Part II Begin
Sakura opened her eyes to darkness: she could tell that her roommate Ino, whom Sakura had to fight tooth and nail with her mother to agree to, was not there; and that her guest, Samui, who was a representative from Kumo for the upcoming chuunin exams, was already up. A flare of brightness from her room's lights signaled someone attempting to rouse her from her slumber. She closed her eyes against the glare, wishing she could just go back to sleep. It had been a rough day at the hospital with Tsunade-shishou and Shizune-San both being pulled for an "important meeting", which all the doctors and nurses knew was code for Tsunade was going to get drunk off her ass and Shizune had to baby sit. So she really just wanted to roll over and get some sleep, working 'till five in the morning will do that to a person. But if she did, she'd miss breakfast. And if the turning on of her room lights was anything to go by, Samui was messaging for her to get up as she was about to make breakfast. Judging by the way the month had started; Sakura decided it was a meal she could not afford to skip.
The Namikazes were supposed to be back two months ago, meaning that in Minato's continued absence Tsunade was still Hokage, which pissed her off greatly. Her rage, of course, was then taken out on her staff. With a shuddering sigh Sakura pushed off the thick warm blankets, swung her legs off the bed, and stood in her night gown yawning and stretching.
She made her way to the bathroom noticing that Samui was done in there already which meant she was starting breakfast; that girl was amazingly efficient. Sakura dropped her gown once the bathroom door was shut and regarded her reflection glumly in the mirror. Maybe she should have let her hair grow back out? She could just tie it back to get it out of her face; not that it mattered she thought bitterly as she jumped in the shower. She scrubbed her face with the hot stream of water before getting out. Heading back to her room from the shower she passed her shinobi gear which was draped over a chair back in a lazy manner.
The chuunin uniform was pretty much only a thick green padded vest riddled with pockets that had seals on it that would change the heat it produced depending on the weather. When her and her new team members had gone to Yuki she had the great surprise of unusual warmth taking over her body.
She froze at the thought of her new teammates. She never wanted new teammates; she wanted her old ones back. But one had mental issues and one was being chased down by murders for reason he has had no control over. Being Tsunade's best student had its perks: one was learning all her private techniques and the other was being able to listen to privy information. With that thought she headed to her night stand where she kept a picture of old team seven.
Kakashi-sensei was smiling through his mask at the camera in a pose that made him look like he was reading his book and only stopped to look at the camera. Sasuke-kun had his arms cross and was glaring at the picture as if he was going to kill the photographer. She was next to him, smiling shyly as if afraid she would ruin the picture. And then there was Naruto, grinning so widely, the mask he wore looked like it was stretching to the as far as it could possibly go. His blue eyes were a shade that was the color of the sky. She remembered when she got the photo that she had stared at his eyes for hours trying to figure out how the color could change so drastically. How could this supposed dead last be so… so mysterious?
She wondered most was what was so important that it was keeping him away from this village, from his friends, and, more selfishly, what was keeping him from her.
She knew she had no right to think that way. Especially, after the way she treated him, so harshly, over the years. But, after hanging out and talking with Ino, Ten-Ten, Hinata, and Temari, the "Uchiha Sasuke' blinders she wore were lifted off and getting to know about Naruto more was like seeing the light for the first time.
The problem was… well she was the problem. How was she supposed to convey how she had changed to him? He was an amazing shinobi to put things lightly, but the guy was denser then the bottom of the ocean. She'd practically have to rip off her clothes and jump him to realize she wanted him, if what Ino and Temari said was true. It seemed the only person that has had any leeway with him has been Ten-Ten.
She grunted and put the picture back down. She turned from it and headed for the closet and began to change. Why did she have to start thinking about that idiot anyways? Not like she had a chance with all those girls chasing him and others that were far out of her league in the looks department. She just didn't want to get her hopes up. She treated him too badly to even deserve a chance.
Finishing buckling up her skirt she turned to her bed and sat down as she begun to put on her boots. She hated herself when she began to feel this way. She was just starting to miss the knuckle head and that was all. She got up from his bed and slid into her Chuunin vest, making a face as she still didn't like the feel of it. It was cold from the heater last night and she knew that she'd be happy about it later when it got hot.
Sakura walked downstairs and into the sitting room, where Samui was sitting at the foot table, shifting slightly on her cushion, as she ate her breakfast. Samui was different from your average darkened skinned Kumo citizen. She was almost as pale as Sakura herself with short princess style blonde, and a body most females dreamed of. Sakura was just happy that she wasn't also vying for Naruto's attention.
