A/N: I'm so sorry that it took so long, but it's up now and I hope you enjoy it. I've gone back and changed to Arashi to Minato in every chapter, both the fox's name and the Yondaime's. I think that about covers everything, and once again I sorry for how long it took. Now on with the story!
Hinata was just pulling on her sandals when there was a knock on the door. She opened it to find Temari, her battle fan strapped to her back. "Gaara sent me, we're to help Kankuro gather all genin and chunin to evacuate the civilians, then stay with them for their protection." Hinata look slightly angry, but when she opened her mouth Temari cut her off. "Naruto didn't ask Gaara to send you with us. The only thing he said about you was that you didn't want him to have a say in what you were to do. He even nodded when asked if you are a close range fighter."
"So is Naruto."
"He also has Kyuubi and his clones. Besides that, I know you were both told to follow Gaara's orders, so for the time being, you both are basically Suna-nins." Temari sighed when the rage in Hinata's eyes only increased. "Look, I want to fight them as much as you do, for close to the same reasons, but like it or not we were told to protect the villagers, and if we fail to do that everything those two will be fighting for will mean nothing." Hinata nodded but still didn't look happy, an expression shared by Temari. "Come on, we're wasting time." Hinata followed her out with Minato at her heels.
Naruto and Gaara stood together atop the Kazekage tower staring out across the desert. In a few hours time, this place would be a battlefield, but at the moment it was peaceful. Without a glance towards him, Gaara knew his fellow Jinchuuriki was worried about something. "You are worried. Why?"
"Ero-sennin said they wouldn't be on the move for another year and a half, but now they are coming here, something doesn't make sense. Why send someone to capture you when they can't extract Shukaku from you yet?"
"Perhaps their plans are ahead of schedule, perhaps they fed him false information, a great number of possibilities could have happened. But it no longer matters, they are coming and that is what we must focus on."
Naruto smiled as he watched the hundreds of ninja rushing around the village. "I suppose you're right." Naruto's smile quickly faded. "I'm worried that Hinata and your siblings may come back to help Gaara. They're not ready to face opponents like these."
"If it were just me, I'd say no, but with you and the jonin, I'd say we'll put up one hell of a fight."
"You don't believe we'll be victorious?"
"They're S-rank for a reason. We know next to nothing about either of them, or how they fight. I mean I've been known to pull wins out of my ass, but I'm know luck will only get me so far, and I think that maybe my luck is running out. My last encounter with Akatsuki ended with Sasuke in a coma and Ero-sennin saving me." Sand encased his entire body except his head. "Gaara, what the hell are you doing?!"
"You are not the person who defeated me. He would not and did not give up because he was out matched, he fought past his limits to protect a single person, but you will now when I ask you to help save many more. If that is true, I shall kill you now for you will be useless to me." He begin to close his hand when the sand coffin explode outward and Naruto dropped to the ground, his eyes red, his pupil were slits, and his whisker marks were wider and more defined. He landed on his feet as he started to change back. "Welcome back."
A smile stretched across Naruto's face. "Thanks, I really needed that, but you really didn't need to try and crush me, you could have just clocked me, that's what Sakura does."
Gaara smirked. "It was effective nonetheless. Brooding doesn't suit you."
"Couldn't agree more."
It didn't take more than a few hours to completely evacuate the city, and there was still no sign of Akatsuki or the Konoha ninjas. Gaara and Naruto had moved to the wall as soon as they saw the first group of villagers being herded out of the city walls, now the wall was lined with Jonin and Naruto knew that there were five teams of medical ninja hidden in buildings nearby, each group was composed of four with a group of twelve of the less experienced Jonin as guards, and possible replacements if needed. Gaara was the first to notice something moving on the horizon, it was on the ground and coming towards them. "Something's coming."
He opened his mouth to call the order, but Naruto placed a hand on Gaara's shoulder. "I'll send a clone to check." Gaara nodded and Naruto formed the cross seal. "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu." In a puff of smoke and single clone appeared and jumped outside of the wall, before taking off towards the target. In moments, the clone had reached its target, picked it up, and was on the way back to the wall. After jumping back up to where Gaara and Naruto stood, the clone set down a pug wearing a blue coat and Konoha hitai-ate before dismissing itself. "Pakkun, I guess that means Kakashi one of the three coming to help us."
"Naruto, Kakashi sent me ahead, they're still about an hour out. I'm supposed to tell you that according to Jiraiya, they should arrive shortly after Akatsuki does. Sakura says not to do anything stupid, and Shikamaru is… well Shikamaru, but he did mumble something about a troublesome blonde."
