Chapter 14

Lightning Strikes

"What do you mean 'that group'? Where can I find them?" Naruto asked earnestly regardless of their past encounters.

The one who was called Tobi simply shook his head from left to right. A forlorn and bitter atmosphere was immediately recognized upon his response. "They're hard to find. Even if you encounter them, you won't stand a chance."

Ino entered the discussion. "Sometimes they travel together, sometimes alone. Despite that knowledge, it is impossible to track them down. We're trying to locate their headquarters but… because they're simply good at eluding us…"

Naruto stared at Ino – surprised at the strong determination in her eyes.

"But that's not going to let us down forever! That's why we needed powerful gemstones!"

Then again, Tobi would always remind them of their regrettable deed. "But stealing is bad! We shouldn't have thought of stealing Vigor in the first place!"

Next thing Tobi knew he was engulfed in flames from Ino's summon.

"Hot! Hot! HOOOT!!"

The lone Lifrosian Zagante watched quietly while sorting out the information he had so far.

This Agate… Should I really trust their testimony? Or are they trying to fool me?

Deidara was smirking amusingly at the torture Ino had inflicted on Tobi when they suddenly heard a thunderous explosion coming from Jadea.

"Oh shit!"

----------o0o----------

A flash of green speeding straight towards the woods had reached its final destination by having his back connected to the ground with a loud, painful cry. There was not much time to recover from his wounds especially when several lightning energy struck down on his ground.

Lee quickly resolved to escape from these numerous attacks by skillfully dodging every single thunder strikes that rained on him. Alas, his last footing sent him on the ground once again, causing him to further panic. Knowing that there was an incoming strike ready to burn his flesh into ashes, Lee closed his eyes and prepared for the worst.

But what he felt next was completely out of the question, especially when he felt that he was pulled from the ground and back again. Lee decided to open his eyes to find out what caused that strange commotion.

"You really ought to use other gemstones rather than relying on one."

"Sasuke-kun!" Lee uttered in shock. The lad from Lifropolis has arrived! Naruto's comrade, no less!

Sasuke eyed the enemy from distance. "And what kind of dreadful situation are you currently dealing with?"

"I was hunting down all the escapees when that man suddenly barged in and attacked me."

Sasuke snorted. "That meant two things: he has an ally behind the cell or he is one of the prisoners who want revenge."

Lee shook his head. "He can't possibly be one of the prisoners because he wasn't part of the list. And he carries strong gemstone combinations. He mostly uses thunder element."

The pair of Zatanku watched on as their opponent had stopped raining thunder strikes on their ground.

"Where is Naruto?" Sasuke asked abruptly.

"Naruto-kun went after the Agate towards south. He might have successfully stopped them."

"Hn. I hoped he did because I'll kick his ass for leaving us behind."

Their conversation stopped short when the man attacked with lightning strikes once again. Sasuke supported Lee and was able to dodge all attacks using his own speed. However, he ran out of routes when he was cornered with enormous boulders around him. Lee has not recovered from the previous injury yet and it was all in Sasuke's hands that they must rely on to survive the lightning attacks.

"I shall divert his attention so you can escape, Sasuke-kun." Lee whispered.

They both watched as the man with twin sword extended his arms towards them – waiting for his power to complete. Lee was anxiously glancing at Sasuke. The latter did not utter any word after the former suggested such deed. Now, the man raised his hand towards the sky, preparing his much awaited onslaught towards the pair of Zatanku—

—until he was rendered unbalance after a gust of blizzard wove in front of him, whilst Sasuke simply smirked at the unusual timing of his comrade. The said comrade hovered above them with an apologetic expression on her face.

"I could've summoned Daias much sooner, forgive me." She said then resumed eying the enemy in front.

"You shouldn't apologize, my goddess Sakura!" This made Sakura sighed heavily while Sasuke welcomed another hateful vein on his temple. "You did a magnificent job saving us!"

Sasuke and Sakura helped Lee fled from the eyes of opponent. They momentarily sought refuge in the bush to resume their conversation. While Sasuke keenly watched their opponent, he whispered the information he got from Lee to Sakura.

"…Naruto went after Agate," was Sasuke's final words.

Sakura looked towards the other direction as though waiting for somebody to come. "I have sent my Nymph to follow Naruto…" She dispelled Daias and summoned Mirage. "I can feel my Summon nearby."