"A message arrived for you from your Kage." Samui looked up from her plate and pointed to the small desk in the corner of the room. "I placed it over there and released the bird. I hope you don't mind."
"No, that's fine. Thank you." Sakura headed over to her desk and picked up the note.
It is urgent that you arrive here at the Hokage tower as soon as possible. Your teammate from the old team seven has returned and I am assigning you two a mission ASAP. Kakashi is already here so that should tell you how urgent this matter is.
Sakura grinned as she dropped the note excitedly as she raced out the door.
Samui watched her leave before she began to count backwards from seven.
Sakura burst back through the door with the happiest look on her face that Samui has ever seen. "Sorry, come with me to the Hokage tower its urgent!"
Samui just nodded to her as she got to her feet and followed the girl racing down the apartment stares. The two of them barreled down the stairs, nearly toppling Ino, who was running up the stairs in an equally excited manner.
"Ino, we got to go, come on!" Sakura called over her shoulder.
"So you heard your teammate has come back!"
Sakura didn't respond just picked up her speed as if Ino's words spurred her excitement further. She didn't stop running until she arrived in front of the Hokage's office. She took a deep breath as the other two stopped next to her. She put her hand on the door and pushed it opened slowly and the sight before her made her heart stop. "Sasuke-kun."
"Sakura, it's been a long time." She was speechless. She was expecting Naruto back and had completely forgotten about "her" Sasuke-kun.
"I would love to let you two catch up but this is urgent." Tsunade was in her "Super Serious pose" so Sakura quickly stood up straight and stepped in front of her desk. "It seems that there was an attack on the Kazekage."
Sakura froze at that. She wasn't very close to the Kazekage but she was friends with the Suna rep for the up and coming Chuunin exams who just so happened to be the Kazekage's sister Temari. She also knew how close Naruto was with the Kazekage after the chuunin exams.
"The mission is for your team Kakashi to go and scope out the situation. On your way to Suna you will intercept Temari who has already begun her journey back and relay the situation to her. Samui step in here."
The Kumo Nin stepped inside, bowed respectfully, and stood at attention.
"The Raikage has sent word that he would like you to join this team. He believes it will help strengthen ties with Suna."
"Sakura, you look like you have question."
"Hai, you said this was only a scouting mission does that mean the Kazekage is fine? What happened?"
"That… is a complicated story; I'll let them explain it to you when you get there."
The scent of wind and sand seemed to take him back there; to the boy he was and unfortunately would probably never be again. He had received his orders only last night after a month of travel for his return home. However maybe it was a mistake to come back so soon with all this that was going on. He knew that, his mother and father new that, but his and his father's master was very adamant about returning, claiming that it would be easier to protect him. What idiot says that then sends him on a solo mission? No matter, the Akatsuki was making its move and he knew that he was now one of the few that could stop them. If not, they would sweep through the villages looking for the Jinchuuriki, and then disappear, leaving only destruction in their wake.
Right now however that was the least of his worries. Currently just moving, leaping through the sand at neck breaking speeds, flying over the sand dunes, filled his heart with joy. The situation was dire but the feelings that now surrounded him were not dampened. No, he wasn't sure anything could dampen his mood; however, he did need to hurry. In Suna, it was rarely possible to move at these speeds. Here, hundreds of miles of sand that was at least two feet deep, and accompanied by 96 kilometers per hour (approximately 60 miles per hour) winds. To someone of this man's talents, the terrain felt like a walk in the park.
He reveled in it. He reveled in the strength in his muscles, reveled in the way the night air tasted and the secret power of moving through the night as a shadow. This feeling just felt so right. And for the last couple of years this feeling was foreign to him. Nothing had gone right at first. His four different senseis could not come to an agreement on how to train him. Eventually they each took nine months each and did their own thing. Two of the instructors were extremely awkward around each other for the first two years or so they all thought until they were found eating each other's face, much to the great embarrassment of their student. His thoughts were interrupted by an explosion coming from within the village's walls. Not wanting to waste any time he bit his thumb and swiped it across the area in front of him. Blood flew of his thumb and began to form in the shape of seals before is body slammed into it. A pop was the only signal to the success and the fact that he was now on the back of a horse sized White and Blue tiger. ToraYūkan'na was the son of the boss of the Tiger summons. Many people didn't know that Yashachuu isn't actually the actual boss summon of the Tiger clan. No, Yashachuu has actually been next in line for many years. No, a tiger named Hayatetaigā was the boss. However no enemy has ever provided the need to summon him so many considered Yashachuu as the boss.
