Disclaimer: The series of Naruto belongs entirely to Kishimoto-sensei; I own it neither in whole nor part.

Note: If you don't like Deidara, go fly a kite; I'm finally trying this, and if I do say so, it's a rather nice plot. So there. The idea was slightly borrowed from someone on , but believe me when I say the stories are completely different.

Clay Penance


Chapter 1- Breaking Point

~ten years ago~

The destruction was rampant; the village was completely demolished, smoldering in heaps of ash and coal. Over the crackling of fire, a set of footsteps could be heard, carrying their master through the devastation. A young boy hid amongst the rubble, pressing himself between charred and glowing tinder, trying to make sure his breaths were even and quiet despite the fear that coursed through him like bad blood.

He was only a genin- he could do nothing against him.

He was an S-class criminal.

The sweat that dampened his skin and mixed with his blood was thick; the air was so filled with ashes, embers and salt that attempts to breathe were nearly completely choked. He pressed himself further within charred planks of what was once his room, and prayed desperately to whatever heavenly being was listening that his attempts at remaining hidden would not be in vain.

It seemed a star had heard his plea. The demon passed by without a glance towards his hiding place, and left him to the ruin.

Deidara startled out of his light sleep, and rubbed his eyes, glancing out the window of his shabby hotel room. He hadn't had that dream for a while. The one where those words so long ago had set the stage for his future.

"I swear… I swear to you! I'll become the most dangerous ninja ever, and I'll kill you for this!"

He glanced down at his hands, one his own, and one that a victim has so generously 'donated' to him, and gripped them painfully. He'd done what he said; only three years after starting out, he became a well-known criminal, and was able to kill the man that had destroyed his home village. A year after that, he found out that the man had been Akatsuki; it was then that he was 'recruited,' however unwilling. A bitter laugh escaped his lips.

Definitely not the best thing I ever did, yeah.

At first it had seemed like the ideal job—decent lodging, astronomical pay, and food to fill a hungry stomach and missions that were never dull. Training grounds, strong companions… he couldn't have asked for more.

Until the first time he had to kill a child.

She was a little girl: raven hair, violet eyes, and sweet, delicate features. A feudal lord's daughter at that. So innocent… when he'd walked into the room, she'd turned and looked at him with utmost trust and sincerity, and asked him if he was looking for her father. That was the first of many missions where he locked himself in his room afterwards; he'd only been 14, dammit! How could they expect him not to feel anything while slaughtering a completely innocent little girl? It had taken days for him to calm himself and stop the nightmares.

Blue eyes glanced towards the horizon shown outside his window; the earth was rimmed with fire; dawn would come soon. He slipped from between the covers to tread silently across the wooden floor towards the cramped bathroom provided with his room, and performed his morning regimen with only the sounds of rushing water to tattle on his presence. The few belongings he kept with him were packed before two minutes had passed, and he paused only long enough to drop his keys off at the front desk on his way from the seedy residence. Those ANBU nin had chased him for an age the night before; it was a wonder even to him that he'd avoided their detection in the creaky little inn. He brushed aside a lock of blonde hair casually, footsteps moving him towards the wooded border around the small town. He had no intention of eating breakfast; that nightmare—and the feelings that came with it—were enough to rid him of an appetite for a couple of days at the least.

His feet trod noiselessly through the grass on the side of the path; caution had shown him that even little used roads were too dangerous for him. Pathetic really, he'd sometimes find himself thinking; completely pathetic, that even tiny roads running through the woods were no more than a guide to him. The day he became an assassin for hire, roads became ominous enemies to his survival. Eyes traveled to the sky; it was barely past dawn.

Come to think of it, Sasori-no-danna would've been up earlier…

He immediately shook the idea from his head. Contrary to popular belief, he quite missed the puppet master, even if the two of them had always bickered like old ladies. Sasori had had his heart broken by parents who didn't love each other, much less himself; he, if anything, thought that the crimes they committed were compassionate, and protected people from what happened to him. Their views on living were just as different as their views on art, and for that reason he pitied his deceased partner. As of now, he had one more mission. Another nightmare to take care of.

There was a small village no more than four or five miles west of his current position. It was a keeping place of ancient, powerful weapons said never to have been remastered in any smithy after their creator's departure for the nether realm. A sword that created chakra, and a shield that incorporated the power from the attacks that hit it into the bearer's body. His objective was to obtain these objects and kill anyone who happened to sight him in the process. It seemed that the most innocent were always in the wrong places at the wrong times when it came to him. He fingered an unraveling string on his bag of clay as he walked, schooling his face into an uncaring guise.

Though truthfully, he cared very, very much.

With a last heavy sigh, the blonde Iwagakure native shot into the trees, taking off for his destination. He needed to get back to base before too long; he was already a day over due. If he finished this assignment by mid-afternoon, it was a possibility that he could be back before dawn with all-night travel. But still, the prospect wasn't pleasing.

Deidara glanced back at the village.

There just had to be a festival that day. He sighed heavily and turned away. He needed to find the nearest body of water and wash his hands.

The blood was getting sticky.

AN: Woot! Chapter 1 got revised! Actually, I revised the whole thing a bit, though chapter two had few enough changes that I'm not going to bother reposting it unless I get a request. The original content has been left mostly untouched. The only changes were for awkward wording, bad grammar, etc. And over the next few chapters, some places where the dialogue totally didn't fit the characters. (I mean, I caught Deidara using middle-English grammar. SO WRONG.)

But I'll tell you straight, as it stands, this is still not representative of my current writing style. You'll see CURRENT WRITING STYLE beginning with chapter 7, which should appear out of nowhere very soon. (not really, but I'm seriously working on it, so don't worry.) So... JUST A LITTLE LONGER, I SWEAR.

Cheers! ^^