Arc One

Chapter One:

The Power That Frees Us

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Licensed: Masashi Kishimoto.

Make sure you read the A/N at the end.


There is a saying among shinobi.

It is an old saying, and it holds a lot of history to its words. It holds a lot of horror.

"The day the sun sets in the South is the day to smile."

Normally, someone with no shinobi training or background would listen to that and possibly laugh or become confused. The sun sets in the West, its a fact that is as true as saying that fisherman fish and air is what the fisherman breathes.

When the words are passed between shinobi, there is no laughter, there is no confusion. "The day the sun sets in the South is the day to smile." It is usually a saying said during the times of war, or battle or struggle. The saying reminds them of the day that comes for every living creature. It reminds them of the day that they die.

There is another version of the saying, it's less poetic, but the meaning is still the same.

"Pile the bodies of your enemies so tall that when you stand on them, you will be taller than even the sun. Make sure to grin while you're up there. Keep grinning while you jump off."

Never let it be said that times of war for a shinobi were pleasant.


Tuesday 3:13 A.M.

The noise of a body landing against the solid stone floor seemed louder and more amplified as it echoed through the vast and wide room. It bounced off of the stone walls, the stone ornaments of offerings, and the intimidating stone giant of a statue. Its hands reached up into the air, blinded by a stone cloth, seven open eyes grown from the band of figurative fabric.

Naruto, in a half conscious daze, caught a glimpse of black and red robes as he was tossed to the ground next to Gaara. They had been the last of the Jinchuuriki, and they had been captured. At the hands of Akatsuki, Naruto shifted his head slowly, forcing his eyes to see something, anything that may help him escape with Gaara.

The last thing he saw were silver eyes, like rippled water, seeming to glow by their own power as they glared down at him. It was only the ominous statue behind him that proved to be more terrifying.

"Begin the ritual. I want the Nine Tails as quickly as possible. We cannot afford to lose him, we may never get this chance again."

"Yes, Pein-sama."


Monday 11:23 A.M.

Hyuuga Hinata was a very shy person, it took a lot of courage to even say 'Good morning.' to some people. Mostly Uzumaki Naruto. She had heard of the devastating news, that he had lost his teacher only just after he had come back from his three year leave. She had wanted to give him her condolences, to try and help him through his depression. She had lost her mother when she was young, and could relate to the suffering he was going through. Unfortunately, just after he had managed to come home, he had been whisked off only a few days later, and had been gone for almost two more years, training again with the toads he summoned.

He had come back the night before last, and hadn't seen him yet. From the rumors that Sakura was spreading around, he had been dead tired upon arrival, and wearing shreds of cloth that had once perhaps been his clothes. Sakura spoke of a certain strength in his eye he had never had before, and Hinata couldn't help to admit that she wanted to see how strong he had become.

In all honesty, she hadn't quite planned on seeing him so soon, and if it were up to her, Hinata's shyness would have probably prevented her from ever going to see the blond object of her desires until he ended up running into her on the street.

But, The Hokage had given Hinata orders to get him some clothes and take him to see her, looking as clean and crisp as possible. She had three hours to get him ready for the meeting Tsunade-sama had arranged for Naruto, and she would accomplish this mission if it killed her!

Well, managing to raise her hand and knock on the door would probably be a good start, if the darn thing would listen to her and actually lift, that is.

After twenty minutes of pacing back and forth on his door step, mumbling to herself and desperately trying to summon her courage, the door flew open on its own, a next to naked and half asleep Naruto glaring at her with a raised fist.

There was a pause.

"H-...Hinata? What are you doing here?" He asked, seeming confused as he immediately calmed down and took a step towards her.

Hinata stared at him for a moment, the blood rushing to her face. "I-... The Hokage sent me..." She mumbled, glancing down for a brief moment. Almost immediately her eyes darted back up to his eyes, the poor Hyuuga's blush magnified two fold.

Naruto blinked and looked down at himself, a light blush coming to his own face before quickly rushing back inside and leaving the door open. Hinata watched him turn and head for his room, her hand rushing to her face in attempt to calm herself.

She didn't faint!

"I'm sorry Hinata! Come in! I'll be ready in a minute!"

Hinata gulped and slowly turned towards the open door.

Inside his house?


"So what did Grandma-Tsunade send you over here for? Though I don't really mind the company, I miss being around people after spending so much time around toads! Even if they're weird..." The last part was mumbled, but Hinata's head sunk in depression when the quiet words just barley made themselves to her ears. The Hyuuga gave a depressed sigh and closed the door before slowly making her way over to his one and only piece of furniture.

She didn't even care when the stale dust came flying up around her.

He still thought she was weird?

'It's hopeless...' She thought to herself, falling into her old habits of holding her head down while pushing her fingers together.

Naruto rushed out of his room, blinking curiously at her while tying his forehead protector on. "You okay, Hinata?"

The Hyuuga sighed and nodded, seeming to shrink further. "Hokage-sama sent me to go with you to buy new clothes and then have you ready to meet with her in a few hours. I am to update you on all that has happened while you're gone and have you properly prepared to talk with the guest, who will also be involved in your meeting."

Naruto blinked, cocking his head to the side as he finished pulling down one of his only fitting shirts. Finding it a bit amusing that it didn't fit quite as well as it had three years ago. "Who's the guest for the meeting? Do you know?" He asked, turning towards his kitchen to fix himself something to eat.

Hinata shook her head. "No, but I got the impression from Hokage-sama that it is someone you know. She said 'It's bad enough he'll look like an idiot when they see each other, but I at least want him dressed presentably.'"

Naruto's eye twitched as he pulled the milk from the fridge, noticing that it was three years and two months expired, and looking like it was about to explode. "She said that, huh? Can't really blame her, I did look like crap when I came into town..." He mumbled, acting true to his bachelor nature and sticking the carton back into the fridge before closing it. "What about Sakura? Wouldn't she normally do this kind of thing because she's on my team and all?"

