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Pairings: I don't really have any in mind, except that it may be ShikaIno, just for the sake of having someone go out. Otherwise, I don't really have many other plans of putting people together. I have discovered time and time again that... I'm crap when it comes to romance. I think... Well, I like to think of myself as decent crap, at least. Which is a parodox... ShikaIno is probably the only definite pairing I've had in mind, since I may or may not have promised some readers a ShikaIno pairing in my other fic... I can't really remember...


July 3, 1995
The River Country, near the Akatsuki base and the region between the Fire and Wind Countries

The telltale whistling of metal in the wind warned Deidara of the incoming blades. He lightly jumped out of the path of the dozens of shuriken that had flown at him. The tiny shuriken were embedded deep in the tree where the Akatsuki member had previously been standing.

'Great...' Deidara thought, holding a kunai in his mouth as he tried to flee. He felt a slight feeling of dread when he found himself facing a white-eyed shinobi—most likely a Hyuuga—as well as two others, clad in tights and extremely aesthetically displeasing hairstyles. 'What a nuisance... My escape will be a bit more difficult than I planned...'

Four newcomers, in addition to the two Konoha-nin already chasing him...

The young blond shinobi was the most feared Jinchuuriki, the container of the nine-tailed demon, but that was all that Deidara knew of the shinobi. A little over three years ago, Itachi had told the others how the Jinchuuriki didn't quite live up to the title, being a clumsy and rather awkward boy. Deidara couldn't see why. Yes, his long-distance attacks left much to be desired, but Deidara's instincts told him not to mess with him in close range. In any case, Deidara knew that keeping it a long-distance battle would work almost easily in his favor.

The silver-haired one, Deidara already knew enough about. That one was the famed Hatake Kakashi of the sharingan eye. Rumors claimed that he had copied over a thousand techniques, though Deidara didn't find that ultimately too impressive, considering the fact that all he had to do was copy it with his Sharingan. In addition to that, it was doubtful that the Copy-nin would be able to use all those "one thousand techniques" in one battle anyway. No one in the world had that kind of chakra.

The one with the pale eyes was, no doubt, a member of the Hyuuga clan, and was quite a powerful one as well. Kisame had mentioned earlier how, when he fought this team earlier with the Shōten no Jutsu, ((Shapeshifting Technique)), the pale-eyed shinobi had attacked with some sort of invisible vacuum. If this shinobi was, indeed, a Hyuuga, then he had just done the unthinkable. Whether the attack was ninjutsu or genjutsu, it was still a long-distance attack, a far cry from the usual famed Hyuuga taijutsu style, which mainly revolved around close combat.

Kisame had also mentioned a bit more about the other three shinobi who had arrived. Those clad in green seemed to have a near identical fighting style, though the older one's techniques were far better developed than the younger, who seemed to avoid using any form of ninjutsu or genjutsu. Instead, there was more power in his strikes than Deidara had ever seen before.

The kunoichi with the buns in her hair exhibited no particular skill in any of the usual three shinobi specialties, seeming to prefer weaponry over genjutsu, ninjutsu, and even taijutsu. Her techniques were clean and accurate. If it hadn't been for Deidara's far greater experience and the scope over his eye, he probably would have completely missed out on her presence and would have been struck be the flying shuriken.

The pink haired girl, as well as the old woman, had arrived just moments before the second team. The two women had parted ways with Uzumaki Naruto and Hatake Kakashi to fight with Sasori no Danna. They didn't look like much, and with the young and inexperienced girl and the ancient and should-be retired old woman, it was hard to tell who was more powerful and more of a threat. Either way, if they were able to defeat Sasori, they must have been much more powerful than they appeared.

Deidara was well aware of his own potential. His techniques had few openings, most gaps being made up for with his overall strategy to basically keep it so that the enemy were always chasing after him, meaning that they would always had one definitive location: right behind him. Of course, there were many occasions in which he had to improvise. Taking the battle in the desert as he fought the kazekage Jinchuuriki for example, he had been forced to completely change tactics, considering the fact that the Kazekage's geographical advantage left nowhere to run.

Regardless, Deidara knew he was clever enough to defeat any shinobi, almost regardless of the number. However, with so many high-class shinobi after him...