Not that any of that mattered at the moment. The nin smiled as smoke cleared from the explosion and a large pure white bird could be seen in the sky. He raised his hand into the sky so that it covered his view of the bird.
"Uzumaki Shīringu geijutsu: Kaosuchēn*."
Was all the slipped through his lips.
Akasuna no Sasori* and Deidara emerged from the sand dunes as the sun began to set. As they approached Sunagakure the sand dunes began to level off leaving flat sands and no cover for their approach. Sasori hunkered down in his cloak, making it seem as if the Suna night winds actually gave him a chill, and climbed the last sand dune as he looked over the village. The sight sent a feeling in him that he had sworn he had killed off years ago. He knew this wasn't his home anymore and these sentimental feelings were just some of the last remnants of his old self. He squashed them down quickly.
Lifting his eyes to stare at the wall Sasori saw more: every crack and crevice, every weak spot in its defense, and every guard tower. Most importantly he saw the chakra that surrounded the village in a cylinder shape of sorts. The top was open as if to say the village wasn't afraid of any aerial assaults. However, Sasori new the truth of the matter, of course.
"It seems that Yūra has left us an opening." He turned to his partner who was now standing next to him. "Do you think your weak little attempt at art can handle this?"
"Ah, Sasori-Sempai, ye of so little faith."
With that Deidara stuck out his right hand. A tongue shot out the center of his palm, licking in a circle as if it was licking its chops ready for a meal. The tongue shot into the sleeve of his Akatsuki cloak, returning with a white ball at the tip of the appendage. It brought the ball into its "mouth" and then began to chew. Seconds later a little white bird seemed to shoot out of his palm and into the sand. As it struck a poof of smoke signaled its impact. When the smoke cleared, that little bird had grown to a size, which could easily carry two people. "So I'm off."
Sasori watched the blonde walk over to the bird and jump on without a care in the world. "Make sure your ephemeral junk gets the job done."
"Sasori-sempai, art isn't about longevity; art is in an instant, if it last for any longer… well then it becomes so boring. Remember art is a blast." With that Deidara gave Sasori a wave and patted his giant bird on the neck. The clay bird's wings shot out, slowly lifting the behemoth and its burden from the dunes. With its target in sight, it skyrocketed in to the air and headed for Suna's Kazekage's tower.
Deidara had been to Suna once before. He understood its secrets and silences. Not as well as Sasori, whom he believed was starting to feel nostalgic from seeing his old village once again. And not like that idiot Tobi, who seemed to know a lot in spite of the way he acted. The layout of the huts and towers dotting the ground below amused Deidara; while it may have been secure against a ground assault there was little defense against an aerial strike. Not like there was a kage out there that could fly or anything.
Deidara knew he didn't have much time to he was spotted by the village so he refocuses himself. He looked over at the Kazekage's tower and could only smirk. It was like the man had gift-wrapped himself for him to take. Reaching into his left sleeve with his right hand, he pulled out a ball of clay. Smirking he threw it in the air letting it fall in to the mouth of the palm of his hand. A couple more feet and-.
He flew forward from the birds back as something completely halted its motion. Landing on top of the Kazekage's tower he rolled with his land and stopped to a knee. Instantly he turned his head to his bird to see what could have caused it to come to such a sudden halt.
His widened as he watched glowing blue chains encase the bird in a ball before squeezing until it exploded. The ball of chains expanded before shrinking to half the size it was with it wrapped around the bird. He watched as the chains unraveled to show that there was nothing left before the tips of the chains slammed into the roof and seemed to begin to pull something up at a rapid speed. A teen with blonde hair and the deepest blue eyes he had ever seen shot into the air before he began to descend towards Deidara who quickly pulled out his kunai to block the katana. Luckily he jumped back as the tip of the katana cut strait through the kunai he had pulled out earlier, sending the sharp half straight into the ground.
He watched in amazement as the boy stood quickly, black cloak with blue flames licking the bottom edge. He smirked knowing instantly who this was. Was this his lucky day or what? He watched the boy stand and bring the blade to his left hip and holding the blade to his side.
"Uzumaki Naruto, and the Yondaime of Konoha's son, it's so nice to meet-."