Hinata's head sunk a bit lower. "Well, Sakura-san has been very busy as a medic lately, and has been sent to take care of the shinobi guarding the border for their monthly health assessment. I'm sorry."

Naruto blinked and turned to face her. "Sorry? What are you sorry for?"

Hinata seemed to jump at the sudden question, and instantly lifted her head only to look back down a moment later. "W-well, I'm sorry that I am not Sakura-san, I know that you must have wanted to talk to her after you arrived. You two are very close and haven't seen each other in a very long time..." Hinata trailed off, adverting her eyes to one of the many cracks in the walls and silencing herself before she angered the young man before her.

Naruto tilted his head in confusion. "Well, yeah, but it's not like she's my only friend you know! I'm kinda glad it's not her, to tell the truth, she'd just ramble on and on and get pissed off for some stupid reason or another after a while, and I'd go flying through the Hokage monument and be expected to pay for the damages." He laughed, reaching up to scratch the back of his head.

Hinata gave a small giggle, finding the image of it quite funny. "Well, I don't think she'd go quite that far... but Sakura-san has gotten quite strong lately. She has intensified her training schedule to try and keep up with you and Kakashi-sensei."

"That right...?" Naruto mumbled, leaning back against his counter and crossing his arm. "Well, what about you? Have you gotten any stronger? Hehe, I bet you could blow Neji away now, huh?" He asked, a grin spreading across his face.

Hinata blush and flattened her hands against her lap, looking a bit more poise. "Well, I have been beating him in friendly combat more often..."

"That's great! I can't wait to see it myself, I wanna be there the next time so I can rub it in his face about what he said during the chunin exams! Thinking back on those days really pisses me off..."

Hinata blinked, staring at him for a moment. "Neji has apologized to me about that many times, it's not necessary--"

Naruto quickly jumped to a funny pose of crossing his arms and stubbornly twisting his face. "No way! I haven't seen it myself, and I wont be totally satisfied until I hear it with my own two ears!"

There was a moment of silence, and Naruto steadily held his humorous posture successfully until a quiet noise met his ear. He opened his tightly shut eyes and looked around for the odd sound, finally blinking and standing up straight once more when he noticed Hinata's head lowered once more and her shoulder's shaking a bit.

"You okay?" He asked, wondering to himself if she was about to faint again. The blond stood stalk still when the noise suddenly became louder, and he realized that it was her, giggling.

"I-I'm sorry! I-I just find it f-funny!" She managed to say through her giggles. "After being gone for so long, It's nice to see that you haven't changed one bit." She said, looking up with laugh filled eyes, a hand half covering her mouth.

Naruto blushed for a moment and turned his head, once again stubbornly crossing his arms. "Eeeeh? Sure I changed! I'm three different shades of serious and am smart enough to leave even Iruka-sensei gaping like a fish at my magnificence! Haha, for I, am a sage! That means I know... Sage-y...stuff..." Naruto trailed off, frowning in his embarrassment. His blush only seemed to intensify when her laughter returned.

"Eeeeh? You think I'm funny, eh?" He asked, suddenly looking at her with his best impression of a gangster.

Hinata's giggling only grew harder. "Y-Yes! I have always thought Naruto-kun is very funny!" She laughed, quickly gasping and covering her mouth.

Naruto's grin almost looked like it would split his face. "Really?! Wow! Nobodies ever said I was funny!" He laughed, suddenly standing up straighter and touching his jaw in what might have been a 'cool' manner. "I can't help but think you've got a great sense of humor, only the best of the best!"

This time, he joined in with her laughter.


Monday 12: 37 A.M.

Tsunade turned to face away from her large office window and smiled as her guest was announced. The generously busted woman gave a pleasant smile, walking steadily and confidently up to the young village leader before her.

"Hello, Kazekage-sama! I hope your trip was pleasant?" She asked, holding her smile as the teen closed his eyes and gave a polite nod of the head.

"Yes, I can always appreciate Konoha's lovely weather and well mannered shinobi. You have a fine country here, Hokage-sama."

"Why thank you, I'm sure that if I ever got the chance to go to Suna I would think much the same. I may not look it, but I like to learn about new cultures. The culture of your country is especially interesting." She laughed, keeping up with the common pleasantries as they took their seats.

"So," Gaara began, clearing his throat and starting the serious conversation.

Tsunade sighed, turning her head to the side a bit as she brought her hands up near her face, knitting the fingers neatly. "...So."

"There are only two left. Naruto and I." He began, the weight and implication to his voice not that of a seventeen year old.

Tsunade nodded. "As I feared."

"Have you any plans of actions to preserve Naruto's safety should Akatsuki initiate a full scale attack on Konoha in effort to retrieve him? The possibility is not impossible."

Tsunade sighed and nodded, not missing the sharp look in the redheads eye as he gave his question. "I am aware that Akatsuki had infiltrated Suna and successfully captured you. I assure you, Konoha will not stand for such actions. Naruto is..."

Gaara nodded when after a moment he saw the small, rueful smile make its way to her painted lips. "Naruto is Naruto. He is unparalleled."

Tsunade sat back in her chair after a long moment, her heavy bust once again making itself known. "Exactly. He is a valuable shinobi, a valuable friend, a good person, someone all of Konoha is proud of. While I am still breathing, there is no way Akatsuki or anyone is getting their hands on him. Not only I, but all of Konoha and quite a few people outside of our little town will throw quite the fit if they see him in trouble." She said with a wink, earning a small, huff of a laugh from the ever so serious Shukakku host.