The moment he had returned with the Jinchuuriki from the sand, he had had little time to recover, having gone straight to the tailed beast extraction ceremony. He was low on clay, he was rather exhausted, and more and more shinobi kept on showing up!

As powerful as he knew he was, Deidara had to admit that he was at a growing disadvantage.

He would have to end this quickly and finish them all off in one devastating blow.

And he knew exactly how to do it.

Deidara knew that ducking low in the bushes for too long would be futile, with the Hyuuga now taking part in the battle. He would have to keep moving.

Briefly skimming his area with the scope, he quickly spotted his clay bird masterpiece on the ground and jumped onto the other side.

Hatake Kakashi shouted a warning to his companions, cautioning them of Deidara's clay bomb techniques. A fruitless warning, Deidara thought to himself, considering the chances they had of escaping his next technique.

Deidara spat out the kunai and sank his teeth into the clay, tearing off huge piece and swallowing it in a gulp. The Konoha-nin watched in confusion as Deidara continued to practically breath in his own clay. They knew something was to come, but they didn't know if they would be able to stop it in time.

"Take a look at my ultimate work of art, mm...!" Deidara said as his body began to grow larger and larger. "Jibaku Bunshin (Suicide Bombing Clone)!"

The Hyuuga's pale eyes, now lined with the folds on the surface of his temples, widened as he observed all of the man's chakra gather in a single compact spot at once.

Deidara knew what he was thinking.

'Surely he wouldn't even think of using a jutsu that required that amount of chakra!'

But oh, he was.

The others felt the pressure growing, but the Hyuuga saw it. He knew that this was definitely... positively... a huge attack.

In a few brief moments, they all realized it.

'Yeah,' the missing-nin thought to himself. 'This psycho is going to blow himself up.'

Self-detonation. This was Deidara's ultimate 'work of art'.

The Akatsuki member knew for a fact that he himself was safe from his own technique. He had arranged it so that this body, once blown to pieces, would end up being replaced by a clay clone of himself, which he had cleverly hidden from even the eyes of the Hyuuga. In the ground.

With a bit of luck, a great deal of precision, and a clever use of a well-practiced substitution technique, Deidara would wipe out both teams of Konoha-nin and come out in one piece. Perhaps covered in a bit of muck, but still one piece.

Deidara knew that he wasn't looking so pretty right now, with his bloated, bubbling form, but no doubt, there would be some pretty spectacular explosions for someone watching a few dozen miles away.

The shinobi were already fleeing for their lives, but it was easy to see that it was all in vain. The explosion would easily overtake them, as they had not had the time or the ability to focus hard enough to properly apply chakra to their feet so they could run at top speed.

And, even at top speed, Deidara doubted that anyone could run fast enough to escape his—

Everything went white.


The dust was rising, and Kakashi could see the spherical mass of ember, smoke, and dust as it grew larger and larger, nearly enveloping his rival and his students.

He could see it very well, activating his Sharingan and pushing himself to his limit.

Seconds later, the shinobi were all left wondering if it was too late.

The dust was starting to settle, and, after a few moments of coughing and armwaving, the smoke slowly began to clear and the teams looked at each other, finally able to see somewhat clearly in the settling dust.

"What's going on?" Gai said, looking around, attempting to see through the dust.

It didn't seem like there was any logical way to stop the explosion.

Naruto and his doppelganger, who were in a tree carrying Gaara's motionless body over his/their shoulders, stared at what looked like a shrinking white crack in the middle of the air. Finally, the mysterious rift disappeared for good.

There was no explosion, no bright lights, nothing at all.

There was no sign left of the Deidara-bomb except for the huge crater in the earth and the trees, as if a sphere had appeared out of nowhere and caused everything in contact with it to disappear.

'How anticlimactic...' Naruto thought to himself.

Kakashi nearly fell backwards, out of energy needed to support himself, but Naruto caught him before he could make a humiliating landing on his back.

"Are you okay, Kakashi-sensei?" Naruto asked his teacher, concerned that one of the strongest shinobi he knew was so exhausted and depleted of all chakra.

"What in the world...did you do...?" Sakura asked him, her green eyes wide.

Kakashi shook his head. "Him and the explosion... I sent them into another dimension... But... more importantly... is everyone safe?"

Touche. There wasn't any logical explanation as to what stopped the explosion.