Sasuke glanced over his shoulder, "which meant Naruto's closing in."

"I can feel another presence though." Sakura added.

Shortly after, Lee gestured the pair to look at the battlefield.

----------o0o----------

Naruto stopped his tracks when he noticed the familiar summoned creature next to his feet. The others, who chose to tag along after hearing the blast from the shore, hatefully glared at the scene before them.

"You're Nymph!" Naruto cheerily spoke as he took the creature in his hands. "That only meant Sasuke and Sakura's around."

When Naruto didn't receive any sarcastic comments from a certain person from his group, he instantly thought that there was danger around the corner. He quickly turned his attention to his accompanying group then followed their hateful glares until his eyes settled on a man who had just regained his balance from his previous fall.

"That… that was the guy…" Ino loathly uttered.

Tobi and Deidara stood on their ground but both hearts were screaming with absolute revenge. Ino was currently trembling with fear but tried to regain strength by placing vengeance in her mind.

"The decision we made didn't go so bad, hm." Deidara spoke towards the man. "We finally came face to face with you."

Before Naruto could give his support to Deidara and Tobi, Sakura's Nymph tapped his arm and showed the way to where its master and her friends were hiding. Sasuke was giving him hand signals before he lets Naruto get on in their temporary refuge. Naruto warily glanced at the scenario where Deidara and Tobi had successfully diverted the opponent's attention to them.

Underneath his feet, the Mirage, which transformed into water, was slowly transforming itself to look exactly like Naruto. When the time was ripe, Naruto hastily jumped towards the bush where Sakura and others were hiding.

"Why are they here?" Sasuke was the first one to ask, his question referring to Agate.

"It is what you see." Naruto took his place beside Sasuke and Sakura, to watch Deidara and Tobi against the man. "I don't know exactly why they dragged themselves but after setting foot on this stage, I think I know why."

Sakura, Sasuke and Lee curiously looked at Naruto, urging him to continue.

"They had a grave reason why they wanted the Vigor gemstone and that man was the very reason why they were desperate to obtain such power."

"Kuuh…"

The trio hastily looked at Lee after he accidentally muttered his pained cry. He was clutching his chest, the part which was mostly damaged in his body. Sakura told Lee to deactivate the gemstone's power so Naruto could heal him immediately. Naruto's healing gemstone – Arcanum, will not be effective when the recipient is under the effect of a gemstone which draws large stamina from the user.

While Naruto started healing Lee, Sasuke immediately told them of his battle plan.

----------o0o----------

Deidara and Tobi stood on their battle positions while the thunder user silently with playing the weapon he held on both hands. Ino finally recovered from her inner dilemma by getting more and more hatred to transform it to strength. She summoned a large fairy type creature which utilizes the power of the earth – the Dryad. Deidara put on several gemstones he could think of are best against thunder elements. Tobi on the other hand prepared his best offence and defense type of gemstones. It was that very moment when the thunder element user finally spoke.

"Shall I cremate your body? Or should I simply leave your body to decay for your loved ones to cry on to?" He grinned. "Whatever the case, requiem shall be played for your waiting deaths."

Without signals, Deidara and Tobi disappeared from the ground only to reappear on each of the thunder element user's sides. Deidara made the first move by blasting off a level three fire element towards the opponent. When the man avoided an incoming, close-range attack, Tobi immediately used a gemstone which bounces Deidara's attack and allows him to move the said attack towards the target. Unfortunately, the man was able to get off the hit range by jumping and rolling forward.

However, what he forgot to remember was Ino's summon.

The blonde Zarune ordered her creature to create a stronghold made of roots and vines from the ground. The attack rose from the soil, completely capturing the vulnerable target in mid-air. Deidara swapped three of his gemstones and aimed his Bracer towards the imprisoned target. After shooting a strong blast from his Bracer, Tobi used another barrier-type of gemstone which encased Deidara's attack within its barrier as soon as the latter's attack hit the target.

"Did we get him?" Tobi inquired as he jumped down the ground.

There was silence as Deidara and Ino eyed the encased cloud of smoke within Tobi's barrier. Deidara gestured him to put out the barrier to dissipate the smoke quickly. As soon as the smoke vanished the trio had a shocking look on their faces.

"Apparently, I am unscathed." The enemy announced before he swiped his newly formed weapon from his Bracer.

