweatpants and a lean, muscular body. His torso was lined with sweat, and the sand around him was wet with perspiration. On his right pectoral was a tattoo of three wavy lines. Kakashi frowned. I recognize that symbol...he's Akira of the Waterfall's Fujiwara clan...a clan that specializes in the use of steam. Akira was the progeny of that clan...but a decade ago, he tried to kill the leader of his village, but failed. He joined Akatsuki soon after...and judging by all of the perspiration on the body, he exhausted himself using his chakra-powered steam. His body couldn't handle the strain...but he is a tough adversary. It would've taken something extraordinary to kill him by fatigue.

The ninth body was instantly familiar to Kakashi. The build, the frame...and the other defining factor was the Leaf headband that lay beside the body. The actual metal protector was split in the middle. It was the body of Uchiha Itachi...and it was missing a head. Kakashi was visibly shocked. Itachi...the one who killed all but one of the Uchiha clan...the one who possessed the Mangekyou Sharingan, the highest level of the Sharingan mirror-wheel eye...I wonder who killed him in such a fashion?

The tenth and final corpse was that of a well-built man wrapped in dark red robes. The robes were in tatters, revealing a bandaged body underneath. However, it was apparent that the bandages were not for wounds; they were for keeping the muscles tense in those areas. However, the chest possessed a gaping, bloody hole...right over the heard. And, like Itachi, it was lacking a head. That has to be the body of Orochimaru...and if what Jiraiya said was true...he had come here after Sasuke so that he could take the Uchiha's body as his own...

Kakashi finally let it sink into him.

Akatsuki was dead. Kabuto, traitor to the Leafs, was dead. Orochimaru, hated adversary of Konoha, was dead.

No...there should be nine Akatsuki members. There were only eight Akatsuki corpses. The Copy Ninja grimaced; where was the ninth body?

Suddenly, Kakashi remembered something. Where was Gaara? Where was Sasuke? Where was Naruto?

"You missed the battle."

Kakashi suddenly glanced to his right to see a familiar figure rising out of the wall of sand.

It was the Kazekage: Gaara of the Desert. Gaara's dark-brown robes were matted with sweat, and the sleeves of his uniform were ripped off. His left arm was covered in dried blood; the cut was near his bicep, but a bandage of sand had closed it up. As a result of that, the bleeding had stopped. He also had several large bruises around his torso and right arm. Even so, despite his injuries and fatigue, his face and eyes showed no emotion; the gourd on his back, however, looked to be in impeccable condition. His blood-red hair ruffled in the sudden wind. "Hatake Kakashi, Jonin of Konoha. Why are you here?"

Kakashi quickly answered. "Kazekage-sama...I came because your siblings notified the Leaf of Akatsuki's presence here at Sunagakure."

Gaara said nothing. However, his eyes enlarged ever so slightly...a sign that he was relieved for the help. "Are you the only one to come?"

"I am only the first. Soon, fellow Konoha ninja - both Chuunin and Jonin - will arrive. The Fifth, however, has elected to remain behind in Konoha...because Nukenin hired by Akatsuki attacked us. She has to stay to keep the village strong."

"Of course...being a Kage is a troublesome duty," responded Gaara quietly. He quietly glanced southward toward his village. Inwardly, he was glad that Akatsuki had not touched the village...however, that had been due to the fact that a powerful steam barrier had been set up by the one known as Fujiwara Akira (fortunately, Kankuro and Temari had been long gone by the time the barrier had been set up). Upon his death, the barrier had fallen. Soon, ninja from the Sand would arrive.

The Kazekage glanced down at his bloody left arm. "Shukaku got a good workout...but his battle was not as strenuous as the one the Nine Tails experienced."

Kakashi froze. Nine Tails...? "Kyuubi...?"

Gaara pointed downward at the arena of sand. "Look."

Kakashi did.

And he finally saw them.

Footprints in the sand.

There were the prints of webbed feet: the sign of Gama-Bunta. There were the long, curvy lines indicative of a snake: perhaps a sign of Manda, an anaconda summon of Orochimaru's. There were also tanuki prints: those of Shukaku, the Demon Sand Spirit. But the last kind of paw print was far more commonplace.