"Satsuei Aokaze*." He swung his katana forward send a blue beam that arced toward the sky. Deidara jumped to his left barely avoiding the attack. Sheesh didn't this kid have any time throw some jibes around before a fight. "Raijin…" Deidara quickly looked up to see that the boy was in front of him with his word raised. "…Kaze no naka ni kakurete*!" he stepped back only to watch in horror as his left hand seemed to pull forward with a golden yellow bladed sword, however his right hand still held onto the blue bladed sword. He watch in fascination at the golden blade left a stream of lightning in its wake while the blue blade seemed to cut through it like butter, or so he thought.
The sound of a million beasts were roaring in anger was all Deidara heard as he watch the blades slam together and form one blade once again. They stood watching each other for a few seconds before all Deidara felt was hot searing pain in his left arm. Screaming he reached for his arm only to feel that nothing was there. He looked behind him to see a stream of controlled angry white lightning slam into a giant sand dune. Expecting it to slam into the dune and dissipate; he watched as it hit the dune, but moved on as if the attack had hit paper. He heard the teen swing his blade once again and the attack vanished.
"Sorry." Deidara turned to the boy who slowly sheathed his weapon across his back. "I saw an opening that I just couldn't resist to take."
He scowled as he took a step back holding onto his stump of a left arm. Damn, that attack was so hot that it cauterized the wound. He looked to Naruto's left and watched as sand began to poor out of the gourd on the Kazekage's back. Not waiting for the attack Deidara turned and ran towards the edge of the roof and jumped.
Naruto and Gaara watch as Deidara jumped off the roof only to see him reappear on top of another giant bird. They watched in silence as Deidara become only a spec before he was completely out of sight. Naruto turned to Gaara and grinned "So what's up Sandman."
Gaara just shook his head. "I've been expecting you." He looked over to where the clay man disappeared too, before turning back to Naruto "When will the others of your party arrive?"
Naruto turned up to look at the moon. Raising his hand up, he let four fingers pop up in succession before smiling back at Gaara. "Four or five hours or so."
"Well, let's go prepare a place for you and your family then."
"Lead the way."
Sitting patiently waiting on others was not something that Naruto liked to do. Whoever Konoha sent to assist in the cleanup of Suna had better hurry up before the tapping of his foot put a hole through the floor. He must have been getting louder in his excessive tapping because his mother's hand slammed on his thigh that was connected to the offending foot. He looked at the woman and gave her a sheepish smile as his hand shot to the back of his head.
She shook her head at his antics before she felt a hand grip her right hand. Looking over she saw that it was Minato who gave her a warm smile at her confused look. She looked down at their hands and saw that there was a dent on the arm rest where her finger had been tapping. She smiled back up at Minato in the same manner as her son had just smiled at her.
Looking at his son he sighed knowing that what he had to say was going to upset him. "Naruto, your fight with the Akatsuki yesterday was still not good enough."
The tone in Minato's voice was sharp as a well-honed kunai and cut just as deep. Slowly Naruto rose to his feet, all jitteriness gone from his body, to face his father.
After more than three years of his training with the three adults in the room with him, he was as a couple inches taller than his mother. Not to say that was much since his mother was only 5'3" but it was better than his previous 4'7" inch frame when he was thirteen. He was happy that he almost gained a full foot in height in the last three years. His daily training regimen and constant scrimmages with his senseis had built muscles that matched those of his father. He wondered if his father thought that he at least looked the part of a shinobi now.
"I'm sorry I disappoint Tou-san. He said in answer, his voice only changing about an octave deeper from his younger days. He rolled his shoulders back in an attempt to keep the hurt from his voice. "I thought letting him go would be a better message then killing him. I apologize for making such an error. I'll do better next time if I get-."
"That's not what I meant." Minato stood as well and placed his hand on his son's shoulder. "Your plan was solid and just. Your execution is just a little shaky, nothing that we can't work on. When facing Akatsuki I don't want any stone unturned in your training and technique. If that idiot hadn't been so full of himself, last night might have gone in a totally different direction. I'm not disappointed just worried." The appalling truth had been growing inside of him like a parasite. All the what-ifs worried him to no end and his son was now his top priority.
The five that occupied the Kazekage's office turned to door to see Temari standing in the door way. She had grown in beauty, something Naruto had not expected. Catching his eye a blush crept across Temari's cheek before she cleared her throat.
"Myself, along with the other team from Konoha and a representative form Kumo have arrived." She then pushed the door opened and let the others enter.
Kakashi followed by Sasuke, Sakura, and finally Samui. The rest of the Konoha nin stood against the wall as the four walked in. Kakashi stepped in front the Kazekage. "Konoha sends its regards Kazekage-sama."