The trio backed away, immediately putting on their choice of elements.

"A Zatanku." Ino whispered, "Materializing gemstone's power into weapons."

The Zatanku-thunder element user grinned menacingly before launching himself towards the defenseless Zarune – Ino.

"Ino!"

"Get her away, Tobi!"

Nothing compared to Ino's sheer terror when the enemy descended above her. Her once vanished fear returned and rendered her useless to cast any command on her summoned creature. All she was able to do was widely stared at the death before her.

I… don't want to die yet…

KA-CHING!

"Ino!" Ino's senior comrades yelled in relief when the enemy's elemental blade clashed against Shell.

Soon, a pair of crescent-shaped blade emerged behind Ino, forcing the enemy to jump away. The thunder user glared at the opponent before him and realizing that one of them was the one who saved the boy in green suit.

"More and more deaths to come." He announced, snickering at the two lads before him.

Naruto and Sasuke, the one who saved Ino from death, prepared courageously in battle stance. Sasuke was armed with his Crescent weapon embedded with earth element while Naruto put on supporting gemstones on his Bracer. The Mirage that Sakura summoned earlier had escorted Ino away from the battle.

"The nosy brat." Tobi muttered, eying Sasuke and Naruto. He cupped his hands beside his lips. "You're no match against him, kid!"

"Who needs your opinion!?" He shot back while twitching his brow in irritation.

Sasuke ignored their pointless yells, telling Naruto to focus at the situation on hand and start with the attack. Naruto did as he was told by putting on his combination of gemstones. He took note to himself to upgrade his Bracer once this battle is done. He attacked with lance-like flames while the opponent stood casually on his spot, brandishing his twin swords against the flames lances. While he was engaged with Naruto's incessant attacks, Sasuke sped to confront the opponent. The young Zatanku tried to hit his target but the opponent was incredibly quicker. He simply deflected all Sasuke's attack using only his one hand which held his weapon.

"You still have much to learn, boy." And as strong as the gale, the enemy whirled around, sending Sasuke away from distance.

"Sasuke!" Naruto yelled, watching his companion flying away from the battle field.

Just as the enemy was about to confront Naruto, he realized that he could not move his feet. When he looked at his toes, he found out that he was trapped by an ice element.

It's Sakura! Naruto concluded, changing the set of gemstones on his Bracer.

As if on cue, a green flash emerged behind the thunder user. Naruto extended his hand in the air and cast Shell on to Lee. Lee lunged towards the enemy by greeting him with series of combos which was enhanced by activating the Vigor gemstone. Lee jumped back gracefully and on that moment, a huge wheel-shaped weapon speeding its way towards enemy. The thunder user crossed his weapons, making an effort to deflect or stop the spin of the weapon.

"Star Wheel won't stop spinning unless it's in my hands."

Lee and Naruto, even Deidara and Tobi, turned their attention towards the origin of the voice – there standing at the opposite direction of where he was supposed to be thrown away was Uchiha Sasuke.

"Sakura do it now!" He yelled.

Sakura, who was hiding perfectly in the bushes, commanded Daias to strengthen and expand its territory of ice on the enemy's body. The ice quickly froze the lower portion of the enemy's body as well as quickly enveloping the upper parts of the body. When Sasuke thought it was time, he raised his Bracer to call back the Star Wheel. By then, the enemy was completely encased in crystalline ice from Daias power. But the command has yet to finish, especially when Daias created Ice Lances around the captive. Sakura ordered her summoned creature to embed all the ice lances through the ice coffin.

And that was it.

----------o0o----------

In a far, far away distance, a man dressed in silk black robe watches on the holographic globe while the red mark that has been blinking previously finally vanished.

"Just as I expected – unprepared as always."

The holographic globe disappeared as the man continued walking towards the shore.

----------o0o----------

"I can't believe these twerps actually killed him!" Tobi started as they landed beside the frigid corpse of the man they have been wanted to kill.

"This is shameful." Deidara glared at Naruto before steeling his eyes on the corpse in front of him. "We, from the Agate, could not even lay our attacks on this man."

Naruto crossed his arms over his chest. "That could only mean we're stronger than you all think."