Fox prints.

Kyuubi...could it be...that the seal...was broken? It would explain why he couldn't see Naruto...Kyuubi would have run off by now...

"You worry for nothing," said Gaara, his eyes calm as ever. "You only need to look harder. Look down at the Obsidian Seal."

Kakashi looked down at the slab of obsidian...and he suddenly gaped. He saw two figures down there.

Living figures.

He quickly dashed down the wall and towards the obsidian sheet.

Gaara sighed as he quietly charged his hand with chakra. With a quick jab, the Kazekage thrust his right hand into the top of the coliseum wall. Moments later, the entire coliseum began disintegrating into normal sand, falling back down towards the desert. Gaara slowly floated down on a platform of sand, knowing that the collapsing coliseum would bring Sand ninja.

Kakashi meanwhile, leapt onto the Obsidian Seal...and then he gazed to his right.

Naruto was sitting near the edge of the black slab...and his entire body was covered with blood. His hair was matted with blood. His orange and black uniform was in tatters. A number of cuts lined his scalp, cheeks, torso, arms, waist, and legs...and yet, despite his condition, he was smiling.

Kakashi glanced to his left.

And he nearly gaped.

Sitting there on the ground, legs crossed, was Sasuke. His skin was as black as midnight...and his forearms and shins were covered with slanted spikes. His nails had turned into claws. His spiky hair was short and as white as snow. Two white angel's wings protruded from his shoulder blades...and his eyes...

Kakashi could not believe what he saw in those red eyes. Instead of three curvy dots...he saw a three-pointed shuriken. That is...the Mangekyou Sharingan...Sasuke...he has taken his the highest level...

And beside Sasuke were two things Kakashi had missed during his body count.

The heads of Itachi...and Orochimaru. Sasuke...did he...beat them...on his own...?

"So idiot..." said Naruto, out of the blue. "How do you feel? I bet that Level 3 Curse Seal's making you feel like crap..."

Kakashi's eye widened. Level 3? That would explain why it looks different compared to the Level 2 Curse form Naruto told me about three years ago...but how has Sasuke's 'Heaven' seal been upgraded to Level 3?

"Kukukuku..." laughed Sasuke, in the style of Orochimaru. "Don't get cute with me dunce. You aren't looking so good yourself." Even as he spoke, the cursed power began to recede back into the seal; Sasuke was reverting to normal.

Naruto chuckled; the way they were carrying on, it was as if they hadn't noticed Kakashi. "So...I've annihilated Orochimaru. You've killed the way, you should be thankful I left him for you..."

Sasuke smirked as his body reverted to its normal color. "I am grateful...but I'm afraid I have no reason to live now...have anything to say to that?" With a blink, his eyes reverted to normal; the Mangekyou Sharingan was no longer visible.

"...yeah." Naruto smirked as he stared at Sasuke's red eyes. "Find a new reason...cause if you don' else are you going to make a decent me...? After all..." He then flashed a toothy - yet bloody - grin at the last of the Uchiha. "I may have beaten Akatsuki...but a life in Konoha wuoldn't be the same without 'Mr. Avenger'."

"Dumbass," muttered Sasuke, a strange smile on his face. "...however...I'm open to suggestions."

"Give me a little while...I'll think of something...I always do..." replied Naruto.

With that said, both boys slumped to the ground. Naruto was unconscious due to his wounds...and Sasuke was unconscious due to the huge amount of chakra eaten up by the Level 3 Curse Seal and the Mangekyou Sharingan.

Kakashi immediately checked both boys. They were alive...but barely. Naruto needed IMMEDIATE treatment...and Sasuke needed his chakra replenished. Still...they accomplished the impossible...

Akatsuki had for one.

"Help is in sight."

Kakashi turned around to see Jiraiya - his shoulder bandaged up - climbing onto the slab of obsidian. The Copy Ninja glanced behind him to see four Jonin and six Chuunin advancing from the east.

Jonin of the Sand: Kankuro and Temari.

Jonin of the Leaf: Maito Gai and Hyuga Neji.

