True Power

Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me; I am just borrowing the characters for this story.

The ever present smirk on Itachi's face was one that Naruto could never get used to; he should have because he's seen it so much over the years. The rogue ninja was out for his daily stroll and just happened to come upon the little group, that was a load of bull, he had predictably chosen Naruto because he knew that the others were too meager for his appetite.

Staring down at the man with the devil's eyes, Naruto couldn't quite help but feel that the world wasn't fair. It wasn't right that a select group of individuals were blessed with eyes that could do the things they did; it was like someone had inputted a cheat into life itself and had gotten all the best stuff from the beginning. Looking at the man would have been a big mistake if it had not been for Kurama; the chakra beast was channeling his chakra through Naruto to counter any powerful illusions. Though Itachi didn't know this, he was still under the impression that he had caught Naruto in his little web of lies. The man was not prepared for the teen to leap at him with such speed and agility; he barely dodged the youth's fist. The resulting damage to the ground where he once stood was not something that he had prepared for; he was caught off balance and easily caught in the pit of snakes that Anko had left for him.

Surprised by the teamwork of the group, Itachi had forgotten what it felt like to be duped and tricked. He had done it to so many of his peers that he had thought himself immune to such petty tricks and strategies. Fighting off the snakes dragging him down to who knows where, Itachi leapt from his would be prison to find Naruto preparing a Rasengan that he had never seen before. It was massive in size and completely obstructed the view of the sky, with it charging down upon him Itachi knew that his little puppet was doomed from the get go. Breaking off the connection, the possessed Jonin was met with a very messy end. All that was left of the man was a pair of legs; the rest of the body was pulverized by the sheer power and revolution of the Oodama Rasengan.

Sneering at the memory of the man, Naruto knew it was too easy; Itachi wouldn't have been defeated so meekly. It was just a decoy to waste their time while the Akatsuki were draining Temari's dear brother to death. Looking ahead, Naruto waved at the duo from the Inuzuka clan. It seemed they had encountered some trouble as well, but it was nothing they couldn't deal with. The hunt continued as the group hurried toward the hideout where Gaara was being kept.

Elsewhere

The distraction was well made; the group had done what needed to be done and had extracted the Bijuu from Gaara. The boy was no more than a husk, no soul or life radiated from the corpse. With the ritual finished they discarded the body on the floor and waited for the group from Konoha to arrive to try to exact vengeance on their little band of merry villains.

With Naruto

Feeling a drop in his stomach, Naruto had a bad feeling well in his soul, 'You felt it as well Kit, and there is no mistake. We felt the first leave this world and be sealed, it doesn't look good for the kid.'

'I know that Kurama, but I can't say that to Temari-chan. She'll be devastated; we promised to bring him back alive!'

'I know Kit, but we just didn't have the time necessary to rescue him. You got to understand that it's not your fault. There was nothing you could do.'

'Tell that to them, I don't know how I'll break it to her. The one good thing I'm going to get out of this is the satisfaction when I rip those two jerks to shreds with my bare hands.' Smiling at the bloodlust exuding off Naruto, Kurama knew it was a side effect of all the years merging their two psyches and powers together.

Another pulse reverberated through the land, though this one was altogether different from the one before. It was faint and light, like a sparrow singing away its sorrow for the life it had lead or the things it had not yet done. Kurama knew it was a long shot, but the pulse felt like the beating of a heartbeat, could it be that Gaara still had some life in him? 'Kit, maybe we had prematurely signed the kid's death warrant. It seems that he has still got a little life in him, I got to hand it to that guy he sure knows how to shovel on the drama.'

With a new sense of purpose, Naruto hastened his pace and was soon outpacing the group by leaps and bounds. The women were using all their power just to not lose sight of the blond haired hero; the speed was monstrous, though coming from Naruto that was an understatement. The power that had permeated throughout the boy had grown into a beacon of light; the path was not hard to see when he was crushing the landscape before him. A friend in the thralls of death, which was something that could light a fire under anyone, but with Naruto it, was his innate personality that turned it into something truly spectacular.

