Standard Disclaimer: Himura Battosai…HITEN MITSURUGI-RYU: I DON'T OWN NARUTO!

Author's Notes: Who do you think would win…Hatake Kakashi…or Hitokiri Battosai of Rurouni Kenshin?

To the reviews!

Dragon Man 180: If Naruto yelled out of frustration, that would be admitting defeat to Kyuubi. You know Naruto wouldn't do THAT. ;)

Cloud-821: Technically, you can't LOSE talent…sometimes, however, you have trouble accessing it (AKA: Writer's block). :P

the essence of popsicles: I know about the spelling error. Don't care. I've stricken the extra 'U'. Why? Cause I felt like it. THE AUTHOR HAS SPOKEN! (goes to get a drink)

Liliath: True that.

Ann: Here's your update.

PersonaJXT: That's true. Except that's not what happened here. Read on.

o.o: Interesting name. :P

Begin!

xxxx

Two-on-Two! Double Combo Attack!

xxxx

/Kazekage's Palace, Sunagakure, Wind Country/

The full moon glistened down upon Sunagakure. The wind howled as it picked up the sand, turning the dark horizon into a dusty brown. The sky was empty of clouds…and of stars. Only the moon had decided to show up tonight.

From the rooftop of the Kazekage's palace, Temari sighed. Her Jonin uniform – a set of purple robes that were tied around her body by a black sash, plus slip-on shoes and her Sand hitai-ate – ruffled in the blustery wind. Her eyes were staring up at the moon, which seemed so bright in such darkness.

It reminded her of the events of the past week.

One week ago, Akatsuki had kidnapped Gaara…and that was when she and Kankuro had been sent to notify their ally, the Leaf, of what had happened. They had managed to get far enough away to escape Akatsuki's notice…and they had also witnessed the raising of the steam barrier by one of the eight members of Akatsuki.

Four days ago, they had arrived at Konoha…and they had assisted the Leaf in fending off their attackers: the Nukenin of Akatsuki and the Oto-nin (Sound Ninja) from the Hidden Sound Village. After the battle, they had returned to Sunagakure with eight Konoha-nin.

Yesterday evening, they had arrived at Sunagakure to find that Naruto had defeated the Akatsuki invaders, with help from Gaara, Sasuke, and Jiraiya. Not only that, but Orochimaru and Kabuto – nemeses of Konoha – had also been vanquished.

Temari sighed…and then she suddenly grimaced as a spike of pain washed over her injured stomach. She had been injured in the battle in Konoha…but it was mostly a flesh wound.

A very painful one at that, bitterly thought Temari.

Still, she was happy. Akatsuki was gone, save for one (or so she had been told). Gaara was safe…and he would continue to serve the Sand as their Kazekage.

"You okay sis?"

Temari turned around to see Kankuro, wearing plain black pajamas. It was late at night, and he had actually decided to go to sleep. Temari, meanwhile, had been unable to sleep…and thus, had seen no reason to remove her clothing. Yet.

She quietly nodded. "Yeah…just watching Gaara."

Watching Gaara?

Yes; on the roof of a small building adjacent to the Kazekage's Palace, Gaara was sitting there. He was staring up into the sky, quietly letting sand swirl around him like a miniature whirlwind.

Kankuro smirked as he ran a hand through his dark brown hair. "Heh. Don't you mean 'Kazekage'?"

Temari irritably whacked Kankuro on the left shoulder. This caused him to wince. "OW! That hurt!"

"Then don't be a smart aleck. You know we can call him Gaara when no one else is around," retorted Temari.

"I know that!" Kankuro irritably rubbed his left shoulder; it had been the target of a powerful Water element ninjutsu in the battle for Konoha. Stupid girl…can't even take a joke.

The two siblings silently watched their younger brother Gaara stare into the sky…into the darkness…and into the moon…

Temari quietly looked back up as she thought of the events of four days ago…

xxxx

/Temari's Flashback/

/Four Days Ago/

/Outside Konohagakure, Fire Country/

"How much further Temari?" yelled Kankuro from the base of a giant oak tree. His sister Temari was on the very top of the tree, scouting out the area ahead.

No response.