"Screw safety!" Naruto exclaimed. "Why didn't you do that earlier?"


July 3, 1995
Hogwarts Express

The weather couldn't have been better. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had managed to get a compartment to themselves. Pigwidgeon was, once again, hidden under Ron's dress robes to stop him from hooting continually; Hedwig was dozing, her head under her wing, and Crookshanks was curled up in a spare seat like a large furry ginger cushion that no one was really allowed to sit on unscathed.

Harry stared out of the window at the school carriages that they had ridden in as the train they rode on started moving. Cedric's death had hit him hard before, but now, the weight on his chest was starting to lighten. He stared out of the window and frowned, rubbing his eyes and looking at the carriages again. There was some sort of shimmering shadow in front of them all.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione talked more fully and freely than they had all week as the train sped south, where it would, in eight hours, reach King's Cross. Dumbledore's speech at the end of year feast had seemed to unblock him. Perhaps talking about Cedric's death had given him closure. It was less painful to think and talk about what happened now. The three friends broke off their conversation about what action Dumbledore might be taking, even now, to stop Voldemort only when the lunch trolley arrived.

When Hermione returned from the trolley and put her money bag into her schoolbag, she pulled out a copy of the Daily Prophet and read it. "There's nothing here. I've been checking the newspaper everyday. Just a small piece the day after the third task, saying that you had won the tournament. They didn't even mention Cedric. Nothing about any of it. If you ask me, Fudge is forcing them to keep quiet."

"What about Rita?" Ron asked. "You don't honestly expect her to keep her quill to herself, do you?"

"Oh, Rita hasn't written anything at all since the third task..." Hermione said slyly, "As a matter of fact, she isn't going to be writing anything at all for a while. Not unless she wants me to spill the beans on her."

"What are you talking about?" Harry asked her.

"I found out how she was listening in on private conversations," she said smugly, picking up her bag once again to look through it. "She was bugging us..."

"Wait, but you say that electronics don't work on Hogwarts gro—"

"No, no," she said with a smile. "You see... Rita Skeeter just so happens to be an unregistered Animagus. She can turn..."

She pulled out a sealed glass jar out of her bag.

"...into a beetle."

"..." The whole compartment was completely silent, save for the low thrumming sound of the train on the tracks.

"How...ironic," Harry said, at lost for words.

"There was a beetle on the statue the night we heard Hagrid telling Madame Maxime about his mum!" Ron exclaimed.

"Viktor pulled a beetle out of my hair after we had had our conversation by the lake," Hermione said, nodding.

"Rita was on the windowsill of the Divination class the day my scar hurt," Harry said thoughtfully.

"And when we saw Malfoy under that tree, he was actually talking to her in his hand," she added.

"Wait, then Malfoy knew!" Ron said angrily. "That's how she's been getting those stupid interviews with the Slytherins! Damn Slytherins!"

"I put an Unbreakable Charm on jar so she can't transform and break the glass. I'm letting her out when we get back to Lond—"

"You're kidding!" Ron shouted. "Keep her in there!"

"No, no, I've told her to keep her quill to herself for a whole year. See if she can't break the habit of writing horrible lies about people."

The door of the compartment immediately slid open. "Very clever, Granger," Draco Malfoy said. Crabbe and Goyle were standing behind him. All three looked more self-satisfied, arrogant, and menacing than Harry had ever seen them before.

"So," he continued, advancing slight into the compartment with a cocky smirk on his face. "You caught some pathetic reporter, and Potter is Dumbledore's favorite boy again. Big deal."

"...Do you often spend your time outside of our compartment with your ear pressed against the door just so you can pop in at the most inopportune moment?" Harry asked, cocking his head slightly too the side.

"What can I say?" Malfoy said, shrugging. "It's a habit. Still... trying to pretend that nothing's happened? That no one died? I warned you on the first day of Hogwarts when we met on the train. I told you not to hang around wit riffraff like this. Too late now, Potter. Because of this, your friends will be the first to go, now the Dark Lord's back! Mudbloods and Muggle-lovers first! Well, second actually. Diggory was the fir—GAAAAAH!"

Something tan and crimson shot past Harry's head and into Malfoy's chest with a speed the knocked him back into Crabbe and Goyle.

Malfoy ignored his blood robes and stared at the severed arm in horror.