Soon enough Naruto reached a boulder of immense size, it stood as tall as a house, with the width of 3 or 4 of them put together. The Akatsuki weren't leaving anything up to chance; they had created a barrier to ensure that no one would interrupt their ritual. Sensing the power that the rock emitted, Kurama could feel the rest of the barrier in the surrounding area. The barrier was a five point set up, where all five seals had to be lifted for the barrier to be dropped. Thus ensuring that the team would be split and their adversary would be weaker for it. Unfortunately for them, they had not estimated that Naruto would be the one to step into their little game of hide and seek. Creating the clones necessary to remove all 5 seals was a cake walk for the teen.

With Kurama as his guide it only took a couple of moments for the seal to be broken and the fireworks to commence. The villains had thought ahead and placed traps at each location, which would activate when you removed the seal, releasing mimics of their own. These imposters would copy the intruders who had dared remove the seal and beat them into submission. They had all the powers and abilities of the originals, causing havoc for those unprepared, but Naruto wasn't there to begin with, so there was no reason to keep his clones there. With a flick of his wrist, the jutsu was released and the traps were nullified without a single punch or kick.

With the side shows over and done with, it was now time for the main event. Naruto and co. facing off against the always annoying Deidara and notably calm Sasori of the Red Sand. The introductions would have to wait as Naruto could see Deidara sitting on the supposed dead corpse of Gaara. From this close Kurama could tell there was still a hint of life in the boy, for how long? That was a question for another time. "Sasori my man, who do you think is the Jinchūriki?" The two had been told that the Nine-tails was a youth who would shout and scream over the death of his friend. Itachi had never been known for his respect for the deceased.

Exploding with rage at the man sitting on top of his friend, Naruto charged at him with a beastly roar of wrath. "Guess that answers that, sorry Sasori my man, but I think I'll take the Jinchuriki for myself."

"Damn you Deidara, that wasn't part of the plan. I am going to kill you when this is through." With a casual wave of his hand, Deidara had conjured a bird the size of a lion and commanded it to eat Gaara whole. Smirking nastily at Naruto, Deidara took off out of the cave and toward Kami knows where.

Temari was still trying to process the image of her younger brother lying there still and cold as that bastard sat on him. She could not accept that her younger brother had left this world before her. With a mighty scream of her own, Temari chased after the rotten rogue ninja from Hidden Village of the Rocks.

Sasori was not known for his enduring patience, he could not be left ignored when his partner was having all the fun. Deciding that an opening act would suffice, he shot out numerous poison tipped projectiles at the remaining group of Konoha shinobi. Reacting with the speed worthy of the Matriarch of the Inuzuka clan, Tsume had deflected all of them with a single revolution. "Finally someone who will play with me, it's no fun if you all die too soon." Sasori didn't know how wrong he was, this wasn't going to be a fight that he could play around in.

The remaining women had all started to fan out and encircle the puppet master, knowing that he would love to make this a fight of attrition and score from long range. The mother and daughter duo wanted to get into a close combat scenario. Spinning at horrendous speeds, it was tough to see where one person ended and one began. Striking glancing blows on the armor of the puppet, it was not enough to get into the main target of their hate. While the duo was occupying his time, Anko was unleashing her own monstrous wonders, snakes as big as a anaconda were slithering their way toward Sasori. Wrapping around the puppet and straddling it to the ground, the perfect position for Sakura to come in and deliver her notoriously fearsome ground slam. The outer carapace shattered under the three pronged assault and out flew the real body of the man that had taken down a nation.

He wasn't anything special in life, a red haired menace that didn't even stand as tall as Sakura. Good for him that he didn't need good looks to take down an entire nation, he wasn't known as the greatest puppeteer for nothing. Smiling at the looks he was getting Sasori was most pleased that he would get to use his favorite puppet. With an animated flourish, Sasori removed a sealing scroll with the letter 3 on the pages. "This was a particularly hard one to get and add to my collection, but I think that's why I like this one the most." Out of the smoke billowing from the summoning, the form of the puppet that bared the uncanny resemblance to the Third Kazekage emerged to the resident kunoichi. It seemed that the real battle was just about to get underway.