"Temari?"

Still no response.

Kankuro angrily roared, "TEMARI! ARE YOU DAYDREAMING UP THERE?"

Thip.

Temari quietly landed on the grass beside her younger brother. Kankuro – wearing his Jonin outfit (black uniform with a black head covering, as well as purple face paint) – angrily demanded, "Why the heck didn't you respond?"

"I saw Konoha…"

"And?"

Temari raised her head, staring into Kankuro's black eyes with dark green irises full of uncertainty. "And…it's under attack."

A thunderbolt of shock ran through Kankuro. "No way! What the heck??"

"I know…prepare yourself Kankuro." Temari tapped the giant fan roped to her back before leaping off into the branches.

Kankuro grimaced. What rotten luck…oh well, at least Karasu, Kuroari, and Sanshouuo will get a decent workout. Yes…the Crow, the Black Ant, and the Salamander would get a workout indeed.

The two Sand Jonin made it to the outer wall of Konohagakure in less than three minutes. Temari quickly yelled, "SPLIT UP!"

"RIGHT!" With that said, the two split up. Temari quickly dashed away from her younger brother. Part of her regretted splitting up…but she knew that they worked better alone. Her wind-based abilities would screw up Kankuro's puppet no jutsu.

In a matter of seconds, Temari found an enemy. A bald Nukenin wearing nothing but gray sweatpants and a brown headband was dealing with three Chuunin; she recognized them as Hyuga Hinata, Aburame Shino, and Inuzuka Kiba. Oh, and there was a little dog named Akamaru.

"Katon; Kanryushiikaa! Fire Element: Fire Dragon Seeker!" The Nukenin blew out five different strands of dragon-shaped fire from his mouth. Two of the strands sought out Kiba and Akamaru.

"AH! FIRE! HOT!" yelped Kiba as he and Akamaru both tried to dodge the fiery dragon strands. The ninja was unable to cast a jutsu.

Two other strands sought out Shino. The calm, even-headed Chuunin quickly back-stepped away from the two tongues of flame. When they came too close, he would raise his arms. Sticking to his forearms were shields made of destruction bugs that had been reinforced with chakra…the shields made for a fine defense. But that was all he could do.

The last strand targeted Hinata. Since she only had one to deal with, she could effectively alternate between dodging and attacking. Unfortunately, the bald Nukenin was too good at evading her strikes and countering with lightning-quick punches and kicks. Even with her Byakugan bloodline limit, she couldn't track the Nukenin's counters.

The Nukenin smirked. "Come on. Can't I have SOME fun?"

"I'll give you fun! Ninpou; Sunasenpuu! Sand Whirlwind!"

The Nukenin whirled around to see a cyclone made of sand rushing toward him. The bald renegade yelped as he was picked and launched into a building by the whirlwind.

"RUFF!" barked Akamaru as he saw the source of the attack. Kiba did too. "Well…look who's decided to show up!"

Temari smiled, bracing her fan beside her. "Yo. Need any help?"

xxxx

/Naruto's Flashback/

/Yesterday Morning/

/Outside Sunagakure, Wind Country/

On the Obsidian Seal, the five members of Akatsuki sat silently, watching Deidara and Sasori fight the demon vessel and his sensei.

"Hmm…it's been an impressive bout so far," commented Akira as he flipped a page in his Icha Icha Paradise book. Imagine how he'd react if he knew Jiraiya was the author.

Yagami Hiroto wiped some of the sweat off of his head with one hand; the sun was now beating down upon them with its terrible, terrible heat. "Indeed."

"But now that Deidara and Sasori are going to use their combo attacks, it's all over…that's why they always go on missions together…because their abilities compliment each other so well." Koumorimaru snickered. "There's no way the fox brat and his teacher will be able to win."

Shuu chuckled quietly. "I wouldn't bet on that…they are master and apprentice, after all. It would not be surprising to see that they have combination attacks as well…"

"Let's just watch," interrupted Itachi. The Akatsuki ninja resumed their task of keeping Gaara sealed.

xxxx

Sasori and Deidara stood silently as they stared at Naruto and Jiraiya. The fox boy wiped the sweat off his brow irritably; the sun was getting to him.