"Alright, thanks for the intel Pakkun." The pug nodded and was shrouded in smoke as he dismissed himself. Naruto turned to Gaara. "Well, that couldn't have worked out better. Kakashi-sensei's Raiton and Katon jutsu will come in handy for destroying the puppets, and depending on how well Shikamaru's Kage Mane no Jutsu works at night and in early morning light, he could stop a few from moving. Sakura, well according to Ero-sennin, Baa-san's a slave driver, so I have no idea how far she's come in her training, but you said she wasn't fully trained to handle poisons, so that probably means they didn't start with medical jutsu." Naruto shudders. "And if that's true, I definitely don't want to piss her off."
"It will be worse if Nee-san's boyfriend should die."
Naruto's face paled. "You know about that?" Gaara just nodded. "You guys should tell her then, she more scared of how'll you react then she was when you let Shukaku out at the Chunin Exams."
"Nii-san doesn't know. I probably wouldn't either if it weren't for the fact that I can't sleep." Naruto looked really confused. "She's always excited to go to Konoha, and happier than usual when she returns, but I thought nothing of it until I heard her talk about him in her sleep. I admit at first I wanted nothing more than to crush him, I had just recently starting to get closer to my siblings, I saw it as him was trying to take part of my family from me. As these occurrences continued, I saw how happy she really was, and I realized that if I killed him, I would still lose her. I was happy that she had found someone that made her happy in ways I cannot, but sad at the same time because I would lose her to him."
Naruto gave his friend and fellow Jinchuuriki a small true smile. "Gaara, even if they get married, you'll never lose her, she'll still be your sister no matter what. But instead of thinking of it as losing a sister, think of it as gaining a new brother, since he'll be as much apart of your family as she is of his." His smile widened as he turned back to keep watch. "Kankuro on the other hand, even if you wanted to, you probably couldn't get rid of him."
"Ever since I accepted the idea, I've wanted to meet him again to do three things, first thank him for making her happy, second give them my blessing, and to warn him that if he breaks her heart, I will break him. Now I get to, but I wish it were under better circumstances."
"Well, you know what they say, can't win them all."
It was then that Chiyo joined them on the wall. "Any sign?"
Though the question was probably directed at Gaara, it was Naruto who answered. "No, but there's something that's bothering me. When I arrived Gaara said they were travel atop a bird-like thing, and I was wondering if a puppeteer could make a puppet fly while on top of it, or if you had heard of a summoning contract for a type of bird."
"Well, summoning contracts are normally kept secrets even among allied villages, Konoha being an exception with the Sannin. I have never heard of any such contract being used, but it could just be that no one has lived to tell about it. As for if it is a puppet, it would have to be completely hollow and the puppeteer would have to be a trained wind user, which Sasori is not, he has an earth affinity. In all likely hood, it's the Iwa ninja that is transporting them, but I have no idea how."
"If that's true, we have a problem, I don't actually know any long range jutsu." Chiyo gave him a look that clearly said 'What the hell?' "Well, unless you count summoning as a long range jutsu, otherwise I know a few close range, and a mid to long range that is useless against anything in the air unless they land on it."
"There's nothing we can do about it now except adapt to the new circumstances. We'll simply switch opponents, but you'll have to be more careful than you were in the exams, a single hit and it could be over."
"I just hope it's that simple Gaara."
"You're still concerned that Temari, Kankuro, and your girlfriend will try to return to help." Naruto just nodded. "Nee-san and Nii-san know enough to follow my orders, they'll keep her there."
"Maybe so, but if Hinata uses the Byakugan to watch the battle, which I'm sure she will, will Kankuro be able to keep both her and Temari from coming once Shikamaru arrives?"
"Most likely not. Could you send a clone to them and inform him at least, maybe even the medic-nin to divert to their location?"
"I've never sent a clone that far before, I don't know if the clone would reach them or not."
The puppet master brought the attention back to herself. "He wouldn't have the time to in any case, the enemy is coming." Both turned and saw a shape in the sky, and it was getting closer quickly.
Hinata stood the closest to the village, just barely within normal sight range, with her Byakugan on. "They're here. I still don't understand why they don't want us down there."
Temari and Kankuro stand just behind her, but it was Temari who answered. "Think about it Hinata, if you were down there, what do you think Naruto would be more focused on, the fight, or protecting you? It's the same with us. After the Chunin Exams, Gaara started changing himself to become like Naruto, well not completely, but at least his out look on life and the village. Those two will do anything to protect those they care about."
"How can you be sure?"
This time Kankuro smiled. "Because that's one of the things Gaara admires most about Naruto. He fought Gaara to save the pink haired girl from being crushed by sand, and refused to give up even after Gaara gave control over to Shukaku. After he won against Shukaku, they were both out of energy, but he still managed to keep moving, granted he was crawling but still. At least till the Uchiha told him she was safe, then he passed out. So, any sign of the three Konoha sent?"
"Konoha sent three more people? Who?"
"Don't know, but there's a med-nin, an strategist, and an experienced Jonin."