"Indeed. He has a lot of friends in a lot of high places. Not everyone can say that the Kazekage and all of Suna owe them a great debt. He has my friendship as well, something only he can say."

Tsunade's pleasant smile quickly fell into a tight thin and forced curve of the lips when her office door suddenly burst open, a laughing and decently dressed Uzumaki Naruto standing loudly in the room's opening. Gaara slowly turned his head, sharp sea foam eyes landing on the hyper blond. "...Though I must question my sanity when I am reminded of his personality." He finished flatly.

"Awe, don't say that Gaara! I'm your buddy and you know it! How you been?" Tsunade immediately tuned out the two's conversation and turned her attention to the quiet and somewhat rushed looking Hyuuga and she made her way quickly into the room.

"M-My apologies Hokage-sama. We arrived late and there is no excuse--"

Tsunade held up her hand, effectively silencing the slightly winded young woman. "Don't worry about it, everything's fine. Dismissed."

Hinata gave a bow and turned to leave, nearly jumping out of her skin when Naruto very suddenly and very loudly called her name. "Y-Yes, Naruto-kun?" She asked, a blush rushing to her face when the blond waved goodbye.

"Thanks for today! It was fun hanging out with you! See ya around!" He laughed, crossing his arms.

"Y-Yes, I enjoyed it as well. I will see you another time Naruto-kun." Hinata's blush deepened as she nodded, quickly giving a bow and rushing back out the door before she ended up fainting.

"I wonder why she always goes all red in the face? Does Hinata have a heath condition Grandma-Tsunade? Maybe that's why she faints all the time, huh?" A bead of sweat fell down the back of the blond's head when he turned to face his superior. Her glare sending shivers down his spine. It was almost a blessing when he felt eyes on him, and turned to look at his friend even if only to not have to see the look of promised pain the Hokage was giving off.

Gaara just stared at him, as though waiting for something.

Eventually Naruto gave up on trying to figure out what it was. "...What?"

Sand slapped Naruto on the back of the head before he even finished the question. "Idiot."

Monday 2:12 P.M.

"…Are you serious?"

Tsunade nodded her head once. "I know it's a lot to ask of you, since you had just returned to the village the other night, but--"

Naruto leaped out of his seat. "Grandma!"

Tsunade grunted loudly, caught off-guard when Naruto's arms suddenly latched around her in a fierce grip. The Hokage blushed when she noticed her fellow village leader shift in his seat, watching the spectacle of Naruto nuzzling her bosom with obvious amusement.

In an instant, her knuckles crashed down on Naruto's skull. "What the hell do you think you're doing?!" She demanded, biting her lip in rage and pain when Naruto's grip only tightened.

He was crushing her chest!

"You're the best Hokage in the world! I love you! I'll follow you until the day I die! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou! I won't let you down! I--"

"Damnit, Naruto! Get off of me!"

Tsunade turned in her seat when she was finally released, shaking her fist in embarrassed rage as her breasts throbbed sharply. A moment later, she turned back to the two Jinchuuriki, noticing that Naruto sat with perfect stiff posture, a ear-to-ear grin on his face.

Tsunade wanted to throw something at him.

Perhaps her desk.

No, she couldn't with the Kazekage in the room.


For now, she'll settle for insults.

"You're too giddy about this, you dumb brat! It's not going to be a walk in the park-- you can die! You probably will! Show some modesty!" She snapped.

Her desk cracked a bit under her hands when Naruto only grinned brighter.

The blond actually giggled. "Sorry, Grandma-Tsunade! I've just been dreaming about this day for years! I can't wait until I--"

Gaara had finally had about enough of his friends antics. "Naruto." He said sharply.

Said teen turned his attention towards the redhead. "What?"

Gaara sighed quietly, closing his eyes. "War is not a time to be happy. You should not be 'giddy', as Hokage-sama said, about anyone of your allies dying."

When Naruto looked as though he were about to start arguing, Gaara shot him a sharp look. "Someone will die. It is impossible to go into battle against a foe as strong as Akatsuki without casualties on either side."

"They've already killed someone I care about." Naruto bit out. "I'm just itching to get my hands on the fucker that killed my sensei."

Gaara turned his eyes to Naruto briefly. "…I see."

The Uzumaki set his jaw, grinding out his words. "Don't assume you know everything." The icy looks the two were throwing at each other were interrupted by a sudden frantic knock at the door.

Tsunade gave a heavy sigh and looked up, glaring poison at the infuriating entranceway. Silently relieved at the distraction. The last thing she wanted were two Jinchuuriki fighting in her office. "What?!"

Kotetsu opened the door, Izumo at his side and both looking a bit nervous. "I'm sorry Madam, but we've just received a letter from the Raikage addressed to you. We also have three shinobi from hidden cloud that request an immediate audience."

The two Kage and Naruto looked up, shocked at the announcement. "Y-Yes, send them in! Be quick!" She snapped, hurriedly raising to her feet along with Gaara and Naruto as the three foreign shinobi entered.

They gave a bow, shocked to notice the Kazekage in the room. "Good afternoon Hokage-sama, Kazekage-sama. We are sorry to intrude, but it is urgent." They all chimed together. At Tsunade's nod, the male stepped forward with the letter and placed it on her desk. Immediately she opened it and began reading.

"My name is Omoi, this is my team. We're given orders to inform you that Akatsuki and has captured the eight-tailed Jinchuuriki, Killerbee-sama. Killerbee-sama is the Raikage-sama's younger brother and Raikage-sama will not stand for this. You are to give a full explanation, and if your response does not clearly explain your actions, then he may sign the waver for war against Fire Nation."

Tsunade's jaw only dropped further and further as the dark skinned shinobi firmly rattled off his message. Gaara stood silently to the side, honestly shocked, but keeping out of two other country's political strife.