"Oh god..." Hermione said.

"Somebody Splinched themselves!" Ron exclaimed, but Hermione shook her head.

"No, Splinching is painless and not bloody at all!" she said, shaking her head and the tears out of her eyes. She covered her mouth as if she were going to heave. "Somebody cut an arm off..." she said.

Harry was taking deep breaths. The arm had appeared in midair out of nowhere. Since the train had been moving so quickly, the arm itself had probably been falling towards the ground because of the gravity, but it had also stayed in the same spot. So because the train was moving and the arm inside was not, it had struck Malfoy in the chest.

((A/N: was that a clear explanation? Okay, think of it like this, someone ahead of you on the freeway throws a rubber ball straight up out of the sunroof, and you run into it as it comes down. I hope that's clearer...))

Thus, the bloody robes.

Once the initial shock was over, everyone in the compartment began to scream. Everyone except Harry, who was staring at the tongue that lolled outside of the palm's...mouth. ...Uh, yeah. The fingernails were painted purple, and the fingers slowly stopped twitching. There was an odd ring with a plain platinum metal and ordinary blue-green stone with some Chinese character inscribed in it.

Momentarily feeling unable to breath, Harry panicked with the rest of the students at the sight of the severed arm.

After several moments of being unsure of what to do, Hermione finally pulled out her own wand and pointed it at the arm, about to levitated it and bring it to the closest most capable adult possible when Harry spotted something strange out of the window.

"Look!" he said, pointing at a dark crack in the middle of the air, just above the train tracks where the train had been over just before when the arm appeared.

The crack grew larger and larger, but only slowly because the train was gaining distance and this strange rift above the air.

The Gryffindors' and Slytherins' eyes alike widened when a huge explosion shook the area with concussive force, despite the fact that the train itself was far away.

"That was huge..." Hermione whispered in a hushed voice.

"Do you think... you think it was You-Know-Who...?" Ron said in a low voice.

All of a sudden, Draco muttered a cleansing spell over the front of his shirt, turned toe, and left in such a rush that his robes billowed almost like Snape's. "We're leaving," he said, unnecessarily to his two morons—er, friends.

Taking deep breaths, Harry let his limp legs fall out from underneath him as he slumped down on the floor of the train compartment.


August 24, 1995

"Dammit!" A wind-propelled shuriken shot through the air at a speed even Tenten couldn't throw at. It pierce through an Akatsuki underling, who went down immediately. Dead.

One down, an army more to go.

Not literally an army of course. Akatsuki didn't have that many followers. But it was enough to swarm the few forces that were still in Konoha. A large number of shinobi, including the ANBU, many from the Niju Shotai (the Twenty Platoons), and a good number of jounin had left after the Village of the Hidden Leaf had officially declared war on the Village of the Hidden Sound at last, after a serious offense in which, upon Yamato, Naruto, Sakura, and Sai's return to Konoha, they were ambushed by several teams of Sound chuunin.

Though the Sound chuunin had been easily taken care of, even with the new Team Seven's various injuries, it was still enough for the Leaf, finally fed up by the Sound, to call for war. So many offenses in less than a decade—it did not come unexpected.

Fairly confident with their powerful allies, like the Land of Waves and the Sand Village. The Land of Waves was not a particularly military dominated country, but they lent their support through commerce, supplying the Fire and the Wind Countries with ample supply, including weapons and supplements. As the newly revived Kazekage of the Sand, Gaara was not particularly enthusiastic about immediately calling war, but he owed his best (and only) friend Naruto a huge debt that, it seemed, would never get to be repaid.

With their many allies, Konoha sent a majority of its forces directly to the Sound just days ago, feeling that once they arrived at the sound, they would be able to overcome the Oto-nin by both the quantity and the quality of their top shinobi.

Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm, they had overlooked one thing:

One: without many of the shinobi, the village was left in the hands of many of the younger shinobi and only a few adults to defend against other invaders.

And two: they left their Jinchuuriki at home.

So it was only probable that Akatsuki would come by Konoha to pick up their somewhat defenseless nine-tailed demon, thus sparking a deadly fight within Konoha itself.