Hinata focused her enhanced vision on the direction of Konoha and gasped. "They're about four hundred yards from the wall, Sakura, Kakashi, and…" Turning her Byakugan off and turned to the siblings.
Temari felt her chest tightening and Kankuro grew impatient. "Well, who's the third person?"
Temari spoke in an almost whisper. "It's Shikamaru, isn't it?" Hinata didn't say anything, she just looked away, and Temari felt like her heart stopped. For a brief moment, she had thought of staying, but that thought was shattered with the sound and sight of a massive explosion form the village walls. "Alright Hinata, I'm with you. Kankuro…"
"If you think you're going to leave me behind, you're out of your mind. But when Gaara gets pissed at us, I'm saying you dragged me along when you went to save your boy toy Shikamaru."
He smirked when she blushed. "What are you talking about?"
"You know perfectly well. You should hide your dairy better, it was what got me into reading the Icha Icha series in the first place. You should really think about publishing some of it, I sure you could give Icha Icha a run for its money."
Her blush increased ten fold and Hinata even had a small blush. 'When this is over, I am going to kill Kankuro.' The three of them took off towards the village, witnessing several more explosions along the way.
"It would seem they've been expecting us Sasori-sama, and they've even brought the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki for us."
"You are not prepared to handle both of them Deidara, so it seems I must also join the battle."
Forty feet from the wall, something, or someone dropped from the bird-like thing, before said bird thing sped up its approach towards the wall. The first explosion happened ten feet from the wall and Naruto turned to Gaara. "So you're taking Bomber Man and I get Pinocchio?" Gaara nodded. The two of them were the first to jump from the wall towards the enemy, followed quickly by the jonin. Gaara was met in midair by a pillar of sand that lifted him toward the Iwa ninja, while Naruto weaved his way through a rain of smaller bird shaped objects, and the resulting explosion from them as he made his way towards Sasori. Most of the jonin followed Naruto, Chiyo among them, in his charge of Sasori, while the others launched jutsu in to the sky at the flying Iwa ninja.
Sasori had a large figure, but was hunched over, and his black hair was in corn rolls. "Uzumaki, your presence is unexpected, but not unwelcome. It saves us the trouble of hunting you down later." Chiyo reached Naruto's side as Sasori spoke. "Hello Obaa-san, you're looking well. Given the welcome we've received, I very much doubt that you will willingly hand the two Jinchuuriki over to us." Chiyo's reply was to reach inside of her sleeves and pull out a line of wire that had twelve kunai attached to it. "I see you have made your decision, very well."
With a flick of her wrists, the kunai all shot forward. "Soushuuzen." As they neared Sasori, a scorpion-like tail came from beneath his cloak and whipped out in front of him, knocking down all of the kunai, except two that Chiyo had attached chakra strings to and maneuvered them so that they cut Sasori's cloak from the shoulders back. In doing so, the remains of the cloak fell to the ground revealing a mask shaped shell on his back, the tail coming out from its mouth, his left arm was a large metallic cylinder with more metal rods sticking out in every direction. "You've been modifying Hiruko I see. Tell me, do you hide within your puppet like a scared little boy, or send it to do your dirty work like a coward?"
Sasori's right arm reached up and ripped the cloth that covered his mouth away revealing a five-piece jaw. "You accuse me of hiding Obaa-san? After you and your brother hid yourselves away after my departure."
His tail shot towards her, aiming straight for her heart. "Rasengan!" Naruto stepped in front of her, spiraling orb of chakra in hand, and smashed it into head on into the tip of the tail, throwing it back, but nothing more. "Damn it, the Rasengan didn't even scratch it. Hey Chiyo, you know more about this thing than I do, what do we do?"
"We have to break Hiruko in order to expose Sasori, but I'm afraid I don't have that kind of destructive power."
"Well since the Rasengan didn't work, I only have one thing more powerful." He made a cross with his index and middle fingers. "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu." A single clone appeared behind him and slightly to the right. He began swirling chakra in the palm of his hand, while the clone pushed even more chakra into it, expanding it to rough the size of his torso. "Odama Rasengan!" Both he and his clone ran forward, and Sasori's mouth opened, sending hundreds, if not thousands of needles flying toward them. While the large orb was in the way of the real Naruto, his clone was hit multiply times. It dispelled and without its added control of the chakra, the giant Rasengan became unstable. Even though he knew this, Naruto kept up his charge, but luck it seemed was not on his side. Before he got within five feet of the puppet master the ball exploded, sending him flying back the way he came and skidding through the sand. His hand was burnt, his clothes ragged, and his body sore, but he got back to his feet.
The explosion had also hit Sasori, but not nearly as bad, he had been pushed back a few feet, but remained stand. "It seems Itachi's description of you was right, you charge in with an all or nothing attack, it's surprising you've lasted this long. But then, I guess the Kyuubi is the reason for that."