GETTING NERVOUS?

Of course not! It's just getting hot!

EXCUSES, EXCUSES.

WE'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FREAKIN' DESERT!

YOU CALL THIS SANDY PLAIN A DESERT? SURELY YOU JEST.

I don't even wanna KNOW what deserts are like where you're from.

A SHAME. I WOULD CERTAINLY ENJOY WATCHING YOUR SKIN MELT.

Naruto shook his head to ignore the demon fox's words. "Gah…so…how much chakra did you pour into your Rasengan?"

"Not nearly as much as I wanted to," commented the irritable Pervert-Sennin. "I could only get one-fifth of the chakra I wanted into the ball before I had to attack. Otherwise, she would've dodged before the attack connected, and I would've wasted chakra."

Naruto snorted. "Pathetic…"

POW!

"LIKE YOU'RE ONE TO JUDGE!" roared Jiraiya as Naruto painfully clutched his aching head, thanks to the Sannin's fist.

As the two Akatsuki members watched the two rant at each other, Sasori glanced at Deidara. "Is your Z2 clay ready?"

Deidara nodded as her right hand's mouth spewed out blue-colored clay. With the clenching of her fist, the mound of clay was transformed into a bowl shape. She performed a quick set of katas, enlarging the bowl of clay until it was big enough to comfortably house a human.

The former Sand ninja quietly jumped into the bowl before it closed over him. Deidara smirked. "Now to show them Combo #1…yeah." With a thought, Deidara sent her ball of huge explosive clay toward Naruto and Jiraiya. "Combination One: Sneak Attack!"

Both Leaf ninjas sensed chakra heading in their direction. They turned to see a ball of chakra-reinforced clay heading in their direction. "Uh oh."

Naruto leapt high into the air, focusing chakra in his feet so he could get extra height. Jiraiya, on the other hand, performed a set of katas, yelling, "Hari Jizo; Needle Guardian!" His white hair suddenly increased in size, forming a protective barrier of spiky hair that surrounded his entire body. He crouched down to protect his face.

Then, the ball of blue clay catapulted into the air, exploding right at the midway point between Naruto and Jiraiya.

KABOOM!

Naruto grimaced as the force of the explosion sent him further upward. Jiraiya grunted as a forceful shockwave pounded him downward, forming a small crater in the sand.

Naruto grimaced as he looked down…and to his shock, the ball of clay was still in the air. However, it was now gray, and a few chunks of blue clay were stuck to it. It was also a good deal smaller. Wha…?

Suddenly, Sasori burst from within. "Peek-a-boo." Without hesitation, his tail extended high into the air and wrapped around Naruto's body.

Deidara grinned as she watched Sasori burst from the ball of clay. Heh heh…my Z2 clay is special…yeah. It only explodes on the outside, leaving behind a protective inner shell…it makes for good surprise attacks…yeah. She quickly dove into another bag of normal clay, preparing for the second combo attack.

Meanwhile…

HAVE A NICE FALL.

Naruto screamed as Sasori slung him downward towards Jiraiya, his tail acting like a slingshot.

"Hm?" Jiraiya gazed upward to see Naruto falling towards him. "AGH!" With a thought, his hair returned to normal. He quickly raised his arms to catch his idiot apprentice; he then promptly fell onto his bottom when Naruto landed on him. "YOU IDIOT!"

"YOU SHOULD'VE CAUGHT ME THEN!" roared Naruto.

SUCH SPLENDID DISHARMONY. BRINGS A TEAR TO THE EYE.

Shut up!

WHAT MAKES YOU THINK I'LL LISTEN TO YOU?

Thip.

That was the sound of Sasori landing on the tip of his tail in the soft desert sand. Panels in his heels suddenly opened up, revealing steel rods attached to a wooden axle. Sasori grinned as the axles began spinning…causing the rods to spin at high speed like helicopter blades. "They may not be like tonfa…but they're just as good!"

His tail sprang backward, building up potential energy. Then, he sprang himself forward, aiming his feet for the heads of the two Leaf ninjas.

KA-POW!