Ink-drawn picture lions ran around the city, tearing at Konoha's enemies mercilessly. Why expect mercy from an ink painting? One could expect just as much mercy from the lions as one could expect it from the artist, Sai, himself. Though attempting to learn how to feel emotions, Sai still felt nothing as the lions clawed at the lesser Akatsuki henchmen.

For some shinobi, this was not their first encounter with the Akatsuki. However, it was no longer some sort of three-on-one battle in their favor. There were not one, not two, but five main Akatsuki members, in addition to the lesser members, fighting alongside each other.

Lee and Tenten were forced to fight Kisame, same as before, though Neji was busy with... with... another freak.

This Akatsuki member had the most absurd body decorations Neji hat ever seen—venus-flytrap like extensions encased his body, and Neji could see his skin color split into white and black halves.

Neji blessed his luck, feeling relieved that he had had the insight to develop a Hyuuga-only long distance attack, which he used to keep the plant-like member of the Akatsuki at a distance. Close range combat may have been his forte, but it would be useful to deal as much damage as possible before the enemy was within range so that they would both be able to begin attacking each other at once.

The Hyuuga's face split into a relieved smirk when the Akatsuki member fell to the ground.

'Well...' he thought to himself. 'That was easier than I thought—'

As the man fell, he didn't only fall. He sank into the ground and disappeared, leaving Neji dumbfounded.

He couldn't just disappear! If he had an extreme amount of speed, then he would at least raise a bit of dust from the ground. If he had used some type of genjutsu, then the Byakugan should be able to detect it.

Neji shouted with the blinding pain in his left leg. He looked down in horror to find that the venus-flytrap extension had clamped itself down hard onto his limb, with the spikes sinking into his flesh.

He couldn't risk using his kaiten, unless he wanted fling the enemy off with his leg. He couldn't use his empty palm technique because it was too close. Plus, it was too difficult to attack at an angle like that. The vacuum palm would work best at long distance. He needed back-up—

"Hakke Kūshō (Eight Trigrams Empty Palm)!" two girls shouted and Zetsu jerked back and forth, as if struck by two invisible forces.

And then he hit on the other side by a huge, not-so-invisible shuriken.

Neji saw through his Byakugan the two Hyuga heiresses running towards them on one side and Tenten and Lee approaching quickly from the other side.

Surprisingly enough, the three hits were not enough to penetrate the plant-covering, though it did, at least, give Neji a chance to free his bloody leg from the plant freak's hold.

"Lee! Tenten!" Neji shouted, feeling relieved at the sight of his teammates bloody, bruised, sweating, but at least in one piece. The plant-man had merged with the ground once again and had gained distance between them all. "You two beat Kisame?"

Neji was amazed. Tenten and Lee, who were both running to him waving their arms, had gotten much stronger than he had expected over the years. He knew that they were better than the average shinobi, but the fact that those two alone beat a member of the Akatsuki had greatly improved his already growing opinion of them—wait a minute...

Tenten and Lee ran faster, with the shark-like Akatsuki following right behind them.

"...Dammit, you idiots, don't bring him over HERE!" Neji shouted angrily, pulling his younger Hyuga cousin by the arm and having Hinata follow as they ran away from his two teammates.

Both of whom were running away from the 'shark-nin'.

"Neji!" Tenten cried. "Heeelp!"


"Deal with him on your own!" Hanabi cried, struggling to get out of Neji's arms so she could run on your own. "We've already got our own guy to deal with!"

Team Gai and the two Hyuga heiresses cried as they ran.

Meanwhile, the other shinobi were trying to deal with the rest of the invaders.

"What a pain," another member of the Akatsuki said to no one in particular, looking at the shinobi fighting around him as if he hadn't had a care in the world for his own side. "This is a complete waste of my valuable time." The crown of his head was almost completely covered in a cloth and the lower half of his face was hidden by a darker cloth, almost like an absurd combination of Kakashi and Shino.

Which really a spectacular combination to think about.

"Same here!" a voice shouted. This exclamation was joined by a bark. Inuzuka Kiba, clad in his usual, dark garments that were more common in the civilian military rather than an actual shinobi's clothing, stood with Akamaru, ready to fight, and the usual stoic and silent Aburame Shino standing by him, saying little as he usually did. "This land has been the territory of the Inuzuka clan since our Inuzuka Tenrousei marked it over four hundred years ago!"