Naruto looked about ready to tear the cloud-nin's head off. "What the hell are you talking about?! Why does the Raikage want to start war all of a sudden?! What are you talking about 'explanation'!? Grandma?!" Naruto demanded, turning to the older woman for an explanation.

The cloud-nin simply stuck a sucker in his mouth and leaned his weight on one hip, his teammates remaining poised behind him. "Reports confirm Uchiha Sasuke as the one to have captured Killerbee-sama."

The look of shock that erupted from Naruto's face left the cloud-nin almost confused.

"...Sasuke? No... No! That can't be right! Why would he join Akatsuki?! He..." One of Naruto's hand's numbly made it's way to his stomach, pressing against the Kyuubi's seal.

Gaara lifted a hand to Naruto's shoulder, squeezing it once in a silent reassurance. "Naruto..." Their earlier quarrel lay forgotten for the moment.

The three Cloud-nin's heads shot up like lightning. Quickly, quietly, and without notice-- for the rest of the room's occupants were too deep in their own thoughts of Sasuke and Akatsuki at the moment, the three foreign shinobi had a little chat amongst themselves. Eventually, one of the girls was shoved forward. Her ever serious face shattered for a moment with a smile, and Naruto couldn't help but blink.

"Excuse me... Naruto-sama," Gaara wanted to raise an eyebrow. "Do you like... rap?" She asked, tilting her head to the side in what may have been a cute manor.

Naruto gave her an odd look. "Uh... No, why?"

Before he even finished answering, the girl was grabbed back by her teammates, who were once again whispering amongst themselves. Now paying them a little attention, he managed to catch a snippet of what it was they were talking about. He heard someone whisper something along the lines of "Their Jinchuuriki is way better than Killerbee-sama." and became too confused to try and make out the rest of it.

The more poised and up until now, silent, final cloud-nin spoke up for her teammates as they blushed and regained their composure. "My deepest apologies, Kazekage-sama, Hokage-sama, Naruto-sama." Naruto blushed at being spoken so highly of again. "In Kumogakure, Jinchuuriki are a powerful figure head. To us, meeting you is a great honor." She said, bowing deeply.

Even Gaara felt uncomfortable when her ample cleavage seemed to nearly pop out of her blouse from the simple gesture. "I wasn't aware." Was all he said.

"Back to the subject," Tsunade said, calling all of their attention. "My answer is this: Uchiha Sasuke is a very, very powerful shinobi. He has been personally trained by Orochimaru and is the very last of his annoyingly powerful clan. He has been on every hunter-nin's list for the last six years and he has killed more of our own shinobi for his own selfish reasons than I would care to admit. We lost track of him three years ago, when he was captured by Akatsuki for reasons unknown. This is the first we've heard of him even being alive. Please inform the Raikage that we will allow him to take any action he wishes against Uchiha Sasuke and Akatsuki his wishes, and we will give him any and all information he asks for regarding Sasuke. However,"

Tsunade, held her hand up when Naruto looked about ready to go ballistic, effectively silencing him. "Uchiha Sasuke is powerful. Very, very powerful. I do not advise sending any less than a mid-sized army of the villages strongest shinobi after him should you be so foolish as to actually seek him out. If that boy wanted to, really wanted to, he could probably kill off most of your entire village before he gets bored."

The Kumogakure representatives' eyes sharpened, glaring politely at the Hokage, all the while nervous of her words. Naruto shook his head, his hand once again on his stomach. "No... I know Sasuke..."

All eyes turned to him, and he sighed. "An army wouldn't be enough."

Gaara closed his eyes and gave a brief huff of laughter. Instantly, the attention was on him. "The shinobi of Fire Country are monsters. Its a lucky thing most of them have morals."

Naruto's eye twitched. "Like you're one to talk."

Tsunade threw her hands up in the air, turning to gaze out of her bay window. She rested her forehead on the cool glass and sighed after a moment of collecting her thoughts. "Even if the Raikage himself went after Sasuke, he wouldn't win. Especially now, if he's in league with Akatsuki." Tsunade turned around once again, and turned to Naruto with heavy, apologetic eyes.

"There is only one person who can defeat Sasuke, and even then, he's more than likely to die doing it."

Naruto frowned, turning his eyes to the floor.

His hand clutched his stomach. "Don't worry Grandma, I won't die."

The three Cloud shinobi were taken aback, hearing that the only person that was strong enough to take out such a terrifying foe such as Uchiha Sasuke was just a few feet in front of them.

Naruto looked up, his eyes sharpened dangerously. "I can't die until I destroy Akatsuki. Sasuke signed his own death warrant by joining them."

Gaara watched the blond coldly, his pale eyes catching even the small flash of demonic appearance in Naruto's eyes and nails for the briefest of moments. Just as quickly, Naruto got a hold on himself once again and finished his thoughts. "He can't be forgiven."


Monday 3:51 P.M.

Eight shadowed figures stood in front of a massive stone and wooden gate, their black robes shifting in the wind. A green leaf danced its way near a woman with blue hair and heavy make-up, before splitting in half and falling to the ground. Further pushed by the wind, its pieces tumbled a few feet to rest near one of the many robed bodies.

The cold hate he emanated seemed to intensify in his red eyes before the leave shriveled and turned to dust.

One of the orange haired bodies spoke, his face shadowed as he glared ahead. "Konoha's gates. We've arrived."

The raven haired member of the group only stared ahead, his face blank and his eyes transforming. After a short moment, he gave a smirk.

"Can't say I feel nostalgic."

"Are you ready?" Another one of the shinobi asked, the sunlight gleaming off his heavy black piercings.

The smirk only grew. "Yeah."


Monday 3:51 P.M.