Naruto and Jiraiya were both sent flying by the hit; the steel rods had slammed into their chins. Sasori smirked as he aimed his tail into the air. The tip of the tail opened up, revealing a small barrel. "Now…to begin the second combo! Combination Two: Death Trap!"

CHOOM!

Eight black orbs were launched from the barrel in his tail. Each orb landed five yards away from them, forming a circle with a ten-yard diameter around the two Leaf ninja.

Naruto frowned. "Smoke bombs…?"

"Nothing so passive…" said Sasori, who was at least fifteen feet away from the nearest orb. Suddenly, dark green gas was expelled from the eight orbs, forming a thick cloud that loomed dangerously close to the two ninjas. "Those are poison bombs…and the corrosive gas they have just released will melt away at your skin should you touch it."

This new piece of information was disquieting to the two Leaf ninja. Jiraiya and Naruto stood back-to-back, trying to stay as far away from the toxic cloud as they could. Naruto muttered, "Crap…"

"And that's not all." Sasori's words filtered in through the gas, possessing a scarily ghostly quality. "Look above you."

Both Leaf ninja did.

High in the sky, standing atop another clay bird – this one a large falcon – was Deidara…and she held arrow-shaped pieces of explosive clay. Without any hint of qualm, she threw them downward at the master and apprentice.

Naruto grimaced. CRAP! We either die from the arrows made of explosive clay…or we die from the cloud of toxic gas!

HMM…

You got a plan?

NO. JUST WONDERING WHETHER OR NOT I'D PREFER YOU BLOWN TO BITS, OR MELTED INTO A PUDDLE OF GOO.

RRR! YOU'RE NO HELP!

GLAD TO BE OF SERVICE.

SLAP.

Naruto tilted his head to see that the Pervert-Sennin had slapped his hands together, obviously preparing a ninjutsu spell. A smirk adorned his lips. "Hmph…if they think we can be so easily done in…they're mistaken! Suiton; Kaisuihadou!" His cheeks suddenly bulged as he aimed his mouth upwards. "Water Element; Ocean Surge!"

A torrent of blue water erupted from his mouth, enveloping the explosive arrows. Deidara barely managed to dodge the fountain, veering her clay falcon away. "Well…that's not good…yeah…"

The water then fell downward, consuming the toxic gas cloud and washing it away. Sasori frowned as the water rushed toward him. Clever.

He then pointed his tail straight up.

The clay falcon soared by him, grabbing his tail. The former Sand ninja was whisked into the air by Deidara, avoiding the surge of water wrought on them by the Legendary Leaf. He glanced upward at Deidara and said, "We've used the first two combination attacks. They have failed." As he spoke, his metal wheels once again appeared beneath his feet.

"I get what you're saying. We have to use our last one…yeah," uttered Deidara as she thrust both hands into her largest bag of clay: the bag was labeled 'X'. Once she had devoured all of the clay within the bag, she hopped off the clay falcon. Simultaneously, the falcon released Sasori. His wheels began spinning in midair as Deidara landed on his shoulders. Seconds later, his wheels made contact with the last remnants of the surging water, skiing across the surface with ease. When the water receded, leaving nothing but muddy sand, his speed still remained constant. "NOW!"

"Final Combination: Doomsday!" Deidara then aimed her palms toward the ground; the mouths in them spat out the clay she had consumed, forming lines on the ground.

Jiraiya wiped his mouth clean of water as he watched Sasori skate around in the mud, letting Deidara place clay on the ground. "Hmph…they think they can simply use combination attacks whenever they please?"

"Nah…not when we have our own." Naruto smirked as he gazed at the clay falcon, which was rushing toward them. "Let's take care of that oversized pigeon first."

"Agreed," replied Jiraiya as he quickly performed a set of katas. Naruto did so as well.

Jiraiya yelled, "Doton!"

Naruto yelled, "Katon!"

Then, simultaneously, they roared, "Shoudo no jutsu! Earth and Fire Element; Burning Earth!" Jiraiya expelled a wave of hardy earth from his mouth and into the air. Naruto spewed out a stream of red fire that surrounded Jiraiya's soil, turning it into a fearsome weapon.

The burning earth and the clay falcon collided, creating a massive explosion.