"It is nice to see you again Kakashi, I was under the impression that you were with Naruto on his training trip." Gaara spoke in his usual monotone, his eyes shifted to the right catching Kakashi's attention.
Kakashi smiled, he hadn't sensed any of them in the room but now with Gaara's hint he could feel their presence. "I had to leave early to receive my other student's return from his own training trip Kazekage-Sama. But I don't think Naruto minded much. Right Naruto?"
The three younger Nin that weren't aware of Naruto's presence turned to see the four leaning against the wall. Sakura was the first to act. Throwing all protocol to the wind she rushed the blonde and tackled him to the ground.
"OOF!" Naruto tried to sit up only for Sakura to tighten her grip. "Sakura-chan what's going on?"
"You're back right? Back for good?"
Naruto tried to look at her face only for her to hide it in his chest. "Yeah, I'm back, back for good." He looked past Sakura's head to see Sasuke holding his hand out.
"Welcome back dobe."
"Same to you teme." Naruto grabbed Sasuke's hand and pulled both him and Sakura back to their feet.
Sakura pulled away from Naruto rubbing her eyes as she smiled at the two boys who made up her team.
"Naruto, that really is you."
Naruto looked over Sakura's shoulder to see Samui looking at him, arms crossed over her chest, and a glare that could freeze time. "A-ah Samui-Chan so nice to see you again."
"Is that all you have to say… ass."
"So this is the fling you had in Kumo." Everyone turned to the redheaded woman who was still against the wall.
"What… am I wrong."
"Not that this situation doesn't amuse me but we have some intel I would like to discuss with everyone." Samui took a seat far away from Naruto and so did Sakura which confused Naruto greatly. Taking his seat next to his mother he looked over at Gaara signaling for the Kazekage to continue. "My brother and his Puppet squad have tracked down the area where the two Akatsuki members have set up camp. It is located on the boarder of the land of fire and the land of wind. I have told him to return. A team has been assembled to go after them but frankly I don't believe the members except maybe my sister are strong enough to go toe to toe with Akatsuki. I would like to formally request the help of the Konoha Nin present in this office."
"As the highest ranking Nin present we will gladly assist Suna in this endeavor." Minato said standing and shaking hands with Gaara.
"We are grateful. Kankoru should be returning shortly, when that time comes we would like for your team to head out."
The unsuccessful retrieval of the one-tailed Jinchuuriki was far from over.
Now that Deidara had returned to their camp site, Sasori now had time to ponder what the new circumstances meant. Not one but two jinchuuriki were now present and ready to be taken. But what did the Kyubi's appearance mean. It meant that Minato and Kushina were probably around two and most likely Jiraiya. Those were odds he did not want to bet on. How did it turn out this way, it was supposed to be in and out?
He rose to his feet, put what he hoped was his mask of no concern on his face and said, "Deidara, contact the leader inform him that we will need back up from the Five Shinagami Kakuzu's." He turned to look at the entrance of the cave and squinted as if he just thought of something. "And possibly the assistance of two more members of the ten."
Deidara's eyes widened "Are the two Jinchuuriki that powerful."
"The Shinagami should be able to handle them, no, the prospect of the Yellow Flash, Red Habanero, and the Toad Sage, is what the extra members are for."
Deidara nodded quickly before departing to deliver the message.
Usually this would be the time that Sasori would begin his maintenance. Evening was the time when he pushed aside any thoughts of his duties or his worries over his spies and indulged himself in the maintenance of his many puppets. Sometimes he would venture out to the desert just to gaze at the waves of sand. Sometimes his pleasure was more cerebral and he would read in his library, or more active and he would spend time sparring with his puppets.
No one dropped by without and invitation.
He looked outside the cave once again. Only one thought going through his head maybe he should take the rest of the day for maintenance and sand gazing, because after tomorrow he may never have another chance again. He turned toward the communication hand in the cave and watched Deidara explain the situation. Kakuzu disappeared first followed by two other that he really couldn't tell who they were. Finally all of the rest of the members vanished signaling that the message was delivered.
Sasori turned to head to the back of the cave to gather all of his scrolls; he would need all of them he was sure. After he was sure that he had all that was needed he turned to the entrance and waited for whatever was to come.
* Shīringu geijutsu: Kaosuchēn – Sealing Arts: Chaos chain
* Akasuna no Sasori – Sasori of the red sand.
* Satsuei Aokaze – Shooting blue wind
* Kaze no naka ni kakurete – Hiding within the wind
A/N: Beta has returned and all is well.