Naruto kicked the door to his apartment down, stomping over the broken wood as he made his way into the back of the small, shabby apartment. Gaara stared down at the broken door, the Suna guards at his side, Temari and Kankuro, were silent and out of the way as he made his way over the casualty of the other Jinchuuriki's rage.

Gaara couldn't really blame him. Even he was enraged at the new information regarding the stray Uchiha.

"That dumb bastard! I can't believe him! What the hell made him join Akatsuki?! I swear to Amaterasu, when I get my hands on him I'll―ARG!!"

Gaara nodded silently, looking around with a blank face, and ignoring the loud crashing sounds coming from the back of the apartment. Curiously, he observed the home of his friend. "Who is Amaterasu?" He asked offhandedly, tilting his head a bit at an old, hand drawn motivational poster for training.

"Figure it out yourself!"

Laughter could be heard from outside, and Temari's voice wafted in through the broken entranceway with an unmistakable humor to it. "I think she's this countries idol god."

Gaara let out a huff, ignoring the blond's aggravation and instead raised a brow in dull wonder when his fellow Jinchuuriki finally emerged in full gear and a heavy bag on his back. "Going somewhere?"

Naruto snorted, his face humorously contorted in annoyance. "Yeah. I'm gonna go beat the shit out of Sasuke, stomp Akatsuki, rescue this dumb Killerbug guy and then bring Sasuke's retarded ass back--"

In an instant explosion of sand, Naruto was blown back on his couch and Gaara was between him and the door, not looking at all pleased. "I knew it."

Naruto held the redhead's glare as he got back up on his feet. "What the hell, Gaara?!"

The response was instant. Flat. "You still fully intend to try and 'rescue' Uchiha Sasuke. What you said in the Hokage's office was just a farce."

Naruto scoffed. "Of course."

The sand around the young Kazekage's feet shifted dangerously. "He is a member of The Akatsuki."

Naruto shifted most of his weight to one side. It didn't go unnoticed to Gaara that his friend suddenly was unable to look him in the eye. "So what! That doesn't change the fact that I have to bring him back!"

"You're insane."

"I keep my promises."

"You're blinded by the past."

Naruto's eyes flashed, instantly back to stubbornly staring Gaara down. "The past, Gaara, is non of your damn business. He's my teammate, not yours."

The redhead brought his arms up from his sides to cross over his chest, assuming one of his more dangerous and impatient poses. "He is not your teammate anymore. You have to know when to let things go." Gaara's voice seemed to grow deeper as he enunciated the last of his words, strengthening his argument.

The temperature in the apartment noticeably started to rise. "What the hell are you talking about?" Naruto growled.

Gaara didn't fold. "You have other friends, not just Sasuke. If you leave after him it's like your just handing yourself over to Akatsuki. For all the strength that you have, it's not enough to go against all of them and live. You will just be giving them another demon in gift wrap. For all the pain that Sasuke caused you when he left, just think about all the pain it will cause the people who care about you if you leave."

Naruto looked away, setting his jaw. "..."

Gaara continued. "The Hokage knows exactly how strong you are, and the faith that she has in your strength, and the faith that your friends have in your strength just makes you all the stronger. Just because she is having you lead the attack against Akatsuki does not mean that she wants you to get yourself killed. She doesn't want you to die, nobody does. What makes you think that this new information about Sasuke changes any of that?"

Naruto frowned, his fists clenching at his sides. "Gaara..." His voice had an unmistakable warning in it.

"No, you will listen to me." Gaara snapped, taking a step towards his friend to better get his point across. "Uchiha Sasuke doesn't care about you. He doesn't care about anyone or anything except himself. That's how it has always been, that's how it will always be. It doesn't matter what you say, what you do, or how much friendship you throw at him. He won't change. You would be throwing your life away for a fruitless cause."

Naruto's next words were like a knife in the gut to the young Kazekage. "I bet your brother used to think the same thing, huh?"

Gaara paused, his eyes open wide. "Naruto...That's--"

The Konoha shinobi shook his head, silencing his friend "If you say 'That's different.' I swear I'll break your jaw." His voice hinted at his desire to do so anyway. "You know I can, so don't push it."

Gaara remained impassive, not reacting to the threat in the slightest. "Naruto, I am well aware of you're ability to change people. If it weren't for you, I don't even like to think of where my family, my country or even I would be right now. Even so, you have to see that you can't help the Uchiha."

Naruto's had finally reached his limit. "What would you know?! You never spoke to him! All you did was fight him! You don't know anything!"

Even through the blond's loud fit, Gaara remained silent and stern. "I know a lot more than you give me credit, Uzumaki."

Naruto grit his teeth. "And what the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Gaara's eyes seemed to go a bit duller, looking more as though they were the eyes of a corpse. "I used to be a lot like the Uchiha myself, I know what its like to hate someone so much that I became obsessed with killing them. I know that kind of life. You never will."

Naruto's head turned to the side as he glared off at nothing. Gaara continued, his voice growing quieter. "He is the kind of person that hunts down a southern sunset, Naruto. Just like I used to."

"You should listen to him, Naruto." A sudden voice said lazily, making the room's occupants' blood run cold. "He knows what he's talking about."

Naruto's eyes widened slowly, looking at the new teen in his apartment. "...Sasuke..."

The Uchiha nodded politely. "Yo." He soon after dropped the deathly still bodies of Gaara's siblings at his feet. Once his hands were free, he gave the still Jinchuuriki a mocking wave.

Gaara's sand exploded, instantly going after the newest Akatsuki member with fervor. Naruto saw Sasuke unsheathe his chokuto, electricity crackling at his wrist as he did, and went pale. "Gaara! Wait!"


Monday 11:09 P.M.

Naruto blinked slowly, his mind perfectly blank as he his vision started to clear. Finally, he was able to see. A moment later he was able to comprehend what it was he saw.

