A/N: Yes, yes... I know... I deserve to suffer for making you all wait! And I'm not going to make excuses (homework, work, sleep, food, etc.) because you have probably heard it all before, so... meh...Hopefully, I'll actually be able to update more! :]
Anyways, new chapter up! Hurrah! This WAS NOT beta read, so if it's extremely bad, I apologize beforehand... D: My terrible writing hurts my soul... Enjoy!
"Akatsuki!' Naruto shouted in alarm, jumping back.
Sakura, Gai, Lee, Neji, and Tenten reacted almost instinctively, twirling around, ready for an attack.
Naruto glanced towards black clad figure, who was wet with blood, which was seeping through the rips in the jacket he wore. He studied the mysterious person, noting his rather defensive position. It was as if he was protecting something or someone. By the way he was facing it almost seemed…
Was he trying to protect them?
Naruto remembered being warned not to pursue him, now realizing those harsh words he had said was a way to force them to not trust him. Naruto knelt next to him, and spoke softly.
"You… aren't trying to hurt us…are you."
He didn't say it as a question, but more as a statement. The man seemed to withdraw into himself momentarily before standing up with such energy and speed, Naruto fell backwards out of surprise. Hadn't he been weak a second ago?
There was no time for questions however as the stranger gestured for them to stay back.
Naruto nodded and sprang backwards.
"Naruto?" Lee shouted.
"He can still fight! I'd back away if I were you!"
They barely got two meters away before there was a low, deep, resounding roar. It was like thunder during a storm, but amplified and constant like they were sitting next to a waterfall.
Then it began to snow. But the snow was glowing and came up from the ground, like a twisted version of a snowfall. The clouds overhead converged and darkened intensely. The 'snow' exploded like fireworks at random points in midair, only avoided the small circle around the man, which included Naruto and the others. It was a lightning storm.
The Akatsuki members stood immobile, unable to protect themselves from the flurry of sparks. Sakura and Naruto recognized it as the technique that had been used earlier on them and the two sennin.
They team was also unmoving, in a trance, watching their enemies in black cloaks adorned with red clouds, get pelted with the glowing snow, sparking and fizzing, like the sky on New Years. They jerked from the spell due to a sizzling sound like oil in a fire and whirled around to see the figure disintegrate into dust with a slow exhaling breath.
Naruto growled in annoyance, biting back a curse, before he noticed the Akatsuki members fall.
Lee jumped over to them cautiously, checking each carefully. He frowned, eyebrows furrowed together. He shook his head. "They are using a similar method as before. These aren't Akatsuki members according to our current information."
"Are they dead?" Lee nodded curtly.
"That technique that man used," Neji pondered slowly, "I have never seen anything like it before."
Gai shook his head, disturbed, and face rather grave.
"Gai-sensei?" Sakura prodded. Gai looked at her, utmost seriousness etched on his face.
"That was one of the White Fang's techniques."
"Really?!" Tenten exclaimed. She shook her head, in awe of her idol's technique. "But we have to keep going. Kiba?"
The dog-like boy nodded. "Come on, Akamaru!" The dog whined, flattening his ears. "Ah, he's tired." Kiba said, scratching the back of his head. Neji let out a long-suffering sigh.
"Back to the inn?" Shino suggested.
The idea seemed reasonable; they wouldn't be able to track the man down without Akamaru. They returned to the inn, but huddled in one room to go over the information they had gathered about the stranger.
"Is he a friend or an enemy?" Naruto asked immediately, shifting on the bed he was sitting on.
"I don't think he's with us," Sakura said. "He certainly wouldn't 'come quietly'."
"But he isn't against us either, he would have made sure to kill us. He defeated the Akatsuki for us instead." Kiba added, thinking hard.
"He would definitely be a valuable ally, that's for sure." Gai muttered. "But we don't know if he works in an organization or alone."
"He fought alone and had no comrades in the surrounding area." Hinata chipped in, voice quiet.
"Maybe he really is the White Fang!" Tenten said excitedly.
"No! Kakashi- " Gai realized his mistake when their heads turned towards him.
"What about sensei and White Fang?" Sakura demanded. Gai inwardly cringed when he grasped the fact that he couldn't think of a believeable lie in time. Kakashi would have hated him for it.