Naruto eagerly pumped his fist. "BOOYAH!"

A male voice interrupted the boy's joy. "Hmm hmm hmm…don't be too quick to celebrate demon vessel."

The two Leaf ninjas turned around to see Sasori standing fifteen yards away. Atop his shoulders was Deidara, who had an odd smile on her face.

Naruto frowned. "What's with them?"

LOOK AT THE GROUND, DUNCE.

Naruto did…and paled. "Pervert-Sennin…"

"I see it…" muttered Jiraiya.

All around them were lines of explosive clay, situated in an intricate geometric pattern. In a way, it resembled a seal.

Deidara smiled as she performed a set of katas. "Now…let me show you the true power of my explosive clay." Then, she formed the sign of the Ram: O-hitsuji. "Ninpou; Hanyuubakudan!"

The large clay pattern started glowing red.

"ART OF THE EARTH BOMB!"

Then, the clay lines exploded.

KABOOM!

The explosion created a massive column of sand and fire that roared upward, taking Naruto and Jiraiya with it. The shockwave of the explosion shook the land for miles around. Clouds were blown away by the force of the explosion.

Akira's teeth chattered from the vibrations. "I-I-Impressive."

"Indeed," muttered Hiroto.

Gaara was silent as he his eyes tried their best to follow the explosion. "…" Oddly enough, he was not concerned. He knew how hardy Naruto was. As for Jiraiya…well, he WAS a Legendary Leaf.

Sasori smirked as Deidara hopped off of his shoulders. "Hmm hmm hmm…I certainly hope that the vessel for the Nine Tails isn't THAT fragile. Mantarou will have our heads if the boy turns out dead."

"Don't worry. The boy's alive…yeah. I can still sense his chakra…yeah." Deidara smirked as she stared down at the mouths embedded in her palms. Such wonderful tools…

Long ago, using forbidden scrolls, she had learned a forbidden kinjutsu technique that had had demonic origins. It led to the creation of the mouths in her hands, which were connected directly to her Inner Coils system…and thus had she developed her fighting style, using clay. Heh heh…such useful tools indeed…yeah…

"DOTON!"

Sasori and Deidara paled; that was the voice of the old Sannin.

"KINTON!"

Both Akatsuki ninjas looked up; the fire had dissipated, and the sand kicked up by the Earth Bomb was falling down…and falling from high in the air was the fox boy and his sensei.

Granted, their clothes were covered with burn marks, and they were bleeding in several places. They also possessed burn wounds…but despite that, they were attacking. Simultaneously, they roared, "Kidotekkou!"

A large mass of metal erupted from the desert, sailing into the air. It shifted and transformed, eventually turning into the shape of an armored fist. Jiraiya spat out more earth from his mouth, which coagulated upon the knuckles of the metallic fist. Both Leaf ninjas roared, "Earth and Metal Element; Earthen Iron Fist!"

The fist began spinning as it roared downward towards Sasori and Deidara. The former Sand ninja impulsively sped away on his wheels. Deidara hurriedly tried to form another bird from her clay.

CRASH!

Too late. The former Stone ninja yelped as the fist crashed into the ground in front of her. She was sent sailing through the air before landing on the soft mud of the desert floor; seconds later, she was submerged by a torrent of sand.

Sasori scowled as he glanced upward. "Accursed fools!" Panels in his knees opened up, revealing spring-loaded needle launchers. The needles sailed at high speed towards the two falling ninjas.

"Grab onto to me Naruto!" Naruto clutched onto Jiraiya's shoulders as his teacher performed a set of katas. "Aboushita no jutsu! Palm of the Frog's Tongue!" Sticky tongues emerged from Jiraiya's palms, connecting to the desert floor below.

Jiraiya and Naruto's downward velocity increased tenfold as the Legendary Leaf shot them downward, avoiding the needles by a good margin. Thankfully, a mere twenty feet above the ground, he stopped their descent. With a thought, he dismissed the tongues, and the two landed on the ground without a scratch.

The Pervert-Sennin narrowed his eyes. "Hmm…the clay-user's buried for the moment. Let's take this opportunity and strike at the puppeteer now!"