Chuunin of the Leaf: Haruno Sakura, Rock Lee, Hyuga Hinata, Inuzuka Kiba, Yamanaka Ino, and Nara Shikamaru.

Oh, and one dog named Akamaru.

Jiraiya was silent as he gazed at Sasuke...and then at Naruto. "That foolish dunderhead...taking on Akatsuki on his own."

"And yet he won...and as a plus, Orochimaru was killed...and Sasuke was brought back," replied Kakashi. " member of Akatsuki isn't here."

Jiraiya nodded. I know...the missing member is the leader of Akatsuki...why didn't he show up? I don't even know what kind of abilities he possesses...


Gaara was silent as Kankuro and Temari suddenly appeared at his side. "Siblings. You are injured."

"It doesn't matter, I mean Kazekage-sama," sputtered Kankuro as he looked at Gaara's left arm.

"No need for all honesty, this is a time to relax," said Gaara, his voice calm as usual. "Because of Naruto...Akatsuki has fallen..."

"Naruto?" yelped Temari. "You mean...he beat Akatsuki on his own?"

Gaara shook his head. "The Uchiha, that Sannin, and I helped...but Naruto was the deciding factor..." Of course, Gaara had not - and could not, and never would - forget the sight of Kyuubi, stampeding inside the coliseum, attacking Akatsuki. Naruto...he is truly like me...he has a monser inside of him...yet he never lost himself. He never let himself succumb to the power of the demon...

As the Kazekage watched the Leaf ninja advance toward the Obsidian Seal, he let a small smile tug at his lips; a rarity for him. are not a maelstrom. You are much greater than are a great typhoon of power. Your power affects the land, the sea, and the sky...and yet, you keep it in control...your power utterly crushes those you seek to harm...but your power ripples out, affecting those precious to you...and their lives are made better by that power. are truly unique...


Sakura gasped at the sight of her two former teammates, lying on the slab of obsidian. "SASUKE! NARUTO!" On impulse, Sakura immediately rushed to Sasuke's side.

Kakashi sweatdropped. Some things never change...

Kiba snorted as he rubbed his noise irritably. "Geez! This place reeks of's making my nose itch." From inside his jacket, Akamaru barked out of concurrence. "Ruff!"

Shikamaru grumbled as he stared at the bodies of Akatsuki. " bothersome."

Ino resisted the urge to strike her friend in the back of his head. "What the heck are you talking about? What's bothersome about Akatsuki and Orochimaru dying?"

Shikamaru sighed. "You misunderstand..." Shikamaru was truly glad about the deaths of Akatsuki and Orochimaru; on the way here, Gai had explained everything he knew about Akatsuki and their presence in Sunagakure. He had also gone further in-depth about Orochimaru, due to the Sound's attack on the Leaf. "The reason I'm bothered is because these corpses will have to be disposed of. After all, their secret jutsu and bloodline abilities can be obtained from their to avoid any hassle, we'll have to contact the home villages of these ninja. With the exceptions of Orochimaru, Kabuto, and Itachi, all of these other ninja belong to different clans. They won't like it if any of their secrets are surrendered."

"...oh," replied a bewildered Ino. "That makes sense..." I guess.

Neji, meanwhile, was gazing at Naruto with his Byakugan: the Bloodline Limit of the Leaf's Hyuga clan. looks like most of his opening points have been closed...yet he was still able to come out on top...did he use that strange red chakra that he used to beat me...?

"OOOOOH!" whooped Lee as he gazed at the battleground. "This was the home to a glorious and valiant battle! Such a battle had to be one of legends! My only regret was that I was unable to partake in such a great conflict!" Immediately afterwards, he showed his nice-guy pose - a thumbs-up accompanied by a toothy grin - to Gai. "But do not worry Gai-sensei! Once we get back to Konoha, I'll do 2,000 one-handed pushups on each hand to prepare for the next legendary battle!"

This exuberant proclamation got a round of sweatdrops from Sakura, Ino, Kakashi, Jiraiya, and Kiba. Bonehead.

"That's the spirit Lee! Let the fiery blood of your youth spur you on!" cheered Gai. However, he was not so cheerful on the inside. Unfortunately for you Lee, this was no mere battle...this was more akin to a clash of titans...not even I would have escaped such a fight with my life.