Both female Zarunes emerged from the bushes, with Tobi hastily went to Ino's side – asking her if she was alright. Sakura stared at the huge ice coffin she and her summoned creature had made. Sasuke deactivated the Star Wheel while smirking to himself.

Good thing my uncle gave me his gemstone during the break.

Naruto went to Sasuke's side and started a conversation in low whispers. "It's a wonder how you managed to recover quickly when his blow was strong. You even showed up from that direction when you flew to the other side. Why is that?"

Sasuke shook his head. "Moron. That was Sakura's Mirage."

"Eh!?" Naruto and Lee, who accidentally heard the conversation, stared at Sakura. That wasn't part of the plan… Wow, she's really good.

Sakura's expression changed while she observed the captive in the coffin.

"What's wrong, Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked. The people around them, including the Agate, turned their heads to the pink haired Zarune.

"Daias, dissolve the coffin."

The creature did as it was told. The ice dissipated gradually under Sakura's command, Naruto and Tobi were about to protest on her action but Sasuke gestured them to be quiet. He, too, felt strange just by staring at the ice coffin.

Few seconds later, gasps filled the air.

"What the hell!?"

"This isn't true!"

"But those lances went through him!"

"This cannot be…"

Before their eyes were the coat of the man they have fought against with. No traces of body and blood on the ground. The enemy vanished during the battle – but how?

"That was nifty." Deidara uttered, kneeling on the ground while clutching the coat that man used previously. "We never saw him get away."

"I guess we're back to zero." Tobi sighed heavily. "We're unable to find anything to track them down."

Suddenly, Sasuke snatched the garb from Deidara's hand. Deidara was about to protest but Sasuke simply showed them something he got from the coat.

"This counts as a start, yes?"

It was a crimson colored brooch in a shape of a crown. Sasuke inspected, hoping to get any text behind the brooch.

"There's nothing to it." He said.

Sakura stared at the brooch. "Let's head back to Lifropolis to show them this evidence."

"Before you leave, lend me the brooch." Deidara extended his hand.

Naruto stood between Deidara and Sasuke. "We defeated him and got the evidence, what makes you think we'll hand it over easily?"

Deidara's brow twitched. "I never said to hand it over permanently, idiot. I said lend me the brooch."

Sasuke moved to the side. "And what are you going to do with it?"

Ino stood beside Deidara while the latter prepared his gemstones. "He'll make a replica."

Before Sasuke and Naruto inquire more about Deidara's work, Sakura's soft spoken voice told them to lend the brooch. In the end, Sasuke gave them the brooch and waited for Deidara to finish his clay art by replicating the brooch they got from their enemy. While they watch Deidara work, Lee was scrutinizing the trio from Agate.

Vigor's effect has not wholly consumed my stamina but I won't be able to catch up once I trigger a battle. Naruto was making snide comments which irked Deidara. After the trouble they caused us in Jadea… they ought to repent their mistakes.

"What are you going to do with the replica?" Naruto asked curiously.

"We'll show it to our comrades." Deidara nonchalantly responded.

"I won't let you leave this place, Agate."

All of them stared at Lee.

"All of you must be put in jail no matter what." He declared.

"Lee."

Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura turned their attention to the Agate trio – waiting to explain themselves. There was an awkward momentary silence before Deidara spoke – finally finishing the replica.

"We regretted what we've done and we promised not to cause any trouble in your city."

"We only resorted to such deed because of desperation…" Ino added.

Lee lowered his head. He has no right to simply give out such judgment. He could not simply grant them freedom after listening to their plea. They had caused a devastating turmoil twice in the city. They really ought to get punished.

"If it makes you feel any better," Sakura started, "let them accompany you back to Jadea and have an agreement with the Empress? I'm sure she'll understand the situation."

"After wrecking havoc using monsters and let the prisoners escape, do you really think the Empress would forgive them?" Naruto put his hands behind his head.

Sakura put on her sweet smile as she spoke, "I know she would."

To be continued…

Author's Note: Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed the previews chapters. I am deeply touched with your reviews and through that I was encouraged to finish this chapter in a short notice. Again, thank you so much!

TERMS:

DRYAD – A plant type creature that possesses the power of Earth. It is a summoned creature more powerful than the Nymph. (Summoned by Ino)

STAR WHEEL- A huge wheel-shaped weapon with five sharp edges. It is a throwing weapon which causes massive damage upon its spin. (Used by Sasuke)