"Gotcha!" exclaimed Naruto.

"Now…to use my very first original technique." Jiraiya quickly performed a set of katas before saying, "Touton no jutsu…Art of Camouflage." Suddenly, he disappeared.

Sasori's eyes narrowed. An invisibility ninjutsu…interesting.

Naruto suddenly roared, "Kage bunshin no jutsu!" He split off into four copies; five Narutos now faced Sasori.

The former Sand ninja smirked. "Hmph. You think this will be enough…" His wheels once again appeared as thin knives jutted outward from his fingers. "BUT YOU'RE WRONG!"

He kicked up a cloud of dust as he sped at the five Narutos.

Suddenly, the real Naruto closed his eyes as he performed an entirely different set of katas. Sasori frowned. A new technique?

"Ninpou; Sanhirameki!" Naruto's eyes opened…and out came a blinding flash of light. "Solar Flash!"

Sasori's vision exploded into a million multi-colored bulbs of light. "AGH!" He screamed as he skidded to a stop, rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands to try and regain his vision. He quickly brought his tail upward to defend himself from attack while he was momentarily blinded.

That is, if he could. His tail wouldn't budge. What's going on?

"Now to show you what it means to be a ninja of the Leaf!" exclaimed Naruto as he and his clones moved into position around Sasori; two in the front, and three in the back.

Naruto leapt high into the air as his clone leapt forward, punching Sasori in the chin. "U!" The Sand ninja was sent backward…and his tail remained in place, as if stuck.

The three clones behind Sasori ran forward and skidded across the desert sand, kicking him in the back. "ZU! MA! KI!" The Sand ninja was sent flying high into the sky…and yet his tail refused to move.

Finally, Sasori regained his sight just in time to see Naruto doing a flip in midair. No! I can't lose to-

His thoughts were interrupted by Naruto's foot slamming down onto his forehead. "NARUTO RENDAN!"

Sasori gagged as he was sent flying down to the ground, face-first. He tried to move his tail…but he couldn't. WHY?

Then it became apparent as Jiraiya's camouflage ninjutsu wore off, revealing him clutching the wooden tail. Sasori's eyes widened…and then he smiled. Hmph…so I lost…looks like my puppets…were too weak…

Jiraiya thrust the razor-sharp tip of the tail into Sasori's throat. Red blood poured from the wound as the Legendary Leaf unceremoniously dropped the Akatsuki ninja to the ground.

Within seconds, the Scorpion of the Red Sands was dead.

Naruto smirked. "That's two down!" Heh…whaddya think now Kyuubi?

UNIMPRESSIVE.

WHAT!

YOU SPENT FAR TOO LONG FIGHTING HIM. I WOULD'VE MERELY STEPPED ON HIM. QUICKER AND MORE EFFICIENT. PLUS, LICKING THE MEAT AND BLOOD OFF MY PAW WOULD MAKE MY STOMACH HAPPY.

Yeah right. I'd like to see you try!

LET ME OUT AND I'LL TEST MY FANGS ON THE REST OF AKATSUKI.

Fat chance. This is my fight!

A FIGHT YOU'D HAVE LOST BY NOW WITHOUT MY CHAKRA RESERVES.

I WIN AGAIN.

GRR! JUST YOU WAIT!

By this time, Deidara finally dug herself out of the sand. "Ghu…agh…" She looked around…and paled at the sight of Sasori's dead body. So…they killed him…

Naruto, his four clones, and Jiraiya turned towards Deidara. "Just one more…" muttered the Sannin.

Deidara quickly let her right hand's mouth consume an entire bag's worth of clay…and the bag was labeled 'Z1'. Unlike 'Z2'…the Z1 clay would explode on contact. She smirked as she expelled the now-explosive clay into her palm, forming it into the shape of a wasp. Due to the amount of Z1 clay packed into the wasp, it was glowing blue with chakra. "Now…TAKE THIS!"

She launched it at Naruto and Jiraiya.

Naruto smirked as he performed several hand seals. It was time to try a technique that was based off a move he performed years ago, on his mission to the Land of the Waves. When he had been consumed by the Nine Tails' chakra in his rage, he had been able to deflect the needles of Haku with just his chakra aura.