"Shut up, you know nothing about me!" He placed his hands in the ram seal. "Kai!" There was a quick flash of light blue, when it was gone, so was he. All Chiyo heard was an impact against wood and turned to find Naruto where Sasori had been, arm stretched out, and said puppet master flying through the air. When he landed she saw that the left half of the jaw was off the slides and stuck up in the mouth, as well as him having a spider webbed crack on the left cheek. "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu." Smoke clouded the view of everyone and when it was gone, two hundred Narutos stood around Sasori. "I may not be able to pack as much a punch as Baa-san, but you can be damn sure that I will break that puppet apart, even if it has to be piece by piece."
Sasori jumped high into the air and pointed his left arm towards the ground. "Now you die!" The metal arm shot off and started spinning, releasing the smaller metal cylinders in all directions. Each of the metal rods split in two and released a barrage of needles. One by one the clones were destroyed as they were hit till the area was clouded in smoke again. It was dispersed faster than before as the smoke started swirling as if forming a tornado. The fact was through, that another Rasengan was pulling it in, it was a normal sized one, and it was grinding against Hiruko's underside, Naruto had sand falling from his clothes, and his arm outstretched as through he was delivering an uppercut. After a moment, gravity took affect over them again and brought them back to the ground. Neither had a very soft landing, but Naruto's was better than Sasori's, who landed on his back revealing the spiral grinded into the wood of Hiruko's stomach. They were both on their feet shortly. "It seems Itachi wasn't completely accurate, you do plan ahead somewhat. Using the smoke screen created by making your clones to go underground, but it won't work on me again."
Gaara had started things off immediately by raising a fifteen-foot wide column of sand around Deidara, and started to compress it around him. The process was slow due to the sand not have his chakra infused in it like the sand in his gourd, but it was soon proven to be for nothing as there was an explosion from within the column that blew the sand away. "It will take more than that to beat my art." Deidara threw six small white bird-shaped objects and put his hands in the ram seal. A small puff of smoke hid the objects for a second before they burst through it, their wings flapping and headed straight for Gaara. They didn't even make it ten feet before they exploded. Deidara looked around frantically and saw Baki standing at the highest point of the wall looking he had just swung a sword, but had nothing in his hands.
Taking advantage of his distraction, Gaara created two streams of sand on both sides of Deidara and smashed them into each other, but Deidara wasn't so distracted that he dropped his guard. Unable to save the bird he was on, he jumped straight up and in another puff of smoke stood a top a large owl, as his previous ride exploded from being crushed. He saw Baki swing again and dodge out of the way, but since he was unable to see what he was dodging, he wasn't able to get completely out of the way. As a result, the hair that covered his left eye was cut off revealing a range finder. "Your interruptions are starting to piss me off!" He threw a long object and again there was smoke, but this time what emerged was a twenty-foot long centipede aimed at Baki.
Gaara raised his arm and the desert sand shot upward and formed a wall in front of the jonin just before the centipede reached its target. It exploded on contact and the sand dropped back to the ground. While Gaara was busy however, Deidara sent more small birds at Gaara. Instantly, the sand from his gourd raced to protect him. 'So that's his absolute defense huh, that sand seems to move faster than that from the desert. If I remember right, the report said that he always carries a set amount of sand in the gourd on his back, so it stands to reason that it would be attuned to his chakra.' He reached his hands into the pouches at his sides and frowned. 'I'm running out of clay, maybe Sasori-sama was right about needing more than one bag. Well if all else fails, I still have my specialty.' At this thought, a smile made it's way to his lips, at least till he realized that he was about to be hit by sand that resembled one of Shukaku's arms.
He was able to get out of the way of the limb, but was taken by surprise when another one spilt off from it as it passed by and grabbed his arm left. "Sabaku Kyuu." It slowly crept up to his shoulder, and he watched in horror as Gaara clenched his hand into a fist. "Sabaku Soso." Blood squirted from the sand as Deidara screamed in pain and then the sand fell, before being blown away in the wind. Now as you can imagine, Deidara is way beyond pissed and he throws two swan shaped clay birds and after a puff like everything else he makes, each bird's four wings start fluttering like crazy, flying at extreme speeds towards Gaara, who tries to stop them with his sand but to no avail. Again they were cut in two before exploding, but instead of the invisible blade of wind that Baki uses, there were several and they were visible. 'That was Temari's Kamaitachi, it seems Naruto was right to worry.'
Deidara glared down at the newcomer. 'I forgot, this Jinchuuriki has siblings.' A wicked smirk found its way on to his lips despite the immense pain he was in. 'I guess now would be the best time to use my specialty.'
Next Time: The Battle's Conclusion (I think) and Arrival of More Leaf Ninja