"Kakashi…knew White Fang rather…well."
"What?" Tenten gaped.
"I figured it out myself not too long ago. Do you not understand?" There was a moment of silence. "Why I always called Kakashi my eternal rival, why he was mistaken for White Fang, why he always wore a mask, why he said that he couldn't cry 'ever since that day'?"
Sakura had a light bulb lit above her head. "So Kakashi-sensei…" Gai nodded.
"Care to elaborate?" Neji said, annoyed.
"White Fang's name, his true name, was Sakumo… Hatake Sakumo."
There was a brief pause before there was an echoing of "what!?" being heard throughout the room.
"He knew," Naruto said shakily. "He knew what it felt like…" His fist clenched at the memories of villagers screaming at him flowing through his mind.
Sakura looked towards him, worried, as Naruto continued. "Why didn't he… he always…" Naruto sighed. "I wish I had known him better…" he said softly.
Gai attempted to pat his shoulder in a comforting way, but instead sent Naruto flying into the wall. "Oops," he said, laughing slightly.
"It isn't funny." Naruto huffed, removing his face from the wall and quickly reverting to his old optimistic self. "Shouldn't we be leaving soon?"
"Yeah." Kiba agreed and tilted his head towards the window. "It's gonna rain."
"Really?" Gai asked anxiously, peering out the window.
There was a knock on the door.
Sharing a brief glance with Gai, Neji called "Enter!" Instead of entering however, a note was slipped under the door.
Hinata walked over cautiously and picked it up, quickly scanning it with her activated Byakugan, before opening it and reading it. Her eyes widened and she passed it quickly to Lee to read it aloud.
"Akatsuki, heading towards Konoha." There was no signature.
"What if it's false?" Sakura said, fustrated, brow furrowed.
"But what if it is not." Neji countered, looking equally distressed.
Akamaru let out a loud bark.
"Let's split up." Gai suggested. "Kiba, Shino, Hinata, and Tenten will head towards Konoha. There are enough of you so that if you are ambushed, you will be able to fend them off for a while. The rest of us will continue to pursue the intruder."
"What about tracking?" Naruto asked, "Don't we need Kiba?"
"Ah, I have an alternative," Gai said, attempting to sound secretive and mysterious. "Now move out." The four heading to Konoha disappeared through the window.
"Sensei, what is this…alternative?" Neji inquired, looking slightly doubtful.
"This!" Gai exclaimed, pulling out a scroll from his bag with a majestic air. Sakura recognized it.
"Is that Kakashi-sensei's?"
"It is! He gave one to Tsunade-sama so that she could summon one of his Nin dogs if he was gone." Gai bit his thumb, drawing blood, and smearing it clumsily across the scroll.
There was a small exploding sound, a cloud of white smoke, and a small pug was sitting there. Pakkun raised a paw it greeting. "Yo!"
Naruto thought he noticed something strangely different about the ninken.
"Pakkun, long time not see!" Naruto said, grinning. He then raised an eyebrow. "Did you shrink?"
"Did you grow?" the dog replied, shrugging it off.
"Pakkun are you able to track this man for us?" Gai said, holding out the kunai carefully.
Pakkun snorted. "Am I able to? Forgetting who trained me already… So you want me to trail you, Kiba, Naruto, or the other guy?"
"The other one."
"Got it." Pakkun jumped up onto the window sill, motioned with his paw to follow, and left the room.
"Is he in any of these caves?" Lee asked.
Neji muttered a quiet 'Byakuyan!' "There is someone. Should we check it out?"
Pakkun shrugged. "Yes, we should." Gai muttered and they made their way towards the entrance to the cave.
They looked around cautiously, trying to sense someone nearby.
"It's been a while… Naruto-kun."
They all whirled towards the voice, ready to attack or defend.
They stared into a pair of blood red eyes, the eyes of a man who murdered his entire family, save one.
Naruto let out a snarl and made a move to attack but was held back by Sakura.
Gai narrowed his eyes.
Review please! Oh, wonderous readers of my humble literary work! Suggestions are welcome! :D But please don't flame me... :| I'm a sensitive soul...