"An Inuzuka, hn? Your wolfhounds are worth quite a bit of ryou, whether taken alive or just for their fur."

Kiba's eye twitched.

"Don't you even fucking think of that!" he growled, about to charge at the enemy when his shoulder and leg were grabbed. He looked back to see Shino and Akamaru behind him, keeping him out of trouble.

"Don't lose your temper," Shino said briefly. Akamaru barked, telling him not to underestimate the Akatsuki.

Kiba, still red in the face and feeling the urge to tear this man to piece, took a deep breath. "You're right," he muttered. "I shouldn't..."

"Hehehe, you're just a scared little puppy," he said. "Lucky for you, I could care less about you and your little dog. It's your Jinchuuriki that we're after for today."

"I'm not scared!" Kiba barked angrily. "And... and you're after our what?"

"The demon of your village," he said, "Uzumaki Naruto. We were saving the nine-tailed demon for last, but some of us decided that our leader's orders were in need of a bit of a change and figured that it would be easiest to strike while Konoha was bare of its defenses. Your demon friend will be ours."

Kiba who, like an overwhelming majority of the other shinobi, was unaware of Naruto's demonic inheritance, contemplated it for a moment. He shrugged.

"...No way," he said, rubbing his nose and grinning, all previous anger forgotten at the ridiculous notion that Naruto of all people was the Kyuubi that attacked Konoha so many years ago.

...Fifteen years and eleven months, to be more exact.

...On October tenth.

The...the day of Naruto's birth.

"Naruto's no demon!" he said, shaking his head, though his instincts and common sense were starting to tell otherwise. "And... and even if he was...I... he's..."

"...our demon," Shino finished simply.


"It doesn't matter whether he's Jinchuuriki or not," the Aburame continued, speaking more words at this minute that Kiba had ever heard him say in a day. "He's still a loyal shinobi of Konoha, and a great one at that. He is our friend and our shinobi. If he is a demon, than he is our demon. If Naruto was the one rumored to have been sacrificed for the sake of Konoha at the Yondaime's hands, then out of respect for his sacrifice and the Yondaime's decision that I won't simply turn on him should some stranger come up to me and imply that he was the cause for Konoha's near-destruction when he was just several hours old."

Kiba turned his head again, staring at Shino. He grinned. As level-headed and logical as ever.

"Yeah!" Kiba said. "He's not even a hundredth as freaky as that other Jinchuuriki. Gaara, right? Or even Shino here!"

Shino ignored that comment. "Now that our side is on the same wavelength," he said. "It's time for you to leave."

Shino glanced at the member of the Akatsuki through his lenses, silently picking out possible strategies to use against this strange man, and taking notice of the mysteriously black, tar-like substance under the man's skin, as opposed to the hollow cavernous emptiness under his own skin. In Shino's opinion, any weapon hidden in the flesh was likely to be one of the most dangerous.

"Bug-freak is right!" Kiba said. The stress mark on Shino's temple went unnoticed, as he was completely swathed in heavy clothing. "Whatever it is you're planning, we're going to take you down!"

Nearby, Shikamaru faced off against a man with very light colored hair, sleeked back, bearing a huge three-bladed scythe when Ino entered the scene, concerned for her friend, who was drenched in blood.

"Stop it," he snapped at her, pushing her away with a wild look in his eyes. "It's not... it's not mine... Not my blood..."

Ino faltered. Shikamaru, despite his lack of enthusiasm for equal treatment between sexes, was still a gentleman, and never before in his life had he ever laid a hand on Ino. Not an aggressive one, anyway. And she had never before seen him with such a look in his eye. Feeling his 'aura' and closely watching his movement for a brief second as he wiped the blood off his face and removed his outer clothing, she noticed a look of panic and despair on his face.

But why?

Ino never got to the chance to ponder this, shrieking loudly and jumping out of the way as the Akatsuki member's huge scythe landed on the ground where she had previously been standing, less than a second before. Shikamaru, who had been standing there next to her, flinched when the blade nicked his cheek.

Was it all in her head, or did Shikamaru look even more panic-stricken by such a tiny cut? There was hardly a drop of blood!

"You know what's coming, don't you?" blond man asked slyly, licking Shikamaru's blood off of the blade. "This is the part where things get interesting..."