This technique was like that, except it only worked on an object that was exhibiting a chakra aura…and the wasp definitely qualified. "Chakra Rifure no jutsu! Chakra Reflection!" His red chakra aura flared brightly as the wasp neared.

The wasp collided against his aura.

And, much to the shock of Deidara, it was bounced back to her at an even higher speed than when she had launched it. No! She quickly tried performed a set of katas, trying to decrease the wasp's size in an attempt to minimize-

"HIRAISHIN NO JUTSU!"

Deidara paled as Naruto and his four clones appeared behind her in a yellow flash…and then each clone slammed their right foot into her back.

Pain overwhelmed Deidara's senses as she was sent flying into the wasp. She had no time to prepare a defense, to raise her arms, or to even harden her muscles in an attempt to lessen the damage.

The wasp slammed into her chest.

KABOOM!

Naruto's four clones stood protectively in front of the real thing, lessening the damage from the explosion's shockwave. The clones dissipated in a puff of smoke as the shockwave passed…and Naruto wiped his eyes free of dust.

Deidara lay on the ground. Her white hair was nearly completely burned away, and her entire body and cloak was burnt…and it was the worst around the chest and abdomen. Around those areas, her cloak was gone, and her skin was burned away, revealing charred bones and vaporized organs.

Jiraiya smiled. That's three down…

Naruto whooped as he leapt into the air. "YAHOO!" He then turned towards the Obsidian Seal and flashed a 'V for Victory' sign. "You see this Akatsuki? YOU'RE NEXT!"

BOLD…AND STUPID.

Akira chuckled at the boy. "He's got guts, I'll give him that."

"This is absurd…how could he still have enough chakra to triumph against not only Kisame, but also Sasori and Deidara?" demanded Koumorimaru, her tone incredulous in nature.

"It's due to the demon fox," muttered Shuu. Ogi-Daimyou grumbled, "The chakra reserves of a Great Demon like Kyuubi are immense. Why do you think your Leader desires them so? He already has three…and with Shukaku the One Tail stuck in our seal, that makes four."

"But it seems claiming the Nine Tails will be more difficult than initially thought…" Hiroto calmly stood. "Three of us should go."

Koumorimaru stood up, running a hand through her red hair. "It should be Itachi and Akira who stay then; they have more chakra than any of us here."

The former Waterfall ninja snorted. "Fine. Go ahead and ruin all of my potential fun." Akira irritably turned a page of Icha Icha Paradise.

Itachi, however, was strangely silent.

"Itachi?" Hiroto stepped off the Seal, glancing at the Uchiha. "What troubles you?"

Itachi was staring northward, his red eyes as narrow as slits. "…we have more company."

It was at this moment that Naruto froze. "…Pervert-Sennin. You feel that?"

"I do," replied Jiraiya as he stared northward. A powerful chakra aura coming from the north…who could it belong to?

Naruto already knew who it was. Even though the figure was only a mere silhouette against the desert's northern horizon, he recognized the feel of the chakra. He'd recognize it anywhere. "…"

"Dunce…"

Naruto suddenly blinked. Wait a minute…that's not part of this memory.

"Dunce…"

The world suddenly disappeared in a flash.

/End Flashback/

xxxx

/Hospital, Konohagakure, Fire Country/

Naruto's eyes opened suddenly as he sat upward. His brow was lined with sweat. He looked down; he was in a hospital bed. He looked to his right to see a window; it was nighttime. The full moon's light poured in through the window.

"Dunce…"

The fox boy's eyes narrowed at the sound of that voice. He turned his head to the left to see another hospital bed…and sitting in it was none other than Uchiha Sasuke. "Hey…about time you woke up."

Sasuke smirked slightly. "I could say the same thing about you…dunce."

xxxx

To be continued…

Next time…

Sasuke Awakens! Tale of His Escape from the Sound!

xxxx

Author's Notes: Sasuke finally comes into the picture. Next chapter details how he arrived in Sunagakure to partake in the fighting!

FYI, if you're curious about what a tonfa is...doing a Google image search. You'll understand immediately.

See you soon, and please review!