Hinata looked down at Naruto...the bloody, unconscious Naruto. She quietly pulled out a jar of medicinal cream from a pocket in her green Chuunin vest, fumbling with its lid. Her dark hair fluttered in the wind of the desert. The uncertainty in the air matched the concern and worry in her eyes. ...Naruto-kun...

Naruto opened one eye.

Hinata squeaked. This caused Neji, Lee, and Jiraiya to turn their attention towards the blonde ninja. Naruto chuckled as Neji stepped into sight. "Hey...Hinata..."

The dark-haired girl nevously mumbled, "Y-Y-Yes N-Naruto-kun...?"

" find out...if you watched me...kick Neji's ass..."

The statement caused Neji and Hinata's eyes to widen. The white-eyed Jonin suddenly blanched out of surprise. He's referring to my battle with him at the Chuunin selection exam over three years ago... As Neji thought about it, he chuckled. Heh...despite being in such poor condition after such a tremendous battle, you bring up something so old and so off-topic you have no choice but to laugh...Uzumaki Naruto, you are one interesting guy...

Hinata giggled at Naruto's statement. She quietly fumbled with the lid of her jar as she said, "N-Naruto-kun...if you don't"

" thanks Hinata..." Naruto smirked as he got to his feet. This caused the two Hyuga to pale. "I can still stand..."

"NARUTO-KUN!" roared Lee, his right hand clenched into a fist. "You are too injured to stand! Let us escort you back home!"

"Feh. Shows what you know thick brows," retorted Naruto as he slowly walked toward Sasuke's position. I've still got enough chakra to make it home on my own...or should I say, YOU have enough chakra to get me home.

A deep, monstrous voice suddenly blasted through his mind.


Yeah, I love you too...NOT. Naruto resisted the urge to snicker; ever since he had gone under Jiraiya's training to access the power of the Nine Tails chakra, the voice of Kyuubi had become a more commonplace part of his thoughts. Whether or not it was a good thing, he had yet to know. On one hand, the Fox Demon had a knack for ticking him off to no end. On the other hand, when Jiraiya left to gather 'information' (Ha! Yeah right! Stupid super pervert...), the voice of Kyuubi was a welcome break from the solitude of loneliness.

Naruto stepped in front of Sasuke, his blue eyes staring at Sakura. Her hands were covered with a green aura, a sign she was trying to help Sasuke recover with her own chakra. A wry smile came to his face. "Heh heh...guess you really haven't changed Sakura-chan."

Sakura looked up at Naruto...and she immediately flushed out of embarrasement. Sasuke looked pretty fine (Inner Sakura: In more ways than one...look at those muscles! YOWZA!)...and here was Naruto, covered from head-to-toe with blood. "Eh...I guess...I still need on my priorities...huh?"

Naruto smiled as he grabbed Sasuke and hoisted him over his shoulder. "Well...guess you'll have plenty of time to work on your priorities on your way back to Konoha."

"What are you talking about Naruto?" asked Kakashi out of concern.

"Simple," replied Naruto with a wide smile. "I'm going back to Konoha. I'll be there in no time."

"ARE YOU NUTS?" roared Sakura.

"SASUKE NEEDS ATTENTION!" yelled Ino. The two girls quickly glanced at each other afterwards.

"You're in no condition to even move," said Jiraiya, his dark eyes staring quietly at Naruto. Secretly, he was glad Naruto was alive...but he'd never give the bum the satisfaction of hearing THAT.

Naruto said nothing.

At least, not at first.

Seconds later, he chuckled. "Stupid Pervert-Sennin...don't underestimate me!"

Jiraiya nearly facefaulted. "I'VE TOLD YOU NOT TO CALL ME THAT!"

"Heh heh...sure..." Naruto smiled at everyone. "See you back in Konoha."

Then, with a yellow flash, he was gone. It looked like he just 'blinked' out of existence. Everyone yelped out of surprise. "WHA!" yelped Kiba. "WHERE THE HECK DID HE GO?"