"No, it doesn't!" someone shouted. Several of the Konoha shinobi ran past him and...

"HOLY CR—!" the Akatsuki-nin when a whole crowd of Akatsuki ran past him and nearly took their own companion down. "FUCK ALL OF YOU IDIOTS, I NEARLY COMPLETED THE RITUAL HERE!"

"Oh shut up, Hidan. It's not going to be too hard to take down these brats," Kakuzu said, bearing only a few signs that he had actually been in a fight.

On one side, it was the Akatsuki members Hidan, Kakuzu, Zetsu, and Kisame.

On the other side, it was the Konoha Nine minus Sasuke plus Sai, Neji, Tenten, Lee, Hanabi, the Konohamaru trio, a handful of younger children, and some older shinobi whom the others didn't recognize, wearing an orange mask with only one eye hole for the right eye.

"Anyone injured?" Sakura asked them.

"Relatively fine," Neji said. "Though personally, I'd like to beat that plant thing's face in for biting my leg..." He gazed down slightly at the wounds on his legs. It was no longer bleeding. In fact, it was rather burnt, rather than bloody. There must have been some kind of chemical in the venus-flytrap man.

"That doesn't smell too good," Kiba said, rubbing his nose and wincing at the sight of his leg.

"Okama-kun (1) should be fine," Sai said to them. Neji hit him.

"Shut up, or I'll kill you," he said threateningly.

"Big words coming from a transvestite with a gimp leg."

"You two!" Tenten shouted, holding Neji back with her hands beneath his arms and over his shoulders in a body-lock. "Focus on the Akatsuki here!"

"Hahaha, you are all such fools," the shinobi with a face mask said.

They all turned to face him.

"Who are you anyway?" Sakura asked, not recognizing him at all.

"Tobi!" the plant-like Akatsuki-nin said. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking," this 'Tobi' said, making room between all of them, "that we've been in Konoha far too long for a simple kidnapping, and that right about now, I'd like to finish this mission up right quick."

"Bastard, we're here too and you don't know what you're—"

"Hari kangoku no Jutsu (Crystal Prison Technique; sorry for bad grammar and corny name?)!"

So many things happened at once. Neji shoved everyone within a five-meter radius away from him using the kaiten, with those closest—Lee, Hanabi, and Hinata—being pushed the farthest from the impact. Chouji had managed to scoop up most of the children with his large arms and carry them out quickly with him, and Shino pulled several Konoha children out himself.

The others suddenly found themselves trapped inside an invisible box.

"Crap!" Naruto shouted, pounding on an invisible wall. There was no exit!

"TOBI YOU ASS YOU GOT US TOO!" the Akatsuki shouted angrily, most were swearing at him. Out of all of the shinobi, Kisame was the only one able to avoid this technique.

"The prison technique allows me to absorb everything," Tobi said smugly. "Chakra, bloodline, jutsus... everything. If you're alive by the time the Kyubi vessel is taken down, then I shall gladly release you from my hold. Otherwise... Well, I suppose with so many Akatsuki dead, Leader would all have to let me join, wouldn't he...?"

"Tobi!" one of Zetsu's halves shouted. "Do not take us down with him!"

"You are not in much of a position to demand things," Tobi said, almost thoughtfully.

"And neither are you," another voice said.

"Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto shouted to his teacher desperately. "Help!"

"I will, Naruto," Kakashi said to him.

"So, you're a teacher now..." Tobi said to him.

"I don't know you," Kakashi said. Even after a month of recovering from his case of chakra depletion in the hospital, he was not at full strength. He made a handseal and forced his Sharingan to change. This was the easy part. The sharingan by itself took a large amount of chakra to change forms—almost everything he had for the time being. Luckily, he had Yoroi Akiko, the elder sister to Yoroi Akado, the Leaf shinobi who had also betrayed them to the Sound. "So, you think you can handle this?" he said to her.

"If it can prove my loyalty to Konoha after all these years, then of course," the woman said. In the blink of an eye, she threw a kyogetsu to Kisame, whom she knew had more chakra than Tobi. Kisame managed to avoid it the first time around but realized belatedly that the chain and sickle were like a homing device and wrapped itself around him.

Ordinarily, he could have easily broken out of the chain like it was paper but the moment his blue skin came in contact with the metal, he immediately felt weakened.