Running feet. Black robe. Trees. Dirt. Blood.

Naruto slowly and weakly lifted his head, going stiff when his eyes finally landed on Gaara. He was beaten, bloody, torn to shreds and didn't even look as though he was breathing. There was a long gash across his torso that made Naruto feel as though he were going to throw up.

"How is the One Tailed doing? We can't afford to have him die yet."

"He'll live long enough for the extraction if we hurry."

"The Nine Tailed is waking up."


Naruto struggled for a moment, tears rimming his eyes as the memories came back to him. The blond flailed madly, trying to get out of his capturer's grip and to his friend. A sharp pain at the back of his neck, and once again the teen feel limp and unconscious.

Sasuke grunted, roughly adjusting Naruto in his grasp. "I don't see why I have to carry him."

"He used to be your teammate."

"Used to." Sasuke pointed out. "As in I don't want anything to do with him anymore."

Konan's ever stoic face and flat voice gave away nothing of her mirth. "I get the feeling the Nine Tailed host would be most depressed to hear that, Sasuke-san."

"Like I care." The Uchiha droned, grunting with his load as he landed roughly on a tree branch. "The faster we get this done with, the better." He said before pushing off strongly and pulling ahead of the others.

One of Pein's bodies quickly caught up, his silver eyes watching him carefully. "Your eagerness surprises me."



Tuesday 8:47 P.M.

Naruto floated in the chamber, Gaara unconscious and next to him. Both literally having their soul split in half and being killed slowly. The pain wasn't anywhere as agonizing as staring at Sasuke, who only stared back, continuously chanting whatever prayer or spell along with the other Akatsuki bastards.

The pull on Naruto's soul grew stronger, as did the pain. He closed his eyes, making a last ditch attempt to contact the demon within him.

Almost instantly he was standing in a dark hallway, the floor strangely dry.

Yet still, the deep rumbling of the fox's voice met him. "Foolish brat."

Naruto looked up, his eyes heavy.

The fox seemed smaller.

"Looks like this is the end for us, huh? Can't say I'm sad to see you go." Naruto began, pausing to take a shaky breath. "...I just wish you coulda at least stayed around long enough to see me become Hokage."

The Kyuubi lowered its head to rest on his paws. The air and walls around the two seems to dull, as though fading slowly. "As do I."

"You seem resigned to this death." Naruto began after a minute. "Guess there really is nothing you can do."

The fox's eyes shifted, landing on the blond. Naruto hadn't really ever noticed how old his eyes looked before, usually only staring at it's teeth. "I wish there were."

"Don't give up so easily."


Tobi, or rather, Madara stared at the two floating Jinchuuriki. Something wasn't right. Where normally the souls and chakra of the demons by now would have started to flow into the statue, it looked like nothing was happening. Granted, Akatsuki was a little short on personnel, but they had contained the five and seven tailed beasts at the same time. He knew that even by now the demonic spirits should have started to transfer.

Something was wrong.


Naruto turned around, the Kyuubi behind him lifting its heavy head.


Almost as soon as the words left his mouth, Naruto was staring at a transparent image of his friend. His body oddly covered in the same blue markings of the Shukakku. "Yes." The young Kazekage answered, his voice sounding very tired.

Then, through Gaara's lips, Shukakku's voice. "We are all here."

Naruto looked slightly confused, and slowly turned his head. Seven other visions surrounding him, but not of human shinobi.

"We are the Biju." A bull headed octopus said, his voice deep and rumbling. His tentacles still moving as though he were in water.

Naruto's attention was immediately drawn to his left. "We may have a way for you two to save us all." A black and purple hell cat finished, it's hissing voice sounding oddly feminine.

Naruto turned around, wanting to hear what his demon had to say before listening to the rest of them.

Kyuubi gave a deep, fang baring laugh. "Well then, lets hear it."



"I am aware."

Sasuke glanced towards his two colleagues briefly, then to his masked ancestor at his side.

"What's wrong?" He asked, no curiosity in his voice, only strong professionalism.

Madara turned his head to the side a bit. "I'm not quite sure. What ever it is cant be good, though."

Sasuke frowned, looking around to the other sparse members. "Should we stop?" He asked.

Madara shook his head. "No. It's best to just keep it up and wait to see what happens. It may pass."

The younger Uchiha nodded, returning to focusing on his task.


"So... what your saying is that if you guys make a sudden spike of all your chakra, it'll send out something like a magnetic pulse and fry the Akatsuki bastards long enough for Gaara and I to escape?"

Naruto and Gaara, too tired to really focus, took the demon's silence as a sign of confirmation.

There was a thunderous quake as one of the largest of the beasts moved closer to the two humans. "You must swear to one day free us from this prison." It said, Its one yellow eye glaring down at them with just as much ferocity of even Kyuubi. "If not, you can die along with our hosts." The rather large and ugly turtle-like creature said.

There was a loud snorting sound, and Gaara turned to his immediate right, where one of the smaller demons stood powerfully. Its tusks moved as it spoke, oddly polished and decorated. "The Akatsuki don't even bury the bodies, they let the walking plant eat them. No class." The boar-looking creature pitched in.

Naruto closed his eyes, his hands reaching up to feel the burning seal on his stomach.

"Alright." He said, turning to Kyuubi, then Gaara.

"We'll do it." The dull eyed redhead finished.


The first thing Naruto did when he woke up was groan. When the feeling returned to his body, he groaned loudly. He barely had the strength to roll over to his side, but like any decent shinobi, he grit his teeth and dealt with the pain while surveying his surroundings. It looked like he was still in the same stone cave-like room. The state was still there, the difference being that it looked old and dirty, and all of its eyes were shut.

Looking around more carefully, he noticed that the walls and surrounding pillars that had, before, been standing tall and in one piece were broken and fallen on the ground inward towards his body.