Kakashi was suddenly flabbergasted. way...that was...Hiraishin no jutsu...the Flying Thunder God jutsu. That's...the Fourth's special jutsu...the technique of Konoha's Yellow Flash! How did Naruto learn it??

As if sensing Kakashi's confusion, Jiraiya coughed. "Well...when the Fourth was developing that technique as a young boy, he didn't have the precise chakra control needed to use it." The Flying Thunder God was a technique that utilized a kind of 'teleportation'; the user sent out an invisible line of chakra to the target destination. The user then transported his body along that stream of chakra, combining it with his own chakra to 'catapult' him to the end of the line. Hiraishin no jutsu...the Flying Thunder God technique. It required incredibly precise chakra control...enough to send out a long, invisible line of chakra, and then to teleport yourself along the line using your energy. "Even though he came up with the idea, I helped him develop the control necessary to master it. Granted, it isn't the perfected version that the Yondaime finally made, but the kid ain't that far yet."

"...I take it you gave Naruto the same kind of training." Kakashi was now stoic.

Jiraiya smirked. "Yes...but the ironic thing is this: Naruto was the same age as the Yondaime when he mastered the original version of the Flying Thunder God."

Kakashi was visibly surprised. However, underneath his facemask, he was smiling. you even HAVE limits?


/The Fifth Hokage's Office, Konohagakure, Fire Country/

Tsunade - the Fifth Hokage of Konoha - was upset. Blasted Akatsuki...blasted Orochimaru...

It had been about three days since the battle had ended. The outer walls of the village were demolished, and everything else in the immediate vicinity of the walls was destroyed. Right near the end of the battle, Kankuro and Temari of the Sand had arrived. They assisted...and they had told of Akatsuki's presence outside Sunagakure.

Upon the end of that battle, Kakashi had immediately departed for the Wind Country. Tsunade sent two Jonin and six Chuunin - along with Kankuro and Temari - to follow the Copy Ninja to the Sand.

And she was upset because she had yet to hear anything. What's taking so long? They should've reported via carrier pigeon by now...

A flicker of yellow suddenly appeared in front of her desk. In the instant it appeared,it was replaced by a bloody Naruto, who was holding an unconscious Sasuke. Tsunade paled as she yelled, "N...NARUTO?"

Naruto smirked, despite the fact he felt like crap. " old hag..."

Then he slumped to the floor.


/Secret Cavern, Fire Country/

A man clad in the black-and-red cloud cloak of Akatsuki frowned. Sitting on a rock in front of him were eight kunai knives. Strapped to them were strands of hair from the other eight members of Akatsuki. They glowed with white light as long as each strand's owner was still alive. This was due to a special jutsu of his that could determine whether or not someone was dead or alive from a distance; the trick was creating a chakra link between the person, the part of their body, and the medium...which was the kunai knife in this case.

Hours ago, they began to go out one-by-one. Finally, the last one - Akira's - had been neutralized less than an hour ago.

"So...they have fallen..."

The man grumbled. How could this have happened? How could everything have unraveled? He had been so close to obtaining Shukaku and Kyuubi...but the plan had failed.

The man cursed to himself. If he had gone, everything would've gone according to plan...but he had not been able to bring himself to go to Sunagakure.

It hadn't been out of had been out of uncertainty. The host of Shukaku was no problem to him...but the host of Kyuubi was another matter altogether.

The man scowled as he stood. His body became awash in an orange chakra, illuminating him and the dark cavern around him. The only part of his body that could be seen was his hair and his eyes; his cloak covered the rest. His short brown hair was spiky and it jutted upwards. His eyes were colored a piercing, deadly green.

I did better alone...I defeated the other three before I formed Akatsuki...and I shall defeat the last two alone. Shukaku will fall first...and then, I shall face the host of Kyuubi.

The man sighed as his aura died away, shrouding him in darkness once more.

"Gaara...Uzumaki're both mine."


To be continued...

Next time...

Return to Konoha! Tale of the Great Battle's Beginning!


Author's Notes: Well, what do you think? In the next several chapters, Naruto and Sasuke will have flashbacks to their battle in Sunagakure.

See you soon, and please review!