Focusing solely absorbing the chakra at a huge rate, Akiko was left completely vulnerable. Luckily, it didn't matter too much. Kakashi pulled up his hitai-ate headband and pulled it up, revealing his sharingan eye once again. Ordinarily, Kakashi wouldn't have even thought of resorting to such a strenuous technique while he was so depleted, but placing a hand on the chain of Akiko's weapon, he felt his chakra return to him at a much quicker rate.

He focused on his targets, who definitely started feeling it's effects.

"What's happening?" Tobi shouted, trying to see what was going on behind him, "What's going o—?"

A huge light engulfed burst out of a midair rift and engulfed them quickly. He glanced back at the Konoha shinobi still in the invisible box and realized it had no effect on those inside. They were still losing chakra and energy at an astonishing rate. Ino, Shikamari, Tenten, and Sakura were already unconscious from depletion. Neji and Sai were on the ground, conscious, but unmoving. Kiba had to resort to eating a handful of his soldier pills to stay on his feet. Only Naruto seemed fully conscious. Weakened, yes, but he lacked the glazed over look in his eyes that everyone else had gained the moment they ran low on their chakra reserves.

The whiskers on his cheeks were thicker and bolder, which meant that he was reverting back to his Kyubi-controlled form. What was alarming was that despite the boost of power that Naruto should have been receiving, he was still losing his strength, albeit much slower than he would have lost chakra without this form.

Kakashi realized with a sinking feeling that even the Kyuubi was not helping Naruto recover the amount of chakra that they were losing. Which must have meant... the Kyubi itself may be losing its chakra, and there was an actual possibility that it was being torn from Naruto. He could feel the intensity of the power that was emanating from Naruto, as well as it's rapid dissipation.

In fact, Naruto didn't seem to be very exhausted. Just pained. It would be best to end this quickly.

This must have been a technique similar to what the Akatsuki had done to steal the Shukaku demon from Gaara.

Ordinarily, Kakashi would never do this...

"Kakashi-sensei..." Naruto said. "Help...!"

...But he needed to stop the Akatsuki from obtaining the Kyubi.

"More chakra," Kakashi grunted to Akiko.

"Don't tell me to do what I'm already trying to do," she said, sweating slightly. "I'm taking in all I can as fast as I can..."

Kakashi turned his head in their direction.

He needed to get Naruto out the most.

He turned his Mangekyou sharingan towards Naruto.

Whether to not it was by conventional means.

"No, no, no, no, no," he said, shaking his head and changing his mind, probably remembering what had happened with Deidara and his arms, not to mention the huge explosive. "Wait...! We don't... wanna die like... like that either...!"

There was a strange feeling in the pit of Naruto's stomach. He glanced behind him to see if the others were feeling this strange sensation but found himself to be the last one standing, though hopefully not the last one alive.

He looked back to Kakashi, only to find that everything was a blur of colors. He could make out a woman's figure standing next to a person with silver hair and attire that was probably borrowed from the Konoha hospital. Everything was completely warped and Naruto fell, unable to move from the extreme pain he felt inside of himself, as if his insides were being mixed around with a blender.

"I can't say that you won't die," Kakashi said to Naruto sadly. "But I can say that you'll be sent to a better place... Better than where you are now..."

'I think,' Kakashi added mentally.

"W-wait...Kakashi, you.., you bastard! Don't... don't y'point... that eye... at us...y-you—!"

Goodbye, Naruto.

Everything went white.



Words to Know:

(1) (n) gay person, male transvestite

My Thinking Corner

Wow, this was harder than I expected. I enjoy writing stories, but I hate starting them. I usually feel that it's a bit difficult to start, considering that I always focus on the other things, but I suppose this fic would be even harder, considering I've barely planned anything for this story out at all.

Once again, Yoroi Akiko is not a main character. ...Therefore, I'm hoping this prevents her from becoming a Mary-Sue. The most dramatic thing that had ever happened in her life was probably when her little brother ditched Konoha and went for the Sound (or whatever happened to that guy who Sasuke fought in the chuunin preliminaries), but that's it. No dramatic past. And no future either, considering she's a throwaway character, as a majority of my OCs are. However, if you have anything to say about my OCs, feel free to stick it in my face. And when/if you do, please stick it nicely.

Signing out,