A sudden quiet grunt caught his attention, and Naruto instantly looked directly behind him. His eyes widened when they fell on Gaara, who held a hand to his head as he shakily pushed himself to a sitting position.

"If I were a lesser man, I would probably say I told you so right now." He wheezed, shooting the blond a brief, but powerful icy glare.

Naruto flinched, but quickly shook his head and got to his feet as hurriedly as his aching body would allow. "It's alright, I deserve it." He mumbled, reaching out to help the Kazekage up as well.

He was relieved when Gaara actually took his hand.

"What happened?" They asked at the same time. A moment of tense silence passed between them, before the two sighed and turned away from one another, silently deciding to look around for clues.

"Well it looks like the demons all kept to their promises and we're able to escape... I think." Naruto offered, looking back up at the dark statue for a moment, then turning away.

Gaara shook his head, random bits of sand floating towards him and sticking to his skin. "If the screeching in my head is anything to go by, I would believe it's safe to say I still have the Shukakku. What of Kyuubi?" He asked, turning to the blond.

Naruto closed his eyes and stood still, feeling around his own chakra for the familiar, hot sensation of the Kyuubi's. "...Yeah, he's still there. He's pretty quiet too."

Gaara nodded. "Indeed."

The too fell into another silence, this time while examining their own personal beings. Gaara frowned at the dirty, blood stained rags that were once his Kage robes. He didn't even have his own sand, or basic weapons for that matter. Taking a glance at Naruto, it was a safe bet to say that he wasn't much better off.

It would seem that Akatsuki wasn't so stupid as to leave even their most subdued captives armed.

Naruto glanced down at himself, frowning. The new clothes that Hinata had just bought for him were almost ruined, but after a good few washes and some sewing they'd be good as new, he figured. The blond sighed and dusted off his orange pants, making sure to get at even the thick black stripes on their sides. Kneeling down, he adjusted the athletic wraps around his calves before returning fully to his feet.

"I guess we had better get back to Konoha and see if everyone's okay." Naruto started, turning to his friend. "If Grandma-Tsunade got to them quick enough, I'm sure that Temari and Kankuro are okay."

Gaara turned to him for a moment, before turning around once again and walking towards the exit. "Yes."

Naruto sighed. 'Great, he's pissed at me. This is going to be a looong trip back...'


Having no idea where they were, much less what country they were in, Naruto and Gaara had come to the mutual agreement to stop at the first town or village they came across. Luck seemed to be on their side, and within the first few hours of walking, the two came across a small farming community, where the closest thing there were to shinobi were the more muscular farmhands that were good with a plow. They were given directions to the community's only inn, and there they were given water and a place to rest for the night thanks to Naruto's wallet.

After spending so much time with Jiraiya, Naruto had learned a long time ago how to hide his money away from even a skilled ninja. Old habits died hard, it seemed. Even so, they were much too tired to refuse a bed for the night, almost having their souls sucked out of them and all.

"You two sure do look worse for wear." The barmaid said, handing them their drinks. The two took them gratefully. "My money grubbing Ma might try and make you pay for 'em, but I think you're about the same size as my brother. I'll see if I can't get you a decent change of clothes, Mister..." She trailed off, asking for their names.

Gaara felt his irritation rising, being treated like a commoner. "Sabaku no Gaara, Kazekage of Wind Country." He said rather sharply.

Much to his chagrin, the girl gave a huff. "Well, you're a long ways away from Wind Country! This here is Grass Country!" She said, honestly sounding surprised. The twenty-something-year-old turned her head to the side, as though examining him. "Funny... I went to school and everything, and in the textbooks... You don't look much like the Kazekage. Well, you do, but..."

Naruto lifted a hand to cover his mirth, guessing that the girl was talking about his father, but didn't say anything about it. "Well, they probably took the picture when he didn't get much sleep the night before. You know us shinobi-- busy, busy, busy!" He laughed. The dull glare Gaara shot him only proved to make him laugh harder.

The young bar maid shrugged, turning to leave and take care of her chores. "Maybe, what do I know?" She asked herself. "Well, Gaara-san, I'll have those clothes for you sometime soon." She said, turning the corner and heading into the back kitchen.

Naruto's animated giggling was abruptly ended by a fist of sand smacking the back of his head.


Naruto stared at the ceiling of the rented room, his face relaxed and mirroring nothing of his inner turmoil. The blond sighed, and turned his head to his left, where Gaara sat at the window pane, staring up at the full moon.

"This doesn't feel right, relaxing while Konoha could be burnt to the ground for all we know."

Gaara closed his eyes and nodded his head once. "Yes, but even you know that it is not the best idea to walk into an unknown area with no weapons and suffering from fatigue. We are honestly at our most vulnerable right now, and our demons at their weakest. When we arrive we will be able to help, and not be the ones needing it if we are at least rested."

Naruto pouted, crossing his arms behind his head. "I know... I just feel like crap about it."

"As do I. My siblings are in a foreign country and I do not even know if they are dead or alive. All I can to is hope for the best and be patient. You should too."

"Yeah," Naruto closed his eyes, taking Gaara's words to heart. He knew exactly how the redhead felt, having spent such long periods of time away from Konoha and not knowing anything of how any of his friends back home were holding up. One of his biggest fears was going back and hearing that Sakura, Kakashi or anyone else had been killed in the line of duty. "...I hear you."


"Hey, Gaara!"

The redhead's eyes shifted, turning to land on the blond just ahead of him as they ran along the last few of Grass Country's meadow hills. "What." As usual with the Shukakku host, even a question sounded like a statement.

Naruto frowned, slowing down just enough to run side by side with his friend. "Thinking about it now, it was pretty risky for you to show up in Konoha. I bet that's why Akatsuki attacked, you and me being so close together was like a chance they couldn't afford to miss."


The blond slowed down just enough to run side by side with his friend. "Why'd you come to Konoha?"

Gaara sighed and continued running, the outfit given to him by the barmaid being much easier to run in with the thick pants. "Economic trading budgets between the countries, safety and regulation change regarding foreign shinobi and civilians, we were also discussing the benefits of a skill trade." At the blond's confused stare, Gaara elaborated. "I was hoping to borrow a few of her more skillful medics, as Suna has some of the worst medical teams among the shinobi world."

Naruto blinked, looking quite the surprised party. "Really? Why is it that bad?"

Gaara turned his head to the side a bit, thinking of the best and most simplest way to describe the situation. "... Because my family was full of idiots."

Naruto almost tripped over his own feet. "What? Your family?"

Gaara nodded, keeping his pace. "You must not be aware of most of Wind Country's cultures."

"Well, no, not really." Naruto laughed, reaching up to scratch the back of his head for a moment.

"The title of Kazekage in Suna is passed down like a crown would through a monarchy. Unless I have children of proper age, if I am suddenly unable to assume my role as Kazekage, then it falls to Kankuro or Temari, then cousins and the like. If there are no other relatives, then the title is temporarily split amongst Suna's council until a new candidate is chosen or able to take the position."

The two gave slight grunts as they lifted up off the ground in near simultaneous leaps. Landing with ease up on the first branches of a woodland. The trees were beginning to thicken and weren't so far apart as they were an hour ago. It was a good sign, meaning that they were nearing Konoha.

Naruto grunted. "Sounds kinda weird, in Konoha, whoever the Hokage is chooses their successor, and if they die before they get the chance, the last Hokage is reinstated or a new one is chosen if its not possible. That's what happened with the Third, Fourth and Grandma-Tsunade. Yondaime was Sandaime's successor and then died in the Kyuubi attack, so the Old Man had to come back, Orochimaru killed him and then Tsunade was chosen."

Gaara lifted his chin a little, as though it were the first time someone had actually explained Konoha Kage Politics to him. "I see... Fire Country's culture is very different."

Naruto turned to look at his friend for a moment, then kicked off to another branch effortlessly. The blond couldn't help but grin at how winded Gaara was starting to look, and how awkwardly the redhead was going along the branches. He was keeping up, yes, but one didn't have to look at him for very long to notice that he wasn't in the greatest running shape, or that he did it very often.

As powerful as Gaara was, it took a lot of effort for Naruto not to laugh at the irony of Gaara falling to the downside of a desk job.


After seven hours of running and jumping at top speed, the two jinchuuriki had finally made it to Fire Country. Two hours after that, not stopping for any breaks or meals, the two had Konoha in their sights. Four hours after that, they were still staring at the village, having not taken a single step towards it. Night had fallen, and the two made plans to camp out in the trees instead of heading into the village for shelter.

Staring at his home for the umpteenth time, Naruto scowled. "I still don't understand it."

Gaara remained silent, sitting off in a close tree on a slightly higher branch. "It is... Most confusing." He agreed, crossing his arms as he, too, stared ahead.

"You have memories of Akatsuki trashing the place, right? Because I sure do, I distinctly remember those four buildings being bulldozed by some kind of earth jutsu." Naruto said, pointing off to some of the more taller, more official buildings in Konoha.

Gaara nodded, staring straight ahead. "...Your Hokage mountain--"

"--Monument." Naruto absently corrected.

"--Monument." Gaara resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "...It is endowed with the faces of your current and previous Hokage, correct?" He asked, turning his head towards his friend.

Naruto nodded, crossing his arms. "Of course."

Gaara lifted his chin, turning his attention once again back towards the monument. "I find it curious that The Fifth isn't up there." He said, a thin finger pointing in it's direction.

"She was." The blond said, frowning. "Yeah... That particular detail has been bothering me the most."

"Something..." Gaara began.

Naruto's frown deepened. "...Is very, very..."

"Wrong here."


Massive Author's Note! Must read!

Welcome to the new, bigger, better version of Aniki! More Plot! More Twists! More wit! Better spelling and grammar! Longer chapters and, best of all...More Gaara!

I would like to thank ViktorMayrin, author of Hinata, and Nugar, author of People Lie for helping me out so much on the older version of Aniki, and now, the newer version! With our little team, hopefully we can bring out the best in each other and bring our skills up to the next level!

Now, you may have some questions, like "What are you going to do with Gaara?" him being in Konoha first and all, well, this gives me a lot of good chances to really keep him in the plot instead of what I was doing in the first version. Any time it skipped over to Gaara, all he really did was talk to his siblings. (You may not have noticed, but since he showed up in Suna he's never even left his house! oo;;) I know that that was, literally, all my fault-- and some people may have even liked what I was doing with the story, but I, as the author, was really not pleased.

Another question some of you may have is "Why didn't you just delete Aniki and put this down as a new story?" The answer to that is simply that this is still the same story. Its the same plot, its the same characters, the same things are going to happen and the same people will go through the same problems. The only thing is that they will go through them in another way, sometimes under different circumstances.

That, and I'm a dirty little whore for reviews. I don't want to delete the ones I already had for the story. --;; Some of them had really good advise and some had really good ideas. I didn't want to lose them. Also, I wanted to save the readers the strife of having the story taken off of their favorites and alerts.

I apologize now, for the trouble and confusion It'll cause some people. But I must digress. It's my story, my plot, I can do what I want with it. Hopefully, this will be the first and only time that I'll make such a drastic change.

(Claps hands.) Now that we've gotten all that out of the way!

Thanks for reading the first chapter! (Again, in some cases.)

For the many questions, you have, please send a review or PM and I'll answer them post haste!